On dealing with regret after sex


Jackie Paper left a great comment on my post about the Brian Dalton episode I’m informally titling Mr. Deity and the Victim-Blaming and Dismissiveness of Serious Allegations. It’s something I haven’t been able to wrap my head around either.

I’m having trouble understanding why certain people seem drawn to the “She just regrets screwing him” narrative.

If she merely didn’t think the sex was worth shaving her legs over or she found out afterward that he bit his toenails..or whatever caused this “regret”, why would she want to tell anyone she was raped? Exactly how bad in bed is this guy supposed to be? How batshit, cackling, evil is this woman supposed to be to want vengeance years later because she got some dull nookie? Is this something they think women do? Do they think every now and then one of us get’s a lackluster lay, so we write a note in our journals reminding us to frame the dude for rape years later? ? Is she supposed to regret it because sex is shameful and nasty and makes her a slut? That isn’t regret. That’s shame and I don’t see why a person would draw attention to the thing they are so irrationally ashamed of. Are they saying that out of shame she came forward anonymously so that people who don’t know who she is won’t think she had icky, dirty sex on purpose? Really, what sort of motivation is there supposed to be for her to lie about being raped?

In order to think that scenario is more plausible than one in which the woman is being honest, you have to believe some very nasty things about women to begin with. Which I think is the case with these people.


I cannot say I have ever seen anyone go nuclear on someone with false rape charges over a consensual but lousy lay. Ever. And I HAVE heard people banter about certain guys being self-centered or unfulfilling.

That’s not to say this doesn’t happen, but I’d have to see some hard numbers before I believe the narrative that this is a valid rationale for dismissing ANY rape claims out of hand. The idea violates Occam’s Razor. It necessitates a will toward vengeance, and a lack of the self-preservation that keeps so many rape victims from speaking up. It necessitates a willingness to have your personal life become very, very public, as the victim is most often the one whose life gets turned upside-down and ultimately put on trial. It requires your overdeveloped sense of vengeance to overcome your fear of getting in trouble. And for that vengeance to be triggered by sex being unsatisfying, well, that’s an extraordinary claim indeed.

If you want to see some research on REAL situations that might lead to false rape reports, visit Stephanie’s blog where she rips apart some rape myths with hard figures. One very salient point is that false reports almost always involve strangers:

Kelly’s paper provides some interesting detail on a sample of reports that were accurately coded as false. Unlike the stereotype, most of the false reports did not involve direct accusations of a particular person. They were stranger-rape scenarios.
Also, in both the stranger-rape and acquaintance-rape scenarios, the false accuser was generally a victim of some sort. Some had been otherwise abused by those people they accused, including prior sexual abuse. Some were reporting rape to avoid abuse they would have otherwise received, as is suspected to the case for Tawana Brawley.

There are real false-rape allegations, and they don’t look a thing like the chaff that rape apologists throw up to confuse the matter.

Comments

  1. Brad says

    I have always read the regret narrative gaslight as a mistake “I shouldn’t have done that” type of thing rather than “it was bad sex”. Definitely tying into shame either as “I don’t want to be known for this” or more ludicrously “I need to get in front of him bragging about it” and it just gets bullshittier from there, but I’m confused where anyone thought anyone thought it was about bad sex, as little sense as the regret idea makes, bad sex made less sense.

  2. thascius says

    I think that meme persists because, in the minds of those spreading it, a rape accusation always and automatically leads to a conviction and the system is totally painless to the accuser. This bears no actual resemblance to any justice system on Planet Earth, but a lot of anti-feminists seem to live in a bizarro world where women have all the power and men are poor helpless put upon victims. They also seem to operate on the assumption that false accusations are extremely common and I guess they have to come up with some justification for it. I’m not sure there is a good way to argue with someone who insists on having their own facts.

