Waiting. Recently, Straw Dogs had its first showing on British television in its uncut state. I had previously seen it censored, and caught myself crossing between this and other channels, waiting to be ushered to a moral abyss by the scenes previously forbidden. I confess I was waiting for the rape. In an interested observer kind of way. As we are. Some scenes were almost still pictures, like Wakamatsu's Violated Angels. A jawdropping afterglow from Susan George's character, the only shocking aspect of it. And potentially happening in Dustin Hoffman's head, those cut-aways suggested. One fictional/fantastic rape, at a point in cinematic history when a licence to be graphic was granted and take-up let us into the jocks' locker room of many a directors' mind, but not an exploration of rape as an issue.
Huff and puff at the lightness. Almost without fail, screen rape is controversial, and comes accompanied by outrage and analysis. Reports of actual rape are up 27%, while convictions are at a point where it is almost an 'unconvictable crime'. And there is less huff and puff at the lightness with which the bona fide crime appear to be treated. Off-hand analysis can link it to porn, increasingly sexualised women and come-on-let's-have-you compadres. It's a putting in place, a putting off sex, desire as self-avoidance, a conservative force. And John Leslie is an innocent man. Why swim against the tide - is it a serious crime at all? Sex isn't a crime, in any other circumstance it is a positive thing. Being forced a chocolate gateaux or money may give the recipient no say. It might amount to a form of bullying. You'll feel small. But all you need's a thicker skin. No?
Hospitalised. Rape, devastating and an issue of consent, is hard to prove, and possibly always will be. In the Leslie affair, whatever the personalities, sympathy must be had with the hospitalised Jonsson. But if you can't swing a case when the victim was boots-up in A&E, when can you? Big John was accused of two separate counts of sexual assault against the same complainant on the same night and these were dropped after undisclosed evidence concerning the complainant was brought forward by the complainant herself. Others with evidence chose to go to the press via their friends rather than the police, and indeed some complainants refused to assist the police, which certainly belittles everything. They weighed it up and nothing was worth it. Who are we to overrule.
Right Gigolo. The dropped mis-accusations could be filed under date rape, the traditional scene requiring one self-centred Right Gigolo with a gross inability to see what is actually happening: I was just enjoying the evening and had no presumptions about its outcome (I am so in), he started coming a bit strong (Mr Passion. Heh), instinct told me something was desperately wrong (Step one: Pepe le Peu), I tried to hit him with a bottle (Bit o'ruff-and-tumble. Heh), I screamed (Choosie Susie), I screamed louder (instant drowning in entitlement, shreds of ego backfeeding through the claws of righteousness, lights-out for the reflex and a booze-bladdered blowing-of-top).
Such negative force. It would be odd to construct an order for the impact of crimes, but given the unpleasant option between being killed or raped, I'd have to chose penetration over pall bearers. Yet I never flinch at cinematic murder in quite the way I do at rape, and the push for context to explain or explore is rarely enforced with killing on film. Rape is always controversial, as if the alternative would be to suggest some form of pleasure viewing, or allowing it to be metaphor. So emotive and of such negative force we cannot seen to be enjoying it on any level. We don't know what it's for. With killing, it can be easier to accept the fiction and empathise with the release of a character ridding themselves of an obstacle. The motivations for rape are harder to define, never mind allow our interpretation to register deeper in our consciousness. No metaphor would seem entirely fitting, or too obscure to attempt. What would be it's cautionary tale? What value does it add? But why is one kind of crime so hallowed we even have to ask that question?
Internal scripts. Visual imagery, even of the worst kind, does not rest behind rape any more than violent films can motion a tender person to violence they had no desire for. And there is no reason why we couldn't argue that as many or more potential offenders might be pacified by vicariously living their sicker internal scripts. On that basis, how Straw Dogs might prevent crime would be just as immeasurable. If we ask offenders they're as likely to say that 'God told me to do it', which means we'd have to limit access to the Bible. Concern over visuals often derives from the worry that, given the thumbs-up from video fellow travellers, an unseen tide of men would rape. A triple diddle of depressing misinterpretations - the male as an inch-more-barbaric - sex as something men do to women - and rape as something so stoked up it can't help itself. Quantity and convenience in sex is quite the opposite of rape and, ultimately, visual imagery can only suggest practical methods of perpetrating the thing one is driven to perpetrate by other motivations.
