Thursday, October 29, 2009

Your Underlying Assumptions are Showing - I Don't Like Them

Via the No to Rape blog comes this frankly appalling article from The New Paper.
What the article is implying is that when it comes to the issue of marital rape, some consideration has to be given to those who are sex addicts and therefore are unable to restrain themselves. The article reports (if that is a word one can use in when referencing the particular brand of journalism The New Paper is known for) on Lili, a woman who was manipulated back into a marriage with a man she had fallen out of love with like this:
When she left the marital home, he called her repeatedly to cajole her to return home.
“He said he wanted me to come home to look after the children.
I told him that I would come home only if we had no more relations as husband and wife. He said okay,” she said.
Seriously. “Cajole”? How about emotional blackmail? How about using the children as ransom? How about not something any decent human being would do? Cajoling is something you do to get a cat you’ve never met before to come to you to receive some pets. Not something you do to another human being you’ve hurt enough that they’ve made the decision to leave their family. Have we got that right? Thanks. Just had to get that out of the way.

Of course once she returned, he raped her repeatedly. The rest of the article is a discussion of people who are sex addicts, treatments and diagnoses. My question is, if this article is intended to raise awareness of sex addiction, why set it against the backdrop of marital rape, why call the frigging article “Evil Hubby or Sex Addict”? First off, that’s just sloppy writing. Second, the dichotomy is irrelevant in the case of marital rape. Third, calling rapists (even marital rapists) evil doesn’t help the dialogue surrounding the perception of rape as it makes it something “decent” people don’t do. In this rape culture that we live in, rape is committed not by people who are “evil” implying obvious malicious intent, but rather by people who accept the idea that as men, they are entitled to sex from the women they are with – who by virtue of being women are now obliged to service them in exchange for the attention they receive. Until that idea is firmly centred in the public discourse, more substantial discussion cannot proceed (for more examples the fallout wrought by this kind of flawed thinking, see the Magical Chicken’s earlier headdesk).

The main issue I have with the spurious article is the question of the criminality of marital rape in instances where the perpetrator is a sex addict. Sure it was never mentioned outright in the article, but if you open an article describing sex addiction in a rather sympathetic light with a story of an abused wife (and then casting doubt on her judgement with a few rhetorical questions at the close of her story) then what you’re basically saying (given the backdrop of the rather public No To Rape campaign) is that you really shouldn’t criminalize marital rape because there may be sex addicts.

We live in a country where the death penalty is meted out for possessing a week’s supply of hard drugs. Maybe we shouldn’t, because of drug addiction. (As an aside: I do oppose the harsh penalties the Singapore courts deal out for drug offenses, and the death penalty in general, but that’s a whole other post.) You know what is illegal in most countries in the world? Theft. But there are kleptomaniacs out there! Maybe we should stop prosecuting thieves. I am not making these arguments to minimize drug addicts or kleptomaniacs or even sex addicts. These are populations with issues that require professional intervention and will have more difficulty operating in this world whose gatekeepers (although, anthropomorphising the kyriarchy does feed into some misconceptions that hamper the dialogue around oppression, for more see this post from the now dead ProcrastinatioNation) fiercely police the boundaries of what is acceptable and who wields power. That being said, the actions committed by any member of those populations as a result of their condition cause hurt and harm to real people, some more so than others. That cannot be waved away and it isn’t waved away for the arguably lesser crimes of drug abuse and petty theft.

The bottom line is: Marital rape is inexcusable. Regardless of your personal addictions or your sympathies toward addicts (who are not undeserving of those sympathies, mind), forcing another, autonomous human being to relinquish control and ownership of their own bodies is wrong. That’s all there is to it and it’s a simple concept. To oppose the No To Rape campaign is to deny that women are autonomous human beings with a right to the bodies they inhabit and that’s what we need to be focusing on. Too long has the discussion of rape given rapists the benefit of the doubt. Let’s start talking about getting rapists to understand that rape is never acceptable. To see what flipping the dialogue looks like, go here.


  1. Even the un-clued in should be able to see the problem in TNP's spin. Whatever involuntary conditions contribute to a criminal action, the issue is one for the courts to consider during sentencing, not a free pass for the whole process. It's not unlike the disgusting Polanski defence (well, one of them): there are all these mitigating circumstances, so we should let him go. No, there *may* be mitigating circumstances, so let the court sort it out! Gee.

  2. I think it's a fairly obvious problem too, but clearly enough members of the general public do not which allows for drivel like this to be published in a nationally circulated paper.

    Thanks for dropping by btw!

  3. Good stuff, Cat. And here is another example of why flipping the dialogue is so important.


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