Jun 23 2009

Men, no women, are responsible for rape

The whole ‘she was asking for it’ line has almost become a cliche when talking about rape. Unfortunately, it’s still a prevalent attitude. Back in 2005, Amnesty International launched the results of an attitude survey into rape which found that a third of people felt that a woman was wholly or partially responsible for being raped if she was being flirtatious.

This survey has been replicated by various different organisations including the Scottish Government and the findings are pretty consistent.

It is in this context that you should see if you can spot any differences between the headline from a press release from the University of Leicester:

And the story that resulted in the Daily Telegraph:

Notice any difference? Go on, look really hard.

In the study, psychologists at Leicester Uni asked men to consider themselves in various scenarios with a female acquaintance and find out if or when they were more likely to coerce a woman into sex. The scenarios differed with the acquaintance wearing different clothes, drinking alcohol, being aware of her previous sexual partners or her being assertive.

The main finding was that men who considered themselves sexually experienced were more likely to coerce women into sex. These men found resistance from a woman sexually arousing. Interestingly, alcohol had the opposite effect than expected with men more like to coerce sober women rather than those that were drunk.

Yet Richard Alleyne, Science Correspondent, states that alcohol has a bearing on whether men will coerce a woman into having sex. He also says:

Sophia Shaw at the University of Leicester said that men showed a “surprising” propensity to coerce women into sex, especially those that were considered promiscuous.

Now, this is not in the press release and may have come from a phone interview. But it does look like he has mixed up women’s promiscuity with men’s. Remember, the Leicester Uni headline was “Promiscuous men more likely to rape”.

So what’s going on here? We already know that a large proportion of people will happily admit that under certain circumstances women are responsible for being raped (let alone those who think it but wouldn’t admit it in a survey, it being a rather despicable view). So does Richard Alleyne in the Daily Telegraph just think that maintaining that belief is more palatable for his readership? Is he intentionally playing into our woman-blaming culture? He is the ‘science correspondent’ so you’d think he would know about study design and, you know, the results. So, he seems to have willfully misrepresented this study to again make women feel responsible for their own rape or sexual assault.

This has also been blogged on here, but they seem to have just worked from the Telegraph article rather than the press release or original study. As the headlines show above, that is never a good idea…

[And thanks to @CliveAndrews for sending the articles]