Many targets I know have had fleeting fantasies about killing their rapist – the very satisfying belly slitting, a few low pops from a silenced gun, pinning him against the wall with a truck. In reality, although a few violent misogynists are killed by their targets in self-defence, very very few will ever face vengeful acts of any kind, let alone the fulfillment of such fantasies by their victims. Most victims are far more concerned with community safety, and even the rapist’s well being, than they are with fulfilling momentary fantasies like this.
Let’s contrast that with the way violent men will consider it their right, and a good, to act out their violent fantasies upon women and children. The women and children in their ordinary life will bear this brunt, or sometimes random targets, or war targets, or they may be the women and children whose bodies and images are captured in porn-making and prostitution.
I don’t think female DNA is any better than males (OK well maybe a little): the reasons for this contrast are social. Being on the receiving end of overwhelming male violence, we women often learn to have less faith in violent acts. In Canadian mainstream society, women acting out fantasies based on revenge for infractions of female bodily autonomy is also discouraged. For males, this may be encouraged, such as men being indulged when their “crimes of passion” are excused by such vagaries as “homosexual panic” when the target is male, or “she made a joke about my love-making abilities” or penis size, when the target is female. And when women’s sexuality is out of male control, then fathers, brothers, husbands and sons have long been invited to kill women, at various places and points in time on this planet. Men have been and still are regularly let off the hook to some degree for their violence, when their masculine “dignity” is affronted. There are no comparable type of “provocations” for women that would ever exculpate them or mitigate the justice system’s response to their murder of a man.
What this asymmetrical violence shows is that social conditioning and attitude makes violence happen or not. It is very far from inevitable.
I was moved to consider these facts again, reading the story of a male victim/vigilante, Patrick Drum, here.
It struck me that violence will always be the result of acting out fantasies of safety, as long as we primarily see safety as an individual matter. As long as we primarily see “safety” as physical guarding by a dominant male.
What if instead community took responsibility for creating safety by building a foundation of power and respect for women? This is shown to have the most powerful effect of all on reducing violence against women in societies. It does not involve heroic acts, big muscles, or death. It is simply a different attitude.
What if men gained faith that they could create safety by power-sharing with women? Right now we have all been processed by the propaganda machine that says safety resides in the arms race, looking out for number 1, and swift, violent responses to incursions. But clearer heads have identified again and again that the human societies that are the safest, the most peaceful, are those where women are respected as autonomous full human beings, and where power is truly shared between the sexes.
The buddhadharma says that “generosity produces peace” and as I interpret it as a Buddhist, this is the kind of situation referred to. Instead of placing our faith in male violence without end, what happens when dominant groups let go of colonial privilege, male privilege, etc.? When we let go of having to pump up our top-dog status, when we generously let go of our supremacy at all costs, a profound peace will dawn, a peace that was there all along.
photo by Justin Connaher