A blog looking at the prevalence of child abuse in our society and how it relates to rape culture.
TRIGGER WARNING FOR CHILD ABUSE AND SEXUAL ASSAULT.
A blog looking at the prevalence of child abuse in our society and how it relates to rape culture.
TRIGGER WARNING FOR CHILD ABUSE AND SEXUAL ASSAULT.
Recently, it has emerged that “beloved” children's entertainer Jimmy Saville was a paedophile and a rapist. This followed the revelation that the BBC had pulled a Panorama show exposing his crimes in favour of a glowing tribute following his death.
The case itself, but in particular the reactions to it, have prompted some thoughts which I will attempt to pull together here. Namely, that paedophiles are not demons waiting in the dark to snatch our children, but most often protected by the rape culture that prevails in our society. I will also discuss how the apparent universal disgust at child abuse which often manifests in media frenzy and vigilantism, feeds into this same culture rather than being a counterpoint to it.
The blogger Polite Ire succinctly defines rape culture for us here:
Rape culture is more than a society in which the physical act of rape is evident. Rape culture is a culture in which it is a societal norm for women to be objectified, for the fear of rape to be ever present, and where it is accepted that it is not possible to conceive of a society in which rape does not exist.
At the root of all this is patriarchy, wherein men are presumed simultaneously to be the only gender with sexual agency and unable to control their urges. Hence the presumption that women are “asking for it” if they dress a certain way being alongside a denial that women can choose to have sex with one person but not another, or even choose to have sex with someone at one point but not at another.
To be on the receiving end of harassment or abuse is thus a weakness of the victim rather than the fault of the attacker1 . Such a victim-blaming can, as hard as it may be to contemplate, even be seen when we talk about the sexual abuse of children. Children are warned not to talk to or accept sweets from strangers precisely out of a fear that such actions could invite abuse. And this, again, is because we live in a society where the fear of such is ever present.
Another good example of rape culture connected to paedophilia is talk of “sexualising” children. The basic argument being that children, specifically girls, are allowed to dress and act “grown up” too fast. This not only exposes them to sex and sexuality before they are ready for it, but even invites child abuse.
The idea that dressing girls in “sexy” clothes leaves them open to sexual assault is just more victim blaming – the “asking for it” argument transferred to children and adolescents. But, more than that, it is built on the perverse assumption that being “grown up” for a female means nothing more than being an object of sexual desire. A girl may be made of sugar and spice and all things nice, but a woman is apparently just something a man puts his penis in. Do we really want to turn female children into cock receptacles before their time?
I put this as bluntly as I have with the deliberate intention of shocking. We should be shocked by societal attitudes to women, especially as implied through our attitude to girls.
But, the objection will no doubt come, all of this is just born of a desire to protect children. I have no doubt that it is, just as there may be good intentions when a man tells a woman how to dress or not to walk home alone in the dark. But the intentions are framed within rape culture, where we cannot contemplate that the risk of sexual assault might ever not be present, let alone how to get to that point. Thus, the onus is on the victims not to fall prey to abusers rather than on the perpetrators not to abuse.
Here be monsters
Another parallel between adult rape culture and child abuse is the attempt to project the perpetrators as an external “other.” The stranger waiting in the alley. The stranger driving past the school gates and offering streets. The stranger, as a general figure of fear.
In reality, 85% of rapists are men known to their victims. Fewer than 10% of abused children are abused by people unknown to them. Which is the very point of a rape culture: sexual assailants have not wandered in from the mist to commit their crimes. They are friends, relatives, trusted associates. The caricature of the stranger in the dark is a collective denial of the reality of sexual abuse.
Two recent and high profile examples illustrate this perfectly, as well as offering an insight into where child abuse fits into the broader picture of rape culture.
First, the case that provoked this blog – Jimmy Saville. Since the stories of his actions came to light, it has emerged that his behaviour was “an open secret” at the BBC.
As Six Music DJ Liz Kershaw told The Independent:
"The rumours were there; the jokes were there. It was an open secret," she told Radio 4's Today programme. "Round Radio 1, everyone joked about Jimmy Savile and young girls. The main jokes were about his adventures on the Radio 1 Roadshow. It was massive then."
She added: "When I walked into Radio 1, it was a culture I have never encountered before. I have always said it was like walking into a rugby club locker room, and it was very intimidating for a young woman."
