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Dear Prudie: What Do I Do When an Advice Columnist Goes Off Half-Cocked About Rape?

From Slate’s Dear Prudence column:

Q. Friend Has Revised One-Night Stand Story: A friend recently called me and said she had a one-night stand after drinking too much. She was beating herself up over drinking too much and going home with a guy she met at a bar. I reassured her that everyone makes mistakes and didn’t think much more of the account. However, since then, she has told many people that she was a victim of date-rape—that the guy must have put something into her drink . She spoke to a rape crisis line, and they said even if she was drunk, she couldn’t have given consent so she was a victim of rape. She now wants to press charges—she has the guy’s business card. I have seen her very intoxicated on previous occasions, to the point she doesn’t remember anything the next day. I’m not sure on what my response should be at this point. Pretend she never told me the original story?

A: Trying to ruin someone else’s life is a poor way to address one’s alcohol and self-control problems. Since her first version of the story is that she was ashamed of her behavior, and since you have seen her knee-walking drunk on other occasions, it sounds as if she wants to punish the guy at the bar for her own poor choices. Yes, I agree that men should not have sex with drunk women they don’t know. But I think cases like the one you are describing here—in the absence of any evidence she was drugged—where someone voluntarily goes home with a stranger in order to have a sexual encounter, makes it that much harder for women who are assaulted to bring charges. Talk to your friend. Tell her that she needs to think very long and hard about filing a criminal complaint against this guy if there’s any way her behavior could be construed to be consensual. Say you understand her shame, but you’re concerned about her drinking, and if she addresses that, she won’t find herself in such painful situations.

Q: Advice Columnist Blathers On About Rape with No Expertise: A friend recently pointed me to an advice columnist make appallingly ignorant assumptions about a third-party report of a potential rape and use that to feed rape myths. What should I do?

A: Commenting on the circumstances of a rape claim without being or consulting a specialist in the topic is a poor way to make a living. Yes, I agree that no one should take columnists offering “advice on manners and morals” seriously. But I think cases like the one you are describing here–in the absence of any evidence that one specific version of events is the truthful–where someone offers condemnation based on personal opinion only, makes it that much harder for women to be heard when they talk about rape. Throw her to the wolves. Tell her editors they need to think long and hard about having such a person represent them. Say you understand she’s a cheap hack, but you’re concerned about the baseless dismissal of possible rape, and if she’d refrained from doing that, you wouldn’t be writing.

Seriously, this is some of the most infuriating advice on the topic of rape that I’ve seen. As Ray noted when she tweeted a link to the article, about the only way to make it worse would be to include some bad evo psych.

No, I don’t know that a rape occurred. I don’t know that one did not occur either, and neither does “Prudie” or the person who sent in the question. All we know is that someone who occasionally drinks to the point of memory loss originally said she blamed herself and her drinking for unwanted sex then later said she hadn’t had enough to drink to account for the situation.

There is nothing about self-blame that tells us rape hasn’t happened. Self-blame is common even among victims of violent rape by strangers. Nothing about a lack of clarity on details indicates that rape hasn’t happened. Rape is a traumatic experience, the details of which are often unclear, even without the complicating presence of intoxicants. Nothing about hesitating to call an event “rape” means rape hasn’t happened. Surveys meant to determine the frequency of both raping and having been raped turn up much higher incidences of rape when legal definitions are used instead of the word “rape.” And beyond all that, nothing about the presence of judgmental friends means rape hasn’t happened.

So, no, we don’t know that rape didn’t occur. We do know that this person called a rape crisis center about her circumstances. We do know that she’s considering subjecting herself to a criminal justice system that is notoriously hard on those who allege rape. We do know that false reporting of rape is quite rare and generally happens to get the accuser out of trouble or as retaliation for some kind of bad treatment that isn’t rape. We also know that would-be rapists are encouraged to find “drunk women who [seem] ‘innocent’ and ‘vulnerable’“.

In other words, we have good reasons to consider the possibility of rape. Given that, this answer is a travesty. “Knee-walking drunk” is not consent. It is, in fact, blatant evidence of the inability of the person in question to give legal consent. Without consent, “sex with drunk women they don’t know” is rape, plain and simple.

Then there’s this idea that it’s up to “Prudie” to determine whether there is evidence of rape prior to the complainant going to the police. It is their job, not hers, to attempt to determine whether evidence of drugging exists–beyond whatever experience already lead the complainant to say she must have been drugged. It is their job, not hers, to attempt to determine whether legal consent was given (not whether it might “be construed to” have been given, since rapists are notorious for construing consent where none exists). Then it is the job of a prosecutor to determine whether that evidence warrants prosecution and/or a plea deal. Finally, if it comes to that, it is the job of a jury to weigh that evidence. “Prudie” doesn’t get to claim any of these jobs for herself. She doesn’t have the training for them either.

To cap it all off, “Prudie”, without knowing whether rape really did occur, offers the old bromide that the woman in question just needs to drink less to make all her problems go away. It’s possible, but not terribly likely, that this is the case here. What is more likely is that “Prudie” is unthinkingly adding to the litany of those who blame rape victims by suggesting rape would be preventable if only they didn’t drink.

There isn’t one bit of this answer that isn’t horrible. Please, go ahead and write to Slate’s editors (nyoffice@slate.com) and tell them so. Feel free to use any or all of this post to tell them why.

Comments

  1. says

    “Knee-walking drunk” is not consent. It is, in fact, blatant evidence of the inability of the person in question to give legal consent. Without consent, “sex with drunk women they don’t know” is rape, plain and simple.

    This is it in a nutshell, and I don’t know why so many people have a hard time with it. A really drunk person is incapable of giving consent. By definition, that makes it rape.

  2. says

    The fact that I’ve had sex when I was blacked out (not alcohol) causes me some difficulty. I would have given consent if I wasn’t blacked out, so I am reluctant to say I was raped by my girlfriend.

  3. Ace of Sevens says

    Whether it was rape depends on additional facts that will probably be impossible to prove with any certainty, but Prudence (Emily Yoffe) is being way too dismissive here.

  4. says

    Agreed. Thinking further, at the end of some relationships it would have been a mistake for my girlfiend to assume I wanted to have sex with her.

  5. Al Stefanelli says

    She spoke to a rape crisis line, and they said even if she was drunk, she couldn’t have given consent so she was a victim of rape.

    Using that logic, I guess I was a serial rapist throughout most of my college years….

  6. says

    The assumption that a person being blindingly drunk makes them unaccountable for their decisions has some serious implications on drunk driving laws, domestic abuse and many others, so we aught to be careful with that. I also think that there is a serious double-standard when we assume that she is incapable of consent due to drinking too much, but holding the man accountable when he is presumably also inebriated at the time.

    Don’t get me wrong, if he drugged her, he raped her – it is that simple. In the more likely chance that they had sex while they were both drunk, I cannot call that rape in good conscience. Also, a rape accusation can ruin a person’s life even if they are exonerated, so the way that the system works with releasing information before a conviction leads to a guilty verdict in the court of public opinion needs to change. This is a difficult issue and an advice columnist should not be handling it in so few words, other than to recommend that the friend in question seek professional help for dealing with both the situation at hand and the underlying causes.

  7. Alecthar says

    I love advice columnists. When they’re right, they’re mostly telling someone to do something responsible that the person only doesn’t want to do because it’s difficult for them, personally or professionally. When they’re wrong, it’s ridiculous, like the above from “Prudence” or Dan Savage’s apparent inability to see someone wishing to change genders as a human being.

  8. says

    Greg, you make an interesting set of arguments. First you tell me you don’t want being drunk to be an excuse for criminal behavior. Then you excuse criminal behavior (remember that this woman is saying she didn’t consent) based on the accused being drunk. Would you kindly do me the favor of picking one of those positions?

  9. Alecthar says

    My understanding is that Greg was drawing an equivalence based on a notion of “responsibility” for one’s behavior.

    That is: A woman too drunk to consent isn’t “responsible” for her actions in engaging in sexual intercourse, whether or not she explicitly declined. Thus the other partner would be “responsible” for those actions, and it would be rape.

    By this logic it could be argued that a person could be so drunk that they are not responsbile for a poor decision like driving drunk, or assaulting their domestic partner/child.

    That’s my understanding of his argument. Please understand that I’m not in agreement with it (and could be wrong in my interpretation) just seeking to clarify it.

  10. says

    The partner is never responsible for the drunk person’s behavior. They are responsible for their own behavior, namely making sure they have clear consent.

  11. Alecthar says

    An excellent point.

    Like I said, it’s not my view, just my interpretation of his comment.

  12. says

    Mallorie, we have a situation in which one partner has already said she didn’t want to have sex. If the other partner also didn’t want to have sex…well, I’m really curious how it could have happened.

  13. says

    Alecthar, I understand. I thought it needed addressing even as a secondhand hypothetical, though. I appreciate it coming up for that reason if nothing else.

  14. says

    robertbaden, I respect your right to describe your own experiences as they feel to you.

    But I can assure you that if my husband had sex with me while I was unconscious, I would consider that rape. He actually wouldn’t be my husband if I thought he would do something like that.

  15. Marshall says

    Tell her that she needs to think very long and hard about filing a criminal complaint against this guy if there’s any way her behavior could be construed to be consensual.

    Bullshit, it doesn’t matter how things can be ‘construed’. How many times have you seen people trying to twist everything from the way a woman was dressed to the simple fact that she set foot inside a man’s house into ‘consent’ in situations where there was a CLEAR lack of consent? Why the fuck should it matter whether or not people can find some way to twist the facts to dismiss her story?

    Say you understand her shame, but you’re concerned about her drinking, and if she addresses that, she won’t find herself in such painful situations.

    Let’s try this fun little game:

    “Say you understand her shame, but you’re concerned about her fashion choices, and if she addresses those, she won’t find herself in such painful situations.”

    “Say you understand her shame, but you’re concerned about her taking the back way home, and if she addresses that, she won’t find herself in such painful situations.”

    Yeah, that’s pretty much bullshit too. Victim blaming nonsense.

    This isn’t just bad writing or poor reasoning, this is blatant reinforcement of destructive rape culture memes, and there is every reason in the world to write a strongly worded yet polite e-mail stating in no uncertain terms that this person should not be given a platform to spew this crap.

    Thanks for calling this hack out, Stephanie. We need more people willing to do so, and loudly.

  16. says

    Stephanie,

    Alecthar has interpreted me correctly, but I am not sure that you interpreted the original question correctly in the first place. The friend in question did not say that she “did not give consent”, she “spoke to a rape crisis line, and they said even if she was drunk, she couldn’t have given consent so she was a victim of rape.”

    This is the reasoning that I cannot abide by – just because she was drunk does not mean that she could not possibly have consented to sex. As Mallorie Nasrallah reiterated, it is perfectly reasonable to assume that both of them were drunk, so if she “was not able to consent” even if she had seemed to be willing (the assumption being that her inebriation makes any consent that she gave invalid) then the same rule should apply to him.

    I don’t believe that to be the case. I believe that drunk people are responsible for their actions, they chose to drink. If she chose to drink, and then made a choice she later regretted while under the influence of a substance that lowers inhibitions, she is responsible for that choice. Had she gotten behind the wheel of a car and killed somebody, she would be responsible for that action, and I see no reason there should be a difference between choosing to drive a car or engage in coitus.

    If, on the other hand, she was drugged, she was passed out, the man’s actions were predatory in a way outside of normal social mating ritual conventions would have them be, or if she said no or explicitly did not give consent, she was raped. If she did none of these things, she may have been taken advantage of, exploited or coerced, but she was not raped.

  17. says

    robertbaden, I just realized that you may not have meant unconscious by the term “blacked-out,” but I will stand by my post for any interpretation I can think of for the phrase.

  18. Ace of Sevens says

    I think what Greg is arguing is that if someone is capable of forming intent when drunk, then they should also be capable of consenting. Since, from a legal standpoint, people can form intent when drunk, a categorical statement that drunk people can’t consent, as the letter-writer claims was given by the rape crisis hotline, is at least inconsistent with how we treat drunkenness in general.

    However, the claim doesn’t seem to be that she gave consent while drunk, but has now decided that her consent was illegitimate. It’s that she didn’t consent and didn’t want sex, but was too drunk to put up any resistance. That definitely would be rape.

    Unless someone in the bar was paying a lot of attention to what she and this guy were doing, remembers what happened and the police find this witness (or the perp is stupid and/or feels guilty and confesses everything to the cops), it probably won’t go anywhere in court.

    The writer’s friend may very well be an alcoholic who needs to drink less, or at least in more controlled settings. She may have even given enthusiastic consent, then not remembered because she had so much to drink, but there’s no way Prudie is justified in jumping to this conclusion. Based on my experience with problem drinkers, they may start fights, show serious cracks in their heterosexual facade, or even beg for sex, then not remember, but they don’t jump on people they would normally object to sleeping with. (Except for closeting type issues, but that’s not what this sounds like.)

  19. says

    In a preemptive response to the “blaming the victim” accusation that will surely be laid against me:

    I am not blaming her for being raped, I am questioning if she was raped at all. The assumption here is all based of the advice from the rape hotline that told her she could not have consented if she was drunk. I reject that notion and furthermore assert that if drinking removes one’ ability to consent, nearly every sexual encounter between twenty-something singles is non-consensual. Drinking is part of the culture and nearly every date among young people includes a few glasses of wine or a couple of beers, to take the edge off.

  20. says

    Ace, it is not at all inconsistent with how we treat intoxication. We offer a fair amount of protection to those with something to lose by intoxication (such as those who might sign a contract while legally incapacitated). We offer none to those whose behavior while intoxicated has negative effects for others.

  21. says

    Greg, I spent a paragraph on the reasons besides being drunk that this woman should be taken seriously when she says she didn’t give her consent. See the one that starts by talking about the fact that she called a rape crisis line.

    If all you can see is that she was given some specific legal advice there, and you want to have some big argument about that principle being more important than everything else we’re talking about–go away. Go find some lawmakers to talk to.

  22. Ace of Sevens says

    Stephanie, I’m not sure what you are getting at with the FBI link. It gives a definition of rape that I don’t think anyone is contesting. Greg is disputing whether drunk people can give consent, which it doesn’t seem to address.

    The usual rape apologist trick here is to try to characterize lack of clear rejection as implicit consent, but I don’t think that’s what Greg’s going for. He’s saying drunk people can and do give clear, enthusiastic consent. I’m not clear on whether you dispute that this happens, are arguing that this isn’t real consent or you actually agree with him but suspect he’s trying to frame the issue in a way that lets him reach other conclusions you wouldn’t agree with.

  23. EvN says

    I think we are completely missing the point.

    The question was: “I’m not sure on what my response should be at this point. Pretend she never told me the original story?”

    Should the man be charged, should the friend keep quiet?

    Of course not.

  24. Anonymous says

    Thank you, Stephanie.

    A similar incident happened to me 17 years ago. I went to hang out with a guy I had a crush on and a few of his friends. A girlfriend was supposed to join us, but she never showed. After we all sat around talking for awhile, the boys went into a room together. I was curious what they were talking about, but I was young and naive. They returned with a shot glass. I took the shot of alcohol and soon blacked out. I woke up to being assaulted by four young men, going in and out of consciousness. Once they were done with me, they put me in a car and drove. I started hitting them randomly and screaming. They hit back. Hard. In the head. They slowed down and threw me out of the moving vehicle into the snowy lawn of an upscale neighborhood. I lied in the snow crying. I assume they got worried I would walk to one of the houses for help so they came back and got me and took me home. Once home, I immediately called a my ex-boyfriend and he called the police. I was swiftly taken away to the the station for a report. My mind was fuzzy. I couldn’t remember all of the names of the boys. I told the officer I was drinking. I never mentioned how much. I mentioned that I had a crush on one of the boys. I admitted that I freely went into a room with one of the boys and kissed him before I passed out. There were so many things I left out, because I was traumatized and I had been intoxicated just hours before. The officer told me that I had no case and that was the end of it. The large bumps and bruises were hidden under my hair. The light bruise on my eye showed up later. My friends didn’t believe me, because these were the popular boys in school and “could get any girls they wanted.” “Why would they rape someone?” Weeks later, a male friend of the boys admitted to me that they had told him they had drugged and raped several girls. He told me he would never go to the police, because they were his friends. I was left feeling guilty and suicidal.

    After a traumatic experience, one’s testimony should be taken immediately and then taken again later when one has a sound mind.

  25. says

    http://motherjones.com/mojo/2012/01/fbi-changes-definition-rape As Stephanie Zvan notes, the FBI has finally updated the legal definition of rape.

    Blaming the victim is something that has been done since men first started raping women. It was her clothing, her choice of where to walk, how she walked, how she talked, etc and now its that she drank. I challenge you to put yourself in the woman’s shoes – if you have a drink and someone rapes you, are you going to shrug it off and tell yourself you had it coming? That you brought it on yourself? That rape is a suitable punishment for intoxication?

    You probably don’t like where the conversation is at because you are guilty of doing the same thing as that man. http://jezebel.com/5404064/rapists-admit-repeated-crimes–as-long-as-you-dont-call-it-rape “1) Have you ever attempted unsuccessfully to have intercourse with an adult by force or threat of force?
    2) Have you ever had sexual intercourse with someone who did not want you to because they were too intoxicated to resist?
    3) Have you ever had intercourse with someone by force or threat of force?
    4) Have you ever had oral intercourse with someone by force or threat of force?

