what if the worlds/were a series of steps/what if the steps/joined back at the margin

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Rape in A Man’s World

We live in a patriarchal, male dominated society. This is a fact. Children typically receive the last names of their fathers, not mothers, and it is clear to anyone with eyes and a sense of reality that men are at a more advantageous position in this society (as far as I know, relatively few people lobby for the erasure of men’s reproductive rights). However, this is America, and we live better off as a whole than many, many places in the world. Indeed, from what we can gather about the state of discourse about rape and the lived reality of threats and perpetration of rape in India, there are far, far worse places for women to live.

Today I opened up, scrolled around, and arrived at this article, “Thousands-Large Mob Seized Prisoner Accused of Rape, Beat Him to Death”. Slightly sleepy, I thought, “Holy jesus, what the fuck is going on in India?”. There was also a piece on the New York Times about government action preventing broadcast of a documentary about gang rape, and an article on about the denial of a visa from the Indian government for a white American woman named Sabrina Buckwalter looking to write about the reality of rape in India. “Good lord,” I thought, “I must write about this immediately”. As a Buddhist, it saddens me that the land from which the founder of my religion hails, a man named Siddhartha Gautama, is having such a disturbing problem dealing with the dark and horrific reality of rape. Two of the world’s greatest religions, Hinduism and Buddhism, come from India. I speculate this is because of the incredibly harsh nature of Indian society that has existed as long as the civilization; the incredible discrepancy between poor and rich, the decrepit nature of the slums, the generational poverty, the danger of wildlife, all of which has essentially great insight that has come from the harsh conditions humans have endured in this part of the world.

As a Buddhist, I view rape as a deplorable crime by which a person’s safety, physical integrity, relaxation of mind, and personal control is obliterated. A perpetrator of rape is a traitor of all humanity. As a woman, I live in fear of rape because I can be a victim at any age, under any circumstances, and at any time.

As an American, I am ashamed of how our country has dealt with the reality of rape. In the military, rape appears to be viewed as a perk for the men of the military and a thing to be endured by the women. In college, “date rape” is normalized, and forced unwanted sexual contact is a somewhat regular occurrence. However, there is no difference between “college rape”, “date rape”, and rape that happens in the military. For some reason, here in America, we want to differentiate degrees of rape and explain the circumstances. It is taking away a woman’s humanity and giving power to the perpetrators. The way we talk about rape here in America contributes to global rape culture.

However, it isn’t just women who are at risk for experiencing sexual assault. I was watching “Sons of Anarchy” this weekend, or the most ultimate male soap opera in the history of ass-kicking television, and the opening scene of the start of season six is a male-on male rape scene. I was not expecting this and was jolted. I found it more brutal than the scenes of rape that we are somewhat accustomed seeing on television and in movies where the victim is female. I believe that that reaction is two-fold. First, the idea of being rectally raped is absolutely horrifying for any person, male or female. I would not say that I would prefer to be raped vaginally, however, I absolutely certainly do not ever want to experience a rectal rape. Secondly, when watching a male being raped, the viewer is also watching a man’s masculinity being taken away within the context of what our society has deemed masculinity to be. In our society’s sexual narrative, men are not penetrated, they do the penetrating. This folds into the homophobic narrative of men who enjoy receiving anal sex to be feminine, not really men, or “bitches”. This view is an out and out product of rape culture, as is the idea that a raped man has lost part of his masculinity. A raped man is no less masculine than a man who has never experienced that sort of assault, however, we look at him differently afterword.

If a man looses part of his masculinity after rape, what does a woman loose? In India, a more traditionalist society than America, it can be losing a reputation of femininity and propriety, becoming reduced instead to the assault perpetrated against you. She may no longer be a woman, but instead a different being, a raped woman. In parts of the Middle East, it can mean the woman’s life. In America, it means the safety of soundness of mind because now there is a “before”, and an “after” in life.

If rape in India is so prevalent, why was this man captured from a police station, dragged into the street, and murdered? If there is so much rape in India, doesn’t that mean that rape is accepted there? No. This is another thing that I gathered from watching so much “Sons of Anarchy”. Within the world of “Sons”, there are a lot of women who choose sex work and thus are at risk for experiencing rape. The members of the Sons of Anarchy take to protecting these women and beating up the men who rape or assault them. This is because the women raped are their mothers, lovers, cousins, friends, sisters of friends, etc. They are people the men in Sons of Anarchy care about. People who systematically rape or endorse rape as a legitimate thing to do are bad people, quite simply put. Unfortunately, there can be a high concentration of very bad people in one place if the conditions are conducive to creating unstable environments leading to unstable human behavior.

Just because there are a lot of bad people in one area does not mean all the people in that area are bad.

