The act of rape is an act of violence. While the physical aspect is terrible, far worse may be the lasting psychological trauma.
A weaponized use of intimacy crushes the human spirit.
Not only can the act be devastating for individuals, when armies wish to traumatize a culture they rape its civilians as an act of total war. It happened at Nanking; it happened in Berlin; it is part of the theology of ISIS. It was an attempt to create a ‘rape culture’
Women, the weaker sex, are its chief victims. The humiliation visited on the women falls doubly upon the men who do not protect them, and the whole nation is demoralized.
It has also hit the news most recently because of Hollywood’s Harvey Weinstein.
As if the public humiliation of all Hollywood (and the media and politicians who hobnobbed with him in complicity with his acts) weren’t shocking enough, the hashtag #metoo that went around on social media last week revealed just how common the experience of his victims is.
Once again, the word rape is being used. It expresses the demoralization and debasement of a culture.
The word rape, it seems, still possesses the sense of an immoral act.
Sadly, I don’t think it is because of any moral scruple within the worldview of the culture. The lurid acts that Harvey Weinstein allegedly committed on women for decades were, after all, just roundly celebrated in the life of the recently deceased Hugh Hefner. Catholic commentator Ross Douthat’s critical words do not reflect the view of the majority, certainly not of the press.
Not so fast you’ll say. Hefner’s victims gave their consent.
Harvey Weinstein claims the same.
A Rape Culture?
Yet Weinstein is nonetheless being accused of rape, and it is interesting that it is being described as characteristic of the culture in Hollywood. It is also occurring at precisely the same time that some people are accusing our entire culture of rape. Perhaps it is because there is a decided sense that its sexual ethics is inherently, ‘structurally’ degrading to women.
Some conservatives have dismissed the notion of a rape culture as an expression of identity politics or Marxist ideology. I don’t wholly discount that. It was used that way in the ‘Women’s March’, and among many campus activists.
But I think that there is something more, and a sense in which it holds true.
The idea of a ‘rape culture’, however sweepingly it is being used, may be the only phrase that is left to express horror and outrage at a culture of promiscuity now that political correctness has rid us of the vocabulary and social mores necessary to protect women.
Rape retains the vestigial sense of an immoral and dehumanizing act. That is good. We need to recover more words like it, works that express the sexual degradation of people (like the term ‘prostitution’ instead of the euphemism ‘sex trade’)
But calling this strong sense of general moral revulsion ‘rape’ is not good enough. The word is too vague to stop the sweeping sexual abuse of the vulnerable, because not every degradation, however real, is an act of rape. This leads people to turn a deaf ear to the way it is happening in ways that both the law and our culture no longer identify.
Diagnosing the problem with precision is therefore the first step in stopping the bleeding.
Why has the word rape become ineffective?
Because even the word rape has had its sense flattened out of it to fit the sexual ethics of the moral relativists of Hollywood.
What were once almost universally regarded as immoral sexual activities – from prostitution to adultery, from promiscuity to pornography, from sodomy to pedophilia – are increasingly being portrayed without moral scruple. In place of an accurate depiction of the outcome sexual immorality – ruined lives – the guiding principle behind Hollywood’s depiction is to be ‘fair’ to those who commit such acts, by which they mean to present them equally without the moral scruple.
Accordingly, rape is a transgression only because it violates the principle of equality.
Failure to obtain consent is the only taboo left in an egalitarian culture
The inequality in rape consists solely in the victim’s lack of consent to the act.
This idea of giving consent doesn’t just apply to rape. It seems the principle of all ethical judgment.
The masses of Western society, whose moral judgement has been beaten to the ground by the doctrine of human equality (and the Cultural Marxists’ notion of political correctness), can be counted on to say that, however they might feel about the act concerned, the principle they want to acknowledge is that ‘anyone can have sex with anyone (or anything) so long as ‘consent’ is given.’
This is not only true of the population in general. It guides the judgment of the courts. However lurid the act, however brutal and degrading, however devastated an individual might be by the act perpetrated upon him or her, if the victim’s ‘consent’ can be determined, then the act is considered legal.
The belief that so long as consent has been given no harm has occurred is increasingly unconvincing. It is directly related to the distance the law has made from any differentiated sense of sexual morality.
It is an extraordinary departure from the way the law was understood historically. This short discussion of the threefold use of the law is a decent illustration of the change.
The use of the word ‘rape culture’ expresses its disorientation, its stumbling under the accumulated weight of sexual transgression.
That is because legality does not entail morality. In fact, it is becoming abundantly clear that our laws not only fail to provide moral guides, restrain evil, or promote the good, they sanction immorality.
By making consent the sole determining factor of the legality of a sexual act, the law has rendered moral considerations – human considerations – irrelevant to its deliberations. Because of its blind commitment to the mathematical ideal of equality, the law is satisfied it has done its task if has determined that consent has been given or withheld.
A few examples will show how inadequate this is.
Consent in school sexual education
Consent is also the fundamental premise of the sex-ed curricula now being foisted on children throughout the Western world. It is an adult concept imposed on children in the name of equality.
Any consideration of how different children are to adults ought to make it clear how inappropriate the teaching of consent is. In the court of law, children are understood to be minors, and are judged by a different standard than adults. It is not because they are smaller, but because their capacity for moral responsibility is still unformed.
The defenders of these new manuals of sexual education state that they are giving children the tools to identify whether they have been violated. The claim is at best confused. Children can understand consent if all we mean by it is that they understand ‘yes’ or ‘no’, but if we mean that they can understand the moral consequences of their actions, or others’ acts upon them, the teaching of societies throughout history has been a decided ‘no.’
There is clear dissent to this idea of consent.
Asking children to employ an undeveloped faculty of responsibility before they are sexually and morally mature (as consent requires) is an indication of a perverse generation of adults. The wickedness of their indiscriminate judgment arises directly from the principle of equality they use to guide it.
Sadomasochism and rape culture
The full absurdity of individual consent as an ethical barometer – as if sex, marriage, and procreation were not a matter that concerned the entire human community – is evident in the mass appeal of sadomasochism among women, such as is evident in the popularity of the misogynistic Fifty Shades novels.
What does this portray other than a sense that being loved entails accepting being brutalized?
‘Consent’ is plainly bankrupt as a social ethic, precisely because it treats every sexual act indiscriminately by considering them all equally valid. Refusing to acknowledge distinctions between men and women, adults and children, or people and objects, is simply dehumanizing.
It is fundamentally degrading, and in particular towards women. Yet there are few protests from the feminists of our day.
Postfeminism is just posthumanism. The idea that human nature is a matter of pure volition, amenable to our self-determination (as it is expressed in the concept of gender identity) and above all to our consent is just another sign of a bankrupt ethics.
It is an ethics without Christ and without the law of God.
The phrase ‘rape culture’ might be the only sign that a culture of moral relativists has left to express its confused sense of outrage, dehumanization, and humiliation.
If the maxim of the law is that silence gives consent, then it is now clear that we can see dissent to the ethics of consent.