misssylviadrake (misssylviadrake) wrote,

The subject of rape, and a turning point of sorts

Dear Friends and readers,

Some time in late August it was that a CFP was placed on C18-l for papers on the topic rape in the 18th century, and despite my real engagement in my book topic (Seeking Refuge: the Sense and Sensibility Movies), I found spontaneously and irresistibly, the makings of a proposal for a paper on Rape in Clarissa came to me, and it was accepted, with little fuss.  A month later I worked my ideas out more coherently, and by October said proposal was done and on my website.

Clarissa struggling to attack or free herself from Lovelace after the rape (Clarissa, BBC 1991)

With what seemed magic ease, I was able to find just the right book on rape itself (Susan Estrich, Real Rape) and informative, useful books and essays on rape in novels (e.g, especially Nancy Paxton's Writing Under the Raj), earlier eras, and movies (including  Marita Sturken's  Thelma and Louise, studies of something called Rape-Revenge-Horror movies, and a lucid refutation of the notion these are feminist movies sympathetic to women), plus novels and memoirs about rape in the 18th through 20th century, and movies either relevant to Clarissa as a book or to sexuality in the 18th century. 

Thelma and Louise; the adventure outside conventional life begins when a man means to rape Thelma, and Louise stops him by shooting - and killing him.

(If anyone is interested, I've appended a list of the primary books and movies I read and watched over this past fall and early winter.)

What I did over the next couple of months is fit into morning drives, interstices of time (breaks) and many evenings reading these books on and of rape.  Not all: I read other books and did others things in such intervals of time.  But I did manage to cover more than I thought when in middle December I finally finished teaching for the fall, and had seen all the Andrew Davies's movies I planned as context for his Austen films.

A favorite still from Davies' He Knew He Was Right:  Priscilla talks with Emily

It was then that I began real work in earnest.  I spent all free days I could (it was between terms) rereading Clarissa, reading a number of 18th century novels, essays on these, and watching my chosen 18th century films  -- there was a cross-over as a number of them were by Andrew Davies (e.g., Moll Flanders).  I had written postings to Women Writers across the Ages and Eighteenth Century Worlds (listservs on Yahoo) on and off about rape as I read at night, but now I began to work out my thought and found the people writing back (mostly women) enomously helpful.  Someone told of me a book that became important to my thinking, Alice Sebold's Lucky:  it begins with a graphic harrowing account of how she was raped.  I also found good essays centrally on the trauma and experience of rape on JStor and Project Muse and bibliographies.

I felt driven by my topic, deeply engaged with a strong emotional investment like that I had (though not as unthinking) when working on my disssertation on Clarissa (Richardson, Romance and Reverie).  And then it happened, to be specific two things happened. I felt that for the first time after all this while I understood Richardson's book, at its core.  I found words to express and was able to say to myself how the rape functioned centrally in the novel, to wit, in Lovelace, Richardson was portraying a rapist in the novel and laying bare the values that lead into the creation of such a personality; in Clarissa, what can enable a woman to throw off the enslavement and vicious world determined to subjugate her, refuse the tabooed identity, work through trauma and recovery, to liberty -- though in her world this liberty can only exist away from everyone, in death.

She tells him she prefers to be left alone, to live single

For the second:  I came across in a couple of sociological studies descriptions of rape, and understanding of its transformative aftermath that included my experiences from age 12 to 15.  I have on my other old blog (Jim and Ellen have a blog, too) tried to articulate, find words to express what happened to me. I know I never quite said it.  I doubted it would free me and feared anyone reading the specifics would dismiss them and/or scorn me.  That would sear my mind.  I didn't try to retrieve or safe it.

Now at long last 51 years later, after that ghastly humiliating, never-to-be-forgotten May 26th afternoon, I am validated in my own eyes. I was not to blame then or for the repeats; it happens to many other girls to the point that it's one of three central categories or descriptions of rape in a paper called "Psychodynamic Considerations" of rape.  I cannot find words to express the relief I have felt.

