Rape Culture

So much is being written about rape at the moment as result of the Julian Assange case and the remarks of notable people such as George Galloway and Todd Akin. While George Galloway is a massive tit for making such insensitive remarks (he has made a fair few cock-ups recently, the split of Respect being one of them), the real shock comes from Akin. It is incomprehensible to me that someone in the public eye should be so phenomenally ignorant. Although I would admittedly find it more shocking if a British parliamentarian made such remarks – the American level of education on such hot topics as sex education, rape and reproductive biology is considerably lower in certain places in the states and amongst certain groups (i’m thinking bible belt here) – I am still astounded at the outright stupidity of this guy.

However, I think it is positive that it has brought the issue into a more public arena for debate. The notion that rape and non-consensual sex can be separated and distinguished as two separate things has always bothered me – it seems like people hinge their analysis on whether somebody says no and they have sex with them anyway (rape) or if somebody doesn’t say no, but doesn’t say yes either (non-consensual sex). In the last couple of years there has been progress – the issue of consent has enjoyed a rising profile; something that is very positive. Nevertheless, that doesn’t mean there is enough being done. The CPS and police disseminate PR propaganda that makes it look like the problem of rape is being correctly dealt with. But it is just that – propaganda. I’m not suggesting that the legal system is not making headway, or that it is not doing its job, but the fact remains that despite a much cited 62% conviction rate, only 6% of cases ever make it to court. The shiny PR machine drowns out other information on the subject, so that the public can ‘rest easy’, and know that everything is being done to prevent rape – after all, the police have designated police and the CPS have rape-specific prosecutors…

The real problem lies not in the judicial system, the criminal system, or the legal system. It is in attitudes – the comments made by George Galloway reveal this better than any study or statistics.  The need for a proper open debate on these issues is urgent, and this is the positive I can see in the widely publicised Assange case. People need to recognise that rape is not just a stranger following a woman home and violently assaulting her, it can be within a relationship, it can be when people have been sleeping together before, it can be under any circumstances.

In some ways it is positive that these idiotic remarks have been made – it has made the people involved reconsider their position and outlook on rape and rape culture, and has sparked a wider conversation on the subject. There is still a long way to go, however.

In the context of Assange – as the left (whatever that is these days) – we have to react in a responsible manner. It is possible to take the case as two distinct issues – we can accept and respect the position of the alleged victims while defending Assange’s human rights. We can reject the idea that he be extradited to America where he would face persecution, and potentially the death penalty, for revealing important information that the US would rather was kept secret in order to cover up its skeletons in the closet. We can also treat the rape allegations as serious, and begin talking about the problems and issues raised by the case. It is certainly not a black and white subject, and we must stop treating it so.

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About shakkka

Londoner, climate scientist, extremist. All views are my own.

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