Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Sex Wars, Class Wars and Age Wars, by David Lindsay

The criminal justice system itself seems to have very little confidence in Ched Evans’s conviction, which it clearly regards as a noisy embarrassment that it wishes would go away. Look at the evidence.

Evans was released on license after having served half his time. That was despite the fact that his supporters maintained a website that did not merely protest his innocence, but offered a £10,000 reward for evidence against his accuser. Immediately upon his release, not only did the Criminal Cases Review Commission fast-track his case, but it publicly announced that it had done so.

Of the fully 10 people who have ever been prosecuted for naming the victim, nine were not even fined, but were merely ordered to pay £624 plus costs, while the tenth’s combination of that, a nominal fine, and a victim surcharge of a whopping £15, came to a grand total of not much more than £1600.

At the time of writing, the action against the website for contempt of court has been due “within weeks” in the way that Iran has been “two years away from a nuclear bomb” for well over 10 times that long.

That football clubs have considered signing Evans can only mean that the Probation Service regards him as posing as near as it is permitted to say to no risk whatever. The powers that be pay more attention than that to some people who have been acquitted, or never charged, or never arrested.

Or are we seriously expected to believe that a Probation Officer might ever have been deputed to follow Evans and his teammates around the country as a kind of valet, a footballers’ footman, not so much Falstaff’s page as Prince Hal’s, undoubtedly fetching the drinks, quite conceivably cleaning the boots, and not unimaginably arranging the “birds”? There you are, then.

Evans maintains his innocence and is appealing, as is anyone’s right. Whichever way that goes, his case will almost certainly place others like it, with no forensic evidence but with non-consent presupposed under Harman’s Law, in a category similar to that of foxhunting: rarely brought before the courts, even then mostly privately by a charity that happened to be as rich as Croesus (although what would fulfil the role of the RSPCA here?), hardly ever resulting in a conviction, and subject to sentences all the way down to absolute discharge.

The Parole Board, the Criminal Cases Review Commission and the Probation Service manifestly want that to happen. As is the view of the Police and the Crown Prosecution Service where hunting is concerned, they have better things to do than chase after people who, leaving aside whether or not their actions were unpleasant or just plain weird, had the misfortune to be criminalised as politically distasteful by the weirdo Blair Government that feels far longer ago than it was.

Nevertheless, Evans is a convicted man, and he is free only on license. He has not completed his sentence. Therefore, it might have been better if he had not found work until after that completion. That, however, is a call for him to be dependent on State benefits.

The acts that he does not dispute are morally reprehensible enough, and the attitude of his girlfriend’s father is a most discombobulating insight into an entirely different world. But of course footballers are not role models. Who, exactly, models his off-pitch behaviour on them?

When the younger male fans of Oldham Athletic had followed those of Sheffield United in not committing anything remotely resembling either the disputed or the undisputed acts of their supposed idol, then football itself would have had to have confronted the fact that its practitioners simply were not national figures, or moral bastions, or “cultural icons”, or even persons of the slightest especial importance.

Feminists used to challenge the cultural priority of football. That priority arose entirely out of the process in the 1990s whereby the game was changed from a working-class pursuit into one in which chavs performed like monkeys for posh boys. But now, it is scarcely, if at all, an exaggeration to say that British feminism could not survive the upholding of Evans’s appeal.

Tens of thousands of people have been enticed into the utterly undemanding act of signing online petitions. Petitioning is in itself an integral part of the democratic process, rather than any sort of “mob rule”. But these petitions have presupposed the earth-shattering importance of this person and of his doings. Imagine if that amount of energy had been diverted into something that really mattered. As, not very long ago, feminists would once have said.

Everything about Ched Evans is repulsive. As for his fiancée’s father, Karl Massey, he is the kind of patriarch that gives patriarchy a bad name, almost making Margaret Thatcher look good for having dismantled its economic basis except in the very richest sections of society.

If all fathers of daughters were like Massey, then the human race would become extinct. He is far too concerned with being his future son-in-law’s best mate, a position already filled by the delightful Clayton McDonald, Evans’s acquitted co-defendant.

Natasha Massey is her own woman, young, attractive, from a monied background, and doubtless well-schooled at her father’s expense. It is hardly as if she could do no better than a man who, by his own admission, booked hotel rooms in which to have sex with strangers. But if even her dad is not going to tell her that, then what hope is there?

Yet it is not as if Evans’s detractors are any more sympathetic than his defenders. At best, they are possessed of a breathtaking sense of their own entitlement. At worst, they have been issuing their own threats of rape and other violence.

There is an obvious campaign to say the word “paedophile” as often as possible in relation to this case of sex between a 19-year-old woman and a 22-year-old man. That 19-year-old woman is always called “a young girl”. Ordinarily, feminist opinion would rightly be outraged at the description of an adult woman as a “girl”.

