This morning, I switched on to Aljazeera and found myself in the midst of a discussion of rape in South Africa. The interviewer was talking to a former rapist, one who as a boy had taken part in the gang rape of a girl at school. The former rapist has now become an anti-rape activist. From the discussion, I learned that boys rape in order to prove their manhood and their main targets are girls who appear to be superior. This man had taken part in the gang rape because the girl was a good student, superior to the boys who raped her. Now, in democratic South Africa, we have the phenomenon of corrective rape: gang rape of lesbian women to make them straight.
South Africa seems to be the rape centre of the world; if I recall correctly, a rape of a woman occurs every eight minutes, the rape of a child every three minutes. One in four men in South Africa are rapists according to statistics.
Some people believe that Black men are prone to rape. To go back to what the Black man in the Aljazeera programme said, something to the effect that Black men rape to prove their manhood, we have to ask where this comes from. Is it cultural? If it is cultural it indicates that women are not regarded as human but rather as commodities. And since South Africa is the epicentre of rape, it means that a constitution that speaks of gender equity does not reflect the reality on the ground. Rapists, because they regard women as inferior, feel justified in abusing them. So women, who are successful and rise above them, are a huge threat to their manhood. And women, who are independent of them, such as lesbians, are an even worse threat; they feel impelled to wave their penises at them to overcome inherent feelings of impotence.
Rape is a crime that reflects masculine impotence. That is why it is often done in gangs; rapists need the complicity of the group. Men who feel disempowered, rape in order to give them a sense of power. But rape, like a drug, is ephemeral and brings satisfaction only in the moment. Somewhere deep inside and unacknowledged, rapists know it is cowardly and unmanly – a demonstration of a lack of manhood. “Real men, don’t rape.”
Disempowerment comes from many things: patriarchal traditions, poverty, unemployment, prejudice, racism and the imposition of counter-cultural values. Rape is a symptom of deep dysfunction in our society.