Category Archives: rape

Witch hunt.

Content note: this post discusses sexual violence, rape apologism and historical femicides

Picture a witch. The worst, wickedest witch you can. The kind of witch who causes crops to fail, floats in water due to Satan’s power, and all-round causes trouble for men.

Your witch doesn’t look like a powerful white man accused of sexual violence, does she?

So why is it, then, that whenever a powerful white man is accused of sexual violence, his defenders rally around and decry the whole thing as a witch hunt?

In the early modern period, many Europeans were killed in witch hunts. Up to 90% of these people were women (ETA I HAVE BEEN CALLED OUT ON THIS AND I AM WRONG. Read this thread. I have erased trans women in this article. READ THIS THREAD. I just want to clarify my stance that of COURSE when I use the term “women” I am including trans women. Every time. But I can do a lot more to be clear about this. I also always welcome call-outs. I’m trying, but I’m still capable of being wrong. I unconditionally apologise for any harm I caused by blarting my cluelessly cis opinions.)These so-called witches were denounced, blamed and ultimately tortured and killed.

The sort of person who cries “witch hunt!” are devoid of any analysis of what actually occurred in the witch hunts and witch trials. Yes, members of the community would accuse the perceived witch. That’s where the similarities end. See, witchcraft and consorting with the devil is bullshit. Sexual violence is not. Sexual violence is frighteningly common, and a lot of men are very willing to admit to having raped someone if the r-word is never used. When a man is accused of sexual violence by one woman, statistically it’s far more likely than not that he did it. When he is accused by multiple women, it becomes a near-certainty. Contrast that with the likelihood that a gobby woman caused a prize calf to come out looking a bit weird by casting a spell.

The profile of the witch was a working-class woman known for a “quarrelsome and aggressive nature“. When men were accused, they, too, were typically working class. Witch hunts were undeniably gendered, with perhaps a class component involved too. It is a very different kettle of fish to accusations of sexual violence levelled at men powerful enough to believe themselves able to do what they want.

It is not hysteria, nor a moral panic, to level true allegations. And, indeed, it’s well-documented that survivors speaking out encourage more survivors to come forward.

For a powerful white man who is also a creep, perhaps survivors coming forward can feel a little like a witch hunt. I’ve written before, on the topic of trigger warnings, that white boys are wrapped in cotton wool their whole life. The same applies here. These men have not experienced true adversity in their lives. They are pampered and protected from ever feeling even vaguely uncomfortable; thinking about how their behaviour might affect other people, and how other people might be experiencing considerably harder lives, is an alien concept. They project their discomfort onto everyone else, blissfully unaware that for the rest of us, it’s not about feelings, but about material circumstances–because, for them, it’s all about his own feelings.

For a powerful white man who has escaped accountability for his actions all of his life, accountability must feel like persecution. And the threat of being held accountable may feel like a witch hunt for men who are aware that they, too, could be held accountable for the exact same thing.

But it is not the same thing, and it never was. These are people who cannot grasp the facts about what a witch hunt actually constituted. They centre themselves in a massive-scale historical femicide, because they are incapable of imagining the world not revolving around them.

So. Powerful white men are not the victims of a witch hunt when sexual violence allegations surface. But nonetheless, there usually is a witch hunt around this time: of survivors.

A moral panic tends to surface, and a round of denunciations comes. The victims of this witch hunt fit the historical profile: they are women speaking out of turn. If you want to see a witch hunt around allegations of sexual violence, look no further than the survivors speaking out.

Every time, it is the same. The survivors’ behaviour is scrutinised, they are smeared, they are accused of all sorts of horrific acts, they are vilified as “grotesque”. All of it, just like shagging Satan helps you kill fields of wheat, is fictitious. It happens in the media, and I have witnessed it too many times to count in networks I occupy when survivors have attempted to speak out against abusers. The function of this is likely much the same as the function of the historical witch hunts: to keep women in their place and to protect power.

That is what a witch hunt looks like; not survivors finally coming forward about mass abusers.

I write this article, partially because once again a rich and powerful white man has been accused by multiple women, and the old media narratives have emerged. But I also write this, fully in the knowledge that the next time a rich and powerful white man is accused, the exact same thing will happen once again. I don’t believe I’ll break the cycle in writing this down, but it saves me having to comment to the exact same effect on every damn time it pops up.

The real witch hunt is never, and has never been, about the men accused. It’s always been the survivors who have been hunted.

