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Caroline Farrow: Do men like Ched Evans have to be taught not to have sex with comatose women?

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Justice has been served, but nonetheless there are no winners in the case of Ched Evans, who was acquitted on the charge of rape, after his previous conviction was quashed.

In five and a half years of legal wrangling, which is an emotionally draining process even if you do have the money for it, Evans has spent two and half years in prison, been forced to sign the Sex Offenders Register and seen his career prospects irreparably damaged, for a crime he did not commit.

His accuser faces spending the rest of her life in fear that her identity will be made known and the ‘not guilty’ verdict will make it that much harder to ever achieve closure or come to terms with the incident.

I have sympathy with both parties – by his own admission Evans’s behaviour that night was reprehensible. Sensible people would agree that he has been punished enough. The woman may have behaved recklessly but she did not deserve what happened to her or the resulting trauma when she woke up the next morning.

Feminists have been desperate to jump on both Evans’s initial conviction and subsequent acquittal as proof of a misogynist society in which women are sexually oppressed, abused and disbelieved. Any raised eyebrows as to the wisdom of the young woman’s actions that night are seen as slut-shaming and yet surely both men and women would be wise to exercise prudence and not get themselves into potentially dangerous situations: both from the point of view of not getting so drunk as you cannot either defend yourself from predatory behaviour or consent to sex, and from the point of view of not getting yourself into a situation where you could find yourself charged with rape the next morning.

It’s not that men cannot be trusted not to rape women, it is more that human beings cannot always be trusted to behave virtuously and prudently, especially in situations of temptation. It is not victim-blaming or slut-shaming to suggest to women that agreeing to get in a taxi and go to a hotel with a strange man, especially after you have had a skinful, is not the wisest of ideas and even potentially misleading. How likely is it that some random man you have drunkenly tripped over in the kebab shop is so entranced by the quality of your mind that he wants to spirit you away to a place where you can earnestly discuss your views on third-wave feminism?

And what has happened to good old fashioned virtue anyway? In an interview in the Mail on Sunday, Evans astonishingly says that “you get your gambling and drinking training but nothing else on top of that. In this day and age, people need educating on alcohol and consent’. He says ‘someone needs to come up with something. The best thing is just to be educated. And when they are drunk, to think twice about it. How would it look in a court of law’.

What kind of world are we living in when men supposedly need specialist training to teach them not sexually to exploit drunken women? Surely these are the kind of values which ought to be being instilled from a very early age by the family? This is what happens when parents forgo their duties and responsibilities morally to guide their children in favour of an officially drawn up programmes in schools. There should not need to be some sort of formal scheme to teach men not to have sex with women when they are almost comatose from drink!

Furthermore, when considering whether or not to initiate sex with an extremely drunken women, the question ought not to be ‘how would this look in a court of law’, but one of basic respect. Having sex with a woman who is not able to exercise all of her critical faculties, is exploitative. What kind of man feels the need to drug a woman in order to get her to agree to have sex with him? The best kind of sex is mutually fulfilling, not an empty one-sided affair.

Time was that most women were far too sensible to consider going off with a strange man for a sexual encounter and most men had enough of a moral compass not to treat drunken women as pieces of meat, or attempt to film and join in when their mate has pulled. Even in the liberal early 1990s when I was a young woman, the idea of having a threesome with a bunch of strangers was still seen as a taboo. Drunken hook-ups and one night stands may have happened, but they were not seen as either desirable or the norm.

Whereas now, these things are all absolutely fine, there is no problem in agreeing to have sex with some random man you have just met and his best friend, so long as you have all been on a course, know all about consent and practice safe sex.

Do we really have to accept that threesomes and drunken hook-ups are now the norm, part and parcel of a good night out? Is this really what we want for our daughters? Few women really want drunken encounters or to sleep with more than one man at a time and yet many do so in the misguided quest for fulfilment and popularity. Drunken one-night stands are not empowering, they are degrading and do nothing to help both women and men find what most human beings crave, namely lifelong emotional intimacy.

It may not sound politically correct, but when women allow themselves to be used in drunken sexual encounters and tawdry threesomes, they damage their chances of being able to form future relationships, because if sex is purely a recreational activity devoid of emotions, then it loses its impact and ability to bond couples together. How can sex be anything special between you and your partner or spouse if you have already exhausted all the possibilities with a number of different people? How would your spouse really feel if they knew all the graphic details of your previous sexual history? Can a relationship really be sustained if there is a massive secret of a drunken threesome in the closet, waiting to be accidentally uncovered?

And the availability of women prepared to do it every which way imaginable with a man that they have met either online or in the drunken confines of a nightclub or chip shop, means that there is little incentive for men to form exclusive and permanent sexual relationships. If you think I am being sexist, this Vanity Fair article, highlights the heartbreak faced by women thanks to the Tinder culture. Women are debasing themselves in the name of female empowerment, but ironically in the hope that it will lead to a relationship with a man.

Pope Paul VI is much maligned on account of his encyclical Humanae Vitae in 1968, which reinforced Catholic teaching on sexuality and contraception. In it, he predicted that if humans ignored or disregarded the procreative potential of sex, then a number of consequences would occur. These included a widespread decline in morality, especially among the young, an increase in infidelity and a general loss of respect for women. ‘The man’ he said, ‘will lose respect for the woman and no longer care for her physical and psychological equilibrium and will come to the point of considering her as a mere instrument of selfish enjoyment, and no longer as his respected and beloved companion.’

In other words, the embodiment of what went on in Ched Evans’s hotel room that night. No wonder many Catholics believe that Pope Paul VI’s words are prophetic. The lesson that ought to be drawn is not that all men are sexual predators, or that woman ought not to report rape, but rather that sexual promiscuity and treating sex as a consequence-free bit of fun, is dangerous and harmful to women.

(Image: Michael D Beckwith)

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Caroline Farrow
Caroline Farrow
Columnist for the Catholic Universe

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