opinion

The 'Plain Jane' defence: Shantel was told she wasn’t attractive enough to be drugged.

Often, when a woman says she’s had her drink spiked, or she’s been sexually assaulted, a choir will promptly respond that she deserved it.

Her skirt was too short. Her hair was too long. Her eye make up was too dark. Her top was too low cut.

But this week, a Perth nightclub owner did precisely the opposite.

When 19-year-old Shantel Smith told Neil Scott her drink had been spiked at Rapture nightclub over a Facebook message, he told her she didn’t deserve it.

She wasn’t “attractive” enough, he insisted, to justify anyone wasting their drugs on her.

Shantel's message to Rapture Nightclub. Image via social.
Shantel's message to Rapture Nightclub. Image via social.

"Are you worth someone trying to spike your drink?" he asked. 

It was as though Smith thought that drink spiking was a privilege reserved for the beautiful.

Just as one might deserve a promotion or an award, there are a select few women who are lucky enough to deserve having their drink spiked. And, according to Scott's once-over of Smith, she wasn't one of them.

Smith shared their correspondence on social media, and Scott's response quickly went viral.

Neil Scott's response. Image via social.
Neil Scott's response. Image via social.
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He doubled down in a statement to the media, where he said, in case his message wasn't already resoundingly clear: "She’s not a particularly attractive girl. It’s just implausible to imagine that she had her drink spiked, it just doesn’t sort of add up. She’s just a very plain Jane type of girl. I can’t understand why anybody would be possessed by her."

President Donald Trump has been known to use the same defence. When accused of sexually harassing a woman during a flight, he retorted, "That would not be my first choice. Check out her Facebook, you'll understand."

When E. Jean Carroll wrote recently about her alleged rape at the hands of Trump, making her the twenty second woman to come forward, he simply replied, "She's not my type."

The subtext of such a defence is: That woman is so sexually undesirable that she does not deserve to be assaulted.

The drink spiking, or the rape part, it would seem, are fine and justifiable. Let's just all be honest about the bodies that are worth violating.

And let's consider for a moment the position that puts women in.

Must they cry that their bodies are worth assaulting? Attractive enough to be brutalised?

The presumption is, too, that the very worst thing a woman can ever be is ugly.

You are nothing, the term denotes. You are worth nothing to anyone.

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That should shut them up.

On Wednesday afternoon, Scott offered an apology for the message he sent Shantel.

"I got upset and sent a terse reply, calling her out in a sarcastic and demeaning way, which I regret. It was beneath my dignity," he said.

How he referred to Shantel was demeaning. But more than that, Scott perpetuated a harmful mistruth about the motivation behind drink spiking, and by extension violence against women.

To be clear - this is no longer about Scott. It's about the culture that's produced him and Trump and countless others.

Women aren't the victims of drink spiking, or sexually harassment, or assault, or rape because they are irresistible.

We speak on this week's episode of Mamamia Out Loud, about the viral message from a nightclub owner in Perth. Post continues below. 

Men don't desire the women they hurt. They hate them.

Violence against women doesn't discriminate. You can be any colour or any age or of any religious background or wearing a tracksuit or a mini skirt.

None of that matters, because sexual violence has nothing to do with sex.

It's about power. And brutality. It's about as erotic as being punched in the face.

When a man comes home from a night out and says he was physically assaulted during his walk home, we don't roll our eyes and ask: "You think you're hot do you? You think you're so irresistible that someone would bother to attack you."

That would be preposterous.

But that's what we do to women.

Either they deserved it because they looked too sexy, or they didn't even deserve it because they didn't look sexy enough.

It would seem we just can't win.

If this post brings up any issues for you, or if you just feel like you need to speak to someone, please call 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) – the national sexual assault, domestic and family violence counselling service. It doesn’t matter where you live, they will take your call and, if need be, refer you to a service closer to home.

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