Violence against women, domestic violence and the problem of gender identity

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Photograph: Tristan Fewings/Getty Images

Sisters Uncut are a great example of grassroots feminist activism. Their protest at the premier of the film Suffrage helped raise awareness of the consequences of the decimation of specialist support services for women. However, their campaign is specifically about the importance of specialist domestic violence services, which is why I was disappointed to read a piece in the Independent by a member which uses the term domestic violence and violence against women interchangeably.

* See Michael P Johnson’s Typology of Domestic Violence

** The report into this was recently released and I have not yet had a chance to read it.

Jennifer Lawrence is a victim of sexual violence.

Jennifer Lawrence is a victim of sexual violence – so is every single person who has had a photograph or video of them naked or engaged in sex. This runs the gamut from Vanessa Hudgens, Prince Harry, and every single teenage girl who has had images of them passed about the internet.

This isn’t a subject open to debate or which has ‘nuances’: sharing these images is sexual assault. Viewing these images is sexual assault. As I’ve said many times before, publishing these types of images is sexual assault.

There have been some incredibly important blogs written on this “leak of images” today, all of which make it very clear that accessing images you are not given permission to see is, at the very least, immoral – and a crime if the images are used to humiliate, denigrate or abuse. Sharing, distributing or viewing images involving nudity or sex are a crime of sexual violence.

If you are looking at these images or sharing them, you are committing sexual assault. You are perpetrating rape culture. YOU are the problem – not the women in the photos.

Some reading:

Jennifer Lawrence Doesn’t Need to Laugh This One Off at The Daily Beast

Stealing Intimate Photos is a Sex Crime, and Should Be Treated As Such. at Belle Jar

Reports on ‘Leaked Nude Photos‘ — Just Another Form of Victim-Blaming at Crates & Ribbons

12-Year-Old Boy Facing Multiple Charges of Sexual Assault

According to an article in the Huffington Post, a 12 year old boy in the Alberta town of Lethbridge is facing multiple charges in the sexual assault of his two younger sisters. The charges include incest, sexual assault, sexual interference and invitation to sexual touching. The article in the Huffington Post gives the ages of the three children which I find troubling since that level of information given in a case in a small town does identify the victims.

But, more worryingly, the article suggests the boy has been released from custody with the stipulation that he not be left alone with any child under the age of 12 without the supervision of an adult. It is absolutely inappropriate and  unethical for any information to be released about this case as it will identify the victims, yet, I have to ask whose custody has the boy been released into: his parents? foster care? If he has been released into foster care, is the carer trained to deal with a juvenile sexual predator? If he has been released into his parents care, where are his sisters? How, exactly, will the courts ensure the child is never left alone with other children? Will he be allowed to return to school? And, if so, what safety procedures has the school put in place for recess and bathroom breaks? Are the police investigating the potential sexual abuse of the young boy since it is possible that he was acting out abuse perpetrated on him? Are the whole family being given appropriate support and mandatory counselling?

We can’t ever know the answers to these questions because the two young girls in this case deserve anonymity. But, I do worry that, as ever, the criminal justice system – even the juvenile one – does not deal appropriately with children who commit sexual violence and that social services do not have the resources or training to support the two young girls.

 

The “Magaluf Girl”: Consent, Alcohol and Coercion

I have been with my children all day. I’ve seen bits and pieces about the “Magaluf girl” giving blow jobs for a holiday but I didn’t want to look too closely because I could already guess how the media would report the story. A young woman who “gave” 24 men blow jobs whilst drunk in a club in Spain would only be reported one way: she was a slag, a slut and a whore.

I didn’t want to read because I remember the coverage of the sexual assault of a young girl at a concert at Slane Castle in Ireland last year: a 17 year old girl who was exploited, assaulted and then had to deal with the images being shared through social media. I thoroughly dislike the term “revenge porn” because it minimises sexual assault and rape with the suggesting of “consent”. Every single person who shared the images and video of the incident at Slane Castle was perpetrating sexual assault – particularly those who shared identifying details of the young woman.

The young woman, who will now be known as the demeaning term “Magaluf girl”, which may or may not be better than her real name being shared, is now experiencing a similar level of blame, harassment, and shaming as the young girl assaulted at Slane Castle. Yet, we still aren’t discussing the issue of sexual exploitation, consent to commit the acts, coercion, consent to share the images in the mass media and the role of men in the club, the audience, and the club owners  and managers who planned a game to have a young woman perform sex acts on multiple men.

