Women being “Raped too much?”: Fox News, Liz Trotta, and Rape Culture by Gina Messina-Dysert


I may be a bit late to the conversation, but it is impossible for me not to comment on the infuriating statements made by Liz Trotta on Fox News about the staggering 64% increase in sexual assaults against women in the military since 2006.  Responding to reports from the Pentagon about women serving in combat, Trotta complained that money is being wasted on women in the military who are “raped too much.”  The statements by the Fox News pundit well demonstrate the existence of rape culture within our society and the continued problem of victim blaming and double victimization experienced by women who have been raped.

In her rant, Trotta claimed that women want to be “warriors and victims at the same time.”  She argued that women who want to serve in the military should expect to be raped and not raise such a fuss about it. She also alleged that “feminists” have demanded too much money to fund programs for sexual abuse victims.

“I think they have actually discovered that there is a difference between men and women. And the sexual abuse report says that there has been, since 2006, a 64% increase in violent sexual assaults. Now, what did they expect? These people are in close contact, the whole airing of this issue has never been done by Congress, it’s strictly been a question of pressure from the feminists… You have this whole bureaucracy upon bureaucracy being built up with all kinds of levels of people to support women in the military who are now being raped too much.”

First, I must ask, is there an acceptable amount of rape?  Trotta’s tone is outrageous as she implies that we should expect rape to occur if women and men are going to be in such “close contact” with each other.  Rape is not about sex; it is about violence.  Thus, the disturbing notion that men in the military rape because they cannot control their sexual urges is one that is ill-informed (not to mention a major insult to all men!).

Earlier this week when Trotta defended her statements, she went on to support the male pressure cooker theory – the idea that men who rape are victims of their own inability to control their sexual urges – and claimed that men who do not rape are simply being polite:

“I certainly did not say all military men are rapists. What I believe and tried to express — apparently not well enough — is that the environment of combat, by definition, sets up a situation where basic instincts rule. The niceties of male-female interaction fade in this arena and any scientist will tell you that testosterone rules. If common sense won’t be applied to the whole question of women in the forces consider the escalating incidents of sexual abuse at the three military academies.”

According to the Fox News pundit, not being raped is a “nicety.”

The views Trotta promotes speak to the central issue that results in gender based-violence – an androcentric view of women.  While some have claimed that women have achieved “equality,” Liz Trotta’s comments well demonstrates that those ideas are false.  It is views like Trotta’s – which are supported by Fox News – that support and perpetuate the rape culture; they continue beliefs that women deserve to be raped, rapists are victims of their own sexual drive, and society should stop wasting resources on women who have experienced sexual victimization.

It is truly devastating that Trotta has a platform to encourage change but instead uses it to perpetuate ideas that support violence against women.  My question – why is Trotta still on the air?  Why has Fox News not addressed her hate speech?  Certainly other public personalities have been suspended or fired for making intolerant comments.  Roland Martin was suspended from CNN for an anti-gay tweet; ESPN anchor Max Bretos was suspended for making a racist statement; Rick Sanchez was fired from CNN for making anti-Semitic comments (and for calling Jon Stewart a bigot).  In fact, it seems it is unacceptable to make intolerant comments about any group – that is, any group except women.  In the 21st century, the oppression of women continues to be an acceptable form of hate.  I wonder, when will this change?

For additional information on rape culture see Buchwald, Emilie, Pamela Fletcher, and Martha Roth. ed.Transforming a Rape Culture. Minneapolis: Milkweed, 1993.

Gina Messina-Dysert, Ph.D.: Feminist theologian, ethicist, and activist, Gina received her Ph.D. in religion at Claremont Graduate University focused in the areas of women’s studies in religion and theology, ethics, and culture.  She is the Visiting Assistant Professor of Theological Ethics at Loyola Marymount University and Co-founder and Co-director of Feminism and Religion. Gina has authored multiple articles, the forthcoming book Rape Culture and Spiritual Violence, and is a contributor to the Rock and Theology project sponsored by the Liturgical Press. Her research interests are theologically and ethically driven, involve a feminist and interdisciplinary approach, and are influenced by her activist roots and experience working with survivors of rape and domestic violence.  Gina can be followed on Twitter @FemTheologian and her website can be accessed at http://ginamessinadysert.com.



