paedophilia

Britain’s Bitter Culture of Rape and Violence

A close friend of mine packed her life up and relocated to Norway recently. She has Norwegian roots but the reason for making the move was one borne from fear of things to come, here, at home in the UK. Tory Britain was one of the contributing factors but it wasn’t the motive. She moved because her 5 year old daughter was slut shamed for wearing a vest during PE. Little one looks like most five year olds, a round-faced baby with an impressive vocabulary but this seemed to have escaped the attention of the teaching assistant at her school in the London Borough of Lambeth who decided, for whatever reason, she would make a 5 year old child cry for exposing her shoulders. Little one didn’t know why she was crying, she just knew she’d been accused of doing something wrong. I hoped she was upset because she could not understand and not because she had internalised the feelings of shame as something she was guilty of, that her body is disgusting or she is asking for it, whatever ‘it’ is. When the school were challenged about this they denied it had ever happened. This was the last in a chain of events that prompted my friend to withdraw her little girl for her own safety. She wept at the time that it was only another 6 years before her baby would be openly harassed on the streets, remembering how it was for herself aged 11. I remember that time too.

Can you recall the first time a boy called you a slag? I was still very much a virgin. I was used to that word already; it was commonly thrown about when referring to women; in my home, on the television, in the street. It meant they thought you slept around, that you were easy, loose, diseased. This, before I’d even kissed a boy. I can remember my grandfather spitting at the TV and accusing Princess Diana of being one, despite the fact she’d been cheated on for the duration of her marriage. It wasn’t Prince Charles who was accused of being an adulterer, there was no scarlet letter for him, no, long-suffering Diana was the nymph to blame for the Royal family’s bad image. It is easy to slander a woman in this way when as a society we do not trust them. It is easier to blame a woman for having breasts, for wearing makeup, a short dress than it is to admit that men violate because they desire not us, but control. Patriarchy controls even the most privileged women of all; we cannot be so surprised when it affects the rest of us in this way.

Why don’t we trust women? Why is it our word against theirs? Watching the film Lolita, it was stomach churning to witness paedophilia through the eyes of a perpetrator. The rapist reads sexual messages in every one of her actions. As a teenager I was frequently told that I was too nice and I ought to watch it as I might be giving people the wrong impression. I was admonished for being too tactile by my male friends. I internalised this. So much so that when I once woke to find one of these friends attempting ‘non-consensual sex’ with me as I lay inebriated, I believed it was my fault for sharing a bed with him. Men are so used to reading everything as a come on, because they are entitled to feel this way through male privilege, we blame ourselves for being too tempting. We are taught this from a very early age; we are not autonomous.

As children, we won’t get the same rights to express ourselves as our brothers do. This is not something exclusive to only some non-white cultures; the same is true in the West. When boys fight, when they leave a mess, they are being unruly and boisterous and we love them for it. We make excuses for them when they develop at a slower than little girls, from whom we expect so much more. We dress our daughters up in little frocks and put things in their hair. Anyone who has ever made a trip to a children’s clothes store will see aisle upon aisle of pink frilly stuff with which to adorn our girl children. We objectify them from the very start. We coo at little girls and throw boys up in the air. We train girls to be conscious of their looks. When they misbehave we respond with disbelief and the punishment is more severe.  We don’t react in the same way to boys. It doesn’t matter if we do, they may behave in a certain way at home but then we have to let them go; exposing them to secondary socialisation in a rape culture where pop culture presents men as strong, courageous and intelligent, the world is his oyster, there for the taking and women as submissive, in supporting roles (manic pixie dream girl, mother, whore, virgin). I’ve listened to mums cry that they fear having to raise boys because of the way they are swept away in the pervasive narrative, that they are not born ours, patriarchy claims them. Of course, how could they possibly resist when conforming has so many rewards? The admiration of peers for being a stud, the kudos of being the alpha male, it is no wonder they respond to this conditioning because the alternative is being thought of as a wuss, a girl, and isn’t that a disgusting thing?

Patriarchy hates femininity. It hates our ability to create life. It can’t do the same so it controls it, claims ownership. I can’t be the only one who feels disgust at the role of the father who plays gatekeeper to his daughter’s vagina; the one who vets boys for suitability, the one who loses face if his baby girl becomes pregnant as a teenager. Where is her autonomy? Why aren’t mothers as fussed about it as fathers? Mums probably do get in on this sort of parenting but I bet it’s largely down to what the father thinks “wait till your dad gets home”. Perpetrators frequently seek out women who do not have a father figure in their lives. They have no one to prove their worthiness to, they can control these women as they see fit. What does it say about us as a species that we are only safe if we have a man to protect us? If not our fathers, then our spouses? Why do some countries have rules around chaperones? Simple, men make the rules, they know what it is to rape but they don’t want you to rape ‘theirs’. It is where the concept of hijab comes from; if you can’t see the ‘goods’, then they can’t be spoiled. It is the origins of female genital mutilation too; if the vagina is not open “like a gaping sleeve” then they cannot gain entry. We know this is nonsense because rapists don’t care what you or your vagina look like, they only care about raping you cos control. Still, it helps them to exercise their patriarchal control in other ways. Males cause war, war means rape, impregnating the women by force so they can conquer and claim property and patriarchy loves war but it doesn’t want you to take what is not yours, especially if you’re not the right colour. The practices against women on both sides of the planet are a response to the fear and paranoia men have for each other. Women are a commodity, vessels for furthering the bloodline of people that were born on the same patch of soil as them. Pathetic, really.

