Germaine Greer, a controversial feminist writer, suggested that the punishment for rape should be lowered during a recent speech. Needless to say, women across the globe said her comments were both offensive and a disservice to victims.
During her speech at the Hay literary festival, the public intellectual said rape is just “lazy, careless and insensitive,” and that it should not be seen as a “spectacularly violent crime.”
To Greer, “[m]ost rapes don’t involve any injury whatsoever.” As such, she mocked those who associate rape with violence.
“We are told that it is a sexually violent crime, an expert like Quentin Tarantino will tell us that when you use the word rape you’re talking about violence, a throwing them down... it is one of the most violent crimes in the world. Bulls*** Tarantino,” she said.
Instead, she continued, rape is frequently “lazy, just careless, insensitive.”
“Every time a man rolls over on his exhausted wife and insists on enjoying his conjugal rights he is raping her. It will never end up in a court of law. Instead of thinking of rape as a spectacularly violent crime, and some rapes are, think about it as non consensual … that is bad sex. Sex where there is no communication, no tenderness, no mention of love,” she said.
Explaining that rape happens too often, the writer said that the best way to approach it is to look at it as an issue of consent, and that the swamped legal system simply cannot deal with it effectively.
“If we are going to say trust us, believe us, if we do say that our accusation should stand as evidence, then we do have to reduce the tariff for rape,” she said.
During her talk, she also discussed her own experience with rape, telling the audience that when she was 18, a man beat her repeatedly, telling her to “say f*** me.” While she doesn’t remember if she ended up saying it, she argued that if she had taken that case to court, the footage of that attack would look pretty damning.
In addition, Greer questioned statistics that say that 70 percent of rape victims suffered post-traumatic stress disorder while only 20 percent of veterans who had seen battle suffer the same condition.
“What the hell are you saying? Something that leaves no sign, no injury, no nothing is more damaging to a woman than seeing your best friend blown up by an IED is to a veteran?” she said.
Conceding her theory is controversial, Greer argued that most women don’t live in fear of men.
“You might want to believe that the penis is a lethal weapon and that all women live in fear of that lethal weapon, well that’s bulls***. It’s not true. We don’t live in terror of the penis … A man can’t kill you with his penis,” she said.
On Twitter, users, many who are victims themselves, said they felt offended, heartbroken, and even betrayed by Greer’s comments.
Rape is never "careless" or "lazy". Penetrating another person's body without their consent is an active choice. https://t.co/XUHGetYl2N— Victoria Smith (@glosswitch) May 30, 2018
I call for Germaine Greer to stop calling herself a feminist. Because she very clearly isn't. And the hailing of her as one needs to stop. It should have stopped a long time ago, really, but now is certainly a good time to really do it. https://t.co/VZPOh2IiYP— Prof Tanja Bueltmann (@cliodiaspora) May 30, 2018
I actually can’t recommend that you read this because it is so utterly insensitive. However, if people like Germaine Greer adopt this position and aren’t challenged, what hope have we at all of putting rape culture behind us. https://t.co/MQ4MFL8009— Rachel McGovern (@rmcg2799) May 30, 2018
As a survivor of abuse I can assure you she needs to not speak on this issue. This kind of thinking is what allows more young women to think no big deal. Over half of the victims of rape don’t tell a soul. https://t.co/H9UURXi1os— Kaya Jones (@KayaJones) May 31, 2018
My handbag was stolen & I didn't have to justify what I was wearing, drinking, doing. Police took statements, did some work, found the thief & arrested him. When I was raped? Total opposite. #GermaineGreer is wrong. I was raped. No bruises, but life shattered. He belongs in jail. https://t.co/j7kDFBvfw6— Emily Hunt (@emilyinpublic) May 31, 2018
That entire Germaine Greer article is honestly one of the most dangerous, ignorant things I have ever read. I refuse to even link it & help spread it.— Amy (@Burtini) May 30, 2018
Forcing yourself inside a woman’s body will ALWAYS be violent. To all survivors, your pain is real, you deserve your justice.
Despite the great deal of criticism she is now getting thanks to these comments, this isn't the first time Greer has made controversial statements publicly.
She also claimed she did not regard transgender women as women during a BBC interview. So it isn’t strange to now see her raising eyebrows when talking about rape.
Regardless of her position, what matters is that what the #MeToo movement has started will make it hard for opinions like her's to prevail. Thankfully, more victims of assault are being heard. And more attackers are also being brought to justice.
As the world watches disgraced Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein being tried for his crimes against women, we are reassured that justice will prevail in the end.
Banner and thumbnail image credit: Wikimedia commons / Helen Morgan