Star Trek and the Culture of Rape

Shocking news out of India. Remember the brutal torture and gang rape on a bus of a 23-year old student in 2012? She died of her injuries and the perpetrators were tried and sentenced to hang. Now a British filmmaker has interviewed the men in prison, interviews that make you wonder if there is any hope for the human race.  Some of these men are completely without remorse, in fact they cannot fathom why people are so upset by their actions. She shouldn’t have resisted, was how their thinking goes. “A decent girl won’t roam around at 9 o’clock at night. A girl is far more responsible for rape than a boy.” People had a right to “teach them a lesson.” One man confessed to having raped a 5-year old girl in the past. When asked how he could go through with it, listening to her screams, he looked at the interviewer like she was crazy and said, “She was a beggar girl. Her life was of no value.” There are more comments like this in the BBC report.

The documentary film, India’s Daughter, by Leslee Udwin has created a huge controversy in India. It was banned from airing because the police argued that it contained language offensive towards women and could create a public outcry.  Some women in India agree, it seems, but others do not and want this loathsome mentality out in the open so something can be done about it.  Protests are underway and we’ll have to wait to see what happens.

This has been a theme I’ve written about in this space before, and in my book as well, under the Sacrament of Sexual Union.  We can look at the sexual act in several ways:  as a biological urge that needs to be met whenever that urge arises, or as pure fun, or as a sacred act, reserved for the intimacies of a loving embrace between two people who care deeply about each other.  I have argued for the need to treat it as a sacrament, precisely because of the attitudes proudly proclaimed by the rapists in their cells.  Unless we sanctify what should be something beautiful, and can get the entire planet, especially the male half to regard it in this light, then the female half will always be in danger.  Our daughters will find it difficult to be out at night, difficult to travel unaccompanied, difficult to claim their full rights as human beings.  All of us have to do what we can to combat these heinous beliefs and to create a world where women are safe and fully empowered.

But here we run into the Prime Directive of Star Trek.    For those of you who have forgotten, as the Enterprise wended its way among the galaxies, the crew was bound to adhere to this Directive.  What the Ten Commandments are to Alabama,  the Directive was to the Federation.  Here it is:

As the right of each sentient species to live in accordance with its normal cultural evolution is considered sacred, no Star Fleet personnel may interfere with the healthy development of alien life and culture. Such interference includes the introduction of superior knowledge, strength, or technology to a world whose society is incapable of handling such advantages wisely. Star Fleet personnel may not violate this Prime Directive, even to save their lives and/or their ship unless they are acting to right an earlier violation or an accidental contamination of said culture. This directive takes precedence over any and all other considerations, and carries with it the highest moral obligation.

In other words, no filmmaker from the UK is allowed to go to India and tell the men there to treat their women better. They have to “evolve” culturally to that point on their own.  And not just India.  Any culture that treats their women like mindless  breeding machines should be allowed to do so.  Anthropologists might very well support this Prime Directive as they study the various cultures of the world.  If women walking around at night are viewed as fair game, if honor killings are part of the culture, if rape is acceptable in the eyes of the rapist, then let’s observe it, note it, and publish a journal article about it dispassionately.

Leslee Udwin has taken a different position.  She’s tossing the Prime Directive aside, taking the activist route to make the world safe for all women.  Though cultural differences can be quaint or intriguing in some cases, when it comes to the rights of women there can be no doubt that we are heading for an ethical position of equality for women that must be observed universally.   It will only happen if women of the world unite and demand their rights and if mothers teach their sons and daughters to honor the Sacrament of Sexual Union.

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