Lightbringer was democracy! How every Game of Thrones prophecy came true- with a twist!



The Long Night isn’t what you think it is. The Night King was a red herring, Lightbringer isn’t a sword, and The Stallion Who Mounts The World wasn’t murdered.

Most people’s reaction to the shocking Game of Thrones finale, and S8E3, was that every single prophecy didn’t come true. The Night King was defeated without a legendary flaming sword or a sacrifice. The Prince That Was Promised didn’t bother showing up, and the identity of Azor Ahai is unclear. In S8E5 Cersei was killed by quite literally a ton of bricks- not the valonqar predicted by Maggy the Frog. In addition, The Stallion Who Mounts The World- Daenerys’ son- was defeated in utero by Mirri Maaz Duur back in Season 1.

So is the takeaway of Game of Thrones that prophecy cannot be trusted? That it’s simply a human belief which drives action in the story? Maybe in the A Song of Ice and Fire books that could be a possibility. George R. R. Martin is an atheist, so the idea of him writing a novel in which destiny is not set could make sense as that points to the absence of a divine plan. However, in Game of Thrones, every prophecy did come true- it was just that, in classic GRRM fashion, they each had a twist and were misunderstood by the characters.


The Stallion Who Mounts The World

Let’s start at the beginning with an easy prophecy. In a ritual at the Dothraki capital of Vaes Dothrak, teenage Daenerys recieves a prophecy that her unborn baby is a boy who will become the long-awaited “stallion who mounts the world”. It’s interesting to note that while in our English, “mount” means “to ascend or climb on top of”, the Dothraki use the word to mean sexual or physical violence. Actually physical violence might be a more accurate translation as the Dothraki appear to understand sexual violence as a type of physical violence. Both these definitions are important in regard to the prophecy. The horse is also almost sacred in Dothraki culture, while maleness is privileged even more than in Westeros and strength is idolised. The stallion is probably considered the strongest and most intelligent known animal to the Dothraki, as despite the existence of lions, they cannot be trained and seem rare and easily hunted, so might not hold the Dothraki imagination. A male horse- a stallion- would be the ultimate symbol of prestige and power. Not unlike the dragon in Westeros, which as well as being the royal Targaryen symbol is also the strongest, cleverest known animal and has an aura of the supernatural.

Obviously the unborn Rhaego was either killed by Mirri Maaz Duur or possibly had his life force ‘swapped’ to enable Rhaegal’s hatching. So at first glance The Stallion Who Mounts The World was a false prophecy or his destiny was subverted. But what if prophecy can be vulnerable to human error, as we’ve seen so often with Melisandre, whose true visions are interpreted wrongly?


If we take the male-dominated culture of the Dosh Khaleen seers then it’s improbable they would be able to entertain the idea of a woman leader. That’s a concept that doesn’t exist among the Dothraki. So it makes sense that Daenerys was the Stallion Who Mounts The World but the Dosh Khaleen, while sensing the Stallion’s presence, concluded he must be male and so misinterpreted the Stallion to be Daenerys’ male foetus (or assumed her baby must be a son to be the Stallion). Daenerys has fulfilled every part of the Stallion prophecy: uniting all the Khalasars, taking the Dothraki to the ends of the earth (“the world ends at the black salt sea”), riding as swift as the wind (on Drogon) and all the peoples of the earth being her herd (Dany conquered, ruled and traded with all of the civilisations known to the Dothraki, and people from all of them were represented in her Unsullied army.) And of course, she fulfilled the part of the prophecy about trampling nations into dust (Astapor, Yunkai and Meereen could be considered city-states and smashing the slave trade obliterated their identity, purpose and economy) and burning cities to the ground. Daenerys also planned world domination in the finale. She truly brought violence on a devastating level everywhere she went, fulfilling the Dothraki definition of “mount” as “violence”. Dany also mounted Drogon, ascended to the leadership of Meereen and got the Iron Throne, and planned to rule- or at least conquer- the world. These actions correspond to the English definition of “mount”.

The Night King was essentially a red herring. The real threat was The Stallion Who Mounts The World. And that’s who Azor Ahai had to defeat to end the Long Night.


The Khal of Khals, The Stallion Who Mounts The World.



Who was Azor Ahai and what was Lightbringer?

azor ahai

Most of us thought it was Jon Snow. And we were right- but with a twist! According to the Azor Ahai prophecy, Azor Ahai is predestined to stab his true love in the heart to end the Long Night. The original Azor Ahai tempered his sword in water, then a lion’s heart, then finaly the heart of his wife Nissa Nissa to forge Lightbringer. (The sword must have been pretty short by the end of this, unless the shattered pieces were re-worked, which means the Catspaw Dagger being the original Lightbringer is a possibility).


Azor Ahai. Source: Reddit

There are layers of symbolism to this. As others have noted, the Night King and Euron represent ice or water and Cersei- a lion- was heartbroken witnessing the destruction of King’s Landing. So Jon Snow could be said to have tempered his resolve, or even literal sword, fighting against the Night King and Cersei even though he didn’t personally kill them. However, while this may be deliberate symbolism, I don’t think Jon’s sword is the main meaning of Lightbringer. The whole point of Lightbringer is to end the Long Night, and Jon’s sword didn’t do that. I’ll explain why below, but first..


The Long Night isn’t what you think…

The Long Night that the prophecy refers to is nothing to do with the Night King. Readers and the characters assume it is because they confuse Azor Ahai with the story (not a prophecy) of the Last Hero who definitely did get involved with the White Walkers and Children of the Forest. Instead, the darkness referred to in the Azor Ahai myth is a metaphor for mass or global oppression. The real Long Night was the 300 year long Targaryen dictatorship or perhaps centuries of ongoing tyranny pre-Targaryen in the time of the Hundred Kingdoms and even before. The Long Night could also refer to Dany’s attempt at world domination which would have been a darkness which covered the world.

Did Jon Snow/Aegon Targaryen end that with his sword? I’m going to say no. He killed Dany but tyranny would easily have continued, at least in Westeros. The  only thing which finally broke the wheel was the proto-democracy which Tyrion created. Which means…

Lightbringer was democracy

…And we witnessed its first forging. Westeros has adopted the Iron Islands’ style of leader-for-life election. A large nation following this example will help spread more democratic practices to the nearby regions of Essos and hopefully one day the entire Planetos (assuming no other large nations already have it). This is a leap forward as, though some other states do elect leaders, the pool of candidates and voters is even smaller than that of Westeros e.g. the Triarchy. But obviously there’s stil a long way to go before Samwell Tarly’s invention comes to fruition. If the prophecy is true, thee will need to be two more changes made to the system before Westeros (or another country, as we don’t know if the prophecy pertains to Westeros at all) becomes the first true democracy.

This first forging also represents within it a forging triad, as Dany was stabbed once and the Iron Throne was melted in two attempts. (Watch it again, Drogon breathes fire twice). These three acts were necessary for the forgining of Lightbringer/democracy.

A second possibility for the identity of Azor Ahai is that Azor Ahai is Jon and Daenerys together. It was Daenerys’ dream to break the wheel, and that enabled Tyrion to continue her legacy and sell the idea to Grey Worm and Yara Greyjoy. Dany was “reborn amidst smoke and salt”. These are the smoke from Khal Drogo’s pyre in which she hatched her dragons and the sea which she crossed to begin her conquest of Westeros, where she finally identified as a Targaryen and began her journey to the Iron Throne. Waking dragons from stone is self-explanatory. Both Jon and Dany were reborn- Jon was literally reborn after being murdered- around the time of the red comet, the Sparrows’ (red) star scarification rituals, and the destruction of the Sept of Baelor which killed the Sparrow cult. All or any of these could be the bleeding red star foretold in the prophecy.




Why Bran Stark is The Prince Who Was Promised

Bran was a prince who became un-royal when he became King.


Let’s back up. Bran had two brothers and a sister who were monarchs, making him a Prince. When he was given Kingship it was really more like a Xi JinPing President for Life situation. Xi’s children won’t become President after him (as of the time of writing) and neither will Bran’s, even if he were able to have kids. He is ‘promised’ because he heralds a new age of (a bit more) equality and (slightly improved) justice. Bran may have made the election possible by foreseeing Daenerys’ destruction of King’s Landing and not only not preventing it, but driving her to rage by informing Jon and Sansa of Jon’s true identity. Thus, “the Prince Who Was Promised will bring the dawn.”




Who was Cersei’s valonqar?

When Cersei was a preteen she was given this prophecy by a witch known Maggy the Frog:

“Queen you shall be, for a time. Then comes another, younger and more beautiful, to cast you down and take all that you hold dear. And when your tears have drowned you, the valonqar [Valyrian for ‘little brother’] will wrap his hands around your throat and choke the life from you.”

The show version doesn’t mention the valonqar but I’m making a leap of faith that Cersei dies in a similarly underwhelming way in the books. The showrunners Dan and Dave seem to prize spectacle over actual plot, so I can’t see them skipping over a showdown between Dany and Cersei, or her murder by Jaime or Tyrion.

The more beautiful queen is easily Dany. However, the valonqar part didn’t appear on Game of Thrones. Now, Maggy’s prophecy has proved true so far; she correctly predicted the number of children she and Robert Baratheon would have, their fates, and even seems to have seen Westeros’ political future, accurately foretelling that Cersei’s betrothed Rhaegar Targaryen would not be king. Blood magic, which Maggy used, is also the most powerful form of magic. So I don’t think her prophecy is simply wrong. I think that, like Mel, she misunderstood it.

Cersei was “choked” to death by being smothered under a load of stone. She may have died from asphyxiation rather than being crushed to death, depending on how the blocks fell. Her little brother Jaime did have his arms wrapped around her at the moment of death. Furthermore, her other little brother Tyrion was the one who found her body and he uses his hands to move the stones which killed her, thus confusing Maggy’s viewing of events. Tyrion could be seen as Cersei’s enemy since they were fighting on different sides of the war. To complicate matters even more, Tyrion was at that moment Hand of the Queen to Daenerys- who planned to kill Cersei and unkowingly caused Cersei’s death by making the stones fall. Plus, he actually did murder his lover Shae by choking her with a necklace of gold hands. Jaime is also wearing a gold hand as he holds Cersei.

