A Culture of Rape, not a Conspiracy

The following is no laughing matter: when is the victim of rape not a victim of rape? When they are an activist!

That seems to be the attitude of blogger of the year (according to the Canon Media Awards)1, Cameron Slater, whose cesspit of a blog, “Whale Oil” I will not be linking to.

Slater’s ire is currently centred on Tania Billingsley, who had the temerity to be sexually assaulted by a Member of Malaysia’s diplomatic mission in Aotearoa (New Zealand). The story made the news around the world, mostly because of a series of bureaucratic slip ups which saw the assailant leave the country and, in part, because the Minister who would be responsible for managing these kinds of thing, Murray McCully, denying responsibility and blaming his underlings.

Oh, and also failing to acknowledge the victim. It’s this latter issue which has stuck in the craw of a great many people in Aotearoa (New Zealand). So much so that people started talking about the victim, wanting to know more. This lead to at least two news outlets interviewing Billingsley (after she waived her right to confidentiality in the matter). She then gave measured and informative interviews about what happened, her displeasure at McCully’s response to the issue and, quite rightly, criticised the Prime Minister for not keeping his ministers to a high standard of responsibility.

Slater is particularly incensed that Billingsley is taking the Prime Minister to task over her “trifling” matter. Yet, John Key — when he became PM — said he would require high standards of his ministers. This has become a bit of a laughing matter in Aotearoa (New Zealand) given that, if anything, Key has weakened the notion of ministerial responsibility whilst in office. It’s fair to ask that the Ministers of Ministers, the Prime Minister, start taking responsibility for his caucus, especially in cases where the notion of ministerial responsibility has been watered down to “I’m responsible, but only when it comes to taking the fame and the glory!” Slater gets annoyed when people call into question beloved members of the party he supports, which is ironic given that he gives no quarter otherwise. He’ll happily attack Tania Billingsley’s credibility as a witness but becomes very churlish if you dare question John Key or Judith Collins. If the media didn’t rely so much on Slater and his stories it would be almost funny. However, given the circumstances, it’s tragic.

Anyway, back to Slater and his claims. He summarises his worry with Billingsley’s story thusly:

Now, dear readers, what are the odds of a Malasian diplomat deciding to follow Tania home from a bus stop, apparently at random? What are the odds of him picking a woman that is befriended with and herself involved in women’s issues going back many years? What are the odds of him randomly standing there not touching her, then, backing off and waiting for police to arrive out in the street? What are the odds of Green MP Jan Logie getting involved, erm, randomly? What are the odds of a situation that has NONE of the hallmarks of an attempted rape, being shopped by TV3 as attempted rape and the label “Rape culture” being used to intimidate and shut up critics like ourselves lest we look insensitive to (real!) rape victims?

Billingsley is, in essence, being attacked for being the victim with the wrong kind of friends. I doubt Slater would be calling for an in depth and invasive investigation into her story had she friends in the Young Nats. However, since she’s using terms not in fashion on the Right, like “activism” and “rape culture” she’s obviously — in Slater and men of his ilk eyes’ — hanging out with the wrong crowd. Not just that, but (and I’m putting words into Slater’s mouth here) “brain-washing harpies” who encouraged her to falsely accuse a member of staff of a diplomatic mission of sexual assault.

Because left-leaning activists are always encouraging their acolytes to falsely shout “I’ve been raped” because of the overwhelming and universal sympathy they get.

Slater’s conspiracy theory is really only likely if you think false complaints are the norm and thus men — the usual targets of these false complaints — are being unfairly demonised. Yet this view flies both in the face of the research. Not just that, but Slater could be a seen as being yet another victim of rape culture: the man who is afraid of speaking out about rape culture because he’s scared of being targeted as a traitor to some notional men’s solidarity movement. That’s just one of the many reasons why rape culture affects everyone unfairly and one of the reasons it continues to be perpetuated: men are scared that acknowledging rape culture entails the claim all men are rapists.

I might be being too sympathetic to Slater, however, since it’s also very likely he’s playing a political game and his “I support the real victims of rape” are just weasel words designed to mask his true intent, turning the story into an attack on the Left (and the Green Party in particular). Some have argued that the real conspiracy here is Slater and his crew (which is alleged to be tightly connected to Judith Collin’s office) hiding their true purpose behind the claim that Slater is just a new media journalist asking the hard questions. I think there might be something to be said for that. However, no matter how noble that conspiracy might be (and my rating on that is “Not at all”), Slater is further victimising someone in order to score cheap political points.

That’s all part of rape culture. Rather than congratulating someone for being willing to talk about a horrific incident — sexual assault — we dismiss such claims or come up with conspiracy theories to explain such bravery away. Rape culture is a serious and real concern. It is something which exists and makes talking about sexual assault difficult. It protects those who assault and further victimises those who are assaulted. Denying the existence of such a culture is part of the promotion of it. It shouldn’t be victims like Tania Billingsley who speak out against rape culture. I, for one, want to express my aroha and solidarity with Tania Billingsley. She deserves our respect and support. She does not deserve someone like a Slater with his questions about whether the National Party is the real victim here.2

Notes

  1. Who are now trying to claim they awarded him based upon one story he ran, not his actual blog. Methinks they are somewhat embarrassed by their poor choice of blogger. Hint: you could have chosen the always quality Giovanni Tiso
  2. I must give a shout out to Rodney Hide for his recent column on rape culture. I don’t often (indeed, ever before) have reason to praise Rodney Hide but it seems that in this case he has looked at the evidence and gone “Wow, rape culture is real!” Well done, Rodney.

About Matthew Dentith

Author of "The Philosophy of Conspiracy Theories" (Palgrave Macmillan), Matthew Dentith wrote his PhD on epistemic issues surrounding belief in conspiracy theories. He is a frequent media commentator on the weird and the wonderful, both locally and internationally. On occasion he can be caught dreaming about wax lions but, mostly, it is rumoured he works for elements of the New World Order.