Thursday, 22 September 2011

[Trigger Warning] This Is Not An Invitation To Rape Me - brilliant campaign from Rape Crisis Scotland

A couple of weeks ago I posted a blog, setting out some truths about rape I wished were universally acknowledged. I covered some of the insidious myths that lead people to apologise for the behaviour of rapists and blame those raped for the violence carried out against them.

Today I came across this Rape Crisis Scotland campaign website via Women's Views on News.

Women are by far the most likely victims of sexual assault. The way they are treated by society at large and by the criminal justice system in particular is sickening. Erroneous beliefs pervade the general consciousness that allow perpetrators of sexual violence to partially excuse their actions or even exonerate themselves if their victim is not an elderly nun clad in iron knickers and feed the humiliation rape victims are often subjected to at every stage of their experience of trying to seek justice.

Did you know that if someone is raped and they were drunk at the time, they are entitled to less compensation from the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority? That sentencing guidelines in England and Wales say that the prison term for a rapist may be reduced if the victim engaged consensual sexual activity with the same person on the same occasion? So if you've had a few, and therefore in less of a fit state to give your informed consent, if you kiss your attacker before they rape you not only will they serve less time, you will be considered to have wilfully put yourself in a position where sex is inevitable and therefore are less deserving of compensation for the violence perpetrated against you. This is madness, and it has to stop.

The website is brilliant. It is an upsetting read at times, but presents ways in which we can all challenge beliefs and hegemonies that are long overdue a debunking. There are resources you can download to add your voice to their campaign and spread the message far and wide.

Thinking back to my earlier post, I would like to add an additional universal truth to the list based on the most heartbreaking thing I read on the website. There were many things that made me tearful, angry or just feel bleak - but this comment from a visitor to the site made me simultaneously furious with the whole of society and want to reach out and tell this person that things can get better and there are people who don't think that way:

I wish that I had known this all before. He told me that it wasn't rape because I was obviously aroused. They said I deserved it because I'd led him on. I blamed myself so much and for so long I let it happen again and again.
Alexander, male
So I'm adding "physiological signs of arousal =/= consent" to my list of truths. In the same way as rapists are not unstoppable animals with drives that cannot be denied, it is your mind that decides whether or not you wish to proceed with a sexual encounter and not your body, no matter how hard or wet or breathless you are. Your clothes cannot consent for you. Your third glass of wine cannot consent for you. Your marriage vows are not a blanket consent form. Your wandering hands or eager kisses right at this second have an indefinite cooling off period that your partner should always, always respect. If they do not, they are wrong and you have a right to be heard without prejudice.

So please, support the campaign. This Is Not An Invitation To Rape Me. Let's change some minds.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Territorial pissings

I've just made a cup of tea in our office kitchen and, in a fit of pique, rubbed the name off someone's carton of soy milk with my thumb. I now have orange marker on me like a stain of guilt but I refuse to feel guilty.

What is it with people's need to be territorial over stuff in the fridge in communal places? I mean, I can understand it when you're a skint student and your house/flat/dorm mates are all skint and starving but in an office full of adults? Does writing your name on something really help? If someone's determined to have that food in the fridge and they already know it's not theirs, do you think that seeing your name on it is going to deter them? Make them stop to think of you weeping into a fishpond over the fact you have 30ml less soy milk than before? Seriously?

She and I are the only people in the office that drink soy milk and my carton was already in the fridge. Everyone else here thinks that soy milk is muck. So why bother etching your tag all over it? Three times, no less.

A carton of own-brand soy milk costs about 60p. A carton will usually do me for longer than a week. If it goes much longer than that, it'd go off anyway so I'd be glad if someone dipped into it because I hate to waste it. But even if I had to bring in two a week because others were using it, what's the big deal? If there was a little more give and take around the place, maybe people would get on a little better.

So to Jane, whose smudged name now stains my thumb, up yours with your passive-aggressive food marking. No-one wants your crappy soy milk anyway!

Monday, 12 September 2011

Obituary to Common Sense? Testimony to idiocy more like...

Received as an email in my mailbox today (commentary in brackets):
An Obituary printed in the London Times (the whutnow?)

Today we mourn the passing of a beloved old friend, Common Sense, who has been with us for many years. No one knows for sure how old he was, since his birth records were long ago lost in bureaucratic red tape (and there was me thinking that "bureaucratic" record-keeping was so you could find stuff that would otherwise be lost in the mists of time, not to obfuscate the past). He will be remembered as having cultivated such valuable lessons as:

- Knowing when to come in out of the rain;
- Why the early bird gets the worm;
- Life isn't always fair;
- and Maybe it was my fault.

(those aren't so much valuable lessons as trite statements and platitudes that have nothing to do with common sense.)

Common Sense lived by simple, sound financial policies - don't spend more than you can earn - (excellent, provided you never want to own your own house, go to university) and reliable strategies - adults, not children, are in charge (which is great, provided children are also listened to. Let's not go back to the "children should be seen and not heard" of yore that led to kids not being able to speak out *shudders*).

His health began to deteriorate rapidly when well-intentioned but overbearing regulations were set in place. Reports (in the Daily Mail) of a 6-year-old boy charged with sexual harassment for kissing a classmate; teens suspended from school for using mouthwash after lunch; and a teacher fired for reprimanding an unruly student, only worsened his condition.

Common Sense lost ground when parents attacked teachers for doing the job that they themselves had failed to do in disciplining their unruly children.

It declined even further when schools were required to get parental consent to administer sun lotion (an invasion of personal space) or an aspirin (to which quite a large number of people are intolerant) to a student; but could not inform parents when a student became pregnant and wanted to have an Abortion (due to the fact that teenagers are human beings with rights to confidentiality).

