Another day, another low, as our unelected Prime Minister, reeling from her humiliation in a much-vaunted TV debate, invites us to imagine her increasingly charismatic and popular opponent naked. Yet the true unveiling is not that of Jeremy Corbyn’s dad bod, but the stripping away of the last shred of the pretense that Theresa May is anything other than a deeply twisted human being. Because this bizarre episode in an unrelentingly weird campaign gives us an insight into the way Theresay May thinks, and it isn’t pretty. Because Theresa May thinks like a rapist.
What politician, in normal times, has ever evoked such a disturbing, prurient image of their opponent? Even in the low, dishonest years leading up to the 2010 election, as media trolls gleefully queued up to engage in the disability bullying of Gordon Brown, David Cameron didn’t stoop to asking us to picture the nude body of the former Chancellor. And while the Tories’ bizarre 1997 campaign may have submitted for our approval the contention that Tony Blair was an actual demon, we were not enjoined to envision ourselves making the beast with two backs with TB. However hungry for power these people may have been, however much they may have hated and wished to smear and damage their opponents, they recognised that there were some boundaries you do not cross. And yet Theresa May, lashing out with the vicious bitterness that has characterised so much of her laughable campaign, gleefully violates that boundary.
This, the deliberate violation of boundaries, is how rapists and abusers operate. They push boundaries to see how far you’ll push back, to see what they can get away with. They get off on the feeling of having violated your autonomy, your consent, your integrity.
A couple of years ago, a friends’ rapist followed me on Facebook. The rapist knew that I knew what they’d done, knew that I knew about the rape, and knew I’d feel sickened to see their name pop up in my follower list. They probably also knew I’d block them pretty much immediately, but they did it anyway because the goal wasn’t to find out what I was up to, the goal was to violate one of my boundaries.
We see this same dynamic of gleeful boundary violation when May’s soulmate Donald Trump boasts about grabbing women by the pussy, or muses salaciously on the menstrual cycle of a female critic. The goal is not simply to boast or humiliate, but to test, and to violate, boundaries. I, a rich man, am telling you I sexually assault women: your chummy laughter tells me you will defer to me, that you will submit and connive with me, that I define the boundaries between us, and not you. I, a man, am talking about blood coming out of one of your intimate orifices: the media’s fixation on and gleeful repetition of my remarks tells you there are no boundaries you can protect against me.
Once you realise that musing on Jeremy Corbyn’s nakedness is not a bizarre gaffe in May’s campaign, but an illustration of her truest nature, many other things fall into place. Why does she get on so much better with an admitted rapist like Trump than she does with Emmanuel Macron, a man who respects women deeply? Because she thinks a man who respects peoples’ boundaries isn’t really a man.
Why did she include the sickening rape clause in changes to tax credits legislation? Because she likes the idea of rape victims being further humiliated; because being forced to prove your rape to the tax authorities feels like an absolutely delicious boundary violation.
Why she lost all those files on historic establishment child abuse? Because she doesn’t believe the abusers did anything wrong.
With yesterday’s speech, the true horror of who and what Theresa May is stands revealed to us in all its prurient glory. The ‘vicar’s daughter’ whose media mouthpieces proclaim her piety and virtue is a sociopath who gets off on violating peoples’ boundaries. The force which drives her malicious perseverance in prosecuting those who disagree with her, and her Home Office’s open contempt for LGBT refugees, is nothing other than a desire to humiliate and degrade the Other. Indeed, her well-documented homophobia is something we see again and again in rapists, another aspect of their refusal to grant others physical and sexual autonomy.
Theresa May thinks like a rapist. It’s really that simple.