Until every person renounces rape as a means of achieving dominance, sexual gratification, or any other end, our species has not yet humanized. The trouble with “posthumanism” and other titles for philosophical movements that—rightly—ask us to incorporate a sense of the world as an ethical space prior to and inclusive of “the human” is that these titles act, wrongly, as though we already lived in humanist societies. As though “the human” already existed, in any coherent conceptual-material fashion. Instead, in the often self-satisfied, but not wholly inaccurate, sense in which political scientists in the U.S. and other “democracies” speak of countries in the global South as “democratizing,” undergoing a process that involves a fundamental shift in norms for possible behavior, we must begin to address human state-culture matrices as embroiled in still-turbulent, uncertain processes of humanization. Just as we have not yet been modern, have not yet been Hegelian, and have not yet been many of the things that a theoretical avant-garde would like, at any given moment, to advance us beyond, we have not yet been human. That is to say, as a species recognizably divided into overlapping state-culture matrices, we have not yet consciously developed into anything more than what we have always been.
The fundamental tenet of humanism has long been that the human was special, and that tenor of thought is often—again, rightly—criticized. Humanism is accused, from various quarters, of doing away with an ultimate being or god that would secure value and meaning, and fraudulently substituting “the human” in its place, as though we as a species (or even as any group within that species, with any real consistency over time) displayed the sorts of attributes that would satisfy even weak ethical or epistemological requirements for “grounding” status. That is to say, the charge that humanism has exceeded its mandate from the very start, in trying to ground a worldview in stories about human beings as they supposedly are, is entirely correct. The human of humanism does not exist. But does she not yet exist? This is the open question. The posthumanist would like to do away with an anthropocentric view of the world, and her rationale for that is compelling. But we cannot so readily step outside the pods of anthro that we are, even if we can demonstrate persuasively that we ought to. Rather, an enabling negotiation of our limitations must start by understanding anthropocentrism differently.
Anthropocentrism, we should come to admit, will—whether we will or no—project a human being into the future. Our responsibility must be to negotiate what that human being will be. Such negotiation, motivated by and responsive to the ethical concerns expressed by posthumanists, feminists, critical theorists, and all other goodwilled interlocutors themselves responsive to the fringe where reality presences out from the real, is the beginning of humanization. I have suggested here that humanization may start with a global refusal of rape as an option, a refusal that can itself only come from acknowledging the psychic spaces in which rape has been up to that very moment of refusal an option. There are many other places from which to begin. Humanization is the ethical negotiation of constraint, and it is a process in which—unlike democratization—we are all helplessly swept up, all the time. It remains to us to recognize this, and to take up our responsibility to it.