Framing the Rape Victim: Gender and Agency Reconsidered

By Carine M. Mardorossian | Go to book overview

3 • “BIRTH RAPE”
Laboring Women, Coaching Men, and
Natural Childbirth in the Hospital Setting

In American hotel rooms you can decide whether or not to turn on the air
conditioning (that is your business), but you cannot open the window.

—Mary McCarthy, Vietnam

In 2010, debates surrounding “birth rape,” a controversial phrase, which had previously circulated on midwife and childbirth blogs, was vigorously discussed anew on the worldwide web. “Birth rape” refers to the violating experiences laboring women incur in the hospital setting. The blog Birthtalk.org defines it in the following way:

A vulnerable woman, who is powerless to leave the situation, is at times held down
against her will, has strangers looking & touching at private parts of her body, per--
haps without appropriate measures being taken to acknowledge her ownership
of her body or to preserve her comfort levels. Perhaps she has fingers or instru--
ments inserted without her consent, and sometimes against her consent, invad--
ing and crossing decent boundaries. She is fearful of what is happening to her and
perhaps for the wellbeing of her baby, and receives no reassurance that either she
or her child are ok. Th at is a violation, no matter how you look at it. Even IF this
treatment is given with no malice and [with] the intent of attempting to assist her
with birthing her child, there is NEVER a reason to forgo common decencies that
will enable her to maintain a role in the birth, some autonomy over her body, to
be involved in the decision-making, to be informed about what they want to do
BEFORE they do it. (Birthtalk.org 2010)

While some find the use of the term “rape” as a metaphor for “birth trauma” justified, others think it inappropriate because they do not want the profound

-68-

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Framing the Rape Victim: Gender and Agency Reconsidered
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • Introduction 1
  • 1- Framing the Victim 24
  • 2- Rape and Victimology - In Feminist Theory 41
  • 3- "Birth Rape" - Laboring Women, Coaching Men, and Natural Childbirth in the Hospital Setting 68
  • 4- Prison Rape, Masculinity - And the Missed Alliances of Hollywood Cinema 90
  • 5- Rape by Proxy in - Contemporary Diasporic Women’s Fiction 112
  • Conclusion 129
  • Notes 137
  • Works Cited 147
  • Index 161
  • About the Author 165
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