Saturday, March 30, 2013

Raped By Her Dream

The Rape

Edgar Degas (1869)

In the Oscar nominated documentary, The Invisible War, by Filmmaker Kirby Dick, Kori Cioca (U.S. Coast Guard), Jessica Hinves (U.S. Air Force), Robin Lynne LaFayette (U.S. Air Force), Lt. Ariana Klay (U.S. Marine Corps, Marine Barracks Washington), Trina McDonald, (U.S. Navy) Lt. Elle Helmer (U.S. Marines Corp, Marine Barracks Washington), Hannah Sewell (U.S. Navy) talk about their dream to join the United States military for many different reasons: wanting to be the best they could be, wanting to be a part of something bigger, wanting to see the world, or wanting to continue a long family tradition of military, which for one woman, Lt. Elle Helmer, went all the way back to the Revolutionary War. All of the women expressed noble reasons for serving their country.
Kori Cioca said she would have repeated basic training over and over because she just loved it. Each woman echoed how much the experience of training meant to them: comaradie is mentioned, challenge, discipline, professionalism, doing the job well, kudos from officers, awards, leaderships positions, achieving great physical and mental prowess, keeping up with the guys and working just as hard as they did, all these accomplishments were exciting to the female recruits who looked forward to their service with eagerness.
And then – reality. 
Stationed in Alaska with ten men, Trina McDonald was the only woman. Trina was raped repeatedly. She said she felt “like a piece of meat on a slab.” Kori Cioca was raped by her so-called “superior.” Her jaw was so damaged in the attack that now she cannot open her mouth to chew. She must eat only soft foods. She cannot go outside in winter without her jaw seizing up in the cold. The other women have similar stories. Hannah Sewell was a virgin before her attack. Her back was injured during the rape and now she has trouble walking. Walking. Lee Le Teff (U.S. Army) had a loaded gun put to her head. One woman (U.S. Army Medical Corps) contracted two STD’s and became pregnant from her rape. Two were accused of adultery, though neither woman was married – their rapists were. (This struck me as very Victorian, reminding me of another film, The Crimson Petal and The White, in which a governess is given her marching papers for getting pregnant with her employer’s child.) In The Invisible War, only one man spoke of being raped, but more men are raped in the military than women.
According to the film, the estimated number of women who have been sexually assaulted in the military is 500,000.
Soldiers might expect to be raped by the enemy if captured during combat, but they do NOT expect to be raped by their fellow soldiers, by their friends, by their commanders - or by their dream.
Harsh reality –
The estimated number is 500,000 - 80% do not report because of the extreme retaliation that comes with reporting.
Rapists are being protected, not victims. A Steubenville Rape Culture prevails. Across every branch of the military, victims are told to be quiet by military officials whom they approach to help them prosecute the crimes against them. Commanders are reluctant to report a rape in their section because they will be seen as unable to command, and they will be reprimanded and fail to advance in their careers. Some of the rapists mentioned in the film were decorated and promoted – let’s be clear, not for rape, but for other wonderful, macho achievements, I’m sure. Rape victims who wanted to report, meanwhile, were told that if they wished to file a report, they could lose their rank.  According to the film, “In units where sexual harassment is tolerated, incidents of rape TRIPLE.”
In the film, Atty. Susan Burke said. “What we hear again and again from soldiers who have been raped is that as bad as it was being raped, what was as bad, if not worse, was to receive professional retaliation in their chosen career, merely because they were raped.”
In other words, raped by their dream.
Brigadier General Loree Sutton went on to say, “Losing even one soldier needlessly because of military sexual trauma is one too many.” All of the women in the film said they would never allow their daughters to join the military, and if that is the goal of the military to get rid of women then why are the rapists also raping men?
Who do you want in your military? Rapists? Or good soldiers? Aren’t we losing good soldiers when men and women must leave the service because of injuries incurred during rape? What happened to nobility? True nobility. Nobility of heart, mind and body.
Apparently, rapists are also JOINING the armed forces. Again, according to The Invisible War, a recent Navy study found that 15% of incoming recruits attempted or committed rape before entering the military, twice the percentage of the equivalent civilian population. Psychiatrist Brigadier General Loree Sutton (Ret. U.S. Army) said in the film, “Particularly for a savvy perpetrator, to work within a relatively closed system like the military, it becomes a prime target-rich environment for a predator.” These rapists, when they leave the military, go on to commit rape in our communities, because rape is a crime that is repeated until the rapist is caught.
Who do you want in your military? Are criminal rapists good soldiers?
According to The Invisible War, in 2011, the court ruled rape to be an occupational hazard of military service. How about getting rapists OUT OF THE MILITARY?
Does the U.S. military considered rape victims to be weak? If rape victims are supposed to suck it up, then why don’t male soldiers just suck up their erections in the first place? If they have so little control, how can they call themselves soldiers? If all that aggression is supposed to be perpetrated on the enemy, then, why are they raping fellow soldiers? (Not that I agree with raping the enemy. I don’t. I think it’s beneath us. Again, nobility.) Hence, the title of the film, The Invisible War: we are at war with ourselves. Conduct unbecoming.
What does a soldier do if the military is his dream and he is raped by his dream?  What does a soldier do when the country he believes in rapes him? The men and women who told their stories in The Invisible War, now must pick up the pieces of their lives and re-invent themselves. Men and women who were devoted to serving their country in the armed services, now must find another way to serve their country and the American ideals they still have. Many have, but many are still so damaged physically and mentally that they are forced to relive the nightmare before they can heal and go forward with their lives.
Cut to civilian life -
In a 2004 New York Magazine story, Naomi Wolf describes having been sexually propositioned by her Yale thesis professor, Harold Bloom in 1983. Apparently, Bloom put his hand on her thigh and told her that she was lovely. After Naomi threw up (Have you seen Harold Bloom?), he changed his tune and told her, according to Wolf, that she was a “deeply troubled girl.” Naomi was advised to get her degree and wait to expose him. She did. If she hadn’t waited, perhaps she would have lost all that she had achieved in her field, and been raped by her dream as well. Naomi said she finally had to come forward because male entitlement at Yale still predominated the campus among professors, who considered approaching female students to be a “perk” and among the male students themselves, as in the “No Means Yes, Yes Means Anal” chant of a certain Yale fraternity. Of course, an advance is not a rape, but it is if your dream is held hostage.
            Oh, I know I’m being naïve. I know, for instance, that Marilyn Monroe was “passed around” and that “she understood this.” I know that the Catholic Church knew forever about the child rapes and took them as a matter of course. Of course. In the grand Roman tradition – Caligula’s uncle, who raised him, used to throw little slave boys over the cliff when he was done with them. I’m sure none of those slaves ever dreamt of being sex slaves, but what about all the altar boys who once believed in something? All the Catholic children – and their parents - who once believed their priest was the representative of God on earth?
            Recently, The Daily Beast reported a story on scandal at the Bolshoi Ballet. Ballerinas were being coerced into having sex with some of the wealthy and powerful men of Moscow and Paris. The Bolshoi story reminded me of Degas’ ballet dancers. When Degas painted the hall of the new Paris Opera House, he was painting a beautiful baroque hallway of chandeliers and sparkling gold scrollwork peopled by men in evening dress and female ballet dancers (nicknamed “petit rats”), a hall created for this sole purpose – for wealthy men to view the ballerinas and choose from them.

