Page 3 of The Sun – Are Naked Breasts Really So Bad?

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There is much media attention surrounding the ‘No More Page 3’ campaign launched by Lucy-Anne Holmes, aimed at banning topless models featuring on page 3 of the The Sun newspaper.

The petition is a hot-topic on Mumsnet, and supporters include Eliza Doolittle, Jennifer Saunders, Frances Barber, Lauren Laverne Frances Barber, Tony Hawks, Chris Addison, and Graham Linehan. Caitlin Moran has tweeted: “Teenage tits aren’t news OR a feature.”, and Janet Street-Porter wrote in The Independent: “Page 3 girls started in the 1970s as part of a tabloid circulation war. They seem so old-fashioned today… it’s hard to see how a pair of nipples can sell a paper in 2012.”

At the time of writing, the ‘No More Page Three’ petition had reached 45,376 supporters. Yet, despite 45,376 signatories, recent figures published by the National Readership Survey suggests that that “a pair of nipples” do not deter a person from buying a paper, as The Sun is the most read newspaper (both in print and online) in the UK, reaching an audience of approximately 13.6-million per week. Based upon these figures, it would appear that the majority of the UK population do not have that much of an issue with Page 3.

This latest campaign to abolish page 3 as we know it, is nothing new. In 1986, Labour MP, Clare Short, was branded “fat, jealous Clare” by the newspaper when she launched her campaign against page 3. Last year the feminist campaign groups, ‘Object’ and ‘Turn Your Back on Page 3’, made a joint submission about “the hyper-sexualisation of women in the press” to the Leveson inquiry. MP Evan Harris also backed the campaign, stating: “Why should it be considered acceptable and mainstream in hypocritical family newspapers to portray women in this way? It’s just wrong in my view that this should be seen as normalised.” Dr Harris added, “These images can be available for adults if they want to access them, but they should have to reach up to a higher shelf than what is at the general view for young people.”

Why are we so offended by the human body, and is page 3 really as degrading as the protesters claim?

Lucy Holmes felt the necessity to launch the latest campaign after reading a copy of The Sun during the Olympics. Despite the extensive coverage given to the victorious achievements of British female athletes such as Jessica Ennis and Victoria Pendleton, Holmes stated the dominant female image in the paper was “a massive picture of a girl in her pants”.

Journalist, Deborah Orr wrote in The Guardian that “The Sun’s Page 3 is the highly visible tip of misogyny’s iceberg”. Orr claims:

‘A lot of women feel the people who want an end to Page 3 are uptight harridans, envious, bitter, prudish and prescriptive. They would love to be glamour models themselves, given half a chance. They want it for their daughters. You can see them in any city on a Friday night, hobbled by their Lycra dresses and towering heels, so keen to be viewed as “empowered” that they can barely walk…. They are on Team Katie Price, those women, not Team Lucy-Anne Holmes.’

Being neither in support or condemnation of Page 3, I would like to believe my view is a little more objective. I am not at all enamoured by the “busty-babe” look, and I am most certainly not a woman who is on “Team Katie Price”. In fact, when spending time at a friend’s house during my childhood, we would sometimes spend our afternoons giggling at the nonsense printed in The Sun, which her father would leave lying around on the kitchen table we used to do our homework. We would draw moustaches on the face and a bra on the breasts of topless page 3 models, etc., and draw big breasts, fangs, and long hair on John Major and William Hague, whilst (supposedly) working on algebraic equations. “Dear Deidre” – The Sun’s Agony Aunt page, was also a hoot. Yet, I do not pretend to understand the minds of those who buy The Sun because, to be perfectly honest, I am now educated and middle-class. However, I do possess a keen sense of humour, and this has ensured that I have never taken frivolous tabloid stories, or Page 3, too seriously. In my view, The Sun is little more than an adult comic bought by the working-class, and is not really a “family newspaper”. It is only deemed a “family paper” because it happens to be stumbled upon by the rest of the family, as they lounge around on the sofa watching daytime TV, or happen to find it lying on the kitchen table when grabbing a snack, or perhaps whilst the children do their homework – which, of course, was my first encounter with the paper.

Not every person shares my permissive perspective, however. Deborah Orr seems to believe that glamour models affect a woman’s sense of self worth, stating: 

‘I remember, as a teenager, studying the breasts of the women who appeared in the tabloids, and fretting about the dismal fact – to me, then – that mine weren’t “like that”.’

Contrary to Deborah Orr’s belief, not every woman wishes to have large breasts, or to look like a glamour model. Not once have I ever looked at a Page 3 model and compared my body to hers, nor have I ever aspired to look like a glamour model. Every person has a different take on what they believe to be attractive. Furthermore, if Page 3 were to be abolished, and more “positive” body images were featured by the media, such as pictures of victorious Olympic athletes like Jessica Ennis, the new body comparison will subsequently become, “My abs don’t look like that”, or “I’m not that muscular”. The subsequent trend could, thus, become a cocktail of steroid abuse, over training, and eating disorders; instead of the breast augmentation and eating disorder combination that society is familiar with at present.

Women will always be of the belief that her outward appearance is dependent and related to her personal worth. No matter how confident one particular woman is, she will always compare herself to other women. As psychologist A. Schopenhauer has stated: 

‘ … women are all in the same profession (competitors for the attentions of men), they all stand much closer to one another than men do, and consequently strive to emphasize differences in rank.’

In many cases, this is unfortunately, true. An interesting study can be found in this psychological article: R. Joseph, Competition Between Women (1985), (Psychology, 22, 1-11, 1985).

