Towards a Marxist analysis of rape

Ruth Lorimer and Shanice McBean have written an important article outlining some initial thoughts updating the Marxist view on rape and rethinking the relationship between socialists and feminists in the 21st century. It criticises elements of the approach taken in 1989 by Sheila McGregor, the last major article written by the SWP on rape, and argues for a sharp turn if socialists are to relate to the new radicalisation over sexism and sexual aggression. (Extract only.)

If socialists are to engage constructively with the new generation of radicalised young people angry at lads mags, pole dancing clubs, victim blaming and slut shaming, we have to place the emphasis of our debates and conversations with them on our points of agreement. We have to recognise that the analyses developed in the 1980s are not only factually out of date, but also lead us to conclusions that unnecessarily alienate us from feminists today. Our current approach of emphasising that not all men rape, or only ignorant / young men rape, falsely polarises an argument in which very few people are really claiming that all men are rapists, or that we need a women-only movement.

The arguments we should be making are about the way that sexism is structured into class society and further reinforced by capitalist social relations. We should be offering an analysis of the combined role of women in social reproduction and the neoliberal workplace today, and the relationship between women’s position in society today and the commodification of sex. We should be trying to relate to angry, anti-capitalist feminists who understand that sexism is built into the capitalist system. But most importantly, we should be making these arguments from within feminist societies, conferences, protests and organisations in which we are also playing a constructive role. If we don’t do this, we are ignoring a whole generation of radicalised young women who could help to revitalise the revolutionary left.


Note: This piece was published before rs21 was established as an independent organisation in January 2014. rs21 was founded by a group of people who had been in the opposition within the SWP and who left in response to its persistent mishandling of rape and sexual harassment allegations against a leading member.


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