The Poverty Of Feminism

by Dominique Karamazov (1977)
The following text was originally published in 1977 by the French group « La Guerre Sociale » as « Misère du feminisme »

Author’s note

We see in "The Poverty of Feminism" how feminism, in spite of its emancipatory and radical airs, remains in the area of capitalist society and even becomes guardian of traditional female alienation.

Against trials for rape we oppose a critique of emotional, social and sexual poverty, both male and female.

Feminism is a manifestation of daily banality. It is not enough to define it as incomplete revolt, soliciting it to become total by abandoning the purely women’s point of view - following the same logic that opposes generalised self-management to the errors of self-management. What needs to be shown up is its content and the inversions that it involves in terms of real solutions.

Who are we addressing ourselves to? First of all to feminists! Obviously not the professional ones, but to all those who find and identify themselves in this movement, demonstrating that only the transformation of social relations makes it possible to resolve the problems and needs that are lost in this cul de sac.

* * *

"Ras le viol!" "Terre des Hommes, viol de nuit", "La drague, c'est le viol" [1].

Pornography = theory, rape = practice, ...

Feminist slogans echo the headlines in the sensationalist press. A new battle horse has taken the place of abortion. Graffiti, demonstrations, judicial battles, debates, trials and wild reprisals have developed around it.

Feminists are leading the parade, but they are not alone. The leftists are close behind. How could they fail to react to such an odious form of oppression - after all are they not specialists in totally unfocussed denunciation? And long live women’s struggle alongside that of the workers, unemployed youth, oppressed nations, hunters and wild ducks! Of course it isn’t always easy for them to make pronouncements on everything without becoming aware of their contradictions, but then, don’t they present themselves as not merely the gatherers of dissent, but also as the necessary unifiers of discontent?

The media don’t sit on the side lines. They wisely condemn "excesses" but take the opportunity to liven up the monotony of their news by echoing the feminist "struggle".

On television, the radio, in the trades union press, there are discussions to find out whether rape is the act of "uncouth" individuals, or of the mentally sick. Does it or does it not produce incurable trauma? Rape victims from young girls to grandmothers testify. Even ex-rapists...

The traditional women’s papers are clearly not far behind. They change as women change. After all it’s in their own interest if they don’t want to lose a considerable part of their readership. Already in Germany the magazine "Emma", which is clearly feminist, not just feminine, has established itself in the market. In France, "Marie-Claire" contents itself with a feminist supplement.

Readers who are no longer satisfied with the lonely hearts column or the art of knitting can be titillated by such articles as "How to say no to a rapist and survive": "So here you are in the bushes, still standing but reeling with the man’s hands grabbing you. The effect of the shock wears off a little. You realise this is a rape attempt and that you are the victim. What you need is to gain time to think without him hitting you. How?" ("Cosmopolitan") Be prepared: take up martial arts, yoga, practice psychological ruses; it’s good for the figure, for your health and then, you never know...

Rape does exist and, just as with crime in general, it’s on the increase. Various factors contribute to making rape common, even normal in the eyes of some people: revenge or an easy compensation involving no great risk. In fact most rapists don’t get caught. Often the victims don’t even report it. Due to shame, fear, a sense of futility or not wanting to bring punishment to a member of the family? From a gang of lads who "take advantage" of a "girlfriend" with fifteen of them gang-banging her, to those weekend "funseekers" who kidnap and amuse themselves with a mentally retarded girl, not forgetting the horror of rape followed by the murder of children, women or couples, it is possible to accumulate a hoard of sordid, tragic and sometimes tragi-comic tales.

Yet it is difficult not to feel uneasy about the fight that is being put up against rape, about the tone and methods being used. Moreover this unease is probably felt by those involved as well: some feminists make it clear that they are not against all men, that rapists are above all victims of society, that they are not calling for repression and only use the courts for publicity, in order to break the silence.

Not all feminists express such understanding. Some call for heavier sentences. In Rome demonstrators against the gang-rape of Maria reacted with anti-male hysteria. In Wisconsin, USA, the feminists together with some institutions hardly to be suspected of extremism got on the tracks of a judge. His crime? He had refused to imprison a fifteen year old boy who had raped a sixteen year old girl at school, putting him on a year’s probation and justifying his act as something normal given the victim’s sexy clothing and the generally eroticised climate in which it took place.

