Category Archives: acab

Raping women is legal if it’s a policeman doing it

Content warning: this post discusses rape and police violence

The CPS today explained that they’ve decided it’s not illegal for policemen to pretend to be real people, insinuate themselves into the lives of women it’s literally their job to try and incarcerate, and trick them into sex and childbearing. Their full justification for this is pretty grim reading, riddled with rape apologism and a soupçon of cissexism, and you can read it here.

I cannot even begin to imagine the slap in the face this is for the survivors, who have worked hard to drag the violations they experienced into the light. It is revolting that what happened to them is not considered an act of violence, when it so patently is. The law, as always, is all backwards, set up to protect the powerful and allow them to perpetrate acts of violence against women with impunity.

The fact is, these men lied. They lied about who they were, about what they did, about what they believed. They built a castle of lies, and tricked women into building intimate relationships with them, for the purposes of information gathering. The endgame of this deception was to lock up these women, and everyone these women knew, to silence them and to stop them. There is probably not a woman alive who would actively consent to what these policemen had in mind. This is why we discuss what happened in terms of rape: because of the lack of consent. The legal system, for the most part, defines what is and isn’t rape around what they want their chums to get away with, so by their standards, of course it isn’t rape.

It’s not that the legal system isn’t fit for purpose, because it is. It’s just that the purpose it serves is not in our interests.

There’s a knock-on effect of all this, trickling down to women like me. Under rape culture, we’re paranoid about getting raped–and it’s a just paranoia, because it’s phenomenally likely to happen to a lot of us at some point. Under this state-sanctioned rape culture, there’s this additional retroactive paranoia for those of us who aren’t good girls, who make likely targets for a predatory cop. I find myself flicking through the comrades I have slept with, wondering desperately to myself if any of them were cops. There were those I let myself get close to, and then they disappeared. Were they undercover policemen, who got what they wanted and fucked off back to base?

To my knowledge, they were all just arseholes, and while all cops are bastards, all bastards aren’t cops. However, the niggling, wearing anxiety is still there, and I suspect this is precisely what the pigs want. Ultimately, they want us frightened and ground-down, as it positions us as unable to resist.

I’ve said before that being deeply critical of the police is a very important feminist position to hold, and I’ll say it again until I’m blue in the face. These men are a gang of perpetrators, who will gladly inflict sexual violence upon us to suit their needs. Never forget that.


ACAB is a feminist issue

Content note: this post discusses violence against women and police violence

There is a gang of mostly men who have a monopoly on perpetrating and enabling violence against women. They recruit just enough women to do their dirty work for them, to hide the fact that they are the biggest perpetrators of male violence. We can see them for what they are.

Just today, we have two stories of gross abuse of women coming from the police. It has taken almost thirty years for the police to finally be blamed for shooting Cherry Groce, causing her to live out the rest of her life paralysed from the waist down and eventually die from the injury. Almost thirty years, a woman’s life destroyed, from a senseless act of violence for which she didn’t get to see justice in her lifetime. Meanwhile, in the realm of inciting violence and abuse of women, we see a story where the Met encouraged their Twitter followers to pile on a woman for complaining about the noise their helicopters make.

I suppose for me, this is somewhat personal. Once again, I’ll give a tiny sample of stories, limited to within the last month, of the police acting as perpetrators and enablers of violence against women as there’s just too fucking many, even limited to people I know personally. There’s my friend Ellen, who was assaulted, wrongly arrested, held without her medication and then put through a malicious court case and left with PTSD from the experience. There’s my friend Sam, who believed the white liberal lies, called the police and was blamed for the abuse she was receiving, perhaps because she isn’t the nice white girl the police like.

It’s a fact that the police have the power to hit women. It’s a fact they have the power to lock women up. And it’s a fact that they and their apologists will blame their victims for what happened to them.

It’s a fact that police are positioned as the gatekeepers for getting justice for violence against women. It’s a fact that they fail survivors over and over again. And it’s a fact that due to the choices they make, they enable abuse of countless women.

If you’re a nice white middle class girl, it can be hard to see the police for what they are. To you, they’ll be that nice jolly bobby who helped you get the people who tweeted rude things to you sent to prison. It’ll be the organisation who you can work with because they’ll definitely improve at helping out all the abstract women who had trouble.

