This blog is NOT about YOU. (Unless it IS about you).

Two different things have been troubling me in the same way this week.

The first is the narrative coming from the Defence in the Joanna Yeates trial (outlined by the Independent here: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/jo-yeates-killed-after-failed-kiss-2373211.html and Guardian here:  http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2011/oct/20/joanna-yeates-killer-speaks-crime) which suggests that Tabak, accused of her murder, 'simply misread' a social situation when – the Defence alleges – she invited him into her flat. An invitation the QC for the Defence describes as 'an unfortunate starting point'. Followed by a 'flirty' remark, it seems her fate was sealed.

The Independent article prompted me to Tweet: "How many times do men need to be told? Simple courtesy is not a sexual invitation."

The second is the Welsh police anti-rape campaign which makes victim-blaming its focus. The poster (which the force claims to be 'old' from 2009, but which appears to be still in use) is here:

I responded to that poster appearing in circulation on Twitter by asking: Where's the poster that says "Rape. Don't be a rapist. Drunk women are not fair game." and was pleased to receive responses (from male and female tweeters) which included links to both these posters, which I think are great, and which I retweeted.

Media_httplexiecannes_ravhn

Of course, the consequence of my tweets was, from some, a predictable response: "It's not all men you know" and a suggestion that the 'Teach your Son'…poster implied something pretty disgusting (possibly that violence against women is exclusively, as opposed to merely mainly, the fault of men; or possibly, that men are never subject to acts of domestic abuse, which isn't true either).

So I'd like to be clear. I know that not all men are murderers and rapists.

A tweet is 140 characters long. If my tweet contains that disclaimer every time I reference the violation of a woman, then I've used up 50 characters before I've said anything else. I also know that people of any gender or age can commit violent acts or be victims of such acts. 158 characters in total. So now I'm already onto my second tweet.

There's a poster I see at the station which reminds me, and all other travellers on the rail network, that violence against rail staff is not acceptable. I have never yet complained that it doesn't contain a disclaimer to point out that not everyone assaults ticket collectors. I haven't complained about the one that asks me not to eat smelly food on the tube either. I know that it doesn't apply to me. I already don't do that. The Drink / Drive campaigns don't rile me either because I don't drink and drive. So why do some men get so cross about posters intended to send a supportive message to women that rape or or other violence against them are not the woman's fault, but the responsibility of the perpetrator, whose attitudes need to be changed.

Does anyone seriously believe it is possible to tell a potential rapist or murder just by looking at them? (Those who do believe that perhaps spend their time working for tabloids and hounding people like Chris Jefferies) No one holds a database of misogynist sympathisers to whom we can present a targeted campaign. So what exactly is wrong with a simple, effective, general poster that conveys a message that the whole community should buy into?

"Don't rape". "Respect women".

Do they need to contain a disclaimer like "Misogyny levels can go down as well as up; other perpetrator and victim types are available?"

Edmund Burke is often paraphrased as saying that "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing". Good men – you significantly outnumber rapists and murders – so, please don't do nothing. We can and should be revolting against the idea that women can be treated as a target for assault if they have been drinking or if they invite a man into their home. All genders alike should refuse to accept a society in which women are required to constrain their behaviour just in case it will later be made out that they are somehow responsible for a man's unwillingness to control his own.

Good men, if even for a nano-second, you find yourself thinking "well surely there are times when the signals aren't clear", please have a look at both of these websites:

http://www.thisisnotaninvitationtorapeme.co.uk/

http://www.notever.co.uk/

…and then ask yourself if you feel clearer now about the fact that violence against women is NEVER acceptable.

Good men – please support these campaigns, and refuse to accept a narrative which can suggest that a 'flirty' remark can be 'simply misread' in a way that leads to murder.

Murderers and rapists – If you've read this far. Please stop murdering and raping.

Thank you.

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28 thoughts on “This blog is NOT about YOU. (Unless it IS about you).

  1. By the way. I haven’t yet mastered the art of tracking down widely shared artwork to its original source. So if I’ve used an image of yours without crediting, I sincerely apologise. Please let me know full details and I will credit accordingly.

