Originally published: 06.07.13
The brutal gang-rape that took place on a bus in Delhi in December 2012 galvanized feminists both in India and around the world. Among them there were differing views on what this horrific incident meant and what should be done about it; but those differences did not stop women from taking united action. Rahila Gupta argues that if we keep our larger goals in sight, while also acknowledging that different contexts call for different political responses, the many shades of feminism can merge into one strong, vibrant colour*.
It’s become fashionable, after the meteoric rise of that mediocre book, to refer to 50 shades of everything. When it’s applied to feminism, however, I worry that it underlines our divisions whilst appearing to celebrate our diversity. At the level of discussion, it’s important to tease out our differences; but at the level of action, we’re trying to build bridges and coalitions by keeping the bigger goals in sight.
Shades of opinion are not just about women squabbling among themselves about the best way forward, but about different contexts giving rise to different demands. With that in mind, I want to talk about the brutal gang rape on a bus of a 23 year-old woman who was left for dead in Delhi last December. Different shades of opinion emerged in the solidarity actions that took place in the UK, but they did not prevent a common platform of action.
Read more 50 billion shades of feminism by Rahila Gupta for @Strifejournal
Section 41 of the rape and sexual offences act 1999 states that the sexual history of the claimant can be used as evidence in cases in the U.K. We the undersigned agree that this should be stopped and previous sexual history should be inadmissible in court.
Originally published: 22.06.16
JANE & MARIA DOE
Jane Doe was 13 years old when Donald Trump tied her to a bed and raped her. She begged him to wear a condom. He responded by violently striking her in the face and screaming he would do whatever he wanted. She asked what would happen if she were to get pregnant, at which point he threw $100 dollar bills at her and screamed that she should “get a fucking abortion.” Jane’s rape was witnessed by Tiffany Doe, who has signed a sworn affidavit confirming her testimony. Jane and Maria Doe (who was 12) were forced multiple times to perform oral sex on him.
Violence against women is often in the news. Its prevalence in society makes it a ‘hot topic’ for reporters and its complex nature makes it an interesting issue for feature writers. However, the fact that violence against women is so complex can mean that even journalists with the best of intentions can misrepresent some of the issues and perpetuate myths that are harmful to women.
On the other hand, good reporting can play a vital role in increasing understanding of violence against women and challenging its place in our society. And many journalists and bloggers produce high quality work which confronts violence and gender inequality.
We believe that their hard work deserves to be recognised, which is why Zero Tolerance with the support of NUJ Scotland, White Ribbon Scotland, Scottish Women’s Aid, Engender, Everyday Victim Blaming, Women 50:50, Rape Crisis Scotland, Women for Independence and the Scottish Refugee Council are pleased to present the fourth annual Write to End Violence award for excellence in journalism. We are also pleased to announce the Sunday Herald will be working with us as our media partner.
This award seeks to drive up standards in journalism by rewarding those committed to furthering the cause of gender equality through their work. It is open to all those writing in Scotland, and there are categories open to both paid and unpaid writing. Articles and blogs must be published between 01/09/15 and 01/09/16.
Read more The Scottish Write to End Violence Against Women and Girls Award!
Originally published: 29.09.14
For trauma survivors, there are many paths to healing and moving on. Why does forgiveness culture demand that survivors forgive their abusers?
I can relate many small wrongs after which the offender has apologized, claimed he would never demand forgiveness, and then become condescending when I’ve not immediately accepted the apology. “We don’t have to be enemies, but sure, I’ll leave you alone,” said one text message. I had not said I would not forgive him; I had simply not forgiven on demand. Still, this incident was relatively minor. ….
Why I Reject Forgiveness Culture was first published by Stir Journal. You can find the full article here.
erringness in perfection class : Elizabeth Kate Switaj is a Liberal Arts Instructor at the College of the Marshall Islands and a Contributing Editor to Poets’ Quarterly. She completed her PhD at Queen’s University Belfast with a dissertation on James Joyce as an EFL teacher. She previously taught English in Japan and China in December 2012. (@)
Originally published: 30.03.16
Commit to maintaining London’s pioneering Violence Against Women and Girls Strategy.
