A couple of things in the current news cycle caught my attention and made me return to this unpublished post.
At the risk of reopening a rather nasty can of worms, I am descending once again into the rape discussion. For background, see here, here and here.
“The great question that has never been answered and which I have not yet been able to answer, despite my 30 years of research into the feminine soul, is, What does a woman want?” Sigmund Freud
I never really thought much about Prabhupada's famous statement that women "enjoy rape." Like most people, I suppose, I just laughed it off, or considered it irrelevant. I have no skin in the game myself as I feel no great need to defend Prabhupada at all costs. But since I have now been accused of "supporting rape" I feel challenged to at least inform myself about this debate.
One thing I have done fairly consistently on my blog, however, is to argue the following major points, which of course are nowhere in any of this literature.
- Important in my historical investigation of Krishna is the Sri Krishna Kirtana, which is a case that can be said to fit into a pattern that is psychologically and perhaps anthropologically relevant. Certainly it is relevant from the point of view of understanding the development of Radha Krishna lila. It is an outlier: Krishna literally forces Radha to have sex with him, and then slowly Radha falls in love with him, until the final deception comes when Krishna abandons her. It is not at all a fun story. And so the more antiseptic romantic story lines of Gita Govinda and the Bhagavatam are taken as the authoritative and canonical prototype of Radha-Krishna love.
- Moreover, I accept the vision of Freud and Tantra, which sees sexual energy or libido as being the central powerhouse of the entire psyche. What happens to the psyche from childhood will be reflected in the sexuality of the adult. But as a good Vaishnava, I believe that the purification or spiritual sublimation of the sexual energy is at the heart of the culture of prema.
- Therefore, from the Hindu scriptural point of view, sexuality must be analyzed in accordance with the three gunas. I have therefore made gradations in sexuality, beginning with tamas, which is the sexual act that is most in opposition to love. In this, I count violent rape as being the most extreme form of tamas. Perhaps some scientific research needs to be done. I really think the three gunas would make a very valuable analytical tool, though it would no doubt be hard to find ways of measuring something so complex. One would have to break things down, like diet, and see how they relate to psychology, in accordance with the broad outlines of the gunas given in the Gita and elsewhere.
- In light of the above, I accept the basic premise of Chaitanya Charitamrita that "lust" (i.e., from its most extreme form, tamasic sexuality, e.g. violent rape) is the very opposite and anitithesis of "love", which can be perfected through spiritual culture.
But what irritates me in these kinds of discussions is when people brush off analysis and the attempt to understand sensitive phenomena as "mental masturbation" rather than evaluating evidence that is sometimes quite problematic.
I have here introduced a particular nuance: that of the gunas. But let me say as I have elsewhere, and I hope that this will be understood: As someone who values the concept of prema, I cannot possibly condone or support rape, since it is the very antithesis of prema. I hope that is sufficiently clear.
Next I would like to say that I have no interest in either defending or vilifying Prabhupada in this matter. I would say that the forces of sanity are sufficiently strong, even among Prabhupada's disciples, that they do not take his statements as carte blanche for rape, nor are his women disciples expressing any great concern about their lack of a natural tendency to enjoy being raped.
I believe in Prabhupada's positive contribution because I am personally a beneficiary. However, as a Sahajiya, I strongly object to any doctrine that places women in a position of subjection to men, or of their sexual objectification or any of the other anti-humanist positions that patriarchy enforces. Human evolution is towards the complementarity of the sexes that can only be based on equality and mutual respect and love.
I still am both
- a transcendentalist, i.e., a believer in the possibility of spiritual edification of the individual and the need for a sacramental dimension to life; and
- connected by virtue of life experience and self-criticism to the Vaishnava religion, particularly that branch that worships Radha and Krishna. That is my life.
I am saying that everyone wants prema. That is the fundamental truth. They want prema, not sex. But identification with the body and the effect of the gunas on the psyche means that the desire for prema is perverted. The more tamasic, the more opposed to prema.
