The Voyeur’s Advantage: Why Can’t We Take Sexual Violence Seriously? – Labour Article
TW: Contains references to sexual violence.
The last five years have lifted a lid on the prevalence of rape culture and societal attitudes to sexual violence. Little progress has been made in combating them. However, I believe more people are becoming aware of how entrenched they are in politics, society, and culture. Countless times high profile cases of sexual violence are not condemned. At best, they are dismissed by the public and media. At worst, they are mocked and treated as a joke.
Actor and activist, Penn Badgley addressed this after receiving an onslaught of thirsty tweets about his murderous, stalker character in the hit Netflix series, You. He succinctly pointed out that “It’s been proven time and time again that charming, powerful, white men are capable of [doing] really awful things. And we’re also often willing to sort of forgive them almost every step of the way”. Countless times, the behaviour and even crimes of white men are perceived as normal, natural, and acceptable.
Perhaps the most well-known example is former-President Trump. Despite 26 separate sexual assault accusations being levelled at him and the publication of audio and video evidence of his behaviour, he is seen as a joke, not an actual threat. Many people joke about the orange man who says silly racist, sexist, homophobic, Islamophobic, xenophobic things, to little consequence.
Likewise, Boris Johnson who has been in the public political sphere for many years has adopted the image of “the Clown Prince”. This has resulted in his widely-publicised sexism, racism, homophobia, and much more being swept under the rug and dismissed as a ‘normal’ part of politics. Our expectations of some of the most powerful men in the world are dangerously and despicably low.
Many people have breathed a sigh of relief at Trump’s departure from the White House, but it is important to remember that his replacement has also been the object of sexual assault accusations. Of course, everyone is innocent until proven guilty. But, the lack of attention paid by the media to accusations against Biden, is telling.
Following the release of audio evidence of Trump claiming he could “do anything” to women because of his “star” status, the media was full of different accounts as more and more women came forward with accusations against him. Whilst the scale of accusations against Biden is significantly different, very little attention was paid by the same media outlets.
The hypocrisy of Republicans who jumped on Tara Reade’s allegations and sought to use them against Biden during his presidential campaign is not at all surprising. However, the neglect shown by many liberals and the liberal media in the face of allegations against Biden was equally disgusting and hypocritical.
The trivialisation of the actions of white men can most recently be epitomised by the case of Stephen Bear. Initially, he came across as a bit of a “jack the lad”. However, his recent arrest in light of new revenge porn accusations has revealed a series of problems. Rather than now being viewed as a manipulative sexual predator, he is seen as an idiot or a cartoon.
Bear’s embodiment of the “treat them mean to keep them keen” mantra is common knowledge. However, in light of his recent arrest, the media has largely focused on his misunderstanding of the charge of voyeurism. Not only does this trivialise the crime but it erases the victims who are already in a horrific position where the only ‘triumph’ they can win is belief and recognition in their story.
Once again, I will stress that he is innocent until proven guilty. However, the trivialisation of these crimes in the media sends a clear message about societal attitudes. To those who are guilty of sexual offences, the seriousness of their crime is diminished. To survivors, it condemns their suffering, pain, and humiliation as unworthy of attention and as a joke to others.
With regards to this case, it is important to note a serious flaw in the current law regarding revenge porn. According to Section 33 of the Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015, “It is an offence for a person to disclose a private sexual photograph or film if the disclosure is made— (a)without the consent of an individual who appears in the photograph or film, and (b)with the intention of causing that individual distress.”
Awfully, anyone who is a victim of this crime has to prove that there was intent to cause distress. The CPS specifically state that if anyone shares these materials because they think it’s funny, they are not guilty of any crime. Likewise, just because distress is “a natural and probable consequence”, does not mean they are guilty. What this demonstrates is that the perpetrator and their perception of humour are prioritised over the wellbeing and rights of the victim.
The well-known phrase “boys will be boys” contributes to trivialisation. It teaches boys that they can get away with offensive behaviour and teaches girls to tolerate ‘minor’ boundary violations whether that is catcalling, bum-grabbing, or d*ck pics. Likewise, boys become the victim of this behaviour as they are expected to tolerate violating behaviour from their peers to prove their masculinity or risk this being compromised.
Either way, this culture of turning a blind eye to ‘misdemeanours’ is highly damaging. Whether it occurs at school, on the national political stage, or on social media, people need to be held responsible for their actions. And, victims/survivors need to be listened to and taken seriously.