Edgar Degas (1878)

            I guess I’m naïve. I’m told that theaters will always depend on wealthy patrons and that the rich will always be able to buy almost anything they want. The petit rats in Degas’ time came from poor families who could not protect them. The ballerinas of the Bolshoi who are coerced are usually chosen from the lower ranks because they are the most vulnerable to losing their positions. Will being able to dance superbly the life-demanding discipline of ballet ever be enough? Ballerinas of the BOLSHOI raped by their dream? Am I really being naïve? I guess so. I’m told that rich “patrons” mean as much to the ballerinas, who cannot dance forever, as they do to the theater. In fact, securing a rich patron can ensure a ballerina’s success. I’m told the ballerinas brag about their expensive gifts. Sounds like Stockholm Sydrome. When will dancing superbly be enough?
            May 31, 2015 UPDATE: Something I, as a victim, have always wondered about, now answered by Director Amy Berg's film, "An Open Secret" - Hollywood's secret sexual abuse of child stars.
            Recently, I saw the film Young Abe Lincoln, which portrayed Lincoln's early years as a lawyer, and yes, it was fictionalized. Sure, it was melodramatic and sentimental. I wasn’t in the mood for a black and white oldie, but I found myself drawn in by the characters, the nobility of them. Maybe I’m naïve. I’ve always been drawn to Lincoln’s self-education, which I believe in and I have done. I’m drawn to the simplicity of his life. How he was really very shy and quiet, but was encouraged all the time by the needs of the community to get up and speak, to take a leadership role. I found myself laughing outrageously in some places, and sobbing in others. Particularly at the very end, when young Abe, reluctant once again to take the mic, walked up to the podium and morphed into the statue of himself in Washington. He’s still there.

