12:13, June 01 297 0 theguardian.com

2018-06-01 12:13:14
Can Germaine Greer still be called a feminist after her comments on rape?

There are important points in Germaine Greer’s proposal to reduce sentences for rape (See rape as careless instead of violent and lower the punishment, says Greer, 31 May) but it is a pity she presents it in such a provocative manner – as if she intended to anger victims of rape.

Given the nature of the adversarial legal system, rape cases always end up with, in the absence of witnesses, the jury trying to figure out who is telling the truth – the alleged victim or the alleged perpetrator. There is a far greater onus on the victim to prove it was non-consensual sex. The truth is often somewhere in between, as communications around sex tend to get lost in translation, as Greer points out.

Could a rape charge be reduced to a charge of unintentional sexual assault, similar to a murder charge being reduced to manslaughter – and thus the sentencing reduced? Would this lesser charge allow an accused man to admit that he had not realised his actions were being received as harmful (by the complainant) and that, on reflection, her enthusiastic consent was not so certain?

Where Greer really goes wrong is when she tells us that women love men more than men love women, and that women love their sons more than their daughters. Insulting to both men and women, this sounds more like the 1950s patriarchy than the sort of feminist rallying call for which she was such a remarkable advocate in the 1970s.

Alison Hackett

Dun Laoghaire, Co Dublin, Ireland

I have assessed 463 asylum seekers to write medico-legal reports for the courts: 355 men and 108 women. I have seen some horrific scars of torture. I have also heard 58 accounts of rape: 28 men and 30 women. Every person has found it horribly difficult to speak to me about their rape. They are deeply humiliated, and their distress about the rape is more than that about the whipping, beating and burning they have suffered.

It is true that there are frequently no physical scars of rape. The scars are in their mental state, in their sense of self. Their modesty and privacy have been violated; they are deeply humiliated. Marriages are broken, single women feel they cannot marry, men are ashamed to speak of it. One man rushed out of my room to be sick when he started to speak of his rape, although he had been able to describe being hung upside down, burned and whipped with reasonable calm.

Rape is violation of the soul – do not forget that. We should give victims all the support we can.

Dr Charmian Goldwyn

London

Germaine Greer has some important things to say. So important that the headline to your report should be challenged. Let’s address the content though, as much of what she said is very significant. Non-consensual sex is common. It means that one person gets what they want against another’s will in a uniquely personal way. One will be triumphant, sated or vindicated, and the other ashamed, diminished and angry. Or pregnant or infected.

Is Greer right to distinguish between rapes that involve penetration against our will and a violent hatred of women by violent men? Yes, I believe she is.

What is wrong is the clumsy nature of our courts. Having read The Secret Barrister, I am convinced that the adversarial system is the wrong one to give justice to violated women and girls.

Jacqueline Darby

Twickenham, Middlesex

Laura Bates (Germaine Greer’s comments on rape are dangerous and damaging, theguardian.com, 31 May) does a good job of exposing how wrong Greer’s opinions are, but I wish she, and others who do so, would cease describing Greer as a “leading feminist”. She wrote a book a long time ago. She was not and has never been a leading figure in the women’s liberation movement – we eschewed leaders as a matter of political principle, in fact – and she is not a spokesperson for anyone but herself.

Her comments and attitudes have often been a source of embarrassment, which I believe lack depth of understanding or feminist analysis, and these latest statements are so crass and ridiculous as to make it a matter of debate whether she can really even be called a feminist.

Frankie Green

Whitstable, Kent

Join the debate – email guardian.letters@theguardian.com

Read more Guardian letters – click here to visit gu.com/letters

Topics