When rape is used to control and shatter the lives of the people it affects (of all genders, ages, etc.) how can anyone claim that it is humorous and the problem lies with the victim/survivor traumatised by the ‘joke’? Are men that entitled they can elevate their need for ‘dark humour’ over the suffering experienced by real people in real time? People who are probably suicidal. When you challenge these pricks, they dismiss you as man hating feminist who is always trying to change people. As a woman and an aunt, a sister, a daughter and maybe a mother someday, I will never stop trying to change this rape culture we are in. My nephews are too precious to send out in a world where they will either become victims or perpetrators themselves. I do not want our boys or girls to face the consequences of living in a patriarchy they have absolutely no control over. I do not want them to cut themselves, self-medicate (like I did) because a few fuckhead ‘comedians’ think their pain is funny. I want them to step out into the world empowered; with a sense of autonomy and consent. I want them to recognise the apologists (perps by any other name) who are so forceful in their defence because they possibly exert some of these behaviours behind closed doors.

From the Yewtree operation, the insufficient sentencing, ‘rogue’ sexual offences officers at Sapphire to the music we listen to and the comedians we worship; as survivors, we are under constant attack. I cannot be the only one sometimes afraid to leave the house on my own.

There are no grey areas with rape. You can’t be a gentle non-abusive human being and find sexual violence funny. There are only those who are for it and those who oppose. Let this inform your interactions and act accordingly.

*Clothes, looks, booze, nightlife, the number of sexual partners you’ve had, mental illness, shoddy housekeeping, “didn’t make the sandwich”, the company you keep, your sexual orientation, the natural state of your vagina, the hair on your head, the size of your breasts, your bank balance do not cause rape. Rapists do. Also, minors cannot consent and therefore can never be a ‘willing’ party. The only way we can end rape is to end misogynistic perceptions of entitlement. We know Britain has a huge problem there.

killallmenwhorape

Religious men and child abuse

It was a long hut made of corrugated metal and plastic. They’d constructed it to fit on the side of the house, the back door in the middle just to the right of where the molvi sat on his throne of cushions. There were long benches, a foot off the floor, leaving a space where you would put your knees. We would sit in the prayer position, legs tucked underneath, feet splayed out to the side. He had a shorter bench in front of him; when it was your turn, you would go to him to read. The girls sat to his left and the boys to right. Being closer to the door, the boys always got to leave first. We’d stare on, those few minutes dragging.

I was 4 the first time I was sent to a madrassa to be taught Arabic and Urdu. It was a fair distance from where we lived but my mother would walk us there every day after school. There was just enough time for a quick cup of tea and a couple of biscuits before setting off to arrive just before 5pm. I vaguely remember the noise and close proximity of other children; all rocking back and forth, reciting parrot fashion the Arabic/Urdu alphabet; Aleph – Annar, Beh – Bakra, Theh, Tahthi.. Snapshots of a space in time I have very little memory of but a period during which I happened to learn an alien alphabet, progressing onto the first few chapters of the Quran. Alien because I could read it; recite it off by heart, but with very little understanding of what I was saying. Urdu and Arabic have a very similar alphabet and structure. Urdu was easy to understand, it sounded very similar to the languages spoken at home. But Quranic Arabic is art. It is complex and difficult to master. It was a language I didn’t understand. Shortly after I’d begun the evening classes, we were moved to the plastic and metal madrassa closer to home. By the time I left aged 11, I had read and recited it 3 times and was preparing to memorise the whole thing. I left because I could not take anymore. I had reached an age where I was able to make the decision that what I was experiencing was not normal and I did not want it. I was prepared to face the consequences.

When finding my niche, I did not have to struggle too much. I found learning fun, possibly a distraction, and had an aptitude for it. It helped endear me to the family; they had someone to pin their hopes and dreams on. I progressed very quickly through the Quran; chapter by chapter I impressed not only my family but my teacher. He would ask me to read louder so the other children could hear and ask for me to perform prayer, to show them all how it was done. I cannot remember feeling any joy in showing off my talents. Whilst eager to please, I was painfully shy. Inside I was sinking but I would do what was requested of me because I was afraid. He had a selection of sticks, bamboo and walking, in varying thicknesses. The thinner they were the more they stung. The thicker ones would leave a bruise but he saved those for the boys. Depending on his mood, your punishment was either swift; with a lash on your hand or behind or more in the way of suffering over a prolonged period of time. Children, as young as five and as old as 14, were made to hold stress positions. Kursi means chair in Urdu. Standing, you were required to hold your body in a chair like position, for maybe an hour at a time. If he saw you straighten or you shifted through pain from a cramp, you were beaten with a stick and made to resume position. Make like a chair, or a chicken. Bent all the way forwards, your arms round the back of your legs, you had to grip your ears from between your legs, holding the position for more than an hour.

