The Manchester Evening News star columnist, the lawyer Nick ‘Loophole’ Freeman, writes this week about a case where a local man is facing corporal punishment for, allegedly, groping a woman’s arse in a Singapore nightclub. If convicted, the Mancunian defendant could be sentenced to two years, a fine or a lash with a four-foot cane.
This would be a good opportunity for an interesting legal column about corporal punishment, and the rights of foreign nationals in dictatorial regimes. This is what the Evening News’s Clarence Darrow has to say:
Show me a man whose hands haven’t hovered in temptation over a pert female derrière and I’ll show you a man without a pulse.
It’s part of the red-blooded male DNA to want to touch what we like to see, but social cues and the laws of civilized behaviour stop us from doing so.
Drawing on personal experience, Freeman identifies a double standard in the ruling.
I spent 16 years at a law firm being ‘man handled’ by a paralegal. I know, it sounds pathetic. Surely I must have enjoyed the fact that most days she’d pinch my bottom or try to slip her hand into places as private as my clients’ files. I didn’t like it or encourage it, I liked her as a friend, but I didn’t want her to do it.
So every time she did, I’d tell her to stop. But it only ended when I left the firm.
Had the tables been turned, I’d have had my backside kicked all the way to a tribunal and probably the courts. End of career. But because I’m a man I’m expected to endure – no, even enjoy – it.
Freeman has written about these issues before. Back in June he wrote a piece on Manchester’s Slutwalk demo. This wasn’t just a local thing. Women over the world demonstrated for the right to wear what they liked without the risk of getting raped. (Incidentally, the Evening News coverage was disputed by a friend of mine at the demo, who said that contra the MEN report, not everyone was dressed in ‘[b]asques, stockings, and suspender belts’ and there were more than a ‘handful’ of male feminists there).
This was Freeman’s take:
Many women may baulk at my assessment – particularly those who took part in Manchester’s lamentably named Slut Walk on Saturday, where hundreds of women donned racy outfits in response to a Canadian police officer who advised schoolgirls to ‘avoid dressing like sluts’ in order to prevent sexual assault.
Those taking part claimed women should be able to wear whatever they like in public – including racy red underwear – without being judged and their motives questioned. But, as a red-blooded alpha male, let me state unequivocally that I believe how a woman dresses (and behaves in that dress) tells a man what’s on her mind.
I abhor rape and attacks on women and, believe me, as a criminal defence lawyer, I’ve been involved with plenty of cases where those who have been dressed in a perfectly conventional way were still victims of this heinous crime.
I also strongly believe that yes is yes and no is no. But, in the real world, a woman who behaves or dresses in a sexually provocative way conveys a certain message. A message that, ironically, can victimise men.
Again, Freeman’s turned the main issue on its head – a story about misogyny has somehow become a story about male victimhood. Again, he ‘speaks from personal experience’. As well as the sixteen-year ordeal at the hands of a predatory paralegal, Freeman also had to endure the following traumatic event at an impressionable age.
At the age of 19, I went to a party having just completed my first year law exams that day. Already in a buoyant mood, I arrived at the house and was greeted by a gorgeous fellow student.
Bewitching in a skimpy dress, she threw her arms round me, kissed me passionately and led me upstairs. Things heated up quickly but literally at the critical moment she suddenly cried: ‘no, stop, what about my boyfriend?’ I was astonished.
But mustering every fibre of willpower, I leapt off the bed, pulled on my clothes and made my exit.
Disappointed? Obviously. But more significantly I was disgusted to have been manipulated and, yes, victimised.
I don’t want to get into cod psychology here. Although he’s famous for motoring cases, I don’t doubt Freeman’s experience in this criminal field, or his commitment to rape victims. And nothing I’ve quoted suggests that Freeman has a problem with non-passive women.
A few points, though:
1) Although the rule of law applies to men and women alike, many crimes are not gender neutral. Rape, sexual harassment, DV are overwhelmingly man-on-woman crimes.
2) Men read everything into everything. Women have a right to get drunk and flirt without having the obligation to follow male expectations. Women flirt with me all the time. I don’t expect them to marry me or bear my children.
3) No one who describes themselves as a ‘red-blooded alpha male’ should expect to be taken seriously in these kinds of debates.