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.
Dear Victoria Coren,
I’m writing in response to your Observer piece on Roman Polanski and the sin of simplification. I might as well say straight off that I don’t agree with it. But wait, don’t leave just yet! For I have a PhD! From Cambridge! Therefore I’m assuming I’m allowed opinions, too (this may be presumptuous of me; I didn’t get a first and I’m useless at Only Connect, but do bear with me).
You’re aware that your piece has angered many people. Indeed just recently you tweeted:
Some remarkably un-nuanced responses to my piece about nuance. Ah well. If there hadn’t been, there would have been no need to write it.
— Victoria Coren (@VictoriaCoren) September 29, 2013
Ah, those silly, silly people, with their knee-jerk reactions and idiotic binary thinking. As you yourself write, “our modern world does not invite us to treat anyone as nuanced. People are heroes or villains, victims or victimisers; sometimes neither, but never both”. It takes a special kind of visionary to see through all this, doesn’t it? Most people, well, they’re just too busy getting mindlessly self-righteous to sit down, brow a-furrowed, and ponder the ways in which Roman Polanski’s work being “filled with beauty and humanity” sits uneasily beside the fact that he’s also a child rapist (because hey, that’s way too confusing for our little heads! How can he do bad things AND good things? How can anyone, other than an utter intellectual giant, cope with such thoughts without a total brain meltdown?). Continue reading
We all know how damaging it is when someone lies about rape. It can ruin lives, not just those of the people directly involved, but those of all future rape victims, who are less likely to be believed as a result. So why do people do it? Why would someone who has not been raped do something that’s so harmful to those who have?
I don’t think there’s always a straightforward answer, although sometimes it’s obvious. For instance, if you’re an actual rapist you’d probably want to lie about rape if there’s a chance you’ll thereby avoid a prison sentence. Sure, it damages the credibility of the tiny minority of men who are falsely accused of actually raping someone, but what can you do? You’re a rapist! It’s not as though you give a shit. Continue reading
At risk of being deemed yet another person whose sanity is in question or who isn’t a “true feminist at all”, I thought I’d write my own response to Christian Jessen’s recent twitter comments regarding rape. This is because they made me angry, the reasons for which I will state below. Or it is because I have mental health problems, for which I take medication and for which I have on occasion been hospitalised. Or it’s because unlike Dr Jessen I’m actually shit at feminism. I guess it’s up to those reading to make their own diagnosis.
There are individual facts about rape and then there’s the broader context in which they’re publicised and discussed. There is no point in discussing the first without taking the second into account because by raising the subject you are helping to shape this broader context. To pretend that things are otherwise is at best naïve and at worst deliberately obtuse. Continue reading
- 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.
Another day, another clever clogs arrives to tell the feminist masses why they’re fucking up. This time it’s the turn of Martha Gill. Like Charlotte Raven before her, Gill offers a rare insight into the feminist mindset. This is due to the fact that not only is she a feminist herself, but she’s amazingly clever and totally ace at writing. Most feminists are, as Gill so cleverly notes, thick as pigshit and rubbish with words. Thus we should all thank her for her guidance (come on, sheep-like feminist masses! Bleat in gratitude!).
In a piece that is ostensibly on “the perils of Groupthink” Gill makes two timely observations. The first is that every single “online feminist” (i.e. those feminists who are several classes down from a “print feminist”) writes in exactly the same style. And that style is … Well, let’s be honest, it’s the style in which Vagenda write. And Vagenda write in that style deliberately, perhaps because they’re writing about the very magazines whose approach they mimic. It doesn’t take a genius to notice this – Vagenda spell it out for you – but still. Well done, Gill. That’s probably a good few young feminists you’ve embarrassed out of writing on the things they care about, simply because they happen to adopt what you consider to be an overly stylized voice. Sod ‘em, though. It’s all very well finding a voice in this sexist world, but make sure it doesn’t sound too jarring to the more sophisticated feminist ear. Continue reading
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. Continue reading
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).
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. Continue reading