    As the Sexist’s Amanda Hess points out, you’d think no guy would admit to any of these acts. But 120 respondents, or 6% of the sample (which, by the way, was ethnically diverse, and included older students, up to the age of 71), answered yes to at least one of the questions. 76 of those men had committed more than one rape or attempted rape — these recidivists averaged 5.8 offenses. That is, writes Millar, “just 4% of the men surveyed committed over 400 attempted or completed rapes.””

    Re-evaluate your thinking on this, because you are wrong. Rape is rape, no matter how you try to twist it. And its never the victim’s fault nor should it be her responsibility to be not-raped. It is the responsibility of men to STOP RAPING!*

    *Don’t even try to go down the ‘women rape too’ path. Its extremely rare AND the victim is never blamed when a woman rapes.

  26. Marshall says

    I am not blaming her for being raped, I am questioning if she was raped at all. The assumption here is all based of the advice from the rape hotline that told her she could not have consented if she was drunk.

    First of all, you’re assuming that the person writing in and asking for advice is giving an accurate description of what the hotline said, and given that it’s unlikely that said person was present when the conversation took place, I’d say that’s not a good assumption. Secondly, if a woman is black out drunk in your house, the appropriate thing to do is say to yourself “you know, this person is heavily intoxicated, and therefore her decision making abilities are heavily compromised, so I’m not going to have sex with this woman, because this is pretty shaky territory to be entering.” No, being drunk doesn’t absolve you of responsibility for your actions, but there is some standard that needs to be applied to the actions of people in their dealings with highly intoxicated individuals.

  27. San Ban says

    Yoffe didn’t just talk dismiss the woman’s rape claim on the grounds that she was drunk, she engaged in perpetuating the nasty and dangerous idea that good girls don’t get raped. She advises that, if the woman exercises “self-control” and stops drinking so much, she won’t get raped. I hope Ms Yoffe never finds herself in the situation of questioning her own every action, word, choice to see if she were the one to blame for having been sexually assaulted. Shame on her!

  28. Ace of Sevens says

    I think we’re in danger of conflating two issue here:

    1. Was this particular case rape?
    2. Is drunken sex always rape?

    On 1, I can’t know for sure. It’s a second-hand account and missing some information because the letter-writer doesn’t seem overly concerned about whether her friend was raped. I can come up with some vaguely plausible scenarios where it isn’t, but it sounds mighty rapey to me.

    On 2, I’d have to say no. People have drunken, consensual sex all the time. In some circles, it may very well be more common than sober sex. What’s incredibly rare is for someone to have consensual sex when drunk, then later decide it was rape. I won’t say it never happens but without a lot of specific information about the situation, this is not a reasonable conclusion to draw.

  29. Ace of Sevens says

    Actually, on a re-read, I think I’m being too harsh on the letter-writer. Prudie deserves all of the ire here.

  30. says

    There isn’t one bit of this answer that isn’t horrible.

    There isn’t one bit of your analysis that isn’t spot-on. This is an excellent piece of commentary.

  31. says

    rochelle, men do get blamed on those occasions that adult women rape adult men. They get blamed for different things, like not being able to physically stop the rape, but they do get blamed.

    Ace, upon rereading, it seems that Greg has some clear picture in his head of what must have happened in this case that isn’t consistent with “I must have been drugged”. No one, however, is saying that drunken sex is always rape. The intoxicated may understand what is going on and consent, just as someone who is intoxicated may agree wholeheartedly with the contract they’re signing. However, they may not, and the person who tries to rely on that consent (or that contract) is in a lot of trouble because they got it from someone not legally in a position to give it.

  32. says

    If you would take 3 minutes to read the links provided regarding the FBI’s update to the legal definition of rape, you will see that it IS rape when either party is intoxicated. Men in particular should be happy with the updated definition – under the prior definition, men couldn’t be raped in any legal sense so male on male rape wasn’t illegal.

  33. Alecthar says

    The contract analogy seems like a good test. If you feel like you could get someone to sign over their life savings to you with a little coaxing, they’re too drunk to consent.

    I don’t mean that flippantly, it seems like a solid process. Anyone you feel you could convince to do something counter to their own principles/interest with little effort isn’t fit to consent to sex, regardless of what they say. Maybe their consent would be consistent with what their actions would have been sober, but that’s immaterial.

  34. says

    I have read both FBI links provided and I still stand by my defense that just because she was drunk does not mean that she was raped. I stated categorically that if he drugged her, if he had sex with her while she was unconscious or if she otherwise withheld consent, it was rape. As a few people have pointed out, drunk people frequently and enthusiastically consent to sex and sometimes regret the decision when they are sober, but I do not think that that excuses their actions. In the case of the contract signing, it is non-binding because it has long-term commitments and because, presumably, it is done in a predatory manner by a sober party.

    The FBI definition is “Penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim.” Nowhere in that is “consent” defined as “stone sober, written agreement in the party of witnesses” as is often the case with contracts. My entire argument here boils down to the fact that, given the information we have and the evidence presented, there is no way to convict this man of rape. She may very well have given her consent and not remembered it and he was likely to be just as intoxicated as her. It seems that she told her close friend that she had sex while she was drunk and was ashamed, but then changed her story with time to portray herself in a better light. I am not saying that there is no way that she was raped, but given the circumstantial second-hand evidence we have available I couldn’t convict.

  35. Ace of Sevens says

    Greg. I agree, but the question to Prudie isn’t what a juror should do, but what her friend should do.

  36. says

    Rochelle,

    Given your criteria:

    1) Have you ever attempted unsuccessfully to have intercourse with an adult by force or threat of force?
    2) Have you ever had sexual intercourse with someone who did not want you to because they were too intoxicated to resist?
    3) Have you ever had intercourse with someone by force or threat of force?
    4) Have you ever had oral intercourse with someone by force or threat of force?

    I still do not see evidence that this occurred (once again, not saying it couldn’t have), nor that this occurs every time people who have been drinking have sex, which is what you implied when you said “you will see that it IS rape when either party is intoxicated.”

  37. says

    Thankfully, for all womankind, you aren’t the one defining rape. The excuse of ‘this is always how we fucked in the past’ doesn’t hold water. We’ve done a lot of things in our past that are considered morally reprehensible now, and rightly so. If you cannot accept that it is rape to have sex with a person who is too intoxicated to consent, perhaps you can accept that if you think and act like raping an intoxicated person isn’t rape but you will still get prosecuted for doing so, maybe that will be enough to change your behavior.

    Seriously, your refusal to accept what is rape is concerning and makes me strongly suspect that you have raped intoxicated women in your past, but like most other rapists, you are ok with doing it, but not with having your behavior labeled correctly – ie, that you raped a woman (or women) when they were intoxicated. http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/blogs/sexist/2009/11/12/rapists-who-dont-think-theyre-rapists/

    and
    http://jezebel.com/5409234/whats-being-taught-in-college-rape-prevention-programs

    “One of the reasons I enjoyed the Yes Means Yes! anthology and blog (full disclosure: I’m one of the contributors) is this idea of enthusiastic consent. So often, questions of consent hinge upon hearing “no” as in “she never said no” or “I didn’t hear her say stop.” Yes Means Yes reframes that idea, positioning that the absence of no should not be taken as consent, and that only a full, enthusiastic yes leads to a positive sexual experience for both partners.”

  38. says

    No, I haven’t. And as you may suspect, yes, I was raped. I hosted a party in my own home, passed out in my own bed with my own boyfriend and a guest snuck into our bedroom and raped me. I did report it, and the police did arrest him, both for rape and for DWI. The county attorney refused to press charges – she said that it was the county’s (Hennepin, MN – most populous in the state) policy to not prosecute rape charges when the victim had been drinking because juries won’t convict in that case.

    Your (and others’) attitude is the reason why the man who raped me didn’t get into any trouble for raping me. In fact, he got into much more trouble for the DWI than the rape. Your attitude needs to change, as does other people’s attitude when it comes to tolerating rape as long as you can invent some reason to blame the victim.

    Shame on Prudie, shame on you, and shame on anyone who thinks it more important to blame the victim than the rapist.

  39. John Horstman says

    Awwww fuck. I’m going to go ahead and complicate the hell out of this.

    @Stephanie (#16): Actually we don’t have one person who says she didn’t want to have sex, we have one person who says she currently wants to have not had sex. The letter doesn’t speak to how she was feeling/acting while she was drunk and at the guy’s place. How could the sex have happened? Both parties could have been drunk, unable to evaluate the other’s drunkenness because of their own, and desirous of sexual activity at that point. Then the next day, at least one of them regrets it and feels violated (I’m not questioning the legitimacy of that feeling). Here’s the problem with constructing laws (or universal moral/ethical pronouncements) about this: IF they were both in a similar state of intoxication (we don’t know, but I’m speaking to Greg’s scenario), it’s unfair to expect one or both to a)know in advance that the other person is going to regret the sex or feel violated the next day when that person appears to be actively engaged and consenting at the time, and b)it’s unfair to give one party’s actions (consent and sex) more validity than the other party’s identical actions. If we’re saying that no one can legally consent when intoxicated, then both parties are guilty of rape in that scenario, irrespective of whether one, both, or neither regrets the sex or feels violated after the fact.

    Such a universal assertion (intoxicated people are incapable of consent) also denies agency to, well, a whole fucking lot of people. If I LIKE to have sex when I’m drunk, who are you to tell me that’s not okay, that if I do so, I’m being raped (irrespective of my subjective experience – in fact, if you want to assert that it’s still rape even if I really like it and seek it out, then you’re adding validity to the idea that people can like being raped)? If I make a decision when I’m sober to have drunk sex later on, doing so is still rape (consent is an ongoing process, after all), but it’s still weird to claim that I’m a non-consenting victim (survivor?) when I’m consciously acting on a decision I made while sober. The point is, it’s possible for people to have sex while drunk and not experience it as rape (and in fact to experience it as great), so it becomes problematic to classify all drunk sex as rape by default.

    This situation could easily be a guy taking advantage of and raping a very drunk woman. It could also not be. If one is raped while drunk, one is still raped – intoxication in no way excuses the rapist. But unless we’re going to proclaim that no one ever should have not-sober sex, it’s problematic to say that drunkenness=rape. (What if the guy WAS drunk in this case? Should this young woman really have to go through being prosecuted for rape for fucking him?) This is nowhere NEAR as clear-cut as some claim. Rape is always wrong, fucking someone who is clearly intoxicated beyond the point of meaningful consent is definitely rape, and ideally everyone would not have all sorts of hang-ups around sex that make asserting sexual agency and discussing plans for drunken sexy times while sober awkward/difficult/not done nearly as much as they should be. That doesn’t mean that consent is always clear, and it doesn’t mean that it’s possible to effectively legislate in such a way that both makes all cases of rape illegal (always still wrong) and preserves the agency of people who decide to become intoxicated. I really do object to being labeled both a rapist and rape victim/survivor for the times that I’ve had sex (that was mutually consensual and enjoyable before, during, and after the fact) while intoxicated and with someone who was intoxicated, and I know a whole lot of other people feel that way (perhaps even you: have you ever had drunk – you, your partner, or both – sex that you don’t consider rape? I’m not actually fishing for an answer – your sex life is, obviously, none of my business unless you choose to make it such).

    Finally, I think questioning the letter-writer’s friend’s account of her experience is problematic. If she (the friend) says she was raped because she didn’t give consent, and especially if she thinks she was drugged, I think we (including the letter-writer) should believe her, especially if there are no claims that she DID give consent to sexual activity and wasn’t drugged (and we don’t have any – we haven’t heard what either of the primary parties thinks directly from them). Prudie is definitely being an asshole by questioning the LW’s friend’s account, and perpetuating rape myths.

    @19: Okay, now I’m just being contrarian (because I know that this isn’t what you’re talking about), but…

    Let’s try this fun little game:

    “Say you understand her shame, but you’re concerned about her fashion choices, and if she addresses those, she won’t find herself in such painful situations.”

    What if her fashion choices are nudity with big Sharpie letters on her stomach and back that say, “Please fuck me! I’m serious! I want you to have sex with me, right now!”? Do her fashion choices imply or even directly state consent then? We’re (potentially, I’m not entirely sure why we’re talking in hypotheticals without a whole lot of information) discussing a situation here where a woman gave consent to sexual activity while intoxicated, so it might be more fair to compare it to a situation where her ‘clothing’ (hell, how about a t-shirt with that written as opposed to nudity and Sharpie) really does indicate consent, but of questionable validity.

    Victim blaming is bullshit, and clothing is not consent (nor is entering someone’s house, smiling at someone, etc.), but you’re sort of mis-constructing the comment to which you’re responding. You’re making a bad analogy.

  40. Ace of Sevens says

    @rochelleinselman

    I think you may be begging the question here. What does it mean for someone to be too drunk to consent? Does “yes” mean yes (and the fact they are able to give a clear yes means they aren’t too drunk to consent) or should “yes” be discounted in some circumstances? If so, how do we determine whether a given situation is one of these circumstances? Is the moral bar higher than the legal one and should it be? This seems to be what Greg is hung up on.

    @ Greg

    I see your point, but its connection to this case seems tenuous at best. We have a rather sparse second-hand account. Trying to speculate about facts not mentioned from this doesn’t seem justified. It’s possible the friend said yes, forgot because she was drunk, the guy had an equal level of consent and intoxication, but then she regretted her actions and mistakenly concluded she hadn’t given consent because she couldn’t remember clearly, but it’s a huge leap to conclude this based on the letter alone, especially since all statistical evidence points to this being a rare scenario. It also isn’t terribly relevant to the writer’s question about how to best support her friend.

  41. John Horstman says

    Well, it looks like a lot of my points were addressed while I was carefully composing my comment. As has been stated a lot, neither we nor Prudie have enough info to determine what happened. What the LW’s friend might want to be careful about is whether the guy was drunk – if he was, she’s legally guilty of rape too, and even (especially!) if he was taking advantage of her or ignored her direct non-consent, he could press charges himself out of vindictiveness if she presses charges. This is in no way okay, and (if she was raped) I’m not blaming her, I’m suggesting she should consider her own potential legal liability for the sake of her own protection. Sex laws are extremely problematic – ideally, everyone would just treat each other with respect and we wouldn’t have such a sex-negative culture, such that most of our sex laws would be unnecessary, and all cases of rape/assault would be entirely clear.

  42. says

    John, common sense and self-preservation should be enough to not have sex with someone who is likely that mentally unstable (naked but for Sharpie fumes). (this is an attempt at humor, btw.)

    I think the issue of consent is fraught with peril, a path of daggers, etc. In a just and logical world, people would not have sex with an intoxicated stranger/person* because a. its wrong & b. fear of prosecution & punishment if the assumption of consent was incorrect.

    Its not a just world and that doesn’t happen.

    *Its an easier mental exercise for some to think of the other person as a stranger so that issues of prior consent aren’t an issue. In reality, it doesn’t matter. Each act of sex is a discrete entity, subject to the same rules of consent.

    The ‘she was asking for it’ examples and exercises are nothing but the lame excuses of people who want to avoid rape charges. Often brought up at this point are the: ‘she wrote fuck me on herself, she has a rape fantasy, she wants me to rape her’ examples of why rape isn’t rape. But see, its not rape if it is consensual. Its BDSM.

  43. says

    I think the law is quite clear – intoxicated people can’t give consent. The law doesn’t make clear what level of intoxication is where the line can be drawn, so I think it would be safest to say *any* amount of intoxication = inability to consent.

    Is it really so hard to just not have sex with a drunk person? Being raped completely killed my sex drive but I can’t remember B.R. (before rape) ever being unable to stop myself from having sex with any drunk man or woman I came across. Booze fumes were never an undeniable pheromone that caused me to have sexual congress with anyone or anything I could get naked.

    Have I ever had sex (on purpose) while intoxicated? Sure, and I bet almost everyone has. I know there isn’t a firm line that can be drawn where we can say, yep, that is rape or nope, that is just a wasted couple off getting their freak on. Having experienced rape, my perspective on drunk sex has changed radically. It may not always be rape, but it is always a BAD IDEA.

  44. Ace of Sevens says

    Is it really so hard to just not have sex with a drunk person?

    If everyone in your social circle is an alcoholic, then yes.

  45. Ace of Sevens says

    A bit of research shows that we are on our third Prudie already. Maybe it’s time for a fourth.

  46. LeftSidePositive says

    As for all the “but he was probably drunk, too!” nonsense. This really shouldn’t be hard:

    1) You are responsible for what you DO while drunk, not what IS DONE to you.

    2) It is physically possible to do things while drunk, and you are responsible for them and their effects on others (e.g., drunk driving).

    3) Consent is allowing something to be done to you, it is therefore not DOING something in the physical world.

    4) It is not ethically or logically possible to consent to things while drunk, because consent is a state of mind, for which you need a working mind.

    5) Any actions categorizable as “going along with” rather than acting as an independent agent, is a question of consent, not action, because it depends on your ability to understand and react to the world around you, and nothing would happen if another agent weren’t acting.

    Therefore, a person who actively initiates and engages in sex is responsible, no matter what their blood alcohol level, because the physical sex-having is something you DO (for which you are responsible). This is not “consenting,” which is a state of mind, this is taking it upon yourself to do something, which is an act of the body.

    In contrast, a passive person to whom sex happens or who “goes along with” sex rather than pursuing it actively, is NOT responsible, because that is a question of what IS DONE to that person.

    By the way, can we bury this, “Of course, if she was drugged, then it was rape, but this seems like just alcohol.” ALCOHOL IS A DRUG. In fact, it is the single most-common sexual assault drug, and it can cause severe effects, even to people relatively used to it (esp. if the quantities are different than they realize). Taking advantage of someone’s incapacitated mental state, no matter what the intoxicant was, is wrong.

