Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Cake or Rape? Not the Same Ring as Cake or Death...

When people hear that I write for this blog, they almost immediately ask why it's necessary to have a women's bioethics blog - what's the point to having something written primarily for women, by women, about issues that affect women? Haven't we moved beyond and to a point where gender shouldn't matter, we're enlightened enough, and so forth? I try to take it as a good thing, that people want to think this, while simultaneously think that some things are so set into society that people don't even see why it would be necessary.

Stories like this, however, are why I think it's important that women's views are heard, loud and strong. There are so many things wrong with the following statement, starting with someone feeling like it was an acceptable comparison to make, moving into the problems rape victims face, gender imbalance and expectations in marriage, the undermining of the concept of consent - it goes on, and on. Is it strictly related to bioethics? Not necessarily, although I think it's possible to create very solid, bioethical related arguments around and against rape. Is it an attitude we should all be aware is still out there? Most certainly. From the Londonist:
The BNP’s Nick Eriksen learnt this the hard way last week, after he was sacked as the party's London Assembly candidate for publishing jaw-droppingly obtuse views on rape on his blog. The post has since been removed, but luckily journalists were quick to spot the following:
"Rape is simply sex (I am talking about 'husband-rape' here)... Women enjoy sex, so rape cannot be such a terrible physical ordeal…To suggest that rape, when conducted without violence, is a serious crime is like suggesting force-feeding a woman chocolate cake is a heinous offence.”
When our elected officials (and I use our on a global scale) harbour these views towards women, then it's likely that they're not going to be the advocates for women's rights, health, and etc.
-Kelly Hills


SabrinaW said...

Once again, that screaming thing...

It took quite a bit of effort to convey to some male associates of mine exactly how it feels to be threatened with the possibility of sexual assault. The closest I could come was comparing it to their feelings about being aggressively hit on by a bearish gay guy at a bar. One thing that should be a primary goal of women is to find ways to communicate the depth of meaning that such matters like rape have in ways that men can understand.

Evelyn said...

Force-feeding a woman chocolate cake is an offense, as it's assault and a violation on her personal sovereignty. I love me some chocolate cake, but on my terms, not someone else's.
And sex is the same way. Your wife could love sex so much she's invented new positions that make the Kama Sutra look tame. That still doesn't give you the right to force sex on her.
I wonder if he thinks that men can't be raped...

Kelly Hills said...

I admit I've been having fun walking around the philosophy department, just having people read the Londonist article. The reactions have been pretty entertaining - mostly variations of shocked speechlessness.

Sue Trinidad said...


unreal. but no: real.


hey, Kelly: score another flummox-reaction.

Kelly Hills said...

Thanks Sue. I'm close to bingo! ;-) (I have to find humour in here somewhere - it's either laugh or cry.)

Anonymous said...

While I share the response espoused (horror, despair, not surprised), I wonder whether in presenting this incident with such dismissal, we truly create a space for people to learn how to use their power well, or merely, perpetuate a culture of shame that suppresses the ignorance that leads a person to hold a view like the one on the assemblyman's blog.

Empathy seems a cornerstone of facilitating ethical development, and we have to be able to give it to ourselves before we can share it with others. Nonetheless, when practiced diligently, empathy invites and inspires others to learn to use their power well.

Our brains are patterned not to see how our actions do not align with how we see ourselves - the cognitive dissonance effect. So with regard to our own power, we are often fish swimming in water.

Learning empathy for those outside of one's power group is a real challenge- particularly for those who hold positions of power due to 'unearned privilege'. (inherited, structurally based power)

No question, it is important to take a clear stand against violence and to underscore the harm that oppressive attitudes create, yet I sense that rather than the hammer of shame and condemnation, if we take the opportunity for using this "preaching to the choir" space for choir practice, to demonstrate how a different voice leads to and creates a different space that can hold diverse perspectives, then the beauty of the choir's singing will beckon others to join and we can end these cycles of violence/ despair, rather than merely running the ignorance underground and being left in a state of despair until the 'next' time this kind of pervasive but suppressed view rears its hurtful head.

I realize that nothing stated here is new, perhaps just a question of whether we practice what we preach and if not, whether we are missing the opportunity that our power as creators and holders of this space affords.

Andie said...

This makes me want to scream or possibly injure the politician who said these things. Trivializing rape (Uh...and I include but do not limit myself to spousal rape here) is tantamount to trivializing a woman's right to her own body. I don't care who you are, how well you know a woman, or how much she enjoys the kinkiest sex. You have no right to force anything on her.