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.


Michael Fabricant, jokes, political correctness and context

Michael Fabricant, jokes, political correctness and context

Michael Fabricant doesn’t seem to take much seriously. So it’s not surprising to me that he thinks it’s a right old laugh to joke about punching a Muslim woman in the throat if she gets a bit too opinionated for his liking.

As the defenders of ‘political incorrectness’ like to say: context is all. You have to take it in context. Stop being offended, you’re just taking it out of context. So I have to ask: what is the context to this comment?

Last week, a woman was murdered. The police believe it could have been because she was ‘wearing Muslim dress.’ Tell Mama has reported that Muslim women are experiencing ever-higher levels of hate crime, so much so that, according to reports, just going outside means taking an explicit risk.

The context is that hey, feminists are hysterical, and women overreact, so we need not be taken seriously in our outrage. Not so when the Liddles and the Farages of the world get outraged; no, then it must Mean Something. Ah, we need to respond to this! Their outrage shows the alienation of the public from the political class, or the rise of political correctness gone mad!

It’s not like Fabricant’s tweets are never taken seriously. When Fabricant, back in the days when he was party chairman, tweeted something which embarrassed David Cameron, of course, that was an entirely different matter. He was sacked for saying it was ‘about time’ Maria Miller went. But joking about punching a Muslim woman in the throat, in the midst of a climate of rising racism and violence? Cameron backs him up.

Ah, context. When respected, professional men like Michael Fabricant jokily sympathise with somebody wanting to give a woman a punch, she, not he, is the one who is then subject to a heap of abuse. That is the real context to Michael Fabricant’s joke.

The more marginalised you are the more people believe your right to be heard is conditional. The more people believe your right to be heard, the right to your humanity, is conditional, the more disproportionate the reaction you ‘provoke’ will be. The anger expressed to wards Alibhai-Brown or Diane Abbott (or, in America, Michelle Obama or Melissa Harris Perry) never seems proportionate to whatever they have supposedly ‘done’.

Was Yasmin Alibhai-Brown seriously imagined to be somehow more unpleasant than Rod Liddle was, in the interview that so offended Mr Fabricant? Liddle rudely insulted the interviewer and complained – a typical manifestation of the entitlement ingrained in the faux-anti-establishment brigade – that the questions weren’t about the things he fancied talking about. He pretended he didn’t know what Alibhai-Brown was referring to when she mentioned his comments on Stephen Lawrence’s murder – comments that it is extremely hard to believe he had forgotten, given that he was found to have breached a court order over them, and the Spectator was fined. If Liddle, who writes of ‘black savages’ and compares supporting gay marriage as a conservative to endorsing sex with a goat as a conservative, does not provoke an equivalent violent fantasy from the likes of Fabricant, it begs the question: what would a white man actually have to say to provoke one? You don’t even have to agree with Brown or disagree with Liddle to see that Yasmin Alibhai-Brown was certainly not being any more provocative that he was.

Provocative is a strangely gendered word. We do not often hear of men being provocative, or at least, when we do, the bar is set so much higher. A man is provocative, for example, if he is seen carrying a weapon, or if he shouts abuse in the street at a stranger, or if he gets drunk and squares up to somebody in a bar. A woman is provocative if she wears a miniskirt or has an opinion or two.

When we talk about context, which is the third magic word that pops up alongside ‘irony’ and ‘intention’, it always seems to be a very specific context that those people are interested in discussing. “You have to take it in context,” cry endless apologists for ‘ironic’ sexism or racism, before innocently asking why they cannot say the N-word, if NWA can, or why they can’t shout ‘bitch’ at women in the street if Beyonce can sing the word in a song about empowering herself.

