What Evil Looks Like

This isn’t going to be a fun read but it is an important one and perhaps that should motivate you to read this article, especially if you are a man. Forewarning, the content ahead is about sexual abuse so if that will upset you, look away, but I encourage you to look on – these topics need to be discussed. By now this is old news but the point is no less valid and needs to be reinforced wherever and whenever appropriate. George Lawlor, student of Warwick University, opted not to attend the optional consent classes offered at his university on the grounds he does not, and I quote ‘look like a rapist’, apparently feeling unfairly judged as such and believing his own conduct above reproach. The said student put up his own blog post of why he didn’t go and I’d link you but I don’t want to sully this blog by offering traffic to such a vile corner of the internet but I’m here to offer a firm rebuttal and to explain why rape culture is a thing and why we need to work on it.

George’s primary point is that consent classes are condescending and patronising insults to men, accusing them all of being potential rapists. Consent classes, incidentally, are classes in which university students are educated on how to have healthy sexual relationships and how to correctly interpret real life scenarios. For example, if a girl comes over to a guy’s place with the intention of having sex with him but upon arrival, changes her mind, if that guys persists – that is rape. She wanted it, she changed her mind, coaxing her into it or pressuring her is rape. The classes focus on ambiguous situations, things that you might not be aware are unhealthy or unfair on your partner and how to behave more responsibly, ensuring each sexual relationship you have is completely consensual and legal if nothing else! Great idea if you ask me, I’ll go into it a bit more in a little while but I’d gladly go to such a class, not because I fear I lack the knowledge but because it sounds like a healthy environment in which to learn more about safe and satisfying sex lives. George though argues these classes are patronising, treating men like potential criminals, but this isn’t the case. Think about it this way – you’re required to attend Fire Safety meetings and Fire Drills in the world of work, does that mean they need to dissuade potential arsonists and pyromaniacs? Maybe, but for the most part it is the benefit of all involved, it promotes safety, knowledge and equips those present with the correct attitude as it reaffirms what they know to be right. We ALL know what to do in a fire, it’s ingrained in us – leave your possessions, leave in an orderly fashion, assemble outside at the safe point – imagine if the rules of consent were as ingrained in us as the rules of fire safety or crossing the road. Kids aren’t stupid, they know a car hitting them will hurt, we teach them so as to make sure they have all the knowledge they need to be safe.

Furthermore, taking these consent classes as a personal insult George, it tells me volumes about you as a person. You take ‘men being potential rapists’ as meaning you? If you know you have a healthy attitude towards sex, why is this so offensive to you? Men who get upset when feminism call out the patriarchy on sexism or transphobia by responding “But that’s not me!” need to realise it is not them specifically being challenged, unless they are actually doing those things in that moment, but the societal norm as a whole. You’re not exempt from that, as I’m not, we have to accept we’re a part of a culture that perpetuates violence and sexism and rape, what matters is what we as individuals strive to be and preach to others. We can’t be let off the hook as nice guys or knowing enough about feminist views to think that’s okay, we have to constantly work to be better, to do more – we might be a part of a negative culture George, but we enjoy the privilege of being straight white men, we get listened to, so don’t complain about someone maybe possibly implying you’re a rapist, shouldn’t the bigger issues be things like the prevalence of rape culture and the rising statistics over the years? Complain about that for a bit.

George put up a photo saying “This is not what a rapist looks like”, which I have two immediate responses to. One, what does a rapist look like? A January report in The Telegraph suggested one in every three women in the UK has been the victim of unwanted advances or sexual assault at least once in life so either there are a shit ton of similar looking dudes all with the same criminal attitudes or, more plausibly, there isn’t a singular rapist stereotype women should be taught to avoid. You want a disturbing fact? 80% of rape survivors KNEW the attacker, when we hear of rape we picture lonely women walking down an alley and getting mugged by a goon with a knife – this happens, let’s not overlook that, it’s terrible – but rape can be so much more subtle and dark. Rape can be a kiss that came with an unwanted hand in the front of a girl’s skirt, rape can be a drunken husband letting off steam on his unwilling wife, rape can be guys ganging up to take advantage of a girl they’re friends with. A rapist isn’t always some hooded delinquent in the shadows with the face of a killer, it can be that ‘friendzoned’ douche, a potential boyfriend, a study buddy, a one-time thing looking to make you his new habit. We like to think we can spot evil from a glance but we can’t, nobody has that ability, you can’t actually judge people that fast and before you know it, that nice guy you invited over one night to help you cram for an exam has turned up with other motives. If 80% of survivors knew the attacker and one in three women have at least said they felt like they were harassed, then one thing is certain – a rapist can look like anyone. You included George, no matter how nice or friendly or safe you think you look, I’ve known women who have been attacked by guys half your height and twice as jovial. I’m not calling George a rapist but just so he knows, he could look like one. I could too, get over it.

