March 22, 2015
The Home Affairs Select Committee have announced that unlike people accused of any other crime, those accused of sex crimes (including rape) deserve anonymity until charged. It’s a decision that has been made without consulting rape victims or rape support charities, instead appearing to be motivated by sympathy for the DJ Paul Gambacinni, kept on bail for 12 months over an allegation that was eventually dropped. According to Committee chairman Keith Vaz “we have seen how destructive [releasing names] can be to a person’s livelihood, causing irreparable reputational damage and enormous financial burden.” We have also, one would think, seen how damaging rape – which happens to an estimated one in five women – can be, but apparently that’s less measurable (or less important?). In any case, the belief that a “special stigma” attaches to rape, making those accused more in need of protection from publicity, persists.
Personally I find it strange to think that we live in a world so appalled and outraged by rape that those accused of it are social pariahs. If that were the case, surely we wouldn’t be surrounded by men telling women that forced penetration and sexual coercion are perfectly fine. A world in which great stigma is attached to rape itself is not a world in which … (more…)
March 12, 2015
Posted by glosswitch under Education
| Tags: rape culture
, revenge porn
The education secretary Nicky Morgan is proposing a “curriculum for life” to help young people deal with what the Guardian calls “modern social issues brought on by the internet age.” These are, we are led to believe, new issues. Brand new, never-been-seen-before, state-of-the-art sources of teenage angst, such as sexting and revenge porn.
True, there was nothing like that in my day. We just had boring, hands-on sexism – sorry, did I just say sexism? It seems we’re not supposed to mention that. It might be the driving force behind this particular misuse of communication technology but no one seems willing to say. Looking for a hierarchy? Nothing to see here. We are meant to think this stuff is just happening at random because “modern times.” There’s no link between rampant individualism and Tory policies, and absolutely no connection between a form of abuse which targets women in particular and sexism at large. It’s just that smartphones were invented before we had time to work out what to do with them. Right? Or are we just finding another way to talk around misogyny because to actually confront it would be more than we could bear?
Morgan mentions NSPCC research showing that “six in 10 teenagers have been asked for sexual images or videos online.” What she does not mention is the very clearly gendered nature of the NSPCC findings. Indeed, the researchers explicitly state that “no understanding of sexting would be complete without an appreciation of the extent to which an often completely normalised sexism constitutes the context for all relationships–both on and off-line”:
As researchers going into the schools to meet with young people, we were distressed by the levels of sexist abuse and physical harassment–even violence–to which the girls were subject on a regular basis. […] Perhaps the broadest level at which sexism operates in the young people’s lives is to be found in the deeply rooted notion that girls and young women’s bodies are somehow the property of boys and young men.
This is not some gender neutral trend. It is young men seeking to claim ownership of young women’s bodies. What’s more, this is nothing mordern at all.
It is utterly pointless to talk in vague terms, as Morgan does, about “peer pressure or coercion” (pressure from whom? who is being coerced?). Pointless, too, to suggest that “the internet and the advance of the digital age […] bring new pressures”; what they bring are new weapons for men to use in their age-old war on women. You can complain about the weapons, sure, but it’s a morally vacuous complaint if you’ve no interest in ending the actual war. (more…)
March 3, 2015
You can’t clap with one hand – it takes two hands. A decent girl won’t roam around at night. A girl is more responsible for rape than a boy … about 20% of girls are good. … She should just be silent and allow the rape.
Mukesh Singh, one of those responsible for the rape and murder of Jyoti Singh
Can we put into words how a rapist thinks? And if we could, would we want to? We know what a rapist does and we also know that he – since 99% of those convicted of rape are male – feels entitled to do it. We know that the majority of rape victims are female and that a woman has a 1 in 5 chance of being raped over the course of her life. We know that rape is a gendered crime and that fear of rape limits women’s freedom of movement. We know all this and what is more, this knowledge has a value.
