It’s Just Disagreement »« Helping the Families

“Consent Is Hard”

A repost for today, in “honor” of all the people who jump up to claim to be rapists when the subject of alcohol and rape is brought up. Pro tip: “That can’t be true because it would make me a rapist” is never a convincing argument. Don’t miss Benny’s comments in particular on that post, or the comments where this was originally posted.

There’s some interesting conversation going on in the comments on my post, “An MRA Speaks on Rape.” It’s interesting not for how it starts–which is the typical fretting about potential edge cases in consent–but because of where it goes from there.

It started with the standard misdirection:

Wel I have some reservations against calling “having sex with an intoxicated person” rape. Does that mean that if both persons were intoxicated they raped each other?

I pointed out that that wasn’t what was being discussed. It is, after all, a very different thing to say that one may be too intoxicated to effectively give or withhold consent (as federal definitions of rape do) and that no one who is intoxicated can consent to sex. Someone else wasn’t keen on me keeping the thread on topic, however:

Given the numbers of people who go home together after meeting at bars or clubs or parties or other places serving alcohol–given the number of people who go out to such places in order to meet someone–and the countless stages of intoxication, and of comparative intoxication, of visible intoxication, questions of who’s buying the drinks, what each person’s goals are–of all the conversations to cut short with simplistic and sometimes unkind responses, this is not one.

I think that there are questions in there to be fleshed out. Because that’s the kind of statement that sounds good and solid, and can block a further conversation if it’s not deconstructed. I’d have looked into it.

Declaring an area crystal clear does not in fact, get rid of that obnoxious blurriness.

A number of commenters made excellent points, and they’re all well worth reading, but I just want to say this up front: If you find the topic of consent to be difficult to sort out, you’re going at sex wrong.

Will it always be immediately clear whether someone wants to have sex with you? No. Will it always be clear whether they want to have the same kind of sex you want to have? No. Will it always be clear, even when they say, “Yes,” whether they feel free to say, “No,” or are sober enough to know what they’re doing? No.

So what?

Consent is not a true-false test on which you ever need to guess the answer before the class bell rings. Sex, aside from masturbation in private, is something that happens between two or more people. If those people are present for sex, they are present for you to communicate with them. They are there for you to talk to and listen to. They are there for you to reassure that any answer they give is acceptable. They can tell you what they want and what they don’t.

There is no reason to ever have to turn consent into a guessing game, unless you have a partner who refuses to communicate or whom you don’t fully trust.

Then it’s up to you. If you still really can’t tell whether you have freely and reasonably given consent, you have a decision to make. At that point, it’s time to figure out just how comfortable you are running the risk of raping someone.

Sure, it’s possible that your staggeringly drunk date would still want to have sex with you sober. It’s possible that the person sleeping next to you would jump you if they were awake. It’s possible that the hesitation you sense is performance anxiety and not unhappiness about feeling there’s no choice but sex.

It’s all possible, but if you can’t be sure, the alternate possibility is rape.

That shouldn’t be a hard decision. Pretending that it is, or even just giving in to the societal pressure that says the pursuit of sex should be the primary consideration, is giving cover to rapists. Rapists don’t set out to be villains. They excuse their actions by claiming consent where there is none–and by claiming that consent is difficult to sort out. They treat it like that true-false test, where the answers carry equivalent weight and a guess gives a fair chance of getting it right.

But this isn’t something you flip a coin over. It isn’t something you have to guess at in the dark. And it really, really isn’t hard.

Comments

  1. says

    And if that line of reasoning makes you feel uncomfortable about actions you’ve taken in your past which you cannot undo, then instead of rejecting that reasoning you should think more carefully about how you act in the future…

    I have had encounters where I was quite possibly too much of an aggressor. I don’t know for sure and I unfortunately I can’t go back and ask. The “but that would make me a rapist” objection tells me the person finds the implications about what he’s done in the past trouble him.

    All I can say is, “so what?”

    It took a man I had been seeing for about week to force me to have sex when I was falling-down tired (and yes, a little drunk, but not enough to say not say “yes” or “no”) to make me stand back and re-evaluate how I had treated potential partners.

  2. anat says

    Will it always be immediately clear whether someone wants to have sex with you? No.

    It’s not the end of the world. When in doubt – stop. Don’t continue without first clearing things up. (And be honest with yourself about the possibility of doubt.)

  3. Didaktylos says

    It can’t be all that difficult: if the object of your desire is not actively and enthusiastically cooperating, SOMETHING IS WRONG – stop and find out what it is before going any further.

  4. says

    Pro tip: “That can’t be true because it would make me a rapist” is never a convincing argument.

    True, but how about “That can’t be true because it would mean I’ve been raped several times apparently without my knowledge”?

