Educating our politiciansPosted: May 18, 2011
Lets start here – Rape is rape. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but we need to remind our politicians of this very simple fact.
Firstly, to Nadine Dorries: A victim of sexual abuse is a victim. Not someone who should try saying “no”.
And secondly, to Kenneth Clarke; whatever else you meant or didn’t mean, please NEVER again use the phrase “forcible rape”.
So, to the Dorries’ comment. She is trying to justify her comments by saying that her abstinence for girls campaign will help prevent the sexualisation of children. I really couldn’t disagree more. There are many studies which prove that abstinence-only policies increase levels of teen STIs and pregnancies. But even if you really believe in abstinence, why is it that only girls should say no? I hardly think her intention is to get the boys being sexual only with each other. Couples don’t have sex because dirty girls finally “give in”. This idea that girls are less sexual than boys is wrong. It’s teaching girls that women shouldn’t enjoy sex, it’s something they just have to do to keep boys happy. Which is unhealthy, and hardly going to discourage sex – if you want a boyfriend, he’ll want sex and you’ll have to give it to him. And then there’s the deeply offensive idea that all men want sex – even children. When Dorries is teaching female child-abuse victims to say no, what happens to the male victims of abuse? Do male victims not exist in Dorries world, or are they just not important?
Abstinence is a damaging policy. Female-only abstinence is ridiculously flawed and very offensive. Positive sex education doesn’t sexualise children, it helps young people prepare for adult relationships together. It helps young women and young men realise when they are ready for sexual relationships, and when they are not. It doesn’t encourage sexual behaviours, it helps young people recognise sexuality and negotiate sexual behaviours. A lot of the time, this will involve deciding no – and both parties realising that no means no.
And on to Ken Clarke. I’m pleased he clarified his comments and stated clearly that “rape is rape”. Rape happens when a man has sex with a woman against her will. Creating a special “forcible rape” suggests that some rapes aren’t forced. If you knew your attacker – still rape. If you were unable to say no because you were drugged or unconscious – still rape. If an adult has sex with someone under the age of 13 (and not 15 as he said in his interview) – still rape. If you froze with fear and didn’t fight back – still rape. Whichever way you start categorising rapes it doesn’t work. Rape is rape. STOP THERE.
And the thing that links these two comments? These are two members of our parliament. Supposedly representing us, and making our laws. These comments are not only stupid and offensive, they are also really very frightening. Especially as the government haven’t distanced themselves from these comments. Just as the education minister was kept on after blaming feminism for preventing men attending university, we have a Justice Minister keeping his job who doesn’t know or understand rape. We have a government happy to turn a blind eye to any misogynistic clap-trap that comes it’s way. Each week we get another of these insane comments, and we’re accused of “over-reacting” or “selectively editing”. Which might ring true the first time (or not). But this consistent pattern is wrong.