  2. We have exchanged views on Tabak on Twitter, and it is my belief that his defence are trying to demonstrate that he did not have rape or murder on his mind on the day that he killed Joanne Yeates. I do not believe that they are trying to excuse his behaviour, I think that they are trying to explain from his perspective how he came to commit this appalling crime in the hope that he will be found guilty of manslaughter – a lesser charge.His story does not add up, far from it. Why would someone scream at a clumsy pass?However, I do not think on this occasion that anyone is trying to say that Joanne was in any way culpable, but I do understand how the OP might disagree with me.This, of course, does not mean that society and our beloved media do not send out mixed messages when it comes to violence against women.My take on the "women, don’t get drunk" rhetoric is that a woman under the influence can be very vulnerable in certain circumstances, and that they should realise this, appalling as it is. I do not think that this, in any way, means that a drunken woman who is raped is responsible for what may happen to them, but I can understand how some people may think such campaigns imply this.If a woman who is drunk is raped, the defence will try and make hay here, and will try to imply that her drunkeness makes her an unreliable witness. It is what they are employed to do. I am not sure how they sleep at night, to be frank.This is the system that we have. It is a system that implies innocence unless otherwise proved. It is a system that means the defence can use any means at their disposal. It is a system that sees one in twenty accusations of rape lead to a guilty verdict. It is a system that is horribly flawed.My suggestion to counter this? Professional jurors. People trained psychologically to arrive at more accurate verdicts. People without an agenda. People trained to understand the legal process. If I found myself accused of a crime, I would much rather put my fate in the hands of such people, rather than a random selection of the general public. I do not care for the general public.However, for this to have any effect on those shameful stats about rape, well, they have to get to court, and most accusations fall before this hurdle.I honestly believe that there is a misogynist undercurrent in our society. Not everywhere, of course, but trust me, a lot of men see themselves as "us" and women as "them", and they lack even a vestige of respect. My big worry, as the father of a seven year old son, is that the ridiculously easy access to internet porn is going to create a generation of boys who do not have the respect that they should have for the opposite sex.The internet is a behemoth and its greatest strength (a lack of regulation) is also its greatest weakness. I had heard talk of making porn sites have an xxx. beginning as opposed to www. – thus making it easy to block, but, as ever, the internet is not keen to play ball. Even if they did, the implementation of such a scheme is full of grey areas.In summary, I think I am trying to say that women should be allowed to get drunk, flirt, dress provocatively, gived mixed messages without the fear of being raped. But they often can’t, because a lot of men are massive cunts.And there isn’t an advertising campaign on the planet that is going to change that.

  3. I agree with all you say here. (I’m a man) – but I’d suggest that there is slightly more at issue here.If I were to leave my doors unlocked when I leave my house, or leave a large window open and a ladder leaning against the back wall, it would certainly not be my fault if my home were burgled while I was out. It would be good advice though to advise me not to do those things, on the basis that it makes the probability of me becoming a victim of burglary more likely.Similarly I’d advise everyone male or female, that the probability of being the victim of violent crimes, robbery, sexual assault or rape, is significantly increased if you go out and get yourself so drunk that you can’t think straight. It doesn’t blame the victim to point this out.Everyone has a right to go out and get drunk, assuming they’re old enough, and women have just as much right as men to do so. If you get very drunk though, you leave yourself more vulnerable to exploitation and attack by criminals – including rapists.The poster on display is, I feel, trying to get this across for the most part – although I agree that this and other posters discussed are ALL clumsy, and could very reasonably be interpreted in the way you’ve suggested. I actually interpreted the line "alcohol features in two thirds of all rapes" as referring to drunken rapists as much as drunken victims (although it’s far from clear). I think the intended message is that people do stupid things that they would not do when sober, when they have had a lot to drink – and some of these things are illegal and violent acts – sometimes including rape. One way to avoid committing senseless acts is not to drink yourself senseless. I do fully agree that the poster doesn’t really get that across.Please accept my comments in good faith – I’m not trying to legitimate excises for rape – and do agree with the points made in the article.