Susan Sarandon as Louise on her journey

This is then probably the most important paper I've written or will ever write - for I finished a final draft this afternoon. It is very good. It's probably too long as it is supposed to be 17 minutes. Mine is probably more like 22 but I have more than a month and half to let it go cold and come back and sweat out 4 minutes.  Tomorrow I'll practice reading it and then put it away.  Jim has put it on the laptop with its stills.

So what would I like to do tonight?   I don't want to anticipate what's in it beyond the above thesis and a definition of rape.  Rape may be divided into two types. 

Simple rape is an event where someone is compelled to submit to, or participate in, a physical sexual interaction which includes fucking, sodomy, fellatio or cunnilingus. Its central feature is loss of agency or control which occurs when the first onslaught is an event that goes well beyond the the target's expectations.  This kind includes university gang-rape, until recently marriage, anything that uses surprise, a group that is coercive.  I've now read many women who are susceptible to bullying experience this repeatedly. I did several times.

Unsuccessful as well as successful rapes of this type are actionable but for much of the above everything is done to make the girl feel she's at fault, she consented. It protects the the customs of subgroups.  This is the one Polanski's of Samantha Gailley fits into.  It includes the one where there's heavy drinking and drugs. 

I define aggravated rape as a situation where the rapist uses extrinsic highly visible violence (often with weapons), where there are multiple assailants and/or a high degree of brutality and/or beating, or where there is no prior relationship between victim and rapist. This is the one that gets to court.  

For the rest of this blog, those are interested, I'd like to tell a little of the content of a four books, 2 18th century (Mary Hays's Victim of Prejudice and Marie-Jeanne Riccoboni's Lettres de Juliette Catesby a son amie, Henrietta Campley), 2 recent (Alice Sebold's Lucky and Debra Puglisi and Marjorie Preston's Shattered), some general conclusions in a couple of books I've read (Nancy Paxton's Writing Under the Raj -- which I can't overrecommend) and Jocelyn Catty's Women Writing Rape), and finally a tentative conclusions..


A later work by Mary Hays: biographies of women, her contemporaries. The book to buy is Gina Luria Walker's The Growth of a Woman's Mind.  There is a splendid website dedicated to her.

Mary Hays The Victim of Prejudice (1799)

I finished this almost astonishing (except I know that radical voices on behalf of women came into print in the 1790s where what is said is similar to what enlightened minds say about women today) slender novel, The Victim of Prejudice by Mary Hays.  Published in 1799, it's a kind of cross between a thorough secularized rewriting of Richardson's Clarissa and female version of Godwins' Caleb Williams.  Mary Raymond is raped in the manner of Clarissa: finds herself surrounded by her pursuer's friends, in his house, drugged, and raped (there is a modern instance of this, just about 32 years ago:  Polanski in the house of Jack Nicolson drugged and anally raped [twice] a 13 year old; circumstances include a complicit mother hoping for a job for her daughter, though too stupid to imagine what it could lead to; Angelica Huston in the house and finding the girl "sullen" refusing to help, &c&c.  Mary Raymond is also called "sullen" by those unsympathetic to her inner turmoil.

Like Clarissa, Mary wants out the next day and insists this man has no hold over her whatsoever.

But it differs considerably: Mary is not a paragon, and she is the daughter of a woman who herself "fell" through seduction and became a streetwalker and came to the point she was assisting a man who murdered someone and was herself imprisoned and hung.  Mary is brought up by the man who once knew and loved this woman but who she refused to marry on the advice of relatives who thought he wasn't good enough for her.  Like Fanny Price, brought up in this household, or better yet, Lucy Steele, she finds her guardian is a teacher and he takes in two male pupils. When she reaches puberty, she and one of them are in love and her guardian knowing his father will not allow a marriage, insists she leave and live elsewhere.

