For those of you not familiar, Germaine Greer is a feminist icon; she wrote the seminal feminist text The Female Eunuch and has spent much of life fighting for women’s rights. Recently, her tune has begun to change. She found herself in a swirling controversy after arguing that trans women aren’t real women, and last week argued that rape isn’t normally violent, it’s often just ‘lazy.’ In a TV interview she claimed that a lot of what women perceive as rape is just ‘bad sex’, recognisable through it’s lack of ‘tenderness.’ I’ve had a lot of bad sex and I’d say lack of rhythm is more of a problem, but that’s besides the point. I’ve never had bad sex and confused it with rape because rape is predicated on an absence of consent, not an absence of pleasure or emotion.
It’s strange to be a 22 year old woman, writing an article about one of the most iconic living feminists, trying to explain to her what rape is. To argue that women don’t know what rape consists of suggests that women are not best qualified to make that call. Can men now say, ‘I kissed her and told her she was beautiful so it can’t have been rape, because it was tender’?
Rape is, in my opinion, one of the most violent things you can do to someone. It’s my biggest fear precisely because of the violent nature of it. Even if rape comes in the form of a husband rolling on top of his wife and taking what he deems to be his, which is the example of ‘laziness’ that Greer chose to use, it’s still violent. Forcefully penetrating someone can be nothing but violent. Anyone who’s had sex with someone who hasn’t really worried about whether they’re wet enough can imagine how painful rape is.
Greer argued that men should be sentenced to community service for rape, claiming that the punishments for rape are too harsh. Equating rape to shop lifting or any other petty crime is to fundamentally misunderstand all aspects of sexual assault. I’m not a fan of a vengeful justice system, and I’m not an advocate of the idea that crimes should be punished through life sentences or solitary confinement. I think rehabilition and cultural realignment can go a long way, not just regarding rape but also other violent crimes. But this isn’t what Greer is suggesting; she’s suggesting a slap on the wrist for a crime that is unparalleled in its dangerous, insidious nature.
Greer’s comments do nothing but widen the gap between different generations of women and propagate misogynistic myths about sex, rape and consent. Rape isn’t bad sex. Rape is a crime, and consent is confusing enough for men who exist in a world where women are presented to them in a purely sexual light Men need help understanding consent, and who can blame them when ‘feminists’ like Germaine Greer wade into the debate and do nothing but muddy the waters.