The battles-end. Moroccan mercenaries with the French in Italy (10,000+); the Japanese in Nanking (20,000); Allied troops in Germany (countless); the Pakistanis in Bangladesh (200,000 - a figure which must have required a grotesque form of project management - phasing, deadlines and milestones); Serb/Croat then Croat/Serb. Even belligerent old Moses decreed martial rape against the Midianites (virgins only). Hence no 'Thou Shalt Not Rape', though fancying the ringed-fingered remains one of the worst things a human can do. (Coveting is oddly the only commandment peer-to-peer, Aristotelian, based on desire - amongst nine more traditional, peer-to-offender, based on behaviour curtailment). Year zero claimants at the battles-end, all-round spoilers, fear-autistic shooters at the shadow of Eros. Double shifts in the rape factory can only highlight where the act has split and multiple, social and anti-social, private and public, motivations.
Mallard ducks. Rape occurs in nature, if we can transpose the idea of consent, with mallard ducks and salamanders the inveterate chuckle brothers, a duplicitous gang bang and a slippery-footed gay stalk as their respective virtuosities. Further research on hand is from sociobologists like (the name could cause you to falter) Randy Thornhill, from a school on a permanent blacklist for suggesting proto-Darwinian theories as to why, for males who find themselves gazing ever upwards for a missing constellation called The Pecking Order, rape may be a default last resort to procreation lurking in primordial hedgerows of the subconscious (assuming this exists, collective or otherwise). Concentric friction against that trigger by many local, mitigating factors (general powerlessness, the feeling of no right to 'claim' life or personal destiny) might destabilise someone just enough to focus their fruitlessness into one channel, twist the threads of indignity together and sever the whole damn rope.
A sauce-dark laugh, a Brucie Bonus. If we get past the worry that a male perspective might be biased, Thornhill's prickly analysis of victim demographics suggests that it is unique as a crime against women in that it is more likely to befall young and 'attractive' victims, or at least has some parallel to normal sexual choices, with little evidence that powerful, rich or authority figures are targeted for scarification. Even in the common, domestic, known-assailant scenario, his analysis indicates something sexual or at least psychosexual about rape. Results could concur that feeling grand fromage is more successfully influenced with a gentleman's trousers not about his ankles. It might be raw domination with a sauce-dark laugh, a psychosexual Brucie Bonus, but anyone can swing about a fist and yet, generally, not everyone can muster up the arousal required and inspired by fear and struggle. The power that feminists speak of might also be psychosexual, oedipal, realignment. Not power over who but what.
The same branches. Desire does not come from lack. Wanting does: we want food because we lack it, we are hungry. Desire, like God and the Devil, is in the detail. We desire a toasted bagel with fresh basil or chevre; fresh, wet walnuts or gravad lax. The difference between the open-ended notion of 'food' and the open sandwich is the difference between wanting and desiring. It's sensual, memory, consolation, exploration, added value, comfort zone, personal statement even. But never lack, you have it already. You already have Barbeque Snack-a-Jacks and a Pepsi Max, you just want reminded of the fact. If rape is not about sexual want, it is a form of desire, and potentially bespoke in its motivations.
Good girls. Conjuring the act à la guinea pig, (fends off imaginary police sirens with imaginary 'My Secret Garden'), make of it what you will, it feels as if this person and their world is all mine - through control, mutual focus, and perhaps being all mine for half an hour is better than half mine for a lifetime. A given thing, a share with no souvenir to speak of, still implies that this intangible exchange is not mine. Whatever 'it' is, being given it is not sufficient. Take is the only way to make it mine. Why we use sex to stake claims, in any aspect of life, is a testament to the fact that sex will never simply be it's lighter sides, even if to suggest that bitter rape, jealousy and possiveness hang from the same branches we also find marriage and monogamy might seem odd. Even odder, there's a hovering, protectionist hue of 'good girls don't'. In a way, I negate and absolve someone from the desire process. In a way, rather than sullied, this hit-run, shock-awe encounter seeks to leave her cleaner than any other kind of brief encounter, swaddled deep in freshly laundered burkha. Good girls never will. It's my fault. All mine.
