Fixed It: rape and sex are not the same thing

Yahoo News published an AAP article about a QLD man charged with 22 offences relating to the alleged rape and assault of three women during the 1980s and 90s. Police suggest there may also be link to the dissapearnce of three girls new Newcastle.

To be clear, this man has not yet been tried and is entitled to the presumption of innocence. Only the court can determine whether he is guilty or not guilty. This commentary is not speculating on his guilt or innocence, it is specifically and only about how men’s violence against women is reported in the media.

Clearly, these are extremely serious charges, which makes it all the more reprehensible that Yahoo and AAP label them as “sex charges”.

This man is not charged with having “sex” because having sex is not a crime and if you are having “sex” you cannot be charged. Sex is something people do together, when everyone involved is fully able and willing to consent.

Rape is something a person chooses to do to another person without their consent, there is no mutual agreement involved. Sex and rape are not the same thing and they are not words we can use interchangeably. 

This is one of the many ways in which men’s violence against women is minimised in the media and it contributes to the public perception that rape is nothing more than sex gone wrong. It is not. It is a choice to commit a deliberate, brutal, traumatising and criminal act. There is no fine line or grey area. Rape. Is. Not. Sex.

A few people have asked about the word “historic” in these headlines, suggesting that it implies the crime occurred so long ago that it’s no longer relevant. I agree it is problematic in that sense. Police have told me they prefer to use it as an indication that women do not need to feel under current threat. I can see what they’re saying but I’m fairly sure that any report of rape makes women feel under threat, regardless of how long ago it occurred. I haven’t reached a decision on this one yet. Happy to hear feedback on this one if you have any thoughts.

FixedIt is an ongoing project to push back against the media’s constant erasure of violent men and blaming of innocent victims. If you would like to help fund it – even $5 a month makes a big difference – please consider becoming a Patron


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