Jan 6, 2016

What the Cologne mass sexual assault tells us about culture - our own


One of the only times I physically intervened between a man and the woman he was assaulting was in Munich. A young man had made a remark to  a young woman passing him; when she ignored him, he grabbed her arm; when she jerked her arm away, he grabbed her handbag, talking at her all the while; by this point she was more begging than demanding to be released, more terrified than angry. That was when I got between then and pushed him away - he let go more out of surprise than because I was anything like his physical match, and the girl took the opportunity to scurry away.

The reason that I have no illusions of having actually physically bested this man was that he was a strapping Teutonic specimen of clear brow, blond hair, and a goot 6 feet of hulking entitlement. He was not "of Middle Eastern or Arab origin", as the hundreds of men who appear to have gone out on an organised orgy of assault and harrassement in Cologne on New Years Eve are described as being. He was not an immigrant "unfamiliar" with the normas of behaviour expected of men in German culture. If anything he was all too familiear with them, and rightly confident that those norms are such that no passer by of German nationality would think to object to his manhandling a pleading woman outside a crowded McDonald's in Munich's heaving central train station.

He was right of course - it took the random presence of a bossy feminist from the same Middle east that is supposed to harbour so many rampant sexists to get between him and German culture. He wasn't the only man I saw behaving in ways that I consider blatantly illegal. Myself and my partner had arrived at the central train station late one night during Oktoberfest, and had a bit of a wait until the departure of the next train in our journey. We were both utterly shocked by what we saw, and left the city with one firm resolution: never to visit it during a public holiday. Gangs of young men (why do they always travel in packs?) were jeering at young women, grabbing at them, blocking their retreats or escapes. The station was jam packed and well lit, with police, stations staff and staff from the shops and businesses (all open) everywhere. In two hours of sitting and watching this "world" go by, we saw no one make any sign that this behaviour looked aberrant to them.

As Musa Okwonga writes in the New Statesman, there is no point getting into an argument about whether the 500-1,000 men assaulting women in Cologne were Muslims. Racist gonna racist, and pointing out to people who go on about Rotherham that similar gangs of rapists were white, and that many other cases of white men abusing children en masse have been investigated, won't change their minds. What's important to understand though is not that immigrant men behave in these ways because they don't understand the cultures in which they have found themselves: they behave in those ways precisely because they do. Those men in Cologne and elsewhere in Germany, assuming they really were all "foreign", have understood perfectly well that they find themselves in a country where alcohol and pubic revelry equal a free-for-all on women's bodies, which in any case can be legally bought in mega-brothels all across the country. There were extra police officers deployed in the city on NYE (a female police officer was hreself reportedly assaulted). There were just as many German men getting off those trains as women. Where were they? Why did their presence not make it seem unsafe or at least impolitic to behave in ways that every adult, regardless of country of origin, knows perfectly well is illegal and indecent?

It is a telling fact that, when put on the spot by a journalist, the best advice the (woman) mayor of Cologne could give to women in the city was to "keep men at arm's length". Her knee-jerk instinct to place the responsibility of stopping crime against women on women themselves speaks volumes about the fact that neither she nor the German public consider sexual assault the responsibility of the men who overwhelmingly perpetrate it. Whatever cant we hear now from German racists (and their rhetorical opponents) about so-called German culture and its respect for women, what this incident makes plain above all else is that this culture is only shared by half the population of the country. And that makes it no kind of national culture at all - no more than the culture of any other European state that winks at street harassment, fails to prosecute rape properly, fails to protect children from predation, and allows men to legally exploit women for sexual access for money.

At a time when 60% of respondents believe that police awareness campaigns targeting female victims are "sexist", it's time we admitted that the real fear of Muslim and African refugees is not the culture they bring with them, but what they expose about our own cultures right here in the comfortable, rich Global North.

46 comments:

  1. So groups of western men plan to rape and sexually assault women in several cities at national festivities? Can you acknowledge this is a new form of male sexual violence that endangers women's freedom in new ways? I for certain will now avoid any large male groups of immigrants. Call it racist, but its my safety.

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    1. So you didn't avoid any large groups of men in general before that? You trust white men?

      Well, as you said, it is your safety.

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  2. If not related to a specific culture, how would you explain the mass sexual assaults in Egypt and other Arabic countries during the Arab Spring?

