HomeLatest ThreadsGreatest ThreadsForums & GroupsMy SubscriptionsMy Posts
DU Home » Latest Threads » Tansy_Gold » Journal
Page: 1


Profile Information

Member since: 2002
Number of posts: 17,413

Journal Archives

I am far from irrational. Cursing does not equate to irrationality.

You have been suggesting throughout your posts that "deviants" who force others, including wives, girlfriends, or even strangers, into having sex ought to be made examples of. Unfortunately, we don't have a justice system in place to handle most of those cases should they be brought to court. And we certainly don't have a prison system large enough to contain all the convicted perps, assuming any would actually be convicted.

Until the 1978 Oregon case of Greta and John Rideout, there was virtually no such legal thing as spousal rape. The cultural and legal understanding was that marriage gave the husband not only exclusive sexual rights to his wife but that he could exercise those rights at any time with or without her expressed consent. Similar to the laws of implied consent that come with a driver's license -- if you're asked to take a blood alcohol test, you can't say you didn't consent, because you've implied your consent when you accept the license -- the marriage license was considered the woman's permanent and irrevocable consent to sex, whenever, however, wherever her husband wanted it. She no longer had ownership of her own body; it belonged to her husband.

I don't know when you were born, Zalatrix, but I was married in 1969. My children were born in 1976 and 1977. I was raised and married in a time and in a culture when spousal sexual rights had the force of law. Because most such laws are set by states rather than the federal government, in the wake of the Rideout case, more states began to pass laws regarding marital rape, and one such debate produced the quote from an outraged California assemblyman, "If we can't rape our wives, who can we rape?" (Variously attributed to British politicians as well; I have the original reference somewhere in my notes but I'm not going to look for it now.) The point is that even into the 1990s, some states still prohibited charges of rape within a marriage.

What's moral and what's reprehensible may not be distinctions under the law, and when the law is on one side, it's pretty damn difficult for the other side to fight back. Not impossible, but still difficult.

The Rideout case ended in acquittal for John because, as one juror said, they didn't know who to believe and therefore there was reasonable doubt. Even with laws in place prohibiting marital rape, how does one prosecute? If it's not forcible rape that leaves bruises or other physical evidence of force (which can be explained away anyway) and there are no witnesses, what jury will convict? How does one present evidence of coercion?

Have you ever read the story of Charlotte and John Fedders? Raised a devout Catholic and trained as a nurse, Charlotte wanted nothing more than to be a devoted wife and mother, raising lots and lots of Catholic children. She married John Fedders, who eventually would become chief enforcement officer with the Securities and Exchange Commission. He made a lot of money and he kept her in a very nice home and put their six boys in Catholic school and belonged to the country club and presented a public face of utmost respectability. But he was violently abusive, and Charlotte, raised to believe the external trappings of success were incompatible with his behavior -- successful men didn't behave like that, only poor trashy folks did -- denied his abuse for years. She had internalized all the propaganda.

Francine Hughes and her husband Mickey might have fit Charlotte's image of trashy people. Mickey was so abusive that Francine killed him by setting fire to the bed he was sleeping in; her account "The Burning Bed" was turned into the TV movie that brought the late Farrah Fawcett an Emmy nomination. How long ago did Francine kill Mickey? 1977. Just about that same time that John Rideout was (allegedly) raping his wife Greta. And not too long after that, the big pop culture event was the rape-followed-by-the-wedding of Luke and Laura on the soap opera General Hospital. Rape morphed into seduction morphed into love. So which was it?

Is it any wonder women like Charlotte Fedders were confused? She knew John was violently abusive. He'd kicked her down a flight of stairs and caused her to miscarry. He'd broken her ribs. Unlike Francine Hughes, Charlotte had resources -- not the least of which was professional training that would have enabled her to earn a living independent of John -- but she was also receiving all these conflicting cultural messages.

Read Susan Douglas' "Where the Girls Are" to get some idea of the mixed messages sent to girls in the 1960s and 1970s. Watch Jean Kilbourne's videos on the media's images of women in teh 70s and 80s and 90s and 2000s. Understand that both men and women, beginning before puberty, are bombarded with these images and messages.

Now I'm going to throw another cultural bombshell into this mix -- the 1972 publication of the blockbuster historical romance novel "The Flame and the Flower" by Kathleen E. Woodiwiss. "Gone With the Wind" had had another theatrical release in 1967 and would make its TV debut in 1976; whether that TV release was in response to the by-then explosion of paperback original romance novels, I don't know, but I do know that rape-as-romance had become a cultural phenomenon. Regardless whether you like or loathe them, historical romances of the 1970s were -- and remain -- a major industry and cultural influence, and the debate over whether it's rape or forced seduction or romance or whatever continues.

And what's the most "romantic" scene in "Gone with the Wind"? Why it's when Rhett hauls Scarlett up those stairs and has his wicked way with her against her will and then she's purrin' like a kitten the next morning. Rape as romance.

Of course it's fantasy. We all know it's fantasy. We all know that's not "real" rape. But as Helen Hazen would write in 1983, "I would like to be raped, but I want it to happen to me exactly as it happened to (the heroine) in (a romance novel). The debate, often heated, continues with the romance-reading and -writing community. And not all the readers of romances or the viewers of soap operas or the fans of "reality" shows are as savvy as those of us here on DU. The vast majority of the population IS influenced by these cultural products. Their mindsets and even their morals are informed by the messages they receive from pop culture.

