Thought for the Day - Anne Atkins
A crime full of contradictions. Masquerading as sexual, but prompted by domination not desire. Commonly committed against women by armies, but only by those which have proved themselves victorious over men. An act of love signifying adoration, protection and self-sacrifice; inverted by violence into hatred, destruction and self-satiation.
Why is it seen to be excusing this vicious assault, if a policeman advises women how to avoid being victims? Would pragmatism undermine justice, if perpetrators were offered an incentive for sparing the survivors proof in court which some report as almost worse than the offence? And can men ever empathise with a strong woman choosing a stronger man, for a very primitive, unconscious reason: he can then protect her (and her children) against other men.
A friend shocked me deeply with his rare honesty. Rape, he said, surely isn’t very different from sex, is it? Just more so. In the years since, I’ve tried to understand his comment. And perhaps - forgive me - from a man’s point of view, considering what his body experiences, this contains some truth. At it’s most basic, it’s the same physical act.
But for a woman, for her body, “rape is always rape”: an horrific, terrifying, hideously intimate intrusive attack only short of murder or extreme torture. Couldn’t be more different from lovemaking, or being made love to if you will, which can be experienced as the most sublime recognition of her - our, my - worth and value. With my body I thee worship, he said the day he vowed to love me.
The only difference, in law, is her wish. Small wonder it can be difficult to prove.
A common objection to the Christian Gospel goes something like this.
Why couldn’t God make us good? Why don’t we all go to Heaven, whether we want to or not? Why doesn’t He just love us, regardless of our response?
Why the crucial emphasis on free will?
Over and over again, God presents Himself as lover - ours, mine, yours. How can I give you up, He asks in the book of Hosea, the prophet whose wife was as unfaithful as God’s adulterous people: my heart is charged within me; I cared for you, I loved you - just as Hosea loves his chastened wife. Husbands love your wives, St Paul writes, as Jesus loved us and gave up His life for us.
A suitor, a husband, a lover. Not an aggressor, an assailant, a rapist.
Why? Because enforced love isn’t love but violation. Whereas voluntary joyous submission even to someone much stronger, isn’t submission so much as liberation.
Take me to you, imprison me, for I, John Donne writes to God,
Except you enthrall me, never shall be free,
Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.
Available since: Thu 19 May 2011
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