Friday, September 07, 2007

Glasgow, City of Rape Culture 2007

A report in today's Evening Times speaks of the appalling record of sexual assaults and rapes in Glasgow this year.
Mr Connel spoke out as new figures obtained by the Evening Times revealed there were 192 rapes reported to Strathclyde Police between January and the end of July this year - only one fewer than the same period last year.
There are three things blamed - inadequate transport for the thousands of nightly clubbers to get safely and quickly home in, a lack of responsibility on the part of young people and - here's the interesting bit - 'lap dancing culture'.

Well, I'll agree on the transport part. I once waited for a bus which would take me and my three friends home for over half an hour in the cold and wet. Taxis were, of course, all taken and started to become fewer and fewer as time passed. Eventually we all gave up on it, trooped together and walked the way home. The transport in this city is reasonably good, but it could be better - more frequent buses to ALL areas of the city, more taxis, even a 24-hour subway service instead of having one which closes at around 11.30pm (or earlier on a Sunday).
Of course, transport is no guarantee you'll be safe - buses in particular have a rather poor track record for assault. But it's still a bit safer than walking the city streets (possibly alone) at night.

'Lack of responsibility' - I was surprised here, as it wasn't immediately translated into 'young women getting drunk and making themselves into targets.' Of course, alcohol is factored into it - but the sex of those inebriated is not specified:

"We are not asking folk to regulate their lives to the nth degree - but think a bit ahead, have money on your phone, don't get lost, stay with your friends. It is really simple stuff.

"When people are under the influence their skills in dealing with these kind of things are decreased dramatically."

'Folk', 'people'. A call for common sense without saying 'you're female, don't get drunk.' Refreshing. However, there is a little, tiny flaw here - of the six attacks mentioned in the report, three people were at least 30 and only one person was specifically mentioned as having been attacked after going clubbing. One woman was walking her dog. Another, waiting for an early bus to work. One girl was attacked in broad daylight. Three of the attacks are mentioned as having occurred whilst other people were nearby - one woman tried to flag down cars, another was dragged off a busy street, the third was 'yards away' from other clubbers. And one woman was gang-raped in a West End square near bars, homes and galleries. Despite all these things, the report has focussed on warning the young drinkers out at night, telling them to stick together. Being in well-populated areas didn't help any of these women, nor did their sobriety.

Finalement! Le point le plus controversé! (How bad is my French?)

Diane Travers, personal safety tutor with Glasgow-based Wise Women, said she was concerned about what she called the "lapdance culture" in Glasgow city centre.

She added: "Our current culture of lapdancing clubs is worrying, especially hearing so many young men talk about it.

"There is a connection between lapdancing - which is sexual exploitation of women - and rape.

"It is saying that women are there to be watched and used and that they are there for entertainment."

Ms Travers claimed the statistics were the tip of the iceberg because so many women who were raped by someone they knew did not report the attacks.

She said: "It is easier to report an attack by a stranger but they are less inclined to talk about a friend, partner, boyfriend or someone in their family.

"It is very chilling to realise rapists are people who appear like normal everyday guys that we talk to in the pub or at home."

Mr Connel agreed lapdance culture and many television images were adding to the problem.

He said: "It is all about exploitation and it is all about behaviour I would say is unacceptable but [sic] is creating the wrong type of role models."

Note, they say it's a 'connection' not a 'direct cause'. For the record, there IS evidence that links a sudden rise in sexual assaults in previously 'safe' areas with the opening of sex clubs and shops. An example of this is the Lilith report, showing a rise in sexual assaults and rape (by 57% and 50% respectively) in Camden over three years following the opening of strip clubs. (Thanks to Witchy-woo for the link!) However, this doesn't stop people from leaping to their defence in the comments section:

Why do we demean a horrific subject by trying to relate the activities of monsters who, frankly, need no encouragement, with sonething like lapdancing?

These filth would do what they do regardless of motivation. Perhapslate night drinking could be a stimulus, but again, where is the evidence?

The only people exploited at table dancing clubs ar ethe men who leave with empty wallets. My expereince is that these clubs are well marshalled with proactive and strong securtiy on site.

(Now, I'm going to leave the debate on whether porn is in and of itself harmful. It's still early and I'm lazy. Having re-read the following paragraphs, I've realised that I'm already beginning to rant.)