They are not. Ask sex workers. Ask Black women. Ask women of colour. Ask trans women. Ask any woman who is not a good girl. They are the aggressors, the perpetrators, the ones who attack already-marginalised women while the privileged cheer from the sidelines.

A coherent, inclusive and effective feminism can and must be deeply critical of the police, and begin from a position of utter abolition of this structural perpetrator of male violence. I don’t doubt such a proposal will be met with harrumphing, cries of NOT ALL PIGGIES and eventually tending towards the hope I get raped and then let’s see how anti-police I am (pre-empting that by saying already happened, didn’t report).

If you think the police are on your side, that is the utmost manifestation of privilege. For most women, they’re just abusers in a silly hat.


In which I review a book that I read: Playing The Whore

Since I heard that Melissa Gira Grant wrote a book about sex work, I’ve been desperate to get my grubby mitts on it. Having now read Playing The Whore: The Work Of Sex Work, I want to recommend that every single one of you reads this fucking book.

Weighing in at just 132 pages, I’m astounded Gira Grant managed to pack in so much vital–and radical–analysis in such an accessible format. Central to her thesis is the concept of a “prostitute imaginary”, a cobbled-together bundle of myths which occupies our minds. These myths are systematically examined and dismantled through a feminist lens. Everything you thought you knew about sex work is a lie, it seems. Did you know, for example, that among a sample of over 21, 000 women who do sex work in West Bengal, there were 48, 000 reports of violence perpetrated by police, but only 4000 perpetrated by customers?

Gira Grant has a theory as to why this may be the case. The forces of public imagination surrounding sex work run strong. Misogynists, law enforcement and feminists alike view a sex worker as always working, as nothing but a sex worker. She (as Gira Grant points out, this stereotype is always of a cis woman) is somehow deviant and subjected to stigma for her deviance. Simultaneously, focus is on representations of sex, rather than the concrete. We only see sex workers being arrested, or peek through a peephole to see what we want to see. With all of this going on, the voices of sex workers can easily be ignored, creating this situation:

These demands on their speech [in testimony in court and the media], to both convey their guilt and prove their innocence, are why, at the same time that sex work has made strides toward recognition and popular representations that defy stereotypes, prostitutes, both real and imaginary, still remain the object of social control. This is how sex workers are still understood: as curiosities, maybe, but as the legitimate target of law enforcement crackdowns and charitable concerns–at times simultaneously. And so this is where the prostitute is still most likely to be found today, where those who seek to “rescue” her locate her: at the moment of her arrest.

The book travels in a spiral, revisiting the same points over and over again to the joint problems of violence and coercion from law enforcement, and how other women, especially feminists, aren’t helping–and in fact, attempts to rescue can often make things worse, such as demonstrated in a case study in Cambodia, where attempts to “rescue” sex workers have led to many women being dragged away to “rehabilitation camps”, repurposed prisons where women have died or set to work long shifts behind a sewing machine.

A lot of what we as feminists have been doing wrong is related to “whore stigma”, which Gira Grant explains goes beyond simple misogyny:

The fear of the whore, or of being the whore, is the engine that drives the whole thing [a culture which is dangerous for sex workers]. That engine could be called “misogyny”, but even that word misses something: the cheapness of the whore, how easily she might be discarded not only due to her gender, but to her race, her class. Whore is maybe the original intersectional insult.

It is a desire to reverse away from “whore stigma”, which predominantly affects sex workers, but can also hit women who are not sex workers, which links with a lot of problems within mainstream feminism: Gira Grant theorises that it is no coincidence that feminists who are anti-sex work are also often transphobic. And, likewise, anti-sex work laws are often used against trans women and women of colour, from unfair targeting for stop and search, to disproportionate incarceration.

It makes for uncomfortable reading at times, this litany of our own mistakes as feminists, and perhaps nowhere is it clearer than in an analysis of objectification, and the feminist line that sex workers increase objectification of women. The evidence upon which these assumptions rest is dealt with in short order, and Gira Grant highlights the dehumanisation and objectification of sex workers at the hands of women, as silent props, and, often depicted in a frighteningly demeaning fashion.