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Rose McGowan’s Twitter suspension is entirely in keeping with their existing (awful) policy

Content note: This post discusses sexual violence and rape threats

Actor Rose McGowan has been suspended from Twitter, for speaking out against sexual violence in Hollywood. It’s likely that what got her kicked was telling Ben Affleck to fuck off for his role in covering for a sexual abuser.

I know a fair amount about Twitter suspensions. While I’ve only ever been on the wrong end of one, once–if I remember rightly, I told a man to fuck off, too–many of my friends have been suspended. There’s two ways in which it goes down: swearing at a verified account, or being mass-reported by people in an orchestrated silencing attempt. These mass-reports happen, usually, when a man is offended–or a transmisogynistic bigot, who, as we know, borrow all their tactics from the Nazi playbook.

The problem is becoming so prevalent, I’ve set up a back-up account for when the fash come for me–follow @thestavvening, just in case.

Twitter’s policies on banning and suspending are notoriously opaque, so it’s not possible to say with any certainty what is going on, just what I have witnessed as an active Twitter user for over eight years. These are the reasons people get banned or suspended, while all the while I can report tweets threatening to rape me until my clicking finger wears away to a nub, and nothing is done.

I’m not sure whether Rose McGowan fell foul of the algorithm protecting verified accounts from naughty words, or a mass-report, but either is a preposterous reason to suspend someone: whether a celebrity, or those more commonly banned–trans women, black women, women of colour, queer women…

The former is a manifestation of the two-tier Twitter which has emerged. If you have a verified account, you are protected from people saying rude words like “fuck”, “shit” and “pissflaps”. Someone says swear in your mentions, and they are smacked with the banhammer. Anyone can get the blue tick of swear-protection. To earn this right, all you need to do is send Twitter your personal data, so they can sell it on. This, in and of itself, is absurd. You also may have picked up from my tone that I think it is utterly risible that a few naughty words are the thing they’re picking up on. At best, it’s crude: people swear for a variety of reasons, and as much of it is non-aggressive (“You look so fucking gorgeous!”) as is aggressive. It’s also notable that a vast quantity of actual abuse doesn’t feature a single swear word. When a Nazi is threatening to rape me with a chainsaw, he isn’t using a word you can’t say on telly before 9 o’ clock.

Which brings me onto the broader issue: the actual abusers–the Nazis, the doxxers, the TERFs, the racists, the misogynists–they’re very good at gaming the system. It’s apparent in their care to avoid using curse words in their rape threats, but it’s equally apparent in their tactics.

Back in the more innocent days of the internet, many of those who would later become neo-Nazis occupied themselves in more wholesome pursuits. These included forum wars, often including “ToSing” enemy forums. This involved using the terms of service of the forum hosting platform to get the enemy forum banned. Almost every bit of user-generated content on the internet is breaking the terms of service somewhere or other: you might say something a bit rude, link to something a bit sexy, use political slogans which offend some. One report usually doesn’t flag much up in the system. But many reports do. I was on forums that got ToSed, wandering through digital space like a caravan, trying to find a hosting platform that’d have us.

And I see the exact same tactics in play with the mass-reports on Twitter. One report–often from the victim of a rape threat or a doxxing–doesn’t do jack diddly shit. But when many report, in an attempt usually orchestrated in other online platforms, action is triggered. And this is how people who speak truth to power are silenced. The Nazis have their spaces where they organise, as do their faithful tribute act, the TERFs. Even the centrists have their whatsapp groups where they can decide to get a black woman banned for thinking differently to them. This is what is going on behind the scenes: how the abusers have turned Twitter’s abuse policy into a tool for abuse.

We’ve been on at Twitter for years to jolly well sort its life out, but it hasn’t. It still refuses to understand the nature of the problem in order to even begin to attack it. They do not understand the dynamics of power in play in abuse, and they have no intention of doing so.

I hope that Rose McGowan’s suspension may achieve what has been sorely necessary: an open discussion of how unfit for purpose Twitter’s mechanisms for dealing with abuse are. Lower profile, more marginalised women have been victims of the abuse of abuse policies for years. Perhaps now a celebrity has been targeted, we can talk.

Or perhaps–and this is sadly more likely–Rose McGowan will be demonised for saying “fuck”.

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If the New Year sexual assaults were made up, it reveals ugly truths about what white men believe

Content note: this post discusses sexual violence, rape apologism and racism

News has emerged that the New Year mass sexual assaults by Arab men may have been made up or colossally overstated. If this is true, it’s a rare occurrence of sexual assault allegations proving to be false, and it’s utterly disgusting and unhelpful to everyone.

