The first time Shivangi Choubey missed the curfew at her student hostel was a night in late September. It was not the only rule she broke that day.
Women students at Banaras Hindu University are not supposed to protest. Many are made to sign a contract that spells this out explicitly. Men are not required to sign anything of the kind.
Nor, at many hostels on campus, are women served meat, permitted to speak on the phone after 10pm, or allowed out in the evenings when their male counterparts still roam the tree-lined campus on sputtering two-wheelers or cram into the library to study.
So it was especially shocking – and unprecedented in the university’s 100-year history – when Choubey led 200 women through the gates of their college to join hundreds of others assembled outside Lanka gate, the campus’s bustling entrance. “Nobody ever misses a curfew,” she says, pulling a scarlet shawl around her shoulders. “That’s something very big for us. But we were so agitated, because these things keep happening to us.”
The day before, an undergraduate student walking home from her department said she had been sexually assaulted by two men on a motorbike. Campus security guards had been sitting in plastic chairs about 20 metres away but did nothing, the woman said. She told others that the warden at her college had dismissed the incident, telling her: “They just touched you. They didn’t do anything serious.”
“These comments were a spark on already burning logs,” says Dhriti Dharana, a psychology student living at the same college as the alleged victim. “We thought, to hell with everything. We’re going to protest.”
The days of demonstrations that followed have brought one of India’s most prestigious and conservative universities to its knees. Its vice-chancellor is on indefinite leave. The head of security resigned. Colleges were emptied of students – “evacuated”, one said – days earlier than a scheduled holiday after footage of police using batons against young women went viral, drawing national condemnation.
The BBC has managed to report on this better (although I still had to change the headline from ‘child sex’ to ‘child sexual exploitation’):
Eighteen people have been convicted of abusing girls in Newcastle who were plied with alcohol and drugs before being forced to have sex.
The vulnerable victims, some as young as 14, were exploited by a “cynical organisation”, a court heard.
The 17 men and one woman were convicted of rape, supplying drugs and conspiracy to incite prostitution.
Over the course of four trials, 20 young women gave evidence covering a period from 2011 to 2014.
These trials involved 26 defendants, who were mostly Asian, facing a total of more than 100 charges and 22 victims.
Those prosecuted were from the Bangladeshi, Pakistani, Indian, Iraqi, Iranian and Turkish communities and mainly British-born, with most living in the West End of Newcastle.
Of the 26, three people have been jailed. The rest will be sentenced next month.
Although many of the defendants were charged with conspiracy to incite prostitution for gain, there is no suggestion that any of the victims were sex workers.
It’s disgusting. It implies that there is a separate class of underage girls and vulnerable women who are unexploitable, because they are ‘sex workers’. It implies that some women and girls can be complicit in their own exploitation, that if any of those women and girls laid claim to a certain ‘identity’ (or had that ‘identity’ applied to them, as happened in Rochdale), then they wouldn’t have been victims of exploitation.
It is also implying that there is a separate realm of ‘sex work’ which has no connection to paedophilia, grooming, exploitation and forced prostitution.
I will be emailing the editor (firstname.lastname@example.org) and the journalist (email@example.com), not that it ever does any good. Frances Perraudin is also on twitter (@fperraudin) if any reader of this blog would like to let her know that she is throwing vulnerable women and girls under the bus.
It’s not quite so positive in the eyes of the Cambridgeshire police, called to the development “a disproportionate number of times”, not only to patrol late-night student antics, but to investigate the trafficking of sex workers. “We’ve seen an awful lot of ‘pop-up brothels’,” says Detective Inspector Nick Skipworth, who recently asked the council for extra resources to police the area.
“A huge number of the properties are available as short-term holiday lets for a week at a time, so they’ve been targeted by the sex trade. We’ve been running an operation to safeguard sex workers over the last two years and made several arrests related to trafficking in the CB1 area.”
And so, unfortunately, are the police, but I’m not sure how one complains to a police force over this kind of thing.