  3. Parlyne says

    I have come to think that this particular trope (and quite a few others) arises from a failure (or inability) to conceptualize women (or members of other out-groups, or just other people in general) as the protagonists of their own narratives. This encourages the consideration of a person’s motivations in taking an action or, more specifically in leveling an accusation, in terms of the effect they have on the narrative of the subject of the accusation instead of the person’s own. This sort of failure to shift perspective is probably most familiar in storytelling, where plot holes tend to arise when the actions of characters (particularly villains) are written to move the protagonist’s story in certain ways rather than to advance the objectives of the character acting. In the real world, particularly when coupled with the sort of just-world fallacy in which all accusations of rape lead to punishment, this sort of flawed reasoning can lead to the conclusion that false rape accusations could be an effective and easy way for a woman to exact some sort of retribution at little personal cost.

  4. says

    I think what’s really going on is that they are dismissing the definition of sexual assault/rape as “sexual activity/penetration without a person’s consent” and substituting for it the definition “sexual activity/penetration imposed on a person by threat of violence or by means of physical force” (aka “legitimate rape”). If a woman decides to voluntarily have fun, flirt, go on a date, cuddle, fondle, kiss, make out with someone, go into a room alone with someone, marry someone, or drink with someone, and ends up having sex that they didn’t want, that “didn’t want” is labelled “regret” rather than absence of consent:

    She (most often a she) went to a party, got “a bit” intoxicated, ended up leading some poor guy on, went to bed with him, woke up horrified that she’d had sex while relaxed and loosened up that she wouldn’t have wanted in her normal, sober, prudish state. Because she wasn’t being “responsible” and “accepting the consequences of her actions”. Voila. Sex she regrets.

  5. maudell says

    The ‘she regretted consensual sex’ narrative also rests on a great skeptical tool, dusted off the 19th century by those champions of reason. Since we do not have enough men who were present during the rape to confirm the allegations (and to make sure the victim is protesting and fighting hard enough), it did not happen. I say we should use this method for everything, it is so clearly flawless!

    Here, for example, I have never witnessed a false rape accusation in action, therefore they do not exist. Ta-daa!

    Oh no! We are at an impasse! Would it be that the method is… wrong? (gasp!)

    ——

    On a serious note, I had a conversation with one of my closest friend, and just found out he believes false rape accusations are more common than rape. This made me so sad… He doesn’t identify as a feminist, but I have never seen a hint of misogyny in him in the decade I’ve known him. So, all that false rape hysteria does spread in people’s minds. Yet, I always hear the same examples: Duke university and Tawana Brawley. Both were not only women, they were African-American. I’m sure it’s a complete fluke that these are the cases people bring up.

  6. says

    I think the idea is that women are so ashamed of their sexuality that they don’t want to take responsibility for their own agency in having sex. In the Mormon culture where I trained as a rape crisis counselor, the police officer who came to teach that section of the course told us that “mostly, we get girls who regret it the next day and go see their Bishop.” Given that that’s a culture where people have been known to kill themselves over their inability to live “pure” without even masturbation–where a popular quote from one of the leaders says any good Mormon parent would rather see their children dead than unchaste–it is more plausible than it is here, although I still don’t think it’s the case.

    It does make sense that the same people who believe women *should* be ashamed of having sex–people who slut shame–think women *will be* so ashamed of having sex that they’ll deny having done it.

  7. maudell says

    @Ibis3

    You just reminded me of the ‘a v*ice for men’ victim blaming campaign in Canada, with their ‘don’t be that girl’ posters. They were playing with this ‘woman has a drink = she’s fine with anyone having sex with her’ bullshit. They see men’s sexuality as biologically rapey, therefore women shouldn’t go out and have fun. Not sure how that’s supposed to be pro-men.
    *shudder*

  8. says

    On the occasions I have had sex which wasn’t all that great in a casual context, sex that some might consider “regrettable,” or even past relationships that faltered because our sex went south as it sometimes does….I have done one of two things:

    1. forgotten it and moved on because it was *not memorable.*

    2. made fun of myself and perhaps even the guy with friends later who talked openly about their sexual forays which turned out to be dull or disappointing. it happens! Big WHOOP.

    What I have not done is committed the crime of falsely accusing someone of rape for shits and giggles – Why? Well first – it’s criminal and wrong and second – because actual victims are piled on by society and the justice system and victimized a second and third and fourth time – nay endlessly by the sort of bullshit we are seeing in these discussions.

    Hell…look at what happened to Rebecca for uttering the words “hey, don’t do that.”