Maggy the Frog’s use of the word “drowned” could also be a reference to asphyxiation by being under a substance- in this case, stones. Euron’s defeat cemented Cersei’s fate and Euron is associated with water and the Drowned God. He also makes reference to having “two good hands” and to his “finger” at an important strategic moment (proposing the alliance with Cersei which ultimately was a factor in her death). Euron is killed near water by Jaime who is known for his rather expensive hand, to which Euron makes reference before Jaime stabs him.  Cersei walking downwards before her death could also be seen as a “drowning”. She was crying, which lends credence to the line “when your tears have drowned you.” All of these factors led to Maggy the Frog misinterpreting what she saw.

So the irony of Cersei’s story is that her increased hatred of Tyrion was pointless and she spent most of her life fearing something that would never happen. That’s a George R. R. Martin type of ending.


This is why Daenerys destroyed King’s Landing


Source: Google Images

No, D&D didn’t mess up (for about the first time since Season 8 started). The writing was rushed- as per usual for this season- but it wasn’t nonsensical. Some people have commented that the showrunners are making Dany fit the ‘crazy wimmin’ stereotype and completely reverse Cersei and Sansa’s characters to make them less strong. I don’t see this either, and I’ll expand on that below. But first, let’s delve into why Dany’s massacre makes total sense.


Why did she do it?

Not for the throne. She could’ve flown straight to the Red Keep and either shish kebab’d Cersei or had hand-to-hand combat with her. (As they’re both untrained in physical combat, my money’s on a slapfight). But she didn’t. She brought fire and blood down on her own citizens. She destroyed her own capital. She damaged the Red Keep- her own seat of power. Why? Because maybe she doesn’t want the throne anymore. Dany now realises that what she thought she wanted is not what she actually wants. She grew up in war, that’s what she became- a warrior not a ruler.

“You weren’t made to sit on a throne and rule,” Daario Naharos said round about Season 6. “You’re a conqueror.” In A Song of Ice and Fire, the Iron Throne was Viserys’ dream and Dany kept it alive because it was all she knew. But having grown up, she might have shaken off his brainwashing. Dany also fantasised about how much more beautiful Westeros would be than the exotic cities she saw in Essos. But that’s very unlikely. She thought the pools of the Red Keep must be lovelier than her swimming pool in Meereen but as we know, the climate of King’s Landing (i.e. London) doesn’t often allow for open air swimming. Nor for tropical plants and exotic animals such as those Dany experienced in Pentos, Qarth, Astapor, Meereen and the Dothraki Sea. Dany has travelled extensively, even as a young child fleeing the Usurper’s hired knives. Staying for the rest of her life in a cold damp castle in a stinking city on a foggy island might not hold much appeal.

Dany doesn’t want power. She wants adventure. Dany cried when King’s Landing surrendered. Because she didn’t want surrender, she wanted to fight. Surrender gives her power but fighting gives her thrills. A long wait for victory- Dany waited all her life even to start fighting for her throne- accustoms you to war. Easy victory is boring because after a lifetime of scheming and preparing, now life is empty with no goal to work towards. So, for the conflict-deprived, violence becomes no longer a means to an end, but the end itself.


Cersei appears confident as the battle begins.

Dany had another motive for destroying King’s Landing. It was a mental torture for Cersei. Maggy the Frog’s prophecy says that Cersei will be queen until “there comes another, younger and more beautiful, to cast you down and take all you hold dear.” Cersei loved Jaime and Dany “took” him temporarily to fight the Night King. Cersei saw Dany destroy her military power (the Golden Company and Iron Fleet), her political power (the city surrendered), her most loyal lieutenants (brain yes-man Qyburn and brawn yes-man Zombified Mountain) and finally fears losing her unborn baby. She is literally goes downwards- first towards safety in Maegor’s holdfast then led by Jaime to escape Daenerys. They end up under the Great Hall. Obviously the valonqar part of the prophecy didn’t come true on Game of Thrones unless Cersei and/or Jaime climbed over one of the piles of rubble while the bricks were falling and are still alive.

Daenerys’ destruction of King’s Landing truly was a psychological torture for Cersei. At the beginning of the battle she was smiling and confident with her two yes-men standing behind her. With every defeat, she crumbled a little more and finally was almost weeping. At the very end she is scared and weeping which, while very out of character, makes total sense for a character whose confidence derives directly from her power. Some people are naturally confident but for others- especially those who’ve always had power or privilege, like Cersei, much of that bravado comes from the fact of their power. I have personally seen this in real life.

So, I don’t think the show is reversing the female characters. Sansa betraying Jon wasn’t a true betrayal; she wants him to claim his birthright. She’s actually his staunchest supporter- because they are family. And of course because she doesn’t trust Dany. Sansa told Tyrion not just because she felt like gossiping, it was, as Dany surmised, to spread the information and gather support for Jon’s claim. If anything the showrunners are strengthening Sansa’s character snd showing what a shrewd operator she has become by learning from Cersei, Littlefinger, Tyrion and Ramsay. She can now manipulate Tyrion.

Cersei took a lifetime to get to where she is- from daughter of a powerful lord to wife of the king to Queen Regent to ruling Queen- and saw it destroyed in about five minutes. Even her home (the Red Keep), her seat of power (her capital) and her objects of power (the people of King’s Landing, whom she wields power over) were destroyed. Dany wanted Cersei to lose everything just as she had.

Dany might also have little love for the Red Keep. It’s a symbol of her Targaryen heritage, and it was that heritage which caused all of the bad experiences in Dany’s life. Viserys was driven insane by his goal to retake the throne and became cruel to her. Dany’s unstable childhood, assassination attempts throughout her life, marriage to Khal Drogo, and most of what followed were indirectly related to her status as an exile Targaryen.


Another possible motive for Daenerys was that she believed the bells were a trap. Dany would indeed be a fool to believe Cersei. Cersei doesn’t exactly have a great track record for keeping promises; she said she would send her army north to help defeat the Night King but didn’t, meaning Viserion died for nothing attempting to rescue those who had captured a wight to show Cersei. However, this doesn’t explain why she aimed at civilians instead of Cersei, throwing only two cursory fire-blows at the Red Keep’s edges.

Another explanation is that Dany lost control of Drogon. Drogon did incinerate a little girl called Hazzea in Meereen. He also doesn’t obey Dany at other times such as when he flew her into the Dothraki Sea. His ancestor Balerion the Black Dread (hinted in the books to actually be Drogon in a previous life) carried Aerea Targaryen to Valyria against her will in Fire & Blood. I don’t think Game of Thrones is going this way, though. It wouldn’t have been necessary to show Drogon going berserk for as long as the showrunners did. The massacre took up that amount of screentime because it was an important plot point.





Daenerys was flying Drogon, shooting targets like a helicopter or fighter jet pilot. According to On War by Carl von Clausewitz, combatants who kill hundreds of innocent or helpless people from above don’t feel guilt or develop PTSD versus combatants who kill soldiers in self-defence face to face. It’s all psychological. Shooting tiny targets doesn’t feel like murdering a human being. The pilots knew they shot down their targets and the enemy pilot probably died; they knew the bombs they dropped killed hundreds in a second. But to our brains- which evolved in an environment which only had face to face killing- this wasn’t death. The same issues apply to Dany on Drogon. She saw ants on the ground and roasted them. She aimed fire at buildings, knowing there must’ve been people inside some of them, but not seeing them burn as Arya did.


How King’s Landing looked to Daenerys Targaryen


Child development

Dany’s childhood wasn’t the best. In today’s terms, she grew up a refugee with an unstable home life and frequent moves, often homeless (just not street homeless) with an emotionally and physically abusive brother as guardian. She constantly feared for their lives as they often had to flee Robert Baratheon’s assassins. When the pair joined the Dothraki her brother became more abusive and abdicated any parental responsibilities, giving tacit consent for Khal Drogo to sexually abuse his underage 13 year old sister (she contemplates suicide in the books, and though Game of Thrones depicts a loving relationship more akin to statutory rape than actual rape, the comment Dany makes to Jon about being sold, raped and enslaved is likely referring to a side of Khal Drogo that we didn’t see onscreen.) Dany saw Viserys murdered, and though she enjoyed it, it couldn’t have been great for her psyche. She saw multiple violent crimes and was almost assasinated during her time with the Dothraki, culminating in her miscarriage and killing of Mirri Maaz Duur at age 14. Then follows a starvation in the red waste, flight from Qarth, war and an assassination attempt where she meets Daario Naharis. Book Danaerys is fifteen years old when she takes Meereen so presumably reaches 16 there. However, legal adulthood for some things in the UK, and almost everything in the USA, is 18- meaning that unless Dany spends around three years in Meereen- also chock-full of political intrigue, civil war, and foreign threats- she’s probably still a minor when she reaches Westeros. Psychological adolescence is now thought to end at 21 or 22. We don’t even know if Dany will survive that long.

To summarise, her entire development was one of fearing for her life and being subjected to, witnessing and eventually committing violent acts. More specifically, the idea of war is normal to her. Not only was the threat of war ever-present in Meereen, but Viserys indoctrinated Dany with the desire for vengeance and a raison d’etre of reclaiming their throne. Dany owes a lot of what she is to Viserys. Without him, she might well be content to live in a simple house with a red door. Perhaps that’s how her story will end, if she’s lucky. The foreshadowing points to Daenerys not getting the Iron Throne.

Mass murder might not seem so bad when you consider war and violence as just another thing people do.



Emotionality vs Logic

As Machiavelli said, it is better to be loved than feared, but if a ruler cannot be loved, they should try to be feared. A Song of Ice and Fire does include homages to Machiavelli, such as a description of Tywin Lannister as being “as much the fox as the lion.” (Machiavelli stated that rulers must be “a lion to drive off wolves, and a fox to detect traps.” Danaerys says she does not have love of the people in Westeros, unlike in Essos. “Then let me have fear,” she declares once she realises that public support through love is hopeless as not a single person loves her- not even Jon. Thus, Dany’s barbeque is partly rooted in political strategy. She cannot rule by love so must rule by fear. If only she’d remembered that Machiavelli also cautions against being hated.

The more obvious catalyst for the mass murder is the brutal kidnapping and murder of Dany’s best friend Missandei, an unarmed noncombatant. Perhaps Dany felt justified in killing civilians knowing Cersei had done the same. She may also simply have been moved to rage through grief and wanted revenge for her loss. Grey Worm was obviously deeply affected by witnessing his girlfriend’s beheading, and as Dany and Grey Worm are more friends than monarch and general, her sympathy for him may have been a factor.


What will happen in the books?

It’s possible Dany will turn Mad Queen in ASOIAF. But it will be done more carefully, built up more slowly, and therefore seem realistic. I suspect that Dany will be driven to madness by the loss of her dragons, the ‘loss’ of her people, and the loss of Jon.