Ironically, the misogyny Orr suggests, appears to lie not in the media’s sexualisation of women, but in womens’ hatred of sexualised women and their naked bodies. If that were not the issue, one must question why this campaign is so focused upon naked breasts on page 3, and not the unpleasant, opportunistic, civilisation-eroding content, and the blatant lies that so regularly appears on other pages of The Sun. This is, after-all, the newspaper that invented the phrase ‘gay plague’, and ironically, if anything is at all misogynistic in the paper, it is some of the text and headlines featured on pages 1,2,4,5, etc. Why is Page 3 such an issue, and why are the campaigns not drawing attention to Mail Online and its “sidebar of shame“? It would appear that the petition is rather distastefully using the subject of misogyny merely as an attempt to rally support. Let us remember that the term ‘misogyny’ means a hatred or dislike of women. Surely, those who enjoy looking at the women on Page 3, are more philogynistic and misogynistic, because if they hated women, why would they wish to ogle at their breasts? Does a woman with a hatred of men enjoy looking at a penis? – No.

Nevertheless, the politician Lynne Featherstone has felt it necessary to focus her argument on a different aspect of misogyny, by specifically linking page 3 to domestic violence – an assertion made without any evidence whatsoever. In her “farticle” ‘Page 3 pictures cause domestic violence’ against women‘, Featherstone claims: 

‘When you know that one in four women experience domestic violence in their life, two women are killed each week by their partner or husband, there is a very long way to go. While a lot of blokes say ‘You are mean, sour-faced, whatever – it’s harmless’, actually it’s not harmless at all.’

Perhaps Lynne Featherstone would be interested to learn that despite her absurd assertion that Page 3 pictures somehow drives men to kill their partners, the National Centre of Domestic Violence statistics suggest that 1 man dies every 3 weeks as a result of Domestic Violence perpetrated against them. However, due to factors such as shame and embarrassment, most men will not seek help to get out of the abusive relationship. Approximately 4 million men are affected every year by domestic violence, and practically the same percentage of men as women are victims of severe acts of Domestic Violence. Bearing in mind the large amount of non-reporting, official Data from Home Office statistical bulletins and the British Crime Survey show that men made up about 40% of domestic violence victims each year between 2004-05 and 2008-09, the last year for which figures are available. In 2006-07 men made up 43.4% of all those who had suffered partner abuse in the previous year, which rose to 45.5% in 2007-08 but fell to 37.7% in 2008-09. Yet, men assaulted by their partners are often ignored by police, have far fewer refuges to flee to than women, and usually see their female attackers get away with their crimes.

I think this goes some way in invalidating Featherstone’s unsubstantiated assertion that page 3 is the cause of domestic violence. This is, of course, assuming the victim is female, and not the man – for, ironically, looking at page 3 pictures.

If the mere sight of naked breasts really are too offensive to have a place in a ‘family newspaper’, as the protesters claim, I must also question why it is considered acceptable for women to openly take her breasts out in the middle of Starbucks to breastfeed her child in public, whilst in front of a number of families with young children. Consider the vast number of “Breast is Best” pictures published and broadcast on daytime television, in order to promote breastfeeding, not to mention the large-scale breast cancer campaigns featuring photos of naked breasts, and topless women on daytime television shows, such as ‘This Morning’ – a program broadcast before approximately 11 hours before the watershed, and viewable by young children. Last year, the family TV show, ‘This Morning’, featured a woman with the largest breasts in the world (ironically, this link is to the Daily Mail – another “family newspaper”), and most recently a feature on a man with the world’s largest penis. Yet, there was no furore over either. There are also the vast number of breast photos published in school encyclopedias and anatomy books, used for so-called educational purposes, and are uncensored. The Guardian also features this picture:

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Reproduced from article ‘The wonder of breasts’, featured in The Guardian newspaper.

If it is the sexualisation of breasts that is the problem, rather than the image of breasts per se, why are there no protests against adverts such as that for Herbal Essences Shampoo? This is, after all, an advert that sexualises both the hair and product, whilst portraying the man as useless and humiliated. The Western world condemn Islam for oppressing women and forcing them to wear a hijab, which essentially prevents the sexual objectification of hair in the same way as wearing a sweater does for a woman’s breasts. Yet, if we find the objectification of hair to be acceptable, when we condemn Islamic countries’ condemnation of oppressing women with a hijab for the equivalent reason the Western countries revolt the revealing breasts, is this not further hypocrisy?

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Herbal Essences is, by far, not the only example of sexual objectification. Just take a look at some of these examples, and furthermore, women are not the only ones subject to it. Take into consideration how the Lindt advert with Roger Federer and the adverts for Emporio Armani and H&M featuring David Beckham, and the infamous Diet Coke advert, all objectify men just as much as women. Yet, if this objectification were reversed and instead featured female objectification, there would be the same ever-so-familiar heated debate on the subject.

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Also consider that naked breasts are not the only form of sexualisation in the media, which again discredits the argument against page 3. Bear in mind that for a foot fetishist, a photo of bare feet can be just as provocative as a page 3 photograph for a man who likes large breasts; and for a hair fetishist, the sexualisation of hair in a Herbal Essences advert, may also be provocative. Furthermore, there are a number of websites for those with a breast feeding fetish. Consider how a person with such a fetish will sexualise a woman who chooses to breast-feed openly in Starbucks (which is her right), in a similar way that women, who autonomously model for page 3, are sexualised by another.