What would you do in his presence? Would you rape your fellow soldier? I’m pretty sure Lincoln could have watched and appreciated a ballet without trying to get a little from the exquisite ballerinas. I'm sure he could have enjoyed a TV show without fantasizing about the child star. Maybe I’m just naïve.

©Patricia Goodwin 2013
Patricia Goodwin is the author of When Two Women Die, about Marblehead legends and true crime and its sequel, Dreamwater, about the Salem witch trials and the vicious 11-year-old pirate Ned Low. Holy Days is her third novel, about the sexual, psychological seduction of Gloria Wisher and her subsequent transformation. Her newest poetry books are Telling Time By Apples, And Other Poems About Life On The Remnants of Olde Humphrey Farme, illustrated by the author, and Java Love: Poems of a Coffeehouse.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Upon This Rock, The Vatican Comedian and The Pope's Erotic Bathroom

The Denial of St. Peter by Caravaggio (1610)

I was a little girl in Sunday school, a faithful and devout Catholic, when I first heard that one of the apostles, St. Peter, out of fear of being arrested, had denied knowing Jesus Christ, not once, not twice, but three times on the night of the crucifixion.
Like a little kid, I vowed that I would never deny Christ. I did wonder what Jesus was talking about when he declared, “Thou art Peter and upon this rock I shall build my church.”
Some rock, the little kid thought to herself. Pretty shaky foundation.

Quo Vadis by Annibale Carracci (1602)
Another story about St. Peter illustrates his human frailty. Peter was fleeing Rome out of fear of being crucified, when he passed Jesus on the road. “Quo vadis?” Peter asked the Lord. “Where are you going?” Jesus answered, “I am going to Rome to be crucified again.” This vision apparently gave Peter renewed courage to face his martyrdom. He returned to Rome where he begged to be crucified upside down, as he felt he was not worthy to be crucified the same way Jesus had been.
This upside-down position has always troubled me, because I know that Satan does everything in reverse.

The Apparition of St. Peter to St. Peter of Nolasco by Francisco de Zurbaran (1629)

Then, as I grew older and heard about popes having children, I began to think maybe Jesus was being ironic when he called Peter a rock. Holding up the Sarcasm Sign, as it were. I did hear that he had had an odd sense of humor. Where I heard that, I couldn’t say, just fell on my ears one day, and I was listening. I’m always listening. Maybe Jesus was saying that the Catholic Church was a lot like Peter. Rocky. Leaving it for us to decide.
Of course, when the white smoke appeared on the night of March 13, the square at St. Peter’s was, as usual, filled with thousands of papal devotees who had decided. The faithful. Will they always be there? How long before they catch on?
One doesn’t need to single out this pope. He is a figurehead, a representative of the Catholic Church, which has not changed much. “Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.” St. Malachy and Nostradamus both predicted this pope to be the final pope. Of course Pope Francis is against all the things the Catholic Church is against: women, gays, gay marriage, abortion, women in the church, divorce, sex outside of marriage, contraception, unwed mothers, single mothers, illegitimate children (though Jesus was technically illegitimate and Mary a single mother until Joseph married her) and much more. Here are a few things the Catholic Church has not come out against – war, sex slavery, artificial foods, GMOs, pollution, poverty, fracking - let’s stop there. I don’t want to fill up this post with sins of omission.
I want to talk about the Vatican comedian, Cardinal Bibbiena.
While I was researching the sexual morés of the late 17th Century for the sequel to When Two Women Die, (soon to be released), I was surprised to find out many things that shocked and amazed me about sex in the late 17th Century. Yes, the sequel will be shocking and amazing. But, in my research, I also found, in a book entitled The Sinner’s Grand Tour by Tony Perrottet, a chapter called, “The Pope’s Pornographic Bathroom.”
Let’s be clear, not This Pope. I’m not sure if this bathroom is still in use, but in 1516 it was commissioned from none other than Raphael by the Vatican comedian, Cardinal Bibbiena.
Oh, yes, Cardinal Bibbiena was a comedy writer who penned La Calandra, a baudy romp if ever there was one, a play of sophisticated wit complete with cross-dressing, love triangle, and mistaken identities. The main character, Calandro was borrowed from Boccaccio’s Decameron, itself a sexy romp. The current rumors of cross-dressing priests carousing in Rome echo those celebrated in this play. Why would a play about sexual debauchery ever be performed at the Vatican?
The play was performed for Pope Leo X (born Giovanni di Lorenzo de' Medici) who was also Pope at the time the bathroom was painted. Leo, Raphael, and Cardinal B. were all fast friends who hung out together and supported each other’s work. Cardinal B. asked Raphael to paint the bathroom according to the adventures of Venus and Cupid, on the top floor of the Papal Apartments, (a place for bathing, toilet being separate) which he did, with graphic pagan scenes of satyrs and nymphs. Why pagan? The pagan element of this bathroom fascinates me. Why not humans? Is it because only pagans indulge in debauchery at the Vatican, never humans? I think the Church could just up and surprise us one day and say they are really pagans!
Why does someone who took a vow of chastity need or want a pornographic bathroom? Ahem.
Very few people have actually seen this bathroom. In 1536, a German scholar, Johannes Fichaud viewed the room and wrote about a bronze female nude that poured hot water into the tub. In one of the frescoes described by Perrottet, the half-goat god Pan displays a huge erection as he sneaks up on a nymph who is, appropriately, bathing. The models for the bathroom art came, as Perrottet describes, “from the underground.”  Holding a torch, Raphael was actually lowered by rope into the catacombs of Emperor Nero’s Golden Palace in Rome. What Raphael witnessed there and reinterpreted for the walls of the bathroom inspired a trend for erotica in the grotesque style, which meant at the time, “from the grotto.”  (Raphael’s students created copies of the master’s original drawings and distributed these around Rome.)
(It must be noted here that both Raphael and Cardinal B. died under mysterious circumstances soon after the bathroom was finished– Raphael succumbed to his own excesses after an orgy and Cardinal B was poisoned – according to rumor.)
Pope Leo X was known to have said, "Since God has given us the Papacy, let us enjoy it."  He liked to party and was known to lead an elaborate parade through Rome, featuring panthers and clowns, riding his pet white elephant, Hanno.

