Anarchist responses to sexual violence

  • Posted on: 17 September 2010
  • By: worker

<table><tr><td>From <a href="

<p>Calling yourself a “feminist” is great, but doesn&#8217;t tell us what you&#8217;re doing to dismantle patriarchy (and white supremacy/other hierarchies) at the same time as capitalism.</p>
<p style="text-align: justify;">The Women&#8217;s Liberation Movement taught us that “the personal is political”. Consciousness-raising led to many making radical changes in their personal lives. We can all individually change: we can question our own assumptions, alter our expectations and the ways we relate to each other, and maybe even rid our most intimate relationships of oppressive behaviour.</p>

<p>But in terms of collective action, what are we as anarchists doing about “feminist issues” (for example the prevalence of rape, sexual assault, sexual harassment and abusive relationships, both within our scenes and within society at large)? There are other feminists whose reaction is to campaign for more policing and increased sentences, but how can we trust the cops and the prison system to end violence when they perpetrate so much of it?</p></td><td><img title="Its.......... GREAT!" src="files/pictures/2008/anarchafeminism.jpg"></td></tr></table><!--break-->

<p style="text-align: left;">When you talk to people about an anarchist utopia, without a Government, without police, without prisons, their first question is often “what about the rapists and murderers?” These are a very small minority of the prison population, but let&#8217;s have an answer ready. Rape is way more common than murder, and if prison isn&#8217;t a solution then what is?</p>
<p style="text-align: left;">We can only convince ourselves, never mind anyone else, that anarchism works, if we see that it does. Alongside simply <em>imagining</em> alternative ways of doing things, some of us need to acquire practical skills and create sustainable models, so we have knowledge worth sharing when the inevitable revolution/ economic crash/ apocalypse/ ecological crisis/ smooth transition [depending on your beliefs] occurs.</p>
<p style="text-align: left;">The problem of sexual violence isn&#8217;t restricted to mainstream society, our “communities” are not immune, and so many of us will actually have to deal with this kind of situation at some point. What happens when you know the people involved &#8211; maybe you&#8217;re all involved in the same radical group? (and please don&#8217;t tell us that anarchists/ activists wouldn&#8217;t do that sort of thing, cos we know damn well that they do). Do we leave it to the State to arbitrate? Or do a much better job ourselves than the criminal justice system ever could?</p>

<p style="text-align: left;">There are groups who have written about their experiences of doing this, sharing their ideas and strategies for some kind of community-based process. These tend to involve working with both parties – providing support for both the survivor &#8211; as they heal and recover – and the other person &#8211; as they take responsibility for their actions. This “transformative support” is most effective when it&#8217;s done by those the offender respects (If all your mates tell you that your behaviour is truly fucked up, you&#8217;re more likely to listen and do something about it than if it comes from people you don&#8217;t care about).</p>
<p style="text-align: left;">These methods only “work” when there is a real community of people prepared to collectively go through what may well be an arduous, long, emotionally exhausting, and possibly-divisive process. It really helps if folk are already “on the same page” in terms of basic information about sexual assault and abuse (not just the crappy stereotypes and myths fed us by mainstream media) and how to support survivors.</p>
<p style="text-align: left;">Let&#8217;s commit ourselves to working towards a society free of rape, sexual assault and oppression, and start having conversations about these issues now. Let&#8217;s create spaces where open, honest communication can take place.</p>
<p style="text-align: left;">Once we&#8217;ve learnt how patriarchy functions as a system of oppression, we can figure out how to dismantle it. We&#8217;re excited to hear of new groups – both men&#8217;s and mixed &#8211; starting up in other cities (like Bristol and Nottingham) with a specific focus of “confronting patriarchy”, and hope to report more on these in the future.</p>

<p style="text-align: left;">&#8212;</p>
<p style="text-align: left;">Also, check out some of the resources being published by the Radical Practical Feminist Self Defence group in London. These include practical leaflets such as <em>&#8216;How to help your friend&#8217;; &#8216;What is Safer Sex?&#8217; </em>and <em>&#8216;Creating Safer Spaces&#8217;; </em>as well as reprints of texts on<em> &#8216;Thoughts about Community Support around Intimate Violence&#8217;; &#8216;Taking Risks: Implementing Grass-roots Community Accountability Strategies&#8217;; &#8216;Taking the First Step: suggestions to people called out for abusive</em><em> behaviour</em><em>&#8216;; &#8216;Going to Places that Scare Me: reflections on challenging male supremacy&#8217;; &#8216;Consent is sexy&#8217; </em>and more. Contact them for copies. Currently writing a longer pamphlet on the subject of &#8216;Community Responses to Intimate Violence&#8217;. If you have a story (“success” or otherwise) to share, practical advice, tactics or tips for anyone in a similar situation, or anything else to contribute, please get in touch – in confidence – with <a href=""></a></p>

