Toward the end of last August Chrissie Hynde launched a memoir called Reckless: My Life as a Pretender. In the book and in interviews about the book Hynde placed blame for being raped at the age of 21 squarely on herself:
“This was all my doing and I take full responsibility,” she said. “You can’t paint yourself into a corner and then say whose brush is this? You have to take responsibility. I mean, I was naïve.”
Hynde then added comments which generalized about personal conduct and rape:
“If I’m walking around in my underwear and I’m drunk … Who else’s fault can it be? You know, if you don’t want to entice a rapist, don’t wear high heels so you can’t run from him.
“If I’m walking around and I’m very modestly dressed and I’m keeping to myself and someone attacks me, then I’d say that’s his fault. But if I’m being very (flashy) and putting it about and being provocative, then you are enticing someone who’s already unhinged … that’s just common sense.”
Predictably, social networks exploded in response to Hynde’s comments, mostly because that’s what social networks do, but also because of legitimate concern that Hynde was engaging in victim-blaming, which has a very long and ugly history in the U.S. and around the world. In writing this post I hope to reconcile those valid concerns with Hynde’s comments, because I think rape needs to be understood not only in the context of justice, but in terms of real-world implications which are often difficult to discuss when sloganeering or political correctness rule the rhetorical day. And because I can already see you bristling at the very notion that the question of rape and responsibility is anything but black and white, we will address the black-and-white part first. [ Read more ]