    Nobody has time for that bullshit.

    And yes – I agree – the thought pattern that gets a guy to this position – that women routinely lie about “regrettable” sex…. tells me a few things. 1. You’re a creep. 2. You haven’t had a lot of casual sex where it was truly casual and fun – because it’s likely no one wants to get anywhere near you with attitudes you clearly carry. 3. You have a 1950’s understanding or attitude about female sexual identity and autonomy.

    This discussion has taught me there is a subset of men with SUPREMELY f-ed up thoughts on women, rape, harassment, sex, and relationships. And that the experience of men who have been raped by other men CANNOT under any circumstances be brought into the fold because it undermines EVERYTHING the creeper contingent asserts about sex and consent.

    Happily, very happily, it has also taught me there are a large number of men who get it now, who are willing to step up and who will not back down….knowing now …that we (women) don’t have a choice *really* to stop fighting if we want to participate in the arenas that interest us. It is in fact an issue in all the realms I work in…

  9. drken says

    The argument that I’ve heard about feminists, alcohol, regretted sex, and rape is: Feminists believe that if a woman drinks to the point where she sleeps with somebody she wouldn’t have slept with sober, she’s been raped. Why argue this? Because if you are part of the 6% that commits most of the rapes, you need to convince the other 94% that no matter what precautions they take (short of celibacy), if feminists get their way they are one drunken hook-up away from a rape charge. So, you take phrases like “sex with a drunk person is rape” and “made me drink past the point of consent” and claim that according to feminists, once a woman starts drinking she loses the ability to give consent. This makes every woman in a bar incapable of consent and therefore, no matter how much she enthusiastically cooperates with you, if you don’t look so good to her sober, you’re looking at jail time and a sex offender record. Even if everybody agrees that we’re talking about a drunken mistake on her part. It makes the 94%er think he needs to be psychic to avoid risking a rape charge. Something any good skeptic would fight against.

    You can’t claim to be pro-rape, but you can make people who would never knowingly rape anybody think they can be charged with it anyway. That’s how you get good people to fight for rapists. Tell them feminists have set the bar so low that pretty much any sex can be considered rape and that false rape allegations are common.

  10. ludicrous says

    “Hell…look at what happened to Rebecca for uttering the words “hey, don’t do that.”” illustrates your point.

    As an aside I believe she said “Guys, don’t do that” and I wonder if she had said “hey” instead of “guys” the misogynists would have been less rancid. Perhaps directly addressing ‘guys’, telling them what not to do was in their minds the great crime. “I wish guys wouldn’t do that” might have passed without much of a stir. Proper underlings may express wishes but may not give commands. How dare she!

  11. Aliasalpha says

    So the reaction to a disappointing thing is to accuse the provider of the disappointment of a particularly horrible crime?

    Next time I order pizza & expressly tell them to not put olives on but I get a pizza with olives, I won’t call them & ask for a replacement or sit there for 10 minutes grumbling and picking the olives off but I’ll call the police & accuse the pizza place of attempted murder for poisoning my order.

  12. hotshoe, now with more boltcutters says

    I think the idea is that women are so ashamed of their sexuality that they don’t want to take responsibility for their own agency in having sex. In the Mormon culture where I trained as a rape crisis counselor, the police officer who came to teach that section of the course told us that “mostly, we get girls who regret it the next day and go see their Bishop.” Given that that’s a culture where people have been known to kill themselves over their inability to live “pure” without even masturbation–where a popular quote from one of the leaders says any good Mormon parent would rather see their children dead than unchaste–it is more plausible than it is here, although I still don’t think it’s the case.

    It does make sense that the same people who believe women *should* be ashamed of having sex–people who slut shame–think women *will be* so ashamed of having sex that they’ll deny having done it.

    What a horrible way to raise human beings. Morman child rearing really is child abuse. It’s a wonder any of ‘em escape to become decent people.

    Of course, some of ‘em escape the church but don’t really become decent people after all. I’m looking at you, Mr Deity.