It helps us to understand what is happening around us and to recognise that rape is not simply a force of nature, a thing to be accepted as one of the hazards of trying to be human while in possession of a vagina. No matter how many times we are asked to compare ourselves to laptops or wallets or unlocked houses, we know that we are not mere passive objects to whom bad things might happen. We are participants in a society that conditions male people to feel entitled to the bodies of female people. This is what we mean when we talk about “rape culture.” We are not referring to some generalised culture of entitlement; we are talking about a gendered phenomenon, rooted in a structure which positions female people beneath male people. This does not mean that other forms of rape do not occur – indeed, they can be said to occur as a replication of the same dynamic, diminishing other bodies by treating them “as if female,” that is, penetrable – but it does mean that we are not dealing with utter chaos. There is something tangible. It does not have to be this way. There is a cultural belief system that can be challenged, on behalf of all survivors, if only we dare to speak. (more…)
November 27, 2014
Posted by glosswitch under Feminism
| Tags: feminism
, rape culture
, sex positivity
In The Female Malady Elaine Showalter describes the work of Dr Isaac Baker Brown, a nineteenth-century doctor who promoted clitoridectomy as a cure for female insanity:
Brown was a member of the Obstetrical Society of London who became convinced that madness was caused by masturbation and that surgical removal of the clitoris, by helping women to govern themselves, could halt a disease that would otherwise proceed inexorably from hysteria to spinal irritation and thence to idiocy, mania, and death.
Seeing this through twenty-first century eyes, it appears obvious this treatment had little to do with women’s welfare; it was about male dominance, horror of female sexuality and the enforcement of “femininity”, as defined by men. Showalter notes that many of Brown’s patients “seem to have been especially sensitive to the hypocrisy and repressiveness of Victorian social codes”; they were non-compliant women who were forced, through surgical brutality, to comply:
Clitoridectomy is the surgical enforcement of an ideology that restricts female sexuality to reproduction. The removal of the clitoris eliminates the woman’s sexual pleasure, and it is indeed this autonomous sexual pleasure that Brown defined as the symptom, perhaps the essence, of female insanity. Many of his successful case studies ended with the woman’s pregnancy.
Female sexuality is reduced to reproduction – and, clearly, to the providing of male pleasure. Better a woman never orgasms at all than that she should orgasm without anyone watching. (more…)
September 9, 2014
Rape culture comes in many guises. It doesn’t always look like Robin Thicke, or Cee Lo Green, or UniLAD, or 4Chan, or Judge G. Todd Baugh. Sometimes it looks like, of all people, Pam Ayres.
For those unfamiliar with her work, Ayres writes poems that are so bad they are almost good. Writing said poems has made her into a national treasure. Like Alan Titchmarsh or Terry Wogan, she’s one of those people about whom it is treason to think mean thoughts. You imagine her being just like your mum, or maybe even more like your mum than your actual mum is. Oh, that Pam Ayres, you think. Bless her. Bless you, Pam Ayres.
Yesterday a student called Archie Reed was cleared of raping a fellow student. These are the words of Judge Anthony Morris, who oversaw the trial and ordered the jury to acquit: (more…)
April 15, 2014
Another day, another entitled white male columnist expressing his outrage at the victimization of his poor, downtrodden brothers. Today (yet again) it’s the turn of Dan Hodges, who not only penned this little rant on lives ruined by false rape accusations, but then took to twitter to ask this gem of a question:
It is, I’m sure you will agree, a simple question, but also a profoundly stupid one. Of course the tiny proportion of complainants who lie about rape make it harder to secure rape convictions. The behaviour of the liars is bound to have an impact, at least insofar as it proves that some people lie about rape. That’s obvious. However, what doesn’t seem to be so obvious, at least not to Dan Hodges, is that this impact will – but need not – be magnified by the over-reporting of cases involving false accusations and by the proliferation of opinion pieces on the “ruined lives” of the falsely accused. The broader impact is indirect but even so, rape conviction rates suffer less from false accusations themselves than from misconceptions about how often accusations are proven to be false. What’s more, it’s at this point that the responsibility shifts. Those who lie about rape are not responsible for how their crimes are publicised; writers such as Dan Hodges are. (more…)
October 27, 2013
Over the past couple of weeks I’ve read the same article on young women, alcohol and rape over and over again. This isn’t, I hasten to add, because it’s a particularly good article. It’s more to do with the fact that each time, it appears to have been written by a different woman, even though the ideas, tone and prejudices remain the same.
