when is it rape?
I want to preface this by saying that each of these scenarios has happened to people that I know. I have waited until now to post this because I wanted their permission to use them as examples in a conversation about sex and rape and the culture that we live in that makes men feel sex is their right. I won’t be using names, but I still wanted them to be aware I would be discussing their stories before I did.
I’m going to describe three very different scenarios.
1) Person A and Person B are dating. They’ve been together for about 3 months and have already engaged in sexual activity a couple of times. On this particular night, they’ve gone to dinner, Person B paid. Person A doesn’t want to have sex, knowing that an early morning for work is looming and it’s already late when they get back to the apartment. Person A tells Person B no, but Person B is pushy, kissing and touching and making promises until Person A feels uncomfortable on the street where people can see them and lets Person B into the apartment, still saying no to sex. B continues the pressure until A finally stops saying no, but never actually says yes either.
2) Person C is married to person D, though occasionally they play with person E. Person D is out of town and E invites C over for dinner to keep C company. Over the course of dinner E makes it clear that sex is desirable. C says the agreement is only when both spouses are there. E tries cajoling, but C remains firm. E ultimately seems to accept C’s stand. E keeps pouring wine until C is obviously at a point of impaired judgement, then insists C spend the night so there are no issues of drunk driving. Sometime after they have both gone to sleep, C wakes up to find E having sex with C.
3) Person F is fresh out of a very bad breakup. Friends have convinced F that a night out would be fun. F dresses to feel sexy again, clothes tight fitting, etc. F has more than a few drinks and is flirtatious with everyone, especially after spotting the Ex in the bar. At some point F loses track of the friends who came with and F is having a really good time, so F doesn’t fret about it. More drinks and more flirting and F starts to realize their might be a problem. Where there was one guy flirting back there are now three and F is uncomfortable, but too drunk to adequately get out of the situation. The three of them get F into their SUV and drive away from the bar to a park where the three of them take turns whit F fades in and out.
Now, none of these people reported what happened to them as rape. When we look at our culture it’s easy to see why. In any one of those scenarios we believe, to some degree, that the woman was “asking for it”…
Person A shouldn’t have given B the expectation of sex so early in the relationship, almost as if prior consent is lifetime consent. On some level we know that is wrong, and yet as soon as you find out Person A was in a relationship with B, it somehow makes it okay that the word “No” was not the absolute end of the night.
Person C was clearly already in a deviant relationship so all sympathy just seems to vanish. Never mind that their relationship had rules and was consensual, never mind that C said no. The fact was C had engaged in sexual activity with E prior, and was in a non-traditional relationship, then consumed alcohol and agreed to sleep on E’s couch. Why would anyone believe that was rape?
Person F was dressed like a slut and got drunk and flirted like a whore, what else could be expected but that someone would take up the offer?
It’s disgusting that we think like this. Even more disgusting to me is that these are the average responses from men when they assume that person A, C and F are women.
Stop a minute and consider that. If all of these victims are women, we don’t necessarily, as a societal whole, consider it rape.
But, if person A is a gay man, does it change your opinion of the first scenario? What if he’s a straight man and the aggressive B is a woman?
If person C is a straight man, D his girlfriend and E their bi-sexual male play-partner?
If person F is a gay man? How about if person F is a straight man who went out with gay friends to a gay bar?
Suddenly things change. Suddenly men are forced to re-evaluate themselves. How many times have they gone out and gotten shit-face drunk? Could something like that happen to them? Wait. Is it rape?
There’s been a lot of talk about Steubenville, and about the young men convicted of raping that poor girl lately. Talk is good. We need more of it. We need an attitude adjustment here in this country. We need to teach our men and boys that sex is not their right. It is not a given. We need to teach them that the word “no” should end all activity that might be construed as sexual, and that it isn’t a rejection of them or their manhood, only of the offer of sex (of course, insert exception here for previously negotiated role playing and agreed upon safe words).
We have to teach everyone, not just our boys, that alcohol and drugs are not substitutes for consent. In fact, alcohol and drugs are the opposite of consent. Unless consent is reached prior to alcohol consumption, it should be a given that alcohol, like the word “no” ends all sexual advances. Which isn’t to say that a single glass of wine or what have you means no sex. But I think we can all tell when someone has had too much to drink to make a good decision. If you wouldn’t let that person get behind the wheel of a car, they are incapable of giving informed consent.
Sex isn’t a right. It requires responsibility and it requires respect. If you can’t give both of those things, you might just find yourself being accused of rape. Think about that a bit. Teach your children responsibility and respect, for themselves, for those they love, for those they’ve never met, for those they may one day desire to have sex with.
Sex without clear consent is rape. Period. No matter your gender or age or whatever extenuating circumstance you may think you have.