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Although the details and perpetrators of these incidents are quite different, the women in these stories—a young police detainee in Tijuana and a hotel maid in Manhattan—share a glaring similarity. Both women have much less power, and much less social and cultural capital, than their alleged assailants. While some progressive commentators have framed these power differentials in terms of global injustice, evoking a neo-colonial narrative, zealous conservatives such as Ann Coulter have found “L’Affaire DSK” to be a laughing matter. Lost in much of the coverage, however, are the women themselves, who ultimately are relegated to back-story for the more fascinating details of IMF policy, foreign relations, or the unfortunate behavior of famous men.
In our view, the terms “rape” and “sexual violence” are both more accurate and more useful than the term “sex crime.” Further, and consistent with contemporary social science and feminist scholarship, we insist that sexual violence is about power. But in claiming that women victims have less power than their male assailants, we are not simply referring to physical power or interpersonal power. We are referring more broadly to the ways that sexual violence against women and girls is fundamentally structured into social life, including gender relations, economic relations, family dynamics, cultural representations, and the criminal justice and legal systems. Thus, sexual assault is neither an aberration nor an abrupt tear in the social fabric. It is, rather, a routine fact of social life. Indeed, the real puzzle is that acts of sexual violence, including celebrated incidents such as the DSK scandal, manage to surprise anyone at all.
Far more is known about the horrendous sexual violence in the Eastern areas of the Democratic Republic of Congo than is known about the crimes against migrant women and girls in the United States. Somehow it is easier on our consciences to show outrage at the mass rapes in Eastern Congo than it is to pay attention to chronic sexual violence perpetrated against our migrant neighbors. Clearly, as media coverage of the DSK scandal has illustrated, it is a more intriguing spectacle to focus on sexual violence (allegedly) committed by a high-ranking French economist than to focus on an epidemic of terror and violence in our own communities.
The entire piece is worth reading, but warning: there are multiple images in this post that may be triggering. What is most annoying about those pictures is that they are mainly of advertisements that depict women in stylized situations of potential danger. ADVERTISEMENTS. It underscores the point that Monica J. Casper and William Paul Simmons are making perfectly. But still, you should know just in case.