- 15 Sep 17
George Hook is a self-styled, old-fashioned, macho male. He doesn’t like so called political correctness or the feminist ‘agenda’. His schtick is that he is not afraid to express the views of the ‘embattled’, right-wing male – that he will ‘tell it like it is’, irrespective of what the advocates of the ‘liberal agenda’ might say.
I can’t deny the fact that Hook’s attitude to women and to sex has always made me feel uneasy. I wasn’t surprised when he announced, a few years ago, that he had reverted to the superstitions of Irish Roman Catholicism.
This, after all, is the breeding ground for so much creeping, anti-women nastiness. It is the belief system, which underpins the views he expressed on his High Noon show on Newstalk, when he spoke about the rape of 19 year-old woman in the UK.
The woman had sex with a man who was a member of the British swimming team. Immediately afterwards, a second member of the team allegedly entered the room and forced himself on her, raping her. To be fair to him, Hook said that the individual responsible should go to jail. However, having said that, he still thought it was ok to shift the focus onto the woman, in a way that amounted to victim-blaming of the most odious kind.
“When you then look deeper into the story you have to ask certain questions,” he extemporised. At which point anyone with half a brain would have seen what was coming. But Hook barrelled on...
“Why does a girl who just meets a fella in a bar go back to a hotel room?” he asked, apparently all sweet innocence. “She’s only just barely met him. She has no idea of his health conditions, she has no idea who he is, she has no idea what dangers he might pose.
“Is there no blame to the person, who puts themselves in danger?” he asked rhetorically. And in case you were in any doubt about what he wanted you to think, he answered for you.
“There is personal responsibility, because it’s your daughter and it’s my daughter. And what determines the daughter who goes out, gets drunk, passes out and is with strangers in her room and the daughter that goes out, stays halfway sober and comes home? I don’t know.”
He wasn’t finished his prurient rant yet.
“I wish I knew,” he said. “I wish I knew what the secret of parenting is. But there is a point of responsibility.
“The real issues nowadays, and increasingly, is the question of the personal responsibility that young girls are taking for their own safety.”
So there we have it. Young women or girls are at fault when they are raped because they don’t take responsibility for their own safety.
All over the country, there were explosions of anger – and rightly so. We all hoped that grossly misguided and reactionary rubbish like this could no longer be uttered on-air, by any responsible broadcaster. But that, it turned out, was wishful thinking: as in Trump’s America, where Nazis and White Supremacists are on the march again, the reality is that they are out there, you know. They are out there.
Here is the way I see it. Any woman, or man, is perfectly entitled to have sex with another consenting adult, male, female or trans, whether it is their first time meeting or their thousandth, and whether they are in a relationship or not.
It is not for me to cast judgement on that – nor for George Hook. The only issue that is of relevance to third parties – including George Hook – is one of consent.
In the case of a heterosexual coupling, if the woman asks and he agrees, or vice versa, then proceeding to have sex together can be a wonderfully positive shared expression of the joy and pleasure of being human. And that holds true if the two people involved elect never to see one another again, or proceed merrily into a relationship. That is what sexual freedom means.
Any suggestion that, by doing this, either party is in some way making him or herself available for rape is utterly irresponsible, stupid and profoundly wrong. When a suggestion of this kind is made by a man about a woman, as was the case with George Hook, it is indisputably an example of rape culture at its most insidious.
The public reaction was swift. Hook was roundly condemned by women’s representative organisations, by Amnesty Ireland and by thousands more citizens. The backlash was so strong that Newstalk issued a statement this morning announcing that they had suspended George Hook.
Originally, this started out as an apology from Newstalk, with George Hook feeling compelled to follow suit. But it wasn’t enough to quell the tsunami of condemnation. The sponsors of his programme, Clayton Hotels, summarily withdrew their sponsorship, insisting that they could not be associated with offensive views of this kind. Tesco did the same. They distanced themselves not just from Hook, but from Newstalk. Returning to the airwaves on Monday, the presenter issued what has been described as a grovelling apology.
“On Friday September 8, I made comments about rape on the programme which were totally inappropriate and unacceptable,” he said. “I should never have made them. I realise those comments caused widespread hurt and offence and I am truly sorry.
“I would particularly like to apologise to all victims of rape, their families, the representatives of the organisations who work day and night to reduce the stigma around rape.
“And also for those who try to increase reporting of crimes involving sexual violence against men and women.
“It was wrong of me to suggest that any blame could be attributed to those victims or that they bear any responsibility in the crimes committed against them. By doing that I played a part in perpetuating the stigma and I unreservedly apologise for doing so.
“Everybody has a right to protect themselves without fear of being attacked and as a society we have a duty to our daughters and granddaughters to protect that right.
“On Friday I failed in that duty of care, a failure I deeply regret and for which I am truly sorry.”
In fairness, we should probably take that at face value. He is sorry. The truth, however, is almost certainly this. In the first instance, George Hook said what he believed. It is the view of the old-fashioned, right wing, macho male he likes to portray. Has the reaction to what he said changed him? Has it changed what he thinks, feels and believes? How deep do these changes run?
The views he expressed have their pernicious roots in the horrible prejudices of the old, patriarchal Roman Catholic Ireland, to which he apparently still adheres, and to wider religious myths of male authority and superiority over women. That women should be chaste. That women who aren’t chaste are temptresses. That if they put themselves in the way of harm, well what are they to expect, except that they will be harmed? That they will be raped.
The good news is that views of this kind are no longer even remotely acceptable in Ireland. There is a growing awareness that people who express them are complicit in the culture of violence against women. That they are complicit in reinforcing the stigma of rape. That they are wrong.
This, it has to be said, is progress. But, as is evident from some of the troll-like social media comments on the issue, we still have a long way to go.