This is the first rung of prejudice hurting Mary. She is brought up not to understands sex at all, and finds herself pushed to behave in manipulative ways (what Barbauld saw as education for a girl -- the novel intersects with Barbauld's letter on appropriate secondary eduction for girls).  Her suitor, young man, William is sent away, but he does not remains loyal; like Valancourt in _Udolpho_ he becomes dissipated; unlike Valancourt he is not brought back to virtue upon seeing Mary again.

Mary descends continually after her guardian dies. She cannot make a living for herself and endlessly owes money to people as she treis to support herself without marriage.  She is then lured by the powerful who lived in her guardian's area and has pursued her because she refused him, and raped. After that she tries to tell the truth to everyone like Clarissa and never meets any kind people but is regarded as polluted and prostitute and at risk of being raped again.

She flees and tries to support herself again, again fails. She ends up in debtor's prison and finds herself confronting amazement that she is unwilling to sell herself for money.  Her guardian had a servant who remembers her and tries to help her, but he is (like in Godwin) very much hampered by the lords around him and can't make ends meet and dies.

Eventually Mary is rescued for a couple of years by a couple and she and her guardian helped long ago when they were thrown out of his curacy because he wouldn't obey the behests of the vicious landlord type in the area (the one who raped her).  In this last part of the novel the text resembles Caleb Williams in its direct questioning of the social order.  The male ex-curate dies and then his wife, she because terrified that she cannot make it in the world and support her children, never having been taught to.

At last exhausted Mary dies.

Eleanor Ty's introduction is something of a disappointment because she dwells on the class and property issues when it seem to me the central ones are sexual for both Mary and her mother.

I discovered that I had two essays by Mary Hays in my house:  reprinted in The First Feminists: British Women Writers 1578-1799 are 1) an essay for the Monthly Magazine where she argues women are as intellectually capable and emotionally competent as men, but miseducated and given no opportunity to develop their talents or strength of character.  Indeed discouraged strongly from this. Over this month or so I've been reading in the literature of the 17th and 18th century and especially in the 17th century I see how women were really treated in effect as secondary animals (for breeding, for family aggrandizement).  The second 2) is the essay in the Monthly Magazine where she daringly argued that the system of demanding a reputation for absolute chastity for women is pernicious in the extreme:  unreal, unfair (she shows that when they fail this test they are outcast and turned into a hollow destructive world), blinding.  I was interested to find in the essay she says this sexual faultline and injustice supports the "system of property" and goes on to expose that.  Like Charlotte Smith, Mary Wollstonecraft, and numbers of other radicals, men and women both, she did not give up on the principles or ideals of the revolution even if the results became themselves horrific, retrograde, or useless in many areas. Not all, for the documents signed and the new codes put in place in some realms remained.

Essays from Monthly Magazine, her poems, letters, diaries, writings by friends and contemporaries, modern works on her, and much more all in The Idea of Being Free


Marie-Jeanne Riccoboni's epistolary novel, The Letters of Juliette Catesby to her friend, Henrietta (1752)

It is actually available on Amazon for $14.00. Riccoboni had a full interesting life: mismarried to an actor, she dumped him, and took up with a woman friend; after acting as a career didn't work out, she turned to writing plays, then novels. Her famous one is Fanni Butlerd, a powerful slender volume of letters by a woman who has been deserted by her lover.  She also translated from English (e.g., Fielding's Amelia).

Here is the story as summarized by Joan Hinde Stewart:

It consists of "Lady Juliette Catesby's account in letters to a confidante [Henriette Campley] of her relations with Milord d'Ossery. Engaged to the young widow Juliette, d'Ossery unaccountably abandons her for Jenny Montford. Upon Jenny's death about a year later, he again pursues a now perplexed and disgruntled Juliette. Eventually, he writes her a long letter explaining why he had suddenly transferred his suit to the less comely Jenny: having drunk too much during dinner at the home of Jenny's brother, he seduced or raped her (it's not clear, she was drunk from a party, 15 years old and it was the very first night she had left the convent for "adult" life), and when she became pregnant, he married her. She gave birth and, forlorn, died of consumption a few months later. Now a widower, d'Ossery repents his errors; Juliette relents, and the two wed-a happy second marriage for each. (60)"

