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Category Archives: Rape culture

Risky Business

Trigger warning for sexual violence

I was all set that last week’s post might conceivably be my last one, because: Reasons. And then Bob Jones gave me a reason for it not to be.

Bob Jones: Rape a risk for those who walk on wild side

 Writing in the Herald, she asked why shouldn’t women be able to walk safely through an unlit park at night? Grow up, girl. The answer is because you might be raped, or, alternatively, assaulted, robbed or murdered. It’s nothing to do with being women, the same danger faces men who in fact, rape excepted, are by far the greatest victims of unprovoked assaults.

That’s because they’re less risk averse, women more sensibly ensuring they don’t place themselves in harm’s way to the same extent.

As a piece of performance art, it’s brilliant. It has everything. Victim Blaming, apologia, BUT WHAT ABOUT TEH MENZ, made up statistics about how many men are rapists, fat shaming, and a good bit of “it’s always been like this, so we can’t change it”. All wrapped up in a nice stop-your-whining-you-gross-angry-feminists bow.

But as an opinion column in a major newspaper, it is a misogynist, ill-informed, hateful piece of shit. So…rather like it’s author.

I’d list all the ways he’s wrong, but there’s not a lot of point, he doesn’t care, and the Herald doesn’t care as long as it gets the clicks we’re all giving it. Let’s just check a few off for the sake of completeness though.

  • women =/= property
  • Walking through a dark park is not an invitation nor is the length of someone’s skirt or the size of their tits, or the fact they might be foreign.
  • No one is advocating abdicating common sense, but that DOESN’T’ MEAN RAPE IS OK, YOU GIANT DOUCHECANOE.
  • Also not OK? Advocating prison rape, as much as we might wish it.
  • And you know what? we SHOULD be able to walk through dark parks at night. So should men. We should be safe in our cities and crime should be as rare and as unacceptable as we can make it. And suggesting that by not walking in dark places means we can avoid rape is a) wrong and b) DUDE. WHY NOT TELL RAPISTS NOT TO RAPE INSTEAD OF ASKING US TO SOMEHOW PREVENT IT?
  • How about you start treating women with respect, instead of calling them silly?
  • A judge, spouting this stuff, no matter why he was saying it, should maybe consider the impact of his statement on the victims of this particular crime, and other sexual assaults, and how this kind of victim blaming might affect them. Or not, cos it’s not like our justice system already discourages victims of sexual violence (especially men, and other minorities) from coming forward.
  • And you know what? Rape might be as old as “mankind” (and what a genius insight that usage is), and it might be really difficult to stop. But it will be impossible while dinosaurs like you GIVE RAPISTS EXCUSES. (and while you are at it, dramatically underestimate the number of men who might be rapists, because apparently? Maths, along with empathy, kindness and reason, is not a thing you are good at, apparently.)

Lastly, I will point to something Emma said here when we last engaged with another white dude dinosaur “columnist” (come on down Martin van Beynen!). What you say about rape, you say to rape victims. You want to be that guy? Really?

Well, that escalated quickly.

Trigger warning for rape, rape culture.

Here’s how to tell if you’re a misogynist asshole.

1. Take pleasure in offending women.
2. When a woman calls you out on that behaviour, demean and negate her.

If that doesn’t prove it to everyone you know, double down with a nice bit of rape/child abuse joking.


When called on it, say you we’re just joking about a fictional character. That makes it OK!

[Update since I started writing this: you can then apologise(ish) and delete the offending tweet.]

Look, I’m not going to have anything better here to say than Sady, Lindy and Molly have said.

So, let’s just repeat this a couple of times: rape jokes aren’t funny. Rape jokes aren’t funny. Jokes about rape culture can be, but it’s a high bar, and one that few comedians can clear. And when your joke falls flat, it’s not just that you didn’t get a laugh, it’s that you’re hurting and re-traumatising rape victims. (Of whom, statistically, you likely have at least one amongst your friends/listeners/followers.) And you’re helping to prop up a culture that minimises violent crime. Why do you want to be that guy?

