You know, a photo of an emaciated, probably drug-addicted woman leaning into a car like the one above is about as realistic a portrait of prostitution as is Breakfast at Tiffany's, the Audrey Hepburn classic based on a much-baser novella by Truman Capote.
The truth is, the lot of most sex workers is somewhere in the middle.
And while some may work at the low end of the business while others live the high life, a brand new study co-authored by researchers at Montreal's Concordia U. (my alma mater) and the University of Windsor paints a more accurate picture of sex work.
By most estimates, only 10 to 20 per cent of sex workers solicit clients off the street. The majority — 80 to 90 per cent — work from home, brothels and private establishments such as escort agencies, strip clubs or massage parlors.
After 450 face-to-face interviews with sex workers and 40 more with law enforcement and public health types, the researchers come to the conclusion that sex work has to be decriminalized -- and destigmatized.
“We must not only change our laws, we must also revamp our attitudes and implement policies that protect the social, physical and psychological rights of sex workers,” says first author Frances Shaver, chair and professor in Concordia’s Department of Sociology and Anthropology. “Regardless of where and how they conduct their business, sex workers are left on their own to ensure their health and safety on the job.”
The vast majority of sex workers are consenting adults who enter the field in order to pay their bills. “Most get into the business because they know someone who knows someone,” says Shaver. “It’s rare that boyfriends force girlfriends into sex work.”
The research explodes some of the most commonly-health myths about sex work, all of which appear to have arisen from judgemental tut-tutting and/or the conviction that sex workers "are in need of saving" and/or couldn't possibly have a will of their own.
The negative perceptions and behaviors behind these failures reflect moral discourses that hamper good policy development ... and—as our informants reported—justify discrimination and marginalization of sex workers.
Which only puts them at greater risk.
As a public health worker noted regarding an attempt to get funding for health-based outreach into strip clubs, ‘‘I was there when the United Way said to us, you meet the criteria . . . but you don’t really think that the United Way is going to want to be known for funding dancers’’
In order to receive the highest attainable health services, health-care providers need to know all facets of a patient’s life, including their work life. However, a number of the (sex workers) we interviewed reported that they prefer to keep their work ‘‘a secret’’ from health providers to avoid ‘‘being judged.’’ A combination of personal experiences and stories from colleagues and friends lead them to expect that most health providers are unprepared to accept the work they do. In order to avoid ‘‘discriminatory attitudes’’ they remain silent about their job.
Now, over the past couple of years, I have come to know some women in the trade and I can assure you that, unless they're flat out liars, and I doubt they are, they see themselves as independent business women or contractors for agencies. While I might not go down the same path -- although I have had tempting offers -- I respect their choices.
But whether on the streets or in Queen's Quay condos, all are in danger -- which is why sex work must be decriminalized.
Which we're seeing already. Russia and Pakistan last year. Manitoba and Mississippi this year.
Says meteorologist Michael Mann, director of the Earth System Science Center at Penn State, “There is good reason to believe that, with as much as an additional 1C or so warming, we might set in motion the irreversible collapse of the continental ice sheets. Their eventual melting would lead to more than 20 feet of global sea level rise--by any assessment, a catastrophic outcome.”
And none of that counts what is already in the system – i.e. those emissions that we haven’t really measured or felt the effects of yet.
Canada, on a per capita basis, has much to answer for. Population and economic growth, oil and gas exports and our love of light trucks have been among the key drivers of our rising emissions. Then there's Alberta oil sands mining which, according to Environment Canada, spews more greenhouse gases than all the cars on our roads combined.
“Unfortunately, far too many are in denial and political action is at a standstill,’’ observes Kevin Trenberth, Distinguished Senior Scientist at the Boulder, Colorado-based National Center for Atmospheric Research. “Once the problem is so obvious to everyone, it is far far too late to do anything about it.”
That sense of urgency is why many in scientific circles are advocating non-violent civil disobedience (NVCD) to shake up governments, industry and media.
Even climate change superstar Al Gore has called for NVCD, which involves breaking the law to protest or to call attention to laws or government policies perceived to be unjust.
Three years ago, he said in a speech to the Clinton Global Initiative, "I believe we have reached the stage where it is time for civil disobedience to prevent the construction of new coal plants that do not have carbon capture and sequestration.”
Enough with the greenwishywashing, more and more scientists are saying.
Well-known American environmentalist and activist Bill McKibben founded the grass-roots group 350.org, which attempts to get people all over the world agitating for laws, regulations and policy aimed at reducing GHG (greenhouse gas emissions) reductions.
“We need to do (civil disobedience) on a mass scale," McKibben, author of many books including Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet, tells me. “We need to do it in a way that makes one thing clear to all onlookers: in this fight, we are the conservatives. The radicals are the people who want to alter the composition of the atmosphere.”
“Non-violent civil disobedience is justified when there is a history of long-standing harm or violation of people's fundamental rights; when legal and policy means have failed to reduce the harms and violations; and when there is little time remaining to address the problems,” University of New England professor John Lemons and Penn State’s Donald Brown wrote in last month’s Journal of Science and Environmental Politics.