@Seja75 has written an important critique of media coverage for Ending Victimisation and Blame but I disagree with part of her analysis. I don’t think it’s possible for a young woman who has been drinking in a club surrounded by large numbers of men cheering her on to have informed consent. Even if a woman has sexual fantasies involving exhibitionism, in a situation in a club with an audience, it is very difficult to feel safe enough to say no – to believe you have a choice to say no. Being surrounded by a large number of men is coercion.

This is without getting into the issue of sharing the video and images across the web. Here, I agree with Seja entirely: anyone who was actually concerned about issues of sexual exploitation and assault will have asked several questions including: has the young woman involved given consent to the the sex act? has the young woman consented to filming? Have the men involved consented to filming? Have the men consented to participating (and Seja raises some interesting questions about one of the men involved)? What was the role of the club in this event? Do they have informed consent? Do they even know what informed consent is?

Unlike Seja, I don’t think there is a best case scenario here. Young women are groomed into sexual exploitation from childhood. We are taught not to say no and we all learn very early what the consequences of saying no are. This is a clear case of sexual exploitation – by a club, by people at the club and by the media.

We need to start asking why men would line up to in a club surrounded by an audience to have a woman orally masturbate them. What is going through their heads at that moment?  Were they drunk and incapable of informed consent? Or, did they enter the club knowing that this was part of the evening?

We need to challenge the shaming of this young women but we also need to challenge a culture where a young woman could be put in a position like this. We need to start talking honestly about what informed consent actually means and we need to start looking at holding businesses accountable for sexual violence perpetrated on their premises but also created by their employees and managers. The staff who created this “blow job for a holiday” are guilty of coercion.

Sharing the images of this event is unethical and immoral. It isn’t required to discuss this case in the media. The media holds responsibility for further sexually assaulting this young woman, just as they did with the young woman at Slane Castle.

Whatever the answers to the questions raised, one point will remain: the media should be prohibited from sharing these images. And, any media outlet, blogger, tweeter or Reddit commentator who share these types of videos and images without consent should be legally prosecuted for sexual assault.

27 “Annoying” Things Men do in Bed: AKA Sexual Assault

I’m not sure there is much more to say about this piece of rape apologism in the Metro which isn’t covered by the following tweet:

Metro’s “27 annoying things men do in bed” has mistaken “annoying” for “sex assault”

It is worth looking specifically at a couple of the “points” because the implication of this list is actually quite frightening:

4. ‘When they think it’s sexy to spank you so hard that you just want to turn around and punch them in the face.’

7. ‘When you give them a blow job and they start f*****g your face as if you don’t have a gag reflex. How about I’m sick all over your penis?’

8. ‘When they ask you to strip (which is always awkward – what music do you put on?) and then your skinny jeans get stuck round your ankles.’

10. ‘When you’re in the middle of foreplay and they thrust a finger up your bum with NO warning.’

13. ‘Putting their fingers in all your holes at once like they’re playing some sort of instrument. Far too confusing, you just don’t know what’s going on down there.’

14. ‘When they think it’s a good idea to stick objects in you. Just no.’

15. ‘Casually trying to have anal sex without asking and without lube. It does not just slip in there.’

16. ‘Being so aggressive with their hands during foreplay that they pretty much give you internal bleeding and bruising.’

17. ‘Nipple biting. It just f*****g hurts.’

18. ‘Pulling your hair so hard you scream and your eyes water.’

Inserting an object without consent is rape. It really is that simple. If your partner has done any of the above without your express consent, then they have committed a crime.  The fact that the Metro has published this piece without recognising the difference between poor hygiene being a turn-off during oral sex and rape is frightening.

This is rape culture in action. This article is teaching our girls that a man inserting a penis in their anus without consent is “poor etiquette”, not rape. That “rough sex” should be tolerated if that’s what your male partner enjoys.

This isn’t a list about women’s sexuality and looking at ways in which men’s behaviour decreases women’s interest in having sex. It’s basically telling women to put up and shut up because men aren’t capable of understanding the difference between poor etiquette and rape.

Frankly, every single man should be angry at this and writing letters of complaint to the Metro for insulting them. And, the entire staff of the Metro need to undergo some training from Rape Crisis.