Previously, in a couple of Weekend News-Surfing posts, I’ve had cause to comment on Scotland’s woefully inadequate sexual offence laws.


Well, happy days, because the new Sexual Offences Bill has now been passed.

One Green MSP (Patrick Harvie) abstained, all other 121 votes were in favour.

A rudimentary Google search did not turn up any newspaper-quoted reason for his abstention, but his latest twitter update (when, oh when, will people stop doing this kind of thing?!) which is featured on his own personal website, says this:


Patrick Harvie MSP twitter quote

Patrick Harvie MSP twitter quote


“Listening to politicians debate drugs and alcohol is bad enough, but hearing them debate sex is just dismal.”


Given that the news of the Bill’s passing was reported on the BBC website at 18:21 UK time (GMT+1), I think it’s fair to assume that we’re looking at the same thing here.

You know, I can’t speak from personal experience (of either circumstance), but I reckon that having been raped and knowing that under the old laws you’ve got a whelk’s chance in a supernova of getting a conviction is a bit more fucking “dismal” than sitting in a debate about how those laws can be made appropriate and helpful.

Also, and I can’t quite believe I’m having to say this when talking about a sexual offences bill, but seriously: sex and rape are not the same thing. That’s why we legislate against one and not the other, and it’s a pretty bloody basic distinction. Consensual activity: not a crime. Nonconsensual activity: should be a crime, if it isn’t already.


Anyway, that’s my one small gripe over. The good news is, everybody else was in favour, and the bill is really very good. I read it, in its entirety, when I researched it last time, and you can read that there, so I’m not going to do it again. Instead, I’ll leave you with this comment from Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill:

“This is a journey, not simply in terms of legislation, but in terms of Scotland becoming a modern, progressive country, recognising the position of women and treating them with the respect they are entitled to.”

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Apologies for my absence last week; I became infected with a particularly evil strain of the Lurgy which gave me a high temperature that ignored all of my attempts to counteract it with paracetamol. It’s a good thing this feature is filed under “semi-regular”, I suppose.


Now, I get fairly picky about the use of language. This is why I sometimes find myself having online arguments with people that lasts for twelve days over the sexism inherent in one word. That word, for those of you that missed that fascinating (ha!) debate, was chairman. Interestingly enough, I recently retrieved my copy of Man-Made Language from the back seat of J’s car where it had been languishing for months, and found this quote, which I thought particularly apt. In fact, my first thought on reading it was regret that the argument was not still going on. Because I am masochistic that way. Bear in mind that this was published in 1980:

“We will probably witness the rise of such usages as female flight attendant (since steward/stewardess has been abolished), woman salesperson (since salesman/saleswoman has been outlawed), as well as lady police officer and madam chairperson. They may be cumbersome usages but they will do the job: they will allow the sexist semantic rule to continue to function. The allocation of negative semantic space to women will go unchallenged.”

Emphasis in original.

Interestingly enough, the only one of those “new” phrases which I have ever seen used was the last – madam chairperson. On the other hand, I do still hear (or say) salesman – but only in the phrase “car salesman”, and then only if the person referred to really is, or appears to be, a man – and policeman – but again, only if the officer in question really is, or appears to be, a man. Perhaps we are making more of a difference than Dale Spender gave us credit for?


Well. I say that. But there are other problems with language that hit just as hard as the pernicious man-encompassing-woman nonsense. One of those problems is in the use of the word “sex”. For example, in the headlines:

The first story is the one that I’ve already mentioned twice in these features – the taxi driver who claimed he’d won the lottery, offered his lone, female victims spiked alcohol and then either raped or sexually assaulted them. Bear in mind, this man has now been convicted of rape. But you wouldn’t get that information from the headline, or even the first paragraph. Instead, it is buried halfway down page, 13 paragraphs from the top.

The second relates to a teaching assistant who has admitted to what the BBC report as “[having] sex with two teenage pupils”. What he’s actually been convicted of is “sexual activity with a child by a person in a position of trust”. I did think that this came under a catch-all heading of  “statutory rape”, but it would appear that since new legislation came into force in 2004, that is no longer the legal description. Perhaps it never was.

The good news in that story is that he’s been banned from working with children indefinitely. The bad news is he’s been jailed for less than 3 years.


Continuing the nasty “sex” with children theme, how about this gem: Guard made 14 year-old pregnant.

But of course, Scotland’s rape laws are, at the moment, pretty fucking awful, as I believe I’ve mentioned elsewhere. So he’s admitted to “intercourse” with the girl, who was described as being “vulnerable because of her learning difficulties”.

Lucky for him that he pleaded guilty. Because, as the judge reminded him, he could have been imprisoned for five whole years otherwise. As it is, he gets 3.5. Joys.


Oh, and thinking of sentencing, take a look at this article. One man, the father, was found to be in possession of over 10,000 images of child pornography. For this, the other man, his son stabbed him, 16 times.

One of the two men was jailed for seven and a half years. One of the men was given a three year community order. Which was which?

Well. It’s not like we haven’t seen this kind of thing before. However, I’m feeling generous, so if, like me, you were entirely unsurprised to discover that the man given the community order was the father, give yourself a gold star.

Clearly, it was sensible to imprison the son. Much though I’d love to be a one-person vigilante group, I recognise that my summarary judgement is not socially acceptable, and this man doesn’t have a leg to stand on. And besides, any man who is capable of driving from Birmingham to Northampton in order to stab his father is not somebody I want walking around – who knows who else he might consider deserving of violence?

