Anthropologist Underground

Anthropologist Underground
October 13
I'm Terrie Torgersen Peterson. I hold a BA in Anthropology from the University of Wyoming. I've done archeological field work at Haluzta in Israel, San Juan River cliff dwellings in the American Southwest, and in the Big Horn Canyon in Wyoming. I'm currently a writer and stay-home mom to two gorgeous, laughing children. I enjoy exploring the intersection of science and culture and my own life as ethnography. I also write for and You can email me: anthropologistunderground [at] gmail [dot] com.


JUNE 21, 2010 5:10PM

I Can't Stop Talking About Penises

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can't stop talking about penises...  

Sorry.  I was talking to a couple of incredibly smart girlfriends about male infant circumcision, and they both independently brought up another interesting point that I had to pass along.

There has been some disagreement over ways to measure the impact of circumcision on sex for men. This is not a direct measurement of impact, but is it plausible that a patriarchal culture would adopt a practice that would noticeably decrease sexual pleasure for men? Are there matriarchal cultures that have adopted practices that negatively impact female sexual pleasure? 

None that I know of.... Of course there are plenty of patriarchal cultures that have adopted practices that negatively impact female sexual pleasure... which is why I'm really, finally going to talk about FGM next post. 

Meanwhile, Isis the Scientist Set Oculus writing on the Isis the Scientist blog has an awesome post about rape.  She articulates it so well, that I have pasted the bulk of her article and have noting to add:

The latest bit of stupid comes out of South Africa. Being a country located on Earth, it has a huge rape problem. Estimates are that there are around half-a-million rapes yearly in South Africa. Some sources report that a woman in South Africa is more likely to be raped than to learn to read. Rape is a difficult problem, as it forms a basic building block of many cultures. It is a tool used to control women. And it is effective.


And while individual women can certainly try to avoid rape (supposedly), as long as rape is an integral part of culture, the efforts of individual women to stop men from raping them are not likely to make a big change in society. This is largely because rape is not a way for a rapist to get off, but a way for a rapist and the larger culture to control women through violence and intimidation.


That's why this news story out of South Africa is disturbing. A white South African doctor (yes, race matters in S.A.) was saddened by the number of rapes in her country and invented a booby trap for rapists. A woman can insert it in her vagina when she thinks she may be at risk for being raped, and it will grab onto and cause painful damage to a penis and can only be removed by a professional.


I hope, my dear, dear readers, that you can spot some problems with this.


Rape, being a weapon of terror and control, uses unpredictability as one of its tools. How is a women supposed to guess when a man is going to rape her? A woman is always at risk for being raped. Is she supposed to wear this thing all the time? And are rapists idiots? If one of these is deployed, every rapist in South Africa will further traumatize a woman by tearing the thing out before continuing the assault.


And of course, plenty of rapes do not involve vaginal penetration. Are we supposed to put these in our mouths and anuses too?

For those of you who need help understanding the depth of stupidity in this idea, you may want to forget for a moment that rape has anything to do with a man putting his penis in a vagina. It is about a man doing great violence to a woman, and doing it any way he can. And if he injurers his precious unit in the attack, he will just become that much more violent.


And even if this toothy condom prevents a rape, there is a non-zero chance that society will punish a woman for using it. If the man doesn't kill her, his family might. Hell, her own family might just kill her for bringing them shame. And I'm sure the government will pass a law making this horrible crime against rapists a high felony.


This misguided inventor-doctor needs to understand that rape is not simply an individual sexual act between a man and a woman. It is an act of violence done to a woman by society at large, using a violent man as the instrument. As wonderful as it may sound to tear up the guy's cock in return, it just won't work. It will give women a false sense of security, and it once again relieves men and all of society from examining the reasons why rape is so common.

 UPDATE: I just read the comments over on Isis' post.  FFS....

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