The Home Affairs Select Committee have announced that unlike people accused of any other crime, those accused of sex crimes (including rape) deserve anonymity until charged. It’s a decision that has been made without consulting rape victims or rape support charities, instead appearing to be motivated by sympathy for the DJ Paul Gambacinni, kept on bail for 12 months over an allegation that was eventually dropped. According to Committee chairman Keith Vaz “we have seen how destructive [releasing names] can be to a person’s livelihood, causing irreparable reputational damage and enormous financial burden.” We have also, one would think, seen how damaging rape – which happens to an estimated one in five women – can be, but apparently that’s less measurable (or less important?). In any case, the belief that a “special stigma” attaches to rape, making those accused more in need of protection from publicity, persists.
Personally I find it strange to think that we live in a world so appalled and outraged by rape that those accused of it are social pariahs. If that were the case, surely we wouldn’t be surrounded by men telling women that forced penetration and sexual coercion are perfectly fine. A world in which great stigma is attached to rape itself is not a world in which …
- Teenage boys film themselves raping young women and share it on social media
- The BMJ reports a “climate of coercion” surrounding anal sex, with men reporting attempts to “accidentally” penetrate women on purpose
- UK politicians still seek to make distinctions between “serious rape” and what is presumably the non-serious kind
- More than a quarter of people in the UK think drunk victims of rape or sexual assault are at least partly responsible for what happened to them
- Male university students publicly chant “no means yes, yes means anal” outside the halls of female students
- A third of male college students in the US say they would “act on intentions to force a woman to sexual intercourse if they were confident they could get away with it”
- The UK student website UniLAD tells readers that since 85% of rapes go unreported, “that seems to be fairly good odds,” before reminding them that “Uni Lad does not condone rape without saying ‘surprise’”
- The victim of rapist footballer Ched Evans has been forced to change her name and move more than five times due to being hounded by strangers
- An estimated 85,000 women are raped in England and Wales every year
This is not a world in which rape is seen as a truly abhorrent act of violence. It is joked about. It is excused. It is filmed and shared between friends. It is committed time and again, by men who believe it is normal (just don’t say the “r” word, at least not outside your own circle of friends).
The stigma, if there is one, has nothing to do with rape itself. It’s to do with naming it. It’s to do with being accused. An accusation breaks all the rules. You haven’t properly overpowered a victim if she then complains. Her complaint makes you a Rapist with a capital “R,” as opposed to someone who merely “coerces” (every man coerces, doesn’t he? Coercion’s when you get away with it and that’s just fine).
I don’t believe for a minute that the tiny number of men falsely accused of rape suffer more than the tens of thousands of women raped every year who see no justice at all. Only someone who believes men are more human than women – or that forced penetration is no big deal since that’s what women are there for – could dare to think otherwise. If a false accusation of rape is more traumatic than one of, say, burglary or murder, this isn’t because we think rape is more abhorrent. We don’t. Perhaps men feel pressured put on a show of distancing their behaviour and beliefs from those of someone who’s been “officially” labelled a rapist. Or maybe there’s a particular shame – a form of emasculation – associated in having your socially approved right to take penetrate more vulnerable bodies legally questioned. Whatever it is, it’s not that we think rape is worse than other crimes. We just don’t like having to think of it as a crime at all.
When we present to you the myriad and varied harms of pornography, and you immediately counter with “well, that’s why we need more feminist/free-range/vegan/fair-trade porn,” what you are actually saying is this:
That you are currently dependent on pornography, that you cannot envision your life without access to videos of strangers fucking each other, and that someone had better produce some porn you can use without having to feel like an asshole.
QotD: “My understanding of masculinity is that it refers to behaviour that is constructed by and serves to maintain male dominance”
My understanding of masculinity is that it refers to behaviour that is constructed by and serves to maintain male dominance. Masculinity is not just that which pertains to men, since men can be seen, and consider themselves, to be insufficiently masculine… Masculinity is not, then, a biological fact, something connected with particular hormones or genes. Masculine behaviour or appearance or artifacts, and design, signify ‘manhood’ as a political, not a biological, category. In this understanding masculinity cannot exist without its supposed opposite, femininity, which pertains to female subordination. Neither masculinity nor femininity make sense or can exist without the other as a reference point.
