Tuesday, June 01, 2010

'Consummating unions' (by Suzie)

The NYT had a good and necessary story yesterday about child brides in Afghanistan. The story says two girls complained that their elderly husbands "beat them when they tried to resist consummating the unions." Why didn't the writers (or their editors) use the word "rape"? Even "sex" would be better than the ponderous "consummating the unions."

The story talks a lot about beatings and child marriage, but readers are left to assume that men also raped these teens.

In the U.S., journalists hesitate to say someone raped someone, unless a court has convicted the rapist of rape. Journalists are trying to be fair to the accused, but mainly, their bosses don't want to get sued if the guy is found not guilty. It's unlikely, however, that Afghan villagers are going to sue the Times.

Did the reporters not use "rape" because the girls didn't use that term? Did they not use "rape" because the husbands and other villagers would not consider it rape? I don't know, but here's my theory: Lots of people are still uncomfortable using the term "rape" to describe forced sex within marriage and other relationships or when the coercion is implicit but does not fit their idea of what rape looks like.