We were all subjected to these punishments, boys and girls. The molvi relished barking these orders, his eyes moving over your body as you struggled to keep still. I can’t remember how old I was when I first recognised his gaze as something that was unacceptable. I had chosen to sit with my friends at the far end of the hut; it is there I first learnt about sex. I had already seen porn; my father didn’t think to protect us from such things. Aged 7, I’d innocently pressed play on the VCR on his room, my siblings sat on the floor around me. At first, I struggled to identify what I was seeing, I thought they were wrestling. And then, a close up. Horrified I reasoned the man was hurting the woman and hurriedly turned it off, shooing my siblings out of the room. I would later discover all manner of magazines and videos and toys. As I joined the dots in my head, I became increasingly distant and withdrawn from my father. Once, I discovered a video of a couple with their daughter. I never let my dad hug me ever again. We weren’t particularly tactile but that was the nail in the coffin for our father/daughter relationship. I was afraid. And I was also determined to leave the madrassa.

He picked on me exclusively. Or maybe he didn’t and I just felt alone. Aged 10, I was a young developer. My chest had begun to swell and I was due my first period. I’ve read up on studies where girls whose fathers are estranged from the mother begin menstruating, on average, 6 months before their secure peers. From my place at the far end of the hut, I could have a giggle with the other girls; we would make fun of this stupid sex thing and vow it was never going to happen to us. But it wasn’t to last. Just as I began my first period, he insisted I move to sit right next to him.

Knees tucked in, facing the wall, he was sat to my left facing the opposite way. He sat so close to me, his thigh was right against mine. He would stroke my side, pinch my ribs. It was all unwanted. Where once he had stroked my knees, now his hands would wonder up my inner thigh, stopping short of actually touching me between the legs.

In Islam, girls and women are prohibited from touching the Holy Quran during their periods because bleeding is considered unclean.  I risked damnation by continuing to do so. I didn’t want anyone to know I had begun bleeding. I was ashamed of it; I was only the 3rd girl in my class at school to have started. At this very early stage of womanhood, I was disgusted by the way my body functioned and utterly afraid of how God would punish me for touching the Quran with my unholy fingers. I would wrap a corner of my burqa around my finger so I wasn’t directly touching it.

He yawned, loudly and stretched his arms up wide and then brought his hand down hard to slap me square on the chest. Of course, this was incredibly painful but I stifled my reaction. He felt my barely even there breasts, lingering and stroking. I knew this was wrong. The way he sneered at me, touched my body at his every whim, I was completely dominated. And unable to tell anyone. I was sure they wouldn’t believe me anyway, he was like a local celebrity. A man of God, he was respected and the community would bend over backwards for the good work he did for them.. Educating a new generation of Muslims. He had the opposite effect on me. I became very un-Muslim. I had started to challenge God and thought he must be a pervert too, for allowing these things to happen. This wasn’t my God but a God for men who did whatever pleased them. It was the same God my father, grandfather and uncles held up as an example. And they were all bad people.

Finally, aged 11 I summoned up the courage to say no. My mother would complain that I was a lovely little girl before I’d started secondary school and she could just not understand why I was rebelling now. I refused to get ready for mosque. On arriving home after school, I would lock myself up in the bathroom. A couple of times, my father managed to beat the bathroom door down and slapped me about for being so defiant. But this would last at least half an hour into the lesson so I successfully managed to avoid it. It was only after one of the last beatings in this chapter that I disclosed what had happened to me. My father had dragged me onto the ground by my hair and was kicking me on the floor. I managed to escape and ran upstairs to my bedroom, my mother followed behind. “What is wrong with you?” She pleaded. And I just blurted it all out.

“You, you send me there. To that man. But he touches me! And you won’t stop him”.

She froze. I remember clearly that her eyes darkened and glazed over and she stopped, her breathing silent again. And that’s all I remember. Nothing was ever said or done. It was never mentioned to me again.

I remember it every time I hear a Catholic church story, and wonder how many millions of children suffer in silence at mosques. Of course they might not, but how would we know? Grassroots madrassas are rife in local communities. They are not affiliated with the local government and there is no way of ensuring they adhere to child protection guidelines. I am also reminded of the practice of removing body hair as part of your religion. I have made an association between religious men, the rules and paedophilia. I don’t think anyone could blame me for feeling this way.