Thursday, 30 May 2013

Temptation is an Ugly Word

Nick Ross said quite a lot of things about violence against women in his weird article in MailOnline recently. For example:

[our forebears] would be baffled that girls are mostly unescorted, stay out late, often get profoundly drunk and sometimes openly kiss, grope or go to bed with one-night stands. No amount of temptation can excuse rape, or any other crime. On that point ‘slutwalk’ demonstrators (those reacting against a Canadian policeman whose advised women to ‘avoid dressing as sluts’ if they did not want to be harassed) are obviously correct. Yet for some it is heresy to suggest that victims should ever be held responsible at all

Mr Ross appears to be confused. He appears to be saying this: of course rape is never the victim's fault and always the perpetrator's fault and of course I agree that women are never to blame for rape, even if they go out on their own (ON THEIR OWN) but we should probably try to have a think about rape sometimes being a bit the victim's fault because, you know, FAIR'S FAIR.

Okey dokey.

It's probably true that our 'forebears would be baffled' that girls (does Mr Ross really mean girls? As in children? Let's assume he means young women) go out on their own and stay out late and drink alcohol and kiss and have sex. But then, it's also true that our forebears would be baffled by interracial marriage, female lawyers, cesarean sections, graphic design, double glazing and the Internet. All of which are pretty cool. 

So, what is Mr Ross's point? Is he suggesting that women should try to avoid being raped by not going out on their own, not drinking, not kissing and not having sex? He can't be, because his IQ is higher than that of a puddle of sick. Also, he says he's not suggesting this when he states that 'no amount of temptation can excuse rape'. Also, he's an expert on crime, isn't he? He's just written a book all about it. It's called, Crime. And he would have researched the bejesus out of it. For example, he definitely would have found out, before he started writing about rape, that all of those things that our forebears would be 'baffled' by - women drinking, women staying out alone at night, women kissing, women fucking - things that Ross is implicitly saying can lead to rape, are out-of-date, misogynistic red-herring-bullshit-turds of the highest degree. He just forgot to put that in his book, probably. And he also would have found out that women are raped literally all over the place. All the time. And he will know that lots of rapes happen to women who have never - literally never - done any of the things listed above. But also that when women are raped who have been doing that stuff, it isn't the stuff they are doing that gets them raped; it's the men who rape them who get them raped. In a nutshell, due to all the hard work he did researching for his book, Nick Ross certainly must know that rape is not about sex. Or 'temptation'. 

Temptation. 'No amount of temptation can excuse rape'. That word in that sentence is really, really ugly.Temptation Ugh. Here are some synonyms: Seduction; enticement; allurement. What does this sentence mean? That no matter how much a woman is covertly and subconsciously trying to entice a man to rape her, he must stand his ground and resist? Really?

So, what is Mr Ross's opinion of the young woman who was repeatedly raped by her peers - people she knew - while she was lying drunk and unconscious in the 2012 Steubenville High School rape case ? Or the young woman who was gang raped and fatally injured in India in 2012 who was travelling on a public bus in broad daylight with a male companion? That the perpetrators were tempted, seduced, enticed in some way? By what, exactly?

But these aren't the kinds of rapes that Mr Ross is talking about, are they? Because these rapes are real rapes, aren't they? The kinds of rapes that Mr Ross is talking about are the ones that happen when a woman and a man fancy each other and have been on a few dates together and the woman SENDS OUT SIGNALS and the man PICKS UP ON THEM and then stuff starts to happen physically and then the woman says no and the man gets confused because the woman has LEAD HIM ON and the man carries on anyway because of all the TEMPTATION and sex happens even though the woman has told him to stop. About this, Mr Ross says this: 

Half of all women who have had penetrative sex unwillingly do not think they were raped, and this proportion rises strongly when the assault involves a boyfriend, or if the woman is drunk or high on drugs.

Oh, but why did he stop there?! He forgot to carry on! Let's carry on for him:

Imagine a woman. Maybe one who was brought up - as most women are - to believe, when all's said and done, that if she's in a relationship with a man and he wants to have sex with her but she doesn't want to have sex with him, she should just do it anyway. She's also spent her life surrounded by images of semi-naked women on billboards, in magazines, in TV and in porn who look like perpetually horny sex holes who ABSOLUTELY GAGGING FOR IT. ALL THE TIME. And this woman we're imagining - not because she's stupid or lacking in insight, but because there is so much of this objectification of women everywhere you look in the world - is, in lots of ways, conditioned to think that if she isn't absolutely gagging for it (or at least, pretending to) every single time her partner wants it, there is something seriously wrong with her and the thought of saying 'no' when she hasn't got a 'real reason' is very, very difficult and frightening because of things like lack of confidence and embarrassment and guilt and the fear of being left and of being unsure of how to articulate her feelings.

So, this woman we're imagining is in a relationship with a man. He's not that nice to her. Again, not uncommon. But she's with him because she's a bit lonely and because he's an OK kind of guy. And quite often, when they have sex, she doesn't want to do it. Sometimes she doesn't say anything and sometimes, she says no. Either way, he carries on. The man isn't a total cretin; he knows when a woman doesn't want to have sex but he just carries on because, you know, what the hey. 

The chances are, if it was suggested to this woman that she had been raped by her partner and if she was offered some help or support, she would think this was completely ridiculous. It would probably make her feel guilty because of all the real raping that was going on in the world. But also, the chances are that the kinds of feelings that a woman in this situation has about herself, her sexuality, her body and her vagina will, broadly speaking, be pretty similar to the feelings experienced by the 'snatched off the street by a stranger' rape victim. The feelings our woman will have may not be as acute or as shocking to her but it would not be at all surprising if she displayed feelings and behaviours such as embarrassment, self-blame, low self-esteem, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, self-harm and self-revulsion which are all symptoms recognised by Mr Ross as those experienced by rape victims.

Rape is rape is rape is rape is rape, for crying out loud. Some rapes come as more of a surprise than others. The trauma experienced by these kinds of out-of-the-blue attacks is, of course different from the trauma of systematic rape within a relationship. Of course we sometimes have sex with our partners when we're not really in the mood; this is consensual sex, not rape.  But, if a woman says she has had penetrative sex against her will - that she has told the man to stop and he hasn't - and then that woman tells you that she doesn't think she was raped, we don't say, 'Ah ha! You see! Sometimes rape is not rape!' No. We send the woman for some counselling, set fire to all the lads mags and tell Nick Ross to think harder.

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