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Rivers of R4pe

It was one week ago that an advice column in Slate provided fuel sufficient to burn its witch-author, online Emily Yoffe. We cannot be sure if it was Yoffe or her editors that piled these dry sticks in the town square of Opinion. We can be certain that nothing ignites a live body on the internet so well as the contention, diabetes and pregnancy Women Ask For It.

Let’s leave the analysis of Yoffe’s middleweight reasoning to others for the moment and let it be plainly said: rape victims are never complicit in the violence done to them. This fact remains unchanged by cocktails, more about uncomfortable footwear and/or terrible opinion writing. That there is a question that anybody “asks” to be raped is peculiar and illogical. Rape, by its definition, is unasked-for and any other perspective is insanity.  I don’t even know why this piece was written. Silly me. Yes. I do. Clicks.

Clicks it got. Rage ricocheted around the toilet-bowl of the internet like the ill-formed waste of a dreadful repast. An incontinent feminism bubbled in the cistern of stupidity and depths remained unplumbed as the same response resurfaced one thousand times.

As The Atlantic had it, “there’s one thing that’s more common than alcohol when it comes to rapes. That would be rapists.” HuffPo UK said, “the only factor that makes people vulnerable to rape is being in the presence of a rapist.” Australian site The Daily Life offered, “The only thing common to experiences of rape is the presence of a rapist.”

If we don’t count an aversion to reason, the only thing common to contemporary liberal feminism is everything.  The responses—upon which Yoffe and her literary agent were likely depending—did not change.  You’d think at least one courageous writer would have countered with a piece called “If You Want To Avoid Rape, Don’t Get Married”, but instead we read iterations of an argument whose value, I think, should be questioned.

Let me explain. Or, you know. Don’t. Just take to social media and call me a “rape apologist” before reading. Because that sort of behaviour always advances thought.

There are currently several feminist writers who believe in a system of influence called “rape culture” and just as many who believe that urgent reprogramming of humans is needed to stop the crime of rape. In a curious remake of seventies radical feminism, the idea that patriarchy is less a way of reproducing social class and more of an actual War on Women has emerged. There is a War on Women and rape is its primary weapon and “MSM” (mainstream media) is its agitprop.

Such theory as introduced by Dworkin, Mackinnon and others never sat well with me when I first read it as a teen and still fails to move me.  This is chiefly because I believe most people are decent and know that rape, and all forms of violence, are wrong.  In my country, Australia, all States and Territories had passed legislation by 1981 to ensure the “marital exemption” would never protect a rapist from prosecution and our local media is full of advocates—notably Derryn Hinch—who believe that rape is a crime unmatched in its evil by any other.

In Australia, we host Solve Your Own Murder parties as a form of entertainment.  We do not, to the best of my knowledge, spend our leisure hours with Solve Your Own Rape.

Look.  My point is everyone with an ounce of sense thinks rape is bad.  No one (reasonable) blames victims.  The only people, apart from rapists, who publicly blame victims do so to invite the caffeinated response of a feminist klatch.  These paint-by-numbers articles about “slut-shaming” and “victim-blaming” are guaranteed to link to the offending statement frequently enough that someone gets a book deal.

It is almost as though feminism, with rape as its current sine qua non, is profiting from rape.

And it is certainly as though people enjoy instant rage as much as they do Solve Your Own Murder weekends in the country.  Because, for the sake of fuck, what did this Yoffe idiot really do other than to tell young women not to drink so much?

She can’t legally enforce it, can she?  Not say, like the Australian Federal Government.

I know there are those progressives who are angry about the Northern Territory Intervention which allows legislation based on racial and sexual loathing.  I know there are people aghast that a RACE of people have their access to alcohol (and money and media and dignity) controlled.  But I see so little evidence of rage at an actual law based on the idea that “blacks can’t handle their grog and their raping” and such a dreadful volume of whining that some ditz on Slate said that girls shouldn’t drink so much.

When Jenny Macklin extended the Howard government’s laws on alcohol, where were you?  When Julia Gillard again unleashed Mal Brough’s “rivers of grog”, where were you? If you were defending the civil liberties of Aboriginal Australians, you have my admiration.

If you were seeking profit in writing about the “rape culture”, you probably need to have a little think.  It’s lovely that you like to drink twenty bellinis over brunch. Continue to drink your way to the sanctioned oblivion we white people so enjoy.  No one is stopping you, lady.  Just thank god—to pinch the slogan of artist Richard Bell—you’re not Aboriginal.



79 Responses to “Rivers of R4pe”

  1. Diane says:

    You make me feel ashamed at my often superficial responses. I thank you for that.

  2. Notmyrealname says:

    When hiking in bear country, be aware of the dangers. Take preventative measures, such as not wearing highly scented deodorant and not taking strong smelling foods with you. Take chemical “bear spray” with you, though it may not be effective in a serious attack. Never hike alone. There are dangerous animals out there.

    Or, launch a campaign against “bear culture”. Attack anyone who suggests ways in which to make yourself less vulnerable as “bear attack apologists”. Call for bears to be educated to not attack humans. Be aware though that the effectiveness of this alternative response is not guaranteed. There are dangerous animals out there.

    • Helen Razer says:

      I don’t think you read my piece????

