Yes, another blog about rape

I really wish I wasn’t writing yet another blog post about this. I wish we were done with it already. It seems the articles, blogs, diary entries, personal testimonials, criminologists, legal experts, historians, anti rape charities and terrible, tiring, triggering explanations will never be enough. So here. Have another little piece of my energy, another little piece of my mental well being. But can you do one thing for me? Please can you at least try? Can you do that? Please at least just try to let this be about rape survivors, not about you.

It may or may not be news to Richard Dawkins and his Twitter supporters whom he is so uncritically retweeting, but the most central moment in processing your rape for many survivors is nothing to do with deciding to report or obtaining a conviction; obtaining the validation of an external legal system that yes, what happened to you should not have happened, because it happened without your consent. It is a moment that happens within you, yourself, where you first apply the dreadful, enormous, shame-associated, guilt-laden, painful word – ‘rape’ – to that terrifying, traumatic, degrading thing that happened to you.

Many, in fact most, rape survivors never report the incident. Many never tell anyone. Let that be your starting point. Rape is not an abstract concept that becomes something else if we call it something else. If you don’t report it, it didn’t magically never happen. If you don’t have a jury convinced that there is a bit less than 100% absolute absence of reasonable doubt, that doesn’t heal you.

Why, then, are so many people obsessed with the technical legalities and the best criteria for reporting or convicting, when this isn’t what defines a rape? The legal technicality is about whether the rapist will be told and made to accept that they are a rapist, and whether they will get some sort of punishment. The point feminists are making is that the important person, who should be centered in all discussions about rape, is the raped person. How do they feel about what happened to them? What do they need to feel safer in their own skin? How will they best be helped and healed? If you wade into a conversation about rape and your starting point is to tell survivors not to report things, not only are you totally telling them not to do something that statistically they most likely weren’t going to do anyway, you’re also making the conversation about something which is actually kind of besides the point.

Let’s just suppose Dawkins gets his wish and all survivors with memory lapses (which, incidentally, is a pretty common and natural response to trauma, something you’d think a scientist would be aware of) stop reporting rape. What next? You must know that isn’t the end of the matter. The nightmares, the flashbacks, the throwing up, the terrified jumping when somebody fucking sneezes or claps their hands behind you, the terror of closeness and intimacy and trust, these things don’t vanish because there’s no been smartly dressed men validating or refusing to validate what happened to you in a courtroom. Life goes on. It gets light. It gets dark. You have a bitterness in your mouth and a fist in your gut every time somebody innocently barks out the word ‘rape.’ You lie awake at night with your eyes open, staring into nothingness, wishing you could sleep. You bite at your hands or cut quietly at your wrists to try and numb it, or make sense of it. You sneak out to the toilets at work to throw up when your colleague says, ha, we totally raped them with that deal. Your partner brushes against you in the night and you shake in fear before you remember where you are. It gets light. It gets dark. It just goes on, you get older, and you get more and more tired of having to explain to people that whatever you call it, whatever words other people approve of you using, whatever you tell people and whatever you keep silent, whatever words other people understand it as, rape is always, always, always still rape.

The difference between the Richard Dawkinses and feminists isn’t that he isn’t aware of all that and feminists are. It’s that it is irrelevant to him, because those stories, those voices, aren’t what he wants to talk about it. But when you talk about rape, that is what you’re talking about, whether you like it or not. There are some people for whom rape is a subjective term, who believe there is a debate as to whether we can apply it to the above scenarios or not. Then there are people for whom it is not subjective; for whom it is painfully specific. For those people, the above scenarios are not a side consideration, or an exception to a rule. They are the entire point of the entire conversation.

And if rape survivors are not the point of your conversation about rape, then what is?


2 MINUTE RANT: Jennifer Lawrence, liberty, and victim blaming

People get so confused about what freedom means. The leaked photos of naked celebrities (including, most famously, Jennifer Lawrence) is one of those stories that exemplifies so perfectly that double standard – although it’s far from the first. Dismissing the story because it’s celebrity news, or because talking about it is publicising the existence of the pictures still further, is missing the point (and the latter verges on victim blaming).

The double standard I’m talking about of course is the unapologetically oppressive way victim blaming serves to control and restrict individual liberties, yet at the same time, those that perpetuate it so often pretend to be on the side of “freedom.”

I have free speech, cry the misogynists who like to shout at people they don’t know in the street about the shape of their bums or breasts. I have freedom of action, whine the creeps who like to grope strangers in clubs, insisting to themselves that she’s up for it even as she tries to edge away from their sad little grasping hands. I have the right to look at naked photos of Jennifer Lawrence, if I want. And if she doesn’t like it, she shouldn’t have taken them anyway. I have a right to look at them, without consequences, but she doesn’t have the right to take them in the first place, not really. Not without consequences. That is what “freedom” means, apparently.

This is just one more way that the extremely important concept of “freedom” gets hijacked by the mean and selfish, who care only for their own freedom, and not a jot from “freedom” as a concept; as a fundamental right that others, as well as themselves, are also entitled to. Only in the world of victim blaming are you entitled to hack, steal, violate, impinge upon others’ freedoms, then demand that they modify their behaviour (behaviour which impacts you in no way whatsoever) if they don’t like it. It’s just such an obvious lie.

