So less than a month after mumsy poetess and comedienne Pam Ayres was accused of being a misogyny-internalizing running dog of rape culture for suggesting that an innocent man having his name plastered over newspapers in connection to a rape allegation might be a little unjust, yet another mumsy celebrity of daytime entertainment comes under fire for inflammatory rape apology.
Judy Finnigan defending Ched Evans’s right to continue to work after being released from prison commits what I am going to call “The Dawkins Heresy”: specifically, claiming that there can be varying degrees of badness within any category of bad thing. For example, you can’t say I have a mild dose of food poisoning because food poisoning can be fatal. The response to such a heresy would be “how dare you suggest that some forms of food poisoning are less bad than other forms of food poisoning?! Just because you managed to get away with 24 hours of vomiting and diarrhea doesn’t mean food poisoning is okay, and that is what you are saying if you say that your experience of food poisoning was not that bad compared with other forms of food poisoning, right? Right? Don’t invalidate the victims of all food poisoning, including those who die of Listeria or salmonella, by saying your bout of food poisoning wasn’t fatal, you food-poisoning apologist!”
“Hold on,” you might say, “isn’t this the exact opposite of belittling the experiences of people who die of food poisoning? Wouldn’t it be more invalidating to say that fatal food poisoning is no worse than a 24-hour stomach bug?”
There you would be making the reason-trumps-emotive-rhetoric fallacy: the false belief that somehow logic and reason are better modes of thinking than shame and appeal to moral outrage. You would not believe how widespread that fallacy is!
The Dawkins Heresy
The reason I’m calling this The Dawkins Heresy is because Richard Dawkins hasn’t just committed this heresy once, he’s committed it repeatedly. First, he dared to describe his own experience of child abuse, an experience he is apparently not qualified to make a judgment on even though it actually happened to him, as being mildly uncomfortable but nothing serious. Not having learnt his lesson that time, he went on to, among other variants of the heresy, satirically suggest that the oppression Rebecca Watson experienced when somebody invited her back to his room for coffee while sharing an elevator was not as bad as the oppression experienced by a Middle Eastern woman who was subject to FGM and threatened with stoning for adultery. True, at least in those Middle Eastern countries men have enough respect for women not to invite them anywhere for coffee; in fact, even talking to a woman who is not a relative particularly in a manner that might lead to temptation is forbidden under the Koran. How many years of battling against sexism by the likes of Rebecca Watson will it take before women are afforded that sort of protection here in the West? you might well ask. You might also well ask if that is really the sort of “women’s rights” you think should be being pursued, and if it is, keep lending your support to the brand of feminism Rebecca Watson offers and not the sort of feminism offered by Katie Roiphe when she wrote in The Morning After: Sex, Fear, and Feminism:
although it may infringe on the right to comfort, unwanted sexual attention is part of nature. To find wanted sexual attention, you have to give and receive a certain amount of unwanted sexual attention. Clearly, the truth is that if no one was ever allowed to risk offering unsolicited sexual attention, we would all be solitary creatures.
Katie Roiphe, of course, also makes The Dawkins Heresy when she suggests in the introduction to The Morning After that “some feminisms are better than others”: a belief that will be shocking to many MRAs who believe that all “feminisms” are as bad as each other. I will be exploring that heresy myself in an upcoming article entitled “10 feminists the MRM should like” or something like that—it’s a work in progress (yes, I know, 10! That means it’s Christina Hoff Sommers AND nine others!). But that’s for another time—I shall not talk of Roiphe’s feminism again, and all future references to feminism in this article will refer to the current victim-feminism that has the greatest and most widespread influence today.
So here is Judy Finnigan’s version of The Dawkins Heresy:
But, having said that, [Ched Evans] has served his time, he’s served two years. The rape—and I am not, please, by any means minimizing any kind of rape—but the rape was not violent; he didn’t cause any bodily harm to the person. It was unpleasant, in a hotel room I believe, and she had far too much to drink. That is reprehensible, but he has been convicted and he has served his time. When he comes out, what are we supposed to do, just actually refuse to let him do his job even though he’s already been punished?
