Sep 11, 2013

On Michael Le Vell, and why arguing about rape is a waste of time

"Anyone making any sort of claim (need not be criminal) has the burden of proof. That's Philosophy 101." So went the crushing, irrefutable logic of some dude's argument on the internet, that legitimate arbiter of things judicial, with regard to the demonstrable guilt of Michael Le Vell's accuser. Her crime? Lying about rape. How do we know she lied? Because he's been "declared innocent".

There is a lot wrong with this so called logic, and a lot of very intelligent women have stepped into the breach and written eloquently on the various flaws in it.

Laura at the F-Word starts us off by pointing out the obvious fact that it's not the victim who's just been on trial - the veracity of her claims were not something the court interested itself in. What the jury decided on was the prosecution didn't make its case beyond reasonable doubt, nothing more, nothing less.

Glosswitch beautifully dismantles the ridiculous false equivalence that posits that accusing someone of rape is as bad as raping someone. I like to call it the "both sides" argument; it's very popular these days in all kinds of contexts, but especially in the news media. Tories entirely funded by millionaire tax evaders? Well, Labour takes some money from the unions! It's exactly the same! Climate change deniers distorting the evidence and using paid-for research? Well, that guy at UEA wrote that dodgy email one time, too! They're all at it! And so on. In the case of rape, the false equivalence serves to reconcile the cognitive dissonance of believing women are lying bitches while being faced with so much evidence of rape and abuse.

Abstract Lucas writes movingly about how hard it is to make a rape complaint, reminding us of the vanishingly small likelihood of anyone, but especially a child, taking that burden on just for shits and giggles. Only a profound ignorance of the system would make anyone bloviate at length about how easy it is to just "cry rape".

Sian ties together the concept of "rape myths" and the fact that there is no correct, appropriate or common way of responding to abuse. Constructing an idealised picture of how a "real" victim would react and then measuring women in that Procrustean bed is just one of the many cruel indignities inflicted on victims of sexual violence; its epistemic value is less than nil.

Lastly for this roundup, Louise Pennington provides some practical solutions to the problem of how to conduct fair trials in an atmosphere in which rape is considered the one crime where the burden of blame is automatically placed on the victim.

As I say, these are all really great pieces of writing. They seek to inform, educate, illuminate and clarify. I think that's really nice, I really do. And for the maybe three and a half people farting out opinions on the matter who aren't yet aware that the number of false accusations is tiny, or that the vast majority of sexual assault goes completely unreported, they're useful and necessary.


Personally, I haven't got the same faith in humanity that my sisters above do. I haven't seen these people carry on on Twitter about how, now that Stuart Hall has been convicted, every rape allegation ever must be correct - even the ones we've been pointedly ignoring for decades. Or that, given how Jimmy Saville was enabled to get away with his industrial scale rape for decades because of his celebrity status, all famous men should be seen as unreliable in principle. Or maybe even just that there's more at stake for the accused, and more reason for them to lie in the first place, so hey, mister "Philosophy 101" logic guy, maybe we should take that into account.

In particular, I haven't seen anyone jumping up and down over Nigel Evans, who resigned from his Parliamentary role today following multiple allegations of serious sexual abuse against him. This is a senior fucking politician here - one of a handful of elected representatives we've entrusted with the running of our country (well, sort of, but you know what I mean). There is some heavy shit being alleged against him right now, by multiple complainants. So where are the "anonimity for rape suspects" brigade in his case? Where are the people bemoaning his ruined reputation? What's so different about his accusers from the run-of-the-mill lying bitches maliciously pulling rape fantasies out of their asses?

What's that you say? His accusers are men? Well fancy that.

I'm all for education and dispelling myths. I just think it's important to recognise that for a lot of people, the "women are lying fantasists" trope is not a belief in itself - it is a means to an end. And that end is to make sure that rape persists. That the key weapon of intimidation and suppression against women remains in excellent working condition. Rape apology and rape denial are absolutely pivotal to the perpetuation of the oppressive status quo, and we mustn't fool ourselves (like some well meaning climate change campaigners do) that if we simply put more info out there, tell the stories just one more time, "educate" a little bit more, we can change people's minds enough for rape to just go away.

This is not about hearts and minds. The hearts and minds of rape apologists are not worth winning. We need to continue working with the CPS, who under Keir Starmer have made some important, if still insufficient, advances. We need to put serious, credible pressure on the police and the Home Office (e.g., by demanding they record the cases of male femicide). We need to change the system such that gradually, making a rape complaint becomes less of a second rape than it is today.

