Friday, April 07, 2006

Getting to the bottom, cont.

Back over at Pandagon, RJ of Bark/Bites is doing some exellent deconstructive work of his own in the comments section.

(edit: it's also on his own site now).


One thing that gang rape does is to enact a main premise of homosociality: relationships between men trump relationships between men and women.

Consider this–-not only would most of those guys at Duke not have raped those women one-on-one, but I’ll bet you dollars to donuts that the vast majority of those guys would have come to the woman’s defense had they stumbled on to the scene of a rape by a single attacker.

Think about it–you’re a young, athletic guy who excels at a contact sport. You turn the corner coming home from the library and you see some guy in the process of sexually assaulting a woman. I’m going to bet that 99% of those guys would have the very least called 911. I think most of them would have kicked the living shit out of the attacker. But when it’s their buddies or teammates–and as a survivor of 7 years of organized football in Texas, I can attest to the lengths that teammate bonding can go to–suddenly it’s “Can I be next?” or at the very best, “Hey guys, I’m not sure you should be doing that. Um, guys?”

That’s because the homosocial codes that are strongly in place in most men’s sports teams (among a bazillion other places) dictate that if you have to choose between your relationship with a woman and your relationship with men to whom you are bonded, you have to choose the latter–or else you’re feminized (a “pussy”) and as such, no longer fit for the homosocial bond.

I can totally see how that would be, although personally I wonder about the bit about most of those guys coming to a woman's rescue one on one. Certainly group psychology makes a strong case that it'd be more likely for at least some of them. But...going back to the Guardian article for a moment, I, like one of the interviewees, am interested in the "emotional coldness" of (necessarily, at least some of) the perpetrators.

Poverty causes stress, which might contribute to emotional coldness. Add a macho culture and you might end up with a gang rape. Or not. No one has a simple explanation for why gang rapes happen, or why a third of all sex crimes are now committed by under-21-year-olds, according to recent Home Office figures.

"Some of the boys are pretty normal," says Barry O'Hagan, who works with Misch on Southwark's Stop (Support, Treatment, Opportunity, Partnership) project for young sex offenders. "That's pretty scary, but that's not what people want to hear." In one notorious gang rape, the group played basketball together. They weren't a "gang" in the street-gang sense of the word. For one of the boys, "it was totally out of character", O'Hagan says. "He knew it was out of order, but in a group situation, it was just what happened. Groups are very powerful."

The leader of the group might be antisocial or psychopathic, Misch says. "They might think it's OK. Some boys are sadistic, some are altruistic." He pauses. "It's very complex...

Misch goes on to talk about how quite often the boys will "help" the victim get dressed and get home, afterward, and the ambiguity of that: is that contrition, of a sort? ("undoing")? genuine conviction that doing such makes it all okay? a cold, calculated move done with an eye toward any possible trial in mind? just part of the headfuck? Could be any or all, I expect.

There is this, too: (still from the article)

One boy being treated in the Stop programme, involved in a notorious gang rape, never once, throughout months of therapy, changed his story that the woman had consented. "He accepted responsibility for every other area of his life," O'Hagan says, "but not that. It was very striking."

At some point I want to really start getting into the ways in which empathy works...and doesn't, because I think it's crucial, and key. One of the interviewees uses the term "morals," which...I dunno if that's quite it. I mean, I'd be surprised if none of the rapists had ever even heard lip-service to the notion that rape is wrong and women are people, too. I know deeply ingrained misogyny is also part of this, and would certainly explain why a guy could take responsibility for everything except abuse of a woman,'s more complicated than "thou shalt" and "thou shalt not." "Role models" and "boundaries" talk is closer. well, more on that later.

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