Sheila Jeffreys, Unpacking Queer Politics
Councils in England and Wales want new powers to combat predatory men suspected of grooming children for sex.
They want the government to introduce so-called child sexual exploitation disruption orders which councils could apply for through magistrates.
Sanctions to prevent the grooming of vulnerable children are too limited, says the Local Government Association.
It says orders could be used against anyone suspected of grooming, banning them from certain places or activities.
David Simmonds, chairman of the LGA’s Children and Young People Board, told the BBC that, for example, suspected offenders might be banned from hanging around outside named schools, shops or restaurants at particular times or being in the company of young people.
Councils would have to apply to local magistrates to obtain the orders, says the LGA, which represents more than 370 councils in England and Wales.
Evidence from abuse inquiries from Oxford to Rotherham heard that time and again, police and social workers had no means of intervening to prevent the grooming and sexual exploitation of children, until they had evidence that a child had already been harmed, it adds.
The LGA wants the next government to introduce a bill to bring in the disruption orders in its first term.
“Few parents would be comfortable if their children were spending their time in the company of older men and coming home with expensive gifts and smelling of alcohol – but the reality is that there have been concerned mums and dads who have had to stand by, powerless, as their children have been groomed by vile sexual predators,” said Cllr Simmonds.
“We need to make it easier to intervene earlier before harm is done.
“By making it possible for councils to apply swiftly to the courts for an order to disrupt grooming we can help prevent the lives of children being ruined by sexual exploitation.”
The LGA says the orders would be designed to target people suspected of grooming children, to put a safe space between them and their victims.
Victims would not be required to testify when an application for an order was heard, it adds.
QotD: “If there were any feminist men the feminist women would not know it because those guys would be talking to men, not mansplaining feminism to women and vying for leadership in feminist groups”
If there were any feminist men the feminist women would not know it because those guys would be talking to men, not mansplaining feminism to women and vying for leadership in feminist groups.
If the majority of men were decent human beings the subjugation of women would have ended hundreds of years ago. Men prefer exploitation to cooperation. History teaches us if we are willing to learn.
Physical violence and abuse also a factor in 20% of relationships, new research finds
Research published today reveals that more than 4 in 10 teenage schoolgirls in England* have experienced sexual coercion. Most were pressured to have sex or other sexual activity, but some cases included rape.
Controlling online behaviour by partners, through constant checking of their social network activity, sending threatening messages or telling them who they could be ‘friends’ with was closely associated with young people experiencing violence or abuse from their partner offline.
Pornography influencing teen attitudes to sex and relationships
The researchers found that a high proportion of teenage boys regularly viewed pornography and 1 in 5 harboured extremely negative attitudes towards women.
Pressure to send sexual images
England had the highest rate for children exchanging sexual images and messages with a partner among the countries surveyed.
More than 4 in 10 (44%) girls and just under a third (32%) of boys in England had sent them to their boyfriend or girlfriend. Just over 40% of girls who sent them said they had been shared by a partner with others.
Just under half of girls and boys in England had received them. Around a quarter (27%) of girls sent messages and images because they felt pressurised by a partner to do so.
Young people who reported violence and abuse in their relationships were at least twice as likely to have sent a sexual image or text compared to those who had not.
Sex education urgently needs updating
We are calling on the government to take action to ensure teenagers get a clearer message about healthy relationships.
Claire Lilley, head of child safety online said:
“The levels of victimisation revealed by this research shows action is urgently needed by the government to make updated sex and relationship education a statutory right for every child and young person. There needs to be a greater focus in schools on topics such as sexual exploitation and violence against girls and young women, as part of a balanced curriculum.
“The high rates of sexual coercion discovered need to be addressed through education and awareness raising that challenges attitudes and helps change behaviour. We need to nurture children to have positive relationships based on mutual respect.”
The highest rates of sexual coercion were reported by teenage girls in England. Around 1 in 5 (22%) also said they had suffered physical violence or intimidation from boyfriends, including slapping, punching, strangling and being beaten with an object. In interviews with 100 of the children, many said the pressure to have sex was so great it almost became ‘normal’ and in some cases rape was not recognised.