Noted Australian climate advocate Clive Hamilton (Affluenza: When Too Much is Not Enough, Requiem for a Species: Why We Resist The Truth About Climate Change) insists that the moral obligation to act now trumps obedience to the law.
“Those who engage in civil disobedience are usually the most law-abiding citizens—those who have most regard for the social interest and the keenest understanding of the democratic process,” he emails from Cambridge where he is a visiting professor at Oxford.
Civil disobedience has a long and proud tradition, of course. It helped bring about civil rights in the US, end the Vietnam war, and kept loggers out of BC’s Clayoquot Sound. African-Americans boycotted bus lines and defiantly drank out of “whites-only” public water fountains, young men publicly burned their draft cards and thousands blockaded roads to keep pulp and paper companies out old growth forests.
The member-supported Council of Canadians has engaged in all sorts of civil disobedience, including sandbagging towns and provincial legislatures to point out how rising sea levels would affect them.
“It’s not an action to be taken lightly,’’ says Andrea Harden-Donahue, the Council’s Energy and Climate Justice campaigner. “We do believe that all other democratic means should be pursued first and continue to be pursued, even with a civil disobedience strategy.
“But we feel that it is justified to address climate change, especially given that the Harper government has refused to take action, and because of the urgency.”
Most lawmakers – and even most people -- don’t seem to think much of the tactic. Witness police actions against non-violent stunts such as teddy bear catapults at global summits, or citizen complaints of tied up traffic during protests and sit-ins. How many Canadians say that last year’s peaceful protestors at the Toronto G20 Summit should have just stayed home if they didn’t want to be tackled, cuffed with plastic cables and tossed into cages without charges?
“People from across the political spectrum love to praise civil disobedience-- as long as we're talking about past social movements,” observes US journalist Will Potter, author of Green Is the New Red: An Insider's Account of a Social Movement under Siege. “For instance, on the very same day that members of Congress were breaking ground for a new memorial honoring Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his activism, a bill was passed labeling civil disobedience as ‘terrorism’ if it is done by animal rights and environmental activists.”
“We do believe that the law, and actions taken within the law, are ultimately necessary to addressing the problem of climate change,’’ explains Andrew Gage, acting executive director of West Coast Environmental Law in Victoria, BC.
Me, I am glad I am getting on in years so I won’t have to see what’s coming. I always felt and, as it turns out, scientist Michael Mann sees it the same way, that, well, here's how he in an email: "Of all the early 70s distopian movies, Soylent Green was actually the most prophetic in terms of providing a vision for a worst case anthropogenic climate future..."
JUST A NOTE: In order to do this post, I spoke to many distinguished and committed scientists. I just want to thank those that I cited, as well as those I didn't, including Scott Mandia and Ray Weymann.
The UN climate talks re-opened in Bonn on Monday with developing countries increasingly resentful that money promised 18 months ago to help them adapt to climate change has not been made available.
New research by the World Resources Institute (WRI) shows that the world's 21 developed countries and the European commission have publicly announced pledges of $28bn in "fast-track" money after a commitment made in Copenhagen in 2009. While this is close to the $30bn promised for the 2010-2012 period, only around $12bn has actually been budgeted for by countries and as little as around 30% has been delivered in some cases.
Two stories were much talked about in these here Broadsides parts. One was the brutal sexual assault by an Egyptian mob of CBS journalist Lara Logan and the other was the Toronto cop who really stepped in it when he told a York University audience that, if women wanted to avoid getting raped, they should avoid dressing like a ''slut.''
First, Logan. I have not much new to say about this. I do want to point out that we still don't know much about her attack although I fully expect she will eventually tell her story. She's a pro. I also want to express my utter disgust at the usual neocon suspects who used this incident to accuse Muslims (and maybe they were Christians in that mob?) of bestial behaviour. (And no, I am not linking to them.) And it's pretty clear that this goof is trying to cover his most kickable butt. Some pretty crappy things were written in the wake of Logan's ordeal -- including comments about her appearance, as if looks have anything to do with sexual assault. Great read about that here.
Which brings us to the Toronto incident. The cop in question has apparently apologized.
A police officer who suggested women can avoid sexual assault by not dressing like “sluts” has apologized, saying he is “embarrassed” by the remark and that assaulted women are “not victims by choice.”
“I made a comment which was poorly thought out and did not reflect the commitment of the Toronto Police Service to the victims of sexual assaults,” Const. Michael Sanguinetti wrote on Thursday to Osgoode Hall Law School where he made the comment.
“Violent crimes such as sexual assaults can have a traumatizing effect on their victims. . . . My comment was hurtful in this respect.”
Rape is not about some dick seeing some hot looking woman and suddenly deciding to put a knife to her throat and violently assault her. It is about some sick guy who wants to exert power and control over women.
Rape is also a weapon of war, an invasion and occupation of the body and soul of a people.
Thank you Rosie. You get it. You really really get it. You wrote the column I would have written.