      • Kenny Glassman says:

        I read it Helen, and yours is a total mis-take on Freedman’s piece.
        Disheartening and sad, how her describing a correlation has been irrationally taken as saying that the relationship is causal and or is blaming the victim.
        Because you’re quite bright, I assume the entertainer in you is superseding the social analyst, or you have issues that are dangerously hijacking your cognition on an important issue. To deny the truth in Freedman’s piece – because it’s an unfair reality – does a terrible disservice to many. Your commentary might more accurately be described as causal.

        • Helen Razer says:

          Given that I did not write about Mia’s piece, it is quite understandable that I may have misunderstood it.
          Your attempts to reduce my reasoning to an effect of my damaged psyche notwithstanding, you have missed the point of my piece.
          Which was not, at any point, to say that Mia (or Yoffe, actually) got it wrong.
          What the actual fuck have you been reading? obviously not this post which was, while not e defence of Freedman, certainly an explicit plea not to dismiss her as a rape apologist.
          Learn to read things before you comment.

      • mouldfield says:

        I think Notmyrealname is actually mirroring what you said but just forgetting to introduce it properly.
        eg: “Right on Helen: It’s like hiking in North America …. (etcetera)…”

        As for me: Right On Helen!

        I’m visiting after reading a piece by John Birmingham and, like him, I like it.

  3. Carlene says:

    Yep you got it (again) C x

  4. Ottilie says:

    Notmyrealname, I can’t be sure about this because I am not Helen, but I don’t think you’re reading this article correctly. I don’t think Helen is agreeing with Yoffe’s piece, I think she is suggesting that in a country where we have legally sought to restrict the alcohol consumption of a race of people that spending a lot of time and energy arguing over whether or not young privileged educated women should be allowed to drink and get drunk is missing the point, a bit.

    • Helen Razer says:

      I was certainly not supporting the position of Yoffe.

    • Notmyrealname says:

      I did. I just decided to put in my two cents on “rape culture”, a much talked about concept that Helen uses to highlight the selective apathy toward the plight of indigenous Australians in contemporary debate (as is my understanding. Happy to be corrected). So not really on topic but tangents are inevitable in comments sections. Apologies.

      • Helen Razer says:

        Sure. Digression welcome. But I guess the comparison to wildlife lends a certain determinism to the whole debate. And I guess most of us here would not think that rape is biologically pre-destined.

        • Notmyrealname says:

          I concede my analogy has flaws. Misunderstandings abound over this important issue, which can have serious repercussions on social media. What I was trying to (clumsily) put across is that I don’t believe that suggesting certain preventative measures is in any way victim blaming. Women have every right to wear and drink as much as they want, whenever and wherever they want. I also believe that despite the widespread understanding that rape, assault and murder are the most unacceptable actions committed in our society, there will always be a small proportion of men who deviate from social norms with devastating consequences. Jails are full of them. Education and awareness may help, but I don’t believe there is a silver bullet for eliminating the darkest recesses of human nature (although neuroscience may help).

          I digress again, arguably to the detriment of the more tangible and resolvable issues you mention. I’m done here. Good to hear your thoughts again Helen. The ether is poorer without them.

          • Helen Razer says:

            I understand and thank you for your comments.
            But I really don’t want to address that entire “who is to blame” thing. Obvi, it is the perpetrator of the crime.
            I was hoping my piece would stir discussion *not* about the “legitimacy” of rape but about how these stories are sensationalised garbage that upends us into a familiar cycle of bad writing and debate.
            I really, really don’t want to talk abut who is to blame. It is the rapist.

  5. Mariana says:

    Thank you. For an island of Reason in a sea of op-ed diarrhoea.
    I know people also teared Mia F a new anus on Monday for saying you can only be an expert on rape and the correct reprogramming of people if you have daughters. I must admit I expressed on twitter that her premise was ‘stupid’, I do agree alcohol consumption increases the risk of violence because it impairs cognitive function, inhibits impulse control and can produce strange responses on people. As you said, no one asks to be raped. I fail to grasp the idea of ‘rape culture’, I’ve been called a rape apologist, a misogynist, and other colourful terms by other femmes and feminists. I don’t get it.
    I love your writings.
    Hope all is well.

  6. Cat says:

    “No one blames victims.”

    This statement, whether taken alone or in the context of an otherwise well-written and thought-provoking piece, is something I know to be patently untrue. My own attempts to report incidents to the police have been met with interrogations about outfits, hair, makeup, alcohol intake, food intake, general demeanour, and a number of questions that very strongly inferred blame on my part – Was I flirting? (No.) Did I accept a drink from a stranger? (No) Did I leave my drink attended? (No.) Then why didn’t I cover my drink all night? (Really?)

    I accept that some of these questions are necessary when piecing together incidents, but when these questions are delivered in accusatory tones and precede any and all questions about the perpetrator, there is a very disturbing mindset at play. I’m far from the only one who has come across this “line of questioning,” and the few who power on and take their cases to court are then regularly forced to defend all of the above, plus their sexual histories, often in a somewhat public or exposed/intimidating setting, in the name of “justice.” Unsurprisingly, sexual assault convictions continue to be few and far between.

