Le Viol

 

by Kathleen Rooney

 

 

The body of the woman incarnates her face: tits for eyes, her nose a navel, the mouth a vagina. The anatomical elements are all out of place: furred and silent. A literal violation, or a man’s gaze made flesh? Either way, like the landscape behind it, Georgette’s husband has rendered it arid and terrible. 

 

Mag has never been one for abstraction. The title? The Rape. Georges Bataille can never not nervous-laugh when he sees this painting (not, thinks Georgette, that he strains himself trying).

Others have described the work as a sight gag. This dismays Georgette because they’re sort of right, but the gag isn’t a joke: the gag is silence, as in a man must muzzle a woman’s humanity if he’s to violate her. He can’t think she’s a person. She can’t have a face.  

 

Mag used his portrait – the one called Georgette – as the template, then filled it in: red hair tangling in the wind, pubic and mangled. The neck, a dick, thick and strangling. Penetration and vulnerability. How to describe the color of skin, or is such speculation automatically naïve? Plasticity of brain, plasticity of body, plasticity of subject-becoming-an-object.

 

But it’s not Georgette. It’s not anyone, because that’s the mindset he sought to indict: not to care that she has, for example, a sister named Leontine, her dear best friend. That she has Magritte. That she has Loulou the Pomeranian who loves her back, too. What’s any of that to such an attacker? Therein is the thrust; therein the violence.