If you’re a Twitter or Facebook user, you’re possibly weary of hearing about the Steubenville footballers’ rape trial. As weary as hearing of, say, Justin Bieber’s tantrums, or horse-meat jokes, or the bleak details of the Delhi gang rape in which a 23-year-old died from internal injuries caused by six men with an iron bar. “Weary” may be the wrong word here. “Inured” or “bombarded”, perhaps.
There was a time when showbiz frippery and terminal rape injuries were totally polar matters, but in the social media age, rape and red-carpet gossip are close personal Twitter timeline buddies. If this makes some of you uncomfortable, it’s not my concern. For far too long women have allowed the grimness of rape to be hidden away. For centuries, in fact.
Rape and its global popularity should have star billing. Its news should be unavoidable, outrage over it unquellable. Thank heavens that Twitter – because of the unique way it’s allowed women a much stronger punch at setting global news agendas – is changing the face of rape reporting.
“Oh, those poor Steubenville boys, with such promising careers and their lives in ruins!” many voices of the American media cried, sliding into those timeworn tracks of victim-blaming. “And such church-going types, too. What a mess.” Brilliantly, we live in 2013, when news organisations can now publicly be brought to task. “Why are rapists being sympathised with?” Twitter roared. What other crime can one commit – bank robbery? Arson? – which will result in a news anchor finishing a report with a regretful sigh that the convict will now be incarcerated and miss his beloved sports practice?
The Steubenville case caught the world’s attention in part because the gang involved had Instagrammed, tweeted and merrily videoed the night that led to many of them being arrested. Mainstream media isn’t even sure what to do with that. Publish? Don’t publish? Ignore? Ignite? The internet, instead, bubbled and brooded. It wouldn’t let it die.
Obviously, this new upfront attitude from women about the act of rape bodes badly for the squeamish and the mild-mannered. It seems that the average TV viewer is able to cope with the horrors of actual warfare on the 9pm news with just a small warning from George Alagiah that “some scenes might be upsetting”. But where on mainstream media are the accounts of vaginal, anal and finger penetration, or the bleak experience of gang-rape, “stranger” rape, “date” rape or those exact trial details of: “Did the victim vomit twice or three times through alcohol before being forced into oral sex?”
Social media on the other hand – the strident women bloggers and the livid feminist tweeters – refuse to pull back from the raw terror. They refuse to be silenced. Rape has had its reign, and the fighting back will involve being noisy, wince-making and actually very annoying.
Of course, one way to stop women complaining about rape would be for men to stop raping. When I come to power, my first act of terror will be to pull Match of The Day one Saturday evening and replace it with a 45-minute lecture by me, wearing a drab dungaree suit, on a week when I’ve not bleached my moustache, entitled “Rapes and Why Not To Do Them”. The patronising and belittling tone will no doubt infuriate British men greatly, but may act as some recompense for the approximately 3,456 times I’ve been told to amend my shoes, dress or bus route home or I’m pretty much asking for it. Men, eh, they don’t like it up ’em.
I’ll pass on Egypt, the misogynists’ paradise
Meanwhile, over in Egypt – just £546 for seven nights from Gatwick, all-inclusive, see travel agents for details – the Muslim Brotherhood, whose close allies control the country’s parliament, have issued a 10-point memorandum railing against plans for basic women’s rights. Uppity women and their demands to work, travel and use contraception without their husbands’ permission will lead to the “complete disintegration of society”. Other, wild, forward-thinking notions which have been rejected outright by the Brotherhood include the freedom for a Muslim woman to marry a non-Muslim, and equal rights for gay women, and any question that marital rape is illegal. I was tempted to book a mini-break but Rhyl in a static caravan seems more cheery.