Rape: Not as bad as seeming prejudiced

Children raped, trafficked

Children raped, trafficked

Around 1,400 children were beaten, raped, tortured and trafficked for over a decade in the lower-class town of Rotherham, in north England.

As authorities stood by. Or fined parents of the missing children for wasting their time.

Some of the girls were splattered with gasoline and told they’d be set afire if they reported the abuse. Some were forced to watch other kids being raped. Others were told that their parents or siblings would be killed or gang raped if they went to authorities, according to the New York Times. 

And when girls were brave enough to make a report, the police did nothing.


Some officers worried they’d be accused of racism since the victims were white, while the attackers were Pakistani. One report charged officials with ignoring “a politically inconvenient truth.”

Others blamed the victims (aka “tarts”), insisting it was all consensual.

Alexis Jay, a former chief inspector of social work, investigated. She points to the police department’s culture of institutional sexism.

Due to patriarchy we’ve historically seen rape through a male perspective. And men rarely worry about being sexually assaulted. They’re more frightened of being falsely accused. So it’s been common to blame girls and women for being attacked. As these police officers did.

Lost innocence

Lost innocence

Altogether, the atrocity follows a world-wide pattern of greater sensitivity to cultural and ethnic offenses than sexist wrongs (although we’re not necessarily more sexist than racist).

You see the pattern when most people are more offended by racist than sexist jokes, for instance.

Gangsta’ rap is full of sexism, but few complain for fear of sounding racist. (Yet, if a music genre talked about people of color the way that women are talked about in rap, we’d all be outraged.)

But it’s not just rap. Women are routinely called “bitches” on the small screen and the silver screen, too. What if the N-word were used so lavishly?

Years ago, Don Imus called Rutger’s women’s basketball team “nappy headed ho’s.” He was fired for racism. The sexism was invisible.

I could go on.

Maybe this happens because men are often targets of racism but are rarely targets of sexism?

Instead of privileging ethnicity over gender, the weight of outrage and action should be based on the level of harm done.

Doing things that create prejudice is harmful. But it is insane to cover up the trauma of sexual assault due to fears of appearing prejudiced.

Rape is a greater hurt.

Besides, rapists come in all ethnic shades. (And even genders).

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About BroadBlogs

I have a Ph.D. from UCLA in sociology (emphasis: gender, social psych). I currently teach sociology and women's studies at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, CA. I have also lectured at San Jose State. And I have blogged for Feminispire, Ms. Magazine, The Good Men Project and Daily Kos. Also been picked up by The Alternet.

Posted on September 12, 2014, in feminism, psychology, race/ethnicity, rape and sexual assault, sexism, violence against women, women and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 23 Comments.

  1. I do believe that a lot of sexual-ism is over come by racism,people rarely see it. I listen to rap music, and it does insult women plenty, but from where I stand it depends on the artist and how they project their life to us “common people”. It’s crazy to think that we still face these insults and that they are just being over heard. There shouldn’t be a second standard to this and it sickens me to think that police officers rather believed that these girls were lying just because they didn’t want to seem racist, when in reality they either way still hold more power as “authorities” than anyone. I here often in movies or shows like cold-case were they show the rapist of a girl saying “well look at her, she was asking for it” like we are able to be sexy if we want to. It doesn’t mean we are asking for anything!, yea maybe some girls do it for that thrill but not all want an outcome especially one that is forced upon

