One thing about being a prat is, it’s easy to become obsessed with those who are even bigger prats. I speak as one who knows. For instance, last year I developed an obsession with the plagiarism scandal surrounding journalist Johan Hari, if only so I could think ‘well, I’ve fucked up at work, too, but never quite that badly’. In more recent times I’ve become fascinated with the self-destructive self-exposure of writers such as Liz Jones, just so I can tell myself ‘okay, so I’ve made similar mistakes, but at least there aren’t pictures of me making them in the Daily Mail’. During the past week I’ve turned my attentions to former X-Factor winner Steve Brookstein, due to his amazing skill at being a wanker on Twitter. I’ve sent tweets I’ve regretted – even written whole ruddy blog posts – but I’m pretty sure I’ve never quite plumbed Steve’s murky depths.
In case you missed it, @stevebrookstein has some very forthright (and incorrect) views regarding what constitutes rape. Moreover, if you disagree with him, he tweets back to call you a Nazi (it’s a bit like that Yoda tweet-bot that gives you a Star Wars aphorism in response to any mention of the trilogy. Only all you get with Steve is ‘Nazi’). Unlike Steve, I’ve never called anyone a Nazi (and that’s including an actual Nazi I met in Germany in 1996).* Furthermore, I have not been called a Nazi yet by Brookstein, but only because I’ve not actively got involved in the ‘debate’. It’s not as though I’ll come up with the killer 140 characters which will make a rape excuser suddenly say ‘oh, hang on – you’re right!’ (if anyone does this, let me know).
Obviously I start to wonder why I find myself watching these thing unfold. I worry that Brookstein is essentially like the Tom Daley Troll, only with fewer threats of violence and a more detailed knowledge of Phil Collins’ back catalogue. Is it okay to observe others wind him up and watch him go? Is it, in some weird respect, a way of bullying the morally incoherent? Or are the responses themselves an education for someone who believes his words are sacred but other people’s bodies aren’t?
As someone who was sexually assaulted when totally off her face, I do have some personal interest in Brookstein’s opinions on “how drunk is too drunk and personal responsibility”. Steve, when I was attacked, I was completely wasted! But hang on, before you get on your high horse – it was a “good” attack. I was, literally, jumped out at in a dark alley by a total stranger. I hadn’t got into bed with anyone. So that’s okay, right? I didn’t lead anyone on. I didn’t create any “expectations”. But I did make myself vulnerable, right? To be honest, I’ve never known where my attack rates on the scale of how far to blame the victim (btw, it was not a rape – but that’s down to what the attacker did and didn’t do rather than how much Stella I’d had). It’s complicated, isn’t it? Or at least some things are, the main one being that sex involves two people, both of whom are capable of having different things going on inside their heads. And you can’t get inside another person’s head (but that’s no reason to assume sticking your cock in them is a worthy substitute). Even so, some things are simpler to understand. Getting drunk is not a crime. Engaging in sexual contact with someone who isn’t consenting is. And yes, I know you’re worried about whether this tramples all over the rights of “drunk birds” to have sex (something the Nazis really cracked down on, I’m sure). It doesn’t. If you’re not sure “how drunk is too drunk” perhaps you need to think of it as “doing stuff”. If you’re having sex with someone who isn’t having sex with you, you need to stop.
I don’t know why I’ve just written all that. It’s a bit pointless, really. And now I’m probably a Nazi, at least in the new sense of the word. And I’m being mean to Steve, since I already know that explaining consent makes him really, really angry (for reasons probably best not explored). But it’s really cathartic, isn’t it? In a world where, by and large, sexual assault victims don’t get justice and women are not expected to take an active role in sexual decision-making, why not witness someone tie themselves in knots defending choice and free expression while failing to extend those rights to others? Perhaps it is annoying not to be able to tweet about “night raids” on one’s wife without nasty feminists making a fuss. Still, it’s even more annoying to see the victim of a convicted rapist described as “a cheap drunken bird who was too pissed to consent”.
* Re: Nazi encounters: I asked an old man for directions in Bad Kösen and he offered to take me Kaffee und Kuchen, which I accepted because he seemed nice enough. So nice, in fact, that he told me about his time in Hitler Youth and, apropos of nothing, advised me not to ever have a mixed-race relationship due to the risk of ‘contaminating the bloodline’. I think that’s all pretty Nazi. And no, I didn’t ask him for his views on sexual consent.