Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Is Rape Cool?

Rape of the Sabines III
Originally uploaded by storem.
For those new to this project – the website and the book – I should say up front: I believe cool is a bad phenomenon in our culture. We will live healthier lives the sooner we rid ourselves of coolness. So when I ask “Is Rape Cool?” I am exploring cool’s implications for rape. I am not being callous or crass.

Cool is the performance of individual rebellion, rebellion for rebellion’s sake. Cool is about the self. Authentic sexuality, on the other hand, is about relationships. It's about love.

Cool sexuality, then, is not really about love – love in the real, holistic sense of the word. Cool sexuality is about satisfaction of libido. Or as the old-school Freudians like Norman Mailer would say,

At bottom, the drama of the psychopath [what Mailer uses interchangeably with Hipster] is that he seeks love. Not love as the search for a mate, but love as the search for an orgasm more apocalyptic than the one which preceded it.
(Mailer, The White Negro in Advertisements for Myself)

In other words, cool sex is narcissistic and motivated by transgression. Cool thus has no logical reason to rebuke rape or domestic violence. Cool celebrates its own satisfaction, and is not greatly distressed by others’ suffering.

Furthermore, to rebuke rape is to retreat from cool. Normally, that’s a step everyone in the room is willing to do (since cool is constantly being negotiated, moment-by-moment, after all, people have to agree together to set aside their cool for a few moments in order for the stuff of real life to enter the conversation). So we have our little “heal the world” moments, our “live-8” festivals. But with each passing year the contradictions mount. It’s increasingly cool to go to strip clubs. Porn stars are the latest trophy girlfriends. And increasingly younger boys learn that women exist for male (libidinal) pleasure.

This is a life and death issue. Lives are getting destroyed all around us and – as long as we want to keep a toe-hold on cool – we won’t be credible, consistent or effective in our denunciations of domestic violence.

Of course rape predates cool. And not all incarnations of cool are equally insensitive. But in its purest form, cool looks at rape and wonders whether orgasm took place, not whether love was crushed.

The opposite of cool is not anti-cool, it is compassion – “suffering-along-with.” Compassion makes rape impossible. The sooner we (men in particular) unlearn our cool objectification of women, the sooner compassion will begin to heal our society, our churches and our homes.


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