No matter how angry Richard Mourdock’s recent rape comments make people, wishing him harm is never the answer.
Because it’s a day of the week, another member of the GOP has said something deeply misogynistic. This time, it was Indiana U.S. Senate candidate Richard Mourdock declaring that pregnancy resulting from rape (and by extension, the rape itself) “is something that God intended to happen.” Before Mourdock, of course, it was Todd “Legitimate Rape” Akin, and others making outrageous statements that force us to check what century we’re living in and wonder how it’s still possible that people who says things like this have any political power.
Every time something crazy like this happens, I notice a parade, via social media, of well-meaning progressive folks writing things such as, “I hope Todd Akin gets raped,” and “Someone should rape Richard Mourdock repeatedly until God intends for him to get pregnant.” These statements are generally received without critique from one’s social media followers, unless they happen to know people who think otherwise.
I understand the impulse, the anger. The problem with suggesting, however sarcastically, that rape should be the retaliation for statements like Mourdock’s is that it perpetuates the idea that rape is an acceptable means of restoring the balance of power. When someone rapes someone else, they’re inflicting violence as a means of claiming power. Threatening, again, even if you’re being flip about it, is sanctioning rape as a legitimate way to deal with an already toxic situation. Rape culture is not “just” about not raping people, it’s also about joking about rape or advocating for it even in what’s supposed to be a context in which you intend to demonstrate your distaste for it.
Richard Mourdock is no friend of the gay community. However, if you say you hope he gets raped by another dude, you’re projecting some homophobia onto the situation. (Unless you think he might not be raped by a dude? You should clarify.) It smacks not so vaguely of prison rape jokes (again, not funny, ever)—a man goes to prison because he’s (presumably) done something, and what awaits him is non-consensual sex with another man. Or, he “resorts” to consensual sex with another man, because there are no ladies. In either situation, we’re saying, homosexual sex is the worst thing that can happen to someone. He can’t protect his masculinity anymore. He has no dignity.
There is a stereotypically masculine slant to the “I hope he gets raped” trope—that is, the practice of expressing violence in response to violence. Why? Is it because men are socialized to be violent? Well, yes. It’s also because we associate masculinity with the ability to fix things quickly. Deliberation, feelings, process—that’s for ladies, or “less masculine” men. Men get to it. “Real” men manifest their anger in immediate action or at the very least, with verbs.
Women and queer folks need the active allyship of men and straight folks if we’re to confront the willful ignorance and misogyny of the Right. There needs to be a way, however, to transcend the impulse to revert to violent language that places the conversation squarely back into that space.
How about if no one got raped? And we didn’t joke about it or use it as a tool, ever, at all, for any reason, even when we have good intentions. There are a lot of other ways to react to the barrage of hate being spewed from Mourdock and his sexist minions. Lashing out on Facebook is fine. You can also organize, get in the streets, write a blog post, do some direct action, create your own media, etc.
The allyship of men and straight folks is vital in modeling a different level of discourse, one that will help to make it unacceptable to say things like, “God loves rape and wants it to happen, ESPECIALLY when women get pregnant as a result of it.” We can do things that don’t involve playing into the same misogynist rhetoric that we’re objecting to. In fact, we have to.
Chanel Dubofsky is a writer in Brooklyn, New York, and the creator and editor of the Marriage Project, an interview series about marriage in imagination and reality. Her writing has been published at the Billfold, the How To Issue, the Forward and Gender Focus.
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