|03/06/04||MILITARY MATTERSL RAPE CULTURE AND THE MILITARY By Stan Goff|
Detainee abuse is in the news, but rape is being kept at bay. We have heard little about the rape of Iraqi women, which is being committed against detainees and non-detainees alike, about the rape of Iraqi men who are thereby feminized and dominated by their captors, or about the rape of women who are US service members. Not because it’s not happening. There is ample evidence that it certainly is. We haven’t heard a reluctant mea culpa from the New York Times about failure to cover it, and we haven’t heard more than a peep about “zero tolerance” as the official military reaction to the rapes of women soldiers in the US armed forces. There is a good reason for that. Rape culture doesn’t tell on itself. And the military is not about to open that Pandora’s Box, because what will come buzzing out of it are questions that go to the very heart of the military as an institution, to the male character of the capitalist state, and to the misogynistic roots of the whole social system.
It should surprise no one that there are now reports leaking through the non-corporate press of systematic rape of women at Abu Ghraib, or that when 112 women who were raped or sexually assaulted while deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan had to go outside the military to get assistance and the military not only refused to prosecute several offenders, but tried to shut the victims up. Nothing new here. At http://www.staaamp.org/, one can find documentation of sexual harassment, assault, and rape against women in the military going back for decades.
But it’s a mistake to think it’s a military thing. If we look at rape statistics, and at the demographic of offenders generally, that demographic is concentrated in the military. And if we bear in mind how aggression and male sexuality are culturally co-identified, and we note that aggression is central to the military mission, the higher rates of rape and other abuse of women in the military is not institutionally confined, but merely a concentration of a whole culture that uses rape as an unofficial mans of social control.
It’s not a military thing. It’s a masculinity thing. Here is my true confession.
In 1979, I had volunteered for the Selection and Assessment Course for 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment – Delta. Delta Force. I was working as an interim platoon sergeant at 2nd Ranger Battalion in Ft. Lewis, Washington, adjacent to Tacoma. I was in superlative physical condition, and had added onto an already demanding physical training program, conducted each morning and augmented by the nature of rangering, evening three-mile runs with a 50-pound rucksack on my back and two five-pound ankle-weights over my boots. We were only beginning to understand about stress injuries to the joints, so I was unaware that I was paying in advance for my future debilities.
When I arrived in Camp Dawson, West Virginia in March there was spring snow on the ground. Heavy-bodied whitetail deer routinely grazed on the airfield at dusk, and the Cheat River crawled with a kaleidoscope surface from between the blue-gray mountains of a leafless Appalachia. There was no shouting by the cadre, who were in civilian clothes with relaxed grooming standards. In fact, there was a quiet icy distance maintained by them. Verbal instructions were monosyllabic and studiously without affect. Most instructions and a schedule were posted daily on an easel-mounted chalkboard.
The whole environment was designed to break with all markers of familiarity we knew from our regular army units. We spent hours idle in the billets for the first three days, left to wonder whether we were already being observed, and to wonder for what exactly the cadre might be looking in each of us. The unit was highly secret, as were the performance standards for selection and assessment, and therefore steeped in the mystique that grew up in the official silence, fed by hints and rumors.
The only standard we had for performance, in a course we all knew would only select around 20 percent of those who came, was to do everything as hard as we could. Save nothing. Do not pace yourself. Give everything and see what happens.
One day, we took an eight-hour battery of standardized psychological tests. We were exhausted from coloring in the bubbles on sheets reading (a) through (d), to record whether we strongly agreed, agreed, didn’t know, disagreed, or strongly disagreed with statements like, “I have black, tarry stools,” “I like tall women,” and “For the most part, people understand me.”
After supper, we returned to the barracks, where we were instructed to report to formation with 45-pound rucksacks at eight that evening.
With perfect precision, at exactly eight o’clock as we stood in formation puffing little clouds out into the night chill, the cadre rolled up with eight covered military pickups, parked them exactly the same distance apart, and emerged from each. In turn, each driver called out the roster numbers of his passengers and we mounted up. They then zipped the covers closed around us without another word, and the convoy pulled out of Camp Dawson. The only sensation was that of switching direction and climbing.
Then we stopped. The zippers were opened, and we dismounted. Sergeant Major Cheney, looking like a lost hunter in the dark, directed each of us to tie an activated plastic chemical light to our rucks, prohibited us from using flashlights except in a medical emergency, instructed us to follow the markers and signs on the gravel road, and to go until we were told to stop.
We all burst down the road like marathoners. Within moments, we could hear the first grunts as top-heavy men careened onto the patches of ice and crashed.
Everyone fell, a lot. No one knew how far we would go, but the rumor was almost twenty miles. Chemlites (plastic chemical lights) marked the route. The chemlites would partially blind us, making the dark darker between them. Within minutes, I was bathed in sweat. The downslope became the upslope as we tore like half-blind sasquatches over the undulations of the West Virginia mountains in the frozen night.
I don’t know when I started to notice that I was gradually passing exhausted men. First there was one, then another, then a pair here and there. I would hear their feet scuffing in front of me, and my own feet scuffing frenetically up behind them. I had emptied both one quart canteens within an hour and could already feel the effects of dehydration. But I kept reeling in the next man. At some point I calculated that I must be among the front runners.
I had learned well how to be both in my body and out of it, over it, above it, commanding it like an abusive father. My boots were soaked from the snow patches, my socks wet, my feet macerated and swelled inside. My shoulders screamed at the insistently increasing pinch of the ruck straps. My leg muscles quivered. My throat burned with panting in the icy air. And I passed more men.