In dismantling the myths, Playing The Whore offers glimpses of the reality of sex work, the diversity of all that this umbrella covers. The book explains neatly how sex work fits in among other forms of work, of how once upon a time, sex workers and housewives were sisters in arms. At times, I wish the book were far longer, as I feel as though there are tantalising hints of analysis to come which never quite develops but is merely teased. Although this book is neither explicitly anti-capitalist nor explicitly ACAB, conclusions of this nature bubble under the surface, never spelled out, for this is not quite within its scope in its current form.

This book is a must-read feminist book. I would go so far as to place it as a crucial Feminism 101 text. The first feminist book I ever read way Ariel Levy’s Female Chauvinist Pigs, whose ideas I am still struggling to unlearn, as it gave me a shameful attitude towards sex workers and femmes for years I will never get back. Playing The Whore casts a critical eye on patriarchy while actively dismantling the stigma many women face, and teaches the central feminist values of listening, and solidarity. For readers more versed in feminist theory and praxis, it allows us to evaluate our past mistakes and encourages us to rebuild on more solid ground. By rights, this book could and should shake up feminism for the better.

But sadly, I fear it will not, for I fear the forces Gira Grant outlines are too powerful to be brought down by this smart little book. We have had centuries of clinging to a prostitute imaginary while coming up with numerous excuses to silence the voices of sex workers. I believe that this book will largely be ignored by the mainstream with their stake in speaking for and over sex workers. A recent review of Playing The Whore by a liberal cis white feminist took umbrage to Gira Grant’s centring of sex workers in a book about sex work, and decided that she would rather read about “demand”. Mainstream feminism wants sex workers decentred from discussions directly pertinent to their livelihood, it wants to keep sex workers on the margins. It will not listen.

Gira Grant knows this, which is why she concludes with a rousing cry for decriminalisation, in the hope that the rest will follow. This conclusion, and the solidarity Gira Grant asks for are concrete things which we as feminists who do not do sex work can support.


Of course the police are more interested in rude tweets than violence against women

Content note: this post discusses violence against women 

In news that is pissing me off today, the Twitter is inherently abusive line is out in the media again. This time the victim is Stan Collymore, who was sent racist and threatening tweets. The police are, of course, interested and investigating.

Now, of course, it is unacceptable to send racist and threatening tweets to anyone, but I’m getting a little concerned about how much of an interest they are showing in rude tweets. This isn’t the first time they’ve swooped in to help out Stan Collymore: late in 2012, a man was arrested for sending a racist tweet to Stan Collymore. Indeed, arresting people for tweets seems to be a new top policing priority, in sharp contrast with how they deal with violence against women.

Let’s look at Stan Collymore’s record. He violently attacked one woman, including kicking her in the head three times. As far as I can discern, the police didn’t get involved at all. He then went on to threaten to kill his wife and burn down her parents’ home. This time the police took the matter slightly more seriously, and charged him for a threat to destroy property, because apparently the structural integrity of a building is the most important thing here.

So why are the police far more gung-ho in going after internet trolls than perpetrators of domestic violence? Ultimately, it boils down to two things.

Firstly, they don’t really give a flying fuck about violence against women. This is why so few of us report our rapes. This is why we don’t trust the police to keep our violent partners away from us. We’ve seen their record, and we know that they’ll violate any trust we put in them. And many women, particularly marginalised women, have themselves been victims of violence perpetrated by police, because that’s their job: to beat us into submission. The role of the police is to keep everything as it is–and this includes protecting a structure which enables violence against women.

Put more charitably, the police are a product of a broken society, born and raised in it, and then paid to enforce this broken society. Is it any surprise that they reflect and enforce patriarchal control of women?

And secondly, democratised communication scares the shit out of the establishment. It is a way people can get messages out, outside of the controlled circumstances in which we may usually have a platform. Things get out that threaten the system, and that frightens them. Of course they will instrumentalise the very real experiences of misogyny and racism in order to try to clamp down on their own real enemy: their critics. It is important to remember, when thinking of police interventions into online abuse, to remember this. Twitter was blamed for the riots, while simultaneously lauded for causing the spread of democracy in the Middle East. These are the same mechanisms at work in both cases, and basically the state would rather keep such uprisings further away from home.

It is hardly a surprise that tweets will be policed more heavily than kicking a woman in the head. It is an inevitable reflection of how things are.


ACAB, AJAB, &c., &c.