  13. says

    I’m always wondering about how the discussion would be if the components weren’t women and rape/sex, but the dude’s new sports car, their new best drinking buddy who insisted on standing rounds and the contract where he apparently sold his car for shares of a Peruvian goldmine…

  14. says

    Ah. . . so, I’m still, slowly, dealing with this issue myself. It is painful, and my views about whether/in what ways Mormon child rearing is inherently abusive are changing with an uncomfortable speed, so disclaimer there. However:

    I’m pretty sure it is possible to raise a child non-abusively as a Mormon. Parents choose, in their homes, what to teach, what to emphasize, and what to ignore–as well as how much to make their kids go to church. I know a couple who were openly non-believing, sex positive, and liberal, but got married in the temple; a lot of things are at the discretion of individual bishops.

    So, the things I just listed represent *a* way that many Mormon parents teach their kids about sexuality, but it definitely isn’t universal. The Mormon attitude towards masturbation–both in leadership and membership–has varied enormously over time and geographical location.

    I say all of this not because I’m interested in Mormon apologism, or even because I’m certain the statements you made aren’t true–I’m not. I say it because for a person who is not completely polarized against Mormonism, those kinds of statements–which is to say, sweeping, without a context that offers nuance, and specific to Mormonism–will make it especially hard to listen to you, and/or to get exit support they may very badly need. In this comment, I am attempting to provide a nuanced context that will make it easier for people to keep reading.

    If you want to write a full article in support of the idea Mormon (not theist, not Christian, but Mormon) child rearing is inherently abusive, I’m there. But, you know. . . nuance and specificity. And also, if I’m over-reacting because I’m still a mess about this, I hope you’ll understand.

  15. firsttimereader says

    I think that we all should be more specific here regarding these “groups” who we attribute these opinions too. Generally in the west, the view that significant numbers of rape accusers are doing it because they had “bad sex”, has almost no traction at all.

    Sure, there will be people who say this, but honestly, it’s quite rare in my opinion to find someone who actually thinks this way. There may be “bubbles” or subcultures, and they need to be specifically targeted.

    From those that I have read about, the people who have proved to be false accusers are doing it for other reasons. For example that they have had one night stands outside of marriage or they have fallen pregnant, or they have been treated very badly by someone and this is a way of hitting back.

    In a legal system where they are guaranteed anonymity, but the accused is publicly named, whether guilty or not, it is feasible that a small number of people might falsely accuse someone. There are a very small number of proven serial false accusers, I am not sure how much these cases affect the overall statistics.

    The 2% figure of proven false accusations is also very similar to the general rate of false accusations across all reported crimes. Those 2% of people who falsely report crimes, is the reason that we need to have proper process to weed them out. It is sensible to suggest that the true figure is higher for all crimes. We will never know how many “not guilty” verdicts were false accusations.

    I don’t think for a minute that there is an epidemic of false accusations being made, but even a small % is enough to warrant a proper examination to make sure we don’t punish the innocent.

    It is always frustrating to think that people are getting away with crimes, but the alternative is that we have innocent people going to prison.

  16. hotshoe, now with more boltcutters says

    tadeina –

    If you want to write a full article in support of the idea Mormon (not theist, not Christian, but Mormon) child rearing is inherently abusive, I’m there. But, you know. . . nuance and specificity. And also, if I’m over-reacting because I’m still a mess about this, I hope you’ll understand.

    I’m sorry the words I wrote hurt you. That wasn’t my intent, but you know what they say about intent. My fault.

    Yeah, nuance and specificity, good advice to me. I’ll try to be more careful in the future.

    Best wishes to you and to all your loved ones.

  17. says

    I don’t think for a minute that there is an epidemic of false accusations being made, but even a small % is enough to warrant a proper examination to make sure we don’t punish the innocent.

    As it has been mentioned before: We’re not talking about a court of law here.
    Although I wished that judges (I live in a country without juries) who rule on rape and abuse cases had special training on these issues, I am generally quite OK with the idea that we set a very high treshold in courts. But we need to look at the actual hight carefully: What do we risk if we declare somebody “not guilty”?
    But that very premise of western legal systems should tell everybody that not all those actually guilty of a crime will be convicted ( and we haven’t even talked about the rate at which rape is actually reported).
    The fact that a victim doesn’t report doesn’t mean the crime didn’t happen and the perpetrator isn’t a rapist.
    The fact that the investigation was ended without a charge does not mean the crime didn’t happen and the accused isn’t a rapist.
    The fact that the verdict was “not guilty” doesn’t mean the crime didn’t happen and the accused isn’t a rapist.