So rape is everywhere. The chat-up is rape, domination is rape. Man is by nature rapist and woman his eternal, innocent victim.

Some extreme feminists claim that penetration is an act of domination, a form of humiliation to be refused. Some of them even say that violence and exploitation are the acts of males alone and that this part of humanity must therefore be neutralised or eliminated by the arrival of a world of women where, thanks to the progress in biology, reproduction will be carried out without men.

No matter what delirium might strike feminism and the progress in biology, it is true that to claim to discourage rapists without having recourse to police and judicial repression only complicates the matter. When the conditions that give rise to rape - the fact that it expresses (even in a barbarous way) a fundamental need and that it is a response to a certain general female attitude - are not understood, or there is no desire to understand it, the only consistent answer is repression: repress the problem.

Are rapists male conquerors chasing women through the streets, modern tarzans swinging from balcony to balcony prick in hand and a flower between their teeth? The most reliable statistics state that they are not. Immigrant worker or local family man, the typical rapist does not belong to that species. It is difficult to build them up into an expression of triumphant phallocracy, the image which so exasperates the feminists.

Rape is basically the sad revenge of a victim, a poor man’s undertaking. It is not a result of bourgeois wealth or phallocratic arrogance, but their sub-product. If only rape could be proved to be above all the act of the privileged thirstŠing for proletarian flesh. How much easier it would be to latch the just struggle of women to the old class struggle... But there isn’t always a notary such as Leroy to devour, and even maoist demagogy has its limits!

We run up against the upholders of order, but we also keep running up against each other on a much more everyday level. This is the reality of capitalism. The problem is not to give in, but neither should we create racisms of all the real oppositions that come into being, dramatise them, create a climate of psychosis where everyone is so edgy they become victims of them twice over. All these background tensions are soon dispersed in real social war.

Militant attitudes mask the incapacity to transform our daily life and only aggravate the misery of those who adopt them. Feminist convictions can co-exist with the most common-place misery. On the one hand the dullest submission is accepted, to be avenged at the level of imagination and ideology or screwed up in aggressive attitudes which only contribute to the misfortune they feed off yet claim to fight. The more daily life needs to be dressed up with ideological explanations and rationalisations, the less it has any meaning in itself.

The failure of feminism isn’t that it incites women to anger and revolt and sets off on a war against male behaviour. Capitalism or the crisis of human relations in general aren’t chosen as the target due to a fear of foundering in ideology, but because of the concrete people and obstacles we run up against and which capital forces us to collide with. Let women get angry with the men who oppress them, exploit them and prevent them from living, as they reduce them to sex objects or chambermaids... And let men do the same and put an end to these hypocritical feelings of indulgence or the complacent irony that hides neurotic dependence, in order to reach the requirements of human beings as far as other human beings are concerned. What is scorned and used cannot be loved.

A new version of the myth of Adam and Eve, of temptation and original sin, the stupidity lies in wanting it to be "men’s fault" at all costs. Perversion, and at the same time fantastic power is attributed to them, hiding the nature of the system whose development is no more in men’s hands than in those of women, even if it plays on their biological differences.

Furthermore, feminism is incapable of understanding the link between people’s biologically differentiated capabilities and needs, and their function in society. It can only deny biological differences or make them the absolute analytical principle, or even confuse both together: "Everything is wrong because of men, who are neither better or worse than women, and moreover the two sexes have similar capabilities but men abuse theirs".

The nature of rape and feminism

Rape has sometimes found those willing to defend it. According to the "feminist" Fourier when he spoke of an individual who was sentenced for having attacked a number of old ladies, rape is nature’s way of realising unions which would otherwise be impossible.

But in all its barbarity the form the need can take is no less to be rejected than the society which refuses the possibility of its satisfaction. Rape is an expression of sexuality, but the sexual need is yet to be satisfied by it. Is that the case for the victim? Is it even for the aggressor? Neurosis and perversion exist as the incapacity to realise desire.