It’s not just the prudish wankers (if you’ll excuse the pun) that ring alarm bells. There’s been a disconcerting amount of Liberal Dudes, some of them self-defined feminists, lamenting the need to be so uptight, puritanical, prudish about “nakedness.” It’s just a human body, they cry! It’s just sex! Why can’t we all chill out! Those Liberal Dudes can go sit on several pins. Feminist women are always being blamed for putting people off feminism. I say that the prevalence of Liberal Dudes is what alienates so many women from sex positive feminism. It gets associated with guys like you, blazing into discussions about consent and boundaries and privacy to bully women, sometimes by calling us outright misogynistic words like prudes or frigid, sometimes throwing around cleverer coded language like “Mary Whitehouse”, “pearl clutchers,” or “nanny state.” (Why is it always the ‘nanny’ state, a word associated with women, when the laws are overwhelmingly made by men?) You think the issue here is sex, and we can only assume that’s because you don’t know the difference between consensual sexy times and violating someone. You think when a woman says “no, I didn’t consent to this,” an acceptable response is “oh, relax, it’s just sex. Stop being so uptight. Let me liberate you.” You Liberal Dudes, you are creepy as hell. You are why sex positive feminism gets a bad name. I wonder how many of these guys would be happy for pictures of themselves fapping over the leaked photos to be posted online? I mean, it’s all just sex, right? Come on, stop being so uptight.

Here we have an impossible-to-misinterpret-unless-it-is-wilful example of the difference between sexual objectification and sex. Jennifer Lawrence expressing her own sexuality by sharing naked photos of herself with another party consensually is a sexual act. A stranger banging one out over those photos, when he knows they are not for his eyes, even after she has said “no, I didn’t consent to this”, because she’s no longer a person with rights – that’s objectification. And, in this case, potentially a sexual offence.

Some of the victim blamers are pretending that it’s okay because Lawrence is famous, or because she’s been naked, or partially naked, in films. Some of them dress up their victim blaming as moral or intellectual superiority. They don’t care about silly celebrity gossip like this (something that seems, incidentally, to be much more frequently hurled at celebrity gossip relating to female celebrities than male ones). But this isn’t just something that happens to celebrities. This is just a celebrity experiencing something that ordinary women experience all the time – from ‘revenge porn’ to the doxxing of sex workers and trans women, this entitled attitude manifesting itself through technological means is happening to lots of people, many without expensive lawyers, and it’s not going away just because you shake your head and call famous women foolish. It’s not going away until people shout back, and make it much more socially unacceptable than it is now to violate other people’s privacy and make demands on their personal freedoms this way.

To see just how ridiculously obvious the “freedom” double standard is, let’s take the victim blamers classic – the analogy of a sexual offence, and stolen property. (You know the one. Don’t drink, don’t get in a taxi, don’t walk home, don’t wear short skirts. It’s just good sense. After all, you wouldn’t leave a car door open/iPod on the table/wallet on display.) This logic says, if Jennifer Lawrence didn’t want the pictures hacked, she should never have taken them or stored them online. Okay. So, extending this same analogy, if you use online banking, it’s fair game for a hacker to post your bank details online – and for people who see that posting to use them. Right? If you access counselling or other confidential health support online, it’s fine for a hacker to sneak into your emails and publish the details online. If you shop online, expect credit card theft. If you gamble online, or watch porn online, or do, well, anything else online, then it’s perfectly acceptable for the details of all that information to one day be shared with your colleagues, family, friends, and several million strangers. Right?

Except that analogy never gets reversed this way, because we don’t believe other people have an entitlement to access your property or money or health records in the way we far too readily accept an entitlement to access women’s bodies. Remember that next time somebody tries to conflate their victim blaming “common sense advice” with freedom; remember the hypocritical, stark staringly obvious way it’s used to control behaviour. It’s the opposite of freedom, and anyone with any genuine concern for personal liberty in any meaningful way will never engage with it.

Unless, of course, they don’t really see women as people.

Quick points on the ‘degrees of rapes’ argument and why it matters

1. “But some rapes are worse than others! It’s a fact! They’re not all the same!”

“Rape is rape” does not mean every single rape in the world is identical. No-one is arguing this. In fact, the whole point is that they are all unique, and traumatic for complicated, individual reasons that go far beyond whether you know your rapist or not. Generalised distinctions don’t just get people emotional because they hurt our little feelings. They get slapped down because they are inaccurate, and painfully simplistic. Grouping together all date rapes, or all stranger rapes, and rating the ‘severity’ based on whichever label they fall into is about as helpful as grouping together all rapes by somebody in a purple jumper and all rapes by somebody in blue trainers. It is unhelpful because it’s simply not the reality of how rape happens or why it is wrong.

The knee jerk assumption that we can measure the severity of the rape by the relationship between the perpetrator and the survivor doesn’t exist in a vacuum. The history of rape as a property crime, a crime against a woman’s sexual innocence or honour, can be seen floating around us all the time like a ghost, in everything from law to public dialogue. We see it every time somebody compares getting raped to having your house burgled, or wearing a miniskirt and getting drunk to leaving a car door open.

