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Anthony McCarthy

Opinion,

When feminists destroy the sacredness of sex, rape becomes just another crime

Anthony McCarthy

May 6, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) — The BBC News headline read, “United States dilutes UN rape-in-war resolution.”

In 2001, the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia convicted three Bosnian Serb soldiers of crimes against humanity for their role in the rape and enslavement of women and girls. This was the first time a U.N. criminal tribunal had specifically prosecuted (as opposed to merely recognized) rape as a crime against humanity.

Rape is an especially wicked crime. It brings about a specific kind of moral disturbance in its victims, which distinguishes it from other kinds of assault. However, it is difficult to understand why this should be so if we don’t have a view of sex as a distinctive area of moral activity with a special meaning.

The small minority of feminists who question the seriousness of rape are perhaps more consistent on this front. Germaine Greer has argued that we should “abolish the crime of rape altogether, and instead ... expand the law of assault to include sexual assault in varying degrees of gravity; so that, for example, mutilating assaults on children would be recognized as many times graver than penetration of a grown woman.” More recently, she wrote in her book On Rape, “an elbow, a thumb even, can do you more harm than a penis. It is a nonsense for our daughters to be more frightened of penises than our sons are of guns or knives.” In a similar vein, Barbara Hewson, a barrister and trustee of BPAS, Britain’s leading “abortion provider,” says in Spiked Online, “Victims may use hyperbole, and one can understand any parent being very distressed if their child experiences a serious assault. But such excessive reactions appear to be the culmination of a questionable trend that sees rape as uniquely damaging.”

Such views are not common, but they do reveal that the more one sees sex merely in terms of consensual behavior without special significance, the more one may struggle to account for the unique nature of rape. That nature can surely best be understood if one already accepts that marital union is a profound good of a kind both procreative and unitive, fitted to express love and commitment in the particular form geared toward the love and education of the young.

Rape is horrific not least because it is a perversion of that profound meaning of sex, an activity that is never trivial in human life. As such, rape carries a message that degrades the victim in her or his incarnate and spousal self.

Greer and Hewson may be at the extreme end, and they have been condemned by other feminists for their statements. Yet, insofar as such critics may themselves support the Sexual Revolution, the downgrading of the marital act and the erasure of marriage as an exclusive, lifelong union between a man and a woman, it is hard to see how they can account for the fact that rape has a special charge compared with other forms of wrongdoing.

For supporters of abortion like Hewson, there is a further message: why make abortion such a big deal? This message fits well with her message on rape. Downgrading the profundity of meaning of the female body and female sexuality leads to more than one kind of refusal to see clearly what moral phenomena demand of us.

So, surely, it’s a good thing that the U.N. is trying to highlight the profound wrong of rape, right? Why on Earth would the U.S. want to “dilute” the importance of this crime? Had the U.S. suddenly taken the Greer-Hewson line?

No. The U.S. opposed wording put into a resolution on rape in wartime that included a reference to victims being able to access “non-discriminatory and comprehensive health services,” which services were earlier described as “including sexual and reproductive health, psychosocial, legal, and livelihood support.” “Reproductive health” includes abortion. The French U.N. ambassador was quick to condemn the U.S., saying, “It is intolerable and incomprehensible that the Security Council is incapable of acknowledging that women and girls who suffered from sexual violence in conflict, and who obviously didn’t choose to become pregnant, should have the right to terminate their pregnancy.”

So the U.S., doubtless guilty of many crimes, on this occasion did not in any way “dilute” the horror of rape. It refused to assume that enabling a second unspeakable crime is the best way to protect and honor victims of assault.

Those who speak the loudest for a sexual liberation resulting in profound (albeit “consensual”) forms of enslavement themselves degrade the profound meaning of human sexuality and pregnancy. In doing so, they themselves dilute the rationale for the seriousness of rape and that other violation of bodily integrity in the form of a “medical” life-targeting assault on the pregnant mother, the world’s great symbol of peace.

Dr Anthony McCarthy is director of research at SPUC, author of Ethical Sex: Sexual Choices and Their Nature and Meaning (Fidelity Press, 2016), and editor of Abortion Matters (Philos Publications, 2018).

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