One of the signatories of the ‘No More Page 3’ campaign has stated: “How are women meant to be taken seriously in the workplace when this is how they are seen?”. I argue that abolishing page 3 pictures will not change the perception of glamour models, as long as pornographic sites exist. In fact, page 3 is far less obscene than pornographic sites, which so often reveal women and men performing a number of lewd acts, which I shall not mention here. Whilst glamour models may, perhaps, degrade themselves, it is their autonomous choice to do so. Just because some women like to be objectified, does not make it wrong, and as long as the objectified person consents to being objectified by others, where is the problem? Live and let live.

If the answer is to reject any form of glamour modeling in order to prevent women from degrading themselves, it would not only infringe their right to autonomy, but it would drive the industry underground where it cannot be regulated. It would also result in the loss of newspaper sales, and less work for models, photographers, and publishers. At a time of economic downturn, this is surely not advantageous.

It is important to remember that sexual taste is incredibly diverse and complex. Not every man is attracted to the sight of breasts: Some may be sexually attracted to bare feet, just as some women may be sexually attracted to the sight of a “beer-belly” – because being with an overweight man makes some women feel less self-conscious about their own “imperfections”. It would appear that any photo could potentially be subject to sexual objectification depending upon the viewer and their sexual preferences. Perhaps the campaigners should review their protest, and call for a ban on all photos – or just airbrush out all people, just as Ikea removed women from the Saudi Arabian Ikea Catalogue. 

I am sure that even the ‘No More Page 3’ supporters would find this a ludicrous proposition.

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A photo from the Swedish Ikea catalogue (left), next to the modified picture in the Saudi Arabian catalogue. (Image reproduced courtesy of BBC)
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Please Mind The Gap!

No, I’m not posting about the London Underground on this occasion.

I am instead referring to the wage gap between men and women, which continues to make headline news.

Just the other day, the International Business Times reported that the U.S. Census Bureau found no progress had  been made to close the gender wage gap in the United States. It reported that womens’ wages have continued to hover at an average of 77 cents for every dollar earned by a man in an equal position, since 2005. This is despite Obama passing the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, shortly after taking office in 2009. Whilst the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act may be relatively new in the US, legislation to ensure equal pay has been in place in the Britain for 40 years. Despite this long established legislation, the gender pay gap not only still exists in Britain, but the discrepancy remains among the highest in the EU.

In Britain the full-time gender pay gap between women and men is reported to be 14.9%.  The Fawcett Society report that the pay gap varies across different sectors and regions, rising to up to 55% in the finance sector, and 33.3% in the City of London, with 64% of the lowest paid workers being women. Progress in closing the gap has been slow, and now there are concerns that the wage gap may now widen, as the economy faces difficult times. The US has already seen the wage gap widen: the median income for women working with full-time jobs in 2011 was $37,118, compared to the median of $48,202 for men. In 2010, women averagely earned $38,052 compared with the average male earnings of $48,202.

The poverty rate for women is reported to be considerably higher, particularly among the elderly. The US Census Bureau reports 15.5% of women between the ages of 18 and 64 were living off less that $11,170 per year, meaning that 15.5% of women are officially living in poverty in the US. This is compared with just 11.8 percent of men. 10.7% of women over 65 were living in poverty last year, compared with 6.2% of men in the same age category.

Such a pay gap inevitably translates into a significant economic disadvantage for women in female-headed households, and especially in is the US where women are already reported to be less likely to have health insurance. In 2010, 20% of women between the ages of 18 and 64 are reported not to have had any form of health coverage, according to The Kaiser Family Foundation. Most did not qualify for Medicaid, and did not have access to employer-sponsored plans. This is all the more worrying when one considers that many female-headed households in the US, are thus also less likely to be able to provide health coverage for their children.

In Britain, nine out of ten single parents are women, yet the median gross weekly pay for male single parents is reportedly £346, while female single parents will averagely receive £194.4. Although Britain has the NHS to rely on for free healthcare, a number of single mothers are still, nevertheless, living poverty, and this inevitably effects their children.

There could be a number of factors influencing the wage gap. Feminist theory has speculated that the differences may be due to the discriminatory undervaluing of women, and “women’s work”, but I doubt this is the case. Even if struggling to find work, very few women will actually choose arduous manual labour over shop-keeping, nor will many women choose manufacturing work over a job in the nursing sector. How often will one see a woman laying bricks or operating a digger, rather than claim benefits or work part-time? Although more women may choose a career in engineering today than they may have in previous eras, it is still a case that relatively few women will actively *choose* such a career over the more traditional female dominated careers such as primary school teaching, nursing or secretarial roles, which are generally lower paid than more male-dominated careers in astronautics and space engineering.

A female JCB driver?

It seems unlikely that the reason behind the gender gap is largely due to sex discrimination, when it is actually the women themselves, who so often select the sector in which they choose to work in. That is not to say that sex discrimination is never a factor, of course, as both women and men could potentially be open to experiencing sex discrimination within the workplace. Indeed, there have been reports of an increase in employment tribunal cases where men have been subject to sex discrimination by their female colleagues. Sex discrimination is not exclusive to women.

There is also the factor of a lack of available flexible work opportunities, which means that single mothers who cannot afford childcare, can find it hard to reconcile paid work with family responsibilities. This might result in women working in part-time positions for fewer hours, or taking on a number of different temporary jobs. The so-called “motherhood penalty” could also arguably lead to discrimination in companies. There have previously been a number of employment tribunal cases revealing how employers have been less likely or refused to hire or promote women of childbearing age, for fear the female employees will prioritise pregnancy and childcare  over their commitments at work. One factor which may heighten the case for this argument is that lesbian women are reported to earn higher than their heterosexual counterparts.

