Greek Woman Allegedly Set Attacker’s Genitals on Fire

by Cara on August 8, 2009

in assholes, courts, Europe, International, misogyny, patriarchy, rape and sexual assault, sexism, violence against women and girls

A woman in Greece was out at a club. A man, a British tourist out at that same club, allegedly exposed his genitals and started waving them around and making obscene gestures and remarks. He then allegedly forcibly fondled the woman, including between her legs.

During the course of this alleged assault, the woman allegedly told him to stop harassing her, and when he did not, she poured her alcoholic beverage on him. When he still refused to stop harassing and assaulting her, she allegedly got out a lighter.

Stuart Feltham is in the hospital with second degree burns on his body, including his genitals. Marina Fanouraki is in court.

Fanouraki says that she did not light Feltham’s pants on fire, that she poured the liquid on him after he assaulted her, and he must have accidentally lit himself on fire while trying to light a cigarette. Feltham denies the sexual assault and harassment, with his parents defending him as a “kind-hearted, generous boy.”

I don’t know what actually happened. Neither do you. And there is so much to write about here — the common assault of Greek women by British tourists which has made Fanouraki a hometown hero, the government response that this is somehow a lesson about alcohol, and more.

But I do know what most people seem to believe happened. Most people seem to believe that Feltham harassed and assaulted Fanouraki, and that Fanouraki responded by pouring her drink on him, and lighting him on fire. I do know that most people believe that this is what has happened, and that Fanouraki is the only one who has been charged with a crime. (Note: Fanouraki’s lawyers apparently intend to take legal action against Feltham. But unless the court system is vastly different from the American one, I would assume that those would be civil rather than criminal charges.) I do know that most people believe that this is what happened, and are placing the blame entirely on one person. And it’s not the person who is alleged to have committed a sexual assault.

Time and time again, women who act in self-defense are charged with crimes while the man they were defending themselves against walks free and is treated as the victim. And the woman who defended herself is scolded and dismissed as overreacting, going to far, and being a crazy, vengeful bitch. The man, oh, he was wrong of course. But the woman — why the woman, she should have responded better! Why didn’t she more carefully analyze all of her options for protecting herself and choose the one that was the least forceful, regardless of expected effectiveness? Couldn’t she have just politely and quietly asked him to stop?

Even feminist Jessica Wakeman thinks that Fanouraki went too far, writing these remarkable sentences:

Wow, there were really less bats**t ways she could have handled that situation. Poor guy (even if he was allegedly sexually assaulting her).

I don’t even know how to begin, how to even fucking begin, responding to the words “poor guy (even if he was allegedly sexually assaulting her).” Yes, poor guy indeed. All he was doing was sexually assaulting a woman! How does that justify her assaulting him back as a defense?

I’m tired, so very, very tired of worrying about the poor rapists, the poor men who don’t respect women’s boundaries, the poor misogynists, those poor, poor guys. I’m so fucking sick of being more worried about the genitals they decided to use as weapons than the mental health and physical safety of the women they assaulted. No one is saying that setting a man on fire is an ideal response. But being sexually assaulted isn’t an ideal situation.

We live in a world where women who are raped are constantly chastised, blamed and emotionally (or even physically) spit on because they didn’t defend themselves well enough. We live in a world where one of the first questions a woman is asked upon disclosing a sexual assault is “did you fight back?” We live in a world where “why didn’t you fight back harder?” rolls right off the tongue. A world where people can still get away with arguing that it’s impossible to force a woman into sex, that a woman who really doesn’t want it can stop her attacker. We live in a world where it’s still frequently thought that a woman is better off dead than raped, and where fighting back without regard to your very life is seen as a prerequisite to basic respect.

And we also live in a world where a woman who does fight back is called “batshit,” a liar, a violent, man-hating menace. We live in a world where even a woman who is believed in her claims of assault is still told “but isn’t what you did a bit too much?” Where I can find feminists arguing that what she did was acceptable if they had been in a secluded area, or if what he had done was worse (you know, really serious), or that punching or kicking him should have been enough. (Personally, if I’m being repeatedly assaulted in a crowded public area where the people around me were doing nothing to help me, I’d be terrified to hit the guy, not only because I have a really shitty punch, but because I’d expect to be hit back.) Where if you don’t make the choice to use just the right amount of force in your split second fearful decision, it’s open season.

Fight back ladies, fight back like your life depends on it, don’t take it lying down, because otherwise you have it coming! Be nice to the poor lads, ladies — how could you try to bite off a man’s penis just because it was forcibly shoved in your mouth? How could you send him to the hospital when left to his own devices he just might have sent you there? Be reasonable, be rational, stop being so violent and unhinged.