In distressing ways, it’s The Balcony Rapist all over again, nearly a quarter-century after that repeat offender attacked a string of women in downtown Toronto, 12 years after Jane Doe won her civil suit against Toronto police, with a judge finding the force guilty of negligence and gender discrimination for failure to inform the public about ongoing sexual attacks in a defined area, the victims all of a physical resemblance.
Williams appears to have had no preferred type. He was all over the map in his 82 fetish break-ins in terms of females targeted, from pubescent girls to middle-aged moms.
His creeping was not all over the map geographically, however, the home invasions clustered around a specific Ottawa neighbourhood and the small eastern Ontario town of Tweed.
“Not related” is the disclaimer that appears constantly in comments from police officials following Williams’ arrest last February and the subsequent media sifting of events: They had no reason to believe a link existed between what was happening in communities more than 200 kilometres apart.
But to hear at least some cops tell it, they weren’t even seeing a connection in the serial burglary of underwear in Tweed, a town with a population of less than 6,000. In retrospect, alarm bells should have been blaring. Yet at least one officer characterized the thieving of undergarments as not particularly uncommon, thus not noteworthy.
Unless sleepy Tweed just happens to be Planet Central for underwear-snatching, it should damn well have been apparent that something peculiar and disturbing was going on.
Did the Police look at these break-ins of underwear as a pranks, or minor because they did not involve something of significance like a big screen TV or a wallet full of cash?
What the person did in the break-ins was intimidate and humiliate the women and girls whose privacy and space he invaded. He made these girls and women feel very vulnerable and I expect scared. Some did not report the break-ins because they felt so humiliated.
UP YOURS DATE: Nice. Not.
Stephen Harper has spoken. And not a soul has the guts to take him to task. Read this:
"The Canadian Forces are the victim here, [pause] as are the direct victims of these terrible events."
So says Stephen Harper. I didn't insert that "pause" for no reason. On the tape it exists and it suggests, to Harper, that the direct victims of Williams' crimes were secondary to the effect on the Canadian Forces as a whole.
Which shows what Harper knows about the Canadian Forces. And could care less for the actual victims.
Nothing can bring back his brutally murdered victims, Marie-France Comeau and Jessica Lloyd, nor repair the broken families he tore apart.
Tweed sex assault victims Jane Doe, who was a very young mother of a weeks-old infant when Williams attacked her, and Laurie Massicotte will have nightmares forever. It's hard to imagine the trauma they suffered, and will continue to suffer.
Hopefully, the other victims, whose most intimate spaces and places were invaded and violated by Williams can find peace. But I suspect they may be lying in bed right now thinking, there but for the grace of God ...
Which is why, despite how the Ontario Provincial Police thinks it has neatly wrapped up this case, I keep tripping over the loose ends.
I have already covered off the way the media have been handling Williams predilection for photographing himself in little girls' panties. In any case, Elizabeth Pickett and Bina Becker have done a much more thorough job of analyzing that angle. Have a read here, here and here. (Elizabeth also considers military culture in the wake of the trial here.)
So what's left?
How about what strikes me as police ineptitude and insensitivity?
First of all, I highly recommend you take 45 minutes to watch an edition of CBC's the fifth estate from last month. It's available online here. Titled ''Above Suspicion,'' it reveals a lot about Williams' invasions -- dozens of invasions -- of women's homes, bedrooms and drawers (and no, that's not a pun.)
Stick with it and you'll be asking yourself, how could the cops have blown this badly?
At least have a look at the fifth'smap here. Notice anything?
Like maybe a street map and some coloured pins on an OPP wall would have shown a pattern of invasions with similar characteristics?
Why did it take so long for the police to start cooperating?
Don't forget, in the wake of the Bernardo-Homolka case, the Campbell report was stinging in its criticism of how the cops handled the case.
Campbell, who conducted a public inquiry into the Bernardo probe, went on to conclude that there was an "astounding and dangerous lack of co-operation between police forces" and a litany of errors, miscalculations and disputes.
The failure to share information prevented police from identifying Bernardo as the terrorizing "Scarborough rapist," whose victims were spread across several police jurisdictions.
Elizabeth takes a run at the Campbell report and how it relates to this case here.
Every single one of Russell's crimes -- except for Comeau's murder in Brighton -- happened within the OPP's Eastern Region. And, while Belleville has its own police force, and Orleans is served by the Ottawa force, somebody should have put it together.
But it wasn't until Lloyd went missing, and the Belleville police under Chief Cory McMullan got involved, that all the boys started playing together.
It's true that many victims did not report break-ins because they did not know about them or they believed the police would laugh them off. After all, it's just another panty raid?
The very fact that some victims hesitated speaks to how women fear that their complains will be discounted.
There’s a troubling number missing from the latest report from Statistics Canada on criminal victimization. I went looking for the figure because it was there in the last version of the report, in 2004 – it showed that just 8% of all sexual assaults in 2004 were reported to police, a puny 42,000 assaults reported among the total of 512,000 committed. Expressed another way, less than 1 out of every 10 sexual assaults committed was reported to police. It is a pitiful and shameful statistic, a reflection of the fact that despite decades of progress in dealing with sexual abuse and exploitation, authorities have done little to make the process of reporting abuse and confronting abusers less frightening and intimidating. The vast majority of victims still suffer in silence. Statistics Canada refuses to release the figure for 2009. What if things are getting worse? What if they are getting much worse? I’ve produced a disturbing statistic that suggests, if the number is valid, that far fewer sexual assault victims are reporting to police.
