Friday, June 09, 2017

On Duterte's "Rape Joke"

Rodrigo Duterte, the president of Philippines, has branded himself as the most vicious junkyard dog, the one that would bite ISIS dogs in the butt.  His supporters lap his threats of violence up.  If violence has rained down from the other side, then a violent bully in one's own corner feels good.

That's the background to use for understanding his May "joke" about raping women:

“You can arrest any person, search any house,” Duterte told the soldiers Friday.
“I alone would be responsible” for anything they did under martial law, he said. “I will go to jail for you. If you happen to have raped three women, I will own up to it.”
This last comment — absolving his soldiers for any future rapes — was widely reported as a joke, and if it was, it wouldn't be the ruler's first attempt at the genre.
Before he won the presidency last year, Duterte joked that he “should have been first” in the gang rape of a woman who was held hostage, raped and killed in the 1980s.
Let's make a thought experiment:  What if Duterte had said "If you happen to have throttled three babies, I will own up to it."?  Did anything change?

I believe something did change.  The "rape joke" has an aspect of titillation, of almost-pleasure.  It's not just a way to tell the soldiers that they can violate human rights as much as they wish, that they can use whatever violence they regard necessary.  It's also a promise of the kind of violent sexual release which wars have traditionally promised soldiers:  The "right" to rape the enemy's women*, because those women belong to the enemy in the same way that their goods belong to them.  Thus, rape and pillage are identical "rights."

When Chelsea Clinton tweeted about that "rape joke" she made the mistake of taking it out of context by writing: "Not funny.  Ever."  It wasn't intended to be funny to a woman, after all, ever.

But Duterte's response to her moved the "joke" even further away from its actual meaning.  He said:

"When your father was screwing Lewinsky and the rest of the young girls there in the office of the president, on the table, on the floor, on the sofa, did you raise any" criticism? Duterte said Thursday.
Duterte used the identity sign between philandering or adultery and violent rape by strangers.

And so did in a way the article I quote for that comment, because it describes Dutarte's language as "foul-mouthed" and "profanity-laced."   I could be truly foul-mouthed without advocating any violence at all.  It's the violence-laced language of Dutarte which troubles me, not any profanities. 

The mixture of sex and violence Dutarte uses in his speeches amounts to a primitive kind of rough heterosexual male bonding, with a strong stench of entitlement.  It will be interesting to see if similar speeches become more common in the US now that Trump has opened the door for Bannon and his white male supremacist brethren, or if the "awful" forces of "political correctness" can still manage to rein it in.


Or their sons.  Or anyone who isn't an actual combatant but is viewed as "belonging" to the enemy.