Full disclosure: I personally was not an innocent child. I was a filthy-minded little bugger with an imagination whose eccentric prurience the Marquis de Sade would have admired. Readers who were more like the sweet creature pictured above will perhaps be kind enough to make allowance for this in reading what follows.
In a couple of previous posts -- here, and here -- I seem to have staked out a shall-we-say contrarian position on some rather sensitive topics. (Among other things, I asserted that cops, generally speaking, are as a matter of concrete present fact a bigger menace than child molesters.)
My colleague Owen Paine, in the comments, raised a rather interesting point: why do we treat rape and sexual assault in general differently from other types of assault?
Now this is a question that deserves an answer: where a distinction is made, we ought to be able to articulate the basis for it. I'm sorry to say, however, that no satisfactory answer was forthcoming from any of the enragé comrades who have exercised their eloquence on this topic. Samples:
Holy shit, I just saw where you equate rape and assault. That's awesome! Cause people are emotionally traumatized from forced sex as infrequently as they are from simple assault! You're goddamn brilliant OP!The second of these comments is more thoughtful than the first, but it still amounts simply to re-asserting a supposedly self-evident principle. Now I have always believed that anything which seems self-evident is almost certainly wrong, and in any case deserves a very critical sifting.
Tell me, which would you rather I do; stick a finger up your ass or punch you in the face?
* * *
... an equation of rape and simple assault only makes sense completely removed from the context of human history. Psychologically and socially it's completely different, and birth control doesn't make that go away. The effect on the victim, conditioned by society and by biological factors too, determines the meaning and impact of the crime, not the amount of momentum transferred from one body to another or the extent of the bruising. Only if neither the victim's state of mind nor ultimately society itself matters is rape just another kind of assault.
Sexual activity isn't just an unusual form of extended bodily contact. Genitals aren't just another body part, not in terms of our minds.
I mentioned in one of my earlier posts that this is a society which both sentimentalizes children and systematically brutalizes them, both physically and psychologically. We hocus up a sacred taboo around their genitals; then we subject the rest of their bodies to all kinds of ill-usage, and mangle their souls, or try to, in our feedlot schools.
And that's just American children. What our righteous institutions do to children elsewhere in the world is too grisly to contemplate.
One has to wonder whether these two things -- the sentimentality and the brutality -- are perhaps two sides of the same coin.
This would have the advantage of explaining the intense psychic energy that drives much discussion of child abuse and child molestation. We can talk quite calmly about the number of children run over by cars, or afflicted by juvenile diabetes, but the quaver creeps into our voice and the fire ignites in our eye when genital contact comes into the picture. Is sexual abuse the area where we compensate, or over-compensate, for all the other abuse we accept and even collude in(*)?
If so... why is sex the chosen area for our piaculative zeal?
If memory serves, moral panic about child abuse started to gather steam back in the 70s, and reached a wild peak of collective dementia in the day-care witch-hunts of the Reagan and Clinton years. One wonders if we didn't perhaps give ourselves something of a fright when we opened the sexual floodgates back in the 60s. Have we erected the adamantine wall of childhood innocence -- before 18, nothing; after 18, everything -- by way of locking the stable after the horse has escaped?
(*) I'm thinking here, among other things, of parents acting as homework enforcement agents for the schools.