  4. Hi,Your initial tweet somewhat confuses me. I’ve not read any of your tweets as I’ve only seen this via someone else. I’m confused because you said a simple courtesy is not a sexual invitation; but what if it is?I know that sounds daft but if a woman invites a man in to her home late at night and it is just the two of them, then social convention suggests that they are likely to end up having sex. As a man, I would never, ever ever ever ever rape her though.I have been in the situation in the past where girlfriends have been raped, and friends too, so I have seen the effects first hand. I would never wish that on my worst enemy.I just wish though that some women would have a bit more self respect. I live in a town where it is perfectly normal for women to go to some dingy night club wearing little more than a bra and knickers with the sole intention of having sex. Those women do, unfortunately open themselves up to the risk that someone with less than moral intentions will take an interest in them. I think, though, that the point you’re making is that even if a woman does invite a man into her home after a skinful, or goes clubbing near naked and meets a man, that if that woman says no, then her attire or your location do not mean that rape is acceptable. That I do agree with. Wholeheartedly. Is that what you meant? I was quite unclear.

  5. northernheckler<i>"If I were to leave my doors unlocked when I leave my house, or leave a large window open and a ladder leaning against the back wall, it would certainly not be my fault if my home were burgled while I was out. It would be good advice though to advise me not to do those things, on the basis that it makes the probability of me becoming a victim of burglary more likely.Similarly I’d advise everyone male or female, that the probability of being the victim of violent crimes, robbery, sexual assault or rape, is significantly increased if you go out and get yourself so drunk that you can’t think straight. It doesn’t blame the victim to point this out."</i>—-I don’t think there would be a problem with safety advice of this kind if it were presented in context. But in reality, I often go to pubs and other places where there are notices up saying that if I am violent to staff or other customers, the police will be called and I will be arrested. Never once have I seen a poster warning me as a man not to get too drunk in case I become vulnerable to assault or robbery on the way home. Nor have I ever seen a poster (outside of a 1980s student union) warning me that if I am sexually threatening, harassing or misogynist I will be thrown out and barred. Similarly, our local police do regularly run menacing anti-burglary campaigns telling me that if I burglarise a house I will be arrested and imprisoned. There’s a huge banner outside our local nick with a message about how many burglars have been ‘banged up’ this year. That message *is* sent regularly, sometimes with a tacked-on bit of crime prevention advice to keep yourself secure. So our society does reinforce message that rape and sexual assault are just ‘out there’ as forces of nature, and responsibility for preventing it rests purely with the potential victim. No efforts are made to convince people not to be a perpetrator. It’s that completely uni-directional propaganda that is the problem. Everyone knows that a high percentage of rape victims have been drinking, because that message is regularly broadcast. How many people know that the vast majority of rapes and sexual assaults are committed by people who have been drinking? Not many I’d guess. I’ve never seen a poster saying that, have you? The social narrative around rape is very complicated, and I’m not for a moment saying that the solution to rapes occurring is to tell rapists to take responsibility for their actions. However I can’t help wondering if we do inadvertantly send a message to say "rapists rape because they can’t help themselves and there’s nothing we can do about it" The "Ten Tips" poster above is obviously a satire rather than a serious suggestion, but I think the point behind the satire is fundamentally sound.

  6. Ooh… also meant to say, good article, and I mostly agree, but I don’t think I’d read too much into a the pretty desperate claims of a defence counsel in a murder case, it does look a bit like clutching at straws.If it comes back that the jury accepts this defence, then I’d start to worry. .

  7. I would like to pick up on the point that the anonymous poster made, and one that perhaps demonstrates where the OP is coming from.If a woman takes a shortcut home late one night, and is abducted and raped, is she in any way responsible for what happened to her? One could argue that had she walked the longer way home, then she would never have been raped.This isn’t so different from a woman who dresses provocatively, gets drunk, and ends up in a compromising position, but withdraws (or refuses) consent, but is raped. Neither has done anything wrong, yet somehow we have found ourselves in a situation where the latter victim would receive less sympathy. From men. And women too, oddly enough.When viewed like that, it is hard not to draw the conclusion that our society does have an undercurrent of misogyny, although to try and deconstruct that is way beyond the likes of me…

  8. @AllyFogg I think you are in effect right, but I don’t think the intention of this kind of poster is necessarily misogynist – just that they have clumsily not thought through the implications of what they are saying (and not saying) – admittedly it ends in the same outcome though.I certainly haven’t seen posters warning men not to get too drunk in case they end up being victims or perpetrators of crimes – perhaps the world would be better if I had. I personally stopped drinking after a friend lost his job after being arrested driving on the pavement whilst drunk in a red light area. I had no sympathy with him, but it was such a waste of a talented man’s career. I just felt so hypocritical continuing to drink, and yet being so critical of him. sorry @itsmotherwork – I’m getting off topic. I’d also fully agree with you @allyfogg re. comments on Tabak.

  9. Thank you for the comments. Really appreciated. I’d like to pick up on a few points: Mat – I’m very pleased that we have a system in which a person is ‘innocent until proven guilty’; justice demands that it should be so. However, in demonstrating the innocence (or lesser guilt) of a perpetrator, defence barristers don’t use "any means at their disposal" in a random way – they create a plausible narrative that fits with the prevailing culture. It is the prevailing culture that is the problem here. NorthernHeckler touches on this in his comments, likening the warning about drunkenness to one about leaving a door unlocked or window open. This clearly increases your risk of being burgled, but if a burglar entered your home in this way, no one would imply that you had given your consent to that person taking your belongings. By contrast, defence lawyers in cases of sexual violence do try (and often succeed) to make a case that a woman’s behaviour (state of dress, level of drunkenness, relationship with the defendant, sexual history etc) implies consent to full sex. That’s why this type of ‘prevention’ advice is so pernicious. It isn’t quite what it seems, but it’s all too eay to gloss over that with false comparisons. AllyFogg makes some excellent additional points about awareness campaigns and their imbalance. The Anonymous commenter demonstrates well why the prevailing culture is problematic, saying effectively "what if a simple courtesy is a sexual invitation"? My point is exactly as I made it: a simple courtesy is NOT a sexual invitation. Not ever. ‘Social convention’ (presumably what I’m calling the prevailing culture) may suggest that if a woman invites a man into her home, sex will follow. BUT an invitation into someone’s home is not an invitation to sex. Not ever. If you are in someone’s home and both want to have sex with each other then a sexual invitation and acceptance will surely follow. Until this happens – you’ve just been invited in for coffee. A ‘social convention’ that suggests otherwise helps to create a rape culture. I’m interested in NorthernHeckler’s remarks about assuming the quote about drink featuring in two thirds of rapes was as much about drunken perpetrator behaviour than drunkenness in victims. If the poster caused anyone to make that leap of thinking then obviously that’s a good thing. To say the poster is unclear is quite an understatement. It wouldn’t have been difficult to create clarity though. A picture of a man’s face and the words "Rape. Don’t become a rapist" would have changed the whole nature of the campaign. I refer right back to Mat’s remarks about accusations of rape never getting as far as the court. Many rapes are not even reported to the police. This is often because women are afraid of being judged (in exactly the way that the Anonymous poster judges the women in his town) for their behaviour or their dress, of being disbelieved, or of having their character torn apart on the witness stand. Even when they are not being explicitly blamed, women victims are portrayed as having done ‘the wrong thing’. One of the articles about the Yeates murder suggested that if she had stayed for just one more drink with her friends the murder would not have happened because she would not have met Tabak on her doorstep. This wasn’t said in a ‘blaming’ way – but the fact remains, the reports are about what the woman victim could have done differently. So, whether you take the long route or the short cut, whether you are nineteen or ninety, whether you are in short skirts and showing your bra strap, or in your most knackered painting jeans, the facts are the same. The only thing GUARANTEED to prevent a woman from being raped, is for the perpetrator not to rape her. The only thing GUARANTEED to prevent a woman from being murdered is for the perpetrator not to murder her. Thank you for giving me more to think about. x

  10. Well, the fact that there are men out there who can brazenly make such comments shows how much progress needs to be made.I think that your (perfectly reasonable) problem with the "women don’t get drunk" campaigns is that, in effect, they are saying "there are a lot of men out there who will be complete arseholes if you give them a chance, so don’t give them a chance".It pushes the responsibility onto women, and seems to accept that there is nothing that can be done. And if we shift the responsibility, do we also shift some of the blame?If we are being generous, we call it pragmatism, as if that makes it okay, but it clearly is not okay.I am not sure what the solution is though. We can talk about prevailing culture all we like, but changing it is a difficult and long task, with no guarantees of success. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try, of course, but in the meantime…What else is there but pragmatism, no matter how bitter it tastes?

