Sunday's New York Times has an article called the Woman's War; it's a disturbing account of the traumas the 165000 women in our armed forces are facing as a result of their service in Iraq and Afghanistan. Many say they are raped or harassed by the men who command them. About 300o such incidents were reported last year; many women say they don't bother to report such crimes because it only leads to more abuse, and because the army doesn't take action against the offenders. Women who complain are often given the most dangerous assignments and are further demeaned. 16 percent of our women soldiers are suffering from PTSD, compared to 8 percent of men.
The article made me think about the lives of women in prison, which I investigated when I was working on a novel called Hard Time. Powerless women, often the victims of assault by the guards, can't report the assault because it makes them more vulnerable to further assault.
Women who join the military are more likely to have been sexually abused as children than the average for the population (although, since 1 in 4 girls is sexually abused in this country it's kind of hard to find a low number of sexually abused women in any cohort.) The same is true of women in prison.
Women who've been sexually abused as children are more likely to be prostitutes as well. They are used to having no sense of boundaries, and no rights to their own bodies. Women on the streets in turn suffer a lot of violence and often turn to drugs as a coping mechanism, which leads them more vulnerable to arrest and to disease.
When I read all these things, I have to wonder why crime fiction and film so often depict women as hookers, and treat them either as throwaway objects--such as Tatjana Petitz's character in Rising Sun--or the contented animal who has an easy camaraderie with men through her body. The Spanish government recently banned a D & G ad that showed a women being assaulted by one man while another man looked on contemptuously. Is this an example of the kind of PC thinking that we on this blog so often rail against? Or is it an unusual demand that women be treated with respect?