Better Dead than Defiled?

      'The Freethinker' (Vol.119 No 8 August 1999)

      This article is included in 'Illicit Sex and the God Machine'

      Recently, the idea that the law should recognise degrees of rape, surfaced fleetingly, only to be immediately attacked from opposite directions by the disparate forces of feminists of the 'Women against Rape' tendency and people who think rape is all in the mind (women's minds of course).
      I for one, agree that there are degrees or categories of rape just as there are of murder and assault. In the same way that we do not equate violent killing during a robbery or on the street, with killings for which there may be mitigating circumstances, similarly we differentiate assaults, & we should be able to discriminate between rape as part of violent attack and an incident, perhaps sordid or unwanted sex after a party or date during which one or both parties under the influence of alcohol or drugs let the fooling around go too far. The law should recognise this difference.
      If all killings regardless of the circumstances attracted the maximum penalty, many killers would go unpunished for fear of injustice. We accept murder, causing death, and manslaughter, the Americans have degrees of murder. As the situation is at present, with no differentiation between 'proper' rape and 'date' rape many rapists are given the benefit of the doubt & walk free, the women accusers branded as liars. The current conviction rate is about figure 10% .
      What is interesting for secularists is the degree to which the issue of rape in general is coloured by cultural attitudes, engendered and reinforced by religions. That a woman's worth depends on whether she is a virgin, a mother, has sex inside or outside of marriage, is called a 'spinster' a 'slut' or a 'whore', has ten children or is childless, must be challenged
      Traditional religious ideas of chastity, virginity and the worth of women in relation to fertility and sexuality are still reflected in, and dictate current attitudes to rape and raped women. (not to say women in general).
      Women are expected even encouraged to feel guilty, sullied, dirty & worthless when they have been raped.
      The popular picture painted by the media accentuates this view (to its own ends) and women are encouraged to wallow in trauma & at least some must feel that there is something wrong with them if they feel angry, humiliated for a while, then get on with their lives. Forced sex is in no way acceptable whatever the situation, but certainly it in no way compares, even as a weapon, with other serious personal attack maiming and killing! These extreme attitudes seem to me to be putting the sex act itself out of all proportion to its real importance. The media obsession is another aspect of the same lack of proportion & feminists who take on this view uncritically, are in my opinion playing along with the notion to the detriment of most women.
      The most serious manifestation of this idea is the fact that there are whole cultures in other countries and cultural groups in this country today in which a woman is considered better dead than defiled. Fathers and brothers will pursue and kill daughters or sisters for disobeying or being forced to disobey their cultural rules. Marital or sexual 'crimes' can lead to women being beaten, imprisoned, maimed or outcast from their families.
      Once again the reluctance to seriously examine the roots of these attitudes in order not to upset the religionists, and the unwillingness to criticise aspects of culture, however harmful for fear of being called racist by upholders of these cultural-religious values is preventing discussion in the wider media. As usual politicians are unwilling or unable to address these issues