I have, relatively recently, written about what I perceive to be a very disturbing escalation of misogynistic issues in our country. In October last year I wrote this – Misogyny – should it be a ‘crime’…? – THE SCOTS LAW BLOG
Then, two blog pasts from last month – The epidemic of violence against women – THE SCOTS LAW BLOG and A surge in ‘revenge porn’ cases – THE SCOTS LAW BLOG.
It is an area that fascinates as much as it disturbs me. If I ever get round to doing my PhD (I cannot eliminate my obsessive desire to become Dr. O’Neill 😉), then this would certainly be a leading candidate for my research topic.
The exponential rate at which very distressing accounts of sexism and sexual assaults against females have been uploaded to the newly created everyonesinvited.uk website, has not only sent shockwaves throughout the country, but it has ignited a fear that a ‘rape culture’ has developed in many educational establishments up and down the country, in addition to aspects of society in general.
This perceived ‘culture’ is said to be present when sexual assaults, sexual violence, an intrusion of dignity and deviant sexual behaviour, totally abhorrent at anytime, is somehow trivialised and interpreted and accepted as being the ‘norm’. Sexting and upskirting can soon become even worse by the commission of criminal acts and, ultimately, rape. This ‘culture’, long seen as ‘bants’ by many in society certainly appears to becoming progressively worse and more apparent. But it is not banter. Most definitely not.
I have said here previously that I see aspects of misogyny everywhere in Britain and the response towards it is woefully inadequate. However, what I intend to look at it today is an exploration as to whether the easy access to (often hardcore) pornography is feeding this vile behaviour. The immediate knee-jerk reaction would be to agree without hesitation and state that there is (a) no place for pornography in today’s society at all and (b) the depiction of women in such a light must inevitably lead to deviant behaviour. However, the answer is far from clear cut.
Watching pornography does not in itself necessarily correlate with wanting to ‘act out’ what one has seen. Anymore so than watching any other depiction on screen. We may love watching the Rocky films but not everyone that does will want to take up boxing. Further, the control over the accessibility of such material, were it to be prohibited becomes, like everything else in similar situations, nigh on impossible. It would be driven underground to join all the other unsavoury material on the dark web. Perhaps one avenue that requires further exploration and examination is why people feel compelled to watch it at all. Doubtless for some it develops sinister, deviant behaviour but there is some empirical evidence to suggest that for others it offers an introspective exploration of their own sexual identity. Indeed, there appears to be relatively scant evidence to suggest that those who do watch pornography were overtly more sexist in their approach than those who did not. This is perhaps surprising and will likely be challenged. The objectification of women, one might imagine, would lend itself more to a lack of respect and misogynistic views. The evidence does suggest however that the problems are, if you like, ‘indirect’. So, one partner ‘discovering’ that the other has been watching such material without candidly disclosing it to their partner.
There is, of course, a paradoxical view. Much of what is freely available online depicts very graphic and often extremely violent pornography with acts including depravity and humiliation and, in some cases, sexual torture. Given the seemingly unfettered availability of such material, often without restriction and therefore age limit, is it any wonder that young, impressionable males ‘develop’ with these images of females indelibly marked on their psyche? This can then often create a sense in some men feel they have a ‘right’ to women and to treat them in this manner and thereby defining the very notion of a ‘rape culture’.
Yet again, and by no means for the first time, the answer, in my opinion, lies in sex education. The need for open, frank, candid conversations about the whole issue and with a focus on ‘sexual consent’ and the broader complex issues that necessarily accompany the topic. Because it is still treated like something from a Carry On film in this country. Yet there is nothing funny or bawdy about it. My fear is that without an urgent root-and-branch reform, the future is bleak. It would indeed be tragic if the inroads made by the #MeToo movement were to no avail.
As for the above image, it does seem remarkable that when the Equality Act 2010 hit the statute book over a decade ago, with its fabled 9 protected characteristics, misogyny was not one.
Perhaps it is time that it becomes a tenth, or a ‘crime’ in its own right but, in the interim, this whole issue needs to be urgently addressed from grassroots upwards. Get the schools to robustly treat this issue with the utmost seriousness from P1 and ensure this appalling culture ends immediately.