I have emailed the Guardian before about this, and never received a reply (the Observer has been better), but I’m going to keep on trying. Please feel free to copy or adapt this template:
I am writing to you to complain about the article ‘‘An embarrassment to the city’: what went wrong with the £725m gateway to Cambridge?’, published in today’s Guardian.
It is wrong to call women trafficked into prostitution ‘sex workers’, rape is not ‘work’ and a raped woman is not a ‘worker’.
Under any other circumstances, coerced sex is called rape, but when the rapist hands over money to a third party, who has violent control over the rape victim, it gets called ‘sex work’. This makes no sense, and invisibilises the men who are happy to pay to rape trafficked women; it turns a sexual abuse issue into a mere labour issue.
The fact that the police officer interviewed for the piece used the term ‘sex worker’ is no excuse, newspapers are supposed to hold public bodies to account.
I look forward to hearing back from you on this issue.
For instance, if instead of paying for sex a landlord would rather receive sexual favours from a tenant living rent-free, would that really be so bad? Well, yes, actually it would, at least according to recent reports of landlords making this very offer. Apparently, this is an appalling example of the current housing market allowing predatory men to exploit the vulnerable.
Only if this is the case, why is paying for sex not viewed with the same horror? It’s the same marketplace, the same bodies, the same needs. All sex for rent does is cut out the symbolic means of exchange in the middle. Yet far from decrying the exchange of sex for money, supposedly progressive organisations such as Amnesty International and the NUS, in addition to mainstream political parties such as the Liberal Democrats and the Greens, are pushing to liberalise attitudes towards the purchase of sex. Why are these two things seen so differently?
True, live-in work carries with it particular risks and uncertainties, but do any of us feel the same qualms about housekeepers or nannies getting to live rent-free? And aren’t many of us doing jobs we’d rather not do, only a pay check or two away from eviction? So why should sex for rent be seen as especially problematic?
If it’s to do with the fact that it’s sex and not, say, cleaning or childcare, shouldn’t we be able to pinpoint why this is? And yet few are willing to do so, silenced by the thought-terminating clichés – “sex work is work”, “my body, my choice” – that have come to dominate the left’s approach to sex and gender.
I’d go so far as to suggest the mainstream left has no real right to be shocked about sex for rent. After all, it’s only the logical conclusion of a pseudo-feminist politics which refuses to engage fully with power and labour redistribution, choosing instead to talk in circles about the right of individuals to do whatever they like with their own bodies while bypassing any analysis of why one group seeks to control the sexual and reproductive lives of another. It’s politics for the unthinking and the privileged, yet it appears we can all afford to be unthinking and privileged when it’s only the bodies of women at stake.
“My body, my choice”, a perfectly appropriate slogan when used to mean only a pregnant woman should be able to make decisions about her pregnancy, has been expanded ad absurdum. Yet the point about abortion is that the only alternative to it is the work of pregnancy; there’s no possible third option, whereby the already-pregnant individual gets to go through neither. The same is not true of sex work or poverty. It is possible for there to be alternatives to exploitation or destitution. That for many women there are currently none is not least down to a politics that values unlimited sexual freedom for all – an impossibility – over a fairer redistribution of limited choices for everyone.
If we regard women as full, equal human beings, then we cannot have a world in which there are no limits placed on men’s access to female sexual and/or reproductive labour. “Sex work is work” and “my body, my choice” simply don’t cut it when it comes to deciding where to draw the line. We should all face restrictions on what we can do with our own bodies, just as we should all have duties of care towards the bodies of others. The problem with patriarchy is not that it prevents women from having the same physical freedoms as men due to some inexplicable, knee-jerk “woman-phobia” –it’s that it shifts most of the necessary physical restrictions and duties attached to reproduction and care onto women, leaving men with the belief that liberation means no one ever saying “no” to you.