  47. Ace of Sevens says

    In contrast, a passive person to whom sex happens or who “goes along with” sex rather than pursuing it actively, is NOT responsible, because that is a question of what IS DONE to that person.

    I don’t think anyone is disputing this. The question is whether that’s what happened in this particular case. Greg doesn’t seem to be arguing that the guy thought it was okay because she didn’t say no, but that she said yes, then forgot due the effects of acute intoxication. Or at least, that’s the only way to construe the argument that makes sense tome.

    Arguing they were both drunk only gets you so far as sex doesn’t just happen (unless you want to posit an even less likely scenario). It must be actively pursued by at least one of the participants. The person or persons who pursued sex are responsible for their actions. If he is arguing they both pursued sex, then I would say that wouldn’t be rape, but saying that’s what happened here with any degree of certainty involves a lot of unwarranted assumptions. If they were equally drunk, but he pursued sex and she was passive, then it is rape, even if she was essentially conscious. The first scenario happens all the time, but rarely leads to anyone thinking they were raped. Based on her behavior, this latter seems more likely, though I can’t be particularly confident about this.

    I’m curious as to why Greg is reaching the conclusions he is and how that is relevant to the advice he thinks should have been given, which was the question at hand.

  48. says

    Further down the derailment…

    I think a major problem with all of this *waves arms about* is the general anti-feminist stance in almost all societies. Women aren’t supposed to actively seek out sex – only sluts do that. Women aren’t supposed to enjoy sex – only sluts like sex. So if a woman actually *wants* to have sex, she needs to create a societal acceptable reason to have sex, other than her own desire. Enter, demon booze.

    It IS socially acceptable to have sex because you were ‘lawl so wasted I can’t believe I did that’ and its not acceptable to ‘omg, I was so horny so I did the stockboy from the grocers’.

    Women are supposed to play coy and demure and men are supposed to aggressively pursue them and coax women to give in. The whole situation is setup for abuse, conflict, misunderstandings, and Bad Things.

    And yes, the so called friend LW is a total arsehole. And yes, Prudie is (lawl) prudish and wrong to have given the advice she did.

    I think the crucial part of this specific example is this: “She spoke to a rape crisis line, and they said even if she was drunk, she couldn’t have given consent so she was a victim of rape.” She was drunk, couldn’t give consent, contacted a rape expert and was told that her gut reaction (that she was assaulted) was correct – she had been raped.

    Saying that she wasn’t raped is like telling Doctor House you are sure the patient has Lupus. (in case you don’t get the reference, it means you are telling an expert that your layman opinion trumps their educated diagnosis. Or simply, You Are Wrong.)

  49. LeftSidePositive says

    @Ace of Stevens #55,

    I’m saying that even saying “yes” is not valid if you are drunk–that consent isn’t valid when one is too drunk for a state of mind to mean anything. If she got on top of him, grabbed him, stripped him, or whatever (of her own action, not responding to whatever he was already doing), then yeah, she’d be an active and therefore responsible party. This seems highly unlikely given what little information we have. But saying “yes” doesn’t lead to sex unless someone else actually initiates the mechanics, and that person is responsible.

  50. Greg B says

    @LeftSidePositive,

    So you are saying that, since men have a penis and women do not, if both are equally intoxicated and have expressed a desire to have sexual intercourse, the man raped the woman?

    I don’t know about you, but in my opinion if the woman isn’t “doing” anything during sex, you are doing it wrong.

    @WMDkitty,

    This is EXACTLY the mentality that inspired my original comment. I was questioning the double standard and the court of public opinion on how it effects men accused of rape. The only question that matters was whether she was raped at all, what other question could there be? The fact that you believe the question to be irrelevant or possibly worse than blaming the victim of the rape just shows that in your mind, those accused of rape are guilty, and they get no trial for an opportunity to even be proven innocent.

    @Rochelle

    “Seriously, your refusal to accept what is rape is concerning and makes me strongly suspect that you have raped intoxicated women in your past, but like most other rapists, you are ok with doing it, but not with having your behavior labeled correctly – ie, that you raped a woman (or women) when they were intoxicated.”

    Wow. That is offensive to a very high degree. Do you want to know the real reason that I am sensitive to this issue? [ED: Highly personal details removed at Greg's request, as he will no longer be participating in this thread.]

  51. says

    The only question that matters was whether she was raped at all, what other question could there be?

    The question of how we behave when we just don’t know, which is what this post is about. You’ve done an excellent job of derailing that over your personal issues, however, Greg, even after I told you to go away. Now you’re gone whether you like it or not.

  52. Philip Legge says

    John, amongst your teal deer complication apologetics, I seized on this:

    If I LIKE to have sex when I’m drunk, who are you to tell me that’s not okay

    Compare with:

    If I LIKE to drive when I’m drunk, who are you to tell me that’s not okay

    Some similarities should be immediately obvious:

    Being under the influence of alcohol increases risk factors for activities which already have known risks. No one’s telling you you mustn’t do it, but it’s pretty damn inadvisable given the possible consequences.

    For example, in the driving example, if you happened to have a private road where no one else on the road can be involved in a multiple car collision, then it would be your own lookout. Out on the public roads, you’re at risk of harming other people.

    Where the comparison breaks down is as follows: in driving, a sober person can be involved in an accident which is usually the fault of the intoxicated driver. Whereas if sex has been initiated with a partner who is incapable of giving informed consent owing to intoxication and/or has denied consent then it’s not their fault that they’ve been raped; it’s the fault of the person who initiated sex (who may themselves been sober or drunk).

    Please don’t respond with the “grey area” defence that a person may enthusiastically consent when drunk while if they were sober they would have thought differently about not wanting sex: basically, if someone is an advocate of “grey area” sex, and they practice it regularly, then they should also be owning up to the fact that on a statistical basis, at least some proportion of the time they will actually be committing rape.

  53. says

    Greg, you are clearly insane or mentally deficient. There is no question whatsoever that what you did was rape. All the garnishments you are trying to add to your self-report of an incident of rape make no difference at all – there are NO extenuating circumstances for rape. You had sex with a woman who was far too intoxicated (beyond a shadow of a doubt, too intoxicated) to give consent, which is the very definition of rape. It doesn’t matter if you don’t like or don’t agree with the law. Much like evolution, the law doesn’t rely on your belief, acceptance, or understanding to be.

    You are a rapist. End of story.

  54. says

    rochelle, I think you may need to step out of the conversation as well. If a drunk person had to be persuaded to have sex he didn’t want to have and wouldn’t have had sober, he isn’t the rapist.

  55. Ace of Sevens says

    Saying that she wasn’t raped is like telling Doctor House you are sure the patient has Lupus. (in case you don’t get the reference, it means you are telling an expert that your layman opinion trumps their educated diagnosis. Or simply, You Are Wrong.)

    I don’t think this analogy works. We don’t have an opinion from a rape crisis counselor. We have an account of what someone who wrote a letter says her friend told her a rape crisis counselor said. It’s third hand. In fact, I suspect a lot of the side-tracking is due to this getting garbled in transmission.

    You could construe it as meaning that drunk people have no ability to consent to sex and sex without consent is rape, therefore anyone who has sex while drunk has been raped. Given that her friend had sex while drunk, she must have been raped and presumably the other party is a rapist. This does seem to be how LW construes what the counselor said it and it’s certainly how Prudie took it. This is very shaky reasoning, because it calls a lot of situations rape that none of the involved parties would characterize that way and opens it up to scenarios where two people can rape each other, which would buy us nothing, legally.

    The problem is that this is all a diversion. We aren’t dealing with a situation where two people got drunk and some third party called it rape. We are dealing with a situation where a woman thinks she was raped. I suspect that what the rape crisis counselor said is being quote-mined (like trying to present a specific statement about circumstances that may not have even made it into the letter as if it were a general pronouncement) or otherwise misrepresented. It’s also possible the counselor was wrong.

    I can understand why people don’t want to let a false claim stand, even if it’s irrelevant to the argument, but we shouldn’t lose site of the fact that it isn’t really relevant here. Even if the counselor concluded that the friend was raped based on faulty reasoning, it has no bearing on what happened. The friend already thought there was a strong possibility, at least, that she was raped, or she wouldn’t have called the counselor in the first place.

    Not that anyone has defended Prudie here, but “tell your friend to quite being a whore,” is never helpful advice, regardless of what the question was. (I assert this is a fair paraphrase.) Since the way LW was interpreting what the counselor allegedly said may very well have been part of the problem, it would have been appropriate to address it briefly and make sure LW understands that her friend’s belief that she was raped doesn’t hinge on what some stranger told her, but the thrust of the advice should have been explaining why accounts can legitimately change and how to be supportive.

    I suppose one could also reverse your analogy and saying that she doesn’t need to keep drinking is trying to trump Prudence’s advice columnist expertise with your layman’s opinion, but I suspect they just give these columns to the best bullshitter who can keep a deadline. Yoffe’s credentials seem to consist of a journalism degree. Other than writing the Prudence column, her most notable bit of journalism seems to be AGW denialism.

  56. debbaasseerr says

    Notice how Prudie does the “yes, but” too.

    “Yes, I don’t think men should rape drunk women.
    But, drunk women don’t count. So don’t drink!”

  57. says

    Deb, as someone who has spent the last 7 years in therapy…that made me laugh and laugh! One of the first things therapy tries to teach you is to get rid of all the ‘buts’. :p

  58. Beth says

    Greg:The assumption that a person being blindingly drunk makes them unaccountable for their decisions has some serious implications on drunk driving laws, domestic abuse and many others, so we aught to be careful with that.

    I think you are misinterpreting what the rape crises center said. Many years ago (back in the early 80’s) I did volunteer work with a rape crisis hotline. One thing I remember from our training was never to disagree with a caller about whether or not they were raped. It didn’t matter what they might have said or done prior to the event. We were to provide emotional support. Whether or not if would meet the legal definition of rape was immaterial.

    What they said should not be construed as any sort of a legal standard or definition, but as an emotionally supportive response to a distraught woman.

  59. LeftSidePositive says

    To correct a few misconceptions I don’t want polluting the thread:

    So you are saying that, since men have a penis and women do not, if both are equally intoxicated and have expressed a desire to have sexual intercourse, the man raped the woman?

    No. This is a blitheringly embarrassing strawman. I said there is a difference in responsibility between a person agreeing to/going along with sex, versus a person taking definite, physical action towards making sex happen. This is why you’re responsible for what you DO–I think I made this pretty damn clear when I talked about “the physical sex-having” and “an act of the body” versus a “state of mind.”

    If two people just “express a desire to have sexual intercourse” but no one actually DOES anything, they’ll just be staring awkwardly at each other. I’m advocating accountability toward the people who DO things, for the results of their actions in the physical world.

    By the way, it is insulting and dishonest to use the language of empowerment to advance fucked-up regressive gender roles. Why is it that, for men, “expressing a desire” apparently includes physically acting on someone else’s body, while for women it just means verbally communicating? Why is it with all my scrupulously gender-neutral language about who is acting and who is being acted upon, it is apparently assumed above that the intrinsic and appropriate state of affairs is that the man is the one doing, “since men have a penis,” and the woman is the one done to?

    I don’t know about you, but in my opinion if the woman isn’t “doing” anything during sex, you are doing it wrong.

    You know, I always find it odd that commenters who love to blur the lines of consent all of a sudden turn around and boast about how enthusiastic their partners are…

  60. LeftSidePositive says

    Aaaand another thing:

    Can we elaborate a bit more about the “equal intoxication” assumption?

    It seems to me that if one party is so intoxicated ze don’t remember anything at all the next day, and the other party can wax poetic on all the details of the Faustian temptation of zir immortal soul at the critical moment, perhaps the one who was clearly in a vastly more competent state might be a bit more responsible? Especially when the uber-drunk one is only asking for sex (albeit repeatedly) and it’s when the moderately-drunk one throws zir morals to the wind and actually physically takes action that the sex happens?

    It’s cases like this that make the “don’t have sex with a drunk person” maxim all the more important. If you can’t tell the difference between taking advantage of a drunk person and mutually enjoyable “buzzed” sex, then don’t go there. If you are too drunk to competently identify how drunk the other person is, don’t start making sex happen. Basic public safety advice: If you’re too far gone to drive a car, don’t ride a person.

  61. Pnambic says

    Like just about everyone else in America, you folks seem to be forgetting the concepts of “presumed innocent” and “reasonable doubt”. The “victim” herself, according to the first letter, does not know for sure if she gave consent or not. That, by itself, should be a show-stopper for any legal action.

    You are also presuming that the man in question did take advantage of her intoxication, ignoring the fact that you can drink yourself stupid and black out AFTER giving consent, and not remember it. I’ve been there myself.

    As for “the guy must have put something in her drink”, unless she has some kind of evidence for that, we *must* presume he did not.

    I think Prudence was spot-on, and I see a lot of folks grinding their own axes here rather than responding to what was actually written and actually asked of Prudence.

  62. says

    Perhaps I missed the part of our legal standards where we must treat the accuser as guilty of something until the accused is convicted. No? Oh, well, then maybe you want to reread the part of the post where I pointed out that determining whether evidence exists to establish guilt or innocence isn’t “Prudie’s” job, and certainly not in the absence of an actual investigation. That applies to you as well, Pnambic.

  63. Ace of Sevens says

    Like just about everyone else in America, you folks seem to be forgetting the concepts of “presumed innocent” and “reasonable doubt”. The “victim” herself, according to the first letter, does not know for sure if she gave consent or not. That, by itself, should be a show-stopper for any legal action.

    If the letter had begun “Dear Prudie, I’m an Assistant District Attorney who is having trouble deciding whether to file charges,” this would be relevant. Given the letter that was actually sent, what advice would you have given?

    Stephanie, you should send your letter into Prudie and see what happens.

  64. LeftSidePositive says

    @Pnambic, “Innocent until proven guilty” is a legal standard, not a social one. Socially, we must establish certain behavior as unacceptable even if it can’t be proven and punished legally. Here’s a simple thought experiment: would you allow O.J. Simpson in your house? Robert Blake? Casey Anthony?

    Also, in a proper world things get INVESTIGATED if the truth is unclear. Discouraging from someone from either making an accusation or supporting a friend is not maintaining “innocent until proven guilty” it is a bullying tactic to prevent victims to even feel comfortable seeking justice in the first place.

    Moreover, in your zeal to insist that you’re, like, totally the first one ever to come and tell us all about “innocent until proven guilty,” you’ve kinda missed a pretty interesting discussion on what consent means, and how consent isn’t valid if someone is too drunk to remember it.

  65. Marshall says

    In my own defense, because I missed this at first, I just want to make one thing clear regarding my comment earlier, specifically because of @45:

    Victim blaming is bullshit, and clothing is not consent (nor is entering someone’s house, smiling at someone, etc.), but you’re sort of mis-constructing the comment to which you’re responding. You’re making a bad analogy.

    I don’t think it was a bad analogy, not as it was originally presented and intended. I was attempting to make the point that Prudie’s closing statement reflects a trope I’ve seen all over the place, namely that a particular behavior (or fashion choice) is the real issue, not the rape. If you’ll note, I never made any assumptions or statements about whether or not she was actually raped, I was ONLY pointing out that this is a stupid thing to say on its face. And here’s where the problem is:

    What if her fashion choices are nudity with big Sharpie letters on her stomach and back that say, “Please fuck me! I’m serious! I want you to have sex with me, right now!”? Do her fashion choices imply or even directly state consent then?

    Now THAT is a bad analogy. Fashion choices don’t compromise a person’s decision making abilities, whereas ALCOHOL DOES. The two simply can’t be compared in the way you are trying to compare them. Additionally, even if a woman was naked with such a statement written on her, that does NOT mean I would be within my rights to walk over and begin attempting to have sex with her, or lay a single finger on her body, until she verbally, and preferably physically as well, confirms that she IS giving ENTHUSIASTIC CONSENT.

    So I stand by my original analogy, which I think is much more valid than the one provided @45. I was comparing substantively similar statements, you were comparing apples and oranges, that is, you were comparing the state of being drunk with a rather bizarre fashion choice. Am I making any mistakes I’m not aware of here?

  66. Marshall says

    The “victim” herself, according to the first letter, does not know for sure if she gave consent or not. That, by itself, should be a show-stopper for any legal action.

    Uh, no, the woman the first letter is about, based on what the letter says, seems to think SHE DIDN’T. What you really mean is that the friend who wrote the letter isn’t sure if said woman is telling the truth, which is entirely different.

    You are also presuming that the man in question did take advantage of her intoxication, ignoring the fact that you can drink yourself stupid and black out AFTER giving consent, and not remember it. I’ve been there myself.

    Maybe you should point out who exactly said that, because the original article MAKES NO SUCH PRESUMPTION, so I assume you mean the people in the comments, but since we are all expressing different opinions and perspectives and aren’t a single monolithic hivemind, saying YOU doesn’t tell anyone who you’re addressing. Also, this smacks of bending over backwards to think of a reason to believe consent actually WAS given, which would be a presumption on YOUR part.

    I think Prudence was spot-on, and I see a lot of folks grinding their own axes here rather than responding to what was actually written and actually asked of Prudence.

    Oh, you think Prudence was spot-on? Fine, then WHY? There have been many comments addressing specifically what was written by and asked of Prudence, and the article itself did so comprehensivly. Why don’t you point out your SPECIFIC objections to either the article or the comments you think have missed the mark, instead of saying really nothing of substance about WHY you think Prudence was spot on and WHY you think people here are “grinding their own axes”?