At the end of the event, I stumbled into Camp Dawson, still half-running and on the verge of exhaustion, eighteen miles total, and reported in to two cadre who recorded my arrival on a clipboard and instructed me to go to the barracks. When I went into the barracks, there were only two men there, obviously not long arrived. I was third out of almost sixty men.
I sipped water and let the exhaustion overtake me as I showered in my wet clothes to wash them, threw them into a dryer, treated two blisters, and basked in the experience of watching more men arrive through the night. Our first physical test had passed, and I was among the chosen. One candidate – that’s what we were called, candidates – staggered in, having remembered me pass him in moment of supreme exhaustion, and said good-naturedly, “Goff, you’re a fucking animal.” I took indescribable satisfaction from that remark, even as I acted dismissive of it. In the military, nothing matters so much as recognition and reputation. Securing them can be a career in itself.
At around three that morning, however, I had sensations in my thighs that were unfamiliar. When I tried to get up and walk to the bathroom, it was blindingly apparent that I had gone beyond pushing myself, and that I had transgressed the real boundaries of my own quadriceps. I was not strained. I was injured.
I went out the following day for collective training to prepare us for the rest of the course. We ended up walking almost seven more miles, and the pain in my quads was so severe by the end of the day that merely climbing the stairs caused sweat to burst out on my forehead.
Rather than make a big production of it, I quietly packed my gear in the dark barracks, and painfully dragged it over to the cadre charge of quarters in the headquarters building. They moved me into a holding barracks out of sight of the rest of the candidates, had me eat in the mess hall after they were gone, and put me on a plane back to Tacoma two days later. I was on physically restricted duty for over six weeks afterward with two torn quadriceps.
Later that year, I reenlisted with a promise to be reassigned to the Jungle Operations Training Center in Fort Sherman, Panama. My marriage – a union between posttraumatic stress disorder and schizophrenia, born in the wake of a frightening drug overdose – had turned psychotically co-dependent, and I had the idea that if we moved away from the site of our latest insanities, things might get better. They didn’t of course. In fact, things got a lot worse. My career was going very well, however, because I volunteered for twice the time any of the other school cadre did to endure the harsh conditions of the jungle with the training battalions. In my professional life, the recognition and reputation were nothing but up. I was almost an icon there. But at home, there was an atmosphere of poisonous hatred and recrimination, a kind of mutual sado-masochism that neither of us knew how to escape.
That’s not something I’m ready to write about yet. I know it’s not unique. I can hardly bear to think of it even now all these years later, or of how my young daughter grew up bearing witness to it.
When the Delta recruiters came back in 1982, I had already made up my mind. I wanted to attend the next Selection and Assessment course. Delta was reputed to stay away from home more than any unit in the army.
My preparation this time became maniacal. I carried twice what anyone else did to the field, and I stayed in the field, sleeping in the jungle, four days a week. I reeked so badly when I came in that I had to undress on the porch so I wouldn’t foul the house. On days I was in from the field, I would catch a ride to Gatun Locks on the canal, eight miles from home, and run back… not jog, run. Six-and-a-half-minute miles, with my lungs trying to burst out of my chest as I sprinted the last half mile. I swam with the barracudas in laps around the lagoon. I pushed and jerked the weights in the un-air-conditioned gym, gulping down four and five gallons of water a day.
My fellow cadre looked at me like I was an alien. Officer and enlisted alike deferred to me. The more insane my household became, where my daughter Elan (Laney), then just six, would hear the suicide threats, the accusations of imaginary betrayal, the verbal abuse and counter-abuse… the more obsessed I became with outdoing everyone in everything. Not only did I run faster and farther, carry more weight, stay longer in the field, my classes were more animated and effective, my preparations more detailed, my evaluations more precise, my command of the doctrine and my tactical acumen more studiously developed, than anyone.
When I showed up at Camp Dawson in March 1983, I had never been so single-mindedly committed to anything. All choices had been taken from my body. The mind was made up. Regardless of the outcomes, I would not quit. If the quadriceps failed, if the back failed, if the feet failed, then they would fail even if I was carried off in an ambulance or fished out of a strip mine.
There was far more at stake than episodic escape from the asylum of my marriage. This was fucking Delta Force, the highest priority unit in the army. This was the pinnacle from which you could look down at the other elites, down on the Ranger tabs and green berets. This was where you would be exposed to the darkest skills of power projection. This was the secret world into which one could disappear, then reemerge with recognition and reputation that was whispered and hinted. And inside the man, there is a boy who is scaling the treacherous wall of his own self-doubt.
For a month, the course progressed. The actual “selection phase” lasted for around two weeks, in which each person, alone, would navigate overland with map and compass from point to designated point, using no roads, never knowing how far he would go each day, or when he was at his last rendezvous point (called RVs). Some days, we would go merely seven or eight miles, some days as much as 25. Each night, we would be directed to a camp near our last RV, to begin again anew the following morning. Each day, there were fewer of us. People fell behind the (unknown) time standards, or they became injured, or they quit. At night in the camps, where the cadre forbade us to talk about the course, we would quietly try to compare who’d been seen.
We had all heard the rumor about the final movement: a 40-mile trek that finalized the physical portion of the course.
One night, we were all collected together at one camp. There were only about 25 of us left of the original 60. The cadre handed out new flashlight batteries, and checked our HF emergency transponders. Be prepared to move out at midnight, they said. Everyone pretended to sleep.
At five minute intervals, we were given our RV coordinates and released, and told this time we could use the roads. I departed at around 1:30 AM, with a rucksack that weighed 55-pounds before I added the water, according to the instructions.
