Pam Ayres does rape culture

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:

These were people who were good friends of each other, close friends who spent the evening drinking quite a considerable quantity of alcohol together, at the end of which the allegation is the defendant in a drunken state took advantage of her.

It is something which he bitterly regretted as soon as it happened and he was stopped in the course of it. Some might say to go through the process now is going to make matters worse rather than better.

Poor Anthony Reed, right? Accidentally “taking advantage” of a woman then “bitterly regretting” it. It could happen to anyone. It’s not as though removing the clothes of an unconscious human being and inserting your penis into them involves any active decision-making on your part. In a world full of women, each of them with a vagina and the propensity not to be awake 24 hours a day, it’s a wonder it doesn’t happen more often. A mere 85,000 women raped in England and Wales every year? Truly, I don’t know how men restrain themselves.

Of course, back in the real world, where stupid people without any legal training think stupid thoughts such as “women are human, too”, Reed’s actions and Morris’ comments might appear disturbing. Not, however, if you are Pam Ayres. In the twee, self-deprecating mind of Pam Ayres, what’s really disturbing is that we’re not allowed to name and shame the “pillock” who made the complaint against Reed:

Of course. If only we knew her name. Then perhaps Pam could write a poem about it. I wish I’d looked after me drink. Several verses listing cocktails drunk, complete with the hilarious rhyming of “water” with “oughta”, culminating with a rueful, self-blaming punchline when the victim gets what’s coming to her.  Pam’s got such a way with words, maybe even the victim would see the funny side.

She’s a card, that Pam. Cutesy little references to old-fashioned games are totally on-brand, and terribly effective when you want to imply that complaining of rape is just one of those new-fangled, modern trends, a bit like twerking or selfies, with which you just won’t have truck. How droll.

Twee, mumsy rape apologism, of the kind Ayres offer, does of course make a change from pseudo-rational, nuanced rape apologism (cf. Victoria Coren). It’s another way for some women to try and seek out some higher ground while watching the rest of us wade through the same old shit. It’s a way of pretending that what men like Archie Reed do to women is complex and inevitable when in fact it is neither. It is simple. It is male entitlement and it is wrong. Speaking out against it is right. But then I suppose even for Pam Ayres, there are some subjects – rape, misogyny, the struggle to make these things matter – which are just so everyday and commonplace they’re not even worth engaging with.

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