Into the Lion’s Den

Clubbing used to be so fun. Dancing away in heels that blistered and mutilated my feet: then realising that anything that hindered the fun was out, so the flats were very in (they also enabled a much wider variety of dance moves). The alcohol would flow and every favourite song would come on. We got to the point where we did not care what anyone thought of us, we danced jubilantly – enthusiastically. We only went to the places that played the music we loved not the beep-beep-boop of an Apple Mac. It was great. There was a sort of impenetrable wall around us, like a hazy shield of alcohol that meant I never took any notice of what was going on outside of that candy flavoured bubble of post-teen fun. Then I would turn and suddenly it would become translucent where the pastel opaqueness had sheltered us. I could see, but I would turn again and there I would be in safety; re-enveloped in a bubble of my own denial. The bubble was flimsy, it was like candy floss, except instead of licking it, you just had to look at it too hard and it would disappear to nothing like it never existed.

The problem was, it was never impenetrable: it isn’t impenetrable. I can see through it now, out into the lion’s den where men linger salaciously. Then I realise, there was nothing around us at all. There was no safety net. We knew they were standing there all along, their eyes glistening in the dark, waiting for the moment that one of us would drop out of our circle. That was the only protection we had. Our dancing wasn’t carefree, now I remember the quick glances: was everyone there? Who was standing around us? The thoughts that swept over me every few moments as the alcohol began to wear off. The “you can never be too careful” of our mothers, our teachers and the horror stories that they told us ringing in our ears. The stories that meant that without fail we always went to the toilet as a group and our male friends would comment “Why do girls always go to the toilet together?” That was the problem, we did the token things like never going to the toilet alone, but still the maternal voices rang like stories, the unlucky girl, and the evil man who did that. What a rare occurrence we all thought. We were so wrong.

When they would pounce, it wasn’t an attack, but a sleek meandering into our circle. Sometimes drinks, sometimes help was promised.

“Do you want a hand with her?” They’d ask like butter wouldn’t fucking melt.

“Want some drinks ladies?” Eyeing up the drunkest of us.

Other times they’d just stand and stare. You can see the calculating look in their eyes, what one is the drunkest? What one is most likely to be left behind? What one is the youngest?

Some of them weren’t intelligent enough for calculation. Those were the scariest, the ones that have nothing to lose, you have no clue what they will do, and how far they will go. The ones who’s friends don’t even defend them if they’re confronted by a group of girls who have identified their pervert glazed eyes in a snippet of light.

“We’ll tell him, we’ll take him away” they say. Take him where? To another group of less suspecting girls. They look at you with apologetic eyes that say “we know, we’re sorry”. It’s not good enough.

The older ones too, perverse. Older than your dad, gammon faced and sweaty, and you know they’re only there because they’ve had success with this tactic before. This is where they go to pick up fresh meat, never mind what is at home.

As I’ve got older I’ve seen it more and more. As much as I drink I can’t shake the awareness, or the responsibility. They said that the novelty would wear off at some point, “clubbing isn’t fun forever.” I just grew fucking tired of negotiating away from salivating pricks to enjoy it anymore. Not only that, but I can step through the bubble now. I’ve broken down the fourth wall, and it isn’t pretty when I do. They never argue back. They know when they’ve been seen and have to fallback, walk away empty handed. I think they can see the truth behind my threats I KNOW WHAT YOU’RE DOING I say in more violent words. I guess I’d learnt the hard way what happens when you let the sickly bubble of denial engulf you.

We can be screaming at the top of our lungs to Come on Eileen, shoes off, make-up smeared down our faces, we can literally throw up on them (true story) and men* still wait on the edge of darkness to rape us.

*Not all men, but too many to count (there are all some men who confront other men for their perverted rapist behaviour – thank you)

Consent by Thong

consent

I literally wear this style of underwear everyday. When I’m going to work. When I’m unwell. When I’m on my period. When I’m feeling as unsexy as ever. When I’m going out. When I’m drunk. Does that mean – wherever I am – whatever the circumstance – if I’m raped, it’s my fault? Was I “asking for it” for routinely putting on a certain style of underwear? Or if I happened to pick these over another style on that day. Would it be a different story if I’d but on my Bridget Jones’s? If yes, I was feeling sexy, up for it, but not with him, not there, not right then, not when I said no, is it still my fault?

It’s terrifying that blame culture endures so far that a 17 year olds choice of underwear is deemed relevant in a rape trial, as a crucial point of ‘evidence.’ In scrutinising her underwear in this way, more agency is given to the inanimate object than to the victim herself, she is shamed for her choice, ridiculed, humiliated and ignored. In this courtroom, a slither of lace does all the talking for her, despite her protestations.

Is it surprising that sexual assault, and rape in particular, is so under reported? In Northern Ireland the conviction rate is less than 2% with any tactics being employed in the courtroom to ensure that the rapist is acquitted. In a number of cases this includes scrutiny of the victims clothing. Was her dress short? Was her top low cut? What underwear was she wearing? What is her sexual history? Has she had one-night stands before? Anything to demonstrate, that yes she was up for it, she was asking for it, she’s a slut and a liar; anything to deny that men use sex as a weapon of power against women.

The objectification of women that has prevailed previously, and the patriarchal ideology that propagated the idea that women exist for men, has been replaced with a theory which continues to reify the superiority of men. Women who have been raped are painted as promiscuous, slutty and attention-seeking. Why didn’t she shout? Why didn’t she scream? Why didn’t she resist? She must’ve liked it. She must have wanted it. Because the idea that a man is undesirable is unfathomable. The concept that she rebutted a man’s advances and told him no is impossible. Who could reject a man?

