The only meaningful difference between the cruelty and violence associated with mental illness and the cruelty and violence *expected* of sanity is the degree to which that violence is socially acceptable

Alternative title: “why most rapists aren’t any kind of ‘mentally deficient‘ and you’re a fucking asshole”

[Trigger warning: rape, victim-blaming, slurs for people with mental illness]

It’s especially ironic that the same act can be construed as a manifestation of mental illness or just a perfectly normal reaction, depending on who the perpetrator is.

Like how Charlotte King, on the TV show Private Practice, gets raped by someone whose defining characteristic is “a mentally unstable man,” and the audience is supposed to accept this as a contextless outcome of “mental instability [whatever that is even supposed to mean].” But when real, live, actual people are raped by real, live, actual rapists–most of whom would not be characterized as “mentally unstable?” Well holy shit our culture tries so hard to pathologize the victim and offer bullshit excuses for the rapist–if the victim is believed at all, in any way.

And I think what is comes down to is that “sanity” is a social construct used to (among other things) determine whether or not we’re allowed to stop an act of violence. Violence that falls outside the dominant narrative is said to be a product of insanity. Shooting Gabrielle Giffords was “insane.” Columbine was “insane.” But you’d have to be crazy to oppose the war in Afghanistan, AMIRITE? Systematically killing POC is totally fucking sane. And insanity is generally the explanation for violence if the pre-packaged excuses used to protect kyriarchal violence somehow don’t apply.

So when the creators of Private Practice wanted to discuss ~rape~, without the obligatory discussion of racism and capitalism and the prison-industrial complex and ableism and nativism and misogyny and trans*-hate and queer-hate and ageism (AND MORE), they decided that their perpetrator should be “insane,” because that is how we signal that something is insupportable. But of course, rape is supported by the dominant culture, due to all of the factors above. And our culture’s insistence upon classifying rape-as-an-contextless-abstraction is a way to obfuscate the actual cause and effect. It’s rape culture’s way of denying culpability, which makes it impossible for us to actually eradicate rape because we don’t know why it fucking happens.

And then conversely, my theory goes, this is also why certain mental illnesses (BPD comes to mind, but also schizophrenia, bipolar, and others) are met with such fear and righteous hostility. It’s this sort of symbiotic relationship between ableism and rape culture that leads us to think of rape (and abuse and even murder) as a marginal activity conducted by people who are by definition not part of society. And then when we find instances of rape or abuse or murder encouraged by or even central to society? Well obviously that’s impossible.

(cross-posted on my tumblr)



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4 responses to “The only meaningful difference between the cruelty and violence associated with mental illness and the cruelty and violence *expected* of sanity is the degree to which that violence is socially acceptable

  1. Pingback: Some meta-ish updates, and a Linkspam of Doom for 7/6/2011 « A world that loved monsters

  2. [trigger for ableism]

    I really dig this blog. And I really dig this post. I agree with it so much it hurts. I was debating with someone on FB about this the other day. Then my mom chimed in (yes, I’m friends with my mom. On facebook. Sigh.), because she worked as a rape crisis counselor in college. Part of her comment:

    “As part of our ongoing training, we met with a few lifers in the Utah State Prison (serial rapists). Only one of the several looked “scary”. The regular looking ones said that part of the reason they got away with crime many times before conviction was their normal appearance and intelligence.”

    Done and done. Painting rapists and murderers as drooling, unshaven-“lunatic” archetypes helps nobody.


  3. Your’e very welcome! I am inexplicably annoyed by tumblrs (I just cannot figure them out….sigh) but I will definitely check out yours!

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