    I never heard about that kind of event where a large groups of British or German men committed sexual assaults & robbery at that scale.

    Truth is, there is a link to the cultural and religious background of those culprits and by refusing to ignore that doesn't mean you're racist.

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  3. Non white person commits sexuall assault

    Knee-jerk reaction (rightwing): Let's deport them all, they cannot adapt to civilised society, white good, non white bad.
    Knee-jerk reaction (leftwing): It's our fault, they're innocent, we're worse, we contaminated them with our filth and corruption, and anyway, weren't those women wearing too-short skirts after all?

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  4. Sometimes I can only step back and admire the mental gymnastics performed by the regressive left in order to maintain the 'it's all our fault' narrative. Remarkable.

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  5. You tell us how bad everything is for women, and how bad men are. Problem is, you offer no solution at all. There is nothing in your article, not even a hint at any historical cause or any way to solve the problem.

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    1. The solution is obvious: society has to stop tolerating the public harassment of women, as if it were normal. If every man who doesn't engage in harassing women spoke up when he saw another man doing it, the problem would quickly be solved.

      Now go do it.

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    2. I don't know what country you are speaking from but here in the UK the general public and society in general do NOT tolerate public harassment of women as if it were normal..thankfully. You talk of public harassment as though it's a part of everyday life for women, but in my 50+ years I have only witnessed it a few times and in conversation with female relatives, friends and work colleagues it has rarely been mentioned. So if I don't see it, hear about it, witness it and it's not a day to day there's not a lot I can do

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    3. So you absolve yourself from helping to find a solution, yet feel entitled to scold Marina for not solving the problem herself...even while mansplaining that the problem doesn't actually exist. Classic.

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    4. I didn't absolve myself from finding a solution, but if she says the solution is "If every man...spoke up when he saw another man doing it, the problem would quickly be solved" and I say that I have rarely seen or heard about it, how can I speak up against it in my situation? I also never said the problem doesn't exist. If I did I wouldn't be ackowledging what happened in Cologne. And what is mansplaining - a man giving his opinion, explaining his view? Is that so wrong?

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    5. I'm 49, and I don't think I have one single female friend who hasn't suffered sexual harrassment multiple times. I can't even count the times I've been groped on the Tube, or in bars, or at a football match, or in the corridoors at uni, or in shops, or on trains, or in dark alleyways, or in lifts, or - well, you see where I'm going with this? And this is England. Id you don't see it, it's because you're not looking, or because what seems like sexual harrassment to me simply doesn't to you. So maybe, instead of arguing the toss with all these women who clearly, clearly have more experience of the matter than you, you should go out into the world with fresh eyes and educate yourself as to our lives.

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    6. I was not "arguing the toss with all these women" I was replying to you and the original poster. We clealry live in 2 different UKs. Yours is one in which sexuial harassment is an everyday and multiple occurance, whereas mine is one in which most people are decent and sexual harrasment as described by you happens only rarely. However, the point I was making is; it's all very well saying how women have it so bad and how men are responsible but without offering any historical or socio-economic reasons for such phenomena or any solution is pointless. That's all.

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  6. I'm really sorry, but most men do not behave like this. Your point seems to be; 'why are they victimizing these men when all men are potential rapists?'. That is both stupid and irresponsible. You need to address an unprecedented act of mass sexual assault, not find excises for it. That is not feminism.

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    1. Sorry, but MOST men (and women) will close their eyes to incidents of public harassment of women, rather than speak up and tell the harasser to stop. THAT'S the social behavior that has to change. If natives are allowed to harass women, immigrants will quickly get the message that harassing women is part of German/western culture.

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    2. So, what, you think that women are more likely to be assaulted like this in western Europe and that's why it happened? Honestly, are you serious? Of course everyone should stop sexual assault. You can start by acknowledging that this was something unprecedented and disgusting in scale and by not trying to find excuses for it.

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    3. Your reading comprehension leaves much to be desired.

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    4. Please enlighten us because your earlier post seems to be saying that mass sexual assault is something these attackers learned from native Germans.

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    5. Joseph, you appear to be addressing the OP, but I suspect your comment was intended for me, so I'll respond to it.

