Category Archives: rape culture

Invisibility

I helped organize a recent Take Back the Night March and Rally.  It had the usual combination of march, speakers, and vigil.  We also threw in some free food and music and had a good night of anger, reflection, laughs, and sorrow.

More than once that evening, a well-known fact was cited by speakers at the microphone: women are more likely to be raped by someone they know than a stranger.

Women are more likely to be raped by someone they know than a stranger.

This is not true.

A few months ago, I started contacting local and regional programs and services that serve victims of rape and other forms of sexual and domestic violence.  I was trying to find out information about old/er women who are raped.  On all the websites I had previously checked, statistics were given only on young/er women–such as “44% of victims are under 18 and 80% are under 30” (RAINN) or “Women aged 12-34 are at the highest risk for being sexually assaulted” (National Crime Victim Survey cited here).  Only in one place did I find statistics up to age 44, and today, as I write this post I am unable to track it down.

Each of the three programs and services that I contacted could not provide me any–any–information on the rape statistics of old/er women.  We are all simply swept up together under the 20% of rape victims over 30 years of age.

So I plodded around the Internet looking for information.  I found scattered references in news pieces here and there that indicated elderly women are more likely to be raped by strangers than by people with whom they have a relationship, and that they are also more likely to be murdered during that rape than younger women.  None of these news pieces cited its source.  Then I found this, a piece from Volcano Press, that provided some of the information I was looking for.  I quote in part:

While crime statistics make it appear practically non-existent, rape of the elderly can and does occur. When it does, it frequently turns deadly. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics report “Sex Offense and Offenders,” 1 in 7 sexual assault murder victims were 60 or older…Only one age group of rape victims—ages 13 through 17—had a higher murder rate, at 3.3%.

The article then describes the profile of the typical rapist-murderer of elderly women.  He is most likely to be someone who lives within six blocks of the victim, but not necessarily someone the victim knows.  Therefore, the truth of the often quoted “fact” is that a young woman is more likely to be raped by someone she knows, and an elderly woman is most likely to be raped by someone she does not know but who knows of her (vulnerability/isolation/daily patterns).

Interestingly, even though this article uncovers some of the missing information about elderly women, women in their 40s through 60s appear to be invisible in the writings about women and rape.  What happens to us?  Are we equally unsafe in our personal relationships and around strangers? Or are we in some strange safe hiatus zone between the vulnerability of youth and the vulnerability of elderly? Are we uninteresting in the research because we are not likely to be murdered and our overall risk of being raped is lower than the risk for young/er women?

The Volcano article also explores the motive of the rapist-murderer of an elderly woman. The primary motive of this crime is sexual assault, with burglary a frequent afterthought.  Many people think of the rape of older women as one of opportunity–that is, the burglar stumbled upon the woman and spontaneously raped her.  The truth is the opposite.

The article then asks, “So, why does rape of elderly women not show up in statistics?  The answer, “…the NCVS [National Crime Victim Survey] does not account for victims who do not survive, which is where elderly women are most likely to show up.”  That is, many raped elderly women are invisible in rape statistics because they have been murdered and its the murder that is statistically recorded, not the rape.

There are further provocative questions that need to be researched.  For example, why are elderly women not as vulnerable to being raped by people they know?  Is it because women tend to live longer than men, and therefore women in abusive heterosexual relationships outlive the abusers?  Is it because older women have divorced or otherwise escaped abusive relationships?  Is it because elderly women live isolated, secluded, and vulnerable lives because they are unwanted cast-asides in a youth-oriented society–that is, no one knows them?  Also provocative, and quite disturbing, is why are rapists more likely to murder elderly women?  And how does the rape-murder of an elderly woman reflect the greater cultural/societal beliefs and practices by others, by institutions, and by communities?  What do we all share in this hatred towards older women?

It’s important that all victim advocates, feminists, and our allies stop rendering older women invisible in our resistance to and dismantling of rape culture.  We must not erase older women by presenting such ageist “facts” as “a woman is more likely to be raped by someone she knows.”

At next year’s Take Back the Night Rally, I know what I will be discussing when I have the microphone.


It’s been silent here on the blog….

…because I’ve been working on a memoir, finished that now, and now an anthology.  I’ve started a new job as a director of a feminist program.  And I’ve been enjoying myself, doing some of my favorite things.  Been pretty busy. However, the core reason I have not been blogging is the following:

Several months ago, I became overwhelmed with the pornophiles and misogynists visiting the site looking for porn of women and girls being raped by horses (see previous post).  Although none of them ever posted comments, the search terms in my “administration window” revealed that dozens of men arrive weekly at this site looking for “lesbian horse rape,” “horse woman sex,” and the like.  Because I am a researcher and lecturer on porn, I did check a few of these sites out.  Although I had felt I had already seen some of the most violent pornography on the internet, I was wrong.  And now I have these images in my mind associated with “Gray Horse Woman.”

