Say what you like about old-school misogynists, they’re no slackers when it comes to getting a style guide in place. No one knows where they keep it – perhaps in a cave somewhere, surrounded by oestrogen-sensitive traps – but each and every one of them follows it to the letter.
One of the first rules seems to be, whenever expressing misogynist views in print, insist you’re breaking a massive taboo and thereby risking life and limb in our aggressively misandrist society. Everyone knows this is crap, even the people writing it, but it’s obligatory to preface any sexist diatribe with the same old lie. Hence poor old Crimewatch presenter Nick Ross, complaining of how for some it is “heresy” that “victims [of rape] should ever be held responsible at all”. Just imagine! Although, to be fair, in this case he probably does have the beginnings of a point. He’s at least right that for others, this isn’t “heresy” at all. Just look at Facebook. Or Steubenville. Or George Galloway or Kenneth Clarke or even feminist spokeswoman Caitlin Moran. Victims of rape are held responsible for what happens to them all the sodding time. But don’t let that stop you, Nick. Go on, be brave! Say the unsayable, via the radical pages of the Daily Mail, even though it’s been said a billion times before and is no more true now than it ever was.
There are particular rules in the style guide when it comes to discussing the “abhorrent” crime of rape. One of these is “be clear that you find it abhorrent” (before going on to show how most rapes are not “real” rapes and therefore not abhorrent at all). Hence Ross feels the need to explain to all of us that “rape is one of the most violating crimes” (much in the same way, I guess, that murder is one of the most murderous of crimes):
Victims tend to feel dirty, embarrassed, racked with revulsion and self-blame, and, since it almost always involves a male assailant, rape is one of the defining issues for radical feminism. But have the red mists of politics and emotion clouded reality here?
Thanks, Nick! Way to show how empathetic and understanding you are while nevertheless injecting the voice of reason into the “debate” (for by the time we get to phrases such as “defining issues for radical feminism”, rape isn’t really a crime, it’s a debating topic). As for the “red mists of politics and emotion” – well, sure, Nick! All these violated, dirty-feeling women will get upset about it, especially when they find themselves described in such patronizing, “used goods” terms. So we clearly can’t trust them to be clear-headed about the matter, unlike some man off the telly.
The second rule when engaging in a full-on misogynist rant about rape is “draw lots of offensive, fatuous analogies with property theft”. Go ahead, Mr Ross:
We have come to acknowledge it is foolish to leave laptops on the back seat of a car. We would laugh at a bank that stored sacks of cash by the front door. We would be aghast if an airport badly skimped on its security measures.
Our forebears might be astonished at how safe women are today given what throughout history would have been regarded as incitement
Funny, that. The thing is, Nick, ever wondered why they are so safe (relatively speaking)? It’s called cultural change! It’s down to the fact that something is less likely to be “incitement” to rape if it’s not actively described in those terms. Women are more at risk when people describe their behaviour as putting them more at risk. That you find this so puzzling might well suggest you’re stuck with the mindset of your “forebears”. Which is a shame. I guess that’s what happened when men are kept in cossetted media jobs when they’re long past their sell-by date (as for the property theft analogies, I truly cannot be arsed. If you’re curious, Nick, I blogged about that last week, when someone else broke the “rarely broken apart from all the fucking time” taboo on that).
On to Rule No. 3, which is to hint in a rather obvious fashion that things gone “too far the other way”. To his credit, Ross doesn’t go so far as to mention the metaphorical pendulum (one imagines the Brotherhood will take him to task for this later). But he does spout the usual nonsense about violence against women being a radical feminist exaggeration and the number of male victims being “precisely the same”. It isn’t. Never mind, Nick (while on the subject of what happens between partners behind closed door, you could have mentioned that this is where most rapes take place, rather than on drunken nights out and … Oh, forget it).
The fourth rule involves plenty of muddled assertions of “grey areas” and “ambiguity”. Here Ross excels himself:
Half of all women who have had penetrative sex unwillingly do not think they were raped, and this proportion rises strongly when the assault involves a boyfriend, or if the woman is drunk or high on drugs: they led him on, they went too far, it wasn’t forcible, they didn’t make themselves clear… For them, rape isn’t always rape and, however upsetting, they feel it is a long way removed from being systematically violated or snatched off the street.
The thing is, Nick, you remember earlier on in your article, when you were claiming to know exactly how rape victims feel? (Or perhaps you’ve forgotten – after all, it’s just a rhetorical device, not something you actually thought in your actual brain.) Anyhow, you said lots of stuff about guilt and embarrassment and self-blame. Well, what “self-blame” actually means is that victims blame themselves! So essentially, saying “real rape victims blame themselves but then since some women who have had penetrative sex unwillingly blame themselves that can’t be real rape” doesn’t make logical sense. Could it be that “the red mists of politics and emotion clouded reality here,” huh?
Linked to this is Rule Five, which is be imaginative in your euphemisms for rape. Galloway talks about “bad sexual etiquette”, Ross prefers to think of women who’ve “had penetrative sex unwillingly”. I bet there’s a whole thesaurus devoted to this. No such thing as “rape”; it’s just an instance of one’s orifices being in the wrong place at the wrong time. And they still feign surprise when we don’t accept this.
One final thing all misogynist writers do is pretend to worry about “the wrath of feminists”. The truth is, they don’t give a shit about our anger. It just makes them think they’re right. But they’re not.
They’re wrong on this and no matter how boring and repetitive it is, we need to keep telling them they’re wrong, if only because by doing so, we’re also telling victims that they’re not wrong, they’re not guilty and they should feel no shame. And when victims know that, perpetrators and their apologists are afraid.
POSTSCRIPT: Nick Ross has now defended his remarks, and wishes to assure people that when it comes to “the highly emotive issue of rape […] anyone who suffers such a violating crime should be the centre of our concerns. As I write in the book, rape is one of the most defiling crimes and there is never excuse or justification for it”. FFS. Now I’m even angrier. Obviously there is “justification for it” to someone who decides many rapes just aren’t rapes. But what really appalls me is this “defiling” adjective. How dare Ross blur the lines between how rape makes a victim feel and what rape actually is. No rape victim is metaphorically “defiled” and no rape victim should ever be looked upon that way.