Rape: Through a glass darkly

By Michael Corballis 01/10/2019

The following is a summary notice of a talk given to an academic audience in my university (the author and location shall be nameless):

In this paper I seek to uncover law’s ontological force as it reveals itself in the rape trial. It is common for survivors of sexual violence to refer to their interaction with the criminal justice system as a ’second rape’. Returning to Heidegger’s contention that the ontology of modernity is characterised by a planetary technicity leading inexorably to a global death project, I argue that to understand the legal process as a ‘second rape’ we must return to the question of Being. Situating legal discourse within the realm of tools marshalled in the service of what Irigaray would call ‘technophallogocentrism’, and through a critical reading of a rape trial transcript, I attempt to listen to the force of law as it reveals itself during the iterative process of the giving and receiving of evidence. I counterpose the force of law against the force of sexual difference, and consider what it might mean to orientate oneself towards an alternative genealogy of the common law and to adjudicate according to principles not fundamentally underpinned by the monistic imagination of sexual indifference and the technophallogocentric logic of positive law.

At first, I thought it was a hoax, a product perhaps of that online practical joke known as the postmodern generator (http://www.elsewhere.org/pomo/). Every time you go into this site you automatically download a different article, randomly generated in the postmodern idiom. And of course meaningless. You just need to add your name as author, and submit it to a sympathetic journal. With luck, you can pad your CV to whatever size you like.
It turned out the notice was genuine, and the talk actually took place (although I didn’t attend). I believe it was intended to be taken seriously, although in believing that I may be the butt of the joke.
Rape is a serious issue, and raises real concerns, legal and otherwise. It is not clear to me that taking refuge in the tangled thickets of critical theory is an effective way to deal with it, or whether it will actually discredit academic (and psychological) opinion in the eyes of the everyday world, and even worsen the issue. Mention of Heidegger, known to have been a Nazi sympathiser, even seems to add a hint of coercion.
What is needed in discussions about rape and other forms of bullying—and indeed coercion—is clarity. And some empathy.