According to the research the site pointed to, lesbians make about 6 percent more than heterosexual women when factors like race, education, profession, location and number of children are accounted for. There are other factors to take into consideration as to why the gap exists between heterosexual and homosexual women. One being that heterosexual women may expect their husbands or partners will earn more than they will. As a result, heterosexual women might choose to make career sacrifices, such as rounding a family, and thus choose to invest less effort in making themselves appear more indispensable to employers.

It may also be that employers and employees of either gender are unaware they may be either experiencing or perpetuating a gender pay gap, and so it remains unnoticed. Perhaps the mere knowledge that a male in a similar role at the same company is being paid more, might be enough to trigger a change. As a result the Fawcett Society has long proposed that businesses employing more than 250 people, should routinely audit, monitor, and publicise any pay gap between male and female employees. The 2010 Equality Act also included a clause, requiring companies to carry out gender pay audits if they failed to make enough voluntary progress. Unfortunately, the Section 78 clause was dropped by the coalition in 2010.

Whilst the Fawcett Society reported that the wage gap is even bigger in certain professions, such as financial management, a similar picture is mirrored in the findings of a recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The study conducted at University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, found that male doctors reported making an average of slightly over $200,000 per year, whilst women earned about $168,000. However, the study researchers found women were more likely to work in lower-paying specialties such as paediatrics and family medicine. Female doctors also tended to work slightly fewer hours – an average of 58 hours per week, compared to mens’ average of 63 hours. Although such differences were responsible for some of the salary gap, Dr. Reshma Jagsi, the lead author of the new study, found that despite factors due to career and life choices, women still made about $12,000 less than men doing the same type and amount of work.

The finding of the study does not reveal the underlying driving force between the salary differences between men and women. In this instance, perhaps female doctors accepted slightly lower pay in return for less time being on-call to spend time with families.

One significant explanation is that women are less aggressive about negotiating for pay. Indeed, a report by Shuchita Kapur in Emirates 24/7  reveals how experts believe the gender gap to be a result of female unwillingness to negotiate.

The article points to the suggestion that companies will generally present every employee with a low starting offer, and it is usually up to the individual to negotiate any salaries rises. Professor Horacio Falcao who specialises in Negotiation at INSTEAD has suggested that men are much more likely to negotiate pay than women: “Research actually indicates that in many countries around the world, women are more likely to accept the first salary offered than men. This usually results in men entering the company with a higher pay than women and then making more money in the future as raises tend to be percentage increases relative to the base pay.”

The opinion of Grainne Fitzsimons, Associate Professor of Management at Fuqua School of Business, also coincides with Falcao’s, and stated that: “Research suggests that women are less likely to negotiate salary, because women feel uncomfortable in that role and worry about the impression they will make if they ask for more money. In fact, research suggests that this unwillingness to negotiate is extremely costly for women, and leads them to be underpaid in a number of domains,” she told Emirates 24/7.

A research study by Carnegie Mellon University in the US, revealed that while 51.5% of men negotiated their initial offers, only 12% of women did.

So, ladies; perhaps the moral of the story (at least in part) is: If you don’t ask; you don’t get.

More to the point, whilst a job providing the benefits of full-time pay with flexible hours, may be ideal for working mothers, the truth is, we cannot have it all. Nor should any of us expect it. Salaries should be based upon merit, hours of work, and dedication. Until modern medicine discovers a method in which men can give birth and become mothers, women cannot realistically expect the salary statistics to match those of men.

Given the subject of ” Please Mind The Gap”, I decided to include this rather wonderful photo of Hannah Dadds, who made history by becoming the first ever London Underground Tube driver, in 1969. Story can be found here.

The Silent Male Victims of Rape

Whilst researching various sociological topics on Twitter, I was reminded how insensitive and ignorant people can be. This was a re-tweet from a so-called “holy” person. The initial tweet was also by a person who describes himself as “a child of God” in one of his subsequent tweets.

Almost every day, there are reports in the news of rape, or rape convictions. Indeed, recent reports reveal a 53% rise in recorded rape in London over the last four years, and whilst perusing through the Irish news the other day, I also discovered an article that reported on an increase of almost 18% in first-time callers to the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre last year. A few weeks earlier, I had also read about the reported rape of a 14-year-old boy in the toilets of Debenhams in Manchester.

Most women in society are indoctrinated to be cautious of unfamiliar men, and to fear rape. From childhood, females are taught to be afraid of, and to never talk to any ‘strange men’. Women are warned to remain cautious: never be alone, keep all doors locked, and do not behave in a manner that may encourage a sexual assault. However, living in a patriarchal society, how often do we hear of such guidance provided for males?

Males, by contrast, are brought up from a young age to be “strong”, masculine, and “in-charge”; and indeed, feminists use our expectations and perception of what a male should be, to base many of their misandrical arguments, using their infamous male-female rape theories. Society so often perceives men as being the perpetrators, whilst women are the victims. Consider the following examples of despicable feminist misandrical misnomers:

“All sex, even consensual sex between a married couple, is an act of violence perpetrated against a woman.” Catherine MacKinnon

“In a patriarchal society all heterosexual intercourse is rape because women, as a group, are not strong enough to give meaningful consent.” Catherine MacKinnon in Professing Feminism: Cautionary Tales from the Strange World of Women’s Studies, p. 129.

“Most perpetrators are male and most victims are female. It is both a consequence and cause of gender inequality.”UK Rape Crisis Charity

“All men are rapists and that’s all they are” — Marilyn French Author, “The Women’s Room” (a metaphor in a novel to suggest male lust for power and domination.)

