Similarly, there have been claims over the years (by some on this very blog ) that Western society is fuelled by a rape culture which oppresses women (and, to a lesser degree, men) from the day they are born.
Certainly, legendary writers like KathyAcker tapped into this train of thought for her own writing, whereas the likes of Andrea Dworkin, Catherine MacKinnon and countless others weaved their own experiences together in order to create this idea as a way of explaining the injustices (be they genuine or insignificant) that woman faced in the world.
Anthony McIntyre has written that he doesn't think:
... the society we live in is one of rape culture: I don't see it as pervasive or regarded as the accepted thing to do, which I imagine are ever present aspects of a rape culture. And blaming the victim is something the perpetrator does to evade sanction rather than society. That is not to say society handles these things well. A patriarchy and a rape culture are not one and the same. I think there may be rape sub cultures that exists just as they do in many armies. Some countries seem more emblematic of a rape culture than others. India springs to mind from a distance.
Obviously, it's a highly emotive topic with room for misinterpretation, division and outrage (real and feigned). It can often seem impossible to have a proper conversation around this topic. So it's to Luke Gittos' credit that he manages this over the course of this book.
A solicitor for Hughmans Solicitors in East London, as well as editing Spiked, Gittos is in a prime position to discuss the concept of rape, the social/cultural ramifications and the effect it has on people.
Firstly, let's get this out of the way, yes the title is meant to be provocative. Far too many books of this ilk allow themselves to be filed away in dusty corners because the title doesn't jump out at the reader. So fair play to Gittos for such a move.
In the introduction, Gittos lays out his case: that rape culture is an all-encompassing term that is used to explain away some very complex situations and, perversely, the continuation of such claims has led the state to start criminalising activity that might have, traditionally, been passed off as a bad experience. It”s a compelling argument, but the reader then wonders about the various statistics that would suggest otherwise.
Another claim is that there are, on average, 85,000 rapes in the UK every year. A highly disturbing statistic for anyone but it's a statistic that, according to Gittos, is based on misleading research. The questionnaires would frame the question as "which...of these things has someone done to you in the last 12 months...when you made it clear that you did not agree or when you were not capable of consent" and then provide multiple choice answers. If someone answered yes to certain ones, they were listed as rapes.
However, as Gittos points out, there are situations that the blunt questioning does not allow for room to consider:
The first problem with this is that someone who is penetrated without consent is not necessarily a 'victim' of rape or serious sexual assault, even in law. The question fails to take into account an alleged perpetrator's knowledge at the time of the incident...For example, a couple may start having sex before the woman falls asleep. Because the woman no longer had the capacity for consent, but the penetration was ongoing, this could amount to rape.
A slightly convoluted example but then, have there been any of us who haven't had a drunken one night stand or come home from the pub with both you and your partner bollixed? In situations like that, where both people were too inebriated to properly give consent or even perform (let's be honest) is it right to categorically call this rape?
Of course, it depends on the situation. But such disregard for the individual scenarios in favour of statistics that strongly suggest 85,000 rapes a year is the sort of behaviour that encourages people to believe that a rape culture exists in Ireland and the UK.
So, according to Gittos, what this means is that as the cries of those claiming that rape is underreported has risen in the public conscience, the state have begun to expand the terms 'rape' and 'sexual assault' to encompass more crimes, and therefore gain more convictions. One such example cited is the case of a young transgender male called McNally, who was convicted of assault by digital penetration.
For Gittos, this is an example of how the justice system can badly handle a delicate case. Did this really need to be classified as a case of rape/sexual assault, or was it something that should have been worked out between the two individuals at the centre of this case?
Is this the sort of blunt approach that we want from a tough, but effective, justice system? If not, then we need to have a calm but pointed discussion about the law and the repercussions of claiming that we live in a rape culture.
This is a book that will make you pause for thought and reconsider some long held notions. Well worth tracking down.
Luke Gittos, 2015, Why Rape Culture is a Dangerous Myth: From Steubenville to Ched Evans. Societas ISBN-13: 978-1845408374
⏩Christopher Owens was a reviewer for Metal Ireland and finds time to study the history and inherent contradictions of Ireland. He is currently the TPQ Friday columnist.