Of course, if you believe Twitter, you people who make these kinds of jokes have supporters. I’m, of course, part of the PC police, and you should be allowed to say whatever you want. And, of course, you are. You can tweet whatever bullshit you like. You can lash out at women who call you sexist and be a bully, and upset people all you want. And I get to think that you’re a piece of shit.

But when you have the pulpit of a massively influential radio station, and the tiny amounts of fame that New Zealand allows, you don’t get to do that without people complaining. And I’d have thought that if you are a half-decent human being, you’d have considered the responsibility you have. A responsibility to not make rape victims feel worse. To not uphold a culture wherein women (and some men) feel unsafe and at risk. You talk, mostly, to young people, over whom you have influence. Are you really comfortable making the world a bit more shit, instead of a little bit better, as you do that? Couldn’t you use that influence, gained through what I am sure is your massive talent, to help us? Or at the very least, to not actively hurt us?

Of course, I’m just a boring, humorlessness, unfunny, overly-sensitive, stick-up-her-ass, PC feminist, right? You carry on.

jlawthumbs up

Rape Culture: You’re soaking in it

What’s important when you are writing a headline about a case of sexual assault? Making sure your headline isn’t triggering? Showing sensitivity to the alleged victim? Ensuring you’re not committing contempt of court?

Nah, it’s shoehorning in a comment on a 13-year-old girl’s sexual attractiveness.


And iphone screen grab from the Christchurch Press, with the headline “Man denies sex with ‘pretty hot’ 13-year-old”.

Yep. Because that’s relevant.

I don’t want to get into an argument about whether a 20 year old having sex with a 13 year old constitutes rape. But this headline, ladies and gentlemen? That’s rape culture.

Shutting down rape culture, one election at a time

The Republican Rape Philosophers lost. (H/T Feministe)

Incumbent Roger Rivard (R), lost his Congressional seat to Steven Smith (D). Rivard was the chap who told passed on his father’s wisdom that “some girls rape easy.”

Todd Akin (R) failed to take what should have been a winnable senate seat for the Republicans. Akin was the chap who told us that if a rape was “legitimate”, then a woman could not get pregnant because her body would shut conception down.

Tea Party backed candidate Richard Mourdock couldn’t win what should have been a wide open race, giving the Democrats one more seat in the Senate. Mourdock was the chap who told us that pregnancy resulting from rape was something that God intended.

But why should we care, here in New Zealand, an ocean away from the United States?

Here’s why. We should care because the anti-women rhetoric coming from conservatives in the US travels down here swiftly. Rape culture is alive and flourishing in New Zealand, and concepts like “legitimate rape” and “can’t get pregnant from rape” and “some girls rape easy” and “God meant for you to be raped” play into it, and sustain it.

I am so very glad that voters in the United States rejected these men who endorsed rape. It’s a push back, a small step towards dismantling the narrative of hatred and contempt for women.

Cross posted

Cultural Studies

Trigger warning for sexual assault

Recently, a friend and I were having a conversation, and I used the words “rape culture”. And the conversation went like this:

“What’s rape culture?”

“Fuck. Um…well, it’s the idea that we live in a world where rape is a crime that many, many women, and some men, face, and that as a crime, it is often lessened, because it’s in the patriarchy’s interests to control women’s bodies, and to encourage male aggression. Ok, wait, that’s a really bad definition…”

“The patriarchy?”

“Lordy. Um…look, can I send you some links…?”

“Yeah, I guess, but I mean, why do you care so much? You’ve never been raped…”

I didn’t, but I wanted to explain to him that he had just perpetuated rape culture. First, the assumption that I’ve never been assaulted, because he would automatically know that. Because it would be my responsibility to share that information, or he’d just be able to tell, I guess. Second, the idea that violent crime only affects the victim.

When we talk about 1 in 5 women being assaulted, or whichever statistic you’d care to use about violent crime, we focus on the 1. We think about how many women we might know who have been raped. We think how lucky to not be one of those people. But what that means is that women constantly live in a space where there’s a fairly good statistical chance we’ll be Next. Where my friend can say to me “But I’ve seen you. You’re really good at keeping yourself safe”, and not think about whether it’s reasonable that I have to do that. Where I can be harassed by a group of men walking down the street on a Sunday night, and my first thought is not to fight back, but how quickly I’d have to run to get home safely. It’s using the threat of a violent crime to control women’s behaviour, and lessening the severity of the crime because it suits your purpose.