Ladies: Bear in mind that if, according to Marylin French, “All men are rapists”, this must mean that your dear baby boys are rapists, as are your fathers, and your grandfathers – and let us not forget your brothers, too! If there is any logic in the above feminist assertions, that must be the reason as to why your baby boys suckle upon your breast when they are breast fed, and why your baby girls must surely need to have your breast forced upon them – right? Furthermore, if such blatant misandric feminist arguments stand any validity, this would suggest that your sons will rape your daughters, and even you. Logic alone should tell us how absurd such statements are, and should surely reveal much about feminist theory.

Yet, with such preconceptions that rape exists only within the context of a male perpetrator – female victim model, very few people will consider how males are also victims of sexual assault. Yet, male-male rape is often shrouded in secrecy due to the social stigma that many men associate with rape, which annihilates everything that our patriarchal society dictates men should be. But, you might find the results of recent research to be quite shocking.

Statistics of Male Rape

The British Crime Survey estimates that up to 15% of the adult population of the UK have been sexually abused in childhood, and this includes 11% of young men. A 2003 national study of U.S. adults reported that 14.2% of men were sexually abused before the age of 18. Furthermore, Metropolitan Police figures reveal that on average, in London, a man is the victim of a sexual crime every hour, and the British government estimates that 11% of male victims report being attacked. Based upon such research, it is believed that the 945 assaults recorded by the Met in 2009-10, actually suggest a true figure closer to 8,500 in London.

Baroness Stern acknowledged in her 2011 rape report, The Stern Review, that the vast majority of male victims of sexual violence do not report their crimes because of the common view that men “should be able to fight off an attacker”. The review recognised that men do not report rape for the fear of being regarded “less of a man”. They fear being ridiculed, fear that they may be considered gay, or fear that they will not believed.

Several studies argue that male-male prisoner rape, as well as female-female prisoner rape, might be the most common and least-reported forms of rape, with some studies suggesting such rapes are substantially more common in both per-capita and raw-number totals than male-female rapes in the general population.

The claim in the following n+1 piece, suggests that more men are victims of rape in the US, than women, as a result of prison rape:

“In January, prodded in part by outrage over a series of articles in the New York Review of Books, the Justice Department finally released an estimate of the prevalence of sexual abuse in penitentiaries. The reliance on filed complaints appeared to understate the problem. For 2008, for example, the government had previously tallied 935 confirmed instances of sexual abuse. After asking around, and performing some calculations, the Justice Department came up with a new number: 216,000. That’s 216,000 victims, not instances. These victims are often assaulted multiple times over the course of the year. The Justice Department now seems to be saying that prison rape accounted for the majority of all rapes committed in the US in 2008, likely making the United States the first country in the history of the world to count more rapes for men than for women.

No doubt, many will sneer at this finding, believing that it is a justified act for “undesirables” who deserve punishment, and need putting in their place. This is perhaps one reason as to why there appears to be so little interest as to the extent of prison rape, and so few reports. With such possible reason in mind, we must not forget about the number of innocent men who are wrongly convicted and imprisoned, and who are subsequently made victims of rape – a crime inflicted on them perhaps, in a cruel twist of irony, as a result of a false rape allegation for which they were wrongly imprisoned. How could such inhumanity ever be considered fair?

Rape as a weapon of terror in warfare

Male rape is also used as a weapon of terror in warfare, and the Syrian regime is regularly reporting that rape is used as a tool of war against male opposition forces, as is the situation in Congo. Feminists and the media regularly report of the horrendous cases of female rape in Congo, but there are very fer reports of the horrific physical and psychological damage suffered by the victims of male rape in Congo. I would highly recommend a read of this article from The Observer.

The Journal of the American Medical Association has reported that 22% of Congolese men (and 30% of women) have experienced sexual violence as a weapon of war. Male victims have also had genitalia amputated, raped with screwdrivers, circumcised, or castrated in cases where they were spared amputation. Yet, under Congolese law, it is the male rape victims who are the ones considered guilty of a crime, and can face severe punishment for the so-called crime of homosexuality. Male survivors will, therefore, almost never speak of their experiences to anyone. Taking this into consideration, the rate of non-reporting amongst male victims is likely to be high, thus, the real statistics of men victim to sexual violence before being killed by their rapists, cannot be accurately determined. The statistic is more than likely greater than 22%, and no charities or agencies providing funding to male victims of rape, to help them get them back on their feet, as there are for female rape victims.

Furthermore, these men will typically hide their experience from their family, due to fears of abandonment. According to an employee of the Refugee Law Project, it is common for a woman to take the children and leave her husband, upon discovering that he has been raped. The view being, “If he can be raped, who is protecting me?” The cruel, ironic, hypocrisy is that despite the patriarchal social view of women needing a “strong, protective man”; women are, in fact, “strong” enough to be the aggressors of male sexual assault.

Female-Male Rape

A study on male rape in Congo published by the Journal of the American Medical Association defies the cultural narrative of patriarchy surrounding male rape in Congo: 40% of sexual violence against women in Congo, and 10% of that against men, was perpetrated by women.

Only a few days ago, the BBC reported that three women in Zimbabwe who were arrested in connection with a series of male rapes, had their rape charges dropped, and were instead charged with 17 counts of aggravated indecent assault – merely because Zimbabwean law does not recognise the act of a woman raping a man. It is believed that there is a nationwide syndicate of women raping men in Zimbabwe, possibly to use their semen for use in “wealth” rituals. The three Zimbabwean women were charged after being found in possession of 33 condoms containing semen, obtained after a string of sex attacks whereby women targeted male hitchhikers.

