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Normalizing Rape Through Imagery

August 31, 2007
This entry is about rape. It may be triggering for some. Please take care.

In this entry I am discussing a graphic. If you want to see the graphic I am writing about, please click on to this link.

The elephant is obviously sodomizing the donkey. The flippant use of rape imagery normalizes rape. Both the elephant and the donkey are from opposing parties therefore an implied consent is absent; hence, it is an assumed rape. Am I to think looking at the picture that the donkey has consented? That the donkey is happy, willing, and enjoying itself. The donkey certainly does not look happy, inviting, or consenting.

Here is a graphic —A humongous elephant, twice, perhaps three times larger than a donkey posed on top in an unconventional sexual position. If elephants and/or donkeys mount from behind during sex is irrelevant because elephants and donkeys do not have sex with each other. Period. They are different species. Just a quick aside about species, I can do nothing but roll my eyes when people arguing against gay or interracial couples use stupid examples such as “if two women can marry each other then I should be able to marry my cat.” How incredibility asinine. Both women are human. A cat and a woman (or man) is not of the same species. I have heard the same ignorant comment when people argue about different races coming together. How stupid can a bigoted-idiot get? Honestly.

Nevertheless, this image surfaced around the time Republicans became the majority in power. In power being the key words. When power and sex are combined, a red flag should immediately go up. Rape occurs when one person (or many, see Dunbar Village) overpowers another. Rape is never consensual (a ridiculous statement I know, but apparently necessary to make). In this image, it is safe to assume the donkey is not consenting for several reasons. First, in a literal context as stated above, donkeys and elephants do not have sex with each other therefore, no one can reasonably surmise that the donkey consented. Sex without consent is rape. Second, viewing this image metaphorically as the mascots for Republicans and Democrats the message is still rape. Who willingly engages in anal sex (the phrase “being fucked in the ass” was thrown out by many others so to imply this is vagina/penis sex is ridiculous even if it does denote a feasible position) with his or her enemies, or in a lighter language,— staunch opponents? Very few if any! In other words, practically NO ONE. Rapists rape to overpower, to demoralize, and to control. This image is depicting the Republicans overpowering, demoralizing and controlling the Democrats. Not funny.

When power is sexualized, the potential for rape intensifies. Who has the biggest guns translates into who has the biggest penises (or object that will overpower, demoralize, and control) which in turn designates who will be the rapists and who will be the raped, –the donkeys (collective-Democrats) are being unwillingly sodomized by the elephants (collective-Republicans) in this image. The donkeys are being RAPED!

How I cringe when I hear someone wishing for the rape of a convicted prisoner. Even though I do not particularly care what happens to him, (especially if he raped and/or murdered a woman or child) he should still be free from the threat of rape. Here is why. Unless he is sentenced to prison for life without the possibility of parole he may be walking on our streets again some day. We do not have a society that cultivates forgiveness. Our public relations persona claims it, our Christian-dominated society persona claims it, and our holier than thou persona claims it, but our reality abandons forgiveness and wallows and saturates itself in revenge more often than not. An ex-convict committing rape is such an understood possibility that the very trope is often used as a comedic piece in movies. Have you not seen a movie before when it is supposedly funny that the guy who just got out of prison is trying to make someone his “bitch” (note through language how the rape victim is genderized into the subordinate role, the gender predominately associated with the traditionally oppressed sex, –females). It will be very difficult to trust that a man who was raped in prison would not avenge himself on someone else at the first opportunity, most likely someone with less physical or social power (women and children) than himself.

This very image of the elephant raping the donkey has been used not once but twice at a blog I normally read (and comment to). It is being used as an image to convey the sentiment that Republicans are hypocrites, that republicans love to get “their freak on.”

Hey, say what you want to about the repubs–those boys [no female republicans exist I presume] sure know how to get their freak on. I know they are always preaching to the rest of us about family values, Christian morality, and whatever other bullshit they can feed us to keep the spotlight away from them while they hide those skeletons. But, you gotta love ’em [boys will be boys afterall].

In other words, RAPE equals “getting one’s freak on.” No wonder rapists are not sought after by law enforcement with vigor or force. No wonder a missing woman (Stepha Henry) is ignored while all forces are mounted behind freeing a convicted rapist (Genarlow Wilson). A more appropriate graphic would be one that conveys hypocrisy. Yet a rape graphic was chosen. Please explain that reasoning. Don’t bother, I know. Because rape is normalized, hence funny! Rape is in pornography and pornography is normalized. I always find it hilarious when I learn about someone being sodomized unwillingly by his or her enemy (opponent). More fun than a barrel of monkeys.