  67. says

    Just great. So now drunk people are taboo. Someone’s going to freak out, say they “can’t possibly give legal consent” and then accuse me of rape. I’m sorry, I don’t buy it. Not one bit. I’ve blacked out before, and not remembered the next day. Yet my behaviour, as reported by friends, was relatively the same. Just drunker or higher. Because my brain occasionally fails to imprint my adventures as a permanent memory does NOT make the sex I have during that time non-consensual. One of the very “best” reasons people get drunk and high is because it makes sex really fun. This is a choice you make with every sip, every toke, every snorted line of whatnot. If, while under the influence, you decide to have sex, IT’S NOT RAPE. Now, if she said no, or whatnot, and he continued to force himself, then yes, 100%, it’s rape. But being drunk or high is NOT an excuse to cry rape.

  68. says

    As I already stated to Some Other Idiot, your opinion of what constitutes rape does not a legal definition make. It doesn’t matter if you agree with the decision, disagree with it, or have a pancake on your head – an intoxicated person cannot consent to intercourse and if you touch them in any sort of sexual manner, you are assaulting them. If you have intercourse with a drunk person, one who is too drunk to give consent, you have raped them. You don’t need to agree with the law, you just need to follow it. Or face the consequences.

    There are always those people who swear they drive better, fuck better, fish better, walk better, etc when they are high and the truth is…they aren’t better. Your very phrasing suggests a lower than usual intelligence. People don’t ‘cry rape’. Intelligent people don’t use the non-word ‘whatnot’. Intelligent people understand that they don’t make the laws. Perhaps you think to plead mental retardation when you next come up on rape charges? I must say, you are doing a great job of building a defense based on mental incompetence.

  69. Marshall says

    Hey, Tommy, did you read the rest of the comments? That might help you understand a little better what people are ACTUALLY saying.

    And Rochelle, I think Stephanie had a point in saying you need to step away from this conversation for a while. Because THIS:

    Your very phrasing suggests a lower than usual intelligence. People don’t ‘cry rape’. Intelligent people don’t use the non-word ‘whatnot’. Intelligent people understand that they don’t make the laws. Perhaps you think to plead mental retardation when you next come up on rape charges? I must say, you are doing a great job of building a defense based on mental incompetence.

    Contains a lot of inappropriateness.

  70. says

    @rochelleinselman — Well, when I’m high, I’m not in pain. Not being in pain means my mood improves, and I’m better able to function. So, yeah, I function better when I’m high.

    That said, I also have limits and boundaries, and I enforce them, whether I’m sober or high or drunk or took benadryl.

  71. says

    Marshall, thank you for calling me on my inappropriateness. I agree that its far less appropriate to call someone on their intention to continue raping drunk women then to call someone on their intention of continuing to rape drunk women. How about all us women sit back and let you take it from here? Especially the 20 to 25% of us who have been raped. Its clear that you think we shouldn’t express our opinions about rape and rapists because when we were raped, not only did we get raped, we lost our ability and right to be heard. Oh, and our right to be angry about what was done to us. Don’t worry, we’ll just sit in the corner while you talk to the mean rapists and wait for them to come rape us again. Thanks!

  72. Tamsin says

    Rochelle, I think what Marshall was talking about was the hefty dose of ableism in your paragraph. It’s fine to be loud, angry, etc. when challenging rape culture. It’s not OK to fight one oppression (rape culture) by enforcing another (ableism), especially as people with disabilities are in fact at increased risk of being raped or sexually abused.

  73. Marshall says

    Rochelle, I think what Marshall was talking about was the hefty dose of ableism in your paragraph.

    Pretty much spot on.

  74. Marshall says

    How about all us women sit back and let you take it from here? Especially the 20 to 25% of us who have been raped. Its clear that you think we shouldn’t express our opinions about rape and rapists because when we were raped, not only did we get raped, we lost our ability and right to be heard. Oh, and our right to be angry about what was done to us. Don’t worry, we’ll just sit in the corner while you talk to the mean rapists and wait for them to come rape us again. Thanks!

    EXCUSE ME?! Read what I wrote again. READ THE PART I PICKED OUT. Read Tamsin’s post, and my post agreeing with it. Don’t fucking attack me for something I didn’t say and positions I don’t hold, that’s creationist level strawmanning and I will have NONE of it.

  75. says

    Tamisin, you are right. I do honestly think the guy has cognitive defects and it was wrong to rub his nose in it. I worked for 5 years in a home for physically and mentally disabled adults and do know better. I agree that I do need to take a step back. Its extremely discouraging to read comments that indicate a person believes that I deserved to be raped because I had been drinking and that my fellow women who have been raped while they were intoxicated deserved it too. That once we open our mouths to liquor, it means we have to open our legs to every Tom, Dick, and Harry who fancies a ride.

    And honestly, I am not sure how to even respond to that sort of utter nonsense. If that sort of thing was said aloud, people would probably look away in a sort of embarrassed silence and hope the rapist in their midst would just go away. On the internet you have the choice of ignoring statements like that or challenging them, or agree with them too, I suppose. I apologize for getting into a boring and juvenile ‘is so, is not’ pre-school shouting match for the rest of you to hear/read. I guess I hope if I repeat it often enough and they hear it often enough, it will start to sink in.

    And now that I am brought back to myself…Marshall. You don’t get to dictate anything to any woman when it comes to woman issues. Don’t tell us how to react, respond, behave, …anything. Your attitude is extremely condescending. Your attempt to censor me is akin to the men who jump into feminist threads and tell women how to be better feminists. Please stop.

  76. Ace of Sevens says

    And now that I am brought back to myself…Marshall. You don’t get to dictate anything to any woman when it comes to woman issues. Don’t tell us how to react, respond, behave, …anything. Your attitude is extremely condescending. Your attempt to censor me is akin to the men who jump into feminist threads and tell women how to be better feminists. Please stop.

    Aren’t you dictating to Marshall (who is disabled for all we know) how he can respond to ablism issues and backing it up with a “some of my friends are disabled” argument? This also sounds a lot like a “yes, but” argument as in “yes, I was wrong to call someone a retard as an insult, but you shouldn’t have called me out on it.”

    (Unless you were saying that something Marshall said was condescending, but I’m not sure what else it could be as all his other posts seem to be shooting down bad rape-apology arguments.)

  77. Marshall says

    And now that I am brought back to myself…Marshall. You don’t get to dictate anything to any woman when it comes to woman issues. Don’t tell us how to react, respond, behave, …anything. Your attitude is extremely condescending. Your attempt to censor me is akin to the men who jump into feminist threads and tell women how to be better feminists. Please stop.

    I did NOT dictate anything to you about ANYTHING. I pointed out, correctly I think, that you were using inappropriate ableist language in your response. I was NOT attempting to censor you, as you can clearly see from the fact that your post is still present in its entirety. If you had used racist language in your comment, would I have been wrong to call you out on that? If you misunderstood what I was saying, fine, no harm done. But when it has been pointed out to you by another commenter exactly what I was referring to and you double down on attacking me for things I didn’t do, I will not sit here quietly and allow it. I have done NONE of the things you just accused me of, and I will NOT be told that I don’t get to point out YOUR ignorant language just because you were calling out someone else on their ignorant views. If somebody else thinks I said ANYTHING inappropriate here, please point it out, but as far as I can tell Rochelle has picked the entirely wrong target for the entirely wrong reason, and I’m not okay with that.

  78. says

    I found Marshall’s comments to me very condescending. I’ve participated in many threads where men jump in during a discussion of a woman’s issue, issue commands, gaslights, and tells women how they need to be and act. Usually great guys, big defenders of women and supporters of women’s issues, but have a tendency to take over while subtly belittling the women who are discussing a matter.

    That is a red button issue for me and I probably overreacted. Probably, but not necessarily. Except for the most sociologically advanced countries (think Nordic ones), women have been raised to generally obey a man. Not that we think of it in those terms, not at all! But we have been conditioned to believe that women are not as rational as men because we become overcome with our emotions and thus lose rationality. We are conditioned to be ashamed of losing our temper. We are conditioned to think that standing up for yourself is something we need to apologize for. We are conditioned to go wash dishes while the menfolk sit at the table and discuss weighty issues. No? Who did the dishes at your Christmas celebration?

    I wasn’t trying to play a ‘but I have a disabled friend’ sort of card, just acknowledging that I fucked up and that I know exactly how I fucked up and that I am sorry for fucking up. I am *not* sorry for my general attitude toward men who are unapologetic rapists.

    If I may be forgiven a slight digression…I’ve found the world to be a much different place post-rape. I no longer have a sex drive, I no longer want to be in a relationship, and therefore I am no longer in a position where I lie to myself, looking at men with rose-coloured glasses. Once you take away the desire for sex and companionship, all the potential luster and lure are missing (I was bi, so I won’t generalize with a men only statement there.). All bisexuality aside, I’ve noticed that men in particular are quite unappealing now that I don’t want to have sex with them. I have no driving need to make excuses for them to find them acceptable. Women are pretty much the same, but men… men really have nothing to recommend them. Quite the opposite.

  79. Marshall says

    I found Marshall’s comments to me very condescending.

    Why don’t you address me directly? You want to know what I find condescending?

    Your very phrasing suggests a lower than usual intelligence.

    Intelligent people don’t use the non-word ‘whatnot’.

    Perhaps you think to plead mental retardation when you next come up on rape charges?

    I do honestly think the guy has cognitive defects

    Oh, and look here:

    I wasn’t trying to play a ‘but I have a disabled friend’ sort of card, just acknowledging that I fucked up and that I know exactly how I fucked up and that I am sorry for fucking up.

    BUT it wasn’t okay for me to call you out on it?

  80. says

    Marshall, I clicked submit without pasting this in. I do apologize for my rudeness to you. You *are* standing up for women and I do appreciate it. Honestly, I do. I realize that my past experiences do not grant me a get out of jail card to be an asshole to men, especially men who aren’t The Enemy. I have no valid excuse for my rudeness and I ask your forgiveness.

    And…my responses are all jumbled up in a document and I am going to quit to get some sleep and try to make sense again.

  81. says

    OMG, I think I get it. I was addressing my rude comments to Tommy the Rapist, not Marshall the defender with regards to the ablism stuff. I apologize for not making that more clear! Yikes!

  82. Marshall says

    Marshall, I clicked submit without pasting this in.

    I don’t buy that for one second. You started that comment by saying you found my responses condescending, but you were going to END it by apologizing? That strikes me as backtracking constructed after the fact, as does this:

    OMG, I think I get it. I was addressing my rude comments to Tommy the Rapist, not Marshall the defender with regards to the ablism stuff. I apologize for not making that more clear! Yikes!

    Which comes right after you saying:

    I have no valid excuse for my rudeness and I ask your forgiveness.

    Honestly, I prefer no apology at all to a dishonest apology with backpedaling attached to it, so no, I can’t accept that apology, because it’s couched in obvious bullshit. If you can apologize WITHOUT trying to make post hoc rationalizations for the things you’ve said, I’ll accept it, but this just isn’t going to cut it.

  83. says

    Marshall, I didn’t want to reply again until I’ve had some rest and got my brain unscrambled, but before I do that, I want you to know I was sincere. I had a mess of text in a Word document and jumbled it all up. I should have just let it be until I could write coherently but alas…

    I sincerely meant my apology. You have no obligation to accept it, believe it, or whatever but I did put it out there with good intent. I haven’t comported myself to great advantage so I understand why you doubt me. *shrug* I don’t know what else to say so I am just going to stop before I dig another hole for myself.

  84. Pnambic says

    @Stephanie Zvan,
    Perhaps I missed the part of our legal standards where we must treat the accuser as guilty of something until the accused is convicted. No? Oh, well, then maybe you want to reread the part of the post where I pointed out that determining whether evidence exists to establish guilt or innocence isn’t Prudie’s job, and certainly not in the absence of an actual investigation. That applies to you as well, Pnambic.

    I read it fine the first time, thanks. The letter writer does not ask Prudie to investigate. She asks whether she should withhold information that could (and should) raise doubt as to whether her friend’s memory is reliable, given her drinking history. These have been interesting discussions about an important subject, but slamming Prudie for actually answering the question she was asked is axe-grinding. As is inferring that the accuser is guilty of something from my statement that the guy should have presumption of innocence. The nature of the crime doesn’t change that.

    @Left Side Positive,
    @Pnambic, “Innocent until proven guilty” is a legal standard, not a social one.

    Not in a civilized society, it’s not. It’s fundamental to the civilized concept of justice, not just the legal one. Like I snarked, Americans in general have lost sight of this.

    Discouraging from someone from either making an accusation or supporting a friend is not maintaining “innocent until proven guilty” it is a bullying tactic to prevent victims to even feel comfortable seeking justice in the first place.

    As others have pointed out, being accused of rape is a very big deal. I don’t see bullying when Prudie says “Tell her that she needs to think very long and hard about filing a criminal complaint against this guy if there’s any way her behavior could be construed to be consensual.” Which, of course brings us to the discussion of consent vs. drunk, which others have already covered.

    Moreover, in your zeal to insist that you’re, like, totally the first one ever to come and tell us all about “innocent until proven guilty,” you’ve kinda missed a pretty interesting discussion on what consent means, and how consent isn’t valid if someone is too drunk to remember it.

    Nope, I read it all, and I’m certainly not arguing against it. Now blow your nose, you’re being snotty.

    @Marshal:
    ______________ (I don’t feed trolls.)

  85. Marshall says

    ______________ (I don’t feed trolls.)

    Or answer legitimate questions, apparently, and YOU calling me a troll is pretty rich, considering the way you’re conducting yourself. Let me show you EXACTLY THE PROBLEM:

    These have been interesting discussions about an important subject, but slamming Prudie for actually answering the question she was asked is axe-grinding

    Nobody is slamming Prudie for answering the question she was asked. She started off with this:

    Trying to ruin someone else’s life is a poor way to address one’s alcohol and self-control problems.

    RIGHT FROM THE START she makes a statement that assumes the woman is LYING. She doesn’t use any conditional words like “if” either, she just flat out implies that this is the result of the woman in question lacking self control. That isn’t the way you approach these subjects when you have as little information as was provided in the original letter. Nowhere does she say “No, if you’re friend presses charges you should tell the police everything you know”. Instead, she launches right into a snap judgement about what must really be happening here WITHOUT KNOWING THE FACTS. THAT is the problem, and it continues right on through the rest of her response. For example:

    Since her first version of the story is that she was ashamed of her behavior, and since you have seen her knee-walking drunk on other occasions, it sounds as if she wants to punish the guy at the bar for her own poor choices.

    This is just stupid. It isn’t actually all that uncommon for the first version of the events told by a woman who has been raped to downplay her having been assaulted, because our culture tends to inflict SHAME upon rape victims. It’s not at all implausible that she simply didn’t want to divulge all of the details right after this happened. Of course, we don’t know, and NEITHER DOES PRUDIE! So for her to make this kind of statement without ANY knowledge of what actually happened simply reinforces my belief that she is simply ASSUMING that the woman in question is lying. And THAT IS THE PROBLEM. And her ‘advice’ is fucking terrible, because her advice is basically for the person who wrote the letter to tell the woman in question that she wouldn’t be in this position if she hadn’t been drinking. Her advice is to repeat a victim blaming trope without knowing all of the details, and if that isn’t bad advice then I don’t know what is.

    Now suppose, for a moment, the woman HAD been raped. What kind of message does it send to her that her friend, instead of being compassionate and recognizing that s/he doesn’t have all of the details, comes to her and says “Well, these things wouldn’t happen if you didn’t get so drunk all the time”? Don’t you think that might make her less likely to report an ACTUAL CRIME? Don’t you think that will simply add to the guilt and shame she already feels, and make the trauma of the entire situation that much worse? How, given that none of us including Prudie has the necessary information to make a determination about what actually happened, is that good advice?

    On the other hand, the one person in all of this that actually DOES have any real information about what happened that night is saying she was raped, so why should we simply ignore that and assume she’s lying?

    All you’ve done is show up twice with the express purpose of disagreeing without offering a whole hell of a lot of legitimate reasons WHY, which is why I asked you to further explain yourself in the first place. Instead, you responded with a REMARKABLY point-missing diatribe about how everyone is wrong because Prudie sort of, but not really, answered the question in one form or another. That she answered the question isn’t the point, and I still don’t think she did so directly anyway. The point is that her answer was dismissive, unhelpful, and reinforces common rape culture memes, and in doing so is actually very fucking poor advice that could be extremely detrimental to a potential rape victim. There are a million and one better ways she could have answered that question, and instead she chose to assume things she couldn’t possibly know and repeat victim blaming nonsense as though it were practical advice.

    Now, are you going to address the substance of my post this time, or are you going to act like it puts you up on some fucking moral high ground to not answer any of the issues I’ve raised because you consider me (with no sense of the irony here) a troll?

  86. Marshall says

    Agh, one last thing before I go to sleep.

    I sincerely meant my apology. You have no obligation to accept it, believe it, or whatever but I did put it out there with good intent. I haven’t comported myself to great advantage so I understand why you doubt me. *shrug* I don’t know what else to say so I am just going to stop before I dig another hole for myself.

    Apology accepted. I think I may have been a little harsh in not accepting it in the first place. I’ve calmed down and reflected a bit, and I don’t doubt your sincerity. So yeah, truce?

  87. says

    “Women are pretty much the same, but men… men really have nothing to recommend them.”

