How BBC Question Time let down the victims of rape and the wrongly accused alike


Watching BBC Question Time last night was a depressing experience. Yes, watching BBC Question Time is always a depressing experience, but on this occasion more so than ever, as a significant portion of the show was given over to a question about rape prosecutions.

The context is the high-profile collapse of several rape & sexual offence trials amid apparently systematic failures by limbs of the justice system to properly collect, handle and disclose evidence.

“Given recent revelations about a string of innocent men being accused of rape and almost losing their liberty, is it time to name and shame false accusers?”

I will come on to why this question was profoundly and offensively ill-chosen, but the really dispiriting element to this was the widespread misunderstandings of the nature of sexual assault prosecutions and false allegations among the audience and – with a couple of notable exceptions – the panel, so it seems worthwhile to revisit a few of the problems with the myths and the discourse.

Making a malicious, false allegation is a serious crime. When it is an entirely fabricated claim against a named individual it is particularly cruel, can have life-destroying consequences, and people can be and are sentenced to long prison sentences for perverting the course of justice.

It is however an entirely different crime to rape or sexual assault. It is not the inverse of a rape allegation. It is not the space left behind when a rape allegation falls through. It is not the black swan seen in relief to the white swan in one of those Escher illusions. It is a different type of offence, committed for different reasons by different people and it should be discussed on its own terms, not as the flipside to a discussion about rape.

Secondly, people have a very simplistic vision of what a false allegation is, or looks like. It’s the blackmailer fabricating a story or the vengeful ex attempting to destroy a man’s life out of spite. Again, these cases can occur, but they would appear to be incredibly rare.  What is much more common is that a rape allegation is made by someone who provides a load of background detail – no, I hadn’t been drinking. No, we hadn’t been flirting or kissing. No, we didn’t exchange texts.

Then on investigation, here’s the barman who served you six vodkas, here’s the CCTV of you kissing, here are the recovered text messages. The rape case has collapsed, the complainant-victim was lying, case dismissed.  Crucially however, this does not mean the complainant was lying about being raped. It does, however, usually mean that a jury cannot convict beyond all reasonable doubt.

So to talk about “naming and shaming false accusers” in the wake of the collapse of trials is a total non-sequitur. Just because the trial collapsed and the accused is  – quite correctly – acquitted, does not mean that the complainant was lying about having been raped.

{Almost as an aside, no one mentioned this on the programme but in those rare cases where someone has been convicted beyond all reasonable doubt of perverting the course of justice for making entirely unfounded and malicious false allegations, I would have no problem with the judge having the discretion to lift naming restrictions on the offender. It seems rather bizarre to me that measures developed to protect sexual assault victims should be extended to those who have been proven in a court of law to NOT be a sexual assault victim. Particularly in cases of repeat offenders, I would have thought there is a clear public interest in such people being named on sentencing.]

However there is a deeper problem to the question asked on Question Time and it points not to the ignorance of the bloke in the audience asking the question, but to the judgement and values of the show’s producers in choosing the question.

It seems self-evident that something has gone catastrophically wrong in Britain’s criminal justice system. I don’t know if the blame lies with Crown Prosecution Service and its management, policies or procedures, or with police investigations and evidence preparation, the function and procedure of the courts or in some combination of multiple factors. I strongly suspect that funding cuts to all of the above may be a significant factor. But the truth is I don’t really know because the political media establishment seems entirely uninterested in finding out and pursuing the truth. Here are some questions that the BBC producers could have chosen last night which would have been extremely useful, interesting and constructive to pursue.

  • “Given the recent collapse of several high-profile rape and sexual offence trials, is it time for the Director of Public Prosecutions to resign?”
  • “Given the recent collapse of several high-profile rape and sexual offence trials, is it time for the Secretary of State for Justice to intervene?”
  • “Given the recent collapse of several high-profile rape and sexual offence trials, is it time for funding cuts to the police and criminal justice system to be reversed?”