  5. says

    Gretchen, if you listen to the stories that rape survivors tell, it is sadly all too common for them to say that it took them a long time to acknowledge that what had happened to them was rape. “I didn’t want them to do it but it wasn’t rape” doesn’t mean it wasn’t rape. It means someone doesn’t want to apply a label that is itself traumatic and stigmatizing and that requires some additional decisions to be made.

    They can not want that. They can choose not to use the word for themselves. Those are completely valid. It still doesn’t make it a good argument within the common understanding.

  6. B says

    Yes, perplexing problem, whether you are male or female.
    The problem is, there are a lot of people out there and many have sex in the borderline descriptions that you outline, and yes, even people who know and understand the difficulties you have outlined, so what is the solution to the problem?

  7. B says

    ““I didn’t want them to do it but it wasn’t rape” doesn’t mean it wasn’t rape”
    Why this insistent attachment to the word “rape”.
    If a woman abivilently participates in sex with a man, but still participates, then three months later regrets it and feels horrible about what she did, even violated……then the suggestion that it was “rape” means that a man can go around for three months, probably even talking to her over that time, and suddenly is accused of something as horrendous as rape!
    I am trying to approach this honestly, I really don’t understand how that language can be used.
    Does the woman feel violated? yes.
    Does the man bear some responsiblity for that? yes
    Is that responsibility sufficient for the man to serve time in jail or prison? I don’t think so.
    Did he “rape” her? Not so sure.

    Please do not think that I am ignoring the woman’s feelings in that situation, but I just don’t see how that languaging is open to any kind of healing, or common sense.

  8. says

    I don’t understand the driving, incontrovertible IMPERATIVE to have sex so incredibly powerfully that anyone ever feels the need to risk being a rapist instead of quietly retiring to the next room and taking matters into their own hands when consent is uncertain.

  9. says

    B, you’re pulling that ambivalence out of your ass. That wasn’t in my comment. So why are you making shit up on behalf of those poor, helpless men (and when did this become gendered?) who couldn’t be bothered to make sure someone wanted to have sex with them?

    Stopping that dishonestly would go a long way toward “the solution to the problem”.

  10. says

    B: Unless you have gagged the person so they cannot speak, I think the “solution” to the problem is fairly self-evident.

    And if you have gagged the person so they cannot speak, it had better darn well be a mutually consensual act.

    Seriously, you cannot possibly be that dim.

  11. says

    Stephanie said:

    Gretchen, if you listen to the stories that rape survivors tell, it is sadly all too common for them to say that it took them a long time to acknowledge that what had happened to them was rape. “I didn’t want them to do it but it wasn’t rape” doesn’t mean it wasn’t rape. It means someone doesn’t want to apply a label that is itself traumatic and stigmatizing and that requires some additional decisions to be made.

    They can not want that. They can choose not to use the word for themselves. Those are completely valid. It still doesn’t make it a good argument within the common understanding.

    Okay, I apologize for the misunderstanding– that was my fault for being so brief.

    What I meant is that according to some, I personally have been raped, even though I personally didn’t consider it such, and I did want it to happen. For example, sex while very drunk. Or sex with a trusted partner while still technically asleep. It’s scary to hear someone call this rape because they’re saying that your male partner is a rapist even though you know damn well that he isn’t or wasn’t. Not because he got away with raping you, but because what he did wasn’t rape.

    No, consent shouldn’t be difficult. But when someone says that what you consider– as a female– to be enthusiastic consent doesn’t count as consent at all, it becomes not just difficult but terrifying. Rape being a crime and all, and people claiming that someone you love committed a crime against you when you know he did nothing of the sort.

  12. freemage says

    B: In any situation where you’re not getting active feedback affirming consent, you’re deciding that you’re willing to roll the dice and take a chance on waking up the next day to find out you’re a rapist. And taking that risk? It’s kind of like getting behind the wheel of a car when you’ve been drinking. Even if nothing bad comes of it (you don’t crash; you wake up the next morning and find that she’s totally thrilled about the previous night), you’re deliberately deciding that your convenience and desire trumps someone else’s right to safety. Which means that even if you’re not a rapist come morning, you’re still a shithead. It really is that simple, and that’s how we need to teach the subject, particularly to kids in junior high and beyond.

    Note: I’ve occasionally encountered the argument of, “Well, what if she really wanted to have sex?” Well, the response is, “Who gives a shit?” She doesn’t have the right to have sex with you against your will, either, and if you’re not a shithead, you won’t want to have sex that entails the risk of being a rapist. And come morning, when she’s sober, she’ll hopefully understand that. If she doesn’t–if she decides that you are too milquetoast for her, because she’s absorbed the lesson that a ‘real man’ takes sex whenever it’s available–then you’re better off letting her go on her way and mature a bit, anyway. And you have the advantage of having woken up with your integrity still intact, which should be worth more than a memory of drunken sex.

