Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Guest Post: Not an Excuse to Rape

The following is a guest post from my friend D, my partner-in-crime during many a gender theory-based class at Yale and even some non-gender theory classes that became de facto gender theory classes because D and I refused to talk about anything else (I'm looking at you, History and Interpretation of the Old Testament).

Not an excuse to rape.
So this may strike you as odd, what is this picture doing above the caption "Not an excuse to rape"? In a way it's meant to be confusing and somewhat provocative. It's not an image generally associated with anti-rape propaganda, but I think it is critical that it be so.

I took a picture of myself and captioned it "Not an excuse to rape" in response to those pictures of women in mini skirts that say "Not an excuse to rape" because, while I agree with the force of the message, I think the camera should be more properly pointed toward the men who perpetrate these crimes. Our culture let's men off the hook ideologically. We accept as a fact that male sexuality is inherently linked to power, domination and excess, as well as the objectification of others to whom our sexual energies are directed. This, we conclude, is nature at work, and we need to reign it in with increased vigilance against its expression with tighter laws and female empowerment. 

I think, however, men should not be allowed to excuse these acts of violence by hiding behind their gender. There is nothing "natural" or "essential" about male sexuality and patriarchy. It is culturally constructed, ideologically supported, performatively reinforced, and summarily excused. This enables the logic behind blaming women for dressing "provocatively" (a thoroughly androcentric configuration of female sexual expression) to have resonance with well-meaning folks. Left uncritiqued it is the very way in which male sexuality is so constructed to furnish men with the "natural drive" to, if he is not careful to restrain himself, act out these violent urges. But who can truly blame him? According to the ideology, men are wired toward aggression and sexual objectification. How this is bolstered by evolutionary psychology is a whole other discussion. Needless to say, men have a wealth of cultural resources to use to slip out the ideologically and blame the woman for enticing the man in her dress, behavior, and location. 

Pointing the camera at the woman wearing the miniskirt, I'm afraid, reinforces not only the "male gaze" that orients our rendering of subject/object relations and epistemologies, but also the continuing construction of female sexuality in male terms, always in reference to the male. The image of the miniskirted woman is right to say that rape has absolutely nothing to do with how she is dressed, but what it misses I think is that it has everything to do with patriarchal constructions of human sexuality that occlude the ideological underpinnings of male on female rape, and diverts the critical eye away from the real problem. With all due respect, woman should be able to walk around naked with no expectation of unwanted sexual attention from men. That this is not the case speaks more to patriarchy's grip on male sexuality than it does with what is communicated by female behavior. So, my construction as a heterosexual male is no excuse for rape, nor is any other construction of male sexuality.


  1. The mysterious DApril 3, 2012 at 1:08 PM

    ‎"God is a God of Order" - but she is wonderfully chaotic to human structure...

  2. Awesome!! Thanks for posting!