The real ‘verdict’ on rape that men like Ched Evans need to hear

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If you were searching for a perfect example of rape culture in action, you need look no further than a recent interview in Britain’s The Times newspaper. In it, former footballer and one-time convicted rapist Ched Evans opines, “A lot of work needs to be done in relation to consent because I definitely think that the police have an agenda to find ways to charge people and the easiest way is the drunk one”.

Evans also offers this advice: “I also think that women need to be made aware of the dangers they can put themselves in because there are genuine rapists out there who prey on girls who have been drinking.”

For those unfamiliar with the English footballer, Evans was convicted in 2012 for the 2011 rape of a woman at a hotel in North Wales. After serving half of a five-year sentence, Evans pursued an appeal. That appeal was granted and a retrial ordered, the result of which saw Evans being found not guilty by a jury who had been allowed to hear evidence of his victim’s previous sexual history as part of a defence campaign that also included the offer of £50,000 as a “reward” for information that would help clear the millionaire’s name.

The inclusion of testimony by two men who claimed to have had sex with the victim during a similar time period was vehemently opposed by everyone from advocacy groups to the former solicitor-general, Vera Baird, but the three presiding justices called it a “rare case in which it would be appropriate to allow forensic examination of the woman’s sexual behaviour”.

Because never forget that a woman’s right to say no to sexual contact disintegrates each time she invokes her right to say yes.

But despite the later findings by the court, the circumstances surrounding the allegations that led to Evans initial conviction should be considered sobering even for those people determined to find every caveat they can to excuse sexual coercion and violence. On the night in question, Evans had been out with a group of friends that included fellow footballer, Clayton McDonald. It was McDonald who met the woman and brought her back to his hotel room – a room that had been booked by Evans. On arrival, McDonald texted Evans to let him know he had “got a bird”. Evans then made his way to the hotel and used a key to enter the room, at which point McDonald asked the woman, “can my friend join in?” According to evidence offered during the retrial, two other men watched from the window.

The prosecution’s case hinged on the inability of an inebriated woman to properly consent to sex, particularly in such a specific circumstance; but the jury disagreed, ultimately deciding that Evans’ knowledge of this lack of consent couldn’t be assured and therefore he couldn’t reasonably be convicted of rape.

It’s an effective loophole for those who find themselves facing criminal charges for sexual assault, and it overwhelmingly appears to work in favour of those accused of rape. But as Jane Gilmore argued here, there needs to be a broadened capacity for a prosecution to argue based on intent.

Evans might have secured a not guilty verdict but this is not what consent looks like. If there are multiple people in a room and you are colluding with everyone but the person whose consent matters most, you are implicitly acknowledging the duplicity in your intent.

And the rate at which we are seeing this kind of pack mentality working to undermine and deceive participants in sexual scenarios is not just alarming, it’s downright terrifying.

Exercise hatred against feminists all you like, but the fact remains, almost without exception, cases like this outlined in news reports involve groups of men with a female complainant at the centre.

And remember, not all sexual assault involves rape – schoolboys from prestigious Australian colleges have been the subject of recent investigations into the sharing of image-based abuse targeting their female peers. These boys grow up into men who, quite clearly, do not learn from the wide breadth of mistakes they are supported to make as children.

If you care about health outcomes for boys and men, it is imperative that you concern yourself with why this kind of behaviour appears to be on the rise, and what it says about the formation of masculinity and its various codes.

One of the great and wilful misconceptions perpetuated about feminists is that we are hell-bent on destroying men and imprisoning them in a matriarchal nightmare from which they can never escape.

This kind of nonsense paranoia has proven an effective way to ignore what feminists advocate for: a world free from the constraints of patriarchy and in which all people can be liberated from its harms. This harm is not exclusively enacted against women, trans and gender diverse people (although they bear the brunt of it). It is the harm also inflicted on boys and men socially conditioned by the more toxic codes of masculinity that patriarchy presents as powerful.

And it is a form of toxic masculinity to cultivate the assault of women – even just by way of intentional sexual trickery – as a pathway to male bonding. From bragging about “stealthing” (the practice of deliberately removing a condom without your partner’s knowledge) to sharing private, intimate images on non-consenting women in online forums to the even more horrific examples of gang rapes, women’s bodies are still being used as the conduit for men’s reckoning with each other.

Evans coerced an inebriated woman into letting him have sex with her in front of an audience of other men who knew before she did what that hotel room was really for.

He isn’t an innocent man caught in a sting of police incompetence. Rather, he is exactly the kind of man who poses a threat to women and their sexual safety. And now Evans has the gall to suggest it is women who need to change their behaviour to protect themselves from the “genuine rapists” out there who “prey on girls who have been drinking”.

Here’s a verdict, Evans. That genuine rapist? He looks like you. He acts like you. He has friends like yours. And you both should be kept well away from women.

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