Benita Moolman
Benita Moolman

Men that rape are our fathers, lovers

By now, people are familiar with why men rape. Yes it is for power and control, it is a means of exercising masculine entitlement and privilege and it is a means of displacing vulnerability. For me, the more interesting question is: How do men rape? How is rape enabled within our homes, communities and societies? How are we all complicit and “allow this to happen”? It is hard questions because we have to confront ourselves as we try to understand the men that commit this crime. The men who commit this crime, we know them. They are our friends, they are our fathers, they are our lovers, and they are our grandfathers. It is our intimate connections that make this crime more difficult to understand, and unexplainable at times. While these men are often called monsters, are labelled notoriously dangerous, hypersexual, barbaric and evil, we know them. They are also loving, trustworthy, affectionate, attentive, kind and generous.

So if, and when sex offenders cannot be dismissed to the margins of society, how do we understand them and explain their behaviour. Some might say … do we need to understand them? I argue that we need to understand how they commit the crimes of sexual violence to better respond, address and eventually eradicate sexual violence. Sex offenders are primarily men. Yes there are women who commit crimes of sexual offences, but they are in the minority. Being a man, is based on masculinity as a social construct, a gendered practice and a performance and is pivotal to understanding and eradicating sexual violence. How do male, sex offenders understand and mobilise their masculine identities and inherent privilege and power to commit acts of sexual violence?

The politics of identity has been reduced to gender identities in explaining sexual violence, and hence the complexity of power goes unacknowledged. So when we say men rape for power, what do we mean? Power (more often than not) is a technology of influence, an alliance or control. It is not one-dimensional, and therefore not only gendered. Power is multifaceted, hence the need to speak about intersectional masculinities. Intersectional masculinities means that social categories of identity and social difference are interwoven and integrated to produce multiple relations of power. This means that masculinities are raced, sexualised, classed and “being a man” intersects with age, culture, religion etc. Power is operational within a matrix of oppression. We are all sometimes powerful, and at other times powerless. Politically it has been important to emphasise patriarchal male power in explaining sexual violence, to contrast the popular reliance on psychological explanations and individual pathology. However, analytically we need to do more work.

“Causal explanations” to understand rape and sexual violence are reductive and simplistic … for example, it is because of poverty, or it is because they are unemployed that men rape. These categories are often drawn from quantitative studies that rely on demographics for “locating” men who rape and is descriptive but not necessarily analytical. How does power operate through these categories of identity, which identities have more power than others, and in which situations or environments can identities be used to mask violence?

Identities are authorised as legitimate practices of personhood yet some identities are more valued than others. Some identities have more authority than others. Sex offenders know this. It is this vehicle of authority (and value) that sex offenders use to develop a relationship of violence. For example, authority is located in family roles. They know that through the practices of fathering or “being a family member” or an uncle from next door, you are less likely to be recognised as a sex offender. A family member raping and/or sexually assaulting another family member is incomprehensible and followed by a profound sense of disbelief. As a society we are so attached to and invested in discourses of family as loving, caring and protective that relationships of violence are so easily overlooked or silenced. The practice of masculinities becomes authorised and therefore legitimate and sanctioned power. The gender roles of fathers, grandfathers or uncles etc are roles inscribed with authority. These “family” roles are sanctioned by society, through policy and practice.

Authority as a discourse of legitimacy is further mobilised through identities of class, age, culture and religion (to name only a few). There are countless descriptions of identity categories that are invoked when men commit acts of sexual violence, for example men using money to “lure” and groom women and girls or of older men manipulating young women or of men using culture and religion to justify violence. These identity categories are vehicles that get used to create conditions that enable the violence; it creates conditions where power is disguised and where inequality persists. And so, when we encourage men to be men, and boys to be boys, when advertising constantly plays on “man-size” chocolates or deodorant for “men who want to be men” or there is the need to protect men from seemingly the onslaught of a changing gendered society we become complicit in practices of masculinities that are harmful and dangerous and that re-inscribe power in destructive ways.

