Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Do All Men Have an "Inner Rapist"?

I like parts work, the idea that we have many selves lurking in our psyches, some conscious, some not so much. One idea that has been discussed in the Robert Masters pod at Gaiam is that all men have an "inner rapist," a part that is ultimately so primitive that all it wants to do is "take" sex from women (or others) any way it can.

I don't think this is true for many varied and complex reasons -- and, fortunately, either does Robert Masters. Here is the question and his very useful response (thanks to Michael for parsing out the question from the original discussion linked to above):

Michael asked on Dec. 1, 2008:

Arthur, I read that you took this thread out of the ”ASK ROBERT” and have it listed under ”Doing the Work”. I would still appreciate hearing from Robert on this though as I believe it to be a very worthy topic of understanding for us all as we do our work. I don't know how he views this and don't recall him ever using the term “inner rapist” in my work with him, whether individual or in group.

I am concerned that this “shadow” is being coined by some as being something that all men have (ie: since the cavemen days) and perhaps need to connect with if they are to become men who can truly tap into becoming men who live and exemplify true intimacy, passion and wholeness (ie: and thereby get a handle on their caveman impulses). I think that there are other ways to do this and I also believe that not all men, nor their minds, are the same… and hence not all of their shadows, nor the intensities of their inner urges are the same either. Not all men have the same extremes of sexual energies or imaginations as those that have been expressed here.

So, does the integral movement assume that all men are the same in this, even to the same degrees and extremes? Can things be so simplist so as to discount human uniqueness even in matters of sexuality and the extreme expressions of rape, whether the manifestation is inward or outward?

My initial question to Robert is simply:

With the “inner rapist” concept being used in integral healing circles, is there a danger of trivializing rape?

I hope Robert would be willing to reply to this question and to the other two I voiced above. I deeply respect him and would appreciate it if he could take the time to respond. I am not aware of his views on this matter and I value this input. Perhaps this could help clarify some of the debate for us all.

Robert Augustus Masters answers:

Do we all have an inner child? Yes. Do we all have an inner rapist? No. Let me explain…

One of my key teachings is to cultivate intimacy with all that is, excluding nothing from our being. Such radical inclusion is not a mental game or philosophical position, but rather a great challenge that we at some point must take on fully if we are to truly heal and awaken. Implicit in this is an ever-deepening compassion, however fierce, for all that is, felt right to our core. But to be intimate with it all, however, is not to be overrun or possessed by it all! We can authentically say about anything “That too am I” without actually possessing its particular traits and qualities; we can relate, and relate quite intimately, to such traits and qualities, even though we don’t have them.

So it is crucial that we not confuse the inclusion of something with actually HAVING that particular something. We may include it all, but we do not have it all! For example, we can include in our being (or expand our being to include) those with eating disorders, but we may never have had an eating disorder, and will very likely not have one due to our inclusion. And yet we can still be intimate with those suffering from an eating disorder, if we will but take them into our heart.

So do we all have an inner rapist? No. When we are ready to do so, we can include the rapist in our being (as revered Buddhist elder Thich Nhat Hanh does with the child-raping sea pirate in his famous poem “Call Me By My True Names”) without having that one manifest or exist as an actual part of us. Its presence is not that of a piece of our psyche, but that of a endarkened guest whose heart does not yet see.

Expanding the circle of my being to include another thus does not mean that I then HAVE all of the qualities and capacities that characterize that one. That is, including you in my being does not give me your traits! I may cultivate considerable intimacy with your traits, but they still do not necessarily become mine. Even if I nonconceptually recognize myself as including you to the point of even being you, I am nonetheless still individuated, with my own unique traits and capacities.

Some might claim that we all have an inner rapist, but do they actually EXPERIENCE having an inner rapist, or do they simply believe this to be so, because of a misreading of the radical truth that we each, as we truly are, include everything? Those who are merely adopting a theoretical position regarding us all having an inner rapist or inner whatever are overlooking something very basic — our individuality.

Again, including something in ourselves does not necessarily mean HAVING it in ourselves. I fully include Diane in myself — and even as myself — so I am quite intimate with, for example, her great passion for gardening, but I do not HAVE this passion; I like aspects of gardening, but I am definitely not passionate about gardening. It’s just not in me.

Being intimate with each other’s differences does not mean HAVING each other’s differences! If we all possessed each other’s differences, there would be no individuality, no relationship.

Some men who deny having an inner rapist may in fact have one, well-hidden or not, but other men who deny having an inner rapist do so because they simply don’t have one. A man who has never fantasized about rape, never considered it, never felt aroused watching it in a film or in pornographic depiction, very likely does not have an inner rapist, and to categorically state that he must indeed have an inner rapist demonstrates a misunderstanding of our true nature.

Every man has the ingredients for rape — the capacities for violence, dehumanization, sexual arousal — but not every man has the critical mix of these that constitutes the desire to rape.