Considering how many news outlets treated Williams ''fetish,'' it's no big surprise to many that women will put up and shut up.
Again, this speaks to how the police discounted these violations: They issued no warning to Tweed citizens until after Massicotte was attacked.
Not surprisingly, they were very disrespectful, at least according to Massicotte who fled the court room this week, of what the two sexual assault survivors went through.
Today she emailed. Here's some of what she wrote (I added the boldface):
Out of the respect of the deceased,I will not even attempt to be heard @ this time, submit my impact statement, nor show my face or presence in that court in Belleville since my regretful appearance Monday A.M., when me & my family literally fled that court house @ 11:20, the 1st possible dignified break after hearing THE GUILTY PLEA on all counts with the sexual assaults being blended with the other less serious, none the less disturbing home invasions. I feel that there is a time & place for everything & it is my belief for the living DEAD and their families. Call me over sensitive but those are my true feelings on how this case is being conducted as a survivor of his Hanois (sic) violent acts. So be it! I once again feel used & disrespected by the Crown & the police.
I feel liked chopped liver & I can't even comprehend how the little one is feeling. Now if I could get a message out to the masses it would be-if you survive a violent act of sex don't report it, just run for cover & find your own protection minus the police & the system they represent.
As Massicotte has repeatedly said, she felt the police could have done a much better job on all levels, from plain old detective work to treating victims with more respect.
Maybe Lloyd and Comeau would still be alive if they had.
While there is no question that the skilfull Smyth showed incredible calm and patience in getting Williams to confess, it's not as if the police didn't have a basement full of panties as evidence.
What's more, it seems obvious that the killer, considering how he would eventually transfer his assets to his wife, was anxious to avoid horrendous legal fees on what would be a losing case. He's a sociopath but he's not stupid.
Today, incredibly, the OPP put out a news release congratulating themselves on a job well done.
Well yes. After all, they had the media spotlight all this week on their dog and pony show. Williams is in the slammer. You can all go home now. Nothing to see here.
And yet, as the the fifth estate documentary reports, it took a few locals driving in a truck late at night to spot Williams' SUV parked in a field near Lloyd's house to put it all together.
Today, the world was subjected to the grim details, including the fact that he videotaped the death of two of his victims -- Jessica Lloyd, 27, and his comrade-in-arms Cpl. Marie-France Comeau, 38, right.
We all knew Williams was into stealing his victims' lingerie and then filing and cataloging all his ''trophies.'' What we didn't know is that this decorated officer liked to wear the stuff and shoot himself masturbating into it. (The Star has a photo gallery. Keep the eye bleach handy.)
If Twitter is any indication, many are grossed out by the details, and are questioning why we need to hear them, especially since Williams has already admitted guilt.
But maybe there's a good reason to pay attention. That's because the media are referring to his "fetish" an awful lot. Elizabeth takes issue with that. Here's why (and I added the boldface):
1. Because we need to see and understand how impossible it is for the mainstream media in general to report these kinds of cases fairly, accurately and KNOWLEDGEABLY.
For instance, I keep hearing that his fetish for underwear escalated into break-ins, photo sessions whilst modelling the undies and masturbation on camera, leaving the evidence of such behind. Now that is not a women's underwear fetish. Such fetishes are perfectly harmless.
This is the escalation of PREDATORY behaviour!
The point is not the underwear. The point is that it belonged to a girl or woman who wore it and kept it in her dresser drawer. To break into the house, the bedroom, the dresser drawer of a girl or woman, try on her underwear and spend hours taking pictures of yourself wearing it while masturbating isn't a fetish, it's a VIOLATION of the personal space and the sexualized belongings of the girl or woman. To masturbate all over her bedroom is a VIOLATION. To tie her up and take pictures of her while masturbating and taking pictures is a VIOLATION. To do the same and then kill her is a VIOLATION. This is escalating predatory behaviour, not fetishism.
2. Because we need to know that if the cops were educated about such behaviour and able to categorize it properly and make predictions on the basis of that information, THEY MIGHT BE ABLE TO STOP PEOPLE LIKE COL. WHAT'S IT. And ought to have caught him before he sexually assaulted four women or, at the very least, before he killed two of them.
3. Because we need to know how easily predatory men get along in our misogynist culture and particularly in the most macho aspects of that culture which would certainly be THE MILITARY! If I wanted to be a raping serial killer I would be in the military or I'd be a cop.
According to Tweed resident Larry Jones, 62, who lives next door to Col. Russell Williams, 46, now charged with two murders and the two sexual assaults, the police did not believe that first victim when she reported the attack.
Not until the second victim was attacked two weeks later.
"They said her boyfriend had broken into her house, to try to get back at her for leaving him or something,'' he told me Tuesday. "So two weeks went by. Not a word was said. Nothing in the media. Nothing in the news. And we had an animal running around.
