Last modified: 7:58 AM Saturday, 14 January 2017

Denaturing language, raping the penurious

A decade and a half ago, Congress questioned then-President Bill Clinton over reports that he had conducted an extramarital affair in the White House with Monica Lewinsky. At the time, Clinton created incalculable trouble for himself when he began to parse the language of his interlocutors: “It depends on what the definition of ‘is’ is” became a new proverb for evasive doubletalk, and Clinton missed being impeached (however absurdly) by a single vote.

Rape victim as defined by Republicans

When Republicans finish redefining “rape,” you may no longer know what it means.
[ Image Source ]

Now, the Republicans who interrogated Clinton, along with their more recently elected co-partisans, are attempting the far more ominous redefinition of “rape.”

Sexual contact falls into two classes: consensual and non-consensual. And sex without consent is rape. That the unwanted sex be “forcible,” as these Republicans would require, is not an element of this definition, for there are many ways for a malignly ingenious rapist to impose his desires without resorting to actual force.

Following the Republican prescription, we find that the word is so narrowly defined that a victim can be underage, a close relative of her assailant, drugged, deceived, assaulted while asleep or unconscious, or even lack the mental capacity to give consent, and yet as long as she was not actually forced, against demonstrable resistance, she can be dismissed as not really having been raped. In itself, this is a worrisome denaturing of language, for it inherently invalidates the victim’s right to respect of her consent or lack thereof.

Still worse, practically speaking, is the application for which this denaturing was intended: to deprive penurious victims of aid and metaphorically to rape them anew by forcing them to bear their attackers’ children — who are themselves almost invariably doomed to lives of poverty and degradation thanks to the circumstances of their birth. Note that under such laws, we would essentially revert to the U.S.’ legal status before Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that effectively legalized abortion. Although until that time laws forbade abortion, it was well known that the wealthy could easily circumvent them by travelling to places where such laws were not in force, and escape becoming sexual chattels through force of money; the women of the lower and middle classes, however, could not afford this easily if at all, and thus had no choice.

All of this is of course a part of the last three decades’ steadily intensifying war on the impecunious. As the ruling elite uses a coopted government as its instrument to reverse the previous decades’ gains for the cause of societal equality, it has become richer than ever before, at the cost of creating wider and deeper poverty. And as more people become poorer, the insatiable elite has demanded that still more of the programs that formerly delivered many of them from the worst of poverty’s agonies be deprived of funding, in part to free revenues so the elite can continue paying ever-falling taxes in a country that already taxes less than almost any other in the developed world (and offers concomitantly fewer services) — and in part, I am increasingly convinced, as a psychopathic demonstration of malicious callousness specifically intended to cause pain and misery and shorten lives ... all because imposing such sufferings feeds exactly the assumption of their own superiority that permits the elite to profit at the expense of others. After all, these pathological personalities can’t really feel like winners unless they can see others — the “losers” — excruciated and dying at their hands by way of contrast.

Ultimately, it seems to me that the same twisted reasoning underlies both rape and the continuing war on the impoverished, and that the blaming or invalidation of the victim is common to both of these crimes against humanity.

Originally published as a review of a Mother Jones article on the proposed redefinition of rape.

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