- If you lend George Galloway a fiver, he’s unlikely to think he can now dip into your bank account at every opportunity (on the basis that one shouldn’t have to ask “before every withdrawal”).
- If you were to tell someone that most thefts are committed by people outside the family, you wouldn’t then be told “yeah, but to be on the safe side, I’d hide all your valuables from your granny”; on the other hand, tell someone that most rapes are committed by people known to the victim and you’re straight onto the stranger in the dark alley.
- If someone steals your iPad, the fact that you willingly gave friends and relatives PC World vouchers for Christmas won’t be seen as an indication that you’d actually consented to your iPad being taken.
- You can leave your wallet at home but your body and all its orifices are constantly with you.
- UniLAD don’t advise their readers on the odds of getting away with burglary while college frat boys don’t film and circulate scenes of handbag-snatching.
- No one decides theft is a “grey area” if you allow someone to touch the product they go on to steal.
- Men are expected to be able to control themselves in a consumer society saturated with attractive products just begging to be pilfered; no one accuses advertisers of sending out “confusing messages” to those who lack the financial equivalent of consent.
- Theft prevention advice helps people to protect their possessions; rape prevention advice merely formalises the particular behaviours which a given culture deems to constitute “asking for it”.
- There is no bodily autonomy equivalent to locking your front door as a safety measure. There are, however, plenty of ways in which you can limit your own freedom – not drinking, not having consensual sex, not walking home alone, not wearing “provocative “ clothing, not ever leaving the house. You can do all of these things and people will think of more. There is no limit. And this might be sold to you as consistent safety advice but it’s not. It is inconsistent, shifting moral messaging that forms the backdrop to rape culture. You don’t need to be told to feel afraid. You don’t need to be told to feel vulnerable. You don’t need a culture that normalises rape in the name of “protection”.
- People don’t own their bodies, they are their bodies. End of.
May 12, 2013
April 15, 2013
I’m not sure why I started reading about Rehtaeh Parsons. The briefest summary of her life and death (at age 17) leaves you in little doubt that the more you read, the angrier you’ll get. That’s assuming you care about girls being sexually assaulted, photographed and then bullied by their peers until they kill themselves. Of course, Parsons’ assault remains alleged rather than proven. The same is true for the rape of Audrie Pott. Pott committed suicide at age 15 after photos of her alleged assault went viral around her school. According to reports, Potts was unconscious during the attack and awoke to find messages of “X was here” written on her body. There was more than one assailant, many more who saw the photographs.
How strange, these little pockets of society where suddenly the idea that rape is acceptable – a spectacle for the amusement of others – bubbles up from deep underground. How strange, given that we usually disapprove of rape. Sure, we argue about it – about what causes it, about how it can be proven, about whether some rapes are “worse” than others – but not about whether it is A Bad Thing. Even George Galloway won’t stoop to that. All the same, I’m starting to wish that he would. (more…)
March 13, 2013
Finally – finally! – we get to know just how prevalent false rape accusations have become. As BBC Newsbeat reports “it’s the first time details for England and Wales have been compiled, showing how common the problem is”. From that particular wording, you wouldn’t necessarily think that the answer to that was “not very common at all”. But you’d be wrong. Over the past 17 months there have been two – yes, two – successful prosecutions per month for making false allegations and wasting police time. To put that in perspective, you find an average of 332 prosecutions per month for rape over the same period (something the BBC fails to mention). Even if we set aside the fact that many rapes are not even reported or do not get to trial, it’s quite a contrast. Think of how many times you see stories of false rape allegations reported in the press and imagine if rape convictions were reported in the same way. Every other story you read would be about a rape conviction. But it’s not, is it? Because rape is “the norm” and false allegations are the exception – even if our tendency to focus on the exception means we now think it is the norm (at least if we write for BBC Newsbeat).
March 3, 2013
It would be interesting, if disheartening, to know how much time is spent debating the supposed “rights and wrongs” of rape, sexual assault and harrassment, as opposed to time spent supporting victims and educating potential perpetrators. I’d guess that it’s a lot. We don’t get that many pieces on why rape is bad because apparently that’s something we all know (all of us, that is, apart from the “nutters”, as Caitlin Moran would say). By contrast, there’s plenty of time spent picking over the supposed nuances, the grey areas, the “he said/she said” and whatever other flippantly offensive terms pop up whenever we’re sitting in judgement on those who make accusations (but rarely their accusers).
January 7, 2013
Is there any point in trying to understand how rapists view the world? Funnily enough, I’m starting to believe there is. Perhaps if we were more willing to engage with the rapist perspective, we’d all stop doing those things which increase the prevalence of sexual assault. And no, I don’t mean wearing high heels or drinking too much. Because that’s just silly, isn’t it? I mean seriously, why don’t we actually stop doing those things which make rapists believe that the rapes they commit are acceptable?