“Gray Horse Woman” is a name that is important to me.  Therefore, my visceral response was not just political but also personal.  They were raping my name.  However, I did not want to abandon my name because they had raped it.  So I struggled with what to do.

I have decided that I am going to rename my blog.  This will include changing the name in the blog address.  Those of you who are followers should, I believe, still receive notice of my posts.  Others, however, might lose track of me for a while.

I have to ponder the new name.  When I make a decision, I will post that name and the new blog address before I click the buttons that make it all happen.

The rapists will not shut me up.


Jerking off

I rarely enter into the world of the sitcom.  However, I do check in occasionally, as it is a way to monitor the status of our pornified culture. Today, I watched, back-to-back, the first two episodes of ABC’s Work It.*  The show is a triumph of “sex-positive” feminism and its ideological love affair with patriarchy.  Alternatively, it is a triumph of patriarchy over feminisms of resistance.

The following is one snippet.  Here, the wife-mother laughs along with the husband-father as he jokes about masturbating in the bathroom to pictures of women whose only consent is that they are simply women.  (In rape culture, being a woman is considered consent in itself to be objects of men’s sexual release.)

Woman/wife/mother:  “Say, Lee, why do I keep finding my women’s magazines in our bathroom.”

Teen daughter: “Oh gross, Dad. Get some real porn.”

(canned laughter)

Man/husband/father:  “No, no, no!  That’s not why….okay, that’s why.”

Wife:  “Seriously?”

Husband:  “Yeah, there’s some pretty hot stuff in there.”

(canned laughter)

Wife:  “Oh, really, this does it for you:  (reading from magazine)  How to minimize your broad back.”

Husband (eyes closed, faking ecstasy):  “Oh, yeah, baby, say it slower….”

(wife laughs—canned laughter)

The daughter, however, is not yet as sex-positively enlightened as her mother, and reflects a more traditional—and equally problematic—perspective.  She only wants her dad to masturbate to pictures of prostituted women.  She, like her mother, accepts dad’s predatorial sexuality, but desires that it be focused on a specific class of women—one that does not include her.

What a great new comedy.  I laughed and laughed.

(put canned laughter here)

_______________________________

*I was also curious about Work It for its mock “trans” plot line.  Those aspects of the show are also extremely problematic, on so many levels. 

On libido

Today I saw an acupuncturist for the first time.  I am having a nasty flare of “runner’s knee.”  It sounds fairly benign, but what it means is that my knee cap is grinding into my femur.  Gets pretty painful.  Cutting out the longer runs and some physical therapy exercises have helped, but I decided to try an additional treatment, acupuncture, to see if I could get the inflammation under control.

The New Patient Form had a long list of physical and mental health symptoms and conditions, from cold feet to liver disease to depression, and I was asked to check off which applied to me.

One of the items on the list was “low libido.”

Libido is politically loaded.  How, for example, is “low” libido measured?  Relative to other women, whose sexual behavior has been socialized within the constructs of male-centered sexual culture?  Or relative to men, who have had a monopoly on the political and social powers to construct all sexual paradigms?

Like “low” libido, decline in libido with age is also politically loaded.  Decline in libido with age is increasingly constructed as unhealthy or not normal.  But in truth, both Viagra and the ongoing search for a libido-boasting equivalent for women are driven by ageist paradigms (which insist normal aging is unhealthy) and hyper-sexism (which insists men must be able to lay a woman, or a man, to be a man).  Therefore, older men must be able to get it up and get it on.  And older women better keep up with them.

I am sure that most older women do not celebrate Viagra (do any?).  If older women’s libidos are “low,” Viagra-pumped older men are going to screw other women—affairs, younger women, prostitutes.  It’s a given.

Some [women whose husbands took Viagra] feared that Viagra would drive their partners to other women. Five of the 33 men confirmed that they had been unfaithful since taking the drug.

Moreover, Viagra is inducing a new form of rape:

A 48-year-old [woman] said: ‘It had such a powerful effect that … this made sex inevitable. Sometimes there was no discussion about whether … the sex act was going to take place, so it would be … ‘I’ve taken the pill, okay, let’s go.’ ‘

If (if) men have stronger libidos than women, then they can just masturbate to fill in the times they do not have a consenting partner and an equitable relationship.  But no pornography, no strippers or prostitutes.  No violent, coercive, or racist fantasies.  No fantasies about younger women, teens or children.  Because if anyone needs any of that to get stimulated, that is proof that libido is not the driving force.

(Quotes from Women Complain of Too Much Sex from Viagra-Popping Partners.)


The making of an angry woman

On the day of the anniversary of the Montreal femicide, on the day that I notice that the number one search terms bringing traffic to my site are those looking for women being raped by horses, on the day I come across this on the Radical Resolution blog,

this just makes me angrier.

Go figure.