  18. culuriel says

    If a woman wants revenge on a man she regrets having sex with, all she has to do is bad-mouth his performance. A rape charge is completely unnecessary and will only get her in trouble- why bother, when something completely unactionable in court (I could be wrong, don’t think I am) like just implying he’s impotent will do the trick?

  19. says

    @hotshoe, now with more boltcutters: ah, the painful thing is that there are still Mormon parents out their teaching their kids the awful way. And Mormon girls who don’t report being assaulted because they’d have to admit they had a beer, which could get them kicked out of school.

    The thing at you was simply because I want this to be a good place for Mormons to become less Mormon. . But thank you. I appreciate the thought.

    @culuriel: “reputation as bad in bed” and “reputation as rapist” are very different degrees of revenge, presumably (in this fantasy where women are revengebots) reserved for different circumstances?

  20. Jackie: The COLOSSAL TOWERING VAGINA! says

    Wow.
    Thanks, Jason.

    It is always frustrating to think that people are getting away with crimes, but the alternative is that we have innocent people going to prison.

    firsttimereader,
    You must be very new at reading indeed to think that anyone is going to prison because we believed a woman when she said she was raped.

  21. says

    Tadeina, I think those situations still require charges to be filed and a trial to be conducted. Unless you can find some evidence that anyone on the Innocence Project was sentenced based on the beliefs of blog commenters.

  22. says

    Court of public opinion does matter once something goes to trial–jury pool wise, at least.

    But you’re right, I basically had the wrong “we” there.

  23. says

    There is some literature on the prevalence and explanations for false accusations. Here is a publicly readable full-text article:

    False allegations: the role of the forensic psychiatrist. J Psychiatr Pract. 2001 Sep ;7(5):343-6.

    I have personally encountered false accusations in a scenario similar to the one PZ describes: a person disclosed privately to myself and others, but the accusations later proved to be impossible. The person fit one of the psychiatric profiles described in this article. While I prefer not to make any judgements pertaining to PZ’s specific allegations, it should be acknowledged that (1) victims have a legitimate interest in making anonymous disclosures, but (2) false accusations do occur. There are many people in the world and they don’t always behave predictably.

  24. firsttimereader says

    Giliel@18.

    Yes, all you write about the justice system is correct, we know that some people get away with crimes currently. If someone is found not guilty, then it doesn’t 100% mean they didn’t commit a crime.

    Yes, it’s always a balance. If society is willing to accept that more innocent people will be punished, then we can lower the bar, and this will reduce the number of people who “get away with it”.

    Culuriel @19.
    Yes, some people do use the bad performance or small penis thing to hurt people. There is no criminality here as I see it, its just free speech and nobody is going to complain about it. Some people do go further though. Not many, but it happens, and it’s enough to mean that we need to have these accusations fully examined.

    Jackie@21. No, you are mixing things up here. The general point about burden of proof is one that I will stand by. It is topical in the sense that there is a feeling that too many rapists are getting away with it, and something needs to be done. My opinion is that providing swifter and more efficient justice and more victim support will help more victims come forward. I don’t agree with lowering the burden of proof, because that will mean that more innocent people are punished. This is only a part of the story of course, because reducing the number of crimes is what we all really want.

    No, the accused here is not going to be sent to prison as a result of accusations. If there is a successful libel action it will be because it can be shown that harm has been inflicted without the “proof” required. The “proof” required is that the accused be found guilty in a court of law. Generally speaking, the libel laws are there to protect people from those who cause harm to others without good justification.

    We are generally not allowed to state that someone is a criminal unless they have been convicted, because this may cause them harm. I am trying to use very general terms here because the law operates differently in different places.

  25. Alex1 says

    Honest to (non-existent god): One of my cousins had a false rape allegation made against him by a woman whom he’d had consensual sex with. The reason was because she had a boyfriend and didn’t want him to know that she’d had sex with someone else. Fortunately, the case was thrown out of court.

