The Hepburn rape case reveals a ruthless, boorish culture that dehumanises women

Well done to Judge Jim Tindal for sentencing Australian-born former Worcestershire cricketer, Alex Hepburn, 23, to five years for rape, summing up the case in the strongest condemnatory terms. While Hepburn’s girlfriend has been criticised for supporting him, she didn’t rape anyone, so let’s stay focused on what he did. After the victim had consensual sex with Hepburn’s teammate, Joe Clarke (who then left and passed out elsewhere), she woke up to find Hepburn assaulting her. That poor young woman – how sickening.

That was rape, but let’s use this space to deal with Hepburn’s repellent but otherwise perfectly legal behaviour elsewhere. In the same week that saw outrage over rape victims being forced to hand over mobile phones for evidence, there emerged Hepburn’s WhatsApp messages to Clarke about their sexual conquest scoring game. “Always been me dragging the birds back. You raping them.” “Oi, last night was my 60th.” “Get them blind and then back to mine.” Some might be inclined to shrug this off: just loutish locker-room posturing, from a young braggart – fairly standard, especially these days? But that’s the problem. Youthful bravado is one thing, an entrenched culture of sexual dehumanisation and entitlement is quite another. As the mother of two daughters, I’m not only disgusted, I’m terrified. Look at Hepburn and you see an attractive young guy, doing well, playing the sport he loved. So, what was his excuse for keeping that boorish sexual scoreboard, for thinking he had any right to treat women in such a cold, ruthless, degrading way? The answer is that there’s no excuse. Perhaps, as some argue, the proliferation and escalation of pornography has had a disastrous coarsening, desensitising effect on the youthful male psyche. However, these young men still have a choice – they don’t have to allow porn culture to define them.

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