We can’t address rape culture without taking a long, hard look at our war culture.
I’ve got good news and bad news about rape.
The good news is that the “bad guys” in the Steubenville rape case are going to jail. The bad news is that it’s going to happen again.
The other bad news is that most of “bad guys” get away with it. Most victims won’t get justice. These crimes—perpetrated by and against both men and women—aren’t going to stop anytime soon. They won’t stop because our country is a culture of war, and a war culture is a rape culture.
The United States (in case you haven’t been paying attention) is pretty much the premiere “warfighting” culture on the planet. We build the best weapons. We sell the most weapons. We’re the most skilled at penetrating other countries. (We’re so good at this, sometimes those countries don’t even know they’ve been penetrated.)
Does this mean something for our citizenry? You bet it does.
Here’s what Harvard philosopher Sam Keen thinks it means:
“The wounds that men endure, and the psychic scar tissue that results from living with the expectation of being a battlefield sacrifice, is every bit as horrible as the suffering women bear from the fear and the reality of rape. . . when human beings organize their political lives around a war system, men bear as much pain as women. Our bodies are violated, we are regularly slaughtered and mutilated, and if we survive battle we bear the burden of blood-guilt.”—Fire in the Belly
From the lips of a soldier, here’s Anthony Swofford, Gulf War veteran, who wrote the book Jarhead.
“Fight, rape, war, pillage, burn. Filmic images of death and carnage are pornography for the military man; with film you are stroking his cock, tickling his balls with the pink feather of history, getting him ready for his real First Fuck.”—Jarhead
His book ironically inspired a film.
Maj. Gen. Gary Patton, head of the Pentagon’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office, says: “Sexual assault has no place in my Army, and no place in my military,” but go ask a jarhead.
Or, just listen to them talk:
“We’re going to go f*ck those Iraqi motherf*ckers!”
Patton again: “[Rape] is an affront to the values that we defend, and it erodes the cohesion that our units demand.”
Respectfully, Major General, sir, I think penetrating the enemy’s lines and f*cking him up against his will is exactly in line with the values of our military.
Respectfully, I don’t see how our military could be as effective without it.
When we invite Violence into our house to do our bidding, we shouldn’t be surprised when Violence decides to stay awhile, and have its way with our young children when the mood strikes. We want the two things to be separate. We want to remote-pilot the Reaper drones from afar, and drop the Hellfire missiles with clean hands, then go home and hug and kiss our 4th-grade son and 16-year-old daughter. But the next day the Reaper will come home to roost. Our 4th-grade soon will be sprayed with automatic weapons fire at school and our 16-year-old daughter will get drunk and fondled at a party.
Our culture has gotten very good at pushing this spillover Violence out of sight, or normalizing it in our TV shows, movies, video games, advertisements, and pornography. The Steubenville boys said: “It wasn’t violent.” (Meaning, we didn’t beat her up.) You can blame them all you want, but the question remains: what is violent?
… is it violent when CIA drones kill anyone, anywhere they want?
… is it violent that the U.S. has 300+ military bases around the world?
Sam Keen again:
“When we accept the war system, men and women tacitly agree to sanction the violation of the flesh—the rape of women by men who have been conditioned to be ‘warriors,’ and the gang rape of men by the brutality of war. Until women are willing to weep for and accept equal responsibility for the systematic violence done to the male body and spirit by the war system, it is not likely that men will lose enough of their guilt and regain enough of their sensitivity to weep and accept responsibility for women who are raped and made to suffer the indignity of economic inequality.” —Fire in the Belly
Sam is right. Nothing is going to change unless we start facing the contradictions in our system. It doesn’t make sense to have a professional army, and demand that it doesn’t rape. It doesn’t make sense to kill children abroad, and expect your kids to be safe at home. It doesn’t make sense to scream at your wife over the dinner table, and demand your son respect girls he meets at parties. It doesn’t make sense to penetrate and occupy sovereign nations abroad, and then demand an end to sexual violence at home.
I support military personnel. I have nothing but respect for them. But our secret drone wars are not making life safer or better for our soldiers. The sequester is hurting a lot of American servicemen and women. We don’t need to spend less on our warriors, we need to spend differently: fewer drones and bombs, more rehabilitation. Fewer billion-dollar jets, more civilian retraining. Our military is full of skilled and capable folks: they could help us rebuild our crumbling national infrastructure. They could help us repair our crumbling healthcare system. They could even help us educate our young men on how to treat our young women when they’re passed out at parties.
Some people say America is in decline. I can’t say what the future holds. I can only tell you what I hope to see: I hope America stop expecting the impossible from its military. I hope Americans stop believing they can be murderous with one hand and merciful with the other. I hope Americans stop treating rape as if it were a problem that could be solved in isolation.
I hope, finally, that everyone will read this, and think about who we want to be, as a nation: Do we want to be the powerful bully who can’t see past his own fists? Or do we want to be the bully who finally grows up and learns there is more power in love than in violence?
“And perhaps the great day will come when a people, distinguished by wars and victories of the highest development of a military order and intelligence, and accustomed to make the heaviest sacrifice for these things, will explain of its own free will, ‘We will break the sword,’ and will smash its military establishment down to its lowest foundations. Rendering oneself unarmed when one has been best armed, out of a height of feeling—that is the means to real peace, which must always rest upon a peace of mind; whereas the so-called ‘armed peace’ as it now exists upon all countries, is the absence of peace of mind … Rather perish than hate and fear, and twice rather perish than make oneself hated and feared—this must someday become the highest maxim for every single commonwealth too.”—Nietzsche
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