'Taking Without Permission'

Rape has always been a crime on the statute books, but historically it has been considered damage of another man's property, of his daughter, of his sister, of his wife. Even now, the rape of a daughter is 'taking her without permission.'

On several of the television and radio broadcasts that covered Moshe Katsav's incarceration, his supporters were asked a question that is directed time and again at men: "What if it were your daughter?"

This question is asked only in the context of sexual assault. In the case of murder or even theft, there's no need to ask anyone to imagine that it happened to their daughter for them to be able to identify with or understand it.

Also, the question asked is not "what if it had happened to you?" After all, men also experience humiliation and exploitation by others who possess power. Men, too, can find themselves in a situation of helplessness toward someone on whose livelihood they depend. Why should they not be able to identify with the distress of a worker who has been humiliated and exploited by sexual acts carried out against her will?

This is part of the way in which patriarchal culture maintains its control. This culture distinguishes between "men" and "women" in the different meaning it gives to sex and sexuality for each gender. This distinction says the man is active and the woman passive - he wants sex and takes it, conquers the woman, while she gives sex, consensually or not. Despite the fact that men are also victimized sexually and that men also experience violations of their bodily space and harms their autonomy, this distinction defines only the woman as the one who is penetrated. Even though physically men can also be penetrated, the man in our culture is preserved as the penetrator and not the penetratee.

And so when a man is asked "what if it were your daughter?" he is not being invited to identify with the pain of the victim; he is being invited to feel fury for the harm that was done to "his" woman. Men still want to kill the men with whom their daughters have sexual relations - with the more enlightened among them it's "just a joke," of course; the less enlightened ones still do it every so often.

The cultural perception according to which sex "violates" the woman has not changed fundamentally, and neither has the patronizing and possessive concern of men for their daughters. Men are not concerned about their sons when they begin to have sexual relations. On the contrary, they are even proud of them. Men do not check out the girls with whom their sons go out, and they most certainly do not forbid them from doing so. They may be concerned about their sons getting into a fight in a bar or being injured through reckless driving, but definitely not from sexual relations. That is to say, not from sexual relations with girls - sexual relations with boys still prompts harsh responses from even the most progressive of men toward their unmasculine, penetrated sons.

Rape has always been a crime on the statute books, but historically it has been considered damage of another man's property - of his daughter, of his sister, of his wife. Even now, a man "gives away" his daughter to a man whom he endorses; the rape of a daughter is "taking her without permission."

The fact that most sexual harm occurs within the family, by a father, older brother or uncle, illustrates the fact that the bodies of wives and daughters are still owned and possessed by men. The question "what if it were your daughter?" proves that women's sex and sexuality are the discourse of men and arrangements between men, the owners of the property.

The different meaning that culture attaches to feminine and masculine sex and sexuality is one of the foundations of inequality between women and men. Now, when Western society is internalizing the phenomenon of sexual assault, the time has come to fundamentally change the sexualized division of roles - to understand that there is no equality without women being the sole owners of their bodies and their sexuality.