Categories: Feminism, Rape Culture, Sexual Violence, Violence Against Women

Tags: , , , , , , ,

25 replies

  1. Thanks for voicing this Gina.

    I think some women on the right actually do believe that men are sexual predators and that the only way to avoid predation is to be protected by another man. It is analogous to some arguments for covering in Islam. In other words these women recognize that men are predators (in patriarchy); they just think more patriarchy is the solution. AAARRRGGGHHH.

    And you are right that hate comments against women are tolerated far too often.

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    • Thanks so much for your comments, Carol. And yes, you are so right! Why do so many believe that women must be protected by men? That patriarchy is the only way to keep women safe?

      When I think of hate speech against women, I often think of the 2008 primaries – Hillary vs. Obama. The way people talked about Hillary Clinton was absolutely disturbing – I remember that the first kind comments I heard about Hillary were after she cried in New Hampshire because she finally displayed some “woman-like” characteristics. That entire election period was such a clear example of how discrimination against women continues to be acceptable.

      Of course, now these comments by Liz Trotta – and so much that goes on at Fox News, also well demonstrate it. I wonder, when will this change?

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  2. Gina, thank you for bringing attention to this issue and in particular to this pundit! I can’t imagine what has possessed her to think and feel the way she does. Even if her theory were remotely true, that men and women in the service are in close contact and rape is bound to happen, she doesn’t even call it an atrocity or seem to be bothered by it. She thinks it is natural human-male behavior, which is absurd and sad.

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  3. It’s never too late to talk about the issue of rape. How do women with this kind of thinking get on the air? She’s a feminist-hater; one of those women who think that feminist means that we want to be like the men. How wrong she is. Why do they not see that the issue of rape is much deeper and is about those who feel powerless vis-a-vis others and comes out of a total lack of self-esteem and amour propre. Patriarchy breeds people who only have half the story and half the picture. It creates this imbalance of power where women are victims and men are there to keep them there through a sense of a self-righteous fear manifesting as male entitlement. It’s unhealthy. The issue lies in the authentic empowerment not just of women, but also of the men who feel rape gives them their sense of self–but only for a moment, a false moment. The paradigms of patriarchy are false paradigms and once people realize they’ve been ‘set-up’ they can begin to retrieve their true inner power and one that’s achieved through authentic Imago sense of self. It’s like the woman who took Joan Chichester to task and said that the woman is the neck that moves the head — I guess Paul said that somewhere — I say, “When the neck finds its own head and the head finds its own neck and each controls its own; then the conversation becomes real and true communication can begin.” It’s about taking responsibility for one’s actions–rape is another form of men blaming women for their lack of taking their own responsibility for their emotions which has nothing to do with being predatory. Rape is adult bullying and that comes from not feeling equal. Instead of talking about how to prevent rape, Ms. Trotta reports on how the military environment causes it. She’s just off base. As Valentina said, it’s sad. The way to combat intolerance of women and the snide off-color remarks is to call on it whoever says it in the moment and dissipate it so stops the behavior because it is so ingrained in our society. In essence, it is verbal abuse and should not be tolerated from anyone.

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    • Hi June, I am always so shocked when I hear anyone say negative things about the word “feminist.” I’ve identified as a feminist for as long as I can remember – what is wrong with believing that every person should be affirmed and treated with dignity?

      People often talk about rape being about sex – but it isn’t – it is about power. Rape is used to dominate and humiliate. Interesting that you called it “adult bullying” – how true.

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  4. Until and unless the military openly addresses the widely held but not always conscious notion that raping women is one of the “spoils” of war, military culture is a rape culture and women beware. In the 1970s US soldiers were still be trained with the slogan “this is my rifle, this is my gun (officer points to penis), One is for killing, one is for fun.” The unspoken assumption was then and still is that if a man kills he “gets” “fun” with women as his reward. And of course military culture trains men and women to deny all feelings of empathy with the enemy or victim, making it easier to kill and rape.

