In the discussions and reports about the organised attacks on women in Cologne and elsewhere in Germany, we can see the usual pattern; everyone is pretty much overlooking the victims, whilst focusing on the men. Specifically, excusing and minimising what they did and why, victim-blaming and finding reasons to shrug shoulders or using ethnicity and nationality to fuel and legitimise racism. Reports from Cologne alone state that over 200 women were assaulted in some way. We know this because it’s the only time the media really mentions them, reducing them to numbers in a supposed battle between men: left and right, black and white, local and foreign. No-one seems to really care about the women. About women, full stop. It is to be begrudgingly accepted as one of those things which might and does happen to women by dent of daring to possess a vagina. They exist, as always, as objects to inflame a man’s passion and drive to engage with other men: in anger, desire, fascism, it’s all the same. The right-wing image being used (literally, on German magazines reporting on the topic) of a pure, white female body polluted by the filthy hands of the Other doesn’t demand that the mind cast around too far to recall similar images utilised by the German media to pursue an agenda against all people judged insufficiently Teutonic.
Thus, as it was reported that it was carried out mostly by Middle Eastern, Muslim men, the suffering of the women has been hijacked to legitimise racist sentiment and hasty laws to ‘send them back where they came from’. Except we know that hideous suffering, deprivation and probably death waits where many of them came from – where they have left the women, heavily socially and religiously conditioned to be passive and dependent on others, to survive alone and suffer it for them. German women, as well as those from other European nations, will be seen as to blame for men being sent back to the nightmare of their home countries, and will be made to feel responsible, maybe (no doubt) even pressured to not report incidents, if men committing crimes against them will be sent back to their various home countries. Yet we actually know that this was not a ‘horde’ of recently arrived refugees. There were white men involved, men of colour who are German or other European nationals, migrant men who are not just recently settled, and the majority of men identified so far appear to be Moroccan – so not men who have fled a hellish war zone.
Not that the background of these dangerous men is an excuse or reason, even though the attacks have completely been reduced to that factor. The Left has a long track record of expecting and demanding that women sacrifice their bodies to reward, placate or save, any man of a class deemed sufficiently oppressed. The Right, in all its capitalist paternalism, chooses to hoard its live chattel instead. Violence and sexual violence against women has always been a bountiful commodity; why waste the opportunity to benefit from it now?
Of course men who commit these crimes must be punished with the utmost severity under the law (severity being a laughable term considering the rules and penalties involved in categorising and punishing sex crimes across Europe). Of course there needs to be discussions, serious discussions, about the misogyny coming with refugee men across our borders, but we cannot afford to comfort, yes, comfort ourselves with the idea that crimes such as this are only made possible because of these men’s race, religion and proximal nationalities. The common link here is that they are male. Clinging to a notion that organised sex crimes are rare and unlikely and caused by men from X group is false. Organised sex crimes against women happen all day, every day, in every nation on Earth, by every type of men. These gangs just happened to be made up of men mostly newly arrived in Europe when they acted.
Men in the refugee crisis are continually portrayed as the real victims, as having more victimhood, more tragic victimhood than women. The fact that there are more male refugees, and the misogynist cultural reasons behind that notwithstanding, we are simply used to seeing female and child victims, inured to thinking of women and children as victims, because they are – of men. Men rape, abuse, exploit, hurt and kill women and children and destroy their lives with such endemic frequency everywhere that we are numbed to the sight and thought of it, which is, of course, absolutely intentional of patriarchy. What is also intentional is that victimhood is designated as feminine, and it is sexualised and fetishised within every aspect of every culture, society, law and religion on Earth. Patriarchy ensures that the victimhood of females is arousing, is inextricably entwined with male sexuality, and that it is seen as the entirely natural and even proper state of females (with children and non-gender-conforming men lumped in with them for good measure), and even that we secretly enjoy it, desire it and need it (thank you, Freud, for putting into the public conscious the disgusting, nonsense theory that women do not have any real sex drive, only a masochistic need or acceptance to please a man by submitting to his use of her, in any way he chooses). No better way to make men see something as natural, right and inevitable than by making it send the blood flowing to their dicks.
