Shocking attitudes towards rape & Million Women Rise march

1:51 am - March 10th 2009

by Sunny Hundal    

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The Home Office yesterday published results of a poll on violence against women.

Final question: “Would you say that a woman SHOULD BE held responsible, should be PARTLY held responsible or should NEVER be held responsible if she is sexually assaulted or raped in the following circumstances?”

England & Wales Should be held responsible Should be partly held responsible Should never be held responsible
% % %
A. If she is drunk 11 25 62
B. If she is out in public wearing sexy or revealing clothes 6 20 72
C. If she does not clearly say NO to the man 10 39 48
D. If she is using drugs 15 27 56
E. If she is flirting heavily with the man beforehand 10 33 55
F. If she is out walking alone at night 4 10 84
G. If she works as a prostitute 17 30 52

It feels like attitudes to racism are better than towards violence against women.

And yet there are people who still claim this issue is far too over-blown.

The Daily Mail reported:

One in five people approved of men slapping wives or girlfriends for wearing revealing clothes in public, a shock poll has revealed.

Another six per cent said it was always acceptable and 14 per cent said it was sometimes allowed, the Home Office survey showed.

Almost one in seven said women who nagged their husbands deserved to be hit.

The MORI Poll, which covered more than 1000 people nationwide, found around 13 per cent of those asked said assaults were sometimes justified if the woman was flirting with other men.


On a related note, Million Women Rise was on Saturday, Laura Kidd made this video.

:: @warriorgrrl vBlog ep 05 – million women rise :: from warriorgrrl on Vimeo.

More pictures on Flickr by Jess McCabe of the F Word. [The pic above was from that photoset]

Meanwhile, Jacqui Smith has, quite rightly, been heckled by Refuge for ‘gimmicks’ over her latest proposal.

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About the author
Sunny Hundal is editor of LC. Also: on Twitter, at Pickled Politics and Guardian CIF.
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Story Filed Under: Blog ,Equality ,Feminism ,Sex equality

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Reader comments

Jesus fuck, shocking is the right word, utterly fucking depressing stats…

That’s extraordinarily depressing. And how can one possibly argue against views so utterly, repulsively stupid.

I don’t think anyone is claiming the problem of rape and sexual violence is overblown, only that most discussion of it is ridiculously gendered in order to fit the mould of identical politics:

For example, I imagine it would be quite difficult to even form a survey like that on male-male, female-male, or female-female sexual violence because the themes are SO taboo (despite being common enough) that people wouldn’t know how to respond to the questions.

*Bit of a side-note*

Freeborn John’s quite right on prison rape. In the US alone, according to Human Rights Watch*, there are at least 140,000 cases annually.


*Bit of a side-note*

5. Shatterface

The survey does state that these are preliminary findings and should not be relied upon outside of that context, but I’d like to see the respondants to a fuller survey broken down by sex, age, class, region, religion and ethnicity to see how demographic changes effect the results.

6. Shatterface

BenSix (4): The way that US police and the legal profession taunt suspects about the possibility of prison rape in order to secure a plea-bargain, I suspect that it is encouraged as a deterant.

The sado-masochistic abuses at Abu Graib or the ‘comical’ punishment of offenders by dressing them in pink indicate emasculation and sexual humiliation is an integral part of the US penal system.

Anyway, don’t want to divert the thread too soon.

Nick, that article by freebornjohn is really quite good. Thanks for linking it. However, there’s no point blaming identity politics since identity exists whether we want to wish it away or not.

As the excellent laurie penny would quite rightly argue, the reason why our society plays down rape by men on men (esp in prisons) is because of patriarchy – we assign roles and expected behaviours to men and women. So that problem is symptomatic of the same issue; patriarchy hurts men as well as women.

On the wider issue though, I sometimes feel like I’ve waded into an Israel/Palestine discussion. Point out what Israel does and then you get people asking when you’ve condemned every single other state in the world guilty of similar crimes. People would argue these discussions are ridiculously gendered but feminists would also argue not enough is said about attitudes towards violence against women.