  11. Fantastic post.I run one of the feminist networks here in Bristol and following Joanna Yeates’ disappearance, the police released some pretty shocking advice to us local woman. I went, with another activist, to talk them about why this wasn’t appropriate, and asked why they don’t run any campaigns targeting perpetrators. The honest answer was that the amount of backlash they’d receive would invalidate any messages they were trying to put across. I think it’s a peculiar thing, where gender is specifically concerned, for men to throw up their hands and say, "I’d never do that! Stop having a go at me!". It means they don’t actually have to engage with the issues and how they can be allies to us. This is where change begins and I really hope more people will start to engage and ask "What can I do to help?".

  12. Hmmm, when I started reading this I assumed I was going to agree with you. But I’m not sure I do. Those posters telling me not to assault Tube staff etc. actually do get my back up rather. They do feel to me that there is some kind of accusation, when I’m not guilty. Especially the ones that tell me they will prosecute. It’ all feels so patronising – I’d fully expect that a decent organisation would act to protect its staff, why are they telling me this. It would be like if, for example, started telling my boyfriend what time he had to get up in the morning when he is perfectly capable of getting himself up and to work without my input. Being told off for something you haven’t done – this is what I think these posters feel like – is intensely annoying. To your point about ignoring the message that isn’t meant for you. If you have a generic ‘Don’t Rape’ poster isn’t this what people who don’t think of themselves as rapists will do by your argument (and I agree with this)? I think you would need to make the argument more detailed; don’t get yourself into a situation where consent could be dubious – don’t get into a situation where you could end up committing a crime. Most people who rape don’t hide in a dark alley being a scary rapist-in-waiting, they end up in situations they didn’t intend where they end up doing something very wrong. It’s about changing attitudes. the Drink Drive posters were about changing the norms of society. The ‘Don’t assault our staff posters’ – no one says it’s okay in the first place whereas people did think that it was okay to drive home after a a few pints. ‘Where’s the poster that says "Rape. Don’t be a rapist. Drunk women are not fair game." ‘ I see why this provokes a response of ‘But I don’t rape people’. Maybe we need a debate about how we get the more subtle point across. It’s not something a bunch of blokes talk about down the pub is it?

  13. Thank you for the further comments. Katherine, I don’t assume that everyone feels the same as I do about the posters I have described – it’s clear lots of people don’t from the responses of some men to campaigns which are aimed at focusing responsibility for rape fairly and squarely on the rapist. I wonder though, whether the fact that some men don’t like those posters is a good enough reason not to run them? AnniFrangipani’s comments suggest that her local police would rather target potential victims and seek to constrain their behaviour than target potential perpetrators if it might create a ‘backlash’ (whatever that might look like!?). I’m saying I find that unacceptable. Mat asks what else there is but ‘pragmatism’ in the face of this situation? The answer is activism. This means pressing all the time to make sure that police and other messages focus on the responsibility of perpetrators and don’t create awareness campaigns that run the risk of blaming victims, or create confusion about where responsibility lies. The responses here, and to my original tweets, show how effective that activism can be. The Tayside Police campaign, in contrast to that of the South Wales police, is exemplary. Sharing and spreading good practice and eliminating bad practice is what activism can achieve. In turn, that will gradually change the prevailing culture and social convention will no longer dictate that someone can interpret and invitation to a drink as an invitation to sex. On Katherine’s point about it not being what men talk about at the pub. Oh yes it is. Not – obviously – earnest conversations about sexual politics, but conversations about women’s ‘availability’ and ‘willingness’, conversations which imply some women are ‘fair game’, conversations which label some women as easy, which make some women targets. Jokes about rape ("She might say no mate!" "That’s never stopped me before.") which all help to perpetuate a set of unreasonable expectations about sex and consent. This superb blog http://fortyshadesofgrey.blogspot.com/2011/10/another-hilarious-t-shirt.html by @TheNatFantastic explains why good men need to stand up against this kind of humour, in order to make a difference. The conversation of the men down the pub is an important part of creating the change we need.

