It is a perhaps surprising fact that more women are raped in the United States every year than anywhere else in the world, at least on the basis of recorded data.
Even if, as is almost certainly the case, rape is grossly under-reported in countries like Pakistan and India, also rape hotspots, this still leaves the shocking truth that a woman is raped in the US once every six minutes. And this figure is probably low, because under-reporting is also a problem in the US.
How can it be that this capital of Western civilisation, the ‘world’s policeman’, the defender of liberty and justice, is so appallingly hostile to women?
The answer lies in the social structure and history of the US itself and there are three main parts to it.
The first is the sexual objectification of women. Within American culture this is made worse because within it, women are seen not just as sexual objects, but sexual targets. Young men are brought up to believe that the conquest of such targets will establish their ‘manhood’. This is important, because it will allow them to fit into the pack-based society of American males. To make matters worse, men are taught that there are certain types of women whose conquest brings more status than others. Generally speaking, this has to do with stereotypes of female beauty.
American men are frequently seen on the Internet discussing the notion that status in women is marked by their looks, while status in men is marked by their salary level. Thus, less well-off men will have to make do with less (stereotypically) beautiful women while their bosses get the babes. Men who can’t compete in the salary stakes yet who are seen with high-ranking target women, are routinely described as ‘shooting above their level’ – in other words, they are upsetting the system. These men themselves may even become targets, this time of violence, by other males who regard them as acting unfairly.
This sexual competition is massively stressing for American men. One way that this stress may be relieved is through rape. Frequently, stress-relief attacks like this are followed by ‘slut-shaming’ in which the victim is blamed, because of her comportment or attire, for her own rape. ‘Nice girls don’t act like that, because is sends inappropriate signals to men’, this says.
Quite who is deciding what ‘nice girls’ actually do is never quite clear and the object, in any case, is to legitimise the act of rape itself. But this is nonsense: nothing a woman could ever do, including walking down the street stark naked, might ever justify rape – yet this is exactly the argument that is put.
The second parameter is violence itself. Lee Marvin once pointed out that American culture is based on violence and that for Americans, violence is the first response, not the last resort. Perhaps ironically, as one of the screen’s legendary violent heroes, Marvin was well qualified to make this observation. The culture is founded on the violent acquisition of territory and the genocide of those who lived there, the violence of slavery, the shocking violence of the Civil War, the routine racial violence and rape.
Violence is so deeply entrenched in American culture that it becomes insidious. Its acceptance as the background to the culture renders it almost invisible. Indeed, it is promulgated through the cultural concept of the American Hero.
The cinema portrays the American Hero as a violent, reactive man who defeats his enemies to win the girl. This meme is taken up in literature and music, indeed all across the culture. And naturally so; art only reflects culture, and the violence of American culture is an exact metaphor for the reality of American life and reinforces it.
The third element is social conformism. It is easy for the outsider, not experienced in the reality of American culture, to imagine that this is a free and tolerant society where ‘anything goes’. People point to the gay scenes in New York and San Francisco as illustration of this. But these examples totally distort the reality, which is that non-conformists congregate in these cities because if they were to be true to themselves anywhere else they would lose their homes and jobs or be beaten or even killed – just for not being like others.
Ask any gay American and they will support this, and it is true across the board; atheists in much of America live in constant fear and real danger because their neighbours would harm them if they could.
This even happens in so-called ‘liberal’ areas like California, where making statements that criticise the misogynistic cult of Islam, for example, will be met with accusations of racism. If someone like Ben Affleck can demonstrate the level of hostility and repressed violence that he did towards Sam Harris on a television show, where his actual responses were constrained, how do we imagine people like him would behave in real life? That’s right – even being ‘liberal’ is something Americans would beat and kill others in the name of.
This level of violence and total intolerance of any differing point of view is routinely observed in the comments sections of numerous Internet sites. The worst are the most popular, such as YouTube, but even on photography sites I have seen searing and offensive attacks on atheists, for example. There is no doubt what the authors of such comments would do in real life if they could. Even were they to suggest that they only behave so badly in the anonymity that the Internet provides, their contribution adds to the overwhelming, choking atmosphere of violence that is endemic to the culture. It gives sanction to real violence by the violence of its own rhetoric.
At the same time, bullying in American schools persists to a level which would be considered appalling in most European countries but which is thought a normal part of life, a rite of passage, in America. Here is where gays will first be beaten, in order to try to ‘turn them normal’. Here is where atheists will be beaten and ostracised. Here is where transgender children, at a most sensitive stage of their lives, be beaten, made miserable, and taught that they are ‘freaks’ with no place in society. Here is where anyone who challenges the conformist society first be made to suffer pain and humiliation. And all so that they will just stop being themselves and instead, conform.
American culture, then, is one in which women are treated as sexual targets, to be conquered by men; a culture in which violence is actually revered as a heroic quality; and one in which any deviation from the patriarchal social norm is to be suppressed violently.
Even when rapists are reported, caught and brought to trial, their sentences are lenient to the point of the laughable. – witness two cases this year: that of Austin Smith Clem, 25, who repeatedly raped his neighbour’s daughter, beginning when she was 14 and was sentenced to no prison time. Or Michael L. Stucky Jr., who was sentenced to time served after raping two girls, one aged 13 and the other 15. There is no punitive sanction in these sentences and they could hardly be lighter.
Rape is not about sex. It is about the use of violence to dominate and control others. (I discuss this in my forthcoming book, ‘Why Men Made God’, co-written with Karis Burkowski.) It is about status and control, in the first place over the women, but also over other men in the particular, and the domination of society by the patriarchy in general.
The culture uses rape to reinforce its own values, of the celebration of violence and rigid conformity to a patriarchal social code. Rape is so routine in the United States that it is de facto tolerated and even lauded as a natural reaction of a red-blooded young American male exposed to what the patriarchy considers to be the intrinsic immorality of women.
This is why American men rape so many women. Violence – of which rape is an extreme form – is sanctioned by the society they live in, in order to ensure the furtherance of that society and its violent culture. Being a violent hero is a good thing and raping is just a part of that, to by punished by a light rap on the knuckles for the sake of form and so that those pesky feminists don’t complain.
For the patriarchy, all women are rape targets, and worse, they themselves invite their own rapes, just by being women. At the same time, anyone who refuses to conform to the society’s rigid codes of behaviour is a target for violence and invites their own beating and murder, just by showing that they are different.Click here for reuse options!
Copyright 2014 Rod Fleming’s World