"There was one presenter who routinely groped me. I would be sitting in the studio with my headphones on, my back to the studio door, live on air, and couldn't hear a thing except what was in my headphones, and then I'd find these wandering hands up my jumper, fondling my breasts," she said.
"I couldn't say anything. I couldn't even explain because I was broadcasting to the nation. When I complained to somebody, they were incredulous and said 'Don't you like it? Are you a lesbian?' "
This illustrates that the BBC was home to a broader culture of sexual harassment. But it clearly shows that the abuse of children was part of that. Everyone knew to some degree, from those who would tell jokes with a nudge and a wink to the employee whose job was allegedly to “procure” girls for the paedophile.
The second example I would use is the recent Rochdale grooming case. This case was perhaps the most high profile case of so-called “Muslim paedophile grooming” that became a cause celebré for the far-right, with eleven men being convicted of grooming and sexually assaulting young girls. However, precisely because of the tensions it created, it offered up almost perfect examples of both sides of the coin when it comes to rape culture and paedophilia.
Within the Asian and Muslim community2 , there has been widespread denial that the cases highlighted represent a trend or a problem. Mohammed Shafiq, chief executive of The Ramadhan Foundation, argued that this was "a significant problem for the British Pakistani community" and community leaders were "burying their heads" over the issue.
That attitude will in part, of course, be down to the attention of the far-right. The trials have seen riots and vandalism as well as large demonstrations by the BNP, EDL et al. But even without this tension, the denial would always be there, as I argued above.
Shafiq tells us that the perpetrators “think that white teenage girls are worthless and can be abused without a second thought.” The use of “white” as a descriptor illustrates how this particular issue has been exacerbated by the divisions created from state policies on multiculturalism. But, in the broader sense, an attitude that girls can be abused without thought – especially if they dress provocatively – is hardly unique to this community. Misogyny and objectification, arguably more overt and ever-present in certain cultures than others, creates the rape culture within which paedophiles operate.
On the other side of this issue, fascists have argued vigorously and continually that this is an indictment of Islam and of Muslim culture. But, of course, they ignore the issue closer to home. Some groups have responded to revelations of paedophiles in the EDL and other fascist groups by continually reaffirming their opposition to all paedophiles. I have no doubt that this is true for most but it doesn't change the fact that they have raised this3 purely for political expediency.
Within their own culture, we find the far-right dominated by patriarchy and sexism. They have atrocious attitudes to rape. Women in their movement are "angels" who "stand behind their men" whilst opposition women are "dogs" and "slags." They are obsessed with masculinity and being "real men4 ." Concern over sexual abuse is also boiled down to “ethnics” going after “our girls,” in other words a question of racism and possession of females.
But this is hardly unique to the fascists, as the same angles have been taken by the mainstream media. Here, demonising Muslims as a culture of paedophiles and rapists is just an extreme form of externalising the issue so that nobody has to face up to the questions of rape culture and patriarchy.
Challenging the trend
The above is an attempt to articulate thoughts provoked by recent revelations in the media. In discussing paedophilia and attitudes to it, there are whole swathes of territory I have avoided, and deliberately so. From paedophilia as a pathology, through arguments over whether rehabilitation is possible to why rushing to gather a lynch mob is not a helpful reaction5 these issues would make articles in themselves.
Returning to the main subject, it is difficult to draw any satisfying conclusions. Particularly since there is no easy answer – rape culture cannot be abolished overnight, but equally these issues need tackling even whilst it prevails. However, one thing that should be simple enough for all of us is a refusal to bury our heads.
The Jimmy Saville case will not be the only place where abuse is an open secret. The Rochdale case will not be the only example of a community burying their heads. The EDL are not the only ones shouting about external abusers whilst perpetuating misogyny. The point is to recognise it, to challenge it, and to be willing to dig a little deeper. Otherwise, we find ourselves complicit. And when we do that, it becomes ever harder to imagine a society in which the rape of children (or anyone else) does not exist.
"Here, demonising Muslims as
"Here, demonising Muslims as a culture of paedophiles and rapists is just an extreme form of externalising the issue so that nobody has to face up to the questions of rape culture and patriarchy."
This is very true. Projection has always been a major feature of racism.
Shouldn't the NF link be
Shouldn't the NF link be broken?
