All men are potential rapists

by Alex Hilton

There has been a huge fuss over Ken Clarke’s suggestion that there are different levels of seriousness of rape. In calling for the justice secretary’s resignation over the issue, Ed Miliband was telling us that his interest in headline chasing came above getting to the root of rape.

Whether we like it or not, and the justice system recognised this in sentencing and in parole criteria throughout the last government, there are different levels of seriousness of rape. There are also different levels of seriousness in murder, manslaughter, burglary and a range of crimes.

To say this is not the same as suggesting that the “less” serious form of rape isn’t serious at all; simply that a crime that is serious can be made worse depending on the level of brutality.

Our society’s approach to rape is one of the clearest indications of the extent to which we still live in a patriarchy. Estimates of the number of women raped each year range from 47,000 to 85,000 but we have only a 6% conviction rate of those reported.

The media interest in false allegations of rape so excessively outweighs rape itself that there is a real movement to protect the anonymity of those accused. Yet in trial, despite reforms in recent years, there is no other crime where the victim’s victimhood is so comprehensively scrutinised and tested.

On the occasions when the relative seriousness of a rape is discussed, for example the rape of children, the elderly or disabled, debate focuses on the helplessness of the victim, as though a healthy adult woman is not entirely helpless when being raped. The unpleasant subtext of this being that she is in some small way complicit in her rape by not helping herself.

The media and politicians like to draw a line. On one side of the line there are good people and on the other side there are bad people. Good people are hard working families who pay their taxes and bad people are scroungers and criminals.

But lots of people commit crimes, even “good” people. To maintain the line where politicians and editors want it to be we end up with a narrative where there are acceptable crimes and unacceptable crimes. So traffic offences, which kill more people than murderers in this country, are considered acceptable crimes. A small businessman underpaying his taxes an understandable crime, yet benefit fraud is an outright offense to the nation.

To deliver an optimally functioning and fair system of justice, we have to accept that everyone can commit crimes and many men are potential rapists. Because it occurs across all levels of wealth, power and class, defies the patriarchy’s desire to characterise “bad” people by defining a line of good and bad where the good people are in a large majority.

There are many reasons why men rape. In some cases it will be because their own historic abuse has inhibited their ability to form or understand functioning relationships. For some men, insecure in their own masculinity, they take sex as an act of conquest to an extreme. Others are simply angry at women for some reason and rape provides an avenue for that anger. Some men are just turned on by violence towards women. Some men think that women secretly want to be raped.

For each reason why a man can rape, the population of potential rapists grows larger. Is coercion a great step further than convincing a woman to have sex with you? How far is the gap between being sexually coercive and sexually aggressive? And how far is the gap between sexual aggression and rape? Where on that spectrum is a man who uses fear of unemployment to extract consent from a woman?

In exploring plea bargaining, where a criminal gets a lesser sentence for pleading guilty, Ken Clarke is seeking to secure more convictions at less cost to the justice system. If the resources that currently secure a 6% conviction rate could be used more efficiently and that rose to 10%, that would be a good thing. But can this really be the extent of our ambition?

Globally, women have been brutalised to an extent that exceeds that which justified the creation of a homeland for the Jewish people. It is said that in South Africa a woman is more likely to be raped than to be taught to read. In any vision of a good society shouldn’t we be aspiring to be a nation where women are safe?

I am a man and I see myself as a potential rapist. I believe this self awareness means I will never be able to justify to myself a circumstance where I rape someone. No justification through intoxication or psychology is available to me because of this awareness. Have I ever lied to a woman to secure sex? Yes. Have I coerced a woman? Probably. Have I threatened a woman? No. Though short of sexual criminality, I have accepted that I have done wrong and my regrets have set my behavioural aspirations at a higher standard.

Our society needs to do the same. We need to accept that the widespread nature of rape and brutality to women proves that “normal” men are capable of perpetrating it. We need to prioritise detection and conviction of these crimes in the police and justice system. And we need to understand ourselves as men and why we rape, in order to give boys the tools to become young men who no longer have the potential to rape.