It’s better than it was, and a lot worse than it could be.

50 years ago you wouldn’t find a man that would let their wife have autonomy, 100 years ago it every member of society refused autonomy to female members. We still have groups in this country who practice genital mutilation or indoctrination dehumanising women and minorities.

We need to crush autocratic power dynamics like the patriarchy or religious fundamentalism/conservatism, and it is happening, and we are better for it.

The paranoid rump of women hating control freakery this graph shows will scream and kick and lie to claw back the position of dominance it once held.

“As the excellent laurie penny would quite rightly argue, the reason why our society plays down rape by men on men (esp in prisons) is because of patriarchy – we assign roles and expected behaviours to men and women. So that problem is symptomatic of the same issue; patriarchy hurts men as well as women.”

Well I would happily sign up to that, except that I don’t see what the label “patriarchy” contributes in that case, as oppossed to a hierarchy or indeed any social system based on coercion. It is fairly obvious that our set of institutions are pretty flexible as they are perfectly of re-configuring themselves so that they can admit women (or other “Others” like gays and ethnic minorities) while still maintaining the same overall structure. For example, Britain didn’t become any less hierarchical by Margaret Thatcher becoming Prime Minister and the fact that she was a woman, though novel, didn’t shake or even seem to challenge the foundations of our institutions.

I think that leaves the patriarchy claim as either trivial (“ooh look, there are more men near the top of this particular power structure”) or vacuous (“power structures are masculine, therefore any power structure is patriarchal and anyone in charge is a man or is behaving like a man”).

I would tend to think there’s some more sophisticated – or at least convoluted – thinking going into those answers than the raw results imply. A lot of people are probably thinking of the often-compared situation of locking your door when you leave the house, or something similar, where the concept of responsibility is used in a slightly different way, and the personal and societal consequences of being held partially responsible for a resultant crime are very different.

If the Daily Mail commenters are almost universally condemning the apparent results, I don’t think there’s an army of people out there with straightforwardly sexist “she was asking for it” views; it’s a more subtle lack of awareness, I think, and should be challenged as such.

I agree with 5:Shatterface, this data needs more context in order to fully understand it.

Jacqui Smith deserved everything that she got yesterday. Being a crap politician is one thing, but playing politics with people’s lives is horrifying. She is clearly desperate to do anything that might deflect attention away from the recent allegations of abusing her parliamentary expenses.

Here’s my take on her ill-fated seminar yesterday.

12. Shatterface

Patriarchy (the Law of the Father) ‘explains’ violence against women and also the chivalry which prevents other women from being attacked; it ‘explains’ why some cultures dress women from head to foot like Darth Vader while other cultures plaster subway walls with pictures of semi-naked girls and fill beaches with topless women; it ‘explains’ why some women are denied the right to work while others are expected to support themselves.

In other words it ‘explains’ fuck-all. A theory which explains everything explains nothing. It’s a perfect illustration of pseudo-science, just as the related ‘Marxism’ of Althuser.

Do drag your head out of the 70’s.

I was going to say that it would be interesting to see what the results would be if the question was asked the other way round i.e. is it acceptable for a man to hit a woman, rather than should a woman be held responsible, but looking at the poll these questions were asked and those results worry me even more.

Also worrying is that this was a telephone poll, and people are more likely to tailor their answers to social norms if they are talking to a stranger than if it was some sort of anonymous arena such as an internet poll. I shudder to think what the real views held by respondents might be.

** These results are horrible, especially the rape ones **

I’ve designed opinion surveys for various purposes over the years. Sometimes, you actually want to find out the audience believes about things; sometimes, you’re keener on finding stats which show particular things about the audience.

One point that you can helpfully use to get the result you want, is that people have a natural tendency to select the middle option (since psychologically it’s the ‘moderate’ one). So if you ask people:

“Next year compared to last year, how much will you spend on cosmetics?”
a) less b) more c) a lot more
a) a lot less b) less c) more
a) less b) more

…the first survey will exaggerate ‘more’, and the second survey will exaggerate ‘less’. To the point where survey 1 implies 10% industry growth and survey 2 implies 10% industry decline.

