On Monday, Respect MP George Galloway disheartened anti-rape organisations, fellow MPs and the leader of his own party by claiming that the sexual assault accusations levelled at Julian Assange amounted to “bad sexual etiquette” rather than rape. In his video podcast, Galloway asserted that even if the accusations made by two women in Sweden were “100 per cent true”, they did not amount to rape; “At least not rape as anyone with any sense can possibly recognise it.”
He went on to say: “Woman ‘A’ met Julian Assange, invited him back to her flat, gave him dinner, went to bed with him, had consensual sex with him, claims that she woke up to him having sex with her again. This is something which can happen, you know. I mean, not everybody needs to be asked prior to each insertion.” Last night on Twitter I spoke to the man who produced this much-discussed podcast, and I was not surprised to discover that he has an equally dismissive, distasteful attitude towards women.
I was aware that two English courts had rejected the line of argument covered in the podcast, but I was intrigued to know exactly what Assange stands accused of. On the Another Angry Woman blog, I found details of the allegations made by the two women, along with a link to the source. These allegations clearly depict rape. One woman alleges that she was pinned down and forced into sexual activity; another woman says Assange began having sex with her when she was asleep, therefore unable to consent; and both women claim they were tricked into further sexual acts to which they had not consented. It was decided in a magistrates’ court and the High Court that these accusations describe rape, however Galloway said: “…even if a camera in the room captured them, they don’t constitute rape.”
Galloway has used his Twitter account to further state his case, asking why, after the alleged rape, one woman continued to “date” Assange. Rape apologists are often under the misapprehension that if a person has consented to sex once, that counts as indefinite permission; that victims of abuse immediately cease all contact with their abusers; and that “legitimate rape” takes place only in dark alleys with strangers brandishing flick knives.
On Thursday night, a video with the title ‘Rape victim defends George Galloway’, originally tweeted by someone using the pseudonym ‘Clarence Beeks‘, was re-posted from Galloway’s Twitter account. The video showed a still image of Galloway along with the audio of a rape victim speaking on a BBC radio phone-in show. The caller said that the situation he had heard Galloway describing was not rape, but that he had not heard any of the allegations specific to the Assange case. Soon afterwards, a video with the title ‘Doctor defends George Galloway on rape’ was tweeted from both Galloway’s account and ‘Clarence Beeks” account. This video also shows an image of Galloway along with the audio from a BBC phone-in. The second caller was Sean Gabb, director of free market and civil liberties think-tank the Libertarian Alliance. He stated that: “Julian Assange is accused of what no reasonable person would regard as rape.”
During a short exchange with ‘Clarence Beeks’, he informed me that he was the producer of George Galloway’s controversial podcast. When I drew attention to this and the misogynist abuse he directed at a woman who had linked to an article critical of Galloway, I was blocked by both Galloway’s account and his producer’s. It became apparent that his producer was running both accounts and tweeting on Galloway’s behalf, presumably with his prior, therefore eternal consent.
George Galloway is not known for running a slick social media operation, but this time he can’t claim his account was hacked. He can’t distance himself by saying that he does not hold the same misogynist views as his producer / social media manager. This blog is about perceptions of rape, not Wikileaks, but I feel I must add that freedom of speech and women’s rights are not mutually exclusive concepts. Galloway and his apologists should not attempt to defend one by trampling on another.