Ally Fogg has a series of articles up at the Guardian that offer a confusing set of principles and ideas about gender and crime. Writing about domestic violence, Fogg asserts that men and women experience the crime differently, or at the very least, that there are gendered considerations that must be taken into account.
There might be a temptation for some to simply strip away the gender politics from intimate crimes, to describe them and address them as gender-neutral or even gender-free. From discussions with friends and colleagues in both the men’s and women’s sectors, it is clear this is something almost nobody wants. Just as there is a political and social context to violence against women and girls, there is a different but no less relevant context to intimate violence against men.
Male victims have gender-specific issues and needs that can be fundamentally different to those of women. No one is helped by ignoring or wishing those contexts away. In recent years, men’s charities have begun to refer increasingly to “gender-inclusive” policies, meaning policies that acknowledge and address the relevant gender issues in both survivor support and reduction strategies. Government bodies need to learn that just tacking men and boys on to women’s issues like an awkward appendix is the polar opposite of a genuinely gender-inclusive approach.
Writing about routine male infant circumcision, he appears to consider the practice barbaric (it is) but doesn’t think a law against it will be effective, since Muslims and Jews will simply ignore the law, and it’s not fair to them anyways.
Personally, I would like to see an end to all non-medical infant circumcision, but I recognise that any attempt at a legal ban is entirely the wrong approach. Rightly or wrongly, it would be perceived as an attempt to force assimilation on Jewish and Muslim communities, and would require them to leave the country in order to observe their religion. It would also encourage the very same backstreet, blackmarket practices that pose by far the greatest medical risks.
No word on whether he considers the law against circumcising girls practical or not. And finally, discussing the sexual abuse of minor boys by women, Fogg is adamant that the gender of the victim is irrelevant and that victims of sexual abuse should be treated identically, regardless of their gender.
How many boys have been molested because older women genuinely believed it was just a bit of fun, or even romantic? It seems likely that Hatt and many others may not have fully appreciated that what they were doing was especially wrong. It would be appropriate for the attorney general to look again at the sentence handed to Hatt. It would also be appropriate for all of us, as a community, to look again at how we consider the sexual abuse of boys.
It’s all rather perplexing.
Let’s start with domestic violence. I agree with Fogg that there are significant differences between how men and women experience that crime. In many, if not most cases (although not all, obviously), men who are victims of domestic violence choose not to fight back. There are some powerful reasons for this. For one, many, if not most, men are fully aware that no matter what the provocation, if they respond to a violent woman with violence, the man will be the one held criminally liable. This is enshrined in the US in the Violence Against Women Act itself. This is why Paul Elam’s Swiftian article Bash a Violent Bitch continues to provoke such ire. The idea of hitting even violent women is an anathema to most of us. Men are also heavily socialized into thinking that hitting women is morally wrong, on account of women’s smaller physical stature. Feminist writers, editors and commentators at Jezebel famously recounted with utter glee their physical violence against male partners, none of whom fought back.
On average, I think it’s probably fair to assert that a man who gets slugged by a woman chooses not to retaliate, while a woman who gets punched by a man just prays another fist isn’t coming. The victims experience the crime differently. Does and should those differences inform the consequences, legally? An obvious problem here is that generalities are hard to pin accurately on specific individuals. While in general it might be true that men choose not to retaliate against violent partners, there is no way to understand why a specific man chooses that. Getting hit by anyone can be terrifying. It certainly hurts the same, no matter the gender of the person striking, and any given woman can pick up a weapon, which makes all physical differences moot.
Guns and knives are great equalizers.
Culturally, we use the gender of the victim in domestic violence to justify spending financial resources on women, but not men, and to offer sympathy and compassion to women victims, but not men. Indeed, we often mock men who accept violence from women, but at the same time, punish them harshly for resisting. It’s a no win scenario. No man can win a fight with a woman. If you hit her, you’re a bully and not a ‘real man’, but if you get beaten up, you’re a pussy and also not a ‘real man’.