Rape is a contradiction in act. It is the expression of the need for a social and loving act absent in masturbation, swindled in prostitution and even in regular domestic sexuality.

An incapacity for characterlogical reasons and the lack of a social context in which to meet people and assure the coincidence of desires. Frustration engenders aggression. The need for love veers into a relationship of domination and destruction. In fact most solitary rapists, paradoxically trying to arouse approbation or recognition by force, feel rejected and despised.

Rape is linked to a whole non-sexual, anti-sexual way of considering and practising sexuality, where women have a role to play just as men have, even if their role consists, among other things, of not being responsible. It is impossible to understand anything about sexual misery if the way the behaviour of each sex balances and responds to the behaviour of the other isn’t admitted. The alienation of men finds support in that of women and vice versa. Homosexuality might confuse the issue, but it doesn’t break the rule. To want to make woman the passive victim of male behaviour or of her situation under the guise of exonerating her from blame is to treat her with the utmost disdain.

In the United States the average duration of coitus is two minutes. The accuracy of these measurements and records may be doubtful. But they fit in with other information and show what the degree of sexual poverty must be in the United States and not only there. Particularly with men, such behaviour reduces fucking in the first place to a release of tension, "having it off", or simply scoring. A way of operating which is in fact nothing more than a reluctance to display a loving sensual attitude. The same behaviour which in rape goes with the conviction that there is no need to worry about the way that goal is reached.

How could people suddenly abandon themselves to their sensuality, love, caresses, rhythm, to their lover, when their education and all their circumstances push them towards controlling themselves rather than letting themselves go, to seeing everything in terms of competition, power relationships and bluff? How could they when they come home in the evening knackered from work, when at the weekend they are hampered with the children, when they drag through the years with partners they no longer love? There are many unhappy people whose profound misery and overwork extinguish love.

Alongside all this shit rape remains quite a marginal phenomenon, even if it is produced by it and the reactions it arouses are echoes of it. Nevertheless it is quite hard to imagine feminist militants demonstrating and demanding that men love them better, and therefore fuck them better. That would be to say that those who treat them as ill-fucked women are right, and to recognise a fatal dependence on men. Moreover, it is true that it is not a question here of making demands, but nevertheless it merits taking action - and even of making a revolution.

Rape existed before capitalism, and rapists are not necessarily mentally sick. So is the cause really as social as all that? Some people want to make out that in the beginning there was rape and that, thanks to civilisation and repression, this primary behaviour has now been outgrown. Rape: biological or social phenomenon?

Rape is not bestial but human behaviour, even typically human, linked to the fact that human sexuality is no longer guided by rigid mechanisms and concentrated in precise periods like that of animals. Is rape normal or abnormal behaviour? Still a weak question: it is obvious that any man placed under certain conditions of excitation, frustration or force, could be capable of rape. Rape is neither the foundation of, nor external to, male sexuality. Rape cannot be dealt with by moral judgements but by the creation of conditions which permit the harmony of desires and do not push individuals up blind alleys. Under certain conditions anyone can commit murder. What shocks, perhaps, is that rape is almost a male privilege. This lack of reciprocation is a flagrant injustice. Perhaps we should stop asking for laws on equality and ask instead for the abolition of sexual differences, which nevertheless continue to give some people a few innocent pleasures.

Feminism is the expression of a basic movement bred by capitalism. A formidable movement which tears woman from her traditional position and revolutionises relationships between the sexes. It also contributes to a more recent phenomenon which is countering and recuperating any tendencies towards qualitative change: the reformism of daily life.

It would be a mistake to see feminism, just because it raises "human problems", as a radical revolt within the multiform movement which is undermining the old world. But it would be equally mistaken to reduce it to the distorted forms the malaise of the middle classes takes, just because it is particularly among this social strata that it has become an autonomous movement of women for women. The milieu that supports feminism, just as the lawyers and writers and journalists who peddle it, makes its mark upon it but does not explain its nature. As for those people, such as the "total woman" movement in the United States, who want feminism to take the opposite course and maintain or restore the happy subdued housewife, they are swimming in vain against the current.