Naturally, torches were lit and pitchforks were raised against this abomination. So what if there was no violence or force involved, and the victim was consenting, so what to all that—the point is … yes, the victim was consenting, don’t interrupt me mid-moral-outrage! Where was I? The point is it was rape and … What now? Consent? Consent is irrelevant, Catharine MacKinnon said in an interview with Stuart Jeffries: it was in The Guardian—check this link!
Ho-hum, all right, you want me to back up the claim that the victim was consenting. As if that makes a difference! Here we go:
Too Drunk to Consent
The Ched Evans case rests on the rather new legal consideration that a woman can be too drunk to consent. Although it’s new for such criteria to be used in British law, it’s been around in feminist literature since at least the early 1990s. It was the criteria by which Austen Donnellan was threatened with expulsion from King’s College London in 1993. My girlfriend at the time knew him, and I learned of the human aspects of the case secondhand through her. She very much believed that he was innocent. So did Donnellan. He was so adamant he was innocent that he took the case to court himself; the complainant in the case being happy to see justice done by the university itself. As if that will fly! Who would have the crazy idea of letting university administrators have the responsibility of investigating and passing judgment with regards to a serious crime such as rape, eh? Back in 1993, the claim that being drunk rendered somebody too infantile to give consent, making sex a form of statutory rape, only without the word statutory, may have been credible to radical feminists and academic disciplinary committees terrified of bad publicity, but it was not credible to the criminal justice system and the case was thrown out of court. “Summing up, Judge Geoffrey Grigson said: ‘A person who is drunk, and because she is drunk consents to an act which she would not when sober, still consents. Drunken consent is enough. But a woman who is so drunk that she has no understanding of what is happening cannot consent.’”
Grigson’s assessment at the end does create a proviso that it is possible to be in a state where you do not know what’s going on, but that isn’t the same as being so drunk that you can’t remember what’s gone on when you wake up the next morning, as was the case with Donnellan’s accuser, to which Grigson asked, “If she cannot be sure it was rape, how can the jury?”
The British legal system began to accept “too drunk to consent” as a criteria in 2006. Remembering the Donnellan case, when I read of the proposed changes to the law, I expressed concern about the dangerous precedent such a change in the law would present. How would you define “too drunk to consent”? In fact, most people have at some point had sex while drunk; some successful couples found that’s how it all got started; some married couples still loosen up with a bottle of Merlot or two so they can forget the debts they haven’t dealt with, stop fretting about the kids that have been sent off to the grandparents, and put behind them the petty row they had in the grocery store about the false economy of skimping on bin liners—in short, to relax and refocus on the here and now long enough to recapture that carefree surrender to carnal desire that makes the tedium of our Sisyphean existence bearable. What I am saying is drunken sex is fairly normal … or “normalized,” if you want to make what I just said sound like a scary symptom of a widespread rape culture that we all allow ourselves blindly to acquiesce to—if you choose the latter view, there are sects of feminism you can now go and subscribe to.
If you take a normal behavior and make it technically criminal, that means you’ve created a law that is open to abuse. A comparable example might be the criminalization of cannabis. A lot of normal, respectable people take cannabis, and most people who use it get away with it. Even the police are prepared to turn a blind eye to its usage, unless of course they have some other reason to not like you, for example, the fact that you’re the wrong color maybe.
However, I didn’t get very far into expressing my concern about the shifting goalposts of the law before I was aware that my concern was not shared by my work colleagues and I realized that I was casting aspersions upon my own character by even raising it. The dangers of a false rape allegation are not something you talk about if you want to appear above suspicion. I felt shamed into silence, and that’s what makes this creeping of the goalposts so pernicious. Rape hysteria is a juggernaut that can’t be stopped because it pushes the buttons that connect to our greatest fears. By speaking out against it, we risk making ourselves the fear object. However, in those who share the urge to speak out but are also inhibited from doing so, the release of tension when the silence is broken is tangible.
Scrabble or Tiddlywinks?