Women’s groups in London published a ‘manifesto for ending violence against women and girls in the capital,’ recently and sent open letters to Mayoral candidates highlighting the endemic levels of domestic and sexual violence in London, and asking them to make specific commitments on ending female genital mutilation (FGM), on prostitution, on ensuring support services are maintained, and the effective policing of these crimes.
A new ‘mayorwatch’ website, which will track all relevant mayoral and Assembly candidates’ pledges has also been launched.
The manifesto and open letters precede an ‘ending violence against women and girls hustings’ in central London on 12 April, with Sian Berry, Green Party; Yvette Cooper MP for Labour; Stephen Greenhalgh for the Conservatives; Annabel Mullin for the Lib Dems; and Sophie Walker, standing for the Women’s Equality Party, on the panel.
Read more Manifesto on VAWG for London mayor candidates by @newsaboutwomen
Originally published: 25.12.15
It’s two days before my Anthropology exam, and I can’t concentrate.
I was sexually assaulted the day before. I feel teary. I feel numb. I don’t know what to feel.
I’m torn between knowing that I need a break so that I can begin to recover from my assault, and feeling guilty for missing an exam.
My guilt stems from believing that my academics determine my worth. It also stems from my believing that my worth is defined by my productivity levels – a capitalistic lie that we’re all taught from a young age.
Because of these deep-set beliefs, a part of me feels as if missing exams means I’m weak, useless, and a failure.
I know I need to practice self-care. But practicing self-care at university – a place that equates our worth with our academic ability – is incredibly difficult. …
Read more 8 Ways to Practice Self-Care When College Is Taking a Toll on Your Spirit by @sianfergs
Originally published: 14.03.14
Last year when I blogged/wrote as ‘fragmentz’ I wrote several blogs titled ‘lets talk about rape …’ – not something I planned on writing much about again really, but here I am and I am able to talk more openly offline and more confident to write online as me, Helen.
7 years ago my life which I was already battling changed for the worse. It was a sunny day, where one moment made time freeze. One afternoon on the corner of a street where a building site was boarded up (with broken down boards). One second I was walking down a street I’d walked down many times and a few minutes later I ran into the high street, collapsing while some passers by called the emergency services. You always think – well I did – that you know what you would do in that situation. But I didn’t do what I thought I would. And that was it, in those brief moments life changed. Forever. Never ever to be the same again. How can it be?
Read more Lets talk about rape (again) and being one of ‘only 9%’.
Originally published: 04.02.14
Originally published: 02.03.15
(Trigger Warning: Discussion of rape and rape culture)
A great number of people believe that reporting rape is the best way to fight rape culture.
And I understand why many people would think that way. The logic goes that if more survivors reported rape, more rapists would be convicted, and therefore be prevented from raping in the future.
It’s actually not that simple.
While I fully support the decision of survivors who choose to report their rape, we have to challenge the dangerous idea that survivors have a responsibility to report their rape.
Anti-rape campaigns often pressure survivors to speak out about their experiences. Some anti-rape campaigns insinuate that a victim’s silence is their complicity with rape culture.
But let’s look at some of the reasons why shaming people into reporting their rape is counter-productive.
Read more 5 REASONS SHAMING SURVIVORS INTO REPORTING RAPE IS COUNTER-PRODUCTIVE by @sianfergs
Originally published: 11.02.15
When men are denied sex by women, to the point that the poor fellas have to rape and/or kill their wives, it is time for the Minister of Gender to step forward and remind women to refrain from such dangerous behaviour and return to the true path. To warn them that denying their husbands sex breeds domestic violence. And that they risk meeting the same fate as the woman who was recently hacked to death by her husband of 20-something years for committing the crime of refusing access to her body.