At each RV, the rucksack was weighed. I had passed four RV’s and covered around thirteen miles when I pulled into an RV not far from Bear Mountain. The scale showed my rucksack weighing 54 pounds. I assured the cadre that it had weighed out correctly, and at 56 to 57 pounds at each time. One of the two cadre instructed me to open the rucksack, then placed a large flat rock in it.
”Don’t lose this,” he said. It took my ruck weight to 64 pounds. We were also hand-carrying fake M-16s made of metal rods and hard rubber that weighed around eight pounds apiece.
I was still angry miles later, not about the weight, but at believing I was the victim of bad scales, and about the delay, when I failed to double check the turn in Bear Mountain Trail and followed the sign. Forty-five minutes later, I realized I had been ascending when I should have been descending. I checked my map. I had gone three miles the wrong way up Bear Mountain Trail.
As I jogged back down Bear Mountain Trail until I passed the point where I’d made the wrong turn, telling myself the whole time that I had just failed selection on a stupid rookie error after all this shit. But the prime directive kicked in. Don’t quit.
As I continued downhill alongside a turbulent mountain stream, I noticed that my feet began to ache – not the usual ruckmarch aching, but something that felt like the bones were trying to push through the flesh of my feet. Don’t quit.
I encountered an RV at a swinging bridge, where I blathered on about a wrong turn to the taciturn faces of the two cadre who looked ominously at their watches.
I crossed a highway near Parsons, West Virginia, I think it was, then tried to take a shortcut off-road through a mountain laurel thicket that chewed me up and spit me out onto an RV at the top of a mountain. Two cadre were listening to the radio, and Alberto Salazar had just finished the Boston Marathon in under 2 hours and nine minutes. I exclaimed with admiration while my ruck was being weighed, and was exposed to my first humor from anyone in the Delta Selection cadre.
Don Feeney, that cadre member, said, “He just did in two hours what it took you all day to do.” Haha. If that was the 26-mile point, I had gone 32 because of my little six mile detour on Bear Mountain. He had just told me I had 14 miles to go.
At the top of a large flat mountain nearby, there is a huge shallow swamp sitting in the miles-wide dish that makes that concave mountaintop. Through the middle of that swamp, a swamp that was not called a swamp on the Universal Transverse Mercator maps we used, is a soggy path called Plantation Trail. To this day I don’t know how long that trail is, but I remember that it soaked my feet with every step and transformed the sensation of the bones trying to stick through the flesh into a bright-hot pain that made every step like a hammer slamming into an anvil that vibrated from my feet all the way into my memories. In a kind of delirium, I slogged across Plantation Trail with a folk song I remembered Emmie Lou Harris singing. The song was in my head, about a mill worker that said, “Me and my machine, for the rest of the morning, for the rest of the afternoon, for the rest of my life.” In my head, the song became, “Me and my RV, for the rest of the morning, for the rest of the afternoon, for the rest of my life.” By the time I stepped onto dry ground from Plantation Trail, I was singing my new song aloud to quiet the anvil in my head that reverberated from my feet.
Don’t quit was no longer a brave self-challenge; it was just a monotonous noise like a cardiac monitor in an ICU.
I was staggering down some gravel road at dusk. The pain in my feet had merged with the pain in my shoulders and back from the rucksack. I had become pain. My only purpose in life had become to chip-chip one silently screaming foot in front of the other. I almost walked into the next RV with my head down.
Captain James Knight and Sergeant Major Don Cheney said I would be allowed to use my flashlight for the rest of the course, and that they wanted to check the batteries. No, I told them. My flashlight was fine, but if I removed my ruck long enough to get out the flashlight, I was afraid my muscles would freeze up. Cheney became angry and ordered me to give up the rucksack. I was arguing with him when Knight smiled and shook my hand. I was then sure that I was disoriented.
”Congratulations,” said Knight. ”You have just completed the endurance march.” I had walked forty-six miles.
”Will you let me have that rucksack now?” asked Cheney.
”Sergeant Goff,” said Knight. “Would you like a beer?”
”Sir,” I said. ”I’d suck your dick for a beer.”
Fourteen of us made it. Terry Gilden, an old associate from 2nd Ranger Battalion, had finished with stress fractures in both shins. He would be killed in Beirut in two years.
At Delta, I finished what was called the Operator’s Training Course, and was assigned to B Squadron – now well-known to military aficionados who have read Eric Haney’s book, Inside Delta Force. My first assignment was to Tommy Corbett’s team of assaulters – people who specialized in close quarter battle inside buildings, aircraft, trains, and the like. One of the team members was a man named Marshall Brown.
Marshall adopted me.
He was small and wiry like me, and like me he had a great deal of nervous energy. We were very compatible in that regard. Marshall was one of the most dedicated, one might even say obsessive, operators in Delta. He had plenty of good recognition and a fine reputation. He was a very fast medium distance runner. He practiced his every skill religiously. And he was one of the finest pistol marksman and “practical” shooters in the unit.
I was an above average marksman, even in Delta where marksmanship is the single highest training priority there. On the weekends, Marshall would take me to the McKellars Lodge, the Rod and Gun Club pistol range at Ft. Bragg, with ammunition from the unit, where he would drill me mercilessly and coach me on the fine points of pistol shooting on the match-quality .45 caliber Colts that were standard issue in the unit. It was not unusual, between shooting on the job, and Marshall’s weekend sessions, for me to fire 2,500 rounds of pistol ammunition a week.
