Hell yes


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Soooo… I’m totally selfish; part of the reason I came back here is academic. I’ve got papers due, and I wanna know if I’m missing something. Having all of this experience in the blogosphere has been enormously helpful with arguments, making it easier for me to find resources to support them and ways to engage my thoughts. That said, my brain goes back and forth over a number of things.

Anyway, I’ve spent my last few days working on how to arrange this (as Bridgett can attest). Talking to my boyfriend (not Breviloquence… talk about long stories), I finally figured it out. I think. Here’s what I said:

(No, I’m not taking out his contributions … I just overwhelmed him with my Wall O’ Text skill)

So, I’d been working from the top down … starting with causes and getting to effects. Makes sense, right? 5:49

Nope. 5:49

’cause the stuff I really wanna concentrate on is at the bottom, and just as global as the stuff on the top, it just happens to be the end result of a lot of really stupid stuff happening before that. 5:49

Anyway, that’s the setup. 5:49

Mass rape and sexual violence have been/are prevalent in a surprising (to the average American) number of recent conflicts. For the large-scale political population, however, it was just ‘the way things were.’ It was so normalized that it took decades just to get the UN to pass a resolution saying ‘hey, women’s rights count as human rights too, at least in certain types of war’ (oh, reading that was so depressing. They *still* haven’t conceded that women’s rights are human rights, just that certain types of mass sexual violence (specifically, forced pregnancy in the cause of ethnic cleansing) are crimes against the state, as genocidal practices. Nothing else.)

That was an interesting and thoroughly depressing paper, but it had lots of citations and numbers, so it’ll fill in that bit nicely.

Even now, it’s seen as both OMG horrible! by the average American when it happens in ‘trendy’ places (Save Darfur! Save Somalia!), and ‘well, duh,’ when it happens to Those Savages (Congo what?). 5:54

Either way, the narratives are really similar – after all, it’s just mass killing and rape, right? People do horrible things to each other for seemingly arbitrary reasons, and We’re Above That Sort Of Thing Here. 5:54

The thing is, that there are actually a whole lot of different things that are happening:

    • The UN classic: rape and forced pregnancy as genocide (see: Bosnia)
    • The Diamond Standard: rape as a tool of terrorism and control. Militias and mercenaries and mining, oh my! (Congo)
    • Rape as collateral damage/expresses of colonial domination. (Vietnam, reports of what Blackwater is doing, etc.)
    • Sexual and gendered violence in the forms of (sexual and domestic) human trafficking (from semi-private entrepreneurs), “voluntary” sexual exploitation , and direct state-sponsored economic and sexual exploitation
    • and the one that really gets overlooked: Chaos. Well, not chaos: local destabilization. Sexual violence as identity work (“I may not have a job, but dammit, I’m still a man!”), as a result of completely fucked up social systems (street kids using rape as a way to organize their hierarchies and punishments), and plain ol’ unbridled evil (see: “jackrolling”).

These are all contributed to by a combination of state ‘weakness.’ (Not necessarily (or even primarily) as a result of the “failed state” theory/doctrine, but it’s definitely there) and patriarchal and colonialist narratives. 6:01

The forms they take depend on the context of the conflict and the actors involved; when you have organized national (or quasi-national, like Blackwater and KBR) groups, you tend to get rape as dominance/collateral damage, where it’s (literally) inscribing the power dynamics (or perceived dynamics) on the bodies of the oppressed. 6:03

(Why yes, I am a feminist. Had you noticed?) 6:04

Where the actors are more ‘underground,’ and unfettered, like in the case of *true* mercenaries and militias, hired by outside contractors and thus in no way tied to state mechanisms or structures (diamonds and whatnot), you get violence as terrorism, used for pacification of the populace and an outlet for in-group tensions (and yes, bonding). They don’t have official backing, they don’t have bombs, they’ve got machetes and guns, and no rules. So they cut swathes of destruction, breaking up communities and making it clear that opposing them (or looking at them funny, or having tits, or not having tits, or having food, or not having food…) is death. That gets them what they want. And is ‘fun,’ for a certain value of fun. 6:06

When you get internal state conflicts, you wind up with different types of trouble; ethnic cleansing or whatever’s happening in Palestine/Israel, Tibet/China etc. (Yes, I know, the whole ‘is it really internal’ thing is in question .. but that’s the point, isn’t it?). Those are state-sponsored (or at least vaguely condoned) programs of violence, in which even though they’re not *directly* creating genocidal programs (that is, when you go back and look at the documentation, there aren’t orders saying “hey, go rape all these people and bring their pregnancies to term” or “let’s perpetrate some atrocities, take pictures of them, and get them leaked all over the internet!,” but rather you wind up with a culture that encourages it, and sort of winds up in the “benign neglect” mode), they wind up looking like it. 6:10

