Blaming Women For Rape

The skirt is no excuse to rape - neither is porn
The skirt is no excuse for rape – neither is porn

This blog recently carried an article by Edie Lamort on the current moral panic about pornography; here’s another article on the subject. This is no accident – most people will have noticed a sharp rise in scare stories recently about porn, nude imagery, strip clubs and “sexualised” imagery in the media. The stories are the result, not of actual problems or any evidence of harm, but of widespread, well-organised campaigns by authoritarians to increase censorship of the media, and in particular of the Internet.

I won’t revisit the evidence here – but in summary, there is no solid evidence that erotic imagery leads to harm against women or children: in fact, the reverse is true. This, of course, doesn’t deter the anti-sex, pro-censorship campaigners in the slightest. They have no interest in whether porn is in fact harmful to women – their end goal is for censorship and control of sexuality, and in particular, female sexuality.

You may remember the birth of the Slutwalk movement about two years ago. This was triggered by a Toronto police officer who suggested that, in order to avoid rape, women should avoid dressing like “sluts”. The outrage that this victim-blaming caused led to the birth of Slutwalk in Toronto and then globally. A huge, young feminist movement took to the streets proclaiming the right of women to be sluts, without either being judged or raped.

I was a great supporter of Slutwalk; not everyone was though. The anti-sex feminist campaigner Gail Dines, for example, thought that women were misguided in trying to reclaim the word slut, and said this would “make life harder” for adolescent girls. This was typical of the clashes between the anti-sex and the sex-positive wings of feminism.

Today, another policeman tried to avert the blame for rape away from the rapist and onto women. This time though, unlike in the Toronto case, he was strangely applauded by some women. In a Daily Record article entitled More women will be raped if online porn isn’t tackled, Assistant Chief Constable Malcolm Graham made an explicit link between porn-viewing and rape.

This, of course, is victim-blaming; but it’s a little more subtle than the Toronto variety that launched Slutwalk. Instead of saying that a rape is the fault of the woman who is raped, it claims that a rape is the fault of women who appear in porn, and thus incite men to rape. In both cases, women who dare to bare flesh in public are being blamed for the act of a rapist.

This logic is the same as that used by orthodox Jewish, Christian and Muslim sects, especially the Wahhabi Muslims, who cover women’s faces with niqabs “for their own protection”. The logic, whether blaming a woman for her own rape or blaming porn stars, Page 3 girls and strippers for another woman’s rape, is identical. The very sight of female flesh, we are told by the policemen, conservative feminists and religious fundamentalists, incites men to be rapists.

I’ll repeat: there is no evidence that this is true; indeed, evidence from studying rapists shows the opposite: that rapists tend to have repressed sexualities. Rather than enjoying porn, they are likely to find it disturbing. An article in Psychology Today entitled Sexual Repression: The Malady That Considers Itself The Remedy makes this point well: sexual repression, far from being blamed for sexual problems, is touted as the solution: Lengthen that skirt! Ban Page 3! Porn leads to abuse! Strips clubs lead to rapes! In every case, women are blamed for rape, and men are considered stupid creatures who, having seen a nipple or a vagina, cannot stop themselves from attacking someone.

So let’s remind ourselves: when a woman is raped, it is not her fault. Nor is the fault of the girl who appeared on Page 3 that morning. Nor is it the fault of the woman who chose to make a living by having sex on camera. It’s the fault of the rapist. The fact that a police chief has chosen to lead a morality campaign against porn is very disturbing. Police in free societies should have nothing to do with the consenting sex lives of adults. Stalin, Hitler and other dictators carried out conservative morality campaigns against their populations. Women did not benefit from these.

If we want to remember what pre-porn Britain was like, just look at the emerging facts from the Jimmy Savile case. Is that an innocent, “unsexualised” world that we should return to?

17 thoughts on “Blaming Women For Rape”

  1. Well written.. For right-wingers rapist is the only person who is innocent in any rape. In fact, according to them, poor rapists are not only not guilty, but are seduced by the women.
    People, having such misogynistic views, put girls of their family in great danger, as these girls avoid telling them about their sexual harassment.