We become complicit in a patriarchy that entrenches masculine entitlement and privilege. We become complicit in a world that separates race and class and it is made to seem that these categories of difference exist in isolation and have nothing to do with each other and have no ability to affect power inequalities in the real world. Let us not be threatened by the words and language of feminisms that advocate for a shared power, and to recognise the trappings of our own “gender” and lastly, that encourages us to own our responsibilities to end sexual violence.

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    • J.J.

      Men that rape are: personality disordered – have sociopaths and or psychopathic tendencies or related highly deviant dispositions and they are prepared to commit a crime – a person who consciously commits a crime has a criminal disposition – these men are the exception, not the rule.

      Normal, well balanced men do not rape.

      If “your friends, fathers, lovers, and grandfathers” are rapists they fall into the above description. It’s not clear why you would want to conflate (confuse?) the abnormal with the normal.

    • J.J.

      Question:

      How many men (in society) rape?

      Let’s say it is 4-5% (for argument sake).

      So I have included that figure in your sentence:

      “They are 4-5% of our friends, our fathers, our lovers, and our grandfathers.”

      It changes the the meaning and is more accurate as opposed to insinuating that all
      “our (your) friends, our fathers, our lovers, and our grandfathers” are potentially rapists.

    • http://www.thoughtleader.co.za sgubhusenkwishi

      i back to differ with the authors understanding, perception and eventually ,disputing the elements underlined as responsible for sexual offence , as narrated. Rape is not and cannot be blamed to power and control, than addiction, uncontrollable sexual driven appetite or sexual pathology driven phenomenon.
      Even if the elements mentioned , ranging from power, control,money, positions of any background and power could often be abused or manipulated, as an element or tools to commit sexual offences, but the fact is we should not deviate from the basic facts and understanding that, without a sexual appetite , the offender could not afford to commit the crime, which leave us without option to consider the fact that , power and control alone could n,t be blamed for the act. As much the author did mention as well that, all the genders happen to commit the common offence. Hence in our society today we have so called ben 10 and toy boys. But we have to agree that our society, including the author , remain stereotype in targeting men as the main culprit than the obvious cause.
      For argument sake , not every men or women carrying a gun is a killer or likely to kill. but a person inpossession of a gun must be angry with someone or be teased or put under a life threat for him /her to use the gun in his possession to kill. It might be for very rare and odd psychological deviant reason that a person would just decide to kill the other without the cause of threat or so.

    • http://www.thoughtleader.co.za sgubhusenkwishi

      So in short the answer is , sexual violence would be committed by a man / woman with sexual appetite , that he / she fails to control, hence that person may commit a crime using the resources available to his / her access against the victim, which is a pure crime not different from a thief using a gun, or his psychopathic skills to manipulate or rob the victim of his / her possessions at a given time.

    • Rich Brauer

      @J.J.,
      In a 2009 study, the Medical Research Council found that 25% of South African men admitted to raping women, at least once. It was completely anonymous.

      Bear in mind, that yes, they did *admit* to it. How many more still didn’t, even anonymously?

      That’s almost an order of magnitude different from your putative 4-5%.

      http://mg.co.za/article/2009-06-18-quarter-of-men-in-south-africa-admit-rape

    • J.J.

      Much of your article is based on fallacies. Women hold much more sexual power over men than the other way around.

      “Being a man, is based on masculinity as a social construct”.
      Can you prove this?

      Would you say that being a male in the animal is based on masculinity as a social construct?

      Are humans mammals (or not)?

    • http://munchausen.com Von Munchausen (@Von__Munchausen)

      This article is almost as disingenuous as it could be.
      You are effectively saying that all men are rapists.
      That is absolutely false, and your arguments are paper thin.
      Masculinity, and the teaching thereof is not rape culture.
      It is in fact, the exact opposite.

    • J.J.

      …in the animal WORLD.

    • http://M&G Diana

      I agree JJ. This a rather simplistic way of looking at rape. Not all men that rape are fathers or for that matter grandfathers.
      These are criminals nothing more nothing less.
      Poverty is not a prerequisite for rape- rich people also rape.
      I know poor people who have dignity and humanity and they do not rape. Personally I think the rapists have no humanity or else they would think twice before their base “needs” are fed with rape.

    • J.J.