On the other hand, when the internal conflicts are more economic than, er, violent (that’s soooooo not the right term, but I’m on a roll and I don’t want to stop), you wind up with the state creating, condoning, and generally encouraging exploitative structures, where women (and children, and occasionally men) are sold into, pushed into, or kidnapped into trafficking systems, sketch employment, and so on. The state is directly exploiting its citizens, and doing so in a highly gendered way that does, indeed, open up its citizens to the types of extreme sexual violence that happen under the other conditions (because the state has little interest in protecting its citizens from harm), but it isn’t doing so with overt sexual violence of its own. 6:13

The last bit, chaos … is obvious but not. 6:13

On the ground, where we get the really crazy stuff, it’s all about the damage. It happens in each of these conditions, in urbanized cities as well as the deepest jungles, and is more or less a result of all of these things – patriarchy, colonialism, and state destabilization (from external and/or internal sources). That’s where you get things like jackrolling, intense DV, institutionalized “survival sex,” (see: Wojcicki, JM. “She drank his money”: survival sex and the problem of violence in taverns in Gauteng province, South Africa.”) and most of the worst AIDS/HIV transmission practices (like, say, the pervasive notion that if you have sex with a virgin, it’ll cure you.). 6:16

Reconceptualizing it this way keeps the sexual violence foregrounded, while bringing in all of the elements of the state, global cultures, and multinational corporations and abuse. 6:16

So, I got that far, then I asked a mutual friend to look it over. He’s much more on the names-and-dates side of History/Anthro, and far better with the diligence than I am. I sent it to him to see what he thought, and got the following:

I can see the points your making there, well as best I can now, my brain’s not at full capacity. And there’s definitely something to the institutionalized waves of rape that have taken place in these areas. But there’s one thing that gets overlooked, especially when I see women writing about rape, and I guess maybe it’s because of how just horrid it seems. It’s this, when man (and I mean it as a gender here) has already gotten to the point where killing tohers for what they want seems a normal everyday thing, rape doesn’t need a purpose to happen, other then that the man wants to.

It seems there’s a lot of overthinking on it. But that same primal core that says you can kill someone cause you want there stuff is basically saying ‘take what you want, no matter what.’ And that includes sex. In many of the lawless areas where it can’t be stopped, you have these people who have already surrendered morality. They don’t need a reason other then that they want to. It happened with European nobles, it happened during colonization, it happened in nearly every war. I think trying to give it a more grand reason or intellectual design is at best secondary, or a way of just trying not to acknowledge how selfish and uncaring/sadistic people can be.

Sorry if that’s a darker take then you’d like, but I think it’s what I believe is true.

Obviously, we’re not at the ‘meeting of the minds’ stage, but then again, we only just got to the ‘sharing our academic lives’ part of our friendship. And, well, he’s a non-feminist guy. Not an anti-feminist, thank $Deity (I’ve had that conversation far more times than I’d like), but just rather outside that part of my mental framework.

That’s good, however, because it means that I have to think more about how to explain things to people who aren’t me, and to contemplate the fact that my professor may, indeed, fall into that category. So I thought about it, and this is how I responded:

Hah, no, your point makes perfect sense. But that’s the whole point of grad school – overthinking things. We pointy-headed intellectuals don’t have to do much in that regard. And it’s Globalization; I’m supposed to be putting it into broader narratives (in this case, patriarchy (well, kyriarchy, but I *really* don’t feel like making it that complicated), corporate structure/greed, and colonialism).

That said, that bit where it happens ’cause the man wants it to is exactly the point, at least all the way at the bottom, for chaos. It’s the breakdown of the system(s) to the degree that not only can privileged people (read: economic and political elited) do whatever they want, but all hierarchies, all the way down, duplicate this pattern with impunity. So you get phenomena like jackrolling, where roving groups of men (mostly teens) run around in the streets, raping people (usually women) in broad daylight and calling it a game. Not just because they feel like it (which is true here, now, for any given crime – if you want it badly enough, you’re going to do it and damn the consequences), but because they can.