  13. B says

    Wow….I just started commenting here, and I thought the wider community was exagerrating, I guess they are not.
    I am not so dim, and I personally would not move forward with an act such as you describe. If I see hesitation, or her hearts not in it, I don’t do anything, that is just decency. I believe I have a sense of judgment about that.
    However, I can (as obviously it does happen) see where someone may not have that sense, especially under the intoxicated description you have given.
    So your solution is to take which person and accuse them of rape months after the fact? Who committed the “rape”?

    Life, emotions, and sex are just so simple to you all…must be nice…all black and white in a nice little bow.

    Now, emotions aside, how do you determine who did what? Why is there any blame in that case? Two people did something, one or both regret it and feel violated…..and you use the criminal word of rape to describe this?

    The reason you get the reaction you get from people is those that responded to me seem to have no sense of nuance.

    There are conditions under which and man and a woman can have sex, regret it, and feel horrible about it later, and no one has done anything wrong!

  14. says

    B, I don’t have time to deal with rape apology right now, so you’re in moderation.

    If you can’t tell whether someone wants to have sex with you, and you go ahead, you’re risking rape. If you think sex can’t be done any other way, you should get some help. If you think having it pointed out to you that that it’s dishonest to swap out pieces of someone’s argument in order to get the conclusion you like is lacking “nuance”, you really shouldn’t engage in any argumentation ever.

    There are conditions under which and man and a woman can have sex, regret it, and feel horrible about it later, and no one has done anything wrong!

    That’s a very nice little assertion you’ve got there. It has nothing to do with what we’re talking about here. Trying to confuse whatever scenario you’ve dreamed up and what we’re actually talking about is inexcusable.

  15. says

    Gretchen, if you wanted these things to happen, they weren’t rape. Sex where someone has prior consent to do what they’re doing and that consent has not been revoked? Not rape, even where it shares superficial characteristics with many rapes. Consent is everything.

    Of course, revoking consent is more difficult at that level of incapacity, so the chances of rape are still higher than they would otherwise be. However, a long-standing relationship with good communication reduces the risk considerably.

  16. says

    I guess I’m going to start this with a trigger warning…

    So, I’ve dated on both sides of the isle. And while I’ve never had any hard and fast rules, I like to play submissive to aggressive people and play aggressor to more submissive people.

    But these aren’t games I play with people I’m still getting to know. I won’t play with a partner who won’t stop at “no” if I don’t have a safeword.

    A couple years ago, I was wandering around the Baltimore gay pride festival with a collar and a leash on. And sometimes a guy or a girl would take the leash and lead me around a bit. I was having fun, and eventually I ended up following a guy back to his apartment and we had some fun. Totally consensual, no problem. We shared numbers and I went home that night.

    So we see each other a few more times over the next couple weeks. Now, at this time I was working. A lot. Like, 80 hour weeks, sometimes the whole seven days. This week, though, there wasn’t any weekend work so we thought I’d come over after I got off Friday and we’d spend the weekend together.

    Now, I had just come off a 14 hour shift. What I was expecting was a quiet evening and then a whole Saturday to play “getting to know you”, and I had told him this. And at first it seemed fine. We watched a movie, did some light stuff. We both had a few drinks. But pretty soon I was falling down tired, and wanted to catch some sleep. At first he seemed disappointed, wanted to do a bit more, but I thought I made it clear I was pretty fucking tired. So I end up crashing on his bed and he says he’ll join me later.

    I don’t know if he kept drinking or not. All I really know is waking up on my stomach with him on top of me pinning my hands underneath me. He wasn’t that big and he’d lubed up first, so it didn’t really hurt too much. I tried to fight, but I was still exhausted, had been woken up out of a sleep and he didn’t take too long to finish. He did his thing and then spooned me and I just tried to be somewhere else.

    In the morning I left and didn’t return his calls. It took me over a year to come to grips with what he did to me. Now, I’m not gonna try to find him and press charges. But I can damn well sure think about how I come across to someone at the bar or at a party or that I’ve only been seeing for a few weeks and haven’t really learned boundaries for.

  17. neuroguy says

    I think what some might be trying to allude to here is that the same situation should occur if the genders are reversed. If he gets too intoxicated to legally consent, and they have sex, she’s guilty of rape. If she puts her hands down his pants or something like that, she’s guilty of sexual assault. If she is intoxicated as well, they are both guilty. This, of course, makes many women rapists who wouldn’t have been previously thought of as such, and this makes some uncomfortable.

