Thursday, March 27, 2008

Meredith Emerson- the politics of sexual assault

A few days ago I wrote a post about the death of Meredith Emerson and women's safety.

More stories are breaking on the confession of Gary Hilton, the man who abducted and killed Emerson.

I stated previously that I did not know if Emerson had been sexually assaulted. Now reports say that yes, Hilton raped Meredith Emerson after she continued to give him the wrong pin number for her ATM card. He told police he raped her "because he was angry with her."

Wow, that line jumped out at me! Contrary to popular myth, men don't see beautiful women and become crazed with lust and attack them. More often, it's similar to what Hilton describes. They use rape as a tool to terrorize and harm.

To some I am stating the ultimate DUH-obvious point here. But I think it's worth bringing up that our culture has a HUGE problem with fetishizing rape. We make it about men's powerful sexual appetite and aggression that must be satisfied. We see it portrayed that way in many movies-- that men can't help themselves. And thus we have lovely victim-blaming "You were wearing that! What did you except?"

Melissa McEwan deals with this on her blog, Shakesville, with the most BRILLIANT POST EVER, "Rape is not a compliment."

Go and read it now and you will be amazed.

Meredith Emerson was a beautiful, young woman but she was not attacked because of her beauty. Hilton was a sick man, looking for an easy target. He used rape as another weapon.

In my training to work for a local rape crisis center, I learned that in many rape cases there is an absence of semen. Not because the rape didn't occur but because the male perpetrator has not climaxed. The crime was not about sexual gratification but about demeaning and injuring a woman physically and psychologically.

Stories with young, attractive female victims get media attention because our culture doesn't understand the dynamics of sexual assault. We don't know how to handle the elderly victim, the married woman assaulted at the hands of her husband, or the male rape victim. (side note: We REALLY don't know how to handle male victims!)

Most people in this country know next to nothing about rape save for a few "movies of the week" off lifetime or our national news media stories.

Too many women suffer fates like Meredith Emerson, who was abducted and raped by a stranger. That young woman I spoke off in my last post did. She was abducted from our community shopping mall by a stranger-- then raped and murdered. And I think of her often.

But our country would do well to remember that these young women were not targeted simply for youth and beauty. This confession from Hilton would serve as a great jumping off point for the media to discuss the politics of sexual violence in a country that continues to treat rape as a crime of passion, directed at young, beautiful (and seemingly only white) women.

I won't hold my breath waiting for that discussion.


Praxxe said...

I really do wonder if rape has anything to do with sexual impulse, however remote. What makes me think that there is at least a SLIGHT connection between rape and a combination of sexual frustration and mental illness is the staggeringly LOW incidence of sexual assault in Japan.

A friend of mine recently visited the country and said he was amazed at what kind of activities a lot of men are involved in after work. He mentioned that it is not uncommon for a group of men to leave work, spend an hour at a strange sort of "anything goes" sex club, and then go home to their very conservative lives. He said "The rest of Asia really considers Japan a bunch of sexual deviants." Yet, the incidence of sexual assault in Japan compared much of the world is very very low.

I guess I don't mean to encapsulate an entire country into the category of "weirdo perverts". But what is interesting is that the weirdo perverts in Japan go somewhere to fulfill their sexual frustrations. Do I think it's OK to subject women to that kind of crap even if they are getting paid for it? No way. But it would be interesting to see a study that focuses on the sexual expression of a culture and the incidence of sexual assault.


tazebell said...

Do you have any thoughts on why Hilton was not charged with any sexual crime? The plea agreement was made regarding kidnapping and murder, and en route to the scene LE asks if there had been any sexual contact either before she died or after. After his initial denial, LE told him they would know if he did. So, then he admited to having "unwanted, but not unforced" sex that in the end wasn't worth it. Although he confessed to this, he was never charged with it. And it has never been addressed by LE in the media. Everybody knew he was going to get the max, so was pointless to pursue? Were they trying to protect the family? Seems he should be made to pay for each crime against her.