      How many women shoplift?
      Does this make all women shoplifters?

      How many women rape?
      Does this make all women rapists?

      How many women exploit men for money?
      (in various forms)

      Does this this make all women exploiters?

      How many journalists make spurious allegations without substantiated facts?
      Does this make all journalists dishonest?

    • Sarah

      @Benita. Thanks for a thought provoking article. You have clearly given this a lot of thought, as intersectional thinking is not for the fainthearted. For this reason, the article needs to be read and reread for us to understand the different angles and intersections of ‘categories of identity’. Maybe you could in your next article explain intersectional theory so that those of us who are not familiar with it, will be able to follow your train of thought better and engage more accurately.

      Most of our minds have been shaped by single disciplines and transdisciplinary thinking, as exemplified in your article, is an acquired skill. Keep going. We’re learning something here. Maybe you want to talk back so that we can engage in the comment section? This is a very important topic. Big ups.

    • http://Wow.sydneymajoko.wordpress.com Sydney

      I fully understand the indignity and offense that some readers are taking at the author’s assertion that men who rape are “our fathers, friends uncles, lovers etc”. It comes from the realization that the article comes off as saying simply because you are male, you are a potential rapist.

      I’m a man, so I should be offended too but I’m not. Statistics are a funny phenomenon. When one says 1 out of all 4 men are rapists, you can take it to literally mean that if you have three friends then one of you is a rapist. But that’s very simplistic.

      Statistics are drawn out of a sample of (hopefully) scientifically selected people whose composition REPRESENTS the rest of the population, it is NOT the rest of the population.

      The author is merely drawing your attention to the fact that rape is mostly perpetrated by males who live in our society. A male by nature can be a father, a lover, a neighbor or even YOU, but that doesn’t mean you are a rapists. Why not help the cause against rape by trying to understand why other men rape instead of taking offense at statistics?

      It is true, abusers and rapists live with us, eat with us, take us to school, watch soccer with us and drink with us. You are not excluded simply because you are self-righteous.

    • J.J.

      @ Sydney #

      If men take the same approach in highlighting certain criminal or deviant elements within the female society – through this method that the author applies, it is called: sexism, playing on stereotypes, chauvinism and misogyny.

      Theretofore I am calling misandry on this article – it basically implies that all men are rapists through the wording used.

    • J.J.

      Sydney #

      “It is true, abusers and rapists live with us, eat with us, take us to school, watch soccer with us and drink with us. You are not excluded simply because you are self-righteous.”

      I or any other male who does not rape IS excluded, not because we are self-righteous, but because we do not rape.

      If, hypothetically speaking, I or any other male who does not rape, is aware that another male amongst us is a rapist, we are complicit by not reporting it.

      “Understanding it” is a moot point. They are criminals. Simple. And they probably have a psychological disorder. Psychologists and psychiatrists point this out all the time. Normal, well balanced men – no matter their level of masculinity, DO NOT RAPE.

    • http://Wow.sydneymajoko.wordpress.com Sydney

      #JJ,

      For sure you are excluded if you do not rape, but since no one will raise their hand and admit to being a rapist, it leaves observers with no choice but to draw inferences, mostly based on statistics.

      Normal well-balanced males have no distinguishing physical characteristics. They look like you and me. And so do the rapists. Worse still, they act like us, talk like us. To draw your attention the author simply reminded you are part of that male species from which those deviants are drawn.

      It feels me with shame and sadness that fellow men rape, but I always seek to understand why they do it, because you never know, you just might be that person to stop the next deviant from raping. Normal well-balanced men who do not rape carry the responsibility of ensuring that our daughters, sisters, aunts, mothers and grandmothers are safe. We can’t leave that to the deviants or criminals as you call them.

    • Sarah

      JJ, why are you so hell bent on turning attention away from the important thrust (no pun intended) of the analysis, i.e. rape? Your preoccupation with your innocence seems to suggest that the horror of rape in not equally important.

      Is that not part of the reason why the need to analyse rape/violence does not get the understanding and attention it deserves in society? Because some men who do not rape prefer the limelight thereby marginalising the women who get raped?