Such a belief – at heart pro-capitalist and anti-feminist – has seeped into supposedly pro-woman, left-wing thought and activism, yet anyone who points out the absurdity of it is treated to a Victorian asylum-style diagnosis of prudery and whorephobia. To claim, on the one hand, that one is anti-austerity and anti-neoliberal, while insisting, on the other, that no woman is without means as long as she has orifices to penetrate, is not progressive. On the contrary, it’s ultra-conservative. It shifts the baseline of our understanding of need and it does so dishonestly, masking coercion by repackaging it as free choice.
If anything is for sale – any body part, any experience, any relationship – then the poorest will be stripped bare. If you accept the principle that there is nothing wrong with buying sex – or ova or breastmilk or babies – how do you ensure supply can meet demand? Only by making sure there are always enough women with no other options. There is no other way. There are not enough female bodies to meet male sexual and reproductive demands without any form of coercion; that’s why patriarchy, with all its complex systems of reward and punishment, exists in the first place.
If sex work is work, poverty is necessary. The alternative to patriarchy isn’t a world in which everyone gets to be a de-facto patriarch, free to make whatever sexual and reproductive choices they want, safe in the knowledge that there will always be willing bodies to meet their demands. The postmodern fantasy that an underclass of coerced, poverty-stricken females can be replaced by an underclass of willing, always-up-for-it, cisgendered females, while charming in its naivety, remains just that: a fantasy.
New measures to spare alleged rape victims from facing live cross-examination in court will be rolled out as part of changes being made by the justice secretary.
Liz Truss announced that from September victims in England and Wales would be able to provide evidence in prerecorded cross-examinations to be played to the jury once a trial begins.
The rule applying to all adult sexual offences is being introduced following the success of pilot schemes using prerecorded evidence in cases of child sexual abuse.
It was found that defendants, when confronted with the strength of the evidence against them before the trial, were more likely to enter an early guilty plea, reducing the trauma for victims, speeding up the justice process and saving money.
The move comes amid changes that include a crackdown on paedophiles grooming children on social media with a new offence of “sexual communication with a child” to be brought in. It will mean those convicted face a jail sentence of up to two years and an automatic listing on the sex offender register.
Truss said the changes to rape trials would prevent victims facing the trauma of confronting their attackers without reducing the right to a fair trial.
She told the Sunday Times: “There is more we can do to help alleged victims in these cases give the best possible evidence they can give in an environment that is much more suitable than open court. We’ve been trialling this for children in cases of sex abuses.”
She added: “What this has led to is a much higher level of early guilty pleas. That has a huge amount of benefit. It resolves the case much earlier for the victim. It reduces the level of trauma for the victim. I want to see that being the standard offer in those cases and that will give more victims the confidence to come forward.”
Rape prosecutions are at record levels and the court system is struggling to cope with the high caseloads.
Domestic abuse, rape, sexual offences and child sex abuse account for 19% of the Crown Prosecution Service’s total caseload – more than double the figure six years ago.
The volume of rape referrals to the CPS from the police rose to 6,855 in 2015-16 – up 11% on the previous year. Of those referred, 3,910 resulted in charges and 1,300 in convictions. However, campaigners claim only 6% of all reported cases result in a conviction for the perpetrator.
Lisa Avalos, a professor of law at the University of Arkansas who has carried out comparative work on rape prosecutions between Britain and the US, said false allegations of rape make up just 2-3% of all rape allegations according to a study commissioned by the Home Office.
Avalos, an expert on gender-based violence, said: “The overwhelming problem here is rape, it is not false allegations of rape. Studies have shown the majority of false allegations of rape involve unnamed perpetrators so the concerns some organisations have about reputational damage to identifiable individuals are substantially overstated.”
She added: “Concern with false allegation masks another problem, namely that disbelieved rape victims have been wrongly accused of false reporting. Approaching rape victims with scepticism enables rape and discourages victims from coming forward.”
Avalos said that if rape cases were properly investigated in the first place, false allegations would never come to court.