You get the idea. Those questions point to the heart of a real and desperate scandal which is causing unimaginable pain both to the wrongly accused and to genuine survivors of rape and sexual abuse.  Rather than invite discussion of the political decisions which underpin this crisis, the BBC’s choice of question took the laziest, cruellest, most predictable path of all – to blame the victims.

Comments

  1. StillGjenganger says

    Very good points, Ally. The question time question was indeed completely out of line. As it happens I think it would be better to stop talking about ‘false’ rape accusations entirely, and instead use ‘malicious’ or ‘unsubstantiated’ accusations, depending on what we mean. That should avoid some confusion.

    I do think that on a small corner of the post you are correct but missing an important consideration.

    Just because the trial collapsed and the accused is – quite correctly – acquitted, does not mean that the complainant was lying about having been raped.

    It does not mean that the complainant was lying – but it does make it rather more probable (which is why a jury cannot convict). Or rather, it makes it more probable, not only that the accused believed to have consent at the time, but also that the accused did indeed have consent at the time. We are dealing with probabilities here. Which of course does not negate either the distress of the complainant or the possibility that the complainant is sincere – but even so she can still be wrong.

  2. Marduk says

    I feel like you’re answering one simplification with another. People aren’t getting off on technicalities, the CPS is not pulling prosecutions because they think the optics aren’t right or it will be difficult (this is explicitly not their stated policy). This has nothing to do with kissing, drinking, suggestive texts or short skirts or whatever else certain newspaper columnists want it confused with. What they are discovering is that there is no case that they can make and that they are not prosecuting a guilty person as far as they can tell. In the Armstrong case, the defence had access to evidence the prosecution had not because the complainant wouldn’t release it until a judge intervened, that isn’t an nicety or a bureaucratic bungle and when the defence showed this to the prosecution, there was no case to answer. Victims do not have to be paragons, its actually fairly normal for the complainant to be found to be embellishing the truth or optimising their self-presentation (oddly enough they tend to have something against someone who has hurt them), the justice system is used to it and quite capable of prosecuting people and charging the complainant at the same time if it becomes egregious.

    Does it mean the complainant is lying? No. But you seem to be implying that this just means the defendant is unprosecutable rather than innocent which isn’t fair either. This mindset is the disease our groaning prisons are symptom of. Often people aren’t (a) the best judge of exactly what happened in a moment (b) the best judge of whether it meets the standards of a specific crime on the statute book. In everyday life we don’t find this especially hard to understand. Everyone who has ever been restrained by a policeman thinks they are the victim of an assault and written records and (increasingly) video, they aren’t lying and they are still wrong.

    The problem is that we’ve got a sometimes fairly nuanced crime where the political belief is that the complainant is always the best person to know the answers both the above questions and it is deeply offensive to question this. Yet we have no such scruples over any other kind of crime which is generally more public and easier to substantiate. Unfortunately due to the CPS’s targets now, it can only measure outcomes in terms of people locked up, not in terms of reaching an understanding of what actually happened. The suggestion seems to be that cases “collapsing” indicates a failure of the system, its actually a delayed working of the system as intended. Quite often what has been established is that the situation is not as the complainant or the defendant independently think it is, but coming to this view isn’t treated like it means anything. Ironically this is the same reason why people like the Question Time questioner thinks the complainants need to be prosecuted.

  3. deafman says

    Good evening, I’m new around here…
    I wonder how the CPS can be so sure that malicious allegations of rape are quite as rare as they say? They don’t exactly have a motive to find out.
    The recent Allen case in Croydon Crown Court is a case in point. The prosecution system failed to discover the allegation was – given the nature of the undisclosed material – clearly motivated by spite. There have been several reports since of similar cases. Saying that malicious accusations of rape are no more common than for other offences seems to me to ignore two issues, a) the potential for such allegations when an intimate relationship – however brief – sours, in a way that you just don’t get in say, robbery or in any other type of assault case (other than in a DV context): and b) the low statistics might just demonstrate that the police and CPS are ill-equipped to detect malicious allegations or they may be unwilling to distinguish them statistically from other cases that do not result in a conviction.