In the domestic violence survey, the ‘moderate’ option was ‘acceptable in some circumstances but not others’, so this response will have been massively exaggerated.

Again, like the bloody Amnesty campaign, the fact that 6% of men (*) think it’s acceptable to hit their partner for being dressed in revealing clothes in public is bad enough, without adding in the ones who respond like sheep to psychological nudges in rigged surveys.

(*) I’d love to see a breakdown by religious faith for that one.

I think the problem with this poll is that the meaning of “be held responsible” is rather vague. If I had been asked these questions, I would have replied that the questions are meaningless because they are insufficiently precise. It would have made more sense to ask questions like:

If a woman does X,
(a) does it make it more likely that she will be raped?
(b) if a man rapes her, should he be given a lower sentence because of X?

John B’s remarks (@14) are also apposite.

Yet again, the only ‘shocking’ things here is some people’s credulity in the face of data generated from an obviously loaded question.

The magic word here is ‘responsible’.

What does this mean in the context of this study?

In what terms is responsibility being ascribed to the different scenarios?

And how can anyone make a reasonable assessment of the evidence in the absence of the relevant contextual information?

So let’s try to add some context here, and you’ll forgive me if I don’t provide the paper to support this next argument but this is from as yet unpublished research provided by a good friend of mine and while she’s happy for me to raise some of her findings in general terms she’s asked that I not publish the full paper, which is currently in a fairly early draft form.

So, when asked to ascribe ‘responsibility’, rather than blame, when considering hypothetical rape scenarios, there are three basic notions of responsibility that come into play and dictate peoples’ responses.

1. The misogynist view.

Yes, the ‘she was asking for it’ attitude is still out there but its the primary factor in only a relatively small proportion of the overall responses. What you’re looking for if you want to try and quantify its presence in this data is around 35-40% of responses which suggest that a women should be held fully or mostly responsible.

This view is much more prevalent amongst men (obviously) but there is a small but significant number of women who do hold the same basic view – about 10-15% of the ‘she was asking for it’ crowd are actually women.

This view is slightly more prevalent in older men but present across all age ranges. It’s more prevalent in the lower D/E class than amongst ABs and there are some worrying signs of slight upward trend in such attitudes amongst teenagers. There are also, sad to say, some fairly strong correlations with specific ethnic/cultural backgrounds.

Replacing ‘responsibility’ with ‘blame’ in the question make very little difference to responses in this group.

2. Moral Responsibility

This accounts for about 60-65% of the fully/mostly category and about 20-25% of ‘partly responsible’ responses.

In increases in prevalence with age, particularly amongst over 50s and upwards and is strongly correlated – in all age groups – with socially conservative attitudes on sex, drugs, abortion, the family, etc., and with religiosity – the latter, of course, again results in a strong correlation with certain ethnic/cultural groups.

Basically, this group ascribes responsibility on the basis of moral disapproval of lifestyle, as suggested by the scenarios used in the question.

As far as this group goes, replacing ‘responsibility’ with ‘blame’ does lead to some variation in response, mainly amongst those who ascribe partial responsibility in a number of the scenarios, many of whom will reject the idea of attaching any blame in certain scenarios. Walking alone late at night is, for this group, a blame-free activity but, as you might expect, prostitution isn’t.

Overall, women are somewhat more prevalent in this group than men but this appears to stem from a degree of overlap between this group and the misogynist group – in effect, what is the research seems to suggest that, amongst men more so than women, the notion of moral responsibility is often advanced as a post hoc rationalisation of what are otherwise fairly mundane misogynistic attitudes.

3. Risk realists.

Our final group, the ‘risk realists’ tend to be account for the majority of responses that ascribe an element of partial responsibility and, as the name suggests, the assess the scenarios in terms of the extent to which each seems to indicate an avoidable element of personal risk.