Viserion- named for her treacherous brother- could bond with fAegon, and Rhaegal bond with Jon as in the show. Drogon has already bonded with Dany but could have his will overridden by Dragonbinder. The Westerosi people may already have fAegon as king by the time the ever-delaying Dany finally arrives, and see her and her hordes of Dothraki and Unsullied as foreign invaders. Tyrion did warn against this in Season 7, preferring to take King’s Landing with Westerosi armies but ultimately Dany had to attack with mostly foreign armies in Season 8 Episode 5; this could play out in ASOIAF. Jon Connington had hoped fAegon and Dany would marry, but presumably this won’t happen- especially if he bonds with Viserion or even teams up with Euron who may have Drogon. Dany feels she has lost her people’s support as they all rally behind fAegon, who is unlikely to be a tyrannical ruler due to his youth and the levelheadedness of his probable Regent Connington.

Dany may ally with, or even marry, Euron as he has a dragon. Euron is likely to subject her to mental, physical and sexual torture (Book Euron is a serial murderer, serial rapist and child molester who imagines he’s a god and enjoys mutilating people). Dany finally defeats fAegon, kills Euron and gets Drogon back. Viserion is a casualty of the battle. But she has defeated the fake Aegon only for a true Aegon to rise up in his place- Jon. Bonded with Rhaegal, Jon contends with Dany for the throne and the common people of King’s Landing support him. This could be enough to drive her over the edge, given all she’s endured for the throne only to have it taken from her at the very last instant.

A pregnancy and miscarriage or SIDS could also be another factor. Or perhaps the child survives but Dany feels torn at having Jon’s baby since he is now her enemy. I believe Dany will be pregnant again in the books as it has been foreshadowed heavily. I also believe the pregnancy- whether or not it results in a birth- is important, as otherwise it wouldn’t be foreshadowed.

D&D finally delivered George R.R. Martin’s vision. He said he was inspired by the Vietnam war to write fiction that portrays good & evil on both sides and moral shades of grey. He wasn’t messing.

What every character should do to win the Game of Thrones


The opening episode of Season 8 of HBO’s Game of Thrones saw multiple reunions and preparations for war. Cersei appears to be the only one interested in the Iron Throne for now; Euron just wants to impregnate her and leave (or so he claims) while everyone else is focussed on fighting the Night King. But sooner or later the Night King will be defeated (or so our characters hope!) and the Iron Throne will once again be the prize. So what should Dany, Jon, Sansa, Euron and Arya do to achieve their goals?




“You’ve learned to manoeuvre from the very best.”

“Did you bend the knee to save the North- or because you love her?”

A pertinent question. To gain power, Sansa should convince the other Northmen (and Northwomen- I see you, Lady Mormont!) that Jon has betrayed the North.

Key line: “Danaerys would have joined us in fighting the Night King whether Jon bent the knee or not. She saw the army of the dead and the Night King slew her dragon. Jon threw away the crown you gave him and betrayed the North to bang a hot chick and joyride dragons. I am Ned Stark’s trueborn heir and I will take back the North.”

Goal: Sansa is crowned Queen in the North. She becomes ruler of an independent kingdom.

Threats: Jon and Arya don’t seem to desire power, so may happily go along with this- unless Danaerys persuades Jon that the North should remain part of the Seven Kingdoms. Killing Dany would be a good move here, just to be on the safe side.

Possible allies: Lyanna Mormont, who is annoyed that Jon abandoned his crown. And everyone who wants an independent North.



Arya’s not interested in the throne, preferring a life of adventure to one of power and responsibility. However if she wanted to be queen (and one-up her Queen in the North sister) she could marry Jon once she finds out they’re not half-siblings but cousins. Cousin marriage is tolerated in Westeros and in fact Tywin Lannister married and impregnated his first cousin Joanna Lannister, fathering Cersei and Jaime out of incest. (Apparently the apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree). If Jon ends up on the Iron Throne then Arya and he could become joint rulers. Of course Dany would have to be disposed of. If Arya doesn’t want to use her Faceless Man skills to accomplish this, she could stir up hatred against Dany by publicising her execution of the Tarlys and playing the “Mad King’s daughter” card. Cersei has conducted a very similar smear campaign. Arya could go further by staging riots and protests to make it appear as though Dany is unpopular, which could inspire the public to rise against her and support Jon’s claim. In the autobiography Confessions of an Economic Hitman, the CIA is claimed to have pulled off this tactic to depose a democratically elected Iranian president and install a dictator. No reason why it couldn’t work in Westeros.

Goal: Enable Jon to win the Iron Throne, then either rule with him or sail off into the sunset.

Key line: “We’ve always loved each other as siblings and been closest to each other. Let’s take your birthright together. They took Winterfell from our family, but now we’ll take King’s Landing and all of Westeros from them.”

Threats: Sansa and Dany, who could also benefit from political marriages to Jon. Killing both would be the safest course, though Arya and Sansa seem to be getting along better now. Tyrion could be a threat if he supports Danaerys. Jaime could be a threat if he doesn’t want Cersei deposed or killed, or he could be an ally.

Allies: Jon, Stark loyalists and possibly Jaime Lannister.



I don’t believe for a moment that this worldly, skilled magician’s (at least in the books) character is just sticking around to fulfil the role of Cersei’s latest bedroom toy. He should- and is probably planning to- impregnate and marry Cersei, then off her and rule either through his heir as Lord Protector of the Realm, or directly by claiming kingship by right of marriage, as Cersei did when she took the throne bloodlessly.

Goal: Become King or have his son or daughter become King or Queen.

Threats: Jaime Lannister, who was next in line, and Yara Greyjoy. Granting Yara the title of Queen of the Iron Islands and assuring their independence from the Crown would be a good way around this. Euron should also kill Jaime just in case, and possibly also Gendry if he finds out he’s a Baratheon bastard.

Allies: Only his Iron Islander supporters and possibly the inhabitants of King’s Landing.

Key line: “Finger in the bum.” Seriously, go read the books if you haven’t already. HBO’s hatchet job on this evil, mysterious Greyjoy wizard is a character assassination.



George R.R. Martin can’t even write a character if he hasn’t got their name right- and the names are meaningful. This makes me ponder the meaning of Dany’s name, which (almost) contains the Mad King’s (Daenerys is similar to Dan- Aerys). However, it’s not uncommon for Targaryen names to use the ‘aerys’ or ‘erys’ ending, e.g. Viserys, who actually was pretty mad, and one of their ancestors was named Daenerys. Is power slowly corrupting her? Whichever way she decides to go, slapping a ring on her undead toyboy is the best option. Dany has worked all her life to regain what she believed was her inheritance. I don’t blame her if she finds it difficult to turn it all over to some lad who just found out he’s a Targaryen, especially with the Iron Throne almost in sight. Furthermore, Dany seems to be a bit of a feminist, believing in some form of gender equality. It may be galling that as his daughter, she is most closely related to the Mad King but it’s her gender which pushes her further down the line of succession than grandson Jon. Marrying Jon Snow/Aegon Targaryen VI and engaging in shared rule would satisfy both of them.

Key line: “Targaryen blood remains strong through inbreeding. We were meant to be together and bring peace to Westeros.”

Threats: Sansa, who doesn’t approve of Dany and probably blames her for seducing Jon into giving up on an independent North. And Cersei and Euron, obviously.

Allies: Tyrion, possibly Jaime, and her huge army.


Jon Snow a.k.a. Aegon Targaryen VI

Jon may not be interested in becoming king, but if he wants to support Dany, it’s probably still best achieved by marrying her so no-one can claim that she is not the legitimate successor.

Allies: Stark bannermen, the Wildlings, the former Night’s Watch, Arya and possibly Brienne. Combined with Dany’s army and dragons, this pairing would be an unstoppable force.



How Lysa Tully masterminded the wars in Game of Thrones


Lysa Tully Arryn was the instigator of the War of Five Kings. Lysa was more than she appeared. She was more than Littlefinger’s pawn. Lysa hid her evil behind a mask of fearfulness, overprotectiveness toward her son Robin and generally being pathetic. Just like her sister Catelyn Tully hid her own cruelty behind determination, protectiveness toward her family and acting like she cared for her kids. The Order of the Green Hand have created an incisive series of videos entitled Why Catelyn Sucks, about Catelyn’s real character, including her role in the Starks’ demise by undermining Ned’s plans, her viciousness toward Jon Snow, and her misleading of the reader through her POV chapters. (I highly recommend checking out The Order of the Green Hand for in-depth analysis of the A Song of Ice and Fire books and the show Game of Thrones). I’m not going to go over how Catelyn caused the War of the Five Kings and the deaths of her family, as that’s already been covered by Why Catelyn Sucks. What I’m about to explain here is how Lysa Tully worked with (and also against) Catelyn and Petyr Baelish to destroy the Starks and cause chaos.

Now, before we delve into Lysa’s murders and how she and Catelyn got Ned Stark to King’s Landing, I’d like to point out something about Lysa’s name. George R. R. Martin has stated that his characters’ names are extremely important. He can’t begin to write a character unless he knows what their name is. As The Order of the Green Hand have noted, Petyr Baelish means “devilish” or “stone demon”. The spellings of Catelyn and Lysa both reflect the word “catalyst”; putting the two names together- ‘catelysa’ would be very close to “catalyst”. Catelyn is also close to the name Cateline meaning “maiden” (as in, her personality is as if she never married into the Stark family). The two Tully sisters were the catalyst for the War of Five Kings.

The War of Five Kings was started when the Lannisters became aware of Ned’s plan to reveal the fact that Cersei and Jaime’s kids weren’t the King’s heirs. Ned discovered this because he was investigating why the Lannisters made two attempts on Bran Stark’s life; Catelyn and Ned suspected that Bran had seen something and the murder was attempted to silence him. The Lannisters wouldn’t have known that the Starks suspected anything if Catelyn hadn’t told Littlefinger (who has a place on the Small Council and is the realm’s Master of Coin) and Varys (the realm’s actual spymaster– come on, Catelyn!) that she and Ned had travelled to King’s Landing to investigate Bran’s attempted murder at the hands of the Lannisters (Tyrion Lannister becomes the number one suspect at this point).