I did do my part and bring the offensiveness of the graphic to the attention of the blog author, but my concerns were dismissed. You see, men only care about men. Even though Democrats and Republicans have both male and female members, only the male members are counted, considered. A few months back this blog author threw a fit about a graphic that had a white man standing in the middle of six or so black men. The black men were sprinters and their heads were bowed. It looked as if the white man was the all- powerful center and the black men were his loyal servants. Of course it was a valid complaint, the graphic did appear racist. Action was taken. Many male commenters agreed with the racism, hence the offensiveness. Many males could see the racism in the graphic because it was a manly graphic about men and male power plays. Yet, when a female brings rape-in-graphic-form to the attention of men, it is dismissed, because rape is not a male issue. It is men who do most of the raping. It is men who benefit from the power dynamics of rape. It is men who want and need rape to remain their personal and political power tool. Men will say women are welcome in politics and, men who have learned to be somewhat politically correct will claim they want an equal society, however, when sexist tools are exposed proving that their actions oppose their words they will do whatever it takes to divert the issue, case in point, the comments that followed after I posted my objection to the graphic.

The first rape apologist engages the female is just too irrational defense.

…it may be because I’m male and can’t see it, but that picture doesn’t make rape palatable for me. Do you really think rape analogies are ubiquitous, as you imply?

In case you do not know what ubiquitous means, it means existing or being everywhere at the same time, constantly encountered, widespread. First, he insultingly condescends by stating the picture does not make rape palatable to him. As if he, a member of a group who is less likely to be raped (unless imprisoned) therefore conditionally and willfully deficient in determining a rape image, is the authority on rape imagery. Then he subtly employs the females are irrational- hysterical defense by suggesting I am irrational by accusing me of ubiquitous implying. I did not imply anything. I clearly stated that the graphic is in fact rape imagery (that is assertion, not implication). Second, he changes a singular analogy into a plural analogy because if he did not he could not invoke the irrationality defense. In other words, I had to be made out as if I am seeing rape imagery everywhere at the same time, I am constantly encountering it, it is widespread (ubiquitous). In order to support his accusation he transforms the single image analogy into plural analogies. “Do you really think rape analogies….” I discussed one image that clearly demostrates rape, the very same image that was used twice in contexts discussing topics other than rape. But that is how men are able to turn a blind eye to the normalization of rape culture. He needs to believe I am irrational so he creates a medium to actualize his belief, thus, dismiss my assertion. By doing so, he does not have to do anything about a problem in society that he is contributing to.

Another rape apologist goes even further by stating that people who are raped should simply accept it and stop acting like being raped is anything to complain about.

I don’t see rape here. Sorry, but for me that’s just stretching a cartoon into something it’s not. I realize people see things within their own context, but making this cartoon about rape is, in my opinion, a big stretch. Further, I think the cartoon is funny and it’s because it’s the truth–the truth being that Democrats have been getting screwed by Republicans for years. The only thing that’s weird about this cartoon is the look of surprise from the Democratic Donkey that once again, he’s getting fucked by a Republican. I would think, by now, the surprise is over.

There you have it rape victims and potential rape victims, “the surprise should be over,” hence, proof that the process of normalizing rape is approaching completion.

For further reading on this topic see: Richard Leader’s Sadomasochism and the Political Beauty Pageant
  1. gingermiss permalink
    September 1, 2007 2:23 am

    What really caught my eye was this portion of the comment you quoted from, after the commenter said they didn’t see rape in the image:

    Further, I think the cartoon is funny and it’s because it’s the truth–the truth being that Democrats have been getting screwed by Republicans for years.

    Fascinating that they didn’t see rape in the image but they feel the accuracy of democrats “getting screwed” by republicans is conveyed.

  2. Kitty Glendower permalink
    September 1, 2007 2:46 am

    Exactly. I noticed that too. There is so much idiocy, illogical rejection, denial and diversion in most of the comments that I could have written a novel about it.

    Selective cluelessness I guess.

  3. Anna permalink
    September 2, 2007 2:31 am

    Sad to say – we are becoming desensitized / normalized to rape. A student in my class the other day made a passing joke about date-rape – I winced.

    Great analysis, Kitty.

  4. gingermiss permalink
    September 2, 2007 5:45 pm

    Selective cluelessness I guess.

    Seriously. An if I don’t acknowledge seeing it, I don’t have to deal with it mindset.

  5. Rent Party permalink
    September 2, 2007 10:41 pm

    Good post. I didn’t like the cartoon when I saw it – glad somenone broke it down.

  6. g-e-m2001 permalink
    September 9, 2007 8:50 pm

    I am glad I am not the only one not toeing the party-line on Genarlow Wilson. Thank goodness for the internet. I know I am not alone.

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