This thinly veiled consideration of ‘consent’ is nothing of the sort. In such cases, anything is employed to distract from the actual exchange of consent, you know, when she actually tells this rapist to fuck off, that no, she is not interested, she does not want to have sex with him. But no, we deliberate on her thong, her skirt, her top, her sexual history and ignore the most important facts of the case – she said no.

Jim’ll Fix It

Doesn’t this sound profusely grotesque now?

Ignorance is bliss, or so they say, but not at the sacrifice of 200 victims of Jimmy Savile and the BBC’s ‘paedophile ring’. Six decades worth of ignorance has come to the forefront of society in just over 3 weeks.  How can something so prolific, so blood-curdlingly disturbing, be kept for so long?

For those who have watched the Panorama special on Jimmy Savile, Karen Ward’s case will be familiar. Ward, interviewed by Newsnight last year, described the sexual abuse that she endured at the hands of Savile, as well as witnessing renowned paedophile, Gary Glitter, partaking in similar acts with other girls. Ward, a student at Duncroft Approved School for Girls encountered Savile at her school, whereby she states that he took girls out of the school and abused them in his car. Ward herself was abused by Savile, he offered her the opportunity to be on his TV show in return for oral sex and molested her. In the BBC itself Ward visited Savile’s dressing room, teeming with teenage girls, and witnessed Gary Glitter having sex with one of them.

Savile’s exploits however were not merely confined to young females, he also used his status to molest young boys. An interviewee described how he, at the age of 9, was included on one of Savile’s shows with his fellow boy scouts whereby Savile presented the scouts with a shared badge for their efforts. However, after the show, Savile approached the 9 year old boy and asked him if he would like a badge of his own. Savile took the young boy into a small dressing room and began touching him, with the boys own hands forced onto Savile’s groin.

As seen in the media, the BBC is not the only institution coming under fire for permitting Savile to navigate so easily around young people. The NHS is also under fire. Broadmoor Hospital, a high security psychiatric hospital, also gave Savile access to the young and vulnerable. One female patient described how Savile put his hands between her legs, without looking at her or acknowledging her, as if this was an expected and usual occurrence.

From looking at these three cases alone out of a possible 200 arising throughout six decades of abuse; it is evident that Savile was a manipulative, repugnant and malicious paedophile. The way in which he navigated the BBC studios, Duncroft school and Broadmoor Hospital exemplifies the fact that not only do he victimise the young, but also the vulnerable- being those described as ’emotionally disturbed’ and mentally unstable. What is even more copiously infuriating is the way in which Savile portrayed his own antics to his colleague’s and other celebrities including the ‘Have I Got News For You’ panellists.

In the video above Savile replies to Ian Hislop’s question “What did you do in the caravan?” with “Anyone I can lay my hands on”. In hindsight this reply is incredibly poignant, Savile’s dismissive and instinctive reply seems obvious looking back. The roars of laughter from the audience are an echoing emblem of the ignorance in which we were once bathed in regarding Savile’s paedophilic nature, which shows a striking contrast with the most recent series of ‘Have I Got News For You’ where Savile’s picture incited unease amongst the audience. This purely highlights what a revelation this has been to the public, but in some respects how ignorant people were beforehand, and how easily victims of Savile had previously been dismissed because of Saville’s ‘celebrity status’.

What we need to prevent is the glorification of celebrities, or anyone, to god-like proportions, whereby the testimony of other’s is disregarded. Although this has been revealed now, the damages to these victims lives is unrepairable, not only have they been abused and manipulated by Savile, but they have also been failed by society and made to feel that no one would believe their word against Savile’s. It is evident that many victims attempted to report Savile but no further action was taken.  Society should support and encourage victims of any form of abuse to speak out, if not for their own well-being but to prevent the further harm of others, and in Savile’s case to gain justice before it is too late. Coinciding this, authoritative institutions should also act effectively in response to any such claim in this case the BBC, the NHS and the Crown Prosecution Service.

We need to fix this.

Legitimate Rape?

How the term ‘legitimate rape’ can ever be uttered astounds me. ‘Legitimate’? How can rape be illegitimate? – Of course you get those rare scenarios where a woman claims rape where she is cheating, or for whatever reason: but really the term ‘legitimate rape’ should never be used. Rape is rape and that’s it. There’s no disputing that. What’s even more detrimental in this debate upon the term ‘legitimate rape’ is that it was coined by the Missouri appointed senate nominee and member of the House of Representatives, Todd Akin, who claims that ‘legitimate rape’ should never lead to pregnancy. Akin’s ‘theory’ is that during legitimate rape the female’s biological defences work to prevent pregnancy. Rape is sex- sex leads to pregnancy: simple. You can’t make these ridiculous excuses- I’m sorry but Mr Akin what the fuck would you know about female rape? It’s appalling that this pathetic excuse is being used to try and justify the pro-life attitude of many Republicans so that basically even if I’m beaten horrendously, raped savagely, and then fall pregnant this is not rape and therefore I cannot have an abortion. I am left with the memories and product of this savage attack: which benefits Mr Akin in no way, neither does the abortion of this foetus- so why does he, and other Republicans care so much? It’s a point of principle: controlling and restricting women is just what men love to do, this is a matter that has nothing to do with them, something that they can never understand. Us women would never prevent or make men have a vasectomy, I’m sure they’d find it pretty ludicrous if we did, so why should they try and impose on our rights? More importantly why should other women impose on our rights? This attitude is only pushing us backwards as a society rather than forwards. Equality and human rights should be cherished not opposed upon by Republicans and Conservatives and that is legitimate.