Ched Evans leaves prison still convinced of his own innocence, convinced, too, are his friends, family, and many well-wishers. There is a website devoted to clearing his name. A man named Paul who wrote a letter to The Sheffield Star after their biased reporting of the case has had his letter reprinted at the website. He makes a similar point about the “too drunk to consent” category of rape as I have done: “Ched Evans [is] innocent, maybe not of rape as defined by the court, but certainly in terms of what I, and I suspect the majority of the public, deem as rape, which is a horrible crime.”
The website gives an account of the known facts of the case as they were known to the jury. I suggest you read them for yourself.
The fact that there is significant evidence there to cast doubt over the claim of rape is evinced by the fact that all the evidence in Ched’s case also applies to the other accused part,y Clayton McDonald, who was cleared of all charges. If she wasn’t too drunk to consent to McDonald, who had sex with her first, how was she more drunk when she had sex with Evans, who had sex immediately after?
So there are some very compelling arguments that this rape, which has got Judy Finnegan into trouble for representing as not as terrible as a violent rape, is not actually a rape at all. It’s one of those “too drunk to consent” deals where the only witness for the prosecution admits she can’t remember the events. What’s odd is if the only grounds for defining the incident as rape is “too drunk to consent” and both of the accused had sex with her consecutively, how come only one of them was found guilty? She hasn’t got drunker while having sex with the first one. Either both are guilty or neither is.
The complainant claims she woke up the following morning with no recollection of the events of the night before. She believed that she may have been drugged. If it had turned out that she had, it would not have been by either Evans or McDonald, since neither of them had made contact with her at the club where she had consumed her drinks. In fact, she was tested and there was no evidence that she had consumed any drug except for alcohol and cocaine, both of which she had taken voluntarily. But it was in this belief that she went to the police, still unaware that she’d had sex, knowing only that she had woken up in a strange hotel room.
As Paul observes in his letter, “the only evidence that sex took place [is] from statements given by the defendants, and don’t you think that had they believed they were even remotely committing a crime they would simply have denied that sex took place?”
Now this raises another issue—if you can rape and not know you’ve done it, that introduces the idea that rape can be accidental. You’d think if you wanted the crime taken seriously you’d want to avoid situations in which it could be said that a rape was accidental. If, on the other hand, you just want to maximize a climate of paranoia, the idea that it could be accidental serves the purpose just fine.
Now, we have always recognized that deliberately having sex with someone who is drunk that they wouldn’t otherwise consent to was ungentlemanly, especially if you had the advantage of being less drunk. The site doesn’t record how drunk Evans and McDonald were. We do know they had been to a number of clubs, and that neither ejaculated. This latter fact suggests some alcohol induced sexual dysfunction. “Lechery,” as Shakespeare’s Porter character in Macbeth observes, is something drink “both provokes and unprovokes. It makes him, and it mars him; it sets him on, and it takes him off; it persuades him, and disheartens him; makes him stand to and not stand to; in conclusion, equivocates him in a sleep, and, giving him the lie, leaves him.”
Northumbrian Police and crime commissioner Vera Baird’s response to Judy Finnigan’s remarks regarding the drunkenness of the complainant is a familiar piece of feminist rhetoric: “What has this got to do with this if he forced himself upon her? If you get drunk and someone steals your wallet, does this mean it’s any less of a theft than if you were sober?” Ms. Baird exclaims. The fact that The Telegraph refers to the commissioner as “Ms. Baird” is indicative of her ideological standpoint as is the false equivalence she makes. All accounts of the case as presented to the jury indicate no “force” took place; the claim of rape rests entirely on her ability to give consent. People don’t just give their wallets away drunk or sober. People do have consensual sex in both states. Also giving your wallet away isn’t mutually desirable to both parties. Having sex is. Only someone with a Victorian sense of female sexuality would see sex as a process in which a man takes and gives nothing in return—the same Victorian sense of female sexuality as can be found in the writings of MacKinnon and Dworkin. If the intention was just to take without giving, then why would the sex act include oral sex performed upon the complainant? The pleasure of giving oral sex is vicariously dependent on the pleasure of the person receiving. It’s ironic that it is victim feminists who claim that men objectify women, seeing them as an object to be acted upon. In fact, almost everyone views sex as a participatory act. The only people who perpetuate a myth that sex is something one person does to another are the victim feminists themselves. A more accurate equivalence to view the situation by might be to see it as a transaction or exchange; it’s quite possible someone might make an impulse buy while drunk and regret it when sober. Does that make the salesman unscrupulous? Sometimes it does, if they know the goods they are selling are inferior, if they’ve made false claims about them, and have used pressure sales techniques—but then all these things would be illegal if the buyer was sober too. Bear in mind the entire case here rests on the idea that the complainant was too drunk to consent. If, as would be analogous to this case, the buyer is saying, “Shut up and take my money,” can the salesman really be to blame for the buyer’s spending spree? “Lick me out” and “Fuck me harder,” to quote the complainant, are both enthusiastic-enough exclamations of consent to count, even in California. Of course, we only have the testimony of the accused to confirm that these things were said, but let’s not forget, we only have the testimony of the accused to confirm that sex took place AT ALL!