<p style="text-align: left;">More links and news on our site: <a href="" target="_blank"></a></p>
<p style="text-align: left;">Contact London Anarcha-Feminist Kolektiv at <a href=""></a></p>


A couple thoughts:

  • Not that the author implied this, but rape is not always the stranger in the alleyway. Sometimes, it's the guy invited to the room and didn't listen when told no.
  • Also, rape isn't exclusive to feminism; men rape men, too.

Uh, and women rape women and women rape men and trans people rape trans people and trans people rape women and intersex people rape trans people and every combination you can think of.

The homophobic discourse of feminism doesn't consider same-sex rape important because within feminist discourse straight women are elevated to center of everything. Feminist misandry is fundamentally homophobic and creates a closed feedback loop of victimism that silences the voices of others (including women) who do not fall into limited roles and scenarios charted by feminist ideology.

while it's impossible to gauge things like rape (because so many people don't/aren't able to report it), it's not completely unfounded to argue that the majority of rapists/sexual aggressors are cis-men. who they rape is a secondary issue to the fact that male socialized people are taught that their sexual needs are more important than the autonomy of anyone else, and that forcing someone else to have sex in fact reinforces their masculinity. aka patriarchy.

acknowledging this rape culture doesn't negate the reality of rape in situations that fall outside of the man-rapist, woman-raped dichotomy.*

* "same-sex rape" as a term still excludes experiences of sexual violence for folks who identify as trans, gender-non-conforming or intersex.

It's hardly ever the stranger in the alleyway.

Strange—it's almost as if I've heard this all before...

Déjà vu, for sure.

I'm surprised we are still using the word 'feminist.' I mean it served a purpose, but it's just a label like 'anarchist,' and to be honest it's probably even more misrepresented in most of society. If a huge part of feminism is trying to change the way men behave, and men themselves are trapped in gender roles, then isn't the point breaking down both male and female cultural memes of repression and oppression? And if that's the case then how is the word 'feminist' an apt description of what we aspire to? By taking the name of one gender as the name of a supposed ideology you are often seen as essentializing or fetishizing one gender and demanding something of another. I imagine those in power would have given us that name themselves if they could have, because it's a perfect word to keep people divided and arguing over what the stupid word means.

i think it is not like anarchist at all (the label). there is a baseline, a fundamental consistency to anarchist theory (if not action). feminism is all over the place, more and more it has come to mean damn near everything, thus nothing.

this is not to say anarchist ought to ignore feminist theory at all. instead, we should be taking what was the most useful in feminist thought (and don't go straight to the "radical feminists" for this, or you will be sorely disappointed). just as anarchists have been influenced by marxists, utilitarianists, utopianists, nihilists, or nietzists, without a need to embrace and identify with the entire tendency.

it is unfortunate (but remediable) that there has developed within current anarchist thought a moralistic, one-sided, and victimized (though denial about this hits high volumes at times) - that is, liberally/left feminism- rather than developing a criticality regarding all human relationships (as most interesting anarchists have been doing for decades). the fact that it was and is still an insufficient understanding, has sustained a hole in our critique that keeps getting prematurely filled with boring identity politics rhetoric and divisive - and unsupportable - accusations. it also further marginalizes (if that is even a good word to describe what i mean) those who experience the intensity of actual abuse, violence, oppression at the hands of another (no matter what category they are supposed to be in).

captcha=deja vu again


>> If a huge part of feminism is trying to change the way men behave,...

... then i guess only a small part (if that) of feminism is trying to change the way women behave. hence nobody i think of as an anarchist would call themselves a feminist.

Feminists are the alien lizard masons of the NWO. Sheeple!

well, actually, the feminist are the mostly progressive, professional liberal sheeple, taken in by the alien lizard mason rockefeller nwo.

you see, it was not until women's liberation that children could be effectively indoctrinated by the state.

seriously, with logic like this you could be sarah palin, a poster woman for the success of feminism.

p.s.--"involves tudimpli"

Good post, important stuff. Another question is to do when we find out that our (completely non-anarchist) neighbour is abusing his wife. Thoughts?
/Jonas L

stop the abuse: expose his acts to other people, urge his wife to leave him, intimidate or beat him so he gets the message just don't sit there and do nothing.

bring her out of isolation; give her more access to resources. when people have more options they are less likely to stay in abusive relationships.

if only it were that easy. the reasons people abuse as well as those who permit themselves to be abused is quite complex.

