The Mancunion

Britain's biggest student newspaper

A response to “Reclaim the Night: We do not live in a rape culture”

In reply to a previous article, Catherine Snow argues that rape culture does indeed exist and must be faced

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According to Francis Edge – writing in The Mancunion on the 27th of February – the idea that we live in a rape culture “does not stack up”. I am here to refute this argument.

To substantiate this opinion, the author uses a study released in 2014 by the United States Department of Justice which reveals, on average, that one in 164 college women aged 18-24 reported experiencing rape or sexual assault between 1995 and 2013. These statistics, Edge suggests “cast substantial doubt on claims that we live in a rape culture”. They don’ t. Throughout his article, Edge irresponsibly peddles a misogynistic agenda through misleading and unrepresentative statistics. Ironically, his article perpetuates the very thing he is claiming doesn’t exist.

Clearly, the first misunderstanding is around what consent means. Consent is a woman’s to give, refuse, or take back at any time and every time. It is totally irrelevant whether a woman has consented to sex with her rapist in the past or whether she might do in the future.

The second misunderstanding is around what “rape culture” means. Rape culture is not just about the number of men convicted of rape or even the number of women who report rape to the police. These figures only tell a fraction of the story, not least because we know that rape is so under-reported; Rape Crisis estimates that there are roughly 11 rapes committed every hour in England and Wales, yet only around 15 per cent are reported to the police.

Rape culture is embodied every time someone shouts a lewd remark to a woman walking down the street, or when a pornographic video is shared from one phone to another at a school. It occurs every time someone makes a rape joke and excuses it as banter or when a woman is slut shamed. It occurs when women receive threats of sexual violence over Twitter or find their timelines clogged with memes bearing the slogan “it’s not rape if…”. It is seen every time a woman is told she was asking for it by drinking or walking home alone. It is seen every time a woman is told she was complicit in her rape because she went back to his flat.

Rape culture is about trivialising each and every one of these experiences. It is about normalising behaviour that degrades and oppresses women and girls. Rape culture is an insidious thread securely woven into the fabric of our society.

Given the above, is it any wonder that rape is so under-reported? Edge is very concerned with the “accuracy of rape reporting” — but he is looking through the wrong end of the telescope. He thinks they are over-reported, when all of the evidence is to the contrary.

Edge claims that 41 per cent of rape accusations are false. This “more accurate figure” comes from a report carried out between 1978 and 1979 which “investigated rape reports in a small metropolitan area with a population of about 70,000”. It is beyond belief that this report is being touted as a representative study. How can it be used to support an argument about rape culture today when it was published over 30 years ago, and how can a study of 70,000 people be representative when there are an estimated 85,000 rapes a year?

Let us focus on England and Wales:  in a 17-month period over 2011 and 2012, there were 5,651 prosecutions for rape and 111,891 for domestic violence. Over the same time span, there were only 35 prosecutions for making false allegations of rape, six for false allegations of domestic violence and three that involved false allegations of both rape and domestic violence. This led The Crown Prosecutions Service (CPS) to confirm in 2013 that false rape allegations are rare.

What about the men who are falsely accused? Of course, Edge was right to highlight the tragic case of one 17-year-old boy who committed suicide following a withdrawn accusation of rape. But his use of the outdated 70s US study, which claims almost half of rape allegations are false, is frankly irresponsible.

A study by The National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) says that only 344 of every 1,000 sexual assaults are reported to police. Their study found that those survivors who chose not to report the assaults against them “feared retaliation”, “believed the police would not do anything to help”, or thought “it was not important enough to report”. Women are not coming forward because they fear being mocked or dismissed or disbelieved. This is rape culture.

Propagating anything other than this hard, recent data fuels the myth that women are ‘probably making it up’. I hope no student read his piece and felt shamed into keeping quiet – scared that nobody would believe her.

Last Friday, when I was walking home through the city centre of Manchester, I was suddenly blocked by two men who asked if I wanted to have sex with them. When I told them to bugger off and pushed past, they shouted after me that it was “only a joke”.

A joke? Feeling angry, humiliated, intimidated, and overwhelmed by a depressing sense of familiarity doesn’t seem that funny to me. But they did it because they thought they had the right to, the right to invade my personal space and my body.

