Have you noticed the trend in the news of late? It started 6 months ago with the Jimmy Saville sex abuse scandal. It continued at the end of the 2012 with the horrific story of gang rape in India.
In 2013 the baton was picked up by the Liberal Democrat Party. First we heard that MP Chris Hulme bullied his wife Vicky Pryce into taking his penalty points for speeding and lied about it. Then his wife revealed that he also bullied her into having an abortion. While the Lib Dems were still reeling from that, an even bigger scandal broke when it was revealed that one of the party’s most senior members Lord Rennard had been making unwanted sexual advances to young female party members.
Neither has it been a good year for the Roman Catholic Church. For years now more and more victims of sexual abuse perpetrated by Catholic Priests in the 1970s, 80s, and 90s have been coming forward. Then in February of this year Cardinal Keith O’Brien the former head of the Roman Catholic church in Scotland, and the most senior Cardinal in the UK stepped down after allegations that he had ‘inappropriate sexual relations’ with younger Priests. This is the same cardinal who consistently condemned homosexuality during his reign, vociferously opposing gay adoption and same-sex marriage. It is rumoured that Pope Benedict took the unprecedented step of retiring from his post, not as stated because of old age and infirmity (that is almost part of the job description), but because the 85 year old could no longer stand the strain of having to contain all the rumours, accusations and allegations of sexual abuse perpetrated by these ‘men of the cloth’.
Are you seeing the pattern yet? What do all of these international news stories have in common – the sexual tyranny of powerful men. Men in positions of power, who abuse that power to satisfy their own carnal lust.
This abuse by powerful men against those weaker than themselves is nothing new. It has been going on for decades, no centuries. What is new is that those frightened children on the 70s and 80s are now adults and have the courage to speak out. Those oppressed women are now ready to stand up against the abuse.
On February 14th this year, there were marches in Afghanistan, human chains in Bangladesh and a debate in the British parliament to celebrate One Billion Rising, a campaign to raise awareness of violence against women. Actor Thandie Newton, comedian Ruby Wax and politician Yvette Cooper all attended the London event. Dancers performed and 109 balloons were released in memory of the suspected murders of 109 women killed by men last year in the UK. The campaign, which was started by activist and Vagina Monologues author Eve Ensler, asked participants to dance in solidarity with the one billion women estimated to be abuse survivors.
What is it that all these abusing men have in common? What makes them so ready to indulge their evil desires without regard for the damage they inflict on their victims? It is not confined to a specific race or culture, as a glance around world history shows that men of all races are capable of great evil. No what all these men have in common is their elevated status, their power. They say that power corrupts, and so absolute power (the kind enjoyed by Catholic priests and Cardinals) corrupts absolutely.
This is what Alexander Hamilton had to say about power in 1788.
“Men Love Power. Give all power to the many and they will oppress the few. Give all the power to the few and they will oppress the many. Both therefore ought to have the power, that one may defend itself against the other.”
This is what soul singer Marvin Gaye had to say about the same topic some two centuries later.
“Power is the most addictive thing in the world – more than sex, money or dope. People will do most things for the latter including murder, but there are those who would sell their very soul for total power.”
That seems a fair assessment. And they will also go to any extent to protect their power. The sexual abuse within the Catholic Church was allowed to continue for so long because the hierarchy of the Church (including the former Pope when he was still a Cardinal) conspired to cover it up. Paedophile priest were not sacked but simply moved to other diocese, free to abuse again. The primary concern of the Church hierarchy was not the welfare of the innocent victims, but rather protecting their own reputations.
Rape is not about sex, it is about power. These bullying men usually victimise women, but it can also be against less powerful men (as was the case with Cardinal O Brien).
How did Jimmy Saville get away with his abuse for so many decades? He was only able to perpetrate his abuse for so long because he was a highly paid, highly respected TV and radio personality. His fame and fortune gave him a free pass to abuse the young and vulnerable.
What made those men in India think that they could gang rape a woman on a mini-bus, leave her for dead in the road and get away with it? Maybe because the sexual abuse of women in India is so commonplace, and the social stigma of rape so shameful, that rapists are rarely arrested never mind convicted. (There were more than 635 reported rapes in Delhi in 2012, but only one conviction.) In the news commentary which followed the story we were informed that the national outcry in India only occurred because this particular victim was a middle-class medical student. For poor rural women in India, rape is a daily risk.
Back in the UK, Lord Rennard was only able to harass all those young female MPs because he was such a senior member of the Liberal party. Rennard didn’t rape anybody, but he allegedly made numerous repeated unwanted sexual advances. What made this overweight, old man feel that any of these young women would enjoy his sexual attentions?
Maybe the thought that since he was such a senior member of the party, that any ambitious female MPs who wanted to advance their careers, might endure his amorous attentions in order to enjoy his political support, (like a party political version of Hollywood’s infamous casting couch). Several women made complaints to the Lib Dem hierarchy, but just as in the Catholic Church, nothing was done.
Alison Smith alleges she was inappropriately touched and sexually harassed by the then Liberal Democrat chief executive after a dinner at his house in 2007. Smith made a complaint under the leadership of Menzies Campbell but said that Rennard exerted extraordinary power over the Lib Dem leadership and that may have made it harder for them to tackle the issue.
Give a group power over another group, and they will almost certainly abuse it. For more real life examples look at the well documented abuse of Blacks in Los Angeles by the LAPD, or the British and American Army’s abuse of prisoners of war in Iraq and Guantanamo Bay.
So what can we ordinary men do to overthrow the evil sex tyrants of the ruling classes? Firstly we should remember that unity is strength. If the right to vote in America was still restricted to only white men, then Obama would never have been elected as POTUS. (The majority of straight white men in the last US election voted for Romney.) Obama won because the majority of Blacks, Hispanics, women, gays, infact every one other than straight white men, voted for him.
What we the oppressed masses must not do is join with the evil tyrants to further stigmatise those marginalised and weaker groups. Unfortunately, frustrated by our own lack of power in the wider world, we often take out this frustration by abusing those physically weaker and closest to us. A recent most disgusting example of this is in the lyrics of American rapper Rick Ross. In the song “U.O.E.N.O. (You Ain’t Even Know It)” he suggests that he drugged the champagne of a woman in order to take her home and have his way with her without any resistance. “Put molly all in her champagne, she ain’t even know it / I took her home and I enjoyed that, she ain’t even know it.”
Now misogyny in rap lyrics is nothing new, but usually it is simply men boasting of their prolificacy and prowess with the ladies. Clearly Rick Ross felt that his fame and money are not enough to get women into bed, and so he must employ chemical means as well!
Responsible men have a duty to speak out against such mysogyny. We men must support women in their demands to assert their reproductive rights, their right to access contraception and their right to abortion (which those evil men in the Catholic Church would like to deny them.) In other cultures we must speak out against genital mutilation and forced marriage.
We heterosexual men should also defend the rights of gay men and women to live and love as they see fit. Despite what so many Christian ministers are preaching, homosexuality was not introduced into Africa and the Caribbean by white men – Christianity and homophobia were.
For as Martin Luther King Jr said over 40 years ago “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”.