All in all, Evans is being turned into a most unworthy Dreyfus. But who or what are the Dreyfusards, and who or what are the anti-Dreyfusards? This mere footballer, and this fundamentally bad man, is being held up as the hero of a resurgent, especially male, working class.

Yet if all the anti-Dreyfusards really were to be cast out of public discourse at some point in the next year or two, then would their places be taken by the working-class men who are so strikingly underrepresented in the media and among those politicians whose existence the media acknowledge? Of course not.

Working-class women are even more underrepresented in the media, and are very underrepresented indeed in politics, rather than merely being found among those 19 out of 20 MPs whose existence the commentators choose to ignore. There are still quite a lot of working-class men among those 19.

Whereas there are now barely any working-class women in Parliament, or anywhere else in politics. Grandes dames of what was once Fleet Street, what do you have to say about that? Or about the distinct paucity of working-class women among your own colleagues?

Rather than News in Briefs, might The Sun consider running an opinion column by a working-class woman? For that matter, how about an opinion column by a working-class woman in any of the newspapers, or on any of the websites, that campaigned against Page 3? And will those women commentators who are defending Page 3 be adorning their future copy with topless photographs of themselves?

It is the class thing that is striking when one compares the calls for Evans to be denied at least prominent or well-remunerated (indeed, I am the first to say, obscenely overpaid) employment over something that had nothing to with football, with the warm welcome back that is simultaneously being extended by journalism itself to the privately schooled plagiarist and fabricator, Johann Hari.

City types whose incompetence or outright criminality has brought ruin to vast numbers of people, while sending the bill to each and every one of us, are rarely dismissed in the first place, and see their incomes continue to rise exponentially. David Laws is back attending Cabinet.

Does anyone seriously doubt that there is or has been an element of sexual violence to the Bullingdon Club? And not of the kind that the victim does not remember. At the very least, that Club exists to commit criminal damage and assault. What if a group of young men on a council estate, the same age as Oxford undergraduates, organised themselves into such a club, complete with a uniform? What say the Prime Minister, the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Mayor of London?

Tony Blair continues to make what he and his sycophants clearly assume will be received as significant political interventions. It bears its frequent repetition that Blair is, of all things, a Middle East Peace Envoy. None of the writers and broadcasters who cheered on the Iraq War, all of them safely upper-middle-class or above, has ever suffered the slightest adverse effect of that catastrophic misjudgement. Quite the reverse, in fact.

Until his retirement, Judge John MacMillan, who had used the n-word in order to brand black people lazy in the course of his work as an Employment Tribunal judge, and who had been found to be biased against plaintiffs, was permitted to continue to sit without even having to notify the sides in cases subsequent to his double disgrace.

Plummy commentators airily suggest that Evans become a bricklayer, or a painter and decorator, as if lower moral standards were only to be expected in such walks of life, and as if it were possible to walk straight into those trades, which in reality take years to learn.

Some lightning rod for all of these and similar concerns has been necessary throughout the present century. But even if his appeal is upheld, the pity, the tragedy, the shame will be that that will have to had to have been the disgusting Ched Evans. One and all, J’accuse.

Sticking to the undisputed facts, Evans had sex while being watched by his brother. His brother! Vile. Just vile. Yet this case, that of a 16-year-old whom a woman judge accused of “grooming” her 44-year-old teacher, and the coming into effect of the new law in Northern Ireland criminalising the purchase of sex, provide an opportunity to tidy up the shambolic law on sexual offences.

First, the age of consent should effectively be raised to 18, by making it a criminal offence for anyone to commit any sexual act with or upon any person under that age who was more than two years younger than herself, or to incite any such person to commit any such act with or upon her or any third party anywhere in the world. The maximum sentence would be twice the difference in age, to the month where that was less than three years, or a life sentence where that difference was at least five years.

Either the age of consent is 16, or it is not. If it is, then teacher-pupil activity above that age is the height of unprofessionalism, but it is not properly a matter for the criminal law. That is one of the many very good reasons why the age of consent ought, with the caveats set out here, to be raised to 18, even granted that many of us were born in September, and indeed that very many people indeed were born such that their legal majority will be attained in the first term of what will soon be the compulsory Upper Sixth.

No different rules for “positions of trust”, which are being used against male, but not female, 18-year-olds looking after female, but not male, Sixth Formers visiting universities. And no provision, as at present, for boys to be prosecuted at any age, even if they are younger than the girls involved, whereas girls have to be 16.

At least unless they decided as adults to seek to make contact with their children, the sometimes enforced financial liability of male victims for pregnancies resulting from their sexual abuse ought also to be ruled out. How’s that for victim-blaming?