It is not feminism but capitalism that is throwing women into wage-earning and reducing the time and effort dedicated to maternal and domestic functions. Capitalist progress has led to the disappearance of the principal role occupied by human energy. Energy has become that of machines; violence that of firearms.

Apart from a few exceptions, maternity remains the prerogative of women. But the modern woman lives longer than her forebears, has fewer children and dedicates herself less to them. Given the decrease in infant mortality, and hence a more efficient reproduction of the species, increased life expectancy, contraception, feeding bottles, creches, schools..., the maternal function defines and occupies women far less than it did in the past.

The essential issue is that the traditional division of labour between the sexes is losing its reason for existing; and that capitalism and not women’s struggle against male oppression is undermining the old hierarchical relationship between men and women. The important thing is that it is the communist revolution and not feminism which could complete this movement and reveal its content.

Feminism often proclaims its hostility to present society. It is striking how little opposition it meets at the level of ideology and principles: just a few sneers and grunts. That is what leads to its raising its voice.

Feminism, in its widely acknowledged form as the ideology of women’s emancipation, just as in its more radical one, is an expression of the action of capital which is tending to liquidate old structures and integrate women directly into its processes. Its fundamental nature prevents it from transcending this, and any time it gets involved in socialism and revolution it is usually to spread confusion. It latches on to the cracked myth of the socialism of Eastern European countries, pointing out that women are no better off there than under capitalism. It argues that women should participate as such, or at least autonomously, in all political revolutions in order to impose their own interests. And it obviously intends to represent them in a political and democratic way; it is speaking in the name of half the human race! It denounces the concept of "conjugal duty" as covering up "legal rape", but almost forgets to denounce the institution of marriage which is just as deadly for the man as for the woman. It conjures up a hypothetical and antediluvian matriarchy to evoke future victory. It believes itself to be radical because it has discovered that sexual inequality and oppression came, before capitalism and are therefore more fundamental. It refuses to see to what extent capitalism has revolutionised and modernised the nature of this old oppression. Feminism is a product of the modern world which it is incapable of understanding.

Feminism leans on the misery of the female condition, but it is above all an expression of the rapid changes in this condition and the problems thus raised. It is not a reaction against the old inferior position of woman so much as against the contradictory functions and status which are tearing women apart within the global transformation of society. Above all women feel themselves to be in an inferior position because, in spite of the fact that the old forms of inferior status are crumbling and their situation is becoming comparable to that of men, they are still relatively handicapped and unarmed compared to them at work, in the street and in the family. Feminism is the falsified and militant representation of this liquidation of the old female status. It sets up a movement which fundamentally escapes the will of women (as well as that of men) as the struggle of women and their allies against male oppression and inequality. It only exists to the extent that certain militant and political actions - De Gaulle and the women’s vote for example - effectively liquidate old political and judicial shackles.

This militant vision is projected everywhere, and it mistakes the secondary backlash that it gives rise to as the root of the problem in much the same way as leftists see repression as the root of capitalism. The problem becomes that of the dominance of men over women, which is to be abolished or reversed by reaching equality of the sexes and the sharing of power, or by the predominance of women. The problem of the relationship between the sexes is conceived of as being in the first place a power relationship to be frozen and codified in terms of "rights" and "duties". Everything is channelled into the false language of the political and legal.

Capital does not develop smoothly and automatically. There are resistances and setbacks. New contradictions develop. Feminism takes root but it remains a prisoner of the capitalist universe.

Being a problem of the power of men over women, it imposes the amount of fuss made over the question of rape. It embodies in a brutal, unquestionable way the domination of men over women at the level of and by virtue of the sexual differences. The phallus becomes an instrument of an aggression which has no equivalent. That’s what rape amounts to: not sadism or an expression of sexual misery.

From there onwards rape can be seen everywhere. It is not considered as a concentrated and exacerbated expression of misery and dislocation but as a model of interpretation to which everything can be reduced.