QotD: “Women of today are still being called upon to stretch across the gap of male ignorance and to educate men as to our existence and our needs”
Women of today are still being called upon to stretch across the gap of male ignorance and to educate men as to our existence and our needs. This is an old and primary tool of all oppressors to keep the oppressed occupied with the master’s concerns.
Audre Lorde, Sister Outsider
Prostitution is the quintessential expression of global capitalism. Our corporate masters are pimps. We are all being debased and degraded, rendered impoverished and powerless, to service the cruel and lascivious demands of the corporate elite. And when they tire of us, or when we are no longer of use, we are discarded as human refuse. If we accept prostitution as legal, as Germany has done, as permissible in a civil society, we will take one more collective step toward the global plantation being built by the powerful. The fight against prostitution is the fight against a dehumanizing neoliberalism that begins, but will not end, with the subjugation of impoverished girls and women.
Poverty is not an aphrodisiac. Those who sell their bodies for sex do so out of desperation. They often end up physically injured, with a variety of diseases and medical conditions, and suffering from severe emotional trauma. The left is made morally bankrupt by its failure to grasp that legal prostitution is another face of neoliberalism. Selling your body for sex is not a choice. It is not about freedom. It is an act of economic slavery.
On a rainy night recently I walked past the desperate street prostitutes in the 15 square blocks that make up the Downtown Eastside ghetto in Vancouver—most of them impoverished aboriginal women. I saw on the desolate street corners where women wait for customers the cruelty and despair that will characterize most of our lives if the architects of neoliberalism remain in power. Downtown Eastside has the highest HIV infection rate in North America. It is filled with addicts, the broken, the homeless, the old and the mentally ill, all callously tossed onto the street.
Lee Lakeman, one of Canada’s most important radicals, and several members of the Vancouver Rape Relief & Women’s Shelter, met with me one morning in their storefront office in Vancouver. Lakeman in the 1970s opened her home in Ontario to abused women and their children. By 1977 she was in Vancouver working with the Rape Relief & Women’s Shelter, founded in 1973 and now the oldest rape crisis center in Canada. She has been at the forefront of the fight in Canada against the abuse of women, building alliances with groups such as the Aboriginal Women’s Action Network and the Asian Women Coalition Ending Prostitution.
Lakeman and the shelter refused to give the provincial government access to victims’ files in order to protect the anonymity of the women. They also denied this information to the courts, in which, Lakeman said, “defense attorneys try to discredit or bully women complainants in criminal cases of male violence against women.” This defiance saw the shelter lose government funding. “It is still impossible to work effectively in a rape crisis center or a transition house and not be breaking the Canadian law on a regular basis,” said Lakeman, who describes herself as being increasingly radical.
Lakeman, along with the radical feminists allied with the shelter, is the bête noire not only of the state but of feckless liberals who think physical abuse of a woman is abhorrent if it occurs in a sweatshop but somehow is acceptable in a rented room, an alley, a brothel, a massage parlor or a car. Lakeman is fighting a world that has gone numb, a world that has banished empathy, a world where solidarity with the oppressed is a foreign concept. And, with upheavals ahead caused by climate change and the breakdown of global capitalism, she fears that if mechanisms are not in place to protect poor women the exploitation and abuse will increase.
“We have never stopped having to deal with misogyny among activists,” she said. “It is a serious problem. How do we talk to each other as movements? We want to talk about coalition building. But we want new formations to take women’s leadership seriously, to use what has been learned in the last 40 or 50 years. We deal with the most dispossessed among women. And it is clear to us that every sloppy uprising, or every unplanned, chaotic uprising, devastates poor women. We need to have thoughtfulness built into our practices of revolt. We do not want the traditional right-wing version of law and order. We work against it. We do not call for a reduction in men’s rights. But, without an organized community, without state responsibility, every woman is on her own against a man with more power.”
“We are seeing a range of violence against women that generations before us never saw—incest, wife abuse, prostitution, trafficking and violence against lesbians,” she went on. “It has become normal. But in periods of chaos it gets worse. We are trying to hang on to what we know about how to care for people, what we know about working democratically, about nonviolence, yet not be subsumed by the state. Yet we have to insist on a woman’s right not to face every man alone. We have to demand the rule of law.”