Secondly, it ought to be made a criminal offence for anyone aged 18 or over, or possibly only anyone aged 21 or over, to buy or sell sex, with equal sentencing on both sides. No persecution of girls whose lives have already been so bad that they have become prostitutes. No witch-hunting of boys desperate to lose their virginities. But the treatment of women and men as moral, intellectual and legal equals.

Thirdly, the replacement of the offences of rape, serious sexual assault, and sexual assault, with aggravating circumstances to the general categories of offences against the person, enabling the sentences to be doubled. The sex of either party would be immaterial. There must be no anonymity either for adult accusers or for adult complainants. Either we have an open system of justice, or we do not. There must be no suggestion, in this or in any other area, of any reversal of the burden of proof.

And fourthly, the definition of obscenity as material depicting acts that were themselves illegal, or which was reasonably likely to incite or encourage such acts. Sentencing would be the same as for the illegal act in question in each case.

Far from American-style legislation requiring universities to apply internally administered “balance of probabilities” or “preponderance of evidence” tests to sexual assault allegations, such policies must be banned by Statute. It is incompatible with the Rule of Law to punish someone for a criminal offence of which he has not been convicted.

As for demands for various things to be taught in schools, how is that curriculum time currently being filled? Apply the Eton Test. Would this be taught in a school that assumed its pupils to be future Prime Ministers or Nobel Laureates? If not, then instead fill the hours with something that is. Teach Latin. For, be in no doubt, someone else will. And the people who did one will be able to distinguish themselves from the people who did the other.

Evans’s leading antagonist, Jean Hatchet (pseudonymity is a grand old literary tradition), professes to be astonished at the existence of a subculture in which the behaviour that Evans admits is routine. In that case, she ought not to be commenting on such matters in the United Kingdom of the present age, since she knows absolutely nothing about them. I do not like that behaviour, either. But it is not news to me.

On her blog, in response to provocation, Hatchet gives vent to her hatred of those who are, “often acne-ridden, but scrubbed, hair product well-applied, cheesy grin liberally spread, arms around identikit mates. In football kits or the default polo shirt. Well-pressed by their mum no doubt.”

Those are the main victims both of violent crime, and of low-level harassment such as being arbitrarily stopped by the Police or not allowed into places. They are objects of constant media ridicule; realistic depiction of their lives, or even the playing of them by actors their own age, does not exist. They are universally assumed to have little intellectual and no emotional life. They are not even allowed to join their fleeing mothers in such women’s refuges as have survived this wretched Government, with no one caring if they then have to go back to violent homes or sleep on the streets.

Ask those acne-ridden, cheesy-grinning identikits how “privileged” they feel. But rather less can be done about the Hatchet attitude to them, which when expressed institutionally can lead to their deaths, than can be done about the foregoing. And sadly, rather less can also be done about people who have sex while being watched by their siblings. Vile. Just vile.

Not that most young males “in football kits or the default polo shirt” have sex filmed by their brothers. They admire, and they seek to emulate, Ched Evans as a footballer. They do not model their sexual conduct on his. Give them some credit. Or else admit that you agree with everything that Hatchet embodies when she describes them as “identikit”. No identity, just identikit. No individuality. No personality. No humanity.

Fit to be blown to pieces for absolutely nothing in whatever comes after the faux-feminist (and, in those terms, utterly unsuccessful) war in Afghanistan, and after the actively anti-feminist war in Iraq, which replaced a regime that had won United Nations awards for girls’ education with a regime that was and is most unlikely ever to do so.

Their acne, their grinning faces and their over-styled hair look a lot worse when their bodies, which feminists presume to define and control, are beaten up for being in the wrong place at the wrong time, and no one cares. Or are blown to smithereens on a battlefield, for no good reason whatever.

Or freeze on the streets, because they are not permitted to join their mothers in the few women’s refuges that this wicked Government has left open. Or are therefore beaten or killed by the violent men whom those mothers were fleeing. Or are driven to suicide by the discriminatory enforcement of the age of consent laws.

Across the board, the owners, the only owners, of those bodies are far more likely than their sisters to be arrested for, charged with, prosecuted for or convicted of the same offences, and to receive vastly more severe sentences upon conviction.

If a boy, even if he were well under 16, engaged in anything approaching the behaviour for which a 16-year-old girl has despicably been accused of “grooming” her teacher, then he would get himself at least a Police caution for stalking, and he would thus find it difficult to secure employment for the rest of his life.

None of this is about how well these boys are doing at school, or about how much money their families have. Those are immensely important issues. But they are not these issues. These problems apply across the board. Nor is there any suggestion that any of this negates or belittles feminist grievances. Do, for example, racial injustices negate or belittle those against women?

Football, for which I have no love (unlike Hatchet), but the young male support for which now transcends all class distinctions, so that one wonders what a lot of posh fathers and grandfathers must think; video games, which I have honestly never understood; and Internet pornography, and the drink-fuelled sexual culture exemplified by Ched Evans, both of which I profoundly despise: these are rapidly becoming the only places where young males run at least relatively little risk of being arrested or assaulted for existing at all, if they are so much as let in.