This group does not ascribe full responsibility in any of the scenarios and, if you replace responsibility with blame, they reject the latter suggestion out of hand.

On the demographic front, women are just as likely to be risk realists as men and risk realists are more prevalent in age groups between 25 and 49 than in other age groups.

This group is also much more likely, given chance, to question the scenarios and seek further clarification of the precise circumstances in which a hypothetical rape occurs before responding to the question.

So, when presented with the ‘is drunk’ scenario, they will typically ask for some clarification as to how much the woman in the scenario had been drinking, and about the environment in which the women is [hypothetically] drunk.

Similarly, when presented with the flirting scenario, they will tend to ask for more information about the circumstances in which the hypothetical rape occurred, looking for any other behavioural/situational cues or other supporting information that may help them assess the extent to which risk may have been avoidable.

The flirting question produces some very interesting variations in responses in this group if you go on to provide additional information about the circumstances leading to and in which the hypothetical rape occurs, to the extent that, when add the corollary scenarios which indicate how the situation escalated from flirting to rape, the actual flirting element of the scenario because largely irrelevant and the assessment of responsibility almost entirely situational.

The risk realist perspective is fundamentally different from the misogynist and moralist perspective in the sense that acknowledges the fact that we live in an imperfect society, one in which women are vulnerable to attacks of this kind and it ascribes responsibility to women only in the sense that this necessitates that they take some responsibility for their own personal safety and not that they are in any sense culpable for the actions of their assailant.

Now, before anyone starts with ‘women-hating’ and ‘nitpicking’ stuff let’s clarify a couple of important points about my source for this information.

First, as might already be apparent, my source for this information is female. She’s an academic, but not working in the UK, and her specialist field is public health education/policy.

The information comes from a study which part of an overall programme intended to improve public health education relating to sexual violence by developing resource materials and educational programmes based on the best available empirical evidence – and her specific remit with the programme, along with her colleagues, is to develop a coherent and effective harm reduction programme aimed, primarily, at women.

Sadly, that approach in not altogether popular in some circles because, as my friend put it, rather politely in the circumstances, ‘it’s not political enough for some people’s tastes’.

What would be interesting would be to see how these answers broke down by gendre . The sample is weighted to the population, it says I assume then that women are failry represented in all vies expressed .
It also lacks a base line for “responsibility “ which distorts the results
If I leave a pile of nice crisp twenty pound notes on the seat of my unmarked car many people would say I was partially responsible for the inevitable theft. None of those people would by implication approve of theft or excuse the thief .
If a woman is drunk , advertises herself as sexually available and leaves the question of consent vague until ..some very late stage is that not like leaving valuables in the Street ?
No-one condones the thief but its unrealistic for people to take so little responsibility for their own safety and not be said to be “Partially responsible “ .
If you remove this neutral common sense view of ‘responsibility ‘ at any time you would be left with figures showing a uniform condemnation of rape .

I think Unity and I are saying the same thing ?

Strangely enough I can imagine the sort of people parodied as “reactionary old duffers” in the Tory Party would be appauled by such ungentlemanly attitudes to women. Call them patronising if you will but they would never interfere with a lady without her permission.


Yes, we’re more or less talking about the same thing here.

Whether we’d reach the same conclusions on policy is another matter, but the general view that context is critical in making sense of the data is the right starting point for a mature and honest debate on this issue.

21. Shatterface

Thanks for an excellent response, Unity: I look forward to seeing your friend’s full results.

I disagree with Unity, but he’s not saying the same thing as you, Newmania.

Leaving aside the sexist language like “advertising herself as sexually available” (wtf? what if she just likes the clothes she’s wearing? Not everything is for your benefit) – A woman is not a possession that can be stolen. Sex isn’t just something to be taken for your own sole gratification when you see the possibility.