This is the advice that was generously given to female constituents by the Minister of Gender, who also happens to be a women’s representative in the parliament of Uganda. Only a fool could fail to understand where she was coming from with that dose of wisdom. It is one thing to live in the city, somewhat self-reliant, and scoff at such advice. Screaming about the need for women to assert their rights without taking stock of their material realities is unhelpful, even endangering, especially to those with minimal to no way out – be they constrained by the shackles of bride practice, lack of formal education and skills, and outright poverty going back generations.
Read more Why we need a ministry of gender by @EstellaMz
orig. pub. 25.4.15
I am going to keep this simple. I think a lot of pictures might be needed. Words aren’t a lot of use to my intended audience.
Read more The man, the ball and the woman. A Tale Of Two footballers. by @JeanHatchet
I want to address one of the common arguments used to cast doubt on Ched Evans’ conviction for rape. It was made by Julia Hartley-Brewer on Question Time on Thursday, the link is here: Julia HB helping make the world safer for rapists about 30 minutes in. The gist of it is that lots of people get drunk every weekend, hook up and have drunk sex and if we defined all of those incidents as rape and prosecuted them as such, then we’d have to lock up an awful lot of young men.
Well yes, we would.
Except that people who think Ched Evans is guilty, don’t want to define all those incidents as rape, just the ones which actually are rape. And there are an awful lot of them.
We all know drunken hook up culture exists, many people go out regularly and end up in bed with people they wouldn’t have if they’d been sober. Yes alcohol affected their decisions, but contrary to subliminal public opinion, women aren’t stupid and malicious and they know the difference between drunk sex that they’re embarrassed about the next day and non-consensual sex. If they do have confusion, they are socialised to doubt the validity of their own responses and to give men the benefit of the doubt, so they keep their feelings to themselves.
A small number of drunken hook-ups events will not be consensual drunken sex, they will be rape and/ or sexual assault. A small number of determined predators use alcohol and hook up culture as the cover they need to commit rape and get away with it and not even have it called rape. They know that if they can hook up with a woman who has been drinking heavily, there is absolutely no chance of them being even accused of rape, let alone prosecuted and then convicted. There are men who go out regularly “looking for a bird” with the express intention of having sex with her (as they would describe it) whether or not she would choose that. These men are very careful to ensure that they choose the right sort of victim: either drunk and incapable when they first meet her so that they can quickly lead her away to where they’ve decided they’re going to rape her, or they spend a bit more time setting their victims up: chatting them up in clubs, dancing, flirting and then leaving the club with them so that if by some mischance their victim does go to the police, they can point to the evidence that she was drunk and happy in their company before the rape and the police won’t investigate further. These men tell themselves that it was a shag with a drunk slag because rape is done by monsters in dark alleys, not men like them.
We know this happens regularly. When it happens, most women don’t go to the police because like the rapists themselves and like their apologists, they don’t define what happened to them as rape. Rape is something that happens to other women, “real victims”. What happened to them was a drunken shag. OK, they didn’t want it to happen to them, OK they didn’t realise what was happening at the time, OK they vaguely remember passing out, or asking for a drink or asking what’s happening or where am I or where are my knickers or even saying no (that talisman of rape apologists everywhere, if there’s no NO there’s no rape in their minds), but it can’t be rape because they were drunk and they can’t quite remember if they gave the wrong signals.
So they don’t report, they just live with the consequences of the rape for years.
And this is apparently OK because he said, she said, presumption of innocence.
When feminists argue that we should not allow these predators to get away with this, we’re accused of wanting to lock up innocent young men who were merely doing what is normal in hook-up culture and even that we want to stop empowered young women going out and getting their jollies on a Saturday night with fun no-strings sex with randoms.
We don’t want to do either of those things. We want to ensure that if women do go out looking for sex with randoms, they get sex. Not rape.
