Of all the things revealed in the recent report of the CIA’s torture practices, I hardly expected to find this:
According to the committee report “at least five CIA detainees were subjected to “rectal rehydration” or rectal feeding without documented medical necessity”. The report identifies a chief of Interrogations referring to medically unnecessary rectal feeding and hydration as illustrative of the interrogator’s “total control over the detainee”.
Alongside the psychological effects of this torture, physical injuries were sustained by at least one detainee as a result of rectal feeding. The detainee was “diagnosed with chronic hemorrhoids, an anal fissure, and symptomatic rectal prolapse”.
I am sure the first two symptoms are self-explanatory, however, the latter may require explanation. Rectal prolapse occurs when the rectum walls protrude from the anus.
Even if the detainee refused food, this sort of procedure is clearly a violation of the Geneva Convention and obviously torture. It is also unquestionably rape.
It does not stop there. According to the report, some detainees were forced to bend over and pull their buttocks apart while being threatened with rape. Two were given rectal exams with “excessive force.” One detainee was raped with a broomstick.
I wonder why the CIA felt comfortable raping detainees. What did the detainees have in common other than their faith and political views?
Of course, the penetration of women has been long been a horrific aspect of warfare. Such atrocities have been well documented and action is beginning to be taken at the international level. Indeed, the US government claims it “will continue to stand strong against these forms of inhumanity”.
By comparison, there has been very little attention given to the penetration of men during war, conflict or internment. One might argue that the key difference here is that the raping of women is acknowledged as a sexual crime: rape is a form of sexual domination and its methods of control operate on a sexual register.
I see. The detainees are men, so it is not really rape.
That is why it comes as no surprise that the Senate Intelligence Committee, led by the Diane Feinstein, saw no reason to call “rectal feeding” for what it is. That does not mean Feinstein did not care about the detainees. Clearly she did or she would not have conducted the investigation. It is simply shows that something as obvious as multiple instances of rape against men fail to spark much feminist or liberal ire.
Sharif Mowlabocus argues that there may be another angle leading to the silence on the detainees’ rapes:
What’s more, the refusal to recognise the sexualised violence meted out to male detainees demonstrates a deep-seated ambivalence towards both male homosexuality and male rape. To acknowledge rectal torture as sexual would not only implicate CIA interrogators as sex abusers, it would also serve to “queer” this world-famous intelligence organisation, destabilising its sense of patriarchal authority.
Male rape (like all rape) is about power but as well as tainting the victim, who is “queered” by such an act, the perpetrator is tainted too. They have engaged in, and even instigated, a queer sex act.
That may play a role, but I suspect the primary reason for the silence is simply that few of the people involved in the investigation consider sexual violence against men and boys a real issue. It likely never occurred to them that these acts are rape.
That said, at least we can add this to the list of things the United States claims it does not do but clearly does.