In an essay by Stewart called "La Lettre and L'interdict'" (it's in French), Stewart compares this novel to Adelaide de Souza's Lettres de Lord Sydenham (which I have read): both have a one-sided correspondence. In _Catesby_ all letters are by Juliette but for two letters, and a couple of notes by Ossery, and one striking note by Jenny (telling Ossery she is pregnant and terrified of the shame she expects will now fall on her).  Stewart argues that this kind of one-sided correspondence allows the novelist to put out of the reader's mind tabooed material the novels meant indirectly to present and a victim's convenient death paving the way for the success and happy ending of the main characters. She suggests such one-sided epistolary novels are intuitively chosen to do this. It's my theory (and my essay was published) that Austen's S&S was an epistolary novel and mostly written by Elinor with striking long letters to invisible correspondents or to her by the characters who tell of their past or confess (Brandon and Willoughby) or are satirical ironic texts (John Dashwood, Mrs Jennings and Nancy Steele in part three), with two important letters by Lucy (still in the text).  Stewart's theory would suggest that Austen chose this originally intuitively to place the two Elizas stories in the background, and in the case of Eliza Williams her death leads to Delaford Abbey belonging to the Colonel, his having the living for Edward and thus the happy ending.

Stewart says there are a number of French novels in the era where this kind of ploy exists.

I agree that earlier audiences and readers seem to have dismissed Eliza Williams except as evidence of Willoughby's bad character and until Patricia Meyer Spaces not pointed out how the ending depends on the exploitation, forced marriage (and thus marital rape in a way) and then death of Eliza Brandon.  But since the 1970s people have been paying attention, and the most recent film adaptation of S&S brought one of the back stories to the stage (Eliza Williams) and the 1995 movie had a scene where Eliza Brandon appeared in a spunging house and died, but it was cut.

I wonder if readers did notice these back stories, took note, and didn't discuss it. In the case of Catesby, the story of Jenny was (unusually) discussed because it's so striking.  Stewart's more recent book, Gynographs, presents this back matter as central, and as I read the novel today I don't think we do push the story from our minds. Indeed it seems to me Riccoboni's way of quietly pointing to a strong and unfair double standard.  The heroine refuses to listen to Ossory for most of the novel and when he finally writes his two letters (like Darcy's in P&P or the hero's in Cecilia, a central event where the heroine goes from being angry to seeing what happened in other lights), far from deflected, we are led to ask questions about Ossory's behavior to Jenny.

Here for example is one long passage by Juliette after being told of Ossory's rape (or seduction -- today we'd call it statutory rape) of Jenny and treatment of her afterwards (Frances Brooke's translation into English):

"Poor Lady Ossory! How her Story touches me!  Can I refuse my tears to her deplorable [p. 239]  What Strength of Mind!  To adore her Husband, yet conceal her Love from him on the noble Principles of tender Respect and Gratitude.  Why did he not love her?  Why did he not make her happy?  She was worthy of his Attachment.  Why did he avoid her?  Why afflict a heart so full of Sensibility?  Had she not a Right to his Tenderness?  What cruelty to deprive her of it?  I am shocked at the Inhumanity of his Behavior, and cannot approve that unsocial Chagrin, of which he made her the victim? Unfortunate Miss Montford!  She who banished the Heart of your Husband, ardently wishes to call you to Life, to see you possessed of a Heart which ought to have been yours:  She would not disturb your Happiness!  -- Alas! my dear Henrietta! What a difference?  I have wept but Lady Ossory has died! --  I reproach myself for having hated her. I was very [p. 240] unjust, very inhuman:  it was her Part to have detested me. I am sensibly affected at her death. Since he gives me permission, I will send you the packet. I know now yet what to think -- Ah, that amiable Miss Montfort! How melancholy has been her fate? She whom I thought so happy! (trans Frances Booke)

Now in other parts of the book where there are two other subplots or story and another couple an important theme is how men are treated differently and women held to a higher unfair standard. There is a Mr Collins story where an obtuse man insists on proposing to Juliette and when she refuses is indignant and resentful:  Juliette writes a letter about how men feel their fantasies and desires should rule women's lives and gives further instances of this in other stories. It's a radical letter.