So what do we do about it?
Well firstly, we change our attitudes to men’s entitlement to sex I feel so depressed having to say this, because it should be self evident but here goes: nobody is ever entitled to sex. Ever. Even if they are drunk and horny and even if they have a penis instead of a vagina. Even if they have invested their whole Saturday evening chatting someone up, even if earlier on in the evening it looked like he or she might be up for it.
Secondly we change our attitudes to the ownership and purpose of women’s bodies. Our bodies belong to ourselves and if men want sexual access to them, then they should make damned sure that the woman concerned consents to that and actively wants it. Nobody has the right to put any part of their body in any part of any other person’s body without that person actively consenting to that. Even if that body is a woman’s one. Because women’s bodies were not put on earth for men’s use. If what happened to Ched Evans’ victim had happened to a (heterosexual) man, nobody would be in any doubt that it was rape, because we don’t have the unconscious assumption that men’s bodies are there to be used by other men, while women’s bodies are.
Thirdly we change the way we think about sex. It is not something someone does to someone else, it is something people do with each other. If you are going to have sex with someone, the assumption has to be that they will be actively, consciously be participating in that unless you have a prior agreement re role play etc. And if one person is not participating in it or showing enjoyment of it, then it should stop.
This is an outrageous concept to many people. The prioritisation of women’s bodily integrity over men’s boners, is political correctness gorn mad. The idea that every shag should be a wanted shag, is considered idealistic, unrealistic and positively man-hating, because society has a deeply misogynistic view of sex.. Apparently there’s nothing wrong with a man having sex with a woman who isn’t actively participating and not wanting it and if you think there is, you hate men. I still struggle to get my head around the mental contortions required to hold this point of view.
Anyway all this is long term, we can’t do it overnight, but in the meantime we can refrain from promoting rape myths and if we’re going to opine publically on rape, we should at least do the reading. Feminists have been working on it for decades and it has been ignored, so we keep having to point out to people in the public eye why their assumptions about men, women and sex and therefore about rape, are wrong,.Wider society simply doesn’t want to address the question of male entitlement to women. It is more horrified by the idea of locking up men for using hook-up culture to get away with rape, than it is about them raping women. That’s what’s wrong with the kneejerk view that we can’t lock up thousands of young men. We’d rather they carried on raping.
HerbsandHags: Meanderings of a Hag: I have no fixed subject matter for my blog, it tends to be whatever grabs me, but for some reason lots that has grabbed me has been about rape or other male violence. It’s all with a feminist slant though. [@Herbeatittude]
orig, posted 28.8.13
I bet you think you’re not a rapist. No hiding in a dark alley for you..but remember that girl who was so drunk she could barely stand. You know she wouldn’t have said yes sober.
I bet you think you’re not a rapist. You know that ‘no means no’…or at least, it means ‘persuade me’. She’ll give in eventually.
I bet you think you’re not a rapist. But you remember that time your girlfriend didn’t want to do something you *know* she did for other people. Well, that’s not fair. So you badgered her and shouted at her till she gave in.
I bet you think you’re not a rapist. But there’s that thing you do. You know, the one you like but your girlfriend used to slap your hand away, or tell you no, I don’t like it. Your persistence paid off. She doesn’t bother now.
I bet you think you’re not a rapist. But remember when she was going down on you and tried to move her head away, and you used both hands to hold her still, because you weren’t done yet.
I bet you think you’re not a rapist. You only had to badger her a little bit. And she said you could in the end, and that’s what counts.
I bet you think you’re not a rapist.
Originally published: 10.04.15
We have drafted an email that you can send to your MP and all your local candidates in the general election about the recent recommendation of the Home Affairs Select Committee to extend anonymity to suspects in cases of rape and other forms of sexual violence.
You can find the email address of your MP here.
