Love and scandal are the best sweeteners of tea. —Henry Fielding

03 February 2008

The Rape Chapter

I finished draft one of the rape chapter tonight. My advisor has been really liking my first drafts, so I expect her to give this one the okay, too. We'll see. The rape chapter is a tad more theoretical than my last chapter. Anyhow, since it consumes so much of my time, I thought I might share part of it (the most theoretical part, incidentally, and therefore the part my professor is likely to object to the most). Let me know what you think:
The rapist is unique as a character because the act of rape effectively renders him different from his society. The rapist is at once a combination of the criminally deviant and the sexually deviant and is, therefore, irredeemably queer.
The staged act of rape that the rapist commits performs a similar function for the rape victim. As with the rapist, the male victim of a rape is also defined by both sexual deviance and violence. Michael Scarce’s reading of James Dickey’s novel Deliverance (1970) and John Boorman’s film of the book illuminates the point: after Bobby is raped by a man in the Georgia woods, “[h]is comrades cannot stop thinking of Bobby’s ‘willingness’ to be raped, as is common treatment for many male rape survivors. We like to believe that men are capable of defending themselves physically, and if a man is raped, he must have somehow allowed it to happen. This classic blame-the-victim mentality is accompanied by a feminization of Bobby.” A willingness to be penetrated by another man is unquestionably a component of gay male identity. The men in Deliverance come to see Bobby as feminized because of the violation committed against him. The act of rape queers Bobby for them. His sexual preferences and proclivities have, of course, not changed in the moment of this act of violence, but the men (and the audience) see him differently because of it. The assumption or accusation of homosexuality in this case of male rape is an ideological tactic designed to minimize the vulnerability of all males to acts of (sexual) violence. We read rape as homosexuality in order to exempt ourselves from the very real possibility of similar violation.
Thoughts? Should I post some more? This chapter, quite frankly, took a lot out of me. Turns out it's really difficult to write about acts of rape and how they form and inform subjectivity.