  4. StillGjenganger says

    Hi deafman

    Good point.
    I do not have the figures to hand, but I breezed through some summaries a while ago, so I could give you my rules of thumb. The basic problem is that you cannot determine the rate of false allegations unless you know what actually happened in each case – which you do not.

    The figure of about 0.3% you sometimes see is the number of prosecutions for false accusations divided by the number of rape accusations. Since the judicial system deliberately (and quite likely correctly) is very reluctant to bring this kind of case the number is almost irrelevant. Quoting it as the ‘prevalence of false accusations’ is deliberate misinformation – to put it nicely.

    On the other side we have something like 25-30% of accusations making it to a trial, which includes 5-8% leading to a conviction for rape, and another 5-8% leading to a conviction for something else (violence, assault, …). Survey data show conclusively that the number of events that could be said to fall under the definition of rape is several times larger than the number of accusations brought to the police. I also regard it as a fact (though I have only anecdotical evidence) that a significant proportion of rape accusations include details that are either disproved or highly improbable (like Ally’s example above). That would give an upper bound of 50-70% for false accusations among the cases reported. What percentage of unreported cases amount to rape by a legal criterion is a different – and unknowable – question, as the two populations are clearly different.

    A quick survey of article summaries give a lot of figures in the 25-50% range for false allegations, but these tend to be older and based on small samples and police report figures. Essentially that is a record of policemen’s opinions, which are neither precise nor well supported. The point above about accounts including disprovable details probably accounts for a lot of police scepticism. Some newer, larger studies that go through cases one by one tend to give false allegation figures in the range 2-10%. The trouble is that these people look through the data and count the number of cases that can be proved to be false accusations by some specified criteria. Not surprisingly, the more strict your criteria, the fewer false accusations you find. I have the impression that the study that found only 2% false accusations was particularly rigorous about only including cases that could not possibly be true. So the figure of 2-10% is very much a lower bound.

    Any conclusion is a guesstimate, really. Mine is that 5-10% of false accusations is a reasonable starting guess. That is high enough that you always must consider a false accusation a serious probability, but low enough that accusations are generally considered true. The true figure might be a bit lower or a lot higher, but you would need better evidence to opt for either.

  5. deafman says

    Hi Gjenganger, thank you for your considered reply.
    What prompted my question was a report in The Times on 31 January that Ms Claire Lindley, Chief Crown Prosecutor for SE London said that the Allan case I referred to above (2):
    “highlighted some systemic and deep-rooted issues that have been apparent to those working in the criminal justice system for some time”.
    She added that if anyone believed they had been wrongfully convicted, they could appeal on the usual way!

    This does not exactly give one much confidence that mailiciois rape accusations are being weeded out, or support Alison Saunders’ comment on R4 that she was confident that nobody had been convicted as a result of police or CPS failures in disclosing unused material.
    It is deeply worrying.

  6. lucythoughts says

    Did you see this a couple of weeks ago?

    https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2018/jan/19/uk-police-forces-failing-to-meet-forensic-standards-safe-regulator-miscarriages-justice-outsourcing

    Could be relevant I think. The latest case to collapse because of these problems seems to be a people trafficking case. I suspect the problem isn’t isolated to investigations of sexual offenses but is appearing disproportionally there because digital evidence has become so important in making or breaking those cases in particular.

  7. Marduk says

    6.
    There has been another one since you posted that:
    https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/missed-messages-clear-boy-of-rape-lhg8mnbkn

    The digital evidence argument isn’t as strong as it first appears, in fact, it seems to be utter horseshit the more I look at it. I mean, at first I was sympathetic but on closer reading, nope. Despite guff about “complex judgements”, a side-track into austerity debates and citing irrelevant numbers of bits and bytes, tweets and emails, in reality it looks like they took the phones,
    never switched them on and then just sat on them and refused to hand them over. In most cases the police had a year to look for what the defence located within hours and it was never anything challenging (e.g, look at the photographs in the photographs folder, or search for emails from the complainant and read the last one). The stuff they are missing can be made to sound like a needle in a haystack if you talk it up but in reality it looks like they failed to locate the barn.