Great post Phil, thanks.
Great post Phil, thanks. Eminently sensible and much appreciated by this anarcha-feminist!
Aye, good blog as ever. ~J.
Aye, good blog as ever.
Good post. I tried to break
Good post. I tried to break the link and the edited version seems to be broken but the actual link in the article isn't Someone with more tech knowledge will have to fix it.
Change it to: With apologies
Change it to:
With apologies for the link to an NF blog, the first paragraph of this post is a particularly laughable example of this: http://liverpoolnf [broken] .com/2012/05/07/they-came-they-saw-they-conquered-mayor-for-liverpool/
I'd do it myself but for some reason access is denied at the mo.
For another article dealing
For another article dealing with rape culture check out Crates and Ribbons article 'The Kissing Sailor, or the selective blindness of rape culture' It deals with the stark reality behind the iconic photo of a Sailor and a Nurse Time Sq on VJ Day. They say pictures dont lie eh? Think on...
(Tried posting a link but spam filter kicked in)
Hi, great blog, thanks! I had
Hi, great blog, thanks!
I had to change the input format to full HTML to fix the footnote bug, so Phil won't be able to edit it himself. I broke the link to the NF site as well, thanks for pointing it out. Please do not link directly to hostile websites.
Consumer capitalism IS trying
Consumer capitalism IS trying to sexualize kids. While the idea that kids can invite rape is one of the more reprehensible conclusions of our rape culture, kids ARE being turned into sexual objects in order to make parents buy more worthless shit.
Again, not trying to defend rape culture; just reminding everyone our society has no morality.
Sound like a christian rant for better family values, this argument, that capitalism objectifies those, usually the lower classes and usually working class women to dress 'provocatively' as somehow this exposes the evils of capitalism I find particularly offensive. Capitalism sells us all sorts of ways of being of ways of representing ourselves, why pick up on the way women and the way that parents, and children (choose to) dress themselves, to prove something vague about capitalism and rape says more about middle class mores and their hatred of those 'less cultured' than it does say about patriarchy and capitalism.
Overall, I think this is a
Overall, I think this is a good article. However I have an issue with this point, which I have seen in other similar articles as well:
now, the thing I have an issue with is saying that giving advice to people to avoid attack is victim blaming.
Now I know that this was a big issue with slut walk, where a cop advised women "not to dress like sluts" to avoid sexual assault. However what I believe is the problem with this is not that he was giving advice to avoid assault but that the advice was a: wrong and b: was effectively victim blaming by making a value judgement. As "dressing like sluts" is clearly a derogatory statement. And more importantly how people dress has no correlation to someone being attacked.
Now, with this children example, I think the key thing about about this advice is that it isn't wrong. Similar to advising children not to get in strangers' vans. It doesn't mean you are blaming people who are victims of crime, just acknowledging that some people are predators and that that being the case there are some things you can do to make yourself less likely to be a victim. This doesn't mean that the perpetrator is not 100% to blame for what happens.
Similarly, I know that if I get drunk I am more likely to get attacked or mugged in the street, as my judgement and reflexes will be impaired. So advising people in rough or unfamiliar areas not to wander around alone, drunk in the middle of the night is quite sensible, and doesn't imply blame on the victims.
So on the same line I don't think it is "victim blaming" to advise children not to accept sweets from strangers, or to get into strangers' cars or whatever: it's just advice which is sadly necessary with society the way it is.
Hi Phil, Long time, no talk
Long time, no talk :-)
Amazingly, i do agree with you on some points though I think you miss the bigger picture and as with all far-leftists, you twist some things to your liking.
I do agree that a culture where women are seen as objects is a ‘rape culture’ to some degree in the same way viewing beer-drinking as a good time can encourage a ‘booze culture’.
However, when you discuss young girls dressing ‘sexily’ you miss one point: what end of the political spectrum encourages this? Yours, of course. Modern liberalism: take the focus away from parents, elders or any kind of authority figure. Let kids do as they wish, it’s the individual that matters and any objection from authority or the state is oppressive. (Yes, I’m exaggerating a little to get my point home.)
Also, you respond to the ‘far-right’ objections to Islamic grooming in part with a link to a HNH article you describe as “Revelation of PaedophileS”. In fact, it was only one person, you used a plural to make it seem more common than it is.
