“The hysteria around the discussion of rape”

Someone at Spiked took the trouble to email me to promote one of their articles, so I’ll oblige by talking about how predictably Spiked and dopy the article is. It’s about rape and the smothering politically correct consensus that blah blah blah you’re asleep already aren’t you.

LSE hosted a debate titled “Is Rape Different?” The author, Luke Gittos, who is billed as Spiked’s law editor, attended the debate; one of the four participants was another Spiked contributor.

The debate has since provoked predictable ‘there is no debate!’ uproar from people with nothing better to do on Twitter. But such is the hysteria around the discussion of rape and rape laws that the outrage of the Twittersphere has been allowed to spill into the world of academia.

Wait. People with nothing better to do, yet here Luke Gittos is, reporting on it. Well which is it? Is Twitter just a toy for people with nothing better to do? Or is it a serious thing worthy of reporting by a serious website like Spiked? Is “the Twittersphere” silly or is it significant? Has Luke Gittos made up his mind about that, or is he just throwing shit at walls in the usual Spiked fashion? (Spoiler: I think it’s the latter.)

The journal Feminists at Law, based at Kent Law School, has launched a petition for the LSE to ‘ensure that the ideas disseminated [at the debate] do not feed dangerous stereotypes about women being responsible for the sexual violence perpetuated against them’. The petition has been signed by around 85 people.

Wo, 85 whole people! No wonder Spiked is upset and alarmed!

Another journal published something similar, criticising the decision of the LSE to host the debate and saying it was symptomatic of a neoliberal impact agenda in higher education.

What this reaction reveals is a desire to restrict discussion around rape. We are seeing the cult-like elevation of one inalienable ‘truth’ above all others. This ‘truth’ is that we live in an age where rape is part of everyday culture, and where those in power are doing nothing to stop it. Anyone who dares question this prevailing orthodoxy on rape is guilty of a chauvinistic heresy, attributable to their immersion in a controlling patriarchal society.

Oh get a grip. Of course it’s possible to point at something or other and say it reveals a whatever. So what? I like poking fun at pompous bullshit as much as the next person, or in fact more than most people, but I try not to exaggerate the implications of one pompous-bullshit article unless there’s good reason to think that more than six people read it.

It is precisely this climate of ‘you can’t say that’ which universities have traditionally challenged in the name of robust open debate. The LSE took the admirable decision to host the debate entirely in the public realm, even publishing the discussion as a video online. In doing so, it demonstrated a commitment to the traditional role of the university in leading and promoting public discussion.

That’s bullshit. It implies that universities “have traditionally” had no limits whatsoever on what can be robustly debated, and that’s just bullshit. Universities started as religious institutions, and they operated within very narrow limits. And as for this shock-horror about “you can’t say that” – there are actually things people shouldn’t say. An oncologist shouldn’t tell a patient with cancer to use homeopathy or go to the Burzynski clinic, for example. A US president shouldn’t say that atheists are not citizens, for example. A teacher shouldn’t tell students that they’re going to hell unless they subscribe to a particular religion, for example.

But the idea that debates like this should be held in public is anathema to contemporary ‘anti-rape’ (as if anyone is ‘pro-rape’) campaigners, who seem to think that certain arguments are capable of turning almost any member of the great unwashed into a ‘rape sympathiser’.

Welllllll there’s a shining example of privilege at work. He thinks no one is pro-rape? Dude! Lots of people are! Think about it.

Any attempt by journals like Feminists at Law to limit our access to alternative or critical views should be recognised as more than an attack on those making arguments they disagree with: it is an attack on our right to know. So three cheers for the LSE for staging the debate; three cheers for those who took part; and three cheers for those members of the public who attended and fought hard for the ideas they believed in. At a time when hysteria can enforce false orthodoxies in public life, we need these open, interrogative forums more than ever.