But could Lady Catelyn simply have been naive? Not likely. First off, she was raised in the south, where schemes and betrayals are pretty much the order of the day. The northmen are an honest and possibly naive bunch, but not so the Tullys. Secondly, Catelyn’s behaviour shows how aware she was of the danger should the Lannisters discover that the Starks suspected their role in Bran’s fall. She swore her son Robb, their ward Theon, and her employees to secrecy, then journeyed to King’s Landing by sea for reasons of urgency and secrecy. She sometimes hid her face behind her hood to avoid being recognised. So telling Littlefinger and Varys smacks of at least carelessness if not deliberate provocation of war. Her seizing Tyrion is also a deliberate provocation. Catelyn probably thought that Lysa wanted to start a war and would be happy with her taking Tyrion to the Eyrie to be judged and executed.

I suspect that Lysa told Catelyn to get Ned to King’s Landing in her letter. That’s why Catelyn burned it before Ned or Maester Luwin could read it. Whether Lysa told Catelyn to provoke war is unclear, but her letter started the War of the Five Kings. Petyr Baelish lied that the catspaw dagger was Tyrion’s to further that agenda.

Catelyn listened to Lysa probably because she wanted to return south with Ned while he investigated Bran’s fall and/or Jon Arryn’s murder. She missed the events and warm weather of her homeland and the North must have seemed boring and cold to her. She may also have wanted to continue an affair with Littlefinger (Catelyn thinks “so soon” when Petyr contacts her, indicating that she was prepared for him to contact her but just not as quickly.


Lysa’s endgame

To suggest that Petyr Baelish, Lysa Arryn and Catelyn Stark conspired together is not the same thing as saying they were all on the same page. Petyr Baelish wanted chaos and to marry Catelyn. Catelyn wanted to return to the South, continue her affair with Petyr and have Jon Snow thrown out of Winterfell to secure her children’s claim (possibly out of fear that some of them were Petyr’s and had no claim on Winterfell). Lysa wanted to destroy Catelyn and marry Petyr.

Lysa’s evil character

Lysa has committed at least two murders, one rape, and one framing for murder. She may have deliberately started the war to harm the Starks as a revenge against Catelyn. Lysa claims to love Littlefinger, but what we have in both the books and the show is obsession. In HBO’s Game of Thrones, it’s a paranoid clinginess, all the more pathetic for being unrequited. In A Song of Ice and Fire however, Lysa displays a scheming ownership of Petyr and treats him as property.

In the books Lysa often kissed Petyr even though he showed no interest in her and doesn’t appear to have wanted this. That’s harmless enough in a child or teen, but one night Lysa went much further than this. Petyr was so drunk he had to be carried to bed. Despite being fully aware of this fact, Lysa sneaked into his room (“I stole upstairs to give him comfort”) and had sex with him- even though Petyr was semiconscious and so out of it that he couldn’t even recognise her. He whispered “Cat,” indicating that he was completely unaware of what was happening and believed her to be her sister. Interestingly, we’re never told that Lysa ever attempted to have sex with Petyr except one this one occasion- the occasion on which he was vulnerable. To the present day Littlefinger believes he had sex with both Cat and Lysa that night (he found Lysa in his bed the next morning). Lysa didn’t show remorse and, judging by the fact that Hoster Tully sent Petyr away after Lysa’s pregnancy became known, she concealed her crime from her father also and that’s why Petyr wasn’t treated as a victim but instead blamed for getting her pregnant.

It’s important to note that the young Lysa may not have realised that what she did was wrong, or at least that serious. An adolescent in our world would receive a lesser sentence than an adult; judging by the Steubenville case, Lysa would get only about three years in the slammer- even in a lock-up-happy country like America. (She might get even less as she was around 14 at the time while the Steubenville rapists were 16 and 17). Teens can learn, grow and change. What’s more worrying though is that Lysa as an adult feels no remorse. She wasn’t a kid who committed one crime in her life. She’s an individual who has continued in her criminal activity well past the age of majority.

Lysa murdered her own father and husband. She says as much to Petyr Baelish in the books and the show. The murder of Jon Arryn was done at Petyr’s instigation but in our world both would be held responsible for first degree murder. How much Petyr influenced the murder of Hoster Tully is unclear but as his daughter, Lysa’s role in his death is more shocking than Petyr’s. Lysa also wrote to Catelyn framing the Lannisters for Jon Arryn’s murder which gave Catelyn leverage to persuade Ned to go to the capital and set the war between the Starks and Lannisters in motion.

These are not the actions of a helpless headcase. Lysa’s unstable, sadsack character is merely a front, just as Doran Martell’s gout is a front for his carefully calculated plots. Lysa exaggerates her emotional weakness while Doran exaggerates his physical weakness. Lysa may be a bit crazy, but it’s bad-crazy, not sad-crazy.


Littlefinger’s puppet or his puppeteer?


Littlefinger profited from Lysa convincing Jon Arryn to give him a job in Gulltown and then take him to King’s Landing. He does direct some of Lysa’s actions such as the murder of Jon Arryn and the framing of the Lannisters. He pretends to love her so he can manipulate her. He ends up murdering her in the cruellest way possible, telling her he’s only ever loved her older, prettier sister, before pushing her out the moon door.

However, Lysa seems proud and happy to have committed the murders and has always schemed to marry Littlefinger. It was she who pursued and took advantage of him when they were teenagers, getting pregnant by force. As a grown woman, she hurries Littlefinger into marriage the instant he arrives at The Fingers (the books) or the Eyrie (the show) and threatens her own niece’s life because she’s paranoid that Littlefinger will fall for her. These aren’t symptoms of love, but obsession and control. Lysa as a teenager wanted to possess Littlefinger by a physical ‘bond’ (sex), then a biological bond (having his child) and now by a legal bond (marriage). She will literally murder her own father, husband and niece to achieve this.


Littlefinger is Westeros’ arch-schemer so it’s unsurprising he has a hold on Lysa just as he influences most of the events of Game of Thrones. So it’s hard to see Lysa as being a victim of manipulation and betrayal any more than most of the characters are. Instead, Lysa and Petyr Baelish make quite a team and their relationship if anything seems more equal than Littlefinger’s betrayals of Ned, Catelyn, Stannis, Robert, Cersei, the Boltons, the Tyrells, Sansa…

In conclusion, Lysa Tully Arryn’s role in the War of Five Kings has been overlooked. Petyr may be an arch schemer but he could never have carried out his plan for chaos without Lysa’s help. He needed Lysa to get Catelyn to send Ned to King’s Landing and tell Ned to trust himself so he could lead Ned to unravel the Lannisters’ secret- which would lead to war-  and lie about the catspaw dagger, which induced Catelyn to kidnap Tyrion- which also escalated tensions. Lysa Tully is the true catalyst of A Song of Ice and Fire.


Here’s Why Shamima Begum WON’T Be Prosecuted If She Wins Back UK Citizenship- And How She Can Live In Holland WITHOUT Dutch Citizenship!


How could Shamima Begum win an appeal against the Home Secretary’s revocation of her citizenship?


First off, it’s illegal for any UK court to remove citizenship if that would make someone stateless. In Shamima’s case, she doesn’t have dual citizenship (that we know of) so that’s a weight in her favour right there.

Shamima Begum could also argue that there is no ground to revoke her citizenship since (she would claim) she doesn’t pose a security threat. If the Home Office can’t provide evidence of crimes she’s committed in Syria then it will be difficult to defend their decision. Shamima could also argue that removing her citizenship would cause harm to her child and contravene child protection laws by leaving him in a dangerous situation where he could die of starvation. It’s unclear whether depriving Shamima of citizenship would also revoke her son’s citizenship, as he was born prior to the revocation. Even if it doesn’t, that would still leave him in a precarious situation unless Shamima agrees to be separated from him and manages to transport him to Britain.

She could further claim that the UK government has a duty of care towards her as a human trafficking/sex trafficking victim who was groomed and abducted as a child and is now seeking to return home. (Luring a person under the age of 16 to run away from their parents is legally abduction and in any case the Bethnal Green girls were undoubtedly groomed online and trafficked to Syria for the purposes of statutory rape and childbearing). The UK Asylum and Immigration Act includes deception and “abuse of vulnerability on the grounds of age” in its definition of means of trafficking. In additon, The Palermo Protocol (2000) defines trafficked children as victims, as under-18s cannot give valid consent. The 2009 UNODC Model Law on Trafficking in Persons offers States two definitions of APOV (‘abuse of a position of vulnerability’) one of which is relevant:

“Taking advantage of the vulnerable position a person is placed in as a result of being a child”.


Which crimes could Shamima Begum be prosecuted for if she returns to the UK?

Assuming that Shamima somehow manages to overturn the Home Office decision, would she be arrested upon touchdown? Well, possibly. Personally I would hope that there would be a full investigation into whether she committed crimes in Syria as well as any information or witness testimony she can provide about the crimes of others. There should also be a police investigation into the crimes committed against her and the other trafficked schoolgirls. Any information she has about the terrorists who groomed her could be crucial in preventing the radicalisation and recruitment of other children (and adults). As for the potential crimes Shamima Begum is currently known to have committed, they remain very…potential. Joining certain terrorist organisations is a crime in the UK. The age of criminal responsibility in England is 10 (currently 12 in Scotland; previously 8). Shamima, who left for Syria from England, was obviously above the age of criminal responsibility. However, for crimes such as these, people usually have to be 16 or over to be prosecuted, or even 18. This means that while two of the other ‘Jihadi brides’ could be prosecuted as they were 16, Shamima cannot be. There may be some crimes that none of the girls could be charged with as none were 18 at the time.  Shamima’s involvement in crime while in ISIS isn’t likely as women are not allowed to take part in combat and are treated as sex objects. Shamima probably lived as an imprisoned housewife whose life consisted of sexual abuse, lack of adult supervision and denial of education (ISIS provides so-called ‘education’ to girls but this ends at the age of 15).

So, if Shamima Begum has not participated in any atrocities whilst with ISIS, she’ll probably not be successfully prosecuted.

The fate of Shamima’s baby

The UK social service system is governed by the courts but operates independently. They have a duty towards Shamima’s son under Prevent, as well as under the usual child protection laws and policies. Hopefully, an urgent social work assessment of any child protection concerns will be carried out- not just on Shamima Begum, but the entire Begum family. Regardless of the outcome (social services could seek a Care Order from the courts to remove the child into foster care and/or eventual adoption, or allow the child to remain with her but with intervention), Shamima should be linked up with a deradicalisation service such as Channel. This is extremely important- not just to deradicalise her but also to prevent her from radicalising friends, family and boyfriends. If successful, deradicalisation would also prevent her from choosing a radicalised individual as a partner in the future. If her baby remains living with Shamima, a pro-ISIS stepfather on top of a radicalised mother would spell disaster. Even radicalised friends would have an effect on the child.

