At what point do you speak?
The question has been nagging away at me as the daily drip of news about male violence and abuse becomes a torrent. I feel awkward and inarticulate but as a father of two sons I want to try and say something, even though I have nothing coherent to offer other than sadness.
Here’s five stories that collided to spur me into action, if writing for a blog constitutes ‘action’ at all?
1. Yesterday I read in the Daily Record the reports of Grand Theft Auto switching to a first person perspective – and viewing the clip of the gameplay where a user pays a prostitute for sex before punching her to the ground, leaving her unconscious. It’s also possible to kill the prostitute. It was not so much just the story itself as the comments on the news piece which were shocking. Read it here, and watch it and weep.
The consciousness involved in the ‘game players’ in making this switch, the visceral aggressiveness of the male respondents to the story and the normalisation of this culture is terrifying. As Kirk Hamilton puts it (‘Yes you should read the new GTA V’ :
“You’ve been able to hire sex workers and kill them to take their money since Grand Theft Auto III launched in 2001, but the sex was always in third-person mode and from a relatively distant camera angle. BO-RING. In first person mode, you get to look right into her smudged-makeup-rimmed eyes and hear her say hot, sexy things like “I wanna swallow all of your cum” , “Oh baby I’m cumming for you, you’re the man”, “my clit is throbbing for you right now”, and “Oh yeah, you like me being your nasty little slut.” So realistic!”
2. The unfolding Ched Evans story and the vitriol from fans against anyone criticising the club or the player marking a truly warped world view was astonishing. Evans was released last month after serving half of a five-year sentence for the rape a 19-year-old woman in a hotel room in 2011. While the response from Olympic champion Jessica Ennis-Hill – she stated that she wanted her name removed from one of the Bramall Lane stands should he play for the club again – and from the likes of Dave Berry and Sheffield businesswoman Lindsay Graham, who have all resigned as patrons of the club since Evans was invited to return to training, and Paul Heaton who has also resigned as a club patron was heartening, the institutional response, that of the FA and the sentencing policy is as shocking as the neanderthal viciously misogynist fan response.
3. Admittedly in a different league, but the lurid re-telling of the World’s End Pub murders was deeply disturbing. It’s a trope that the media fall into all too often, that the reporting of sex crimes itself becomes part of a narrative of feint titillation.The news that Angus Sinclair’s wife helped detectives bring her husband to justice added a poignancy to the story that has stained Scotland for decades.
4 / 5/ 6 / 7 who cares … after Pistorius, Dapper Laughs now Bill Cosby now Julian Blanc – the deluge of hate is here. It has become a surround-sound of fear and violence. It’s everyday, it’s institutional, it’s societal, it’s cultural.
Is it just me that is more and more conscious of this? Am I alone in thinking this has just gone insane?
As Sarah Ditum wrote of Blanc:
“In the UK every year, approximately 85,000 women are raped and 400,000 are sexually assaulted. As few as one in 100 of these crimes may result in a conviction for the rapist. In this context of systemic sexual violence against women, Blanc’s seminars are essentially recruiting rallies for perpetrators. In with all the pseudoscientific flannel about “game” and “zones” and “vibing”, the only reliable principles a follower can learn from Blanc are those of coercion. That’s why it made sense for him to post a picture of the Duluth model (a chart describing different forms of intimate partner abuse) with the caption “may as well be a checklist #howtomakeherstay”.
Rape, we’re told is now more common than robbery in Scotland following a giant increase in reported cases. Figures show there were 1,690 rapes between April 2013 and March this year – a 23 per cent rise on the previous year. Sexual crime also increased by 11.8 per cent over the period, which was Police Scotland’s first full year of operation.
I don’t know where to begin on this conversation and responding to this. I feel stupidly inarticulate. Part of the problem seems to be that the debate has been being had amongst women about male violence, and that has got to change dramatically.
I know these aren’t isolated cases. I know that everyday abuse is the real issue, not ‘celebratory’ cases, I’m simply using these to be open about my own journey of awakening.
I just feel dispirited at a profound level by the language and behaviour of other men.
I don’t know where to start in changing this other than to raise my sons with respect and joy and to listen to others who have been immersed in this debate for years. I don’t want to be be silent any longer about the culture of abuse that surrounds us all.
The 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence is an international campaign that starts on 25 November, International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and ends on 10 December, Human Rights Day. The campaign hopes to raise awareness about gender-based violence as a human rights issue at the local, national, regional and international level.