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Vaginas are Not Objects: On Nick Ross and Rape Culture

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Apparently, being in possession of a vagina is just like owning a laptop. At least, that is what Nick Ross, creator of the BBC's Crimewatch, seems to be claiming in an article for the Daily Mail. The entire article is basically a list of myths about violence against women which blames women for being victims of male violence.

Ross misunderstands research into domestic violence to imply that women are as likely as men to commit domestic violence whilst ignoring the research into gaslighting. He also blames women for lashing out at a violent partner. Ross conveniently neglects to mention that the "research" which "proves" that women commit domestic violence as frequently as men is not as clear cut as he implies. That "research" was based on frequency of reporting of domestic violence. If we were to look at it simplistically based only on that criteria then women do commit domestic violence as frequently as men. This research ignores two very basic issues: 1) women frequently experience domestic violence 30-40 times before reporting; and 2) the issue of gaslighting. Gaslighting is emotionally abusive behaviour wherein the male partner harasses their partner into lashing out physically. The male partner then has "evidence" that his female partner is as abusive as he is. This "evidence" is used to control the female partner further, especially if there are children involved. That is domestic violence. It is not evidence that women are as violent as men; it is evidence of the myriad of ways in which men are violent.

Ross also makes some bland statements about the differentiation in sentencing between men and women for crimes without taking into account the gendered construction of crime, which results in women receiving harsher punishments . He does point out that women are more likely to receive harsher sentences for sex crimes than men but he neglects to point out that women are more likely to be incarcerated than men for their first crime. Men are frequently incarcerated for crimes of violence whilst women are incarcerated for crimes that are the consequence of severe abuse, substance misuse, poverty and male violence. That is the reality of the differentiation between the rates of incarceration of men and women.

The entire article is deeply offensive and wrong but it is the section on rape that is truly appalling . This is what Ross says about rape:

Rape victims were once treated appallingly, as though it was all their fault, but have we now gone too far the other way? ...
We have come to acknowledge it is foolish to leave laptops on the back seat of a car. We would laugh at a bank that stored sacks of cash by the front door. We would be aghast if an airport badly skimped on its security measures.
Our forebears might be astonished at how safe women are today given what throughout history would have been regarded as incitement. Not even in the licentious days of Charles II in the 17th Century was it acceptable for women to dress as provocatively as they have done in Western culture since the 1960s.
Equally they would be baffled that girls are mostly unescorted, stay out late, often get profoundly drunk and sometimes openly kiss, grope or go to bed with one-night stands.
No amount of temptation can excuse rape, or any other crime. ...
Yet for some it is heresy to suggest that victims should ever be held responsible at all.

Apparently, women are responsible for being raped for just being in possession of a vagina in public. After all, the suggestion that we hold individuals responsible for having their laptops stolen if left on the front seat of the car is the same as women making themselves vulnerable to rape by going out in public in clothes. It is women's fault for getting raped by wearing "provocative clothes". Men can't possibly be expected to control themselves when they see a woman in a skirt. One has to wonder what babies wear which is "provocative"? Or, elderly women? Or, women in jeans?

Ross also ignores the fact that the vast majority of women are raped by men they know. How are women supposed to avoid being raped by their husbands? Fathers? Boyfriends? Employers? How are women supposed to avoid being raped in their own homes? Statistically, women are much safer completely intoxicated at 3 in the morning in a town centre than they are in their own homes. But, we don't talk about that: instead we focus on the women who are raped by strangers and then blame the women for being "provocative".

Not content with blaming women for being raped, Ross goes on to discourage women from reporting rapes within their relationships. Rape within marriage is illegal but Ross wants women to forgo reporting their violent partners. Men's lives and reputations are, as ever, more important than the bodily integrity and safety of women. Would Ross suggest that children not report being raped by their fathers; after all, these constitute relationships too.

Ross continues his victim blaming by attacking women involved in prostitution. Now, it is true that some women are involved in the sex industry through choice but these women are not statistically representative of the majority of women who are prostituted and trafficked; many of whom are first prostituted as children. Many have histories of sexual abuse and are substance misusers. Poverty is another indicator of women's vulnerability to sexual exploitation. Not all women who are prostitutes are victims of sexual exploitation but for every Belle de Jour, there are literally hundreds of women forcibly prostituted and trafficked. To pretend otherwise is to ignore the realities of the lives of thousands of women and children across the UK.

Welcome to the Capitalist-Patriarchy: where women deserve to be abused for "provoking" men just for being in possession of a vagina.