Friday Feminist – Catharine MacKinnon (4)

Most women get the message that the law against rape is virtually unenforceable as applied to them. Women’s experience is more often delegitimated by this than the law is. Women, as realists, distinguish between rape and experiences of sexual violation by concluding that they have not “really” been raped if they have ever seen of dated or slept with or been married to the man, if they were fashionably dressed or not provably virgin, if they are prostitutes, if they put up with it or tried to get it over with, if they were force-fucked for years. The implicit social standard becomes: if a woman probably could not prove it in court, it was not rape.

The distance between most intimate violations of women and the legally perfect rape measure the imposition of an alien definition. From women’s point of view, rape is not prohibited; it is regulated. Even women who know that they have been raped do not believe that the legal system will see it the way they do. Often they are not wrong. Rather than deterring or avenging rape, the state, in many victims’ experiences, perpetuates it. Women who charge rape say they were raped twice, the second time in court. Under a male state, the boundary violation, humiliation, and indignity of being a public sexual spectacle makes this more than a figure of speech.

Catharine MacKinnon, Toward a Feminist Theory of the State, Harvard University Press, 1989

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