Rob Ford's recent comments about Karen Stintz made me think about heterosexuality.
“I'd like to fucking jam her, but she don't want...(laughter)....”
What Ford is saying here is not simply that he is sexually attracted to Karen Stintz and would gladly have sex with her if she consented. In itself, this would be disrespectful and unprofessional. But I’m pretty sure that Ford is not so much expressing his attraction for Karen Stintz, as he is expressing his anger against her. After all, Karen Stintz is a Toronto city councilor and former chair of the Toronto Transit Commission who is now running for Mayor against him. She has fiercely opposed Ford’s views on public transportation. She has verbally attacked him in public. Ford is angry with Stintz, and he expresses that anger by saying that he would like to ‘jam’ her, i.e., have sexual intercourse with her.
Many have objected to Ford’s comments. Some have gone so far as to label his remarks ‘misogynistic.’
I think we can go much further than that.
I must admit that I approach heterosexuality from an odd perspective. I was ostensibly a heterosexual until I was thirty -- that is I had sex exclusively with women even though I wished I was having sex with men. As a kind of ‘lapsed heterosexual,’ I tend to look on heterosexuality the way some people look at homosexuality. In other words, to me, heterosexuality is a cultural oddity, a freakish and contradictory bundle of customs and attitudes. Heterosexuality is something that I constantly turn over and over in my head, examining it in different lights, with the (perhaps) doomed hope of someday figuring it all out.
In this case, I am shocked and appalled by Rob Ford’s remarks because they seem to find their origins in the very heart of rape culture.
Like Rob Ford, I am a privileged, somewhat overweight, middle-aged white male, who is often attacked (verbally and in print) by others. And in my case, those people are sometimes men -- men who I may, or may not, be sexually attracted to. But never in my wildest dream would it occur to me to express my anger at those men by ‘jamming’ them.
Now I am certainly no saint. In fact I am not one of those who necessarily connects the act of sex with love, or even with affection. For me, sex is primarily about physical desire. Nevertheless the idea of using sex as a way to do violence against another human being is, to me, completely alien.
I’m not saying I don’t understand ‘s/m’ or the various violent aspects of consensual sex (bite me on the ear, honey!). Sex is, I think quite naturally related to violence. What I’m talking about is one person doing unwanted, unexpected violence to another through the act of sex (i.e., rape).
I don’t think that Ford’s comments are isolated, unusual, or simply vaguely misogynistic.
Notice that after the remarks in the transcript there is one word: ‘laughter.’ It seems that some of the other men in the room with Ford found his quip humourous. Indeed, I would suggest that there are some men who -- seeing the Ford quotation on the news -- might have gotten a good laugh out of it too.
Why does this happen? Why does the idea of using sex to hurt a woman something that many heterosexual men respond to with a chuckle of recognition? Why do some straight men think that the way to get back at a woman is to ‘jam’ her – and that ‘jamming’ is something like ‘hitting’? Is this sentiment hard wired into male bodies, or is it something learned culturally? And how can we stop it?
It strikes me that humans are quite naturally not the calm sensible rational beings Enlightenment philosophers imagined us to be, but unthinking passionate animals. Thus, the urge that many men have to use sex to hurt women is simply a manifestation of ancient ‘survival of the fittest’ hardwiring, i.e., the notion that those who are physically bigger and stronger are better and have the right to kill, maim and devour the weak.
If my theory is correct and human beings are hardwired like this, it might make sense to think about how we could re-educate heterosexual men so that they might learn that sex should not be used as a way to hurt someone.
And we might start with Rob Ford.