Rape culture is where a judge can tell a sexual assault victim:

“If you wouldn’t have been there that night, none of this would have happened to you,” Hatch said.

Hatch told the victim and the defendant that no one would be happy with the sentence she gave, but that finding an appropriate sentence was her duty.

“I hope you look at what you’ve been through and try to take something positive out of it,” Hatch said to the victim in court. “You learned a lesson about friendship and you learned a lesson about vulnerability.”

Hatch said that the victim was not to blame in the case, but that all women must be vigilant against becoming victims.

“When you blame others, you give up your power to change,” Hatch said that her mother used to say.

When you blame others. WHEN YOU FUCKING BLAME OTHERS? The “other” is TO BLAME. By the same token, I would never been assaulted if I just hadn’t let a dude slam his way into my house, or led him on with my sexy, sexy flannel pyjamas. What are women meant to do? How are we meant to learn about vulnerability? Never go to bars? Never leave our houses? Never, ever, see other people?

The US election, and the constant use of women’s bodies as political tools must have been wearying for some people, at best. And downright triggering for others. I am on the other side of the world, and I’d like to lock Todd Akin in a room with some victims and some heavy objects. Here’s a good rule of thumb. If you are using the word rape in a sentence, and it’s not to denounce a violent, horrific crime, then you need to take a good look at yourself.

I don’t know what we do to go about ending this. Call it out when we see it, make a fuss, slutwalk. But the thing about living in a culture of fear is that some days, you can’t get yourself out of the bathroom. And that’s OK. It’s a reasonable response. We all need to be pushing back against the Richard Mourdock’s of the world when we can, and we need allies.

So, if, like me, you’re finding the way US politicians seem comfortable talking about women problematic*, and because this has been something of a heavy post, here, have some of the queen.

* Problematic = TLG code for Really Fucked Up

This is no country for women

Cross posted from Tangerina-land

Today one of Wellington’s most vital and underappreciated services, Wellington Rape Crisis, announced that they will be reducing their service by a day per week. They simply cannot keep up with the demand for their services without adequate funding, and they are uncertain of their future due to operating under a $55,000 deficit.

Wellington Rape Crisis is 35 years old, and was started as part of the international Rape Crisis movement. It continues to be politically revolutionary in that the organisational values explicitly state that women are at the centre of their practice*, and a feminist analysis of rape and sexual abuse underpins all their work. Not only do they provide frontline services, but they advocate politically for women’s rights to autonomy and self-determination over their own bodies. If this seems like nothing special, or if you’re of the opinion that we’ve already achieved these things, then you might want to do some serious reading.

Let’s be clear about these “vital” services. All too often, WRC staff are the difference between life and death for their clients, both metaphorically and literally. WRC provides clients with tools and support to work through trauma, and helps provide survivor’s loved ones with the strength and knowledge to confidently stand by them. Staff can help with housing issues, medical referrals, access to funding for study or training, childcare and much more. The organisation recognises that rape and sexual abuse affects every part of a person’s life, and works holistically within this.

Unbelievably, despite the huge amount of resources that sexual violence response requires, WRC still allocates funds and energy into preventing rape and sexual abuse in the first instance. WRC, along with other agencies, makes up the Wellington Sexual Abuse network, which provides education and campaigns which helps to combat sexual violence. The organisation is committed to not just being an ambulance at the bottom of the cliff, despite this being the service which gets the most funding from the Government.

However, no matter how vital an organisation is, if the climate in which it operates doesn’t value or support the work it does – it will die. Our Government has created a hostile environment for many community not-for-profit agencies. I want to be clear in stating that WRC is not the only agency in this dire situation. We live under an administration that feels competition is a good thing, not just in the private sector, but in community service provision.

While excellence in service should always be strived for, the way to achieve this is not to pit tiny, often volunteer-run organisations against each other for laughable sums of money. Money that they have to annually re-apply for at great expense of their already stretched resources. Money that makes organisations scared to speak out against Government initiatives for fear of being reprimanded through the loss of their funding.

