Imbalance Of Power

The primary fact about sexual violence is that men do it to women and not the reverse. This non-reciprocal fact is the bottom line of women's status and discrimination, and neither our theologies nor politics can encompass it.

Our theology claims an equality before God between the sexes. Politically we distribute rights and protections in a vacuum and assume that men require protection from women on an equal basis as in the reverse category. Only recently have legal refinements, in rape and wife abuse for example, recognized the unilinear direction of male violence.

Violence itself is not a male to female category; sexual violence, however, is. Men can act violently toward each other and women can engage in violence toward men and women and even children at times. However, when it comes to those matters we label sexual, women do not rape men. Women rarely beat their husbands.

Biological distinction would appear, at first glance, to be the foundation of the reality. Men, in general, are physically stronger than women. This fact underlies and undergirds women's sense of self. To many of us, it is primary. What it means about our power and our sexuality is central. To realize the potential to be physically overpowered at most any time, most any place, with most any man, is to know the truth about where we stand biologically.

Here the ironies begin. In areas as disperse as military defense and chivalrous manners, women expect protection from men. Not violence. Women expect protection from males against other males. We are the currency, more often than not, in male power brokerage. As long as men are our agents of protection, it would seem, we are the victims of their intergender violence. Mae West put it well: "Every man I know wants to protect me--I wonder from what."

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