<Trigger warning> Are sex attacks attacks on the sex or the gender

(43 Posts)
NoTechnologicalBreakdown Sun 26-Jul-15 20:28:47

Some people kindly said that this may be interesting, so I think I have to start it now. I apologise right now if it upsets anyone. It is inspired by the transgender debates over sex/ gender though I'm not specifically thinking of transgender.

The most obvious immediate answer to the question seems to be that it is the sex being attacked, because it doesn't matter what you are wearing or how the victim identifies, but does further reflection not suggest that it is actually gender? It certainly doesn't matter what gender identity is going on in the mind of the victim, and how they are expressing that, what matters is what is going on in the deranged mind of the attacker - I want to emphasise that. Whatever it is that is being expressed through (intimate) violence is the issue. And sex attacks and harassment occur because the attacker is utterly contemptuous of a whole group: because of a power differential, the idea that male gender is superior to the female. Isn't that a gender construction?

I am thinking that if it is the gender that is being attacked, then the gender divide is an important contribution and needs to be minimised. If not, it's less important for this issue.

Hard hat on. This could get messy, I'd appreciate it if we can minimse the vitriol.

HermioneWeasley Sun 26-Jul-15 20:34:10

Sexual assault is about biological sex. Women are at risk regardless of their gender identity due to their biology. Women can't stop sexual assault (or FGM) by saying "but I don't identify as a woman"

Gay men and trans women are also at risk of male violence but IMO that's different to sexual violence. Conforming men are also at risk of male violence - more likely to be mugged, beaten up etc.

InnocentWhenYouDream Sun 26-Jul-15 20:36:42

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

LassUnparalleled Sun 26-Jul-15 20:39:04

I don't really see the point of your question or your other posts on this subject.

Male rapists who want to rape women or girls will pick a victim who looks like a women or girl. I'm sure it is of little interest whether their victim is a women like me who happily embraces femininity and is happy to say her gender is female ; or the majority (rest even ?) of FWR posters who say they have no gender.

I strongly disagree with your suggestion in another post that the way forward is "unisex" clothes or appearance which to me sounds more like a way of stifling individual choice and individuality.

NoTechnologicalBreakdown Sun 26-Jul-15 20:41:42

I'm not so much thinking of what is in the mind of the victim - I agree it doesn't make a difference how they identify. I'm wondering more about the behaviour of the attacker.

LassUnparalleled Sun 26-Jul-15 20:45:52

Actually re-reading your opening post there are several points I disagree with but in order to keep it civil I'll keep it to this. Setting male on male attacks aside male rapists rape bodies which are equipped with vaginas.

Discussing the finer points of how many rapists can dance on a gendered or non gendered pin head seems irrelevant.

NoTechnologicalBreakdown Sun 26-Jul-15 20:46:00

I am getting pulled away now, I'll pick it up when I can. Sorry.

InnocentWhenYouDream Sun 26-Jul-15 20:48:37

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

LassUnparalleled Sun 26-Jul-15 20:53:42

I agree Innocent I was about to post but your post sums it up well.

ChunkyPickle Sun 26-Jul-15 21:24:27

I was going to say that the only way rapists know you're a woman is from your appearance (a woman in jeans and t-shirt still generally looks like a woman) - but that's not the point is it - most rapes are by people who know you, so yes, sex is what's important, not gender.

I would have thought that in stranger rapes, gender is also a factor, but that those whose sex is male but identify as females, and pass, are probably in for a beating rather than a sexual assault (or possibly both), which isn't acceptable either.

NoTechnologicalBreakdown Sun 26-Jul-15 21:54:01

Perhaps it is not a useful distinction. Is it something that can be separated in the extreme scenario of attack. These are deranged individuals anyway.

I do tend to think that gender representation has something to do with the attacker, because it is not a sexual need, it's a power trip. But no, they aren't targeting 'the performance of feminity'.

Thank you, Lass, for staying civil, it is a sensitive topic.

NoTechnologicalBreakdown Sun 26-Jul-15 21:59:35

And yes, I did come to this question from the clothg issue originally, but that aspect was no doubt logically fallacious somewhere. I do get lost in my own head sometimes. I'm just looking at this alone now.

museumum Sun 26-Jul-15 22:04:03

A sex attacker who wants to target female victims will be seeking biologically female bodies - they will be expecting them to appear female. I would imagine they would be very angry at encountering a female transsexual without full female genitalia and I imagine they wouldn't target a male transsexual.
But at the same time, I imagine they may be expressing hatred of the female gender, even though it is the physical female sex they aim to attack to express that hatred. I mean, they don't hate vaginas do they? They hate "women" and all that means in society.

ChunkyPickle Sun 26-Jul-15 22:34:52

These are deranged individuals anyway.

But that's the scary thing isn't it - they're not, they're normal people.

I've had a boyfriend not stop, despite me pushing at his chest and saying no in a distressed manner - very clearly wanting him to stop. That is the reality of rape - people you know, taking advantage (a disarmingly friendly phrase for such a horrible thing to do to someone), or not respecting your wishes to stop. I'm not sure that it's the same motivations as stranger rape - and they clearly know if you're a woman, and that is why they're targeting you.

Stranger rape also happens, and perhaps has different motivations, I don't know - perhaps it's more about anger than entitlement. In that case they're using gender assumptions to determine your sex - it's still about sex though.

InnocentWhenYouDream Mon 27-Jul-15 06:51:05

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

InnocentWhenYouDream Mon 27-Jul-15 06:54:11

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

NoTechnologicalBreakdown Mon 27-Jul-15 07:15:26

StormyBrid had this to say in the pub which she's letting me copy here:

"Okay, I have dryness, I have keyboard, I have many swirling thoughts that will probably come out a lot less coherently than I'd like.