      Sir, many of us are truly trying to understand the intersections of violence in our society – not so that we can pontificate, but so that we can all become more aware, conscious and educated as a society. Benita, more of the same please. And thanks Sydney for the interesting comments.

    • J.J.

      @ Sydney #

      I agree with you in principle, but here is the problem, in your own words:

      “…but since no one will raise their hand and admit to being a rapist…”
      “Normal well-balanced males have no distinguishing physical characteristics. They look like you and me. And so do the rapists. Worse still, they act like us, talk like us”

      So, how do we identify them?

      When we are in the presence of our daughters, sisters, aunts, mothers and grandmothers, we can protect them. When we are not, we have to rely on other men who do not rape to protect them – and for them we have to rely on their *natural instincts as well-balanced males to protect females. We also have to rely on our daughters, sisters, aunts, mothers and grandmothers to keep themselves safe – as far as possible by being responsible and aware of the circumstances and situations they enter or expose themselves to.

      * As an aside, I just want to point out that chivalry in general, is not very well appreciated amongst (some modern) women i.e. some feminists which COULD potentially cause men – even well-balanced men, to possibly be less prone to consider it their duty to protect women not known to them. We need to understand that as a community everything effects everything and our attitudes towards each other are very important. Ultimately it should be and is meant to be based on mutual respect and so everyone looks out for each other and the deviants are expelled from the community.

    • J.J.

      Maybe you can explain intersection to us, Sarah?

    • Uh oh

      Say the R-word and JJ is there – defending his mosygonistic viewpoint under the guise of chivalry – have always thought he “doth protest too much.” Many years ago a friend caught the headmaster raping her 12 -year old sister at a family braai (it was in the platteland). She was only 9 and didn’t realise (until much later) what was going on but she knew it was something really bad. But the sister begged her not to tell their parents because the “oom” had told her she would get into BIG trouble. So her parents, now both dead, never knew. The headmaster was a father, a grandfather, a lover and a son – and a rapist of children. In a family of high achievers, the raped sister is a divorced alcoholic drug addict. I wonder why ? You simply cannot defend the indefensible. No-one says or believes that that all men are rapists. By far the majority of us have caring husbands and fathers. But we cannot ignore the fact that in South Africa there is a goodly percentage of men who feel they have a right to force themsleves on women and who choose to blame their lack of self control on so-called provocation. I really don’t know why JJ has such difficulty with that. We are the rape capital of the world.

    • J.J.

      @ Uh oh #

      It’s really a pity that you have to revert to making it personal.
      No-one denies that South Africa has a MAJOR rape problem – a crisis.

      What I would like to know, is: what is the point of effectively calling all men rapists?
      IF men are apparently still expected to protect women in general(?).
      Do you not realise how insulting is?

      Yet at the same time “wanting to protect women” is seen is considered as old-fashioned and patronizing even by feminists.

      Do we honestly (still) have that duty to protect women – even strangers?

      We are reminded of this all the time – yet no-one can explain how exactly we are meant to do that.

      This is a valid question.

      I find it interesting that non-perpetrators are accused of being guilty, just because they refuse to take the blame for something they haven’t done.

      Guilty until proven innocent? (This goes for all men, clearly).

      Don’t worry I’ll go away now and stop bothering you…

    • Uh oh

      @ JJ
      “No-one says or believes that that all men are rapists. By far the majority of us have caring husbands and fathers…”
      What part of that don’t you understand?

    • J.J.

      @ Uh oh

      It’s in the title – very unfortunate wording:

      “Men that rape are our fathers, lovers…”

      Please read the comment by Diana above.

    • http://femtwine.wordpress.com/ Nadia Sanger

      Benita, thanks for putting this in the public arena. Some of the responses on this forum depicts exactly that which you allude to in your article – there is a resistance to really thinking and talking about men, masculinities, and sexual violence. Because it’s as you say: these men are our fathers, our partners, our brothers, our grandfathers, our uncles. It’s so close, which means that we will have to admit our complicity in creating violence masculinities. We have allowed male violence in our homes through the language we use in our everyday realities, the ways in which we talk about and ‘do’ gender as natural, and not learned. It is precisely because gender (and not sex) exists that men have the space to harm, and to exercise sexual violence. We are – as feminists, as daughters, as mothers, and grandmothers, and sisters – deeply implicated in the ‘monsters’ we have created. But this means that we also do have some agency in disallowing the development of these ‘monstrous’ masculinities. Thanks for starting the conversation.

