Defend Truth


To denialists who still won’t listen: White men do rape


Oscar van Heerden is a scholar of International Relations (IR), where he focuses on International Political Economy, with an emphasis on Africa, and SADC in particular. He completed his PhD and Masters studies at the University of Cambridge (UK). His undergraduate studies were at Turfloop and Wits. He is currently a Deputy Vice-Chancellor at Fort Hare University and writes in his personal capacity.

Following the Dros rape incident, I have found it astonishing that there were still some white people who denied it could be true. It cannot be a white person, said some callers on talk radio shows. Suggesting that rape involving white men is not something that happens. Really? Is this how we undermine the pleas of women in our country?

I found myself asking why some in our country find this horrible and unacceptable act supposedly foreign among white men.

Surely a cursory look at the history of rape culture across the world makes it abundantly clear white men are as capable of rape as any other men. In fact, during the slave trade, the rape by white men of black female slaves was commonplace, notwithstanding the rape of black slave men as well.

In her book Remembering the Women of Slavery, Sylviane Diouf depicts this cruelty so vividly.

The abjection of slavery took an added dimension when women were concerned. They were the victims of sexual abuse, from harassment to forced prostitution, and from breeding to rape.

Rape by sailors on the slave ships, and rape by overseers, slaveholders, and their sons in the Americas was a persistent threat to all, a horrific reality to many. Used, like it continues to be used today, as a weapon of terror, rape was meant to assert power over and demean not only the women, but also their fathers, brothers, husbands, and sons, who were reminded daily that they were considered less than men since they could not protect their womenfolk.

Breeding through compulsion or incentives was another appalling feature of the gender-based violence and exploitation women had to endure. Overall, the sexual abuse of women was part of the larger attempt at demoralisation and submission of the entire community.”

Sarah Baartman and how she was objectified all over Europe as a sexual object comes to mind. Today we have to admit that this culture of objectification continues with the likes of Kim Kardashian, J Lo and Beyoncé all having implants so as to mimic big buttocks, because this is sexually acceptable and desirable now.

Seeing black women as sexual objects feeds into the culture of entitlement and why men — black and white — feel they can take, own and do with the female body as they please, whether good or bad, degrading or not.

Meet Thomas Thistlewood, a British citizen who migrated to western Jamaica to become a plantation overseer and owner of property and slaves.

I mention him because he is renowned keeping a detailed chronicle of slavery in that part of the world in the 18th century. He wrote an account of the treatment of his slaves and his sexual relationships with them.

Though Thistlewood never married, his sexual exploits were prolific with his diary chronicling 3,852 acts of sexual intercourse and rape with 138 women, nearly all of whom were black slaves. This same British national was also much known for inventing the “Derby dose” punishment.

This form of punishment or torture was used predominantly in Jamaica on slaves who attempted to escape or committed offences such as stealing food. As Malcolm Gladwell describes in his book Outliers:

The runaway would be beaten, and salt pickle, lime juice and bird pepper would be rubbed into his or her open wounds. Another slave would defecate into the mouth of the miscreant, who would then be gagged for four to five hours.”

This punishment was invented by Thistlewood for the slave Derby, who was made to suffer this agony when he was caught eating young sugar cane stalks in the field on 25 May 1756. But I digress.

The truth shall prevail. A mere cursory glance at the history of white sexual exploitation provides an inescapable conclusion: White men can rape.

Colonialism and the continuation of rape culture by white men occurred when the scramble for Africa started in earnest. The onset of colonialism was yet another phase of rape on the African continent.

One only has to look at the mulatto communities all over the continent (including here in South Africa) to know how pervasive rape culture was. There is a long repeated, horrific global story related to rape and gender-based violence. Narratives of women from all over the world attest to this despicable act of rape.

The truth shall prevail that white men can rape.

The Dros rape incident shows us that in South Africa we continue to have a serious problem. The outcry from certain quarters because the perpetrator in this case is white should simply be dismissed and ignored. White, chauvinist men in South Africa equally disrespect, undermine and have no regard for women in Mzansi. They rape women too.

Our courts will ultimately decide on the fate of this white young man who has been charged with raping a young black child in a public place. The full force of the law must be applied.

Across the Atlantic, on the other hand, we are exposed to the US Senate hearings around the absolutely ridiculous white male seeking to be one of the next Supreme Court judges. To be a judge on the bench of the highest court in that land, you must be beyond reproach. Being a sexual predator — as a teen, adult, or geriatric — is a serious blight.

The right thing to do would be to indicate that you are not available for such high public office.

But not Brett Kavanaugh, it seems. He has (and is) doing everything in his power to mislead, confuse and misdirect the panel of senators. If anything, a judge on the Supreme Court must be a good listener, a very good analyst of complex data and understand questions that are posed in her court.

Unless I’m biased in this context, Judge Kavanaugh possesses none of these skills. He seems unable to listen — he constantly asks for questions to be repeated He does not have any ability to analyse complex information because he simply ducks and dives from all questions put to him.

He treats each and every question with suspicion and hence never provides simple answers to even fairly straightforward questions. The arrogance displayed by this person, part of the American elite boys club, is astonishing.

At first his nose was simply put out of joint for even being hauled before a hearing to answer about such trivial and minor matters as his sexual exploits. His outrage, insolence and dramatics during cross-examination followed.

The Supreme Court debacle leaves a bitter taste the world over. The only logical outcome of this hearing is to not only conclude that Kavanaugh is not fit to hold such an esteemed position on the bench of the highest court in the US, but also that criminal charges be instituted against him. Let him go and rot right next to Bill Cosby, in the same prison cell.

We all know that President Trump and his policies smack of hypocrisy and at times do not make sense. But this candidate — is this the best the Republicans can offer, for the US Supreme Court?

The truth shall prevail. We will come to the inescapable conclusion that white men can rape.

Scanning Twitter, and reading some of the #Ididntreport posts tells us of so many other women all over the US and beyond who are mustering the courage to come forward and acknowledge to themselves and to us that they too want to report what happened to them.

In a previous article I wrote about The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas, debunking the rape culture in South Africa in which I conclude:

Rape of women is real, it is unrelenting and it is continuing at an alarming pace. It remains the underbelly that is eroding our society, one girl child at a time. Shall we all continue like the citizens of the city of Omelas or are there indeed those among us that will walk away from Omelas?”

Prejudice and racism aside, white men are equally guilty. We all have a role to play in holding men in South Africa — black and white — to account. DM


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