Kasia van Schaik

On being prone

Violence and vulnerability in Bhanu Kapil's 'Ban en Banlieue'

“It was the fashion, I learned, of ancient men to love this way; it was the policy of well-groomed soldiers. In these stories, rape was always connected to desire. It was portrayed as an excess of love, the extremity of love, the consequence for one who is desired too much.” Detail of ‘Rape of the Daughters of Leucippus’ (1618), by Peter Paul Reubens.

The first image of a rape that I saw was Peter Paul Rubens’s Rape of the Daughters of Leucippus. I was paging through my father’s art history books. I had just learned to read and even before I encountered the word r-a-p-e, I knew there was something wrong with it. Something ugly. Being brought up, as many of us were, on the Western canon of Greek myths, I understood that rape had something to do with love. When a god loved a mortal too much, the result was rape. But this painting did not show rape; it portrayed the epigraph to rape.

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