    I suspect the failing are largely in procedure and leadership rather than technology. The Criminal Bar Association has made some rather dark comments about “unconscious bias” that nobody ran with though.

    I am genuinely beginning to wonder what on earth it will take to get Saunders out. Its mind boggling.

  8. That Guy says

    I’m late to the party on this shitshow, but I think like the question, the impression I get from this story is that the justice system is letting everyone down. It undermines faith in itself with this shady bullshit, which is (my layman’s opinion) motivated by political pressure to secure convictions and lack of resources.

    On another track, there seems to be something funny about the way that the public perceives false rape accusations- that an accusation of rape is uniquely damaging. I don’t recall the same aggressive rhetoric deployed against people who falsely accuse people of murder or other major crimes, or perhaps I’ve missed it.

    The reason I find this funny, is because the implication that being accused of rape is uniquely damaging lies in stark contrast to a number of high profile individuals who seem not to have been majorly affected at all by such accusations, or even rape convictions.

  9. Carnation says

    @ That Guy

    “there seems to be something funny about the way that the public perceives false rape accusations- that an accusation of rape is uniquely damaging.”

    I think that this is less to do with the societal impact of such an accusation (though that is of course extremely damaging and traumatic) and more to do with the media tropes about evil women targeting vulnerable men (Disclosure et al). It’s pretty much a misogynistic fantasy; that a sufficiently malevolent woman can, with absolute ease, ruin a man’s life.

    it’s utter nonsense, of course, but then fairy tales usually are.

    “The reason I find this funny, is because the implication that being accused of rape is uniquely damaging lies in stark contrast to a number of high profile individuals who seem not to have been majorly affected at all by such accusations, or even rape convictions.”

    This is of course absolutely true and the list is endless. Alongside the grim roll-fall of famous/infamous names is a rather disturbing number of rumours about acquaintances, and I’m fairly sure that most people have these. That guy who was hugely pushy, that girl who was left upset and confused, and on it goes.

    What people generally miss in their rush to either dismiss #MeToo as hysteria, or demonise in its wake, is the sheer normality of sexual crimes. I am fairly sure that most men guilty of such things truly believe that they are innocent. I further believe that most men guilty of such things would not have carried the acts out if they had sufficient education, knowledge, skills or maturity to understand what was happening.

    Fed on a toxic diet of females as “conquests” and sexually inactive men as failures, it’s not surprising that we are in the mess that we are in. Men, and I am using an entire class of people on purpose, need to be told a different story and embrace a new framework. It’s as much owed to males as it is to females.

  10. Marduk says

    8. It is unwise to generalise from high-profile individuals, they are immune from all kinds of things. The issue is that there isn’t a lobby of people who say its impossible, once accused of murder, for you to be innocent and they might not even have read a newspaper story about it. Its a politicised crime, everything about it is heightened and painted as absolute. There is also an issue of imagination I suppose, how do you prove your innocence, I have no idea. When you talk of more serious crimes, the mind goes to an endless stream of detective fiction (doubtless misleading) but the false accusation of rape, it sends you right back to being a child and those times you were unjustly punished and attempting to defend yourself just made it worse. What could you say or do to help yourself?

    9. For someone more woke than Sojourner Truth on the internet, you don’t half pal around with a bunch of scumbags. You need to start taking responsibility for your community mate, speak out.

    Also, is anyone aware of any celebrations concerning the centenary of working class men gaining the vote tomorrow. It was paid for in blood, you’d think someone should remember and what a great opportunity to try to involve working class men in civic matters.

  11. Carnation says

    @ Marduk

    “For someone more woke than Sojourner Truth on the internet, you don’t half pal around with a bunch of scumbags. You need to start taking responsibility for your community mate, speak out.”