The legal solution seems evident: there can be no difference under the law. Equality is equality. Imagine, however, something like ‘the rule of thumb’ being reinstated in the West. Wife beating remains legal in the Muslim world, and we rightly respond to that with sneering derision at the lack of Enlightenment that tends to characterize the entire Islamic world. But just for a moment, imagine that men were legally and morally permitted to strike women in a way that caused no lasting harm.
That would be the end of women taking shots at men, methinks.
Unfortunately, the rule of thumb offers no remedy against cruel and abusive men, who certainly exist, just as cruel and abusive women exist. Legal equality is the only sane response to domestic violence. It says a lot about feminism that they reject legal equality so vigorously when to comes to violence. Feminists want women to retain their right to use violence against men (and children), and strongly resist any attempt to suggest that, under the law, women and men are morally and legally equivalent.
I understand Fogg’s article as being in agreement with me: even though women and men do indeed experience domestic violence differently, that is no justification for treating them differently under the law.
When Fogg turns to genital mutilation, his high-minded ideals evaporate. There is no mention whatsoever that genital mutilation of boys ought to be illegal on the grounds of equality with women, who are legally protected from genital cutting in the Western world. And the fact that Jewish and Muslim parents will simply ignore the law is hardly grounds for failing to pass the law. Murderers ignore our prohibitions on killing other people. No sane person understands that to mean murder should be legal. Muslim parents ignore the laws against cutting girls, too, and drag their daughters off to hellholes in the Middle East to have them mutilated and guess what? We prosecute them for doing so.
Fogg’s lack of compassion for the tiniest victims of sexism is disturbing. If the pain of infants doesn’t move you, what does?
Picking up on the sexual abuse of boys, Fogg is back on track, however, but with an interesting spin. While Fogg can accept that men and women experience domestic violence differently, he does not seem to be able to accept that they might experience early sexual experiences differently, too. Barbara Ellen, writing in 2009, takes the opposite tack and suggests that boys can never experience sexual abuse as abuse, and instead are all horny lads who get off on predatory middle aged ladies wanting to bone them.
While a large proportion of teenage boys may not have the sense to make the best choices, they are “up for it,” none the less. This is why, in my view, a male teacher sleeping with a girl pupil amounts to statutory rape, whereas a female teacher sleeping with a 15-year-old male is a far greyer moral area.
Both seem completely icky to me.
I’m sure there are plenty of boys who have no regrets over their ‘sexual abuse’ by an older woman, just as I am sure there are plenty of girls who similarly have no regrets about sleeping with older men. Hot For Teacher was a hit for a reason.
Going back to the domestic violence issue, the fact that men and boys might experience sexual abuse differently than women and girls is no justification for treating perpetrators differently under the law. Equality is equality. It doesn’t really surprise me that writers like Ellen would defend the actions of female child molesters on the grounds that ‘the boys liked it’, because none of these issues, at heart, are about violence or abuse or equality.
They’re about socializing all of us into not caring about men and boys.
The pain and abuse of human males, from birth through childhood, adolescence and adulthood, is meant to cause us no concern. Only the suffering of women and girls matters. For most of human history, this was undoubtedly a smart survival strategy. One rooster, many hens.
History is over, though. At least for the moment.
How fascinating that feminism arose historically at precisely the moment men and women were poised to acknowledge one another as peers, worthy of equal measures of consideration, compassion and love. The number of states who had already passed suffrage by 1920 is a good illustration that men and women were figuring out equality nicely on their own.
Then along came feminism to remind us, loudly and repeatedly, that men have no worth. Men do not deserve compassion. Men’s pain and suffering should be mocked and then ignored. Only women matter. Equality is, and always has been, a chimera.
The truth is that men and women are not equal and never will be. No one individual is exactly equal to another. I’m smarter and stronger than lots of people and weaker and dumber than lots of others. Individual differences can not matter when it comes to equality under the law. That undermines the entire premise of the law.
Justice may be blind, but she is also a woman.
So is Liberty.
They mean nothing if they do not apply to men and women equally.
Lots of love,