  2. I am again and again, just full of absolute shock over the ugliness of our world at times. I don’t understand how any living being could not want to do everything in their power to stop such things from happening, and if nothing could be done to prevent it, why wouldn’t these police officers want everything to do with resolving the issue? To put the problem of racism in front of the issue of rape and abuse against children, just is beyond my understanding. It pains me to read such things. It seems that far too often our society turns their cheeks to the pain and suffering of women and children. Yes things may be reported, but are is the pain of the sufferers being embraced? I don’t feel it is. We listen to the news, we watch it, we discuss it and we may even write about it, but then we go back to our Venti coffees, SUV’s, and personal issues as if the issues in the rest of the world are beyond us. There should be a system in place that allows everyone to share pain without fear of persecution. There is a film I recently watched called “Half the Sky.” The documentary follows two journalists and a few actresses to differing countries where sexual assault against women is very present and a serious issue for little girls. In some of the countries there were girls being raped as young as 1 in a half years old! How could any human being do such a thing? Well, I don’t know and I don’t understand, all I know is that it happens and that it’s wrong and more needs to be done to end such tragedies. The psychological effects of rape, incest, sex trafficking etc are long lasting and debilitating. In certain countries that the documentary followed there were girls that had lived in fear of reporting the abuse, due to the possibility of being disowned by their families and kicked out to the streets just for sharing with their families about what happened. It was considered to be a shameful act that was the responsibility of the victim. These girls were not embraced by their families, they were outcasted for something that they were found completely helpless in. When the policed were informed, they nearly always took the side of the man of the woman or child involved. Children especially, should not have to endure such pain and abuse, they do not know any better and for the policeman to put blame on the children out of fear of facing racist comments, this is ridiculous. Racism is everywhere and it is an issue that needs attending to, but sexism and rape occurs no matter your race, culture or religion. There should be no question in regards to what the right thing is to do in such a situation.

  3. It’s so sad that young girls and women have been raped in other countries and nothing is done about it. Some people really believe its the woman or young girl fault that rape happened to them. What I don’t understand is why these dirty monsters are raping these babies. I once read another blog saying how the men in Yemen was marring little girls and it was legal to do. What has this world came to. My hurt heart for these children and women. How can the authorities just sit around and let this take place without doing anything about it. as far as I’m concern the authorities are also raping these children probably for money or just because they can. A law should be made if someone is out raping another they should be sentence to life in prison. That way the rapist would think twice before he rapes anyone.

  4. Not only in north England but also in other places, the reporting rate of rape is usually low, because victims feel reluctant to go to the police. They don’t want to tell the truth, because they don’t want to get hurt again from what other people think of them. Being raped is horrible, but social prejudices towards the victims of rape might also be more painful for victimes to overcome. Rape is often considered as humiliation. People blame not only men but also women, which is really strange.

  5. Stephanie Masina

    Rape is STUPID AND DISGUSTING ! I can’t stand this type of action from anyone. This is not a pleasure or anything it’s straight cruelty having sex with someone without there consent is beyond me! Every person that does this should real life in my opinion die or go to hell! It’s just something that is cruel and pity nobody should say this is not as bad as we think try telling that to those that have been raped see what there reaction is! Smh smh smh

  6. You cant compare the n word to the b word. Plus what do you mean when you say there is no outrage over rap music being sexist. There are constantly people criticizing rap music for being sexist. But nobody criticize women singers for making sexist music videos against men.

    Or what about the fact that a black male can be shot and people would justify it or he will get more time in jail than others who committed same crime?

    Also every time blacks bring up racism they get told that they are pulling the race card. nobody ever tells women that they are pulling the sex card when they bring up sexism.

    • Your comment probably applies more to this post: “Why Are We More Offended By Racism Than Sexism?” But okay.

      First, in that post, I said that as a culture we are more sensitive to racism than sexism, but that we are not necessarily more sexist than racist. (In fact, we may be more racist than sexist.)

      The last 2 examples you give are examples of how we can be more racist than sexist. And they are good examples.

      Getting shot and killed is worse than being blamed for rape, which is what often happens to girls and women.

      In one case women are blamed for crimes men usually commit. In the other case, blacks are killed for things whites wouldn’t be killed for. In both cases a more powerless group is being harmed by a more powerful group.

      I’m not interested in saying that either sexism or racism are the worse crime. I think they’re equally bad. But I think we should be equally sensitive to both. And I think that people who are victims of racism and sexism should join together.

      I say that we are more offended by racism than sexism because when I teach my classes students often can’t get my point unless I say, “Okay, consider the same situation if it were a matter of racism,” and suddenly they are able to get it.

      On your other point, there is criticism of rap, and outrage by many feminists. But there is not widespread cultural outrage. Typically, people get more upset about people who criticize the sexism in rap than the rappers who say hurtful things about women. If any woman were talking about blacks the way that rappers talk about women, there would be widespread cultural outrage. And no one would claim that it’s sexist to point out the racism the women were spewing.

