Everyday Victim Blaming

challenging institutional disbelief around domestic & sexual violence and abuse

Sarah Vine – Women Aren’t All Slappers

Today appeared another article [Admin - Clean Link here] about how women should deal with abuse  committed upon them. This time from the Daily Mail, (I know right? Sooooo out of character from them!) in an article by Sarah Vine, about how the women allegedly assaulted by Lord Rennard, she asks,

"Why didn't the Lib Dem Ladies just give the old goat a slap?"

The first thing this does is assume that the women can all be lumped together in terms of what happened to them and that all the women can reflexively act the same when assaulted.

Let's be absolutely clear here. Fondle, stroke, touch up, pinch, caress, cuddle, hug, jiggle, poke, nibble (are there men who nibble? Probably). If those things are visited upon a woman's body without her permission then it is ASSAULT.

Very few women fling themselves around a workplace swishing past the water cooler and shouting, "Anybody up for pinching my arse I'm just off to the vending machine for a Twix! Come ON!"

Doesn't happen much does it?

There is a reason. Women at work, bizarrely and totally mind-blowingly, are there to earn money. Their role descriptions may include, "preparing a weekly report to the directors". It will almost never include, "making thigh available for the directors to fondle".

These women were all working within a political Party. Even as a volunteer this has, or should have, very clear acknowledgement of the position of professional responsibility the member accepts for themselves, and expect from others.

Calling Rennard an "old goat" makes him seem a bit fairytale, weak and unthreatening. A bit dithery and clippity cloppetying across a bridge and easily tipped over the edge by a spot of moral confrontation from a brave princess.

Well, he wasn't. He was a man in a position of considerable power. The women making the accusations would have held him in some esteem and given the way things are going, perhaps some fear. Political parties are places where more so than most workplaces, career progression is not entirely based upon ability. Cough. Gove. Cough. Lansley. Cough. Hunt.

Being "nice" to the right people and behaving in a way that shows you will not put your individual principles before the advancement of the collective whole is pretty much a given. If the Party leader says "run this way" you gather your constituency leaflets about your person and ask "how fast?" This happens down the stratified layers of the Party structure. Many people within a Party are almost evangelical about their devotion to placing the next King on the throne at the General Election. They are pretty much convinced it will be a King too. Very few women are under any illusion about that. Women don't get catapulted to power.

They have to work very, very, hard for far inferior positions. Imagine how Yvette feels watching Ed?

So, the women concerned faced with this knowledge are not really in a position to go around slapping people. Powerful men when their advances are scorned are in return not great at being slapped and rarely say, "Oh you're a one! Let me give you a huge step up the ladder for that."

Add that to the fact that many women abhor violence and may find it totally unnatural. Me? I might think to slap. I might also be totally unable to. Because in these situations you sometimes find it so difficult to believe that this is actually happening. You have a delayed response due to shock. You may perhaps hope that you are misreading the situation. Of course when the sweaty hand actually connects and you see the glazed eyeballs or feel the little fun size mars bar giddying against you, (come on. we can guess Rennard isn't carrying muchcandy) you know exactly what the intent is. It may cause you to freeze. Fear of assault can cause many reactions. Not all of them will make you slap someone.

Sarah Vine also seems to conclude, after attacking Lord Rennard's appearance, that an unattractive man will rarely be a sexual attacker of any real danger.Now, I almost slapped myself then. Just to be sure I got that straight. He is rather strange looking so he cannot be a potential rapist? Men in positions of power/wealth don't often judge themselves unattractive even if they turn the milk sour of a morning. If an abusive man could club a woman over the head with his wallet or his Porsche key fob, believe me he would do it. They see these things as attractive. Their entitlement is such that they would never be found in the toilet pulling in their bellies and touching up their double chin with concealer. They feel they are 'owed" because they are there.

So, let's move down Sarah's list where she says there is an overreaction.

1. He invited some aspiring women activists back to his house after dinner, where he then put his arms around them. When they tried to leave, he pretended there were no taxis (that old trick, eh?).

