Purity Culture Is Rape Culture

Posted: January 5, 2013 in Emergencies, Health, Human Rights, News
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https://prospect.org/article/purity-culture-rape-culture Her intestines were removed because the six men used a rusty metal rod during the “rape.” That fact—the rusty metal rod—is what’s haunted me about the violent incident that has outraged India and the world. Six men held a 23-year-old woman and her male friend in a private bus for hours while they assaulted her so brutally that, after several surgeries to repair her insides, she died. What happened to this young woman was a gang assault. It can be called a sexual assault because among other things, they brutalized her vagina. Or it can be called a sexual assault because it was driven by rage at the female sex. Since Susan Brownmiller first wrote Against Our Will—the landmark feminist reconceptualization of rape—feminists have worked on clarifying the fact that rape is less about sex than it is about rage and power. Too many people still conceive of rape as a man’s overwhelming urge to enjoy the body of a woman who has provoked him by being attractive and within reach. As is true in many “traditional” cultures, much of India still imagines that the violation was one against her chastity, as Aswini Anburajan writes at Buzzfeed. But conceiving it as primarily a sexual violation places the burden on women to protect their bodies’ purity. It means that the question that gets asked is this one: Why was she out so late at night, provoking men into rage by being openly female? But seen from a woman’s own point of view, rape is quite different: It’s punishment for daring to exist as an independent being, for one’s own purposes, not for others’ use. Sexual assault is a form of brutalization based, quite simply, on the idea that women have no place in the world except the place that a man assigns them—and that men should be free to patrol women’s lives, threatening them if they dare step into view. It is fully in keeping with bride-burnings, acid attacks, street harassment, and sex-selective abortions that delete women before they are born. I’ve now read a number of commentaries exposing India’s, particularly New Delhi’s, culture of street violence against women. The most memorable, by Sonia Faleiro in The New York Times, talks about the fear that was instilled in her during her 24 years living in Delhi: Read the full report here

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