Judging Sex in War
For Whom the Bell Tolls. By Ernest Hemingway. New York: Charles Scribner Sons. Scribner 1996 ed. Pp. 471. Cloth, $30; paper, $15.
Rape is often said to constitute a fate worse than death. It has long been deployed as an instrument of war and outlawed by international humanitarian law as a serious—sometimes even capital—crime. While disagreement exists over the meaning of rape and the proof that should be required to convict an individual of the crime, today the view that rape is harmful to women enjoys wide concurrence. Advocates for greater legal protection against rape often argue that rape brings shame upon raped women as well as upon their communities. Shame thus adds to rape’s power as a war weapon. Sexual violence has not, however, been deployed as an instrument in every war. In this sense it is neither universal nor inevitable, as political scientist Elisabeth Jean Wood has recently demonstrated. If wartime rape is not inevitable, I would argue that neither is the shame often seen to accompany it.