Please send a copy to the following as well
Read more Please email your MP & candidates in election re: anonymity for suspects in rape cases
originally published March 22.15
The Home Affairs Select Committee have announced that unlike people accused of any other crime, those accused of sex crimes (including rape) deserve anonymity until charged. It’s a decision that has been made without consulting rape victims or rape support charities, instead appearing to be motivated by sympathy for the DJ Paul Gambacinni, kept on bail for 12 months over an allegation that was eventually dropped. According to Committee chairman Keith Vaz “we have seen how destructive [releasing names] can be to a person’s livelihood, causing irreparable reputational damage and enormous financial burden.” We have also, one would think, seen how damaging rape – which happens to an estimated one in five women – can be, but apparently that’s less measurable (or less important?). In any case, the belief that a “special stigma” attaches to rape, making those accused more in need of protection from publicity, persists.
Personally I find it strange to think that we live in a world so appalled and outraged by rape that those accused of it are social pariahs. If that were the case, surely we wouldn’t be surrounded by men telling women that forced penetration and sexual coercion are perfectly fine. A world in which great stigma is attached to rape itself is not a world in which …
- Teenage boys film themselves raping young women and share it on social media
- The BMJ reports a “climate of coercion” surrounding anal sex, with men reporting attempts to “accidentally” penetrate women on purpose
- UK politicians still seek to make distinctions between “serious rape” and what is presumably the non-serious kind
- More than a quarter of people in the UK think drunk victims of rape or sexual assault are at least partly responsible for what happened to them
- Male university students publicly chant “no means yes, yes means anal” outside the halls of female students
- A third of male college students in the US say they would “act on intentions to force a woman to sexual intercourse if they were confident they could get away with it”
- The UK student website UniLAD tells readers that since 85% of rapes go unreported, “that seems to be fairly good odds,” before reminding them that “Uni Lad does not condone rape without saying ‘surprise’”
- The victim of rapist footballer Ched Evans has been forced to change her name and move more than five times due to being hounded by strangers
- An estimated 85,000 women are raped in England and Wales every year
This is not a world in which rape is seen as a truly abhorrent act of violence. It is joked about. It is excused. It is filmed and shared between friends. It is committed time and again, by men who believe it is normal (just don’t say the “r” word, at least not outside your own circle of friends).
The stigma, if there is one, has nothing to do with rape itself. It’s to do with naming it. It’s to do with being accused. An accusation breaks all the rules. You haven’t properly overpowered a victim if she then complains. Her complaint makes you a Rapist with a capital “R,” as opposed to someone who merely “coerces” (every man coerces, doesn’t he? Coercion’s when you get away with it and that’s just fine).
I don’t believe for a minute that the tiny number of men falsely accused of rape suffer more than the tens of thousands of women raped every year who see no justice at all. Only someone who believes men are more human than women – or that forced penetration is no big deal since that’s what women are there for – could dare to think otherwise. If a false accusation of rape is more traumatic than one of, say, burglary or murder, this isn’t because we think rape is more abhorrent. We don’t. Perhaps men feel pressured put on a show of distancing their behaviour and beliefs from those of someone who’s been “officially” labelled a rapist. Or maybe there’s a particular shame – a form of emasculation – associated in having your socially approved right to take penetrate more vulnerable bodies legally questioned. Whatever it is, it’s not that we think rape is worse than other crimes. We just don’t like having to think of it as a crime at all.
The current call for those accused of sex crimes to remain anonymous until charged harms victims several times over. It suggests rape is less acceptable than other forms of criminal behaviour (the opposite is true). It suggests accusers are more likely to lie (false accusation rates are no different than for other crimes). It suggests the chance that publicity could help other victims to come forward isn’t important (it is). It blurs the lines between “not charged” and “falsely accused” (not charging men accused of rape is common; charges and convictions for making false accusations are rare). Above all, it suggests being raped isn’t as bad as being accused of rape, making the convictions of serial rapists such as John Worboys much less likely in order to spare a handful of men the pain of being accused of a crime they didn’t commit (meanwhile any one of us could get accused of a crime we didn’t commit, but clearly only some of us matter).
