This Is What Rape Culture Looks Like: Part 3 by Carol P. Christ


Warning contains images of rape in the history of art portrayed through the pornographic male gaze

According to the myth, Danae was the only child of the King of Argos who longed for a male heir. After an oracle declared that Danae would indeed bear a son, but that he would kill his grandfather, the King locked his daughter in a tower. Hearing the story, Zeus decided to breach the tower. Transforming himself into a shower of gold, he entered the tower through its roof and raped Danae. When Danae gave birth to Perseus, the King locked them both in a chest and dumped it into the sea. Zeus rescued them, and Perseus went on to behead Medusa, but that is another story.

The myth of the rape of Danae has been a popular subject for male artists from classical times up to the present. It is unclear whether, when they dreamed of “golden showers,” the artists had in mind degrading activities involving pee or whether they thought of sperm as inherently golden, perhaps as the mirror image of golden treasures stolen as the spoils of war. In any case, they were fascinated with the image of golden sperm. In their works, Danae is portrayed as beautiful and rape is normalized. The brutality of the facts–that Danae was locked in a tower by her father, that she was raped while imprisoned, and that her father tried to murder her and her infant son–are overlooked.

Classical Greece

 

Correggio

 

Titian

 

Rembrandt

 

Franz von Stuck

 

Gustav Klimt

I was little more than a child myself when I began to study images like this in the history of art. I spent countless hours gazing at them in the museums of Europe before I was twenty. I am not sure I even knew what sperm was at the time. Nor had anyone explained to me that rape is always a violent act. Like Danae, I accepted rape: the rape of my innocence, the rape of my mind, the rape of my psyche.

#JustSayNo

Do not accept what you are taught. Do not accept that rape is beautiful. Do not accept that paintings of rape are beautiful. Do not accept rape culture. Do not let anyone tell you that Greek myths are beautiful. Do not let anyone tell you Greek myths are archetypes of the psyche. Question. Question everything.

Also see: https://feminismandreligion.com/2018/12/03/this-is-what-rape-culture-looks-like-then-and-now-by-carol-p-christ/ and https://feminismandreligion.com/2018/12/10/this-is-what-rape-culture-looks-like-in-great-art-by-carol-p-christ/.

 

Carol P. Christ is an internationally known feminist writer, activist, and educator living in Crete. Carol’s recent book written with Judith Plaskow, Goddess and God in the World: Conversations in Embodied Theology, is on Amazon. A Serpentine Path: Mysteries of the Goddess is on sale for $9.99 on Amazon. Carol  has been leading Goddess Pilgrimage to Crete for over twenty years: join her in Crete. Carol’s photo by Michael Honneger.

Listen to Carol’sa-mazing interview with Mary Hynes on CBC’s Tapestry recorded in conjunction with her keynote address to the Parilament of World’s Religions.



Categories: Abuse of Power, Academics, Feminism, General, Rape, Rape Culture

Tags: , , , , , ,

14 replies

  1. Dear Carol, I could not agree more:
    “Do not accept what you are taught. Do not accept that rape is beautiful. Do not accept that paintings of rape are beautiful. Do not accept rape culture. Do not let anyone tell you that Greek myths are beautiful. Do not let anyone tell you Greek myths are archetypes of the psyche. Question. Question everything.”

    Liked by 2 people

  2. As a very little girl, my father took me to the Art Gallery in Melbourne,
    where I was in awe and scared by Bertram MacKennal’s life-size bronze
    nude sculpture of Circe. I had a vague idea that I was female and when
    I grew up, I would look like that statue … alas I didn’t get the figure; I have
    matured into the power.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I somehow missed art history, a lacuna in my education, I thought. Now I am glad I did not have to study or venerate the works of the “masters.” Thank you for this eye-opening series of posts.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I like your “do nots.” Yes, question everything.

    Like

  5. Thank you Carol

    You have done it again – as I have said before ‘the image always precedes the word’ and those of us like you and me that were raised with these images internalized them and their messages without knowing what we were doing.

    ” Like Danae, I accepted rape: the rape of my innocence, the rape of my mind, the rape of my psyche.”

    And I accepted the rape of my body too…

    Like

  6. I think these may be archetypes of the colonized female psyche – part of what I find so terrifying about them – the pattern is already there. As you say – QUESTION EVERYTHING ESPECIALLY WOMEN WHO ARE USING MYTHOLOGY TO FIND ANOTHER STORY TO LIVE THROUGH.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Yes, the deformed male psyche sees women as pornographic objects…. just yesterday I was listening to a 70 year woman friend say that it was nice to have a partner because she could ask him if what she was wearing was too revealing. I remarked that whenever i go bra – less I like to to wear a tunic or something to cover my small breasts…. amazing that two women, one 70 one 74 are even having this conversation.

    Like

  8. posted to Facebook and re -blogged this article too.

    Like

  9. Thanks for your thoughts here Carol. Regards what to accept and what is beautiful. The nude women paintings were probably painted for the money. But art for art’s sake is where great art usually resides. And so just to share here a great masterpiece, one of Emily Dickinson’s delightful poems, not trying to make a profit, but sincerely expressing things she truly loves…

    What tenements of clover
    Are fitting for the bee,
    What edifices azure
    For butterflies and me —
    What residences nimble
    Arise and evanesce
    Without a rhythmic rumor
    Or an assaulting guess.

    Like

  10. Luckily, when I was in college, I found myself being taught art history by some very fine women professors. And I think we must have skipped a lot of that nudity stuff. We spent much more time on impressionism, on modern art and eastern art especially.

    Like

  11. When young women are reluctantly allowed into patriarchy’s “temples of learning”, we need to understand our own vulnerability to the indoctrination central to those institutions. As you mentioned, we are directed to admire the creative minutiae like those brush strokes. We are supposed to ignore the humiliation and suffering of the woman victim of the male rapist. Her experience is of no consequence. In those many situations, young women students are learning their place in patriarchy: the silent victim, the willing collaborator.

    Other men agree and demand our willing participation in our own degradation. As a young woman, I clearly remember reading this quote from a male civil rights activist. Thinking like a patriarch, he put it this way in the 1960s, “The only position for women in the movement is prone”.

    Lesbian women and heterosexual women who demand “a truly autonomous sexuality” are not to be tolerated. We who decide for ourselves, we who possess an autonomous sexuality, must be ridiculed, ostracized, and belittled, and now deplatformed when we attempt to speak.

    Thank you to Lillian Faderman for the “truly autonomous sexuality” phrase from Odd Girls and Twilight Lovers: A history of Lesbian Life in Twentieth-Century America, 1991, p 82.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. The older I get, the more true your words “question everything” become. So much of what we just assume is inevitable is just one more way women are oppressed into silence, into accepting of violence, into so much that harms and degrades us. Envisioning a world in it is considered inevitable that women are celebrated and honored is such hard work but so necessary. Thank you for giving us the words to help us get there.

    Like

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  1. This Is What Rape Culture Looks Like: Part 3 by Carol P. Christ — – Over The Edge and Beyond: Journal of a Naturalist

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