Tuesday 21 October 2014

Martina Devlin: We're still learning that sex and politics don't mix

Published 23/08/2012 | 17:00

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange gives a thumbs up sign after speaking to the media outside the Ecuador embassy in west London

WHAT a reassuring few days it's been for women. We now know that if a woman is unfortunate enough to get raped, there's no need to worry about pregnancy: her body will automatically block the rapist's sperm from reaching her egg.

Unless she was secretly asking for sex, of course, but men can tell instinctively when No means Yes so no need to fret on that score.

There was even more comfort to be had recently when we learned that if a woman is rugby-tackled to the ground late at night and sexually assaulted, a nice fat cheque for €75,000 signed Anthony Lyons, moneybags Dublin businessman, will all but magic away the gravity of the attack.

And if that's not enough, I have a warm glow all over at the realisation that not just a US politician, but a House of Commons MP, has reflected deeply on the subject of rape. Especially since the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre says it is fielding increasing numbers of calls from the victims of sexual crime, and the stories they hear from women, and men too, would make a stone weep.

Anyhow, former Labour MP George Galloway has given the matter of rape a great deal of thought, specifically in relation to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and the allegations against him from two Swedish women with whom he slept.

Anyone interested in the subtleties of sexual etiquette must be indebted to Scots-born Galloway, who shares his thoughts on what constitutes rape in a fascinating video podcast, 'Good Night With George Galloway'.

In the podcast, he calls the sexual act "an insertion" -- born romantic that he is -- and advances the following viewpoint: "Some people believe that when you go to bed with somebody, take off your clothes and have sex with them and then fall asleep you're already in the sex game with them."

You're already in the sex game with them? It's clear that Galloway wears rose-coloured spectacles when he looks at what happens under the covers between men and women. Romance oozes from that phrase.

It's worth tuning in to his podcast, by the way. Not just for what he says but the way he says it, pounding the table, in front of a prominent photograph of JFK.

He makes his points in what an admirer might call an impassioned statesmanlike manner -- unless you have a Paxman streak, in which case you might suggest it was a demagogue-like manner -- and insists he doesn't believe the Swedish women, who have taken issue with Assange's sexual etiquette. It's a set-up, according to the Bradford West MP -- implying an elaborate ploy on the part of the Swedish authorities to deliver Assange over to a vengeful US.

Regarding subsequent sexual encounters, once a man finds himself in bed with a woman, Galloway goes on to say: "It might be really bad manners not to have tapped her on the shoulder and said 'do you mind if I do it again?' It might be really bad and sordid sexual etiquette but whatever else it is it is not rape."

So, that's cleared that one up. I should think it's a real weight off people's shoulders, to find that Galloway has put his mind to deciding what does and doesn't constitute acceptable codes of sexual conduct.

Though I'm puzzled how he can be so certain about the nuances, so convinced of what did and didn't happen in Sweden between Assange and the two women he became involved with. Because question marks hang over it. That's why the Swedish authorities want to question him.

As for countries wanting to extradite people to answer allegations of sex crimes on their territory -- well, if Galloway thinks it's all a set-up, then obviously his hunch takes precedence over another country's laws.

His Respect party leader isn't too enamoured of Galloway, in the wake of the controversy. Salma Yaqoob says unequivocally that the political issues surrounding Assange shouldn't be allowed to lessen the gravity of the accusations against him.

Galloway, however, is accustomed to treading on leaders' toes over the stances he adopts. He was expelled from the British Labour Party in 2003 for opposing the war in Iraq.

No bad thing to be regarded as an opponent of war, of course, but some felt he may have swung too far the other way in support of Saddam Hussein, although he always denied it. In a House of Commons debate, Foreign Office Minister Ben Bradshaw called him "a mouthpiece" for the Iraqi regime and Galloway called the minister a liar.

NO stranger to controversy, then. And his comments on the Assange case can be viewed as characteristically provocative. But are they helpful in untangling the web that continues to enmesh sexual politics?

Perhaps, with his interest in ethics in this field, he might consider settling down to work on the Galloway Guide to Sexual Etiquette. I'd certainly sleep easier at night knowing a man of his masterly understanding of sexual nuances was on the case.

Then we could leave it up to his code to specify what counts as rape, and what is and isn't acceptable during intercourse. We wouldn't need to worry about such details as what's actually on the statute books.

Meanwhile, Assange can't leave Ecuador's embassy in London unless he comes up with a fiendishly clever disguise -- a false beard won't cut the mustard.

Still, his WikiLeaks co-workers must be dizzy with gratitude at his association of a dull old website, devoted to whistle-blowing, with something as perennially hot as Swedish sexcapades.

While Galloway was compiling his guide, maybe Todd Akin might be persuaded to take on a role in the area of birth control, since the Republicans' Missouri nominee to the Senate has such a handle on how the female reproductive system works. He'll have plenty of time, he has no chance of getting elected.

Just as a reminder, by the way: here's what Akin said: "From what I understand from doctors (would that be witch doctors?) . . . if it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down."

I never thought I'd write these words, but sometimes our own politicians don't seem half bad.

www.martinadevlin.com

Irish Independent

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