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]