“Globalization and neoliberalism have accelerated a process in which women are being sold wholesale, as if it is OK to prostitute Asian women in brothels because they are sending money home to poor families,” she said. “This is the neoliberal model proposed to us. It is an industry. It is [considered] OK … just a job like any other job. This model says people are allowed to own factories where prostitution is done. They can own distribution systems [for prostitution]. They can use public relations to promote it. They can make profits. Men who pay for prostitution support this machinery. The state that permits prostitution supports this machinery. The only way to fight capitalism, racism and protect women is to stop men from buying prostitutes. And once that happens we can mobilize against the industry and the state to benefit the whole anti-racist and anti-capitalist struggle. But men will have to accept feminist leadership. They will have to listen to us. And they will have to give up the self-indulgence of prostitution.”
“The left broke apart in the 1970s over the failure to contend with racism, imperialism and women’s freedom,” she said. “These are still the fault lines. We have to build alliances across these gaps. But there are deal breakers. You can’t buy women. You can’t beat women. You can’t expect us to coalesce on the ‘wider’ issues unless you accept this. The problem with the left is it is afraid of words like ‘morality.’ The left does not know how to distinguish between right and wrong. It does not understand what constitutes unethical behavior.”
For efficient subordination, what’s wanted is that the structure not only not appear to be a cultural artifact kept in place by human decision or custom, but that it appear natural – that it appear to be a quite direct consequence of the facts about the beast which are beyond the scope of human manipulation or revision. It must seem natural that individuals of the one category are dominated by individuals of the other and that as groups, the one dominates the other.
Why did Sean Hannity incredulously stare at Zerlina Maxwell when she suggested that men be taught not to rape? Why is the Steubenville rape trial verdict considered a tragedy? Why do people think that the normal behavior of boys is aggression and rape?
Our society thinks that rape is not epidemic but rather endemic, meaning “natural to or characteristic of a specific people or place.” The general public believes that aggression and rape are “natural” behaviors of men. Our patriarchal and pop-Darwin culture believes the mythology that rape is an advantageous reproductive strategy selected because it is said to have increased the male’s individual fitness early in our evolutionary history. I will show this to be inconsistent with evolutionary theory. Western religion, with its belief in the inherent evilness of man and his inevitable acting out of horrific sins, hasn’t really helped dissipate contemporary society’s bloodthirsty sex-crazed caveman image of man either.
In other words, there is no such thing as a “low-cost” rape in the human world, only injurious rape. Whether you are a prehistoric or modern woman, if a man tries to have sex with you against your will, you will violently resist, unless unable to do so or you reason it is in your best interest not to. And in the case of a violent struggle, it is possible for either the rapist and/or victim to receive fatal and/or debilitating injuries during the process of the attempted rape. In the case that the victim is murdered there is no child to reproduce “rapist genes,” and the claim that these genes survive in contemporary society becomes very weak indeed. In the case that the rapist is killed in defense, we at least know he will not be fathering any further children and therefore the probability of his genes flowing into posterity decreases. His chances of “successful rape” decrease even further when we contemplate whether a disgusted and intelligent being would decide to clean herself of all signs of the rapist, thereby destroying his chance at successfully perpetuating his genes. On top of all of this, I wonder if the rapist’s buddies acted as onlookers and learned very quickly that the risk of injury while trying to execute a “successful rape” was entirely too large in comparison to the risk incurred by gathering some berries and building a home. Did these sociobiologists even stop to think that maybe early humans were social and affectionate and that both sexes happened to evolve pleasure apparatuses (i.e. clitoris and penis) to perhaps encourage cooperative and extended sexual encounters? If many biologists believe that various courtship displays were selected for to synchronize the physiological state of the sexes, why do these scientists propose a theory of antagonism? Evolution does not work to maximize conflict across and within species for this would certainly lead to multiple extinctions. Rather evolution works to maximize cooperation.
