WHETHER it's her views about Steve Irwin, genital mutilation, Julia Gillard's wardrobe, transgender people, or Harvey Weinstein, Germaine Greer is making a career out of pissing people off.

Her latest thought-bubble, however, plumbs depths so low, it places the once highly regarded feminist, academic and author of the culture-changing book, The Female Eunuch, alongside Kanye West and Roseanne Barr.

What's her latest brain-fart? At the annual Hay Festival in Wales, a huge event that attracts book lovers and thinkers from across the globe to the sleepy little village of Hay-on-Wye, 79-year-old Greer told audiences that "she wanted to turn the discourse about rape upside down".

She then described rape, which is regarded as a sexually violent crime (on which she called "bullshit"), as "just lazy, just careless, just insensitive," claiming "most rapes don't involve any injury".

She said sentences should be reduced to "200 hours of community service" and maybe a tattoo to mark offenders.

Telling someone their clothes need laundering or they could do with shedding a few pounds is insensitive. Lazy, careless sex is something indifferent lovers or long-term partners might have, or even one-night stands and after a few drinks.

A descriptor of rape it is not.

Continuing, she said we need to think about rape as "non-consensual sex" … "that is, bad sex. Sex where there is no communication, no tenderness, no mention of love."

See my comment above.

Asserting that "every time a man rolls over on his exhausted wife and insists on enjoying his conjugal right, he is raping her", Greer simply demonstrates how out of touch she is with not only contemporary feminism, but the complexity of relationships, love, commitment and how sometimes, sex between consenting adults means we don't have to talk or be committed to the act; it's done because of love or for a plethora of other less worthy reasons.

This doesn't mean it's rape.

This didn't stop all these problematic proclamations coming out of the mouth of a woman who's frank about being raped at the age of 18. Beaten badly, she says she wasn't "that angry" and never reported it; she states she never wanted to be a victim.

Well, good for her and her choices.

But neither does anyone who was/is raped desire to be a victim nor do they wish to experience the trauma, affects and injuries, many of which are not only physical. Nor do Greer's experiences and ability to "switch off" mean rape isn't an act of violence, abuse, degradation and control.

Instead of contributing something meaningful, Greer has aroused wrath, shame, a sense of betrayal and horror at her insensitivity, lack of understanding and empathy.

There was a time Greer spoke for many women. I'm afraid that time has passed.

Whether or not it was her intention, it sounds like the only people she's speaking for are sexually-violent perpetrators.

Yet, amid Greer's deliberately provocative sound-bytes generating the exposure she clearly craves, was an argument about lowering the penalty for rapists and thus removing the heavy burden of proof from their victims. In other words, reducing the red tape and hoops survivors have to jump through and the humiliations they endure before, in and beyond the courtroom.

Suffice to say, Greer chose to bury these ideas in her outrageous and incendiary statements, statements she knew would light up social media and make headlines.

Germaine Greer’s comments minimising rape came ahead of the publication of her new book on the subject.
Germaine Greer’s comments minimising rape came ahead of the publication of her new book on the subject.

But one has to ask, to what purpose?

Surprise, surprise, Greer has a book, On Rape, coming out in September.

She thinks nothing of sacrificing rape victims/survivors on the altar of self-promotion.

Surely, what she should be doing is turning her intellect, arguments and ability to generate attention to how the justice system continues to let victims of rape down.

As Laura Bates wrote in The Guardian, "we should not settle for a lesser form of justice for the privilege of being believed."

I find myself deeply saddened by what Greer's become. Criticising her feels like shooting fish in a leaky barrel; it also feels like I'm feeding the hungry beast of her ego.

Once applauded, admired and viewed as a role-model, it's hard not to read Greer as a desperate has-been. A has-been that will do and say anything to not necessarily stay relevant, but to ensure she's seen and heard and that her name is on people's lips.

How and why it is being said being less important to her than that it simply is.

There have been calls for Greer to stop referring to herself as a feminist, labelling her a "rape apologist", a misogynist, and it's no surprise that members of the audience walked out of her session at Hay.

Formerly a figure of admiration and aspiration, it seems that Greer's once-rich and challenging legacy is being trashed.

For that she has no-one to blame but herself.

Dr Karen Brooks is a Honorary Senior Research Consultant, IASH, University of Queensland.

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