Thus, a man who is a victim is both fetishised and seen as extra-tragic, extra-pitiful. For not only what has befallen him bad, he has found himself labelled with a signifier of femininity – the victim. He is fetishised, for we are taught to only be able to frame victims through the paraphilic, dehumanising lens of patriarchy, but the hideous, demeaning, emasculating taint of ‘woman’ is forced upon him by virtue of being a victim – and it is through this that we are to understand the greatest horror of all, to understand what it is to be brought to the lowest level a human being (read: man) can find themself at: to be female.
Many commentators have correctly identified the very familiar pattern of reestablishing masculinity via sexual violence towards women, to shift the status of victim back onto their female victim, but then stopped short of any further analysis (or worthwhile analysis, at least). Because the bigger picture is so hard to face and seemingly impossible to address.
No wonder, then, that the female Mayor of Cologne’s solution was to offer tips for women to follow in order to curtail their rights and freedom under not only the illusory lie that following rules can protect you from negative male attention, but also the internalised misogyny that insists that men’s violence is natural and unstoppable, the Yang to female victimhood’s Yin, and so must be controlled by women. Any failure to do so is merely an indication of how much she secretly desires and is designed to be a victim.
In Germany, where sexual harassment is not even properly policed as a real crime and women have to prove that they fought their attackers to even have their violation classed as rape, where the forcing of female concentration camp victims as rape slaves has always been all but whitewashed from history (Islamic State have barely begun to scratch the surface of misogynist atrocities compared to what was legally and routinely committed against women and girls in camps in Germany within living memory) and where white men are routinely encouraged to access and hurt the bodies of women, specifically women of colour, trafficked women, abused women, desperately poor and disenfranchised women, for the good of the economy, and where the brothels, open on every rundown high street in every dreary German town, that legally make that possible, advertise in family places and at family events, permeating every aspect of daily life, in fact, we are somehow supposed to see the actions of the gangs of attackers from other countries as scary aliens, as proof that their culture is so very different and incompatible with our European culture. That only non-white men are misogynist and abuse women. These attacks, carried out by a majority of non-German nationals, were not the acting out of the logical conclusion of a culture clash, where men from a horribly misogynist, sexually-entitled foreign culture thought to show foreign women what they thought of them. Quite the opposite – this was the logical conclusion of two horribly misogynist and sexually-entitled cultures joining together. A cultural enmeshing. A cohesion. A bond being made. The making and strengthening of a BROTHERHOOD. There is no culture clash here, only a continuum, of the worldwide culture of patriarchy. The fact that refugees into Europe are overwhelmingly male, thus skewing the balance of the sexes and bringing their misogyny to add to the already-brimming European pot is the real problem here, not its slightly different flavour and shade.
The idea that ‘our’ misogyny is somehow better and nicer than the misogyny of The Other is as absurd as it is offensive. The horror here is that their misogyny shines a light on ours, and that cannot stand.
In the land of the mega-brothel, when people say that the attackers do not understand or respect German culture, they don’t mean that they have disrespected German women, they mean that they have failed to obey the rules of understanding that in neoliberal Germany, a section of women are to be sacrificed to be an underclass of sexual servants to be legitimately used and abused and that abuse of those women is legitimised by paying for it. Enjoying it for free upon the bodies of non-underclass-designated women is wrong because it threatens to expose the true abhorrence of the system of exploitation and dehumanisation so carefully presented as acceptable neoliberal freedom and fun. Enjoying it for free breaks down the carefully constructed walls of both individual and societal delusion that what happens to Certain Women in Western, hyper-sexualised, pornsick, capitalist societies is somehow okay because . Gangs of men organising the sustained and orchestrated abuse of women is wrong – unless it is a government making policy and profit.
The culture that is to blame here, as always, does not have a specific nationality or race or religion. It is not German, or Middle Eastern, or Northern European, or Christian or Muslim, it is all of them and more; it is global. That culture is toxic masculinity, is Patriarchy. And no woman is safe, in the streets or at home, while it thrives.