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Noyes, J.K. (1998). S/M in SA: Sexual Violence, Simulated Sex and Psychoanalytic Theory. Am. Imago, 55(1):135-153.

(1998). American Imago, 55(1):135-153

S/M in SA: Sexual Violence, Simulated Sex and Psychoanalytic Theory

John K. Noyes

South Africa is one of the most violent nations on earth. Not only are South Africans constantly confronted with an array of the violent images that are the standard fare in the media landscape of the post-industrial world, all South Africans have to live with the knowledge that they could at any time and in any place be the victims of violent abuse. In short, South Africans are traumatized by the ubiquitous violence in their society. And the extent of this trauma can be mapped onto class, race and gender.

Violent sexual crime is rampant in South Africa. According to the latest available official police statistics, there were a reported 27,056 cases of rape in 1993. This is approximately sixty-five reported rapes per hundred thousand of the population of the country. Conservative estimates are that fifty to sixty-five percent of rape cases are reported, while some studies claim that as little as five percent enter official statistics (Stanton 1993, 21). But even taking the number of reported rapes as a guideline, the average incidence of rape throughout all of South Africa is comparable to that of New York City, while the rape capitals of America like Jacksonville, Florida, Dallas, Texas and Flint, Michigan look safe compared to Durban and Johannesburg, their South African counterparts.

Over the past decade, there has been a steady rise in the importance of sadomasochistic sexuality in South Africa. There are no empirical studies of sadomasochism in South Africa, so we don't know who is doing what with whom when, or whether there has been an increase in the number of people participating in s/m. But there has certainly been an increase in the general visibility of s/m scenes and imagery, and the degree to which this imagery tends to be acceptable within mainstream South African culture.

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