boys don't cry

Philip Ferguson plf13 at
Mon Aug 12 19:42:36 MDT 2002

Joe Cleffie wrote:
> I
> know a couple of lesbian women who were raped by other
> women and it didn't necessarily involve penetration.
> But the experience for them is as traumatic as and
> male to female rape.  Of course when a man rapes a
> woman it is in the social context of sexual oppression
> and all the power relationships that go with it.  But
> if I were to tell one of my friends that they weren't
> really raped because it didn't involve penetration
> they would be rightly pissed off.  I also know a woman
> from working in a shelter in Florida that was a rape
> survivor whose attacker was male and could not get an
> erection.

I'd define these as the difference between *sexual assault* and *rape*.

The women you mention who were attacked by other women - and its
immaterial that the women attacked by other women were lesbians - were
*sexually assaulted*.  Ditto the woman whose assailant couldn't get an

I'm sure a sexual assault can be every bit as traumatic as a rape, but I
see no reason to conflate the two.  (It's also not true, by the way,
that every rape and every sexual assault is traumatic and
life-destroying.  We should be wary of the quaint old idea that women
are fragile and can't deal with even fairly horrific stuff.)

One of the problems with this whole area in the last two decades or so
is that a wing of feminism, which has become obsessed with victimhood
and men per se as the enemy, has relativised rape so much that it has
taken any real meaning out of the term.  This hasn't done women any
favours.  It has also opened up the terrain for silly men to claim that
men are being 'raped' by women, that women run round 'raping' other
women etc.

As serious political people we should have serious and precise
definitions whether we are referring to the categories of 'Das Kapital'
or categories of racial and gender oppression.  We should also
understand that being oppressed is an entirely different category from
being a victim.  Being oppressed doesn't inherently make you weak and
fragile as an individual.

Philip Ferguson

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