For a start, not all lap dancing clubs are like this. Object has covered this.
Why is discussing things that feed into negative attitudes that LEAD to such attacks 'demeaning the subject'? It's a valid point. (Oh, and 'late night drinking'? Inebriation in a potentially dangerous person makes them a threat REGARDLESS of the time of day.) Also, are these men exploited? They are feeding the demand for such clubs, they're giving these women a job. I doubt all the dancers would be out there performing to the drooling masses if they weren't paid for it - they need the money, they are paid to do this, without the punters they will be unemployed unless they hold down second jobs. The men (and indeed, women) who attend the clubs are paying for a service they want. Are farmers in the third world exploiting me when they ask to be PAID for the bananas and chocolate I eat?
Also, it's not so much the act of erotic dancing that is at hand here, but rather the attitudes that arise from the complete normalisation of such pornographic things throughout our daily lives. Lap dancing has now become something that people go to for a night out, is portrayed as 'just a bit of fun', pole dancing is 'merely' exercise with no sexual connotations AT ALL despite having roots in the sex industry and, along with images of half-naked women and other pornographic imagery, has reached out beyond the confines of the sex industry and has seeped into the rest of our culture. You no longer have to go to a sex club to see lap/pole/table dancers, and therein lies a problem. When we are constantly, unquestioningly exposed to such things as 'normal', when they are everywhere we look, it has an affect on us. Women are - on billboards, in magazines, in adverts, movies, television programmes - portrayed as decorative, as sexual objects, as things to be paid for, used and then forgotten about 'til next time. And the more we're exposed to it, the more the message sinks in. THAT is what is leading to the RISE in rapes. Yes, there will be people who do terrible things to men and women who aren't porn users or regulars at Stringfellows, but in a culture where woman (and it is MAINLY women) are constantly portrayed as lesser, as the 'sex class', why is that surprising?


  1. Are farmers in the third world exploiting me when they ask to be PAID for the bananas and chocolate I eat?

    Good point.

    I noticed a few people leaving comments on that article said that rape has always been around, before lap-dancing, so what's that got to do with it? When the fact is, rape is on the increase and I believe- as you point out- that this increasingly normalised sex object culture, including lap-dancing, has a lot to do with it.

  2. Regarding the advise to young people about being in numbers, having money on your phone etc:
    I think this is just generally good advise. I mean, a lone woman, extremely drunk who doesnt know where she is and is in an extremely unpopulated area is much more of a target than a sober woman out with a bunch of friends who knows where she is and is in a fairly populated area. This goes equally for males who don't want go get jumped by a bunch of neds or mugged.
    And while prevention is no solution, nor should it be the main approach to the problem, it is not to be dismissed. Even if society were to be completely equal in relation to the sexes, you would STILL have nutters out there.

    regarding lapdancing:
    For once I find myself agreeing with the politicians on this one, rather than either of the reactionary arguments against it (i.e. "lapdancing is the ONLY thing that casues rape culture" and "lapdancing culture has NOTHING to do with rape").
    While Mr. Connels ideas aren't perfect I do think they are a massive step in the right direction. Lets just hope that the changes to the rape laws are as drastic and beneficial.

    Also, just an idea i had right this minute: could the rise in sexual assault experienced in areas when lapdance clubs/sex shops/etc open up perhaps be to do with the idea that the people most likely to commit sexual assault (i.e. nutters) are likely to visit these kind of places on a regular basis? While not the sole reason, in my opinion, I do believe it at least partially explains the rise.

  3. Regarding connections between the increase in sexual assaults and the opening of sex clubs/shops - I can't help you with the stats at BB's but the Eaves study of the impact of similar establishments in Camden (London) makes pretty interesting reading.

    It's here:

  4. Great post Mwezzi - it certainly was refreshing to read something that wasn't laden with all the usual overtones of "you silly girls will keep getting yourselves raped" for once.

    I dread to think about the statistics for Birmingham (ma hood) given that it is so er, proudly, branded the lapdancing capital of the UK :( Boyfriend of mine didn't actually believe me at first when I told him, he thought I was being facetious (as I am wont to be) and then he thought about it, and I listed the clubs that I could remember off the top of my head, and we sighed.

    I visited your lovely country last week - all the way up to Loch Ness - and was unfortunately very disgruntled to find that in the mini village that is Fort Augustus, the local women were organising a, sigh, pimps and hos event for charity. I actually sighed as I typed 'sigh' then.

    Until pole dancing becomes a REAL sport with tracksuits or even super toned gymnasts in white tights, funky leotards and bunned hair, I refuse to admit that it can be 'exercise'.