      Your reading comprehension leaves much to be desired. None of my posts "seem" to be saying that at all.

      You seem unable to read what I write without reaching for the most uncharitable - nay, absurd - interpretation possible. That's called arguing in bad faith, and it's a real time-waster.

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    6. >If natives are allowed to harass women, immigrants will quickly get the message that harassing women is part of German/western culture.

      I don't think I'm making the most uncharitable or absurd interpretation of what you said there. If you're not saying that immigrants learned this behaviour, or at least learned that it is acceptable, from German culture, what are you saying?

      Please answer with an actual answer of what you meant because everyone that has interpreted your post has apparently made the same error.

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    7. I didn't think she was saying that they learned this behaviour here, but that when they got here, they realised this kind of behaviour isn't greatly penalised.

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    8. Gee, Joseph, what does it say about you that you refer to yourself as "everyone"?

      "If natives are allowed to harass women, immigrants will quickly get the message that harassing women is part of German/western culture."

      Please point out the words in that sentence which you believe are rightly interpreted as "mass sexual assault is something these attackers learned from native Germans."

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    9. At the time of writing, there were only two people that had voiced their interpretations of your post and both of them had come to a similar conclusion about what you meant. Now there is a third voice with a differing but similar interpretation.

      Mass sexual harassment is not part of German culture, nothing like this has happened in Germany before. If there is a message in German culture that this behaviour is okay or will go unpunished, I can only presume it is written in Arabic.

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  7. Absolutely disgusting post.
    99% of German men or European men in general would NOT rape or threaten the opposite sex. THIS IS A RACIAL PROBLEM, and you ignoring it, is racism against WHITES.

    You people disgust me so much I want to puke.
    Real feminists should be out there showing the racial/cultural problem with North Africans in Europe, not doing what you do.

    Worse, so called feminists attack patriotic Europeans who want to protect their female brethren from these brown invaders, by limiting immigration.

    You should just all emigrate to North Africa or some Islamic country.
    I hate you so fucking much. You are just as filthy as the rapists you criticize.

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    1. "99% of German men or European men in general would NOT rape or threaten the opposite sex."

      So who does all the raping, then? After all, roughly one in four women was raped or sexually assaulted in some way somewhen in her life. That's a whopping 25%, so ... that means 25 victims per German rapist, and that number implies that German police doesn't do nearly enough policing, or doesn't encourage victims to speak up nearly enough.

      It also doesn't explain who all those men are who rape prostituted women from Eastern Europe in German brothels. They cannot all be immigrants from the Middle East.

      "Their female brethren" ... are you serious? Did you, perhaps, mean to say "their female breeding stock"?


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  8. Thanks for your thoughtful post Marina, sorry about the anonymous cowardly racists shouting at you above...

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  9. Excellent post . I don't know if the comments are entirely racist . Maybe just blind ? And isn't that the point ?

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  10. Wow, just shocked at the ignorance of some of these comments. The point of this article is that Western culture as a patriarchy promotes the routine objectification of women which in turn encourages this kind of behaviour from ALL men regardless of skin colour. (Of course not all of them respond to it) The onus should not be on women to "keep clear of trouble" but on society as a whole to show that it is unacceptable. And this is clearly not happening or the authorities in German would have stepped in. Sexual harassment is not even illegal in Germany! Says it all.

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    1. Do you rally think that western European culture is more patriarchal than the Arab world and this is why this happened? Would you please get real.

      This is not a race issue but it is an issue about confronting a culture that thinks this behaviour is acceptable.

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    2. Does the Arab world have mega-brothels like Germany does?

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    3. Is Saudi a woman can be whipped and imprisoned for getting herself raped. In Somalia a girl was stoned to death for adultery after being raped. There are problems in Germany's mega brothels, but don't try to suggest that women are treated better in Muslim majority countries.

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    4. No no, the Arab world merely condones 'honour' killings of a woman who is raped, execution for women's adultery, produces groups like ISIS that publicly endorse mass rape, etc etc. Would you please get real?

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    5. No no, the Arab world merely condones 'honour' killings of a woman who is raped, execution for women's adultery, produces groups like ISIS that publicly endorse mass rape, etc etc. Would you please get real?

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    6. I honestly can't believe what I'n reading in here. There are feminists defending a literal rape-culture by blaming one of the most gender-equal societies the world has ever known.