  14. Ok, I let the first one go, but that is the second time you appear to have misunderstood what I said!I wasn’t saying that we can only be pragmatic – I clearly said we should and try and change the prevailing culture – but whilst this is going on, a pragmatic approach is a tool that I think we have no choice but to use.I have a young daughter – and when she is old enough, I will try and find the words to explain to her that she should do her best to avoid being in a vulnerable position when it comes to getting drunk and interacting with men. I hate that I think I will have to do it, but my main concern here is keeping her safe, not with the complex sexual politics that have led to this position.I feel somewhat misrepresented!

  15. Mat – I hope I haven’t misrepresented you – you have the space here to speak for yourself and I don’t edit or block comments. You asked "What else is there but pragmatism, no matter how bitter it tastes." I was responding to that. I have daughters too. I am engaged in activism as well as taking practical steps to keep them safe. I am also educating my sons about respect for women. Every time you take an activist approach yourself, you may be reducing the number of times you need to take the pragmatist approach in future. That should lighten everyone’s heart. 🙂

  16. And before I said that, I said:"I am not sure what the solution is though. We can talk about prevailing culture all we like, but changing it is a difficult and long task, with no guarantees of success. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try, of course, but in the meantime…"Context is everything, is it not?My point is – and I really thought it was pretty clear – that of course we should do all we can to challenge attitudes, but that pragmatism – no matter how awful it is that we have to use it – can help keep women safe.And isn’t that the most important thing, even if it rankles philosophically?

  17. Truly – this isn’t about philosophical rankling. The so-called advice doesn’t keep women and girls safe. Women who are sober are raped. Women in sensible shoes, and modest clothing are raped. Women who are virgins are raped. Women who never let anyone buy them a drink are raped. Women who walk home with their friends are raped. Women who make sure they take a black-cab home and not an unlicensed minicab are raped. Octogenarians are raped; six-month old infants are raped. In some households, though it takes your breath away to think about it, the father who tells his daughter not to go out "dressed like that" will rape her when she gets home. When a woman is raped (or for that matter when a man is raped, or a child) it is not about her, what she has done, what she hasn’t done (at least, not in any way you can control for – some rapists do have a visual trigger, like a particular colour hair or style of shoe) it is always, and only, about the fact that her attacker is a rapist. Only 17% of women who are raped are raped by strangers. Nearly 40% of female homicide victims are murdered by their partners or ex-partners. I’m not OK with a pragmatism requires us to restrict the freedoms of women because some of them might bump into a rapist. I wonder why we don’t consider restricting the freedoms of men because some of them might be a rapist?

  18. You say it isn’t about philosophical rankling, but I think it is.Much of this debate has centred around the manner in which alcohol can play a part in rape, and the way this is communicated in certain campaigns. I am fully aware that this is not the only context in which women are raped (and actually, find the fact that you feel the need to spell this out a little patronising), but this part of the debate is one that you started, and has been a theme throughout this thread.You say this so called advice does not keep women safe, but how do you know this? Of course, this advice is utterly redundant in many cases of rape, but who is claiming that campaigns encouraging women not to put themselves in a vulnerable position with alcohol protect an octogenarian raped in her home? I do not get your point at all. The problem with any preventative measure like this is that you cannot really demonstrate if it has worked, and the sad truth is that whilst a woman heeding such advice may avoid being raped, this does not render the rapist impotent, or even prevent him attacking that very night.I am really frustrated here because I feel you have mispresented me twice in this thread, and rather than entertain this, you have skewed the debate and have spoken to me as if I am utterly clueless.I know that the reasons for rape are all about the attacker, and not the victim. Where have I implied differently? Why are you spelling this to me? Where, in all my comments, do I show any ambiguity about this? Have I, at any point, shown any sympathy for rapists, or put any blame on their victims?It strikes me that the advice given out on these campaigns is not a million miles away from the "stranger danger" advice that we give to children. It is not exactly the same of course, but what it does is tell children not to put themselves in a vulnerable position with adults they do not know. Does this imply, therefore, that should they fail to heed this advice, and get attacked that we blame them?It is appalling that we have to tell children this. I hated having to do it, as it meant my children lost a little more innocence, and why should I sacrifice this because there are predatory paedophiles out there who cannot control themselves – even if statistically, such incidents are extremely rare.The answer: because if push comes to shove, it might keep them safe. It might save their life, and I reluctantly accepted that trade off.You know what? I am not okay with this pragmatism, just as I am not okay with the pragmatism behind the alcohol campaign posters, because it shouldn’t be like this. Women should not have to consider restricting their behaviour because some men are arseholes.But, right now, in the current clmate, with prevailing attitudes, it may be worth considering, no matter how fucked up it is.You know, we could talk about restricting the freedoms of men. In fact, we should, because even if it is hard to implement, it might provoke debate, and it might help some men to realise how women feel when they read the posters that started this debate.I do have a practical suggestion. I think that we need to turn to education. I think that rape should be broached in school, perhaps under the banner of sex education. I think that older children should have the chance to discuss it, to think about why it happens, and to think about the aftermath. Perhaps this will go some way to challenging these prevailing attitudes.By the time adulthood hits, these attitudes are far more difficult to chip away at.Please – we are on the same side here, you and I. It doesn’t mean we have to agree on everything, though.

