It happens every day. In fact, it is pretty hard to avoid it. There are some things that can only be understood with a slap on the forehead. Things so mind-boggling that one wonders how humans managed to evolve thumbs while being this mentally inept. Case in point:
‘Name and shame rapists online,’ urges Germaine Greer
Germaine Greer sparked a row last night by suggesting rape victims should name and shame their attackers online instead of reporting the sex crime to the police.
The controversial academic, now 71, has spent years campaigning for the law on rape to be changed to boost the number of convictions.
But Professor Greer, now an academic at Warwick University, yesterday claimed a website may be a better way than the law to make rape allegations, in a move likely to anger campaigners and victims’ organisations.
Speaking at the Cheltenham Literature Festival she said yesterday: ‘I wish there were an online rapists’ register and that it was kept up to date, because we know the courts can’t get it right.
‘When I say that to people, they get so scared, and say ‘Oh you can’t. What about privacy?’
‘Years ago I knew we would never get convictions in a court of law for date rape, so I suggested women kept an online dossier, so if a woman had a date with a guy and he did something to her, or frightened her, and she asked him to stop and he didn’t, then instead of going to the police she should put him online.
‘Other women could check this dossier, look up a guy and see that he has form. Then she can say no, or if she does go, goes knowing it’s a high risk strategy.’
This comes from a person who wrote a photo book expressing her desire “to advance women’s reclamation of their capacity for and right to visual pleasure” from boys’ bodies. This is the same woman who thinks boys are “considered attractive only to a perverted taste” and that “the boy is the missing term in the discussions of the possibility of a female gaze.”
Of course, there are a host of problems with Greer’s idea. There is no way to check the veracity of any of the claims, so any maligned woman can put some man’s name online, call him a rapist, and essentially ruin him. As Jenni Murray explains:
The internet has much to offer by way of information and social networking, but it’s also the Wild West in terms of regulation. It purports to embody the right to freedom of speech — but look at any comment page attached to any article, website or blog and you’ll see the wildest and crudest observations put forward in the guise of criticism. The writers know their real name is concealed behind a pseudonym, so there is no risk of being traced or sued for libel.
Picture, then, the young woman or man (fewer men than women are victims of rape, but it does happen) crossed in love, or merely miffed at the way a member of the opposite sex has looked at them or spoken to them.
How tempting might it be, late at night, with a drink or six on board, to log on to a website like the one Germaine Greer imagines and pour out your fury with an accusation of sexual assault or rape? A man’s reputation could be destroyed with no criminal inquiry, and no testing of evidence in court.
There is no indication in any of the academic research that’s been carried out on the subject that there is any more false reporting of rape than there is of any other crime.
But going to a police station and facing real human beings who will question you about what you say happened, and carry out forensic tests, is a very different matter from turning on the computer in your own home and typing out whatever you like — knowing that there’ll be no comeback on you, and nothing but trouble for the person who’s incited your anger.
Or perhaps there may be some comeback. Supposing there is something in your post that makes you identifiable. Rapists are, generally, not the most pleasant of men: they are going to be far from pleased at seeing themselves named and shamed, and may take it upon themselves to take revenge.
Even an innocent man, wrongly accused, may be so incensed at the slur on his character that he, too, might track a complainant down and get his own back.
At least the criminal justice system offers some degree of protection from harassment. The internet offers no such guarantee.
Granted, Murray plays feminist politics by minimizing sexual violence and false accusations against men. She also seems unduly concerned that the accused with take revenge on the accusers, and seems to discount that putting someone’s name on the internet and committing what is technically a libel statement is harassment. It is the definition of harassment. However, she is correct that there is too much at stake for Greer’s idea to work. Far too much could go wrong.
Greer’s idea stems from the notion that there are not enough convictions for sex offenses. She peddles the “only 6% of rape cases result in conviction” statistic, despite that the actual rate of conviction is 58%. Even if Greer’s misleading statistic were true, it would not justify resorting to vigilante justice.
Some may want to take her comments as tongue-in-cheek, but there is nothing to suggest Greer was anything less than serious, and that is part of the problem with how many feminists address this issue. It is much easier to play on people’s emotions than it is to attempt to address the problem in a reasonable way. The measures Murray listed in her article are the way things ought to be addressed. It takes time, effort, and a lot of explaining to change things, not a knee-jerk “too many rapists go free so let’s name them on the internets” response.