Could the family claim Dutch citizenship? And why Shamima doesn’t need actually need it

Well, that depends. If Shamima’s marriage was registered officially, it would be legal under Syrian law. This would probably confer Dutch citizenship on her. However, Holland may have laws which specify minimum numbers of years for citizenship to be granted through marriage in order to thwart sham marriages- Britain has had these laws for a long time. If that’s the case then Shamima may have to wait a few years to become a citizen of Holland. If her husband is deceased, she may never be able to claim citizenship.

But that doesn’t mean she definitely can’t reside there. Dutch citizenship will have passed to her baby from the father, meaning the child has a right of abode in Holland. While some countries don’t automatically give citizenship to children of unmarried fathers, the mother or child can apply for the child’s right of citizenship if paternity can be proven. So the legal-ness of Shamima’s marriage isn’t an issue. Because her baby has a right of abode, Shamima could claim the right of residency in Holland until her baby reaches the age of majority or the legal age of independence. EU law, including European Court of Justice case law,is very clear that childrens’ rights of abode must not be denied them by denying their legal guardians the right of abode in the country until they reach majority. In some cases this can extend to a child’s right to be educated in their country of citizenship, potentially increasing Begum’s length of stay to her son’s (and any future children’s) university career. So contrary to popular belief, Shamima Begum doesn’t actually have to become a Dutch citizen.

Begum could also apply for asylum from any country including Holland and the UK, though obviously her application would be considered differently as she is a possible threat to national security.

Sacha Baron Cohen’s Who Is America Proves Right Wingers Are Ignorant About The Political Left


Sacha Baron Cohen has duped lots of people on his TV show Who Is America? where, Borat-style, he plays different characters and fools his interviewees into reacting to those characters. He’s tricked lefties, he’s tricked righties. He’s tricked ordinary Joes and lawmakers, celebrities and folks working out their payroll. Baron Cohen isn’t targeting any particular group. But something surprising emerged from the very first episode: right-wingers fell for his lefty character far harder than lefties fell for his right wing character.

Baron Cohen’s Professor Nira Cain N’Degeocello character is the epitome of the right-wingers’ idea of a leftard snowflake: he apologises for being a white male, is obsessed with gender equality, immaturely emotional about Trump’s presidency, frets about accidentally engaging in cultural appropriation, and is judgemental towards Trump supporters while acting like he’s “healing the divide.” He uses words like “triggered” out of context, rendering them meaningless. N’Degeocello stretches sentences to breaking point to avoid mentioning gender, for example when asked if his partner Naomi is a woman, he responds that she “has a round vagina…she has nipples but they are attached to swollen mammaries” when even the most dedicated leftist could have stated that Naomi was born female, is a cisgendered woman or has XX chromosomes. But perhaps an extreme view of what lefties are like is unsurprising for right-wingers who live in a right-wing bubble. What is most surprising is that right-wingers seem to horribly misunderstand what the left stands for- to the extent that it’s easy to see why these misconceptions would lead them to choose right wing attitudes over left wing ones.


In the first Who Is America episode, Professor N’Degeocello meets a Trump delegate and her husband. (Neither bat an eyelid at the fact that N’Degeocello has a daughter named after Malala who has reached puberty despite Malala Yousafzai only becoming famous around six years ago.) What really strikes the viewer is the fact that the couple seem so oblivious to what left wing values actually are that they believe Cain-N’Degeocello when he says that he forces his son to urinate sitting down and his daughter to urinate standing- all so that they won’t be following gender norms. He even uses “compliance cams” to enforce this. Obviously, this isn’t what people mean when they talk about gender norms restricting children’s natural expression, play, and career aspirations. N’Degeocello then claims his daughter isn’t old enough to share her mother’s menstruation cup, so she has to free-bleed on the American flag. (Because lefties are such suckers for ‘hippy’ consumer products and would of course refuse to buy pads or tampons for their child). Malala free-bleeds in front of the entire family including her adolescent brother Harvey Milk. This, and the being forced to urinate standing up, are not examples of gender-neutral parenting. In fact, both practices emphasise Malala’s gender and shame her for it (she’ll probably have a harder time complying with the bathroom rules than Harvey will, and she has to menstruate in the most uncomfortable, messy way possible and be naked in front of her brother, while he does not). The Trump supporters are so out of touch with reality that they seem unsurprised that the Clinton Foundation is, according to N’Degeocello, now funding a flag free-bleeding program. The couple also believed that Professor N’Degeocello’s partner Naomi regularly sexually abuses dolphins, and that their therapist supported this and told Nira Cain to accept it.

Dr Nira Cain N’Degeocello having dinner with a Trump delegate and her husband.

It is now clear why some right-wingers despise lefties and are against feminism. If leftist ideals include sexually abusing children, forcing girls to menstruate naked despite the availability of period protection, and tolerating animal abuse (at least if committed by women), then surely lefties are indeed evil. Sacha Baron Cohen set out to create a parody of how right-wingers view the left- and he nailed it.

A similar event occurred in a more recent episode where the professor met David Pyne, the national director of the Utah Republican Assembly. Dr Nira Cain hinted that parents should watch pornography with their children, then contradicted himself by stating that he was against children viewing pornography. He presented a sex education book for children which he had created. It had illustrations of rabbits having sex and presented group sex occurring with children watching as part of sex education. GGroup sex was presented as empowering for women. N’Degeocello also related how he punished his 12 year old son for watching porn by forcing him to masturbate to 58,000 images over two days, while N’Degeocello watched as he cried. The boy was traumatised (shudders whenever the word ‘porn’ is mentioned). Shockingly, while Pyne says he wouldn’t use this method of discipline, he sees this sexual abuse as a good thing since it scared the child away from pornography. Less shocking, but still pertinent, is the fact that Pyne fell for the character.

According to some Republicans, then, feminism’s goals for female empowerment amount to nothing more than women’s participation in group sex. This would explain why some right wingers equate feminism with women ‘being slutty’ or find feminism pointless or harmful. If empowerment equals group sex, then feminism would not be empowering women, as female participation in such activities is not by itself empowering (for example it could be coercive, exploitative or cultural). Pyne supports abstinence-only ‘sex education’. If Republicans believe that actual sex education involves being introduced to pornography, watching parents having sex, and being fed a prescriptive view of what kind of sex they should be having, then it’s no wonder Republicans are against it. But this is a misunderstanding of liberal values. Lefties value freedom and healthy choices. Being force-fed a view of sex as necessarily involving toys and ideally being group sex is hardly less constrictive to individual tastes and development than being force-fed abstinence. Being introduced to porn by parents is also not natural self-determination, and being punished so harshly for viewing porn is also hardly less proscriptive than enforced abstinence. N’Degeocello’s ideas make no sense and are contradictory. But that’s how right wingers view lefties.

Dr Nira Cain also virtue signals, arguably culturally approriates, fetishises blackness, and pretends to find meaning in anything a non-white person does. For example he quotes meaningless sounds from a rap song (disregarding actual achievements by the same artist and being clueless about the rapper he claims to admire) and describes a one night stand with a Syrian national in terms which pseudo-intellectually exoticize his ethnicity. Meaning is ascribed to meaningless acts simply because it was a Syrian who was involved, and the sex act itself presented as somehow enlightening or unique because of the nationality of N’Degeocello’s sexual partner. There may be lefties like this, but it’s interesting that the right-wingers don’t pick up on this hypocrisy. It suggests that right wingers don’t know what leftist values are, so don’t see the disconnect.

However, the lefties on Who Is America seem to understand right-wingers. Sacha Baron Cohen created a parody of how lefties see Trump voters- a fat, Southern-sounding, paranoid, racist idiot. But Bernie Sanders treated the character with kindness and respect even though he couldn’t do basic maths. The anchorman who was interviewed quickly appeared to realise it was a prank and ended the interview. None of the lefties so far bought into the ‘idiot Trump supporter’ trope. They respected Trump supporters enough to realise that someone that dumb couldn’t possibly be a real Trump supporter.





From a right-wing point of view, ‘Leftards’ could be said to be unnecessarily obsessed with animal rights, the environment,  children’s rights and consent. But lefty professor Nira Cain lets his partner sexually abuse animals, controls his kids’ toileting with cameras, forced his son to touch himself while he watched, and views children peeing. Who Is America explains rightwing attitudes. If you think feminism=allowing women to abuse animals you’d rbe against feminism. If female empowerment is gangbanging, it’s an idea that doesn’t empower women. If you think sex education is watching mom have sex, you’d choose abstinence-only.

Who Is America has revealed how much the right misunderstands the left. Hopefully a bit more understanding can now be created. Maybe that would go a little way towards meaningful dialogue between the two sides. And perhaps one far-off day, even “heal the divide”…

Telling women not to go out to avoid rape isn’t about safety. It’s about restricting women’s freedom. Here’s why.



We’re into Season 2 of The Handmaid’s Tale (which I’m not yet watching, but I’ve just read the book. Aside: Is it weird that the show has already gone past the book in terms of June’s pregnancy?) And I’m seeing lots of posts from Americans about how the show “is slowly happening in real life”. The parallels regarding forced breeding are obvious. But there are other issues: reading, writing, socialising and freedom of movement. They’re all things that the Handmaids aren’t allowed to do. States like Saudi Arabia restrict women’s movement. Yes, the driving ban has been lifted. But women still aren’t allowed to leave the house, work, or apply for a driving license without being accompanied by, or having permission from, a male relative. But restricting women’s movement doesn’t just happen in The Handmaids Tale or Saudi Arabia. There are ways of restricting movement that are enforced  by social means instead of legal. Now, I’m not for a moment suggesting that the experiences of women outside states like Saudi Arabia or Gilead are in any way comparable to the experiences of those within. I mention the above two states- one fictional, one factual- to make the point that women’s movement can be subject to legal control. The remainder of this article will focus on the use of social control to achieve similar ends.

Western society pressures women to restrict their movements for fear of sexual assault: don’t walk alone, avoid quiet places, don’t travel alone, don’t go there wearing that, don’t walk home, stay in a group, don’t go out in the dark, don’t visit certain neighbourhoods/parks/bars/cities/countries. From the time they are little girls without even a clear idea of what sex crimes are, they’re indoctrinated to believe they are easy prey- weak, vulnerable, too wimpy to ever hope to defend themselves. Girls are taught to regard themselves as potential victims. Many learn also to regard boys and men as potential criminals- a tad unfair when only 6% of men are rapists (and those tend to be violent in general, not just towards women). Worst of all, women have to expend time and effort in (definitely) trading freedom for (only possibly) avoiding rape. Their dedication is often unnoticed by society.  The genius of social control is that, unlike legal control, no effort is needed. Social control tricks women into doing the work of legislators, courts and police by restricting themselves.