This Government believes that the answer to everything is the private sector, and that corporate/community partnerships are the way of the future. But while the term “survivor of rape” still makes people shut their eyes and block their ears, Wellington Rape Crisis has no chance of being the next glossy recipient of the Vodafone Annual Feel Good Backpat Fest 2012.

I am sick to death of people desperately trying to rally 11th hour awareness for services people like to have, but rarely want to think about. Just last year Auckland’s only 24-hour crisis line for people who have experienced sexual violence was almost shut down due to a lack of funding. It was saved literally the day the service was due to be cut off, by ACC finally bowing to public pressure.

When previous governments are prepared to form a Taskforce for Action on Sexual Violence, yet no one is willing to implement their recommendations, it becomes a question of priority. One in four women in New Zealand will experience sexual assault. One in four. That’s a quarter of all of the women you know. If that isn’t a crisis, I’m not sure what is.

But, of course, our Government would much rather invest billions of dollars in a sports tournament, or millions into private schools, or tax cuts for the top tier of New Zealanders. Regardless of whether you broadly see value in these investments, a specialist organisation shutting its doors on Wellington’s most vulnerable women – even for just a day less per week – is unacceptable. It is undoubtedly the start of a slippery slope for all community services the Government doesn’t see as a priority.

This shouldn’t be about National politics. This should be about recognising, like WRC does, that rape is a crisis. If I’m going to be glib (which I am) I might also point out that investing in the prevention and treatment of sexual assault enables more women to be productive little cogs in our economic wheel. It’s a safe, reciprocal investment.

But it shouldn’t be about that. It’s about the fact that we live in a society which teaches women to consider themselves lucky to not be survivors of sexual violence. We live in a society where women are most likely to be raped by someone they know and trust, in their own home, yet they are made to feel like the aesthetic and transport options they choose every day make them responsible for any assault which may befall them.

We live in a society in which every single woman who you have ever known or even walked past has a script for protecting herself. She knows which neighbours keep the lights on for the longest, which shoes she can run easily in, and how to slot her keys between her fingers to use as a weapon if she needs to.

And nobody wants to talk about it. Well, that’s fine. Don’t get your hands dirty thinking about things which make you uncomfortable, that’s your choice. It’s a shit choice, but it’s yours to make. It’s not a choice that one in four New Zealand women have, however.

And for those women, thankfully there are agencies who don’t have their hands over their ears. But for how much longer? When a 35 year old organisation which is relevant to a quarter of all New Zealand women is slowly starting to close its doors…we are in crisis mode. This is no country for women.

I am despondent at the thought that months from now, if WRC has to close for another day, and another day and then maybe forever, that Wellington women will have to call for help from around the country like Auckland Sexual Abuse Help did. Are we doomed to repeat these last minute tearful pleas in which the public has to briefly acknowledge how vital these services are, every time the Government quietly suffocates one to death?

This is no country for women.

If you want to help. Please, please do. Though it needs to be said we should not have to self-fund a service as vital as this.

*Wellington Rape Crisis provides services to anyone who identifies as female. Their skills and physical space are designed solely for women and children, recognising that women are overwhelmingly and disproportionately affected by sexual violence. However, Wellington Rape Crisis works to refer male survivors of sexual violence to services that cater for them, and provides assistance to male support people of women who have experienced sexual violence.

In which I get very, very angry with Louis C.K.

Trigger warning for rape

So this, this right here, this person you like and laugh at and respect in other ways, this person is currently the personification of male privilege.

Thinking that it’s part of a “dialogue” when a woman gets singled out in a comedy club and has someone “joke” about how funny it would be if she was pack raped there and then, that is privilege. It is something only someone who is fortunate enough to not be threatened by rape culture can afford to think.

The fallout from a woman being threatened with rape in a comedy club for the purposes of a “joke”, is only beard-strokingly interesting to people who have never been told that what they’re wearing could get them into trouble. To people who don’t have to think of survival strategies on a daily basis, to the point where they’ve perfected LOUD FAKE CELLPHONE CONVERSATIONS while walking home in the dark. To people who haven’t memorised which neighbours stay up later than others in case you have to run to their door. Or which shoes you can run in and which you can’t. Or which of your boyfriend’s friends you don’t want to get a ride home with. Or what you’d say if you needed to leave somewhere fast.