Here we find the role of the old anti-fascism at the level of everyday life and its modem politicisation. The enemy is overt, brutal constraint. The problem is a problem of power and its solution is democratisation. The question of finding out how capitalism exploits and alienates people at the same time as it fulfils their needs and elicits their participation is avoided, as is the bourgeois nature of democracy. Anti-fascism is not capable of understanding fascism as a product of capital even if it tries to explain how it came about, but tends to see fascism everywhere. People only act in that way if they are constrained and forced to by those in power, never because of impersonal mechanisms and needs.

The effects of power which show themselves at the everyday level are just as much the doing of women as they are of men. The impossibility and incapacity to act and to love is transformed into action against the other in a perpetual search for power. But this is the result of a dead-end rather than its primary cause.

Even if the number of indictments for rape were multiplied by ten (1,589 indictments in France in 1975), it can be seen that the risk of a woman being raped is quite slight. Wouldn’t it be better to worry about grandmothers whose savings get stolen or their handbags snatched? There are countless vulnerable victims of ruthless hooligans!

The problem isn’t that rape is singled out, although it is not a waste of time to point out its marginal character compared to the burglaries, car accidents, and industrial diseases which affect the female population just as badly. The problem is the way, for the want of a high statistical frequency, its emotional content is used to dubious ends.

We shall see how feminism is nothing but a sub-product of this "phallocratic society" which it denounces. First through the question of repression and the use of the law. Then, as far as the relationship between rape and desire is concerned, where it becomes the guardian of traditional female alienation.

Repression and the legal carnival

Feminists imply that due to phallocracy rape was never seriously punished before they began to intervene. In reality, throughout the ages rape has been considered a singular crime that had to be severely repressed. And it is possible even here to see the effects of phallocracy. For the Romans it was a defence of the matron and the sacred character of marriage (linked to that of property). In ancient times drowning or stoning was the punishment. Women were strongly encouraged to defend themselves or to call for help, so as to allay any suspicions of complicity which would have led to their being punished along with their aggressors. William the Conqueror instituted castration and blinding to whoever raped a virgin. Rape is punished by imprisonment or death according to Article 120 of the American military statute book. In China and some other vanguard countries sexual delinquents are shot.

Of course a certain slackness can be noted, especially in times of war. But the same goes for pillage. It’s war, and social rules don’t apply to the enemy. Nevertheless it could be said that rape has always been considered a crime. A particular crime not linked to damage or material deprivation, but an attack on morality and sexual property. The existence of rape cannot be dissociated from the system of morality and sexual property which provokes it and condemns it at the same time.

The accusation of rape tends to be just as severe and disproportionate to the real damage caused as there are rapists who remain unpunished. Sentences must be all the heavier, in some cases ridiculously so, as the guilty are seldom arrested. Is it a question of entering this logic, screaming that rape is a crime which must be recognised and penalised all the more as it is difficult to isolate and punish? Of having to make examples? The fact that individuals, especially young people and adolescents, are condemned to prison with sentences often ranging from 5 to 10 years, is just as vile as rape itself. Rape ends up being punished more severely than passionate murder. It is just as vile that proposals have been made to offer a choice of prison or castration to the sexually disturbed. And once "treated", they are exhibited and boast of their newfound tranquility. How good it is to live without being pursued and plagued by all those unhealthy impulses!

Feminist have put themselves on a legal terrain, first with the question of abortion then with rape. In the first instance to defend the accused, in the second it is they themselves who do the accusing.

It is obviously very dubious to make appeals to bourgeois justice in order to defend one’s interests, and be reduced to conducting one’s struggle in such a way. But often those who point this out and consider it quite normal to "subvert" the law by using it against the bosses and so exploit "the contradictions of the system", are themselves highly suspect. The fact that those accused of rape are victims, exploited in turn and sometimes immigrants, isn’t a sufficient basis to call for discrimination in their favour. Even though they are far more vulnerable.

Not wanting to get involved in repression, rape victims and their lawyers are often content to demand a symbolic sentence. Such was the case of Brigitte (March 1977). She was attacked by an Egyptian student, Youssi Eschack, who was eventually revealed to be impotent. The solicitors of the plaintiff and the accused met to ask for Youssi Eschack’s release from prison where he had been held for a year pending trial. The court refused, pointing to the "seriousness of the disturbance to public order" and to the fact that, being foreign, he could abscond.

For Brigitte’s solicitors it was necessary however that the defendant be judged in the High Court so as to have the criminal character of rape recognised. Was there rape, or at least attempted rape? It is there, on the nature of the aggressor’s intentions, that the debate was centred, around which everything hung. Did this "beggar of love", as his defence called him, content himself with assault and battery, of strangulation in the heat of the moment, or were they the means to satisfy more sinister designs? What in fact was the nature of his impotence?

The problem is that feminism places itself just as much on the terrain of legality as that of morality. And even when it wants to play judges without soiling its hands with repression, as in the case of Brigitte, it reveals itself to be just as inconsistent as the impotent rapist. Above all what matters is that rape be recognised by society as a crime - hence the need for rape to be judged in the High Court. There must be a victim, a culprit and a sentence. Also it should be underlined that the severity of the sentence does not necessarily depend on the jurisdiction of the court. We, on the contrary, prefer to support repression. In the sense of a good kicking.

One solution for a woman in the face of an attack which she feels to be unbearable and, rightly or wrongly, also actually dangerous, is - as has already happened - to injure or even kill her aggressor. Such a reaction, whether effective or not, whether rational or not, and whether proportional to the danger or not, is qualitatively different to any activity which is intended to dramatise, condemn or punish. Whether by recognition of and appeal to official justice or by the institution of more or less picturesque people’s tribunals.

It has been proposed that rapists’ name and the terms of sentence be displayed in town halls. He would lose the esteem of his fellow citizens and - why not - also his job. Perhaps two birds could be killed with one stone thus remedying female unemployment: would an unemployed hitch-hiker have any chance of becoming a lorry driver?

Nobody doubts the material reality of murder, so why should that of rape be doubted? It should be considered an offence and a crime and it is time we started to take it seriously!

What is the reason for all this? First of all, the lack of physical traces left by rape make the subjective witnessing of the victim all important. And then, there is a certain male complicity, in any case rape is considered a crime, not just a misdemeanour or a simple slap in the face, but it is difficult to define its limits. Doubt and bad faith find fertile soil on both sides. Honest citizens, even peaceful teachers, have been seen to be wrongly accused of acts which they never committed and which never even took place.

The sentence for rape rests solely on the testimony of the victim. And if that is to be supported, one must effectively be convinced that sadism, perversity and vengeance are exclusively male properties, and that a woman cannot be affected by them. It’s as though the accusation of rape has never been used for settling personal, racial or political accounts, notably against revolutionaries. It goes as far as weighing up and deciding the eventual sentence on the basis of the morality of the accuser and the suspect. These sentences vary greatly. Those who defend the elementary rights of the accused are immediately ready, no doubt as atonement for centuries of women’s oppression, to base everything on the testimony of the plaintiff alone.

It is a fact that the genital mucous membrane heals quickly, in less than six hours. Should one complain? Murder itself isn’t as easy to circumscribe as that. How many people die because they have gently been pushed to suicide, or had their health undermined? In the factory? In the home? More people are killed this way than by what are actually recognised as crimes.

What has to be exploded is the concept of crime instead of clinging to it and closing ourselves up in it and calling for "the introduction of a penis into a vagina by force" to be condemned as something completely distinct from common "assault and battery".

Murder kills on every occasion, but not all rapes have the same effect, because they contain different levels of sadism, and because the victims vary. There is murderous rape and the "game" pushed too far. And, contrary to what a decree of the Supreme Court of Appeal (June 14, 1971) states, it makes no small difference "that the woman be a virgin or not, married or single, honourable or prostitute". The same violence could push one to madness but leave the other with no more than a piquant memory.

Is this differentiation suspect? Yes, if reality is flattened into its legal or police dimension. It is deceitful to drown all rapes in the same indivisible horror. The shock experienced by the victims is not external to the atmosphere of fear and sexual poverty in which we live.

If an immediate solution existed whereby all sexual acts, just as all relationships between individuals, could be based on mutual consent and reciprocal pleasure, we can wager that it would already have been found. But that cannot be. Reality, as far as it is concerned, does not let itself thus be raped by whoever wants to impose their desires upon it. And perhaps the result of it would be no more than a pallid evangelism.