Rape accusations are socially disruptive, but only because we live in a world that is perfectly fine with rape itself. That is the problem. Anyone who cared about victims and about the handful of men falsely accused would work on changing this.
(For help emailing your MP on this issue, click here.)
Three weeks into the New Year and six women have been murdered by men in Australia. Male violence and male sexual violence is plaguing the women of this country, the victims ever growing, and though a national conversation has finally started about Domestic Violence in Australia, which is great, it falls way too short of the problem to get us anywhere, as it has failed to address why? Why are men doing this to us, treating us this way? And as Eve Ensler asked of the ‘good men’, “Where the hell are you?”
Tom Meagher, whose wife was raped and murdered in 2012 by a man who the parole board failed to take off the streets, speaks publically about the Monster Myth here. There are no monsters, these are everyday men of this society, of this culture. What is monstrous here is this culture of masculinity, which most men, even anti-violence campaigners, want to bypass in this national conversation.
So we have to ask again are men born killers and rapists, born abusers of females, or are they shaped, socialised, trained, by the culture they are raised in? And if you are a male and you agree with the latter, then as Former Victorian Police Commissioner said, have a look at yourself. Also we need to talk. And this means listening to us, women.
As Sheila Jeffreys states; “I think that in Australia this is hard to understand, it’s a very masculinist culture, and I think that prostitution and the sex industry generally and the privileges men have to abuse women in this way is so accepted that people are outraged to think that there actually might be other values, but believe me there are, and in fact Australia is quite low, very low in the index of OECD nations on gender equality, and it’s because there’s a very masculinised culture”.
We also need tougher penalties for male perpetrators of violence and sexual violence against women, to send a clear message that this will no longer be tolerated, as Julie Bindel states here, “domestic violence is a crime, not an illness …beating up your partner should carry as serious a consequence as assaulting a member of the public in the street.”
Now there are sure to be cries of “not all men”, but by what barometer? What is the standard of ‘Not all men’? Is it just not beating and murdering women? Because one in three men would rape a woman if they could get away with it. Is it not forcing non-consensual sex/raping women? Because 28% of rapes happen within a relationship with a man, and many, many Australian men pay as little as they can to act out their ‘fantasies’ on real women, no matter the harm to these women.
The national statistic for the last few years was that just over one woman a week will be murdered by their current or former male partners in Australia. By the end of last year there were approximately 1.5 women a week murdered by men. So far 2015 is resembling the statistics of the UK which has a far larger population. As for the next week, and the one after that, sadly I know better than to hold my breath for men to just stop killing us, we know reality better than that.
Want to be a part of the solution. Watch this space!
If you are a woman suffering domestic violence contact – 1800Respect or Call 1800 737 732
If you are man seeking help with your violence contact – Men’s Referral Service or Call 1300 766 491
For men wanting to be a part of the solution contact – No To Violence
REAL for women: Reflecting Equality in Australian Legislation for women: Australia has a population of around 22 million yet this year 6 women have been murdered by men in the first 3 weeks, giving us the same statistics as the UK – 2 women a week (https://www.facebook.com/LilyRoseMunroe https://twitter.com/LilyRMunroe)
One night in November 2011, a 17-year-old boy threw a party. At this party, he watched a friend rape a 15 year-old-girl while she vomited out of a window. Instead of intervening, he took a photograph of the rape and distributed it to friends. After months of tormenting by her peers over the photo, the girl hanged herself.
The friend who assaulted the girl was charged with distributing child pornography, but not rape. His trial is set to begin soon.The boy who took the photo was charged with creating child pornography and entered a guilty plea.
Today, a judge ruled that the boy, now 20, must apologize to the girl’s parents and take a “sexual harassment” course. No jail, not even probation.