I don’t approve of the thief’s actions in your terrible analogy, but they are at least rational for a sane person. To take sex in the same way is violence. It’s not something that should rationally be expected and therefore not something that anyone the violence is targeted at should take any responsibility for (even accepting a difference between responsibility and blame). It happens because the assailant is fucked up, which at least in part is because they’ve been taught a view about women and sex which makes it more acceptable.

Unity’s position is slightly more sophisticated in that he doesn’t suggest it is something that should be rationally expected per se, but something that should be expected given that we live in a fucked up world. Maybe I’ll address that later if no-one else gets there first.

Oh, and if anyone’s up for another prime example of statistics abuse, under ‘Facts and Figures’ on the Home Office website is states that

Only 12% of adult victims of sexual assault were attacked by a stranger, most knew their attacker


That should actually read

Only 12% of female adult victims of a serious sexual assault were attacked by a stranger

For less serious offences (indecent exposure, unwanted sexual touching and sexual threats) the BCS data clearly indicates that the majority of perps (61%) are strangers and these lesser offences make up 80% of all sexual offences recorded in the BCS data on intimate violence.

Unity, that’s excellent stuff. I hope your friend’s paper gets published and receives the attention it deserves.

Calabamat, damn right. Everything about this poll screams ‘PR voodoo’ not ‘serious attempt to find out people’s attitudes and address the problem’.

Newmania, Unity doesn’t agree with you, any more than someone who says ‘The majority of Jamaicans hate gays’ hates gays.

tim f, I’d be interested to hear your response to Unity, I can’t see how opposing his friend’s conclusions can go beyond ‘I wouldn’t start from here if I were you guv’na…’-ing.

“advertising herself as sexually available” (wtf? what if she just likes the clothes she’s wearing? Not everything is for your benefit)

Yes back in the real world the real difference between you and I is that I do not disapprove of sexual display nor do I make any special judgement of the fact that in our culture , at this time ,it is women who largely are responsible . You may say stealing is rational, I do not steal . I do not rape and neither is a “rational calculation “of risk and reward . Without suggesting they are equivalent crimes they are both crimes against which we take precautions .

Suppose a young man becomes involved in gangs , carries a gun and involves himself in violent confrontation on a regular basis immerse himself in a culture of violence . Should he be murdered would we not say he was partially responsible ? This hardly represents an approval of murder which I hope you will admit is a similarly serious crime to rape .
Now there are young women who adopt a life style in which sex is similiarly down graded the way life is in the above example . A young woman may have consented to sex on numerous occasions with numerous partners perhaps her assailant . These transactions may be related to drugs , her relationships often involves degrees of violence and her status in this environment causing her body to become viewed as a perk. In this context it might be possible for those around her to view rape as no worse than theft as the women herself treats her body as no more than tradeable currency tradable for acceptance perhaps ,or a sense of worth .
This is not an invention . I know such a person and there are many in the UK living precisely this sort of life usually in welfare slums created by New Labour.

What do you tell this woman . Its never your fault , or get out of there and change your high risk life . I say the latter .

You see how harmful moralising in a fairy tale world can be Tim ?

John B [comment 14],

Fair point about the bias towards the middle option, but we should also bear in mind that when polling on a subject where there’s a strong social norm (to be against sexual violence and supportive of its victims), we can expect under-reporting of views that go against this norm.

So to some extent (how much, I have no idea) the two factors will cancel out here.

I think that if someone can be ‘nudged’ by the wording of a question on a topic like this, that’s at least indicative that their views are at best iffy.

And I see Unity’s point about ‘responsibility’ vs ‘blame’, but that won’t account for the similar responses to the set of “How acceptable or not do you think it is for a man to hit or slap his wife or girlfriend” questions.

I think I’ve just been accused of moralising by someone who thinks raping a prostitute is no different to theft.

Yes, fair criticisms by Unity and Cabalamat.