In thinking about Ossory's letter justifying himself and not thinking of how he treated Jenny during the marriage, Juliette writes:

"But observe, my dear, they will not admit us to avail ourselves of the poor Excuse they so confidently plead with regard to themselves: those Emotions, though divided in them, are united in us.  This is certainly acknowledging a great Superiority in our Manner of thinking, but at the same time reducing us to a terrible Uncertainty which lead them to seek our Favour ...  this perfidious, this ungrateful, this treacherous Lover, has only been inconstant -- Scarce even that -- his Head disordered -- His Reason distracted ... "  ... "He has given a Reason -- What has he suffered! What Probity, what Generosity in such a Sacrifice! ... "[she is pleased to see this] Tenderness in his nature [towards the baby. she will love her too] what tears he would have spared her had he told her ...

But what has Jenny suffered?  Among the last sentences of the novel where the "moral" usually is found (Austen will often have an ironic one, we read:  "J'ai pleure [I have cried], s'etonne-t-elle, "et Lady Ossory [Jenny] est morte [is dead."

For readers of Austen's S&S, it's also interesting to read Juliette's response to Ossory's marriage once she knows that he impregnated Jenny. It is very like Elinor justifying Edward's marriage to Lucy and saying she can accept it:

I should have found Consoiation in the Share I should have had in the Nobleness of his Behaviour ... I should not have hated, have despised him: on the contrary, he would have preserved all my [p. 244] Esteem. Friendship would have joined us in thsoe refined, those tender Bonds ... we should have continued to see each other: I should have loved Lady Ossory: What Right should I have had to complain?  Why might not this amiable Woman have been my Companion, my Friend?  She would perhaps have been still living.  I should not hahve had to reproach myself with having been the innocent Cause of her Afflictions .. . Her Husband has been culpable: Is he yet so?   ..."

It's a shame for those wanting to understand Austen's books that her female contemporary's novels are not better known (nor most of the French still not translated into English). For my part I'm trying to see the difference between the way women treat rape in the novel and men do.

An expensive book on her, but there is one! She translated Fielding's Amelia (freely adapted)

Juliette Catesby is one of three novels by women in the 18th century where rape is central: the other two the early intelligent novel by Mary Davys (perhaps read by Richardson), The Accomplished Rake or Modern Fine Gentleman (this one like Richardson is after the values that make the rake's behavior acceptable); and the late 18th century May Hays's The Victim of Prejudice (see above).


Two modern memoirs: 

Alice Sebold's Lucky and Debra Puglisi Sharp (with help from Majorie Preston)'s Shattered.  Both are so powerful to me I had trouble reading them. I would get so distressed that I had to peek ahead to see they survived, or what happened in the court.  It was too much for me because the descriptions were so thorough and true to experience, with brutal humiliating details included. Lucky is the more intelligent book and should be required reading for all teenage girls I think -- infinitely more important than Anne Frank. 

Sebold shows us that the raped girl becomes a tabooed person in the eyes of many of the people around her*  This particular emphasis is new to me and important.  Most of the people wish she wouldn't talk about it and we see the origins of how women are silenced.  Everyone wishes you would not speak of it. It disturbs the pretended order of things.

I had a series of terrible things happen to me between the ages of 12 and 15; at 16 I went anorexic and that protected me from these things. I kept silent; I still have never described them accurately; I tried once on a blog and couldn't manage it.  But I was not in a situation where the circumstances led to telling naturally: that's what has happened to Sebold. She is in a house in the college; the rape occurs in a situation surrounded by people and when she gets back, she is in such a bad state, it's obvious something terrible happened and she "confesses" and is taken to the police station where a lot of evidence is taken from her insides (terrible) because it's obvious she has been egregiously physically hurt so she couldn't escape telling easily.  For many women I daresay it's more like what happened to me, no one pays attenion, no one wants to.

