Maybe it's time to go beyond judicial paths, law enforcement and government-backed strategies. Perhaps the last resort we have left is to invoke the words uttered by Louise Sawyer (played by Susan Sarandon in the film "Thelma and Louise") when confronting her friend's attacker in the car park: "Sounds like you got a real fucked up idea of fun. Turn around. In the future, when a woman's crying like that, she isn't having any fun!"
Dominique Strauss-Khan's chambermaid's tale, Ken Clarke's comments about what should and should not be considered "serious rape", Arnold "The Governator" Schwarzenegger's housekeeping arrangements and Weiner's weiner. Really, it's too much. Maybe the world did end on the 21st of May and I'm now just waking up in a post-Rapture society.
To be fair to "Hasta la vista, baby" and Mr-Congressman-I'll-show-you-mine-if-you-show-me-yours, neither of the two men used physical violence. The only party that could claim abuse is Mr Weiner's salami. Nevermind, dealing with that member should ideally be easier than dealing with a member of the US Senate.
However, what's been evident these last few weeks is that when it comes to us, men, and sex, anything and everything goes. Whether they are serious allegations as in DSK's case, or Mr Terminator's extra-marital activities, the response has been mostly a shrug of the shoulders and a: "What did you expect?" To which I would add: "After all, they all are in positions of power and know exactly how to abuse it, and more fundamentally, how to get away with it".
Strauss-Kahn is not alien to the "seducer" reputation. Which in itself is not a felony, I hasten to add. But when you put together all the stories of his supposed sexually aggressive behaviour towards women and his alleged sexual harassment of female journalists, you know that the "smoking gun" is not too far. Of course, DSK being the managing director (ex- now) of the IMF, his public image was always going to work in his favour. But should it?
Certain commentators have tried to difuse the volatile situation bringing up mitigating elements. One of them is that Dominique doesn't fit the profile of a rapist. As if rapists walked about with slogans on their T-shirts that read: "I raped a woman and all I got was this lousy T-shirt". No. There isn't a profile for rapists because rape has no face. It can happen to anyone, anytime. It can even happen to men. Which is why Ken Clarke's remarks on sexual violence were ill-advised.
The justice minister was in hot water recently when he attempted to differentiate between "serious" rape and other types (by which he probably means, rapey-rapey, some are fakey) in a radio interview. Just to be clear, can penetration without mutual consent ever be brushed aside flippantly? Answers on a postcard, please, preferably with Lady Justitia, blindfold off and whipcracking Kenny's hide. Clarke's - confusing - message, however, is not an anomaly. Dress a woman in a short skirt and send her out on a night on the town and most people will think that, if she was to be sexually assaulted or raped, it's because she had it coming. In that respect the recent Slutwalk here in London was effective in that it raised awareness about the fact that when women dress sexily they're not doing it for men's amusement. At least not most of the time.
Rape is not about sex, but about power, both displaying and boasting about it. If the aforementioned lady in the short skirt doesn't grant her suitor what he's after, especially given her attire, then she must be punished. For daring to provoke.
Ken Clarke's comments echo attitudes that persist beyond the UK's geographical borders. Sexual violence has already been used as a weapon of war for centuries. Look at the Congo, for example. In South Africa rape is used as a "corrective tool". There, it's lesbians who are the target of the misogynists. However, whether you're a woman living in Libya and fall prey to Qaddafi's hordes (apparently he pumps his thugs up with Viagra pills so that they can "function" better) or a female City worker looking for a good time on a Saturday night the message is the same: you need to be taught a lesson, either for not wanting to have sex or for wanting it too much.
Which is where Weiner's misdemeanour comes into the picture. What he did was pure "flashing". Nothing more, nothing less. And we already know what we (or rather, women) should do when confronted by a person who indecently exposes himself. Is that all you got? I've seen bigger ones, darling. But on choosing a social networking site to display his goods, Weiner, stupidly, put himself - and his career- at risk. It's worth noting that this is the man who's been one of the more consistent critics of the Republicans' attempt to stall Obama's healthcare reforms. But the bulge in his underwear came first (no pun intended).
Arnold's affair with his housekeeper is the straw that broke the camel's back. Ever since he became governor of California, he's been plagued by claims that he has touched women in a sexual manner without their consent. The Terminator's simply brushed all of these allegations aside retorting that sometimes, yes, he misbehaved, so what? It sounds a bit like the uncle who gets tipsy at your wedding and starts flirting with everyone, including your (married) mother-in-law. So what? It's just a bit of fun, isn't it?
The immediate effect of the misdeeds carried out by these "naughty men" (and the jury's still out on DSK, as in, literally out) is the deafening din to which women are subjected, similar to the opening sequence of Pink Floyd's "Money"; a cacophony of rattling cash registers and discordant coins playing on a loop in which each till shouts out a different message "You got raped for wearing provocative clothes/You got raped for wearing conservative clothes/You got raped for being a slut/You got raped for being a prude". To which the only reply can be: "when a woman's crying like that, she isn't having any fun!"
Next Post: “Of Literature and Other Abstract Thoughts”, to be published on Wednesday 22nd June at 11:59pm (GMT)