Roy Herndon Smith
When Matt Damon focuses on the fantasy that exposure of their sexual cruelty will ruin rich and powerful white men’s lives, he exacerbates his alienation from the reality of the intersectional destructiveness of sexual cruelty.
Sexual cruelty is bound up with class and racial cruelty. The primary threat that structural, as opposed to overtly violent, cruelty poses is impoverishment. Bosses who sexually harass or abuse workers threaten to punish anyone who resists or exposes them by throwing them out of a job. Family members who are sexually abusing economic dependents threaten to cut off support to them if they resist or report the abuse.
In the seventeenth century, in colonial America, the male Anglo gentry constructed and maintained legal racial categories that enforced and maintained blacks and indigenous peoples as poor, barred from political and economic participation, and subject to legally authorized overtly and structurally violent sexual and other abuse. This structural cruelty constructed especially black people as a club Anglo elites used to maintain control over working class whites and immigrants. The club inhered in the often legally enforcably threat that if working class whites or immigrants resisted overt and structural cruelty, the white elites would punish them by subjecting them to the extreme impoverishment and violent cruelty that blacks suffered daily simply because they were black (see Thandeka, Learning to be White).
The often explicit model for the construction of structural class and race cruelty was structural sexual cruelty, the patriarchal treatment of women as possessions men used to produce pleasure, profit, and progeny (who were also possessions). To be black or a worker was to be a possession the white male owner could use as he willed. If blacks or workers resisted such domination, the while male elites again threatened to punish them the way they punish resistant “bad” women, with overt violence, often sexual violence, and impoverishment.
Political analyses often focus on the use of overtly violent cruetly and sometimes miss the more insidious and systematically destructive use of impoverishment to enforce sexual, class, and racial oppression. The liberation theologian, Gustavo Gutierrez, said, “Poverty is death.” In the US, to be poor is to live an average of 14.6 years less than the richest 1% (http://news.mit.edu/2016/study-rich-poor-huge-mortality-gap-us-0411). American capitalism uses the death sentence of impoverishment to construct the reign of terror that maintains the structural, including sexual, cruelty that, in turn, enacts and maintains patriarchal, hierarchical, and racial elites’ domination over others.
To overcome alienation from, and thus to expose and confront, sexual cruelty is also to expose and confront the cruelty inherent in class and race hierarchies.