Feminists argue that women are “more maternal” and “less aggressive”, and have been often speculated that if a woman were in charge, there would be no violence or wars. Yet, when Adam Jones examined the activities of five of the “female architects of the Rwandan genocide”, he noted the women not only participated in the selecting of thousands of Tutsi men and boys to be killed, but it was the women who were so often the ones perpetrating their murders. Accordingly, author Tim Goldich has stated:

“These cases of female leaders represent only a small part of the story of women’s participation in the genocide. At the grassroots, “very often, groups of women ululated their men into the ‘action’ that would result in the death of thousands of innocent men, women and children, many of them their own neighbours.”

“Their role was dominant in the post-massacre looting and stripping of bodies, which often involved climbing over corpses (and those still alive and moaning in agony) piled thigh-high in the confined spaces in which many Tutsis met their end. Frequently these women assisted in administering the coup de grâce to those clinging to life.”

Another report currently in the news, is the alleged rape and murder of a wealthy Nigerian man, Uroko Onoja, by his six wives; and let us not forget the female aggressors of male rape in the West: Only a few days ago, Oklahoma teacher, Michelle McCutchan, was convicted of raping two 16-year-old male students, and also Keyvette Gamble for sexually abusing her friend’s 14 year old son. In the later cases, however, both female perpetrators have been sentenced to 15 years in prison. There have been several widely publicised cases of female-on-male statutory rape in the United States involving school teachers raping their underage students, such as the cases that lead to the convictions of Mary Kay Letourneau and Debra Lafave.

Misconceptions and Ignorance

When a boy is sexually abused by a woman, people often do not recognise the harm. Take for example the recent case of, Zakiya Gaskins, a woman from Washington, who was charged with assaulting her neighbour’s 13-year-old son. Authorities had to relocate the teenage victim and his family, because neighbours harassed the boy when he reported the assault. It is reported that neighbours referred to him as a “punk” and quizzed if there was “something wrong with him”, because he “didn’t like it”. Another recent Washington case reveals how 18 year old Heaven Wright, gave her 13-year-old male rape victim a sexually transmitted disease.

Not only do male rape victims report a lack of services and support, but many legal systems are often ill-equipped to deal with this type of crime. Inconsistent definitions of rape, different rates of reporting, recording, prosecution and conviction for rape create controversial statistical disparities, and leading to rape statistics which are unreliable, and do not represent the full picture. Even though Britain has, more male rape awareness campaigns and crisis centres available per head of the population than in most other Western countries, under British Law, the crime of male rape was only legally recognised in 1994. Unlike most countries, British society is beginning to open their minds, and recognise that men are also vulnerable, and men have hope through Male Rights activist groups. Yet, even Britain still has a long way to go with regards public awareness of male rape.

A hard-hitting poster campaign by male rape charity Survivors UK, targeted this year’s Six Nations to urge victims to speak out, using the high profile at Twickenham. The masculine image of rugby was used to convey the message that male rape does not make a victim any less of a man.

There are still many misconceptions that male rape will only happen to a “weak” man, and that only gay men are raped. In reality, many victims are heterosexual. One example that might go some way in dispersing the “weak” theory is the story of a male US soldier who was a victim of female-male rape, and has since suffered Military Sexual Trauma (MST) after being raped by his female supervisor, who was a First Sergeant, and reported “used her higher rank and position to get what she wanted”. The US Attorney Shana Dunn, has reported that at least 27 percent of men serving in the military are estimated to have suffered “Military Sexual Trauma” either as a result of sexual assault, or repeated harassment and threatened assault. Whist the figure for females is 60 percent, the 27 percent figure for men is, nevertheless, 27 percent too many. So is the figure of 60 percent.

How can a man have an erection, or ejaculation, during a sexual assault unless he wanted it?

There is also much ignorance regarding the biological aspect of male rape, with statements such as, “a man cannot have an erection or ejaculation during a sexual assault, unless he wanted it”. However, an article by Philip M. Sarrel and William H. Masters entitled “Sexual molestation of men by women” (Archives of Sexual Behavior 11 (2): 82–88), states that male erectile response is involuntary. Any physical contact or extreme stress can cause an erection and ejaculation, and does not imply desire or enjoyment. Women can initiate penetrative sex through stimulation of external male genitalia or the anus, and can force penetration of the anus with the use of foreign objects such as dildos, or even force oral sex. As some abusers and rapists are aware of this biological process, and how it can confuse a victim of sexual assault, Survivors UK – a male rape charity, has reported that it motivates some attackers to “manipulate their victims to the point of erection or ejaculation to increase their feelings of control and to discourage people from telling their story”.

Although more research on male-male and female-male is beginning to emerge, almost no research has been conducted on female-female rape, although there have been cases reported, thus further dispersing many feminist theories and social misconceptions about men only being perpetrators, and females the victims. Perhaps there are fewer female-female rapes because of size restrictions: female victims are more likely to fight off a female aggressor, whereas men are often taught not to hit a women back. Certainly, as a female, I can testify to having been the recipient of far more aggression in my lifetime from fellow females, than I have from males. Memories spring to mind of being pushed down stairs, hit with a hockey stick, and pushed onto the road in front of a travelling lorry – all by fellow female schoolmates. Very little aggression was ever perpetrated by boys towards girls, yet, the girls were certainly known to hit a few boys. However, this is only an observation from my own personal experience as a Caucasian female living in Britain, and is by no means an official statistic. This is not to say that women are not victim to male abuse, as the domestic violence and rape figures reveal otherwise. Nevertheless, research on female aggression has revealed that women can be more violent than men, and let us not forget that rape is a crime of control and aggression, and not a random act of passion.