Some stabbings are no doubt worse than others for different victims, and no two stabbings are identical. If I stabbed someone I knew, it wouldn’t hurt them less because it was a “friend stabbing” or an “after dinner stabbing.” It’s a stabbing. They’re just as stabbed whether I have dinner with them first or not. Besides, I’d never tell a stabbing victim that their stabbing wasn’t as a bad as someone else’s. Why would I? Who would that help?

The worst thing about obsessing over rape distinctions is that it stops survivors uniting and supporting each other. It ties my hope of justice to proving that your rape wasn’t as bad.

2. “But I’m objective! I’m being logical and you raised your voice, therefore I’m right.”

My favourite thing about this argument is that it’s a massive logical fallacy. Why does getting passionate about a subject make you factually incorrect? If I shout 1+1=2 at the top of my voice, angrily, that doesn’t make it suddenly equal 3.

No-one is truly objective. Everyone has skin in the game. Declaring yourself to be the objective party is not only the height of arrogance, it’s also very often a sign of lack of knowledge. Objectivity, particularly on subjects like violence against women, usually shapes itself into conclusions and opinions, with expertise and experience. Richard Dawkins is not objective about whether God exists. He is not objective about evolutionary biology. He has looked into these things as a scientist and come to conclusions. He is able to be ‘objective’ about rape because, it seems, he is not an expert.

Open your mind to this. If experts in a particular subject repeatedly tell you that you’re wrong and/or offensive, there’s a possibility that the problem doesn’t lie with their inability to understand your highly sophisticated logic, but rather with the logical premise you’re working from in the first place.

Besides, as far as logic goes, no-one ever actually says all rapes are exactly the same. No-one is saying the criminal sentencing for every single rape in the world should always be identical. Bravely knocking down a point no-one has made while ignoring the points people have made is a straw argument. This is not logical.

3. Priorities and tone

So I have a question for Dawkins fans. How come it’s okay for Dawkins to be rude, aggressive, and emotional, but if people respond, even if they respond with facts and reason, they get called hysterical?

Telling rape survivors who feel triggered because you’ve just validated silencing techniques their abusers used against them to “go away and learn how to think” is, apart from anything else, unbelievably rude. It just is. Why do it? What’s the matter with you? Dawkins fanboys always seem to be the first to have tantrums about feminists and other social justice campaigners being rude to them. I was so supportive of feminism, they cry, until you took that tone with me, and, well, if you want to push people away, then this is the right way to go about it. It’s almost as if manners aren’t applicable to everyone in the same way; as if manners are only ever demanded when playing respectability politics to control or silence people.

Dawkins and his fanboys are also very into their priorities. “Is this really the most important thing you have to think about? What about FGM? What about women’s magazines? What about babies starving? What about poverty? What about Westboro Baptist Church? What about everything else except the thing you happen to be discussing right now?”

This crap is always thrown up whenever social justice campaigners say, well, anything. Why are the likes of Dawkins given license to casually throw out cliches about rape to make a hypothetical point? Why is it okay for him to talk about trivial bollocks every day of the week without it undermining anything else he might have to say? Come now, why the double standard?

Babies are starving in the world, Dick! Why are you tweeting about different kinds of rape! Is this really the most important thing you have to think about?

4. “It was an analogy! He wasn’t focusing on rape, he was just using it to make a logical point!”

That’s not better. In fact, that’s kind of the point. He’s using rape as an analogy, to make a hypothetical point, without bothering to understand the context to what he’s saying, without bothering to be respectful to survivors, without bothering to make sure he isn’t perpetuating rape myths that actively hinder justice. Rape is just a word to him, a word like any other, that he drops into his reasoning to make a point about something else, something he actually considers important.

If you don’t want to talk about rape, if you don’t want to listen to, or even be polite to survivors, if you don’t recognise criminologists, lawyers, or sexual violence experts as more knowledgable about this subject than you, then don’t talk about it.

5. “You’re taking it out of context.”

No, actually, you are. I’m taking it in context. Here is my context.

When PETA drew analogies between the Holocaust and the meat trade, they intended it as a simple analogy. But the context to human rights abuses like the Holocaust is that the humans being abused were routinely compared to animals in order to justify it. The analogy may or may not make some logical sense, but the context renders it profoundly unpleasant.

Not everybody noticed why it was problematic at first. Some felt it but couldn’t quite articulate why. It took representatives of the Jewish community to explain that discomfort, because they are experts on the historical and current context.

Rape Crisis know more about why survivors don’t report their rapes than you do. Criminologists know more about the psychology of rape than you do. Feminist historians know more about the historical context to our laws and language than you do. They’re not ‘objective.’ They’re experts.

And rape survivors know more about how painful rape is than you do.

There is more to being an authoritative voice on the world than repeating rudimentary logic from one angle. There’s also history, and context, and just because you’re an expert in one area, like biological science, it doesn’t make you an authority on everything else.

Anyway, failing the ability to grasp all of that, there’s also such a thing as basic human decency. Not so much “go away and learn how to think”‘ as “go away and learn how to be a person.”