All the women I have spoken to about this topic have shared similar experiences. Every. Single. One. It is our absolute right to feel safe on our streets and our absolute right to draw attention to the fact that we are angry about the fact that we don’t.

That is why Reclaim the Night is so important. Rape culture exits. I wish Edge was right and it didn’t, but it does. Denying its existence dismisses the need for change. And we need change.

  • Pollo

    Feminist women today are actually the most entitled creatures on this planet. They don’t want to live in a ‘rape culture’ (which at the most should be called a sexually microaggressive culture and applies to men), yet they wan’t to fuck whoever they want. They want to walk down the street wearing revealing clothes, but they don’t want people (except hot rich guys!) to notice, they don’t like porn unless they’re watching it, they don’t like rape jokes unless Amy Schumer is basing her career on it, they like being sluts because it feels good and they are taken care of but don’t like being told to use a bit of common sense in doing so, they don’t like receiving nasty messages on twitter but they like to assert their nasty, toxic, divisive rhetoric all day long, they like to go back to random guys placed and when they do something they regret blame the world for their own stupidity. They want rapes to be reported and women be safe and then they confuse everyone for personal gain, trivializing real rape by calling all the above rape. There is no ‘rape culture’, there is the naturally sexual human condition, there are a criminal rapists, there are entitled feminists, then there are professional victims who claim women are strong and equal and powerful then write this woe is me article and being made to feel “angry, humiliated, intimidated, and overwhelmed” by guys joking around.

    • Barry

      I’m not 100% sure you’ve ever had a regular conversation with a woman…

      • Barry

        Try thinking of women as exactly the same as you

        • Barry

          Rather than trying to describe them as the most hatable alien species that won’t give you what you want and are stupid.

          • Barry

            and it may help to get a more relatable and realistic world view

      • Pollo

        Never at one point did I say it applies to ‘women’, it applies to a small but vocal minority of women and indeed some men who strongly identify with modern feminism. Never did I say ‘they’ are stupid. Did you even read what I said? There is no ‘rape culture’, it’s just a horrible term like ‘climate change denier’ associating itself with holocaust denial, in this context it looks at sexual microaggressions and makes absurd leaps in regard to under reported rape cases to say we live in a ‘rape culture’, it’s ridiculous. People can make absolutely zero progress on these issue if they can’t be seen and explored for what they are and not just part of this great feminist mythology that is these days bending over backwards to present women as so much more disadvantaged and oppressed than they actually are. Saying we live in a ‘rape culture’ is completely counter productive, far from addressing the problems, it trivializes and normalizes real rape. Asserting we live in a ‘rape culture’ is a virtue signalling, point scoring enterprise of the highest degree that does nothing for real victims and everything for privileged academics and students.

        • Rodger

          Do you not believe in climate change either?

          • Pollo

            Completely missed the point, but very appropriate language there Rodger. You undoubtedly ‘believe’ in climate change, just like you ‘believe’ in rape culture. I severely doubt you could explain one bit of evidence for climate change, why it happened, why it will be continue to happen and why that’s bad, yet you ‘believe’ in climate change, just like the reason why rapes are under reported is complex and multi faceted and is not productively discussed by asserting ‘I believe its because we live in a rape culture’.

            • Rodger

              No, sorry, your right. I’m just a climate scientist. What do I know

            • Pollo

              Oh sorry I accept all your points then. By the way I’m a gender studies professor.

            • Rodger

              I would think this was sarcasm, but your comments show no indication of a sense of humour (or a brain).

            • Rodger
            • amused

              Are the 6 million jews that died evidence that the holocaust happened?

            • Pollo

              Is the fact when I stand on a tall building and the horizon is flat evidence the Earth is flat?

            • amused

              No, it just shows how insignificantly small you are in a world that much more than your narrow field of vision

            • blueheron

              oh my fucking god did you seriously just consider the usage of the word ‘believe’ to be an argument

            • Red tailed hawk

              The thing about belief in facts is that it doesn’t matter if you believe it’s there because it is regardless of your feelings. I realise this may come as a shock given how important you clearly are in the world, but it’s true i promise

        • mockingbird

          I never knew Trump read student media

        • Red tailed hawk

          Yeah under reported rapes yup that’s it that’s all rape culture is nothing to see here yup let’s move on

        • Barry

          Oh you fool

    • shmmod

      Yes there is a rape culture, and you’re proving it.

