As American politicians race to distance themselves from the notion of “legitimate rape”, a British MP has triggered his own furore by saying that having sex with a woman while she is asleep is not rape.
Controversial independent MP George Galloway has been attacked in all of Britain’s leading newspapers after he claimed a rape allegation in relation to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange had no basis. “Not everybody has to be asked prior to each insertion,” he said.
Speaking of the allegations by two Swedish women of sexual misconduct by Mr Assange, Mr Galloway said: “Even taken at its worst, if the allegations made by these two women were 100 per cent true, and even if a camera in the room captured them, they don’t constitute rape.
“At least, not rape as anyone with any sense can possibly recognise it. And somebody has to say this. Woman A met Julian Assange, invited him back to her flat, gave him dinner, went to bed with him, had consensual sex with him, claims that she woke up to him having sex with her again. This is something which can happen, you know.”
Telegraph columnist Tom Chivers wrote in response to Mr Galloway: “She was unconscious at the time. It was literally impossible for her to consent. Having sex with someone once does not give them carte blanche to have sex with you again; the woman is entitled to change her mind between ‘insertions’ (Yuck, George. Yuck.)
“And what is more, she is entitled to expect the man to wait until she is sufficiently conscious to state whether or not she has changed her mind. That is what ‘consent’ involves. Giving it once is not a waiver of one’s right to refuse it in future.”
Sarah Brindley, of Rape Crisis Scotland, told the Guardian Mr Galloway’s comments supported an enduring false notion of “real” or “serious” rape. “It can be just as devastating to be raped asleep by someone you know, as it is to be raped by a stranger,” she said.
Mr Galloway is no stranger to controversy. A former Labour MP, he was expelled from the party in 2003 as a result of his outspoken opposition to the Iraq War. In 2004, he co-founded the left-wing coalition Respect, an acronym for Respect, Equality, Socialism, Peace, Environmentalism, Community and Trade Unionism, and returned to Parliament in 2005.
He made his controversial comments in his weekly video podcast, “Good night with George Galloway”. While he described Mr Assange’s alleged behaviour as “sordid”, he said: “I don’t believe either of these women.” He said while “it might be really bad manners not to have tapped her on the shoulder and said, ‘Do you mind if I do it again?’ – it might be really sordid and bad sexual etiquette – but whatever else it is, it is not rape, or you bankrupt the term rape of all meaning.”
Mr Assange’s supporters believe the women were a “honey trap” after he angered US authorities with the publication of thousands of secret diplomatic cables. Mr Assange denies the women’s claims and has not been charged.First published in the Sydney Morning Herald.