There are things about Ched’s story that don’t seem credible. Not for one moment do I believe his claim that hotel room number 14 was procured for any other reason than to bring back a girl. This introduces us to an alien world, the world of the professional footballer, in which it is possible to have so much confidence in one’s sexual market value that you know your chances of getting lucky on a given evening are high enough that it is worth making advance provision for the eventuality. Possibly this is the reason we are not too sympathetic to his situation, or the situation of other sportsmen or celebrities who are able to trade off of their success and status to make hookups dead certainties, which to most of us would be occasions made precious by their scarcity. I do not for a moment believe that he walked in on McDonald and the complainant by accident—I think he knew exactly what he would find and I think he knew full well that McDonald (who’d informed him by text that he’d met a girl) would invite him to join in. As the prosecutor pointed out, “they would not have been playing Scrabble, would they?” or tiddlywinks for that matter, as Pam Ayres might have observed. This is one possible reason why it could be held that McDonald had more consent than Evans—she had met him and went with him to the hotel room, knowing that neither Scrabble nor tiddlywinks were on offer. Sex with Evans, on the other hand, was a heat-of-the moment decision taken when an unexpected opportunity presented itself, but since when has consent been dependent on premeditation? The message boards speculating Evans’s guilt are full of back and forth about Evans and McDonald’s intentions and actions and choices, but not much speculation is given about the complainant’s choices and actions and intentions. There is across-the-board blanket denial of her agency in her own sexual choices. This is beneficial to her in the cold light of day regretting her actions and wishing to obviate responsibility for them, but doesn’t afford much real respect to women in general or their sexuality or self-determination; it certainly doesn’t give them the same sort of respect we give to men. All assumptions about the case, particularly those who find Evans’s guilt unquestionable, depend on the dichotomy that men have sexual desire but are undesirable—they make choices and act upon them—whereas women are desirable but are free of sexual desire—they are subject to forces and circumstances over which they have no control. Take this dichotomy out of the context of a drunken sexual encounter and it becomes clear that it’s the sort of unequal and fallacious dichotomy that feminism claims to oppose but the very dichotomy that victim feminism is founded upon.
If Evans lied about his reasons for booking the room, and his reasons for going to the room where he already knew that McDonald had a girl, then those lies would make him guilty of perjury, not rape. If he did not hang around after sex took place, that doesn’t make it rape either; it may be indicative of his low appreciation of her value, but she has chosen, however drunkenly, to have casual sex with professional football players. How valued can you expect to be when you know that what you have to offer is something that is easily come by?
In conclusion, and regardless of the rights or wrongs of the juries’ verdicts regarding Evans’ or McDonald’s cases, to conflate “taking advantage” with a violent and sadistic crime that we all find abhorrent could be seen as trivializing of the more abhorrent act. To further compound this by casting any attempt to differentiate between these two sorts of crimes as rape apology produces a sort of lasso definition. The definition is broadened to include lesser crimes, and once someone treats the lesser crime as lesser, the definition is contracted again by the social justice warriors and they react as if the heretic has excused the greater crime. And this is the lasso trap Judy Finnigan has found herself in, regardless of whether or not the rape she was putting into perspective really was a rape.