Now the scientific investigations of the type described in the article cited below are revealing of substantial psychological differences between men and women. Right near the beginning also it states very tantalizingly that even women who are stimulated sexually [according to the instruments being used] do not report being stimulated, whereas men do. Think about the implications of that for a minute for the sake of discussion. It means that there is a certain lack of self-awareness vitiating this entire discussion.
And these are all a part of the mysterious interface between violence and arousal and orgasm in cases of rape:
Chivers, like a handful of other sexologists, has arrived at an evolutionary hypothesis that stresses the difference between reflexive sexual readiness and desire. Genital lubrication, she writes in her upcoming paper in Archives of Sexual Behavior, is necessary “to reduce discomfort, and the possibility of injury, during vaginal penetration. . . . Ancestral women who did not show an automatic vaginal response to sexual cues may have been more likely to experience injuries during unwanted vaginal penetration that resulted in illness, infertility or even death, and thus would be less likely to have passed on this trait to their offspring.” (page 4 of NYTimes magazine article).
... And this is a real kicker: The generally accepted therapeutic notion that, for women, incubating intimacy leads to better sex is, Meana told me, often misguided. “Really,” she said, “women’s desire is not relational, it’s narcissistic” — it is dominated by the yearnings of “self-love,” by the wish to be the object of erotic admiration and sexual need. Still on the subject of narcissism, she talked about research indicating that, in comparison with men, women’s erotic fantasies center less on giving pleasure and more on getting it. “When it comes to desire,” she added, “women may be far less relational than men.”
... "Women want to be thrown up against a wall but not truly endangered. Women want a caveman and caring. If I had to pick an actor who embodies all the qualities, all the contradictions, it would be Denzel Washington. He communicates that kind of power and that he is a good man.” (page 7 of above article).
“The word ‘rape’ comes with gargantuan amounts of baggage.” She continued: “I walk a fine line, politically and personally, talking frankly about this subject. I would never, never want to deliver the message to anyone that they have the right to take away a woman’s autonomy over her body. I hammer home with my students, ‘Arousal is not consent.’ ” (page 8 )
I started having rape fantasies as a teenager and now, about 15 years later, it is still the core of most of my sexual fantasies. I think perhaps they started because at the time, I felt that it was morally wrong for me to fantasize about willingly having sex, I was a kid, I wasn't married, etc. So, if I fantasized about rape, then it wasn't consensual, fantasy me was not doing anything "wrong." I think it was feelings of shame along with sexual curiosity that started it for me, and now that is what gets me off. I need that feeling that the man is overwhelmed by lust or somehow compelled to do it, that I am an unwilling participant, but that it is intensely pleasurable nonetheless. I need a bit of the dominant/submissive to act it out, but, like you have mentioned in some of your articles, pain is a big turn off. I would not want to be really raped, that would be terrifying, and yet it is an integral part of my fantasy life. Psychology Today.At any rate. I am posting these references not as a defense of Prabhupada, but just to say that his observation is not entirely out of the realm of empiricism. The mistake is for anyone to think that it is prescriptive as the above quotes confirm.
In my view, rape fantasies arise partly from the biological and animal side of our nature (as argued above and in Sex at Dawn) and partly from disturbed conditioning experiences in this lifetime. These are the samskaras of this and previous lives. But as an aspect of spiritual evolution, it has to be put in its perspective. A woman who has such fantasies should perhaps seek mental and emotional purification. No woman in her right mind wants to be raped, and no healthy man thinks that his spiritual needs will be fulfilled by forcing a woman to have sex against her will.
But in answer to Freud, I will say the following: The soul, which lies beyond even male and female identities, seeks love. While embodied that love will have to follow the bodily identification, but will paradoxically only be found through transcending it. Radha and Krishna are symbolic of the purest love, in which there is no hint of mundane rajas and tamas, the realm of rape.