Many people are effected when a bad thing happens to a person that is loved. When the prevalence of rape occurs, many men are effected even if they are not the ones to experience the rape. Entire families experience the pain of rape. In India, this rage caused a man to loose his life. Rape culture breeds violence because it is one of the most violent things to do to a human being.

I feel it is time for the United States to intervene in some sort of humanitarian orientated manner with regards to the problem of widespread and systematic rape in India. In terms of policy, I am unsure of what this would look like. However, in order for this to be properly achieved, the United States must get rid of it’s own rape culture thinking. The women in the military must be treated with equal respect for their service to America as the men receive, and must stop having to endure sexual assault in their workplace. College women must be viewed as sexually independent individual’s whose assaults must be taken as crimes instead of campus incidents between two or more students. People must realize that when a man is raped, he is not less masculine because of his experience.

I can only hope, as a human being, that this can happen within my lifetime.


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Domination in Game of Thrones


Errrrrrybody in a fuss today about last nights episode of Game of Thrones (4.3) which seems to be the norm with this show. I am a huge fan because gratuitous sex and violence coupled with a fantasy world that is plausibly similar to European medieval times is extremely entertaining, and I have a crush on nearly half the cast either in their roles or as people (Brienne of Tarth, Dany, Bronn, and Shae as roles and Jack Gleeson and Emilia Clarke in real life). That being noted, there have been many upsetting moments in the show for me such as the Red Wedding, the slaughter of the Starks, and all the rapes.

Rape should be a disturbing thing in general. However, it feels as though we don’t always treat it that way. I remember when Kobe Byrant was accused there was a lot of victim blaming relating to her profession (a hotel maid, because what low economic job holder would not want an unwanted sexual encounter from a powerful man like Bryant?) and her state of mind (was she crazy? Did she have a history of drug abuse? Does she deserve to be a victim?) There were also comments about how, since Bryant was good looking and powerful, he must not need to rape women, entirely missing the point that rape is not about sex but power. Recently we have the Steubenville rapists and the lament of what a shame it is to see the futures of good, smart athletic men go to waste because of a drunk girl (if you google Steubenville rape cnn victim blaming, there are many opinion articles exploring this topic that I won’t link to). 

There is a notion that we live in a “rape culture” because as a society we look for ways women can “prevent” sexual assault from becoming a reality for them rather than teaching our sons not to rape women, not to force their sexual parts into a woman’s intimate area violently, not to take away someone’s sexual agency and not to humiliate them. Adding to this, it is still difficult for Americans to understand how women can rape men (forceful fellatio for example of which I personally have one friend this happened to). American notions of what rape constitutes, who deserves to be recognized as a victim, and how we should hold the people who rape accountable are not resolved issues.

Bringing it back to Game of Thrones, rape is clearly acceptable as a societal practice. As a woman watching the show, it feels like nearly every  other episode contains a rape if not several (it has been clearly noted the extreme salaciousness of female nudity in the show, something I am not personally opposed to). Aside from Law and Order: SVU I know of no other show that contains sexual assault so commonly. In Sunday’s episode, while I was watching the episode, I definitely felt that Jaimie raped Cersei. I felt the same discomfort I get in the pit of my stomach from every other scene containing sexual assault in the show, heard “no”, “stop” and “its not right!” from Cersei. It should be noted that this scene is not even in the books and was crafted specially for the show.

The show’s writers, however, seem to disagree with me. Alex Graves is quotes as saying “Well, it becomes consensual by the end, because anything for them ultimately results in a turn-on, especially a power struggle.”

Are you fucking kidding me?

We know as adults that there is such a thing as women having rape fantasies and real life sexual encounters can sometimes be confusing because of sexual power dynamics. However, from the scene I watched, Cersei was so turned off by the idea of intercourse in a house of worship, next to her dead son, and from a man who is being unreasonably aggressive toward her, that there is really no conceivable way this was a consensual act. Dan Savage, a sex columnist part of the sex positive movement, believes that we should change the discourse of consent from “no means no” to “an enthusiastic yes!”. I agree with this. This is a frame of mind where everyone’s sexual agency is respected and domination within sexual dynamics would only happen in an open, agreed upon encounter such as sexual dominant/submissive relationships as opposed to “well she didn’t say no”. Cersei did say no more than a few times and the actress acted the scene as a revolted women who ultimately submitted to a sexual assault which some how becomes conflated with consent. Giving up during a power struggle is not the same as “ok, I’m alright with this violence happening to me and I like it because I am no longer flailing”. Some fans have interpreted her silence as ultimate consent, to which I say, this was not an enthusiastic yes which would have indicated consent but instead the acceptance of an attack that the victim is not poised to stop. Its kind of like saying a robbery victim felt that they were giving to charity because the thief who attacked them had a knife.

Come on Game of Thrones writers, I know you can be intellectually more rigorous better than the position you are justifying.