Lots of questions remain. Wouldn’t one assume that among our ancestors, who lived in small communities, rape was punished and so may have reduced rather than enhanced a male’s future reproduction? If rape is about reproduction, why are about one-third of its victims young children and the elderly, too young or old to reproduce? Why do men rape lovers and wives, with whom they also have consensual sex?
Frans B. M. De Waal
“Sex work advocates attempt to no-platform journalist, Chris Hedges, after damning sex industry report”
Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, Chris Hedges, is scheduled to give the keynote speech at an upcoming conference about resource extraction at Simon Fraser University (SFU). The State of Extraction, set to take place from March 27-29, 2015, aims to bring together Indigenous leadership, academics, artists, public intellectuals, activists, and the general public to address “the new face of resource capitalism in Canada… and the lack of debate about such issues.” Ironically, a “lack of debate” is precisely what some groups want.
After publishing an unforgiving report on the sex industry and the left’s unwillingness to challenge what Hedges calls “the quintessential expression of global capitalism,” the bestselling author received an email from conference organizer, Stephen Collis.
The email, sent on March 11, explained that Hedges’ article “set off a ‘firestorm.” Collis writes that, despite his “own knowledge of this issue [being] highly limited… the views expressed in [the] piece are highly controversial.”
Collis said in emails that he was informed by “groups opposed to abolition and in favour of harm reduction/legalization” that the arguments Hedges highlights in his report are “not supported by most organizers and organizations in the [Downtown Eastside of Vancouver], who have found comments in the article offensive and prejudiced.” He told Hedges, via email, that “We have been inundated with complaints around your appearance at the State of Extraction conference, both from individuals and organizations.”
While Collis may have heard from those who are opposed to the ideas put forth in Hedges’ report, which outlines a feminist critique of the sex industry, he had not yet heard from those groups and individuals who agree with Hedges’ assessment that the fight against prostitution is a “fight against a dehumanizing neoliberalism that begins, but will not end, with the subjugation of impoverished girls and women.”
Collis wrote, in his initial email, that “the stakes of the conference are premised on solidarity with frontline and marginalized (and largely Indigenous) communities facing continuing colonial dispossession — a loss of agency, and a loss of voice,” informing Hedges that, in an effort to “stand with marginalized indigenous communities,” he intended to cancel the journalist’s keynote speech.
To be clear, those who petitioned Hedges’ talk are individuals and groups who lobby to legalize the purchase of sex. Pivot Legal, Collis told me, was one of the primary voices involved in opposing the Hedges’ involvement in the conference. Pivot played a significant role in the Bedford case, advocating for the full decriminalization of prostitution, specifically, the decriminalization of pimps, johns, and brothel owners. What else seems clear is that groups and individuals (there were only about seven or eight emails received in protest, I’m told) who support the legalization of prostitution have a vested interest in silencing dissent and in no-platforming anyone who dares suggest that prostitution constitutes a violation of women’s human rights.
Lee Lakeman, a prominent activist and longtime member of Vancouver Rape Relief & Women’s Shelter (recently retired), points out that the information Collis received is erroneous. “There is no Indigenous community that has called for the legalization of prostitution,” she says. Lakeman also says she doesn’t know which “frontline workers” he is referring to. “Obviously women working against violence against women [who oppose the sex industry] are frontline workers…”
In fact, there are many local frontline organizations, women’s groups, and activists — including women from the sex trade — who oppose the legalization of prostitution, advocating instead for a model that decriminalizes the prostituted but criminalizes pimps, johns, and brothel owners (a model recently adopted in Canada, commonly referred to as the Nordic model), including Vancouver Rape Relief, Aboriginal Women’s Action Network, The Native Women’s Association of Canada, Women Against Violence Against Women Rape Crisis Centre (WAVAW), Indigenous Women Against the Sex Industry (IWASI), Asian Women Coalition Ending Prostitution (AWCEP), and EVE, just to name a few…
Lakeman agrees that liberals too-often refuse to take a stand in difficult times, referencing a quote from Bernadette Devlin, who once said, “in the absence of a fence to sit on , the weakly hearted liberals will go about the business of building one.”
Lee feels a decision to cancel Hedges’ presentation would reveal SFU as “an institution that accepts complicity with the systems of imperialism and colonialism that prop up the exploitation of women.”