    As someone who is mixed race, I don’t like hearing statements like this. Sounds too much like what some white person says who was mugged by a person of color.

  88. says

    The more I read about rape, the less freaky I feel about my autosexuality.

    I’ve never known my genitals be in the mood and my hands not, or vice-versa …..

  89. Amy says

    Thanks for posting this and thanks to the person who linked it in the comments at Slate. There’s no reason to assume (as Prudie does) that the first story is more accurate, considering that predators do often consciously seek out drunk women and then try to get them to blame themselves. Prudie assumes the woman changed her story in bad faith. Not cool.

  90. hen3ry says

    I am confused here, and may be continuing a thread-jack that doesn’t need it. I agree that, in this case, Prudence quite clearly should have shown more sense than immediately discounting the reported events, and is working from very limited information.

    However, there has come up some quite vehement points about alcohol and sex. I don’t understand quite where some people are putting the line. Let me put down some starting points: First, assume clear, ongoing and enthusiastic consent from all parties capable. Second, that all drinks are consumed knowingly, and without any instances of drink spiking etc. Finally, please forgive me if I make some of these points badly.

    Situation 1: Person A eats a rum chocolate. Person B and Person A then have sex. Rape? I would hope that we would all agree that this is not.

    Situation 2: Person A drinks a pint, as does Person B. They then have sex. Rape? From what I have seen, some would argue that this is, but I may easily be wrong.

    Situation 3: Person A drinks to the point of easily detected impairment, Person B does not. I would class this as rape, as I hope would most people here, depending upon some other factors, such as previously (i.e. whilst sober) discussed consent and the level of persuasion used.

    Situation 4: Both A and B drink to mild excess, then have sex. Is this rape? Or does the continuing enthusiastic consent apply? Here, I would be appalled if either A or B decided to drive, but I am happy for them to have consenting sex.

    What I am trying to establish is a cut-off point. I personally believe that asking people to treat sex the same as driving is misguided, as the potential for minor misjudgements to become major accidents is much greater for driving. I am thus happy to give greater leeway for drunken fornication than drunken driving. However, using alcohol to induce a pliable state of mind in people for the purposes of fornication strikes me as an attitude much more akin to rape than anything else. However, I could easily be wrong. Can people offer any further advice?

  91. says

    Robert, my daughter is of dual heritage as well. All heritage issues aside, I have no idea what you mean by your comment. Perhaps you find men appealing – I no longer do. And I wasn’t mugged by a man, I was raped by one. And he was the same color* as I am.

    *I do not use the term race to differentiate between different humans as we are all the same race. I understand that using that terminology may make it easier for others to understand, but I am strongly against racism. I won’t use terminology that implies there is such a thing as more than one race of currently living humans.

  92. freemage says

    henr3y: The cut-off point is simple: Are you 100% certain the other person is sufficiently competent (in the legal sense of the word) to consent to sex?

    If the answer is “no”, then if you have sex, even at their encouragement, you are taking a non-zero chance that you are committing rape. Whether or not it IS rape is something that cannot be determined until after the other person has had a chance to think about it while totally sober. Take a non-zero chance often enough, and the odds quickly approach 1:1 that at some point, you will commit rape. If this thought (the possibility that you might commit rape, even inadvertently) turns your stomach, then I would advise you to not have sex under those conditions. If this thought does not turn your stomach, you’re a horrible human being.

    Note that this formulation does, in fact, cut both ways. The fact that guys are more socialized to take the attitude after the fact of “Don’t Care, Had Sex” is irrelevant in determining the responsibility of their partners in ensuring the man is consenting.

  93. Uncle Joe says

    Thanks for the post. There really isn’t enough information in Prudie’s column to know whether a rape occurred or not, but her advice totally missed the mark.

    Having sex with someone who has been drinking is not automatically rape. Many people have drunken one night stands that they regret the next day, but they don’t file charges. But if someone is drunk to the point of severe physical impairment, let alone blacked out, we should not blame them for being the victim of an opportunist. This is exactly what Prudie is doing with her blanket discussion of a specific occurrence.

  94. Marshall says

    The cut-off point is simple: Are you 100% certain the other person is sufficiently competent (in the legal sense of the word) to consent to sex?

    If the answer is “no”, then if you have sex, even at their encouragement, you are taking a non-zero chance that you are committing rape.

    QFT and brilliant expression.

  95. says

    I wrote to Prudie and got a response. I thought I’d share it with you all.


    Rochelle Inselman
    Feb 2 (1 day ago)

    to prudence
    That was the wrong answer and was extremely insulting to women everywhere and especially to those who have been raped. I hosted a Cinco de Mayo party and passed out in my own bed, next to my boyfriend. A guest came in and raped me and I didn’t come to until the pain overcame the tequila. I suppose that was my own fault, for having been drinking? The county attorney thought so – she refused to press charges because I had been drinking. I am so angry, disgusted, and dissapointed I don’t even know what to say.

    http://freethoughtblogs.com/almostdiamonds/2012/02/02/dear-prudie-what-do-i-do-when-an-advice-columnist-goes-off-half-cocked-about-rape/#comment-48708

    http://thequietus.com/articles/07871-uni-lad-website-misogyny this is the type of mindset that plays into that sort of answer.

    I am completely disgusted. Are we really saying that in the year 2012, an appropriate punishment for an intoxicated woman is to be raped? When did we start living in Saudi Arabia?

    prudence prudence@washingtonpost.com
    3:26 PM (1 hour ago)

    to me
    I am ardently against rape. I am sorry for your situation.
    But if a woman allows herself to picked up at a bar, goes home with a guy, and appears to consent to sex, her regret about her behavior is not enough to charge someone with rape.”

    WOW. Talk about continual slut shaming!

  96. Ace of Sevens says

    There are so many assumptions packed in that phrase “appears to consent.” It seems to apply to if a woman is mostly conscious and doesn’t put up a fuss, that;s close enough for consent purposes. Also, it’s making unwarranted assumptions that she did “appear” to consent. She wasn’t given enough information to draw this conclusion.

  97. LeftSidePositive says

    Rochelle: thanks for sharing the letters.

    How the hell does “Prudie” still have a job???

    And x1000 that “appears to consent” is an utterly bullshit phrase! How can someone think this way? HOW???

    Moreover, how do you keep a writing job in 2012 continuing to believe that rape is about “regretted” sex?? Rather than, gee, not consenting in the first place!!

    I’d keep obsessing about how wrong this is, but then the Internet would run out of question marks and exclamation points.

  98. Beth says

    freemage @102: if you have sex, even at their encouragement, you are taking a non-zero chance that you are committing rape. Whether or not it IS rape is something that cannot be determined until after the other person has had a chance to think about it while totally sober.

    This is totally crazy. It is NOT rape if a woman has a drink, consents to sex and goes with the man to another place conducive to having sex, and then the next day decides to withdraw the consent. PLEASE NOTE: I AM NOT TALKING ABOUT THE ORIGINAL WOMAN WHO MAY OR MAY NOT HAVE CONSENTED TO SEX.

    It is a sad fact of life that some women (a small %, just as rapists are a small % of men) are predators of men. They don’t rape them physically, they hurt and abuse them emotionally and financially instead. A policy like the one you gave above would be as wrong and frustrating to the victims of such predators as the policy Rochelle described in her situation.

  99. says

    Beth, the 100% certainty of compentency to consent vs. some women prey on men for their money is perhaps the biggest non sequitur anyone has put up on this post.

  100. Saurs says

    I think what Beth is trying to say is that ‘cos women are human and humans can be flawed and sometimes even (horror upon horror) selfish and imperfect, men get to rape them, fair’s fair. To equal everything out in the larger scheme of things, or whatnot. Also: golddiggers.

  101. Nepenthe says

    So, do Prudie and the letter writer think that Friend just called the rape crisis line out of the blue, perhaps for a bit of stimulating conversation? It seems like the possibility that she might be in crisis hasn’t occurred to them.

    On the other hand, not reporting is fairly good advice, since the only thing that will happen if Friend does report is a bit of slut shaming from the police.

  102. Beth says

    Beth, the 100% certainty of compentency to consent vs. some women prey on men for their money is perhaps the biggest non sequitur anyone has put up on this post.

    It’s simply how I see the proposed policy of allowing women the option of waiting until the next day to decide if what they consented to the previous night was rape and therefore a crime. I see as right up there with telling Rochelle that the case isn’t worth prosecuting because she had been drinking. Both policies suck and I think there a better approach would be in between those two extremes.

    I think what Beth is trying to say is that ‘cos women are human and humans can be flawed and sometimes even (horror upon horror) selfish and imperfect, men get to rape them, fair’s fair. To equal everything out in the larger scheme of things, or whatnot. Also: golddiggers.

    I think we may have a new winner for the biggest non sequitur of the thread. Pointing out that what freemage was advocating was crazy doesn’t mean I support raping drunk women. It means that I am aware of likely, albeit unintended, consequences of such a policy. I think we can do better than that.

    Your response was one designed to emotionally unsettle me, an unsubtle put down. I think such responses are used to arouse the fight or flight emotion in the other person, either baiting them into bad behavior which is likely to get them banned or intimidating them into shutting up. Were you consciously aware that’s what you were doing?

  103. says

    It’s simply how I see the proposed policy of allowing women the option of waiting until the next day to decide if what they consented to the previous night was rape and therefore a crime.

    Who’s talking about women? We’re talking about people who are too drunk to make decisions.

    And you were talking about golddiggers.

  104. Marshall says

    It’s simply how I see the proposed policy of allowing women the option of waiting until the next day to decide if what they consented to the previous night was rape and therefore a crime. I see as right up there with telling Rochelle that the case isn’t worth prosecuting because she had been drinking. Both policies suck and I think there a better approach would be in between those two extremes.

    What? Are you saying women shouldn’t be able to reflect and take the time to try to understand what happened, that if they don’t file rape charges or make accusations immediately then they shouldn’t make them at all? Would you apply this standard to ANY OTHER CRIME? Either you have failed to communicate clearly, or you seem to be, at least functionally, advocating a one day statute of limitations on RAPE, in this context date rape. Would you like to clarify this statement a little?

  105. LeftSidePositive says

    Beth, are you just blitheringly unaware that many rape victims are in denial about what happened to them, blame themselves, and need to have time to get their bearings back? The immediate event can be quite traumatic and it can be difficult for people to piece together what happened (especially if they were intoxicated at the time) and come to terms with it. Having this take time is actually the norm for most rape victims, and they deserve to be supported.

    Also, if someone was drunk when a sex act happened, they DID NOT CONSENT to it, because it is impossible to consent when mentally impaired. So it’s not about “withdrawing” consent–it’s about consent never having happened in the first place.

  106. Saurs says

    Were you consciously aware that’s what you were doing?

    I’m consciously aware that your avaricious strawladies who lie in wait for innocent dudes with impressive bank statements to pass by so that they can pinch their wallets and then Cry Rape, the dirty strumpets, are being compared with rapists, and have been found by you to be the greater evil. If responses posed in kind to your misogynistic, content-free, stereotype-laden fear-mongering fantasies trouble you, you can always stop writing them.

  107. Marshall says

    I’m consciously aware that your avaricious strawladies who lie in wait for innocent dudes with impressive bank statements to pass by so that they can pinch their wallets and then Cry Rape, the dirty strumpets, are being compared with rapists, and have been found by you to be the greater evil. If responses posed in kind to your misogynistic, content-free, stereotype-laden fear-mongering fantasies trouble you, you can always stop writing them.

    I.. I..

    This may well be the most beautiful piece of snark I have ever seen in all my life…

  108. anonymous says

    posting this as ‘anonymous’ for fairly obvious reasons…

    a long time ago, my (now ex) husband came back from the pub extremely drunk, and I was in bed, naked, and he proceeded to have sex with me. I was not particularly keen on the idea but as he was too drunk to be noticing much of anything (and on balance I wasn’t hugely bothered by the idea either) I just let him go ahead rather than trying to stop him. He didn’t remember it the next day and was very apologetic when I told him. He’s a very decent person and would never consciously force himself on anyone.

    So, he was very drunk, I was sober, he wanted sex, I didn’t, and he had no idea of what happened or anyone’s motivations the next day – was anyone raped here??

  109. opposablethumbs, que le pouce enragé mette les pouces says

    As has been pointed out upthread, people are responsible for what they DO while drunk (such as deciding to drive the car) – NOT for what is done to them while drunk (such as getting swindled/mugged).

    he wanted sex, I didn’t … was anyone raped here??

    I’d say that you were. And no, I’m not saying that this was identical in every way to the kinds of situations a lawyer (or a tabloid newspaper) wants to deal with – that’s not even the point here. I’m not saying your ex is a horrible person, but as a decent person he didn’t just stop at apologising to you – I would assume he took it on board that he was capable of raping someone while drunk and made bloody sure NEVER to let himself do that again. That was your body, against your will. Sometimes people have that done to them regularly, frequently, for years; the meaning is that you, your bodily autonomy and your wishes and desires don’t matter – or matter less.

    I don’t presume to tell you what you should think or feel, and I do not wish to be hurtful; I hope I haven’t been. I do think that this is pertinent in the context of this thread/of your asking that question on this thread.

  110. Beth says

    Who’s talking about women? We’re talking about people who are too drunk to make decisions.

    No, we weren’t. Freemage wasn’t describing people who were too drunk to make decisions. That was what bothered me about the description. It was Whether or not it IS rape is something that cannot be determined until after the other person has had a chance to think about it while totally sober.

    This definition would encompass someone whose inhibitions were down at that time they agreed due to having had a drink or two and regretted it the next day, not necessarily someone who was too drunk to make decisions. That’s not an appropriate way to define rape IMO because it has terrible potential for abuse.

    And you were talking about golddiggers.

    Among other possibilities for abuse of such a policy, yes. Rape is a traumatic life-changing event. So is being accused of a crime that you didn’t commit that carries heavy criminal and social penalties.

    Defining rape such that a supposed perpetrator who has no intention of committing that crime cannot know whether or not their actions were criminal until the next day when the victim decides…well, it simply isn’t appropriate IMO. This area of drunken or drug-induced sex gets to be very gray. When is someone too drunk or drugged to legally give consent? This is a troublesome question but Freemage’s response to it goes too far IMO by allowing people to retroactively consider themselves as having been raped because they consented to sex while under the influence.

    Saurs: I’m consciously aware that your avaricious strawladies who lie in wait for innocent dudes with impressive bank statements to pass by so that they can pinch their wallets and then Cry Rape, the dirty strumpets, are being compared with rapists, and have been found by you to be the greater evil.

    There you go again, equating what I said with supporting rape. It’s an attempt to minimize or silence my opinion. It ignores rather than deals with the nuances of policy, human behavior, and foreseeable consequences that I was trying to discuss.

    If responses posed in kind to your misogynistic, content-free, stereotype-laden fear-mongering fantasies trouble you, you can always stop writing them.

    If you are consciously aware and deliberately trying to silence me for stating an opinion you don’t like to hear, that is your choice. I point it out so those who aren’t so self-aware can become more so and make a conscious choice about doing or not doing that.

  111. Beth says

    Stephanie,

    I forgot to tell you that this was a really good blog post. I hadn’t considered some of the things you mentioned and I learned some new stuff. Thanks. I sometimes forget to tell people that.

  112. says

    Regarding Beth’s (and many other people) point that being accused of a sex crime is a terrible thing: Perhaps surprisingly, I agree. We have a special disgust for people who commit sex crimes. People in jail who have committed sex crimes are despised and treated…poorly, to say the least, while the guards look the other way. And this poor treatment doesn’t raise any real ire and condemnation in our society. On the contrary – we think its an acceptable and appropriate extra punishment.

    That is why I think not only the accuser’s name should be kept private. I think the accused person’s identity should not be made public until there is a conviction. I think that would lead to more reporting, more investigations, and less outcry from some people about ‘false rape accusations’. (Which is such a seriously stupid thing to bring up anyway. The rates of false accusations of sex crimes are less than false reporting of many other crimes.)

    I both understand, and don’t understand why so many people have such a hard time with the concept of consent. I understand that people don’t want to examine what they have done, or had done to them and realize it was rape*. What I don’t understand is why someone would take the chance that what they are doing is rape.

    *I never thought that I would be raped, and if I was, I thought I had the mental toughness to shrug it off since someone can use my body but they couldn’t touch my mind. Man oh man, I was wrong. Its not the physical rape that causes so many victims to go ’round the bend – its the realization that you aren’t safe. That your safety depends on others NOT doing bad things to you. That no matter how careful you are, all it takes is one slip and BAM! someone is violating you. I became unable to sleep, afraid that if I did, someone would be able to rape me again. I became unable to sleep and leave my apartment.

    I don’t want anyone else to ever go through that. 90 to 95% of rapes are committed by serial rapists, which is why I am a strong advocate of reporting. The legal system does a TERRIBLE job of prosecuting sex crimes, but if they get continual reports of sex crimes, and many reports about the same person, hopefully they will take that into consideration and DO something. I realize that not every victim wants to go through the legal process, but I beg anyone who is affected to report sex crimes. Doing so can help spare future victims.

  113. julian says

    Why is their always so much derailment going on in this thread? Do you people seriously feel the need to protect yourselves from having to deal with the reality of rape to the point you dismiss it when it’s right in front of your nose?

    I don’t think the ‘friend’ (or parasite) is giving an accurate description of what happened, especially considering how it describes the response of the rape crisis hotline (she called a crisis hotline. I am shocked to learn she didn’t think she consented. Not really. It seems only the Greg B’s of the world think it makes her full of shit.) but it really doesn’t matter.

