Rape Culture, War Culture

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. -Sam Keen, Fire in the Belly

Rape culture is a symptom of war culture. If we can find our way to a peace culture, rape as a major category of crime will virtually disappear.

American culture is sickeningly violent.  Our mass media and entertainment sources are littered with dead bodies, shoot-outs, beat-downs and catastrophic property and human destruction.

People made noise about violence in media back in the 1980s and ’90s, but we seem inured to it now. Are humans inherently entertained by seeing bodies blown apart, eyes gouged out, cities leveled at a stroke? I think that would be a hard case to prove. It’s much easier to believe that media is a reflection of culture, and that our culture has fallen profoundly ill.

When a woman is walking alone through a city, ever-present in her mind is the threat of rape. When a man is walking with a girl through a city, ever-present in his mind is the threat of having to defend himself and this girl from armed attackers, up to and including the use of lethal violence.

Violence follows men as sexual violence follows women. The two are sides of the same coin, and if we eradicate one, we eradicate the other. It is hypocritical for a woman to say, “We can eradicate rape and domestic violence with specific tactics and techniques that target aggressive men,” and then turn around and expect her man to be willing to employ lethal force in defending her at will.

This is the shape of the culture we found ourselves twisted up in: violence is a “necessary evil” when employed by the “good guys,” but it must be eradicated when it is deployed “outside the law.”

When we open the door and invite Violence in to do our bidding, we also invite in the likelihood that Violence will do things to us we don’t like and don’t want. This spillover violence is then, as David Graeber says, “pushed out of sight”:

. . . But this is largely because we’re no longer able to imagine what a world based on social arrangements that did not require the continual threat of tasters and surveillance cameras would even look like. –Debt: The First 5,000 Years

Sam Keen, who opened this article, has more wisdom on the topic:

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.

(Emphasis mine)

It is time for all of us to come face-to-face with the reality that it is hypocritical for us to ask a million men to stand on a wall under arms, “protecting us” against all enemies foreign and domestic, while we at the same time demand an end to rape culture.

Our current “armed peace” military culture is incompatible with eradicating sexual violence. Our current military-industrial-prison complex is incompatible with eradicating sexual violence. Our globe-spanning network of 300+ military bases and outposts is incompatible with demands that politicians pass laws to protect us from violence at home. Our habit of jailing massive numbers of young men on minor drug infractions is incompatible with building family values and bringing up the next generation of leaders with healthy male role models. Our violent occupations overseas are incompatible with loving, non-coercive penetration at home.

Let me be clear: I support military personnel. I have nothing but respect for anyone who would undergo the intense and exhaustive training, the taxing lifestyle, and the very real possibility of the ultimate sacrifice to which our armed forces submit. I deeply appreciate that they get up and stand on a wall so I can be secure and write these words in relative safety.

I can also imagine a world in which there are zero nuclear weapons, and military budgets shrink year after year, with more and more money going to caring for and re-training the wounded warriors who have served us so loyally for so long. I believe economic policy and diplomacy can make the world safer more effectively, and with less violence and personal suffering, than military policy. I want Love and Freedom for our warriors as much as anyone.

Consider the following passage. While you read it, think about America’s role as the world’s strongest armed force (by several orders of magnitude) and the implications that has for the context in which you form intimate relationships:

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.