Lawlor stands at a position of privileged ignorance then, likely never having been a victim of sexual abuse himself, he can look down his nose at these classes that are just as much about empowering victims as educating potential aggressors into being better people. By disrespecting these classes, you disrespect every single victim of sexual abuse, you tell them that men aren’t responsible or accountable for what happened to them, it was their own stupid fault for getting too close to those nasty rapey men and not cosying up to nice guys like him. The outrageous tenacity of that viewpoint and level of stupidity makes my blood burn with rage. If you believe all rapists are bush-lurking cretins, you exempt yourself from being a rapist, you justify everything you do as not being an assault from the bushes. You also condone a certain creed of man to the harmful stereotype of looking like someone that deserves to be alone. Face it George, what you mean is handsome white heterosexual men aren’t rapists, but ugly ones or minorities are? I’ve had the misfortune of exploring your blog, from what I’ve seen, I wouldn’t be surprised if this was your secret philosophy on the matter.

We need to break away from stereotypes, especially ones that belittle a serious crime like rape as being a horror story trope and not much else. Rapists aren’t a particular breed of men, some are but some are otherwise perfectly well-respected members of society. George, maybe you aren’t all that bad a guy and maybe I’m being hard on you but your contempt of consent classes is a privilege you can enjoy as a handsome white straight man, the most well-off of well-off demographics. We can’t let ‘nice guys’ off the hook by perpetuating the idea of all rapists being obviously creepy – it insults women, it degrades men and the facts don’t support it. Women’s safety is a massive issue, it’s one we aren’t doing enough about and these classes are an effort to address that imbalance, respect that.

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The Cosby Case

First of all, I’d like to take a moment to say I am exceptionally proud of my latest work, I hope you are all enjoying it and I can’t wait to see it gain more recognition. I can only ask that you, my readers, like and share anything you find yourself agreeing with on here, at this stage my main means of publicity is word of mouth and shared posts on Facebook so if you could do me that favour, I’d be grateful. Incidentally, if you have not read the Fragile Man, both parts one and two, please do so, it took a lot of effort to write and I’m pleased with the result. You can do it now or read this and check later, either way, I’d appreciate the site traffic. Now then, let’s move on.

So again, the clue here is in the title that this is related to the allegations of sexual assault made against Bill Cosby, I’m not here to argue the case either way, though on a personal level I’d have a hard time believing almost thirty different women (actual figure varies depending where you look, some say a dozen, some say fifty) all had the same get-rich scheme of villainising a beloved TV icon but I am here to discuss why it’s taking so long for progress to be made either way. If the subject matter is likely to offend, I suggest taking your business elsewhere, sadly not everything I cover on here is pretty, I promised you all the gritty reality of the world, here’s a slice. If you’re still reading, you’re doing so because you can face up to it so if you’re honestly ready, I’ll begin.

Friday just gone, ABC aired interviews with the twenty-nine accusers about their histories with the accused Bill Cosby, allowing them to stand in solidarity and fight their case. In the first official deposition since 2005, Bill Cosby himself discussed the allegations made against him of sexual abuse, mainly behind the scenes of shows he worked on but also apparently at the Playboy Mansion, abuse apparently inflicted on women both of the age of consent and below. A deposition is a chance to ask living witnesses for knowledge about a case, Bill has given his, the persecution will give theirs later this month. The information within will be contained in confidence until December at the earliest and it will then fall to the two parties to decide what information is made public, dependent on negotiations and how the actual eventual court cases play out. Bill Cosby made a deposition in 2005, this has been a deal at least a decade in the making, and at that time he admitted to obtaining drugs he intended to give to women he wanted to have sex with. Chances are, he’ll have to do this again, the accusations are being worked through in clusters and judges are slowly approving the move forward for a number of cases at a time, it’d be a nightmare trying to put the same man on trial thirty times in a day after all. Cosby’s lawyers have tried to sweep this under the rug but to little success thus far, each court case they have tried to make go away has come back and claims that Cosby has only made public verbal responses about this whole predicament because he’s entitled to free speech and feels isolated have been dismissed, the whole thing with free speech being that there are still consequences.

