Thursday, 11 December 2014

America's Real Rape Culture, by David Lindsay

Fair Warning.

This article is not about Rolling Stone or the University of Virginia. Nor is this an anti-American piece; one could say plenty about the United Kingdom.

The rape culture in the United States consists in the staggering prevalence of even quite casual references to heterosexual and homosexual rape as a way of referring to domination and humiliation.

And, for that matter, in the staggering prevalence of even quite casual references to domination and humiliation themselves. Why do so many things have to be framed in those terms?

A sports team, even a school one, only has to beat its rival for it to be said to have "raped" the other side. 

Whether playfully or menacingly, a heterosexual man will state his intention to make another heterosexual man his "bitch", which sounds hilariously gay to British ears.

Over here, calling a man a "bitch" is done only by the kind of men who refer to each other as "she", a small minority even of gay men, high camp to the point of social and cultural separatism.

"Faggot" means something quite different, and now rather obscure, in Britain, where it otherwise still sounds American on the rare occasions that it is heard. But it is an insult of first resort in America.

It is true that "bugger" and "sod" are treated as mild, and even quaintly old-fashioned, profanities on these shores, scarcely more serious than "bloody". But that is because their use is entirely divorced from their original meaning, of which, in the case of "sod", most people are probably unaware.

Americans even say "f**k you" instead of "f**k off". They manage to shock even those of us who are quite hardened to these things, by addressing the c-word to women, something that almost never happens in Britain.

Indeed, that word seems to be addressed mostly to women, such that its use against men, which is nearly its only use among Britons, would presumably sound odd to Americans.

Most bizarre of all to the rest of us are those invitations to suck the genitals of men or boys who, like those to whom they issue those invitations, are assumed to be of the most unimpeachable heterosexuality.

Lurking behind all of this, and not very far in its background, is the horrific level of prison rape in the United States.

That is part of the general harshness of the American penal system, and it is connected to the very lengthy sentences that are handed down there as a matter of routine.

Prison rape happens in Britain, but it is far less common, and it is certainly not something that mainstream entertainment regularly uses for comedic purposes.

Fear of being raped seems to be seen as part of the deterrent value of the American system of mass incarceration, itself so integral to American economic and political activity that its subcultural features are prominent as points of normal cultural reference.

And there would be no fear of being raped in prison unless it were known as a day-to-day fact of life that men truly were being raped in prison.

Meanwhile, other, although not unrelated, forces compel that huge numbers of people, especially men, and most especially young and non-white men (categories that are in any case depicted in hypersexualised ways), have to spend often prolonged periods inside that system.

As we saw first at Abu Ghraib and now also in the Senate report on torture, the American Republic has taken to using sexual violence as an official weapon of war, in at least the latter case with full approval all the way up to the very top of the Bush Administration.

That Administration was not the first, of either party, to have been steeped in fraternities and related organisations, the likes of Skull and Bones, that are as baffling when seen from this side of the Atlantic as is the not unconnected system of legacy admissions.

The strongly sexual aspect of that kind of thing, even if not actually violent or non-consensual, is nevertheless as coercive and exploitative of the men involved as it is of the women.

Being rich and, although Americans would delude themselves and dispute the term, being posh do not make one any older than one is in actual fact.

Still only in their late teens and desperate to fit in, as well as often having a family tradition to keep up, these men are told that this is how to do so.

Products of what in itself is this wildly atypical milieu wield vastly disproportionate economic, social, cultural and political influence.

Thus is rape really quite central to even humdrum American cultural expression.

If there is in fact a huge incidence of sexual violence in general in the United States, then that is hardly surprising.

1 comment:

  1. I don’t know how should I give you thanks! I am totally stunned by your article. You saved my time. Thanks a million for sharing this article.