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Some Call It Rape: The Sex Kitten & The Tomcat

Anne Else's Letter from Elsewhere

Some Call It Rape: The Sex Kitten And The Tomcat

I didn’t want to write this column, but it can’t be avoided. It’s been obvious for a few years now that women are being more and more insistently defined (and often successfully urged to join the fun and define themselves) in terms of how “hot” men think they are. (I haven’t seen any channel promos featuring a woman taxi driver rabbiting on about the hotness of a male newsreader. But vice versa – well, that’s business as usual.) When I wrote a column on appallingly sexist, pornographic ads a couple of years ago, young women told me how pleased they were to see someone speaking out, because they were too intimidated to do it – when they tried, they were sneered at for being hopelessly old-fashioned, politically correct prudes.

Then last week, the Sunday Star-Times ran a superb series of articles raising serious concerns about what goes by the oh-so-naughty name of “raunch culture”, and naming it for what it is: the “tsunami of pornography and pseudo-pornography and muddled ideas about what sexual liberation for women really means” that’s now surging all around us. As Anne Manne notes in the SST, when you strip away all the hype, this cuts women down to nothing more than “three holes and two hands”.

As so often happens, the alarm bells have started to ring not about what all this is doing to relations between women and men (now that feminism is supposed to be a dirty word), but about what it’s doing to children. Now, inevitably, younger and younger girls are being sexualised, or rather pornified. It’s called “growing the market”.

The mature adults in charge of a high-profile, upmarket local fashion label think it’s “risque and naughty” to produce a kids’ t-shirt saying “Future Porn Star”. Their only regret seems to be that it hasn’t sold as well as they expected. It’s probably only a matter of time until some enterprising publican, all fired up with crusading zeal against “political correctness”, installs a local version of the Austrian urinals (shown in the SST) made in the shape of women’s mouths. Well, there’s no law against it, is there?

So it’s hardly surprising that Mike McRoberts on TV3, Sean Plunket on Morning Report, and some newspapers all insisted on referring, before the verdict, to the “cops’ sex trial” or “the police sex trial”. One currently serving policeman and two former policemen - both, we now know, already in gaol for rape - were not charged with having sex, or even with having group sex. They were charged with kidnapping and sexual assault. But it’s so much more raunchy, isn’t it, to call it a “sex trial”.

That trial isn’t over, it continued this week. In the “exclusive interview” he gave to the SST, Clint Rickards said that the nameless complainant “has a history of offending (including dishonesty offences, cultivating cannabis, drink-driving and disorderly behaviour) and has been ‘anti-police her whole life’.” There’s a mistake in the interview, by the way. Police did not discover “her name and telephone number in a police notebook belonging to Shipton”. The Dominion Post reported that what they found were the words “milk bottle” and her number. (If you don’t know why that aroused their suspicion, read the trial transcripts.) She was nameless then, too.

The media have also trained us all what to call the other trial where these same three men were found not guilty of rape: it’s “the Louise Nicholas trial”. That trial is still continuing too. This “liar”, this “evil and manipulative” woman who was a teenager at the time, has, says Rickards, “a history of false rape complaints”. But even Rickards can’t explain why she was so determined to try, yet again, to be believed, that she was willing to put herself through a trial that so often appeared to be a repeat of what she said had happened: three powerful men treating her like dirt.

In terms of raunch culture, what all three men have admitted to was not behind the times, it was ahead of them. One line the defence had considered running, said the DomPost, was that it was not unusual in the 1980s to penetrate women with objects. Just a bit of fun, eh. Rickards says he was “a bit of a tomcat”, and as for being policemen, what did that have to do with it?

Current best estimates are that around 10-12 percent of all rapes get reported to the police. (We don’t know what percentage of rapes by police get reported to the police.) Fewer than a third of those reported cases proceed to trial, and no more than one in 10 – that is, one in 100 of all rapes - result in a conviction. Yet all week, we’ve heard well-meaning people – including some policemen – wondering exactly why it is that more women don’t lay complaints. After this week, does anyone seriously think rape reports and trials, let alone convictions, are going to increase any time soon?

But if you do get raped and want to take a case, just make sure you haven’t ever worked as a near-naked promo girl in a beer tent, or featured in an ad like the one for Motorola phones that was wrapped around the SST magazine not long ago, or used one of those raunchy pole-dancing kits now sold to young girls to bring out their inner sex kitten - or worn a t-shirt saying “Future Porn Star”. Because the defence will find it even easier than it is now to make sure that it’s you on trial, and that no one believes you.

*************

- Anne Else is a Wellington writer and social commentator. Her occasional column will typically appear on a Monday. You can subscribe to receive Letter From Elsewhere by email when it appears via the Free My Scoop News-By-Email Service

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