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  5. The comments made by Liz Trotta are ignorant to say the least. She begins by claiming that this issue won’t be a controversy for long (because women’s issues never deserve any consideration) due to “political correctness,” and goes on to state the cause of this being “the feminists wanting to be warriors and victims at the same time.” Wow….. sounds like paternal words from the Patriarchy itself speaking to its daughters…”you see?… If you would have listened to me in the beginning and stayed home where you belong; in the kitchen, not participating in the ‘Men’s World,’ none of this would have happened… I tried to warn you…” When quoting the alarming statistics regarding the increase in violent sexual assaults in the military since 2006, she opens with “what did they expect?” She actually defends the act of rape, legitimizes it; subsequently blaming women for being raped. Where does this type of “othering” hatred come from?
    This pathetic type of commentary should not even be allowed. It is disgusting and exists only in the mythical realm of make-believe perpetuated by main-stream media.. Unfortunately it creates a very realistic gap between the true representation of society being realized, and the mindset of the masses catching on and understanding the discrepancy that truly exists. It also reinforces the juvenile and unrealistic stereotypes and stigmatization that are so harmful to women, and justifies the most urgent of issues being ignored.
    The media has managed to attach a negative association to the word “feminist,” so that all one has to do is say the word once, and the minds of the listeners turn a deaf ear of dislike on the issues at hand… This is similar to the negative association attached to the word “welfare,” or “99%.” Anyone who is a recipient of welfare is automatically perceived and assumed to be a lazy, mooch, who is cheating the system, looking for a hand-out, and doesn’t deserve anything but a kick in the rear and a suggestion to ‘get a job.’ People fail to ever learn the realities of the circumstances behind these issues and are sadly mislead into making very harmful decisions that ultimately harm us all. This is an outrage.

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  6. Dear Gina,
    Thank you for posting this. This is absolutely horrible; unbelievable to hear this come out of this woman’s mouth!!! Does she truly believe what she is saying? This is absurd!!! To defend rape? To speak as if any woman deserves it? To scoff and discredit “feminists” as if they are just a nuisance to society? To minimize the importance of proper behavior by men in all situations… War does not excuse violent sexual acts against women whether it be against women from the U.S. in the military, or those of the presumed “enemy.” I beg to differ who the enemy truly is..

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  7. The latest Fox news commentary was crazy in the extreme. What I propose is something far more radical. I propose that if we have women in the military, that we train women with other women, that we create all female battalions, and that if women go into battle, we do it together in huge numbers. Men who rape women soldiers should simply be summarily executed on the battle field, for commiting treason. All women should be given the right to kill any male who rapes them in a war situation. We should have all women police forces, thousands of women policing the streets of cities. And if men can’t stop the rape, they should have curfews, and be off the streets at night.

    I’m sick of this nickle and diming— if men do this, then they should simply be taken out of action.
    The spoils of war are about rape, that’s the whole point of war for men– they go overseas to rape women. They think this is fun, this is their right, this is what they believe they are entitled to.

    If they want to live after raping women, then burn a big R in the middle of their foreheads so that all women can ostracize them from human society. We will not put a stop to this male behaviro using the useless means that exist today. We either admit that men are waging war on women or we don’t, and the only good rapist is a dead rapist. I have no compassion, no sympathy, and I want action. So let’s train thousands of women in war, let’s let those women loose on the preditors of the world, let’s have men so fearful of retaliation that they never ever attempt rape again. That’s my solution, what’s yours?

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  8. What a disgusting delivery and perspective. Ironic that she projects the very attitude that was formerly held about the sadly under-reported incidence of rape, onto this fabricated “hidden agenda” she accuses the “feminists” of having…. Talk about a conspiracy theory!!!
    She didn’t do much in the way of rectifying herself… She just dug herself in deeper… FAIL!!!

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  9. Her comments are ignorant to the fact I could make the same argument her being a journalists as I am sure she works in close contact with men in various ways. So if she were to be raped, is it politically correct for me to say, “what did Liz Trotta expect, being a journalist”. Or let’s use the prison system as I have stated before in previous comments about the rookies being encouraged to beat and rape inmates. I guess inmates should expect being raped because their incarcerated. People like Liz Trotta and others who promote rape and condone it have no respect for other human life, especially her negative attitude against women, being a woman herself

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  10. I can definitely see why you were outraged by Trotta’s comments on rape within the military. I agree there is no acceptable amount of rape. Rape itself is a horrible act that should not be underminded; since its a deliberate sexual assault to another human being. Unfortunately, many victims of rape are afraid or ashame of reporting the abuse. This can be atributed to the stigmatization society has place on rape victims. The victims tend to be the ones reprimanded and/or blamed for the attack. In addition, suggesting that rape is ment to happen when males and females are confined in the same space is absurd. We should all be able to control our urges regardless of the circumstances. This comment also takes away the blame from the perpretator because it suggests that the circumstances lead to the sexual assault. It is disturbing to see that an educated person would suggest that rape is ment to happen especially within the military.