According to research quoted by Jil Filipovic in response to a Alyssa Rose’s claim that “Nice guys commit rape, too“, “cultural opposition to rape myths makes men less likely to commit assault, and acceptance of those myths makes sexual assault more likely”. I find this interesting, but not at all surprising. Indeed, it just makes sense. If we define certain rapes as worse than others – if we suggest certain attacks involve “grey areas” – if we perpetuate the idea that most “real” rapes involve violence, strangers and dark alleyways, then we are telling most rapists that they’re not like all the others. We encourage them to believe their situation is different. I’m not saying it’s therefore our fault that they rape, just that maybe, just maybe, some of us should think first before offering supposedly sensible advice to those we’ve chosen to define as potential victims. (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…)
December 27, 2012
In 1983 I met Paul Daniels in a department store in Blackpool. He signed books for both me and my brother. At first I was annoyed because my brother had picked up Paul’s “Magic Book” whereas I had “More Magic”, quite obviously the less impressive sequel. Still, when we reached the front of the queue, I got a kiss off Paul and my brother didn’t. Plus my book says “love Paul” whereas his just has “Paul” (I suppose anything more would have considered been a bit gay).
I didn’t get anything more than a kiss from Paul, mind. This is probably because 1) I was with my grandma in a public place, 2) I wasn’t wearing a “super-short mini-skirt[.], teetering high heels and slap”, and 3) I’m quite possibly just not his type (I look nothing like Debbie McGee – more of a Courtney Cox, I am). The fact that I was also eight is probably neither here nor there. After all, I was an early developer and when girls aren’t in school uniform, who can tell? As Paul allegedly wrote in a recent blog post, with “groupies” it’s sometimes “impossible”. Anyhow, it’s just as well nothing more happened between me and Paul. Apart from anything else, he’d have forgotten the entire thing and would probably now say I was making it up, just like those Jimmy Savile accusers. (more…)
December 17, 2012
When something utterly unexpected occurs – when, for instance, a stranger leaps out of a car and starts to sexually assault you – it’s funny how you don’t respond in the way you always thought you would. Until it happened to me, I always assumed one or all of the following things would happen: 1. I’d use my keys as a makeshift weapon, stabbing the stranger’s eyes with one hand and bending back his little fingers with the other; 2. I’d run like hell, faster than I’d ever run before, and I wouldn’t get out of puff because there’d be so much adrenalin flowing; 3. I’d memorize the stranger’s face and if he had a car, his number plate, too; 4. I’d do all the right things, all the things you’re meant to do, but then again, it wasn’t as though this would ever happen to me anyhow.
Of course, when a car did pull up in front of me on a dark road I instantly thought “what if someone gets out and attacks me?” And then I did that thing where you think that because you’ve already considered one eventuality it can’t possibly happen. After all, the stranger in the dark alley is way too much of a cliché. Still, it turns out that if you’re as terminally uncool as me, clichéd shit still happens. And when it did, I didn’t do any of the things I’d thought I would. I was too frightened and he was too strong (I remember thinking it strange at the time – shouldn’t the fear have been making me superhuman?). So anyhow, let that be a lesson to you, ladies. Take it from me – don’t ever leave the fucking house after dark. (more…)
October 10, 2012
I decided not to watch that Jimmy Savile documentary. All the same, I’ve probably seen it all, bit by bit, in stills and reports in the days since it was aired. I’ve probably seen more than was originally in it. There’s a creepy momentum that drags you in, every detail so tremendously believable even though you tell yourself it isn’t.
In a meeting this morning a colleague demonstrated his iPad to me. Flicking through news pages, he paused as a photo of Jimmy, cigar in mouth, leered up at us. It felt, oddly, as though one of us ought to make a joke, although neither of us could. So he passed over swiftly to Justin Lee Collins. (more…)
September 19, 2012
A woman has been jailed for two years after falsely accusing three men of rape. Luckily the Daily Mail has written a report on the case, complete with photos of said woman “socialising” and details of her sexual history. This is obviously brave reporting, committed to reinforcing the impression that loads of women – but especially the slaggy ones – lie about rape. Still, two years – doesn’t sound like much, does it? As one concerned tweeter puts it:
This slut who falsely accused three men of rape should get the same term they’d have got
Nice! Still, perhaps he’s got a point. Isn’t it about time women who falsely accused men of rape got exactly the same treatment as men who actually rape? (more…)
September 8, 2012
A woman is sexually assaulted in a public bar in Arizona. When passing sentence, the judge tells the victim “if you wouldn’t have been there that night, none of this would have happened”. While I’m no expert in English grammar, I find the use of tenses here quite shocking (surely “hadn’t been there”? Or is it me?). Nevertheless, the actual logic is flawless. If that particular woman had not been in that particular bar, that particular event would not have occurred. The judge has since apologised, but I don’t know why; after all, she’s right, isn’t she?