  19. I’m very sorry if I have misrepresented you Mat. I’m not sure how I can have done so, when your contributions appear here unedited for everyone to read. I have used your comments and those of others here as a stepping off point for further discussion, elaboration of my thinking, clarification of my points.There’s a blogpost for another day, maybe, about the ‘stranger danger’ message, the problems it can create for children if not handled very carefully and the risks it exposes them to – again, if not handled carefully. However, I wouldn’t want to skew the debate again. I agree with you completely about education. Rape is talked about as part of good quality PHSE (Personal, Health, Social and Economic education) in secondary schools where respect within relationships and issues of consent are part of the conversation. It’s a shame that not all schools do this well. (And if I ever get round to the stranger danger blogpost I’ll probably include a bit on the protective value of good, age appropriate, sex education in Primary Schools and younger too). 🙂

  20. Mat, <br/> <br/>The poster from the Tayside police is an excellent example of pragmatic activism. It conveys the (exceedingly well-publicized) information that excess drinking can leave you vulnerable to assault while directing its *message* at the wrong-doers. <br/> <br/>That Tayside poster is literally the ONLY official (i.e., originating from a non-activist organization) poster I have EVER seen that admonishes rapists not to rape instead of telling us not to be victims. And I’m nearly 50. This is unreasonable. <br/> <br/>The signs in the store say "Shoplifting is a crime and we will prosecute." The signs on the bus say "Assaulting a bus driver is a crime and we will prosecute." The posters to stop rape say "Stop being a victim!" Um. What!?! <br/> <br/>Moreover, the proferred advice is *ALWAYS* inadequate and misleading. Dressling "slutty" and drinking "too much" doesn’t "get you raped". Being a woman in rape culture does. Stop being a woman? That’s what this advice comes down to. <br/> <br/>Your stranger danger analogy actually makes my point. Children are more vulnerable to people they know than to strangers. Ditto, women are more likely to be raped by someone they love(d) than by a stranger. Telling us not to drink does not stop rape. It just blames us and exonerates the rapist.