    • Sarah

      JJ, No thanks, I’m not in the mood for power games, I do however recommend that you google intersectional theory to refresh your memory. Have a great week, and stop congratulating yourself by calling other people ‘deviant’. Deviance as a concept, makes no sense in this context. It is simply a means.to peddle the myth that socalled ‘normal’ people do not commit atrocious acts. It also ignores the role that structural and cultural violence plays. This is not a game sir, and your perspective is not sacrosanct.

    • Benita

      The comments have been an interesting read, to follow the different arguments and trains of thought flowing from the article I wrote. While I notice that some readers assume that I am saying all men are potential rapists, on the contrary I am saying that all rapists are human and that they live among us….I will take time to explain intersectionality theory more in future articles although just explaining a theory is not the basis of a blog in this context.

    • J.J.

      Sarah #

      Well, thank you for your kind words Sarah and for making me aware of the discipline of intersectionality. I’ll be honest and confess that I was ignorant of it / not aware of it / it passed me by. I found some information on it, but it seems that it is considered to be patriarchal in itself – see here:

      http://feministcurrent.com/8065/marginalization-is-messy-beyond-intersectionality/

    • Luis Embalo

      Great article.. I am new in SA, and the prevalence of rape here seems to be so high that I really see all males as potential rapists.

      There is just no other way to look at it.

    • Uh oh

      It says: men that rape are our fathers and lovers – according to your rationale you have interpreted it as our fathers and lovers are men that rape. There is a huge difference. My father and my husband/lover have never raped and nor are they likely to. But you can rest assured that most rapists are not virgins – which means that there is a very high probably that they are some child’s father or some woamn’s husband/lover.

    • Sarah

      Thanks JJ. Thanks for the article. A professor once said ‘a theory is merely a signpost’. Intersectional thinking (Crenshaw, Hill Collins etc).; contrapuntal thinking (Edward Said); 360 degree evaluative thinking and any kind of trans-, multi- and inter- type thinking is an acknowledgement that life is complicated.

      Why are you so determined to take this discussion away from a complex understanding of rape as Benita helps us to do?

      By the way, self reflection is part of this kind of thinking (which is truer to life than single lens analyses). I’ll reflect on why your stance bothers me so much if you reflect on why you want to deflect, then we try again in Benita’s next blog – is that cool?

    • J.J.

      For a complex understanding of rape you would (have to) be prepared to consider psychological disorders as a major part of the problem, which both Benita and you are trying to avoid by trying to group male rapists in with the general male population. Your resistance to make a distinction I find perplexing – maybe you could explain this. Anyway if we really want to have a debate, maybe you should quite trying to “send me away” and accusing me of deflecting – let’s talk!

      Yes, they are amongst us, just like female criminals of all kinds (including female perpetrators of domestic abuse and child abuse) are amongst the female population. Rape is not just any kind of crime though. In your previous comments (and the comments of others), there is a continuous insinuation that a man (me/I in this case) should not be proud of not being a rapist. This strikes me as odd. Well, I insist on it – on being proud of that fact – I’m proud of not being a rapist – not only that, I look down on this who rape! So there! Sydney even called me self-righteous for not being a rapist.

      To have serious discussion about rape and physical violence and abuse a much more holistic approach need to be taken where both genders are considered at the same time and all angles are explored. I’m not sure if feminism is the right movement to do that because they naturally come from a biased female perspective – unfortunately.

    • J.J.

      Benita, I think you make some good points in your article (and some points based on fallacy, as I have pointed out).

      “By now, people are familiar with why men rape.”

      This is a general statement that: MEN (men in general) rape.

      You did not say: “By now, people are familiar with why male rapists rape”.
      You did not say: “By now, people are familiar with why SOME men rape”.

      The same goes for your sentence: “How do men rape?”

