Friday, 29 February 2008

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.

The links are:

27th February, 2008

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Wednesday, 20 February 2008

The Oldest Liberation Movement

By Finn Mackay, Co-founder - FCAP

New Feminist group gives a voice to the majority who want a world without prostitution

On Monday 11th February over 100 women gathered at the Amnesty UK Human Rights Action Centre for a public meeting to launch the new Feminist Coalition Against Prostitution – FCAP.

Yes, I’ve already been told that this sounds like a form of female contraception, but then so did the Campaign Against Pornography – CAP – and it never seemed to do them any harm. So, I like to keep the spirit of the Second Wave alive!

The meeting was titled “Not One Woman More” in reference to the tragic murders of five young women who were involved in prostitution in Ipswich. Many speakers were brought from all over the country and internationally, to discuss what we can do as a movement to ensure that not one woman more is lost to the ‘industry’ of prostitution. Speakers included Gunilla Ekberg from the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women (CATW) who advised the Swedish government on their prostitution law, Aravinda Kosaraju from the Coalition for the Removal of Pimping (CROP) based in Leeds, Jan MacLeod from the Glasgow Women’s Support Project and Fiona MacTaggart MP. The message was clear, that the time has come to focus on the demand side of prostitution. We heard from Sweden on how this was done, we heard from Fiona MacTaggart MP that it could be achieved here. Indeed Fiona MacTaggart called for all of us to contact our own MP’s and create a movement around this issue to adequately reflect public opinion. We cannot be complacent on this issue, we need to make it clear to our decision makers that this is a real concern to the people of this country and that now is the time for change. And it is real and radical change that FCAP is calling for – the decriminalisation of all those involved in prostitution and instead the criminalisation of demand, as has been carried out in Sweden with great success. This must go alongside dedicated investment in exit, support and safety services for those involved in prostitution.

Along with my political Sister Julie Bindel I am Co-founder of the new FCAP and am excited and proud to be giving a formal face to what I know is a majority view. I believe that most people don’t think that prostitution is a job like any other, or that it is of any benefit to women or society. A recent survey for The Politics Show in January found that 52% of the public polled thought that paying for sex should be made illegal, and 65% believed buying sex is exploitation of women. Younger people were more likely to hold these views. So what can we do to make these voices heard?

It is this question that was behind the founding of FCAP. A few years ago I attended a fringe meeting at NUS Women’s Conference. A group called Alliance for Workers Liberty (AWL) had organised a meeting with a speaker from the International Union of Sex Workers (IUSW). I will never forget what this speaker said to the group of over 20 young women in attendance. I quote –
“trafficking is a myth”, “the amount of money it costs to be brought over from Thailand you can pay back in less than 6 months if you work hard”, “prostitution is one of the only areas in Western society where women can feel good about their own bodies, because we go into work every day and men tell us we are beautiful”.
I know from my work in the London Feminist Network that most young women do not believe these lies. But, many women stay silent when faced with such views because they don’t feel they can argue with something presented as a workers rights issue. Well, the truth is this has nothing to do with workers rights and everything to do with women’s rights; and whether we believe men have a right to buy women, or not. It’s really as simple as that. What we have to do is take back our voice and say so. The IUSW and the similar English Collective of Prostitutes (ECP) who are part of Wages For Housework, do not represent the majority view in this country, and they certainly are not the ‘voice’ of the women’s movement or of women in this country. FCAP is about providing a safe space for the majority of us who don’t believe that anyone should be bought or sold, it aims to be a banner under which to mobilise on this oldest of oppressions.

In the face of this oldest oppression we need to build, or re-build, a movement against it, a movement for freedom for all. And anyone who is concerned with social justice, human rights, anti-globalisation, anti-consumerism, anti-racism, women and children’s rights – should all be part of this struggle. Because this is a struggle for the most oppressed, the most disenfranchised and silenced in our countries and communities. We must stand by, fight with, and speak out for women involved in prostitution, our sisters, who have been failed by state systems put in place to protect them and we cannot fail them too. The multi-billion dollar and growing ‘sex industry’ does not need anyone’s help to defend it, but all over the world women and children do. Prostitution is a global human rights abuse. It is perhaps the most brutal example of women’s continuing inequality in society today. A scientific study in the Journal of Trauma Practice (2003) found that 89% of women in prostitution wanted to leave immediately, but had no other options. Research from ‘Paying The Price’ (2004) found that the majority of those involved in street prostitution have spent time in local authority care, survived physical child abuse and almost half are survivors of childhood sexual abuse. Tonight, as every night, up to 5000 young people will be exploited on our streets in prostitution. Children and teenagers are groomed and pimped, indeed the average age of entry into prostitution is 13 – 14yrs old. Millions of women and children are trafficked around the world for the purposes of sexual exploitation every year. All to fulfil a demand that some try and tell us is inevitable. But men are not born on this earth with a biological understanding that half of the population can be bought and sold for sexual exploitation. This is learned, and therefore can be unlearned. We as a society can start teaching something new to our boys and young men, to all of us: the very real fact that violence and abuse is never inevitable and that change is always possible. Imagine waking up in a Britain that had stood up and said that women and children are not for sale. Now do what you can to make it real.

For more information and to join FCAP see –

Other useful links –

Finn Mackay
Co-founder - FCAP

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