Misogyny and male violence against women is endemic but the truth must remain hidden
By Jennifer Drew
It was a particularly horrible week in respect of UK men’s sexual and physical violence against women. On Friday, 22nd February, 2008 Steve Wright was convicted of murdering five young women, the same day Mark Dixie was convicted of murdering Sally-Anne Bowman. On Monday, 25th February, 2008 Levi Bellfield was convicted of murdering Marsha McDonnell and Amelia Delagrange. Bellfield was also convicted of attempting to murder Kate Sheedy. All three men have been sentenced to life imprisonment.
So what is the connection between these male murderers. The answer is all three men hate women and all three men targeted women simply because of their biological sex. There is a term for this and it is not misogyny – it is femicide. Femicide means women who are murdered by men exclusively because they are women.
All three cases were high profile and received mass media attention. Steve Wright’s claim to infamy was because he targeted prostituted women and murdered five young women within a very short time frame. Mark Dixie’s claim to infamy is that he chose a young, white aspiring model to rape and murder. Levi Bellfield chose to target young blonde haired women and he selected these young women whilst they were travelling home after dark on buses. All the ingredients of salacious sexual violence and murder which is always guaranteed to ensure newspaper sales will increase dramatically for a few days before reverting to normal sales.
Much has been written in the press and media of the prostituted women’s lives but there is a now a new twist. The media has created a new myth, namely drug and/or alcohol abuse caused these young women to enter prostitution and subsequently be murdered by Wright. No need to question male sexual demand which is fuelling prostitution or the fact most prostituted women do not enter prostitution because of drug addiction. Rather prostituted women use drugs and/or alcohol in an attempt to dissociate from the trauma and intense pain of having to endure innumerable men raping and abusing their bodies. Male demand must never be discussed or analysed because it is supposedly ‘natural for men to need a constant supply of fresh women in order to obtain their “rightful” sexual satisfaction.’ But upon Wright’s sentence of life imprisonment, details of his life history are emerging. Wright had been buying women’s bodies for his sexual gratification for more than 25 years and Wright even claimed he resorted to using ‘prostituted women’ because his sex life with his female partner was non-existent. One newspaper, The Daily Mail claimed Wright’s family ‘believe his motive for murdering women could be revenge on his mother Patricia, who abandoned him when he was a child.’ The murders of five prostituted women has once again caused the media to focus on why women ‘choose’ (sic) to enter prostitution – as though it is a free and autonomous choice. Little has been written about the numerous male Johns who are the ones ensuring prostitution continues to exist.
Mark Dixie was convicted of murdering Sally-Anne Bowman and his defence was he ‘stumbled upon the unconscious body of Ms. Bowman and in a moment of uncontrollable (male) sexual arousal raped her. But the media did not refer to his confession as rape, instead he simply ‘had sex with a female who was either dead at the time or unconscious.’ Apparently it is ‘sex’ because Ms. Bowman omitted to tell Dixie she did not consent to him penetrating her body with his penis. Like Wright, immediately after Dixie was convicted, details of his hatred of women emerged. Dixie has a history of sexual offences committed against women and he is known to the police since he has five convictions for sex offences against women.
Bellfield’s history of sexual violence against women was also disclosed by the media immediately after he was convicted of murder. Bellfield too, is a serial sex offender with a history of multiple rapes and sexual abuses committed against women. Bellfield was known to target under-age girls in order to rape and sexually abuse them. Bellfield’s ex-partner Becky Williamson spoke publicly about Bellfield routinely beating and raping her, but his sexual and physical violence against her only ceased when he was arrested for the murder of Ms. Delagrange. Another aspect all three men have in common, apart from hatred of women, is that they all engaged in acts of violence against their female partners.
Wright and Dixie were initially reported by the media as being ‘deviants and monsters.’ But photographs of these men do not show them with horns or frothing at the mouth, instead they appear to be normal indistinguishable men. Very quickly the media began to apportion blame but of course these men alone must not be held responsible for their actions. Oh no, women have to be partially held responsible for causing these men to commit femicide.
