Did you hear about the kidnapping case? Some girl kidnapped when she was 11. Her stepfather saw it. Everyone suspected him. Turns out she's still alive, 18 years later. Some guy was holding her prisoner in his backyard, fathered two children with her. Can you imagine that she's still alive?"She was speaking, or whispering, about Jaycee Dugard, a woman kidnapped as a child and kept captive well into adulthood. As today's NY Times said in its headline, Ms. Dugard was not always "locked away," but rather survived with her two children, now 14 and 11 themselves, in a series of backyard shacks and tents along with a cage and a soundproof shed. Were the Times reporters, Jesse McKinley and Carol Pogash, suggesting she was not "really" a captive? If so, they should be forced to apologize because even without all the expert psychology into kidnapping victims, commonsense should tell them that someone taken as a child and raped and locked up in a cage and kept as a slave would be incapable of thinking rationally about her options for escape. Kidnapping Victim Was Not Always Locked Away - NYTimes.com. The bigger question for me is the last thing my hairdresser said about it:
The whole thing is making me physically ill. I want to be sick. I can't talk about it anymore. Maybe it's on the news now. Let's put on CNN."This physical revulsion and wanting to not talk about it make sense. Much of human life is so revolting, so Abject according to psychoanalytic theory, that we literally cannot speak it aloud. The "let's talk about it endlessly"- which is, quite honestly, what I want to do- requires a bit more thinking about our particular historical moment. Michel Foucault says "sex is the secret" of modernity, a secret we are incessantly forced to confess, first through the literal confession of the Catholic Church, but within the last century, through the couch of psychoanalysis then as the demand to "come out" because of sexual identity politics and in the past decades for entertainment on the Jerry Springer Show or for "networking" on Facebook. But Foucault forgot to mention the other secret of modernity: violence. Violence is that which we moderns supposedly do not engage in. Someone upsets us, we do not shoot them or beat them or kill them. If a man wants a woman, he does not just take her, throw her over his shoulder, and drag her back to his cave. We control our emotions and our desires. That's what makes us civilized. Of course, modern civilizations have committed more acts of violence than any on record, often in the name of "nation states" but also in the name of drugs or prisons or other forms of the "civilizing process." As for controlling our desires, we're not so good at that either (see Jerry Springer, above). So it is when something truly barbaric leaks into our cultural consciousness, like the case of Jaycee Dugard, we are literally forced to watch it, talk about it, be disgusted by it, and insist it is unusual. But there is nothing truly unusual about this. Sexually violent acts are committed daily by "civilized" men-- on children, women, and yes, other men. The number of date rapes on any American college campus, the number of phone calls to 911 because of domestic violence, the number of children in foster care because of sexual and physical abuse means that the unspeakable and disgusting acts committed by Phillip Garrido are not exactly unimaginable or even all that unique. Quite honestly, this case is so eerily like the Austrian case of Josef Fritzl, who held his own daughter a slave in a soundproof basement in plain sight and also repeatedly raped her and fathered children with her, that Garrido and he could be brothers. And the very ordinariness of men's violence and sexual acts is what haunts our civilization and forces us to say it aloud, like a protective spell: this is unheard of, unspeakable, has nothing to do with any of us. It would be far more civilized and even productive to ask instead: under what conditions of patriarchy can these things happen? How is it that no one questioned these men? Not even their wives or neighbors? And how can we change these structural forces that make monsters like Garrido and gossiping ghouls out of the rest of us?