Thoughts on Patrick Strudwick’s Nigel Evans article about rape and harassment in the LGBT community

(Rather belated) thoughts on Patrick Strudwick’s Nigel Evans article about rape and harassment in the LGBT community

Patrick Strudwick is not just one of my favourite journalists; he’s also one of my favourite writers in general. I like the way his articles start off in one place and broaden out into something more philosophical. He makes me think – and then my thoughts run off on a tangent.

So I am writing this post after reading his Independent article – perhaps the first sensible thing I’ve seen in the media response to the Nigel Evans case – to add to his comments, not to quibble. The experiences he describes of many gay men on the ‘scene’ made me think of my own experiences on that ‘scene’, as not only a bisexual woman, but a bisexual woman who usually presents as what I suppose it’s still fashionable to call ‘femme.’

I have also experienced outright harassment, groping and assault from men in spaces that should be safe. And I have been told “but I’m gay, so it’s okay” more times than I can count. But more than that, I’ve been told, by no means infrequently, that I don’t belong in this space at all, by these same men who make it unsafe. I’ve been told that I must be only sleeping with women for a laugh, by men who grope and kiss women for a laugh. I’ve been told I’m too “feminine” to be a lesbian, that I’m “letting the side down,” that I’m “trying to look straight,” and that I’m a “shallow wannabe” by the very same men who celebrate often problematic straight women as queer icons while ignoring or even outright denigrating women in public who actually are queer. Nasty attitudes of entitlement are definitely not just something that men experience in this space.

None of this is to paint gay men as all sexist, or even to suggest gay men are disproportionately sexist – they are no more so than any other men. This isn’t even just men. These tales of abuse and harassment happen in lesbian spaces too. I cannot begin to count the times I’ve been unwillingly grabbed or groped in candy bar. The dynamic feels different because – just as Patrick writes very articulately in his piece – I doubt myself, I doubt my internalised homophobia, I don’t want to throw women, especially queer women, under the bus. But it happens. And it’s tough because I don’t want to in any way minimise the awful experiences of the men Patrick writes about, but there is part of me that can’t help but think: maybe this is something men only experience when they are on the gay scene; it is something many women are taught to accept as a normal part of life, nearly everywhere we go.

Assaults, gropings, unwanted touching – these things aren’t about sexual desire or pleasure so why would we be surprised that they happen across different orientations and genders? A gay man treating me as an accessory or an object is no different from a straight man doing it. Whether they’re trying to sleep with me or not (I would argue that even with straight men, when they harass and grope, they are usually not) is utterly irrelevant. It is an exertion of power, and a violation of boundaries, of personal autonomy.

Just as Patrick explains how this isn’t a problem unique to Westminster, for women, this isn’t a problem unique to the LGBT scene, either. Abusers abuse wherever they can get away with it. If they’re in a community that is scared to speak because it is marginalised and easily shamed, they will abuse. If they’re with people who will be dismissed or denigrated or gaslighted when they speak, they will abuse. If they find people who seem set apart, people who they can discredit, they will abuse. So yes, this does mean that gay men will make easy targets for abusers. But it is important that we keep that focus – that it is about power not sex or sexuality – always in mind. Because pretending it is something to do with sex and desire is very often how they get away with it.

Rape, anger, and why “forgiveness” does not mean “shut up”

Rape, anger and lectures on forgiveness

The recent story of Katja Rosenberg who forgave her rapist has triggered something in me. Not her story itself, so much as the elevation of it by others to some kind of desirable ideal. You may know who I mean. Those people who like to go on about forgiveness without having experienced anything they’ve ever needed to muster the strength to forgive.

We live in a world where people love telling rape survivors what we should or shouldn’t do – both before and after the fact. Don’t get drunk. Don’t get in taxis. Don’t have casual sex. Don’t wear miniskirts. Don’t be timid. Don’t be assertive.

Then, after: don’t be angry. Don’t you dare make other men feel uncomfortable, even for one second, about what you’ve experienced. Don’t be a feminist. Don’t bring gender into it. Don’t feel shame. Don’t feel unashamed. Don’t be put off sex. Don’t carry on being too sexually licentious. Don’t make any noise. Don’t think you can express solidarity with other women who’ve experienced this same violation in a different context. You’re supposed to be competing over whose was worse, not supporting each other.

And packed in there, often from the “well-intentioned”, no end of lectures about the joys of forgiving rapists. Maybe you’d be better off if you forgave him? It was a long time ago. Move on. You have to let the past go. Stop letting this hang over you. Just shut up. Stop being so bitter.

I am not knocking or being dismissive of forgiveness here. But that isn’t forgiveness. It’s wanting a quiet life. And too easily, it becomes rape apologism, it becomes a minimisation of what happened. Look on the bright side. Much worse rapes happen every day. Yes, for some people, that is a “bright side.” You’re lucky, he didn’t kill you. And it becomes an exertion of control. I’m trying to help. I know what’s good for you, if only you’d shut up and take it. Why are you crying?