    This is an example of the juvenile bullshit that I’m talking about. I, like you, went to school. I was part of a cohort of over 200. Then I went to university, part of a bigger cohort. Then I’ve gone on to work at various organisations, some of them very large. I’ve also been involved in sports, various classes and societies. I’m a very sociable person, so at all of these places, I met and got to know people.

    The (very simple) point that I am making is that the type of men perpetrating a lot of the abuses that are getting media attention are, usually typical/normal/average guys living typical/normal/average lives and that if you are socially aware, you’ll hear and see things that support this.

    It’s comforting to people like you to imagine a community of “scumbags” but it’s also as false as many of the other falsehoods you cling to. Maybe you’re an internet recluse; it wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest. But if you aren’t, and if you’ve had any kind of social life, particularly one involving partying of various types, then you will have been around people with shady secrets. It’s just one of those social facts.

    Or are you gonna pull the “just trolling you” card?

  12. Marduk says

    11. This isn’t the first time you’ve brought up unusually boorish sounding friends Carnation. That they sound like extras from Saturday Night Fever does now begin to make some sense. “That guy who was hugely pushy” isn’t someone you should be tolerating, stop waving your hands. How about you make an effort to change things concretely around you before dictating “new frameworks” for “men as a class”. This is actually the only way anything will change.

    I would agree that not everyone who does this stuff is a Hollywood villain or for that matter the boss of a Hollywood studio. On the other hand, I’m not very keen on you casually spraying guilt everywhere. It sounds good but that doesn’t put you in very good company either. People heard similar remarks from folks like Faraci and Aziz Ansari but on examination, turned out they were really saying “I thought what I was doing was wrong but normal, right guys?”. Nope, its not normal.

    Like most social phenomena (and certainly all offending) at the very least its Pareto. Yes, its ordinary people, but its not that many of them and seem to have an unusually high work rate at being pieces of shit. The moral inventory we should be taking is in (in)tolerance and intervention, it is actually about you personally and in a specific way. Not this abstract attempt to vaguely diffuse it across an entire class…”hey on some level we’re all guilty dudes…as a patriarchal class…but I really have deep feelings about this stuff, I’m more sensitive than those other guys baby…”

  13. lucythoughts says

    10. Marduk

    There is so much wrong with this post that I’m going to break it down into parts:

    The issue is that there isn’t a lobby of people who say its impossible, once accused of murder, for you to be innocent and they might not even have read a newspaper story about it. Its a politicised crime, everything about it is heightened and painted as absolute

    This is cart before horse. The reason feminists often take an unrealistic stance on unfounded accusations is because the overwhelming pattern of demonisation of victims and a culture of suspicion and contempt going back further than anyone can remember. Apparently no lobby is required to produce that effect, it happens all by itself. It this crime has become politicised, it is because that is what it has taken to get make any progress at all at getting it taken seriously (in practice rather than only in bullshit theory).

    When you talk of more serious crimes, the mind goes to an endless stream of detective fiction (doubtless misleading) but the false accusation of rape, it sends you right back to being a child and those times you were unjustly punished

    I really doubt this has anything to do with it. The reason people think being falsely accused of rape is singularly awful compared to being accused of other crimes is because it is the one instance where a significant proportion of the population can imagine it actually happening to THEM. Being accused of murder generally only happens when someone you know well dies in suspicious circumstances, not something most people expect to experience. If it did, and you lost someone you dearly loved only to have the suspicion turned on you, it would certainly be much worse than being accused of rape, and unless another culprit was found that suspicion could dog you for the rest of your life. Being wrongfully accused of terrorism would be pretty bad and stigmatising too, but the same great British public which is concerned with the suffering inflicted on the victims of false rape allegations were happy enough to say “no smoke without fire” when they overwhelmingly supported 90 day detention without charge. Maybe because most of them aren’t muslims. But the proportion of the population who are sexually active men, or used to be, or hope to be in the not too distant future, is pretty large.

