Susan Pashkoff and Terry Conway respond to George Galloway’s video:
This video from George Galloway – which appeared on The Guardian website – is extremely offensive and misogynist. Galloway, in seeking to defend Wikileaks publisher Julian Assange not only against the US government and threats of extradition from Britain but from allegations of rape by two women in Sweden, made a series of indefensible statements in his weekly online broadcast, Goodnight with George Galloway.
Galloway trivialises women’s experience of rape and sexual violence by speaking about bad manners and sexual etiquette. He claims that consent is not necessary every time someone wants to have sex.
Lawyers and anti-rape campaigners have rightly pointed out that this is not true under British law – thus trouncing Galloway’s further claim – made in a subsequent statement that “I don’t believe, from what we know, that the director of public prosecutions would sanction a prosecution in Britain. What occurred is not rape as most people understand it. ”
In this second statement Galloway does also say “No never means yes and non-consensual sex is rape” but his other remarks indicate that he has in no sense withdrawn the core of his unacceptable position.
Galloway has been roundly criticised by the leader of his own Respect Party, Salma Yacqoob who says on her blog that “George Galloway’s comments on what constitutes rape are deeply disappointing and wrong”. It is absolutely commendable that Salma has done this.
Rape and all forms of sexual violence are completely indefensible. Sometimes these acts are committed by people – overwhelmingly men – who see themselves as progressive and act in radical ways on other questions.
In consenting to have sex with a man on a particular occasion, a woman is not consenting to have sex with him on other occasions. In consenting to have protected sex a woman is not consenting to have unprotected sex. This holds in all situations whatever the nature of the relationship. Part of feminist campaigning to get rape in marriage recognised has been to make this point.
Many testimonies from people who have been raped show that a myriad of emotions including shock or a sense that what has happened is your responsibility rather than that of the perpetrator mean that people don’t always act immediately to press charges. Indeed some never do – and some never talk to anyone about what has happened.
Similarly some people who are subjected to rape fight back physically. Others talk about freezing so that they are not able even to speak let alone try to ward off their attacker or not doing so because they also fear they could be killed or face serious physical injury.
Most of us don’t know whether any of these issues apply to the Julian Assange case. Whether or not they do we stand with women across the world in their determination to make into reality: “Whatever we wear, where ever we go yes means yes and no means no!”