Jender thinks that this is a great thing, and I really, really want to be able to agree. But — and though it sucks, it’s true — I’m automatically wary of anyone who goes under the “conservative” heading. More than that, though, some of Cameron’s comments make me distinctly uncomfortable.
In a speech in London, he will say too many rapists “think they can get away with it”, as just one reported case in 20 ends with a man being found guilty.
The Tories are set to claim conviction rates in other European countries are up to 12 times higher than in the UK.
The government says it has taken action to improve conviction rates.
Speaking at the Conservative Women’s Organisation conference, Mr Cameron is expected to say: “Studies have shown that as many as one in two young men believe there are some circumstances when it’s okay to force a woman to have sex.
“To my mind, this is an example of moral collapse.”
He will call for “widespread cultural change” and warn that society has become increasingly “sexualised” over the past decade, during which time treating women as sex objects has become viewed as “cool”.
He is also set to call for compulsory sex education in schools to drive home the message that sex without consent is a criminal offence.
The Tory leader is due to say that some statistics suggest one in 20 women has been raped, yet three-quarters of them never report the crime.
I’m the first to admit that I’m not anywhere nearly as knowledgeable about British politics as I am about American politics. But it is my understanding that British and American conservatives share a lot of views both about social issues and law and order issues. Which, I think, makes this an interesting discussion. It seems to me that neither side of the political spectrum has much of a clear idea how about to deal with the issue of rape.
. . .
The standard conservative stance is to be tough on crime. Liberals/progressives, on the other hand, are concerned not only with rehabilitation over punishment, but also with making sure that false convictions don’t happen. That seems to make rape conviction more of a conservative issue. On the other hand, though, liberals/progressives are the ones concerned with women’s rights, while conservatives like to work under the banner that women have already achieved equality and to claim otherwise is some kind of “reverse” discrimination. Which makes rape conviction a liberal/progressive issue.
What I see coming through here in Cameron’s remarks is some conservative political ideology. For example, with regards to his remarks about seeing women as sexual objects contributing to rape rates, I couldn’t agree more. But rape having to do with our culture being over-sexualized? Well, no. I wouldn’t call objectification of women’s bodies “sexual” so much as I’d call it “misogynist,” and I have a real problem with the idea that openness about sex somehow leads to sexual assault. There’s a big difference between healthy, respectful sexuality, and sexist, objectifying images. To conflate the two is a pretty standard conservative tactic and one that pisses me off. Women’s bodies do not equal sex. And sex does not equal an absence of morality.
The other thing that concerns me is his wildly inaccurate statistic. One in 20 women has been raped? Actually, in the UK (and in the US), it’s more like one in four women have been raped or experienced an attempted rape. Also, one in seven has been “coerced” into sex, which for those of you who aren’t paying attention, is also rape. Now, this could simply be poor information, or he could have misspoken — maybe he meant to say “one in 20 women per year,” or something. But, seeing as how MRAs (who usually identify as conservative) regularly try to manipulate rape statistics to make the feminist claim of sexual assault seem like some sort of crazy conspiracy theory, this also doesn’t sit well.
On the other hand, I’m incredibly enthusiastic about his proposal for education programs. I’m really sick of seeing initiatives around rape either deal solely with conviction rates or solely with help for victims, with nothing in the middle. I think that services for recovering rape survivors couldn’t possibly be more important, but I also feel the same way about education as a prevention tool. I think that teaching men (and women) about what rape actually is, what consent actually means and that rape is wrong is going to be our only real shot at lowering rape rates. The fact that this guy is talking not only about finding women justice, but also about preventing rapes to begin with makes me want to love him.
So I don’t know what I think yet. Let’s be fair: the dude is a conservative. He’s going to be used to speaking on conservative terms. Feminist language is not exactly going to be something that he’s knowledgeable about. And I in no way want to suggest that I’m going to oppose any plan that isn’t absolutely perfect. That’s not the case.
What I won’t support, though, are initiatives that (a) downplay the prevalance of rape (b) make women look responsible for rape or (c) focus on convictions solely for the “jumping out of the bushes” type of rapists. I’m all for increasing those conviction rates as well, but right now “date” rape conviction rates are much, much lower, and “date” rape is also many times more common than stranger rape.
In short, I’m in no way writing Cameron off, but I’m not quite willing to embrace his ideas yet, either. It seems like he hasn’t even officially made his proposal. I’m extremely eager to hear more about it, and I hope like hell that it’s good. Fuck politics — if a conservative wants to do right by women and right by rape survivors, I’m going to be with him on that. And if a liberal/progressive does poorly by women, I’m not going to support him or her, either.
Everyone else — particularly those of you who are British or know more about British politics — what are your thoughts?