Gillian Flynn, author of Sharp Objects and Gone Girl, summed it up in this interview:

“I talk to men all the time who try to make light of women’s situations, and I say, ‘Well, you don’t understand a woman’s day-to-day life. You don’t have to walk through your day saying, ‘Okay well tonight, I’m going to go to this thing, and if I park here, I hope I don’t get raped.’ You know, that never ever crosses your mind.
“I’m not someone who’s a panicky person or nervous about that thing, but you still have to be conscious of that possibility. All women — half our population — have to be conscious of that idea. I was at a hotel the other night, and I thought, ‘God I’d love to go for a run, but gosh, I probably shouldn’t.’I’m peeking out of the hotel window and thinking, if I do that and I get raped, no one’s gonna feel sorry for me. It’s not well-lit, and they’re gonna go, ‘What was she doing out there anyway?’”


People who tell women to restrict their movement- parents, teachers, and police being the main ones- will say they’re just trying to prevent women from being raped.

But being on high alert about men is unlikely to help women avoid sexual assault since they’re unlikely to meet a rapist. 90% of rape victims are attacked by people they know, not by strangers in the dark. As confirmed by ONS statistics, women are most likely to be raped in their own homes by their partners, so they’re actually safer going out than staying inside. Furthermore, when the rapist is a partner, there is additional trauma, increased risk of physical injury as well as a risk of multiple assaults. So intimate partner violence in the home should be the priority in rape prevention instead of stranger rape in the street.  Even in those rare stranger-rape cases, brainwashing girls to believe in their frailty and admit defeat in advance instead of teaching them self-defence skills to thwart rape attempts and psychological resilience skills to recover from such attempts and completed rapes, is also a questionable tactic. Instead of teaching teenagers recovery skills society models victim-blaming, thereby instilling self-blame and shame. Instead of encouraging information-sharing about sexual predators so women can protect themselves by avoiding known offenders, #MeToo is decried as “going too far” by naming abusers instead of keeping rapists’ secrets. Instead of encouraging girls to learn to defend themselves and making such classes accessible to adult women who are interested, martial arts and strength training are often viewed as male sports. In fact, stopping women from going out actually makes the streets less safe because they’ll be deserted. Only sketchy characters will be outside. There’ll be no crowds, no witnesses. Encouraging people to step out will increase safety. So we’re actually doing this all wrong.


Figure 10_ Victim-offender relationship for rape or assault by penetration (including attempts) experienced since age 16 by women aged 16 to 59

However, just because restriction of movement is not the best anti-rape strategy, that doesn’t by itself prove that restriction of movement is nothing to do with safety. We could just be trying to achieve safety in an incompetent way. The proof is this: if motivation to restrict women’s freedom is to protect them, because one incident of sexual assault is so very, very bad that it’s worth sacrificing your freedom for your entire lifetime to avoid, why isn’t sexual assault taken seriously when it happens? Why do friends victim blame? Why do schools do cover-ups and universities ignore it? Why do parents not take it seriously? Why do communities take the rapist’s side? Why are conviction rates so low? Police, juries, communities, institutions, and families do not take sex crimes seriously. They also demonstrate little empathy or belief towards the victim. Sometimes, the blame and/or shame is placed on the victim instead of the rapist, including by women. Those responses are utterly inconsistent with the idea of sexual assault being insufferable for women. Victim blaming, rape apologism, minimising and disbelief are inconsistent with the idea of sexual assault being even slightly upsetting. So, they can’t regard sexual assaults as all that bad. Therefore, “safety” is just an excuse. It’s not about rape being this supremely unbearable thing we must relentlessly sacrifice everything to avoid. It’s about controlling women.



Now let’s look at society’s attitudes to rape in more detail. We’ll start at the national level (laws, policing, criminal compensation and courts), then the community level (the general public, institutions- with a focus on schools and universities- and families. In all of these tiers, the comparison will be between the attitudes which are professed (“rape is bad”) and the reality of how rape is perceived and dealt with (usually, “rape isn’t a big deal”). Obviously this is a generalisation and individuals do exist who take all sexual assaults very seriously indeed. I have met a few. In fact, without some people who take rape seriously there would be no laws against it, so the fact it’s a crime proves that not everyone is blase about it. These particular individuals’ motives to restrict women’s’ movement might well be genuine, unlike the motives of those who don’t take sex crimes seriously. However, we are interested in the big picture, in how our society functions.

The National Level


Not all sexual assaults are against the law. Upskirting isn’t. Revenge porn became illegal only a couple of years ago. Other countries used existing communications or sexual assault laws to target these behaviours, but the UK didn’t. It seems odd to tell women to repress themselves in order to avoid sexual assault, then skimp on the laws which could much more easily prevent it.



Obviously the official position of all police forces is that sexual assaults are crimes. However, the police have been known to release public statements and posters which put the onus on women not to get raped, instead of on the perpetrators. Perhaps the most famous example is the “avoid dressing like sluts” speech which kicked off the SlutWalks. A lot of this material also gives the subtext of “make sure he rapes the other woman”. This is not stopping rape, it is in fact tolerant of rape. It’s also illogical from the police force’s point of view, as their job will be the same whether the rapist attacks Citizen A or Citizen B.

Reporting to the police is pointless for many victims, as the police drop most cases. On the TV programme Raped: My Story, a police officer claimed he “didn’t have the time” to talk to the witnesses and dropped the case. The victim contacted her MP and eventually the case was investigated, referred to the CPS, went to trial and her rapist was convicted. Had she listened to the officer, her case would’ve been dropped at the earliest stage. Another victim reported to the police and they told her it wasn’t rape. Rape Crisis encouraged her to report again through them. This time the police took the case, but by then the rapist had fled overseas and there wasn’t enough evidence to issue a European Arrest Warrant. I have heard of a friend of a friend who was raped in the west of central Scotland. When she went to report it, the officers insinuated it was her fault and asked what she was wearing or if she’d been drinking (with no reason; it wasn’t to do with CCTV or eyewitness reports). She left the station. The rapist is free to attack again. Only 1 in 14 reported rapes result in conviction. This begs the question of why anyone should bother to report at all. All most victims can hope for is to stress the rapist out by the possibility of charge or conviction. But this is at the expense of their own mental health. Even those with strong evidence who get justice have to go through an ordeal unlike any faced by victims of other crimes.



In the UK, victims are the ones put on trial instead of rapists. Some victims find the court process even more terrible than the rape itself. Victims routinely face humiliating and irrelevant questions about their underwear, sex life and if they use sex toys. Campaigner Hannah Price explains that the court’s treatment of victims is the reason she will never report her rape, and quotes another victim who told her how her rapist’s lawyer caused her to break down begging for him to stop, resulting in the collapse of the trial.

While only 2% of rape allegations are false- no more than for other crimes, and less than most- victims risk being prosecuted for making false reports. The crime of making a false rape allegation carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. This is true even when they weren’t the person who called the police, and even when they didn’t name their rapist. (In fact, most false rape reports don’t name a perpetrator so nobody is affected). Vulnerable, mentally ill and teen victims are most likely to be prosecuted. And it’s money that talks. In one case that Buzzfeed investigated, the police believed the victim but didn’t have enough evidence to charge the rapist. The rapist- who had an uber-wealthy dad- funded a private prosecution against his victim for lying. When she asked the CPS to stop the case (they can stop private prosecutions if it doesn’t meet CPS thresholds for prosecuting), the CPS did the opposite- they saw the rapist had done all the work for them, so they adopted his case and prosecuted her themselves. This was despite knowing she had bipolar disorder and being warned that she was a suicide risk. She committed suicide out of fear of having her anonymity taken away. After her death, the police told her father she hadn’t lied and should never have been prosecuted.


Other agencies

In the USA, thousands of rape kits expired before forensic evidence could be gathered, due to lack of funds to test them. The statute of limitations for rape is so short in some US states- just two or three years- that even some kits which didn’t expire were tested too late for the rapist to be charged. Victims were called and told the identity of their rapist, and informed that it was too late to prosecute. Imagine being able to Google the person who raped you and know he got away with it. This funding issue isn’t the fault of the police, but it’s a national-level issue which highlights how unimportant sexual assault is to the American government. Rape victims in America also have to pay for emergency healthcare and forensic evidence collection, while victims of other crimes don’t have to pay. Therefore, sexual assault victims are treated worse than physical assault victims.

Going back to the UK, our Criminal Injuries Compensation Agency (CICA) refused to give compensation to grooming gang victims. This was despite the fact that the abusers were convicted of rape and other sexual assaults- and criminal compensation isn’t dependent on a guilty verdict. Its process is separate to the criminal justice system, so compensation can be given without the accused ever appearing in court. The victims were told that they had consented. New guidelines have been issued to prevent this, but the psychological harm has already been done. Especially considering that these girls were repeatedly failed by police, CPS and social services, whose negligence allowed the sex trafficking to continue for years.

So it’s clear that at the national level rape victims are constantly treated differently- and worse- than other crime victims. The police pretend to see rape as a crime, but their actions don’t deliver. The court’s purpose is to provide justice, but only 1 in 14 people gets justice. The court’s function toward raped women is to traumatise them further as a high price for justice or, more often, a high price for seeing their rapist walk free to rape again. Other agencies deny rape or fail to ensure rapists can be caught. Therefore, what these agencies say and what they do are very different. It is difficult to see in what way any of them are treating rape seriously.

Community Level 

There have been highly publicised cases in recent years, so here I will do little more than name-drop. The phenomenon of entire towns- sometimes including police forces- colluding to protect rapists and drive victims’ families out of town was exemplified by Steubenville, Maryville, and similar cases. Young peers’ slut shaming of underage victims was highlighted by Amanda Todd and Rehtaeh Parsons’ suicides. Sadly, the bullying they received seems to have been even more of a catalyst for their suicides than the abuse and rape were.

The public’s attitude to victims can be seen clearly in juries’ acquittal of most accused rapists. While people might act like they are opposed to rape, their actions don’t follow their words where it counts the most.

Therapists have also been found to blame both male and female rape victims.