Tim if someone had sex with the prostitute and then did not pay ,thus voiding the ‘contract’, the consent given would retrospectively be withdrawn and the act would be rape . How is this different to theft , perhaps it is , but how exactly ?
You cannot say it is not rape because in’ real time’ rape did not happen. Thusly we could excuse the use of Rophypnol which we do not , and should not .
You are imagining aggravated rape with violence but we are talking about rape , the fact of it alone .Do you imagine this prostitute would rather a client did a runner or her car was stolen uninsured ?

Rape is ALWAYS violence.

A person is not a commodity. I’m not convinced the terms on which prostitution can be wholly consensual exist, but let’s assume for a moment they do. In that context, consent still has to be given even if there is payment. Payment can be refused if the prostitute doesn’t want sex with the client. So I’d say consent is entirely separate from the payment/non-payment issue.

Consent also has to be given to any customer for anything . You are all over the place .

If you’re going to put it like that, then I’d answer that there are two kinds of consent going on when a prostitute has sex with a client – consent for the transaction to take place AND consent for sex. (Of course it’s nigh on impossible to pinpoint different moments where they are given, but I think prostitution as qualitatively different from normal economic activity, which helps explain why that’s the case.) But I really don’t know why I’m having this conversation with you; I am flabbergasted that you think like this – even after seeing your comments regularly this is beyond the pale.

but that won’t account for the similar responses to the set of “How acceptable or not do you think it is for a man to hit or slap his wife or girlfriend” questions.

Won’t it?

As John B has pointed out, in non-binary attitudinal surveys (i.e. where respondent are given more than just straight yes/no or agree/disagree options) the data will invariably some some degree of skew towards the middle option(s).

This is a particular issue when it comes to attitudes towards contentious issues in which there a personal contact element between the researcher and the respondent, i.e. face to face interviews, telephone surveys, etc.

In simple terms, if we look at the data on attitudes to responsibility in the different rape scenarios, then it not unreasonable to suggest that one would get a somewhat more accurate picture of people’s real attitudes if we were to revise the figures for ‘fully responsible’ upwards by as much as 2-3%, at the expense of the figures for partial responsibility on the premise that some respondents will have moderated their real opinions so as not to appear to be a complete arsehole.

Now, of our three response groups to the questions on rape, the misogynist group is overwhelmingly the least likely to moderate its responses based on considerations of what the researcher might think of them – so this is the ‘I’m an arsehole and proud of it’ group.

The moral responsibility group, however, will show some evidence of respondents moderating their expressed opinions – remember, members of this group perceive themselves to be good people and at least some of possess sufficient self-awareness to realise that taking too hard-line a stance on a question of this kind may create, in the researcher, an impression of them that is somewhat at odds with their self image. At least some of this group care enough about what other’s may think of them to moderate their response to question to questions of this kind, and that blurs the boundary between fully/mostly responsible and partly responsible.

If we then consider the other boundary, between partly responsible and not responsible, although there may be some blurring at the edges, the effect will be considerably smaller than for the boundary between fully and partially responsible, and that’s because the people who’re operating close to that boundary do so from the , standpoint of taking what they consider to be a reasoned, carefully thought out and, therefore, defensible point of view.

Now, let’s think about how these viewpoint differ in relation to the underlying view of women on which they’re based.

Both the misogynist and moralistic view stem from a personal value judgement about the character of the hypothetical rape victim. In essence, their judgement of each scenario is based on how they ‘feel’ about the woman in the scenario. Its an internalised view of the situation.

The risk realist perspective is, on the other hand, based entirely on assessing externalities, the moral and personal character of the woman in the scenario is not a factor in the assessment except in the limited sense that it may explain how and why the woman failed to adequately assess the risk in each scenario.

The underlying psychology behind these different perspectives is very different and this, naturally, raises the question of exactly how prevalent each of these two perspectives is in wider society – and what the data on the rape scenarios suggests is that we have about and 80:20 split between what I suppose could reasonable be considered to be the non-judgemental and judgemental perspectives on these issues.

So, about 1 in 5 of all respondents express a view that is primary founded on their opinion of, or towards, women of a kind that could reasonable considered to be sexist, while remainder are express either a broadly gender neutral view or taking a view of women that is diametrically opposed to the sexist viewpoint – and there’s insufficient detail to reliably try to assess the relative proportions of the two.