Except white men. Remember the frothing glee with which white men seized upon similar attacks, a year before. Remember how Nigel Farage, practically hard, threatened that this was why Migration Is Bad. Remember how the police rounded up brown men, ostensibly for the safety of women. Remember the wild-eyed excitement from the right, literally saying “told you so“.

And compare and contrast this with the reaction when an allegation is made against a white man’s idol. Donald Trump, Roman Polanski, Julian Assange… the endless list of beloved white men, protected by other white men who claim to be exercising healthy scepticism. I’ve pointed out to white men in the past that what happened in Cologne on that night sounded quite comparable to what happens every time I’ve had the misfortune of being in a rugby time on a match day, with pissed-up posh white men grabbing away. This has been met with scoffs of disbelief. There is disbelief in attacks by white men, and unconditional belief in attacks by brown and black men.

Allegations of this type have always revealed an ugly truth about white men and the conditional belief in sexual violence. At a most charitable analysis, it’s rooted in the biggest rape myth of all: that sexual violence is perpetrated by strangers, the other–not, as is most common, by someone the survivor knows. However, it’s likely that more plays into this: Nabila Ramdani wrote on how they fit a neo-Nazi agenda. The response to the allegations is dripping with racism.

What will happen next, with the treatment of the allegations, is two things, simultaneously. First of all, white men will seize upon this to add to their pitifully thin file of actual cases of false allegations, to throw about whenever one of their white faves is accused, screeching that false allegations happen all the time. And yet, at the same time, the allegations will be forgotten, because if false, they do not neatly justify the hysteria against Muslims and refugees. The racist genie is out of the bottle, and all that will be remembered is that brown men did some mass sexual assaults. The specifics, and the fact this may not be true, will be forgotten. White men are capable of holding these two conflicting beliefs simultaneously: they have proved they are capable of believing at the same time that all women are liars, and all Muslims are rapists.

It is an unpleasant prediction, yet I fear it will play out in the immediate future, and over years to come. The damage has well and truly been done, and the veracity of the allegations, in a way, does not matter particularly. Instead, we need to examine the motives of a xenophobic and misogynistic media, as well as those who influence and are influenced by it.

What these allegations have laid bare, is yet another ugly truth about white supremacy.

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We must be able to talk openly about our rapes without an unsolicited police investigation

Content note: this post discusses rape, child sexual abuse, the police, and rape apologism

MP Michelle Thomson did something very brave and highly unprecedented recently: she spoke about her rape in the House of Commons.

Sadly, however, I’m concerned that this courage might have negative consequences–for Thomson, and ultimately for other survivors. Police Scotland have announced they are now investigating Thomson’s rape, with no evidence whatsoever that Thomson requested, needs or wants a police investigation.

I’ve written before about how a lot of survivors do not report their rapes, and this is a perfectly sensible option that is best for them. As hard as it might be for people steeped in rape culture but with no experience of being on the wrong end of it to believe, many survivors do not want a police investigation. 

I keep thinking of the experience of the survivor in the Ched Evans rape case. This young woman never reported a rape to the police. She simply called because she was concerned her drink had been spiked. Yet from the moment she called the police, matters were taken out of her hands, and it spiralled into a rape investigation which ultimately became a rallying point for rape-enabling misogynists. The survivor has had to change her identity several times due to the harassment she has received.

I wonder what would have become of her if the police had allowed her to have a choice in how the case proceeded, to follow her lead and her wishes rather than just treating her as a witness. Would she have chosen a court case? We shall never know.

I think about how the mental health of those who report historic sexual abuse is scrutinised, evaluated and discredited by a media deeply invested in protecting old white men (and likely to include more than a few nonces itself; it’s unlikely the problem was confined to the BBC).

There is no mention that Thomson wanted the police to investigate her rape. She didn’t tell them 37 years ago when it happened, and let’s face it, it’s astronomically unlikely that a conviction would be possible now. So did Thomson consent to a police investigation? I don’t know, and therefore I cannot cheer that the police are finally pulling their hammy fingers out and doing something: because the something that they’re doing could make things worse for the survivor, and they may well be acting without her consent.

The idea of police acting without survivors’ consent is something which doesn’t just necessarily dissuade survivors from contacting the police. It also shuts us down from talking openly about our experiences. It’s pretty fucking terrifying that we could be dragged into all of the scrutiny that survivors must undergo if taking the police-court route, without choosing it. It’s frightening that the police might force this upon us simply to look like they’re doing something, in a lazy PR move.

