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Cologne’s Sexual Assaults & the Orientalization of Brown Men

Cologne’s Sexual Assaults & the Orientalization of Brown Men

On New Year’s Eve, dozens of women were attacked and groped — one woman claimed she was raped, in a mass sexual assault.
A group of men between the ages of 15 and 35 first distracted the crowds by throwing firecrackers into the masses and then moved among the crowds, sexually assaulting women and pick-pocketing others. Witnesses told the police that the assaults were carried out by about 500 to 1,000 men (we are not making this up) and they were of “Arab and North African origins.”
And as per usual, there’s always someone who argues that this is a direct consequence of allowing refugees and immigrants into the country. This time it was an MP in Angela Markel’s party, Steffen Bilger, who tweeted that Germany needs to tighten its borders.
Before we talk about rape and sexual assault rates committed by non-Arab and non-North African assailants in Germany, it’s important to state that local police said many of the men are familiar to them and they are not newly arrived refugees.
In more recent news, according to Al-Jazeera, at least 22 asylum seekers have been identified from among 32 suspects in connection with assaults and robberies.
But none of the 32 are currently suspected of committing sexual assaults like the ones committed in Cologne, Germany.

As soon as people even suspect that the perpetrators could be refugees of Arab or African descent, they lose all common sense and immediately call for the deportation of all immigrants.

Odd though, isn’t it? This incident made major headlines and the first reaction many had was to tighten border control and kick out refugees — even though there’s no evidence of any refugee involvement. But sexual assault is not new to Germany.
In fact, Germany has seen major spikes in sexual assaults during other holidays — most notably Oktoberfest. In recent years, a Munich-based institute for the prevention of sexual abuse set up help points for women who have had too much to drink or have been victims of sexual assault.
Each year, about 12 women attending the Oktoberfest report rape or attempted rape, according to the Women’s Emergency Crisis Center Munich. Many believe that the number of unreported cases could be 10 to 20 times higher.
There’s a double standard here, though we really aren’t surprised. As soon as people even suspect that the perpetrators could be refugees of Arab or African descent, they lose all common sense and immediately call for the deportation of all immigrants.
Germany has taken in hundreds of thousands of refugees in recent months — about 127,000 in December alone. Ascribing sexual and misogynistic violence to one culture, to one religion, is a horrible mistake.
It certain doesn’t help that fake photos and stories have circulated throughout Europe, featuring young, beautiful (and often blonde) women battered and beaten, with a caption that usually warns of an imminent “epidemic” of Arab/North African male hordes raping their way through Europe.

Women’s bodies are still the battlefield where warring political ideologies are played out, where these orientalist views still find expression.

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It seems right-wing groups have capitalized on the Cologne attack in order to push their rabidly nationalistic and racist agenda to deport immigrants and make Europe “white” again. Any European history buff should feel a strange shiver of déjà vu right about now — in the 19th century, imperialists and race ideologues often painted a portrait of the “native male” as a rabidly hyper-sexual creature with an insatiable appetite for white women, and the popular European imagination produced quite a few stories that followed a common trope: The “pure” and “virginal” European white woman at the mercy of a sexually ravenous native male, who needed to be “saved” by the virtuous and morally upstanding European male protagonist.
This trope actually predates the 19th century; Edmund Spenser’s “The Faerie Queene,” for instance, features a helpless Lady Una being sexually assaulted by a “Saracen” (African Muslim) villain, but she’s luckily saved from “ruin” by the virtuous Redcrosse Knight.
Apparently, orientalist ideologies have survived, despite the claims of many European political pundits and academics that Europe has shed its colonialist past. Furthermore, women’s bodies are still the battlefield where warring political ideologies are played out, where these orientalist views still find expression.
In traditionally patriarchal societies, a woman’s “sexual virtue” is often the measuring stick traditionalists use to determine how “successful” their culture is in remaining “intact” from “foreign influence.”
In many places in the Middle East, the women are ordered to “cover” as a preventative measure to make sure “wicked western values” don’t “infect women’s virtuosity,” and in Europe, Europeans males must “protect European women’s sexual virtue” from “sexually depraved brown men.”
Ask yourself this: Would the reactions of those outraged be the same if the suspects were inebriated German men? Probably not — something (Read: Past similar incidents in Germany) tells me that the incident would merely be shrugged off as “boys will be boys.”
Or worse, the victims would have been blamed and forgotten about. So maybe it’s not “European women’s sexual virtues” that need protection, but on some primal level, there’s this notion that sexual assault by Arab/African men is some meta-metaphor for the invasion of Middle Eastern culture into Europe?
Sexual assault is a horrific, traumatizing crime that no woman should ever suffer through. The perpetrators need to be properly punished, while the victims should be nurtured and cared for, with every effort expended to provide them the counseling services they need to help cope with their trauma. The absolute last thing women need when suffering through such trauma is to have their violation politicized and exploited for a right-wing agenda.

Image: Twitter

View Comment (1)
  • WOW.
    Odd though, isn’t it? This incident made major headlines and the
    first reaction many had was to tighten border control and kick out
    refugees — even though there’s no evidence of any refugee involvement.
    But sexual assault is not new to Germany.
    – No evidence? Those individuals that have been captured has been identified as Syrian “refugees”. And those who did not happen to be Syrian “refugees” have indeed been of muslim origin. More, there’s evidence from the social media of these individuals that they’ve been even calling their own friends to join, even from other cities.
    (…)
    There’s a double standard here, though we really aren’t surprised. As
    soon as people even suspect that the perpetrators could be refugees of
    Arab or African descent, they lose all common sense and immediately call
    for the deportation of all immigrants.
    – Nobody is calling for deportation of “all immigrants” but definitely deportation of those immigrants who are hostile to the host society and commit crimes on its soil. To say that such LEGITIMATE impulse is to “lose all common sense” is disingenius to put it mildly. There is MUCH common sense in wanting one’s people to be safe. Unfortunately, with the recent surge of “refugees”, people are no longer safe. Sweden even ordered its women not to come out at night alone. Loss of common sense would be to import more of the same.
    Germany has taken in hundreds of thousands of refugees in recent
    months — about 127,000 in December alone. Ascribing sexual and
    misogynistic violence to one culture, to one religion, is a horrible
    mistake.
    – There’s no denial that such things happen in all cultures, yet there is also no denial that islamic one produces disproportionately more of such instances. Look at English Rochdale example – it was pakistani muslims pimping underage white girls, not christians, buddhists, hindus or atheist. Similar picture is evident from rape statistic of Scandinavia, where in Oslo alone 100% of all rapists were indeed muslim in 2010. Also, if a religion explicitly says in its holy texts that women are to be beaten for disobedience (4:34) or that one may take unlimited sex slaves (4:3) or when its founder claims that majority of dwellers in hell are women, or when a religious law orders a woman to be stoned for her own rape, then please do not be much surprised certain observations are made by the outside world.

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