Do we? Isn’t the need more for good research than it is for staged debates? The latter have more to do with entertainment than with the search for knowledge. (Note that Gittos used the dog-whistle “hysteria” twice in this short article.)


  1. says

    We are seeing the cult-like elevation of one inalienable ‘truth’ above all others.

    Well, yeah, there IS one, count it, one, objective truth, and it SHOULD be elevated above things that aren’t true. What sane and honest adult would have a probelm with this?

  2. Maureen Brian says

    Poor Luke!

    Wasn’t it LSE just the other day which was trying to curb the free speech of a couple of blokes at a freshers fair gently taking the piss out of religion? I rest my case, as they say.

  3. DaveL says

    as if anyone is ‘pro-rape’

    I propose an experiment for Mr. Gittos to try:

    1. Establish an account with a female persona on some forum dedicated to some male-dominated subject, be it gaming, law enforcement, anything.

    2. Voice a complaint about the treatment of women in that field.

    3. Sit back and observe.

  4. A. Noyd says

    “Any attempt by journals like Feminists at Law to limit our access to alternative or critical views…”

    Yet another fucking shitbag who thinks that victim-blamey, misogynistic approaches to rape discussions are alternative, critical and rare when they’re completely mainstream, thoroughly uncritical and so widespread that in most places it’s almost impossible to get access to any other view.

    “…should be recognised as more than an attack on those making arguments they disagree with: it is an attack on our right to know.”

    Treating lies as if they hold the same merit as facts does not in any way contribute to knowledge. Rather, it has the opposite effect.

  5. says

    RB @ 4 – no – Spiked is the latest instantiation of Living Marxism and the 97 other identities they’ve put on over the past couple of decades. The whole thing is deeply weird.

  6. John Kruger says

    Gee, never heard the “you won’t take my amazingly ignorant and privileged stance seriously, so the only reason you can’t see why I am right is because of your DOGMA!” gambit before. What “quality” journalism.

  7. says

    RB – ah – I recommend Googling if you’re curious. They really are odd – and for some reason they’re quite pervasive as talking heads in UK media – Claire Fox for example.

  8. says

    Yes; they’ve been doing that for a long time, maybe because I keep pointing out how silly Brendan O’Neill just was. They seek attention and I give it to them.

  9. Al Dente says

    Having googled Living Marxism and Spiked, I learned that the people who run Spiked like to think of themselves as left-libertarians. I also found that in certain respects, such as their stance on global warming and other environmental concerns, they’re closer to right-libertarianism.

  10. says

    Yeah, they’re really not left at all. They’re not really even political at all, unless Perverse is a political stance. They’re more like smartass pub bores who like to make a great display of being politically incorrect.

  11. Stacy says

    They’re more like smartass pub bores who like to make a great display of being politically incorrect

    Ah. A sort of UK Sl*mepit, but smarter.

    Seriously, from Communism to right-libertarianism? Sounds like the US neocons. That’s bound to end well.

  12. Gordon Willis says

    “Is Rape Different?”

    From what? Different from obtaining something from an unwilling person by force? Why even ask the question? Unless one can imagine that there are some occasions when getting something by force from an unwilling person is perfectly alright, seriously.

    predictable ‘there is no debate!’ uproar

    “Predictable” is code for: we’re going to annoy people, and they’re all idiots, obviously. “There is no debate” means: it’s wrong, it’s force and brutality. “Uproar” means: just the usual stupidity.

    But such is the hysteria around the discussion of rape and rape laws

    See “uproar”.

    a desire to restrict discussion around rape

    “Discussion around rape” means that there is something to be discussed, i.e. there are points in favour as well as the usual tedious objections.

    You see, only rapists could possibly talk like this. They have an interest in promoting “the discussion”, because it helps them to feel that their crimes of violence can be defended. No, I am wrong: People can talk like this who cannot see that victims of rape are truly victims — rather, the supposed “victims” are there to be used, or “ask for it”, or arouse the perpetrator in unaccountable ways. Rapists, in fact, or would-be rapists.

    a desire to restrict discussion around rape. We are seeing the cult-like elevation of one inalienable ‘truth’ above all others.

