Archive for December, 2010

  • Please stop trivialising rape!

    Wikileaks founder Julian Assange was refused bail today.

    The amount of people who are willing to jump to Assange’s defence and dismiss the rape allegations as ‘smears’ is worrying. What’s even more worrying is the amount of people who are eagerly willing to redefine what actually constitutes as rape. Suddenly, everyone’s an expert. Forget intent or context, apparently it’s only REAL rape if a stranger ambushes a woman with a knife and pins her down to the ground.  Some have even said the women who have accused Assange of rape are just making a big deal about nothing, that what happened to his accusers was just ‘surprise sex’.

    The fact the Assange plays a crucial part in ‘opening governments’ really shouldn’t have any effect on the fact that he has been accused of rape. Those who dismiss the claims as smears effectively paint Assange’s accusers as liars before the court case has even begun.

    There’s nothing strange about non consensual sex being regarded as rape, no matter how much the nay-sayers attempt to disregard Swedish law as incomprehensible.

    Whilst I agree with many Assange defenders that it’s suspicious that the case was dropped in August, and then picked up again around the time that the famous cables were released, the same defenders seem too quick to jump to the conclusion that Assange created Wikileaks, therefore is a good man, therefore he has never done anything wrong in his life. I also agree with the sentiment that the Swedish authorities are using these rape allegations to imprison a man that governments across the world really want imprisoned for what they consider terrorist-like acts.  But, if anything this just proves that not many people are prepared to make a fuss about rape as a crime until someone famous is involved.

    The Daily Mail has attempted to tackle the subject. Torn between vilifying liberals or feminists, The Mail opted for the feminist route. Here’s a brief dissection of a couple of stand-out points from Richard Pendlebury’s extensive, misogynistic article.

    ‘[Assange] is certainly a man of strong sexual appetites who is not averse to exploiting his fame.’

    Translation:

    ‘Assange needs sex like oxygen. He can have any woman he wants. These women fell for his charms.’

    And the next, discussing one of the women who has accused Assange:

    An attractive blonde, Sarah was already a well-known ‘radical feminist’. In her 30s, she had travelled the world following various fashionable causes. While a research assistant at a local university she had not only been the protegé of a militant feminist ­academic, but held the post of ‘campus sexual equity officer’. Fighting male discrimination in all forms, including sexual harassment, was her forte.’

    Loosely translated into language not dripping with sexism, this reads:

    ‘Sarah was a radical feminist who obviously hated men because she campaigned for equality. These facts alone suggest she’s more likely to lie about being raped. She’s attractive , which means that she probably lured him to bed- women only make themselves look sexy to flaunt their wares to men.’

    I’ve come to expect this sort of attitude from the Mail, but its this same attitude from men who consider themselves ‘left’ or feminist that really upsets me.

    An article published on lefty website Liberal Conspiracy defined Sarah’s reaction as ‘cross’ when she allegedly discovered Assange wasn’t wearing a condom. The Daily Mail described Sarah’s reaction as ‘upset’. Both authors – who by some predictable coincidence are male- use words that trivialise the rape allegations currently being held against Assange. Both authors seemingly deliberately choose words that do not even begin to cover the sense of violation, hurt, and confusion that rape victims are likely to feel. Dismiss this argument as semantics if you will- but the choice of these words matter.

    I am ‘cross’ when my day doesn’t go to plan. I am ‘upset’ when my laptop breaks down. If I gave a potential lover permission to have sex with me on the basis that he wore a condom, only for him to defy my wishes, I would be a lot more than ‘cross’ or ‘upset’.

    Assange’s rape trial hasn’t even begun. We do not know if he did it or not. Just as it would be wrong to brand Assange a rapist, it’s equally as wrong to paint his accusers as liars.