Teaching Yourself to Fly
Young men even owned up to acting in sexually aggressive ways. According to one famous study in the 1980s, 26 percent of college men surveyed admitted that they had made a forceful attempt at sexual intercourse that caused observable distress to the woman in the form of crying, screaming, fighting or pleading. Just over half admitted they had been sexually aggressive without attempting penetration. Another survey found that 15 percent of men admitted that they had forced or coerced a woman to engage in sexual intercourse against her will - Joanna Bourke
Read enough rape literature, historical laws pertaining to rape and personal accounts and you begin to question your faith in men, in women, in yourself. Throughout the 1700 and 1800s the traditional Western laws and physicians throughout Europe denied the fact that women could be raped by one man while not being incapacitated. The reasoning was that the woman could merely cross her legs or struggle. There was a saying that it was “impossible to sheath a sword into a vibrating scabbard”. That’s lovely….really. How nice. This line of thought continued into the early 20th century. Gurney Williams published a paper in the highly respected International Clinics journal in 1913 that stated that the “mere crossing of the knees absolutely prevents penetration”. Even into 1973 in the book Crimes of Violence the authors insisted that the average woman was:
equipped to interpose effective obstacles to penetration by means of the hands, limbs, and pelvic muscles. Indeed many medical writers insist that these obstacles are practically insurmountable regardless of the usual relative disproportionate strength between men and women.
Thus…by definition, all penetration by a sole man was consensual. Throughout much of early rape law the burden of protection was on the women herself. If she was raped, she was equally responsible as she could have resisted or screamed for help. Even today women are often viewed as being partially responsible “they asked for it” by wearing provocative clothing, aggressive flirting, drinking too much or simply being friendly and open. I’ve been told a personal story by a colleague whose friend in South Africa was raped. She was walking down a dirt road by herself in the evening and was raped by a stranger. Immediately she went to the police station to report the rape. The officers asked her what she did to deserve it. Told her maybe her skirt was too short. Somehow it was her fault.
The history of rape law, the evolution of thought regarding rape is discouraging. I would like to believe that women were considered as more than property. More than a “sheath”. More than an object. It’s difficult to think this, to believe this when you see how women have been treated throughout history in law, in the medical field. I’m sure to some we are more, hopefully to many we are though there are times when I immerse myself in these narratives that I lose faith in this belief.
It leads to the question of faith. I’m not a religious person exactly. My beliefs are complicated and unconventional at best. But I do have faith. It’s not religious faith but rather rational faith. The best way to understand rational faith is from Fromm. That is as “the quality of certainty and firmness which our convictions have, Faith is a character trait pervading the whole personality, rather than a specific belief”. Fromm goes on to say that faith requires courage, the ability to take a risk, the readiness to accept pain and disappointment.
Whoever insists on safety and security as primary conditions of life cannot have faith; whoever shuts himself off in a system of defense, where distance and possession are his means of security, makes himself a prisoner. To be loved, and to love, need courage, the courage to judge certain values as of ultimate concern - and to take the jump and stake everything on these values.
This is faith in an individual but it’s also faith in humanity. It’s difficult to maintain faith in either and both when you expose yourself to this.
When you come to the edge
Of all light that you know
And are about to drop off into the darkness
Of the unknown,
Faith is knowing
One of two things will happen;
There will be something solid for you to stand upon or
You will be taught to fly