Yet how pro-male is Internet pornography? I admit that my knowledge of it derives from its feminist and Christian critics, although I make no apology for that. I am 37, so I am of the generation that doubtless dodged a bullet in being slightly too old for it to have been our introduction to the female form.

But at least according to those critics, this material often does not depict the faces of the male participants, who, moreover, are paid less than the female ones. They are just penises, in the way that they are just trigger fingers, just cannon fodder, just “acne-ridden cheesy grins”, just “identikit”.

Likewise, a lot of video games seem to revolve around killing as many other “identikit” men as possible. Strippers and prostitutes, too. But mostly other men.

The most vicious misogyny is often produced by, and very successfully marketed to, women. Even allowing for the importance of recognising that the viewers are perfectly capable of distinguishing fantasy from reality, something similar seems to apply to these two popular cultural phenomena of our age.

By coming after the “drunken sex at weekends” culture while also appearing to come after football, the Evans case has actually or apparently come after fully half of the things from which perhaps the male half of an entire generation still experiences any kind of welcome. Some repetition is in order, the better to reinforce this point.

They are beaten up for being in the wrong place at the wrong time, and no one cares. They are blown to smithereens on battlefields, for no good reason whatever. They freeze on the streets, because they are not permitted to join their mothers in the few remaining women’s refuges. Or they are therefore beaten or killed at home.

They are driven to suicide by the discriminatory enforcement of the age of consent laws. They are far more likely than their sisters to be arrested for, charged with, prosecuted for or convicted of the same offences, and to receive vastly more severe sentences upon conviction.

They need only have a row with a girlfriend, or follow a girl home, or ask a girl out, in order to be given at least a Police caution for stalking, and thus find it difficult to secure employment for the rest of their lives.

Their genitals have been mutilated in infancy on an industrial scale, often at public expense, which is to say, as an act of the State; the BBC Three programme Free Speech recently refused to permit any discussion of this subject when its youthful audience voted heavily for such on the website provided.

They hear, and they join in, the global outcry when Boko Haram kidnaps girls who could be their sisters or their classmates. But they also hear the deafening silence when Boko Haram simply takes machetes to those girls’ brothers and male classmates, or the gales of derision on Twitter whenever anyone does report that fact.

They saw the recent viral video of little boys who agreed to kiss and caress a slightly older girl, although it must be said that none of them bothered to ask her first, but who then refused to hit her. Girls instructed to kiss and caress a boy would probably refuse, which would be up to them. But instructed to hit him, they would go right ahead, and they would be cheered from one end of the Internet to the other. Boys know that.

From a very early age, they are harangued about how their bodies are supposed to work by people who do not have male bodies and who have often had barely any contact with male bodies, although undeniably having had extremely negative experiences of such contact when it has occurred. They are financially liable for pregnancies that result when they have been sexually abused.

It is widely assumed that they cannot be sexually assaulted by women or girls. Well, a decade or so ago, when I was on supply in far from the worst school to which I was ever posted, I directly witnessed a group of girls aged about 13 or 14 sexually assaulting a male classmate with whose girlfriend they had had an altercation. Their punishment of her was to do that to him.

He was extremely distressed, although there is very little that a supply can do, even if, on reflection, I ought to have called the Police and let the heavens fall. No one in authority cared, and the Head of Year did not even recognise the boy’s name. There seemed to be no suggestion that this event was particularly noteworthy. But, if anything, I suspect that it would be more common now than it was then.

Set in this context, the campaign against Ched Evans has been the last straw. In view of Oldham Athletic’s previous contract with Lee Hughes, he is now demonstrably less employable than a convicted killer. How did that happen?

Evans was charged on the basis of what we should all identify as entrapment techniques if they were to be employed in many another country. He was convicted on no evidence except that his accuser could not remember anything, including the sex that she only knew that she had had because Evans and McDonald had said so.

He was thus convicted against the only other testimony, that of a co-defendant who was acquitted and who remembered everything; we now have Sharia Law in reverse, with the testimony of one (drunken) woman overriding that of two (relatively sober) men. He was refused leave to appeal.

He was convicted of a singularly stigmatised offence with which only a male can be charged, and the law of which was drastically altered in the High Harman Era significantly to the detriment of the presumption of innocence, with further changes now proposed so that those alleging rape will be placed at a very considerable advantage in the cross-examination process.

Although the ever-compliant Parliament of Blair’s pomp must bear a great deal of responsibility for characteristically waiving this through, locking up half the young male population would not bother those who were behind it. Especially if it were the half from such places as Sheffield, Oldham and Rhyl, that was what they wanted. That is still what they want.

This clash has been coming for years. Now, it is here.

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