Monthly Archives: March 2009

Two wrongs = suspended sentence for rape

I’m finding it hard to understand the sentencing in this case (leaving aside worries about whether we ought to be imprisoning people at all anyway).

Two men had sex with a 15 year old girl who was “severely intoxicated.” They have received suspended sentences, because “the sex was consensual.” Two other men are yet to stand trial in relation to “having unlawful sexual intercourse with the girl on the same night.” It’s not clear from the news story whether this means that the girl was raped by four men at once, or by two men at one time during the night, and then another two later on in the night. Whatever. The fact is, up to four men (two now convicted of unlawful sexual intercourse, two yet to stand trial) had sex with a drunken girl.

The age of consent (for most purposes) in South Australia is 17. This girl was 15. So whatever else was wrong in what the two men who have been convicted did that night, they were guilty of an offence that carries a potential jail term of up to 10 years (Criminal Law Consolidation Act 1935 – Sect 49).

They got an 18 month good behaviour bond, and 12 month jail sentences, suspended. Why? Because they said sorry, and, wait for it, because the sex was consensual.

But, get this. In the very same section of the Act, there’s this clause:

Consent to sexual intercourse is not a defence to a charge of an offence under this section.

So no matter what, the fact that the girl “consented” doesn’t change the nature of the offence.

Of course, the two men have actually been convicted of the offence, but nevertheless, the girl’s “consent” seems to have been used as a mitigating factor in sentencing.

It gets worse. Under the same act, in the section on rape, it turns out that:

a person is taken not to freely and voluntarily agree to sexual activity if … the activity occurs while the person is intoxicated (whether by alcohol or any other substance or combination of substances) to the point of being incapable of freely and voluntarily agreeing to the activity. (Criminal Law Consolidation Act 1935 – Sect 46)

Somehow, I just can’t get those two sections to gel, to make some sense of the sentences handed down. Surely the fact that the girl was “severely intoxicated” means that leaving aside any issues of underage sex, she couldn’t consent. Full stop. Period. End of story. Yet somehow, instead of making things worse, the fact that the girl was drunk and “consented” to sex, has made things better for the men who committed this crime. And why on earth were the men charged with “unlawful sexual intercourse” and not with rape in the first place. She didn’t consent, and that makes it rape.

I’m struggling to understand how these men got off so lightly for raping a drunk girl. My head keeps on going round and round in circles, trying to understand how two wrongs has added up to leniency in sentencing. Why can’t M’Lud see that the fact that the girl “consented” when she was severely intoxicated makes the offence even worse.

Don’t panic

This is the last thing our Mac Mini said to us.

lastmessagepanic: We are hanging here…

Mr Strange Land ran the hardware diagnostic disk, and it gave us this impenetrable message:


Apparently it’s a RAM problem of some sort. We’ve taken it into our local Mac repair shop to see what can be done, and in the meantime, we’re using an old laptop.

I have a twitchy feeling about this. It could be very, very expensive.

Friday Feminist – Naomi Wolf

Cross posted

Feminism gave us laws against job discrimination based on gender; immediately case law evolved in Britain and the United States that institutionalized job discrimination based on women’s appearances. Patriarchal religion declined; new religious dogma, using some of the mind-altering techniques of older cults and sects, arose around age and weight to functionally supplant traditional ritual. Feminists, inspired by Friedan, broke the stranglehold on the women’s popular press of advertisers for household products, who were promoting the feminine mystique; at once, the diet and skin care industries became the new cultural censors of women’s intellectual space, and because of their pressure, the gaunt, youthful model supplanted the happy housewife as the model of successful womanhood. The sexual revolution promoted the discovery of female sexuality; “beauty pornography” – which for the first time in women’s history artificially links a commodified “beauty” directly and explicitly to sexuality – invaded the mainstream to undermine women’s new and vulnerable sense of sexual self-worth. Reproductive rights game Western women control over our own bodies; the weight of fashion models plummeted to 23 percent below that of ordinary women, eating disorders rose exponentially, and a mass neurosis was promoted that used food and weight to strip women of that sense of control. Women insisted on politicizing health; new technologies of invasive, potentially dangerous “cosmetic” surgeries developed apace to re-exert old forms of medical control of women.

Naomi Wolf, The Beauty Myth, 1990

Important memo for women of substance and achievement

Cross posted

Remember that when it comes down to it, all that matters is what you look like.

50 most beautiful women politicians

What an invidious position this places female politicians in. They’re being judged on their appearance, not on what they have achieved, not on their policy goals, not on how effective they are in their jobs. All that matters is what they look like. Feh!

The newspaper says that the list is “light hearted.” So there you are. If any woman objects to being judged by her appearance, the reply is already there. “Can’t you take a joke?”

That was fun

I went to a book launch. This launch of this book. It was fun, but Pavlov’s Cat was there taking photos, and she has mentioned that she might blog it, so I won’t.

