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Laura Bates of Everyday Sexism (Photo by Brian Ach/Getty Images for The Women's Media Center)

Who’s to blame?

Columnist blasts academic for suggesting ‘women who deprive husbands of sex’ are to blame for male violence

February 21, 2017

Laura Bates, founder of the #EverydaySexism campaign, has responded in an Op-Ed for The Guardian to a provocative column claiming that women who don’t have enough sex with their husbands are to blame for their husbands having affairs. Writing for The Daily Mail, Dr. Catherine Hakim claimed that “sexually starved men are more likely to visit prostitutes, view pornography and, in the worst cases, even molest other women” — a claim for which she presents zero scientific evidence, says Bates.

Throughout the piece Hakim continues to not only absolve men who cheat, placing the blame solely at the door of their negligent wives who are “calling catastrophe into their lives” by failing to have enough marital sex, but, Bates argues, she goes even further in suggesting that such wives are also to blame for the sexual violence committed against other women. Hakim contends that she has “little doubt that sexual frustration can lead to assaults on women” although she doesn’t go as far as to excuse the behavior. This, argues Bates, both relieves perpetrators of any responsibility for their actions while also disregarding all that we know about rape, which, she points out, we know to be “an act of power and control rather than sexual attraction.” It further ignores the prevalence of marital rape, male victims of rape and the existence of unmarried rapists. Hakim’s theory, as Bates demonstrates, falls down at the least bit of scrutiny.

Moreover, Bates goes on to argue that Hakim’s article is more than just a risible piece of unsubstantiated polemic, but is acutely dangerous in the real-life consequences it may engender. Thousands of rapes are, she points out, committed each year alongside numerous assaults. Yet a culture of victim-blaming persists, combined with the continued perpetuation of misconceptions around sexual violence and a serious problem of under-reporting. Publishing such an unsubstantiated argument is wholly damaging Bates concludes, for the women who have experienced rape who will doubtless read it, for those contemplating whether to speak out or not, and for male readers to whom it sends a clear message: you are owed sex by your wife and if she does not oblige then it is OK for you to have an affair or sexually assault another woman. No action justifies rape and it is both unscientific and socially damaging to claim otherwise, Bates argues.

Read the full Op-Ed at The Guardian.


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