"Then, (Victim B) down the road from me, she gets broken into and it's the same crime. They should have put the word out. They could have been looking for somebody.''
Interestingly, according to Victim B, Laurie Massicotte, with whom I have kept continuous contact, both she and Victim A, a young single mother, had what you might call "domestic problems." Massicotte was going through a bitter divorce while Victim A had had conflicts with the father of her baby. In the latter case, as I was told by Jones, police suggested that her boyfriend was ''playing tricks on her.''
Right now, thousands of people are going through the photos on the Star's website, maybe laughing, maybe feeling revulsion, maybe both.
But, as Elizabeth wants you to remember, Williams did not get that lingerie by ordering from Victoria's Secrets. He got it by raping the personal and private space of 82 women and girls -- and there's nothing titllating or amusing about that.
P.S. I refuse to post any of those underwear photos here.
P.P.S. I notice the mods are not posting some comments, even though they are great. Something about our policy regarding comments and ongoing court cases.
A fetishist isn't generally interested in controlling a person; s/he is content to play with an object or collection of objects, and obtains sexual gratification that way. This activity usually doesn't escalate.
A predator collects human victims as trophies, rendering them into objects to be controlled. When he grows tired of taking easy, inanimate trophies--stolen jewelry, underwear or other personal effects--he begins to entertain the notion of taking humans themselves as his trophies. He escalates his violations over time, in both frequency and intensity, as an addict will increase his dose of drugs when he becomes habituated.
Fetishists are rarely violent. Many are quite odd, but this is beside the point; their oddity generally harms no one. They tend to respect the dignity of others.
Predators are increasingly violent. Often they do not stand out as odd on first glance; their cultivated façade of normality IS the point. It enables them to escalate their crimes until they die or are caught, whichever comes first.
So, we can see that a fetishist ≠ a predator. If anything, they are diametrically opposed.
This is why I get so angry when I see the media falling into the trap of fixating on Williams's alleged sexual fetishes, instead of understanding that he is a predator, one who sexualizes power-over. The media's job is to clear up our confusion, and instead, they are adding to it. And in so doing, they hang women and children--the persons most likely to become a predator's victims--out to dry.
And, of course, we already went through all the victim-blaming as well as the scary incidence of domestic violence in police relationships, as I noted here. Lots of facts and figures to be found in that blogpost.
The episode of police drama Law & Order: Special Victims Unit featuring Jennifer Love Hewitt as a guest star aired in the US last night and the scenes were highly distressing.
The former Ghost Whisperer star played a battered and bruised woman, Vicki Sayers, who has been brutally raped by the same man over a period of fifteen years.
As I mentioned in my Rape Culture post below, there is a disturbing number of rape plotlines in primetime lately.
True a lot of violent crime against women consists of rape. So I concede that it makes sense that, when women are victims on CSI or Criminal Minds, rape is almost to be expected.
However there is something very sickening about how it's increasingly fodder for entertainment, how it's depcted not so much in a horrifying way but in a kinky sexual way.
Of course, none of the shows sanction rape but they sure get lurid about it.
I don't know. Maybe I am just getting old.
What do you think?
UPPITY WOMAN DATE: I see from comments coming in -- which the Star mods have yet to post -- that some people believe that these TV rapes are instructive. Perhaps they are.
But here's the thing: The majority of actual rapes are committed not by strangers and serial killers, as we so often see in media, but acquaintancesof the victim.
Sometimes it's called ''date rape.'' Sometimes abuse. Sometimes incest. It's still rape.
So how do these gruesome TV plotlines fit in with informing viewers of men's responsibility not to rape if the perpetrators in these episodes are, more often than not, portrayed as sick, violent sociopaths?
Police-reported data, which include victims of every age, indicate that the accused was a family member in nearly a third (31%) of sexual offence incidents that came to the attention of law enforcement in 2007, with extended family members (10%), the victim’s parents (10%), or some other immediate family member (7%) identified as the accused most frequently. Less often, relatives accused in sexual assaults were current or former spouses (4%), and rarely were they the victim’s child (0.3%). Similar to the proportion of sexual offences where the accused was a relative, 28% of police-reported sexual assaults involved offenders who were casual acquaintances of the victim. To a lesser extent, offenders were identified as friends (8%), authority figures (6%), current or former boyfriends/girlfriends (5%), or business acquaintances (4%) of the victims.
So I don't buy the notion that there's something ''instructive'' in the gruesome rapes (and murders) of women in entertainment media.
Or maybe some perverts out there have Google Alert set up to deliver the latest in rape news to their inbox.
My story is about 1600 words long, but I am going to post to post all of it, if only to add updates, illustrations and links.
Not long ago, Professor Lise Gotell, an expert on sexual assault law at the University of Alberta, was taken aback to hear her 15-year-old son describe his football team’s crushing defeat as being “totally raped.’’
She wasn’t sure whether to call the coach, or the cops.
“Can’t you just say that you were humiliated? I asked him,’’ she recalls on the phone from her Edmonton office. “He explained that he meant to convey that ‘They turned us into their bitch.’’’