    Oh, and referring to “preventative measures” is a weak argument that furthers the notion of victims knowingly putting themselves in harm’s way. Even setting aside that most victims will be sexually assaulted by someone they know and trust (how do you “prevent” that?) – the issue isn’t that we don’t all have our own mental checklists of ways to lower the risk of assault, it’s that these checklists are more often than not applied to victims retrospectively.

    Putting forth the “preventative measures” argument is most often used as a weapon against those who didn’t “comply” (i.e. they were assaulted, so they must have SOMETHING wrong) and in my view, it equates to little more than a callous form of self-delusion and misplaced superiority for those not yet affected, so they can keep telling themselves they’re untouchable because they follow “the rules.”

    • Cat says:

      Just to clarify, my “preventative measures” comments are obviously not directed at Ms Razer but at a fellow commenter.

    • Helen Razer says:

      I take your point, Cat. I should not have said “no one blames victims”.
      I shan’t change it now as that would be craven.
      But my piece was not at all about preventative measures. I think I’m pretty clear (as I firmly believe most people are) on the whole rape is bad thing.

  7. moira says:

    Great to have you back. And on form.

  8. Kylie C says:

    The resurgence (again) of the ill-informed rape culture discussion was partially responsible for me deactivating my own Twitter account earlier this week. I’ve not yet decided whether I will return.

    As always, you have provided a perspective that I’m sure many had not considered (myself included). This is why I enjoy your writing. But, you know, many others don’t seem to like having their opinions challenged. And I guess it’s easier for them to call you a ‘rape apologist’ than to actually think.

    I do hope you continue to write.

    • Helen Razer says:

      These discussions are impossible on social media, K.

      • Kylie C says:

        Absolutely. I gave up trying to engage a long time ago.

        • Helen Razer says:

          It’s so odd to consist in a world where you are Satan Mia Yoffe McWhitey or Correct. There are more than two things to say, sometimes. But a third perspective is rarely welcome.

          • Kylie C says:

            Yes. I think that’s what I find the most frustrating about these discussions. Everything is either ‘black’ or ‘white’ or ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ and there’s no willingness to discuss anything in between (or a completely different perspective altogether).

          • Val says:

            Hi Helen I don’t agree with everything you write, (including in the post) but this comment, yes 100%. I think it’s a big problem for feminism. I’ve come up against it a few situations lately, where I’m having a discussion with other feminists, and then I say something that they don’t agree with or I disagree with something they have said, and then suddenly they are at best reproachful and at worst furiously angry with me. It really does seem very difficult to have a nuanced discussion.

            I understand that divide and conquer is in the interests of patriarchy in a general sense, but it doesn’t help me to understand why and how this happens in practice. Really interested in people’s ideas on this.

  9. Elmo says:


  10. Rapey McRaperson says:

    That damned MSM has sullied my good name.

  11. Phil. says:

    Rape is disgusting. If anybody ever told me that they’d raped somebody I’d probably attempt to beat the bejesus out of them. BUT – I refuse to discuss it any more, and your term ‘instant rage’ sums up the reason why. Nobody seems to be able to discuss the topic sensibly, and if you do try and talk about it sensibly you get harangued for blaming the victim or some other emotional bs. I’ve had enough.

    I’m impressed by the way you’ve shown that one group of people can have something denied to them ‘for their own good’, but if you tried to apply that same measure to another group it would be a restriction of their civil liberties. Please continue pointing out inconsistencies like this – we need more voices like yours.

  12. Dworkin fan says:

    “Such theory as introduced by Dworkin, Mackinnon and others never sat well with me when I first read it as a teen and still fails to move me. This is chiefly because I believe most people are decent and know that rape, and all forms of violence, are wrong.”

    This goes no way toward explaining why my otherwise innocuous, middle class Sydney-Anglican family tied itself in knots ensuring the paterfamilias had access to his grandkids for his own sexual pleasure while appearing (and to fair extent being) thoroughly respectable. I don’t think they’d have done that if he’d been murdering us.

    I’m not wanting to produce a make-this-about-me-and-my-story whinge. But unfortunately it’s not a rare story. We live in a society with a long history of perverse double standards – that is, the public, “rape is a bad thing,” and the private, “it’s not going to be me who does anything to stop it.” Perhaphs it’s more unhinged than that – if I look away and concentrate on something else it won’t be something that happens.

    I have to figure this out in order to get on with living in this world. It’s not the slightest bit shocking, there’s no frisson, it’s as dull a grind as any everyday reality.

    For all your love of a good argument, you’ve failed to nut this one out I fear.

