Real Rape For Real Feminists – Guest Post By Henry @henrymcg
August 23, 2012
Julie Bindel has treated us to an article about men of the liberal left commenting on the Assange rape case. I have some issues with her piece, which some commenters seem to think is devastating logic, but which in fact barely makes sense or holds together as an argument.
Galloway is – I take it – of the opinion that, as Assange and the woman in question had already had sex earlier that night, we can’t sensibly use the terms ‘rape’ or ‘sexual assault’ to describe what happened there. It’s a point of view – not necessarily mine – but he is quite right to point out that not all situations are morally equivalent, and that we should be uneasy about the law treating them as such. He also speaks of “a reign of intellectual terror” on these issues, and this is surely accurate. I certainly hesitated to submit this piece of writing for Graunwatch.
When Galloway disagrees with Bindel’s definition of how ‘rape’ should be interpreted – he’s perhaps not arguing about the letter of the law, but how he thinks it should ideally work – Bindel dismisses his arguments, saying that he is ‘spout[ing] rubbish about what “real rape” really is’, and brands him a “rape-denier”.
Part of Galloway’s controversial statement was the following:
‘It might be really bad manners not to have tapped her on the shoulder and said, “do you mind if I do it again?”. It might be really sordid and bad sexual etiquette, but whatever else it is, it is not rape or you bankrupt the term rape of all meaning’
To which Bindel responds:
‘Most rape falls into the category that Galloway has decided is simply “bad sexual etiquette”, ergo most women are lying, and most men are the victims of spurious accusations from women who should read up on rape legislation’
It’s not clear if she believes that most rape falls into that category or whether she is parodying a point of view which I have not seen expressed by Galloway or anyone else. I do not know where the idea that he or anyone else thinks that “most women are lying” comes from. Are most rapes second sex acts in the same night? I think we’d all say that in fact most rape DOES NOT fall into that category. If Bindel put 2 and 2 together, in the proverbial sense, one wonders if she might arrive at the answer 5.
She then seems to infer that he or others (it’s not clear who – no example quotes are given) are defending Assange only because he is the founder of Wikileaks – a website of which some of the liberal left approve. No quotes or examples are given in support of this, but it’s nothing to do with what Galloway’s statements – as far as I can tell.
Let’s be clear – Bindel’s piece contains an appallingly constructed argument, but feminist commenters lapped up the idea that some men were claiming that Assange’s wikileaks links meant he shouldn’t face justice – despite no evidence that anyone ever said it or thought it. Maybe this is good politics, but as journalism…
Similar arguments, however, appear in the Guardian’s editorial (http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/aug/21/politicians-rape-case-of-denial-editorial) and in a piece by Hadley Freeman (http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/aug/21/everyones-talking-about-rape).
In my view there is an important debate to be had about what should constitute rape, but Bindel sidetracks it by a lot of talk about legal specifics and ‘rape denial’. Similarly the editorial helpfully informs us that “all rape is serious”. It talks of Galloway’s “pig-headed ideological preconceptions” but does not explain why they are so or engage in debate. These pieces have added very little to any discussion of rape – I wonder if those working at the Guardian even realise this.