Fight back with all your might, but make sure you don’t hurt anyone. No matter how a woman responds to an assault, to a man acting as though her body is public property, to violating her and causing her emotional trauma, it is wrong. It’s not good enough. It proves that she’s really the one to judge and blame. Either she wanted it, or she’s the perpetrator. It seems that the only way to win is to be beaten within an inch of your life as proof that dammit, you fought, but you still got it worse. (And even then …)

I don’t know what happened. But I do know what people believe. And the way they’re responding to that belief is misogynistic, victim-blaming, and feeding into a culture where a woman who is sexually assaulted is always the villain.

via Aiken Area Progressive

Bookmark and Share

{ 32 comments }

1 Aaminah August 8, 2009 at 11:17 am

unfortunately it’s not only in sexual assault situations where this ridiculous thought process comes out. i was hit in my own home & when i tried to scare the unofficial roommate out with a knife and he came back at me anyway (all while i was being hung up on by the 911 service and trying to call them back) and grazed himself on the knife, guess who went to jail for assault with a deadly weapon? guess who was convicted? because his behavior (and his previous documented record) and the words self defense were not even allowed in the courtroom. apparently “self-defense” is not even a legal defense in my county. i had to ask, had to clarify, “you mean that a man can assault me in my home, or on the street, and if i injure him at all in the process of defending myself i become the perpetrator and he becomes the victim?!?” and i was told yes. i’ve never fought much against any of my rapists because i know, fight and you will get the crap beat out of you and still be raped, maybe killed. say no, try to push him off, etc, but ultimately you might live if you just let him finish what he is doing and then get away. it’s ridiculous that women KNOW that any attempt to defend ourselves, any attempt to stop something happening to ourselves means that we will be in trouble legally and that even fellow women will be writing about us saying how wrong we were.

ps – the officers that arrested me told me i should have let my husband handle the situation. because apparently, it isn’t a crime for a man to beat up another man in his home as long as it’s in defense of “his woman”, but it’s a crime for me to do anything in my own defense.

2 The Goldfish August 8, 2009 at 2:45 pm

It’s not substantiated in any way, but BBC News does say “The story has made national headlines in Greece, where some have hailed the woman as a heroine.”

Not that I’m questioning the thrust of this post, but the Greeks might yet make good on this one. The young man is a foreigner and I’m afraid us Brits have a pretty appalling reputation as tourists – only a few days ago a Latvian mayor despaired of our stag parties invading his town and pissing on their “Freedom Memorial”. And just a few weeks ago a great gang of British men were arrested in Greece for dressing up as nuns and mooning at the locals.

So I’m kind of optimistic that, presuming her account is true, this lady’s experience may be the exception to this rule. Fingers crossed.

3 Cara August 8, 2009 at 2:48 pm

Goldfish — yes, I mentioned this briefly in the post and just didn’t have an easy way to get a real discussion of it in. It seems that she is receiving support for a good portion of her direct community. I was talking more about international and online reactions.

4 Jim Jay August 8, 2009 at 3:33 pm

Cara, I think most reactions to this have been positive although the counter examples you’ve found are staggering.

His defence that he was sitting quietly chatting to some guy and she randomly set light to him just doesn’t ring true. The fact is, as Goldfish says, Brits abroad are all too often boorish a-holes.

In those circumstances I can’t find myself attacking this woman (although obviously setting fire to someone should be a last resort!)

5 elliholmes August 8, 2009 at 3:43 pm

So glad it’s not just me who was a little bit glad that she stood up for herself.
I didn’t know that she was sexually assaulted, but as soon as I read that he was British I had an inkling (I’m English).
I don’t know what American guys are like, but in my experience a lot of English men like nothing more than a drunken fondle. Vigilantism isn’t a solution, but maybe this will make the next pissed idiot think first.

6 Chai Latte August 8, 2009 at 4:39 pm

How do you say “BOOYAH!” in Greek?

This woman is my new hero! She REALLY fought back, and good for her. I hope it turns out well for her. I don’t feel one bit sorry for the asshole who assaulted her. Is it bad that I laugh at his pain? Because I totally just did.

It blows that we get slapped down by the law for acting in our defense. (Granted, you already said that–way more eloquently than I did.) I do think it gets a harsher reaction when a woman fights back, though I’ve never understood why. Are we supposed to wait for one of those free-roving ‘knights in shining armor’ to come to our rescue? Please.

The immature twelve-year-old in me wants to prank-call this guy and sing “Burn Baby Burn” or something to that effect. In my opinion, he fucking deserved everything he got.

7 Jenn August 8, 2009 at 4:40 pm

So, we live in a world where we are taught, as women, that men will assault and kill us for their sexual pleasure, and that going out alone is dangerous, yet when we respond to sexual assault as if it was a death threat (and many times, it is), we’re “crazy bitches”.

