[ Side note: Fuck Echo in the ear. I had a comment along these lines all written up at Hullabaloo, and it got eated by Echo. Again. Never Again.]
When you see all these patriarchal institutions being revealed as either perpetrating sex crimes or covering them up you have to believe that this has been one of the biggest secrets of the human experience.
Digby is usually one of the most exactly right bloggers out there, but this is a swing and a miss.
Male mammals have been using sex, violence, violent sex, and sexual violence to exert social dominance forever. It has been a common trait of most apes (including those most closely related to humans), and is common in the surviving remnants of neolithic culture. For most of European and Near Eastern history, dominant males have had the liberty — backed by patriarchal social institutions — to coerce whatever sorts of sexual partners they have wanted with impunity, even in times when the official stance of state and church has been nominally in favor of the relatively modern innovation of chaste long-lived monogamy. It is only since the Enlightenment that a few societies have moved towards punishing the use of sex as a tool of dominance. The intrinsic entanglement of coercive sex with patriarchal institutions cannot reasonably be called a “secret,” since it has been a fact of life for all of our history.
Men always have had the biological makeup that feeds sexual dominance behaviors. There is a “party line” among some older strains of feminism which calls that an apologetic cop-out that is a sign of a sick man, but modern evidence is available that says otherwise. Many F2M transexuals will attest to the fact that testosterone is a psychoactive drug which includes a violent edge to its induced horniness and a horny edge to its induced rage. There is the phenomenon of genetic testosterone insensitivity, which results in mostly anatomical females who have markedly feminine personality traits, yet who have Y chromosomes. And the frosting on the cake is “‘Roid Rage,” the documented symptom of violent tendencies as a result of using anabolic steroids (testosterone being the original natural anabolic steroid.) The bottom line is that men are biochemically primed to fuck other humans into submission. It’s what we’ve done as men for as long as we’ve been men, it’s what our apemen forefathers did and taught us to do. I’s what Attila did. It’s what Caesar and Caligula did. It’s what Henry VIII and Charles V did. It has been argued that “great” men who have not been sexual predators have done worse things with their urges: Hitler, Mao, Pol Pot, Osama bin Laden, Bush, Cheney… Note that I DO NOT think that such behavior is “right” or “good” because it is biochemically supported, or even that it should not be punished. I’m just pointing out that it is natural: just like hemlock, bubonic plague, and a 40% chance of death in childbirth.
Since the Enlightenment, the “West” has taken on the great experiment of trying to suppress that beastly nature and by imposing the high-minded and grossly unnatural principle of lifelong chaste heterosexual monogamy on everyone. Unlike prior failed attempts, this is being tried without the backing of a punishing deity to take retribution in the afterlife for a lifetime of fucking anything that would hold still long enough. The project hasn’t been a glowing success. The fact that it has not been a glowing success is hardly secret. Freud at one point suggested that virtually every woman with psychological problems had been subjected to some sort of sexual abuse as a child. Kinsey later found that wasn’t too far off the mark. My personal experience is far closer to anecdote than science, but while I was not sexually abused as a child, I know several of my friends at the time who were, and most (maybe all) (small sample) of the women I’ve had romantic relationships with have experienced something that would count as a sex crime as a child or young woman. (and no, I don’t count having a relationship with me as being a victim of a sex crime.) When I’ve had discussions of this topic with largely male groups, I’ve run into very little objection (and none that wasn’t hysterical) to the proposition that most guys in the proper civilized West have at least 2nd-hand experience with male dominance behaviors with significant (homo)sexual content adequate to be called abuse. Not always *criminal* in nature, but it seems to me to be irrelevant what the law happens to say in this area. If you are a guy who was never on either side of a coercive event with sexual content and never had any friend you knew to have such an experience, you are extremely unusual. Or maybe you need serious therapy to unlock your denial. On the female side of our perversely segregated society, things are probably different. I can’t know for sure. What I do know is that women of my generation (I’m 46) had a lot of abuse while they should have had it better than any prior generation. I also know that girls of my daughter’s generation (she’s about to turn 21) have had an inexcusable and truly insane level of sexual abuse, albeit it seems from what I can see to be largely via their clueless age peers and society at large rather than the traditional older men. I guess that’s better???
SHORTER: sexual abuse is an intrinsic part of the patriarchy and always has been. The reasons for that are deeper than most people are willing to discuss. We don’t talk much about it, but it is there and if you are not aware of it you are not so much lucky as you are odd and/or blind.
More relevant to Digby’s specific topic: this specific case it is not accidental. Reactionary fascists like Joe Arpaio are exactly the sort of people one should expect to be studiously looking the other way in regards to sexual crimes. Arpaio has built his career on making legally excusable rationales for degrading, dehumanizing, and tribalistic treatment of ‘others’ such as undocumented immigrants. He’s exactly the sort of man we should expect to quietly protect the eons-old privilege of males to fuck whatever they feel needs fucking.
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