“Lorne Grabher’s license plate is not offensive or dangerous,” states expert report

The Justice Centre today announced the filing of an expert report by sex science writer and researcher Dr. Debra W. Soh, in the Lorne Grabher v Nova Scotia Registrar of Motor Vehicles court action.  Lorne Grabher filed a court application against the Registrar in May of 2017 after it revoked his personalized “GRABHER” licence plate because it was deemed “socially unacceptable”.

Dr. Soh writes for the Globe and Mail and Playboy Magazine, among other print, TV and online media, about the science of sex, politics, and culture, and holds a PhD in sexual neuroscience research from York University.

Dr. Soh’s report is a response to the Nova Scotia government’s expert report, written by Carrie Rentschler, Associate Professor of Feminist Media Studies in the department of Art History and Communication Studies at McGill University.  Dr. Rentschler claims that the surname Grabher is an “act of violence”, “supports violence against women”, “endangers women”, encourages rape culture, and infers or implies the words “by the pussy”.

“The word/phrase “Grabher” should not be deemed offensive, because it does not connote
support of physical or sexual violence against women,” states Soh’s report, which challenges seventeen assertions made in the affidavit of Dr. Rentschler.

Dr. Soh notes in her report that Quebec resident Sylvain Poirier succeeded in purchasing custom license plates that state the words “PENIS” and “ANUS.” The Société de l ‘assurance automobile du Québec (SAAQ) approved these plates despite having a requirement that inscriptions not include a message that expresses “an obscene, scandalous, or sexual idea.” The SAAQ interprets Poirier’s inscriptions as “biological parts of the body” and therefore not subject to restriction.

“A similar logic could be used to argue in favour of allowing Mr. Grabher his plate because it merely reflects his last name and should not be considered obscene or vulgar,” states Dr. Soh.

Dr. Soh challenges the claim made by Professor Rentschler that “the Trump case overwhelmingly creates an interpretive framework in which people would likely interpret the phrase ‘Grabher’ as condoning and/or threatening violence against women, whether Mr. Grabher intended it to or not.”

“Exposure to a license plate alone will not lead to sexual crimes against women. A person who wants to commit a sexual offense will do so, regardless of what society’s messages are,” explains Dr. Soh, whose research includes the science of male sexual violence.

Dr. Soh’s report concludes:

“Mr. Grabher’s plate is not offensive or dangerous to women by any means, and I have found no evidence to support the idea that a license plate bearing his surname would increase rates of sexual violence against women or encourage societal attitudes supportive of sexual assault. To suggest that Mr. Grabher’s surname is ‘a statement in support of physical violence against women’ [Rentschler report] is completely unfounded.”

The hearing of Grabher v. Registrar of Motor Vehicles will be heard in Halifax on April 23-25, 2019.