As well as the ridiculous crap spouted in the article itself (as with any HNH article) the comparison is faulty because the EDL (whom I am not involved with in any way) protest a *culture* of grooming in Islam, supported by the Koran itself in which Muhammed marries a child, as Muhammed is the founder fo Islam and the Koran its’ rulebook’ the point should be obvious. However in the EDl or any regular group, one individual committing an act is not indicative of a culture.
You do make many good points however, and it does worry me that this kind of stuff was allowed to happen within the BBC such a relatively short time ago.
redandwhitestripes wrote: Hi
You seem to have quite the talent for that yourself.
Sorry don't see how objectifying fellow human beings is the same as knowingly drinking alcohol, seems like your comparing apples and oranges.
You equate liberalism with the "Far left" are you one of those Americans whom likes to throw political sounding words around per chance? Its funny in a way most Liberals accuse the "far leftists" as being some sort of group mind and tyranny of the masses over the individual. I can maybe see how one would be true but not both.
Actually no I don't, you've equated liberalism with the "Far left" which itself is a pretty vague term but usually means the big three Anarchism, Socialism and Communism. None of those are Liberalism and I don't see were you'd get the idea that it is. For starters Liberalism simply does not view any kind of authority or state as oppressive Liberalism is founded on the principle of property ownership and a respect for those deemed "rational" enough to guide the rest of us. Which is why the stereotype of the "Liberal Media" and "Ivory Tower Intellectual" are so common Liberalism is actually very big on authority of many kinds.
Presumably you must think Phil was talking about the Tory party here :roll:
Actually its alot more then that I've lost count of the times EDLNews have outed a paedo attached to the EDL and its fraternal groupings. In fact just a few days ago there was another such case http://www.edlnews.co.uk/index.php/latest-news/latest-news/1136-edl-member-s-attempted-rape-of-seven-year-old-girl
And here's an older one http://edlnews.co.uk/index.php/featured-stories/9-the-edl-and-paedophiles
Then how exactly do you know the allegations by groups like HNH are "ridiculous crap" did you speak to the EDL about it?
You know in the bible Lot the nephew of Abraham (the most important person in orthodox Christianity, Judaism and Islam) and the last righteous man in Sodom offered up his virgin daughters to a lynch mob and God's angels only acted when the crowd turned them down to "do worse" to Lot and his guests. That seems like a pretty heavy endorsement for child grooming to me, and a strange warning to difficult johns.
But wait there's more
And Moses said unto them, Have ye saved all the women alive? ... Now therefore kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman that hath known man by lying with him. But all the women children, that have not known a man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves. Numbers 31:1-18
When thou comest nigh unto a city to fight against it ... And when the LORD thy God hath delivered it into thine hands, thou shalt smite every male thereof with the edge of the sword: But the women, and the little ones, and the cattle, and all that is in the city, even all the spoil thereof, shalt thou take unto thyself. Deuteronomy 20:10-14
if a man sell his daughter to be a maidservant ... If she please not her master, who hath betrothed her to himself, then shall he let her be redeemed ... If he take him another wife; her food, her raiment, and her duty of marriage, shall he not diminish. Exodus 21:7-10
So when's the EDL's marches against the Jewish and Christian culture of grooming I wonder?
Unless that group in question is Muslim, oh wait I'm sorry I forgot about the "rule book" I'm sure glad this Christian nations rule book had no such commandments otherwise we'd be the worlds hotspot for sex tourism. Good thing we dodged that bullet hey?
The clue of the intent of my
The clue of the intent of my message was the name I put at the top. I'm not in the least bit interested in spending time debating with someone who just wants to argue and clearly didn't properly read what I said. Go back and look at the adjective I put before the word "Liberalism", but don't bother replying unless you want to waste your time.
redandwhitestripes wrote: The
Tough shit, don't want public debate? Then don't post your comment in a public fashion, its not rocket science.
And I'm not interested in what you're interested in, you don't get to call the shots here.
Again tough, you shouldn't be posting in a public comment section then if your that thin skinned.
Your lying here (or delusional) I read every word you said and understood it. I'm sure you find it comforting to pretend those that disagree with you simply can't grasp your intellect. But it certainly isn't the case.
I did, it changed nothing what you said was still stupid.
Well if you want to hide away that's fine you were low hanging fruit at best.