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    7. No, Joseph, there aren't feminists defending a literal rape-culture here. There is only you, straw-manning feminists who see the same root problem in BOTH cultures: presumed male primacy and entitlement to control/access women's bodies.

      Face the fact that YOU are denying that one of those cultures has a problem at all, that only the non-white, non-western culture is problematic, when they BOTH are.

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    8. It is accurate to say that it is one of the most gender-equal societies the world has ever known. That doesn't mean everything is perfect, there is still a long way to go. Even the attitudes of today's most progressive minds will probably be seen as hopelessly closed-minded and prejudiced in 100 years time.

      These attacks are unlike anything Germany has ever seen, but they are not new to Muslim majority countries.

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    9. Nowadays, everyone carries mobile phones with them, and take photos of wverything around them. Strange then why no mobile phone footage of sexual harassment that night in Cologne has been found!!!

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    10. >Strange then why no mobile phone footage of sexual harassment that night in Cologne has been found!!!

      It would be more strange if hundreds of German women decided to concoct sex crimes.

      There is footage of the gangs throwing diversionary fireworks.

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  11. "Naive idealist" is a stunningly apt description for yourself; couldn't have provided a better epithet myself.

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  13. Bringing up the Rotherham abuse scandal along with some whataboutery of a white grooming gang is shockingly misleading. CEOP found that 75% of the grooming gangs operating in the UK were Muslim and that their victims were 97% white non-Muslim. That's a bog slice when you consider Muslims make up about 5% of the UK population.

    This does not mean that Muslims commit more sex crimes as a whole but there's a clear link with the beliefs of some Muslim men about the relative status of non-Muslim women.

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  14. >There were just as many German men getting off those trains as women. Where were they?

    From the accounts I've read they were fighting to protect the women in their presence but hugely outnumbered. They called for police but there were only enough police to deal with the usual NYE rowdiness, not sexual assault on a scale unheard of in peacetime Germany.

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  15. You say immigrants "find themselves in a country where alcohol and pubic [sic] revelry equals a free-for-all on women's bodies" so why would this western corruption affect predominantly one group of immigrants (muslim) over others?
    eg in the UK I haven't of any reported cases of gangs of Indian Hindu immigrants raping underage girls in large gangs.

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  16. The feminist reaction to this is truly shocking. A 14 year old and a 15 year old girl were gang raped in the open by a culture which looks upon women as garbage. You should be ashamed of yourselves. You've really stuck the boot into the crumbling feminist movement this time.

    We've even seen victim blaming from feminists (the feminist mayor of Cologne now says women should have a code of conduct to prevent future assault).

    I have a question: What would your reaction have been if 1000 white men had organized rape and performed sexual assault on this scale? Would you have defended them with "whataboutery" and "youtooery" as well? It's ok, you don't need to answer as we know what the feminist response would have been already. You really should be ashamed of yourselves.

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  17. 700 women themselves say they were sexually assaulted by approximately a group of 1000 men of middle-eastern or North African appearance using 'Taharrush' type behaviours. This is reality, this is what happened to them.

    Denying it, pretending that all cultures do this type of mass sexual harassment, and that all cultures are equal in terms of their treatment of women and gay people, is going to play right into the hands of the ultra right-wing. It's also effectively erasing these women and girls' voices.

    This is pretty appalling apologism for a mass sexual assault; for it to come from a feminist is mind-boggling. This is not my feminism, I do not recognise this as feminism.

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  18. So true.

    Men don't sexually assault women because they don't know that it is not acceptable. (Even though they often claim that as defense. German men, who live in Germany, too.) Men from all cultures know perfectly well that women don't want to be molested by strangers on the streets. They routinely decide to ignore it, and only take into consideration what other men consider acceptable.

    What those men from the Middle East might have not known is that while it is perfectly acceptable for German men to molest German women, a foreigner molesting German women might raise some eyebrows.

    Not saying that their culture is not a problem. Of course it is. Had they come from a less misogynist cultural background, it would not have mattered how legal it is to sexually assault women in Germany, they just wouldn't have done it because they themselves wouldn't have considered it acceptable.

    But Germany let it happen. German politicians refused to amend the law in order to make this sort of sexual assault illegal.

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