Lesbian rape “documentary”

I came across this video, She Stole My Voice, while trying to find some research on lesbian sexual violence.  Although it was released two years ago, I couldn’t find anything on feminist blogs critiquing it.  But it was reviewed on a men’s rights website as “utterly ground-breaking.”

This “award-winning” “documentary” is pornography.  No, I have not watched the entire movie (and I don’t intend to put any money in the pockets of the filmmakers to do so), but the film’s trailers show rape narratives juxtaposed with pornified reenactments.  The highly popular thirty-two outtakes on YouTube—retitled variously as “lesbian seduction,” “sex porno lesbians,” and “sister incest hot sex girls pussy”—confirm that this is a porno flick.  Pro-rape commentary on the YouTube videos include:

In my opinion, anything hot/sexy isn’t a crime. And if the *ahem* ‘victim’ whines that it is, well then they just didn’t appreciate that the lesbian rapist found them sexy.

Regardless, the filmmakers attempt to maintain the following false distinction between their film and pornography:

There are almost no depictions of it [lesbian rape] anywhere. The only video versions of lesbian rape that exist right now are found in pornography, in which the “victim” invariably starts to enjoy the rape. 

(Note the use of victim placed in quotes in both excerpts above…..)

Clearly, the filmmakers did not do their research.  I have.  A distinguishing characteristic of rape pornography is victims pleading, crying, and cowering.  That’s exactly the kind of pornography that turns a rapist on.

This film deserves the full censure of the community of women.  Lesbian sexual violence does need to be discussed and understood.  But this is a film for rapists.  It is not an advocacy film.


Effing our own movement

It is the perfect storm of consonants and a vowel.  It starts out slow and ends with an aggressive finality.  It’s a release.  A push at the beginning, a slam at the end.

Fuck.

But it is more than a cluster of sounds.  It has a specific meaning.  Like the symbol of “fuck,” the middle finger raised in angry disdain, it references a hostile penis.  A rape, really.

When used by radical feminists, it represents a colonizing of our movement.


Shake those boobies

The three of us are flopped down in a restaurant booth.  One of us is eating a veggie burger, another is drinking a beer.  I am wishing I had one or the other, but the grill is now closed and I’ll be driving home soon.

We’ve ducked out of the LGBTQ fundraiser to commiserate.   We are trying to sort out the gender intensity of the evening.  A drag king show followed by a burlesque strip show.  Applause always louder the more gender correctness each performer achieved.

I was enjoying the drag king show at first.  Hadn’t seen one before.  It was a new group, giving its first public performance, and it started out raw.  Stage nerves, I’m sure.  But as the hour moved along, each of the five kings got more and more into her character.  It was campy.  It was fun.

Then one of the performers started to get really good.  She was becoming a certain kind of he.  He had narrow hips and a white pair of pants tightly stretched over an artificial penis.  He pumped the air with his fists. He thrust his hips as if he were pounding someone who was subordinate, someone on her or his hands and knees. He was turning into someone I really could not like.

But the crowd roared, urging him on to purer and purer masculinity.  And he got better and better.  It was micocosmic mirror of everyday gender socialization.  Do it right, and your parents love you.  Do it wrong, and you get beat up on the playground.  So you do it right.

While the burlesque was getting set up, I stepped out.  It was a standing room only crowd, and I had two hours of wall flowering in, without a wall to lean against.  I found a place to sit a while.  When I returned, the burlesque was in its third act.

I had seen this burlesque troupe before, in a coffee shop.  It had been a bit tamer there, especially the crowd. The dancer was just teasing her way down to the final strip, which would reveal two coin-sized pasties that she would twirl with the momentum of her spinning breasts.  The dancer played the part of, or was in truth, the perfectly socialized and properly gendered straight woman–stripping down to her skivvies and shaking those boobies to the enthusiastic encouragement of a primarily LGBTQ crowd.

A friend sidled up to me.  “Are you experiencing cognitive dissonance?” she asked.

“Oh, god, yes.”

“Do you think anyone else is?”

I pointed out mutual friend in the audience.  Five minutes later, we are in the restaurant.

My friend with the burger offers, “Remember, this is the 500-year plan.”  Whenever we talk about gender justice, racism, and transforming the world, she usually alludes to “the 500-year plan,” the time it may take to dismantle the oppressions embedded in our cultures.  Sometimes she sounds hopeful, as if she is comforted to know that it will change.  At other times, like tonight, her voice sounds more like, “Oh, crap.  This is going to take 500 years.”

My friend with the beer, who works at the rape crisis center in our small city, says, “There were 35 children raped this month.”  She says it because she knows how it’s all connected–how dramatic gender divisions and their hierarchies of power relate to predators and victims.  The other two of us get this, too.  We don’t even need to discuss her comment.  It’s not a non-sequitur.

The burlesque has ended and the floor has been cleared for dancing.  My friends head back to the dance, but I’m good for the night.  As I walk back to the car, the wind is blustery and feels like the impending winter, sharp and sorrowful.  500 years.  That’s a long, long time.