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  • Writer's pictureSusana Aikin


In my novel, We Shall See the Sky Sparkling, Lily is an actress working in London at the end of the 19th century, who gets sexually abused by her co-actor and employer, and finds it very difficult to confess to her sweetheart, not just because of shame, but mainly for fear of reprisals.

Read further on the history of rape culture and how rape has often been considered a question of honor, mainly an injury to husbands and male relatives.


Rape of Europa by Titian, 1562

Throughout history, a woman’s “purity,” “virginity” and “chastity” has determined the honor of her male relatives – father, brother, husband, son, and even extended family and clan/caste. Therefore what was violated in rape was not just the women’s physical integrity of even her chastity, but mainly the honor of the family men.

In Medieval Europe, the penalty for cases concerning rapes of marriageable women, wives and widows was often a fine, payable to the ‘owners’ – father/husband of the defiled woman. In some cases the woman would be married to the rapist instead of any penalty.

Rape of the Sabines by Nicolas Poussin, 1594

Most cultures are so obsessed with the lineage of progeny, chastity, and virginity that imposing restrictions on women’s sexual freedom and agency became a norm and continues even today. This notion mostly led to women being treated as “property,” and their perceived sexual purity being held synonymous with the family/clan ‘honor’.

Croatian and Muslim by Peter Howsen,1993

Even in the modern world sexual violence is often shamefully considered a way to avenge insults or injuries. Rape in situations of war, which dates back to antiquity, reflects this idea. The rape of the wives and daughters of enemies is one of the harshest ways of punishing male contenders.

We Shall See the Sky Sparkling
We Shall See the Sky Sparkling



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