This does not mean punishing every boy child for the crimes he may or may not commit in future. It does mean ensuring that young people, boys and girls, properly understand the nature of their sexuality and the dangers ahead of them, how they can hurt people emotionally and physically. Certainly, focusing sex education on teaching girls how to be abstinent, as proposed by Conservative MP Nadine Dorries, does nothing to help men tackle rape.

Because this is a man’s problem in a man’s world, with male politicians, male police chief inspectors and male judges. It is our problem to solve, not women’s, and what I want from a male leader of the Labour party is not semantic point scoring, but a vision, a plan and a commitment to deliver a good society. And if that isn’t a society where women are safe, how good is it?

Alex Hilton is a former councillor and Parliamentary candidate and was the original Labour blogger.


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14 Responses to “All men are potential rapists”

  1. doreen ogden says:

    Good to see some common sense. I knew what Ken Clarke what trying to say but he blundered badly in the way he said it. I also think Ed Miliband has blundered in calling for Clarkes resignation .

  2. Badger says:

    I am an ex party member in despair at the complete intellectual vacuum at the heart of the party and the utterly facile attempt at leadership that has been foisted on Labour by Ed Milliband. His efforts this week have been an embarrassment. However, this is a thoughtful and well thought through article that is a million miles away from the knee jerk sensationalism of the leadership. It is this level of genuine debate that the party needs to show that it is even remotely capable of dealing effectively with major issues.

  3. AnneJGP says:

    Excellent article, Alex. Thank you.

  4. Merseymike says:

    Really getting tired of the constant sniping at the party leader by supporters of losing candidates. N-one was foisted on anyone and in terns of total individual votes cast as well as via the electoral college, Ed Miliband won – he wasn’t ‘foisted’ on anyone

    To the subject. Perhaps what is needed is to look again at the legislation and clarify the cases which I think most would agree are statutory rape but consenting. however, this doesn’t include ‘date rape’

    The other issue we need to look at consider is the way we try these cases. Can an adversarial system reliant on witnesses ever bring justice? Should we be looking at a more inquisitorial set-up with specific courts aimed at dealing with the known difficulties of the rape trial as it now stands?

  5. Real Chris says:

    @Alex

    Sorry, you’re argument is illogical and contorted rubbish. All men are rapists but Ken Clarke, who if you listen to his ramblings seems to almost casually dismiss date rape, is just a worthy bloke struggling to enlighten everybody on every nuanced detail of rape…bollocks. Bigger discounts on sentences for convicted rapists won’t do anything to get to the root of rape, it will allow convicted rapists out sooner to go and do some more raping.

    Penal reform should be about not endlessly banging up the same junkies every few months for trying to feed their habit. Not using prisons as a substitute for actual mental asylums. And using the freed up resources to catch more serious criminals, like rapists, and putting them away for longer.

    “Is coercion a great step further than convincing a woman to have sex with you?”

    No.

    “I am a man and I see myself as a potential rapist.”

    Seek the advice of a mental health professional.

    “Our society needs to do the same. We need to accept that the widespread nature of rape and brutality to women proves that “normal” men are capable of perpetrating it. We need to prioritise detection and conviction of these crimes in the police and justice system. And we need to understand ourselves as men and why we rape, in order to give boys the tools to become young men who no longer have the potential to rape.”

    How does the Justice Secretary going on the radio/telly and seemingly saying a bit of date rape isn’t as bad as a “classic rape” do that? Offering bigger sentence discounts to rapists does this how?

  6. AmberStar says:

    Ed Miliband did not ‘get it wrong’ when he called for Ken Clarke’s resignation.

    Ed is right about this issue, YouGov polling confirms that British women think he’s right about it – 53% of women polled by YouGov believe Ken Clarke should resign.

    A plurality of all voters 47% think he should resign; 41% think not & 12% are undecided.
    😎

  7. AmberStar says:

    I am a Labour Party activist & a woman. If Ed Miliband had done anything less than call for Ken Clarke to be sacked or resign, I would have been furious with Ed.
    😎

  8. AmberStar says:

    Because this is a man’s problem in a man’s world, with male politicians, male police chief inspectors and male judges. It is our problem to solve, not women’s
    ————————————————–
    So you say… but, up until now, you men have done a cr@p job of even admitting there is a problem, never mind solving it. Every advance that we have made has been driven by women & women’s pressure groups.