“Rehtaeh Parsons thought the worst outcome for her case would be no charges against the men who raped her but we all know better. The worst thing that could happen would be charges. That they would be found guilty, and that Rehtaeh would sit on a court bench and listen in utter disbelief as they were given parole, or a suspended sentence, or community service. All for completely destroying her life while they laughed. Why is it they didn’t just think they would get away with it; they knew they would get away with it. They took photos of it. They posted it on their Facebook walls. They emailed it to God knows who. They shared it with the world as if it was a funny animation.”
Her father is right. Those boys knew they would get away with it, and they did.
Mary-Anne Franks: I write about gender bias generally and often write specifically about non-consensual pornography. I am the Vice-President of the Cyber Civil Rights Initiative (cybercivilrights.org), a nonprofit dedicated to raising awareness about online abuse and advocating for social and legal reform. CCRI is the parent organization of the End Revenge Porn Campaign (endrevengeporn.org) founded by Holly Jacobs. In my work with CCRI, I have helped more than a dozen states and the federal government draft legislation on so-called “revenge porn.”
I’ve just been absolutely blown away by the question one of my brilliant students asked. So much so, in fact, that it’s only just sunk in.
Now, I’m enjoying lecturing and it’s the beginning of term, so it’s maybe not surprising that the five minutes of questions at the end of the lecture has been my favourite bit. Yesterday, I was lecturing on one of the theories about how to define Middle English romance as a genre. There’s an idea that it grew out of national epic, as a way to offer the class of men who needed to marry and to fight (that is, knights) a paradigm of virtuous life that wasn’t the peaceable, celibate life of the medieval saint. So far, you may think, so dry. But this lecture meant I talked a lot about racism and a fair bit about sexual violence, because both of those things are used by medieval authors to imply that men – and English men at that – are not thugs but heroes, while painting women and non-whites as inferior.
One popular episode in the Arthurian tradition is a really glaring example. Arthur – our wonderful English hero – travels to France, where he is told that a murderous giant has abducted an aristocratic woman, Arthur’s own subject. Arthur goes charging to the rescue, but he is too late. An old woman tells him she has just buried the mutilated body of the woman he seeks to protect: she was raped so violently she died.
This horrific episode is, in narrative terms, designed to serve an important and specific purpose. Arthur, the hero, is no saintly warrior. In his youth, he committed incest with his sister and produced a son, Mordred, whom he then tried to kill by sentencing all the babies born within that time to death by drowning. Arthur’s sin of sexual deviance followed by murder of an innocent can only be blotted out by the dramatic description of a worse sin of the same kind, which throws our sympathy behind the ‘least worst’ option.
In my lecture, I discussed this example, the rhetorically sophisticated language of the author, the parallels to post-medieval tropes of English masculinity, and a host of other things. In my mind, this episode was typical of Middle English romance, because of the way it uses the graphic violence of rape to further the reputation of a defender of women, rather than to change or explore the situation of the raped woman.
My student asked whether we ever read romances in which men rape their wives.
I began to explain that, in medieval England, the law did not recognise marital rape as a crime, and as I explained that, it dawned on me that the majority of my students – people who are young adults in 2014 – have never lived in a time in which, in England, marital rape was not a crime. They saw it as a medieval barbarity.
My title responds to Laura Bates’ article in the Guardian, which claims that the backlash against feminism proves that we are winning. I like her argument. I think she’s right. The sea change that means that my students can image marital rape might have been a medieval crime shows she is right. When I was born, marital rape was legal in England. It should be shameful that this brings me closer to a medieval legal system than to modern one. But, at the same time, I’m shocked by the slowness of real change – it took six hundred years to move on with the definition of rape! And that makes me second-guess the ‘progress’ we’re trying to celebrate.
Reading Medieval Books! I rant about women in literature and history, occasionally pausing for breath to be snarky about right-wing misogynists. I promise pretty pictures of manuscripts and a cavalier attitude to sentence structure. [@LucyAllenFWR]