It’s important here to remember that there ARE universals with regard to our interiority, such as the “inner child.” Everyone was once a child, so everyone carries a child-side in their psyche, which, given the right conditions, shows up in our behavior, regardless of our age. Another universal is the capacity for force, along with the capacity to misuse that force. We all also have a capacity to dehumanize others. It may not be easy to admit that we have a capacity for violence, but under certain conditions it shows up; just about every parent knows this when they imagine walking in on their child being brutalized by a sadistic rapist, and without a thought killing that person if necessary to save their child. But this violence, this entirely understandable violence, is not necessarily itself depraved, sadistic, or otherwise aberrated. I would classify it as what the Dalai Lama calls “virtuous violence.”

But when our capacities for violence, dehumanization, and sexual arousal get sufficiently intertwined and and are allowed to pornographically reinforce each other, we have entered the domain of rape, whether we act it out or not. If the thought or depiction of rape turns us on, we need to do more than just acknowledge that we have an inner rapist, for the very energy and attention we put into it places us, however mildly, on a continuum with actual rapists.

For those who still insist that we all have an inner rapist, I suggest they take a more than just intellectual look at what rape actually is, letting themselves unguardedly feel it, from both the perspective of the rapist and the victim. If this doesn’t get them out of their head, then I suggest that they take a similar look at the darkest extremes of rape, letting themselves feel it, again from both perspectives. BE that little child being brutally raped, and then see what happens to your facile theorizing about us all having an inner rapist.

So we include it all, but in different ways, each of us having our own unique set of traits, even as we cultivate intimacy not just with our own traits, but also with our collective traits. I may include the junkie in my being, but this does not necessarily mean that I therefore have an inner junkie! Intimacy with the junkie does not mean fusion with that one, but rather a relational closeness that permits as much clear focus as compassion. Turning toward the junkie does not mean that we approve of or condone that one’s behavior, but that we are refusing to exclude that one from our being. Such inclusion does not mean an abandoning or collapsing of our personal boundaries, but rather a discerning expansion of them.

You ask: With the “inner rapist” concept being used in integral healing circles, is there a danger of trivializing rape?


It’s also important to only use the term “inner rapist” for those who actually have some sort of desire to rape, and to also know what we are speaking of when we use the word “rape.” Using the word “rape” to describe activities other than actual rape lessens the impact that such violation should have on us, straying dangerously close to normalizing it.

You also ask: So, does the integral movement assume that all men are the same in this, even to the same degrees and extremes? Can things be so simplist so as to discount human uniqueness even in matters of sexuality and the extreme expressions of rape, whether the manifestation is inward or outward?

I don’t know about “the integral movement” (which is far from a single entity!), but I do not assume that all men are the same in this, as described earlier. A mature man does not have an inner rapist (and this is also true of some immature men). He has within himself the ingredients for rape, but no mixing bowl or beaters or baking pan for them. At the same time, he knowingly includes in himself every sort of man, holding them all with resolute compassion, allowing none to assume the throne of self other than his true nature. - Robert Augustus Masters


Booster said...

Deep and dark... A lot of judgement interwoven here too. Let's not forget that the depth of our exploration depends greatly on our ability to drop our opinions. We cannot not absolve our accountibility, but when exploring dark places we must be extra careful not to scare off the inner observer with judgements.

Robert's post is highly nuanced, he distinguishes the "ingredients" for rape from the desire for rape based on whether or not empathy is present. Empathy is not always present in the best of men, so if empathy is impermanent, it follows that all men have inner rapists, to some degree, some of the time.

But I strongly agree with his point on making a distinction between intellectually reflecting on rape and actually embodying it. Fantasy is disconnected from the much of fuller self that is present in reality. When confronted with violence first hand, our reaction is likely to be quite different.

Before those of us confident in our "non-rapist" selves get too comfortable, let us also remember the definition of rape is broader than the acts of deranged sadists. Anytime you manipulate, force, or sequester someone into sexual compliance it's rape. One could argue that getting a woman drunk so that she sleeps with you, even qualifies. Whenever a connection lacks empathy, it's not really a connection, and therefore it's control to some degree. It's tricky.

Anonymous said...

In college I heard Elie Wiesel and Maya Angelou speak. One key point they made was that "if one of my fellow human beings has the capacity to commit an act of murder, then so too do I have that capacity." I believe this to be true. However, I do not believe then that all men have inner rapists. Booster states that because empathy is not always present, which is quite true, then all men must have inner rapists. That is an error in logical thinking (Although I can't remember the term). Just because one may not like a person doesn't mean one would murder that person.

To say that because we are human we all have similar capacities for emotions, thoughts, and actions does not mean that we all have those traits. Not all children are good at sports, yet all can play sports. Nor does it mean that we all carry the same shadows.