Marshall was single and lived in a trailer. He also had his own personal pistols at home. Marshall went to International Practical Shooting Confederation (IPSC) competitions every chance he got, and he practiced dry firing, quick draw, magazine change, and position changes when he was at home. He also practiced his lock-picking, his climbing, his various surreptitious entry techniques, and he read his OTC manual constantly to stay abreast of his tradecraft and explosives. This was his peculiar intensity. When I first came to the team, he took me aside and told me, “This unit is at war. Never forget that.” He was a former Golden Knight freefall parachutist, and had participated in the failed raid in Iran in 1979.
Marshall was a Texan. I didn’t know it at the time, but he was raised by an emotionally abusive father who set standards for his behavior to which he could never measure up. His mother was also subject to the despotism of the father, and by some accounts never intervened. The army was a place where Marshall could work hard and earn the accolades he’d never received from his father, a place where the rules were clearly spelled out and if you really understood them and didn’t violate them, you wouldn’t get into trouble.
Marshall enjoyed a good practical joke, and would often place Vaseline under doorknobs, turn windshield washer nozzles to squirt people riding on the passenger side of his car, and reach into the shower when your eyes were closed against cascading shampoo and switch off the hot water.
He was always seeking training opportunities. He and I had asked to design a field training exercise, and were riding dirt bikes to look over the training area. We were buzzing over a fire trail, and I had fallen behind him, so I rolled back the accelerator to catch up. When I rounded a turn, Marshall was straddling the bike perpendicular to a deep erosion ditch. For me, it was too late.
My bike dove into the ditch and the front wheel fell short of the far side, launching me over the handlebars to land face-first on the other side. The next thing I remember is looking up at an alarmed Marshall calling my name over and over again. My mouth was full of clay. My neck was throbbing. While I sat up and scooped the clay off my lower teeth, Marshall told me that I landed directly on my face, while the rest of me traveled over my head. He though my neck was broken, and was sure I had been killed. When he had calmed down, he remarked that it was a good thing we did our strength training and that this was what had probably saved my life.
I have had problems ever since with periodic spasms in my neck.
When we were deployed, we would drink. Delta drank a lot. Our punishment for poor marksmanship or errors in training was to buy the Squadron a case of beer. The other favored pastime was marital infidelity, most operators being married men with mortgages. Marshall was not married, didn’t chase women, and when he drank with us, it would be an hour or so at a time, nursing maybe half a beer, whereupon he would quietly retire and leave us to our debaucheries.
There were exceptions, of course, a couple of very religious men, including Jerry Boykin who only recently gained infamy with his claim that Muslim resistance to American imperial ambition is Satanic. Jerry used to try and force the rest of us to attend prayer breakfasts at Delta. But Marshall was most concerned with his physical edge, and seemed quite frankly to be rather shy on the subject of sex.
Sex was everywhere at Delta though. And Delta Force in those days had one of the biggest collections of pornographic videos one could possible imagine.
Oh yes. Delta porn.
One of the most odious tasks in the military is charge of quarters, or staff duty. That’s a rotating duty to have someone awake and by a telephone in every active duty unit in the military, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, fifty-two weeks a year.
At Delta it was no different, and around once every four weeks, one could expect to be put on staff duty. Delta, however, being closed to the public, behind gates with surveillance cameras and buzzers, there was the kind of privacy where the men could keep themselves awake watching pornographic videos, one after another, all night long. The joke around the unit was that the wives were asking why their husbands were always so amorous when they finished staff duty.
I watched it too. By the time people started showing up for work and the videos had to be put away, I was almost numb to the images, having often masturbated four and five times throughout the night just to make the time pass, and with the repetitiousness of the images flowing together into a unity of penetrations and ejaculations. I wasn’t unique in this, not by a far cry.
I have no idea if Marshall watched the porno. I actually doubt it. Marshall was squeamish about the subject of sex. At any rate, our teams were reorganized, and my contact with Marshall became less constant. Marshall had fallen under the thrall of a heterodox doctor at Delta who was experimenting with different performance enhancing diets. Marshall would show up at your table at lunch and point to the sugar jar, saying, “That’s white poison.”
At some point in 1985, Marshall got religion. He’d been hanging out more and more with Lance Fennick, an ex-Ranger who was deeply religious and who attended Boykin’s prayer breakfasts with great enthusiasm. One day, Marshall and I got into an argument when I said, in whatever context it was, that it’s better to tell your daughter about birth control than not. He launched into a tirade about how that was giving them permission to sin, telling me I was on the road to becoming an irresponsible parent.
I was, but in no way having to do with Marshall’s outburst.
Then Marshall got married and drifted out of the unit.
By December of 1986, I was excommunicated in the middle of a corruption purge for allegedly having had sex with a Salvadoran communist woman on Ambassador Edwin Corr’s bed. It wasn’t true, but it became a legend before I was confronted with it, that was confirmed on station by the embassy Security Section Director John Swafford, who also believed the rumor, and who congratulated me two years earlier on my good sense in directing my carnal appetites at the Vice Consul in Guatemala, where both he and I had been together in 1983. The Vice Consul in question, who would later marry the resident CIA agent, was an admirer of fascist dictator Francisco Franco, so that was okay. The story of soiling the presidential representative’s sheets with a communist, however, broke the camel’s back. My career as an elite counter-terrorist came to an end.