Another issue is that when women report rape, it can be an unpleasant experience both from the police officer who makes the report and the lawyer who may defend the rapist by questioning the woman's less-than-perfect history as if it has anything to do with the incident, yet it can sway the case.

"...and the other person – as they take responsibility for their actions"

Are you kidding me? We're gong to sit and chat with the rapist so he will take responsibility...

Have you lost your mind...and then since they hear it from close to them, they'll listen...give me a break...maybe children raped by dad can also sit with him and work it all out...or with their priest...

This isn't anarchism, this is new age gobbledygook...

He'll, why not suggest we get together for a food talk with those who are destroying the environment, maybe we could help racists and Nazis find their way and on and on and on...

We do not have to leave it to the cops or the state, but the alternative isn't talking it out...

I agree with the last poster.
I posted an anarchist Black Cat on this subject:

"They seem to be suggesting such a process as an alternative to the police or courts.

I have extreme scepticism on this point. I do not think that such "support" as can be provided by the anarchist scene will cause any rapist to "transform." There are projects in mainstream society that aim to rehabilitate rapists. They are run by trained psychologists. They also tend to be underfunded and few in number. In my view, calling for better availability of these services would be a legitimate feminist demand. Calling on the anarchist scene to attempt to replicate is just unrealistic and dangerous.

To me, it seems like a variation on a fairly common anarchist mistake of assuming that because we are politically developed and right on, we must be capable of providing a better solution within the confines of our scene than mainstream society would be able to manage.I would go one further and argue that it is a function of lifestyleism to think this way. As if our responsibility is to create a self sufficient scene in which we can handle everything right (even effecting psychological change in perpetrators of rape)rather than working to improve society at large.

In reality, the anarchist scene does not provide a better solution. I know this because I was a victim of sexual assault in an "anarchist space" and the response was completely dire (the general attitude being denial, disbelief, minimisation and blaming the victim. The chatter around that incident is the only example i've ever seen of a rumour getting downplayed with repeated telling!). I bring this up, not to have a retrospective winge but to demonstrate where we actually stand. Which is to say as bad as, or slightly worse than the rest of society. Just so you know, there was no detectable difference in response between people who considered themselves feminists and those that did not.

To talk about the anarchist scene being capable of "transformative support" is just a bad joke in the circumstances. We'd do better learning some basics and challenging some common myths (although to be fair the article does suggest this as well.) The fact that the author of the Freedom article can't think of a better term for a rapist than "the other person" does not fill me with confidence!

The anarcha feminist article suggest a couple of US zines on the subject which i've tracked down and linked to

To be fair the first one at least, is more reasonable and thought through than the London Anarcha Feminist offering, although it does seem more focused towards physical violence in relationships.

I'd be interested in what other people make of this subject: particularly anyone involved in any attempts at "transformative support" within an anarchist community. Perhaps the reality is more nuanced and reasonable than the Freedom article suggests.",

i totally disagree (and i hate new age shit!).

it is just not so damn cut and dried. why always the binary perspective, the black and white. talking does not preclude further action. violent retribution does not preclude talking later.

as one who experienced rather intense, long-term incest and later in life, a rape, i would totally be into "talking it out", at least up to the point that it seems a waste of time. my father's been dead a long time, so not gonna happen there. the rapist was a partner at the time. he did not need to be attacked physically. he needed to get a fuckin grip on his reality - and mine. of course, i also had to get a grip on myself and why i was with this person, which is why i left him not soon enough. there was never any further physcial abuse after that incident because we talked enough for him to get if it did happen again, it would be the last time. period. he got it. years later he went into sex addiction counseling and seems to be only addicted to 12-step programs now and in a kind and living relationship with all the important folks in his life. i wonder if we always simply attack back do we further a deep hatred of self and others that would perpetuate the already fucked up behavior. but i am also down with the notion that there are people who just need to be gone. they are so far gone as to be too dangerous to have around.

there is such a tremendous lack of understanding about what makes humans so brutal towards each one another. and sexual assault carries another level of angst, which is why it is so powerful.

there are tons of "resources", lots of do-gooders who think they know what to do. time and time again, they make shit worse probably at least as much as make shit better. that is what makes it interesting to me to imagine anarchists taking deeper and harder looks. at themselves, the people they spend time with, the way they deal with conflict and power between them. those who tow the common line of action bore the living shit right outof me.

