Discussing Sexuality and Sexual Violence, A Follow Up

A recent Jezebel article has encouraged me to write a follow up post to my earlier post, Discussing Sexuality and Sexual Violence.  Rather than sharing my own opinions, some of which which are still developing and will be discussed in future blog posts, I want to share two ideas on the topic that I have appreciated hearing.

(1) Dr. Donna Zuckerberg’s Jezebel article–“How to Teach an Ancient Rape Joke“–discusses the difficulty of talking about rape in college campuses and advocates for confronting the issue, and other difficult issues, and acknowledging that they make us uncomfortable.  The article’s main idea is best summarized by the last two paragraphs:

In other words, Euripides’ rape joke works for me. Comedy reveals a society’s concerns. I almost wish we were at a place where our comedians could make complicated, intelligent, funny jokes about college boys raping drunk girls—but that would require a much fuller, clearer acceptance of the dimensions of the problem. Whether rape is a real problem on college campuses is, to many, a question that still hangs in doubt.

But it’s not to me, and it’s not to many of my students. And so I decided to teach the rape joke exactly as I’d encountered it: something that I knew was potentially difficult and painful, but was more important because of it—more likely to give us insight into the ancient world, and into ourselves.

Dr. Zuckerberg, as I read the article, encourages professors to provide historical and cultural context for such jokes rather than brush them aside as “that’s just the Greeks” or the like.  She also seems to want educators to confront the question “What is the rape doing for this text? for this historical narrative? for this event? for this culture?”  In her example–a rape in Euripides’ satyr-play the Cyclops–she views it as a critique of, and possible attack on, Athenian pederasty and its connections with the symposium.  In the example from my earlier post–the rape of Lucretia–we could see the rape of Lucretia as an attack on L. Tarquinius Collatinus’s rights and family, we could see it as an excuse for revolution; we could see her suicide as victim-blaming, guilt of the victim, and/or a convenient plot device to remove a woman from any historical prominence in the fall of the Roman Monarchy.  Once we, as teachers, have determined how best to interpret the text (or the various possible “best” interpretations), we go armed with these interpretations (and sensitivity and awareness about modern social issues) to class and share the ideas to confront the topic.

(2) A discussion on facebook about this topic contained this valuable suggestion: remind or tell students about resources that they might have as victims of sexual assault, rape, and/or domestic violence.  What legal or counseling is available for the victims?  These will differ based on your school. county, and state.

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