    • Helen Razer says:

      I am very sorry for your experience and I cannot begin to address it in this forum or any other. This is a true tragedy.
      However, I am referring to the dominant idea of a ‘rape culture’ as seen in the responses to the original Yoffe piece (and now Freedman, O’Brien and other click-chasers).
      I am suggesting that rape is not endorsed by the public culture as is suggested by many feminists.
      I have not set out to solve the issue of male violence here. All I have done is point out what I believe to be the pointlessness of protests to an article that was dumb-ass clickbait in the first instance.
      As you say, there is a public expectation that we all say that we loathe sexual assault yet it is committed regardless. If this is the case, then clearly more public posturing about how bad sexual assault is has failed to work.
      I am saying that I think this becomes sport. Freedman and Yoffe have been liberally, and rightly, critiqued for pressing rape victims into the service of their clicks. I just don’t see how the articles in Jezebel, the Daily Life, HuffPo et al are any better.
      It is this dark fascination for rape, perhaps, tha tkeeps people clicking on the key words.
      Of course the problem of sexual assault is real. Women and men are fettered and damaged by violence across all social classes (N.B. according to some data, different classes produce different conditions for violence.) It is hideous.
      But writing more articles saying ‘I hate rape more than you’ is nothing in itself but clickbait.
      All these pieces have obfuscated any meaningful discussion.
      And I am suggesting, in using the NT parallel, that the outrage at some dill who said ‘don’t drink so much’ is disproportionate. Again, outrage is reserved for the familiar. It is as easy to say you hate rape as it is to say you hate cancer. It is not easy to say stop the Intervention.
      Thank you for you comments.

  13. Dworkin fan says:

    p.s. Shouldn’t we be encouraging debate over what “civil” means in the term “civil liberties,” rather than using the notion as a trump card?

    • Helen Razer says:

      I agree that the term is most often used as a sort of hand-me-down Americanism. IN the US, it refers to the defence of the bill of rights. But I think when referring to the NT Intervention, it’s pretty clear and hardly, as you suggest, some sort of empty reasoning. Having one’s money and one’s most basic freedoms controlled by a government and enforced by the military is clearly a violation.

      • Rodney Chiang-Cruise says:

        The parallels between the intervention and the treatment of asylum seekers is something that has just struck me (yes, a bit slow). Sure there are difference between the two groups but the “civil” liberties/rights of each group are both violated – and both swept under the carpet – and both “spun” by the two major political parties. Their civil rights/liberties are violated in a way none of us would stand for if applied to our family. Could indigenous people seek asylum in NZ on the basis of the intervention? It wouldn’t surprise me if NZ would grant it (to our shame).

  14. Dale says:

    Good collection of thoughts Helen. And because I’m a simple bastard,I had to read it a couple of times.

    Hinch is right, rape is pure evil. In my opinion, rape irrevocably changes the victim, and the reverbations are everlasting.

    • Helen Razer says:

      I am unsure of upholding this idea as one sort of physical violence as being worse than another is helpful.
      We all know people who have been shattered by an experience in the combat of life.
      I think saying ‘rape is the worst crime’ gainsays the feminist project of taking the focus off the perpetrator. It is violence itself that surely must be at issue. How does one stop it in all its forms? And how is a beating ‘better’ than rape?

  15. Mel says:

    Thanks Helen
    I want to tear my hair out when I read the irrational writings of Clem Ford and others who twist words and butcher logic to justify their adolescent rage. I think your writing is very sane and I am grateful to you for being a grown up voice in the what has become a clickbait wilderness of really bad writing.

    • Helen Razer says:

      This course of reasoning has ruined my ability to earn money as a writer in au so I am pleased to know it has some other value to you Many thanks.

  16. Linda says:

    Hi Helen, thanks for thoughtful piece but not sure of your conclusions. “Look. My point is everyone with an ounce of sense thinks rape is bad. No one (reasonable) blames victims. The only people, apart from rapists, who publicly blame victims do so to invite the caffeinated response of a feminist klatch. These paint-by-numbers articles about “slut-shaming” and “victim-blaming” are guaranteed to link to the offending statement frequently enough that someone gets a book deal”. I wish this was true, but I’m not sure it is. Any cursory survey of online comments on any related article will reveal a whole lot of people ready to publicly blame victims. That such attitudes are so widely held must say something about the culture in which they are held?

    • Helen Razer says:

      So the comments section is now a reliable reflection of broad social attitudes and not just the place where many people who’ve drunk too much are looking for sport and attention?
      Your argument is not sound.

  17. Peter Hindrup says:

    How does anybody not get it that alcohol is not only linked with violence, it is the actual cause? What percentage of assaults are not alcohol related? Rather low I would assume.
    That alcohol lower ones inhibitions, is I believe widely acknowledged. So why the difficulty in linking drinking to predatory, aggressive behaviour?

    • Jess says:

      Peter, do you have any studies which say that the large majority of violence is caused by alcohol? I would disagree strongly – I would even go as far as to disagree strongly with the idea that violence is caused by alcohol and other drugs. Sure, they are contributing factors in some cases. However, there are plenty of cases in which the use of alcohol or other substances does not result in violence, and I’m sure there are plenty of cases of violence that are not related to alcohol or other substances. There are many complex and varied causes of violence and to say that alcohol is THE cause of violence seems to be an oversimplification. If you feel strongly that this is the case, I would be interested to read some studies which support your argument.