Courtroom skirt. Every shade of rape should be reported immediately - no questions, considerations or debate. In hindsight or without tangible evidence, where can truth be found when the keys to the crime lie in states of mind. Even if evidence of intercourse is there, proof that 'no' was the public register and not 'yes' - the difference which will land the other in prison - can only be physical signs of assault (which fear might prevent), witnesses or the narrow, descendant steps of extraneous circumstances ('Come on, how likely is that.') The latter, so subjective, lopes from crime scene eyeliner breadth and courtroom skirt length to location, prior knowledge, half-remembered statistics or a sense of who is more likely to be an agent of the truth. The latter would be the complainant, of course. If were I on a jury, I would try as hard as I could to concentrate on the evidence, and would find it hard to imprison someone on the basis of likely. I would want to, but I would find it hard.
The shin-showing shrew. It is such an objective matter, and so clearly a devastating crime, perhaps we should arrest anyone who muddies the water with privately skewered views on intercourse, or links to demographics, porn, Falaraki lassies, race, class, whatever. There are private shades of no, shades of yes, shades of silence and 'depends', meandering their mostly harmless, get-by ways around our keen domestic harmony, but that is not the issue here. Personal politics come out to play when not invited, not least in the phantom-nannied brains of judges, older female jury members or x-wingers, where the best woman ever is hands-off nan, and now befuddled by the shin-showing shrew, seemingly happy to devalue herself, merely squeamish that someone should push matters to their conclusion. And who somehow bendy-mirror the more space cadet end of the Token Tough Woman proposal: that hysterical huff and puff gives a relatively unimportant, spongy object the power it's actually craving, and that letting your self-worth collapse ensures that perpetrators laugh and laugh again. Old school shockists cut gems of academic worry like 'all men are rapists', as such implied 'if I were a man I'd be the same', and everyone stared at them blankly.
Just leave it. Nuthin undoes nuthin, could even make it worse and, girl, you're gonna lose - why bother? High acquittal rates fuel the failure to even register. 'Rape feels like an assault on the essence of what it is to be a human being, maybe even more than murder,' a friend says. Urging victims to see this kind of inwardly-caving attack in a social frame (a society which we have to believe is out to help), seems to have worked if the 27% increase is an increase in a duty-to-oneself-and-others to report and not a rise in actual cases. Societies are multiple and throw variant value systems at us, some that we accept and some that we reject, dependant on our strengths, circumstances and concept of balance. There's no shame in being burgled, we're onto the fuzz before unbuttoning our overcoats. Shame through innocence-obsessiveness, the defence of the internal-traditional, familial, locked-on, parent-down desires and values. Alternatives exist if we choose them and, to that end, many will see no excuse in not reporting the crime at least. To shirk the hard work drives a belated social 'yes' over every private 'no'.
Domestic. From my window, I watch a lady kicked out of the apartments opposite, barefoot, dressing-gowned and crying, in a 1am 'domestic'. She sits in the cold, a passer-by beats me to asking if she wants to phone someone but she says no, and is eventually let back in. God only knows what goes on or what good words like these will ever do, but we can't accept it's just victims who should refuse to leave it.
Twisting off through the ether. Away from shades of academic wish-wash, we want it caught, stopped, incarcerated for prevention or punishment - and maybe we should have contracts, vows, betrothals as codes on mobiles twisting off through the ether, quick as the tops of condom boxes. Codes to say 'we do' or at least 'we did'. If, as we read, only 2% of rape allegations are false, and the conviction rate is 6%, this leaves a staggering 96% of the genuine cases that can't be proven. Common sense would say that whatever methods are used to validate the false claim figures should be used instead of, or at least incorporated into, normal legal proceedings. In the burdensome wrangle of developing a case, it is far more likely that the complainant is the agent of truth, and the emphasis to prove consent should rest mainly with the defendant. We're happy with that but how, I'm unsure.
Beyond the city gates. Though a lot of analysis seems to veer off on male or female subjective tangents, blacklisting scientific explanation at its early stage is unfair, just the pushing of rape beyond the city gates. Even if rape was more closely understood, it can still be condemned. No subconscious levels of male self-contempt / desire as self-avoidance or world-witnessed sexual hopelessness (for an abstract quality rather than quantity) support the excuse of workaday hornball. Indeed, it might be dangerous to confine moral wrath to the unknown or barbaric, any attempts at a civilised explanation in no way civilise the act, and any mix of ethological theory might at least lead us to consider that our testament is that it is not more often.