When we were tested during Selection, psychologically tested, we were administered a whole battery of diagnostic assistance tests, with names like Thematic Apperception Test, Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory, and the like. The day after the “forty (six) miler,” we were queued up to have a conversation with the unit psychologist. As we understood it, Delta did not want to train a member to become a proficient sniper then learn one day that one of its members was sitting in a public tower picking off random targets like young Charles Whitman did at the University of Texas in Austin in 1966. At that point, I wasn’t questioning what kind of psychologist works for a unit like Delta, or what might be wrong with them. We had a pleasant interview where I intrigued him with my knowledge of Sartre and Camus.
The psychological evaluation didn’t screen out crooks, because almost the whole unit became embroiled in a fraud scheme that threw us into the crisis that contributed to the atmosphere for my expulsion. Apparently it didn’t screen out rapists either.
In 1988, an investigation began when two women were attacked in Raleigh, one at North Carolina State University, apparently by the same man, a stranger, who climbed in through their second story windows, hooded and dressed in black, ordered them to silence with a knife held to their throats, covered their faces, then raped them. During the rapes, he apologized, telling them that he didn’t want to hurt them and that he “had to do this.”
On June 11, 1989 in Cranston, Rhode Island, Marshall Brown was taken into custody and charged with the rapes of two Rhode Island women. These women were raped with the same modus operandi as the North Carolina women. While in custody, Marshall was deferential to the police, calling them by their ranks and observing scrupulous courtesy. Police described him as soft-spoken. He even spoke approvingly of the professionalism of the arrests and complimented one officer for his handcuffing technique. He had been arrested for prowling in Fayetteville, North Carolina, earlier that May. He had forfeited his bond for a dismissal of the charge.
Marshall went to work in jail, studying the patterns of the federal marshals who transported him to and from court, and making friends with a 20-year-old inmate named Frederick Heon. He stayed in shape in jail, using his exercise periods to run.
On July 30, he was cuffed to another prisoner in the back of a federal marshal van and driven to Providence to attend his hearing. When the back door opened, Marshall – who had picked open his handcuffs – walked with the escorting marshal and his fellow inmate for a bit, then sprang past the startled federal marshals and ran like an Olympic athlete up the street and out of sight.
Heon was out on bail and had rented a car, per Marshall’s instructions, and was waiting at an appointed rendezvous point, and drove Marshall to the Connecticut state line. Heon then went to a church where he was told he’d find money, which wasn’t there. Three days later, Marshall was caught in a stolen car and re-arrested. Marshall told the police about Heon’s assistance, and Heon was taken back to jail for a parole violation.
Marshall had burglarized a house 15 miles outside of Providence for food and credit cards, and was camping in a pine grove nearby. He stole the car in the same neighborhood. When back in custody, he admitted to nine rapes in Rhode Island, Texas, Arizona, and North Carolina. Marshall had been attending the Naval version of the Sergeants Major Academy in Norfolk when he was caught the first time.
His wife, Michelle, who was taking care of their young son, was stunned.
I can’t even pretend to understand Marshall Brown, after spending many hours with him and going on one combat operation with him. I have heard the statement that rape is not sex, it is an exercise of power. I don’t buy it. Rape is violent power, but it is sexualized power, and it is also violent sex. Sex in patriarchal society is in almost every case practiced, portrayed, and understood as a form of aggression and power, and all power is in many ways sexualized.
Marshall’s brother-in-law spoke with me many years later and said that Marshall told him that he felt he had to use his skills somehow, or he’d begin to lose them. Marshall saw the rapes as a training opportunity at some level, and therefore the women as training aids.
But there is something that has to be said here. I did a lot of different kinds of training over the years, and I never became aroused by my training aids. I never ejaculated on them. And Marshall, even as he was violating these thoroughly terrified women with a knife held to their throats, and arousing himself to an orgasm in the process, was apologizing and explaining to them, that he “had to do this.”
One might suppose, since he repeated this ritualistic rape at least nine times, that there was some rush he needed. I don’t buy it. He had jumped out of airplanes a thousand times, was a proficient technical climber, had been in combat. I think the rush – if that’s what it was – was transgression. Nancy C. M. Hartsock, in Money, Sex, and Power – Toward a Feminist Historical Materialism, said that “without the boundary to violate, the thrill of transgression would disappear.” Marshall’s criminality was not in spite of his religious conversion, his squeamishness about sex, or his uptight WASP upbringing in East Texas. It was an outcome… of all those things, but also of a masculinity defined by a culture of rape, and a man who had made a career of pursuing that masculinity.
”We live in a culture that condones and celebrates rape,” says bell hooks. Catherine MacKinnon says that “male and female are created through the eroticization of dominance and submission. The man/woman difference and the dominance/submission dynamic define each other. This is the social meaning of sex and the distinctly feminist account of gender inequality.” Robert Jensen says, “Rape is illegal, but the sexual ethic that underlies rape is woven into the fabric of the culture.”
Bob Jensen, for whom I have a great respect, is right on the latter and only half-right on the former. A culture that defines the male as a sexual aggressor, the do-er, the taker, the subject, and the female as the done-to, the receiver, and the object, is a culture that has defined the parameters of rape and normalized them. The only rape that is illegal is the kind that Marshall committed. The definition is narrow, and the bar of legal proof is very, very high.
Rape has to be understood simultaneously as both social and personal, because social control is exercised through individuals, and with individual bodies.
”The defence of injustice in gender relations constantly appeals to difference,” says Robert Connell, in his excellent book Masculinities, “to a masculine/feminine opposition defining one place for female bodies and another place for male. Bu this is never ‘difference’ in a purely logical sense… bodily difference becomes a social reality through body-reflexive practices, in which the social relations of gender are experienced in the body (as sexual arousals and turn-offs, as muscular tensions and posture, as comfort and discomfort) are themselves constituted in bodily action (in sexuality, in sport, in labour, etc.). The social organization of these practices in a patriarchal gender order constitutes difference as dominance, as unavoidably hierarchical. This has been documented in immense detail by two decades of feminist cultural criticism – and it was of course visible long before, to observers of masculinity such as Alfred Adler.