From last night, two horrible stories about the police, reflecting how all cops are bastards. The first involves a peaceful university occupation. Students occupied Senate House in solidarity with staff. The students were violently evicted by police–including the TSG–within a few hours. Several were arrested, and some were assaulted by police. The second story took place that same night in Soho, where the police charged in and arrested sex workers, using the excuse that the women were “handling stolen goods”.

In both of these instances, people have been harmed by police, and it looks like the filth had a busy night being utter bastards. So surely the media have been busy with their unbiased reporting?

Er, obviously not. We live in a country where journalism mostly consists of regurgitating press releases. This is fairly evident in the Evening Standard’s reporting of the Soho raids, especially when it is compared to what sex workers are saying happened on social media. Unfortunately, there doesn’t even seem to be a will to listen to what sex workers say: observe the feeble excuses coming from journalists in this thread on being called out for not bothering to cover the story.

Meanwhile, the Guardian is reporting on the Senate House eviction, and has even posted a video of some of the police violence. The video clearly shows a police officer punching a protester, so it is somewhat perplexing that the Guardian has seen fit to put scare quotes around the word “punch” in the headline.

We’ve seen it throughout Leveson, and I don’t doubt we’ll see this again and again. The media is firmly in the pockets of the police. Rather than a free press, what we have is an extension of the police press office. This grip is maintained partially through a mutually beneficial arrangement, but further because these days, journalists don’t seem interested in doing research, in listening and stepping outside of their media clique and actually criticising the establishment that serves them.

The police perpetrate violence, and the media gladly covers for them. Remember this.


Your periodic reminder that the system still fails rape survivors

Content note: this post discusses rape and rape apologism

The latest figures suggest that the police are getting increasingly bad at referring rape cases to the CPS, despite the fact reporting is on the rise. This must be absolutely devastating for the survivors who chose to report, finding this route to justice the best.

For me, the official route has never been particularly appealing. I’ve written before about why I feel that way. I feel for those who felt that reporting and the court system was what they wanted; they have been failed so much. Why have the police suddenly decided that so much isn’t worth prosecuting, after gaining the trust of more and more survivors?

The answer is, of course, rape culture. It’s worth noting that this is alive and roaring from the establishment in this situation. Take a look at these two juxtaposed headlines:

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This was likely accidental, inasmuch as these things are accidental. Certainly, I don’t think anyone set out this page thinking “I want to associate rape reporting with lies”. It’s just that these associations exist in our minds, because we were all born and raised in a rape culture.

And very few of us see that everything we thought to be true about rape is wrong. So we end up here.

Their intent is not magical, and I do not trust the police, the media, the justice system to deal with rape adequately. They have too much power and too little understanding. Remember just how much they fail us.


How V53 might not be a liar (but is still a racist and a murderer)

No doubt some of you have been following the Mark Duggan inquest today. The officer who shot Duggan, V53, gave some rather baffling evidence. He swears blind that he saw a gun in Duggan’s hand, to the point that he could describe it, and yet the alleged gun which he saw in so much detail was also shrouded in a sock and somehow managed to teleport quite far away. Supernatural explanations notwithstanding, it looks rather a lot like our porcine witness is telling fibs. This seems like a particularly logical conclusion on a day where it has emerged that–shock horror!–cops are fucking liars.

Even assuming that it is impossible for guns to apparate by magic out of a sock and over a fence some distance away, however, it is possible that V53’s evidence is entirely honest. There is a psychological effect known as “weapon bias” which makes people see guns where there are none. Simply the effect of seeing a black face can make research participants imagine that they have seen a gun, especially when they are tasked with making a split-second decision. Interestingly, this effect seems to happen even when the participants are black. It is theorised that the underlying cause for this is racial stereotypes, which is exacerbated by making snap decisions.

Ultimately, then, it is entirely possible that V53 was telling the truth when he saw that magical gun. That doesn’t make him any less of a racist or a murderer, simply that the fact he is a racist has warped his memory. Likewise, it doesn’t make him any less culpable for the killing.

The knowledge that a bias exists which makes imaginary weapons appear in black hands means that we ought to treat such police claims with utmost scepticism, and question the notion that it is ever necessary to arm those who will make snap decisions based on racism with the capacity to end lives.


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