There is this problem for me in her behavior:  I am  puzzled that she returns to the college where she was raped. She does not seem to think he will be in the neighborhood. Maybe this will be brought up, but right now she is returning to the campus without mentioning it. i've read of repeated rapes. I realize it's hard to change schools, but surely this is an instance where one must do the unpleasant hard thing.  Transfer to another college. You would not find me miles within that place ever again -- except if I had to go there for trial.

Tthe faultline for me is not conventional outward courage -- rather a refusal to be coopted -- but also that I do not think she can fight back except through the courts. If her society which has the real effective monopoly on violence and punishment, will punish him, then she may have justice, be validated and see the rapist put away (and other women and men too protected).  If not, she can do nothing -- to put it bluntly, as with people in concentration camps, extermination ones (even more -- a bit of black humor here), who have found themselves hostages or woman slave concubines, he's won. There's no return from what happened to her. It can't be undone. I'm not referring to the sex itself but the whole experience. Kafka has some statement I can't quite recall but wish I could: it begins "beyond a certain point there is no return."

We see Madison (even if a pseudonym, that she names him is good) not a seething monster like Jack the Ripper, but on a real level an ordinary man who jeers at her in triumph when he first sees her because he thinks he can get away with it. 

Her courage is to go to court and she is good as a witness and she shows she is playing a part. This partly comes from her upper class-educated background. Not for nothing is her father a professor, her mother and sister continual readers and their whole home life one of self-respect, dignity, self-esteem. And she's been taught how to talk, how to present herself -- as when she dresses right.

I do find myself intensely involved and again had to peek ahead to make sure he did not attack her again and make sure she won in court -- the anxiety was too distressing to read on without the reassurance.

She does say she hates him and wants to get back, to revenge herself -- he hurt her badly.
Whole procedure after the rape was a kind of second violation and nurse knew it.  Her word would not be good enough.   A woman is answerable with her body.

This turns into a sort of upbeat book towards the end. As Catherine suggested, that Sebold has an eye towards her audience with setting her great hit in heaven, so surely she is aware by presenting herself as "successful plaintive" holding her own against vicious nasty counsel for a rapist, she is producing optimism.  I note also that sexually she is not that traumatized for she begins her first relationship with someone she doesn't care for that much, Jamie, and hasn't much trouble accepting the realities of his relative indifference to her.  There is no critical outlook to connect this to the rape, only that men do not want to believe the girl isn't lying when this sort of thing happens and that it's commonplace.  Not that that's not important, it is as an insight there on offer for you.

It is to my mind very much the book of an upper middle class American  young woman: she's essentially accepting the world she lives in, part of it and critical of her parents and sister who don't. It's a coming of age memoir. The way girls come of age in the US is hard abrasive sexual initiation.  She's weathering it.

On the other hand, she spends so many years going in and out of school and just banging about.  I'd say her whole life afterwards is partly a reaction to that rape. Still is.  After all she was a tabooed figure and if she had that moment in court, no one wanted her for real after that. Go away -- you are a sign that gives away our reality. We don't want to know. Important incidents late in the book where Sebold hears a man raping his girlfriend as a matter of course is found in the cases investigated in many surveys. Also on how gang-rapes are tolerated on campasses and women in the military harassed, raped, have to endure it or get out.

Briefer on Shattered:  it's not written by Sharp but ghost-authored by Preston and the attitude of mind and points of view of Sharp are not examined ones. It's a book form of listening to someone on Oprah Winfrey perhaps (not that I've ever watched the show, but she was on this show).

It's about and by a woman who found herself suddenly at gunpoint in her garden, forced into her house, raped and beaten repeatedly who was not able to prevent this horror of a monster from stuffing her into his car and abusing her horrificially for five days when she discovered from a newsstory on his radio he had murdered her husband shortly before abducting her. The rage enabled her to reach a phone and call 911 and he didn't murder her before the police arrived.