”Difference/dominance means not logical separation but intimate supremacy. It involves immediate social relations as well as broad cultural themes. It can be realized violently in body practices such as rape and domestic assault.”
It is masculinity as institution and ideology that posits a Cartesian duality between Man and the Other (be that other woman, lesser [feminized] man, or nature), and defines masculine practice as conquest.
”There is a surprising degree of consensus that hostility and domination, as opposed to intimacy and physical pleasure, are central to sexual excitement,” writes Nancy Hartsock. ”[T]he mechanisms that construct sexual excitement rest most fundamentally on fetishization and on the dehumanization and objectification of the sexual object. And these are associated with debasement of the object and the construction of mystery, risk, illusion, and a search for revenge.”
Men’s bodies are the most dangerous things on earth.
The law enforcement officers who dealt with Marshall from the time he was arrested remarked how polite he was throughout the whole process, how observant and supportive of social conventions. Implicit in these remarks was the idea that rape – and in this case, serial rape – is aberrant in this society. But rape is not seen as fundamentally aberrant in this society, it is seen as excess, and at time as provoked excess. Hidden within open public discourse about rape is exclusively-male discourse, and in this space rape is routinely portrayed as understandable and even at time desirable.
Socially, rape serves as an extrajudicial instrument of social control. Bell hooks says that “rape of women by men is a ritual that daily perpetuates and maintains sexist oppression and exploitation.” And in the same way, the exercise of male prerogative in rape and the exercise of military prerogative in killing carries with it a transgressive thrill that is in some respect still socially sanctioned. This is the fusion of the subjective experience of desire and violence with the socially instrumental violence of rape.
Inga Muscio, in describing her traumatic and illuminating discovery that her mother was raped at the age of nine, concluded that “rape… viewed merely as a crime… is the fundamental, primal, most destructive way to seize and maintain control in a patriarchal society,” little realizing as she wrote, I’d wager, that a military principle of strategy against an enemy uses exactly the same language: “Seize and maintain the initiative.”
Marshall did not appear abnormal, because he was not abnormal. He was, if anything, hypernormal, as a male, doing his part at whatever cost to preserve social stability.
McKinnon says that this implication that rape is psychopathological serves as a smokescreen by validating the notion that rape is not about sex, because if it is about sex, then sexuality itself comes under review as a construction of power.
”Rape becomes something a rapist does (italics mine), as if he were a separate species. But no personality disorder distinguishes most rapists from normal (italics mine) men.”
Marshall Brown served in a profession with a constant subtext of physical coercion, and in a field within that profession (Delta Force/Special Operations) where we were expected to work outside the rules, behind the scenes, in the shadows, employing a host of very specialized skills, to “preserve a way of life.”
His outrage at my suggestion that my daughter might be given access to reproductive control or her own sexual agency, his affinity for obscurantist ultra-patriarchal religion, his commitment to take profound risks on behalf of maintaining a social order, are all perfectly consistent with the manner in which he carried out these rapes.
With the same aplomb that accompanied his acceptance of collateral damage had the Iranian rescue mission in 1979 that he participated in succeeded (planners conceded that hundreds and probably thousands of Iranian civilians would have been killed had the rescue-mission reached Tehran), Marshall Brown accepted the psychological wreckage that he left scattered around each of his rape victims.
”Rape,” writes Inga Muscio, “makes you wonder if there’s a safe place.” Well, that’s the point, isn’t it?
If you don’t want to be raped by a man, you need the protection of a man. It’s a psychosexual protection racket.
Maria Mies, in Patriarchy and Accumulation on a World Scale, wrote about feminist anti-rape campaigns in Bombay and Delhi, where activists were astonished to discover that as women came to the cities from the countryside – where feminist activists assumed rape was a backward feudal vestige like dowry murders – the frequency of rape exploded, and the fasted growing group of perpetrators was the police. These feminists were slow to associate the increasing number of rapes with the increasing independence and political agency of women. Literally, rape was being used as a means of direct social control by an armed body of the “advanced” state.
This phenomenon need not occur as a socially conscious strategy by the perpetrators. In fact, it is a reaction that should lead us to interrogate the categories of the ‘objective’ and ‘subjective’ in social relations. Objective and subjective are interfused and inextricable, and it is this very interfusion that consolidates both patriarchy and rape as perceived norms.
When Marshall Brown became a serial rapist in 1988 (we think), the institution with which he identified absolutely – the military – was undergoing a series of significant transformations related to gender.
In 1973, when I was taking my first break in service, women constituted 1.6% of the United States armed forces. (”Facts About Women in the Military,” 1980-1990, Women’s Research and Education Institute, Carolyn Beecraft, June 1991) When Marshall and I had participated in the invasion of Grenada in 1983, the follow-on occupation included 170 Army women. The U.S. Naval Academy had a woman graduate first in her class in 1987. By 1989, when Marshall was first arrested, and three years after Lissa Young graduated from West Point as the first Deputy Commander of the Corps of Cadets, that percentage had leapt to 10.8%. Marshall, with his East Texas upbringing, could hardly have missed this, or the fact that 30% of these women were Black. By the time Marshall was arrested, 59% of the Army’s occupational specialties were open to women (That’s not the same as 59% of the positions!). Women were being rated as test pilots. Lissa Young was flying Chinook helicopters.
