The case of Ched Evans shows that our society still has a troubling view of rape

argues that the rape acquittal of Ched Evans reveals latent misogyny in our society

Image: blogdroed

Image: blogdroed

“Ched Evans not guilty. Hope that little slag gets strung up now, ruined years of somebodies life the tart”
“Got your gammon out, got banged, deal with it”
“I hope ched evans makes a lot of money from loose women…a pack of whores!!!”

While two of those statements are sourced from twitter, one is from an actual published tabloid headline. Don’t look now. Try and work out which is which. Think of this as some dystopian Charlie Brooker version of two truths and a lie, and as you do so consider the facts of the case: on the 14th of October, after having served half of a five-year sentence, Ched Evans was found not guilty of raping a teenage girl in March 2011, and released from prison. This was after family and friends of Evans offered a £50,000 reward for information leading to his acquittal. The anonymous woman’s ex-partners were called upon, and asked to graphically describe their sex lives with her. The prior consensual sexual encounters the woman had engaged in, the positions assumed and the words uttered, were judged as being similar in nature to the events Evans relayed as having occurred during the alleged rape. His team maintained that the fact she had exhibited similar behaviour on two other occasions made it much more likely that she was consenting, and that this information was thus relevant to supporting this aspect of his defence.

To bring up a woman’s prior sexual history in a case such as this is disgraceful. Confirming that the accuser has indeed had similar consenting sexual intercourse in the past sheds absolutely no light on what has happened in a separate isolated incident. Suggesting that you can work out if a woman was raped by consulting with her previous sexual partners is to project the belief that because she has enjoyed sex in the past, she is eternally asking for it. By her very character she is now unrapeable. She is a disgrace, a fallen woman, and has no right to care about being completely violated – such is the magnitude of the sin she has committed. For this to be an acceptable argument to make in court is, in a word, horrifying.

Furthermore, Evans’ defence team maintained that “[d]runken consent is nevertheless consent. While disinhibited through drink, she did consent to sex. Lack of memory does not equal lack of consent.” But, under the Sexual Offences Act 1956, “[e]vidence that by reason of drink, drugs, sleep, age, or mental disability the complainant was unaware of what was occurring and/or incapable of giving valid consent” equals rape. It is hard to see how the anonymous woman in this case can have been capable of giving valid consent if, regardless of the fact she was unable to remember the incident the next morning, she was also seen on CCTV earlier in the evening looking too drunk to stand up. Evans later fled the hotel via a fire escape. So under the law, what Evans’ defence team have put forward seems to me invalid. This isn’t some new toxic strand of fourth-wave feminism seeking to criminalise every regrettable one night stand, which so many would dishearteningly have you believe – it’s been codified for sixty years.

Things escalate even further, when we note that Evans has recently expressed a wish to speak to up and coming football players about the risks they face sleeping with inebriated women. “When they are drunk, think twice about it,” he says. “How would it look in a court of law?” And it’s true that there’s certainly not enough education in wider society about consent, what is and isn’t acceptable, how to navigate any murky grey areas behind locked Premier Inn doors. But if young men are being taught to enter into sexual encounters thinking about how their behaviour might look in a courtroom, to be concerned primarily with covering themselves should something go awry, instead of simply the mutual respect and duty of care they have toward their partner, then the issue is still being looked at all wrong. It is irrelevant how well the parties know one another, the specifics of what they decide to get up to. Potential jail time should not be in the forefront of anybody’s mind when they have somebody else naked in bed with them, but the wellbeing of the other person should be. And if said wellbeing could be compromised by engaging in any form of intimacy, the concern should be for keeping that person calm and safe, and not the potential ramifications should one decide to carry on regardless.

This entire incident is yet another vestige of the rape culture we live in. Regardless of whether or not the incident five years ago was consensual or not, it appears that a convicted rapist has had his name cleared partly on the basis that the victim had consented to similar sexual acts with different partners in days gone by. It’s a cultural throwback to the 1970s, a misogynistic blast from the past. And it’s not remotely acceptable.

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