As if that were any better.
“There’s something about this sexualization and the use of rape as a colloquial verb that is really startling,’’ Gotell says. “Culture is a terrain that we should take very, very seriously.’’
Culture, or, as the feminist blogosphere often refers to it, “rape culture.’’
Writes Melissa McEwan, of the feminist blog site Shakesville: “Rape culture is encouraging male sexual aggression. Rape culture is regarding violence as sexy and sexuality as violent. Rape culture is treating rape as a compliment, as the unbridled passion stirred in a healthy man by a beautiful woman, making irresistible the urge to rip open her bodice or slam her against a wall, or a wrought-iron fence, or a car hood, or pull her by her hair, or shove her onto a bed, or any one of a million other images of fight-f***ing in movies and television shows and on the covers of romance novels that convey violent urges are inextricably linked with (straight) sexuality.’’
As good a definition as any.
“Thanks Wind, you have totally raped my hair’’ is the name of one Facebook group (about long hair and wind). Another is called “If you rape a prostitute, is it rape or shoplifting?’’ Still another: “You can’t say no if you can’t say anything at all’’— accompanied by a mock-up of a Superman comic showing the Caped Crusader disrobing behind a sobbing victim face-down on a bed.
“You gonna get raped!”
Little update here: Some of my Facebook friends reported these last two groups to Facebook and, thankfully, both have been bounced. I did manage to get screen grabs before that happened. And note that many other groups making light of rape exist. In fact, I wrote about one last year.
Another D & G ad presents a naked youth inert on the floor while four men look on, one doing up his fly.
American Apparel has been criticized for ads that appear to some to be invitations to rape.
One competition for America’s Next Top Model infamously had the contestants, in lingerie or skimpy dresses, posing as murder victims.
Movies are built around rapes - The Last House on the Left, Deadgirl, Descent—all dwell extensively on the most violent and vile rapes. And then there’s the hit comedy Observe and Report, which treated the rape of a vomiting, drunk girl as a joke. All this, and more, in the past year or so.
Go on Amazon and you can buy T-shirts emblazoned with “Two Beers $7/Three Margaritas $15/Four Jello Shots/ Taking Home the Girl Who Drank All of the Above . . . Priceless.’’
There are rape jokes. Rape songs. Music videos that covey a sense of sexual entitlement to men while portraying women as insatiable, available.
Just the other day on FunnyorDie.com, there was an implied gang rape of a woman in a video featuring well known comics such as Will Ferrell, in a spoof of public service messages promoting environmental awareness.
Is it any surprise then that, two weeks ago at a rave in Pitt Meadows, B.C., as many as a dozen young witnesses stood by and watched — and at least one boy videotaped with his smartphone — what police have described as the "gang rape" of an apparently drugged 16-year-old?
What made the B.C. incident so remarkable was, to add stunning insult to the incredible injury suffered by the victim, graphic images of the assault were repeatedly posted online, while at least one Facebook group was created to defend the attackers. It has since been shut down, ostensibly by police who have also been working to remove the images and charge the offenders with distributing child pornography.
Is this to be expected in a culture that encourages male sexual aggression, against women — or other men?
Margaret Lazarus, a Massachusetts producer, director and activist credited with coining the term “rape culture’’ in her 1975 documentary of the same name, says that what’s happening “reflects the integral connections between attitudes and something in the culture that’s promoting (rape).’’
Another one of her award-winning films, Rape Is ..., is required viewing for U.S. military recruits.
“Everybody says, ‘Oh yeah, the education has been done,’’’ she says, referring to all the lectures and classes to which young people have been subjected. “But then something like (Pitt Meadows) happens and you are reminded that you can’t stop being vigilant.’’
“There are lots of things in the culture that promote rape,” says Lakeman, who works for the Vancouver Rape Relief Centre. “Very vicious pornography is readily available, mean-spirited pornography is ever-present, even the kind of porn we see in fashion ads looks brutal.
“I do think that young men and women get told in many ways that rape is normal, that it happens a lot and there’s no particular reason to fight it.’’
“Girls, I would argue, continue to be shocked and horrified by rape and sexual assault,’’ she says. “But the fact that a few groups of young men within a few subcultures are misogynist and behave badly is not surprising. I think one can look back at our culture and see that this has often been an attitude expressed by certain men.”
Despite the behaviour of, say, some jocks, frat boys and other testosterone-fueled groups, Connolly insists that research indicates that most youth don’t tolerate aggression in relationships.
That said, she adds, “The media play a role in romantic aggression.
“In our research we find that frequent use of violent media encourages youth to be very tolerant of aggression towards a romantic partner and then, by extension, to be more likely to get involved in relationships with aggression.”
Aggression comes in many forms.
The Pitt Meadows girl has been further brutalized by the age-old “she asked for it’’ victim-blaming (she shouldn’t have been at the rave, she drank too much) and so-called “slut-shaming” comments online.
On a 14,000-member Facebook group for her that offered overwhelmingly positive support, she was repeatedly identified and attacked by trolls who joined merely to stir up trouble — for example by posting images of other rapes, including an unspeakably horrifying photograph from Congo.