I find it distressing. It's frightening. The reality of this woman's mind makes it a testimony to everyone's nightmare.  I live on a ground floor house with four doors, two windows to every room. I know how easy it would be if someone wanted to to break in.  The writer has woven Sharp's memories of her life with this horrific incident. I keep going because I gather -- to my dismay - that she had a terrible time in court. Why is what I'd like to see.  I peeked forward and saw that in the period when "evidence" was being gathered -- actually as I wrote of Sebold's experience -- another form of violation, she was not herself able to fend off the stupidities said to her. And later in a hospital she so buys into the cant of our society she is helpless against it.

I have faced myself that the interest of this topic for me is how it relates to what I experienced as a girl, and my distress at this book brings home to me why I can get so distressed when I read these books of brutal violation and crazed voodoo cultures from Africa.  Why in fact I love and cling to Austen.

Yet it is an important book in its sheer ordinariness and the senselessness of what happened to her.  It makes me think of a line I half remember from a classic American book (one which ought to be) OxBow Incident which goes something like: Security is an illusion created by the general benignity of life -- an illusion.

General studies:

Central themes:

From Nancy Paxton's and many other studies:  Paxton defines rape as "not the invariable consequence of biologically determined male aggression" (a way of excusing and saying it cannot be stopped), but rather "as the consequence of a complex process in particular places which prompts individual men to act out their gender, sexuality, desire and bodily impulses in this violent way." The general social environment, stories and understood norms and justifications in effect encourage (or don't encourage) rape. Data show that the incident of rape goes up in environments when cultural configurations encourage interpersonal violence, male dominance and sexual separation. (Not a digression so much as another example: one can see this in the horrors of fraternity rapes.)  Rape is not deviant and unusual behavior; it is common, prevalent, and behavior that is an extension of common norms in many societies.  Paxton has many novvels because in colonial sitautions everything is exacerbated and rape becomes a topic for novels, including aggravated assaults.

Daphne Manners calling to her aunt, crawling up the steps after she is brutally assaulted and raped, from Paul Scott's Raj Quartet (film adaptation, The Jewel in the Crown)

Men do in general treat of rape differently from women even when they are sympathetic to women. It seems to come down to this:  when women treat of rape, they move immediately or put a perspective to start with on its ramifications of what happens to the women in society afterwards if it's found out (whether through going to court, through rumor, because it's not hidden).  The women show how women suffer badly in every way: from their change in identity in the eyes of others, to their own sick distress and psychological hurt and superstitions (I can't help but call them), to their lack of opportunities in work and other places as their respectability and prestige value has gone down.  The men show the man trying to attack the woman and wanting her, resentful or getting back, what his motives are in raping her, and their interest is how this affects his inner life or if he's caught his outer, and often then it becomes a false accusation. They do not look to the larger society as it impinges and makes the women's life awful but rather how it plays politically in larger forces (like say colonialist positions for men and race).

One book which shows this is Jocelyn Catty's Writing Rape, Writing Women in Early Modern England.  The first half carefully covers a series of texts by men and the second a series of text by women. While there are instances of stories, types, and judgements that parallel what we find in men's works, there are many types and stories uncommon or not found in men's works, different judements, and especially the overall effect of these uncommon unusual stories, types and judgements interwoven with heroine's texts make for a very different book.  The argument justifies the vastness of having many stories inside a big book instead of let's say as in Marguerite de Navarre having narrators and seperate stories. From my reading I know the 17th century women "improved" on this model by having an overriding story you can summarize (not really true of Mary Wroth's romance, Urania)

Artimesia Gentileschi, Judith and Her Maidens taking revenge (Gentilesque was herself raped and went to court with her father; for the rest of her life she was ostracized for this despite her great talent; I've read Anna Banti's fictional biography of her)

