Fruit bats and sexual harassment: addition

This post is not about bat-on-bat harassment.  It isn’t really exactly about sexual harassment.  Rather, it’s about a very messy and unclear situation at the University College Cork (Ireland) that surrounds a complaint of sexual harassment.

A male professor showed a female  professor an article about bat fellatio (which we commented on here).   She complained to human resources, and he was censured and is subject to two years of monitoring.  The web is full of discussions of the incident, which almost entirely see it in terms of a violation of the right to free speech (though not all do).  So presented, the assumption seems to be that he easily could have been just very interested in evolution and sexuality, and she was probably nasty or unstable.  And, of course, it is very worrying if one result of all this is that discussions of the sex life of other species are now seen as dangerous to one’s career.

One thing to wonder about here is whether people who are making the assumption of his blamelessness have had much experience in the varieties of sexual harassment.   There are  people who talk altogether too much about  gender characteristics and sexuality; they are at least creepy.  I can think of two recent cases in my academic  environment: one was sadly disturbed, I thought.  It was as though he lacked a “shut off” mechanism that keeps most of us from sharing too much information about our inner lives.  After a particularly revolting grad class on Louis Caroll, sex with children and semen, the women in the class complained, but I doubt  much was done.  The other person was different and in a  powerful position.  The constant foregrounding of one’s “charm and jewelry” was part of an ongoing power play.  I did complain, to no good effect, and I certainly got a very negative scolding from someone in authority.

Still, for all we know, maybe the “he” in this story thought it was just a fun article.  Perhaps it was all just a gigantic misunderstanding.   

One thing we learn here is once again the perils of complaining about sexual harassment.  You may face the judgment of “peers” who are pretty clueless, though not hesitant to judge you negatively.   This is not to say that the man in question was harasser.   It is to say the facts we know do not settle the issue.

(Thanks to KC and Mr. Jender.)

Here by the way is her account:

It is one document split into two pieces.

Addition:  having read her account, I have to say it is very believable.  I’d be really interested in hearing whether others have had this sort of (alleged) experience.

Anoymity for Rape Defendants?

You know I can honestly see how this idea seems like a reasonable one: “Hey, rape victims get anonymity. So shouldn’t those they accused get anonymity as well, until they’ve convicted? Of course, those guilty of rape don’t deserve anonymity, which is why they’ll be named after conviction. But those who are innocent don’t deserve to suffer the consequences of a false rape accusation. It’ll be fairer to make it anonymous for everyone.”

Except that:

1. Rape would be the only crime for which the accused get anonymity. This would mean that:
2. There will be gender disparity in the treatment of defendants: those granted anonymity will be overwhelmingly male.
3. There will be a very strong implication that rape accusations are especially likely to be false and

a. This is not true– the rate of false accusations is the same as for any other crime.
b. This is a very damaging myth, which helps to contribute to the appallingly low conviction figures for rape.

4. The appallingly low conviction figures for rape mean that very few accused rapists will get named.
5. 4 is especially problematic because serial rapists are often caught when victims who had previously hesitated to come forward see their rapists on trial for a different rape.

So, in the end, not a good idea at all.

(Thanks, Mr Jender!)

Victory for Claire Finch

Press release from the English Collective of Prostitutes
On Thursday 29 April, in Luton Crown Court, Claire Finch was found NOT GUILTY of a criminal charge of keeping a brothel. The jury, in line with public opinion, refused to criminalise Ms Finch for working together with friends from her own home for safety. Ms Finch, her friends and colleagues, her legal team and the English Collective of Prostitutes which co-ordinated the case, celebrated this victory for rights and safety.

This case is a precedent – it forges a way for sex workers to work together from premises. Thousands of women who want to protect their safety now have the possibility of a legal defence against criminal charges. Sex workers are 10 times more likely to be attacked on the street than indoors, and it is much safer to work with someone else than to work alone. Yet the law expressly forbids this – two or more women working together are classified as a brothel. Following the decision of the court, all pending prosecutions of women working together without force or coercion must now be dropped. Parliament must now look to decriminalise as New Zealand did successfully nearly seven years ago, improving women’s safety without increasing prostitution.
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