    1. Some married women will also keep a rape secret, as their husband is likely to blame her rather than the rapist.

    2. And for left-authoritarians, the whole of society is to blame, and measures which will oppress EVERYONE are proposed in order to deal with the small minority of men who rape; what’s more, the onus is placed on opponents of such measures to prove that they DON’T work, rather than the other way ’round. The general misanthropy and personal ineptitude of authoritarian politicians and activists, whether they come from the left or the right, should never be underestimated.

  2. This article raises an interesting perspective, but fails to address the core issues why porn is seen as linked to rape. Namely, that it normalizes men’s perceptions of sex as violent and not requiring a woman’s consent. That doesn’t mean the women who appear in porn “make” men rape at the sight of flesh. But it does mean that the men and women who appear in porn assist in normalizing violent, non-consensual sex.

    1. Oh, I’ve heard all of that a thousandfold. What I haven’t heard – and you haven’t provided – is any evidence.

    2. And BTW – I’ve never defended anything non-consensual. Nor is it legal anyway. Legal porn is consensual by definition. Rape is illegal, whether on film or not.

      1. I disagree that rape is consensual. It commonly portrays non-consensual sex as normal. That’s not consensual.

        Evidence of “normalizing” effect of porn is summarised in this website from Brown University. It also discussed the consensual use of porn, eg by a consenting couple to complement their sex life.

        The fact is that porn, like much of life, can have positive and negative uses. The concern is that, for certain groups (eg young, single men), the negative effects are far outweighing the positive.

        1. Porn “normalises” sex, not rape. I think normalising sex is a very good thing – as a society we have tried to push sex out of sight, and in the process we’ve caused untold harm. Do you think the Catholic abuse scandals were caused by too much sexual openness?

          As a society we are far more sensible about sex today than we were when I grew up in the 70s/80s. I’d hate to go back to those repressive, abusive times.

        2. Rape is by definition non-consensual.
          The point here is whether porn movies involve non-consensual sex, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a movie. Indeed, the women often make the first move. While porn involves sex purely for pleasure, I suggest it rarely, if ever, involves non-consensual sex.

          1. A film of a rape isn’t porn. It’s a rape that’s been filmed. Anyone who rapes someone on camera is providing evidence for their own trial – that’s why, in reality, you are very unlikely find such things online (though no doubt, such things do exist).

            Reminds me of the “snuff films” myth. They never existed, but it gave the media no end of pleasure to scare people about them.

  3. “I disagree that rape is consensual.”

    Well, duh!!! I think we can all agree on THAT point!

    “Evidence of ‘normalizing’ effect of porn is summarised in this website from Brown University.”

    …For which you haven’t provided a link.

    “The concern is that, for certain groups (eg young, single men), the negative effects are far outweighing the positive.”

    Your evidence for this would be…? And your proposed solution…?

  4. This whole hysteria-without-evidence thing is what’s made me become despondent about many of those who think they’re on the left. It’s effectively religious thinking.

    “There is a God” – “Evidence?” – “How could there not be?”

    I have similar discussions on Twitter.

    “Women are exploited in porn” – “Evidence?” – “… you are niaive if you think there’s no exploitation…” (actual tweet received recently – hysteria used to fill evidential void).

    1. The comments in the Guardian are often classics in this microgenre: radfems and ageing second-wavers employing a, “Prove that God DOESN’T exist!” style of false reasoning when challenged to produce some hard facts to support their claims, along with school playground attempts at ridicule as a distraction tactic.

  5. Ah the lovely double standards and hypocrisy of middle class Rad Fems…

    .Nobody has right to tell a woman what she can and cannot do with her body…except when they are telling her to stop stripping off for a living then they have every right to tell her what she can and cannot do with her body.

    .Women must be free to do whatever they please with their bodies…except to do things which I disapprove of, find offensive and think should be banned.

    .Blaming women for the way they dress for rape is misogynist… except when blaming strippers and glamour models for rape!

    .The patriarchal society which controls women must be abolished…except it’s fine when it’s controlling poor helpless women who don’t know they need to be saved!

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