Universities- including the UK’s top universities- ignore students’ rape reports and most have no reporting system available, refuse to do anything until it’s reported to the police, demand a criminal court standard of proof, or do not tell students they can report. British students are even less likely to be protected than their American counterparts. This is because we have no Title IX equivalent. Universities have no legal duty to deal with sexual assault or even accept a report.

Student welfare services sometimes victim blame survivors– treating them differently from non-survivors, whom they presumably support. I know of a case in which a victim was told over and over by a student welfare staff “you can’t call it rape”- even after the rapist confessed to said staff member. She was also initially refused counselling because “counselling wouldn’t help you, it’s all in your head, it’s to do with your thinking patterns”. The confessed rapist was offered counselling. (Four other students disciplined for non-crimes and minor crimes were not). The university refused to follow its own disciplinary policy by never making a decision on the rape case (allowing him to get away with it) and humiliating and blaming the victim in front of the rapist. All attempts to get justice, encourage the university to adhere to its policy, or raise the issue of victim-blaming were challenged by denying staff misconduct, denying the rape happened and additional victim blaming. After four months of waiting for the decision, the victim went to the vice-chancellor and was told that “this matter can no longer be talked about”. No apology was given for any of the multiple policy breaches or even for the agonising (and utterly pointless) four-month wait. The university has made no commitment to improving the way it handles sexual assault, nor has it updated its policy to reflect the reality that it will not handle any sexual assault cases. So a student reporting sexual assault is likely to believe the stated policy that it will be dealt with, but find instead that they are blamed or ignored and their rapist is the one who is protected. All of this happened at a university which touts itself as mental health positive and frequently stages publicity stunts regarding student mental health, such as provision of therapy animals and awareness talks- all covered in the media to promote an image of a caring institution. Obviously, it’s just a pretense to attract more students (it’s a small university). And it only takes one or two malicious employees to sabotage a well-meaning university’s welfare provision or disciplinary process. While some staff did try their best to support the student, this case illustrates that even in the most mental health aware universities, rape may not be taken seriously.

Cambridge openly disbelieved a victim and suggested she was lying to cover up cheating on her boyfriend- despite CCTV footage of the victim running down the street barefoot, crying and semi-naked. Only four British universities count rape as an extenuating circumstance if a survivor’s studies are affected, resulting in a student who was raped on her year abroad failing her exams. Reforms to support victims were drafted by UK Universities in 2016 but in March 2018, most universities hadn’t bothered to implement them. These are not the actions of institutions which care about raped students. That doesn’t mean individual staff don’t support students, or that some universities haven’t brought in new reporting systems. But it does mean that, in general, the institutional cultures of most universities are indifferent to- sometimes even strangely persecutory of- rape victims.



Schools have similar issues to universities. Refusal to deal with sexual assault, including cover-ups,  is not uncommon as shown by this list of cases reported in the media. In 2011 a 16 year old survivor was expelled from an American cheerleading squad for refusing to cheer her rapist. Peers can also drive survivors to suicide as mentioned above. 16-19 year old Brits are far more likely to victim blame than people in their 20s, 30s and 40s. This may be explainable by lack of maturity, developing cognitive abilities (psychological adolescence- i.e. brain development- continues until age 22) or lack of life experience. Whatever the cause, high levels of victim blaming in this group means that school-aged and younger undergraduate victims may be particularly vulnerable to victim blaming.



From the way most people react to rape on the news, you’d expect them to be empathetic towards friends who’ve gone through the same thing. But friends can victim blame. Victim blaming and disbelief by friends can lead survivors to believe it was their fault. Some survivors think the police will also blame them, so don’t report it. One survivor was told by her friends not to call the police- even though they completely believed her- because if she did, they wouldn’t be able to attend Glastonbury as one big group. These “friends” thought that not being split into two groups was more important than reporting rape. So much so, in fact, that they spent weeks threatening her.

My memories of the night were hazy; the drunken texts with other friends to come and save me, coupled with the injuries I sustained were not.

At the crisis centre the next day, as I lay sobbing on the table being photographed and probed by 4 nurses, I received a barrage of phone calls and threats from certain friends telling me to go home, to not report it. Telling me that no it wasn’t consensual but ‘don’t ruin the group’ and ‘don’t ruin Glastonbury for us all.’…I was receiving 15 voicemails a day with threats…I couldn’t turn my phone on without getting more. I blocked the numbers…Facebook…Instagram, but they’d find more ways to get to me.

I have heard of a student raped at Oxford University whose friends believed the rapist’s story that she was lying to hide the fact that she’d cheated on her boyfriend. They all rejected her for lying and her grades suffered for over a year.

In another British university, a student told her postgrad friend (who knew she had been raped by another student) that more recently she had also been sexually harassed and assaulted by a member of staff. His response was “Why do you put yourself in these situations? Are you that desperate for male company?”. When she replied that the abusers had put her in those situations, he insisted “No. You put yourself in that situation. Or it wouldn’t happen.” The friend worked with trauma victims overseas, including rape survivors. When the student asked if he said the same thing to the victims he supported, he responded “They were rape-raped. They just stepped outside their front door and were raped.” (The student had been raped on the opposite side of the front door- i.e. inside a house instead of outside it.) When asked why the indoor-outdoor dichotomy was relevant to the crimes, he could not provide an answer. This friend used to walk the student home at night after she visited his flat. He acted as if sexual violence was so bad that he was personally responsible for protecting her from it, yet blamed her when it actually occurred.

Obviously there are lots of people who are very supportive to their friends, and some victim-blaming friends may also be supportive at other times, depending on their current mood. However not all friends take sexual assault seriously- even those whose job involves supporting rape victims.



Given that the individuals who restrict a girl’s freedoms most fiercely in the name of rape prevention are usually her parents, one would expect that parents would react with concern when, seemingly against their wishes, rape occurs. However this is seldom the case. I have chosen three case studies for careful reasons. Firstly, these are all people I met randomly. A selection of individuals from a group which deals with parental rejection of rape victims would tell us little about how widespread it is. Secondly, these families’ reactions cannot be laid at the door of culture, religion or location. One family is Christian, the other theist, another irreligious. One is of South Asian heritage, another British, another mixed. Two of the women were raised in Scotland and another in two other western countries. The crimes occurred in England, Canada and Scotland. Lest you think that these attitudes wouldn’t happen now, the women were 15, 20 and 25 when the crimes were committed, and all are currently under age 30. So far I’ve listed the girls’ differences; there are a couple of similarities. We’ll look at those after the stories.

It’s a bitter irony that so much emphasis is placed on not letting girls go out, yet “Lila” was raped because her mother locked her out of the house to teach her a lesson after she was an hour late getting home from a party, due to transport issues. The assailant was an adult acquaintance of the family who worked in the legal field, though she first met him at the party. Unknown to her at the time, he was also related to a friend of hers. The man took her from her friend’s home (which the group had returned to following the lockout) and drugged her. The next morning he lied to her that she’d consented and offered to drive her home. Instead her drove her to another building where he raped her for a few hours before driving her home. Her parents had called the police in the morning but they failed to find her in time to catch him in the act. When she got home, her mum told the police she had returned and they interviewed her. Lila lied that she had consented as she thought her mum would want her to keep the rapes a secret to avoid gossip. Despite her being underage, the rapist was not charged with statutory rape as he was related to police officers and lawyers. The police officer told Lila’s mother that if she locked her out again, she could be charged with neglect. Later Lila’s doctor found rophynol in her blood while testing for STDs. That was how Lila realised the first time had also been rape. Lila’s mother actually did want her to report the rape, but never told her this, or even asked then 14 or 15 year old Lila if she wanted to report or why she had lied to the police, until Lila brought it up around seven years later. Lila was affected by depression since the incident which caused her to have anger issues, get suspended and drop out of university more than once. The expulsions and drop-outs affected her education a lot and caused multiple changes of institution. Her parents did not believe she had depression even after diagnosis and expected her to just get over the depression. Her parents’ treatment of her caused Lila not to disclose subsequent rapes and sexual assaults committed by another individual a few years later.

Lila once speculated that the reason why her parents never broached the subject of reporting it was because the rapist’s close relative was her father’s business landlord, so he might have had to move. If Lila had been found to have been harmed by her mother’s neglect, there would also be an increased chance of her mother being prosecuted. Obviously these are just speculations, but whatever the reasons behind it, her parents failed her by raising her to feel shame about sexual assault and keep silent, then further failed to make sure she understood her decision not to report, as well as failing to help her with her depression. Only eight years later did Lila’s mother finally accept that she shouldn’t have neglected Lila and that if she hadn’t neglected her, Lila wouldn’t have been raped- but only after Lila said this. Her mother’s lack of disagreement with these statements felt like a victory to Lila, and sadly it does seem to be a hugely defining moment in her parents’ treatment of her.

Incredibly, Lila’s parents had 9 or 10 miscarriages before she was born and she almost died at birth. She was an only child. Most people would assume she would be very precious and her parents might be overprotective.

This story goes to show that rape victims are often treated cruelly by their families, no matter how much love they may appear to have. This may not be because the parents don’t love their daughters, but because rape is simply no big deal to them.

The next girl kept her rape a secret from her parents out of concern that it would cause them distress. When she finally told her mum a year later, her mum said it wasn’t rape because “boys find it difficult to stop” and told her not to tell her father. It has been suggested that this could be denial, but as this story illustrates the point that restricting movement does not protect women, I have included it here. And while this individual case may be one of denial, not every similar case can be explained away by denial. In another ironic twist, this mother also insisted on her daughter going to the rapist’s house to stay over, when the daughter didn’t want to go as it was a long journey to another district. Previously the mother had vetoed the young woman’s gap year travel plans as too dangerous. It is completely illogical that parents stop their daughters from wanted travel by citing risk, yet cause them to be raped by making them travel when they don’t want to. Sadly, this person completely missed out on her gap year because of her mum- and it was pointless: she was raped anyway, and she was raped “because of” her mum (though obviously her mum isn’t at fault like Lila’s was).

The last story is Ria’s. Similarly, a small part of the reason Ria didn’t go travelling a few years prior was because her mum thought it was dangerous for a woman to travel solo. But it was all for nothing because Ria was raped in Britain. When Ria was a teen she was frequently told that if she had not had the misfortune of being born in a female body, she would be allowed out for an hour later every day. All those lost hours were a sacrifice so that she would not be raped. Both losses of freedom resulted in her being raped despite all of her dedication to restricting herself.