She said: “There are massive failures to properly investigate rapes with police officers only referring between 10% and 30% of all reported cases to prosecutors. There are some international organisations that are putting out excellent rape investigation guidelines but such guidance is yet to be embraced by the UK.”
Sexual harassment, misconduct and gender violence by university staff are at epidemic levels in the UK, a Guardian investigation suggests.
Freedom of information (FoI) requests sent to 120 universities found that students made at least 169 such allegations against academic and non-academic staff from 2011-12 to 2016-17. At least another 127 allegations about staff were made by colleagues.
But scores of alleged victims have told the Guardian they were dissuaded from making official complaints, and either withdrew their allegations or settled for an informal resolution. Many others said they never reported their harassment, fearful of the impact on their education or careers. This suggests that the true scale of the problem is far greater than the FoI figures reveal.
“These numbers are shocking, but sadly, from our experience, are just the tip of the iceberg,” said Dr Ann Olivarius, senior partner at the law firm McAllister Olivarius. “Sexual harassment of students by staff members has reached epidemic levels in British universities. Most universities have no effective mechanism to stop staff from pressuring students into sexual relationships, and when it happens, any sort of disciplinary action is pretty much nonexistent. Those in charge are often colleagues who have many incentives not to intervene.
“Young women are often terrified about the consequences if they make a complaint about a staff member. So often, when they do, the university’s chief concern is to downplay any wrongdoing and protect its own reputation by keeping the whole thing quiet.”
Anna Bull, co-founder of the 1752 Group, set up to address staff-student sexual harassment in higher education, said: “There is evidence to suggest that the actual figures in the UK will be staggering. The Association of American Universities undertook a detailed survey of sexual assault and sexual misconduct in 2015 (student-student and staff-student). Surveys were completed on 27 campuses, with 150,072 students responding. The survey found reporting rates for sexual harassment – staff and student – [were] 7.7%, and only 28% of even the most serious incidents are reported to an organisation or agency.”
Kitty Stryker is a phoney and a fake radical who has co-opted the language of radical feminism, and shills for the sex industry while providing a fig-leaf for the BDSM ‘community’.
On twitter a few days ago, she said “I swear to god I wish we could just put the TERFs and Nazis on a goddamn boat together and send them into the sea.”
When someone else added “or we could put them in concentration camps? Maybe before they went into ovens? Lol” Stryker merely complained that that was “in bad taste”.
Sryker has changed her twitter handle to “Punch Nazis”, and added a later tweet about ‘terfs’ drowning, so it’s clear she has no problem with violence against women, when they are women she disagrees with politically.
This isn’t the first time Stryker has demonstrated that she sees women she doesn’t like as not fully human, in this tweet I screen capped a while back, we can see her wondering if radical feminists are actually real people, the ‘kill all terfs’ rhetoric follows on easily.
Stryker is also an intellectual coward, who ran away from conversations on this blog she wasn’t winning, and now won’t even engage, but she does keep an eye on me, as she tweeted about my previous post more than once.
Here’s a clue for you Stryker, ‘terfs’ don’t exist, there are no ‘terf’ organisations, there are no ‘terf’ leaders, there are no women calling themselves ‘terfs’ except ironically, it’s a term trans activists made up in order to intimidate women into unquestioning silence and obedience.
Stryker also likes lying about the Nordic (Abolitionist) Model, claiming that it made it easier for the police to arrest her – tell me Stryker, how does decriminalising ‘sex workers’ make it easier for the police to arrest them?
She’s doing this still, implying that under the Nordic Model, the police are more dangerous to ‘sex workers’, deliberately and cynically obscuring the fact that the Nordic Model means decriminalising the prostitute her (or him) self.
[EDIT 19/Feb/17: If decriminalising ‘sex workers’ under the Nordic Model doesn’t make the police ‘safe’, then how will decriminalising the whole of the sex industry make the police ‘safe’?]
The first loyalty of sex industry advocates is to the sex industry itself, always.
