Opinion: I believe her

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Like many women, I felt a sort of uncontrollable, ancient rage when hearing the full account of the Ulster rugby rape case. I won’t go into detail, but you can read a full and balanced account of the court proceedings here.

The accused men were acquitted of rape. It should be noted that this doesn’t mean they were found ‘not guilty’, instead there simply wasn’t enough evidence offered to the eight men and three women on the jury to prove that they were.

But fighting over whether the sex was consensual or not seems to be missing the point. Of course, if the men were lying and she was in fact brutally raped, then wow, what a sorry state our judicial system finds itself in.

Either way, it’s the attitude that women enjoy being degraded, or worse, that they deserve it because they are drunk, despite the fact that after being ‘passed around like a merry-go-round’ they are left bleeding and distraught.

#Ibelieveher rugby rape case ivory magazine

It’s all just part of the banter that they ‘throw them back home’ in a hysterical state, because it’s not rape if she is flirting with you, kissing you, naive enough to go back to your house for an after-party. Because she wants attention from a famous sportsman.

There’s a tired and seemingly indestructible belief that if consent is mistakenly given, men are legally allowed to assault and treat women like objects.

If someone wants rough sex, consent should be made very clear before, and the rules should be discussed. It’s never a spur of the moment push-you-onto-the-bed-when-you’re-drunk affair, even if you’ve been wooed on an expensive date and showered with attention – even if you’re in a committed and loving relationship.

It’s risky territory and respect should play a huge part. I thought this was common knowledge. Apparently it’s not.

Another issue is the fact that young men grow up on a casual diet of porn, most of which consists of men dominating women, often aggressively, with a little humiliation thrown in for good measure. All fun and games? Perhaps. Perhaps not for the younger, more inexperienced women – the teenagers such as the girl in the Ulster case.

One thing is for certain. Dabbling in aggressive sexual activities outside of a loving relationship and then having your deepest fears realised – that you are a worthless piece of meat – is emotionally devastating.

Young women with misplaced bravado are unaware of the spiritual and psychological effects of casual sex. Sometimes sexual fantasies merge into emotional pain. research has shown that some rape victims replay traumatic events in their sex lives in order to gain control over their trauma.

Even those that are turned on by rough sex can often be confused by sexualising feelings of inadequacy. Not always, of course, and in a healthy relationship, why not? But as a woman it can be a dangerous ground to play in, especially whilst drunk with a stranger.

Men and women react differently after sex. This isn’t meant to rattle hardcore feminists, it’s pure biology. For women there is a dramatic increase in oxytocin, the hormone released after sex and childbirth that plays a part in bonding. We become more vulnerable, emotionally attached and needy of the man we’ve just been intimate with.

Men on the other hand become more detached. This is one of the reasons marriage and monogamy were beneficial to women. In the time of free love and feminism we may have accidentally shot ourselves in the foot.

However, no man that I have the privilege of knowing would even think about putting a person through the sort of trauma described in the Ulster case, consensual or not. This is blatant misogyny. To be objectified in this way injures every woman on a psychic level because we’ve all been in a position where society has made us feel that way.

The furore released in Ireland after the verdict has nothing to do with rape, it’s the toxic masculinity and everyday sexism that is not only tolerated, but encouraged, the locker room banter which cuts the most. It’s no worse than racial slurs – sexism and racism are often intertwined, and for the simple fact that men have historically had more power over women, it is not a case of political correctness gone mad, or snowflake mentally, it’s abuse.

It’s also a reflection of our society: ‘It’s not fair on men. Innocent men go to prison,’ they cry. And yes, while these men shouldn’t be compared to the sort of subhumans who attack women on the street and leave them for dead, their general misogynistic attitude and the fact that, as rugby stars, they see themselves as untouchable (quite rightly so as displayed by the final verdict) and therefore able to physically assault women who are drunk and flirting and ‘therefore asking for it’ is a sad reflection on their status.

Men (and women) need to be taught the spiritual repercussions of sex from a woman’s point of view for them to truly understand it, but the truth is many men are unable to understand something that they themselves haven’t been through. They will never understand the immense vulnerability women are left in after intimacy.

Neither will they fully understand the true feeling of being powerless, of being used and abused like our ancestors, our friends and many of us have experienced. To be ridiculed as ‘sluts’ even if it’s just a joke is a hate crime that cripples us all at a deep level.

I guess women are just sick of the justifications men come up with for treating us like sexual objects, of sexualising the power issues that have plighted our past. It cuts us to the very bone as years of shame and rage sear through our veins.

We all have a moral responsibility. Just because you’re a sports star and idolised by women doesn’t give you a free pass. The insensitivity and the unwillingness to feel empathy or understand how damaging this ‘banter’ is for women, is the real reason people are rising up against it.

I don’t believe these men should be locked up, unless of course they are lying, and the male-dominated jury was completely mistaken, but there do need to be repercussions so that this violent, misogynistic attitude is realised for what it is.

If anything it’s an opportunity to make our voices heard. The process is already in motion, and whether the evening’s events were consensual or not it really doesn’t matter. It’s a fight against casual misogyny, against everyday sexism, and it’s about time.

by Gemma Rowbotham

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