      • Helen Razer says:

        Guys. If you want to argue about grog and violence, there are five thousand other places you can do that.
        My piece is about the way rape is used as clickbait; the way that feminism looks for the tiniest infraction against middle class ‘rights’ and ignores extreme infractions.
        My piece is saying WHO CARES F MIA SAID LADIES SHOULD NOT DRINK SO MUCH SHE IS NOT THE LAW. But, the law DOES say that there is an entire group of people who cannot drink. DID YOU KNOW THAT PEOPLE LIVING IN THE NT HAVE THEIR SPENDING CONTROLLED?????
        The law says some people are not allowed to drink. The law in Australia says Aboriginal people are not, in some cases, permitted to purchase alcohol.
        Where the fuck is the ongoing outrage about that?
        Or, do we accept that the bipartisan agreement that alcohol does call violence among dark-skinned people is right?
        These articles by two women who suggested that drinking plays a role in violence have been very very very very very widely shared. The replies have dominated social media and op ed in AU for two weeks now. When we compare this coverage to that on the Intervention, it just seems a bit skew-wiff to me.
        Do you remember when Brough decided that NT Aboriginal people were not allowed to have broadband because internet porn caused rape?

    • Darren says:

      “So why the difficulty in linking drinking to predatory, aggressive behaviour?”

      Because if we were to do that, we would be asking people to take on that most evil of burdens: the consequences of their own behaviour.

  18. Truthseeker says:

    More power to you Helen! I am so incredibly frustrated by people trotting out opinion masquerading as fact. It’s even more dangerous because in this fast moving, soundbite grabbing, tweeting world, most people don’t have time or, sadly, the inclination to check the facts, but are extremely partial to spreading an opinion disguised as a fact. And thank goodness for the ‘block’ function on Twitter – because when you do try to impart some truth (even if it’s in a totally grown up non-name calling, measured way)they can just press a button and you become invisible (or, for the really well versed in their craft, tell you to ‘fuck off’ before they make you disappear), which is really the equivalent of a six year old covering their ears and singing ‘nah, nah, nah, nah’. Oh well, keeps them in a job I suppose. No wonder it’s so popular! We need more people who are brave enough to rigorously explore the issue (eg the Harvard College Alcohol Study)and even more people with the guts to honestly and frankly discuss a real solution.

  19. Mark says:

    Hi Helen

    Longtime fan living in NY, (you don’t want to start writing for the NYT do you?) Your comments about the media looking for bonfires are keen, and a salutary reminder to myself when i feel rivers of rage ignited inside myself by some article, digested while i have an espresso that could feed three children somewhere. But on the NT intervention, i’d beg to request some more consideration of what tools there are to deal with a miserable situation where horrible crimes are perpetrated with alcohol a factor? This is no excuse for poor policy or lame implementation, I seethe at the Oz Gvt policies towards indigenous Australians, but i would submit that the lack of rage that people possess towards these policies stems more from a lack of comprehension of the issues. So i guess i’m asking you to write more about the NT intervention or point me in the right direction.

    Back on the original subject, agreed violence in anathema to all right minded people, and its expressions are a human problem not a gender issue, and should be solved as such.

    Stated as an ex fun stopper who joined the UN and has travelled a bit.

    • Helen Razer says:

      I am reluctant for reasons of ethics and time to do any writing on the Intervention. Let me explain.
      Looking at data that sparked the Intervention—much of which has been discredited by some Aboriginal Australian thinkers; some of which is still used by policy makers—takes time. Time needs money. I can’ make money writing about Blackfella issues.
      Profiting from a lack of social justice sits uncomfortably with me.
      Can I recommend following Foley’s work? He and I tend to agree about a lot of stuff.
      yes I will write for the nyt please introduce me!

  20. Truthseeker says:

    Hi again. Sorry, but I just had to post this tweet by Catherine Deveny to show just how ridiculous the discourse became:
    “By Susie O’Brien and Mia Freeman’s logic it’s Malala Yousafzai’s fault for being shot by the Taliban. She knew the risk of speaking up.”
    And she has over 27,000 followers. Yikes – common sense is in big trouble!

  21. myopicmuppet says:

    any suggestion that chances of rape rise or fall depending on changes in behaviour generally spark an angry response, probably a cause and effect vs why should I change my behaviour type of thing….. I’m sure there are statistics that could be looked at to validate or invalidate the argument that being drunk increases the chances of being raped, but that might take all of trolling the argument and make it less fun. having only peripherally come across feminist thought and not being entirely sure, didn’t second wave lose cred precisely because it only serves middle class white women and ignored other ethnic groups.

  22. Dave says:


    I think you’ve swung a little bit too far in the other direction with this.

    Your article pretty much hinges on the following statement:

    ‘This is chiefly because I believe most people are decent and know that rape, and all forms of violence, are wrong.’

    This is only the case if you accept the notion that ‘rape’ is something a (probably masked) boogeyman perpetrates violently from the shadows of an alleyway. Not the reality we know in which a majority of rapes occur in considerably less cartoonish settings and instead are the murky subtext of proms, schoolies, BBQs, blind dates and nights at your local entertainment venue of choice – not to mention the marital bed.

    Otherwise no, most people don’t know that rape is wrong because their views of what constitute rape are not exactly clear-cut at the best of times – and this is what ‘rape culture’ discussions ought to be about.

    A reasonable reading of notions of rape culture (and there’s plenty of unreasonable ones) would be that it examines the cultural normalising of rape and attitudes towards it – something which we have more than enough empirical evidence to support.

    The fact is ‘most’ people are not ‘decent’ when it comes to rape. If they were, we’d not be having this discussion.

    I’m not saying that Doris who works at the Post Office is a slavering rapist, or that Bill who does my tax is just a breath away from violating any woman he meets.