Rape “jokes” (no matter how public they become) are not part of a dialogue. They are part of a systematic and institutionalised violence against women everywhere and always.

The reactions to those jokes are not part of a dialogue, they are fucking survival strategies. They are attempts to try and protect ourselves, our sisters, our daughters, our mothers, from the ever-present threat of rape, which is now even more dangerous because apparently it’s funny. They are attempts to get people to please stop scaring the shit out of us, or reminding us of something we’re trying to forget, or what could be in our futures, or what has definitely happened to women we love.

It must be really nice to have the ability to enjoy those pleas as part of some interesting anthropological discussion which benefits everyone apparently, because Louis CK got reminded he doesn’t have to worry about it.

Quickie: the same old story

Don’t walk or jog alone, Whanganui women warned

I could write an extended post about victim blaming, and who is being held responsible for women being raped (hint: it’s not the rapist), and who has to change their behaviour in order to reduce the chances of a rape occurring (hint: it’s not the rapist), but you know what, I’ve done that before. Right here: Because the victim is responsible for not being raped.

One day, some police officer somewhere is going to talk about someone who is preying on women who are out jogging or walking, and NOT tell them that they ought to be careful. Instead, she or he will tell the perp that he or she must stop doing this horrible thing.

But alas, that day has not yet come.

Rape culture, ladies and gentlemen. You’re soaking in it.

Cross posted

Dangerous women and “the church’s authentic teachers of faith and morals”

Cross posted

People that the Vatican thinks should be disciplined and silenced: nuns who work on poverty and social justice issues.

CHICAGO — A prominent U.S. Catholic nuns group said Thursday that it was “stunned” that the Vatican reprimanded it for spending too much time on poverty and social-justice concerns and not enough on condemning abortion and gay marriage.

In a stinging report on Wednesday, the Vatican said the Leadership Conference of Women Religious had been “silent on the right to life” and had failed to make the “Biblical view of family life and human sexuality” a central plank in its agenda.

It also reprimanded American nuns for expressing positions on political issues that differed, at times, from views held by U.S. bishops. Public disagreement with the bishops — “who are the church’s authentic teachers of faith and morals” — is unacceptable, the report said.

People the Vatican promotes and places in positions of authority: priests who actively lie and cover up for other priests who rape children.

The Catholic primate of all-Ireland has said that he will not resign as Church leader despite revelations in the BBC’s This World programme.

It found Cardinal Sean Brady had names and addresses of those being abused by paedophile priest Brendan Smyth.

However, he did not pass on those details to police or parents.

Not only did he not pass on the details to police or children, but he actively coerced the children into staying silent. And he has LIED about the support the children were given.

Sean Brady’s role in the affair became clear in 2010, when it became known that he had been present when the abused boy was questioned.

He claimed, however, that the boy’s father had accompanied him, and described his own role as that of a note-taker.

However, the BBC This World investigation has uncovered the notes Cardinal Brady took while the boy was questioned.

The child’s father was not allowed in the room, and the child was immediately sworn to secrecy.

The story about Sean Brady will make you sick. And he’s still making excuses. He says that he wasn’t the only one who knew. In other words, it was someone else’s responsibility. And he claims that he had no power to do anything in any case.

“The commentary in the programme and much of the coverage of my role in this inquiry gives the impression that I was the only person who knew of the allegations against Brendan Smyth at that time and that because of the office I hold in the Church today I somehow had the power to stop Brendan Smyth in 1975.

“I had absolutely no authority over Brendan Smyth. Even my Bishop had limited authority over him. The only people who had authority within the Church to stop Brendan Smyth from having contact with children were his Abbot in the Monastery in Kilnacrott and his Religious Superiors in the Norbertine Order.

He is completely wrong about that. He always had the ability to go to the police, instead of participating in covering up a crime, and enabling a rapist to carry on raping children.

And he is now a Cardinal in the Catholic church.

