'Empty heartscape'

‘Perfunctory sex’ from a loved one more harmful than rape by a stranger, says controversial feminist

Germaine Greer. (Kane Hibberd/Getty Images)

It’s been a couple of months now, so it’s time for another Germaine Greer controversy. And right on cue, the controversial feminist has supplied one, drawing criticism for her comments about rape, after claiming women suffer more psychological harm from having a partner who is indifferent to sex than being raped by a stranger. “Perfunctory sex is not criminal but it is damaging,” she wrote. “Neglect and indifference from a loved one are far more corrosive of self-esteem and ultim­ately more spiritually damaging than a random attack from a stranger, however violent.” Her claims were made in an opinion piece published in the Rupert Murdoch-owned newspaper The Australian.

It is not the first time this year that comments by the outspoken author and academic, whose new book On Rape is set to be released in early September, have been met with a backlash. Commenting on the #MeToo movement in a January interview, 79-year-old Greer said that Harvey Weinstein’s victims “spread [their] legs” in return for movie roles and then started “whingeing” about it. Doubling down on those comments in March, she said that speaking out years after an attack is “pointless” and that those who do so risk becoming “career rapees.” At a book festival in May, the Female Eunuch author described most rapes as “just lazy, just careless, insensitive,” adding that it need not be thought of “as a spectacularly violent crime.”

In the piece published over the weekend, she once again addressed the fraught gray area of consent. “Every woman is supposed to know whether she is consenting to whatever is going on. Before entering into ‘sex’ she is now expected to declar­e that she consents, and not grudgingly but enthusiastically,” she writes.

“And what of the woman whose partner comes home from the pub and starts pulling her about? In the morning she has to get kids off to school and herself to work and figures she might as well give in as opposed to wasting precious sleeping time fighting him off. Giving in is not consenting.”

Like her comments before, Greer’s latest assertions provoked strong reactions. One critic writing on Twitter said Greer’s “lack of respect for victims of rape is reprehensible.” And a spokesperson for the Women’s Equality Party told iNews that Greer is right to put the politics of consent under the microscope, but is off base in her analysis.

“Greer is right that we need a nationwide conversation about the prevalence of sexual violence against women. And she’s right to highlight the psychological harms done to women by close partners,” the spokesperson said. “But there doesn’t need to be an ‘either-or’ choice between what kind of violence is worse. There’s an epidemic going on and it’s never been more necessary to understand the entire spectrum of it. One woman’s value judgements about what matters and what doesn’t harm other women and contributes to an idea that the problem is for women to solve, rather than that men must be held accountable for their actions.”

Greer’s argument ultimately aims to call out the rampant misogyny in everyday life — from its most intimate sphere (the “empty heartscape of dreary daily domestic rape”), all the way to courts of law. “Masculine culture requires that a man not give his female partner precedence over the men in his life,” she writes, describing what she calls “rape as a way of life.”

Read the full story at The Australian and iNews.

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