Germaine Greer says rape is 'just bad sex'. Here's why she's wrong.

Lowenna Waters
Thursday 31 May 2018 15:45
news
Picture:(Kane Hibberd / Stringer / iStock Getty )

Writer and feminist Germaine Greer has caused outrage by claiming that rape is 'just bad sex' and that rapists shouldn't be jailed.

Speaking at The Hay Festival in Wales, 79-year-old Greer sparked an angry backlash when she claimed that rape 'is not a particularly violent crime'.

Instead of a jail sentence, Greer claimed that most rapists should have an 'R' tattooed on their cheek.

She also scorned the idea that rape can lead to post-traumatic stress disorder, and suggested that rape is just 'bad sex'.

Speaking at Hay, Greer said:

Most rape is just lazy, just careless, just insensitive. 

Every time a man rolls over on his exhausted wife and insists on enjoying his conjugal right, he is raping her. It will never end up in a court of law.

Instead of thinking of rape as a spectacularly violent crime – and some rapes are – think about it as non-consensual, that is, bad sex. 

Sex where there is no communication, no tenderness, no mention of love.

When asked about an appropriate punishment is for people who commit rape, she answered:

Two hundred hours of community service would do me. 

I have suggested maybe a little tattoo would be a good thing, maybe an R on your hand. I'd prefer it on the cheek really.

Since she made the comments, we've spoken to a group of activists who fight for the rights of rape survivors, so that they can explain why she's wrong.

Katie Russell, spokesperson for Rape Crisis England and Wales, a charity that helps female survivors of rape.

If penetrating another person's body without their consent is not an act of violence, what is? Rape is an inherently violent crime, regardless of whether visible external injuries are sustained.

Through our 40+ years' frontline experience of listening to and supporting women and girls who've been raped, we know it often has long-lasting and wide-ranging impacts, including post-traumatic stress symptoms and Disorder.

Many of those we work with don't identify as victims or 'rapees' but as survivors, of an horrific and unjust experience but one that they choose not to let define them.

But they have undoubtedly been victims of a very serious crime and we use each individual's preferred language to talk about what they've been through.

Regardless of how those who've been raped identify, we listen to, believe, support and respect them. The criminal justice system already routinely lets them down.

Reducing sentences or declassifying crimes would do nothing to improve justice or reduce sexual violence.

Hannah Price was raped while she was a student on a university campus. Since, she has set up Revolt Assault, a platform that gives back voices to students who have been victims of sexual assault, and is campaigning for a national policy change.

Just because a rape isn’t considered violent, doesn’t mean it doesn’t cause injury or trauma.

It’s still a violation, and is something that will stay with me forever.

To be able to express and believe comments like that, you must be coming from a position of privilege; where you have access to all the support, resources and legal team you need.

Unfortunately most rape victims don’t have that luxury, and suffer alone and in silence.

We already know that sexual violence is at a shockingly high level, lowering the sentence is only going to further confirm that we accept this behaviour and show perpetrators that you can get away with rape.

She’s right in saying that the system isn’t working right now, but that has been fuelled by society letting sexual harassment and assault to normalised, rather than unacceptable.

I speak with rape survivors all the time, and there’s no way you could hear their stories and say what happened to them was ‘bad sex’, or look them I the eye and claim that they received no injuries.

Brandon Cook is a male survivor of rape, who spoke out about his experiences in a Facebook post, which was then trolled.

Germaine's words betray a complete lack of knowledge when it comes to the traumatic impact of rape - and ultimately of how the violence it enacts is often that which cannot be felt until much later.

The idea of punishments such as "tattooing R upon their cheek" for rapists might seem endearing to those particularly angry and in recovery from rape, but it does nothing to ameliorate the struggle felt by survivors.

These comments are wholly dangerous in that they invalidate the suffering of survivors while also giving a green light to those seeking to hold power over another through an act of rape, because higher-profile figures like Greer don't believe their intentions to be anything other than merely sexual, rather than anything more insidious in nature. 

If you have been affected by any of the issues raised in this article, you can contact The Survivors Trust helpline on 0808 801 0818 or Survivors UK - Male Rape and Sexual Abuse Support online.

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