I've been reading about and watching films screened at this year's Sundance Festival, and as is so common, the most riveting have been in the non-fiction category, the documentary. If you cannot reach the YouTube interview and clips, the transcript contains the words of the interviewer, Amy Goodman, the film-makers, the two mothers of the raped and abused girls, and the girl who survived. Audrie killed herself, Daisy has survived attempts on herself, now with a wholly changed attitude towards the way social life functions for young women in the US: do take out the half-hour to watch. This is far more important than any of the films nominated for Oscars this year:
What's striking is the continuing difficulty of finding at least some kind of redress through legal system. A friend who ilves in Germany remarked that A 2014 study in Germany found that only an average of 8.4% (!!) reported rapes actually led to a conviction. The police chief and prosecutors in this case actually say they think the girls told such stories to get attention! It was the young men who put these humiliating pornographic photos online.
Just as seemingly unchangeable: the teen culture described by the two mothers, which led to two girls leading themselves open to aggravated assault, humilation, public ridicule and shaming in the high school and on-line to anyone who cares to click. I have seen this culture described so many times in the diferent age and activity manifestation. What startled me about the interview is both mothers describe the kinds of acts permitted (encouraged at these "parties") in language that suggests if they don't consciously accept it, they have lived with it all their own lives and are not as horrifyingly appalled by what happened as they should be or should have become. They are not shocked enough. One of them knew this party was going on and understood the sort of things that could happen. They are not angry enough
I particpated only briefly in teen culture and after age 14 mostly at a great distance; what I experienced was searing to me and I have never forgotten it. Today I am more shocked than these women still and find myself relieved and grateful that I saw so little of this culture, that I made it wholly alien to me insofar as I could. Three books about teen and twenties culture not at all obsolete: Peggy Reeves Sanday, Fraternity Gang Rape: Sex, Brotherhood and Privilege on Campus; Emily White, Fast Girls; and Leora Tenenbaum, Slut! Growing up Female with a Bad Reputation.
A few thoughts:
I have come close to concluding that there has been no fundamental improvement in women's lot and position in the world since the end of the first wave of feminism in the later 1920s which culminated in women getting the vote. Men were willing, as husbands, brothers, fathers, nephews, very grudgingy, intensely unwillingly and it came partly because men as employers needed the other 50% of the population -- they were willing to grant property ownership, decent jobs, custody of children (though that is now under attack as the first resort, and in the 17th century the maternal family in England took orphaned children as infants. The vote was on offer because powerful people knew its individual limitations.But what men will not grant and is at the center of the imprisoning of women is sexual liberty, freedom from heterosexual males' desire to do with women what they want. The second wave was so castigated because that was its central insight, and when we do hear the phrase "sexual liberation" any more? Much I see around me convinces Dworking was right the ability of women to have sex outside marriage, to have children outside marriage without the society destroying them has changed only one nightmare for another -- since so much in sexual attitudes and behavior has remained unchanged plus the job area of self-support is still limited. The fourth phase partly brought women back to overdoing motherhood; it did try for more inclusiveness on race, ethnicity, class. The fifth phase seems to water down feminism to no meaning at all (if you like X, then you should do it) or declare we are not past the need for a feminist or women's movement. Seeking power for itself is a replication of male capitalist values.
There is a statist theory which argues that when women become more available to men, they lose power vis-a-vis men. They may look like they have more liberty; in reality, they are simply more trafficked, traded, used, in the terms of the culture they are part of.
And we have an example of this in recent developments in the area of marriage: a significant reality of life for women nowadays is living with a man without being married. This is an area I don't find feminists talking about much but it is so significant. Huge numbers of young women now live with their partners for years without marriage. What is this relationship like? We can rejoice if he beats her, she has no legal bonds but if you look at who this happens to you find statistically in the US far more working class whites and spanish women. That suggests it's a relationship in which women have less power. Middle class and upper class women do this less. Divorces are also much less common among the upper middle to upper classes. Women have more status and things to offer at that level.
I know from talking to young women in their thirties, even after living with a guy for years, perhaps having children with him, they wait for him to ask them to marry them. He calls this shot. What happens to children born in such relationships? To the woman with such children. I suggest one effect is the impoverishment of women -- the rate of poverty among women especially with children is well well above men's.
To return to the original topic: the acceptance of rape is an acceptance that men have the right to women's bodies, and if she does not withhold it in utterly visible ways, the presumption that he is in the dominant position when it comes to sexual relationships seems to hold true.