Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Dear Mid Bedfordshire, you have a lot to answer for: Nadine Dorries strikes again

Jumping Jesus Christ on a bicycle, Nadine Dorries is the new Richard Keys! Preposterous, provider of endless blog-fodder; reactionary, sexist as all hell, in a way I didn't truly believe still existed! Except she has actual political power.

Which is a shame.

So you may have heard about her "Just say no, girls!" campaign for an abstinence component in school sex ed. The preliminary bill passed 67 to 61 - because apparently only 19% of our elected representatives give a shit either way - and since then, she's been making the rounds trying to drum up support for this madcap scheme. Yesterday, the Dorries campaign trail hit The Vanessa Show, which led to a couple of bombshells: firstly, Dorries effectively said that children who are sexually abused bear some culpability for the crimes committed against them. Secondly, something of political import happened on Channel 5.

If you've got the stomach for it, you can watch the full show here until Sunday; if not, aren't you lucky that I spent most of my morning transcribing the good bits? (By "good", I mean "HOLY FUCKING BANANA CAKES HOW ARE YOU ALLOWED.")

Firstly, we have further elaboration on Dorries' rationale for focusing on girls:
I want the emphasis on girls because it's girls who lose their education, girls who go on benefits, girls who usually throw in the towel and spend a lifetime on benefits, girls who enter old age and poverty, girls who usually end up with a row of guesting fathers and more babies because they can't get back into education, and can never get the opportunities that would have been theirs if maybe when they were thirteen or fourteen years old or whatever age they got pregnant, somebody had given them some counselling on the fact that they could say no and what might be the options.
I'm going to go out on a limb here and suggest that there might be an element of snobbery in her views, here. I am also going to question exactly how many thirteen year olds get pregnant in this country every year, how many continue the pregnancy to term - and how many gave full, enthusiastic, informed consent to having sex. Because I'd hope that Dorries is focusing this "it's cool to say no!" advice at people who actually have the option of saying no and having that 'no' respected, as opposed to victims of abuse, given that, by definition, their attackers are not concerned with consent, right?
It's very interesting because one of the reasons for this is that some of the evidence that I've heard is that if a stronger 'just say no' message was given to children in school, that there might be an impact on sex abuse, because a lot of girls, when sex abuse takes place, don't realise until later that that was a wrong thing to do ... I don't think people realise that if we did empower this message into girls, imbue this message in school, we'd probably have less sex abuse.
Oh. So basically you're saying that if girls (only girls, apparently; boys never get abused, I take it?) were just a bit more assertive, they could explain to their abusers that they didn't want to be raped, and those abusers would take this on board and be a bit less rapey? Because before that they assumed their victims were, say, "asking for it"? That all seems very clear.

The thing is, I've watched this about five times today, and it's not a slip of the tongue, it's not taken out of context; this is honestly something she believes and is very keen to get out there. And as ever, she's taken a strand of truth and twisted it into something grotesque.

Because solid sex and relationships education would of course involve educating people about abuse, about boundaries and what to do if someone's making you uncomfortable and how to help someone you think might be suffering, but lesson one would be a fucking big sign saying IT'S NOT YOUR FAULT. You didn't lead him on, it doesn't matter what you were wearing, you're not a bad person, it's not your fault for not saying no, or not saying it loud enough or enough times, it is not your fault. Abuse is the fault of the abuser: end of lesson one.

And Nadine Dorries, impassioned champion of SRE reform, apparently has yet to grasp this lesson. Someone send her back to school.

Edit: May I wholeheartedly recommend this and this for unimaginably brave people talking about how it actually feels to be told you were asking for it.


  1. Great post, very passionate and I know this is a serious post but I actually laughed out loud when I got to the bit that said "and be a bit less rapey?". I love your way of writing!

  2. Thank you so much, that's exactly what I'm going for and by golly I live for compliments!

    Your pictures are breathtaking... and in the December Snow post, is that Cobden Bridge I see before me?