Rape of the Sabine Women, by Ceri Richards
I blogged last night about the Connecticut Central State University newspaper publishing an op-ed article entitled Rape Only Hurts If You Fight It. Since the article was published on February 7, the head of CCSU’s PRIDE group and other school leaders have organized rallies and have called for the resignation of Mark Rowan, editor of the student newspaper, The Recorder, and of its opinion editor, John Petroski, who is the author of the offensive editorial. Although Rowan and Petroski have offered apologies, Rowan also defended Petroski as a “bold satirist whose message fell on deaf ears,” and chided outraged, demonstrating students for not “directing their anger appropriately,” calling them “laughable.”
Following is the text of Petroski’s article from the February 7, 2006, issue of The Recorder:
Rape Only Hurts If You Fight It
Most people today would claim that rape is a terrible crime almost akin to murder but I strongly disagree. Far from a vile act, rape is a magical experience that benefits society as a whole. I realize many of you will disagree with this thesis but lend me your ears and I’m sure I’ll sway you towards a darkened alley.
If it weren’t for rape, Western Civilization might not exist as we know it today. When the Romans were faced with a disproportionate ratio of women to men in the early kingdom, they had to do something, lest their fledgling society die for lack of sons. To solve their little dilemma, they did what any reasonable man would do: they threw a festival for their Sabine neighbors, and then stole and raped their women. It’s quite logical; in fact I don’t understand why the settlers at Plymouth didn’t do the same to the local Indians. It certainly would have saved on shipping costs.
Obviously, in the case of the Rape of the Sabines, rape was a tremendous help to society. The Sabine women, for their part, didn’t seem to mind so much, as they threw themselves between their brutish old Sabine husbands and their charming new Roman ones to prevent bloodshed when the Sabine men came to reclaim their wives. Yet even when society was totally against a rape, the raunchy act has benefitted society too. Where would the Romans be, after all, if it weren’t for the Rape of Lucretia infuriating the people to the point of overthrowing their last king, Lucius Tarquinius Soperbus? If it weren’t for that event, the world might never have had the Roman Republic for a pristine example of a flawless government.
Rape’s glorious advantages are not, however, exlusively found from 2,000-year-old examples. In actuality, rape’s advantages can very much be seen today. Take ugly women, for example. If it weren’t for rape, how would they ever know the joy of intercourse with a man who isn’t drunk? In a society as plastic-conscious as our own, are we really to believe that some man would ever sleep with a girl resembling a wildebeest if he didn’t have a few schnapps in him? Of course he wouldn’t, at least no self-respecting man would, but therein lies the beauty of rape. No self-respecting man would rape in the first place, so ugly women are guaranteed a romp with not only a sober man, but a bad boy too, and we all know how much ladies like the bad boy.
Ugly women are not, however, the only people who benefit from rape– prisoners enjoy its many perks, too. What, after all, would possibly be more boring than spending years of your life confined to some tiny cell 23 hours a day? The answer, of course, is spending years of your life confined to some tiny cell 23 hours a day and never getting some hot action. With rape, prisoners never have to worry about that. Instead, they merely need worry about treating their rapists with enough love and respect to earn a quick reach-around.
But if there is one bread and butter reason for why rape should not only be accepted, but even endorsed, it is because our news editors are in dire need of interesting stories for our front page. Bookstore stories? Fossils? One dollar coins? Please. Now, some saucy circle jerk rape action? Yeah, that’s the ticket.
Students calling for Petroski’s and Rowan’s resignations say they have felt victimized by the editors, because Petroski and Rowan, they say, make fun of lesbians, gay men, Jews, “everybody,” except, of course — based on what I’ve read — white, conservative heterosexual men, like themselves.
On the same page as the rape essay, there is an article entitled, Horses Are People Too, about the recent euthanization of Barbaro, the American thoroughbred who won the 2006 Kentucky Derby and who was believed by many to be the next Secretariat. Following are excerpts from this article:
Little effort was made to preserve the animal’s life, albeit one of perpetual pain and agony. This is just another example of our society’s willingness to interfere with God’s divine plan. I for one am outraged that while Barbados passed peacefully and relatively painlessly from the world, our national leaders made no attempt to stop it…
How can we be so careless with a life? The animal had many long years of heavy medication and agonizing physical treatment to look forward to. I suppose in our modern society with its iPods and hybrid cars, no one has the time to nurse an indisposed horse for 30 years. Readers, the next time you’re brushing your teeth, feeding your dog, eating a bowl of Jell-O or just gluing together a broken teacup, think of Barbaro, won’t you?