With this new influx of military women came another dynamic: Fraternization, as the military calls it. Men and women in the military were interacting socially, dating, having sex, and getting married. The male-male and female-female liaisons stayed as much as possible under the official radar. But among these heterosexual relationships, there was a significantly higher number of interracial contact than in the civilian sector. The most frequent combination among those in uniform was Black male/white female.
Marshall was sure to notice that, too. In fact, it was a constant subject of conversation among white male troops, mostly expressing outrage at this Black male “incursion” and white female “betrayal.” Resentment was directed at the Black men, but with lynching not an option, that same furious rage was re-directed at the white women, who were referred to as “zebra-women” and “mudsharks.”
There can be no real discussion of rape if we don’t have the conversation about race.
When Kimberle Crenshaw wrote “Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex,” she noted that a ‘singular focus on rape as a manifestation of male power over female sexuality tends to eclipse the use of rape as a weapon of racial terror,” pointing to Black women’s virtually “unprotected” status. In the same essay describing the mixture of white and male supremacy, she shows how white men attempt “to regulate the sexuality of white women.”
Hegemonic (white) masculinity is profoundly threatened by a perceived inability to control the sexuality of white women, creating what Connell calls “sexual vertigo.” This recombinant mixture of sexual and racial construction that obliges white men to both “control” and “protect white womanhood” is ignited as violence against both women and Black men.
The bogeyman of the potent Black satyr raping the white woman has been paired with virtually every call in the United States for anti-Black pogroms. It is hardly coincidental that assertions of Black social agency have been met with expanded outbreaks of racial terror, and it is likewise not a coincidence that police rapes increased in Bombay when women began organizing politically.
Connell says that “Violence is part of a system of domination, but is at the same time a measure of its imperfection. A thoroughly legitimate hierarchy would have less need to intimidate. The scale of contemporary violence points to crisis tendencies in the modern gender order.”
When Marshall Brown began his career as a serial rapist, there were myriad influences on his target selection. Marshall went through Special Forces training where the sign at Camp Mackall said:
Rule #1: There are no rules.
Rule #2: Obey the first rule.
Marshall was the commando, root world “command,” who follows orders without question within established hierarchies, but is committed to in his role as the colonizer’s paladin, with its admixture of violent conquest and “civilization” to be imposed outside those disciplinary restraints.
People often accuse me of compulsively pushing race into the middle of every discussion. Guilty.
But it’s not race I want to get at. It’s colonization. There is not, as Kimberly Crenshaw called it, an ‘intersection’ between race and gender. These are two lanes in the same road. And race is perceived as a phenotypic or cultural or even biologic category. That’s why we continue to be confused by it. Race and gender are the air, and the land is colonization – a structure made up of physical bodies organized and disciplined into axes of dominator and dominated.
The reason for the impasse in the Civil Rights struggle is that it was never merely a struggle for civil rights. It was an anti-colonial struggle, and when that was forgotten, the movement lost its way. The struggle against patriarchy is also an anti-colonial struggle, and cannot be confined within the narrow confines of a fight for legal equality.
Race and rape foreground the contradictory colonial relations between white and Black and men and women.
[W]hile it was true that the attempt to regulate the sexuality of white women placed unchaste women outside the law’s protection, racism restored a fallen white women’s chastity where the alleged assailant was a Black man. No such restoration was available to Black women… When Black women were raped by white males, they were being raped not as women generally, but as Black women specifically: their femaleness made the sexually vulnerable to racist domination, while their Blackness effectively denied them any [legal] protection. (p.223)
One of the markers of the colonial relation is a separate and unequal system of law and jurisprudence, whether de jure or de facto.
Yet bell hooks points out that even Black men, not recognizing the relationship between the colonization of a people and the colonization of women, embrace the patriarchal colonization of Black women, sometimes as a perverse contention of social agency against racial/national colonialism:
Black males, utterly disenfranchised in almost every arena of life in the United States, often find that the assertion of sexist domination is their only expressive access to the patriarchal power they are told all men should possess as their gendered birthright. Hence, it should not surprise or shock that so many black men support and celebrate “rape culture.” That celebration has found its most powerful contemporary voice in misogynist rap music.
White feminists have frequently seized on this contradiction to lay claim to the loyalties of Black women, with little recognition of the necessity of Black women to struggle against Black men over their patriarchy, while exercising solidarity with Black men against the very national-racial oppression these white feminists have been reluctant to fully acknowledge.
It was the late June Jordan who wrote of rape in her “Poem About My Rights”:
they fucked me over because I was wrong I was
This is a powerful expression of affective clarity about the colonial relation. And as Toni Morrison points out, “The trauma of racism [read: colonization, sexism] is, for the racist and the victim, the severe fragmentation of the self, and has always seemed to me a cause (not a symptom) of psychosis – strangely of no interest in psychiatry.”
It’s interesting to me. How far was I from being Marshall Brown?
In Mab Segrest’s Born to Belonging, she describes a workshop given by Jacqui Alexander in Zimbabwe. In Alexander’s words:
To this process of fragmentation of mind, body, and spirit we gave the name colonization – a set of exploitative practices usually understood in political, ideological, and aesthetic terms. We saw its minute operation in dualistic and hierarchical thinking – divisions among mind, body, spirit; between sacred and secular; male and female; heterosexual and homosexual; rich and poor; the erotic and the Divine. It is a thinking always in negation, often translated into singular explanations for oppression, such as racism versus sexism, with less attention to how these systems work together
Internal colonization leaves us dealing with alienation from the body, from the self – the ‘other’ is in the self. It is the othering of ourselves. So we exist for them, not for ourselves. For some kind of them. It produces love/hate relationship with our oppressors. We want to be sovereign, but don’t let us be too sovereign. Instead of taking out the pain and examining it, we act out of negation. It’s the lateral violence we visit on each other.
