Tag Archives: sexual assault

Hey, Matt Damon: Shut up and listen.

If there’s one thing that #metoo has taught us, it’s that listening to women is important. Essential, even. Like any problem, we need to understand the scope and scale of sexual assault/harassment before we work out how to fix it. But Matt Damon, it seems, is done listening. He’s using his platform and celebrity to tell us that:

 “There’s a difference between, you know, patting someone on the butt and rape or child molestation, right?” Damon said. “Both of those behaviors need to be confronted and eradicated, without question, but they shouldn’t be conflated, right?”

Wrong, Matt. Firstly, let’s look at the perpetrators of all of the above acts: they’re overwhelmingly male. That doesn’t mean, obviously, that all men are sexual harassers and rapists, but it does mean that the vast majority of people doing the sexual assaulting and raping are male. Surely that warrants a discussion in itself – why do men do this? Shouldn’t we try to find out? It infuriates me that this line of questioning, however tentatively and reasonably you frame it, always falls flat on its face – because of men being defensive. ‘Nice’ guys, like Matt, don’t want  lumped in with the abusers out there. Earlier in the same interview, Matt says that:

  “there are a whole s—load of guys — the preponderance of men I’ve worked with — who don’t do this kind of thing”.

Not all men, in other words. The problem with this kind of response is the iron door it slams in the face of any discussion into the ‘why’ of sexual assault and rape. Why do men behave like this? There are two possibilities – either hurting women is hardwired into the male psyche, or society is conditioning men to treat women like shit. Can’t we have a frank discussion about which it is? And if it’s the latter, maybe think about how we change society for the better? No?

The rapey common denominator

 The other thing Matt is wrong about, is his view that sexual assault/rape/”patting someone on the butt” shouldn’t be conflated. They absolutely should be conflated, because they spring from the same source. Can you guess what it is? I’ll give you a clue  – what do the following three guys have in common?

The random who touches you on a night out

Two weeks ago, I spent Saturday night in a bar in Glasgow city centre. I was standing with friends by a pillar near the bar, and I lost count of the times I had to prize men’s hands off my waist – men who felt entitled to put their hands on me, on their way past. Would they have touched a man in this way? No, they touched me because I was a woman in a public place, there for the touching. They felt entitled to touch me.

The rapist

Tom Stranger is a self-confessed rapist. He raped his 16-year-old girlfriend when she was drunk, on their second date. Asked why he committed rape, he said “ The notion that you’re in a relationship, you go out, there’s drinking involved, you go home, you’re entitled to sex – I took that to a horrible place. The ‘why’ is that I took what I wanted without any regard for her and I thought I was entitled to it”.

Harvey Weinstein

At least 50 women have accused Harvey Weinstein of varying kinds of sexual assault. Matt Damon would hate for me to conflate these acts, but I kind of have to, because they come from the same place: one man’s bulletproof sense of entitlement to women’s bodies. Or, as the writer Margaret Gardiner put it, “Harvey Weinstein is a symptom. The issue is entitlement and power. It’s the branding of women and minorities as ‘less’ that makes it safe for predatory behaviour without consequences.”

Male entitlement is at the root of all of this. Instead of trying to put different kinds of sexual abuse on a spectrum, Matt would do better to think about what the perpetrators – whatever line of work they’re in – have in common.

 

And while he’s at it, he could maybe have a word with his buddy Ben Affleck, whose sense of entitlement was such that he grabbed a woman’s breasts. On fucking camera.

 

 

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Why clothes don’t equal rape: a reply to Maureen Messent

Someone was kind enough to comment on a previous post saying that I write in a calm and coherent way about feminism, “a topic that gets people a bit defensive”. I do try to avoid angry writing, because I’m keen to banish the stereotype that feminists are a bunch of ranting, frothing-at-the mouth manhaters.

However. As a feminist (never mind that, as a human), I sometimes encounter viewpoints so jaw-droppingly awful they provoke a visceral response in me. My two sure-fire routes to rage are 1) when people blame victims of sexual assault for their clothes/drinking alcohol and 2) when women bare their snarky claws and undermine other women. As I checked the news on my phone this morning, I had a delightful taste of both: a steaming pile of victim blaming, served up a deluded female journalist, Maureen Messent.

This article is truly the most hateful pile of crap I’ve seen this week, and that includes Nick Griffin’s Twitter feed. The contemptible human who wrote it manages, in only about 300 words, to undermine both men and women – all of humanity, in fact. In her twisted view of the world, women need to dress conservatively and not drink – otherwise, men (i.e. half of humanity) will predatorily pursue and sexually assault them.

I apparently have a much higher opinion of men in general than this woman, since I believe the vast majority of men out there are civilised human beings, capable of speaking to a woman in a tight dress without raping and pillaging her. The idea that women have to dress defensively, sartorially fending off an attack, is so breathtakingly insulting to men. It implies that instead of being rational people with their own thoughts and opinions, they are drooling gorillas, panting after then physically attacking the first woman who walks past in a short skirt.

A male student friend of mine was robbed of his phone walking back from the student union recently. He was alone, late at night, had a few drinks. Oddly enough, when he reported this crime no-one said to him “alone late at night, were you? Bit drunk? Well if you were drinking, that diminishes the responsibility of the man who robbed you. You should have taken better care of yourself”. The same logic applies to all victims of crime. Robbers, rapists, criminals of all kinds are on the look-out for an opportunity. So if a rapist is combing a bar looking for someone vulnerable, that means he’s a predator. It does not mean the victim (or intended victim) deserves to be raped.

Last summer, I was out for dinner and drinks with a friend when a man came up behind me in a bar and grabbed me by the vagina. I was wearing black jeans and a blouse, a bit see-through. I bought this blouse because it was similar to the one Lana del Rey wears on the front cover of her album Born to Die, and I thought it looked nice. My buying and wearing this blouse does not diminish the crime of the man who grabbed me. Maureen Messent would like to suggest, to me and other victims of more serious sexual assault, that this is my fault. Sorry Maureen, but I have this radical view whereby I think people who commit rapes are rapists, and the people who are raped are victims. Also, way to go, Maureen, for validating the small amount of men who commit these crimes. Because as long as idiots like you continue to publically blame victims of sexual assault, these predators are self-justified in their attacks.

“Of course there are sadistic men who leap from nowhere on sober and soberly-dressed virgins returning from evensong, but the majority – the vast majority – of women know their assailants.” – Maureen Messent