Reacting to ‘jokes’ like Fabricant’s is not about being offended, and it’s certainly not about being knee-jerk. It’s not even about the individual joke itself. Would Fabricant actually punch Alibhai-Brown in the neck? It’s highly unlikely that he would. (What a thing, though, to be an MP, and have people rounding behind you to assert that you wouldn’t really punch a woman, as if that alone is amazingly high praise that qualifies you to keep your job.) No, much of the reaction to these seemingly silly little incidents is a dispassionate, structural analysis of the context in which those ‘jokes’ sit. The context, not the single incident, is what makes it matter. The context is not just that two women a week die of domestic violence. The context is how many of those women died because they were made to believe it was a little bit their fault, because they were, in some small way, too provocative.

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.

FEEDING THE TROLLS: The put-upon privileged who resist progress need to take responsibility for their actions

Rod Liddle, bless him, has somehow become a big-government, pro-statist left-winger. No, really. Here he is, in the Spectator, calling for regulations on businesses to protect employment rights for workers, even when the employee in question screws up so monumentally that your entire business’s credibility hangs by the skin of your gums.

You see, Rod Liddle thinks it was unfair of Rich Lowry, editor of National Review, to make a commercial decision about John Derbyshire’s future employment with him following his ‘controverisal’ (read: racist) article in a different, online publication. Derbyshire’s article The Talk includes titbits of wisdom like explaining to white kids that black people are usually less intelligent than white people, and that they should avoid, mistrust, and fear black people whenever they see them. You don’t need to spend much time joining the rather obvious dots to see how tragedies like the killing of Trayvon Martin, or, here in England, of Mark Duggan and Charles de Menezes, are the inevitable end result of having people walk around believing such racist nonsense. If it was published in England the article would quite likely be deemed an incitement to racial hatred.

America should be proud of the respect they give to their constitutional right to free speech. But the land of freedom is also famed for being the land of personal responsibility. If you’re seriously going to expect a black man wearing a hood to ‘take responsibility’ for the fact that some people see a hood as a threatening thing (rather than being, say, a good way to keep your ears warm), or a woman to ‘take responsibility’ for how she dresses or what she drinks in case she’s assaulted, you really have to also agree that racists should be expected to take responsibility for the consequences of their racism – or even to just use their common sense in understanding, as a grown up, that when they say racist things, some people will probably call them racist.

The National Review is a serious magazine, and, apart from anything else, it’s a well-run business. Lowry is perfectly entitled to decide whom he wants to employ and whom he wants to sack. Welcome to the free market.

Justice has been served by the free market itself (and it seemingly has because John Derbyshire has been sacked), so you might ask why I’m feeding the trolls with a blog post about the whining naysayers? Does it matter if people write silly things on the internet?

Well, for a start, the hateful Coffee House blog Rod Liddle wrote about the Stephen Lawrence case almost prejudiced the whole trial. It’s a horrible thing to make victims beg for justice in the first place; to risk dragging the quest for it out even further for the sake of your right to say silly things about a murder case with no consequences definitely does matter.

But this smug veneer of being lazily controversial at the expense of less privileged people than yourself is damaging to us all as a society in a much less immediately tangible way. It helps cultivate a culture of cynicism so pervasive that it serves to do exactly the opposite of what those who practice it pretend they want.

The Liddles, O’Neills, and Delingpoles are not the defenders of free speech. They are the very thing they say they detest: an oversensitive mob, shouting down dissent, and trying to ridicule people into silence.

They contribute to and facilitate a culture which is extremely saddening. It allows people to sit in their bedrooms nursing a convenient, uncharitable assumption that anyone who cares about any moral issue, ever, is only doing it because they’re following some trend, or else for some other selfish, hypocritical reason. It’s easy to miss how prevalent this world view is.

Real, serious work, such as that done by charities like Refuge, gets denigrated by Carol Sarler in the Daily Mail with no basis for the assumptions made whatsoever. Protesters get denounced because they drink coffee. In fact, activists, writers, and ordinary people taking any moral interest in anything are continually met with the most tenuous accusations of “hypocrisy” because, for example, they care about X, but not Y. And the criticisms usually come from people who feel no particular need to give a toss about X or Y. Or a A, B, C or D, for that matter.