I thought I had forgiven, seconds after it happened. That was horrific but he probably didn’t mean it. That was terrifying but at least I’m still here. That was agony but its only physical. I will pretend it didn’t happen. I will just put it out of my mind. In the years that followed, I was constantly doing all those things that people nowadays tell me would be the healthiest thing for me. I did those things naturally, to protect myself. To protect him.

I wasn’t forgiving him at all. I wanted a quiet life. I was trying to “forgive” without first recognising and allowing myself to feel the awfulness of what happened; without recognising that he chose to do what he did; without even calling it rape in my own head. That’s not forgiveness. It’s denial.

Katja Rosenberg says that it helped her to see the rapist as small, pathetic, helpless – no longer a dominating powerful force over her life. I can see how that’s empowering. I did that for years too. But sometimes this happens the opposite way around, as well. You make excuses, you apologise, you feel terrible asking for any justice because you don’t want to ruin your rapist’s life. Because you see him as a bit pathetic, or helpless, or just an ordinary lad doing what lads do. It is hard to step back from your own blurring of the lines and see him for what he is – a power-tripper, a bully, who used his body violently against you against your will to feel good about himself. To assert his masculinity, whatever that means. To put you – to put women – in our place. A rapist.

Forgiveness is beautiful but forgiveness does not mean what some of you think it means. Forgiveness does not mean shut up. Forgiveness does not mean an absence of anger, or an absence of condemnation. Forgiveness does not mean seeing his side of it or blurring the lines. Forgiveness does not mean erasure. Forgiveness does not mean a quiet life. It means the opposite. To forgive you have to first feel the full force of what it is you are forgiving.

Getting yourself to a place where you can forgive, if you want to do that, if it is right for you, like Katja Rosenberg did, that’s a tremendous thing to do. But when people tell you to “forgive” because they think you need to be less angry or less depressed or quieter or because they think you need to be more understanding about the rapist’s weaknesses or feelings, what they want is a quiet life, what they want is control, what they want is for their worlds not to be disrupted.

I say to those people, with the full spirit of healing, calmness and forgiveness in my heart: fuck you.

Victim-blaming and control – when sexism doesn’t ‘hurt men too’

If rape isn’t a gendered crime, why are women always taught that it is?

Thanks, Slate. Thanks, Cee-Lo Green. Thanks world.  Another spate of victim-blaming articles and debates in which a bunch of lovely, well-intentioned people play devil’s advocate about whether it was your fault you were raped or not. Hypothetically, you see. In the abstract. We’re debating whether women in general could prevent rape by doing x or y. Not you, dear.

The real lived experiences of victim-blaming, though, they are there too, under the surface. It was my fault. I should have done this. I shouldn’t have done that. Self-blame haunts you, but it also protects you. If it was your fault, maybe you can make sure it never happens again. Maybe you can make it something you have control over.

But you can’t. Rapes happen in all sorts of cultures, in all sorts of societies, and the only thing that even appears to consistently correlate with how common rape is in any given society is the treatment of women within that society.

When I say the way women are treated, I don’t just mean officially, but culturally. Is it generally accepted that women are a bit silly, a bit attention-seeking? That the things women care about are a bit trivial? Is it widely believed that women don’t like each other, but pretend that we do? That women lie? Do we let our boundaries get tested, do we accommodate things we’d rather not, are we made to feel guilty if we say no? Is that the culture we live in? Are those things normal? So normal we almost don’t notice them?

Not only do I believe rape itself is about control but I also believe victim-blaming is about control. It is the worst kind of benevolent sexism. The way victim-blaming plays out in practice sums up everything wrong with well-intentioned people kindly explaining to women what is best for us, for our own good. The misogyny of rape isn’t just about the physical act itself. It is about the fear of rape – and what that does to women’s freedoms.

Why is it that we are so quick to remember that men get raped too yet so slow to notice that all the tips, suggestions and instructions on how to avoid it are aimed at women?  If rape isn’t a gendered crime, why are women always taught that it is?

The problem with ‘helpful’ ideas for what women should do to avoid rape isn’t just that they implicitly victim-blame. They also exert control over women – all women. They feed into our cultural norms, into what becomes known as ‘common sense’, providing a drip drip drip of unofficial rules that we must follow, until women have a theoretical right to do all sorts of things, but that theoretical right exists alongside a tacit understanding that walking home late at night, or working in certain professions, or getting in a taxi, or being drunk at a party aren’t things we can reasonably expect to do without violence.

And the truth is, even though most men are not rapists, many perfectly nice non-rapist men still benefit from a culture where women are scared of rape.

Nice Guys who get aggressively upset when you don’t magically suck their dicks in gratitude at their Niceness are the obvious offenders. But there are other guys who benefit – really decent ones, who are just looking out for you. They mean well when they say, don’t go clubbing, don’t drink too much, don’t meet up with strangers, don’t walk home too late, don’t get in a taxi, don’t wear a dress, don’t wear heels, don’t wear things that unzip, don’t laugh, don’t flirt, don’t be timid. They wouldn’t rape you for not doing these things. That would be an offensive suggestion! But other guys – the Bad Ones – they might rape you if you don’t do what they say. So we better do what they say. Because of the threat of violence. But not from them, because they’re not violent.

They don’t have to be.