Gender-as-socialisation within the mind of attacker: yes, I agree with that. The concept of "toxic masculinity" is possibly relevant. Our whole socially constructed system of gender gives out an awful lot of messages about men and women, their roles and purposes, and in the minds of certain types of individuals, in certain circumstances, that translates into just cause for a physical attack.

How the hell that fits in with gender-as-inner-identity, I haven't the foggiest. Does anyone know if there's data detailing the nature of crimes against transwomen? Because if they're, for example, likely to end up raped by the type of individual whose mind is susceptible to our society's toxic ideals of manhood, then we could safely say that it's the gender-as-perceived-by-the-attacker that puts a person at risk. But if they're likely to end up beaten up but not sexually assaulted, then we'd have a good reason to think attackers attack based on biological-sex-as-perceived-by-the-attacker.

I had a lot of trouble writing that paragraph because the true meaning of "gender" in this context is so slippery and elusive. No amount of reading seems to help me to grasp what a gender identity actually is without making reference to either biological sex or femininity in the socially constructed sense. I know I'm not alone in this. I'd hazard a guess that your average sex attacker doesn't have greater insight into gender identity than the rest of us, so I'm pretty damned sure they attack women because women are biologically female. It's got fuck all to do with how those women identify internally.

Socially constructed gender (aka what feminists think "gender" refers to) attributes different traits and propensities to different sexes, entrenching a divide between the two and so creating strife between them. Think of sex as bodies and gender as minds. Minds aren't little isolated bubbles, immune to the tides of society. They're programmed by the society they live in, and they remake society in their turn, in a neverending feedback loop.

Innate gender identity (aka what trans* people think "gender" refers to) doesn't seem to have a great deal of relevance to the fact of sex crimes. Because the perpetrators of sex crimes haven't a clue what gender their targets identify as - they have no way of knowing unless explicitly told by the target - and so are clearly not aiming their attacks at one particular gender identity. We do know perpetrators of sex crimes target women of all ages, sizes, colours, sexualities, women in makeup and women in tracksuits, housebound ninety year olds, and twelve year olds on their way to school. Do all of these females have the same gender identity? I was first raped before I had any idea what a gender identity was, so how could I be said to have had one then?

Gosh, this is getting long. I'm going to disappear for another smoke and hope someone else comes along and posts before I waffle any further."

I've never smoked in my life, but sometimes I understand the temptation!

NoTechnologicalBreakdown Mon 27-Jul-15 08:32:23

"A sex attacker who wants to target female victims will be seeking biologically female bodies - they will be expecting them to appear female. I would imagine they would be very angry at encountering a female transsexual without full female genitalia and I imagine they wouldn't target a male transsexual."

Yes, StormyBrid linked the trans experience in too. Would a rapist stop, or go ahead anyway? Are male-on-male rapists the same people as male-on-female rapists? It doesn't happen as often, though it's still very common in certain environments isn't it. Sorry I just have lots of questions. And how relevant are they anyway.

If the rapist would go ahead anyway, that would suggest biological sex had little to do with it. Whether gender still would...

StormyBrid Mon 27-Jul-15 08:55:38

Of course, that's a rather awkward point to fit into the trans* narrative, isn't it? If sex attackers choose victims of a particular biological sex rather than a particular gender identity, the idea that biology is entirely irrelevant is conclusively demonstrated to be false.

FloraFox Mon 27-Jul-15 09:04:21

The idea of biology being entirely irrelevant is false on every level though.

StormyBrid Mon 27-Jul-15 09:14:47

Mm, I fully agree. But simply stating as much tends to lead to thread derailment; I was vaguely hoping my outlining of why I agree would avoid that.

I think gender identity confuses the issue here because it's a self-defined thing, which is conceptually opposed to sex attacks, which are very much externally imposed on the victim. The first is under one's control whereas the second isn't. Gender-as-social-construct is very relevant, because it's the means by which otherwise ordinary people are moulded by society into sex attackers.

InnocentWhenYouDream Mon 27-Jul-15 09:44:10

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

StormyBrid Mon 27-Jul-15 10:12:50

It's still about gender in the feminist sense (which I'm going to call genderF for ease of typing). GenderF is a means if social categorisation based on biology. I don't think it's the existence of the vagina per se that inspires hatred and violence, it's what the vagina represents in the social context. In this way genderF is very helpful to understand sex attacks.

Gender from the trans* perspective, henceforth known as genderT, Is wholly irrelevant because it insists there is no link between sex and genderT. The two versions of gender here really need different names, and then it's pretty easy to grasp.

I was just about to bring up the subject of 'corrective' rape of lesbian women.

I don't think it's possible to really answer your question about whether rape is something that is done to a sex or a gender, because at the moment we don't have anything like definitions of those words that make sense.

Especially when you think historically about what sex and gender meant - there was no option for a women to be anything other than the female gender really, the two were interrelated and linked by all sorts of factors, one of which being the ways in which men used sexual violence.

Unless perhaps you're using this question as a sort of thought experiment to think through what sex and gender might mean? With a rape where the people know one another, they will likely know the biology of the bodies. With stranger rape, if a rapist targets a woman with a vagina, then she's raped. If he targets a transwoman, I'd imagine that transwoman would just get beaten up sadsad

INickedAName Mon 27-Jul-15 11:57:54

I was going to C&P the post I made in the pub, but stormy last post, is the angle I was coming from, it's worded much better and makes a lot more sense than I did.

There is a lot I've still got to understand, thank you for starting the thread OP.

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