While all this was going on, in the 1970s and 1980s, laws were changing, to be sure. Rape shield laws went into effect, supposedly preventing a rape victim's sexual past being used to discredit her accusations. Marital rape became a crime. But the culture hadn't changed. The New Bedford gang rape of Cheryl Araujo occurred in 1983. "The Accused," a fictionalized account based on the New Bedford rape, earned Jodie Foster an Oscar in 1988. In 1989, a group of high school atheletes in Glen Ridge, New Jersey, brutally raped a mentally challenged girl with a broomstick, and were defended by locals who accused the girl of being promiscuous.

84% of rapists -- not "potential" rapists but guys who have done the deed -- do not believe what they did was "really" rape. They don't see themselves as rapists, because rapists are deviants. Real rapists are like convicted child molester Richard Hurles, who was probably so brain-damaged by the violent abuse he suffered at the hands of his father that he didn't really have much of a clue what he was doing was wrong. Not long after his release on parole he sexually assaulted and murdered Kay Blanton, librarian of the Buckeye, Arizona, Public Library. Hurles is a "deviant." Ted Bundy was a "deviant." The men and boys in Cleveland, Texas who gang raped an 11-year-old girl in 2010 were not, in the opinion of many residents of the small, poor Texas town, deviants; instead, they blamed the girl, for dressing too provocatively and looking older than she really was. "Our Guys" in Glen Ridge, NJ, were not "deviants."

We all know it's wrong to drink and drive. We know there are laws against drunk driving, driving under the infuence, driving while impaired. Many of us know the severe penalties for being caught; an acquaintance of mine is currently facing about $12,000 in fines, court costs, impound fees, and lawyer's fees because of DUI. He's not an alcoholic, with a physical inability to control his consumption. He just thought that since the bar was only about a mile from his home, he could drive that short a distance without an accident. Well, he didn't have an accident, but he was driving so slow he caught the attention of a patrolling police officer. The point is, however, that popular culture encourages drinking. The various warnings to drink responsibly are not as pleasure-inducing as the commercials with the skimpily clad girls.

Which is precisely why so many anti-rape campaigns have failed in the past. They aren't as sexy -- pardon the really bad pun -- as a rape-as-romance novel or Clark Gable carrying a kicking and screaming Vivien Leigh up the staircase or Paris Hilton or Lindsay Lohan or whoever the latest pop twit is sprawled undie-less in the paparazzi's camera lens. Women and women's sexuality becomes a joke, and the women become dehumanized.

So the MyStrength project targets young couples, but it doesn't say anything about casual hook-ups or dating before commitment. It doesn't address the pervasive culture that's already in place. There are no PSAs during the NFL play-offs that say "NO means NO." (We will, however, get commercials from Randall Terry about the evils of abortion, and we all know that the anti-abortion is also anti-woman, and it defends the rights of rapists to own and control the bodies of their victims, while denying the rights of the victims to owenrship and control of their bodies.) Just as the passage of civil rights legislation in the 1950s and 1960s hasn't done way with bigotry and prejudice and de facto segregation, anti-rape legislation and projects have not addressed the culture. It's still securely in place, and vociferously defended by those who have a vested interest in it.

Men who pressure their wives or girlfriends into having sex don't think they're doing anything wrong. She doesn't feel good, she has a head ache, the kids wore her out, her job sucks, so what? All he wants is a little lovin' and she's his wife so he nags and touches and she shoves his hand away and he puts it right back and he's insistent and after all she's his wife and. . . . most men don't consider that rape. Persuasion maybe, or persistence, but not rape.

Not all men, of course. Some read the signals and are respectful enough and don't even try. But others have internalized the popular culture. Like the guy in my AJS 305 class, they figure they're entitled. They're just taking what belongs to them, no big deal. She doesn't have to enjoy it if she doesn't want to, but he spent money on her after all, and what's a woman for if not. . . .

So how do we go about changing the culture? First of all, by admitting that it exists, that it's very powerful, and that it is ABOUT power. Understand that every time there's a commercial or a magazine ad that shows a woman being victimized, it sends a message. Don't be silent when you see it -- start a dialogue. Afraid you'll be laughed at? Is that the worst that can happen? Is it more important that you NOT be laughed at than that you make an effort to change the message being sent to men and women about sexual and bodily integrity?

Start by recognizing that ANYONE can be a rapist. Just because he's gay or he's got a good job or he comes from nice people and went to a good school -- none of those qualities prevents him from also being a guy who thinks he's entitled to sex on demand and is capable of coercing or pressuring his partner into delivering.

Start by stopping with blaming the victim. Regardless what she wore or how much she drank or who she was with or what she did before with him or with other guys, the guy chose to assault her against her wishes or without her consent.

Start by stopping with equating rape to deviant behavior. Understand that non-consensual sex is culturally, if not overtly, condoned and encouraged. Learn to look for and be aware of examples of this.

Start by examining your own behavior. Even if you insist you never have and never would commit rape, do you do other things that support a rape culture? Do you laugh at lokes that demean women? Do you evaluate women foremost on their physical attributes? Do you summarily dismiss women's assessments of their situations because your experience is different?

That's what it's going to take: teaching, and learning, cultural awareness, so that the messages are no longer effective. I never said it would be easy or quick, any more than overcoming racism was accomplished with the Brown decision.

Susan Brownmiller wrote "Against Our Will" in 1975; Susan Faludi's "Backlash" came out in 1991. The greater backlash continues two more decades on. This is a battle that has been going on for a long time. We shouldn't have to be still fighting it, but the problem still exists, and the fight must continue. That it has to continue here, in a forum where we're all supposed to be enlightened and reasonably progressive, is particularly discouraging. But it's better to continue fighting than to give in.

Go to Page: 1