This feminist shit is boring as fuck ... go break something or beat someone up ... otherwise shut your whiney-ass pie hole: you're not doing jack squat.

confront & dismantle 2nd wave feminarchy!

Authoritarianism rather than Patriarchy seems to be the deeper source of the rising incidence of sexual assaults.

In authoritarian regimes, children (the formative phase of continuing enpeoplement) learn to shape their behaviour on the basis of logic (if, then) as in ‘litter and it will hurt’. In a rule-dominated environment, they never get the chance to develop the sense of ‘when we demean others/otherness in our common living space, we demean ourselves’, and so, wherever and whenever the policing grid is lifted, out comes ‘lord of the flies’ behaviour, date-rape drugs, gang-rape, lack of empathy for abused females (from both males and females), distribution of photos of female victims being violated on facebook, laughter etc.

While religious teaching suspends such violence in some communities, even in secular/non-religious communities, it used be common for males to use inspiration to manage their desires; i.e. if they were in a remote place with a vulnerable female it was common to think; ‘She could be my sister and I am going to protect her’ rather than; ‘I could take her with impunity in her helpless state, drunk and peeing out here in the dark behind the barn while the party raves on inside’.

Organization of the social dynamic in an authoritarian regime is by threat of violence, and those raised in such environments DON'T get the chance to self-organize relationally as, for example, in a remote rural community where there are no local police, where people recognize it is up to them who share inclusion in a common living space to sustain the harmonious/livable quality of it. e.g. Jugoslavia was governed by an authoritarian regime where societal organization was shaped by threat of violence, and when the lid on that pressure cooker was lifted, we had ‘Lord of the Flies’ dynamics where if/then logic directed people’s behaviour, and unsettled debts were settled in one fell swoop without empathy or compassion. When people are pre-empted from undertaking their own natural working out of the glitsches in their relationships with one another, by being ‘diapered up’ by an authoritarian state, then when they are ‘loosed’ they are like infants-of-no-experience equipped with all the strengths and weaponries of adult males and females; i.e. their Natural social development is stunted, having been superseded by rules and threats of punishment.

The internet is full of commentaries that mock the steepening rise of rules and regulations governing personal behaviour that has occurred over the past half century. To what degree is the management of male desires shifting from inspirational thoughts as tend to evolve freely and naturally in un-policed social spaces, to matter-of-fact logical avoidance of punishment? I know no-one who denies such a shift. It follows that females who are in vulnerable situations in unpoliced locations in the presence of [non-religious] males are increasingly more likely to be raped. The trend for females to stand by without intervening (or even to encourage the abuse) seems to be rising hand-in-glove with this trend.

Authoritarianism cultivates, wherever the policing grid lifts, 'lord of the flies' behaviours in both females and males, therefore, ‘patriarchy’ is a distraction from the more basic problem, ‘authoritarianism’.


"...patriarchy’ is a distraction from the more basic problem, ‘authoritarianism’." EXACTLY!

Fucking hell. Patriarchy IS authoritarianism! Damnit.

I haven't seen much here that's very helpful in dealing with the issue at hand though. HOW THE FUCK DO WE INTEND TO DEAL WITH SEXUAL ASSAULT in an anarchist world?

By the way I agree with whoever said this isn't just a women's issue. It isnt. Women can even rape men. For those of who start saying "but that's not possible", congratulations, you're either ignorant or a reactionary asshole. So let me school you. If someone 1.) drugs someone so they don't know what they're doing and then takes advantage and has sex with them without proper consent, THAT'S STILL RAPE. This can happen no matter what the gender pairing is. ALSO 2.) If someone is coerced or pressured into having sex when they don't want to, that's still rape. It doesn't matter if the dudes got a boner, it's still rape. Yeah. Granted, women raping men isn't as frequent. But it's stupid to act like it doesn't happen. Rape is a human issue, not a women's issue.

The question is, how do we deal with rapists and their victims after the revolution? Granted, the State is horrible at dealing with it now. Victims often get interrogated and humiliated by cops while perpetrators go free. We know this. But we want to do it better than the State, that's the whole fucking point of anarchy! So how will we deal with this?