    What I’m saying is that if you spit, you’ll hit someone who slut shames, who victim blames, who tells you ‘boys will be boys’, who explains ‘what happens in the Army stays in the Army’.

    This is the problem that discussions of rape culture should be focusing on. The views of a possible majority of an advanced, allegedly democratic society, who have extreme difficulty wrapping their adequately-educated heads around these notions, and whose views are the primary barrier to women speaking up about rape, and prevent our various social institutions prosecuting instances effectively.

    God knows that were I a woman, I’d not rely on a jury of my supposed ‘peers’ were I to be raped under any circumstances than a man wearing a clown mask abducting me at knifepoint from behind a dumpster at midday in a busy city mall where at least fifty people witnessed it. Oh and that a blood test would show I had drunk no alcohol in the last year nor taken any prescription medications.

    Because the minute you start the discussion, it’s a very short countdown until some middle class, well-dressed pillar of the community asks ‘BUT WHAT WAS THE VICTIM WEARING???’

    And it’s all downhill from there.

    I agree there are indeed folks who profit from dramatisation of these issues, and those who have instant rage explosions no matter what.

    But your disparagement of rape culture seems indicative of someone who has lived within a lefty echo chamber – something I can wholeheartedly identify with.

    I’m hoping you realise that outside of this circle of Earl Grey-scented hugs there are vast numbers of people who are brought up to believe that yes, you are ‘asking for it’ based on any one of a number of inebriation, travel choice and dress factors.

    That there are indeed many circumstances when a man can be ‘excused’ from raping someone (and I use the term ‘man’ on purpose) – because, well, it wasn’t REALLY rape, was it?

    I’d love you to be right, I really would.

    I’d love to think that our culture has a zero-tolerance approach to rape and only a handful of genetically-warped miscreants perpetuate the crime and soon even they will be stamped out.

    Wake me up when we get there, OK?

    • Helen Razer says:

      I will Be a Lady and ignore whatever you call the opposite of an Appeal To Authority argument (perhaps appeal to Banality) and just not engage with this “you live in an ivory tower how could you possibly know” reasoning.
      Yes. I believe we live in a culture that largely disapproves and does not endorse rape. I believe most people disapprove of rape. I believe most people do not believe She Was Asking For It. I believe that these gazillion feelings-driven pieces on rape have the primary function NOT of remediating the idea that rape is, somehow, asked-for. I believe they give good SEO.
      Rape sells newspapers/gets clicks. Whether the conversation is ‘feminist’ or misogynist, the effect is the same: search engine ranking.
      Rape has come to occupy a very special place in the browsers and hearts of so many writers. I am going to keep asking why that is.

      • dave says:

        So you think our culture largely disapproves and does not endorse rape?

        If that’s the case


        You’re either painfully obtuse and think the vast numbers of rapes recorded (not counting the non recorded ones) of men, women and children are only conducted by a tiny fraction of the population who are very, very busy raping all day, every day


        You’re sticking to a dramatic clown-mask-alleyway-rape definition of ‘rape’, rather than admitting that rape figures approach an estimated figure of 25% of women alone – and knowledge of said rapes far exceeds 50% of the populace.

        Given you are demonstrably intelligent, it must be the latter.

        I’m not disagreeing with your premise that people use rape as click bait. Yes, you are right, it’s shit. These people should be used as speed bumps in lower socio economic suburbs.

        But outrage over this is a pretty minor consideration when you look at the exponentially higher normalisation of rape that occurs in almost all areas of our society, crossing economic and cultural boundaries.

        You seem to think we live in a world where when a woman heads to the police station and says ‘I was raped by someone other than a guy on the street in full view of an entire city’ that at least 50% of people she deals with will not automatically question her culpability based on her clothing choice, alcohol or drug use, makeup style, tattoos or travel and entertainment choices.

        That’s bollocks, and you know it as well as I do.

        Have you every actually spoken with average, on the street blokes? Not just two or three, but dozens, hundreds?

        Maybe find out what they think about a woman who gets drunk in public, wears short skirts or wanders around nightclubs alone. Especially after they’ve had a beer or two.

        I’ve done so in my time, outside of the lefty echo chamber I prefer to inhabit. And I can tell you that the majority I’ve spoken to do not err on the side of chivalry. And they don’t generally see what that would be a problem.

        Maybe you’ve not been lucky enough to work in shit jobs with blue collar blokes who don’t mind letting you know just what they’d happily do to a young lady who gets too plastered.

        Then again, I’ve spoken to more than enough women to know there’s a pretty fine divide in numbers between those that have been raped, and those who follow the culturally-delivered rape normalisation criteria – so I’m surprised that the majority of your encounters have apparently been with staunch exemplars of feminist awareness.

        Yes, please keep asking why these twats use rape as click bait.

        Yes, please slam them for being part of the problem not the solution.

        But please, take on board there are vast numbers of people in our nice, white society who do believe that he/she was indeed ‘asking for it’ according to simple, repeated, culturally-delivered sets of criteria that we all know and love.

        And that it’s not enough to just say ‘don’t rape’, as a hell of a lot of people have pretty limited definitions of what rape is and can produce a fan of ‘get out of jail free’ cards unless the lady in question is a model of Victorian virtue.