Just look at the comments on the Guardian article by Ava Vidal about the Trayvon Martin case. Why don’t you do more about gang violence, demand page upon page of furious commentators? Why don’t you criticise black killers? Almost as if a black person’s opinion is only valid if they criticise some unrelated other black people first, which, come to think of it, is probably the inevitable logical conclusion you come to if you hold everyone of the same race responsible for each other’s actions (i.e. if you’re a racist).

And this fake concern for every other issue under the sun bar the one the person in question happens to be addressing at that particular point in time is more than just a mild irritation. It actually gives validation to whatever is being spoken out against. When Brendan O’Neill decided that the most pressing issue worthy of space on his blog was to criticise all the people who protested the execution of Troy Davis – protested it on the rather important grounds that he might have actually been innocent – he accused them of inverse racism. He may not have a racist bone in his own body, but the article spewed comments from a stream of people who had several, and who saw his sneering at anti-racism campaigners as a validation of their hate. When he criticised the language in the government’s gay marriage consultation by pretending to be offended that “us, the little people” are not welcome in the consultation process, he attracted pages of comments from people who “agree” with him that gender reassignment is nonsense, that people can’t ever truly change gender, and, weirdly, that the feminist movement should be honest and rename itself the militant lesbian movement.

It’s not just that these kinds of columns dismiss very real concerns from people who are often vulnerable and voiceless. By peacocking his own ignorance about gender reassignment and framing it as ordinary, O’Neill actually shifts the centre ground in terms of social progress. And, needless to say, he isn’t shifting it forwards. Keeping an issue like trans rights on the sidelines is the perfect way to provide yourself with endless column-fodder for years to come. While an issue is only defined a minority issue, it can be derided as irrelevant to ordinary people, and then, when awareness is successfully raised and people start to actually care about the issue in question, everyone taking an interest can just be mocked – then completely ignored – for being nothing more than fashion-following sheep.

To say nothing of the fact that declaring minority issues to be all bang on trend can be repulsively insulting to the people who know, with painful clarity, just who the most powerful “mob” really is.

Homophobes who sometimes have to – shock, horror – have their views challenged may think that being gay is “fashionable,” but a child bullied for being gay – whether they actually are gay or not – who is terrified to walk home after school, or go into the school toilets, for fear of being beaten up or worse, would probably disagree. Rod Liddle may be able to make money from writing in the Sun that disability is fashionable (before mocking and denigrating disabled people in the same article) but Fiona Pilkington and her daughter? They knew only too well that it wasn’t.

Yes, welcome to the smelly nub of the hypocrisy of these faux-libertarians. These people who side with the dominant groups in society, usually make money from doing so, and then pretend to be bravely rebelling against a fashionable trend. These people who say they agree that people are better at solving problems than governments are, but when people try to solve problems, they throw their toys out of the pram and call them names, because, as it turns out, they don’t like that very much either.

After all, when News of the World was closed down by the free market, because consumers and advertisers alike voiced their disgust in a great example of real free speech, against an organisation that actually was powerful, and had actually been engaged in illegal, harmful activities, Liddle, O’Neill and Dellingpole didn’t applaud that, or hold it up as an example of why government doesn’t need to regulate the press. No, they demonised the people speaking out about phone-hacking as biased, vindictive, and stupid.

There are some people who genuinely do value personal freedom, but we also value personal responsibility. There are others who use the very precious concept of liberty as an excuse to defend the indefensible. Make no mistake: that’s not about freedom of speech, or about freedom of anything else. It’s about resisting progress. Are these people to blame for every racist murder and every assaulted trans person? No. But every piggish snort they give out, every minute they spend finding reasons to mock the voices trying, however imperfectly, to drive social progress forwards for all of us, sets the whole fight back just a little bit further. And for that, they really should take some personal responsibility.

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