Do we have to talk about rape every day?

2013-07-30 14:05

David Moseley

Whenever I mention that I've been cycling my gran likes to tell me a story. When she was a wee lass (she's Scottish, you see) some friends coerced her into taking a bike ride from their town down to the seaside. It was great fun, she recalls in every telling (she's getting on, so I hear the story often now), just a gaggle of carefree girls in the mood for an adventure.

As with any good yarn, delight turned to disaster when the pedalling posse realised that their ride to the beach was such a lark because it was entirely downhill. Riding uphill back into town was not something that our cycling novices had anticipated.  "So there we were," my gran always says, "standing on the side of the ride as the sun set, crying our eyes out because we thought we'd never get home."

Thankfully, dear reader, this was still an age of valour and good deedery. A lorry driver, upon spotting the teary cyclists, pulled over to offer assistance.

He loaded the sorry lot onto his vehicle, instructing them to perhaps consider their route profile more thoughtfully on future rides, and transported them all home safely.

Sweet story, hey.

No rape

But something is missing. Can you tell what it is? You're smart, I know you can figure it out.

Yes, that's right. There was no rape.

It's just a nice story about a few girls on a day out, with a minor mishap included for narrative tension.

How many of those do you hear today? Very few I'd wager. Granted, post-war Scotland and present day South Africa are vastly different universes, but wouldn't it be nice if you could send your daughter off to the seaside (or park) this weekend and not worry whether she'll make it home untouched by some vile creature's penis or not.

To answer my question in the heading and the column blurb, yes, we do need to talk about rape, and sexism, and woman abuse every day.

We need to talk about the abuse of women until it's not only a handful of dedicated activists trying to change the way we act towards our women, we need to discuss and engage until the day we can send our daughters out without fearing the worst.

I didn't want to write another column like this. I wrote something similar last year. My work was done, I surmised. But I realise it's never done. It's never someone else's problem.

Small things need to change

When I open a magazine produced for one of South Africa's top marathons, and I see that interviewees (five men, one woman) have been asked: "Eye-candy on the road; pass to impress, or run behind to admire the view?" I realise that some people just don't have a clue. I realise that the smallest things need to change.

Sure, comments like that can be passed off as banter, but it gives you some insight into how some men think of women. That is, if you run past a woman during a marathon, she'll somehow be impressed by your athletic prowess. Would she really? Is that how feeble-minded woman are? I'm not so sure.

Yes, it's a long leap from pea-brained sexism like that to rape. Or is it? I don't know. All I know is that if you respect women, you're far less likely to end up raping them.

Call to action

I've spotted on Twitter recently the activity of a journalist by the name of Michelle Solomon. On her website she calls herself "Journalist, feminist researcher and rape survivor rights activist". She also curates the very worthy website and twitter handle of @SexismSA, where women can share their experiences of sexism "big or small". I encourage you to take part.

I know some people recoil at the word activist, and want to pick arguments over the way people like Solomon go about their business. And that's your right.

But for me, in recent years, women abuse has become very black and white. Simply, it's just not on. I say to anyone banging on about rape and sexism and related issues, keep going. Don't stop. Let them have it.

In light of the recent Zwelinzima Vavi story, Solomon has piloted a bloody marvellous thing in the last few days called "Why I Didn't Report". It's a call to action for rape survivors to share their stories of why they kept or remain silent, and to hopefully shatter rape myths that quite clearly plague South Africa.

Writing on her site, Solomon says, "Rape myths abound after the Vavi rape accusation was brought to light. These myths hurt all rape survivors  - and if you ever experience sexual violence, these myths will hurt you too."

What stories do you want your daughters to tell?

In just a few days Solomon has published 19 submissions. Here's an excerpt from the most recent, a woman who says she will probably never report her rape:

"I had a boyfriend who would never listen when I said no and I would eventually just lie there and let him do what he wanted because he would hold me down and it hurt so I would just give up...

"There was one night I was staying over and he left to fetch his cousin from somewhere. When he came back he wanted sex. I said no and he just carried on (while his cousin was in the room). Half way through he stood up, passed a condom to his cousin and he joined in. I joke about it if I ever tell people because it makes me feel better than admitting that it was something absolutely disgusting, and I prefer not to feel dirty about it."

I'm not sure I'm in a position to comment on that, suffice to say it makes me sad, angry and sick to the stomach. The very opposite of my gran's happy cycling tale.

The point is, South Africa, what stories do you want your daughters to tell one day? What do you want them to remember of their lives?

- Follow @david_moseley on Twitter.

Send your comments to David

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  • Goldie Saturnz - 2013-07-30 14:14


      JimGordon - 2013-07-30 14:47

      For your next column I would like you to muse on why exactly we are such a nation of barbarians. I can think of many reasons, none of which truly make sense.

      Squeegee Pilot - 2013-08-01 13:03

      Spot on David. During the Vavi debacle I was surprised by how many woman made comments like: "Did she scream?" or "Why did she not report it?" There seems to be a disconnect between rape survivors and those who have not been victims.

  • Mary-Jean Hennis - 2013-07-30 14:31

    Wonderful article David, I am so proud to be your mother xxx

      david.a.moseley - 2013-07-30 16:14

      I'll give you a thumbs up for that.

      Atholl Hay - 2013-07-30 16:18

      This comment made my day!

      NoeNoe - 2013-07-30 23:38

      Mary-Jean, I wished that I could give you a hug!! Good stuff!!

  • Wabomba Rogers - 2013-07-30 15:23

    Good article but men also are victims of these perpetrators. Small boys & some men also get raped but their cases are in most cases never reported. I recently heard of a story of a gang of females who raped a man. I think moral decay is the root cause.

      Etienne De Beer - 2013-07-30 15:38

      Hi Wabomba, I think that's a good point. Men are also raped. Occasionally. But in comparison to how frequently women are raped it is a very small percentage. And the article never denies that men are raped. Another point worth raising is that in the vast majority of cases where men are raped, the perpetrators are men. I think the gist of this article is that raped needs to be spoken about. By everyone, all the time. People need to acknowledge how big a problem it is. And people need to take action against it. Not allowing sexist comments to be be made - ever - is a good start. A really good and necessary article.

  • grantcallaway - 2013-07-30 17:13

    I'm sorry, but I don't buy this for one second. Of course, rape is a BIG deal...its never okay, and its never justifiable. But making light of a bad thing is what we do. Making a joke about lawyers going to hell does not make people think that each individual lawyer is inherently evil. Chirps about hoping that Justin Bieber fell off that balcony he spat off does not make you into a murderer, or even make you slightly more likely to murder. It would not make the police investigate murders any less rigorously, and it would not make society feel that murder is not really a big issue. In short, if jokes can change your personality to such an extent that they will cause you to go out there and rape, kill or abuse...then you should be locked up regardless of whether or not the jokes are circulating. Please divorce JOKING and PERCEPTION - they are not the same thing, and are not linked.

      david.a.moseley - 2013-07-30 18:12

      Why do you want Justin Bieber to fall off a balcony?

      Philippa Evans - 2013-07-31 09:12

      The problem is not that rape jokes cause people to become rapists. The problem is that they validate rape, perpetuating rape culture. There is also the risk that an inconsiderate joke will trigger someone who has experienced rape. A quotation from, which I would encourage anyone to read: "No, one rape joke does not "cause" someone to go out and commit a rape. But a single rape joke does not exist in a void. It exists in a culture rife with jokes that treat as a punchline a heinous, terrifying crime that leaves most of its survivors forever changed in some material way. It exists in a culture in which millions and millions of women, men, and children will be victimized by perpetrators of sexual violence, many of them multiple times. It exists in a culture in which rape not being treated as seriously as it ought means that vanishingly few survivors of sexual violence see real justice, leaving their assaulters free to create even more survivors. It exists in a culture in which rape is not primarily committed by swarthy strangers lurking in dark alleyways and jumping out of bushes, but primarily by people one knows, who nonetheless fail, as a result of some combination of innate corruption and socialization in a culture that disdains consent and autonomy, to view their victims as human beings deserving of basic dignity."

      grantcallaway - 2013-07-31 10:57

      @Philippa - "Fetch me my sammich, woman! What you doing out of the kitchen anyway!?"... These are chirps that have been doing their rounds for years and years...always tongue-in-cheek. I do not expect these things of my wife...nor do ANY of my married friends or family. The jokes have always been there, but they have NEVER created a "culture" where we are actually sexist towards our other halves. I'm sorry, but I simply do not believe that there can be any confusion between joking and reality, unless you are already messed up in the head! But regardless - if you stand by your point (as most people do), then why do yuo not apply the same logic to joking about murder, dictatorship, child abuse and a host of other things that you barely notice even exist? Watch "The Dictator", "Team America", "The Simpsons" and "Jimmy Carr", and explain to me why there has been little-to-no outcry about THEIR jokes.