        • Helen Razer says:

          Rape is not something of which people approve. Rape is not endorsed by the culture. Rape is forbidden by the culture.
          The question of why sexual abuse occurs is not one I intend to tackle and frankly, I don’t think it is relevant, here. As a previous commenter mentioned, rape is something of which there is a tacit, deep, ineffable approval. This is quite possible. So I am saying that these very simple ideas about ‘rape culture’ (we might as well say that we have an ‘anything’ culture, you know) are wrong. Rape is not endorsed by the mainstream, open culture. It has a logic that is beyond my ken and, I would say, that of anyone who is not learned in the matter. Saying that media causes rape and changes sentencing etc, which is what a lot of these rape culture essays do, is not logic. It’s just some desperate grappling for a simple answer to a horribly complex crime.
          I can’t pretend to know. I imagine you can’t either. And saying that you have the answer is ridiculous.
          And I know it is emotional and whenever anybody begins a blog post with ‘I was raped’, one feels disinclined to disagree with anything they have to say. But FFS. A lot of people are talking a lot of shit. And the idea that most people think rape is okay is just balderdash.

      • Seeyouhere says:

        Oh have completely missed the plot hole here. Of course society applauds and lauds rape..this is why there is so much discussion on why women have been raped (statistics into drinking, residence, partnership, etc.) and absolutely, unequivocally, no focus on what the rapist was up to. What was he wearing? What was he drinking? What motivated him? Rapists are just given that label, and shunned. It should be examined, educated upon, and prevented. All of this talk about what women can do (women/children/men), nothing about what men (and women, and sometimes children) can do not to enact sexual violence upon other people.
        You question why drinking is sanctioned for a part of our nation and not others? Because the government can get away with it. Australia does not care for the indigenous nation, and there are no easy answers. And I, as a white woman living in a tower, would not even dare to breathe of a solution for them, so with respect, choose not to comment.

        • Helen Razer says:

          I have no patience for your stubborn refusal to read what I have said and ask that you return to those sites which echo your need to believe that most people think that rape is okay. I will not agree that we live in a nation or a world where it is commonly agreed that rape is just fine.
          We live in a nation where rape is illegal; where a Royal Commission into sexual abuse received bipartisan support, Abbott’s monumental affection for Pell and the Roman church notwithstanding; where most people would knock the effing block off a known rapist.
          While it is true that rape occurs, it is not true that rape is explicitly endorsed. It may be implicitly endorsed during the oedipal phase. I dunno. Who am I? Sigmund. But, you know, as there are “no easy answers” perhaps you shouldn’t offer them?
          As for there being “no easy answers” about Aboriginal Australians; some activists would disagree. Some, such as the late Chicka Dixon or Paul Coe or Gary Foley would say that paying the rent would be a start. Aboriginal Australians have been, whether they wanted it or not, participants in a free market since 1788. In the terms of that free market, their own economic basis for survival and prosperity was stolen. We need to give it back.
          Frankly, you can take your coy refusal to comment and your suggestion that I should do the same in refraining from commenting about Aboriginal Australia and shove it in your clacker. You may feel you are being ‘intersectional’ in your refusal to have an opinion about what is a glaring theft of liberty (please. If you can tell me how seizing monies of Aboriginal peoples is okay, do! ) but I think you are being a lazy tit.
          I am quite aware that my example of drink in the NT has shat some people. Good. You should all be shat. It is disgusting. It is abhorrent that Aboriginal Australians can be treated with ongoing genocidal condescension and that the fucking left is to afraid to say anything because ‘we don’t think it is our place to comment’.
          Really? So it’s racist for me to mention, by way of analogy, that an ongoing abuse of rights continues in the NT. And we should be angry about that. And you say, “No. We shouldn’t be angry about that because it is very complicated and as a white woman I have no right to speak”.
          Give me a fucking break, Sunshine. Don’t you fucking dare accuse me of colonial pushiness to excuse the fact that you couldn’t give a fuck. To explain the policies of a Coalition government. To excuse military intervention in the lives of families.
          Fuck anyone who thinks it is not okay to have an opinion about a clearly racist policy. Fuck anyone who thinks that being white is an excuse not to have an opinion. I am not being culturally insensitive, you mad turd. I am pointing out, following all the stupid feminist posturing about ‘I AMALLOWED TO HAVE A DRINK’ that, yes, darling you are allowed to have a drink. And thank goodness for that. Because if you were in certain places in the NT, you wouldn’t be able to have a drink at all.
          It is hardly very fucking radical to say ‘I believe all human beings are entitled to basic liberties’. John Locke, anyone? This is classical soft liberalism. SO don’t you dare fucking tell me it is nosy to have a view on the denial of liberties.
          I am aware that some Aboriginal thinkers are in favour of the Intervention. I am aware that some people have experienced genuine improvement and I am aware that some people feel literally and metaphorically cheapened. I am not fucking prescribing a policy. I am just asking you to get angry about the terms of the Intervention.
          And you tell me that that is racist? There are plenty of places you can go to find people who agree with your conspicuously compassionate views. Go there. DO not use me as fuel for your next little fit of liberal panic. This is a place for discussion. Not circle jerking.
          Fuck off and never come back.

  23. Rodney Chiang-Cruise says:

    Thank you for your clarity. Admittedly I still have to read your pieces a few times to really get it, but it was totally worth it.

    • Helen Razer says:

      Rod. You are making me really uncomfortable with all this agreeing!! Didn’t you used to subtweet me all the time ;)

      • Rodney Chiang-Cruise says:

        I don’t always agree with you. That would be too boring. But sometimes your clarity on issues resonates with me – and I am not ashamed to admit that sometimes you change my views or help me understand things. I am a simple person and your writing can be heavy going sometimes – but having to read it 3 times to understand is probably a good thing.

        • Helen Razer says:

          We should be friends after seven years of sniping at each other about marriage????

          • Rodney Chiang-Cruise says:

            Sure, happy to be friends.

            We have actually met once before at Lee’s place in St Kilda. I was wearing a baby bjorn as were many of the men that day LOL

            Marriage is becoming a tiresome topic in Australia.. I could not even muster the interest to follow the recent ACT, TAS or NSW attempts . To be honest I’d rather see bills being moved supporting asylum seekers. Just a tad more important I think.

  24. Tim says:


    A well thought out piece. In a perfect world, someone’s level of intoxication would not affect their chances of being raped. Any sane person would agree with this. However, we don’t live in a perfect world. Why can’t the statement be that being too intoxicated increases your chance of rape, but the blame unconditionally always lies with the rapist. No blame should ever be apportioned to the person being raped. Why can’t it be just be sage advice to minimise a horrific crime being committed on people. Then again, if I smoke I increase my chance of cancer, is there a difference in this sort of thinking to “if I drink too much I increase my chance of rape”. I think there is but it is a thorny question and maybe analogies confuse the matter. Rape is rape – end of story – but women (in particular) have the ability to reduce the chances of this happening by drinking less.


  25. MickyC says:

    A measured response, who’d a thunk it! One point though Helen: I believe the Little Children are Sacred report at least partially if not fully justifies the stance on alcohol bans in remote (mostly Aboriginal) communities by previous and present governments.

    • Helen Razer says:

      As you may know, the methodology used in gathering this report has been questioned by some authorities.
      But. My point is this If we are agreed (if we are agreed) that no one should prescribe anybody’s alcohol use, why are Aboriginal Australians a special case?
      I am just saying that we (by *we* I mean an internet community) go OFF for two weeks solid on the idea that a lady columnist warning against drinking is unconscionable. However. Many of the assumptions that underscored the LCAS report and subsequent action in the Territory proceed unexamined.
      And I am not, as has been lavishly suggested elsewhere, using the case of the Intervention to big-note myself and appear leftier than thou.
      It is not to big-note myself It is to put into perspective the comments of Yoffe and Freedman as very, very small.

  26. Tim says:

    Ahh – apologies. I also agree with and welcome you raising issues around the intervention but question whether you are shifting the subject to sound clever…but that’s why I’m not a paid writer – I don’t make those leaps. Yes, there’s some hypocrisy there and thank you for raising it as an issue (with renewed respect).

  27. Tim says:

    Hi again – can I just say that i only found this website tonight via a link via the SMH (that’s two via’s). Helen, I’ve always loved your work and I look forward to reading your stuff on your website going forward.



  28. Bodycrimes says:

    Love your comment. I particularly like what you say about identity politics and about faux outrage.

    At the risk of fanning things further (and not addressing your main point), I DO think we need a serious conversation around alcohol anyway and this current rape/alcohol outrage makes that difficult. Young women are being aggressively targeted by alcohol companies, some of whom shamefully put pink screwcaps on their wine during breast cancer awareness month, even though alcohol is a well known risk factor for breast cancer. It’s in their interests to present binge drinking as fun and an empowered choice, whereas alcohol is great at impairing you, particularly in a dangerous situation where you might want to run away, scream for help, or use your well-honed kung fu.

    As you say, why are some groups targeted for paternalistic alcohol intervention, and not others? It’s not that I’m arguing FOR paternalistic interventions, just it’s interesting to note who profits from a view of excess alcohol as liberating and fun.

    And I say this as someone who enjoys wine quite a lot.

    • Helen Razer says:

      With QUICKLY DIMINISHING PATIENCE. Could you discuss the stuff at one of the many many many places where it is welcome.
      I do not wish to encourage further amateur discussion of r4pe. I really think it is a matter for grown-ups.

  29. filthyassistant says:

    I can’t work out if people are genuinely missing the point of this piece or being willfully obtuse on the basis that if they understood it they might be forced to feel genuinely uncomfortable (not just faux outraged) about the state of civil liberties on their own doorstep.

  30. Trent says:

    I agree with what you write, I dunno, maybe a bit less than half the time.

    But however I feel about it, I am better off for reading it.

    Oh, and as a member of the middle class patriarchy with poor schooling in contemporary feminist thinking, there is too much common sense here for a fella to not be worried about those who can’t see it.

  31. unclepete says:

    Found the piece too hard to follow. Try using shorter sentences next time. I am a baby boomer, please bear with me. (Father of two daughters)

    • Helen Razer says:

      I have no daughters. But I would enjoin you to fuck off.
      My sentences are short. Perhaps like your patience for ideas of which you have already decided to disapprove.

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