So why has this taken so long? Why has the world turned a blind eye to this case for as long as it could? The internet sure does love to spread shit like butter on toast, why has it largely left Bill alone? Is he a god to us? Well, not quite but he does have a lot in his favour. Rape, as a legal issue, is one we have a lot of trouble with, it’s the only crime we really struggle to believe the victim’s words as a collective and the only crime in which we try to pin blame on them as either being crazy, deceptive or a whore. If you don’t believe the world needs feminism then how do you explain this one? A man can shoot himself in the leg and blame it on a black man, for the police to then get involved, investigate his injury, question his neighbours and find the truth (legit case, google it, pretty sure it’s on a Cracked list) but a woman can claim she has been raped and before they even start the search, they’ll try to check if she’s not just a lunatic or having a laugh. Sure, some people lie but then people lie about all crimes, case in point being the gunshot victim I just mentioned but also people who lose things and cry robbery, people who get drunk and cry carjacking and people who bump into shit and cry assault. Rape isn’t the only crime being faked but it’s the only one we try to prove false before we try to prove true, imagine if theft or murder was treated this way?
“Mmm, I see someone left their window open, it’s almost like you invited the burglar in. Plus, y’know, you did own a fifty inch screen. some people can’t resist that temptation…”
Doesn’t happen, shouldn’t happen.

However, beyond the usual reasons rape cases get sidelined or swept away, there’s a lot more to be said about allegations made against a famous comedian than say allegations made against some guy down the road. Bill Cosby has had so many come out as victims that this isn’t even a moment of savage impulse or a lone woman claiming fame through deception, if these are proved true then Cosby comes off as something of a serial rapist, a systematic abuser of women who has been allowed to get away with it for decades. That’s a lot to swallow when you consider the face we’re putting to that reputation is that of a sitcom Dad, he’s a nostalgic favourite of yesteryear we don’t want to see besmirched. Jimmy Savile, Rolf Harris, also idols of their respective eras but their crimes were hidden in plain sight, they didn’t touch the hearts of generations, there was always something off about them and in Savile’s case, he even openly admitted to an orgy with young girls in his biography. Bill Cosby, well, this is the scatting sitcom silly man who is known for jokes about pudding and being a father figure to a generation of TV watchers. If Jimmy Savile was your weird uncle, Bill Cosby was your dad, he was heart-warming and harmless, a well beloved goofy fool that occasionally spouted sound life advice on his wholesome family unit TV show. Now, you’d have an easier time swallowing the fact a weird old man who smoked all day with chest hair on show had a dark side to him than you would accepting the fact that the sage father in the sweater is actually a sexual deviant and a criminal mastermind. People don’t want to accept that and are trying everything possible to not accept it, if there’s a hole in the prosecution’s argument, it will be blown open so the public can feel reassured they didn’t idolise a rapist.

The issue here for Cosby now is there are too many voices to ignore and over the last ten years, the social movements for the better treatment of these natured cases haven’t gone away, they’ve only gotten more intense and determined. Celebrities who have had their integrity as human beings compromised have tried to buy their way out of it, some have succeeded but some haven’t, getting exposed as shameless cowards. Whilst a single woman or two or even four can be seen as liars, especially under anonymity, when you have nearly thirty gathered in the same room, it’s hard to shut it out as a bad dream. More than anything, people are angry, their childhoods tainted by the idea that maybe this man is not innocent or that the man they love so dearly is being torn down from greatness by legions of harpies, depends where you stand, this is a case that has made everyone involved passionately angry. We ignored it because we either couldn’t face up to it, we couldn’t get the information to make our arguments or the media turned the spotlight elsewhere but with more information and statements flooding in, perhaps we will see the truth either way. I have my own beliefs, I’m not here to condemn or absolve the man, I don’t know all the facts and there are legal teams for that job, I’m just here to say that if you were ever upset that Cosby wasn’t having to face the music, he’s about to.