One of the key words is "aspiring". These women will possibly work hard for the party and might feel that accepting an invitation from someone so esteemed is both a reward and an opportunity to gain progression. What we should be asking is why were they prevented from leaving. Being made to feel that you are captive in the house of a man is a very frightening thing indeed. It happened to me once. I was as polite and charming as I could be and yet very clear that I wanted to leave. When I did finally "escape" and it definitely felt that way, I broke down in tears from the effort.

2. He touched a candidate’s leg and invited her up to his hotel room for a drink

For 'candidate" read "interviewee". Because that is the same thing. If you applied for a job and the future boss did this how would you feel? How threatening would that be? What if it was the only job? Because if you are a member of a Party and you want to be an MP the woman would be very much aware that there is no other route through to power. You must pass the "old goat" or pack your bags. The man was soliciting for sex. This is not "inappropriate" it is vile and disgusting. It is assault.

3. He put his hand on another woman’s knee.

So, he allegedly assaulted another woman.

4. He tried to get another young activist into bed by offering her the complimentary chocolate square from his hotel room.

He attempted to have sex with another woman who he had status and power over. The chocolate is just chocolate and irrelevant to the statement.

5. His hands wandered inappropriately during a photo opportunity

He assaulted another woman at a time she would have limited opportunity to resist the assault.

In summary then he allegedly abused a number of vulnerable women in a variety of situations where they felt threatened and uncomfortable and they were clearly humiliated and pressured because of his position.

Yeah. I'm not seeing harmless old goat here Sarah Vine. I'm seeing calculated, repetitive, abusive, behavior if it happened.

Vine also reverts to the recently evolved test "Is he as bad as Savile?" whereby an abuser either does or does not measure up to a vile paedophile. If he does not, he's pretty much good to go. How on Earth have the media arrived at this ridiculous position?

Sarah Vine continues that the women are not the victims of a "terrible crime" and she can't imagine his "sexual advances" are often successful again because he is no "Benedict Cumberbatch".

I am slapping myself now. Literally. Hitting myself around the head with a stapler. Because, just because a man doesn't manage to successfully rape that often, (ouch - ouch - ouch) doesn't mean it isn't attempted rape when he does.

Likewise with assault.

Also, as far as I know Cumberbatch is not a rapist. Also, as far as I know, if he ever desires to be, we women STILL aren't obliged to go along with it.

(Note to all - Staplers are not fun. Do not try that at home.)

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2 thoughts on “Sarah Vine – Women Aren’t All Slappers

  • Jennifer Drew says:

    Sarah Vine is parotting commonplace male denials that male sexual violence against women is routine and pandemic. The reason powerful men sexually prey on women is not because the woman/women are ‘vulnerable’ – that is another male created lie, but because men continue to accord themselves the right to sexually prey on women. Men know their male created legal institutions and structures will protect them and deny that male domination and male power over women exists.

    Sexual assault is a crime but sexual assault is only ‘sexual assault when the victim is male.’ Men’s legal system continues to proclaim that mens’ definition of what supposedly constitutes ‘real sexual assault’ is the definitive one whereby only if and when men accept a male has subjected a female to sexual assault/sexual violence a crime has really occurred. Womens’ lived experiences of male sexual harassment/male sexual assault continues to be denied by men because it is essential mens’ perspective is seen as the definitive human – ergo male default truth!

    The reason why so many men subject women to sexual assault/sexual violence is because males are the ones accorded socio-economic power over women. Even the most disadvantaged male has the right if he chooses to subject any woman to male sexual harassment/male sexual violence or male sexual assault because men know their male supremacist system will deny it happened and/or refuse to hold the male predator accountable.

    Women are not ‘vulnerable’ – this is a male created lie which pathologises women. I do not read or hear that non-white males are ‘vulnerable’ when they are subjected to white men’s racist insults. Rather white male supremacists make the choice to enact their agency by subjecting non-white males to racist insults. So too men enact their choice and agency when they choose to sexually prey on women.

  • […] In all cases, these arrests and sentencing are due to the campaigning of the women involved. This is totally unacceptable. These cases are only the tip of the iceberg as far as internet abuse is concerned. There are too many women who can’t campaign or whose campaigns fall on deaf ears because they are not deemed worthy of media attention. There are too many journalists who think it all could be resolved if the woman just stood up for herself. […]