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Tales of a divided City: You Must Have Enjoyed It if You Survived’

Date Released: Wed, 17 September 2014 10:27 +0200

Philosophers Lindsay Kelland and Pedro Tabensky explore what seems to logically follow from a comment made to a rape survivor by a man who seems to think that at some level rape is an acceptable practice.

During the recent Silent Protest in Grahamstown a local man told a rape survivor that ‘You must have enjoyed it if you survived!’

We can charitably speculate that the man did not believe that the target of his comments was in fact a survivor. He could have thought that the inscription on her shirt—‘Rape Survivor’—did not apply to the person in front of him.

Perhaps, even more charitably, we can speculate that he was just issuing what in his eyes was a light-hearted joke. Perhaps. But a strange albeit far-too-widely-held worldview emerges if we dig a little deeper.

Perhaps the issuer of the pronouncement, as is the case with far-too-many people in South Africa and beyond, believes that rape survivors place themselves in situations where rape is pretty much guaranteed, which in the end means, of course, that they asked for it, deserved it, or wanted to be raped.

But we must still wonder why this would mean that surviving is a sign of sexual enjoyment. Presumably, if victims (Shall we not, following this line of reasoning, refer to them as ‘alleged victims’?) actually want to be raped, they should enjoy it whether they live or die.

One would expect that the man who issued the pronouncement should be able to recognise that a victim of sexual violence is almost certain not to enjoy sex if it is a matter of life or death. But the weirdness of his pronouncement goes even deeper: it suggests that, for this man, there is no such thing as rape, unless the victim (who is not really a victim because she wanted what she got) dies.

If the non-victim wishes to be raped, then the sexual act is consensual, so it cannot be rape. It is non-rape. If we take this line of argument seriously, then there is no such thing as rape unless the non-victim—the survivor wearing the T-shirt—dies as a consequence of her risky sexual proclivities, in which case she would become a victim.

So, according to the issuer of the pronouncement, it seems, rape is consensual sex ending in death. It seems that, according to the utterer of the pronouncement, women (or men) who are looking for non-rape are looking for a sexual experience that places them at risk of dying. And it is merely a matter of bad luck if death is the outcome of their bizarre sexual experiments with violent lovers.

So, the non-rapist is the lover that the non-victim wanted. She wanted a sexual experience that would put her at risk of dying. So, to call this attentive lover a rapist is merely an unwarranted term of derision, a cheap insult, one could say. Apart from the obvious absurdity of these entailments, this view is ironically demeaning of men.

Male rapists are, in this view, merely predatory beasts devoid of will, whereas women—the victims of these predators—are morally responsible, seeking to be attacked by stalking beasts. Or we could try a slightly different line of reasoning.

Perhaps by claiming that ‘You must have enjoyed it if you survived’ the utterer thinks that women who allegedly survive being raped are actually not victims. She enjoyed it because she was looking for sex and got what she wanted, so she should be thankful. And the fact that she is claiming to be a rape survivor is merely an expression of exhibitionist tendencies. She wants everyone to know that she likes having sex.

But then, one must wonder, why doesn’t she wear a T-shirt stating that ‘I love sex’? This line of reasoning also takes us in weird directions, leading us right into the darkest recesses of a very dark mind. Leaving aside the weirdness of the pronouncement, and the fact that it is demeaning of men, to claim that ‘You must have enjoyed it if you survived’ is demeaning of victims of sexual violence.

Sexual violence denudes victims of their humanity, occludes their subjectivity and autonomy, and turns them into mere things to be consumed.

This treatment silences victims—since objects do not speak—and when they do, more often than not, they are blamed and shamed and silenced again…. ‘What were you doing?’ ‘What were you wearing?’ ‘Had you been drinking?’ ‘Did you lead him on?’ The victim, again, is somehow responsible; she must have broken the rules or it wouldn’t have happened, it must be her fault. These views are implicit in the pronouncement we have been analysing in this piece.

Does victim-blaming somehow comfort the utterer? Perhaps believing that victims are responsible for what happened allows him to curb his fear and supports a hard-fought-for belief that he and his loved ones are safe and secure as long as he, and they, follow the rules.

Perhaps, then, he cannot (or does not want to) face the senselessness of it all—the worm at the heart of our divided city, of our country—that is turning men—typically men—into beasts of prey.

Lindsay Kelland is a postdoctoral fellow of the Allan Gray Centre for Leadership Ethics at Rhodes University and Pedro Tabensky is the Director of the same Centre.

By: Lindsay Kelland and Pedro Tabensky

Article Source: Grocotts Mail

Source:Grocotts Mail