Idea: if men really want us to stop “over reacting” to sexual violence, perhaps they should do everything in their power to make sexual violence a freak occurrence that is absolutely not culturally tolerated. Until then, setting a man on fire for failing to realize that women are human beings is an entirely justified reaction to the very real prevalence of sexual violence against women.

8 Hedon August 8, 2009 at 4:42 pm

Hey, I say good for her!

The press and internet people can carry on all they want to about how she maybe crossed over the line, but I bet that’s one little man who will think twice before he gropes another woman in a bar. If there were more of that sort of response going on maybe things would change.

She may have started a movement to educate drunken losers one crotch fire at a time… good on her!

Enjoying your site, btw.

9 EKSwitaj August 8, 2009 at 5:32 pm

How much do you want to bet that if she hadn’t reacted this way and the assault had intensified, the same people who are criticizing her now would be saying that she didn’t say ‘no’ clearly enough?

10 SunlessNick August 8, 2009 at 5:35 pm

It seems that she is receiving support for a good portion of her direct community.

Her community will include other victims and people who care about them – as opposed to the authorities who may care more about tourist revenue than a few women offered up as sacrifices for it.

11 Danielle August 8, 2009 at 6:07 pm

that’s just logic to me. Invade my space, treat me as if I’m not human, and something fucking horrible will happen. I mean damn, he wouldn’t have had to deal with w/e injuries if he had NOT ASSAULTED SOMEONE. Reap what you sow.

12 Summer August 9, 2009 at 1:22 am

I know I shouldn’t condone violence, but rock the fuck on. Maybe less men would think they had the right to grope and fondle women if this story were in the back of their minds.

13 Kismet August 9, 2009 at 9:37 am

Cara thanks for this. And Aaminah for the response and adding more international perspective to me. The whole thing blows–why the hell do spectators not speak up! ::she says knowing why but screaming in frustration::–and rocks–go baby go flambeau!–and then blows again–women of color in the U.S. are the highest growing prison population for this reason among others that all somehow relate to being abused emotionally, physically and sexually by men they love or loved….

Complicated issue that in this case is blissfully simple–she is not a criminal.

14 Elayne Riggs August 9, 2009 at 11:10 am

I don’t even know how to begin, how to even fucking begin, responding to the words “poor guy (even if he was allegedly sexually assaulting her).” Two words – Stockholm Syndrome. The patriarchal world in which we live encourages us to identify with the Default (i.e., the male) even if we’re the Other. Therefore, even if the Default perpetrated the crime, we’re socialized to see ourselves in his place, rather than the place of the person who defended herself against his crime.

15 SunlessNick August 9, 2009 at 1:14 pm

Well put.

16 AileenWuornos August 9, 2009 at 9:47 pm

I’m personally more a fan of bottling (or glassing, the practice of breaking a bottle on someone, don’t mind my whacky Aussie youth culture colloquialisms) – but setting someone on fire? Far out, words can not express.

In a totally kudos way.

At the same time.

Shame on that asshole for not listening and getting HIMSELF in that situation to begin with.

17 Anon Ymous August 10, 2009 at 2:29 am

I was sent a link to this story earlier today (after you wrote this, but before I read it). The news source was one of the Murdoch rags, but it’s written in a way that definitely puts her as the hero, no question:

http://www.news.com.au/travel/story/0,28318,25895518-5014090,00.html

Ends with this:

“However, the Greek woman has become an overnight national hero and has been praised by doing the right legal thing – turning herself over to police and the courts to be put on trial.

The magistrate and prosecutor unanimously agreed to set the woman free pending trial, an indication that they accepted her argument that she “acted in justified self-defence”.

A small crowd is reported to have shouted “bravo, bravo”, as she was led away by police.”

My first reading was that she was aquitted, but re-reading it it just seems to be no bail and a journo reading that as a positive thing for her… Still, it’s good to see that even news.com.au is writing this from the correct side – though that quote from Ms Wakeman was horrifying!

Comments are mixed, but mostly good… one person wrote a note to self: don’t drink in Crete, and has since been corrected to “Actual note to self: don’t wave my penis at someone in a bar in Crete”. I haven’t read them all.

18 Anon Ymous August 10, 2009 at 2:36 am

edit: “no bail” may well be the incorrect term… Released without being asked to put up enormous sums of money, however you phrase that

19 Nentuaby August 10, 2009 at 8:08 pm

In my mental narrative, this went down exactly as decribed- harrasment, drink, harrasment, lighter. And she did it stone-cold, and told the police it was accidental about the same way the seedy pawnshop owner assures you it fell off the back of a truck.

And all I really have to say to mental-narrative-Marina is “You Go, Girl.”