Solidarity in Sydney

Trigger Warnings – Death, Sexual Assault

I have done a lot of posts revolving around Britain but the biggest issue in the news at the moment is the tragic resolution of the hostage situation in Sydney. For those of you who don’t know, just yesterday a lone gunman took a cafe full of customers hostage and the crisis lasted sixteen hours before commandos stormed the building and found three dead bodies – one of a lawyer, one of the manager and the body of the gunman himself. The gunman, Man Haron Monis, was a self-proclaimed spiritual healer but was also charged with over 50 counts of sexual assault in his time and was in the news last year for writing offensive letters to the families of dead soldiers. Monis said the charges made against him in the past were for “political reasons” and it is believed this attack was a last-ditch attempt by Monis to grab the attention of those seeking his imprisonment to negotiate having all charges made against him dropped. Truly, a tragic story, one that opens the floor to discussion and so here I am.

The Police Commissioner on the case said that this was the work of an individual, no bomb was planted anywhere, the guy had no associates, nobody at the cafe called him saying it was a good time to turn up and he walked in alone with a weapon, not pulling up with a van full of machete swinging buddies. Considering the man’s origin as an Iranian and being a Muslim, it is important we remember that this was just one madman and not an act of religious martyrdom by extremists. I think back to the beheading of the soldier in public that happened here a few years ago, an issue I wrote an article on which you can find with a little nosing around, and many many people stood by the opinion it was an elaborate terror plot and that these extremists were just a small example of a horribly corrupt religion. Of course, common sense prevailed for most of us but it’s no surprise to us by now that the moment you hear “An Iranian/Pakistani man killed…”, you then hear various colourful expletives being exchanged about Muslims and where they belong, usually being either in their own country or in the ground.

Extremism corrupts the world’s view of anything, mainly because extremism is news worthy whereas “Well I’m kinda more partial to this opinion” is pretty dull. You wouldn’t read a news article saying “MAN LEAVES CHURCH SERVICE BECAUSE HE FELT IT CONFLICTED WITH HIS OWN BELIEFS”, you’d instead read “MAN BURNS DOWN CHURCH, CALLING IT A DEN OF SIN”. The Muslim faith is a peaceful religion, it is not a religion that encourages violence because no organised religion would do such a thing, it’s preposterous and even if the texts say this or that the Bible has passages saying slavery and selling your daughter on the market are fine but I’ve never met a Christian doing one of the above. Religion does define a person but not in the sense that a religion compels people to commit murder or take hostages, that’s the person’s decision, these are the acts of individuals or like-minded radicals, there is nothing in any sacred text that says you can make the world a better place by holding up cafes with guns.

However, this is not all doom and gloom because in the wake of this tragedy, concerns over a growing intolerance towards the Muslim faith or those of Middle-Eastern origin has sparked the #illridewithyou initiative. Basically, if you are likely to be the target of harassment for your faith or such like, you can take to Twitter or Facebook and there will be tons of people posting information about their commutes and how they are willing to travel together with you to ward off people wanting to give you grief. The people of Sydney, in general certainly, have used social media to express their desire to be ‘bigger than this’, to not judge an entire race or religion by the actions of one man and it is not often I get to say this on my blog but this is an act of pure brilliance and humanity that makes me beam with delight. As a man who tries to be accepting of all walks of life, I always fear news pieces like yesterday will set the world back a step in being tolerant of all classes and creeds but the spirit of Australia isn’t one of judging a stranger, more a spirit of camaraderie, the idea that a stranger is a friend until they give you reason to think otherwise. Obviously I am generalising but it’s a positive image and it is the impression one gets when you read the tweets these people have put up on the public domain.

What happened was a tragedy, a truly horrific thing to have happened and my heart goes out to those affected by what has happened, especially the friends and relatives of the deceased. However, the people of Sydney had two paths to choose, the understandable low road of hatred and retaliation or the harder to walk but much more righteous high road and they chose the latter, it is a beautiful thing to behold. We are so quick to judge and rise to anger but rising even higher is a difficult feat that these people are uniting together to achieve as a community. The world can now watch and learn from the example set by a few good people – revenge begets a cycle of violence and anger that only escalates but if you see this incident and you see it is an isolated case of one lone madman, you can move on, you can be so much more and you can forge a brighter future in which we see people as people, not merely an extension of their background.

Thank you Sydney, for restoring our faith in the kindness of humanity in the face of tragedy.