One “John Smith’’ commented: “I think there are more than a few people here that know people that enjoy sex outdoors or in public places, like it rough/simulated rape scenarios, and/or like sex with multiple partners. So, with all that, there is a good chance that this was a consensual act.’’
And he’s not the only one to believe that, as media interviews with B.C. youths, including some at the victim’s high school, have shown.
What is clear from all of this is the utter lack of understanding of Canadian law. Here, it’s not “No means no’’ but “Yes means yes.’’ The person must agree to sex. And nobody is deemed to have given consent if they appear to be under the influence.
“The law has moved beyond cultural understanding,’’ Gotell explains. “There’s very little understanding of what the legal standard for what consent is.
“We need to reach young men in particular. If you think somebody is too drunk to give consent, then get her number, wait another day.’’
“I do think the conservative agenda has a lot to do with this,’’ says Lakeman. “We don’t see public officials standing up for women. We don’t see the denunciation of ordinary violence against women. We don’t see men being held to account in any way that speaks to the whole society’s values.’’
“In Stephen Harper’s Canada, women’s groups which could have provided a voice on these issues have been weakened or eliminated,’’ says Gotell, referring to the cuts in government funding to some women’s groups. “That’s another explanation for the escalation of rape culture.’’
The experts agree these are not simple issues.
“I don’t see the explosion in rape; these things have always been going on,’’ says Guelph University professor Mavis Morton, who teaches criminology. “But there really has been an explosion in the media and the messages. Social media are another venue now where we see messages in support of gender inequality and that stereotype concepts of masculinity and femininity.
“As a sociologist, I have to say that we are not asking the larger questions about what is reinforcing this entitlement: How many more times do women have to be told to be afraid, to be very afraid, and change the way they live their lives?’’
“You can’t say, ‘Oh, the battle has been won.’ It just keeps coming back again and again,’’ concludes Lazarus. “We have to keep up the struggle.’’
And now for my new slam bang finish, this, courtesy of Between Friends comic strip artist Sandra Lundy who sent it to me today:
UPPITY WOMAN DATE: Incidentally, the illustration at the top of this post is one of the many images pinned up on Facebook by the evil trolls who were all over the group in support of the Pitt Meadows teen.
A Toronto judge has struck down Canada’s prostitution laws, effectively decriminalizing activities associated with the world’s oldest trade.
“These laws, individually and together, force prostitutes to choose between their liberty interest and their right to security of the person as protected under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms,” Justice Susan Himel of Ontario’s Superior Court of Justice said in Tuesday’s landmark decision.
The long-awaited judgment had been on reserve for nearly a year.
The decision is effective immediately. (See update below.)*
Himel said she did not believe it was appropriate to temporarily suspend her finding that prostitution laws are invalid, as judges often do when they strike down legislation as unconstitutional. Temporarily delaying the invalidation of a law gives Parliament a chance to fashion new legislation, if it chooses.
“I have found that the law as it stands is currently contributing to dangers faced by prostitutes,” she said.
“I am mindful of the fact that legislating in response to prostitution raises difficult, contentious and serious policy issues and that it is for Parliament to fashion corrective legislation,” wrote Himel.
Says Valerie Scott of Sex Professionals of Canada (SPOC), “I laugh when people say they've never met a sex worker. Yes you have. You just don't know it. And if you live in a condominium building, there are one or two sex workers in there. You just don't know it.”
All of which makes this new regulation absurd, says Scott, especially since there are many tough laws dealing with the very real problems of human trafficking, child exploitation plus other crimes associated with organized crime.
The new regulations should leave the consenting adult sex workers – small business operators, in essence—alone.
“Lumping us under organized crime and giving us a five-year prison sentence for working indoors, in safe clean environments, is ridiculous,'' says Jones, which, of course, is not her real name. “We're not trafficking in drugs, we're not trafficking in people, we're providing a service.''
But, to the minority Conservative government, it's all part of law-and-order agenda which includes a $9 billion investment in new prisons.
“This government engages a lot in symbolic politics,'' says lawyer Alan Young, who has been fighting a constitutional challenge on behalf of Ontario members of SPOC, arguing that the current laws put prostitutes at risk. “There are some things the Conservatives do that actually have a dramatic impact on the criminal justice system — and they may be negative — but there are a lot of things they do that have very little impact. They simply are being done to send messages that we are the tough old boys from a different moral era.''
Regular readers know I am a big supporter of the decriminalization of prostitution. More thoughts here and here.
But I acknowledge that there are huge rifts amongst feminists on the topic. There are those who feel it is the exploitation of women, which it most definitely can be; others who say it leads to sex trafficking, although the evidence doesn't support that and, anyway, there are separate laws to deal with that; and, finally, there are feminists like moi who feel that, if you are an independent sex entrepreneur, fully consenting and aware of what you are doing, then you have the right not to be beaten, raped, killed while plying your trade.
If upheld on appeal, the decision will plunge Parliament back into the extremely divisive and complicated job of criminalizing an activity that is not itself illegal.