Ria also delayed disclosing to her family in case it upset them. When she did tell her mum, her mum didn’t believe her because Ria said he didn’t stop instead of using the phrase “he continued”. She never bothered to ask Ria for clarification nor told her she didn’t believe it was rape. As the months went on, her mum said that he just couldn’t stop, that men find it hard to stop, it happened because Ria wanted sex, and that she felt sorry for the rapist being in a bit of trouble.

Ria had to wait months until she could see her mum face to face to tell the story.  But as she was afraid to criticise the rapist too much, since her mum was partly on his side, she was never able to tell. Instead she tried to convince herself that it wasn’t a big deal and forced herself not to say anything about what happened or how it affected her. 1-3 hours a day were used to remind herself to keep silent and hide her emotions before getting up.

Ria once asked why her mum didn’t take the rape seriously, to which she replied that Ria hadn’t mentioned it was that bad until recently. This confused Ria as her mum had taught her as a child that all rape was a crime, so shouldn’t all rapes be taken seriously? Another attempt to discuss her feelings was simply diverted onto Ria not caring about her mum when she was a teenager. After a year her mum became impatient and said she should get on with her life. She also revealed that she noticed Ria was very unhappy almost every night (something Ria tried to conceal) but had never bothered to ask her what was wrong. Around this time some of the things Ria had been keeping silent about came out accidentally and she said she felt her mum didn’t care, naively expecting to be comforted at last. Instead her mum was angry and started victim blaming Ria, asking why she let him in and why she “agreed” to have casual “sex” with him, and said Ria was being very hurtful by saying she wasn’t being supportive. Ria was shocked because she had expected an apology but instead she had made her situation much worse by asking for support. She then decided not to continue trying to tell her story to her mum, but to get counselling instead.

For over a year a cycle continued of Ria accidentally slipping out her feelings or actively asking for support, and her mum reacting with anger and victim-blaming. Ria’s mother also claimed that she didn’t take it seriously because it wasn’t stranger rape, and that she was entitled to her opinion that stranger rape was the worst, that a woman who wanted to be a virgin (abstinent until marriage) would feel worse, but Ria had agreed to some sexual activity the second time the rapist attacked her (but not the first time).  Other attempts were responded to with accusations that Ria “shouldn’t have had sex”, that Ria was tackling her, judging her or being too fussy. When the issue of Ria feeling as if she was being blamed for being raped (due to her mother shouting at her) was raised, the solution was given: just don’t be that picky.

It wasn’t until two years after the rape that Ria learned her mother had not believed her at first. The revelation was a relief. Ria’s counselor found this explanation for the mother’s disinterest hard to believe, because the rape being a surprise was common to all parents, yet Ria’s mother used that to justify not believing her. Ria had a desperate need to believe her mother’s explanation so considered quitting counselling in case her counselor revealed her mum’s story wasn’t true. Then her mum further revealed that it was the phrase “didn’t stop” that confused her, because she assumed that meant he stopped a few seconds later. She also thought he might have stopped a few minutes later, which she wouldn’t have counted as rape (even though most rapes only take a few minutes). She hadn’t asked how long it went on for because she didn’t want to pry into Ria’s private life. Ria was then able to stop doubting her mother and return to counseling. The effect of counselling was helpful but limited by Ria’s difficulty in trusting the counsellor not to get angry and because by then she was used to silencing herself. Ria regrets telling her mum as the biggest mistake of her life but knows she has only herself to blame.

Now, as to the similarities between these three girls: they are all either only children or only daughters. The families are all university educated and none struggle financially. Two of the parents have PhDs. Two of the parents worked in the legal field, so were more aware than other parents that rape is a serious crime. Two of the daughters went to private schools for at least some of their education. These girls were privileged and presumably valued by their parents. So if it could happen to them, it could happen to all of us.



All of these case vignettes show that when rape happens, it is not taken seriously by those most involved in restriction of movement. Parents enforce life-changing restrictions on daughters regarding being out at night and travelling, yet “cause” them to be raped by forcing them to go outside at night or travel. This is completely inconsistent. Parents justify restricting the movement of female children by presenting rape as so dreadful that the trade-off is worth it, then ignore daughters when they are raped. This, too, is inconsistent.

The explanation for this baffling illogicality is this:  Restricting women’s movement is a cultural signal- similar to “virtue signalling”. Parents do it because it’s embedded in our culture, or to display their good parenting ability or show middle-class values of femininity or security. This demonstrates the power of patriarchy; popular culture often pushes the idea that ‘love conquers all’, but clearly parental love is conquered by patriarchy. Many Brits victim-blame female rape victims, and it appears that the fact that a rape victim is one’s daughter does not affect that.

Small children are treated more fairly even though most sexual assaults against children do not go “as far” as rape, and even though child sexual abuse victims aren’t always distressed at the time (due to lack of understanding of what is being committed, or lack of awareness if the child is too young to remember), especially regarding one-off “nonviolent” sexual assaults. While older children, teens and adults are traumatised by one-off assaults and assaults they cannot recall (because they don’t lack understanding and, unlike very young children, older children can recall the beginning and aftermath of assaults, so have a clear understanding of being drugged and raped). This is not to minimise molestation of young children or suggest that recollection of childhood abuse (or being informed of unrecalled childhood abuse such as an adult discovering they were molested as a toddler), doesn’t cause trauma in adults. Of course it does. Childhood abuse can have lifetime consequences including not only the better-known effects like PTSD and depression, but also lesser-known sequelae such as increased risk of obesity.  (Indeed, lack of trauma at the time of the abuse is not confined to children. Sexual violence experienced by teens may also not be distressing at the time due to grooming; the only issues relevant only to young children are those of awareness/memory and understanding). Rather, I am making the point that we don’t care about child abuse enough when it affects older children and teenagers.

Since older children, teens and adults are also affected by sexual assault, may (in some cases) actually be distressed more than young children, are more likely to be physically assaulted or drugged, and are far more likely to experience more serious types of sexual assault such as rape, surely they should be treated with at least as much empathy as younger victims?  However, from the preteen years onward, even those who are still legally children are blamed or disbelieved; only young children and victims of stranger rape are viewed more positively. (This is not to say that young children escape victim blaming altogether- courts and families do scapegoat children, especially when the perpetrator is a family member). The universal hatred of people who rape children doesn’t extend to rapists of teens and adults. The mobs who attacked innocent people because a tabloid falsely claimed they were paedophiles did not attack rapists who targeted grown women.  One might argue that lists of adult rapists weren’t published so there was no similar opportunity. However, these rags know their audience. The reason they chose to publish a list of criminals who had sexually assaulted children instead of a list of criminals who had sexually assaulted adults, or simply a list of sex criminals not based on the age of their victims, is because the public care about victims who are little boys and little girls. Had the tabloid published a list of male rapists who’d attacked women, the responses of readers would probably be “what if the woman was lying?”, “it was a grey area” and “she was asking for it”. All of this goes to show that reactions to victims are illogical.

Older victims suffer the same or more than the youngest victims, so logically all victims should receive the same support regardless of age. However, this is not the case. Older children and adults are victim-blamed, disbelieved or assumed to necessarily never be traumatised as much as younger victims. There is less public outrage against those who rape adults than those who grope children. Lila was regarded as more of a woman than a child due to being a teenager. While she wasn’t blamed or disbelieved, the rapes simply weren’t treated in the same way that they would have been had she been a few years younger.

This is unsurprising as ‘unconditional love’ does not exist. We all operate in a culturally-dependent context and family bonds are influenced by culture. Hence, honour killings and forced marriages happen in some cultural contexts but not western contexts, while victim-blaming and not taking rape seriously happen in both.

For those who don’t believe in the existence of patriarchy, other explanations are available (in fact personally I don’t believe patriarchy to be the sole cause- things are rarely that simple). Such as the fact that preteens, teens and adults are no longer little and cute, so do not attract familial attention. It also may be to do with evolution. Caring for one’s offspring, or related young, is an instinctual drive which wanes as those offspring reach adulthood. So parents and close relatives may be simply biologically unable to feel much concern for raped teens and young adults.

The identity of the rapist also plays a part. It’s easy to get riled up about stranger rape- that’s the evolutionary trait of taking the side of your tribe against the outsider. But if the rapist is someone the family or victim knows, it’s more complex. If a victim is lucky, their family may feel that their trust was betrayed, such as if a babysitter molests her charge. Otherwise, patriarchy steps in to blame the victim. The media portrays mostly stranger rape which is actually the rarest type of sexual assault. And the news further covers mostly stranger rapes where there is no interaction beforehand (being grabbed in an alley is more commonly depicted than taking a guy home from a pub, being lured to a deserted spot or accepting a lift, despite all of these being stranger rapes). This is why Lila’s treatment was so different from that of Amanda Dowler (even before it was known she’d been murdered). Lila was abducted and raped by someone known to her parents, so to them it was no big deal.

But it’s not all doom and gloom. There are things we can do to help survivors avoid parental emotional abandonment. Remember Ria? It seems ludicrous that Ria never learned from her mistakes and continued to attempt to get her mum’s support, endlessly perpetuating the cycle and delaying her recovery (because each rejection became yet another issue to get over, prolonging the timespan). But it’s not as stupid as it appears when you consider that parental (especially maternal) affection is portrayed by society as a near-sacred force. Accepting that parents are flawed, that only child victims and stranger rape will elicit sympathy, and that unconditional love is a myth would help survivors make informed judgements about approaching their family for help. I don’t mean that any of this should be sanctioned, but that young people should be warned about negative reactions instead of schools teaching teens to simply “tell a parent” without a heads-up that without an abduction (Lila wasn’t known to have been abducted until she returned home), there will be yelling, not hugs, and the blame will be directed at the victim and not the abuser. Little else can be done; for under-16s there’s the child protection categories of emotional neglect and emotional abuse, but social services seldom intervene without co-occurring physical abuse. Over-16s have the choice of ceasing contact with family members, moving out, or simply accepting the abuse. I suspect most choose the last option.

We have looked at the national and social levels of our society and found that all do not take sexual assault seriously. Therefore restriction of women’s movement in the name of rape protection is a lie. Men restrict their movements slightly too, and I’m not calling on anyone to deliberately take the dark, quiet road when there’s a busy lit road of equal distance. I’m not suggesting everyone take pains to leave their phone at home and get mysterious about where they’re going just for the fun of it, or ignore people of any gender who are in obviously vulnerable situations. My point is that since we now know it’s all just a lie, we should not restrict women’s movement any more than men’s.


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