  • Kirsten Lawlor - 2013-07-30 17:24

    Wow Grantcallaway, you must fall in the same tribe as those Men's health employees her where suspended for there sexist comments. There is a link following that story where a study was performed. The study took extracts from documented counselling sessions with a convicted rapist and sentences from Lads magazines. They then asked a small group of men and women to identify which sentence came from the sex offender and which came from the lads magazine. More often then not the lads Magazines were identified as sex offenders sentences..

      grantcallaway - 2013-07-30 18:45

      Yes Kirsten, and I responded to that article too! Let me do it again for you. Here's two quotes: "Whether you have to lock yourself in your closet (make sure you have good cell signal first!) or you have a quiet working office at home, make sure there won’t be any noisy interruptions." "When you work hard to do something right, you don't want to forget it." One comes from "how to ace a phone interview" on the other is from Ted Bundy. Bet you cant tell which is which. See how easy it is to FORCE a similarity?

      Debbie Lucy Robertson - 2013-07-30 20:25

      That little anecdote of yours Grant proves nothing. There is a big difference between a repeated similarity and correlation about the same topic, ie. the objectification of women, as opposed to one singular coincidental similarity. They didn't force anything, the point is that we live in a culture which objectifies and dehumanizes women, which leads to a desensitisation towards sexual violence.

      grantcallaway - 2013-07-31 11:05

      @Debbie - it proves nothing to a person refusing to acknowledge a point. Every (and I mean EVERY) straight guy thinks, dreams and fantasising about performing sexual acts on women from when they start reaching maturity. ALL men will, in their own minds, objectify women. Pretend it doesnt happen as much as you want, but its fact. Its nature. The same can be said about desires to inflict harm on people you dont like. Everyone has those aggressive "I want to smash his face in" thoughts (sorry about the aggression). So every guy is going to have said or thought things that actual murders and rapists have OBVIOUSLY there are going to be similarities. Saying "this magazine joked about rape, and this man rapist said the same joke, therefore the magazine causes people to rape" is the same as saying "This maths textbook says 2+2=4, and this rapist knows that 2+2=4, therefore maths causes rape". It's STUPID, plain and simple.

  • Fiona Krisch - 2013-07-30 17:34

    Thank you, David.

  • Fiona Krisch - 2013-07-30 17:34

    Thank you, David

  • Reine Marais - 2013-07-30 17:59

    I applaud you, David Moseley. I do. Truth is... most of our daughters have left the country. We are a generation of bereft parents. I have spoken with Zimbabwean people who are training here in the ministry, and they do not want there children here. We are a nation of shame. We need more men like you.

  • Marion Woldendorp - 2013-07-30 18:00

    Great article David. One of the main reasons for us moving over here from Namibia/South Africa was to try and protect the girls. It must be terrible living with that threat all the time. Look after Robyn!!

  • Michelle Solomon - 2013-07-30 18:54

    Thank you so much for your support, David. I'm really grateful that you used your column space to talk about this issue. I have taken it a step further today. After speaking to many friends in the last few days, we were all feeling sad, angry and disgusted at the rape myths and hate that has been filtering through the public discourse and the internet. So many rape survivors all over the country are hurting as a result of this. To respond to all the rape myths and apology that has drowned the public discourse, I want to start the "Not in my name, South Africa!" project. I have set up a website, and I welcome submissions in solidarity with survivors and countering rape myths and rape culture. Anyone is welcome to submit to me, and I will post them asap. Thank you again.

  • jakkie.jvr - 2013-07-30 22:08

    Ok, not sure what happened to my other comment... Rape is a serious issue and though I cannot understand how a man wants to force himself on an unwilling partner, it seems there are too many of us with no self respect (hence no respect for women) that gives in to our animal urges. I must however say Dave, your comment on the marathon magazine's question was pretty weak and preachy and detracted from your column.

  • NinetiethOwl OurVow - 2013-07-31 09:43

    Spend less time with Lili at the water cooler, Dave. It'll do your brain some good.

      David Andrew Moseley - 2013-07-31 12:11

      I have neither a water cooler nor a Lili in my office, good person. But I do have a waterlily if that helps. So my brain must be just fine.

  • lovenergy - 2013-07-31 11:42

    Females in politics are called tea ladies and stupid street women with no second thoughts given to the image it portrays to the youth. Traditional cultures belittle woman to no more than baby making machines and servants. Where do we start to teach respect for the females of South Africa? Personally I think that there should be a National Program to teach all woman Self Defence and untill the time that rape is no longer a problem woman should be given a device that makes penis removal quick and easy.

      Wabomba Rogers - 2013-07-31 23:08

      I think the government should arm you all females so that you can do the shooting of every passing male. Don't you think that will work out better for you? Just remember that there are some good males out there who don't rape or a buse ladies. There those few bad elements that are committing these heinous acts towards ladies thus making a bad name for good men. We are fighting them until all ladies in country feel free, safe.

  • Cathy De Jongh - 2013-07-31 20:57

    You are a lovely human being David.

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