I’m not saying everyone who issues this kind of advice has the conscious intention of controlling women, or is a misogynist, or is anything other than a perfectly lovely person. What I am saying, though, is that, however well-meaning these suggestions are, the consequence for women is the same: to restrict our liberties, and restrict what we can realistically consider to be our rights.

And for those women who are raped, these ‘helpful’ suggestions make it harder. They make it harder to report anything that happens to us after we break one of these often totally contradictory rules. If we do report such incidents, these rules make it harder for us to get justice.  They make it harder for us to talk to each other and support each other about what happened to us, because we are made to feel our rapes are all different. These rules pit us against each other, and pin our hopes of justice or safety or being taken seriously on our rape being ‘worse’, and by default, other women’s being ‘better’. It stops us uniting. It makes it harder for us to name what happened to us. It makes it harder for us to say the word ‘rape.’

Victim-blaming doesn’t make me angry because it hurts my feelings, or offends me, or makes me feel guilty – even though it does. It makes me angry because it silences. It controls. And silence and control can never help address the problem of rape because they are, whether intentional or not, a direct exertion of power over women. And that, of course, is the entire problem in the first place.

It’s heresy I know. But not all men are actually rapists

It’s heresy I know. But not all men are actually rapists.

Friendly womansplainer is here to help you, Nick Ross. 

Despite several thousand years of masculinism, and perhaps partly because of it, men are still mostly portrayed as weak and helpless when it comes to sexual offenses. Why?

So many portrayals of men in popular culture make out that men are incapable of taking responsibility for where they put their penises, and that not only does this give women the power to ‘give’ or ‘withhold’ sex, but that this imagined power is actually meaningful.

It is plainly objectionable to assume that most men are rapists. Whether you’re a comedian making jokes which imply your audience will empathise with rapists and have a good old chuckle at survivors, or whether you’re warning women not to dress a certain way in case they provoke men to rape them, we have to ask: why, after all these years of fraternal solidarity, do so many men have such a low opinion of themselves and each other?

These are all important questions that skeptics ought to pose. After all, feminists have been posing them for over a century. While challenges to orthodoxy were once shouted down by your standard arrogant, sexist man, they are now shouted down by a growing group of pathological whiners, with a charming combination of having a massive victim complex, coupled with utterly delusional levels of entitlement. The faintest suggestion that women’s bodies aren’t their toys (such as patiently explaining the differences between a vagina and a laptop, for example), and, hello, out come the little grabby-grabby hands. You can practically see their chocolate-smeared mouths wailing: “Mine! Mine! I don’t want it to be up to her whether I can look at them or touch them! It’s not fair! I should be able to buy access to women, or at least exchange it for Being A Nice Guy!”

Where the masculinists should really focus their attention, if they want to be taken seriously, is to stop calling other men pussies and manginas when they, for example, say they don’t think laughing at rape survivors is all that cool, or that they are actually perfectly capable of stopping fucking a woman who is in pain or fear, and they are also perfectly capable of understanding that no means no, thank you very much.

Rape, a crime that even Nick Ross would have to admit is almost as serious as theft, used to be treated basically the same as theft; as if it could be prevented by treating women like property because there are men who are monsters, and then there are Nice Guys, or gentlemen, who aren’t. But have we now gone too far the other way? Are we treating rape as if it’s just a bit of fun, or a misunderstanding? Are we treating men as if they are simply incapable of not raping women?

We have come to acknowledge that most people don’t steal, or damage each other’s property, even if presented with a clear opportunity to do so. So why do men insult other men in this misandric way, as if they expect other men not to know the difference between the physical location of inanimate objects (locking up a laptop), and the rights and freedoms of human beings (women getting on with their lives in the exact same way the other half of the population takes for granted)? Why do they argue that expectations should be so different for men than for women? Why do they draw inaccurate parallels between “provocative” dress and sexual violence, as if there’s any evidence that the two are related? Why do they imply that women being “escorted” around if we’re out late, or not having one night stands, would somehow reduce rapes, when we all know most rape victims know their rapist? Are women safe in countries that force women to be “escorted” everywhere? No, they are bloody well not.

Why does this small minority of men insist on making a mockery of their entire gender by suggesting that men are so pathetic, weak, and helpless when it comes to sex that even when they are raping someone, their victim has more power over that situation than they do?

And why, most strangely, do they devote so much time and energy to explaining away rape? Why are they so keen to split hairs and draw lines? Why are they so determined to reinforce rather than challenge the myth that says men are incapable of recognising fear or pain in someone they have their penis inside? That being penetrated “unwillingly” is different from being “systematically violated.”  That if a woman blames herself for her rape, or her life is “bound up with the life of her assailant,” then the rapist should be left free, because it’s too hard to, God forbid, actually try to create a justice system that supports victims of rape properly.

And if you didn’t follow that, let me put it plainly. If you think that women and girls say no when they mean yes, if you think young prostitutes say they’re “held under duress” when they’re not, well, yes, you’re a bit of a misogynist. But if, like most misogynists, you don’t care that you’re a misogynist, think about this instead: if you believe that rape – any rape – is ever the victim’s “responsibility,” because men aren’t capable of being held accountable for their actions, or that rape doesn’t deserve legal recourse because it’s “what happens in relationships,” or that it’s unreasonable to expect men to not have sex with a person in severe distress if they’re paying for access to her body, or that, for whatever reason, consent is too confusing or difficult a concept for men to understand, then never mind being a bloody raving misogynist; you, dear, are a massive, massive misandrist.