Except to say that I am delighted for Tracy, and in awe of her achievement, and amused that it was her children queuing up at the drinks counter, not mine, but somewhat chagrined that it was my child who disappeared towards the end of the piece, leaving me in an utter panic trying to find her, and just getting to that stage of desperation where I was wondering what the hell to do next and we’d used the microphone to ask people if they had seen her and where on earth she could possibly have gone and why, oh why hadn’t I sent her elder sister off with her when she went to the toilet and oh my god I haven’t seen her since then and maybe she had wandered out to the street instead of coming back inside and heart pounding and breath getting shorter and shorter…

… when she wandered around the corner from the out-of-sight area of the playground where she had been, safe all the time, completely unaware of the (admittedly momentary) panic, and totally unperturbed by it, but quite happy to be hugged.

We went and met Mr Strange Land for dinner, and I had a large glass of wine.

Now that we are all safely home, and she is tucked up in bed, I might have another one.

Update: PC’s post, with photos, is up: In which ThirdCat’s book is launched.

Hard waste redux

Long time readers may recall that I wrote about our city council’s annual hard waste collection last year. Hard waste collection time has rolled around again, and as happened last year, the verges are full of people’s junk, and the roads are being patrolled by second hand goods retailers, and bargain hunters, all looking for treasure.

We have had a grand throwout, getting rid of all sorts of plastic junk and broken appliances. We put our hard waste out on Friday, and by this morning, very little was left. But I am a little astonished by what people have picked up out of our pile of rubbish. Did it not occur to the person who took the grey plastic watering can that it might have been thrown out because it has a huge, unpluggable leak? As for the computer screen, it has an eye-straining waver, and the microwave oven simply no longer works. I hope that whoever took these items has the skill to repair them.

Some things we threw out because we had grown out of them. I hope someone with a small lawn is able to sharpen and use the old-fashioned push reel lawn mower. We used it quite successfully for nearly a year, but it was always a stop-gap solution for us, until we got a motor mower. Our children have long since grown out of the last stroller we had cluttering up the shed, and they don’t use the clam shell paddling pools any more, but some other family may find them useful.

We’ve done quite well out of our neighbours’ leavings ourselves. For some inexplicable reason (conjunction of planets, pattern in the tea leaves, malicious intervention of the FSM, whatever) we had just run out of ring binders. Fortunately, someone a few streets over was clearing out their office, and we were able to pick up eight or so good quality folders. One of them was labelled, “Thesis.” Unknown donor of ring binders, I hope you completed your thesis successfully.

Other people take the annual hard waste collection as a signal to put out their prunings and choppings from their gardens, so that their neighbours can use them as firewood. We’ve collected quite a store for the winter – thank you!


But you may recall this chair. Mr Strange Land bore it home in triumph last year, for (the then) Miss Nine, who wanted a chair to curl up in with a book. I was dubious – too big, too beige. But they were both keen, and I thought that we could make it work, with a brightly coloured throw. Nevertheless, I wondered, “How long before it ends up in the hard waste collection again?”

I have an answer for that question now. As it turns out, exactly one year.

Miss Ten decided to dispose of it, so Mr Strange Land bore it back down the street, and deposited it outside the same house that we had collected it from last year. It must have been quite a surreal moment for the people who put it out in the first place. “That damned chair! It’s come back.”

It only stayed there overnight, as far as we know. When we looked down the street the next day, it had disappeared again. Someone thought it looked useful.

But will it appear again next year? I shall keep you posted.

Friday Feminist – Joan McGregor

Cross posted

The determination of consent requires consideration of both the internal and external features of the choice situation. Failures of consent occur because of external features: the person was coerced or defrauded into the choice by the person ‘asking’ for consent. The background circumstances themselves also can be coercive if the person is desperate and the proposer uses that desperation to their advantage. Alternatively, there can be failures of consent because of internal constraints on the consentor, that she was drunk, on drugs, insane, too young, and so on. Focusing merely on the words that were said or not said as evidence means that one can fail to pick out the background conditions within which the individual is making the ‘choice,’ or fail to notice crucial features about the consentor’s ability to give consent, or fail to account for the actions or words of the proposer and their effects on the consent-giver. Consent is vitiated by external factors such as coercion and fraud and also by internal factors that incapacitate a person. The fact that a victim was drunk or high on drugs should naturally lead to the conclusion that she was not consenting, as she was incapable of voluntary consent. Showing that the woman was incapacitated should establish the element of the actus reus ‘without consent.’ Consent is the vehicle through which individuals autonomously direct major parts of their lives; poor choices, or choices with fail to conform to a person’s good, often result when choosing without one’s full faculties. Hence consent granted at those times should not be held as legitimate. It should be noted that normally we do not let others exploit an incapacitated person and take advantage of their condition.

Joan McGregor, Is it rape?, 2005

More to come next week…