    • JEMP

      “They don’t want to live in a ‘rape culture’ … yet they wan’t to fuck whoever they want.” And the issue with that is? Seems like a pretty logically consistent position to me.

      • Pollo

        Granted – could have phrased that better. I mean’t they are completely incensed by men treating women in a way they consider embodies ‘rape culture’ yet the reason why those men so do is deeply rooted in their experiences of many women being promiscuous. I’m not saying that wrong, I’m saying that the behavior of men should be understood in light of the behavior of women, surely?

        • Rick

          So basically what you’re saying is women being harassed/catcalled/raped etc should be blamed for women acting promiscuously?

          • Pollo

            No, just that there is blame on both parties…

            • Daniel

              Pollo , bless your sweet little soul – if a woman wears a tight dress, that does not mean it’s OK for men to grab her, shout at her or otherwise harass her. You’ve just equated existing (wearing clothing, acting in any particular way perceived as ‘promiscuous’) to active attack. I’d be interested to know what exactly you define as ‘promiscuous’ behaviour.

              You might be intrigued to know that what a woman wears or how she acts has no bearing on how often she is harassed! (http://scholarship.law.duke.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1109&context=djglp). I recommend you do a teensy bit of Googling before getting into your next internet fight ;) Therefore, by your attempted reasoning, men are creatures controlled entirely by their emotion – see a woman, attack her with no self control. I’d say it wasn’t so, but actually your comments so far on this thread prove your point, so well done for that!. You seem to be driven by emotion without logic, lashing out at anyone who shares their time and tries to explain a point to you. I’m sorry you got rejected and now you feel hurt, but that doesn’t mean that women are just as much to blame as the men that attack them.

            • Pollo

              There hasn’t been a single commenter on here who has understood anything I’ve said. I certainly never said it’s okay for a man to “grab, shout at or harass” a woman who wears a tight dress or anything along those lines. Nice sizable definition there by the way, covers all angles, as all are clearly different things. This conversation now is so totally removed from my initial point though. Please post an article on the topic you bring up and I’ll be sure to comment ;)

            • blueheron

              ‘No, just that there is blame on both parties…’ yeah you kinda did

    • Micky

      I’m finding it funny that you say that women dont want people to visually violate them “except hot rich guys”. I mean HOW DARE they judge a man based on appearance and not base don his value as a person. Who would do that? XD

    • blueheron

      ‘the most entitled creatures’ lol how dare women ask for human rights and respect.
      the sheer cognitive dissonance in juxtaposing ‘rape culture’ with ‘wanting to fuck whoever they want’!!! i feel like this is the bottom line of your problem in general, you think men feeling entitled to sleeping with whoever they want notwithstanding whether they agree or not is somehow similar to women just having high standards and not getting with any guy just because the guy feels like it. rape culture is a well defined sociological concept thats been proven beyond doubt (google is your friend), and women dont owe you anything just because they’re women and you’re a guy. just suck it up man it’s 2017

    • Red tailed hawk

      Those pesky women wanting to have it all! It’s almost as if belittling their experiences will actually help assault survivors wow who knew, I’m so glad you’re here! Also I’m so glad that humans live in a totally natural way on line with all of their instincts, such as abandoning babies if they’re not fat enough, living in caves, eating meat cooked on fires. And the next time someone physically intimidating asks you for sed i hope you are the funny side, because it ~is~ hilarious

  • Guest

    Definitely agree misrepresentation and outdated facts are a big issue as they are often all there is to represent what is going on – a proportion of population doesn’t live it.

    I believe we need to change the men vs women rhetoric though. It’s excluding many of the victims of harassment and rape and pushes many men away from the issue.

    Also, are people not allowed to express themselves to others in public for fear of offence? Where is the line where someones right to feel safe trumps anothers freedom of expression?

    I’d be interested in anyones thoughts – don’t have any answers myself

  • guest

    If some one jokes about how they could murder someone does that mean we live in a murder culture?