Written by Junior Labour Writer, Zoe Olsen-Groome
Point of Information
Educational Reform is Needed to Combat Sexual Violence – A Liberal Response
I agree with Zoe’s article wholeheartedly. The pernicious ‘jack the lad’ rhetoric that’s been allowed to fester our entire lives has to end. And, the actions, events and reactions surrounding Stephen Bear is an excellent way to demonstrate how little we’ve come.
Furthermore, the headlines surrounding this case are vile and diminish the claims as ‘drama’ rather than accusations of consensual filming of sexual intercourse. To respond to this article I had the *joys* of watching clips of Bear on various reality TV dating shows (to preface this I do really enjoy reality TV). However, his consistent gaslighting, “slagging” off both the girls that do want to sleep with him and those that don’t, is not entertainment; it glorifies disgusting and misogynistic behaviour.
Of course Bear is innocent until proven guilty. However, I can not understand the justification for him receiving media coverage for the misunderstanding of his accusations and, make fun of them.
Because it’s me, I believe only true change can occur through education, and the recent curriculum change in 2019 to include more inclusive and comprehensive sex education for all age groups, discussing boundaries and consent both online and offline- may start to make a real difference where huge social ‘awakenings’ may have lapsed.
Written by Junior Liberal Writer, Lucy Severn
This Article is an Example of Trivialisation Itself – A Conservative Response
To trivialise is to make something appear “less important, serious and complex than it is”. This article claims to speak out against the trivialisation of sexual violence but does not. Going further than this, it trivialises the topic whilst simultaneously saying the subject is over trivialised.
First, to divide this topic along the lines of race and gender is not only trivialisation but morally wrong. Why is most sexual violence committed by white men in the UK and the USA? Funnily enough, in these regions white is the majority race. When you examine rape, the largest perpetrator demographic is always the race which constitutes the majority of the population. Of the top ten nations with the highest rape rates, only one has a majority white population which is Sweden. In all ten countries, the largest race demographic is the largest perpetrator of rape.
We have established sexual violence is not determined by race. Now gender. Are men globally the largest demographic perpetuating sexual violence? Yes. But this article fails to mention three very important things, men are not the only gender to commit sexual violence and women are not the only gender to be victims of sexual violence. Gender relations play a role in the cause of sexual violence, but not exclusively, and this article also fails to acknowledge sexual violence between homosexuals. You cannot attribute to the individual the characteristics of a group as if they were homogenous.
Part of the reason for its trivialisation is articles such as this. There is no purpose in attacking solely white men when you should be condemning the people who commit sexual violence. You should be explaining the severity of sexual violence and its impacts on victims, the trauma and lifelong mental health impacts which result from it. Nothing is gained by attacking just white men and means nothing in terms of combatting the real-world issues.
You say that the actions of politicians are swept under the rug. Yet, there are literally millions of articles written on the actions of prominent public figures such as politicians. You yourself, are literally writing an article condemning them. Adding to the already long-established list of articles.
I personally feel the way to combat sexual violence and its trivialisation is parents. Parents need to raise individuals who not only understand right and wrong but practice what they preach. Many commit sexual violence after experiencing it at home whilst young. Within psychology, it is accepted that early development and home experiences of a person directly impacts their mental configuration. Concluding that a lack of healthy relationships with two parents is one of the biggest factors in cognitive construction which leads to people who commit sexual violence. Facts such as this need to be understood. As well as the impacts of sexual violence to stop it from being trivialised.
Overall, I feel this article is disingenuous in their feelings towards sexual violence trivialisation. To only condemn ‘white men’ is not only bias but also pushing forward some ill-informed agenda. The sole focus on white men is simply inaccurate and scientifically unfounded. Anyone who commits sexual violence should be held accountable. That is the only criteria to condemn them on, not race, nor gender.
Written by Senior Conservative Writer, Peter Pearce
I have just graduated with a History degree from the University of Exeter and am about to start my Masters there in Conflict, Security, and Development. I will also be taking on the roles of Welfare Officer in the Politics Society and Vice-President for Coppafeel’s Exeter Uni Boob Team.
I am going into my second year at the University of Exeter studying a flexible combined honour in Geography and Politics. My interest in politics and geography stems from an interest in current events and the wider world, with geography being the study of all world processes.