Wednesday, 18 May 2011

A Tory a day keeps valuing people as autonomous human beings away: Ken Clarke thinks your rape wasn't that bad

Good golly, what a week. Things have been hectic in llama-land: first my gentleman admirer came down with a conglomeration of ghastly viruses (which resulted in a lot of people making 'man flu' jokes: no, actually, he's puking blood and has been prescribed amoxicillin for a chest infection! The fact that he's a dude doesn't in fact preclude his being ill!), then I came down with a mystery infection, which means I've spent the last few days falling asleep fully clothed at odd times and having freaky fever dreams; the worst one involved Sady Doyle, ladyblogger extraordinaire and my own personal blogspiration, tweeting that I was a terrible writer and didn't care about trans people. So I guess my subconscious is actively exhorting me to check my cis privilege (good) but also telling me I suck at life (bad).

But! The sexism does not stop just because a phlegm plague has descended on me and mine. Amazingly, or amusingly, on Monday I was going to do a Femail smackdown, just for the fun of it, but it seems that I don't have to go looking for fucktacular pronouncements: our beloved government insists on hurling them in my face.

It's a sad day when Ken Clarke makes Nadine Dorries sound compassionate.

So. The never-ending push to stop spending public money on anything at all has now reached the courts. Justice Minister Ken Clarke has proposed that jail sentences could be halved for those who plead guilty early in proceedings, saving Taxpayer! Money! by removing the need for a jury trial. Former Solicitor General, Vera Baird, pointed out that the average sentence for rape is a mere five years, and that if this was halved - and if those inmates were released halfway into their sentence on license, as is common - then most convicted rapists would serve all of fifteen months in prison.

Fifteen months. Even if we managed to catch and convict 100% of rapists, as opposed to approximately 0% (6% of reported rapes end in conviction, but the vast majority are never reported), punishing the crime with little over a year inside would be a vivid demonstration of just how seriously we take the issue.

But oh, Ken came out swinging! When this was pointed out to him, he said that the average sentence included "17-year-olds having intercourse with 15 year olds". Which it doesn't, actually! Because under current UK law that does not constitute rape! Later in the interview he amended this to an eighteen year old having sex with a "perfectly willing" 15 year old. Again, this would not be included in rape statistics, as it is technically classified as "sexual activity with a child". For the sake of clarity, let's have a brief refresher course in what UK law says rape actually is:
(1) A person (A) commits an offence if—

(a) he intentionally penetrates the vagina, anus or mouth of another person (B) with his penis,

(b) B does not consent to the penetration, and

(c) A does not reasonably believe that B consents.
And as a comparison, what Mr Clarke believes real rape is:
"A serious rape with violence and an unwilling woman ... a man forcibly having sex with a woman and she doesn't want to ... a violent attack on a woman who doesn't know the man attacking her."
 Oh good. "Forcibe rape" is back. Because someone just sticking their penis into you without asking if you were into that? Barely traumatic at all, I would imagine! The sudden realisation that someone you know, maybe someone you love, has in fact been a monster all this time? Way less traumatic than an actual stranger actually raping you!

An "unwilling woman" - or, more accurately, an unwilling victim of whatever gender - is kind of a prerequisite for rape, Mr Clarke. And "a serious rape with violence" is really something of a tautology, in that rape is violent in and of itself. As to why you think being attacked by a stranger would be worse than being attacked by someone you know... I just don't think you've thought this through. I have never suffered this horrific crime. I can't imagine what it would be like to be violated in such an intimate and wounding way by someone I had believed cared about me. I can't imagine the psychic shock, I can't imagine how difficult it would be to trust anyone again, I can't imagine the endless damage it would do to my life, my relationships, my world. But I don't think you've even tried to imagine it. Which is why it is fucking terrifying that you are in charge of justice in this country.


  1. Sadly, it's been my experience that many jurors also subscribe to a combination of Mr Clarke and Mrs Dorries views on what constitutes rape.
    Also sadly, it can be fracking hard to prove (c).

    (While checking if Nadine Dorries was Mrs/Miss/Ms - I'm assuming Mrs, as she has the same surname as her male partner - I also discovered that she's going to be sharing her opinions on young girls saying no in "a programme for prime time mainstream TV". Yay. [])

  2. erk,
    obviously a cursory glance at Wikipedia was not enough there.
    Y'all all probably know Dorries' relationship history better than me, so please ignore that daft error.

  3. Oh god, I've been avoiding her blog, but it pulled me back in... talking about the Vanessa Show, she describes it as "one of the more pleasurable media experiences I've ever had", as it's so nice to talk to "'normal' people" rather than the "socialist elite press", finishing with a massive pic of another guest carrying an England flag.

    I swear she is actually the US Christian Right.

  4. PS Didn't know you had a tumblr, exciting!

  5. well said.
    I hate it when people such as Clarke try to make sense of a violent act that has no logic and no one objective cause. It is of course impossible to categorise rapes or indeed ascertain "what makes one rape worse than another". its nonsense. rape is rape and this victim-blaming, rape apologetic dumming down makes my blood boil.

  6. So, question - under UK law only the possessor of a penis can rape? A non-penis possessor can "only" sexually assault? This seems a little bit strange to me. Not that I have any idea what the laws say anywhere else.

  7. @helikonios - yup. Just to be clear, I REALLY don't subscribe to the legal definition of rape, and I wasn't saying that "sexual activity with a child" (eurgh) didn't constitute rape - I was just pointing out Clarke's departures from legal reality.

    Thanks for reading.