Darkly humorous and deeply unsettling, “Rape Fantasies” by Margaret Atwood confronts the 1970s pop culture examination of date rape. As Atwood is apt to do, she forces readers to tread uncomfortably in the water of what constitutes rape, including details of women’s rape fantasies and the very real possibility that the narrator feels threatened by her date.
That “date” qualifies rape in this story came back to me as the U.S. is now confronting domestic violence—and yet another qualification with “domestic.” Domestic violence is now poised to gain the same popular (and short-lived) attention once afforded date rape; there will be dramatic headlines and many, many talking heads holding forth on the topic.
The current specific act of violence occurring within the sacred NFL and the video of the husband hitting his wife, knocking her unconscious, being released (another public layer of her assault) are compounding elements that are certain to increase the media frenzy to follow.
Almost 40 years after the mainstream press made date rape the issue of the moment, women are still highly likely to be sexually assaulted by an acquaintance such as a date; little changed, it seems, from the media spotlight, however distorted it was.
I see no reason to expect the safety of spouses and significant others to change much once the domestic violence frenzy has passed, and I regret that stance, basing it on our inability to learn from the past and our willful ignorance about our essential violent nature as a nation, cloaked in our urge to qualify (those distinguishing adjectives).
The Willful Ignorance of a Violent Nation
The military action by the U.S. in Vietnam should have offered many important lessons, but one of the most distinct, I think, was that once a war was televised directly into the homes of the public in the U.S., people were forced to consider their views about war.  Without the video, out of sight, out of mind.
Vivid video and disturbing photography remain with us from the Vietnam conflict, but instead of setting aside our eagerness to venture into wars (on other people’s soil), the U.S. has instead sought ways to keep the public from seeing the horrors of war. Still the government controls what we see each time we again venture into war, so that now war mainly looks like a big video game.
Little do we discuss the innocent women and children dying under the blanket of our smart bombs and drones, and rarely do we see such carnage. And thus, we can recede into our cocoon of willful ignorance about our acts of war while we condemn other countries and cultures for their barbarism.
One doesn’t have to read Orwell to confront the “police action” in Vietnam or the use of “peacekeeper” missiles. And it doesn’t take much to begin to see how adding “date” to rape and “domestic” to violence will not serve us well.
Without the video of what happened in a casino elevator, somehow the “violence” in domestic violence was comfortably out of sight, out of mind.
But now that we can see it, there is outrage and shock, but it appears the problem is the “domestic” and not the “violence.” And it appears many across the U.S. are shocked to confront that a man paid an enormous amount of money to be violent has turned that violence on a woman.
We appear equally shocked that an organization that makes billions of dollars from violence as entertainment seemed tone deaf about domestic violence and none too eager to do anything beyond tokenism about it (until it became a PR nightmare and threatened that bottom billion-dollar mark).
The U.S. is an NFL and college football nation—addicted to violence as entertainment. The U.S. has a disturbing gun fetish and an ugly comfort with mistreating children, not the least of which is corporal punishment. The U.S. continues a long tradition of war mongering as well (just as long as we control the video).
The problem, you see, is not the NFL or domestic violence—both of which reflect, not cause, our essential violent nature.
The problem is us, our willful ignorance that allows us to beat our chests about no man should hit a woman while never confronting that violence should nearly never be justified.
The problem is everyone who is complicit in this culture of violence, a violence not only tolerated but perpetuated as long as it is monetized.
It isn’t likely we’ll do anything substantial about domestic violence, at least no more than the token and passing interest we paid date rape. But I am certain we’ll find some way to start a bucket challenge about it on Facebook so no one has any time to throw cold water on all that money being made on violence as entertainment.