We need political power, in other words; organised, coordinated and mature. Let's go.


  1. What exactly is a "rape apologist"? Is that anyone who insists that we actually have a shred of evidence to back up a woman's claims BEFORE destroying a man's life? Or is it anyone who wants to allow aggressive cross examination of a witness who wants to send a man to prison for years? The argument against protecting the identity of those accused of rape is indefensible unless one holds the rights of women to be higher than men.

    1. Planet Earth to ''anon'' these are The Facts calling :

      ~ VIOLENCE
      ~ CRIMES of every possible nature & description
      ~ ENDLESS GLOBAL WARS & their incomprehensible mass suffering
      ~ GREED & yet more greed
      ~ spreading misery & suffering in EVERY community across the globe
      ~ MAD ''NEW WORLD ORDER'' FASCISM with no civil liberties, 24hour surveillance, police state
      ...etc etc...etc..etc..etc..etc...etc..


  2. Anyone accused of any crime, male or female, can have their name reported as long as they not a minor. If they are, then they have anonymity except in exceptional circumstances of public interest where the judge allows publication after conviction.

    Anyone reporting abuse/sexual assault/rape, be they male or female, has an entitlement to anonymity to limit the damage done by the abuser. This ceases to apply if someone is convicted of making a false and malicious complaint.

    How is that putting the rights of women above the rights of men? Female defendants are reported in the press just as men are (cf Rosemary West) and male complainants are entitled to anonymity.

    1. The vast majority of people accused of rape are men. The vast majority of those who make the accusations are women. We can play games with reference to the exceptional cases, but everyone knows this. Virtually all false rape claims come from women and are against men.

      The idea that it's perfectly acceptable to name someone as an alleged rapist while protecting the identity of the person making the complaint is grotesque. As is the justification that it's fine to destroy a man's reputation on the off chance that some other victim might see the coverage and come forward.

      This is the worst kind of sexism and is indefensible unless there is an unspoken assumption that encouraging victims to come foward is more important than protecting the innocent. Which in practice means that the rights of women should take precedence over the rights of men.

    2. I bet you never play games with exceptional cases when anyone suggests that almost all rapists and sexual offenders are men and the vast majority of victims women, right?

      But this is irrelevant. Men and women are being treated alike here by the law, which is what the law is meant to do . Why do you want to privilege rapists (or those accused of that crime) above murderers and terrorists and burglars (or those accused of such)?

    3. 'The vast majority of people accused of rape are men. The vast majority of those who make the accusations are women. We can play games with reference to the exceptional cases, but everyone knows this. Virtually all false rape claims come from women and are against men.'

      The vast majority of rapists are men. Between 1500 - 2000 people are raped every week in the UK, the vast majority of whom are women. In a 17 month period there were 35 prosecutions for false accusations.

      The anonymity of victims is because they are victims. They have done nothing wrong. We know what happens when victims are named - the woman Ched Evans raped was named, harassed, abused and threatened.

      If we didn't name defendants, Worboys would still be raping women, Hall would never have pleaded guilty.

      It's not 'on the offchance'. Academic research, the MOJ, the police and leading lawyers all maintain that naming defedants is good for open justice. Do your research please before making ridiculous generalisations.

    4. I feel that the social stigma associated with men being raped should be mentioned.
      With that in mind it's practically impossible for women to be convicted of rape and when they are the sentence is so minimal that it never even seems worth the man damaging his own social standing to try.

      You would be surprised how much men actually care about these things when you actually talk to them without a group of their friends around. If they try and bring it up somewhere where there is a woman, the response is actually sickening "you got sex didn't you what are you moaning about". I think this is the real rape culture if there ever was one.

  3. There is irony here in that some anonymous people (men) are questioning or misunderstanding rape apology and rape culture and are thereby perpetuating rape apology and rape culture.

    Good article - can I reblog this?

  4. I like the title, but honestly, I skimmed until I followed the first link.

    I empathize; citing others is not about credibility more so than the ideas they bring to the table,
    but only "citing" one potentially reliable person? (I am a bit skeptical of the sheer overuse of citing new articles, but that is neither here nor there.)

    What about the articles that go against your belief? What about the fact that men, and just as equally, women lie?
    Now that I look back at your accretion: "Arguing" about anything is a waste of time when one simplistically calls out the argument as just being a meaningless argument.

    Wow, I just read sianandcrookedrib's comment. I need to stop wasting time on meaningless placing on the internet...should probably go back to and browse their articles that actually have a meaningful purpose.