“I was in control for the first time of my life. I just felt like I had a little more power for once.”
“It could have been anyone. It could have been a guy. I was just mad.”
The first quote comes from Cary Stayner, who raped and murdered three young women in Yosemite. The second is from David Burpee, who raped a 17-year-old after having a fight with his girlfriend over getting fired.
Different rapists have different motives. These two are characteristic of the “Walter Mitty” type.
Walter Mitty is a fictional character. He’s an ordinary, ineffectual man who tries to bridge the gap between who he is and who he wants to be by imagining himself in situations of grandeur: a wartime pilot, an ER surgeon, a killer.
Walter Mitty rapists do something similar. They see themselves as less than the “big man” they yearn to be. And they have limited notions of what men are. To them, masculinity means power, dominance, aggression, violence, virility. They use rape to bridge the gap between their sorry selves and the dominant men they seek to be, whether it’s not-so-powerful Cary Stayner or David Burpee getting a tongue lashing from his girlfriend because he can’t hold down a job.
I was reminded of the Walter Mitty rapist after the Yale frat-boy chants of “No means yes, yes means anal,” near the women’s dorms and the Women’s Center.
What’s the connection between rape-threatening frat boys and the Walter Mitty rapist? The intent is the same: both are trying to create personal identities as superior and “manly.” The process of achieving that goal is the same: expressing sexual dominance over women. The degree of harm is the only difference.
But does rape really create superiority? The dehumanized act actually points in the opposite direction.
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