      And as I say, there is a reason why we are culturally more sensitive to racism than sexism (even if we might actually be more racist than sexist) and that is because people of color are united in their outrage, Whereas women are divided on the issue, for the reasons I explain.

      Finally, I see no reason why I can’t compare the N-word to the B-word.

  7. To let wrong-doing go on for the fear of being perceived as anything seems wrong to me. It’s crazy to me that a child of any gender or ethnicity could report such horrible things to the police only to be ignored.

    Lastly, while men may be less likely to face sexism vs. racism, certainly they can face sexism.

    • Sure they can. I edited to make more clear.

      But I explained how sexism toward women was in play in all of my examples. If you are aware of ethnic concerns taking precedence over sexism toward men, let me know.

  8. It is astonishing how sexual assault continues to be pushed aside by denials and other concerns- when clearly sexual violence is often the greater violation- yet, protecting other interests seems to take priority. Once again, I hope the increase of dialogue will make people more aware and in time there can be less dialogue cuz the necessary actions and changes will be the new norm.

  9. “Instead of privileging ethnicity over gender, the weight of outrage and action should be based on the level of harm done.”

    Yes. There should also be some minimum level of punishment regardless.

    I think here in America the matter of race has always superseded the issue of gender. Why? Due to the legacy of slavery and the black eye of racism exposed American democracy as a farce during the Cold War ideological struggles.

    Only after the passing of the Civil Rights Act did a lot of legislation addressing women’s issues come to the forefront.

    In my view neither should, in and of themselves, have a greater concern. They are equally nefarious.

    • They are equally bad.

      In this case, police worried about accusations of prejudice. And it’s possible that this case could increase prejudice against Pakistanis. But that’s no reason to ignore the rapes. Because the harm of rape is so high. Much worse than the fallout from acknowledging that in this case it was Pakistanis.

      Instead, point out that rape happens, regardless of ethnicity.

  10. Hi Georgia…
    Love your posts and thanks for sharing! Wishing you a day of
    Soft Curves—Wonder and Joy! Phil

  11. I feel angry rather than sad, whenever, I read such stories!

  12. ” Maybe this happens because men can be targets of racism but not sexism?”

    This is only if we go with the academic definition of sexism. If one uses the common dictionary definition of ‘prejudice, stereotyping, or discrimination, typically against women, on the basis of sex’ then men can definitely be the victims of sexism.

    This is similar to how ethnic minorities can be racist (a group of Hispanic teens beat up a white man simply because of his skin color), trans people can be genderists (“Die, cis scum”), and someone of a religious minority can harm someone of a major religion (a Pagan business owner could fire an employee for being a Christian).

    • Ok. Sexism against women, which is the usual way it happens.

      Just like you can be “prejudged” for a group, but People almost always understand that it means prejudiced against.

      Your point is quibbling, meant to obscure the issue.

      • I’m quibbling? Sorry, I’m not deliberately trying to obscure the issue. I’m just pointing out that most people not familiar with gender studies understand what sexism means to those who are in the academic world. It can be confusing.

        It just seems (to me) that by saying something like “women can’t be sexist against men” or if you prefer an unrelated example “Atheists can’t oppress Christians” it takes anyone who *has* been in that situation and trivializes their pain and experiences. As I’m sure you know by now, I try to use inclusive language most of the time in an attempt to prevent this.

        When I took Gender Studies in college this very issue caused a lot of the guys to give the professor poor marks in Communication at the end of the year, since there were numerous times she all out told them the sexism they experienced was hardly worth mentioning since it was “anecdotal at best”. This is why I try to talk about more men’s issues over on my blog…no one should be made to feel like the harm they experience is unworthy of being brought to light. This goes for female victims as well as male ones in my book, because anyone’s pain is worth discussing.

        If you don’t publish this comment I won’t be offended, but I thought you should know the reason behind my “quibbling”.

      • It’s not “academic.”

        When people hear the word “sexism” 99% will think “sexism against women.”

        There’s a good reason for that. Sexism is nearly always against women. Because we have a history of living in patriarchy, which continues today.

        Whether the obfuscation was intended or not, the quibbling over the word has that effect.

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