The season of mandatory good-cheer is well underway. I trust you’re all feeling appropriately festive, because if not, there may be…ramifications. Furthermore, I hope you’re all staying safe. Because Advent, for all of its good-will-to-all-men, is also quite a hazardous period. The roads are quite icy, for one. Then there’s the vomiting spasms brought about by your aunt’s home-made mince pies. And of course, there’s the risk you’ll be raped.
Yes. Christmas is a time where rape enjoys something of a boom (as, unbeknownst to me, it has done for quite a while.) But, fear not. Across the country, police forces have leapt into action against this annual epidemic, by concocting all manner of wacky publicity schemes. The most bizarre example, and the one that shall be my focus this week, is this poem, which went on display in train stations throughout Nottingham. Have a read. (Or don’t. I’m going to go through the whole thing, but if you want to view it as the artist intended, there it is.)
Okay. Fuck. Let’s go through this abomination, bit by bit.
It was the night before Christmas, when all through the house,
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse
Until she stumbled in, all lipstick and hair
She had been attacked, but wasn’t sure how or where.
She stumbled in? Probably intoxicated, I’ll warrant. Typical drunk rape victim. Probably on the streets after curfew with no chaperone, I’ll further warrant. I also fail to note the distinctive clank of her rapist-deterring suit of platemail.
Another source of confusion: I find it quite perturbing that she should be “all lipstick and hair.” What does this mean? I can’t quite fathom why a rape victim would be ALL hair; nor indeed any more hairy that the average run-of-the-mill humanoid. I suppose this must refer to some phenomenon that I’m not aware of, where being raped results in a burst of explosive hair-growth. But, this being the case, one has to wonder why conviction rates are so lamentably low. Is this woman turning into a werewolf? Is this scenario set on the Wookiee homeworld of Kashyyyk?
Also, this last line seems a few beats too long. And the emphasis seems to fall on the wrong syllable. This is a recurring fault with this poem. We’ll revisit it later. Don’t you worry.
Her attacker was nestled all snug in his bed
While visions of the rape he committed danced through his head.
‘Her attacker?’ Come on. This interferes with the whole rhythm of the line. This makes baby Jesus cry. Now, I don’t have the expertise in the nuts and bolts of poetry to point out exactly why this is wrong. I wish I did, but I don’t. But you must all surely see that this doesn’t scan? Why not just replace it beat for beat with the original? Any idiot can do this. Want proof? Well, I’m an idiot, and look:
The children were nestled all snug in their beds
The rapist was nestled all snug in his bed
Yes, I’ve had to adjust the tense slightly because there’s (mercifully) only one rapist. I think a festive poem about gang-rape would be beneath the fuckwit-threshold for even the most cack-handed police force.
While I’m at it, I thought of an even better suggestion; were you were feeling especially saucy, you might have gone a bit gangland on our asses:
Mo’fucker was nestled all snug in his bed!
I do like that. It has a certain razzmatazz.
Anyway. You all must recall what danced through the children’s heads in the original rhyme. Visions of ‘sugar plums.’ You might also understandably wonder what the fuck a ‘sugar plum’ is. Well, I don’t know. But what I do know is that the phrase contains three syllables. THREE. Not fucking six. Moreover, the last beat has a certain conclusive weight, do you see? DAH-dah-DAH. SUG-ar-PLUMS. It’s not just a bunch of words randomly crowbarred in there.
When the Nottingham Police constabulary were concocting this monstrosity in the back of a squad car, (which they’d hot-boxed with marijuana recently confiscated from Nottingham’s unwashed student body) did none of them have the presence of mind to suggest ‘visions of rapery’, or ‘visions of rapistry’? Sure, neither of those are proper words, but they’re surely preferable to ‘visions of the rape he committed’. That’s not very poetic. This must be what ten years of relentless police bureaucracy will do to you. Grind the music from your soul.
When out on the town he decided she would be lucky to get such a gift
He could do what he liked to her because she shared a lift
It’s getting worse! Did they even read this out loud? It doesn’t fucking scan! I could make this objection to every single line in this poem, but that would get quite tedious (it probably already has). So, I give up. Maybe this is meant to be postmodernist, and the objective is to simply jam as many fucking words as possible into one line. Who gives a fuck? Why not:
When out on the town and after having visited three pubs and a kebab house he decided after much internal deliberation that she would be most appreciative of the gift of non-consensual sex, even after considering that he had recently seen a poem on a train station advertising hoarding which emphasised the local constabulary’s lukewarm attitude toward such practices, because that was the sort of ‘orrible bastard he was
I’m not entirely sure about this use of the word ‘gift’, here, either. I suppose our poet must have thought it absolutely imperative that this hirsute rape victim needed to share a lift with someone (because that’s what rape victims do, isn’t it?). And the only vaguely festive word that really rhymes with ‘lift’ is gift. Except, there isn’t much scope for the word, here. But, wait! Fear not! There is! The gift of rape. I feel so Christmassy.
Although she scream ‘no’ it happened in a flash.
As soon as she could free herself she made a desperate dash.
Then what to her startled eyes should appear?
A police car patrolling, which then drew near.
The first line here the one that’s caused the most outrage from women’s groups. I can see why. I’ve never heard anyone describe a rape that’s happened to them in these terms. “Oh, it was over in a flash!” said no-one ever. It seems to me that if there’s one sort of experience that doesn’t occur in a subjective ‘flash’, it’s a traumatic one, and I can think of few things more traumatic than being raped. Perhaps being raped while simultaneously transmorphing into a lycanthrope.
A desperate dash? This is all very cartoonish, I must say. Was Wile E. Coyote just trying to rape roadrunner all along? His intentions were never made clear, were they? In fact, cartoonish is the wrong word. Hmmm. Let me get my thesaurus. Let’s see…oh yeah. THE WORD IS TERRIBLE.
He spoke not a word and went about his day
Little did he know the police were already on their way.
“She wanted it, she’s a slag” was his defence
He was too arrogant to see he had committed an offence.
A slag, eh? I wish all rapists offered this sort of defence (though preferably without the comma splice); I’m sure the aforementioned conviction rate would skyrocket. This is all rather wearying. Depressing, even. Whose idea was it to do this?
Here’s the thing that confuses me. Rape is undoubtedly an issue that gets people very emotional. There is a broad range of opinion on how to best tackle it. There are passionate arguments that rage back and forth. But surely most people agree with me here: the police writing a poem about rape is not the best way to reduce rape. And even – even – if it were, I’d suggest it would be a good idea to find a poet who can actually write poetry.
Christ’s chin! This is the end of the poem, by the way. You wouldn’t know it though. What sort of poem ends with the words ‘committed an offence’? Wow, you guys are really tugging at my heartstrings, here. This just exemplifies the whole shitty poem. I can’t really conceive of any more sterile description of rape than that it constitutes ‘an offence.’
Well, I’ll follow their example. By ending this blog in kind: Whoever wrote this poem committed a fucking offence. To my fucking eyes.