Sunday, January 09, 2011

Being a feminist is a lot like being a bowl of petunias

I was in the middle of reading Gordon Campbell's mostly sensible article about wikileaks, and I came to this paragraph:

In one of the two incidents, the alleged conflict over consent reportedly turns on whether or not (in the midst of what had hitherto been consensual sex) Assange knowingly proceeded after a condom failure had occurred. In the other incident, consent is reportedly not the issue – it is whether the act involved unprotected sex, which is a (minor) offence under Swedish law.

The idea that Sweden has sexual assault laws that would be unrecognisable in the rest of the world has been repeated lots, but it's wrong. Plenty of English language sources have been explaining this for a while now.

There is no longer need for any prevaricating or lack of clarity about what Assange has been accused of. It is three weeks since the Guardian posted a full account of the accusations of sexual assault against Assange. There is no excuse for misrepresenting those accusations.

This is what one woman described:
Her account to police, which Assange disputes, stated that he began stroking her leg as they drank tea, before he pulled off her clothes and snapped a necklace that she was wearing. According to her statement she "tried to put on some articles of clothing as it was going too quickly and uncomfortably but Assange ripped them off again". Miss A told police that she didn't want to go any further "but that it was too late to stop Assange as she had gone along with it so far", and so she allowed him to undress her.

According to the statement, Miss A then realised he was trying to have unprotected sex with her. She told police that she had tried a number of times to reach for a condom but Assange had stopped her by holding her arms and pinning her legs. The statement records Miss A describing how Assange then released her arms and agreed to use a condom, but she told the police that at some stage Assange had "done something" with the condom that resulted in it becoming ripped, and ejaculated without withdrawing.
That is not an account that "turns on whether or not (in the midst of what had hitherto been consensual sex) Assange knowingly proceeded after a condom failure had occurred."

Gordon Campbell describes the second accusation like this: "consent is reportedly not the issue – it is whether the act involved unprotected sex, which is a (minor) offence under Swedish law." This is how the woman describes it:
The following day, Miss W phoned Assange and arranged to meet him late in the evening, according to her statement. The pair went back to her flat in Enkoping, near Stockholm. Miss W told police that though they started to have sex, Assange had not wanted to wear a condom, and she had moved away because she had not wanted unprotected sex. Assange had then lost interest, she said, and fallen asleep. However, during the night, they had both woken up and had sex at least once when "he agreed unwillingly to use a condom".

Early the next morning, Miss W told police, she had gone to buy breakfast before getting back into bed and falling asleep beside Assange. She had awoken to find him having sex with her, she said, but when she asked whether he was wearing a condom he said no. "According to her statement, she said: 'You better not have HIV' and he answered: 'Of course not,' " but "she couldn't be bothered to tell him one more time because she had been going on about the condom all night. She had never had unprotected sex before."

I really like Gordon Campbell; I think he's written some really important stuff. There aren't enough solid left voices in the New Zealand media.

I hoped, I still hope, that this was a mistake based on ignorance and not paying attention. I left a comment making most of the points I've made here on his post on Scoop. It hasn't been posted yet, although other comments on that article have been.

There are better ways of being the New Zealand Michael Moore or John Pilger than misrepresenting women's descriptions of sexual abuse. Please Gordon Campbell, delete that paragraph and replace it with an accurate one.


  1. Anonymous10:20 am

    I tried to leave a comment along similar lines to this on Scoop ... "oddly" it hasn't appeared but two which buy into the "sex by surprise" story have.

    I just don't see why, if he's arguing that any charges against Assange aren't relevant to the work of Wikileaks (which I agree with), he needs to bring them up at all.

  2. I wrote to Gordon providing the same information and he replied saying that he would be addressing this issue (though I'm not sure in what fashion). I also left comments on the blog post which haven't appeared - my guess is that there are a lot in moderation.

  3. Anonymous10:02 pm

    Feeling somewhat bolshy thanks to the success of the #mooreandme campaign, I can only say in a vaguely intimidating manner that he'd better hurry the fuck up as long as "just unprotected sex!" comments are sitting there on his post for all to see (and assume are correct, because it's Gordon Campbell's freaking blog.)