[So a couple of students and I wrote a zine about sexual violence on campus (more info here). Our own uni threatened to sue us for defamation. We subsequently circulated it to every other uni in the country. CW: the phallocentric shit we’ve been told isn’t sexist for the last sixty years.]
Freud would have a heyday if he were alive now to see millions of brofucks castrating their own dicks in the digital guillotine of the iPhone. Through the externalisation of the symbolic father, we’ve wreaked havoc on the world—violently inscribed all men as predatory, all women as victims, and all non-binaries as non-existent. “Boys will be boys” bullshit; “what were you wearing?” victim-blaming; where the fuck are we meant to turn? Let’s face it, patriarchy never died. The well-meaning liberals who find feminism too radical now would have been the same liberals who found black rights, women’s suffrage, and the abolition of slavery too radical then.
Symbolic violence reveals itself in the everyday, from the most banal dick joke to the openly misogynistic discourses on rape that propagate, not only on the internet, but in the material institutions that promise to keep us safe. Scarfie central, the libidinal capital of New Zealand, where students drink, fuck and throw balls at one another. The University of Otago has built a thriving trade off this image, charging exchange students up to $4000 a single paper—it’s no wonder that when a rape survivor reports her rapists,
the Proctor [an unnamed male worker employed at the University of Otago] can merely reply that they were “silly boys” and not worry about the repercussions.
This shit is hegemonic—it thrives off the naturalisation of gender norms that we pretend were swept away decades ago. Rape culture is performed, not merely spoken, a black box recording set to replay over and over, the same catastrophic event, with no fucking change. Without dismantling the systems that legitimate it, we get nowhere. The University of Otago would have us believe that the newly installed CCTV will reduce on-campus crime, as if one day (in the far-oft fascist future) all criminals will (finally) be caught. It’s as if they’d missed the last 150 years of sociological research, which pointed to systemically-produced social inequalities as the source of most criminality.
Phallic capital, like all forms of capital, produce unequal relations of power. No longer invested into colonial ventures, the phallus becomes spectacular—a totalising discourse that inscribes itself upon the walls of bathroom stalls; in the fruit and veggie aisle of the supermarket; through the collapsing of HARDNESS and LONGNESS into one of the smallest parts of the male body. “OH, BOYS WILL BE BOYS,”
the Proctor [an unnamed male worker employed at the University of Otago] screams from his office as he takes a picture of his own crotch to send to himself after work. When the phallus becomes central, all subjects arise upon its terms—and if this capital becomes biologically entangled, then clearly women must desire men, the only ones who can have it. The flaunting of phallic capital becomes a necessity towards the survival of society.
The phallic economy then, interpellates all of us into the same fucking patriarchal relations we’d never truly escaped—a gender hierarchy that sexualises not only inert objects stacked at the local grocer’s, but those who benefit the least from such a system—women (and all others perceived as such). When all one’s acts are interpreted through the phallus, then all one becomes is a means to an end—the satisfaction of the capitalist’s lack. Rape culture is not harmless entertainment for it creates an all-pervading atmosphere of psychological domination where any potential action could be seemed as “provocative.” The irony of this is that the origin of such thoughts arises not from the victim but the perpetrator—from the one who fucking thought it in the first place (the seduced who has seduced themselves).
It’s no wonder that those trapped in such a discourse ask “why were you raped?” rather than “why are there rapists?” Socialised into a society where the phallus is reified as such—the ballistic imperial erection of western capital—dick jokes and rape-apologists are the norm, and this norm is killing us. This norm transforms emancipatory love into violent domination. The possessive partner who keeps tabs on your location; the fuckboi who follows you home; the same passive-aggressive proposal for sex, repeated to the point of capitulation; this shit is patriarchal, and it is mutilating not only victims but perpetrators as well. As anthropology has shown, no cultural form is universal, and therefore, no rapist need be a rapist. Emancipated from rape culture (from both symbolic and real violence) relationships of mutual support could flourish, where the capitalist notions of ownership and rational economic trade-off no longer constrict us to death.
But this change won’t happen while institutions like the University of Otago brush off the actual stories of rape survivors and delegate the issue to a top-down board of intellectual experts completely divorced from the student body that keeps them employed in the first place. If our actual experiences, needs and desires aren’t recognised, nothing will change. The same shit will keep happening over and again: the same traumatic events, the same dismissal of the most vulnerable voices on campus and the same formal procedures, so ineffectual and inhuman, that most choose to suffer in silence.