Urania reveals connections between rape, trauma and the destabilization of self (such as we see in Clarissa), p 190:  there is a tendency to show attempted assaults that fail; but brutal attacks do occur in the romance, p 190, and we see "an attack may distrubed a woman's sense of self, p 191; many stories establish a connection between an experience of cruelty and mental instability, p 191. We find that in the Urania to be indiscreet, passsionate, sensual, proud in the extreme is defined as madness; Chesler says "what we consider madness [may be] the total or partial rejection of one's sex-role stereotype.  Sexually assertive women seen as monsters, p 194

Specifics: Leatissia's story, p 190: terrible brutal incest, rape, murder, goes unpunished.  Nereana's story, p 196; she does not kill herself because she is horrified by her own image after he strips her bare and ties her to a tree, p 197.  Antissia's story:  sexual vulnerability and disempowerment are conditions of conventional femininity, from which madness is an escape, p 202, but can become a kind of protection against further rape. In her book husbands are not necesarily sufficient protection against attack; they become vulnerable to attack, p 215 (of course in Leatissia's story the attack is from the husband/father)  She also presents women's desire transforming a threat of violence into a reciprocated passion in such a way as to make the woman powerful yet not aggressive and stigmatized as monstrous, p 218-19  When women are subjected to outright violence, it often lacks an erotic component, e.g., the torture of Ramiletta (p. 106ff) so too one female character, Liana, by an aunt rather than a male relative.  But there is titilation too, p 220, voyeurism. Now when I read some of this I find it distressing, p 220.  They also enjoy telling these stories, p 223 (now this disgusts me and I feel it does not Mary Wroth). We also have someone forced to tell a story, p 224 and then scolded; it's ironic in context. Instead of a story told to frighten the reader (a woman), we have a woman forced to tell a story by a man who preaches to her who is himself a horror. We see it matters whether we have a male or a female narrator. Women use bodily display to empower themselves, p 220; Women become aggressive at the moment of destruction; this woman killed for her promiscuity,  p. 219.  Women do construct rape narratives to trap men, p 220. They lie extravagantly. We do see they empower themselves far more than in men's texts, p 221 (with examples given). The manipulating self-display is the sign of an aggressive writer and woman.

If some women write their rape narratives in the manner of men, and at some points Wroth writes as men do, she is highly original, differs significantly from many of her contemporaries, and clearly writes from a woman-centered point of view.  The rape story has potential as an expression of the power relations between men and women. Part of an exploration of wider themes.  She shows sexual violence an important element in courtship. Catty thinks Wroth displaces and mocks rape narrative conventions. I'm not sure.

Bathsheba, harassed by David's gifts:  from a woman's point of view this is not the story of an unfaithful wife and humiliated husband, but a woman forced into concubinage, Artimesia Gentileschi again

So to some tentative thoughts:

How to describe simple (surprise, social situation extremely coercive and brutality not that strong) and aggravated rape: (beating, brutality, near murder):  it's an abuse and "the abuse is only recognized as such socially if the intercourse is performed so recklessly or so stupidly that the man himself has signed a confession through the manner in which he committed the act."  A startling but accurate book which includes this is Andrea Dworkin's Intercourse.

The usual depiction of rape as semi-seduction is in fact self-serving for men and only one small part of a paradigm, most of which does not look like this.  I could share if anyone is interested, essays on 15th century France where an enormous amount of research was done (which a modern essay I have no pdf for and can't send to the list repeats for the 20th century in Lancashire) to show rape is not deviant behavior, not done by monsters most of the time, and is most of the time sex that's not wanted by women at all.  The parallels are sexual harassment in the office and social life (which I just read an essay on a new biography of Helen Gurley Brown which showed two of the places her magazine was censored by her male bosses was on the depiction of sexual harassment in office and dates and date rape).

Thelma and Louise driving on

Other, many many other women than me have been raped and no one speaks of it.  This silence is killing; it does more than keep women from going out at night.  It wreaks havoc on their lives ever after. The way society is set up it's threatening for women to tell and we don't.  We participate in, collude in silencing one another.

Tags: 20th century, politics, women's memoirs, women's novels

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