It started with Emily Yoffe’s Slate piece College Women: Stop Getting Drunk, in which Yoffe rehashes old-as-the-hills advice on drinking less to avoid rape: (more…)
September 24, 2013
This week the Telegraph seems to be obsessed with Freshers’ Weeks taking place at universities all over the country. Fair play to them. While it’s easy to mock a self-indulgent nostalgia trip for ageing middle-class journalists, at least it keeps them out of trouble. The more time spent telling worried 18-year-olds “how to dress in Freshers’ Week,” the less time there is to lie to abortion providers or cobble together ill-informed rants about the niqab. Everyone’s a winner!
Unless, that is, you’re a girl (by which we mean grown woman who is off to university). Alas, for the likes of you university’s just as much of a minefield as, say, having reproductive choices or making your own decisions about what to wear. Thankfully, Telegraph Wonder Women have put together a handy guide to keep you out of trouble. (more…)
September 10, 2013
The actor Michael Le Vell has been found not guilty of rape and crikey, this makes some people angry. If only he’d been a convicted rapist! Then we could all sleep easy at night.
According to Phillip Schofield, “it’s bloody ridiculous a man’s life and reputation can be so comprehensively trashed in this way”. Is it just me, or is this an odd way of portraying what “being a rape defendant” means? It’s as though being on trial should be considered a crime itself. While I don’t doubt it’s horrible, not everything that is horrible is horrible in quite the same way. No one should be falsely accused of rape, but accusing someone of rape — even without securing a conviction — is evidence neither of malice nor criminal intent. (more…)
June 30, 2013
The Friday’s Guardian announced the UK publication of a book 45 years after it was written. Goliarda Sapienza’s The Art of Joy “follows the sexual adventures of a woman who sleeps with both men and women, commits incest and murders a nun, and […] was considered at the time too shocking for readers”. Of course, it’s all different now, not shocking at all. Hard to imagine how repressive things were back when murdering nuns was illegal.
I don’t think much – or in fact any – of the porn I’ve seen is realistic, morally edifying and/or an appropriate template for long-term human interactions. I’m not sure whether this is particularly problematic. All the same, very recently, and particularly in light of the campaign to ban the ownership of rape porn, I’m starting to realise I have greater issues with some types of porn than I thought. I’m still cool with gratuitous nun slaughter, obviously, but it’s the other stuff that’s getting to me. (more…)
January 1, 2013
A week before Christmas my partner and I took our children to an underground Christmas grotto in some caves near where we live. It’s the first time I’ve been but there’s a display there every year. First you get your two minutes with Santa, then you wander from cavern to cavern, admiring the decorations. It’s all very nice, but it’s still really just for kids. Hence my partner and I devised a game to keep ourselves occupied: Christmas present shag bingo. All along the walls of the caves were fake presents with different names printed on them. The object of the game was to see how many names of former shags you could spot as you went along. By the end of the visit, my youngest had a cuddly turtle, my eldest a toy fighter jet and my partner a resounding shag bingo victory. Rather disappointingly, I’d only got one name out of the whole sodding cave. That said, I’ve actually slept with three different Simons, hence feel I should have been awarded a higher score for that. Plus I can’t remember the name of everyone I’ve ever slept with (the sign of either a misspent youth or encroaching old age). Anyhow, I lost, but can’t help feeling I deserve to have done better. (more…)
September 11, 2012
Llandudno, 1983. I’m eight years old and on a family holiday. It’s raining so we’re in the cinema for the afternoon, watching the latest Bond film. We’ve reached that point where Bond happens to find himself in a bedroom with a “feisty” woman who a) doesn’t wear much and b) needs “taming”. And so we watch Bond force himself on her. She struggles, tries to push him off. Eventually she gives in. It would appear that she wanted it really. And I’m eight and I’m thinking is this normal? Is this what goodies do? Is this okay? No one else seems to find it strange – not my parents, not my 11-year-old brother – so I assume it must be normal. After all, he’s James Bond! He’s the good guy! This is what good guys do. I know it’s a fantasy – I’m eight, not an idiot – but I’m uncertain. Is this really a fantasy of how men are meant to be, and women are meant to respond? I can’t make sense of it. If only I’d had Barry Norman, film critic extraordinaire, on hand to explain it all to me. (more…)