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  11. Great article! What is so disturbing about Liz Trotta’s comments is that she doesn’t see the spike of rapes in the military as an indication that there may be a degradation in the honor and character of some of the men serving. Instead of proposing more rigorous standards for enlistment to ensure that only the best and most honorable are serving, she wants to blame feminism. When stories of soldiers (both men and women) mistreating POW’s, civilians, and other misconduct not becoming of the U.S. military appear in the news coupled with rapes of women in the military, then a serious and critical look has to be taken at both the structure and the recruitment methods of the military to figure out why this kind of behavior is occurring.

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  12. The comments made by Lisa Trotta appalled me. She thinks rape occurring through the military is ok because of the way war is structured. When she said “Men who don’t rape are just simply polite” was just pain ignorant. She obviously has not been a victim of rape. I feel terrible for the women in the military who are subjected to being raped by their peers. As Karen Lebacqz writes in Love your enemy: Sex, Power and Christian Ethics in Feminist Theological ethics “Women are raped and experience forced sex with considerable frequency. Second, ‘normal’ patterns of male-female sexual relating in this culture are defined by patterns of male dominance over women. Hence, ‘our earliest socialization,” argues Marie Fortune, teaches us to confuse sexual activity with sexual violence.” Since men are dominant in the military men feel they can dominate women in the military by raping them. I think rape is wrong and women should not be subjected to rape. What makes it worse is that most men get away with rape. I hope over time more men can be convicted of rape.

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  13. Wow, the topic of this blog is unbelievable! I was becoming more furious as I continued to read throughout the blog. It is outrageous to learn that there really are people out there who think women are to blame for their own rape, and that feminists are a lost cause.

    It doesn’t matter what “type” of rape or assault it is; RAPE is RAPE. We don’t need to categorize it, we just need to make a statement that no matter what kind of rape it is, it is ABSOLUTELY UNACCEPTABLE.

    As soon as I started reading this post, I immediately thought about the monologue included to this year’s Vagina Monologues, called “Over It.” The monologue is the author’s, Eve Ensler’s, rant about being OVER rape culture, and how it is become a norm in today’s society. The message of that monologue is that exact opposite of Liz Trotta’s claims, and it states that not only women, but EVERYONE needs to stand up and keep fighting until women are no longer victims of abuse and rape.

    The chapter called “Love Your Enemy: Sex, Power, and Christian Ethics” in the book “Feminist Theological Ethics” by Lois Daly, also discusses this unfortunate topic. On page 247 it states: The social construction of heterosexuality in this culture has been largely based on patterns of dominance and submission in which men are expected to be dominant and women are expected to be submissive. When a man “overpowers” a woman, is he raping her or is be simply being a man in both his eyes and hers?”

    This relates to Liz Trotta’s statement that “testosterone rules” and that men can’t be held accountable for their drastic biological differences between men and women. It is unfortuante that it is accepted for men to be “dominant” and women “submissive”, and no one being held accountable for their actions.

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  14. This blog is so important yet so aggravating! this reporter being a woman is almost worse than if a man said it. not to say that we should expect all men to think like this or that it should be a masculine opinion, but its saddening when a woman seems to be working against the general ethic of sexual equality when she is indeed, on the losing end of that argument. women working against feminism proves to me that society is truly at fault. as Karen Lebacqz explains in Feminist theological ethics, “violence has been structured into the system itself, structured into the very ways that we experience and think about heterosexual sexuality.” (247) it just shows sexism is so “built in” to our society that women also spread an attitude of sexism being the norm and ok.

