cn: non-explicit discussion of rape
“Rape is about power, not sex” is one of those old feminist sayings. I don’t know the exact source, but Psychology Today suggests that it might be simplified from statements by Susan Brownmiller in 1975.
In its simplified form, it’s obviously a political soundbite, a piece of rhetoric rather than a serious thesis. If I put on my philosopher hat, what does it even mean for X to be “about” Y? Is this about-ness relation commutative, reflexive, or transitive? Based on usage, I’m guessing that what people mean is that rape (and other sexual violence) is motivated by power relations, and not motivated by sexual desire. Which just isn’t always true, so I don’t know why people say it.
I recently discussed the case of Avital Ronell (who, to be clear, was found guilty of sexual harassment, not rape). One detail I didn’t mention, because it was irrelevant, was that the perpetrator was lesbian, and the victim was gay. This surprised some people, and I saw people on Twitter defending the perpetrator on this basis, or suggesting that she must really be bisexual. This comes from the false belief that sexual harassment must be motivated by sexual desire. In this case, it was motivated by the power relation between an advisor and grad student.