I am, admittedly, a bloody-minded person.

20 Fi August 11, 2009 at 7:27 am

Personally, I think setting anyone’s genitals on fire in any circumstances. Seriously, a good kick to them will suffice. To set them alight is overkill and hardly self-defence.

He was probably quite drunk, which of course does not excuse him, and I’m sure she had other methods of which to defend herself. I am not going to feel guilty by going “poor guy” because just stop and imagine the pain of burns to your genital area. That could affect you for the rest of your life.

Also “But unless the court system is vastly different from the American one”
- American – adversial system
- Most of Europe – Inquisitorial

21 Cara August 11, 2009 at 9:51 am

just stop and imagine the pain of burns to your genital area. That could affect you for the rest of your life.

Yes, it can.

So can sexual assault.

22 Anna August 11, 2009 at 2:05 pm

This pleases me immensely. As one who has spent many long hours imagining inflicting drawn-out torture on the bastards who attacked me, this gives me such a feeling of cold satisfaction I cannot even describe.

23 Fi August 12, 2009 at 2:48 am

I understand that sexual assault can affect you for the rest of your life, but do we really want to live in an eye for an eye culture?

24 Cara August 12, 2009 at 8:28 am

No, Fi — I think I made it perfectly clear that I want to live in a culture where women are allowed to defend themselves against violence without being scolded about how they should have defended themselves harder or nicer — whatever the opposite of what they did was — and where men who sexually assault women and get their asses handed to them in a way that they never expected when they thought it was perfectly find to assault a woman are given our pity. And I want to live in a culture where a man who gets his ass kicked by a woman who was only defending herself against him is seen as worse off than the woman he assaulted to begin with. Because, you know, I haven’t seen anyone who has said “poor guy” yet also bother to say “poor woman.”

25 Joan Kelly August 12, 2009 at 12:07 pm

Fi – If you define “eye for an eye” as “males will stop attacking females because of fear of the physical harm they may well bring on themselves,” then fuck yes I want to live in an eye-for-an-eye culture. Now, please.

26 Aaminah August 12, 2009 at 7:42 pm

for about the millionth time, i love joan kelly. :) sorry, cara, for derailing momentarily, but really. i must quote that somewhere… now… :)

27 Genevieve August 12, 2009 at 10:51 pm

Y’know, as much as I’m for fighting sexual assault, I’m also a nonviolent person, and the words “genitals on fire” grossed me out a bit at first.

But…she did everything else. Told him to stop, threw her drink at him. She was probably scared and pissed off. He had turned from an irritation into a violent person. She didn’t want to be sexually assaulted, and I know from experience that just saying no and hoping the dude stops doesn’t work. Not even with people you know–why should she be nice to a random stranger threatening her? So yeah, she did the right thing in bad circumstances, circumstances out of her control, and I hope she gets off on self-defense.

(And I really hope misogynists/MRAs don’t start using her as their poster girl for “women/feminists are crazy/hate men.” I’ve already had to say “no, we’re not all like Valerie Solanas” several times–this is a much more complicated situation, and I’m totally on this woman’s side.)

28 Jamie August 13, 2009 at 12:10 pm

In response to chai latte:

It is pronounced
OPAH!

:-)

29 Joan Kelly August 13, 2009 at 5:18 pm

@Aaminah…

Sometimes I pronounce your name out loud to myself as “Aw, minah.” With my head a little cocked to the side and my hand on my chest.

/loving Aaminah for her sweet derail

30 Sitome August 13, 2009 at 6:51 pm

Chai Latte – I am totally with you…100%. I was laughing my ass off at him too…and I don’t feel one bit bad about it!!

31 Bad Ass Femmes August 19, 2009 at 10:47 pm

Amen sista. Sock it to ‘em, I say. They get what they deserve.

32 Ally February 15, 2010 at 5:54 pm

OK…I know this is a real old post and noone will ever read this post, but it REALLY bothers me all these people in the comments debating whether this was the ‘right’ thing to do.

For f-s sake when some guy is groping you you don’t think “oh goodness, I must make sure not to overreact” you just panic! And then react.

Fi, you can be all “I’m sure she had other methods of which to defend herself.” if you like but the point is that she didn’t have time or rational thought to think this through. If someone sat down and told you the situation, and you went through all the options, I’m sure you could find many better ways to behave, but if someone randomly gropes you suddenly you just strike out.

Condemming this is essentially saying that when under attack your first reaction should be to stop, for fear of severely harming the other person. Rather than your first reaction being to try and save yourself.

This is NOT promoting ‘eye for an eye’. Nor is it encouraging violent responses to assult. It is simply promoting the idea that women should be ALLOWED to respond, without having to worry that they will be judged for ‘over’responding

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: