Rock singer Chrissie Hynde has got herself into trouble with women’s groups for suggesting that when a pretty young girl goes to hang with a biker gang while wearing next to nothing and out of her face on drugs she is kind of asking to be raped.
Luckily, on BBC Radio 4 this morning, a woman called Laura Bates, British-Empire-Medal-winning founder of the “everydaysexism” project, was on hand to explain why Hynde’s antediluvian views are wrong, wrong, wrong!
They are, young Laura told us – with all the benefit of her 29 years in such hellholes as a Somerset private school, St John’s College, Cambridge and the BBC studio where Woman’s Hour is recorded – a classic case of “victim-blaming.”
When a woman gets raped, Laura explained, it is never in any way her fault and has nothing whatsoever to do with how provocatively or otherwise she is dressed. That’s because all rape is an expression of “power and control”, not of sexual attraction.
As a potential rapist myself – well, isn’t that what Laura and her mates like to say: that we live in “rape culture” and that “all men are rapists”? – I’m not sure this theory quite washes.
Perhaps I’m unusual in this regard and some of my fellow
men rapists can tell me where I’m going wrong. But I do reckon that if I were prowling the streets at night looking for someone to pounce on and it came down to two candidates – one in an Andrea Dworkin body suit; the other resembling Miley Cyrus in that outfit where she’s dressed in nothing but white thigh-length boots and a few strategically placed giant M&Ms – I think I know which way I’d turn.
Though I’d agree with Laura that no woman deserves to be raped – any more than she deserves to be mugged or burgled or car-jacked or sucked into one of those scams where a Nigerian gentleman you’ve never heard of offers to put millions of dollars into your account if only you’ll give him your bank details – her implication that women are helpless victims who cannot expect to enjoy any control whatsoever over their fate seems to me at best naive and at worst outrageously misogynistic.
Chrissie Hynde was speaking from bitter experience.
In her new autobiography Reckless she describes how, aged 21, she went out high on Quaaludes and wearing next to nothing, she attracted the unwelcome attentions of an Ohio biker gang which promised to take her to a party and instead took her to an empty house where she was threatened with violence and sexually abused.
She told the Sunday Times Magazine: ‘This [the sexual assault] was all my doing and I take full responsibility. You can’t **** about with people, especially people who wear “I Heart Rape” badges… those motorcycle gangs, that’s what they do.
‘You can’t paint yourself into a corner and then say whose brush is this? You have to take responsibility. I mean, I was naive…’
Asked if the gang had taken advantage of her vulnerability, she replied: ‘If you play with fire you get burnt. It’s not any secret, is it?’
Laura Bates, on the other hand, is talking pie-in-the-sky theory.
I think I know which of the two I’d rather have had on the BBC this morning advising vulnerable young women on the best way to preserve their safety and dignity. But hey what do I know: I’m just an everydaysexist.