So on the one hand, all those wretched women who dare to spend their time and effort working on issues of social justice are dangerously out of line and need to be reprimanded and controlled, and on the other, a man who participated in covering up the rape of children and is still making excuses for his behaviour, is given a position of high authority in the church. He is an “authentic teacher of faith and morals.”

I do not think that phrase means what the Catholic church hierarchy thinks it means.

Previous posts on the Catholic church and its protection of men who rape children:
Out of touch
Can the Pope be impeached?
They could always turn themselves in
Chanting the script from Rome
Sez it all.

SlutWalk, Part Deux

Trigger warning for sexual violence.

Last night, I went to the wonderful show A Memory, A Monologue, A Rant and a Prayer, put on in support of Wellington Rape Crisis. It was moving and tearful, but in a supportive and empathetic space. I cried, darlings. A lot.

One of the monologues, written by Eve Ensler, talked about being angry. So angry you could spit. So angry you scream and rant and lose all sense of propriety and ruin a party. So angry at the violence and mutilation and shame and distress that you can’t understand why everyone isn’t so angry.

That was me last year. Angry, raging frustrated. Furious. Willing to temper my anger with humour, because that’s who I am. But angry nonetheless.

This year, I am not.  I’d like to be angry. I miss the fury. I miss my high atop the Mountain Of Righteous Anger attitude, that got me through the first SlutWalk. Not the March itself, but the comments and posts telling is why what we were doing was pointless, unnecessary, dangerous. Why we were wrong, and our shorts skirts are an invitation to rape.

This year, I am not angry. I am scared. I’ve been scared all my life. This is what I thought about when Jan Logie, playing Eve Ensler asked “How can you not be angry?”

I’m scared of the violence done to our bodies. Of all the little ways we are beaten down, diminished, destroyed. The ways we are taught out bodies are public property. Not wholly our own. That our chastity is our most important virtue.

I’m scared of the half-formed memory. The one that tells me not to think about it, because I don’t want to know, to remember. That knowing, remembering might be something I can’t bear.

What I do remember is being scared of strangers. The first time my mother taught me not to talk to strangers, and illustrated it with the story of a girl from out neighbourhood who had been brutally raped and then murdered. My mother isn’t crazy, she didn’t put it like that, but it was my first taste of that amorphous fear that all women live with. I was so scared, when my uncle tried to pick me up from school one day, I wouldn’t get in the car with him. So scared, I cried when the priest at my family’s church shook my hand.

I’m scared for the girl I was at 17, at my first taste of actual violence. For the man who broke my ribs. I didn’t tell that story for a decade, so scared I was that I’d be blamed. I provoked him, I asked for it, I deserved it. Scared to tell the story because after so long, I wouldn’t be believed. That people who knew me then wouldn’t believe me, that I’d hidden it too well. And that they’d tell other people they didn’t believe me. (They did, and I was angry. But it taught me an important lesson. Don’t tell.)

I’m scared of the street harassment and the casual violence of being yelled at from a parked car. Of being reminded that being a woman in public is dangerous. That I don’t have the right to walk down the street free from fear. Free from being accosted, from being thrown against a wall and attacked. I’m scared for the women I know for whom the statistics aren’t one in three, they’re eight in ten, because they have the misfortune to have been born brown and in another country.

I’m scared of all the times I had sex I didn’t want to have. Of being coerced into fucking someone, cajoled. Not wanting to be a prude, or having a reputation as a Good Time Girl to maintain. Of being too drunk to say no, too stoned to move, too high to know better.

I’m scared of the man who is harassing me now. Who thinks that because he was allowed to touch my body once, that’s an open invitation. That because I opened my legs for him, I’ll do it again and again. And that my desire not to makes me a whore, a worthless nonentity who he can treat how he likes. That he can hurt, scare, torment. I’m scared of his anger, and of my own. I’m scared of walking home, being in my house, sleeping. And I’m scared, again, of talking to people about it.

I’m scared for those one in three women, for those one in five men, for those one in two transgender people. I’m scared, until I remember I’m one of them. I’m scared, but I will march, again. Because it’s important. I hope you will too.

You can follow SlutWalk on the Twitters, or join the Facebook events for Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch. We’ll have more details as they’re known, and a number more posts before May 20.