Hawaii lawmakers are considering decriminalizing prostitution in the state after the speaker of the House introduced a bill that would also legalize buying sex and acting as a pimp.
The proposal also would end a state law that says police officers cannot have sex with prostitutes in the course of investigations.
Transgender activist Tracy Ryan said she is trying to convince state lawmakers to pass the bill because transgender women are overrepresented in the sex trade and therefore disproportionately affected by criminalization laws.
House Speaker Joseph Souki said in an interview that he does not have a position on the bill and he introduced it as a favor for Ryan.
“I don’t like seeing people sent to jail that don’t belong there,” Ryan said.
But long-time anti-sex trafficking advocate Kathryn Xian said legalizing the selling, promoting or buying of sex would make it harder to police the industry.
“If this bill passes and everything was no crime whatsoever, then abuses against women and children would just shoot through the freaking roof,” Xian said. “It would be exponentially harder to prove violence in the industry. It would be almost impossible to prove any sort of labor abuse.”
Asked about the part of the bill that strikes language preventing police from having sex with prostitutes during investigations, Souki said: “No, again I have nothing to say about the bill.”
Hawaii has an unusual history with prostitution investigations. Until 2014, it was legal for police officers to have sex with prostitutes as part of investigations, but state lawmakers changed that after The Associated Press highlighted the loophole in a story.
The Honolulu Police Department did not immediately respond to a telephone message seeking comment about the bill.
Ryan wants to preserve the law preventing police from having sex with prostitutes to arrest them if the bill does not pass, but “if they can’t arrest them anyway because it’s no longer illegal, it’s a moot point,” she said.
Honolulu Prosecuting Attorney Keith Kaneshiro said the bill would make it harder to address global sex trafficking because “it would be more difficult to find the bad actors, more difficult to get witnesses to make cases.”
Michael Golojuch Jr., chairman of the LGBT caucus of the Democratic Party of Hawaii, said transgender women are overrepresented compared with other women in the sex trade because the discrimination they face leads some to feel it’s the only kind of work they can get.
Golojuch personally supports the idea of decriminalizing prostitution, but he said he and the caucus had not yet taken an official position on the bill.
“My dream job would be union organizer for consensual sex workers,” Golojuch said. “It would be great for people who want to do that work to unionize them and empower them so that they are taken care of.”
Not everyone thinks legalizing prostitution would benefit sex workers.
“By normalizing sexual exploitation and recasting it as a career choice that has no harms attached, we’re creating a setting and a system where we are OK with objectifying women, where we’re OK with buying other human beings’ bodies, and that has effects that are far-reaching in terms of how women are treated,” said Khara Jabola, chapter coordinator of Af3irm Hawaii, a feminist group.
The bill and another to decriminalize marijuana may be part of a push to reduce the prison population, House Majority Leader Scott Saiki said.
But any decriminalization bills are unlikely to pass before the Legislature gets a report from a working group that has been meeting on the topic. That report isn’t expected before the session ends, Saiki said.
i hope you hit your limit yesterday.
yesterday, male people told you precisely how pathetic, worthless, & contemptible they find the female experience.
to them, any attempt to organise as female people is laughable & shameful. no matter how abstract your slogans (“no uterus no opinion” makes no attempt to exclude anyone from womanhood), no matter how obfuscatory your circumlocutions (”dfab”, “dmab” in reference to unambiguous sex). any solidarity between female people will be ridiculed as the enterprise of “cis women”, i.e. members of the female sex who have not dissociated from it.
i hope you listened to them & i hope you saw their tantrum for what it was: the same entitlement, the same ego, the same contempt for female people, the same ignorance of female experience.
engels said that: The first class antagonism which appears in history coincides with the development of the antagonism between man and woman in monogamian marriage, and the first class oppression with that of the female sex by the male.
patriarchy, male supremacy, institutional sexism, whatever you want to call it: it is the sex-class system through which male people subjugate female people, first & foremost to assert control over reproduction.
bell hooks said that: “feminism is a movement to end sexism, sexist exploitation, and oppression.
feminism is the movement to dismantle that sex-class system. feminists must speak lucidly about sex, sex-class, socialisation, & reproduction.
& yet that speech & movement is condemned as oppressive, exclusionary, & cruel to male people, because sexist male people will never be happy with feminism. never. it’s not worth it to try to appease them.
the whole “abortion is too exclusionary to bring up at a women’s march” thing makes no sense regardless of how you define woman (i.e. “female people” vs. “anyone who identifies as a woman”).
is rape an appropriate topic for a women’s march? not all women are raped. not all rape victims are women. is bringing up rape at a women’s march oppressive to women who haven’t been raped? if never-been-raped women protested that anti-rape activism “excluded” them & hurt their feelings, would we take them seriously? if never-been-raped women proclaimed that anti-rape activism “reduced women to rape victims”, would you take their side?
so is female reproductive autonomy an appropriate topic for a women’s march? every person that suffers under the exploitation of female reproductive capacity – denied abortion, forced abortion, forced impregnation, etc. – is a member of the female sex. the vast majority of those people consider themselves “women” (or the equivalent word in their language).
so what if members of the male sex feel offended & excluded by discussions of male exploitation of female people? their bruised egos don’t need to be assuaged by women.
if rape can be discussed at a women’s march, why not female reproductive autonomy?
it would actually be great to discuss white feminism with respect to white women uncritically expecting black women to take over their domestic roles when white women “empowered” themselves in the workplace in the 60s and 70s or, like, white women CEOs exploiting women of color globally in sweatshops so they could join the boy’s club of millionaires, but no…. alas……. it’s not to be……… instead we get to say that referencing menstruation is the pinnacle of white feminism
Those on the frontline of this rage know it is there. Millions of us marched last Saturday. This has rattled Trump, who is obsessed with size, with ratings and with reviews. But let us now pursue clarity and strategy, and name what is happening.
Patriarchy is the sea in which these sharks gather. I am glad to see that people are using this word again. It went out of fashion for a bit when feminism was portrayed as a series of tedious personal choices over shoes, shopping and sex toys. But the concept of patriarchy is essential to understanding what is happening right now. It is a system by which men hold power over political leadership, moral authority and every kind of social privilege, over women and children.
Patriarchy is not some men-only affair. Many women play a role in sustaining it. The far right, by the way, is not afraid of using this word. It claims it as the basis for all that is good in western civilisation. The elevation of Trump is absolutely patriarchal fundamentalism. He has swept up a lot of the Christian vote because of it. The adulation of Putin is the worship of another white power based on patriarchal rule: unapologetically anti-women, anti-gay, anti-black and anti-Muslim. It is obsessed with displays of masculinity to the point of fascist camp. The right promises the restoration of a time when men were men and women were sanctified mothers or whores. Such authoritarianism may be delivered by both men and women. As the American author and feminist bell hooks says, patriarchy has no gender. It is not situated only within the individual – which is why screaming “Sexist!” at someone only gets you so far. Were the women who voted for Trump furthering patriarchy? Yes, obviously. They may believe it can protect them.
The dismantling of this power cannot possibly come from those who won’t name it and spend the entire time shoring it up, largely reaping its benefits: that is, much of the liberal establishment. By assuming the culture war had been won, the myths of impartiality and neutrality have allowed far–right voices to go unchallenged. The assumption that we all believe in equality, are anti-racist, love an art gallery and some heated debate turned out to be wrong.
Patriarchal power asserts itself through cultural as well as economic resentment. And that is everywhere. The oft-repeated sentiment that feminism is itself an extreme movement is evidence of how liberalism bows down to authoritarianism.
So much more important now than whether dullards profess their allegiance to women’s rights while refusing to listen to women is understanding who will get down on their knees to service the new man-child patriarchy. And those of us who won’t. The power of telling it like it is is ours.