To repress rape would not even be a sure way of inhibiting it, but even if it were we would still have to know the price of this inhibition. The rapist is more dangerous the more frightened he is. Would it regulate the basic problem of repression and sexual frustration? A heavily policed country like Japan has very few instances of rape; yet this country is inundated with sado-masochistic and pornographic literature and comic strips. In no way is it a paradise of female emancipation!

Prison sentences and judicial carnivals where lawyers fill their pockets and build reputations while supporting great causes... But if we were to accept all that or call for things to be run better, we would simply be accepting this society based on solitude, non-communication, obsession and fear of sex, latent sadism and vindictive imbecility.

Woman and desire

The struggle for free abortion, like that against rape, is a struggle whose objectives cannot be rejected. But these objectives mask deeper issues and a more profound aspect of women’s identity, their social role and the real desires involved. The problem of abortion is also the problem of the woman’s acceptance of her role as a mother. It is a problem of sadism towards herself and the foetus, of guilt and a desire for punishment linked to sexuality. It is also a matter of cramped living conditions and low wages... To reduce all this to its "practical" dimension, ignoring the deeper needs and the real constraints involved, is to put oneself on the same terrain as capital. And a little post-operative psychological or political counselling is not enough to remedy it.

The debate to determine whether abortion is murder or not, and hence to justify or condemn it in these terms, is sadly weak on both sides. It side-steps the question and returns to the theological domain of asking when the soul enters the body.

Some societies have practised infanticide to limit their population. A human community can come to an agreement on the right to kill. The lives of incurable patients, malformed children or foeti are not above human judgement. And the problem is not that of asking for their consensus!

What is being sold with the liberalisation of abortion is the triumph of asepsis. The butchery which is unbearable when a baby is involved seems normal there, it is carried out in the dark and an act of killing is transformed into an "operation". The same society which is afraid of death, blood and screams, maintains a whole industry around the suffering and death of animals and remains nonchalant about mass starvation in the third world. The same society that once wanted to transform life is now content to "transform death"; it would like things to get better but is scared of the revolution because it might be violent.

"Free abortion on demand", why not? But of course the time when free bread was what was dreamed of has gone. But why, amongst a whole host of things, should it be abortion and not housing, milk or meat? It is true that some leftists are also calling for free weekly transport passes. Not the underground, free transport, but free passes to get to work!

Sexuality is par excellence the domain of abandon. It is a matter of being "ravished", "captivated", of delivering oneself from oneself in order to be transported by one’s own passion and abandon oneself to that of the other.

But the claim to be able to dispose of one’s body freely which appeared concerning abortion and rape is a defensive reaction. Precisely because it no more than translates and justifies a situation which puts everyone on the defensive. The foetus, and even the capacity to have children, is not the property of the mother, or even of the mother and father between them. This vision is nothing but capitalist delirium, the defence of the property of the body and its products. At a time such as this when what is needed is the blowing up of registry offices, people are suggesting that women keep their own names instead of taking those of their husbands!!!

The problem of the desires and needs which are being suppressed here is being put forward by the revolutionary movement. Despite what feminism says, women should be brought to question to show that it is not a matter of denouncing male desire, but of inciting the emergence of a female desire which is not buried in passivity, and an identity which is no longer inferior.

Germaine Greer speaks of the female eunuch. It is not only women who are reduced to eunuchs, but it is true that female alienation is determined by the way woman relates to her desire. Man can see the satisfaction of his desire countered, woman cannot manage to find the language of hers. She cannot desire frankly and openly. She places herself at the service of man as the bearer of his child and as a more or less passive object of desire, docile and resistant to change. The problem of woman’s desire and social affirmation are absolutely inseparable.

This is obviously not purely social. The social is also a translation of the physiological and biological. But it is absurd to believe that women are condemned, either by their own nature or that of men, to behaving passively. Obviously women have their own desires and activities and no-one has ever succeeded in castrating them completely. It is not all that simple; they have more possibilities to fall back on.