When it comes to things like militia and mercenary violence, you get more stuff going on… it’s not just “because they can” or “because they want to,” but because it’s a primary mode of getting what they want in terms of their overall mission, whether that’s protecting corporate interests or being the oppressors rather than the oppressed. If you need people to mine instead of farm, you torch the fields and rape and kill everyone they know so there are no other options. If you want people to join your militia, give them the choice of being raped to death with a machete or join you (frequently cemented by having you carry out the violence yourself, to bind you to the group by shame and survivor’s guilt as much as self-preservation). If you want to take down a village and send a message to everyone else that you can do whatever you want, and they should give you anything and everything you want, you bring out every female person, toddlers to grandmothers, and rape them and mutilate them. You take down their social structure. You separate their families. You desecrate their holy items and their bodies and make sure that some of them survive to tell others.

And that’s the out-group stuff; it’s instrumental in getting what they want without resistance. I’d imagine that it’s easier to go through a night of rape and pillaging without people trying to kill you and scream their heads off every few minutes.

The in-group stuff, that’s both more interesting and more creepy. In the same way that, say, groups bond over manta rays*, they frequently bond over gang-rape and other forms of shared sexual violence. It’s a both/and situation. Yes, it’s because they can, but the why they want it differs under different circumstances. Men who ordinarily wouldn’t rape, or who would prefer to have individual women, not someone’s leftovers or a shared experience with other men, may find themselves participating as a function of group membership – because everyone else is doing it, because it makes you look cool, because it’s something you’ve never tried, and then later, yes, because you like it. In those cases (and I’d argue that there are way more of those than the others), it is really more about the in-group than the out-group; the fact that it functions as terrorism is a nice bonus, though.

    * Source sketchy, but I do think I’ve seen it elsewhere. Even if not, it’s the same principle.

Compared with conscripts, professional soldiers engage in earlier and more frequent sexual activity (Holmes 1984). Emblems of power are inscribed on the male body through heroic insignia and war paraphernalia, their converse on the enemy body – which may already be dead – by stripping off clothes, castration and other mutilation, body counts, displays and photography of corpses as tropes and so on. Raped and then ‘wasted’ Vietnamese were left with U.S. military insignia placed between their open legs (Brownmiller 1975).

    * Littlewood, Roland, “Military Rape” Anthropology Today, Vol. 13, No. 2 (Apr., 1997), p. 10. JSTOR URL.

So… what do you think? Does it make sense? Am I missing anything? I realized as I was typing that I actually had references to almost everything I said, which is a wonderful feeling. But I do still wonder, since I’ve been doing most of this in my head.

Talk to me!

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Okay, so I’m slightly hyper. This is my first day on Vyvance (which I hadn’t even heard of until this morning), and I’m still figuring out the parameters.

Anyway, yes, I do exist. Those of you who see me on Facebook ought be eminently aware of that fact, since I’ve been posting every few minutes for the last week or so. Aaand… everyone else probably thinks I fell into a black hole of some sort.

That black hole is called grad school.

I’m not sure whether I like it or not, honestly. It’s a big long story that would’ve involved lots of ranting on here, only I put it on facebook and twitter so my lives wouldn’t cross quite so much.

Who knows what’ll happen later, though?

How have you guys been?

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Silence is not an option (But I don’t know what else to say)

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Short, Grumpy Post

I love my cohort and classes in many ways, but now more than any previous time in my academic career, I’m fed up by the tendency of male classmates – even self-proclaimed feminist male classmates – to talk interrupt and talk over people.  Especially women, including our professor, but some of them do it to everyone – professors, guest lecturers, classmates, each other… it’s appallingly bad manners, and something they don’t even seem to notice.  And it’s driving me up the wall.

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Headdesky moments from class

“Bisexuality means by definition you’re non-monogamous, unless it’s sort of hypothetical bisexuality”  – Social Science Professor

… really?  Seriously?

This, from the incredibly well-read, quite apparently gay, otherwise sane-seeming professor.  Casually tossed into his commentary on a classmate’s proposal to study songs involving girls kissing girls.  I just… *headdesk*

Again, I know I’m preaching to the choir here, but repeat after me: bisexuality and polyamory are not the same thing.  One of those means that you like people with different sets of genitalia.  The other one means that you like (or are amenable to) being in relationships with more than one other person.  You can be bisexual without being poly and vice versa, or you can be both together.  And neither of them necessarily entails being kinky, promiscuous, or… well, anything else, really.

His lecture has moved on to pornography, to horror films, to… *sighs*  Okay.  I’m just not listening any more. This is ridiculous.

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At 12:41 am today, October 14th 2008, my lovely girlfriend Sara gave birth to her first child.  I haven’t met the little one yet, being in class, but I’m on my way as soon as I get out.

Hurrah!  Head on over to her place and give her a hug, if you’re so inclined.

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