Reality Check: Rape Exists

In Response to Harry Shepherd Smith's article: Have We Gone Too Far with Going Too Far?

If you are a woman starting university in the UK in 2016, there is a 1 in 3 chance that you will be sexually assaulted before you graduate.

This isn’t a ‘hysterical’ statistic, nor am I screeching from my feminist high horse. This is a fact. A cold, hard fact. There is no way of getting around this, unfortunately. These are the people in your seminars, the people you chat up on the bus, the people who serve you a drink at the bar.

Now I understand that you feel vilified by the University’s consent workshops. It would seem preposterous that someone such as yourself would even think about sexually assaulting someone; like you said, it’s only ‘maniacs’ that rape...isn’t it?

The thing is my friend there is no atypical rapist, the word ‘rapist’ is not emblazoned on their faces, nor can we pinpoint who and when someone will commit sexual assault. 80% of rape survivors know their attacker. They don’t all look like the ‘maniacs’ your article assumes that they are, perpetuating the notion that rape is only executed by evil men of the night who drag girls down dark alleyways. This just isn’t the case. Sexual violence isn’t always physically violent. It is far more insidious than that.

You talk about  ‘ignorant women’ who perceive themselves to be ‘victims of Dragon Tattoo levels of sexual violence’, and again, there is something fundamentally wrong with your assumption that rape only occurs in violent, brutal ways. You demand such a clear delineation of good and bad when it comes to rape. It is easier to assume that rape only happens by sadists than to admit that abuse is widespread. The truth is, sexual violence is enabled on a cultural scale. Columnists in newspapers write of women “asking for it”, catcalling and groping is an everyday part of the lives of women and LGBTQIA+ people, and many people think it’s as simple as “yes means yes” and “no means no” when it comes to consent.

Instead of giving constructive criticism on the form of the consent workshops you have criticised the content. These workshops are here to teach people that there’s a spectrum of misunderstandings in between, and consent can only be an enthusiastic yes. Your assumption that these consent workshops will not deter people from enacting these crimes is an ignorant remark on the workshop’s intent. If 1 in 3 women weren’t being sexually assaulted then yes, I agree, we wouldn’t need these workshops. But obviously something is wrong here. The numbers don’t lie. The workshops are not there to vilify you, nor your sexuality, they are there to educate, with the intent to change these horrifying statistics and to teach potential victims their rights.

Your argument that feminism demonises sexual exploration is something I take great issue with. I am not sure what you deem as exploratory but you still need to consent. Unwilling participation is not sexual exploration - you’ve got something very confused here. Feminism does not say ‘don’t have that threesome!’, feminism simply asks that consent be given. Feminists still have sex, don’t be so fucking silly.

I could quite happily continue to discuss this topic with you, educate you on the issues of victim-blaming, the normalisation of rape culture, continue to debunk the myths you have perpetuated. In fact I am glad you have written this article, we need a dialogue on sexual violence and obviously education on this matter is still just as important because as millions of women know all too well no one ever avoided a rape by wearing a longer skirt.