    In this situation there isn’t anything the ‘friend’ can say that’s actually relevant except that ‘This girl I know, approached me saying she thinks she might have been raped.’ Everything else that comes out of its mouth would have no bearing on whether her friend was raped or on whether a jury should trust what she said.

  114. Marshall says

    Whether or not it IS rape is something that cannot be determined until after the other person has had a chance to think about it while totally sober.

    Beth, can you explain to me how you can make a determination as to whether a drunken sexual encounter is rape or not BEFORE the other person has thought about it while sober and determined for hirself that the encounter was not fully consensual? Mind reading? If THIS is what you’re objecting to, then you are arguing with the laws of time and space themselves, because no outside observer who was not present when the encounter took place is going to be able to make that determination until the PERSON IN QUESTION makes that determination.

    It’s simply how I see the proposed policy of allowing women the option of waiting until the next day to decide if what they consented to the previous night was rape and therefore a crime.

    By the way, ‘allowing women the option’ is at the very least terrible phrasing on your part in this context, and nobody’s talking about people withdrawing consent, we’re talking about people assessing with a sober state of mind whether or not they gave COMPLETE CONSENT AT ALL. You’ve apparently convinced yourself that there is a significant enough percentage of the population out there that will get drunk, consent to sex, and then dishonestly ‘withdraw’ that consent the next day, and for what, exactly? Money? Revenge? The incredible social status that comes from reporting that you’ve been raped?

    Yeah, I think you’ve entirely confused this issue by conflating someone taking the time to think about what happened the night before when they wake up after a night of drunken sex with someone deliberately and maliciously constructing a scenario to allow them to charge an innocent person with rape. So I think I’m going to just call your objections invalid and based on things that don’t actually happen with a high enough frequency that we should require people to run to the police station and file charges right away or just not say anything the next day.

  115. Beth says

    Beth, can you explain to me how you can make a determination as to whether a drunken sexual encounter is rape or not BEFORE the other person has thought about it while sober and determined for hirself that the encounter was not fully consensual?

    No. But I can tell you how to determine if it wasn’t: If the woman gave her consent at the time. If she didn’t consent, that’s another matter and I essentially agree with everything you’ve said in that regard.

    If the woman gave consent, she gave up the right to call it rape UNLESS she later makes it clear to the man that she is withdrawing her previous consent. In the absence of explicit consent, I certainly support her right to reflect on what happened later and define the incident however she feels appropriate.

    As far as what scenario’s were being discussed, freemage’s definition was in response to hen3ry’s post 99:

    Both A and B drink to mild excess, then have sex. Is this rape? Or does the continuing enthusiastic consent apply? Here, I would be appalled if either A or B decided to drive, but I am happy for them to have consenting sex.

    As I see it, what freemage was advocating in response to such a scenario is, indeed,‘allowing women (sorry, people) the option’ of changing their mind about consent after the fact. As far as how frequently we, as a society, need to be concerned about such things, I felt the same way about the argument last summer regarding whether women need to be concerned about a strange man approaching them for sex in an elevator late at night. Rapists are a small percentage of men, but I don’t want to be alone with a man in an elevator wondering if he’s part of that small percent.

    In general, I want the society I live in to reduce the situations in which human predators can take advantage of human victims. Making people aware of those situations so they can be avoided is part of reducing them.

    The policy being discussed is defining rape such that a person could change their mind about whether they consented to sex after the fact. Such a policy is so easily abused that I think it would have serious negative consequences to our society. That’s why I spoke up against it.

  116. LeftSidePositive says

    Rochelle @123, No, actually, it’s extremely important that those accused of rape be named, as a public safety issue. Often, other victims only have the courage to come forward once someone else makes the first move–we see this time and time again in sex abuse cases, from Ben Roethlisburger to the Catholic Church to Penn State. Moreover, most rapists are repeat offenders, so people need to know in order to protect themselves.

  117. LeftSidePositive says

    Beth, why the hell do you keep using the phrase “consented to sex” to refer to people who are drunk? YOU CANNOT CONSENT TO SEX WHILE DRUNK. If someone is drunk, by definition no consent took place. Moreover, it’s not that the perpetrator “has no way of knowing” if he committed a crime–he knows he’s having sex with a mentally impaired person. As has been said above, he’s taking a distinctly non-zero chance that the person would not consent to the action while of sound mind, and taking advantage of someone who is not of sound mind is rape. Why do you have such difficulty with this?

  118. says

    Beth, actually there isn’t a small percentage of male rapists. Its a much larger percentage than most people realize. Statistically, 1 in 5 to 1 in 7 men are sex offenders.

    LSP, by saying those accused of rape are a public safety issue, are you also saying that the accused are guilty automatically? That perhaps they can’t be rehabilitated and should be locked up for life or face the death penalty? I support the idea of keeping all identities secret because I strongly feel that doing so would increase reporting and investigating. So many people freak out about the false reporting strawman and I think keeping accused names secret would take care of that. I believe it will also give people on the legal side more incentive to investigate since they wouldn’t have to worry about tarring someone with the rapist brush. Not to mention that the publication of the rapist’s name can be used to identify the victim, which sucks.

    I think the way the legal system handles sex crimes currently is completely broken and must be reformed. Especially considering the recent update by the FBI to the criteria of rape, (and rightfully so! Far past time they did that!) there BETTER be more prosecutions! I think that we need to do a much better job of educating men and women what constitutes rape.

    Also, all of these hedges and nitpicking about details of what can be counted as consent is nauseating to me because it looks a LOT like people trying to get others to agree that what they did in a specific circumstance was not rape. If you have to think so hard about it, you probably did something wrong.

  119. Saurs says

    Among other possibilities for abuse of such a policy, yes. Rape is a traumatic life-changing event. So is being accused of a crime that you didn’t commit that carries heavy criminal and social penalties.

    If this were a post all about George J. Smith, late Edwardian bigamist famous for “marrying” and then drowning well-off dowdy spinsters of a certain age, though of course he would occasionally only steal their luggage or furniture and then make off into the night, later posting self-righteous and indignant letters designed to silence these women and prevent them from seeking damages or pressing charges by accusing them of the shameful sin of transmitting to his precious peen sexually transmitted diseases–if, in fact, Georgy Porgy was the subject at large, it just might be appropriate to bring up actual, concrete examples of women who have preyed upon men in the same fashion. As it is, comparing apples to oranges is insulting to the intelligence of all and sundry who witness said pitiful comparison. The female analogue to a male golddigger is obviously a female golddigger. Likewise, the female analogue to a male rapist is not (all together class: “NOT!”) a golddigger but a female rapist. Snatching a purse or getting a woman to write you a check under false pretenses is not at all the same as her raping you, or vice-versa.

    Confusing or eliding the distinction and differences between the two in a very specific discussion about a specific man raping a specific woman smacks of bad intentions and bad faith, informed by hackneyed and gender essentialist apologia for rape culture.

    Perhaps you ought to examine why, in a discussion about rape and victim-blaming, you felt the need to pose such a toxic non-sequitur about Women Being Bad, Too.

  120. Beth says

    Yes, it’s all about consent to me. If you allow people to renege on consent of sex just because they’ve voluntarily had a drink or two, you open an avenue for human predators to take advantage of human victims. That’s a bad thing IMO.

    In addition, I think it’s an unfair burden to place on people who want to have sex. Obtaining consent before having sex is a reasonable expectation of adults. After having given consent, I think it’s a reasonable expectation of adults to make clear to the other party that they have changed their mind and are withdrawing consent before the act takes place. If they don’t do that, I am not willing to consider the other party a rapist.

  121. julian says

    But if we know sex offenders will likely commit the same crime again in their lifetime doesn’t it become a question of public safety? How is it acceptable to knowingly place them in a population where they can continue to prey on others without at least warning others the danger they pose?

  122. Saurs says

    Also, Beth: multiple paragraph spent dissecting my intentions and tone in psychotherapeutic fashion are derailing and condescending. Maybe you should stop beating your wife.

  123. LeftSidePositive says

    No, Rochelle, I’m not saying they’re automatically guilty, but I am saying that, just like every other crime, the public has a right to know when someone is accused. I’m not advocating for punishment in that context, just that the public has a right to know, exactly the same as with murder, theft, assault, drunk driving, etc., etc.

    Your belief that keeping the accused name’s secret will increase reporting is simply factually incorrect:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2010/may/21/rapists-anonymity-plan
    http://www.salon.com/2010/05/21/rape_anonymity/

    The vast majority of available evidence indicates that naming the accused is essential for corroboration and further police investigation.

  124. julian says

    I’m not entirely disagreeing with you, Beth, but no one is talking about a drink or two (to my knowledge.) The question (which date rape always seems to go back to is) can a drunk person consent. One or two drinks (except for a few people or very alcoholic drinks) isn’t going to get them drunk.

    If it isn’t to much of a derail, could everyone preface their comment by describing what they mean by drunk. Personally I don’t necessarily qualify every case of black out as drunk. I’ve seen (as well as having been so myself according to others) people who are incredibly lucid during a ‘black out.’ So black out and black out drunk are two different things to me. Some who’s blacked out drunk is about to piss the carpet and can’t get hirself up from the floor.

  125. LeftSidePositive says

    Beth

    If you allow people to renege on consent of sex just because they’ve voluntarily had a drink or two

    IT’S NOT RENEGING ON CONSENT. IF THE PERSON IS DRUNK, THEY NEVER GAVE CONSENT IN THE FIRST PLACE.

    How many times do we have to tell you this?

    Also, voluntarily having a drink does not mean that the person is voluntarily having sex. The only thing the voluntariness of the drink affects is the voluntariness of the drink itself. All subsequent actions must be determined INDEPENDENTLY, because having a drink does not mean you’ve “signed up” for sex.

    I think it’s an unfair burden to place on people who want to have sex.

    Knowing for sure that your partner is genuinely on board with having sex is an “unfair burden”?! WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH YOU?!?! Holy shit, you are just an irresponsible, self-entitled, uncompassionate excuse for a human being.

    After having given consent

    NO, IF SOMEONE IS DRUNK NO CONSENT WAS EVER GIVEN. AT ALL. PERIOD.

    I think it’s a reasonable expectation of adults to make clear to the other party that they have changed their mind and are withdrawing consent before the act takes place.

    So, explain to me, in your world, how the fuck is someone supposed to sober up in those five minutes and change their mind? If someone is drunk, they don’t have a working mind to change at that moment.

    Also, SHUT THE FUCK UP about “withdrawing consent.” That is not what we’re talking about here and you know it. Consent IS NEVER GIVEN if someone is drunk, and since it’s never given, it can’t be withdrawn.

  126. LeftSidePositive says

    Julian, people appearing “lucid” during a black-out is precisely why you have to be damned sure that the person is actually of sound mind before having sex with zem. Unless you know that person really well, you can’t tell if zir behavior shows ze is in control of zir mental faculties, or that ze doesn’t know what’s going on and/or not acting in accordance to zir wishes/values, so DON’T GO THERE.

    Now, if it’s your old friend/fuckbuddy/sweetheart/spouse, and you know how ze is after a couple drinks, and you know how ze is when drunk, if ze has a BAC >0.08 and ze is clear in communicating zir wishes AND YOU ARE INFORMED ENOUGH TO KNOW THAT, the likelihood that ze is not actually consenting to sex roughly approaches the likelihood that there’s an invisible pink unicorn in the room–not technically possible to disprove, but not possible enough that anyone really takes it into account for decision-making. It all comes down to, how sure are you that you really understand your partner’s desires, and just as importantly, do you care that you’re doing the right thing?

  127. Ace of Sevens says

    LSP, isn’t also possible people really are lucid during blackouts in some cases? If they seem to be lucid and claim to be lucid and in many cases, never claim they weren’t lucid, then saying they aren’t lucid doesn’t really seem justifiable. Black-outs don’t just happen to people who are fall-down drunk. Lucidity and and memory are two different things. Bystanders can’t really know ahead of time whether they will happen. Different people have different thresholds.

    To Beth, though. I see no reason to think that’s what happened here, though. This is a distraction. People may, in some cases, genuinely consent to sex, then forget they did because of a blackout or anterograde amnesia. However, they will generally still have a good idea about whether they would have consented, because being drunk doesn’t turn them into a different person. Everything I’ve read about false rape accusations suggests the cause is generally malice. Your typical case looks like this, not the story in the letter. There are cases of social pressure for someone to say they were raped, as happened in the McMartin preschool trial and To Kill a Mockingbird (which was fictional, but plenty of similar cases happened), but this isn’t the same thing. General societal slut-shaming can even take this role, but it’s quite rare compared to actual rapes.

    As for the gold-digging part, I suppose, but I’d think there are far more effective ways to extort rich men (pick a married one and take pictures) and it doesn’t fit the story here. Why are you bringing it up?

    I think here is what some people are missing: the criticism of Prudence isn’t that women who report rape are never mistaken or lying and she should uncritically believe all such claims, nor is it that all drunk sex is categorically rape and Prudie is wrong to claim otherwise. The criticism is that Prudie assumed something wasn’t rape based on a set of assumptions that are frequently used to excuse or discredit real rapes. She can’t know exactly what happened to the person in question, but she seems to not only think she can, but relies on slut-shaming to do so. This is bad enough for your average Joe or Jane, but Prudie is an advice columnist and should especially know better.

  128. says

    Thanks for the links LSP, I can’t believe I haven’t read those before! Huh. Well, there goes part of my Grand Plan to reform sex crime legislation. :p

    Beth, I think you are coming at the whole consent thing from the wrong angle. Implied consent should always be at the No position, not the Yes position. Men (and women) should never think that any gift, action, etc means they get to have sex. If a man buys you dinner, he doesn’t get one fuck me token to be used when he feels like it. If a man buys a woman a drink, he doesn’t become entitled to sex. I think the position you are taking is that there are no backsies – that once a man thinks he is entitled to sex, the woman can’t take it back (what you are calling, reneging on consent). That is quite simply not the case.

    From here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Consent
    “Implied consent is a controversial form of consent which is not expressly granted by a person, but rather inferred from a person’s actions and the facts and circumstances of a particular situation (or in some cases, by a person’s silence or inaction).
    Expressed consent may be in verbal, nonverbal or written form and is clearly and unmistakably stated.
    Verbal consent is given by using verbal communication.
    Nonverbal consent is given by using nonverbal communication.
    Unanimous consent, or general consent, is a parliamentary procedure.”

    and
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Implied_consent:
    “Spousal rape
    Main article: Spousal rape
    See also: Rape
    In many common law jurisdictions, a couple who married were deemed to have given “implied consent” to have sex with each other, a doctrine which barred prosecution of a spouse for rape. This doctrine is now considered obsolete in most countries.[2]”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rape
    “In any allegation of rape, the absence of consent to sexual intercourse on the part of the victim is critical.[4] Consent need not be expressed, and may be implied from the context and from the relationship of the parties, but the absence of objection does not of itself constitute consent. Lack of consent may result from either forcible compulsion by the perpetrator or an incapacity to consent on the part of the victim (such as persons who are asleep, intoxicated or otherwise mentally helpless)”

    So. Implied consent is only really valid in cases where consent to sexual congress is overwhelmingly obvious, and consent, implied or otherwise, can be withdrawn at any time.

    Your phrasing of ‘reneging on consent’ is not only unclear and inaccurate, its also pejorative. It implies a couple enters a contract that guarantees sex and only a dishonorable person would go back on that contract. That once you seem to want to have sex, you HAVE to, because you’ve led the other person on.

    Lets use a real life example from a series of events that happened to a coworker of mine. It was hilarious to hear, but it illustrates why implied consent is so very dangerous and wrong. Ok, my male coworker was not very good at dating, one could say he was not ‘lucky with the ladies’, so when an attractive woman hit on him at the bar he was overjoyed and gladly went to her place as she verbally offered him the opportunity to watch porn and have sex. Once they got there, he was horrified because the porn she started was a German necrophiliac porn. He said he couldn’t tell if it was an underground movie with real dead people or if it was staged. In any case, he was horrified, pretended to get a phone call, and ran out of there like he was on fire. In that case, you would label what he did as reneging on consent. He had entered a verbal agreement to watch porn and have sex, and he left instead. Your phrasing implies that once he left the bar with the girl, he was obligated to have sex with her no matter what. Now this is a really weird and easy to define example of why someone would decide to no longer go through their intention of having sex with someone, and its all messed up to boot since its the male running away, but hopefully you can see why its not only acceptable to stop any sort of congress, it should be encouraged. I also hope you understand that the implication that a person can’t change their mind about having sex is wrong.

  129. says

    At the root of all this is an enormous double standard: “It’s OK for a man to have sex with women, but it’s not OK for a woman to have sex with men”. This is impossible to reconcile with reality. It leads to warped thinking and uncharacteristic behaviour in the hope of satisfying impossible social expectations. Such circumstances can make regrettable situations inevitable. A man might feel a duty at least to try to have sex with a woman, potentially leading him to go further than he might otherwise have wanted and commit rape; and a woman might feel less ashamed about having had sex with a man if she could place all the responsibility on him, potentially leading her to cry rape rather than chalk it down to experience.

    It is only comparatively recently that modern medicine has meant that nearly every baby survives to adulthood. For most of history, mortality rates have been such that many children were necessary. Reproductive success has historically been dependent on a high sex drive. It’s a primal instinct. Which is not to say that instinct cannot, or should not be moderated: we cook our food, we cover our mouths when we cough and we use flushing toilets, and we should rein in our urges to hump anything that moves.