    It’s just sad that there are dishonest people that make it more difficult for the real victims. :(

  26. thascius says

    @26-“If there is a successful libel action it will be because it can be shown that harm has been inflicted without the “proof” required. The “proof” required is that the accused be found guilty in a court of law.”
    Er-no, that’s not how it works in the US at least. A successful libel action requires the person suing for libel to first prove the allegations are false. If the person suing is a public figure, then he/she must also prove the allegations were made with “actual malice”-a somewhat vague term though generally it’s been taken to mean the person making the allegations must either have known them to be false or strongly suspected them to be false at the time they were made. The burden of proof is on the one suing for libel, not the one who made the allegations.

  27. says

    thascius #28:

    If there is a successful libel action it will be because it can be shown that harm has been inflicted without the “proof” required. The “proof” required is that the accused be found guilty in a court of law.

    I think that Shermer’s newest defender is equivocating a legal defence with defending oneself in the so-called “court of public opinion”.

    FYI, apologists, legal defences are a beast all on their own. Yes, a libel claim is made in defense of one’s reputation, but it is not a defence. In the eyes of the court, the libel claim is an allegation. The court doesn’t care that you’re defending your reputation; the court cares about you being able to prove that the statement was libelous i.e. that it’s false. Effectively, this means that if you follow through you’re putting yourself in the defendant’s chair, albeit with a less heavy hammer above your head.

    The downside is that you’ve got less distance between the hammer and your head, because you can’t hid behind “reasonable doubt” anymore — the defence now merely needs to prove on the balance of probabilities that the allegations are true in order to put you on the hook for legal fees and court costs (and possibly worse if there’s an anti-SLAPP statute in your jurisdiction).

  28. thascius says

    @29-the quote you attributed to me was where I was quoting first time reader at 26.
    As I pointed out (essentially the same point you made) in suing for libel the burden of proof is on the person suing for libel to prove the statements were false and made maliciously.

  29. Dr. RTFM says

    The irony is the questions you are asking, so as to justify that the claimant is telling the trust, are essentially the same type of questions that Christian apologists ask so as to justify why the disciples were telling the truth about Jesus.

  30. says

    No, the irony is you don’t get that there’s a difference between rape and Jesus: one of them exists.

    If, perhaps, the apologists were trying to prove that Jesus existed, and there were no claims of magic or supernatural events around his existence, then all they’d have to do is point to more than one record of the person existing. That’s how we know Julius Caesar existed, after all, even though we can’t presently interview anyone who knew him.

    “A guy existed” is not an extraordinary claim. Nor is “I got raped”, sadly.

    One of these days, you’ll learn the difference, and you’ll realize what an ass you were being to real rape victims by suggesting that events in their lives were identical to Jesus.

  31. Nick Gotts says

    Honest to (non-existent god): One of my cousins had a false rape allegation made against him by a woman whom he’d had consensual sex with. The reason was because she had a boyfriend and didn’t want him to know that she’d had sex with someone else. – Alex1

    As you’ve stated it, that does not make any sense at all: if the woman made a public allegation of rape, then of course her boyfriend would know she had “had sex with someone else” – the alleged rapist. (It is quite common for rape victims to be rejected by their partners, and even where this does not occur, for a rape by a third party to cause very serious problems within a relationship.) Your claim only makes sense if the boyfriend already knew she had had sex with the alleged rapist, and she was trying to convince him that the sex was non-consensual. But how did he know about the sex? Under what circumstances would it make sense for her to allege rape, rather than simply deny that any sex took place at all? Was he watching? Was your cousin boasting about it? In which case, he’s certainly a grade A arsehole, and I would be even less inclined to believe his claim that the sex was consensual, than I am just on the second-hand and uncorroborated word of someone I know nothing about, via someone I know nothing about. (And before anyone comes in with “Well that’s just like PZ’s word about Jane Doe”, no, it isn’t, because I do know who PZ is, he has unlike you put himself at considerable risk, and as for corroboration, a number of other reports of very skeezy behaviour by Michael Shermer have emerged.)

    Incidentally, the “Honest to (non-existent) god” doesn’t make your claim, or assuming your honesty, your cousin’s claim to you, any more convincing.

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