    But too bad. The general premise is that when you are intoxicated you are legally responsible for what you do, but others are legally responsible for what they do to you if they are taking advantage of your inability to properly reflect.

  18. Rodney Nelson says

    neuroguy #19

    Women do sexually assault and rape men. Nathaniel Frein’s story in #18 show there is man on man rape and I’ve no doubt women have raped other women. However, and this is a major however, the vast majority of rapes consist of men rapists and women victims.

    The general premise is that when you are intoxicated you are legally responsible for what you do, but others are legally responsible for what they do to you if they are taking advantage of your inability to properly reflect.

    If you’re intoxicated and rape someone, beat someone up, kill someone, or otherwise act in an illegal manner then you’re responsible for your actions. Intoxication is not a legal defense for illegal actions. If you are intoxicated and someone steals your wallet then you are not responsible for the theft, the thief is, regardless of their state of intoxication. Rape is no different.

  19. freemage says

    Gretchen:

    What you’re missing is that Stephanie isn’t saying those people you had sex with were rapists (or that you were, yourself). It’s that they were perpetually taking the risk of BEING rapists, because it meant they got to have sex.

    Just like someone who willingly gets behind the wheel of a car after drinking is willing to take the risk of becoming guilty of vehicular homicide, you and your partner both took a chance. As it happened, from your perspective, that chance paid off. Yippee. But, suppose you’d gone drinking with a stranger/first date, with no preconceptions that sex was definitely on the agenda. You both get way too intoxicated to consent meaningfully. At some point during the drunken mosh, your date says, “Hey, we’ve both had a lot to drink, let’s chill until morning. I want to be sure ~you’re~ sure.” Is that really so horrible a concept to you? Yes, you might be disappointed–you’d been an eager participant. But would you wake up in the morning thinking the guy was scum?

    There was a time when ‘marital rape’ was viewed as not-a-thing, just a husband’s prerogative. It took a long effort to get to the point where the idea that a wife could, in fact, say “no” to sex was an acceptable concept. This is the fight that Stephanie and others are making now–that rape is a thing any time consent is violated or ignored.

  20. says

    Stephanie said:

    Gretchen, if you wanted these things to happen, they weren’t rape.

    freemage said:

    Just like someone who willingly gets behind the wheel of a car after drinking is willing to take the risk of becoming guilty of vehicular homicide, you and your partner both took a chance. As it happened, from your perspective, that chance paid off. Yippee.

    Do you realize that you’re basically saying that for a guy, it’s a crapshoot whether his partner who appears to be enthusiastically consenting actually is, and she should be the one who gets to determine that in spite of appearing to enthusiastically participate in the sex act, she actually wasn’t consenting and therefore it was a rape? That she should have the power to decide after the fact that she actually wasn’t consenting in spite of giving every appearance of doing so….therefore he’s a rapist?

    I don’t know about you, but I don’t want that kind of power. I don’t want to be able to ruin someone’s life and decide that he’s a criminal based on a misunderstanding that anyone could make, and wasn’t remotely the result of not caring whether I consent or not.

  21. says

    I think there’s a big difference between what happens with two adults who know each other and two adults who are just getting to know each other.

    I don’t mind playing the “well, you’re gonna have sex if you like it or not” when I’m playing it with someone I know and trust, and that includes a safeword. I don’t usually mind getting woken up with someone’s penis (or strapon). But these are games I play with people I know and have talked with and who know me.

    I think the big issue is when you’re still in that “new person” stage and you’re still getting to know each other. When the person you’re with starts being less than enthusiastic about what you’re doing, but you keep pushing it anyway. When the person wakes up and struggles but you make sure to finish anyway. Then, yes, it’s a crapshoot.

  22. Sophia, Michelin-starred General of the First Mediterranean Iron Chef Batallion says

    I hear this “Is it still rape if you don’t feel raped?” thing a lot. The easiest way to answer is to think of it from a purely legal standpoint and substitute crimes.

    “Is it still theft if you don’t miss the items taken?” – In the event an item is taken from you without consent, theft has still been committed whether or not you personally feel it has, or suffer any negative consequences.

    “Is it still assault if you don’t feel physical pain from being slapped?” The slap still occurred, and unless it was a fully consensual act as part of some kind of BDSM play, someone has unlawfully assaulted you.

    “Is it still arson if you were going to pull down that gazebo anyway?” Yes, etc.

    Funny how it always comes down to consent, and your personal feelings about the crime committed have no bearing on whether or not one was committed in the first place. The definition comes from a perpetrator, one who must commit the crime. A thief must have stolen something for theft to occur. An assailant must initiate nonconsensual physical contact for assault to occur. An arsonist must set an unlawful fire for arson to have occurred. A rapist must have had nonconsensual sex for rape to have occurred.
    If someone feels they have been stolen from but no thief exists (a misplaced item, for example), no theft has occurred. If someone feels assaulted (fell over, for example), but no assailant exists, no assault has occurred. You get the picture.

