Last week, with a great deal of hesitation, I wrote a small emotional post about some social concerns of mine, a kind of post that I usually keep reserved for a different blog. I did not think that there would be any further occasion for me to revisit the contents of that post in Scilogs. Lo and behold! This morning greeted me with an essay from a fellow Scilogs blogger, Danny Haelewaters, a veterinarian and PhD student at Harvard. The title of the essay was rather intriguing and bit shocking to me, “Evolutionary history has led us to today’s rapes“, and so I dove right in.
What I read outraged me. I left the following comment:
I condemn this essay, well-written as it is, in the strongest possible terms. Putting an evolutionary slant to this heinous crime and talking in terms of sexual activities completely misses the point that rape has nothing to do with sex. Rape is not a sexual phenomenon; rape is an ultimate act of subjugation, an act of display of power and ultimate control, and a act of the ultimate perversion in which a pleasurable act is forcibly converted to one of violence and abuse.
Biological evolution has done nothing to bring humanity to this sorry state of affairs, and to say so is to distract from the real culprit, a vile culture of misogyny and patriarchy, often sanctioned, aided and abetted actively by various religions and religious traditions – a culture that teaches young males that women are not equal human beings endowed with equal human rights, that women are playthings, that women are chattel or property to be used, abused, bought, sold or given away as and when desired by the males. THIS, and only this, is the reason behind the terrible and horrific tragedy of those Burundi women, and the women in India that this essay mentions.
I understand that this essay seeks to find some answers to the seemingly unrelenting spate of rapes and violent sexual abuse against women erupting all over the world, as we are all. But burdening the evolutionary process with the responsibility is not that answer.
Others, in the comments, have done a better job than I did driven by my outrage. For example, David Marjanović, a paleontologist by profession, has capably eviscerated many of the non-arguments made in the essay, including touching upon the punitive aspects of rape, i.e. sexual violence perpetrated upon victims as punishment. User Dhorvath has driven home another important point:
Men rape women because they can, because they are raised to think they deserve sex, and because they are raised to see women, family, friend, or stranger, as a means to that end.
Which, of course, speaks broadly to what I said above – the reason male privilege extends to forcing non-consenting individuals for gratification of sexual desire is because the prevalent social customs and traditions effectively conditions males to consider women as objects. Change, for it to be effective, must be brought at the root – the mindset, by denouncing anachronistic social customs and religious traditions, and training men to get rid of the centuries-old social conditioning that breeds disrespect for women in them.