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Rape and a Woman’s Value

March 21, 2012

In the comments on my post about how women are more highly valuable than men, Skarphedin observed that women’s value has often been a strictly economic one. And of course the fact that women are economically valuable isn’t necessary of much value to them.

Remember what a non issue rape has generally been in terms being concerned about harm towards the women in any sense but basically damaging her market worth, or as an insult to her family/clan/etc.

Thinking women are economically precious is certainly not the same as holding them in reverence, and the latter is considerably less common than the former. Nevertheless it seems to me that the peculiar horror we have of rape still reflects an instinctive sense of insult and damage to value.

Consider what I had said about how the rape of a woman as a calamity but the rape of a man as a joke. It’s only very recently that we’ve even been able to get a sense of how common it is for men to be raped. Here’s N+1:

In January, prodded in part by outrage over a series of articles in the New York Review of Books, the Justice Department finally released an estimate of the prevalence of sexual abuse in penitentiaries. The reliance on filed complaints appeared to understate the problem. For 2008, for example, the government had previously tallied 935 confirmed instances of sexual abuse. After asking around, and performing some calculations, the Justice Department came up with a new number: 216,000. That’s 216,000 victims, not instances. These victims are often assaulted multiple times over the course of the year. The Justice Department now seems to be saying that prison rape accounted for the majority of all rapes committed in the US in 2008, likely making the United States the first country in the history of the world to count more rapes for men than for women.

Prisoners are more vulnerable than women are, and it should be fairly easy to protect them, but nobody cares. And it’s not just in prisons: Skarphedin recently put up a post noting that men are raped in war pretty frequently, too.

So why is it that we take rape so seriously when it’s women, and only when it’s women? (Well, or children.) We might also ask why it’s the rape of women that is so horrible—as opposed to mere physical abuse, for example? I think it’s precisely because rape strikes directly at the heart of a woman’s peculiar value: her chastity. Reverence does nothing to change that calculus—most likely it is serves as a further protection of chastity.

Commenter Gunn captures my own view:

Historically speaking, rape was a crime against men (inflicted on their women). The damage wrought by rape was understood to be an attack on womens’ chastity, which would mean that either she became less marriageable (affecting her father) or doubts would be cast on the paternity of her offspring (affecting her husband)….

Modern western women, as a group, no longer hold chastity as a virtue. However, rape is still perceived and punished as it used to be when chastity was required of good women. This is a double standard, but one that is very much taboo.

I actually consider this to be one of the clearer demonstrations of the basic antagonism of feminism towards men. Feminists—many of them lesbians who hate men on principle—are just trying to accumulate as many protections and privileges for women as possible, regardless of the fairness or intellectual coherence of their goals. In this case, we’re still supposed to view the rape of women as peculiarly abhorrent (which indeed we should; that is natural and normal), but at the same time we’re supposed to be completely non-judgmental about women’s sexual lives. This is absurd. The special horror of the rape of a woman stems from the damage to her chastity, and a promiscuous woman does as much damage to herself as a rapist could—quite probably more.

What we see now with slut-walks and so on can’t even be said to reflect double-standards. It’s an attempt to hold men to traditional standards while holding women to none at all.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. March 21, 2012 10:00 pm

    Personally, I was always horrified by the idea of male rape. It didn’t seem any less horrible to me than women being raped.

    I think unfortunately people are pretty callous to a lot of things until they become sensitized to it, just like people would have once been pretty callous towards women who were raped.

    It’s interesting that now we still have a very strong stigma associated with being a rape victim as a man – it would be humiliating and a blow to your worth. It used to be just that way with women too – it was really to her shame mostly. But now we still hold it against men in a way we don’t for women. But even that is changing, as you can see from all the recent stories and awareness around the issue.

    [JH: I basically agree with this too. So I think I might be being a bit inconsistent.]

  2. March 24, 2012 2:52 pm

    Btw, here’s a blog that disputes the idea that prison rape numbers means that more men are raped than women in the US:

  3. huhiu9 permalink
    March 27, 2012 1:00 pm

    Men raping women vs. men raping men are two completely different issues. I hate to sound like a feminist but it’s an issue of sexual desire vs. power.

    When a man rapes a woman he does so because of power and dominance. That’s why you saw Muslim men raping that female journalist in Egypt. She wasn’t dressed like a chaste Muslim woman and needed to be subjugated. It was a brutal experience for her. It was not about pleasure.

    When a man “rapes” (more like has sex with) another man it’s homosexual sexual desire, kind of like prison rape (no women there so who to have sex with?). This type of ‘brutality’ is more like gays doing BDSM than a dictator putting women under control.

    Men raping women = Power & Dominance
    Men raping men = Homoeroticism

  4. April 14, 2012 12:47 pm



  1. A Bit More on Rape and Chastity « Johann Happolati

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