Raping Men: What’s Motherhood Got to Do With It?

  • E. Jane Burns
Part of the The New Middle Ages book series (TNMA)


As a cultural phenomenon, rape stands disturbingly at a crucial nexus of the historical and mythic dimensions of Western society, providing, on the one hand, a daunting material record of sexual violence against women1 and offering, on the other, a compelling icon of how women’s bodies have been constructed as alluring, provocative, and necessarily violable.2 In Catharine MacKinnon’s formulation, rape both actualizes and symbolizes the cultural disempowerment of women in the Western world.3 If women are sexually assaulted because they are women, it is not, as MacKinnon explains, individually or at random, but “because of their membership in a group defined by gender” (“Reflections,” 379, my emphasis). To be treated like a woman in this sense does not derive from “any universal essence or homogeneous generic or ideal type” but results from a “diverse material reality of social meanings and practices…” (“Reflections,” 378).


Amid Hunt Olated Burial Lost 


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  1. 6.
    Ovid, Metamorphoses, trans. Rolfe Humphries (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1968).Google Scholar
  2. 7.
    Chrétien de Troyes, Philomena, ed. C. de Boer (Paris: Editions Paul Geuthner, 1909). For an English translation, see Three Ovidian Tales of Love, ed. and trans. Raymond J. Cormier (New York: Garland, 1986).Google Scholar
  3. 19.
    Jean Frappier, Chrétien de Troyes, l’homme et l’oeuvre (Paris: Hatier-Boivins, 1957), p. 69. Cf. Frappier’s example of dialectic in Philomenas query about women’s words.Google Scholar
  4. 21.
    Denise Riley, Am I That Name? Feminism and the Category of “Woman” in History (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1988), p. 106.Google Scholar
  5. 34.
    Toni Morrison, Beloved; Adrienne Rich, Of Woman Born: Motherhood as Experience and Institution (New York: W.W. Norton, 1976), pp. 24, 256–57.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Elizabeth Robertson and Christine M. Rose 2001

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  • E. Jane Burns

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