Petroski wrote another article for this issue entitled The True Path to Equality about February being Black History Month.
What is amusing is that many of the people who scream for equality are the very ones who support policies that make a mockery of the term.
Before I step on my soapbox… it may be prudent for me to clear a few things up. I am a white male who does not agree with affirmative action, reparations for black citizens or even banning the “n-word.” Nonetheless, despite what some people would like to think, being white and having such beliefs does not make me racist.
Indeed, I’d argue that the true racists are those who argue for affirmative action or for limiting freedom of speech, for they are the ones who continue to insist that a man continue to be judged based on the color of his skin, rather than the content of his character…
…Naturally that’s not a very popular way of looking at things. It’s much easier to play the victim and ask for certain advantages… not because they seek equality, not because they seek to “even up the score,” but because they seek an edge.
…That is not what America stands for and that should not be our goal. This is a land where all men are created equal, not kept so by artificial means. This is a country that values competition, tenacity and drive, not handicaps, callowness and complacency.
The “Editorial” for this issue, which is unsigned, begins:
Before anything else is said, we must make clear to our readers that as we write this, the news has just broken…According to the admittedly suspect Iranian Fars news agency, “after seven long years of arduous work, Iranian scientists here on Saturday introduced a medicine which cures Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome.” …
In fairness, Fars also recently reported news that a UFO crashed in Iran and claimed that Israel was practicing genocide against their Lebanese neighbors with poison-filled birthday balloons….
While the president of CCSU, Jack Miller, said the rape article was “hurtful and offensive,” he also defended Petroski’s “freedom of speech to offer his opinions.” Of course, Petrovski and Rowan have also defended their rights to freedom of speech. In comments threads relating to this incident, the first issue which is raised — nearly always by white men — is the importance of the editors’ freedom of speech– even when they are dismissing an article trivializing rape as “satire.”
These are all white men who are busy defending the free speech of white men. Within their college community they all occupy positions of comparative power: Editor of the school paper, Opinions Editor, President of the school. In the larger community, they also occupy positions of comparative power as white, heterosexual men. For this reason, their speech, exercised “freely” in a society and culture originally premised on the view that white, heterosexual men should rule over all other men, women and creatures, and in which white heterosexual men have ruled over all other men, women and creatures for centuries, can and does cause real harm in the world for all who are targeted, made the butt of jokes, belittled, demeaned, dehumanized, objectified. In the course of these few articles from which I’ve posted excerpts, black persons have been dehumanized and degraded, a beautiful horse and the persons who cared for him and who care for all animals have been dismissed and belittled, Iranians, Palestinians, and those suffering from AIDS have been made to be the butt of jokes in a time of life-shattering trauma, genocide and incurable illness in their lives, and men, raping women, has not only been trivialized but called a good thing, with “ugly” women degraded and dehumanized in ways which are terrifying. The truth is, justice cannot be accomplished in the world, revolution cannot be made, without restraints on the “freedom of speech” of white men.
Social inequality is substantially created and enforced — that is, done — through words and images. Social hierarchy cannot and does not exist without being embodied in meanings and expressed in communications. A sign saying, “White Only,” is only words, but it is … [legally] seen as the act of segregation that it is…Segregation cannot happen without someone saying “get out” or “you don’t belong here” at some point. Elevation and denigration are all accomplished through meaningful symbols and communicative acts in which saying it is doing it.
Words unproblematically treated as acts in the inequality context include “you’re fired,” “help wanted– male,” “sleep with me and I’ll give you an A,” “fuck me or you’re fired,” “walk more femininely, talk more femininely, dress more femininely, wear makeup, have your hair styled and wear jewelry,” and “it was essential that the understudy to my Administrative Assistant be a man.” These statements are discriminatory acts and are legally seen as such. …
…Discrimination does not divide into acts on one side and speech on the other. Speech acts. It makes no sense from the action side either. Acts speak. In the context of social inequality, so-called speech can be an exercise of power which constructs the social reality in which people live, from objectification to genocide. …Words and images are how people are placed in hierarchies, how social stratification is made to seem inevitable and right; how feelings of inferiority and superiority are engendered, and how indifference to violence against those on the bottom is rationalized and normalized. Social supremacy is made, inside and between people, through making meanings. To unmake it, these meanings and their technologies must be unmade.
–Catharine A. MacKinnon, Only Words, 1993, pp. 31-32