Does the pun­ish­ment fit the... SEX CRIME?

The Irish Mail on Sunday - - MORE - SAMIRA AHMED

On Rape Ger­maine Greer Blooms­bury €16 ★★★★★ Un­wanted Ad­vances Laura Kip­nis Verso €16 ★ ★★★★

We live in strange times. Who could have pre­dicted that 50 years af­ter the great break­out of sec­ond­wave fem­i­nism, rape and shock­ingly low con­vic­tion rates would still be such a phe­nom­e­non? Or that one of the move­ment’s most charis­matic fig­ures, Ger­maine Greer, would now be de­monised by some younger ac­tivists as a dan­ger­ous rape ‘apol­o­gist’?

Even as the #MeToo move­ment has re­vealed the scale of sex­ual abuse and ca­reer de­rail­ment of women who said ‘no’, there is a si­mul­ta­ne­ous con­cern that ‘vic­tim cul­ture’, par­tic­u­larly on US univer­sity cam­puses, has gone too far.

It is to their credit that both Greer and fel­low fem­i­nist Laura Kip­nis have cho­sen to speak out on this dis­turb­ing state of af­fairs.

Greer’s On Rape is short and frus­trat­ingly un­der­de­vel­oped, but it is the work of a fear­less thinker fizzing with ideas she’s been ru­mi­nat­ing over for decades – no­tably her the­sis that most rapes are com­mit­ted by re­peat of­fend­ers.

With a calm fo­cus on how to stop such men, Greer of­fers a num­ber of in­trigu­ing sug­ges­tions, in­clud­ing iso­lat­ing the el­e­ments of as­sault for which con­sent is not an is­sue, such as ac­tual bod­ily harm, and then con­vict­ing on them at least.

She cites the Cal­listo data­base set up by a group of San Fran­cisco women that gets as­sault sur­vivors to file ac­counts of cam­pus at­tacks in a date- and time-locked ac­count on­line, to be sent to the univer­sity or in­sti­tu­tion only if the con­tent matches with an­other ac­count as an ad­di­tional pos­si­ble way to tackle re­peat abusers on cam­pus.

Greer’s nar­row se­man­tic def­i­ni­tion of rape as in­volv­ing only the pe­nis and the vagina, and use of short­hand terms such as ‘sim­ple rape’ will in­fu­ri­ate her op­po­nents.

As will one spe­cific idea for tack­ling low con­vic­tion rates, even though it is care­fully con­tex­tu­alised: ‘If we are to aban­don the for­mu­la­tion used in many ju­ris­dic­tions that the de­fen­dant who rea­son­ably be­lieved that the vic­tim con­sented is in­no­cent, and rely in­stead upon the vic­tim’s state­ment that she did not con­sent as suf­fi­cient, then we will have to lighten the tar­iff.’ How­ever, her com­pas­sion and sup­port for sur­vivors is im­plicit on ev­ery page, and she recog­nises how be­ing treated as mere pieces of ‘ev­i­dence’ by the crim­i­nal jus­tice process causes PTSD.

The book is also a use­ful re­minder that Greer was one of the first to ques­tion how, long be­fore the Rother­ham groom­ing scan­dal in the UK, the con­cept of con­sent had been blurred thanks to a pub­lic health fo­cus on hu­man pa­pil­lo­mavirus vac­cines and avail­abil­ity of the pill for un­der­age girls. The em­pha­sis all seemed to be on girls keep­ing men happy with­out enough con­cern about the pres­sure on them to be sex­u­ally avail­able.

Laura Kip­nis is a film stud­ies pro­fes­sor at North­west­ern Univer­sity. Her book Un­wanted

Ad­vances is a real-life hor­ror story based on per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ence of the Kafkaesque bu­reau­cracy sur­round­ing sex­ual as­sault al­le­ga­tions on US cam­puses.

At its heart is a grip­ping ac­count of the hound­ing of Kip­nis’s col­league Peter Lud­low, the tar­get of a univer­sity in­qui­si­tion af­ter a men­tally un­sta­ble stu­dent ac­cused him of in­ap­pro­pri­ate be­hav­iour. In the way that sur­vivors are of­ten ‘blamed’ for their rape, this age­ing phi­los­o­phy pro­fes­sor did some gob­s­mack­ingly stupid things, such as buy­ing drinks for an un­der­age stu­dent and let­ting her sleep along­side him in his bed af­ter­wards (though no sex took place). But Kip­nis makes a com­pelling case that men like him have been de­stroyed by a mad, se­cre­tive sys­tem loaded against de­fen­dants not al­lowed to see, let alone chal­lenge, the ev­i­dence or the ac­cusers.

Af­ter she started writ­ing about what was go­ing on, Kip­nis her­self be­came the sub­ject of a com­plaint by one of Lud­low’s anony­mous ac­cusers. But Kip­nis kept chal­leng­ing. Her le­git­i­mate con­cern is that ‘hard fought rights, namely the right for women to be treated as con­sent­ing adults in erotic mat­ters, are be­ing handed back on a plat­ter’.

How­ever, her book is un­der­mined by a sneer­ing tone, sur­pris­ing for an aca­demic, and sweep­ing, un­proven claims about the scale of women al­legedly mak­ing it all up.

‘Af­ter she started writ­ing about what was go­ing on, Kip­nis be­came the sub­ject of a com­plaint’

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