Women, of all times and in all societies, have managed to get round their desires discreetly. There is no general law here. For example some, thanks to the society in which they lived and their privileged social position, never missed the opportunity to choose their lovers openly.

The current difficulty in asserting their desires now that they have no social legitimacy produces a contrasting and contradictory image of woman: virgin or slut, mother or whore, absolutely innocent or infinitely perverse, a symbol of gentleness or an example of spiteful malevolence.

Women are dispossessed of the power which men monopolise. Yet women, precisely because they cannot openly desire and manage their own affairs and are at the service of others, are often more in search of power than men. They live through their husbands, their children, their office boss and want to possess them. This power, by its very nature private and emotional, is obviously ridiculous - a blind alley where amorous pleasure is lost.

Women can also take a castrating attitude towards men and children, denying them and undermining their desire. If physical violence is very rare, a product of dementia or an effect of jealousy or vengeance - like the Czech veterinary student who recently anaesthetised and emasculated her two rapists - castrating behaviour is far more common and engenders various forms of impotence and inhibition.

Woman’s strength, her power, is that she can refuse herself, can "not let herself be fucked". It is only a step from denying herself as an object of desire to denying the man the moment he advances his desire, to degrading him and blaming his sexual impulses, therefore his need for a woman: it is well known that "in every man there sleeps a pig". Today this reaction is being transferred into politics.

Some want to see "provocation" as the cause of rape, even to the extent of denying the reality of it and transforming it into that of female bad faith or the miniskirt. In contrast, others defend the right to dress as they please, as if dress and appearance did not have a social meaning.

Rape is not independent of female attitudes, even though the problem cannot be reduced to that of an immediate personal relationship between the victim and her aggressor. Just as those who are burgled are not necessarily those who possess and display most wealth. The attack is made on the weak points...

Women who are raped, or even chatted up, are not necessarily those who are most "sexy". At the extreme, "provocation" at the level of anonymous relationships can be seen as an expression of defiance and power to discourage those looking for an easy target and only have recourse to force because they themselves are unsure.

Men react to a frustrating situation and to a certain image of woman. This image corresponds less to a particular real woman than to provocatively eroticised representations of an omnipresent but inaccessable woman who is universally on offer through the commodity market. Representations which correspond to female aspirations and in turn remodel them. Relationships are contemplative because of their glamorous packaging as merchandise, as something consumable; but also because the direct correlation between people who are constantly near each other but meet on nothing and for nothing, tends to be reduced to one of images. It is not only a question of consumerism playing on narcissism and multiplying images of woman, it is also real women reduced to images, assimilated to the consumable in the multiplicity and anonymity of primarily visual relationships.

A whole female mode of behaviour is aimed at attracting the attention and desire of others without being able or having to openly affirm itself as need and appeal. This unconfessed and irresponsible behaviour goes as far as to be surprised by the consequences it can arouse, refusing to accept them as responses. Female seduction radiates in all directions, and only feels responsible for that which it recognises. It disdains some, but also sometimes resents those who were not aware they were being aimed at.

But this still doesn’t get to the root of the problem. Women will still claim that in dressing or behaving in such and such a way they are only trying to please themselves and to be beautiful with no intention of seducing. And in part this is true: their attitude is narcissistic. But this narcissism needs to be supported by someone else’s gaze and interest. They need to arouse desire in direct or disguised forms, but with precisely no intention of responding. It’s a matter of reassuring and valuing oneself while remaining inaccessible and conserving one’s innocence.

In this case provocation and seduction are not steps towards initiating a convergence of desires as they are often considered to be, but are an expression of suppression, an incapacity to desire openly and frankly, hence the indignation concerning advances made.

To have access to a woman a man must pay the price in sentimental rubbish, or just plain rubbish, which is as much a concession to her narcissism as to her need to be taken into consideration. This need for consideration is all the more fundamental as woman is undervalued as a person. It affirms itself as that of being taken into consideration as a woman in default of being esteemed as an individual.




[1] Apart from the last slogan, which means «Chatting up is rape», the others are word plays which are untranslateable: the first could be translated as «I'm fed up with rape» and the second as «Man's Earth, rape by night» but, if they ever had anything in the first place, they lose something in translation.