The most common excuses/justifications for men’s sexual violence against women is that a man’s female partner was frigid and yes, this excuse/justification was used by Wright. Wright was supposedly driven to buy prostituted women because his female partner would not satisfy his sexual needs. Another common justification/excuse for men’s sexual violence against women is that the mother was responsible because she either abandoned the man when he was a boy or she was a ‘bad mother.’ These excuses/justifications are used to neatly deflect accountability away from the men who choose to commit violence against women and instead society holds women partially or totally responsible for men’s sexual and physical violence against women.
In the case of Bellfield it was not the media which first claimed these myths but a police officer. Det. Insp. Sutton made a public statement wherein he was reported as saying ‘Bellfield a psychology PhD waiting to happen, was very close to his mother. His father died when he was young. He (Bellfield) has a massive ego to feed, he thinks he is God’s gift to everyone.’ Not everyone, Det. Insp. Sutton, Bellfield’s ‘massive ego’ was in relation to women NOT MEN. Det. Insp. Sutton’s words serve as either justification for Bellfield since he is mad, or Bellfield’s mother is to blame since no male role model was around in order to show Bellfield how to become a ‘man.’ No need to raise the fact Bellfield’s relationships with women were ones typical of a violent man who rigidly adheres to the masculine script which defines ‘real manhood’ as one wherein men are expected to dominate and control women generally. Sexual relationships are ones wherein a man owns the woman and her sexuality is always for his sexual pleasure. If she deviates from this role he is entitled to rape and sexually abuse her. As evidenced by Bellfield’s ex-partner Becky Wilkinson’s disclosures.
Evidence of how men lie not only to themselves but others concerning their contempt and dismissal of women as dehumanised beings is contained with a BBC website report of Johns who regularly buy women’s bodies in order to rape and sexually abuse them.
Yet again women are being blamed for men’s sexual violence against women and already in less than a week the media is once again attempting to focus attention away from men’s sexual violence against women. Because it is men who are the real victims of women’s lies and duplicitousness. Irrespective that less than 5% of men charged with raping and committing sexual violence against women are convicted, the BBC news website has featured an article on the numbers of men falsely accused of raping women. No need to highlight the fact only around 3% of rape claims against men are false and this percentage is in line with other cases of false reporting such as fraudulent insurance claims, great attention is being paid to the very small number of men falsely charged. Male sexual violence against women in the UK is endemic and the truth is we live in a rape culture. Misogyny is rampant and continues to be denied; women are now routinely depicted by the media as men’s sexualised objects or toys. Pornography has now become mainstream and one only has to enter any random high street newsagent and immediately be met with graphic images of naked women bodies splayed and in poses which systematically dehumanise women as holes to be penetrated by men. Women are routinely depicted as dehumanised sexualised commodities who can be bought and male sexual violence/coercion against women is depicted as an important aspect of the normal male heterosexual script.
Another case which has received only minor media attention is the one wherein a number of arrogant teenage boys filmed themselves group raping a young woman as she lay unconscious in her own home. This video was put on Youtube’s website and was viewed by over 600 individuals. Not until local London newspaper, The South London Press raised this issue with Youtube was the video withdrawn. Yet another example of how male sexual violence against women goes unnoticed unless it is a particularly high profile case.
Sadly, already the media has once again returned to selective amnesia, because these three cases of men deliberately murdering women because they are women, plus the added sensationalism of sex, murder and violence are not common. The more mundane everyday cases of men raping, murdering and using physical violence against women and children will continue to pass unnoticed because it is not newsworthy. Only when at least three or more prostituted women are murdered in a short time frame, or if a particular case is considered to be ‘newsworthy’ will the everyday male violence against women be reported.
Instead the media is perpetuating the myth only deviant male monsters commit rape and sexualised murder against women.
Patrizia Romito, a feminist Professor of Social and Community Psychology at the University of Trieste, Italy, has just published a book entitled ‘A Deafening Silence: Hidden Violence Against Women and Children.’ Ms. Romito delineates the various ways male sexual and physical violence against women and children continues to be hidden. The various mechanisms used to hide men’s accountability and how women continue to be blamed for men’s sexual and physical violence against women. The book is published by Policypress and the ISBN number is 978-1-86134-961-3.
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27th February, 2008