The Ties That Bind Sexual Assault, Gender, and 21st-Century Capitalism

Harriet Fraad and Richard Wolff in Alternet:

Shutterstock_548314474Rampant sexual abuse is finally being uncovered. It’s about time. Since this is hardly something new, why is it being outed now? To answer that question, we look at three major forces that shape sex abuse in the United States and other modern societies. The first two are class structures: how the capitalist class structure organizes the work experience in enterprises and how what turns out to be a feudal class structure shapes the work experience inside households. The third force is the system of gender definitions, roles and relations that shapes many social experiences. We seek to identify and explain how capitalism, feudalism and gender interact to overdetermine sexual assault as well as women’s rebellion against sexual assault.

Capitalism organizes most enterprises’ production of goods and services into two fundamentally unequal positions: employer and employee. The former is typically positioned exclusively to decide what gets produced when in each enterprise. The employer alone decides the how of production (technology choice) and the where (geographic location). Finally, employers receive and distribute all surpluses and profits realized in and by the enterprise as a whole. Among the people comprising the socially dominant capitalist enterprises of today—corporations—employers constitute a tiny minority (major shareholders plus boards of directors), while employees constitute the vast majority. Employers' control over production means that they prevail in shaping the conditions of employees' labor (stress, command and control hierarchy, noise, air quality, choice of co-workers, location, speed demanded, etc.). Profits provide incentives and control provides opportunities for abuses to arise. Perhaps most importantly, employers decide whether and when to hire and fire employees. Employers thus provide employees with means of consumption needed to sustain them and likewise deprive them of such means. No equivalent capability typically runs in the reverse direction from employees to employers.

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