As survivors, we must be able to talk openly about our rapes without the threat that the police may disempower us. It is vital that every step of dealing with a rape is done with the consent of the survivor.

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Stand Up To Racism: Stand Up To Rape Culture

The SWP are still going, and this event is the same shit with a different stink. Don’t let this party of rape apologists undertake this recruitment exercise. I’ve signed this letter, and share it here for information.

Media Diversified

An earlier version of this open letter was initially addressed to several of the headline speakers, it has since been adapted since many have now cancelled their plans to attend.

We, the undersigned, want all planned speakers and delegates to withdraw their attendance from Stand Up to Racism’s conference on 8 October. We ask because the speakers will share the bill with Weyman Bennett, Stand Up To Racism’s co-convenor and a central committee member of the Socialist Workers’ Party.

This must include refusing to lend any support to the Socialist Workers’ Party (SWP) either directly, or indirectly through its front organisations including “Unite Against Fascism”, “Unite the Resistance”, “Stand up to UKIP” and “Stand Up To Racism”.

We call on people to do this because the SWP’s well documented failing of two women members who accused the then central committee member of the SWP, known as

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Is Theresa May A Feminist Icon? Listen to KILLJOY FM for why she really, really isn’t

My friend, feminist extraordinaire Ray Filar, has started a really good radio show, and they were kind enough to invite me on the inaugural episode, where we discussed the question, is Theresa May a feminist icon? Me, Ray, and migrant rights activist Antonia Bright of Movement For Justice all agree that she isn’t, and frankly an hour wasn’t long enough to cover all the reasons why (although we made some headway). Take a bit of time to listen to our conversation, covering May’s violences against migrant women, complicity in austerity, why “blue feminism” is a shivering pile of turds, and what feminism needs to be doing instead of cheering on a monster.

Content note: the discussion covers detention, FGM, violence against women and domestic violence.

Listen to KILLJOY FM every Wednesday on Resonance FM, online or on 104.4 in London.

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I have revised my opinion of Wikileaks: it’s trash

Content note: this post discusses prison, suicide, transmisogyny, rape and violence against women

A little over five years ago, I wrote an article titled “I think Julian Assange is a rapist. I still like Wikileaks.” As per the disclaimer on my site, my views have evolved. I now think Julian Assange is a rapist and I also think Wikileaks is absolute trash.

Today, it was announced that Chelsea Manning–who was responsible for the leaks which made Wikileaks a household name–faces indefinite solitary confinement or a harsher prison, almost a decade added to her sentence, and she may lose her parole. She faces this as punishment for already having had such a horrible time in a men’s prison that she attempted to take her own life. And of course, she is only in prison in the first place because Wikileaks failed to protect her, despite all their branding suggesting that they would. (AssAngels will at this point go on like she confessed and blabbed to a man Wikileaks already identified as a threat, because I think this is the Assange-approved talking point. OK. Say that’s true. Wikileaks should’ve definitely at the very least briefed her on basic advice: “don’t tell anyone else, and if arrested, don’t confess.” That they didn’t even do this reflects horribly on them).

One would think that a woman facing torture would be a subject which Wikileaks might deem worthy of comment, even if they weren’t responsible for her being in the hands of the torturers in the first place. One would think.

The news broke this morning, and there has not been a peep on the topic from Wikileaks, although their social media accounts and website have been active.

No. Instead, Wikileaks have been focusing on some pretty uninteresting emails showing that political campaigners squabble among themselves and get mean to media outlets–something which a seven year old could have told you. Also, this leak may or may not have been orchestrated by Putin. But don’t worry. This week, Wikileaks have also been leaking information from a country undergoing severe political turmoil! Yeah, like leaking the details of millions of Turkish women at a time when their government is about to aggressively crack down.

It’s becoming abundantly clear that Wikileaks has an agenda, and it isn’t a very nice agenda. It’s a classic, bog-standard, right wing misogynist agenda, much like the governments they claim to oppose.

I should stop using “they” for Wikileaks, to be honest. I’m not convinced Wikileaks consists of anyone else but rat-faced probably rapist Julian Assange these days.

So anyway, mea culpa. I once liked Wikileaks. I now realise it is utter trash. Wikileaks appear to have thoroughly forgotten Chelsea Manning as much as the state who wish to kill her wish the rest of us would.