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After Galloway and Akin, Why Can’t Male Politicians Get It Right About Rape?

Posted on the 22 August 2012 by Periscope @periscopepost
George Galloway George Galloway: Can’t get it right about rape. Photocredit: DavidMartynHunt

The background

This week, US congressman Todd Akin and British MP George Galloway have come under fire for comments they made about rape. Akin claimed that victims of rape don’t get pregnant since “the female body has ways to shut that whole thing down.” Galloway said that the allegations made by two Swedish women against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange were not rape, “at least not rape as anyone with any sense can possibly recognize it.” He claimed that if you have sex with someon, then fall asleep, you’re “already in the sex game with them.” The leader of Galloway’s own party, Respect, has condemned his remarks. Ex British Ambassador Craig Murray also stepped into the fray to defend Assange, and named one of the women who’s accusing him live on television. Assange fears that if he goes to Sweden to answer allegations about rape – charges made against him by two women, which have also been ruled sexual assault and rape in a British court – then he will be extradited to the US on charges to do with his release of confidential US documents on WikiLeaks. Such charges, however, have not actually been made.

Both remarks recall those given by justice secretary Kenneth Clarke, who last year said that some rapes were “serious”; Clarke later apologised. Akin has done too, and Galloway has clarified his remarks by insisting that Assange is the target of a set up by the US, British and Swedish governments. Commentators are outraged, suggesting that none of these politicians has remembered that non-consensual sex – whether or not someone has previously consented – amounts to rape, and that attempts to dismiss and belittle the charges against Assange hark back to a pre-feminist era.

“It might be really bad manners not to have tapped her on the shoulder and said, ‘Do you mind if I do it again?’ It might be really sordid and bad sexual etiquette, but whatever else it is, it is not rape or you bankrupt the term rape of all meaning,” said George Galloway, quoted in The Telegraph.

Galloway and Akin are similar

The men, said a Guardian editorial, whilst occupying both ends of the political spectrum, share “a set of pig-headed ideological preconceptions.” Akin is hostile to abortion; Galloway thinks that Assange is the victim of an American conspiracy. The fact is, there’s “no such thing as trivial rape, and no such thing as consensual rape.” There is one difference between Galloway and Akin, though: Galloway “speaks for a tiny minority,” whilst Akin “remains the endorsed candidate of the Republican party.” His views are largely those of “the religious right.” Which shows that the US “is still far more deeply at risk than Britain over attempts to deny women’s rights over their bodies.”

These remarks forget that the victim is a person

“Rape does seem to be in the air these days,” said Hadley Greeman on The Guardian. There are “so many intriguing words” for rape – “sex by surprise” was one; Akin refers to “legitimate rape.” What he meant was “forcible rape,” in which women are assaulted too – “those are the only rapes that count, apparently.” Which tells us a lot about the mores of the Republican party. And let us remember that Assange hasn’t been charged “for anything to do with WikiLeaks.” He’s wanted for questioning – on rape allegations. Also, rape jokes aren’t funny – they’re “often at the expense of the rape victim.” They don’t remember that the “victim is an actual person.”

They also hark back to pre-feminist times

Rape, said The Times’ editorial, “involves not only illicit gratification but intentional humiliation of the victim,” yet until very recently it’s been seen as “a violation of masculine codes of honor rather than criminal violence against women.” So women were not believed; their accounts treated with “incredulity.” The same is happening with Assange – his supporters don’t address the rape charges. This “high-profile case … advanced by people who claim to oppose oppression, shows a dispiriting symmetry in ignorance, obscurantism and misogyny.”  It’s very dispiriting, agreed Louise Mensch in The Telegraph, when men try to “minimise and dismiss” rape. Assange’s speech from the balcony of the Ecuadorean embassy “painted himself as a martyr, sang the praises of the repressive regime in Ecuador, and totally ignored the two women.” Why do male politicians get rape “so wrong?” It is, alas, “because they believe what they are saying.” Too many times, “the media pretends that feminism’s work is done.” But this week shows us that there’s “a long way to go.”

Assange’s fears about extradition are unfounded

Jenni Murray in The Mail agreed – Galloway and his ilk are “Neanderthal.” As for the claims that Assange will be extradited to the US if he goes to Sweden – why on earth hasn’t he been extradited from the UK? We’ve not held back in handing over our own citizens to America – why not Assange? And as for Akin – was he “fast asleep during his biology lessons”? Thank goodness for Barack Obama, who said “Rape is rape.” Let’s hope “he really believes it – and isn’t just angling for the women’s vote.”

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