Lydia McGrew, a regular contributor to the website What’s Wrong With the World, in a recent post on her personal blog Extra Thoughts, took umbrage with those who have been sharing a particular meme in response to the controversy over the tape of Donald Trump’s lewd boasting of about a decade ago. She described the meme as toxic because it “represents the intrusion of vicious, misogynistic, manospherian attitudes into something more like mainstream culture.” The meme in question goes “If American women are so outraged at Trump's use of naughty words, who in the hell bought 80 million copies of 50 Shades of Grey.” Among the reasons Mrs. McGrew gives for condemning this meme, the first was that it downplays what Trump said, making it out to be about “naughty words” rather than “bragging about grabbing unwilling women by their private parts and getting away with it.”
The question of whether or not that meme is “toxic” is not of interest to me here. There is a narrative, however, one that is prevalent in institutions of higher learning today, that most definitely is toxic. Many of the responses that I have seen in social media over the last week to memes like the one Mrs. McGrew was discussing draw heavily upon this narrative and there is a hint of it in Mrs. McGrew’s own analysis even though it is not a narrative with which she is likely to have much sympathy given her stated views on a number of issues. The narrative I refer to is the feminist narrative of “rape culture.”
People who have shared memes similar to the one mentioned above have been accused of defending “rape culture” by those who accept Mrs. McGrew’s interpretation of Trump’s comments as “bragging about grabbing unwilling women by their private parts and getting away with it” rather than bragging that one of the benefits of his celebrity is that women are willing to let him do certain things which is the more natural interpretation of his words.
What is this “rape culture” to which they are referring?
Is rape culture the culture that we find when we drop the e off of rape and get rap? It would make sense to equate the two because rape and sexual aggression in general are frequently glorified in the lyrics of the noise which tries to pass itself off as music under that name. This is not, however, what is meant by rape culture and it is worthy of noting, in passing, that another recent meme has drawn attention to the fact that Michelle Obama, who claimed that the Trump tape “has shaken me to the core in a way that I couldn’t have predicted” and, like Mrs. McGrew, interpreted the comments on the tape as bragging about “sexually assaulting women” is herself a fan of rap music. The Obamas have hosted Common, Jay Z, and Rick Ross at the White House, noted misogynists, all of whose lyrics glorify violence in one form or another, including, in the case of Ross, drugging and date raping a girl.
Alright, if rap culture is not included in rape culture, how about a culture which encourages male family members to kill female family members who have been victims of rape in order to save the honour of the family? Last year, on New Year’s Eve, members of one such culture, Islamic culture, who had been foolishly admitted as refugees by female Chancellor Angela Merkel, ganged up on women in major cities all over Germany and sexually assaulted them. Is this the rape culture that everyone is talking about? Unlikely, given that it is Hillary Clinton who wishes to repeat Merkel’s mistake in the United States, and who has condemned as bigotry Mr. Trump’s call for members of this culture to be banned from entry into the United States until they could be strictly vetted.
No, what is meant by “rape culture” is nothing more or less than our culture, twentieth and twenty-first century Western culture, as seen through the lens of a narrative drawn up by the radical wing of the second wave of feminism. These radical feminists have been given an inordinate amount of influence in the halls of academia. The “women’s studies” and “gender studies” classrooms which have been established in major universities over the last fifty years serve little to no real academic purpose but exist solely to indoctrinate impressionable young minds with the message of feminism. The idea of rape culture is central to that message.
In 1975, Susan Brownmiller, a journalist who had been involved in several left-wing causes in the 1960s, including the more radical version of Second Wave feminism of which she would later write a history, had a book published entitled Against Our Will: Men, Women & Rape, which contained all of the main elements of the rape culture narrative: that rape is about power not sex, it is an instrument by which men as a class intimidate and oppress women as a class so as to keep power in the hands of men, and that Western culture normalizes and legitimizes rape in order to perpetuate the male power structure. The same ideas were put forward in other feminist writings at the same time but Brownmiller’s was by far the most influential.
The narrative, which relies heavily upon presuppositions drawn from Marxist theories that were long ago debunked, is itself utter nonsense. Western culture has condemned rape from time immemorial. One of the legends of Ancient Rome was that of the rape of Lucretia, the daughter of a Roman nobleman, by Sextus Tarquinius, son of Tarquin Superbus the last king of Rome. Lucretia, after exposing the crime to her father which led to the revolution in which the Senate drove the Tarquins out and formed the Republic, plunged a dagger into her heart. Lucretia’s final act was honoured by the Romans as the ultimate evidence of her chastity but St. Augustine, Bishop of Hippo presented a very different view of the matter in his De Civitate Dei. Having argued that the guilt of rape is imputable only to those who commit it, leaving the chastity of the souls and bodies of its victims intact, he argued that suicide is a completely inappropriate response to rape for it imposes the ultimate penalty upon the innocent party (Book I: Chapters 17-19, the last of which specifically addresses the case of Lucretia).
St. Augustine’s view, which could not be further removed from that of the cultures which think that a victim of rape should be killed to save the family’s honour, was informed by the Holy Scriptures, for the Book of Deuteronomy prescribes the death penalty for the man who commits rape, adding that “unto the damsel thou shalt do nothing; there is in the damsel no sin worthy of death.” Writing in the aftermath of the sack of Rome by the Goths, his ideas became foundational to Western Christendom.
Western civilization has changed a lot since the days in which it could be credibly called Christendom but the changes, while many of them are lamentable in my eyes, have mostly been ones of which feminists like Brownmiller would approve – women have been given the vote, access to higher education, recognized rights to own property in their own name, and access to careers outside of the home. Furthermore, all of this took place long before Brownmiller penned her tome. Yet it was the Western, and specifically North American, culture of the late twentieth century that the feminists indicted as rape culture.
Anybody who had two brain cells to rub together would not take this narrative seriously for a second, which is perhaps the reason it is so ubiquitous among academic intellectuals. It has only survived this long because feminists, by interweaving their ridiculous accusations against Western culture with the testimonies of actual rape victims have welded the two together in such a way as to make opposition to the narrative's interpretive grid seem like an attack on the personal experiences of rape victims ensuring that those indoctrinated with the narrative will undergo a negative emotional response to any criticism of it The narrative is passed on in an environment in which it is isolated from opposing viewpoints, ostensibly to create a “safe space” for victims, but more realistically to shield the narrative from criticism. It is completely toxic in its effects. It is used to transfer the guilt of a crime traditionally regarded as a capital offence off of its specific perpetrators and onto the entire male sex while condemning as encouraging rape the culture which is arguably the least condoning of it that the world has ever known. Feminists use this evil narrative to justify their insistence that those who make accusations of sexual assault have a “right to be believed” – to call their claims into question is supposedly a part of rape culture – an insistence that contradicts and undermines the fundamental Western right of the accused to be presumed innocent until proven guilty.
Those who have been evoking this toxic feminist narrative ought to be ashamed of themselves for doing so.