Common Sense lost the will to live as the churches became businesses (which they have always been, but not recognised as such); (<- unnecessary semi-colon is unnecessary) and criminals received better treatment than their victims (that's sometimes true, but again has nothing to do with common sense. Neither does commercialised religion).

Common Sense took a beating when you couldn't defend yourself from a burglar in your own home and the burglar could sue you for assault (if you use unreasonable force such as, for instance, shooting them in the back while they're running away instead of leaving them to the Police, Tony Martin).

Common Sense finally gave up the will to live, (<- unnecessary comma is unnecessary) after a woman failed to realize that a steaming cup of coffee was hot. She spilled a little in her lap, (<- and again with the commas) and was promptly awarded a huge settlement (who is this apocryphal woman? How much was she awarded? By whom? Under what jurisdiction? If you have a point to make, please make it specific so we can see the evidence for your assertions).

Common Sense was preceded in death, by his parents, Truth and Trust (who must've been so disappointed by their son's lack of likeness to either of them. It's almost like he was... Completely unrelated), by his wife, Discretion, by his daughter, Responsibility, and by his son, Reason.

He is survived by his 4 stepbrothers; (<- um, I think you mean colon, not semi-colon. Please learn about punctuation. Kthx.)
I Know My Rights
I Want It Now
Someone Else Is To Blame
I'm A Victim
(The obituary is written by Common Sense's bastard cousin, This Is An Outrage. You may know him as a close personal friend of Political Correctness Gone Mad and We Never Had This Ridiculous Health And Safety Nonsense In My Day.)

Not many attended his funeral because so few realized he was gone (that's what you get for writing an obituary for someone whose funeral has been and gone). If you still remember him, pass this on (I do, but not in the way described...) If not, join the majority and do nothing.
Ah,  I enjoyed that. If anyone wants me, I'll be reading Speak You're Branes...

Friday, 2 September 2011

A few truths I wish were universally acknowledged [warning: abstract discussion of rape]

Over the course of the past couple of months some messages about men's and women's roles and responsibilities in the arena of sexual behaviour have coming through the media more and more consistently [or maybe I'm just noticing them more] that I find frankly nauseating. With stories such as that of the dropped case against Dominique Strauss Khan, the sex education plans proposed by MP Nadine Dorries and reports of pro-rape groups on Facebook and on campuses in the US and Australia, there have been a number of people keen to make points to which I am fundamentally opposed.

I am talking about the evolutionary psychology-inspired belief that men are hard-wired to fuck at all costs and anyone who stands in the way of that, irrespective of the impact on them, is denying them their right and should be ashamed. The view that if women are raped, it means they were depriving men of what they have the right to take and should therefore have just said yes in the first place.

As a counter to those views, I have a three truths I wish were universally acknowledged.

1. Not all men want sex all of the time

If the rape apologists and evolutionary psychologists are to be believed, men are only programmed to want sex. If they are to be believed, this is their primary drive and anyone denying them that is depriving them of the one thing they want.

If this perspective were true, I'm not sure how men would have made the contribution they have to advances in science, the arts, architecture, politics and such like when they're having to expend all their mental and physical energy controlling the urge not to rape the next woman they see. The assertion that all men want and think about is sex is absurd and disparaging to the entire gender.

Now I don't know about you, but I've known many men who go through periods of low desire and those are only the ones who've felt comfortable enough with me to tell me such. All kinds of things impact on sexual desire and arousal and that works for both genders. There are no absolutes.

I'm not a man, but if I were I would find it frankly insulting to hear people write me off as an animal purely driven by desire. Never mind the fact that it places all the responsibility on women to moderate male sexual behaviour, the idea that men are incapable of self control is derogatory and completely incorrect.

2. Not all men want sex with women

You'd have thought this would be self-evident, but apparently it's not. Some men prefer sex with men. Some men prefer sex with themselves. Other men would rather not have sex at all, thank you very much. The idea that not only are all men incapable of controlling their carnal urges, that those carnal urges will inevitably be directed towards women is wrong. What's more, it puts a disproportionate amount of pressure on women to be guardians of socially appropriate sexual behaviour when not only are men perfectly capable of controlling themselves, a considerable proportion of them may not look to women for satiation of their sexual desires anyway.

3. Men can be raped too

This seems to have escaped the notice of rape apologists, but it isn't only women can be raped. Admittedly, it's less common and probably very much under-reported. However, there is an inherent contradiction in this fact. If all men want sex all the time and men are raped - therefore not wililng - how does that stack up? It doesn't, and there is no way to reconcile these two positions.

It is also true that men can be raped or sexually assaulted by women. That seems to be a less frequent occurrence than male-male rape and is most likely even more under-reported, but it happens. There are ways of going about degrading a person that doesn't require penetrative sex and this is the point. Rape is not just about sex. I'm not going to get into the whole sordid debate about degrees of awfulness of sexual assault because it's vile and upsetting, but these facts - that men can be raped and not necessarily by other men - make a mockery of what the rape apologists are trying to make out is truth.

What some seem to have lost sight of in this debate is that rape is not primarily about sex; it's about power. It's the power exercised by a person to take what they want and to subjugate someone else to their will. It is done by sexual means and sometimes with the motivation of sexual gratification but it is power that's at play, not desire. Admittedly, the links between sex, power, desire and gratification are pretty complex but to say that rape is all about sex is downright wrong.

So next time we're considering tarnishing all men with the potential rapist brush or thinking that rapists are the victims of denied sexual gratification, please can we hold on to these three truths and regain some perspective on what rape actually means?