On the other hand, I’ll admit to being frustrated that posessing such a vast quantity of child pornography didn’t result in at least a small prison sentence. Goodness knows it’s not like I expect anything more than that, given that you only get 3.5 for actually having “sex” with a child, but still.


This entire edition is, sadly, full of things that are not nice. So I’ll leave you with news that, during one of my forrays into the unimaginable wealth that is a university library, I came across a book that I had to take out. Despite the fact that the damned thing’s in Spanish, and despite the fact that even when I was taking my A-level Spanish (over two years ago) I was never even approaching fluent, I had to take it out for two reasons.

Firstly, although the precise meaning of the title eluded me, I could take a wild stab at understanding the subtitle, mujer y moralidad durante el franquismo, which, translated, means something along the lines of “women and morality during the Franco years”. And secondly, because of a quote inside the book attributed to Lawrence Durrell, which I believe says “because the living have to always remember what those who died could never forget”. So that sounded pretty cool, if a little academic in nature.

Imagine my amusement, when I got the book home, and the word in the title that had been troubling me could be translated – it turns out that Un Inmenso Prostibulo is, in fact, A Vast Brothel. Not at all what I was expecting, but it only makes me even more intrigued to know what the book says. Expect regular updates on this… or, to link this back rather neatly to the start of the post, perhaps I should say, expect semi-regular updates!

It must be Valentines’ Day, because with four stories about sex , the BBC are clearly obsessed. There’s that old British repression coming through again! Whether the story is that there’s too much of it, or too little of it, or the wrong people having it, they just can’t stop reporting on it, and evidently I am not helping.

Starting with the story that has created “almost universal outrage”, a thirteen year old boy has clearly been having sex, because he is now a father. And yes, that is how it has been reported. Perhaps the story of a fifteen year old girl giving birth to a healthy baby girl just isn’t as interesting? Still, once again, the BBC have done us proud with yet another headless pregnant woman to illustrate the story. If I got my information purely from pictures, I would have concluded by now that pregnancy makes your head fall off.

The Guardian has “MP ‘saddened’ by father aged 13 urges better sex education“, The Telegraph leads with “boy of 13 becomes a father” and The Daily Mail, who are never averse to slut-shaming if they get the merest hint of a chance have the headline “Teenage sister of boy who became a father at 13 had baby when she was the same age“. Rather amusingly, the Mail’s article also contains the following burst of vitriol:

“But its significance may be lost on Alfie, whose immaturity is evident during the brief video clip, filmed after the couple’s story was sold to The Sun and they appeared on the newspaper’s front page yesterday.”

Daily Mail, meet jealousy; jealousy, Daily Mail. Perhaps their bid just wasn’t high enough!


Moving on, Scotland is reforming its sex laws with a new Sexual Offences Bill. This one bill replaces a number of previous common law offenses – “rape”, “clandestine injury to women”, “lewd, indecent or libdinous practice or behaviour” and “sodomy” – which, if the Bill passes, will all be abolished in their previous forms.

It gives new, broader definitions of rape, which includes cases where the penis or vagina or both are surgically constructed, defines consent as “free agreement” (which makes me wonder what on earth it was defined as before this bill was created) and gives an offense of “administering a substance for sexual purposes”, which, paraphrasing, also states that if one person lets another think that the substance given is less strong or less in quantity than it actually is, then this is equivalent to administering the substance without that person’s knowledge or consent.

Which, shortened again, means that if an aquaintance of mine buys me doubles all evening and tells me they’re singles, that’s just as bad as slipping rohypnol into my drink.

The Bill, which has just passed stage one, now has to pass stages two and three before it can be signed off. Roll on the day because, paraphrasing again, the reason that Scotland’s rape conviction rate is 3% is because a lot of things that should be called rape are currently not, according to Lord Advocate Elish Anglioni.


In other news, the BBC can’t make up its mind. Will the recession lead to more sex, or less? Tough call. They also incidentally mention that the day that the Dow Jones Index crashed (29th September last year), the gay dating site “Manhunt” – so it’s gay to mean men, this time, rather than gay to mean “everybody who isn’t heterosexual” – had its largest membership sign-up.

I confess, I’m not entirely sure what this little nugget of information was meant to tell me. Are all stockbrokers gay men? Or, is Manhunt just a really crap site, that happened to have two people sign up one day rather than one?


Lastly, I’m sure you’ve all wondered just how many of us are illegitimate. No? Well, what kind of stable, non sex-obsessed person are you?! Apparently, “urban myth” gives the proportion at 10%, thus bearing out the allegation that 87% of statistics are made up on the spot. Of course, 7/5 of all people don’t understand fractions anyway, so I don’t suppose it really matters.

Anyway, it turns out that “if you look directly at families without any prior suspicion of non-paternity, then you find a value of about 1% or 2%.” The study naturally (ha!) focusses on men, since with the joys of what the researchers call “hereditary surnames” and I call “the Patriarchy”, only men have a link to their (male) ancestors. Women don’t have a hope in hell, since not changing one’s name on marriage is even now linked to being thought of as a pain in the arse.


Which reminds me: a woman I spoke to recently gave me a “feminist dilemma”; whether to change one’s name, or not, on marriage. Actually, she started it with the words “my boyfriend has proposed to me”, and initially I wondered whether she was asking my advice as to whether or  not she should marry him! Anyway, I gave her a short answer then (roughly, that I personally will keep my name, but do whatever works for you) but I’d like to highlight The F-Word, which has at least two – and probably a lot more – articles on the subject: “in the name of the father” and “a bride by any other name” are the two that I found first.