Now, when we come to questions about hitting/slapping women there’s a very interest anomaly in the results.

Of the five questions asked in the section of the poll, four are broadly situational – nagging, two different degrees of sexual infidelity (flirting or actual infidelity) and showing a lack of respect. Each of these scenarios is, in part, situational as evidenced by the significantly high responses for ‘acceptable in certain situations’ (7-14% depending on the situation) than just ‘acceptable’ (1-3%).

Each of these responses is interesting in its own way because, to some extent, the data seems to paint a counterintuitive picture of public attitudes – for example, the scenario though to provide the least justification for hitting a woman turns out to be actual sexual infidelity while nagging is seen to provide the most justification. There’s some rather interesting psychology going on there, but now is not the time to get into it.

What’s most interesting here is that its actually the fifth question, which asks about a scenario in which a woman is wearing sexy/revealing clothes in public, which attracts the highest response. 6% of respondents think its generally acceptable to hit a women for wearing revealing clothes in public, with a further 14% suggesting that this can sometime be acceptable, even though – for most of us – this would be least acceptable scenario by a very large distance. For the other four scenarios, one can at least rationalise the scenario in terms of sexual jealousy or psychological provocation as a causal factor – its possible to understand how and why such situations arise even if you consider that its never acceptable to resort to violence but when it comes to hitting a woman just for wearing a short skirt or a bikini, or whatever else, then that’s something most people would struggle even to understand.

So, what is this actually telling us?

It’s actually validating the 80:20 split in general attitudes because the question about wearing revealing clothing is the only one in which the primary consideration in the question is a value judgement on the perceived character of woman in the scenario rather than an, at least partially, situational judgement.

In the other four scenarios, the women in the scenario could have a valid reason for behaving as they do. They may nag or show a lack of respect towards a partner because he’s basically a lazy, good for nothing, arsehole and they could be flirting or even having an affair for a wide range of reason in which some culpability can be ascribed to the partner.

Only in the fifth scenario is the perceived character of the woman the central issue such that the wearing of revealing clothing is taken, by the minority who think that hitting a women may be acceptable, to be ‘evidence’ of ‘bad character’ and ‘moral deficiency’.

Basically, what the data on hitting women tells us that 20% of the British public think its okay to hit a woman if she’s a slut, and that correlates very neatly with the figures in the sexual violence data on prostitution, alcohol and drug use.

That is not a nice figure to contemplate at all, by any stretch of the imagination, but what it does give us is a useful assessment of the scale of the social and cultural issues we face because a sizeable percentage of that figure will be related directly to religious, social and cultural values in certain, readily definable, sections of British society.

*is* qualitatively different, not *as*


Prostitution is a classic – and horribly complicated – is-ought problem.

And, if you read the section on criticism you should very quickly realise that non of the proposed solutions to Hume’s formulation of the is-ought problem provide a basis for solving the ethical issues relating to prostitution.

Unity @ #35 – agree with all of that, although I’m surprised the article doesn’t refer to MacIntyre’s After Virtue in providing a way out of the dilemma. (A text which I broadly agree with and helps explain why I’m not a liberal.) However, I’m not sure that that book can be used as a basis for solving ethical issues relating to prostitution either!

Each of these responses is interesting in its own way because, to some extent, the data seems to paint a counterintuitive picture of public attitudes – for example, the scenario though to provide the least justification for hitting a woman turns out to be actual sexual infidelity while nagging is seen to provide the most justification

No suprise to me .

I’m not convinced the terms on which prostitution can be wholly consensual exist

OK. That is a hard one.

(Not the opening line of the negotiation).

Just a minute I think I’ve got it. Yes thats it.

Both parties consent

#38: hurrah, we have a glibertoonian of the year nominee.