Original piece by Nick Ross



IN GOOD FAITH: Why your innocent views on rape upset me

In good faith: why your innocent views on rape upset me

Trigger warning.

Do people ever lose their temper with you when you talk calmly about rape for reasons that completely elude you, because you think you’re being all rational and impartial? This is written in good faith, for your benefit, to help you.

I’m not going to dissect all the nonsense talked this week by the obvious rape apologists; I’m not going to bother spelling out what’s wrong with those two, nor with the idiots explicitly defending them. This blog post is specifically about, and for, the decent, well-meaning, non-rapists, some of whom are feminists and/or allies, who keep saying things about rape that makes my face red in rage, makes me screw my fists up, makes me raise my voice, makes my knees shake, and basically just really upsets me.

This is about the difference between what you think you’re saying, and what I’m actually hearing. I am writing this on the basis that you do actually care that you upset, distress, trigger or hurt me, because you are a Decent Guy and I am a human being.

If you aren’t interested in why you offend me, you must be reading this for some odder motive – like picking a fight. If that’s you, I’m not interested in hearing from you, so save your time, save my time, go for a bike ride or a beer or a meal or something.

PREMPTIVE NOTE FOR ANGRY TROLLS: This blog is not about Julian Assange; it is about the conversations people are having about rape this week (and at other times). That’s it. If you want to talk about him, his innocence or guilt, Wikileaks, American imperialism, or anything else, this blog is the wrong place, so please discuss it elsewhere. There are plenty of places. I have no idea if Assange is guilty of the things he is accused of. It is irrelevant to what I’m talking about here.

SECOND PREMPTIVE NOTE FOR ANGRY TROLLS: This blog is predominantly focusing on male-on-female rape. That’s because the rape apologists this week have been overwhelmingly male, the two idiots in chief have been men, and they have been talking about women being raped. So, sorry, but that’s what I’m addressing today, on this particular occasion, in this particular blog post. That does not mean I don’t care about men being raped. I just do not happen to be writing about it at this particular moment in time.

Okay. Ready? Here are the Calm and Rational comments about rape that make me sometimes a bit angry with you, and why.

Defining rape on rapists’ terms, not survivors

“I know a Decent Guy, who isn’t a rapist, because he’s a Decent Guy and rapists aren’t Decent Guys. And even though he’s a Decent Guy, I can actually conceive of this Decent Non-Rapist doing X. Therefore X shouldn’t really be considered as rape, because Decent Guys who Are Not Rapists do X” is more or less the thought process I’m talking about here. Imagine if we did that with murders. “This guy killed his wife because she slept with his brother, but I can imagine someone I know and admire actually ending up in that situation, so on the basis that this person isn’t a murderer, because murderers aren’t like that, but he might kill his wife if she slept with someone else, killing your wife isn’t actually murder.”

Ridiculous, no? Surely the thought process for other crimes is:“X is murder/rape and therefore people who do X, even if I like them, share packets of peanuts with them, find them funny, admire them, empathise with them, or respect the organisation they founded, or even love them, are, if found guilty of doing X, murderers/rapists.”

Why this makes me so angry

You think this is hard to confront? Rape victims deal with it all the time. Most rapists are someone the survivor knows. If you find it hard to imagine that some legendary figure you’ve never even met could possibly also be a rapist, imagine having to confront the idea that the father of your children is a rapist. Or your husband of ten years. Or a family member. Or your boyfriend. Or a trusted adult, when you’re still a child. Imagine having to confront the fact that the person you love, a person who may, actually, in their own way, love you, too, has still actually chosen to rape you, and is actually a rapist.

If you find it so difficult to imagine that anyone you know or have heard of is a rapist that you start redefining the word to accommodate it, that’s an enormous privilege. It means you have probably never been raped by someone you love, or trust, or admire, feel inferior to, or depend on.

Another reason this really flips me out is that with a few of you, this can feel kind of like you believe rape is some sort of semantic legal distinction, that people call something rape for the sake of it. It’s as if you think, hey, if we call it something else, if we prove that, because of some random technicality, that the term is not applicable, that all is hunky dory. But whatever word you apply to it, being penetrated against your will is traumatic, distressing, painful, and horrific. Whatever you call it, you still should recognise how wrong it is, and recognise that people deserve protection from it. In other words, rape is, rightly, defined in terms of the detrimental impact it has on the victim’s actual life, not the detrimental impact it might have on some hypothetical man’s chances of getting laid.

“Yeah but if it was rape then why would she…”

You’re trying to be totally rational, here; trying to see it from both sides. But, come on, if it was rape, why would she see him again? If it was rape, why did she send him a text message? She says she was raped but then, she does somehow manage to go out partying all the time, doesn’t she? That’s not how rape victims are supposed to behave. You’ve seen films and read stories and even heard from other women who were raped and they all just hide indoors forever. They never have good sex ever again. They certainly never dare to have kinky sex again. This alleged victim, the cheek of it, she seems to be carrying on with her life the same as usual! What a nerve! She even sleeps around sometimes! And she wears slutty dresses!

