Joan Smith: Excuses for rape – men and the myths that won't die

Share
Related Topics

Let's talk about men behaving badly. No, actually, let's talk about rape and sexual aggression, the accurate descriptions of some of the behaviours that have just caused a media frenzy. Most of the myths around the subject have surfaced during the past seven days. I'm going to list them as a small public service.

It wasn't really rape. The Justice Secretary, Ken Clarke, claimed some rape cases are something else, such as consensual sex between an 18-year-old and his 15-year-old girlfriend. This has never counted as rape in English law; Clarke got it wrong, going on to cast doubt on "date rapes"and putting his fitness to continue as Justice Secretary in question.

She's too ugly to have been raped. Sections of the French press reported that lawyers for Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the former head of the IMF, were shocked when they saw how "unattractive" his accuser was. Such claims are a further assault on the alleged victim, based on the myth that suave, successful men couldn't possibly have a sexual interest in someone who isn't young and beautiful. Rape is an indiscriminate crime, perpetrated against girls, women and indeed men of all ages, appearances and ethnic groups.

She overreacted. He didn't mean anything by it. When influential men misuse their position to grope someone with less power, their behaviour is reinterpreted as something less culpable. DSK has been known for years in France as a "great seducer" even though his aggression towards women was an open secret. A French journalist, Tristane Banon, broke the silence when she claimed DSK tried to tear off her clothes during an interview in 2007, but she was persuaded not to make a formal complaint.

He can't help himself. He likes women too much. The former governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger, portrays himself as a red-blooded male who can't resist an attractive woman, but he's been accused by more than a dozen women of grabbing their breasts and bottoms. Schwarzenegger is a serial predator. That he had sex (and a child) with a domestic employee while his wife was pregnant should surprise no one.

It wasn't a serious rape – he didn't use violence. Ken Clarke again, suggesting that rape involves a man "forcefully" having sex with an unwilling woman. Rape is a serious crime whether or not it involves physical force. As with other serious crimes, individual circumstances are taken into account at sentencing.

It's a conspiracy. Sixty per cent of the French public believe DSK was set up. There's a parallel here with the accusations against the WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, which his supporters dismiss as a dastardly plot to lure him to Sweden andthen extradition to the US.

He's the real victim. It was reported (wrongly, says her lawyer) that DSK's alleged victim is HIV-positive. This is a sneaky way of casting aspersions on a woman's sexual history, while the suggestion that DSK may need an HIV test turns the alleged attacker into a victim.

But after a week in which these myths resurfaced, something interesting has happened: DSK faces serious charges, Clarke is only just hanging on to his job and Schwarzenegger is being divorced. Even Le Monde accused French journalists of dressing up sexual aggression as libertinage and reinforcing toleration of sexual violence. "Libertines" everywhere had better watch out.





Joan Smith is Political Blonde: www.political blonde.com

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / Web Developer

£350 p/d (Contract): Guru Careers: A Software Developer / Web Developer (PHP /...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Social Researcher

£14000 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Financial Controller

£35000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Head Porter / Concierge

£16000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This award winning Property Man...

Day In a Page

Read Next
The UCAS clearing house call centre in Cheltenham, England  

Ucas should share its data on students from poor backgrounds so we can get a clearer picture of social mobility

Conor Ryan
A study of 16 young women performing light office work showed that they were at risk of being over-chilled by air conditioning in summer  

It's not just air conditioning that's guilty of camouflage sexism

Mollie Goodfellow
Giants Club: After wholesale butchery of Idi Amin's regime, Uganda’s giants flourish once again

Uganda's giants are flourishing once again

After the wholesale butchery of Idi Amin's regime, elephant populations are finally recovering
The London: After 350 years, the riddle of Britain's exploding fleet is finally solved

After 350 years, the riddle of Britain's exploding fleet is finally solved

Archaeologists will recover a crucial item from the wreck of the London which could help shed more light on what happened in the vessel's final seconds
Airbus has patented a jet that could fly from London to New York in one hour

Airbus has patented a jet that could fly from London to New York in one hour

The invention involves turbojets and ramjets - a type of jet engine - and a rocket motor
10 best sun creams for kids

10 best sun creams for kids

Protect delicate and sensitive skin with products specially formulated for little ones
Tate Sensorium: New exhibition at Tate Britain invites art lovers to taste, smell and hear art

Tate Sensorium

New exhibition at Tate Britain invites art lovers to taste, smell and hear art
Ashes 2015: Nice guy Steven Finn is making up for lost time – and quickly

Nice guy Finn is making up for lost time – and quickly

He was man-of-the-match in the third Test following his recall to the England side
Ashes 2015: Remember Ashton Agar? The No 11 that nearly toppled England

Remember Ashton Agar?

The No 11 that nearly toppled England
Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

Vegetarian food gets a makeover

Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks