Today in rape culture: nobody wanted to think it of funny old Jimmy

Jimmy Savile wrote an autobiography in 1974 where he described exactly how, back in the 50s, he managed to manipulate an under-age girl into his bed, and how a WPC was dissuaded from laying charges against him for that by her colleagues, with a very strong implication of how it wasn’t the first time for either the sexual predation or the police looking the other way, and not the last time either.

Going by the recent multiple allegations against him now dating from between the 70s to the 2000’s, it looks like people kept on looking the other way for decade after decade after decade.

Read this extract for a sickening display of Savile’s self-deprecatory smugness about it all.

As Hugh Rifkind says:

I repeat, this is Savile’s autobiography. It wasn’t winkled out of him by a cunning interviewer; he didn’t let it slip when he was pissed. It wasn’t a post-modern joke.

Rather, these are words he wrote in a book, which were read by a publisher, and presumably by lawyers, and by reviewers, and by readers. One of his alleged victims even claims he gave her a copy of it, after abusing her, with the inscription “No Escape!”.

What can these words possibly mean, except for what they seem to mean? How can nobody have noticed?

Right now, many are presumably wondering how his behaviour can have been concealed for so long. But it wasn’t concealed. It was right out there, in plain view, and nobody wanted to see. I’m not sure what the lesson of all this is, but if there is one, it’s horribly bleak.

ADDENDUM: While we’re pointing out people not wanting to see what’s right out there in plain view – one of the iconic “romantic” snapshots of the public jubilation at the end of WW2 turns out to have been a sexual assault.

Categories: ethics & philosophy, gender & feminism, law & order, violence

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16 replies

  1. I’ve just added this to the OP
    * * *
    ADDENDUM: While we’re pointing out people not wanting to see what’s right out there in plain view – one of the iconic “romantic” snapshots of the public jubilation at the end of WW2 turns out to have been a sexual assault.

  2. I’d guess that one of the reasons that this never raised any red flags in the 1970s was that many girls in remand homes were there for ‘sexual promiscuity’ (was that illegal you may ask- no, it wasn’t), so that they were seen as ‘culpable’ in sexual assaults because they ‘seduced’ older men. I also wonder whether in that first story, he meant that they would have arrested him for ‘aiding an offender’, rather than sexual assault/rape, especially as the age of consent in the UK is 16, so teenagers on remand can legally be sexually active (which is not in any way to diminish the fact he sexually exploited a vulnerable young woman). So, the ‘general public’ would have read this as a funny story about aiding and abetting with a bit of sexual gratification for naughty Jimmy, whilst ignoring the clear exploitation of the young women involved.

    • Feminst Avatar, I suspect you’re right about that particular anecdote from his autobiography – the fact that she was a remand-home runaway is probably exactly why he chose that particular story to tell, and that particular girl to target in the first place, because of all those assumptions about what the girl must have been like. It’s when you read the other allegations from women coming forward now, to tell about how he paid them special attention, then isolated them in his office or his flat or his hotel room to which they went trustingly because it was kind old Jimmy after all, that you see it as part of a pattern.
      Megpie, regarding all the charity work Savile did, there was a great article (last month?) about how Jerry Sandusky used his years of charity work to set up a shield of plausible deniability for his grooming activies (and subsequent sexual assaults) – (a) establish a position of community goodwill and belief in his trustworthiness (b) set up a ‘goofball who’d do anything for a laugh’ persona (c) meet lots of vulnerable young boys through his charity work for kids in crisis (d) use his ‘goofing around’ schtick to test boundaries in stages (to pick which boys would object or tell their parents and which parents would ask questions which he could deflect as ‘just a misunderstanding/accidental touch’) then (e) continue ‘goofing around’ to groom the boys who didn’t tell their parents to the point where (f) he could get them alone and transform the ‘goofing around’ to sexual contact. From the allegations it appears that Savile used a very similar mode of operation with these young girls, making a point of visiting remand homes and other children’s homes etc.
      MrRabbit, I find the sentimental complicity of the grinning onlookers to be very disturbing in that photo. Of course, most of them were probably assuming that he’d somehow proffered some sort of “give a sailor a kiss?” invitation to which she’d agreed and they just hadn’t seen that part, but surely his sailor colleague right next to him must have seen that he’d just grabbed a passing stranger?
      angharad, I guess the closest Australian equivalent to Jimmy Savile would be if suddenly these sort of allegations were being made about Bert Newton. People would be absolutely gobsmacked, in various ways.

  3. I think the thing which annoys me most about it is that there’s all this “but what about the charity work he did, what about all the good things he did?” and all I can think is… well, Theodore Bundy worked a rape crisis line, and was apparently really, really helpful there, too. There are lots of stories of rapists who were described by their families as having been really keen on chivalry and taking care of women, helping people out.
    Didn’t stop a single damn one of them from doing whatever they thought they were entitled to do to other women.
    Maybe the good deeds are meant to buy off the public, or maybe the good deeds are meant to buy off their conscience, or maybe the good deeds are even meant to buy off whatever their conception of deity is. But no matter how many good deeds they do, they can’t erase the evil they’ve done.

  4. Regarding the WWII photo, thanks for the link. I think it’s important to note the truth about the photo. Disappointing but predictable comments about the “kiss” being no big deal and how it doesn’t really matter what’s happening in the photo. But the record should definitely be corrected: we are witnessing a crime.
    I have no idea who Savile is, not surprised a lot of people will be excusing his behaviour. We all know it, it’s the rape culture.

  5. You know I can half understand why people might have trouble believing it, because as a child in England in the 70’s and 80’s he was kind of like Santa Claus. It’s a real shock. But there’s a difference between struggling to reconcile two images of a person and not believing the victims. I think it must come down to the good old ‘if a child tells me something that conflicts with my idea of reality then they must be making it up’. With ‘woman’ inserted for ‘child’ as often as not.

  6. There has to be a book or a documentary in all the “in plain view” biographical and autobiographical reporting of famous people assaulting others, told as amusing anecdote. I remember reading Boganette’s report of stumbling across a rape confession in a heavy-metal star’s autobiography. In Let’s Get Lost a friend of Chet Baker’s tells a story about how Baker raped his (the anecdote teller’s) girlfriend at a party, and chuckles about it. I saw a TV biog of Humphrey Bogart in which a guy talked about Bogart turning up late to dinner with scratches on his face saying “Sorry, I had to drop Mayo [his wife at the time] to emergency, she has a broken jaw”. Those are just the ones I can think of right now.

  7. @Tigtog – I get the impression those laughing onlookers are going ‘wow, he just grabbed her and kissed her – what a lad!’
    And I was kind of thinking Mr Squiggle, but Bert is probably a more realistic analogy.

  8. Long and thoughtful post from stargazer over at the Hand Mirroe regarding the culture of silence around sexual /abuse of young people by their elders.

  9. Yeah, can’t say I’m all that surprised to see the WWII photo turns out to be an assault. The body language sort of suggests it. (Not reliable, I know, but the way he’s holding her and her stiffness – it doesn’t look good.)

  10. Maybe the good deeds are meant to buy off the public, or maybe the good deeds are meant to buy off their conscience, or maybe the good deeds are even meant to buy off whatever their conception of deity is.

    Or maybe it’s none of those. Perhaps it was to cultivate a persona that would lead people to not want to accuse/charge/convict him for his crimes.
    My overwhelming feeling over this story is, well, that’s just rape culture isn’t it? Pretty much everyone not wanting to rock the boat, it’s easier to just pretend it didn’t happen. Accusations, charges, trials, imprisonment, it’s just awful, better to sweep the whole thing under the rug, and pretend that the crime itself wasn’t that bad.

  11. While some rapists are clearly manipulative, I suspect that many are just over-privileged and don’t question their ‘right’ to a woman’s body, so don’t see themselves as ‘bad’ people. So, they do charity because they believe in it or because they are rich and it’s expected, and when opportunities arise to exploit women, they take them, and it’s not necessarily more complicated than that. In Jimmy Savile’s case, I suspect that doing charity and things like that goes hand in hand with being a major radio and tv star, as does being offered the opportunity to have sex with girls and young women. He may even have justified it to himself with the idea that ‘groupies’ wanted to have sex with him, so what harm was it. This is probably the same reason that many people looked the over way; they probably assumed consent, even if the people involved were ‘technically’ too young, as it was part of the culture of celebrity.
    I also think this is because of the culture around sex at the time, where on the one hand, we were very concerned about teenage sex, attempting to control ‘good girls’ and locking away ‘bad girls’ (think Magdalen Asylums in Ireland), but underpinning this is both an expectation and anxiety that teenage girls are sexual beings and their sexuality needed controlled (or if you were on the left/ free love/ hippy movements, young women should get to sexually experiment). And, we directed all that sexual energy into marriage, so that in the UK, 90% of women married between the ages of 17 and 25 – and that’s not 90% of women who married, but 90% of all women. So, we have this culture of ‘early’ sexualisation and marriage, that informed our expectations for teenage sex, that allowed men who wanted to have sex with young girls not to look ‘odd’ or ‘creepy’, but much like everybody else.

  12. Next week is likely to be a busy one in terms of new coverage of Savile’s decades of predatory abuse: BBC’s Panorama program will be airing a special report on Monday night, the BBC’s Director General George Entwistle will be appearing before a Commons committee on Monday to answer questions about BBC involvement/negligence, and the police are investigating whether Savile was the centre of a ring of abusers, and expect to make arrests quite quickly.

    Jonathan West, a leading child protection campaigner who as a parent helped expose a 60-year-old sex abuse scandal at Ealing Abbey, in west London, said he was “not in the least surprised” that the Met police was now involved in a criminal investigation into other individuals.
    “It is quite common that where one person is found to have committed child s-x abuse in an institutional context – most likely a school but also in hospitals and now as we have discovered at the BBC – it is usually a sign that the institution’s child protection practices are inadequate.
    “And it quite often happens that more than one person manages to take advantage of that.”

  13. Jimmy Savile was a British national institution. It’s not quite on the level of Americans finding our Mister Rogers was a kiddy-fiddler, but that far off. In fact in some ways it’s worse because not only was he an icon of children’s TV but also of popular music, being there at both the start and the end of Top of the Pops, so now the entire twentieth century musical heritage of Britain is in some way tainted. You can throw Ed Sullivan or Dick Clark being a paedo into the transatlantic comparison as well if you want to realise how big a thing this is.

    • Welcome to Hoyden about Town, Tom. Are you our first American to comment on this thread? Sounds about right, in terms of cultural status.

  14. The part I find the most sinister is that there are BBC programmes and publications going waaay back that do jokes about him being a child molestor; at the time we all saw it as “oh, these alternative comedians think they’re being clever and shocking by saying this guy on the kids’ show must be a paedo”, except it wasn’t just alternative comedians doing it. There was a tie-in book for a BBC show which started with a faux introduction supposedly by Jimmy Savile which was just all his catchphrases strung end to end, except it ended with a non sequiturish “the lovely coldness of the young flesh, you see…” It seems evident that it was something of an open secret at the Beeb.

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