There's a lot of absolute b*ll*x being talked at the moment about rape, and former newspaper boss Eddy Shah has stoked the conflagration somewhat by daring to suggest that all men are not violent predators and occasionally girls might actually want to have sex. He might as well have postulated that Jesus was the love-child of the Prophet Mohammed and the Seven-Breasted Whore of Babel – he could hardly have attracted more ignorant, thoughtless condemnation.
Mr.Shah walked free recently after a jury cleared him of several counts of raping a schoolgirl. He had claimed that although he had met the girl, he never touched her. We haven't see the trial transcript, but from newspaper reports it seems that the only evidence against him was the girl's allegation.
It seems fair enough that a man who has gone through the torment of a criminal trial and all the public humiliation that must accompany such charges, should want to make a few comments to the public that watched his ordeal. But if he thinks that talking plain common sense is going to cut much ice, he's a bit of an idealist.
We all know that children are sexually active these days. Most of us old geezers never got a sniff of a girl's titty until we were nineteen or twenty. These days girls arrive at secondary school with their knickers in their satchels, if certain newspapers are to be believed.
We can also imagine very easily that some young girls will be eager to act grown-up and engage in proper sex, and that they will naturally select the most attractive men for that purpose. And to a teenage girl, the most attractive men are not their gawky classmates all acne and adam's apple, but proper young men with jobs and cars and all the chat.
Trouble is, the law makes it illegal for a man to have sex with an underage girl. It's called 'statutory rape'. We suspect the police or the CPS often exercise a bit of discretion – it may be illegal for a seventeen-year-old boy to have sex with his willing fifteen-year-old girlfriend, but the point of prosecuting him would be ... what?
The purpose of this law is laudable. It is to protect girls from making rotten decisions. There must be an awful lot of girls who lost their virginity at thirteen or fourteen, didn't enjoy it as much as they expected, and regret it for the rest of their lives. It is probably these same girls who are now leading the charge for men like Eddy Shah. And of course we must, in a caring society, make an assumption that a young girl needs to be saved from her own hormones, from peer pressure, from social pressure so that when she really does make the decision to give it up, she's adequately informed and able to give it some mature thought and enjoy the process.
But – and this is a big but – it is absurd, illogical and a downright lie to use the word “rape” for such protection. To have sex with an underage girl who is willing and not under any kind of pressure, who might even be enthusiastic, may be wrong. It can be, and probably should be, and is, illegal. But it is not rape and shouldn't be called rape.
Rape is non-consensual sex. Rape is when the woman says “no”, or tries to say “no”, or would have said “no” if she'd dared but was too frightened, or who would have said “no” but was coerced by threat or blackmail or other pressure into saying “yes”. When a fourteen-year-old girl tears her clothes off, leaps on the bed and says “come on, let's do it!” it ain't rape.
Eddy Shah tried to say just that, but did so rather crudely. He said ‘rape was a technical thing, below a certain age, but these girls were going out with the pop groups and becoming groupies and all the rest of it, and throwing themselves at them. Young girls and young men have always wanted a bit of excitement. They want to appear adult and do adult things.’
Odd, isn't it, that a man who founded newspapers can't put together a more coherent statement? But his words do ring true to those of us who lived through the sixties and seventies. Operation Yewtree has been described as a witch hunt, but it's something more sinister than that: it applies the standards of today to history. The arm of the law is reaching back into the past to take retrospective revenge.
Shah used the expression “rape rape”, meaning rape that is genuinely non-consensual. This led Pete Saunders, of the National Association of People Abused in Childhood, to say ‘I’d like to meet with Eddy, and to have him explain to me, and maybe explain to some rape victims, what he means by “raped raped”, because my understanding is there is rape, or there is not rape, and rape is always a crime.’
This is the b*ll*x we referred to above. We've used the word “rape” wrongly, we've applied it to something that is not rape, and therefore Saunders' simplistic thinking is just that – simplistic and plain wrong. Just suppose some sad, idealistic government (probably led by H Harperson) decided to protect women from the insult of being whistled at in the street by builders with their bottoms hanging out by calling it “rape”. Would it be rape? No, of course it wouldn't. Whistling at women may be offensive, it can even be made an offence (it probably is already), but calling it rape doesn't make it rape. Words mean what they mean, and legislation and good intentions can't change them. Consensual sex is not rape.
Mr.Saunders and many others would tell us 'Ah, but an underage girl can't give her consent'. But that's b*ll*x too. “No means no”, they're quick to tell us, but won't admit that the corollary is “yes means yes”. An underage girl might not be informed or sensible, but if she says “yes”, that's consent and not rape. It may still be illegal, certainly – we're not questioning that.
What we're questioning is the deliberate misuse of the English language, and we need to question it because it's the thin end of the 1984 wedge – war is peace, hunger is plenty, slavery is freedom, and yes means no.
The GOS says: All well and good, but this kind of thoughtful approach isn't going to go down very well with the kind of people who write to the Daily Mail website. The kind of people who mistake obduracy for strength, who put “end of” or “FACT” at the end of their messages to suggest that argument is useless, who hide behind facile clichés like “rape is rape” so they never have to put themselves out by thinking.
Damn, I seem to have ended up at the Daily Mail again. I hate that.
either on this site or on the World Wide Web.
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