After reading Ariella Azoulays book ‘The Civil Contract of Photography’ I decided research Nanking, as it seemed like an important moment in the history of rape that she references during her chapter on rape and photography.

After my research I was absolutely horrified by the details of what happened in Nanking, and even more shocked that it seemed to be something that is relatively unheard of by many people. Despite the images I found being on the same level of violence as other imagery of war from the same time (1937, WW2) the images are not spoken about or as highly viewed to the same degree as, for instance, pictures from Auschwitz.

Nanking is one of the rare photographic evidences of Rape available to the public.

In December of 1937, the Japanese Imperial Army marched into China’s capital city of Nanking and proceeded to murder 300,000 out of 600,000 civilians and soldiers in the city. The six weeks of carnage would become known as the Rape of Nanking and represented the single worst atrocity during the World War II era in either the European or Pacific theaters of war.

After the destruction of the POWs, the soldiers turned their attention to the women of Nanking and an outright animalistic hunt ensued. Old women over the age of 70 as well as little girls under the age of 8 were dragged off to be sexually abused. More than 20,000 females (with some estimates as high as 80,000) were gang-raped by Japanese soldiers, then stabbed to death with bayonets or shot so they could never bear witness.

Pregnant women were not spared. In several instances, they were raped, then had their bellies slit open and the fetuses torn out. Sometimes, after storming into a house and encountering a whole family, the Japanese forced Chinese men to rape their own daughters, sons to rape their mothers, and brothers their sisters, while the rest of the family was made to watch.

Nanking is a horrific event of serious historical significance. The reason we have photographs of the rapes that occurred is due to the soldiers committing the rapes photographing their victims during the traumas.

We can draw similarities here to Steubenville and Abu Ghraib. Once again these images are only available because it was in fact the perpetrators who took them as apparent trophies of their actions.

Chinese_old_woman_raped_and_killed_by_Japanese_at_Tai'erzhuang  NankingUntitledNanking

We can draw similarities to the images from Nanking above to the horrific photographs from Auschwitz. We can draw the conclusion that the reason why one is more spoken about and viewed than the other is because of the ingrained cultural aversion to talking about rape.

Untitled2 Auschwitz

I think Nanking is an important piece of evidence for my paper that I need to include. The images are potentially incredibly upsetting, so I will perhaps need to place a trigger warning at the beginning of my presentation to warn people of potential upset.