Rape is a political act, in the purest sense that second wave feminists meant when they said “the personal is political”. What they meant by that was not that one isn’t allowed to make choices to survive in a patriarchy, and that we should therefore turn feminism into a purity contest. What they meant was that many things women had been encouraged to see as merely personal matters, including violence against them, were better understood in a political lens. Men rape not because they’re animals and you tempted them and that’s that. The feminist view is rape is political, an act of dominance, a reassertion of the patriarchy.
That’s why I’m not surprised anymore when gang rapes happen. There is no more “pure” rape than men getting together and encouraging each other to prove this perverse, patriarchal definition of manhood by hurting and dominating a woman. And that’s why rapes escalate in times of conflict, because in the frenzy of men trying to get power over each other, women are objects to act out those power games.
Ironically, this political understanding puts the rape of Lara Logan in context. It says nothing about Egypt but that they’re a patriarchy that this happened. It says nothing about the claims of the protesters otherwise, and it may not say anything about the future of women. It definitely says nothing about whether or not this people or that people can self-govern. It simply says that when we raise men from the cradle to think of women as the gender that serves and is dominated, rape will become an expression of power and dominance. Gang rapes happen here. They happen pretty much everywhere, because patriarchy is a worldwide injustice. Rapes are about this oldest injustice, and this ugly spot on the stain of all humanity. Crowds of men, struggles over power, women as objects. It’s a formula that leads to this. The leg to kick out from under that to prevent this is not struggles for government control, which are part and parcel of being human. Or people hitting the streets, demanding their rights. The leg to kick out is the worldwide belief that women are second class. Then and only then will rape stop.
Condolences to Lara Logan and her family, and to the nameless victims the world wide who suffer rapes like hers, sadly every day.