It's Time For Germaine Greer To Shut Up
Rape DOES leave injuries.
Germaine Greer is talking again.
The one-time feminist leader made the bold claim today that "most rape" is simply bad sex, and that we should reclassify how we think about rape altogether.
"Most rapes don’t involve any injury whatsoever," she told the crowd at the Hay Festival in Wales. "We are told that it is a sexually violent crime, an expert like Quentin Tarantino will tell us that when you use the word 'rape' you're talking about violence, a throwing them down... it is one of the most violent crimes in the world. Bullshit, Tarantino.
"Most rape is just lazy, just careless, just insensitive. Every time a man rolls over on his exhausted wife and insists on enjoying his conjugal right, he is raping her. It will never end up in a court of law.
"Instead of thinking of rape as a spectacularly violent crime -- and some rapes are -- think about it as non-consensual, that is, bad sex. Sex where there is no communication, no tenderness, no mention of love. We used to talk about lovemaking."
Greer suggested that rape, far from destroying lives, has "bloody annoyed" people instead. "I reckon 200 hours of community service would do me," she said, rather than imposing jail sentences on rapists. "I suggested a long time ago that maybe a little tattoo would be a good thing. Maybe an 'R' on your hand. I'd prefer it on your cheek."
At one point, she belittled the ongoing trauma experienced by survivors of rape. "The official position now is that 70 percent of rape victims suffer PTSD and only 20 per cent of veterans," she said, as if the experiences of rape and the experiences of war were somehow comparable.
“At this point you think, what the hell are you saying? That something that leaves no sign, no injury, nothing, is more damaging to women than seeing your best friend blown up by an IED is to a veteran?”
Greer -- who has found herself at odds with mainstream feminism for years now -- is releasing a book later this year, On Rape. That's it. That's both the title of the book and its subject, and judging by what we've seen here today, it's going to be an exercise in unhelpful, dangerous, and ultimately irrelevant ideas.
Let's start with this one: rape does leave injuries. Common injuries include bruising or scratches. Less common injuries include vaginal or anal bleeding, inflammation of the vagina, urinary tract infections, uterine fibroids. People can contract sexually transmitted diseases, become pregnant against their will. People can die.
But rape can also leave no physical injuries. It can leave survivors feeling anxious, guilty, isolated, or numb. Survivors can experience PTSD, anxiety, depression, eating disorders, substance abuse, suicidal thoughts. The reason language has changed from "victims" of sexual abuse to "survivors" is that to live through the trauma of sexual violence is to survive it.
Trivialising rape is hardly Greer's first misstep in the confusing, unforgiving, and often vicious discourse that makes up modern feminism.
She has demonstrated, time and again, her utter contempt for trans people, for example. She's repeatedly argued that trans women are not women, aligning herself with the loud and proud TERFs (trans exclusionary radical feminists) that dominate debate in her chosen home of the UK.
"I'm not saying that people should not be allowed to go through [a sex change operation]," she told the BBC in 2015. "What I'm saying is it doesn't make them a woman."
A year later she was back at it, this time on the ABC's Q&A program.
"If you're a 50-year-old truck driver who's had four children with a wife and you've decided the whole time you've been a woman, I think you're probably wrong," she told the panel.
To make transphobic comments out of ignorance is one thing; to be educated and still remain firmly on your sinking ship is another.
Earlier this year it was the #MeToo movement, during which Greer said women coming forward with stories about Harvey Weinstein were "whingeing".
"In the old days, there were movies -- the Carry On comedies, for example -- which always had a man leering after women. And the women always outwitted him -- he was a fool," she told Fairfax earlier this year.
"We weren't afraid of him and we weren't afraid to slap him down.
"What makes it different is when the man has economic power, as Harvey Weinstein has. But if you spread your legs because he said 'be nice to me and I'll give you a job in a movie' then I'm afraid that's tantamount to consent, and it's too late now to start whingeing about that.
"I want women to react here and now. I want the woman on a train who feels a man's hand where it shouldn't be … to be able to say quite clearly 'Stop'"
On the surface, it makes sense: women should be empowered to fight back sexual assault as it happens. Women shouldn't agree to sexual intercourse for favours then later turn around and claim assault.
But that's not what happened, and Greer -- who is an academic, after all -- equating women coming forward with rape allegations against Weinstein with women coming forward with tales of impropriety isn't helpful.
It's the same story, over and over again: Greer, an academic, purposefully muddles up an issue, and because she's one of the biggest names in feminist history, it gets written about. She's booked for gigs, lands a book deal, and everybody gets a headache.
A new conversation about sexual assault needs to be happening. The legal system fails victims. Police fail victims. How we talk about sexual assault -- and who we offer platforms to -- fails victims. Over and over and over again.
The good news is that new, diverse, and fiercely intelligent voices are having that conversation. Sexual assault disproportionately affects people of colour, trans women, people with disabilities. We don't need another white TERF landing speaking engagements where she gets to say stuff like "a man can't kill you with his penis" and derail the conversation yet again. It is, frankly, exhausting.
Greer did some great work in the 1970s, pioneering second-wave feminism and all that. But now, it's either time to involve herself in the sexual assault conversation in a way that shows she's willing to listen and learn, or retire herself from it entirely.
If you need help and advice, call 1800 RESPECT on 1800 737 732, or Lifeline on 13 11 14. A range of sexual violence resources based around the country can be found here.