The masculinity of Marshall Brown, Delta Force commando and serial rapist, and indeed many men in the military, but especially Special Operations, did not hover in the air as history passed through it in some parallel dimension. It is one symptomatic form of masculinity among many, all in a state of profound disequilibrium that is directly interactive with concrete social processes. It is Western masculinity. It is capitalist masculinity. It is military masculinity. It is southern masculinity. It is religious masculinity. And it is irredentist masculinity, fascist in many respects.
Fanon said that violence breaks the colonial mirror, because the colonizer sees in his victim his own degraded self.
Hegemonic masculinity, and in many respects all masculinity, is somnambulant, dreaming away inside the cold, lightless spaces of the stony, masculinized ego-fortress. If there is a way out, it will require wakefulness. Maybe a touch of that wakefulness was what kept me from going into the terrifying room that Marshall did as he placed a knife to a woman’s throat in her own bed and invaded her shocked and adrenaline-drenched body with his own male body – the most dangerous thing in the world – and made her wonder for the rest of her days if there was a safe place.
The invasion of the penis, the invasion of the lash, the invasion of the bullet. The mirrors are broken to prevent waking.
Wakefulness is a precondition of transformation.
Mab Segrest said , “It is only in the present moment [to which we must be awake] that transformative reconfigurations of self can occur.”
Men have much at stake here. We’d better wake up. We need to look at ourselves in the mirror, and wake the fuck up.
Mab called this somnambulance anesthesia. ”The anesthesia of power.” In what she calls the “metaphysic of genocide: people don’t need to respond to what they can pretend they do not know, and they don’t know what they can’t feel.”
Somewhere between this danse du mort of colonizer-colonized and the disengagement that begins the process of undoing is a dangerous terrain, where in the casting aside of old norms in the absence of new ones, there are no limits.
If total depravity corresponds to total control, anarchy corresponds to the deconstruction of control and depravity. This is the intuition of sexual vertigo.
With the slow death of imperial-frontier masculinity that defined much of Marshall’s irredentism – under assault by gay Boy Scouts and even by consumer culture – a newer, far less stable masculinity is becoming hegemonic, inside and outside the military: the addictive narcissism of American consumer capitalism that, rather than liberate women from internalized oppression, has consigned men to that self-exploiting space with them.
Marx showed how money is the solvent that dissolves the bonds of community and frees the world up for the permanent state of disequilibrium required to allow capital to run away from its own law of value:
The bourgeoisie cannot exist without constantly revolutionizing the instruments of production, and thereby the relations of production, and with them the whole relations of society. Conservation of the old modes of production in unaltered form, was, on the contrary, the first condition of existence for all earlier industrial classes. Constant revolutionizing of production, uninterrupted disturbance of all social conditions, everlasting uncertainty and agitation distinguish the bourgeois epoch from all earlier ones. All fixed, fast frozen relations, with their train of ancient and venerable prejudices and opinions, are swept away, all new-formed ones become antiquated before they can ossify. All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned, and man is at last compelled to face with sober senses his real condition of life and his relations with his kind.
The need of a constantly expanding market for its products chases the bourgeoisie over the entire surface of the globe. It must nestle everywhere, settle everywhere, establish connections everywhere.
The bourgeoisie has, through its exploitation of the world market, given a cosmopolitan character to production and consumption in every country. To the great chagrin of reactionaries, it has drawn from under the feet of industry the national ground on which it stood. All old-established national industries have been destroyed or are daily being destroyed. They are dislodged by new industries, whose introduction becomes a life and death question for all civilized nations, by industries that no longer work up indigenous raw material, but raw material drawn from the remotest zones; industries whose products are consumed, not only at home, but in every quarter of the globe. In place of the old wants, satisfied by the production of the country, we find new wants, requiring for their satisfaction the products of distant lands and climes. In place of the old local and national seclusion and self-sufficiency, we have intercourse in every direction, universal inter-dependence of nations. And as in material, so also i intellectual production. The intellectual creations of individual nations become common property. National one-sidedness and narrow-mindedness become more and more impossible, and from the numerous national and local literatures, there arises a world literature.
The bourgeoisie, by the rapid improvement of all instruments of production, by the immensely facilitated means of communication, draws all, even the most barbarian, nations into civilization. The cheap prices of commodities are the heavy artillery with which it forces the barbarians' intensely obstinate hatred of foreigners to capitulate. It compels all nations, on pain of extinction, to adopt the bourgeois mode of production; it compels them to introduce what it calls civilization into their midst, i.e., to become bourgeois themselves. In one word, it creates a world after its own image.
It is this state of disequilibrium that also dissolves old masculinities/femininities and reformulates new ones, and with it throws the relations between men and women into confusion and disarray. It is this disequilibrium, global, financial, social, and sexual, that has given rise to strategies that have shifted the discourse from the public to the private, from the social to the individual, and allowed those with the most material power to redefine themselves as victims.
Just as the rich have redefined themselves as the victims of the poor, men have shifted the premises to construct themselves as the victims of masculinized women.
This is both a dangerous and creative space, but it is women who bear the greatest risks. It is the duty of revolutionary men, therefore, to conduct a thorough self-examination, then show some solidarity. Not paternal protectiveness. Solidarity.