Given the extent of the social stigma towards male rape, and the level of patriarchy in society, it is understandable as to why so many male-male sex crimes are believed to go unreported. Even if the numbers are smaller – so what? Men are human beings, just like women; and no human being deserves such pain and suffering. Nor do men, as fellow human beings, deserve the psychological terror male rape victims experience of being judged, abandoned, ridiculed, and not to mention the fear or actuality of contracting HIV. In certain non-Western countries men are left with no access to healthcare or surgery, leaving them incontinent from their injuries, and unable seek help for fear of homosexual conviction. Many men end up doubting their sexuality, fearing sex, and many have difficulty forming relationships as a result of rape. Male rape can cause severe disability or disorder, and whilst the crime is undoubtedly a real threat for women, it is also so for men. It a heinous crime, no matter who the victim may be, and is not something to joke about, or judge a genuine victim for. Male rape victims need to know they have nothing to feel ashamed of – it is not their fault, and they need to be able to speak out.

Every single one of us could potentially be a victim of a sexual attack, irrespective of whether we are male or female. It is high time that the draconian views of society accepted this, and provided men with the same level of benevolence and protection as females.

Still not convinced? Question how you might feel if the victim of male rape were your son, or your father. Perhaps that concluding thought will provoke a few to open their minds, and hopefully their hearts.

Filthy Shades Of Dismay

Every other day, there is yet another story in The Guardian surrounding the controversy of ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’. It would appear the world is obsessed by the book. The latest news report is about a women’s refuge, which has deemed the bestselling ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ trilogy as “an instruction manual for an abusive individual to sexually torture a vulnerable young woman”. The erotic novel is claimed to “normalise abuse, degrade women and encourage sexual violence”, according to Clare Phillipson, who is the director of Wearside Women In Need. So passionate is her belief, she is urging people to burn their copies of the book on a bonfire, stating that, “Some of what happens in the book, Fred West did to victims in his cellar.”

And what if one owns the Kindle Edition? – Should one also throw their Kindle onto the bonfire?

With all the hype and controversy surrounding the book, I finally succumbed to speed-reading it. I was, after all, the only woman my age I know personally, who had categorically refused to read the book – based purely upon my passionate dislike of smutty “romance” novels, not to mention a book where the “heroine” is portrayed as weak. However, I realised that I was shunning a novel without having actually read it. Thus, it was only fair that I read the book before judging it, even though I had no real interest in reading the book.

And my verdict after reading ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’…? – I only wish I could unread it!

E. L. James’ book depicts the sexual relationship between the virginal college student, Anastasia Steele, and her obsessive love and sexual submission to Christian Grey, a handsome billionaire with a predilection for bondage and domination. He is a man whom she scarcely knows, and who briskly introduces her to his sexual fetishes and the contents of his “Red Room of Pain”.

The prose, to be quite frank, is shocking. For example:

“Now I know what all the fuss is about. Two orgasms… coming apart at the seams like the spin cycle of a washing machine, wow.

Right… And how exactly does a washing machine come ‘apart at the seams’? In fact, how is an orgasm anything like the spin cycle of a washing machine? Yet, two ‘spin cycle’ orgasms are not enough, as Ana wants more. Grey has a really radical idea of how to spice things up…

‘”I’m going to take you from behind, Anastasia”, he murmurs…’

Fabulous…  And, the “poetic” writing does not stop there:

“I pull him deeper into my mouth so I can feel him at the back of my throat and then to the front again. My tongue swirls around the end. He’s my very own Christian Grey-flavored popsicle. I suck harder and harder … Hmm … My inner goddess is doing the meringue with some salsa moves.”

After yet another a sadomasochistic romp, I started to wonder if maybe the book should be renamed “Fifty Lays Per Day”.  Naturally, the author had to bestow this additional literary nugget upon us:

“We lie there, panting together, waiting for our breathing to slow. He gently strokes my hair … Boy … I Survived. That wasn’t so bad. I’m more stoic than I thought. My inner goddess is prostrate … well, at least she’s quiet.”

When there are so many fine writers, and interesting books and articles out there, one grudges wasting time reading such poorly written prose. As a result of reading this book, my “inner goddess” (to quote Ana’s words) was not so quiet, and did the “meringue” all the way to the metaphorical toilet! I subsequently decided that it is perhaps best if I give the rest of the trilogy a miss.

Despite my initial reluctance to read the book, and my subsequent distaste, ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ is the fastest selling book since records began, and is the first ebook to sell more than one million copies. It makes me question if the female population have gone mad, or whether it is perhaps I who is the weird one for not succumbing to the latest hype. On the contrary, it would appear I’m not the only one.

A number of feminists have slammed the book, and yesterday’s news article in The Guardian summarised the book as being about:

 ‘A domestic violence perpetrator, taking someone who is less powerful, inexperienced, not entirely confident about the area of life she is being led into, and then spinning her a yarn. Then he starts doing absolutely horrific sexual things to her … He gradually moves her boundaries, normalising the violence against her. It’s the whole mythology that women want to be hurt’. In fact, the head of domestic violence charity, believes the book to be ‘a misogynistic handbook that peddles a dangerous message.’