    Perpetrators and consent.

    Secondarily, whether or not you personally feel that using those definitions means “too many” rapes are designated as happening has no bearing on the reality of those rapes. Argument from incredulity is still a logical fallacy in this situation, if someone has initiated sexual contact with someone from whom they did not obtain clear consent, rape has occurred whether you want to recognise it or not.

  23. Stacy says

    @Gretchen

    Do you realize that you’re basically saying that for a guy, it’s a crapshoot whether his partner who appears to be enthusiastically consenting actually is, and she should be the one who gets to determine that in spite of appearing to enthusiastically participate in the sex act, she actually wasn’t consenting and therefore it was a rape?

    Do you realize that nobody has said these rules only pertain to heterosexual sex? Did you even read Nathaniel Frein’s posts?

    Do you realize that the rules are the same for women? That women can rape men?

    Do you realize that if the partner consented, there was no rape, that drunk sex between people who don’t know each other well is dicey and Stephanie is saying that if you value consent and want to be a decent person, the thing to do is to err on the side of caution?

    What part of this do you have a problem with? What the fuck is your problem?

  24. Crunchy Renee says

    “For example, sex while very drunk. Or sex with a trusted partner while still technically asleep.”

    I’m sorry, but fucking someone while asleep or very drunk is pretty gross, its like using them as a blow up doll to get off on. I’m glad you liked it, but please keep in mind many people wouldn’t. No one should be thinking sex with the un/barely conscious is acceptable; It could be, but there is equal chance it is not, ok? I feel only creeps do this stuff, but thats Me.

    So, You are saying a man can’t tell its rape if the woman is enthusiastic- but aren’t your examples showing that the act *started out* as non consenting (drunk or asleep?) Said guy got *lucky* that it was OK, and your continued show of enthusiasm told him so. It could just as easily NOT have been OK. Another person may have woke up and gotten pissed, and felt violated. If sex happened without consent, its rape. Thats all we are saying.

    lastly: When you talk about women having the power to “ruin a life”, because she can later decide she was raped, are you kidding? Do you think it’s so simple to make a rape charge past mere declaration? Do you not realize that her life would also be ruined, and that the reporting a subsequent legal process has been deemed “the second rape” for a reason? SO few rapes are ever charged or prosecuted as is, and I don’t find it a good idea to remove the little power a person has against being RAPED while UNCONSCIOUS!

    TLDR, I know, so heres the short version: don’t fuck sleeping/wasted people if you don’t wanna run the risk of being an unintentionally rapist…

  25. says

    Well, there have been many points raised here.

    The answer to many of them is:
    When in doubt, do not fuck
    And here’s the good thing: I think that being aware of this and having thought about this already prevents 99% of problematic situations.
    Why? Let’s go back to our potential drunk-driver: People who consider drunk driving bad usually don’t change their mind once they had a beer or two. They plan in advance, like making clear who’s going to drive, how they get back home once they’re drunk or to stay sober. They don’t suddenly end up in a situation where the question is driving yes or no and are in a “grey area”.
    The problem with drunk driving are usually people who either deliberately don’t give a shit or who try to drink up to the limit and then end up on the wrong side of it.
    But ye olde folks might remember that this wasn’t always the case, that 20 years ago group one virtually didn’t exists and the don’t give a fuck people and the “another beer is still ok” people were dominating.
    We successfully changed culture to when in doubt, do not drive.

    Gretchen
    I’m certainly nobody who says that you must be a teetotaler to give consent. My husband and I are wine and whisk(e)y afficionados, so a glass of Bordeaux and a shot of whiskey are definetly part of our Saturday evening fun. We even integrate the booze into our sexytime games once in a while. But we’ve known each other for a long time, we both feel comfortable to say “uhm, stop”*, we are very sensitive to whether the other person is still “present”. So, no, I don’t think that our intoxication means we raped each other. Because we took precautions before. Other people do so with sex while asleep. Not my cup of tea, I would never consent to that, but totally possible.
    But all those things aren’t possible and on the table when we’re talking about somebody you met in the bar. And we know that rapists target drunk people, that they get them drunk and then they claim all those defenses afterwards.

    *more on this later

    True, but how about “That can’t be true because it would mean I’ve been raped several times apparently without my knowledge”?