(Q: “is it possible that there could be power imbalances under which adults are forced to negotiate unfreely and hence accept outcomes that couldn’t reasonably be described as ‘consenting’?” / A: “no, because free markets are T3H WIN and I love Mises to pieces”)

Original Sunny – Dear Lord, those are some disheartening numbers. What is to be done?

Shatterface @ 6 – Dishearteningly, I suspect that you might be right. I also think that there’s a lot in the arguments that much, much black homophobia stems from the disproportionate number of black people likely to end up incarcerated in an institution where they are likely to get raped.

Sunny @ 7 – See Shatterface @ 12, please.

Unity @ 16 – Ouch.

John B @ 30 Agency?

41. the a&e charge nurse

Attitudes to racism are better than attitudes to women ?

Can we really draw such conclusions after a few phone calls and a disclaimer from the researchers themselves, stating:
“Please note that this research is NOT part of the Home Office National Statistics programme but is EXPLORATORY work (my capitals)
Results should be seen as indicative and directional rather than absolute.
It is not recommended that exact percentages are used outside the context of this document”.

Thankfully, Unity provides much needed context to make sense of the potential basis for some of the responses obtained after the phone surveys.

I posted this yesterday, but it shows how Conservative, male dominated orgainsations like the Catholic Church view rape and woman in general.

“A senior Vatican cleric has defended the excommunication of the mother and doctors of a nine-year-old girl who had an abortion in Brazil after being raped.
Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, head of the Catholic church’s Congregation for Bishops, told the daily La Stampa on Saturday that the twins the girl had been carrying had a right to live.
‘It is a sad case but the real problem is that the twins conceived were two innocent persons, who had the right to live and could not be eliminated,’ he said.

The regional archbishop, Jose Cardoso Sobrinho, pronounced excommunication for the mother for authorising the operation and doctors who carried it out for fear that the slim girl would not survive carrying the foetuses to term.
“God’s law is above any human law. So when a human law … is contrary to God’s law, this human law has no value,” Cardoso had said.
He also said the accused stepfather would not be expelled from the church. Although the man allegedly committed “a heinous crime … the abortion – the elimination of an innocent life – was more serious”.

Thanks for the link.

I’m a bit disturbed by the prostitute thread here, though. However complicated the nature of their contracts are – the fact that there is at least some degree to which their consent is coerced by circumstances when they sell their services, and I think that’s true though at best no more so than anyone selling a service (at worst it’s much worse) – they’re not selling rape. Raping a prostitute is rape, not theft.

For Christ’s sake, some of these women are horribly vulnerable. Think about Ipswich, not that long ago. Defending them should go without saying.

PS, I like the neologism glibertoonian. The bloggertarian meme is becoming Joycian in its complexity.


Q: “is it possible that there could be power imbalances under which adults are forced to negotiate unfreely and hence accept outcomes that couldn’t reasonably be described as ‘consenting’?”

A: No. Of course there are always power imbalances in any negotiation but if it is freely entered into by both parties and is conducted without any element of complulsion then the end agreement is consensual.

It is one of the blind spots of the authoritarian left that they believe they can legislate all power imbalances out of society. Stalin discovered that was impossible and, even if it weren’t, it would be undesirable.

I hope, that many of the people who answered that a woman is responsible for being raped, under any circumstances, conflated responsibility and risk. God knows there are enough well meaning idiots out there who could make such a mistake. Otherwise we have a nation of utter bastards.

46. Shatterface

You could rephrase the questions to replace the words ‘a woman’ with ‘your daughter’ to see if responsants have really thought about the implications of their answers.

Shatterface @46:

I suspect, though I am hypothesising, that this would indeed change the numbers because of the following thought process among the moralists:

My daugher is properly brought up, and would never behave like those gutter sluts who wear such clothes, or nag, or commit marital infidelities. Therefore, in any situation where my daughter was assaulted, since she would not be behaving badly, she would bear no culpability.

I suspect that it would have no impact at all on the serious misogynistic category, since ime the desire/compulsion to abuse their own family seems to be central to the desire and/or compulsion to abuse other women.

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