Wednesday, January 20, 2010

A new low in misogyny

The world has its share of fuddy-duddy judges (always old men) who think that women are "asking" for rape if they fail to adhere to some social code from a previous century - but a decision from the UK this week has taken them to a new low in misogyny:

Proceedings were stopped and five men were cleared of raping and conspiring to rape a 24-year-old Liverpool woman after it emerged that she had confided online about her group sex fantasies. She shared these fantasies with a Bolton man over the internet and then went to visit him. She says her intention was to have sex with him and with no one else. But when she arrived at his house, she was confronted by several men, some of whom allegedly raped her – though they denied doing so.

We will never know for sure what happened because the trial was halted when excerpts from the women's MSN chatlogs were produced. They showed her expressing fantasies about having an orgy. Prosecutor Michael Leeming said: "There is material in the chatlogs from the complainant, who is prepared to entertain ideas of group sex with strangers, where, to use her words, 'her morals go out of the window' … This material does paint a wholly different light as far as this case is concerned … We take the view that it would not be appropriate to offer any evidence."

Judge Robert Brown concurred. He ordered the jury to return not guilty verdicts for rape and conspiracy to rape against the five defendants, telling them: "This case depended on the complainant's credibility … Not to put too fine a point on it, her credibility was shot to pieces."

And there you have it: if a woman ever expresses fantasies about group-sex online, she can be legally gang-raped with impunity. Its an appalling decision, which completely ignores the question of consent or the idea that someone may be quite keen on something, but not tonight, not like that, not with them. The Guardian's Peter Tatchell gets it perfectly right when he says:
When a person does not consent to sex, it is rape, regardless of their gender, social background, sexual history or erotic fantasies. No means no – and there are, or should be, no exceptions. Even if a person initially consents to sex, they have a right to change their mind and withdraw consent. Sex after a person has said "no" or "stop" is rape – regardless of the person's sexual fantasies and irrespective of whether they were previously chaste or promiscuous.

Rape is rape, period. Having an adventurous sexual appetite and being a so-called "loose" woman or man should not place a person outside the protection of the law.

And any judges who think otherwise simply have no place on the bench.