White Paper – crossanlogan

The Counterintuitivity of Defining Rape

Practice Opening 1

Rape is perhaps the most heinous of crimes one person can commit against another. Historically, the majority of rape cases have seen a man raping a woman, and yet historically the exact criteria for what constitutes rape has been decided by men. Worse yet, the vast majority of these definitions have focused on not the woman’s loss of autonomy over her body, but the woman’s male owner losing his autonomy over her body. This crime being one of the greatest atrocities a man can visit upon a woman, it seems counterintuitive that men have been the ones to determine what is and isn’t rape.

Practice Opening 2

Throughout history, women have been subject to the whims, desires, and fancy of men. From Biblical times up until the modern day, even countries which pride themselves on being “modern” in their ideologies still are complicit in the patriarchy. For example, the definition of rape has been developed and enforced strictly by men from historic times even until the present day. One of the worst crimes a man can commit against a woman has been defined for thousands of years by men.

“Legitimate Rape” and Todd Akin’s Idiocy

In 2012, Republican Senator Todd Akin said, when asked about rape, “[i]f it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.” This is a statement that not only belies a basic misunderstanding of human biology and physiology, but also indicates a fundamental problem in Senator Akin’s thinking — on some level, the phrase “legitimate rape” implies a hierarchy, wherein some womens’ rapes are on a higher level, more traumatic, or more rapey than those of other women.

Let’s take two women with whom I am close personal friends, whose names we’ll change for the sake of privacy. One woman, who we’ll call Kelly, experienced a rape when she was in high school — her rapist pressured her again and again to perform fellatio on him, and when she said she was uncomfortable he didn’t stop; in fact, he threatened to tell all of her friends that she’d, in fact, done it eagerly, thus labeling her a “slut” among her early high school friend group.

The other woman, Maria, had an experience which we might see as closer to the “traditional” scenario — the struggling, forced kind, perpetrated by her uncle no less. He held her down and removed her clothing, and before he was finished he’d forcibly had his way with her.

As sickening as those scenarios are to imagine,  are we able to conclude under Todd Akin’s idea of “legitimate rape” that Maria’s experience was sufficiently rapey enough to qualify? By extension, then, are we able to write off Kelly’s experience as illegitimate? And more importantly, is it even reasonable and sane to be ranking nonconsentual sexual experiences like that? The answer is a profound no; it is absolutely insane, irresponsible, and reprehensible to attempt to categorize instances of rape as legitimate or illegitimate.

Women as Property

Throughout history, men have viewed women as nothing more than their property; whether we look at the Code of Hammurabi, the early British law text Fleta, the Bible, or 13th century Saxon law, there is one theme that commonly emerges — any wrong done to a woman is in reality done to that woman’s male owner.

Deuteronomy 22:28-29 says the rape of a virgin must be reconciled by a payment of fifty shekles to the woman’s father, as well as taking that pesky daughter of his off his hands by marriage, because what woman wouldn’t want to marry the man that just robbed her of her sexual and bodily autonomy? The Code of Hammurabi has a similar view, though it gets even harsher — not only does it describe the rape as “property damage,” it says that if the woman was married, her nonconsentual sexual experience turns her into an adultress. Regardless of the fact that by definition she was neither initializing the act nor enjoying herself during the act, under ancient Babylonian code she gets thrown into the river along with the rest of the cheating whores of the town.

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3 Responses to White Paper – crossanlogan

  1. crossanlogan says:

    Feedback was requested.

    I’m going to try to combine feedback for this post with general advice on Definition and Causation, the better to catch you up, crossanlogan.

    Feedback provided.
    Causal Notes at Causal Argument Advice FA15.
    —DSH

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  2. davidbdale says:

    Practice Opening 1.
    The ranking of the atrocity seems irrelevant. At least the second time you do it, you call it the worst crime a “man can visit upon a woman.” There, of course, is the focus. When men decide how bad a crime it is to abuse a woman, the women who come before men to adjudicate cannot expect justice. You’ve tried to pop that kernel with “heinous” and “atrocious” claims. Save it. Prove the kernel. We know the stakes are high.
    Practice Opening 2.
    This is intriguing but not yet developed. The strong first sentence needs some expansion. Are women property? Are they slaves? Do they count as persons in a census? Your second sentence could illustrate their low status. Your “For example” comes too soon, before you establish your claim. The “rape law shows this to be true” should be a conclusion, not a leading example. Make us agree with your central premise early.
    Legitimate Rape
    Definition Argument:
    I hope to hear more on your objection to the term “Legitimate Rape,” crossanlogan. It is the ideal portal into a thrilling investigation of the “50 Shades of Rape” conversation with your readers. Any honest person will grant Senator Akins’ premise that some rapes are obvious, others not so clear. A thorough investigation of the strata in between would take far more than 1000 words, but certainly is will not be difficult to find enough to say on the topic of the spectrum between enthusiastic consent and strenuous non-consent.

    Regarding your two examples, of course they’re both rape, but you’ve given yourself too easy an out. The unenthusiastic wife or girlfriend who “performs” but without her enthusiastic consent is a more difficult example. So is the woman who permits herself to be used for sex by a boss to keep her job when he has not demanded it. It may be irresponsible to categorize rape as legitimate or illegitimate, but it’s not irresponsible to identify and weigh degrees of consent as a way to measure whether rape has occurred.
    Women as Property
    Let’s examine your two examples in light of this notion that women are property and see if it yields us any Causal Arguments.

    Kelly was coerced to perform fellatio by way of blackmail. Her rapist suggested only that he would lie about her. In any way did he avail himself of the ancient notion that women are property? In particular, did he in any way consider Kelly his property? I think not. He took advantage of her vulnerability and recognized that she considered her reputation to be more valuable than her actual honor. Did she consent by making that trade-off? Would her rapist have been convicted? Did either of their ethical calculations make room at all for the concept of property?

    If not, then why is the concept of property relevant to your topic? (I’m not saying it isn’t; I am saying you haven’t used it yet.)

    The other woman, Maria, was forced by a more physically powerful uncle. What made him think he could get away with it? No court would ever have considered his niece to be his property. There can’t have been any measure of ownership in his calculation. So again, if we’re trying to identify the counterintuitivity of men defining rape, do you have an example that involves the concept of property?

    I’m sorry to say this, but if there are Causal Arguments here, they’re going to be distasteful. Maybe we can stipulate that men rape either for lust or power. The question why more women don’t drive a pair of scissors into their eye sockets is more complicated. Some comply because they’re physically threatened and fear death or grievous injury more than the loss of virginity or honor. Some comply for economy. Some to keep the peace at home. Some to save their reputations. This may not in any way coordinate with the plan you had for this essay, crossanlogan, but you should probably investigate the reasons women end up being victims of rape. It’s the most promising source of causal arguments.

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  3. davidbdale says:

    Start catching up right away, crossanlogan. We need a Proposal+5, a Definition Argument, a Visual Rewrite . . . a Causal Argument . . . .

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