    If you think we ‘little women’, who need to be kept safe by you & Ken Clarke, are going to wait for men to do something about this despicable crime, you are sooo wrong.

    And the patronising & self-congratulatory tone of this article, coming from somebody who admits they’ve ‘coerced’ a woman (or women) regarding sex, makes me want to pepper this comment with expletives. But you’d probably tell me to: “Calm down, dear”.
    😎

  9. iain ker says:

    AmberStar says:
    But you’d probably tell me to: “Calm down, dear”.

    ………………………………………………………………….

    Calm down, dear.

    Meh, it was right there. I had to take it.

  10. John P Reid says:

    The law is determined by the jury to find someone guilty beyond reasonable doubt,In alot of rape cases it is the ‘alleged vitcims word agisnt the alleged accused,the proescutions view must be that the alleged victims word is believed, Now if the alleged suspect feels that they can get the jury to believe that the word of the ‘alleged victim’ is factually wrong ,then the ‘accused will try to go for an aquital, if the alleged accused, knows that the alleged victim, is so strong and has A strength not to give in under cross examination, the accused may feel the game is up and plea guilty at the beginning of the trial to get a lesser sentence, The government in saying that the rape conviction rate is to low, overlook people are guilty/innocent in terms of whether the jury find them so based on beyond reasonable doubt, if they wish to change the level of judgement ,that’s another story, but we can’t say we want more convictions so juries should find more people guilty, If someone kills someone and the jury decide it was in self defence ,we would’nt say we want more convictions, so Juries must find people that have acted in self defence guilty afterall.
    Where is the threat of unemployemnt by a female boss used to justify trying to get away from the male employee getting the boss disciplined for making a false accusation of sexual harrasment,
    As for the all men are potential rapists, women can be found guilty of rape, are all women potential rapists, are all women potential prostitutes, or men for that matter,
    “there is no other crime where the victim’s victimhood is so comprehensively scrutinised and tested”so that’s why the slleged victim’s name is shielded, yet when the accused’s name is put in the limelight, even if they are cleared they can have lost their job, it being very difiicult to sue the company for it back, they can have threats and verbal abuse put to them in front of their family and the verbal abuse as well as being derogaratory words can be offensive to be called rapist before they are even found guilty/innocent, The media maybe interested in false allegations but the little press coverage that someone gets’ when cleared compared to the amount they get when they are wrongly accused. The attacks someone can suffer when wrongly accused befor ehtey are even cleared, due to the press coverage is alot more than the press on wrongful allegations and then hen they are cleared they have still had the stigma to be refered to as a rapist who was cleared in court,
    Alex you’ve mentioned in a Blog that your Mother was wrongly accused of Affray at the wapping print protest and cleared, Yet I’m sure you wouldn’t like to have your mother refered to as someone who was guilty of arson afterall ,despite being cleared, not that affray carries the same stigma as to be wrongly accused of rape ,but had your Mum never worked agian and been threatened with being beaten up and called a ‘f@@king terrorist’ infront of her elderly relatives for something that she had’nt done while waiting the trial, you would know what it is like to have threats and phyical abuse to be called a f@@king rapist ,by people unware of the facts, even when people are later cleared of rape.
    and as for Nadine dorres her bog the other day in her reply to suzanne moores article criticing her abortion review calls Suzzane mad
    Yet nadine Dorres vote no to AV blog, reads like, ‘to protect young girls from who are targeted by lad mag marketing, it’s seven year old girls Primark made alluring padded bikinis for, girls who are targeted by paedophiles, or girls who suffer the consequences of abortion, Vote No’,
    Disgracefull article By her.

  11. iain ker says:

    John P Reid – style guide – discover the paragraph, fella.

  12. Dave says:

    “All men are potential rapists”

    as are all women you sexist.

  13. Jerry says:

    I guess it would be equally fair to say that all women are potential prostitutes. For some reason they are individuals that we are not allowed to categorize. Each woman should be judged by her person. Men however belong to a group. Human beings and human doings.

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