However, what if the roles were reversed, and the heroine were a dominatrix, and Christian Grey were a sub? It makes me wonder if there would be the same level of controversy surrounding the topic of a sadomasochistic relationship raised by the book. I sometimes wonder if some women almost want to be victims. From a young age, girls are warned to “never talk to “strangers” – “strangers” usually meaning men who are unfamiliar to them. Thus, from a young age, females are almost brainwashed into feeling fearful of potentially being abused by men. It would appear that women almost subconsciously believe it is normal to be sexually inferior to men, and it is as though it almost becomes normal to complain about “subliminal messages” of abuse, or even go as far as being the victims of abuse. As a result, a number of innocent men can sometimes be deemed to be potential abusers, thus also making them just as much a victim of society as women. Ironically, research has shown that women can be just as, if not more violent, than men. Nevertheless, it is still a worry that this book may appeal to the inherent maternal instincts of certain young women, who may subconsciously, and naively believe the message portrayed in ‘Fifty Shades of Gray’; a message that suggests that if one loves a “broken man” enough, he will recover from his psychopathic tendencies. Sadly, it takes more than love to change a person’s psychology.

Despite the traditional theories of Krafft-Ebing and Freud, et al., it is important to understand that sadomasochistic relationships are not necessarily related to psychopathic tendencies. Although Christian Grey is depicted as a man with a troubled past, which has taken a toll on his mental state; in reality, research suggests there is no difference in mental health difficulties between those who practice BDSM, and the rest of the population. In fact, the findings of two studies at the Northern Illinois University into hormonal changes associated with Sadomasochistic activities suggest that it has the potential to bring consenting couples closer together, when combined with displays of caring and affection. (Brad Sagarin et al (2009)) http://www.niu.edu/user/tj0bjs1/papers/scclm09.pdf, http://pubget.com/paper/18563549 and http://pubget.com/paper/18563549

A study undertaken in 2006 by Cross and Matheson found no support for the traditional theories by Krafft-Ebing and Freud that sadomasochism is a mental illness. However, the study found that SM participants were overall more likely than non-SM respondents to report bisexual/homosexual orientations. Furthermore, sadomasochists were relatively more likely to be in ongoing relationships than the comparison group.(Patricia A. Cross PhD and Kim Matheson PhD in the book “Sadomasochism: Powerful Pleasures” (2006), published simultaneously as the Journal of Homosexuality, Vol. 50, Nos. 2/3.)

Results from a research project by Dr. Pamela Connolly, et al., also reported that:

‘no evidence was found to support the notion that clinical disorders – including depression, anxiety, and obsessive-compulsion – are more prevalent among the sample of individuals with BDSM interests than among members of the general population. Moreover, this sample did not show evidence of widespread PTSD, trauma-related phenomena, personality disturbances, psychological sadism or psychological masochism”, disorders in which the sufferer either derives pleasure out of genuine cruelty (not the play-acting kind) or compulsively seeks out harmful levels of pain. ”Similarly, no prominent themes were found in a series of profile analyses.’

And:

‘There were, however, some exceptions to this general pattern, most notably the higher-than-average levels of nonspecific dissociative symptoms and narcissism in this sample. That said, this body of findings suggests that, contrary to longstanding assumptions in the psychoanalytic literature, there is very little support for the view that psychopathology underlies behavior.’

Incidentally, Arrow, the publisher of ‘Fifty Shades of Gray’, has also defended the trilogy, describing it as “a work of romantic fiction which explores a consensual relationship between two willing adult participants”.

Should we therefore take the book as being nothing but a fictional account of an erotic love story? After all, women have the right to their personal fantasies and choice of erotic fiction, and if it opens doors to new arousal templates, helps people feel less judgmental of others, or helps women feel more secure about their secret sexual desires, then surely that is great. Or is it? – How does this effect men? Conversely, the book is not about sex; it is about power.

If “everyone is reading it”, what is it about the book that is so appealing? It would appear that its power lies in the way the book relates with the fantasies of women readers who secretly relish the opportunity to embody the role of the book’s protagonist, Ana, and her ability to surrender her will to her dominant lover. In submitting to her lover, Ana actually finds both love and happiness; and isn’t love and happiness the two things that every woman wants? Furthermore, the  power often lies with the submissive partner. It would appear that most women like the idea of a dominant man who will be the one responsible for matters. One glance at the real world indicates that dominant men are not quite so powerful after all. I don’t suppose anybody’s safe-word is “banker”!

However, the underlying problem is what this book may have led men to believe about what women really want from their lover, especially as many men already feel uncertain as to what their role in society should be. There is now the issue of  some men perhaps believing that they should behave like sadists, thinking that is what all women secretly fantasise about. I am sure the book has become mens’ idea of ‘Fifty Shades of Fear’. After all, if women want “equality”, only to suddenly want submission, then does that mean women have now changed their minds about wanting equality? Have they repealed what the feminists fought for, or does “equality” now mean men should also behave submissively when they spontaneously feel like it, or when a woman thinks a man should, or should men be “strong and dominant” at all times?  It would appear that there is some confusion amongst the male population. I even witnessed the chap next to me reading the following article on the train: ‘So Do Women Really Want Us All To Be Sadists Now?’

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Sadly, human beings really are like a herd of sheep. If something is popular, or in fashion, then everyone else will follow suit, even pretending to like something, rather than feel isolated for being the odd one out. So, fear not chaps, as not all women will genuinely want a sadist. At least you have it on good authority that the author of the article you are currently reading, most certainly does not!

More to the point, perhaps people should communicate more, and maybe if people tried behaving like decent human beings who treat others with respect, perhaps many of our insecurities and uncertainties about what our partners want, would diminish. As long as BDSM is a purely consensual act between a couple who both genuinely wish to engage in the act, and have mutually decided who will take on the role of dominant/submissive, and how far to take the act, then it is nobody else’s business to judge.