    You see, there is no “inalienable ‘truth'”, because, obviously, there are things to be said on the part of rapists, and people — like women (for example) — who want to insist that rape is a crime of violence just want to have it all their own way. Clearly, they’re just hysterical uproarers who want to restrict my claim that rape is fine by me, and I can’t see the problem. They’re just another insane cult trying to restrict my self-determination. I mean, a nine-year-old could be ready for it, and who’s to say otherwise?

  13. Gordon Willis says

    I suspect that Gittos is just trying to seem clever and has no idea that the casualties of rape are actual people. He just hasn’t thought about it, ever. In fact, he’s a dangerous nutter, not because he is like so very many other thoughtless selfish people but because he can write.

  14. Al Dente says

    Gordon Willis,

    Could you please post your @16 on the Spiked thread. There’s several commenters, one bleating about “anti-male prejudice”, who might benefit from a succinct rebuttal to Gittos’ thoughtlessness.

  15. iknklast says

    Some say “drama”, others say “hysteria”, but they all mean the same thing. There are people out there daring to talk about something we’re not interested in; they’re dividing the community; they’re causing trouble.I hate this conversation; it should have been over decades ago, but because we can’t talk about it rationally (as in, from an assumption that women are people who want and require autonomy over their own bodies, and who have a right to go to the fun places, too), the conversation limps along, with hatred spewed from every internet portal at those who dare to suggest that women’s lives and rights might be as important as whether someone gets taken by a charlatan selling them a genuine hair of big foot.

    “Anti-male prejudice”? What the hell is that? Taking away their right to use women in any disgusting manner they want to, and making it socially unacceptable to paw women like pieces of meat even when they’re saying “no” at the top of their lungs? To be pro-female is not to be anti-male. It’s to be pro-human. And anti-asshole.

  16. Minow says

    Yeah, they’re really not left at all.

    They really are. They are what is left of the Revolutionary Communist Party and while some members have swung away from that (I know some who have) they are generally still communists, only they want a communism that doesn’t end like all the rest did so them emphasis is on liberty. They are all deeply anti-capitalist at any rate, they just hate ‘sentimental, bourgeois’ anticapitalism that they believe is co-opted by the ruling classes and their media. Personally, I think they get it right about half the time. Some them are much better, Kenan Malik, for example is an RCP-er and he is always worth reading.

  17. Dan L. says


    That’s the problem with a one-dimensional political spectrum. It’s simply a bad model.

    There are two things we can measure with a one-dimensional political spectrum: self-identification and alignments of views. You say they self-identify as leftists. Bully for them. But I don’t really care what they feel in their heart of hearts — I care what policies they actually advocate. If they advocate for right-wing policies then the alignment of their views would seem to be right wing and it’s completely reasonable to call them right wing.

  18. says

    Capitalism is an economic system. Therefore, opposing capitalism is not necessarily an indication of leftist political views, because capitalism is not a political system. Anti-capitalism and lefty politics often go together. But one could easily oppose capitalism because one favors the return of feudalism, for example.

  19. theoreticalgrrrl says

    If their emphasis is on liberty, liberty for whom? They think it should be up for debate whether or not women have the liberty to not be forced and physically violated? A very *basic*, universal human right. Rape is also a form of imprisonment by physical restraint. Anyone who assumes women have the right to life, liberty, freedom of movement and bodily autonomy is dogmatic and hysterical and oppressing others?

    Is there a word for people who over-use words like”dogma” and “orthodoxy” in completely stupid contexts? Something similar to Godwin’s law? I know people who read this blog have seen those terms directed at writers like Ophelia and PZ, and creationists use “scientific orthodoxy” and “scientific dogma” all the freaking time.

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