What’s so bad about rape? If you don’t want to know, don’t read this.
1. Physical: The actual act, regardless of which orifice, is painful and often damaging. It is NOT like sex where there is lubrication, either natural or provided, and can tear open delicate tissues like mucous membranes, but also inside the abdomen among intestines, bursting the passage or creating holes (fistulas) across between vagina to rectum or from rectum to fragile internal male structures. The abdomen is vulnerable to infection, trauma, inflammation, and disruption of the functions of the affected organs. Simple cleanliness is not a high priority of rapists and since the victim is encouraged to not douche so that identification of DNA traces is possible, whatever is carried inside by a dirty penis or object has time to take hold. Children, obviously, have small body structures and can be badly split and torn.
2. Psychological: All mammals have a circle of proximity around them, as everyone who has worked with dangerous or large animals knows and can describe. In humans this circle can vary according to culture and personal experiences. When I began teaching on the rez, I would walk down the aisle and some students would lean way over to keep distance from me. Working with soldiers, prisoners or law enforcement officers means NEVER getting inside their circles without making sure they know you’re there and are permitting it. As an animal control officer, I watched dogs carefully. The most dangerous ones didn’t signal when you crossed the line, simply attacked.
Rape is the most invasive and deepest possible way to “penetrate” the personal circle that allows a person to navigate the world with confidence. Once shattered, that circle is hard to rebuild. Some parents will not allow the circle to form in the first place which stunts the child.
3. Intimacy: Forced or paid intimacy rewires the brain (and the rest of the body) to shut down or shunt aside associations with sensory information. Then, in legitimately loving and nurturing situations, those connections have to be restored in order to really “be there.” For a child or an inexperienced person, this can be difficult-to-impossible.
4. Cultural patterning: In cultures where women are belongings, rape is the same as destroying property. Unmarried women lose their value, married women are damaged goods. In places where dowry is an important force in the economy and the well-being of the family, damage to a young unmarried woman is a terrible blow to the whole family. If she is damaged to the point of being barren, she is valueless.
The commodification of humans allows them to be sexually used for profit and the culture supplies the scale of value: small blonde pretty girls or boys, exotic dark young women, strapping big men (the Mandingo effect), or exceptionally fat or anatomically unique people -- all have their market value. Their wishes, their imaginations, their very souls are removed as nuisances.
5. Stigmatizing: Shame is such a strong force in some cultures that a raped person will either commit suicide or be murdered by the male family members. In places where morality is a matter of the group honor, rape is not just a trauma to one person but an insult to the whole. This is impossible to understand in a culture like the US where sex has become little more than a handshake.
But even we would understand the breaking of sexual taboos forced at gunpoint: sons forced to rape mothers or sisters or grandmothers, men forced to rape each other or to rape dead people or animals. This is not the same thing as date rape, where trust is broken. Or “fuck remorse”, when the woman changes her mind midstream. But those are also damage.
6. Terrorism: Group rape, where adrenalized, testosterone-powered, relatively anonymous men separated from home and family will attack enemy women violently with disembowelment and infanticide, is much more potent when the soldiers are on Viagra and speed. They become zombies and often can’t return from that.
7. Economic viability: Who can or should marry whom is a major concern though we deny it in the US. Everyone wants to marry their equal or better, someone who can support a family or meet the expected living standards. A past that includes rape will not make either a man or a woman a good “bargain,” whether they were the victim or the perp. On the other hand, people who define themselves as wanting to improve hurt people or only deserving discounted mates, may be attracted.
8. Family continuity: Biological continuity has been a defining characteristic of human family prosperity for a long time and carries legal and emotional value in terms of inheritance, expectations in life, and identity. Even with the pill and the condom, even when specific sperm and egg DNA from interlopers can be identified -- IF candidates are known -- there can be doubts about “whose” baby an infant “really” is. Rape smashes the succession and causes deeply disturbing dilemmas about love, nurture, and belonging -- not least for the ensuing children.
9. Medical: Not just damage and infection result, but also the destruction of the ability to tolerate treatment (especially invasive measures like catheters, colostomies, pelvic exams) and the transference of the contempt and fear of the rapist to the medical staff, esp. any of the opposite gender.
10. Drugs: Either self-administered drugs (including alcohol) are part of the syndrome that carries people into vulnerability or they become part of trying to survive. But to survive diseases it is necessary to take many drugs in precise patterns and with absolute consistency. The two modes disrupt each other, confuse each other, and become entangled with the experiences that make them necessary. Binge drinking can lead to sexual episodes never intended and not remembered. Or social drinking can trigger gang rape. Illegal drug-taking can become self-defining, a vulnerability.
11. The effect on the rapist: Such a person is in big trouble to begin with, not able to make normal connections with other human beings, only able to achieve invasion but never intimacy except for hatred. Few don’t know it’s a wrong thing to do on some level but here is a list of rationalizations expressed to a therapist over the years. Many of them are culturally endorsed or depicted in the media as okay:
It was okay because s/he was mine.
What I do with my daughter/son is my business because I made them so they owe me.
It was okay because I love him/her.
It was okay because I was teaching them about sex so they could grow up.
It was okay because she was too young to get pregnant/boys can’t get pregnant.
She was now old enough to get pregnant which is the role of women.
S/he was too young to remember it.
S/he was adopted/a stepchild so it wasn’t incest.
S/he needed to be laid, s/he just didn’t know it. (I needed to be laid and she wouldn’t get a clue.)
S/he was so damned arrogant, it was a lesson needed.
S/he was just mad because I didn’t have the money to pay for it. But if they would do it for pay, why is it wrong for me to take it for free? Morality is out of it.
S/he wanted it. In the movies they always say no but they really want it.
I like it rough.
Everyone wants sex all the time.
Sex is always good because sex is a life force.
It wasn’t really sex because sex is when you do it with your wife so she’ll get pregnant. “Fooling around” with oral/anal stuff or objects or toys is not sex. (The Clinton theory).
It isn’t sex if it’s just a picture of private parts. (The Weiner theory) There’s no such thing as “eye rape.”
12. Being forced to witness the defilement, torture and death of people one loves or who are like oneself is almost as bad as the reality (is it?), and yet YouTube and entertainment obsessively and sensationally re-enact these events over and over. It is as though we are trying to understand. Indeed, understanding is part of the will to survive. But rape undercuts the will to survive, both as individuals and as a society.
RAPE IS ONLY ONE WAY -- ALBEIT ONE OF THE MOST POWERFUL AND DESTRUCTIVE WAYS -- TO INVADE THE INTIMACY OF ANOTHER HUMAN BEING, BECAUSE IT REMOVES MEANING, WHICH IS VITAL TO SURVIVAL.