One Day I Will Rule the World

World Domination, Babies and Middle Eastern Dance

October 4, 2010

Spawning the term “Birth Rape Apologist” about as fast as you can say “Birth Rape”

The internet has me upset tonight. I might not be at my most eloquent tonight. But here’s what, internet:

When someone describes their experiences as rape and someone else tells them they are using the wrong word, that someone else is siding with the perpetrator. Even if, on going through the realities of the experience, that someone else would be aghast and would agree that no one should go through the experience, if that someone else is saying, “but it’s not RAPE rape,” or “well you can call that assault, certainly,” that someone else is not the other person’s advocate. That someone else finds the other person’s experiences uncomfortable and problematic and wants to rewrite them.

So Amanda Marcotte doesn’t want to call “bad birth experiences” birth rape. Because rape all comes down to the perpetrator’s intent, she says. She’ll allow that the victim’s experience can be as traumatizing, that lack of respect for women’s bodies, agency or intelligence is the same. The misogyny and sexism, probably the same. But “Doctors who push around their patients are rarely doing so out of sadism so much as contempt for the intelligence of their patients. Are they sexist? Sure. Do some exhibit contempt for women that’s so serious it fades into misogyny? Absolutely. Can this be traumatizing? Definitely.  But is it sadistic in the way that rape usually is in the real world? I’m unconvinced.”

She goes on to argue that the motivations of the perpetrator is THE issue fuh realz. Because it is the perpetrator’s motivations that are of paramount importance to getting them to cut it out and the motivations of bad doctors are just different from the motivations of rapists.

I’ll come back to that in a moment.

First, though. This attitude of qualifying which victims are allowed to use the word rape really betrays a belief that rape is not our word and you have to qualify against the patriarchy’s rules if you want to use it. It’s like these women are saying, “if you want us to continue to have the right to use that word, you can’t overuse it. So don’t push it. If you tie it to something too far off, we’ll just look laughable and then we’ll lose all the anti-rape ground we’ve gained.”

And out in general society, it’s not women who get to say when it’s rape, judges make rulings that victims aren’t allowed to use the word in court because it’s too inflammatory, reporters refer to forced child prostitution as “sex romps” and isolating, intimidating and drugging and sodomizing a fourteen year old girl isn’t “RAPE rape”. That word is only allowed once you have proven that you said no enough (however much enough may be, and remember that it’s a moving target).

But if you move past the idea that the rape victim must prove that she revoked her consent and consider women in a default state of not-consenting then it is pretty hard to find fault with someone using the word rape just because it feels like the right word for what happened to them. And it becomes as un-morally-loaded as not fighting over whether someone is allowed to use the word “theft”.

Back to Amanda’s argument: “The problem is that actual rapists have completely different motivations than imperious doctors who inadvertently traumatize their patients by pushing them around in the birthing room. Actual rapists want to traumatize their victims.”

Okay, here is a conveniently narrow vision of “actual rapists”. REEEEEAL rapists are sadistic. Real rapists always want to traumatize their victims.”

This is good news for guys who have sex with unconscious victims – clearly not trying to inflict trauma there – where’s the trauma if she never knows it happened? The intent there was just an imperious belief that she doesn’t need to be consulted about what is done with her body. Good news also for guys who have grown up believing that women are just required to say no, and men are required to “persuade them”. Those guys aren’t sadistically trying to hurt , they just have a bent concept of what consent looks like.

And the imperious doctor, who just doesn’t have a concept of women as having the intelligence and agency to be worth informing, “I’m going to examine you now,” or “I’m going to rupture your membranes” or who, when a woman cries and begs them to remove a speculum that is hurting them or latex gloves that they are allergic to, has someone restrain that woman because she is clearly hysterical and her wishes do not take precedence over the importance of his task – remember that this is her standard for refuting the word rape simply because of his intent.

Is it really completely impossible to believe that a doctor who has a woman restrained while he carries out an exam that she is opposed to and that physically injures her is in any way motivated by sadism?

Here’s what internet (and Amanda Marcotte and everyone in various comments threads who think that the phrase ‘birth rape’ is ridiculous/unwarranted/trivializing-real-rapes) what is trivializing to rape victims is the idea that when a woman is assaulted, she should be policed carefully lest her choice of words offend someone by requesting more sympathy than she deserves or casting more blame than you think the accused deserves.

Also, trivializing? How about Amanda Marcotte characterizing birth rape experiences as “bad birth experiences” and “doctors pushing their patients around”. From some of the stories coming out in the comments at Jezebel, I suspect that many of those experiences are heartbreaking and “bad experience” or “getting pushed around” doesn’t begin to cover it.

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  1. gish

     /  2010-10-07

    Okay, thank you for this, because I totally wanted to write about it, but haven’t had time. I agree with you COMPLETELY. A lot of my postpartum anxiety had to do with my awful birth/hospital experience. It wasn’t so bad that I have PTSD like some women, but I still get upset remembering it, and also angry. Kind of like something was taken from me, when I was at my most frightened and vulnerable. Sounds a little like rape to me, but what do I know?

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