    Also, however clear the rules seem to be in the cold light of day, they become a whole lot less clear through the haze of a chemical cocktail of hormones and intoxicants. And it doesn’t help that society has this crazy attitude, men must be active, women must be pure.

  130. Marshall says

    No. But I can tell you how to determine if it wasn’t: If the woman gave her consent at the time. If she didn’t consent, that’s another matter and I essentially agree with everything you’ve said in that regard.

    If you don’t mind, allow me to reiterate what I ACTUALLY said, and this time I’ll emphasize the important part that I think you are missing:

    Beth, can you explain to me how you can make a determination as to whether a drunken sexual encounter is rape or not BEFORE the other person has thought about it while sober and determined for hirself that the encounter was not fully consensual?

    Now compare that to your response, and POOF, your response becomes another in a long line of bizarre non-sequiturs you’ve thrown out without ever addressing the central point that has been reiterated TIME after TIME by many people here, namely that this is NOT, for fuck’s sake, about WITHDRAWING CONSENT, it is about whether or not there even WAS consent in the first place! Why have you so failed to notice this? I see above that people have now felt the need to REPEATEDLY and with much emphasis SPELL THIS OUT FOR YOU, which is something that should not have to be done because ALL of the context you should have needed to realize this has been there all the time! It’s beginning to feel as though you simply do not WANT to understand, because to do so would be to admit that you did not understand previously.

  131. LeftSidePositive says

    Rochelle, thanks for the detailed discussion on consent. I’ve always found the term “implied consent” extremely problematic and basically unacceptable in the context of sexual activity, for pretty much the same reasons you’ve outlined for spousal rape, but I think it is also a big problem for multitudes of situations where people feel like “the situation” entitles them to sex, not whether or not the partner actually wants it.

    I’m in the medical field, so I’m of the opinion that “implied consent” is useful and necessary in very limited cases, but these are generally along the lines of: EMTs starting CPR on an unconscious person, surgeons removing unanticipated tumor growth discovered during a procedure under general anaesthesia, etc. (and, even in the latter case, you consent to “other indicated procedures” and the surgeon has to tell you what he anticipates might be necessary beforehand, and if something is genuinely out of left field, they will often call the family member or medical decision-maker to get consent for it.)

    You’ll notice the dominant theme here is that the person presumed to be consenting is unable to actually consent given the circumstances. Not that it’s inconvenient or awkward to consent, but actually IMPOSSIBLE, and you only have consent to do things that are in the patient’s best interest and necessary (e.g. save zir life by CPR, prevent another major surgery…). It is never *necessary* for someone’s own good to have sex with zem, and in sexual situations you don’t need to “assume” implied consent–because ze is right there and you can ask zem! (assuming, of course, that ze is of sound mind, and if they’re not–well, there is no vital need in zir best interest to be fucked!)

    For situations where there is no verbal consent but both partners are eager and mindfully participating in sex, I prefer to use a term like “overt nonverbal consent” to make clear that even though words aren’t necessarily exchanged (and I’m of the opinion that the vast majority of the time this is only safe for well-established, trusting couples*!), consent is still very much an active process and that the relevant parties are communicating in a way that is clear to them.

    *or trios, or quartets…whatever.

  132. says

    LSP, excellent points. I agree that implied consent is something that only comes up when a person is otherwise incapable of giving consent and is only used to help, not harm. (The TV show House has several great episodes about just that topic.) There can be some wiggle room about differences in opinions regarding what is the best possible course for a person who can’t make their own decisions, but with regards to sex – no one ever needed sex immediately to save their life or otherwise avoid great harm. To imply otherwise is quite insane.

  133. Ace of Sevens says

    no one ever needed sex immediately to save their life or otherwise avoid great harm.

    What about Spock?

  134. Marshall says

    To paraphrase Aaron Sorkin by way of The West Wing:

    “Spock can be used as an example for anything.”

  135. Ace of Sevens says

    You have to be a mechanic to write a car advice column and a doctor or nurse to write a medical advice column. Why can just anyone write a personal advice column?

  136. anonymous says

    opposablethumbs @ 120 – or anyone else who’s interested and still following this thread –

    okay, so you think I was raped. (For the record, I don’t, because I didn’t say ‘no’ explicitly or really even implicitly, unless you’d consider ‘lying back and thinking of england’ that way – and because, under the circumstances – happy marriage, good regular sex life – his assumption of a ‘yes’ was not unreasonable.)

    Now consider this: what if it was me coming home after a few too many drinks, feeling a bit randy and not noticing that he wasn’t so keen? And not remembering much in the morning? Men can still get erections even if they’re not really willing. By your reasoning, I would have raped him. Certainly if he’d said ‘no’ and I had been too drunk to notice, that would definitely have been rape in anyone’s eyes. But according to the usual reasoning, I would end up thinking that he raped me.

    I think what I’m concerned about here is that the assumption is always that if a woman can’t remember much, she was raped. Or if both parties had been drinking and then had sex, then the woman was raped. And I think often, that’s an over-simplistic assumption. Especially as almost everyone gets more libidinous after a few drinks.

  137. julian says

    For the record, I don’t, because I didn’t say ‘no’ explicitly or really even implicitly

    The responsibility is to obtain consent. It’s the most practical and ethical way to go about sex. If you assume the drunk girl who isn’t really into it but isn’t saying no (being drunk tends to impair our ability to refuse. Having seen guys too drunk to fight off getting their body shaved or otherwise fucked with, I won’t be siding with the ‘they didn’t say no crowd’ for cases involving a drunk victim) is consenting to sex you are risking raping her. That’s an absurd risk to take.

    Furthermore consent is something that is given so it isn’t something that’s always safely assumed. It has to be reevaluated for each new situation even if both parties are intimately familiar with each other. For example, reluctance implies it isn’t there. Reluctance especially if there has not been a ‘yes’ or similar heavily implies a ‘no.’ That’s just basics of human interaction.

    By your reasoning, I would have raped him.

    There’s nothing problematic about this (other than, you know, the sexual assault.) You would have raped him.

    We’re unlikely to see eye to eye on this. You believe it is your responsibility to say no or otherwise indicate you do not want sex (the responsibility here being on the individual to show that they refused sex somehow) where as I believe it is my responsibility to (for lack of a better phrase) obtain consent (the responsibility here being on the alleged raper to show the victim was a willing participant).

  138. LeftSidePositive says

    @Anonymous, 152,

    Seconding julian here that the definition of consent is not the absence of a “no” but rather the presence of a “yes” (which can be nonverbal in some cases).

    Also, I’m going to have to take issue with the idea that spouses can “assume” consent–that’s really not okay. There’s a difference between communicating clearly & enthusiastically albeit nonverbally, versus doing whatever you want because it’s your spouse.

    Expecting someone to say “no” is not okay, because it places the burden on the victim (or potential victim), and that person might be incapacitated, afraid, or just too damn stunned to react at the time.

    Yeah, and if you were the one doing the sex (drunk or not) and he didn’t want it, then yes you would be raping him in that hypothetical. I go into this in more detail in post #53, but the short version is, it’s the one doing things who’s responsible. But no, the default assumption is not always that the women is raped–it’s just that because men are socialized to be more sexually aggressive, in our culture it tends to be more likely, but the responsibility for the sex is determined by who is being active, not by gender.

  139. anonymous says

    Julian, and LeftSidePositive, I think I’ve failed to make myself clear. Firstly, although I don’t class what happened as rape, I can see that someone in a similar position would and I certainly wouldn’t argue about that. I’m just saying that in that one instance, for me, I chose not to see it that way (and that was because I know that wasn’t his intention; for me, that counted for a lot). And if the roles had been reversed, yes, I completely agree with both of you that it would have been rape.

    I’m trying (badly, it seems) to make the point that if two people have sex, it isn’t automatic that the drunk(er) one is the victim. Or that if two drunk people have sex, it’s not necessarily the case that if one of them is a woman and the other is a man, that the man was raping the woman. My hypothetical example was made to show that it’s possible for a drunk woman to rape a man and not remember it clearly in the morning. I’m objecting to the double standard.

    I hope that’s a bit clearer.

  140. anonymous says

    Julian, I’ve just re-read your posts.
    I *think* we’re actually in agreement. When I said there’s a double standard, I meant in society as a whole, I didn’t mean that you have one; you very clearly don’t. I don’t disagree with anything you said @53.

    What would you make of a situation where both parties were very drunk but both were active participants? Does the fact that they are active participants show that they are consenting? Or can they not consent because they’re drunk? I find the idea that they could both be victims paradoxical.

  141. julian says

    I’m trying (badly, it seems) to make the point that if two people have sex, it isn’t automatic that the drunk(er) one is the victim.

    There was probably some miscommunication because of the emphasis on being drunk up thread but yeah, it is perfectly possible for someone who’s drugged, drunk or otherwise blitzed to rape or otherwise hurt someone. They do it all the time.

    A lot of frats use it as an excuse. They were drunk too or don’t remember everything that happened and they’re really really sorry so please don’t say anything.

  142. LeftSidePositive says

    What would you make of a situation where both parties were very drunk but both were active participants? Does the fact that they are active participants show that they are consenting? Or can they not consent because they’re drunk? I find the idea that they could both be victims paradoxical.

    They wouldn’t be consenting, they’d be DOING. Just like you don’t “consent” to run over a pedestrian when you drive drunk, but if you do it you’re responsible.

    If both parties are actively DOING, then yes they’re both responsible. If one party is doing and the other one is responding, I’d say the doer is by far more responsible (I believe I covered this in #53). In practice, this may be difficult to determine if neither remember, but that’s how it should be in principle.

  143. julian says

    Two drunk guys having enthusiastic sex? No I wouldn’t call either participant a victim but I’m kinda wary about the whole thing.

    When I first hit the Fleet I heard a story about a male Marine who was date raped by another male Marine. The Marine in question was drugged and videotaped and the tape was used at trial. His 1stSgt supposedly had him administratively separated because during the rape he had been an ‘eager participant.’

    If drugs can induce eagerness and make someone want sex it makes even enthusiastic consent iffy. As far as I know alcohol can’t/doesn’t create those feelings so in your scenario no I wouldn’t call it rape of either participant…

    …Kinda went off on a tangent there.

  144. anonymous says

    Julian @ 160 – I had to google ‘administratively separated’ but now that I have – that’s damned unfair! And the idea that there’s a drug with that effect is just scary.

  145. anonymous says

    I think I ought to add that ‘damned unfair’ is just british understatement. It should have been illegal; I’m guessing it wasn’t.

  146. says

    1.) I find people who go a great length explaining why, although somebody says they didn’t consent and feel violated, it still was not rape very, very creepy.
    I would not feel safe with somebody who goes looking for loopholes.

    2.) Alcohol is not an on/off switch for consent. Just like it’s not a capable/incapable switch for driving. Most laws around the world recognize that the glass of beer you had at 7pm does not render you unable to drive home at 10pm.

    3.) Although it is a good comparison to a certain level, drunk-driving and drunken sex are two different things.
    With drunk-driving your objective ability to perform certain tasks is noticably diminished, even though you are still able to make meaningfull decisions. But with driving you need to be able to react within the split of a second. Unless you’re practising cohitus interuptus, that’s really not an issue with sex.
    But many countries also acknowledge that there’s a level of intoxication where you’re not responsible for what you’ve done anymore (you’re still responsible for having gotten that intoxicated. Don’t ever ask for your driver’s licence again).

    4.) what we’re talking about here is the case where one person involved wasn’t able anymore to give consent. Not that xe was not as good in bed as usual due to being a bot drunk.

    5.) How much more screwed up in your mind can you get if you claim that the woman in this example might have been so intoxicated that her brain was not able anymore to remember clearly what happend but still claim at the same time that her brain was still working well enough to give meaningfull consent?
    Don’t you see any problem with that?
    Well, you might not remember that you sold me your car for another beer, but you were totally able to do so.

    6.) What goes on between long-term sexual partners (and I’m not even talking about couples) is absolutely not a good meassure to judge interactions between casual strangers. The fact that I’m allowed to take money out of my husband’s wallet does not mean that doing so to a stranger wouldn’t be threft.

    This is in no way okay, and (if she was raped) I’m not blaming her, I’m suggesting she should consider her own potential legal liability for the sake of her own protection.

    Which is one of the many reasons why rape is practically a crime without prosecution: If the victim presses charges they are very likely to end up worse than they were at the beginning with the rapist being painted as an innocent victim whose life has been ruined.

    We don’t have an opinion from a rape crisis counselor. We have an account of what someone who wrote a letter says her friend told her a rape crisis counselor said. It’s third hand. In fact, I suspect a lot of the side-tracking is due to this getting garbled in transmission.

    Yes, and anybody who actually thinks 5 seconds before giving “advice” would be carefull of that.
    This “agony aunt” is dishing out judgement and advice based on third hand accounts without stopping to think about it.
    We neither have the first account to the friend verbatim but only the “condensed version”, and we have only a second hand “translation” of what the rape-crisis counsellor actually said.

    Like just about everyone else in America, you folks seem to be forgetting the concepts of “presumed innocent” and “reasonable doubt”. The “victim” herself, according to the first letter, does not know for sure if she gave consent or not. That, by itself, should be a show-stopper for any legal action.

    Unless, of course, you are a rape victim. In that case you’re a lying whore who deserves what she gets (that was cynism).
    See above: If she was too drunk to remember, she was too drunk to consent.

    Just great. So now drunk people are taboo.

    Yep, live with it. You know, just like when she totally looks 18 although she’s just 16. Doesn’t matter if she looked the part or even told you, it’s your job to make sure you’re not raping a minor. It’s also your job to make sure you’re not raping somebody who wouldn’t have touched you with pliers when sober.

    Pointing out that what freemage was advocating was crazy doesn’t mean I support raping drunk women.

    Let’s try this:

    The cut-off point is simple: Are you 100% certain the other person is sufficiently competent, i.e. of legal age (in the legal sense of the word) to consent to sex?

    If the answer is “no”, then if you have sex, even at their encouragement, you are taking a non-zero chance that you are committing rape.

    Bold by me. Is this still ridiculous? If you want to be sure don’t take chances. If you take chances, and the chances are that you are seriously hurting somebody for life, you are a problem and not safe to have around.

    It’s simply how I see the proposed policy of allowing women the option of waiting until the next day to decide if what they consented to the previous night was rape and therefore a crime.

    Funny thing that all the rape-apologists always assume that the victim is a woman.
    No, this policy allows people who have been intoxicated to adress their grievances. Because if you’re too intoxicated to say no, you’re too intoxicated to say yes. And if you were too intoxicated to remember, you were clearly too intoxicated to consent.

    anonymus
    Well, without further knowledge, it might well be that you were raped (for example, did you fear that he would use force if you said no?), and it might also be that he was too drunk to be responsible, which is also a legal concept (dunno if it is in the USA)

    Among other possibilities for abuse of such a policy, yes. Rape is a traumatic life-changing event. So is being accused of a crime that you didn’t commit that carries heavy criminal and social penalties.

    Given what we know about false rape accusations (not higher than for any other crime) and the abysmal small chances to actually have a rapist convicted, this is one big strawman. The poor guy who gets wrongly accused of rape and is brought before court where he even might be sentened is virtually non-existent (by that I mean there are cases, they are few, but those men should, of course, get rehabilitated). Rape is the crime where your chances of actually being prosecuted.
    Oh, and yes, not knowing better doesn’t mean you’re not commiting a crime. You might be found to have lesser guilt, but not that you were innocent.

    No. But I can tell you how to determine if it wasn’t: If the woman gave her consent at the time. If she didn’t consent, that’s another matter and I essentially agree with everything you’ve said in that regard.

    So, it’s OK for men to do so?
    Seriously, your language is betraying you. The victims are overwhelmingly women, but not exclusively.
    Also, does it mean I can keep your life savings? See, you signed them over to me last night…

    Making people aware of those situations so they can be avoided is part of reducing them.

    In other words: It’s your responsibility not to be raped. Congratulations, you made it all the way to rape-culture city at the speed of light.

    Yes, it’s all about consent to me. If you allow people to renege on consent of sex just because they’ve voluntarily had a drink or two, you open an avenue for human predators to take advantage of human victims. That’s a bad thing IMO.

    Only that you, of course, are giving perps a get out of jail free card for one of the most common forms of rape: Drug the victim up (ye-es, alcohol is a drug, didn’t you know?) and then rape them. Because you and Prudie will defend them at the expense of the victims.

    Expecting someone to say “no” is not okay, because it places the burden on the victim (or potential victim), and that person might be incapacitated, afraid, or just too damn stunned to react at the time.

    THIS
    Just remember how many times in your life you didn’t say “no, stop this” in any given situation although you actually didn’t want this because the active rejection would have had negative consequences (from an offended aunt who wanted to kiss you as a little girl to the friend to the guy you were actually afraid he’d hit you)

  147. anonymous says

    Giliell, I really didn’t fear him using force; I was just tired and wanted to get back to sleep soon and not have to deal with hurt feelings. It was a one-off thing in ten years of marriage and he’s one of the least violent people I know. I don’t think he’s ever hit anyone in his whole life.

    I was just using the story to make a point (drunk =/= victim every time) and I don’t think it worked, and I wish I hadn’t.

  148. says

    anonymous
    I didn’t want to investigate your claims further, I’m sorry if you felt the need to tell me anything about this particular instance.
    I didn’t want to make the same mistake “Dear Prudie” made which was to make a judgement based on very little information.
    I certainly don’t think that “I’d rather have slept but I don’t mind having sex” is rape if you know and feel confident that if you say “no thanks” it will be respected.

