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Australian philosopher, literary critic, legal scholar, and professional writer. Based in Newcastle, NSW. Author of FREEDOM OF RELIGION AND THE SECULAR STATE (2012), HUMANITY ENHANCED (2014), and THE MYSTERY OF MORAL AUTHORITY (2016).

Thursday, October 26, 2006

The "she asked for it" defence

Sydney's Sheik Taj Din al-Hilali is reported this morning as having delivered a Ramadan sermon last month, in which he suggested that the problem of rape begins with women who "sway suggestively" and wear make-up and immodest dress. Judges "without mercy" are likely to impose long sentences, he said, "But the problem, the problem all began with who?" Apparently with the woman who dared appear in public in supposedly immodest apparel.

I have no objection at all to attractive young women publicly displaying their beauty and sexuality. As the Sheik suggested, doing so is a form a power - but if women sometimes revel in that small exercise of sexual power then good for them. Let them strut their stuff, and I hope it brings them pleasure. I have no sympathy at all for the puritanical mind-set that wishes to censure them - and let's be clear, there is no excuse whatsoever for those men who react with violence. The "she asked for it" defence won't wash.

Most men can take some quiet pleasure of their own in women's acts of sexual display, without feeling any impulses to violence. Those few who commit violent acts of rape deserve no mercy at all. Lock them up, and throw away the key.

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