The Oxford sex ring shows how the sexual manners of a new place can be tragically misinterpreted

What drove these men was deracination: a detachment from one culture, and a failure to attach or understand another. They believed they could get away with it

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The case of child abuse in Oxford has been much covered, and from a number of angles. A gang of individuals abducted young girls and raped them repeatedly. Some of the girls were introduced to crack cocaine and heroin to make their dependency on the men stronger. Others were branded to show that they belonged to one of their abusers, or given home-devised abortions. The police were slow to take action, despite being very regularly approached by victims and those who knew what was going on. A guest in a hotel was so disturbed by the noise he heard from the room next door that he phoned the police.

That is one way of putting it. Another is to draw attention to the fact that here, and in a case in Rochdale last year, the abusers were mostly of Pakistani origin and all Muslims. The victims were all young white girls. There are cases pending for more gang-related grooming and rape offences where the same is true. The police and some media outlets, including the BBC, declined to draw any attention to this fact. You might point out, too, that there are plenty of white abusers and rapists, and conclude that the race of these abusers is of no significance. Or you might go down the BNP route and imply that there is something rotten at the heart of Islam itself.

Between the well-meaning liberal account and the ugly BNP version, the truth lies. Race was clearly an important factor for the rapists themselves, who targeted white girls. But it is ridiculous to suggest that there is anything fundamental in the culture prizing the rape of children. What is going on?

The parallel, I think, is with Gary Glitter and other wealthy white Europeans who, in the 1980s, took to holidaying in Asian countries in search of sex with children. Thailand, Cambodia and Sri Lanka have been especial targets. The naive Western tourists sometimes thought that they were in countries with slacker legal regimes, or where bribes could see them right. Sometimes, I am very much afraid, they wrongly believed that sexual exchanges with children were accepted in these countries, and that they could take advantage of cultural differences.

On a much less extreme scale, we see something of the same phenomenon in Greece every summer. The children of Britain descend on individual islands where, 30 years ago, every adult was a respectable attender of the Orthodox Church. They don’t care about that. Greece is a place where you can have sex on the beach, in the street, in front of widows sitting outside their houses. A drunk man, screwing a complete stranger in the main street of a Greek island village, has misinterpreted the sexual manners of his temporary residence. He has made them what he wants them to be. And only foreigners, who he will never meet or care about, are looking.

Manners of sexual exchange are notoriously changeable from one society to another, and notoriously difficult to interpret. When a gay cardinal forces himself on a junior, we may guess that a shadowy and unsocialised life may not have trained him in the manners of request and acceptance. All he has to go on is what he wants.

We have to talk about race in the Oxford and Rochdale cases – we mustn’t pretend it wasn’t an important feature. But race was not the defining feature. What drove these men was deracination: a detachment from one culture, and a failure to attach or understand another. At some level, they believed that they could get away with this because nobody cared about these girls, abandoned in care homes. At another, they no doubt believed, or said to each other that they believed, that white girls were all whores, that anyone who dressed and behaved like that would be happy to be given heroin and have sex with half a dozen men before she was 13 years old.

They didn’t understand what the limits and negotiations of sexual behaviour in a new culture are; they didn’t want to understand. It is nothing to do with their race. It is just the mindset of a paedophile in a culture he cares nothing about, working out with other paedophiles what he can get away with. The Oxford police dealt with this in the same way that the Cambodian police dealt with Gary Glitter; they got round to it in the end. I’m not sure that’s good enough. These people were fundamentally unsocialised in our society. That is a challenge that goes well beyond the particular criminal offence.

Our clothes don't need to be British

Marks & Spencer launched a new line this week, to give the ailing fashion half of the store a boost. Per Una and Autograph are lines which are looking distinctly tired and middle aged. The design is frumpy. Has the quality slipped, too? I am with Jeremy Paxman, who complained some years ago that the elastic in the Y-fronts wore out far too quickly. I was horrified to see how quickly a pair of trousers fell apart last year. What is the future?

I am sorry to say that M&S is going down the Ukip route, and launching a Best of British line, all made in the UK. To be honest, I don’t think anyone except total loonies care where their clothes are made. They want them to be made well. They want them to be attractive. They want them, I would say, to be made in conditions where the workers are well paid and in safe, secure buildings. The answer is not to withdraw from efficient, competent, safe overseas suppliers. The answer is working with them properly, and selling the stuff at a rational price. Oh, and putting some decent elastic in your kecks, please.

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