'Rape fantasy' author aims to suppress negative review

Legal threat strives to conceal 'disgraceful' views, historian claims. Melanie Newman writes

January 14, 2010

Sheldon Kardener probably thought the controversial views on rape in a paper he wrote for an obscure academic journal in 1975 had long disappeared from the public eye.

Then, in 2007, Times Higher Education published a book review that quoted the paper.

Now, three years later, the review has triggered an academic spat and an attempt by Professor Kardener, professor of psychiatry at the University of California, Los Angeles, to have the review withdrawn.

The professor has threatened legal action, arguing that Joanna Bourke's book, Rape: A history from 1860 to the present, includes "offensive distortions" repeated in the review.

Professor Bourke, a professor of history at Birkbeck, University of London, denies the claim and has accused the psychiatrist of trying to conceal his "disgraceful" views.

The book review begins: "Feminists possess a particularly strong unconscious desire to be raped, Californian psychiatrist Sheldon Kardener argued back in 1975."

Professor Kardener's paper, "Rape Fantasies", in the Journal of Religion and Health, refers to a "struggle to deal with the forbidden pleasure of sexuality", which it says can lead to "altering one's self-perceptions to permit the pleasurable experience".

It continues: "One such alteration of perception occurs in the woman who considers all men to be rapists ... she may behave and dress in a seductively provocative way in order to fulfill her own worst expectation by demanding that the man force his attention upon her. In some instances she may then self-righteously scream 'rape'."

In her book, Professor Bourke says Professor Kardener had "criticised feminists who on the one hand shrilly insisted that 'all men are rapists', while on the other hand behaved and dressed in a 'seductively provocative way'".

She adds: "According to Professor Kardener, by acting in this way feminists were able to fulfil their 'worst expectations' ... then 'self-righteously scream rape'. According to this rape myth, feminists secretly desired violation: they deserved what they got."

In his correspondence with THE, Professor Kardener says Professor Bourke distorted what he meant.

Rather than feminists, he says he had been referring to "conflicted women who had been inflicted with parental sexual conflicts", and the passage was an attempt to help such women understand their "paradoxical behaviours".

Any suggestion he was somehow condoning misogyny is "abhorrent", he adds.

He also expresses a fear that potential readers searching for links to his new book, Breaking Free: How chains from childhood keep us from what we want, might read the review.

Professor Bourke said that the professor had been writing in the 1970s, "at exactly the time when the mantra 'all men are rapists' was central to the radical-feminist movement ... It does not take much interpretation to assume that he is referring to feminists here".

She added: "In advance of his book being published, he wants to ensure that his disgraceful article of 1975 does not become part of the public debate."

Misogynist views were ingrained in much, although not all, psychoanalytical thinking at that time, she said.


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