    There’s at least two points to this:
    First one, as Stephanie said, people try to avoid the term rape. The data we have on rape and rapists can often only be collected by avoiding the word rape. So, the very same person would answer “no” to have you been raped and “yes” to did somebody have sex with you against your will.
    Some words are very loaded. It took me a long time, therapy and an almost complete breakdown to say/write the sentence “my mother abused me” (not sexually, thank goodness). And the thing is, I will still tell you that I had a happy childhood, and I love my mum and I don’t even blame her because I understand a lot of what she did.
    Now I can only speculate that the same will be true for many rape victims, that by calling what happened to you (generic) by its name you put yourself and a person whom you might still love into certain categories.

    Secondly, if you wanted things to happen, well, lucky you, and lucky partner. It still means that depending on the circumstances, (see above), it was a risk that was taken and that could have been avoided beforehand.

    As for the “regret” part.
    Appropriate trigger warning.
    No, that isn’t what we’re talking about. As I said above, my husband and I feel comfortable to say no, and take great care of each other. This wasn’t always so. There was a time when I felt like the biggest pile of shit-failure in the whole world. And because I couldn’t see why anybody would like to spend time with me, I thought that I needed to keep my husband sexually happy or else he would leave. Please notice that all of this only took place inside of my head. He never dominated or pressed or applied even psychological pressure. I am really lucky to have him because I would have been a wonderful victim for an abusive guy.
    But because I had convinced myself of all of this, I would have sex with him when I really, really didn’t want to, but he had no means of knowing because I’m reaaaaaaaly good at faking and putting people at ease.
    So, although I felt shit about this, and there is regret on my part, there’s no way how I could call this rape, except in saying that in a sense I raped myself.
    So yes, consent does have pitfalls indeed. And sometimes it might look like enthusiastic consent but it isn’t. But there are appropriate steps along the way that you can take to minimize the risk of hurting your partner.

    Nathaniel
    I’m sorry about what happened to you.

  26. Nepenthe says

    don’t fuck sleeping/wasted people if you don’t wanna run the risk of being an unintentionally rapist… be a rapist

    Just because you didn’t mow down a pedestrian or get pulled over doesn’t mean you didn’t drive drunk.

    @Nathaniel

    Jesus fucking Christ. I’m sorry.

  27. Illuminata, Genie in the Beer Bottle says

    I just started commenting here, and I thought the wider community was exagerrating, I guess they are not.

    Translation: i came here to troll and flamebait.

  28. B says

    Thank you Stephanie for letting me back in the conversation, I am sorry for any offense I may have caused anyone, that is not my intention.
    I am truly just trying to understand the languaging being used, as it is a bit foreign to me.
    Many of the comments and analogies here have been helpful in understanding, specifically, Stephanie’s position on this matter.
    Though I still disagree in detail, in general I have no argument.
    It is disgusting to have sex with someone who is passed out, that is rape.
    It is disgusting to force or corece someone to have sex, that is rape.
    It is disgusting to have sex with someone who can barely talk because they are so drunk, that is rape.

    I believe that rape has to have some component of malice to be considered rape.

    I use the terms rape or rapist in a legal crime sense of the word, and I imagine those with Stephanie’s position also are using it in that sense.

    It is that sense that I disagree with under the circumstance laid out below. I believe that the circumstances described below are a common experience, especially with those in the college age years that are new to the freedoms of experimenting with sex, and even with tons of education are not wise enough to follow the recommendations posted here. A little understanding from both perspectives should be granted and dealt with in order to educate people and have a healthier attitude for sex in the long run.

    Two people, kissing, undressing, having sex, changing positions during the act, whether explicit verbal permission is given or not (though it is recommended to get that)…in that situation, no rape. The physical acts are consent.

    I am a man that in college, by your definition, was raped by a woman.
    You don’t have to believe me, I can provide you no evidence of this other than my claim.
    If you are a true skeptic, you won’t believe me, and that is fine, and the way it should be.
    I do ask you to please read and respond as if you do believe it, as hopefully it will lend to the conversation in a constructive way.
    I will not be too detailed, as I do not what to get long winded or give away details as to expose personhood.

    I was at a party in my fraternity which was done between our house and a sorority on campus.
    We had a program, sort of a stage performance, every year that the fraternities and sororities put on.
    The cast and crew had, as to be expected, frequent parites….and lots of alcohol.
    During the party a woman and I kind of got hooked up as it were, I don’t remember much about that. Not because of drunkeness, but I just don’t remember much about the party itself.
    I do remember walking up to my room with her, and almost every detail until the end of the sex.
    I remember I was not attracted to her, and I was thinking “Why am I doing this?” and “I don’t want to do this.”
    She however did, she was laughing and kissing me and seemingly enjoying herself very much.
    We went into my room and got into various states of undress, again, the entire time I was thinking “I don’t want to do this, this is disgusting, I want out of here.”
    I remember every detail of the room vividly, as if I was floating around it without consciously participating in the acts that were happening. I just wanted to leave.
    I couldn’t…thinking “How could I explain this to the guys?”, “How can I walk away from sex, guys are supposed to like sex?”, etc. etc.
    Meanwhile, she was enjoying herself.
    My mojo wasn’t all there, but it was sufficient for her, at least I am assuming it was.