Hanno by Raphael 

None of this debauchery concerns me really. I don’t care if they all dance naked on the dome. Except for the glaring white elephant in the room.
Hypocrisy.  Millions of faithful and devout Catholics suffer. Until 2010, when the Church finally said it was okay to use a condom to prevent disease, devout Catholics lay awake worried that they had committed a sin by using a condom in the marriage bed. Meanwhile their trusted parish priest was raping their children.
Not to mention The Holy Inquisition, which lasted from the 12th Century in France to 19th Century in Rome wherein thousands of people were tortured and killed in hideous ways, for heresy, which included all crimes, from disagreeing with your husband for which you could get to wear The Branks to being a werewolf, which got you any number of devices from The Breast Ripper to The Wheel. The tortures of the Inquisition would make waterboarding feel like the waterslide at Atlantis. Officials charged money to their victims for the use of these devices, also other torture fees, including paying for the officials’ dinner feast that followed. Torture worked up quite an appetite.
The Inquisition is, thankfully, over. But, the hypocrisy continues. No one in the Vatican has properly taken responsibility for righting the wrongs of the child-abuse scandals. And, no one stands up for the poor, not really. The Vatican Bank is still one of the largest and wealthiest banks in the world. Many good works are done by the Catholic charities, but think about how much suffering the Catholic Church could alleviate with its billions of dollars – possibly all of poverty – if it wanted to.  Jesus said, “The poor will always be with us.” But, we know now from a recent OxFam report that profits from  the world’s millionaires can eradicate world poverty, not once, not twice, or three times, but  four times over in one clean sweep. Kind of makes up for St. Peter's denial.
Maybe Jesus wanted us to surprise him.
Meanwhile, more and more scandals seem to pour out of the Vatican itself, from bankers to butlers to juntas to cross-dressing romps in secret brothels.
Would anyone care about their having wild, weird adult consensual sex if they were honest about not being celibate and told Catholics to also have sex freely? If they were kind and compassionate? If they were generous with their money? If they were truly helping people? If they were not raping children?
What if the Catholic Church truly walked in the footsteps of Jesus? Can you see Jesus kissing a jeweled ring? The one and only time Jesus got angry was at the moneylenders in the temple.
There’s a white elephant in the room. 

©Patricia Goodwin, 2013

Patricia Goodwin is the author of When Two Women Die, about Marblehead legends and true crime and its sequel, Dreamwater, about the Salem witch trials and the vicious 11-year-old pirate Ned Low. Holy Days is her third novel, about the sexual, psychological seduction of Gloria Wisher and her subsequent transformation. Her newest poetry books are Telling Time By Apples, And Other Poems About Life On The Remnants of Olde Humphrey Farme, illustrated by the author, and Java Love: Poems of a Coffeehouse.