  21. PigletI understand exactly where you are coming from, and agree with much of what you say. I may have given the impression that I advocate such campaigns, but I don’t. They send out very confused messages – what you have said and more – and they do not get to the heart of the matter.However, those posters do not tell you not to drink, and they do not imply if you don’t drink, then you will not be raped. As far as I can see, they try and point out that getting inebriated and ending up in a compromising position could leave you vulnerable, although I accept that the poster at the top of this post could be interpreted a number of ways.I agree that this rhetoric could be seen to passing some responsibility on the victim, and I am not sure where responsibility morphs into blame. However, I do not agree that it exonerates the rapist. I am not sure how you arrived at this conclusion.I would also say that I can absolutely understand that the very existence of such posters could lead a victim to think that she is in the wrong, when she clearly isn’t. I get that.My stranger danger analogy does not make your point, because we know that a huge proportion of child abuse is perpetrated by people close to home, yet we still persist with that advice, because it keeps children safer. If we can accept that there are rapists who prowl nightclubs on the look out for vulnerable drunken women, then to at least make women aware that they could be placing themselves in a dangerous position doesn’t seem outrageous or misogynistic to me.A lot of young people go out, get drunk, have a laugh, and don’t tend to consider the fact that to end up completely pissed could lead them into all sorts of potentially dangerous situations, and is it the worst thing in the world to get them to consider this? You wouldn’t encourage a friend to get into an unlicensed minicab on her own after a few glasses of wine at three in the morning, would you? That doesn’t mean that if she does and something bad happens to her that you are going to say "you were asking for it", does it?I don’t like the campaigns – they can be crass, and open to wild interpretation – I do not think it outrageous that you think the implicit message is it is the fault of the woman – but it does seem good advice to at least consider that women should think twice about going out, getting plastered, getting separated from friends, and then be disoriented and vulnerable.Should a woman be able to go to a nightclub barely dressed, get drunk, flirt, even give mixed signals without the fear of getting raped? Of course she should. Is it utterly appalling that we have to ask her to consider changing her behaviour because some men can be such cunts? Of course it is.Look – I am just attempting a counterpoint – I am not dismissive of how you view such material – so please don’t think I do not understand where you are coming from, because I think I do.

  22. First off I’d like to say thanks for a brilliant blog piece, which raises a very subtle but incredibly important conversation.I think there is something to be said in examining the issue of ‘victim blaming’ and ‘rape culture’, for the way in which sex is considered within that same culture. In short I think there is a narrative that sex is extremely important and especially, AND more so to men, than it is to women. That there is something about the male sex drive that simply can’t be denied, that women don’t know what that’s like (b/c presumably our sexual desires are comparitively diminished) & I wonder whether this (frankly absurd) notion isn’t at the heart of why we take the approach of addressing only victim behaviour in awareness campaigns about rape.There appears to me to be a popular narrative (when this topic comes up) that there’s a point beyond which a man ‘can’t stop himself’, is so driven by his "needs" that all decency is abandoned, if *he* thinks a green light has been given. In light of this, it’s not surprising to me that of course we are going to put responsibility onto the people who do ‘have control’, to change their behaviour. Namely, women. It might also go some way to explaining why so much rape occurs at the hands of someone ‘known’ to the woman.There was recently a very interesting situation that arose in the global ‘skeptical community’ when a well known blogger (Rebecca Watson), who had someone make a very creepy proposition of her in a lift, after delivering a talk on inappropriate sexist behaviour no less, & her coming out and saying "don’t do this guys, it’s creepy & inappropriate". She got villified by people (not just men either!!)as ‘precious’, asked what she did to ‘invite’ his approach, criticised as a ‘man hater’, slammed as a ‘too ugly to rape’ & threatened with actual rape! I mean, c’mon, what the fuck? If that isn’t a sign that we have a serious problem in this area, then I don’t know what is? It’s terribly confusing to consider that sex might just be so entrenched as an essential part of the male privilege that indeed ALL men will be uncomfortable when confronted with messages like the ones in the (satirical?) poster from thisisnotaninvitationtorape. But it ought to be examined. Why does it make you feel uncomfortable? It’s as if pointing out that some of you behave inappropriately is an assault on all maleness. It’s not. Of course not ALL men are rapists, but even as we read here many women will have been raped, and there is far far too much ’emapthy’ for my liking with ‘how this might have happened’ when rapes are discussed in media, blogs, forums, let alone in courts of law. I don’t think it’s too much, or even remotely condescending for men to have to endure a little bit of, what, discomfort, so that the message can be sent LOUD AND CLEAR to men who ARE rapists, that there are NO excuses for what they do. That no one will make excuses for them, ever & that we in no way support their "right" to take sex from a woman whenever they feel they’ve been given enough excuse to do so. Not being prepared to tackle it head on & instead letting the prevailing message be "girls, be careful YOU don’t make YOURSELF a victim" is precisely taken as support by the men who do rape in my opinion. And if doing so means ALL men have to have a good hard look at their entrenched views about their right to or need for sex, then all the better IMO.

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