    So here is a summary of defining points.
    1. I didn’t want it.
    2. For various reasons (possibly cultural expectations) I seemed incapable of stopping the activity or saying no.
    3. I was physically capable of stopping it, I was physically capable of saying “no, stop”, but I didn’t and seemingly couldn’t for whatever reason…but I did want it to STOP!
    4. To this day, I clearly remember the experience (20 years) and relive many of the emotions of shame and disgust as I think about it.

    I would guess this would be “rape” by your definition.
    I would guess you would say the woman should be prosecuted and sent jail, the rest of her life ruined. (Though I doubt that would actually ever have been possible.)

    My take:
    She did absolutely nothing wrong….absolutely NOTHING! If you could point to where she “harmed” me or did something wrong, I would appreciate it.
    She deserves absolutely no blame in the event AT ALL!
    She, at least from what I could tell, enjoyed herself. She even wanted to do it again a couple of days later, I refused.
    She does not deserve to be called a word as offensive as “rapist”.
    I was responsible for continuing.
    I could have stopped it at anytime, but for whatever reason did not do so.
    I am responsible for the emotions I feel as a result of my own failure to act.

    I hope this helps you understand my perspective and how I find your position in detail and practical reality, untenable and only productive for casting insults at people rather that taking an honest look at the real difficulty involved with assigning blame. You may want it to be nice, easy and clean, and certainly following the advice given in your article, it can become that way, but only if those involved understand the wisdom behind that. Until this event, I did not understand that wisdom. That does not make this woman a “rapist”.

  29. B says

    And one other thing….for those of you that seem to be all high and mighty…f*off!
    I am not dim.
    I am not in disagreement with the wisdom of teaching people to communicate clearly when engaging with sex with anyone.
    I myself engage in this, and have learned the wisdom of.it.
    As per my previous post, I am not so naieve as to think that every person out there will use or understand it, and I don’t think we should cast assperstions of criminal actions on people without understanding the details of what happened….that is a wide net to cast.
    There are organizations out there that kick people out and cast “your a criminal” assperstions out there without giving anyone a voice or listen.
    I have said or don’t nothing that deserves the accusations you are spouting, I would expect more from people whom should honestly want ot convice somebody of their position.

  30. says

    B.

    What that woman did to you was wrong. People transmit too much in body language for it not to have been obvious at multiple junctures that you weren’t really comfortable with what happened.

    Whether or not you choose to hold that against her is your choice. But that choice does not, in any way, take away the right of other people to choose otherwise.

  31. B says

    typos on last post, sorry, a bit over emotional….”I have said or done nothing….” “want to convince..”

  32. B says

    Nathaniel…sorry…your wrong.
    People and brains don’t work so cleanly as you would like them too…that is just not reality.
    It is also not in reality that any repercussion would have been visited on her with our legal system….and you know what? As far as I am concerned that would have been “social justice”…..she did not do anything wrong and whether I wanted punishment on her or not is irrelavent.

    My emotional hurt can be caused by a variety of factors, one of which can be my own lack of action or self-knowledge. I will not hold others accountable for my own failings, that is not justice.

    Instead, what I will do, is impart that wisdom of having self-knowledge of boundaries to my children…so they can avoid their own self inflicted wounds.

  33. Nepenthe says

    I use the terms rape or rapist in a legal crime sense of the word, and I imagine those with Stephanie’s position also are using it in that sense.

    I can’t speak for anyone else, but I’m certainly not. Several of the times I’ve been raped, it wasn’t legally rape in the state in which it occurred, but would have been in other states. Most states for which I’ve read the statutes don’t have anything called “rape” on the books to begin with. It’s Nth degree sexual assault.

    I use it in the sense of “having sex with someone without their obvious and continued consent”.

  34. says

    My sense of responsibility? No. My understanding of the harms done? Yes. My understanding of legal precedent? Yes. (See Sophia at comment 24.) My awareness that giving people other than you the right to protect their own autonomy wouldn’t change your situation because you can still decline to press charges? Yes.

  35. says

    B.

    Suppose what happened with that woman wasn’t sexual. Suppose she decided that you were going to pay for her drinks, so she took your wallet out of your hands and used your credit card to pay off her tab. You, despite being uncomfortable about this, don’t say anything and keep having drinks with this woman. You decide that the lesson to take from this is to tell your children to keep a better hold of their wallets while drinking with women they don’t know.

    That’s your right. That’s your choice. But that doesn’t change the fact (yes, fact) that she stole your money.

