it's always a drag to find out someone whose work i like, who seems so smart and cool, is that ignorant.
how ignorant? ignorant enough to link rape and consensual sex, like dan neil did in his sunday l.a. times "current" article about a new comic book called army@love. it just so happens that i possess and have read a copy of this comic, so i am totally qualified to comment on his commentary. the book is a satirical romp by rick veitch that i can only describe as mad-meets-young romance in a russ meyer-produced war zone, where the troops get into the "heat" of battle (heat, get it? heh-heh heh-heh) by fucking during firefights and other sorts of sexually charged situations. (ha ha, these jokes just write themselves...)
anyway. veitch is cool; i'm still pondering his post-9/11 surreal freakout can't get no. and he worked on swamp thing, one of my favorite books ever. although i did think the first issue of army@love was just OK, and didn't plan to read any more. but, dude, that's just, like, my opinion.
"I wonder if Veitch might be on to something," writes neil, later noting that the comic "... comes exactly at the moment when sex in-theater is confounding us like never before. Salon.com and the New York Times Magazine have run stories in recent weeks about incidents of sexual harassment, assault and rape of American servicewomen by their comrades."
he means "by their MALE comrades," but that sin of omission (A) portends a pattern, and (B) is nothing compared to the casual way neil has equated sex and sexual assault. it is matched, however, by this asshatted statement of naive privilege that i'm really not sure i can take seriously.
"The sweet gallantry of arguments against women in combat -- one of which was that they might be captured and raped by the enemy -- turns out to have elided a more menacing truth that everyone knows and few would say out loud: They might be raped by our own guys."
ok, is this guy for real? it "turns out" this way? it is absolutely no shock whatsoever that "gallantry" hid the truth about the fact that women aren't safe among even men who are supposed to be on their side. like, duh, dude. it's that way every day in normal life.
"But in order to confront that problem" -- interesting choice of words; i might have used "crime" -- "you have to concede that, underneath the full battle rattle, American soldiers are living, breathing males and not warrior monks."
emphasis in that last sentence is all mine. american soldiers are males. living, breathing males, and not warrior monks. b/c (A) those warrior monks, they don't live or breathe; and (B) female soldiers are something else. not sure what.
so, now that we have established the dire reality of being female in the military, one might become confused as to how this comic book is relevant, as it seems to be a wry tale of people -- you know, men and women -- having consensual sex as the mood takes them in the course of combat and being openly and happily each in possession of their own sexuality. as they will. and that is, like, so totally far from women being sexually traumatized, harassed, and raped by the men with whom they serve as to be pretty much ... infuriating. don't worry. dan's gonna clear it up for ya.
"Obviously, rape is not the same as sex, and there is zero excuse for it, regardless of the circumstances. But there is an explanation." oh? do tell. "Young, aggressive men in an insane and dehumanizing situation may act out on their frustrated sexual impulses. War is a brutalizing experience -- witness Haditha; there's no reason to think that brutality will end at the barracks door."
there is so much wrong with this paragraph i don't think i can say it all. first off, drawing a parallel b/w real-life rape and comic-book consensual sex, and then saying that "obviously" rape is not the same as sex does not excuse you from equating the two! if they aren't the same, then why the fuck you putting them in the same article and talking about them interchangeably? it isn't just stupid, it's horrible. it's vile and lazy-minded and says a frightening amount of nothing good about the thinking behind this piece and the writer's utter lack of understanding about this subject. i have female friends who were soldiers. one of them loaned me a book by an iraq army vet and told me it said so much about the experience of being female in the military. it's called love my rifle more than you, and author kayla williams vividly describes the way it is. whatever good there is about the hookup odds in this overwhelmingly male world -- vividly described to me by at least one of my vet pals -- is quickly turned bad by (guess who?) the men themselves, who define their female comrades by whether or not they put out. and you are damned if you do ("slut") and damned if you don't ("bitch"). and that's if you're lucky. if you're not lucky, you end up like the character in "doonesbury," whom neil references in his article, who is in VA counseling for "sexual trauma." but just the routine sorts of harassment that williams describes are fairly harrowing, especially when you think about how the deck is stacked against female soldiers when it comes to reporting these crimes to their superiors and how isolated they really are in a combat zone.
secondly, neil spouts -- oh, jesus christ!! -- the same tired, stupid, and insulting argument that men can't control themselves. especially when they're under stress (hence you must expect that the brutality won't end at the barracks door). thirdly, once again the male-default (soldiers are men), plus the implication that somehow the horrors of war only adversely affect men and the bewildering notion that only men have sexual impulses.
how can anyone be this clueless? women don't ever have sexual urges or want or need to fuck just for the fun of it/to relieve pressure? even though they are surrounded by hot, muscular dudes all day, every day? my female-soldier friends had tons of frustrations, baby. mainly b/c, you know all these randy dudes who can scarcely control themselves (and certainly can't be expected to)? well, they want to be free, but they don't want you to be. in fact, how dare you walk around acting like you own your own body?
come to think of it, army@love isn't so much satire (which neil asserts "has a habit of becoming prophecy") as it is science fiction. b/c on this planet, it will never happen.