Clive Caines Cultural Contributor

“Rape victims would not become pregnant because the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.” 

U. S. congressman Todd Akin responding to the question should abortion be allowed in the case of rape?

“Wouldn’t it be funny if that girl got raped by, like, five guys right now? Like right now? What if a bunch of guys just raped her”

Daniel Tosh, comedian, responding to a female member of his audience who said that “rape jokes are never funny”

“No never means yes” but the Assange allegations were ‘not rape as most people understand it” Mr Assange is guilty of “bad sexual etiquette”

George Galloway setting out his take on the rape allegations leveled at Wikileaks founder Julian Assange.

Deluded U. S. Congressman Todd Akin. Photo courtesy

To many these quotes suggest that we are at a moment of crisis in our thinking about rape; the word crisis isn’t too dramatic given the level of annoyance to be found on blog pages like ‘Another angry woman’.

If we now feel so secure in our political correctness that we can give room to ironic comedy about rape then how far have we really come? Let’s look at rape from another angle and say where’s the funny in these figures: According to Rape Crisis England and Wales “Around 400,000 women are sexually assaulted and 80,000 women are raped each year.”

Julian Assange. Photo courtesy

The figures quoted by Rape Crisis come from the British Crime Survey.  In America the charity RAINN (Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network) states, “There is an average of 207,754 victims (age 12 or older) of rape and sexual assault each year.” RAINN also point out that based on their figures there’s 1 sexual assault in America every two minutes.

Back in the day there was an oft heard mantra that many men were guided by, “No means No”– I really want to stress at this point that I do not believe that the solution to rape lay in the actions of one gender alone.

It seems to me that that mantra made the issues simple and clear: consent must be sort and this consent can be withdrawn at any point. So how have we got ourselves to a point where George Galloway feels confident enough to urge us to consider the grey area argument in the Assange case or Daniel Tosh is so certain of his audience that he can happily tell jokes in which the victim is the one being laughed at?

Maybe the answer lies in a comment made by a respondent to one of my earlier articles, “… I’m interested that you didn’t mention anything about the role of feminists in all this… is that seen as old hat now?” It may well be that in wanting to resist the idea of gender politics being important or necessary we have become complacent.

Daniel Tosh. Photo courtesy

Back in 1984 I went to see the gangster movie ‘Once Upon A Time in America’ and left thinking that it was a flawed masterpiece. The flaw in the film for me was the rape scene, its role in the narrative appeared to be nothing more than to convey just how limited the main character was. I could be wrong in my reading of the film and maybe the film’s director Sergio Leone would tell me different but surely the only reason for rape to appear in a film is to say something about rape itself.

If rape is just the stuff of conjecture, stand up comedy or scientific ignorance made to sound like fact then the message is, this is not a major issue. With this in mind I say to Julian Assange, wouldn’t your man of the people stance be better served by arguing your case in a court of law rather than hiding in an Embassy?