How do you eat your chicken? It’s a serious question. Get it wrong, and it could lead to all kinds of trouble.
It’s something I’ve always suspected, but it was finally spelled out to me this morning, in a tweet from the Guardian’s Eva Wiseman. This referred to a London Evening Standard article from April this year, covering the trial of now-convicted serial rapist Brian Witty. In his own account of events, offered as part of his defence, Witty claimed that he first encountered one of his victims in a bar, where she was eating chicken “suggestively”. The Standard interprets this as “in a way that replicated a sexual act”. It’s surprising, to say the least. We all knew chicken was versatile, but had you ever considered that?
It’s interesting, isn’t it, how far back into encounters rape trials seem to have to delve. I can understand the argument – you need to know how a relationship developed in order to understand whether or not it was plausible for the accused to assume sex was consensual – but it’s always seemed a crap argument to me. As far as I understand it, it’s fair game to be up for it until the very last minute, or to spend the evening in a right strop before going on to have consensual sex. Oh, but I’m not thinking about plausibility, am I? Silly old me. But then, as I’ve tried to suggest in a previous post, plausibility does seem to come perilously close to defining rape-ability. Once you’ve done something an up-for-it girl might do (this might even include being up for it, only then, and not later), bang goes your chance of a fair trial, long before anything’s even happened.*
Thankfully, this is something feminists have been seeking to challenge. First there was Take Back The Night, a movement based on the out-there proposal that women can, you know, do stuff and go places at night – and in the day! – without having a neon “rape me” sign flashing above their heads. Then in more recent times there’s been SlutWalking, a protest movement offering a more targeted challenge to the idea that women who dress as “sluts” might be inviting their own victimisation. Both these things are, I think, good. Clearly, however, we’re not going far enough. Rapists get very, very confused. We need to deconstruct actions and their meanings on a far more granular level.
I therefore propose a new variant on the SlutWalking idea: Nando’sWalking. Each year, millions of women congregate in bars to eat chicken “suggestively” and to send the message, loud and clear, that whether it’s leg, breast, thigh or drumstick, yes means yes and no means … Well, I still need to do some work on the rhyme. But you get the general idea.
I wouldn’t just stop at Nando’sWalking, though. There are loads of other variations that we could try. SleepWalking is an obvious one. It might be quite hard to organise – unconscious women are an uncooperative bunch – but if we got it right, we could have the march go right past the Ecuadorean embassy, in a special attempt to get the message across to Julian Assange (seeing as he – and his lawyers, and his supporters, and ignorant tossers in general – seem to have real problems understanding the whole “sleep not being consent” thing). Then as well as SleepWalking, we could also have DrunkWalking. I’ve had years of practice at that one, all in the name of protest, mind (I don’t really like booze, me).
Of course, as well as the whole “walking” thing, we’d probably need to do “Nando’sSitting” and “Nando’sLyingDown” and “Nando’sStandingStill”, just to make everything 100% clear. There’d be a lot of work involved in this, sure. But it would be worth it. And we’d get to eat masses of yummy chicken along the way (I assume, never having had Nando’s – I just like the whole idea of the event being branded. Perhaps it could even be sponsored?).
Well, anyhow, that’s my proposal. And I know what the objection will be. “If eating chicken in a rude way doesn’t count, how will anyone know that I want to have with them sex ever again?” But I know the answer to that. You just tell them. You don’t even have to be polite; indeed, ideally, don’t. But you can, honestly, just tell people whether you’re interested and see if they’re interested too. Jesus, it’s not that complicated. But still, I’m willing to stand by my proposal and any unforseen consequences thereof. Should the need ever arise and we have to organise “I’mTotallyUpForItWalking”, rest assured that I will be first in the queue.
* Interestingly, I first wrote “reasonable defence” rather than “fair trial”. Even I have internalised the idea that it’s rape victims who are the real accused. Not even sure how to interpret that myself, and it was my head that just did it.