      Maybe consider your wording next time and people might engage fully with the actual points you are making.

      I do take issue with: …”And so, when we encourage men to be men, and boys to be boys, when advertising constantly plays on “man-size” chocolates or deodorant for “men who want to be men” or there is the need to protect men from seemingly the onslaught of a changing gendered society we become complicit in practices of masculinities that are harmful and dangerous and that re-inscribe power in destructive ways.”

      Here you are saying that it is the masculinity of men itself which is a threat – and it seems you are implying that the more masculine a man is the more prone he is to rape. This is of course completely baseless and unfounded, except if you can back this up with some research or facts.

    • J.J.

      @ Sarah

      Earlier on you said:

      “Because some men who do not rape prefer the limelight thereby marginalising the women who get raped?”

      I think you should read that again and think about how much sense that makes.

      If I am not aware of any rapists in my circle or family, why should I even entertain the thought of taking blame for rapists? I would like someone – anyone to offer us some practical real-life, realistic solutions as to how men in general (those who do not rape) can and should or would stop other men from raping.

      Men who rape very often come from a background of child-abuse, so we need to look at child abuse first (and yes, child abuse often cause long-term psychological problems). When we look at statistics we find that both fathers and mothers are complicit in child abuse – and we are not specifically talking about sexual abuse, but all abusive behaviors towards children – physical or psychological, as well as neglect and/or abandonment issues. All of these can play a role -so if we want to start investigating the complexities of rape then we need to be prepared to cover these areas too.

      In South Africa there is very little focus in my opinion about child abuse in general and or the quality of parenting. Start there.

    • J.J.

      No doubt I will be accused of deflecting, but this is very relevant to the discussion:
      (publication date: March 25, 2014)

      http://time.com/37337/nearly-half-of-young-men-say-theyve-had-unwanted-sex/

    • Sarah

      JJ, this is Benita’s blog and she is leading in this discussion about rape. As to the questions you put to me and the link you provide, I will read over the weekend and respond next week. In the meantime you might be interested to read Zimbardo’s take on psychological and situational factors that influence human behaviour.

      This is based on an experiment he did many years ago and he gives a ‘… psychological account of how ordinary people sometimes turn evil and commit unspeakable acts.’ This is the where he explains the background (more than 30 years’ research) to his book by the same name http://www.lucifereffect.com/ It is not a religious explanation, but a psychological one, the title notwithstanding.

    • Pablo

      By now, people are familiar with why women rape. Yes it is for power and control, it is a means of exercising feminine entitlement and privilege and it is a means of displacing vulnerability. For me, the more interesting question is: How do women rape? How is rape enabled within our homes, communities and societies? How are we all complicit and “allow this to happen”? It is hard questions because we have to confront ourselves as we try to understand the women that commit this crime. The women who commit this crime, we know them. They are our friends, they are our mothers, they are our lovers, and they are our grandmothers. It is our intimate connections that make this crime more difficult to understand, and unexplainable at times. While these women are often called monsters, are labelled notoriously dangerous, hypersexual, barbaric and evil, we know them. They are also loving, trustworthy, affectionate, attentive, kind and generous.

      http://time.com/37337/nearly-half-of-young-men-say-theyve-had-unwanted-sex/

    • Sarah

      @JJ, to keep my word I have read the article you (and Pablo) link to. It simply confirms Zimbardo (the link I posted) and others’ contention that human beings have a propensity towards violence (just as we have the propensity to be compassionate) and that ‘situations’ can at times be more powerful than the individual.

      I hope the Zimbardo link provides some food for thought and an interest in doing further independent research along those lines. Different religions acknowledge the ‘fight’ within human beings. See also Jung and a myriad other sources.

      Thanks Benita for providing the space to deepen discussions about violence.

    • Baz

      Have just read this article and did a flash -read of some of comments.
      Firstly, NOT ALL MEN are rapists, secondly our natural environment is being RAPED for years by man’s inventions and inconsideration to the earth’s atmosphere causing untold pollution of soil erosion , climate change and the list goes on.
      The word rape is becoming a cliché for lots of reasons too.
      Not impressed, very generalized and one sided written article.