I fully understand that it’s annoying for judges to waste precious court time in stating the bleedin’ obvious. Even so, a public apology seems a bit extreme. I’m sure there are plenty of other things that judges say which don’t need saying. Even the standard stuff – such as “has the jury reached a verdict?” – is perhaps unnecessary, what with the number of Law & Order re-runs we get these days. (more…)
August 25, 2012
Today’s Guardian features a piece by Jonathan Freedland advising male politicians on what’s required to appeal to the laydeez. I’ve had a good read and as a full-on, humourless feminist, I’d say it passes the test. The basic rules are:
- don’t be a rape-excusing, anti-choice dickhead
- when considering new policies, don’t forget that thing about “women being people, too”
And who can argue with that? Not me, and I tend to be someone who could get embroiled in a heated exchange with a corpse. So why is it that the piece still makes me feel so uneasy? (more…)
August 23, 2012
Calling all non-male occupiers of human bodies! Have you ever stopped to wonder whether each constituent part of the organism in which you reside is being owned and deployed in the most efficient manner possible?
I have been performing an audit of the heap of flesh and bones which, using a somewhat inaccurate shorthand, I happen to call “me”. It has come to my attention that the multiple ownership of “me” is becoming unwieldy, leading to serious concerns about productivity. In order to provide a template for other non-male body occupiers wishing to perform a similar analysis, here’s where I – or should I say “I” – find myself in terms of body distribution and possession: (more…)
August 21, 2012
Following my recent post in response to West Mercia Police’s Safe Night Out campaign, I am wary of gaining a reputation as someone who simply goes around having lots and lots of rubbish sex. This would be reductive and untrue; I’ve had lots of good sex, too. But it’s fair to say I’ve been the participant in many a rubbish shag. What’s even worse is that it’s frequently been my fault. (more…)
July 27, 2012
Yes, rape is a crime and men (and in rare cases women) that commit it are beyond reprehensible. But there are ways that you can minimise the risk – this doesn’t shift the blame of the crime, but it can help the innocent. This isn’t blaming the victim – no more than advising people not to stand in certain areas of Manchester with their eyes closed waving a new iPhone around.
Comment on Independent blog, 26 July 2012
If i leave my front door open it doesn’t give thieves the right to nick my stuff but it increases the likelihood that it will happen.And if my insurers feel i was negligent in leaving my front door open they may well not pay out on my household contents insurance policy.Likewise if i choose to make myself drunk and incapable it doesn’t give people the right to beat me,rob me and possibly even rape me but it increases the likelihood that it may happen.So surely i have some responsibility to take steps to protect myself.
Comment on the Guardian Comment is Free, 26 July 2012
When a sensitive topic such a rape is discussed, feminists are often accused of not knowing the difference between victim-blaming and just advising people to take sensible precautions because hey, there are some innately evil people out there, people whose behaviour is in no way responsive to the culture that surrounds them. Well, as a feminist, I would like to show that not only can I copy and paste massive comments then write pointlessly long sentences at the start of blog posts, but that I do ‘get’ this difference. I totally do. (more…)
July 25, 2012
Did you know, if you drink excessively, you could leave yourself more vulnerable to regretful sex or even rape?
Copy taken from West Mercia Police’s Safe Night Out Campaign
Dear West Mercia Police
I am delighted to learn that you are taking an interest in whether women who drink excessively end up having “regretful sex”. Having endured many a pissed, regrettable shag in my time, I am overjoyed to see this issue finally being treated with the gravity it deserves. (more…)
July 2, 2012
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Do you remember that time at school when, if anybody farted, no one would dare say a word? It didn’t matter how ridiculously loud or poisonously stinky it was. You couldn’t say a thing for risk of having the dreaded rhyme thrown at you: “He who smellt it dealt it”.
Of course, we all knew that was bollocks. That’s not how farting identification works. If you’re the one who’s let rip, you do your damnedest to keep your mouth shut (given that keeping the other orifice in check has well and truly failed). You don’t want to draw attention to yourself. And hence, you leave it to someone else to take all the blame, simply by falling foul of a random, meaningless rhyme.
I often think of this rhyme when I hear the phrase “he said, she said” used in relation to rape cases. It brings rape down to the same old trivial classroom level, and it’s got nothing at all to do with the truth. (more…)