  36. Illuminata, Genie in the Beer Bottle says

    I believe that rape has to have some component of malice to be considered rape.

    And what, exactly and precisely, is NOT malicious about fucking a sleeping person? Coercing someone into sleeping with you? etc?

    What, exactly and precisely, is NOT malicious about ignoring the issue of consent, or whining about the issue of consent?

    Any guy who pretends there’s a “grey area” to rape is malicious towards female agency and autonomy. He thinks he’s entitled to use someone else’s body to get off, just because he wants it. There is nothing not malicous about that.

  37. says

    Okay, now that I’ve read your whole post, I think I need to give you a trigger warning. So be warned.

    Here’s something to think about:
    At one time not so long ago, there was no such thing as marital rape. There was no law against it because the law considered the marriage contract itself to be perpetual consent. Most of the people in society felt the same way and talked about it the same way. Most women thought that they didn’t have a right to say no and wouldn’t have considered their husbands to have raped them. Even if they felt violated and ashamed and all the other crap that rape survivors feel, some still would have said their husbands shouldn’t be prosecuted or sent to jail. When the laws started to change, and awareness about the importance of ongoing consent started to emerge, I’m sure there were many who had been victims of marital rape thought people were being too extreme by “equating” marital rape with stranger rape.

    A similar evolution has happened with our understanding of date rape. At one time, there was no such thing. A woman in a “compromising” situation with a man was giving her consent (and men *always* wanted sex with anybody in proximity so they couldn’t be raped). Then there was a movement to raise awareness about the importance of consent: “No means No”. What happened to you in college probably happened at this point in our cultural understanding. You didn’t *say* no, so, you conclude, no rape occurred and the woman is blame free. But we’re improving our understanding. Consent can not be assumed, not without risking harm to our sexual partners. We can’t say “he didn’t say no, so he must’ve wanted it” anymore. Why? Because of situations like the one you related to us. You feel disgust and shame after twenty years. It’s not right that what she did caused such harm to you. Her responsibility may be mitigated because she was unaware that what she was doing was wrong (cf. husbands who had non-consensual sex with their wives), but we have to raise awareness so that in the future, no one will have such an excuse. Any sex without consent is rape, and in order to make sure you’re not raping someone, that consent should be explicit, rational (not adulterated by alcohol or other drugs), and enthusiastic (i.e. not pressured, not coerced, no intimidation or social duress).

  38. Stacy says

    I have another take on what B is saying.

    I read B’s story this way–and B, correct me if I’m wrong: he basically consented to the sex. He was just ambivalent about it.

    I’ve had ambivalent sex. I chose to do it, for various reasons, but wasn’t that into it. The person I had it with would have stopped had I told them to.

    The point we’re making here, B, is that people should honor the other person’s agency.

    In your case, you were able to say “no,” and chose not to. If you consented, I agree, what happened wasn’t rape. Though it sounds like it was a very unhappy experience.

  39. says

    Now, B
    The one thing that actually matters in your tale is:
    Where you able to give meaningful consent and did you do so?
    The cultural expectations, the tropes and memes surrounding male and female sexuality, they’re a different conversation and one we need to have, but it’s not this conversation.
    Should she have been more attentive? Yes!
    Should she have stopped and said “you look really tired, give me a call if you want to continue some other day”? Yes!
    And that’s the conversation we’ve been trying to have since ages and you should actually be here with us and have it instead of trying to negotiate lines.

  40. latsot says

    I expect that many people in long-term committed relationships ask each other in one way or another – according to mutual taste and established practice and shared circumstances – whether they’d like to have sex tonight, today, tomorrow morning or whatever. The partner might say “oh, you know what, I’m just not up for it tonight, let’s pencil it in for tomorrow”. Or something similar, doesn’t matter: isn’t that a reasonable template for how many couples behave?

    So why would it be different for people you don’t know very well? Do you respect those people less? Are they less worthy of respect? Is the amount you respect their wishes a function of how much you know them and your own horniness?

    If you can’t have that kind of conversation with someone, you have no business fucking them, that is that. Will it kill the moment? Of course it won’t. Since when has passion and horniness been even slightly difficult to conjure even from nowhere? The same argument has been used for decades by men who for some idiotic reason don’t want to wear a condom, for example.

    When has making absolutely certain that your partner wants to do what they initially said they wanted to do taken the slightest edge of any sex that actually occurs? Only when they realise that they actually don’t want to do it after all. So failure to do that makes you a rapist.

    My point is that the ethical codes for casual sex should be exactly the same as those for long-established sexual relationships.

  41. latsot says

    I could have expressed that with more actual grammar. I hope it’s clear that I meant that failure to care about what your partner wants is a large part of what can make you a rapist.

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