Indeed, successive governments have been branded hypocritical for taking a legal act and erecting criminal impediments to every aspect of carrying it out.
Judge Himel said that any doubt about the dangers to women was dispelled when serial killer Robert Pickton's targeted women in a killing spree at his Vancouver pig farm.
She heard evidence during a weeklong hearing last year that as many as 300 sex-trade workers, most of whom were street prostitutes, have disappeared since 1985.
“It is estimated that street sex work makes up less than 20 per cent of prostitution in Canada, but they appear to account for more than 95 per cent of the homicide victims and missing women,” said a key witness for the litigants, Simon Fraser University criminologist John Lowman.
Judge Himel stressed that several other provisions relating to the sex trade remain in effect. These include prohibitions against child prostition; impeding pedestrian or vehicular traffic; and procuring.
She said that these are sufficient to give police the power to keep prostitutes from bothering passersby or turning neighbourhoods into sleazy dens of iniquity.
Judge Himel also said that pimps who threaten or commit violence against prostitutes can still be prosecuted using other sections of the Criminal Code.
Does anyone really believe that the likes of those women, the human wreckage who were killed by Robert Pickton, are going to spend their money on an “office,” advertise their services, keep accounts, submit to regular health testing and pay taxes on their income? Dream on.
Being a prostitute is a shameful, indecent activity, and any sex worker who demands respect as a matter of course is fooling herself. She is not respectable. Politically correct people will say she is, but she isn’t.
Like I have said many times: Prostitution, Canada's Only Capital CrimeTM
The Harper government says it will likely appeal a court ruling which strikes down parts of Canada's prostitution laws.
UPDATE TO THE UP YOURS DATE: Hmm, I see that the National Post's Barbara Kay realized that calling Pickton's victims ''human wreckage'' was, shall we say, a tad insensitive.
Note that it has mysteriously disappeared from her column. (Thanks to Brebis Noire in the comments for pointing this out!)
Does anyone really believe that they are going to spend their money on an “office,” advertise their services, keep accounts, submit to regular health testing and pay taxes on their income? Dream on.
Being a prostitute is a shameful, indecent activity, and any sex worker who demands respect as a matter of course is fooling herself. She is not respectable. Politically correct people will say she is, but she isn’t.
For the record, every sex worker and/or escort I know, and I have come to know many, pays taxes.
UPDATE TO THE UPDATE TO THE UP YOURS DATE: Looks like I am not the only one who had an issue with Kay's Kolumn.
I have lots more to say on all of these matters but I'm holding my fire for a few more days as I am working on a major piece for the weekend paper.
That said, I did want to bring this story to your attention. It's about why Sault Ste. Marie's police chief Bob Davies supports the long gun registry. I added the boldface.
City police officers checked the registry 2,853 times in 2009.
Those inquiries included responding to a 911 call about a suicidal man. By checking the registry, police learned he owned eight weapons. They were removed to protect the man from harm.
When police executed a search warrant at an apartment, they found stolen property including two weapons. Because they were registered, the long guns were returned to their rightful owner who lost them during a break-in.
"Without the registry, we would have no way of knowing whether or not they were stolen," said Davies.
"Without the registry we'd have no proof, and no authority, to seize the firearms from that residence."
Most often, the registry is used when domestic assaults go to court. If an accused appears likely to reoffend, police will request the Crown attorney ask for weapons to be surrendered while the person is on bail.
"They won't volunteer that information," said Davies.
"Without the registry we wouldn't know if they had firearms."
Now let's consider those last few lines, shall we?
It's true that domestic homicides have been declining for years, even before the gun registry came into effect in the mid-90s. That's mostly to do with how women have gained greater independence, gaining the resources to get out of a bad situation. Also, the legal system has recognized the problem and deals better with it. There are more shelters. There's greater awareness.
But the statistics tell another story about guns.
Femicides by long guns have declined while, by handgun, they are fairly flat. This signals that the registry has had a major effect. In fact, the murders have dropped drastically since 1996.
More guns plus more isolation equals more bang bang.
Now, given that more people in the country have long guns -- and more of them too -- than people do in the city, the long-gun registry appears to be saving women's lives out in the hinterland.
According to the Ad Hoc Coalition for Women's Equality,
In 2008, in Ontario the RCMP’s Annual Report
on the Domestic Violence Death Review Committee (DVDRC) stated there
were 165 women and children were killed in domestic violence. The figure
increases to 230 when you add male victims of domestic violence – the
majority of which were suicides by the domestic violence perpetrator.
A woman is 12 times more likely to be murdered if a gun is in the house.
Not that the HarperCons seem to care about women's lives, unless they are female fetuses.
Antonia Zerbisias has been a Star columnist since 1989 but has been telling people what she thinks ever since she could open her mouth. Her career ambition as an opinionator dates back to Grade 9 when a cartoon commentary on a teacher resulted in her suspension from high school. The principal sent her home with a note calling her "rude, obstreperous and bold." Her parents were neither amused, nor surprised. Once she was punished for being that way. Now she makes it pay. And, because she can take it as well as dish it out, she wants to hear what you have to say. Fire away!
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