  149. Beth says

    LeftSidePositive @129
    Beth, why the hell do you keep using the phrase “consented to sex” to refer to people who are drunk? YOU CANNOT CONSENT TO SEX WHILE DRUNK. If someone is drunk, by definition no consent took place.

    Because that has been the specific scenario I am discussing: Where an inebriated person gave consent and then, later accusations of rape were made. I have not been discussing the original incident or other, more general situations and what I am saying does not apply to those other cases. I have tried to make that clear throughout.

    I understand that you feel that people cannot consent to sex while drunk by definition but I do not accept that definition. Adults are responsible for their behavior. Even when drunk. You cannot use that excuse to avoid responsibility if you drive while drunk. You can’t use that excuse to avoid responsibility if you rape someone, if you cheat on your spouse, if you beat somebody up, etc. while (you are) drunk.

    If you give consent (the specific scenario I referenced, from Hen3ry @99, stated “First, assume clear, ongoing and enthusiastic consent from all parties capable. Second, that all drinks are consumed knowingly, and without any instances of drink spiking etc.”) and do not explicitly withdraw it before the act takes place, I do not think it’s valid to use the excuse of being drunk and call it rape afterwards.

    Julian @136: I’m not entirely disagreeing with you, Beth, but no one is talking about a drink or two (to my knowledge.) The question (which date rape always seems to go back to is) can a drunk person consent. One or two drinks (except for a few people or very alcoholic drinks) isn’t going to get them drunk.

    I was responding to a comment from freemage @102. The impression I got was that any alcohol consumption was enough to trigger this statement: “Whether or not it IS rape is something that cannot be determined until after the other person has had a chance to think about it while totally sober.” I read that statement as sanctioning a policy of retroactively defining consensual sex as rape as it was in direct response to Hen3ry @99.

    LeftSidePositive @137 IT’S NOT RENEGING ON CONSENT. IF THE PERSON IS DRUNK, THEY NEVER GAVE CONSENT IN THE FIRST PLACE.

    I understand that you are claiming adults humans cannot consent to sex in that situation. I’m disagreeing and saying that yes, adult humans are capable of consenting to sex when drunk. I am saying that calling it rape the next day is reneging on consent retroactively.

    If you want to convince me that I should accept your definition of “consenting to sex” that prohibits drunk people from giving consent, you will have to provide me with a convincing reason why a person is not allowed to consent to sex while drunk.

    Ace of Sevens says: To Beth, though. I see no reason to think that’s what happened here, though.

    I agree with you. My comments have been in response to a specific scenario detailed in post 99, not the original definition. I specified this in post 109.


    Rochelle @140
    I think the position you are taking is that there are no backsies – that once a man thinks he is entitled to sex, the woman can’t take it back

    No, that is not my position. From post 126: If the woman gave consent, she gave up the right to call it rape UNLESS she later makes it clear to the man that she is withdrawing her previous consent.

    I’m not saying the woman can’t take it back. I’m saying she has to take it back before the act takes place, not afterwards. It’s allowing individuals the option of retroactively reneging on consent I object to, not that a person isn’t allowed to change their mind before engaging in the act.

    Marshall @142
    ever addressing the central point that has been reiterated TIME after TIME by many people here, namely that this is NOT, for fuck’s sake, about WITHDRAWING CONSENT, it is about whether or not there even WAS consent in the first place! Why have you so failed to notice this? I see above that people have now felt the need to REPEATEDLY and with much emphasis SPELL THIS OUT FOR YOU, which is something that should not have to be done because ALL of the context you should have needed to realize this has been there all the time! It’s beginning to feel as though you simply do not WANT to understand, because to do so would be to admit that you did not understand previously.

    Oh it’s not that I misunderstand. I’m disagreeing with you. I say people have the right to consent to have sex when drunk. To claim that they cannot give consent until the next day when they are sober is a crazy bad idea in my opinion and that is why I describe it as withdrawing consent retroactively or reneging the next day.

    Giliell @163:
    The cut-off point is simple: Are you 100% certain the other person is sufficiently competent, i.e. of legal age (in the legal sense of the word) to consent to sex?
    If the answer is “no”, then if you have sex, even at their encouragement, you are taking a non-zero chance that you are committing rape.
    Bold by me. Is this still ridiculous? If you want to be sure don’t take chances. If you take chances, and the chances are that you are seriously hurting somebody for life, you are a problem and not safe to have around.

    When I think about two young people, one a few weeks under the age of consent, the other old enough to be charged with statutory rape, enthusiastically enjoying sex, I think the ‘seriously hurting somebody for life’ description seems rather ridiculous unless you are talking about the jail time that might be imposed. Statutory rape does not imply lack of consent nor that the perpetrator is not safe to be around.
    Beth: Making people aware of those situations so they can be avoided is part of reducing them.
    Giliall: In other words: It’s your responsibility not to be raped. Congratulations, you made it all the way to rape-culture city at the speed of light.

    What I am trying to get across is that it is the responsibility of our society to create an environment in the public sphere that reduces those kinds of vulnerable situations. Things like making sure that bus stops are well lit late at night would be one example. Definitions of what does and does not constitute rape are another. I think the policy of saying people can’t consent to sex if they are drunk is one that will increase, not decrease, such situations.

    However, I have to say that making women aware of situations where rape is likely and counseling them to avoid those situations should NOT qualify as promoting rape culture.

    Just remember how many times in your life you didn’t say “no, stop this” in any given situation although you actually didn’t want this because the active rejection would have had negative consequences

    Too many. That’s why I am trying to speak up more when I feel a group I generally agree with has crossed over line. This is very much a direct result of the wide discussion regarding the elevator incident and its aftermath. I’ve come to realize that it’s important to let the people around you know when you feel they’ve gone too far and not stay silent just because it may lead to some negative consequences. So I’ve become more willing to speak up and accept the snide comments, name-calling and other rude responses as the price of putting my ideas and values out in the public square.

    But I’ve said my piece. I’ll shut up now.

  150. says

    If you want to convince me that I should accept your definition of “consenting to sex” that prohibits drunk people from giving consent, you will have to provide me with a convincing reason why a person is not allowed to consent to sex while drunk.

    That was already given in comment #25. And you’re ignoring the beginning of freemage’s comment about one’s certainty that one’s sex partner has not reached that stage.

    However, I have to say that making women aware of situations where rape is likely and counseling them to avoid those situations should NOT qualify as promoting rape culture.

    Actually, it does. Very much so. It does because we do not spend that kind of time and attention on telling the victims of any other crime that it’s their responsibility to stay out of those situations and because we don’t spend that kind of time and attention telling people not to rape.

  151. LeftSidePositive says

    Can we have Beth banned already? She’s repeated the same falsehoods and willful misunderstandings over and over again and adds nothing to the discussion.

  152. Ace of Sevens says

    Beth, I agree that people can’t consent to sex, then later decide it was a bad idea, retroactively withdraw consent and claim rape. This would seem to be a straw man, though. I don’t think anyone is arguing that’s OK.

  153. Marshall says

    I say people have the right to consent to have sex when drunk. To claim that they cannot give consent until the next day when they are sober is a crazy bad idea in my opinion and that is why I describe it as withdrawing consent retroactively or reneging the next day.

    What could I possibly say to this? What could I possibly add that would make the impact of this pathetic, piss poor straw person’s murder any more poignant? Would it make it more maddening if I were to point out that nobody here EVER claimed that someone cannot give consent until after the event? Would it increase the level of frustration felt by myself (and I assume others) at having my position (or theirs) inaccurately reiterated in such a way as to make it impossible to agree with? Would it heighten the sense of mind boggling awe at how carelessly you have treated the arguments of others?

    I submit that there is nothing, not a single word or phrase I could write, that would do more damage to your credibility in this thread than you have already done yourself. It would be arrogant of me, almost ego-maniacally so, to presume that I could rise to the task of increasing the utter what-the-fuckededness of the things you have written here over the past two days. I would not allow myself the indignity of attempting and failing, and I would humbly suggest that no one else do so either.

    In short, what the fuck ever, Beth. Either you have gone out of your way to deliberately misunderstand what people have said here, or you have been STAGGERINGLY inept in grasping the substance and meaning of the same. Whatever the cause of your almost impossibly consistent ability to twist the words of others to suit your purposes, whether it is imperceptiveness or a really quite upsettingly impressive talent, I can only add that I second Left’s suggestion that you be banished from this tiny village, and barring that I will take it upon myself to simply ignore your further blathering, as it seems to be highly correlated with the headaches I’ve been suffering since your arrival, and I do seek to avoid such things whenever it is within my capabilities to do so.

  154. says

    Beth

    Things like making sure that bus stops are well lit late at night would be one example. Definitions of what does and does not constitute rape are another. I think the policy of saying people can’t consent to sex if they are drunk is one that will increase, not decrease, such situations.

    Well-lit bus stations.
    That’s the best you can come up with. Seriously?
    So, you think that saying that drunk people cannot consent will increase rape and situations in which people are vulnerable?
    Care to explain why and how.
    Becazuse at the moment, the default seems to be “She’s just ashamed of what she did, if she were drunk (even passed out drunk), she can’t say for sure what happened, so we’re going to chalk it down as a missunderstanding at the most”.

    This attitude lets rapists get away with making people drunk to “loosen them up” and then taking advantage of their vulnerability and diminished reasoning capacity.
    I’m asking this:
    Do you think that if somebody who was drunk entered a business transaction they’d never engage in while sober that they have a point in claiming the contract to be invalid?

    When I think about two young people, one a few weeks under the age of consent, the other old enough to be charged with statutory rape, enthusiastically enjoying sex, I think the ‘seriously hurting somebody for life’ description seems rather ridiculous unless you are talking about the jail time that might be imposed. Statutory rape does not imply lack of consent nor that the perpetrator is not safe to be around.

    Again, telling which possible scenario out of hundreds of possible scenarios involving statuory rape you chose. You chose of course talking about the scenario everybody sees as unproblematic in terms of rape and problematic in terms of prosecution.
    Interesting that you seem to be unable to come up with a 15 yo and a 25 yo who claims that xe totally looked 18.
    You are, again, spectacularly missing the point that it is about the fact that somebody is unable to give consent, for example a 13, 14, 15 yo. It’s not that consent is revoked retrospectively, it never existed in the first place.
    You a constantly looking for grey areas, for loopholes, for possible scenarios in which X could have been consensual and thereby excusing thousands of cases where it wasn’t.
    You are, in short, a rape apologist.

  155. hen3ry says

    Alright, so I have not got back to you for a while. I am sorry not to have taken a more active part in this discussion. However, I have not seen a clear consensus as to when alcohol impairment becomes sufficient to render consent worthless. I agree that, in an ideal world, we would all ensure that all our partners were in full control of their faculties and stone cold sober when asking about consent. However, we are not in such a world. We must draw the line somewhere. Comment 25 is not a reasonable definition, it is a hand-waving blur. Let us pick a more specific definition of intoxication:

    Generally, an intoxicated person is incapable of acting as an ordinary prudent and cautious person would act under similar conditions.

    Now, an ordinary prudent and cautious person will certainly gain clear, enthusiastic, and ongoing consent. However, ordinary, prudent, and cautious people still like to have sex, and will generally go quite far out of their way to do so. So we now have a situation in which Person A, an ordinary, prudent, and cautious person, may be legally intoxicated with respect to driving a car, but not legally intoxicated with respect to having sex with their long-term partner, Person B, both parties having given clear, enthusiastic, and ongoing consent. However, there is an argument here that this is rape, as alcohol has been consumed. Yes, I understand that there is no easy cut-off here, but we must distinguish between having a couple of drinks, and being drunk. This is not an instant switch, that as soon as you are over the drink-driving limit you can not longer consent, but a continuum.

    Freemage @ 102:

    There is a lot to agree with in you post, however I have one small problem: Just because I later regret something, does not mean I did not consent at the time. This falls into a problem of defining what an ordinary, prudent, and cautious person will do in a given circumstance. Perhaps I have a different expectations of what I consider to be intoxicated, being from that nation of drinkers, the UK?

    There is also a small problem in my mind here with the concept that people are not responsible for giving consent if alcohol has been consumed. Again, I am not talking about people impaired to the point of public drunkenness, but the cases before that. Do people not have a feel for how drunk they are? Is it so hard to think to yourself “Hmm, I feel a little tipsy, best sleep it off before making decisions?”

    I may be swinging the pendulum to far from the current situation, in which far too many people are raped (too many being any, really). If this is the perception, I apologise. Perhaps I should be considering the difficulties of legal consent with a less hot-button topic.

  156. says

    Do people not have a feel for how drunk they are? Is it so hard to think to yourself “Hmm, I feel a little tipsy, best sleep it off before making decisions?”

    Yes, and if I notice that point, I stop drinking and go home.
    Only that ocasionally I missed that point, or the unprocessed alcohol in my stomach kicked in and I suddenly thought to myself “gosh I’m soooo cool another drink would be a perfect idea.”
    It mostly happened when I was young and didn’t know my body well enough so I would notice when it was enough but not too much, including one occasion of being black out drunk.
    Fortunately, the people I was with were responsible people who did not talk me into going skinny dipping in a wintery lake or having sex.
    The blame for being too drunk remained with me. It was also toally my headche to endure. The responsibility not to use my state of vulnerability remained with other people.

    Why is this so hard to understand: If in doubt, do not fuck.
    If you have doubts that this person wouldn’t want to have sex with you if they were sober, do not fuck. Give them your phone number, call them a cab and tell them that you’d be really gald to meet them again.
    If they never call you, be glad that you didn’t go there and raped somebody who didn’t want to have sex with you.
    Remember, if you follow this rule, the worst case scenario is that you miss out on sex.
    If you don’t follow this rule, the worst case scenario is that you rape somebody.
    Think it through before you start drinking.
    JUst like people who are against drunk-driving while sober usually don’t engage in it while drunk, it should help you to remember this about sex.
    Yes, it is entirely possible that the other person did not think this through. The fact that rape is treated like something that happens in dark bus stops is partly to blame for this. The other person might never have thought that this could happen to hir, that somebody would take advantage of hir. Isn’t it good that this person is safe with you?

  157. Anri says

    The comparisons to drunk driving are interesting, largely because they shift the person harmed and no one seems to notice.

    What happened here is that a woman claimed to be hit by a car, and when she complained about it, the driver said “But she was drunk!” She was then told that since she was drunk, well, being drunk in the road carries an inherent risk of being hit by a car… can’t blame the poor driver for that kinda thing. Her own fault, really, right?

    As to anyone suggesting that stringent laws about consent will create a population of false-rape-criers, please ask yourself what a person who accuses someone of rape goes through… and ask yourself if a substantial number of people would be willing to go through that for fun.
    I’m going to make the radical suggestion the underreported rape is a vastly greater problem than fale rape accusations. I certainly know I would prefer to be falsely – even successfully – accused of rape than to have my partner raped and be afraid to report it… or to not be taken seriously when they did so.
    But maybe that’s just me.

  158. says

    To totally flog a dead horse…I just came across this link today and think it suits perfectly.

    http://www.nsvrc.org/news/9215
    “What should I do if someone discloses to me that they were a victim of sexual abuse?

    If someone you know discloses sexual abuse, believe them, listen attentively, affirm the fact that they are talking about it, and remind them that they were not at fault. Avoid asking questions that may be perceived as blaming or judgmental such as, “Why didn’t you tell anyone at the time?” Instead, offer supportive statements such as, “That must have been awful for you,” or “I’m so sorry you were betrayed in that way.” Offer to help by asking, “Is there anything I can do to support you?” Oftentimes, sexual assault is committed by someone who is known and trusted. In these incidents, it can be very confusing. Feelings of betrayal may cause survivors to doubt others or themselves, but talking about it is part of the healing process. If someone wants to talk to an experienced advocate, help them locate their local rape crisis center or other community resources.”

  159. Zero says

    So thanks to this article I just had to inform my girlfriend of two years, a staunch feminist, that I sexually assaulted her on our first date. She was drunk and we kissed and she literally put my hands on her breasts. I pulled away once since she was drunk and I was far less inebriated, but she repeated and well I’m only human. We didn’t make it past 2nd base but yeah according to this logic I sexually assaulted a woman I love dearly and just like many others here – have been raped myself due to alcohol + sex.

    “Don’t blame the victim! It’s a tragedy! X,Y,Z …”

    Don’t play in f***ing traffic and not expect to get hit by a car.

    Don’t pretend there aren’t people out there that can and will rape you at the drop of a hat especially if the opportunity presents itself, prison anyone? The first person responsible for protecting themselves from the evil bastards in this world is, in fact, yourself.

  160. LeftSidePositive says

    Zero, as we’ve discussed ad nauseum on this thread, you are responsible for what YOU DO while drunk, not what is done to you. By your description it is pretty clear your girlfriend was making her own actions toward sexual touching and actually MAKING THIS HAPPEN HERSELF, not being passively touched. Therefore, your scenario has no bearing whatsoever on what we’ve been defining as rape. Like Stephanie said, your reading comprehension is dismal.

    Moreover, it’s dangerous to “play in traffic” because drivers may not see you and you are at a high risk of being ACCIDENTALLY run over. It’s not like “playing in traffic” gives drivers free reign to do target practice.

    It’s also damn insulting of you to act like women just going about our own lives like free people and engaging in exactly the same activities to which you feel entitled and take for granted, are being as needlessly reckless as “playing in traffic.”

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