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  15. Gina, wow I found Liz Trotta comments overwhelming. It saddens me each time a female loses herself in the social and or religious dogma of our society. I can agree that the environment of combat is intense, but we have been out of the tree’s for far to long to continue to make excuses for unacceptable behavior. Women are not the spoils of war.
    There is never any excuse to take possession of another persons body without the consent of that person. We don’t need laws for this to be understood, we need an educational and social system that reinforces the natural rights of all humans. And I don’t mean teaching tolerance, that word in of its self is negative. In watching Liz Trotta’s video response to the backlash of her first comments. She is asked to comment on her war corresponding experiences, she states I’m not here for self promoting and then begins to give us a list of all war locations she’s been. Note: the t.v. screen had her accomplishments rolling the whole time.
    As if this some how makes her an expert on military women being raped, and her comments are warranted. I take a moment to comment on this, because of the multitudes that will see this and ordain her words as truth. Her opinion is one that women should not been on the front lines and if they are they should expect to be raped. Well then I would ask What’s the data on all the nurses in WWII that where raped and abused and they where not on the front lines?
    When she was done with the display of plume, she called the women who want social health available for victims of military rape “extreme Feminist” leftist, she continues with
    and war is not the place for gender wars. She then adds that female biology study’s show that a women’s instincts and reaction time are remarkably different than a mans. I would ask in what setting is she placing this information in? I would also ask where did she dredged up her archaic data, assuming she looked for data. I found her response to the criticism a feeble attempt to save some face, she went straight to the science’s to support her weak opinion.
    Ms. Trotta’s scientific argument is less than accurate, in many cases of agility, reaction time and instinct women have and do out preform men. I have seen testing on A Olympic women’s softball swing, and it is often faster than a pro male baseball player. It has also been studied, a women’s running endurance is at its peck when she reaches her early forty’s vs a males which is usually at a much younger age. I give you these last two examples because, what we know is we don’t really know what we are completely capable of until we fight for the chance to compete, engage, and speak with the same resource’s and equal voice that the other half of the human race possesses. In attempt to sum up Mary Daly’s essay on “the spiritual revolution”, if God and sin won’t keep you in place, then Freud and science will. Before Ms. Trotta’s opinion, before Freud and science there was Joan of Arc, before the christen God there was the Amazon warriors, the Viking women, and lady samurais. I am not a fan of war as an answer, but if we must than let not gender be the reason a women is not allowed to offer her services. Ms. Trotta owe’s herself and all women an apology.

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  16. It really is a shame to read something like Liz Trotta comments. Like you said in your article, it only perpetuates hate and violence against women and even has a more devastating consequence when the words come from another woman.
    I strongly feel that the most absurd part is that her comment is justifying and like Gina said in her respond, give an excuses to men violent action because that is exactly what rape is. When I read this article, the first thing that comes to my mind is the idea of the supposed ‘equal’ rights given to women.
    In our culture and earlier civilization, sexual activity have been confused (absolutely wrongly) with sexual violence. This is because our so called ‘normal’ pattern of sexual relating, as stated by Karen Lebacqz in Sex, Power and Christian Ethics, have been defined by patterns of male dominance over women. The patriarchal society has been eroticizing male power and domination while at the same time creating an environment where equality, intimacy, and safety does not exist and has never existed for women. There is no such thing as equality for women when sexism in the workplace, home, school etc is still a prevalent issue affecting women’s life. There is no such thing as equality and justice for women when we cant even walk in the street with fear for being raped while also knowing we will likely be the one blamed for because if we didn’t walking out to late, dressed inappropriately or other heartbreaking tactics used to blame the victim. There is no such thing as equality for women when the only way we can be ‘safe’ is if we embrace and acknowledge the fact that we need to be protected and controlled by man.
    I don’t know how this can change but I strongly believe that changes will come first and foremost by us women that work together to fight oppression that has been done against us.We need to support each other, educate and teach our future children, especially young males, how to view woman as if they were people with equal rights and liberty like themselves; that we are not object made for a man’s need and “uncontrolled” behavior.

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  17. It’s one thing to be victimized and condemned by men and society as a whole, especially with such a topic as rape, but for a fellow woman to point a finger at the woman as the problem, that is something I cannot even comprehend at this moment. Oddly and sadly, all too often, women step on other women either to get ahead or to fit into a patriarchal society, in either case it takes our fight for equality a few steps back. This reminds me of a discussion we were having in our Feminist Ethics class about how the worst kind of jury for a rape victim is a jury made up of women, because the female jury will be less sympathetic for the victim/survivor thinking they themselves would have never been in the same situation.

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Trackbacks

  1. 1, 2, 3, 4: FEMINISTS DON’T WANT ANOTHER WAR by Carol P. Christ « Feminism and Religion
  2. Women being “Raped too much?”: Fox News, Liz Trotta, and Rape Culture | Global Gender Justice Coalition

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