Oh, and you know what else? She defends him. She says maybe he didn’t mean it, she says he’s probably sorry. She says she loves him. She says maybe it wasn’t rape because maybe he didn’t know he was doing anything wrong when she held her down. She said she didn’t remember it but suddenly she remembers it. She says she’s too traumatised to talk about it but she writes about it all the time! (Yeah, hi.) She didn’t report it for ages. Why would you not want your rapist brought to justice as soon as possible, if it was all so bad?

Or perhaps you’re weighing up what she did leading up to the attack. If she didn’t want to have sex with him, why did she go home with him at all? Why did she drink so much? What did she expect? She was flirting with him, she obviously felt safe, that doesn’t exactly sound like he’s a rapist to me. And why would she sleep with him before if she doesn’t like having sex with him? Why would she sleep with him the night before, then change her mind the next day? No, looking at all these straight-forward, impartial facts – just trying to see it from both sides, and be fair to the guy – to you, it simply doesn’t add up.

Why this makes me so angry

Unless you have been raped then you have no idea what rape victims do and don’t do. Even if you have, people are different, and rape, it won’t surprise you to learn, is an extremely personal thing. People process it in different ways, at different times. There’s no instruction manual for coping with it.

You know what else? There is no obligation on us to modify our behaviour in any way whatsoever. None. There’s almost an implication to some of this thinking that you expect us to have “learned our lesson,” or “be sorry.” Perhaps that’s hardly surprising when everyone is bombarded with messages that say “don’t get raped” instead of “don’t rape,” but that doesn’t make it less upsetting to be told it.

There are dozens, even hundreds of answers, to all the above questions, by the way. Sometimes you don’t know that this horrific thing that happened to you is actually rape. You know why? Because of the people who keep saying all of this stuff I’m writing about. They tell us the word means something else, and we have no right to be traumatised if we wake up to find a boyfriend in us who says he’s very sorry but he can’t stop now, or if we drunkenly flirt with someone who then won’t take no for an answer. Sometimes we forgive or pity the guy who rapes us – have you never heard of an abusive relationship? Sometimes we don’t report it for a long time, or ever, because we don’t realise the rights we have under the law, or because we don’t trust in them. Sometimes we don’t remember the details because we black them out. Sometimes we go out partying then go home and cry ourselves to sleep. Sometimes we get up and go to work and it’s a nightmare. Sometimes we make it to a comedy night and some graphic rape joke means we run out of the room to have a panic attack. Maybe we don’t actually think our grief or pain is any of your business. It isn’t your business. It’s private.

And hey, you know something else? Sometimes we pick ourselves up and get on with life. Just like we’re told we should. It’s almost as if we’re three dimensional human beings, not caricatures. We’re always being told to stop being so hysterical and sensitive, to just get over things and move on. But if we actually try to do that, you use it against us.

Of course I’m against rape, who isn’t, sigh, this is boring, in fact it’s quite offensive to suggest I wouldn’t be! The term ‘rape culture’? That’s offensive to men! It suggests we’re all rapists!

Oh, really? You’re offended? You are? It offends you that I don’t automatically know you’re not a rapist? Because you’re so nice and Nice Guys, Decent Guys, are never rapists? Is that it?

Guess what. As nice as you may be, I don’t know that you’re not a rapist.

Here’s the irony of this one. I hate rape culture. I want to give you the benefit of the doubt. I believe rape is not normal, and rapists choose to rape. I believe it is reasonable to assume someone will not rape you. I believe they are at fault if they do.

But the problem with believing that is, if I, believing you not to be a rapist, which is a fair assumption because you’re probably not, treat you like a Decent Non-Rapist, and get drunk in your presence, dance with you, come back to chill at your house, fall asleep near you, have sex with you consensually then sleep in a bed with you, date you, have a relationship with you, or any number of other things, and then you rape me, it turns out that it is my fault for not assuming you were a rapist, and these things can be used against me.

So if you don’t like it, don’t blame me. I’m on your side. These aren’t my rules. Blame the people who keep telling me that treating you like a Decent Non-Rapist is the same as consenting to sex.

Because ultimately, if you find the assumption that you aren’t automatically against rape offensive, then you should find rape culture (or whatever you want to call it) offensive. So let’s work together. When Decent Non-Rapists all stop demanding that rape be defined in a way that excludes as many traumatic incidents as possible, when men stop covering each other’s tracks, when you stop defending Ken Clarke because you somehow believe raping a woman you’ve dated or married isn’t quite as serious or dangerous as raping a stranger, and his clumsy words give you cover to say so, when you understand that maybe people are not, actually entirely 100% anti-rape if they watch, enjoy, and celebrate porn that depicts rape, when that shit gets sorted, maybe I will be able to stop boring you with my tedious observations about how this all looks from my perspective. And maybe I will even stop getting so upset with you when you tell me your perfectly innocent opinions about rape.

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