    For someone more woke than Sojourner Truth on the internet, you don’t half pal around with a bunch of scumbags. You need to start taking responsibility for your community mate, speak out

    This is a crass, flippant and also dangerously stupid bit of snark. I have personally been on friendly terms with two people who have gone on to groom children. What does that say about me? Truthfully, probably nothing, which is why we don’t say to the victims of assaults committed by a friend or acquaintance, “wow, you must know a lot of scumbags.” That smug attitude is a huge part of the problem. But, if you have really never known anyone who did a bad thing, you have my congratulations. Do you attribute it to your own extraordinary virtue and discernment, or to pure dumb luck?

    As far as being “responsible for you community,” perhaps you could tell us the proper way to handle a situation where you suspect that someone you know has abused someone? Because the options aren’t that great. If you don’t want to be the sanctimonious prick who “calls out” other people’s behaviour and makes everyone angry and uncomfortable, what role is better? The officious busy-body who takes his suspicions to the police, the boss or HR without the hard evidence to back them up? Or offers their “support” to the victim, who they don’t even know that well? Or the coward who keeps their head down, chooses to see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil, and gives the abusers exactly the environment that lets them thrive? Or the self-deceiving fool who closes their eyes and attributes all unpleasantness to misunderstandings, because surely everyone is decent deep down? Which of these people do you want to be? Or do you prefer just to be the clever guy on the internet who explains how everyone else is getting it wrong?

    Also, is anyone aware of any celebrations concerning the centenary of working class men gaining the vote tomorrow. It was paid for in blood, you’d think someone should remember and what a great opportunity to try to involve working class men in civic matters

    The majority of working class men actually got the vote with the third reform act of 1884, so you’re overselling your case a mite there. I do agree though that the campaign for universal suffrage should be much more celebrated, and definitely taught in schools.

  14. lucythoughts says

    12.

    Okay, I see you have already covered some of this. You want to be the prick who calls people out. Good for you.

    Bu I will add this: something doesn’t have to be done by the majority of people, or anything like, to be considered common. Most people don’t smoke pot, but you wouldn’t say it was rare. The best study I’ve seen on rape perpetration found 6% of the sample had forced someone to have sex with them by their own admission, with 4% having raped repeatedly. If that scaled up to the whole population it would suggest that 1 in 25 men were recidivist rapists (NB this study didn’t look at female perpetrators). That is by no means most people but it is still a fuck of a lot them. Even if you believe that this study population was unusual, it still suggests more than ten times the number of recidivist rapists loose in the general population than you could fit in our prisons even if you cleared everyone else out. And that’s without considering the female perpetrators or less serious sexual assaults or harassment. So, no it isn’t uncommon; no it isn’t surprising if Carnation or me or anyone else has met one or two; and no, it isn’t dead easy to know what you are seeing when you are seeing it, and how to deal with it appropriately. That is the great question. The only people I’ve noticed who are actually trying to address it are those annoying progressive millennials with their call out culture and their consent classes and all that.

  15. Carnation says

    @ LucyThoughts

    It’s not that level of seriousness that I was talking about. It’s the guys who position themselves so that female bar staff have to squeeze past them. The sleazy guy from the office that wants to give a drunk woman a lift home. The guy from uni who would take advantage, that sort of thing.

    Guys like Marduk, comfortable on the internet, but maybe struggle socially, are very able to cast judgement on others who acknowledge having seen and heard things. But in doing so, they only display their own naivety and attachment to a stunted worldview.

    @ Marduk

    I think I just had a look at your Twitter feed. You’re certainly on your best behaviour here, aren’t you? I could of course be wrong, but there’s a Marduk based account that seems similar.

  16. Marduk says

    13. It is better to risk making yourself unpopular, I don’ think there is a paradox or anything there, its just hard to do sometimes.

    14. That isn’t very many really and they would fewer still once the game was up.

    15. I don’t use social media of any type. Its a joke with reference to the title of this blog actually, Marduk was the patron god of Babylon. He got promoted when he killed Tiamat (the female aspect of the ocean or the mother-god, who was in the form of a dragon) to become the king of the gods. Robert Graves, in his very unreliable and discredited but still interesting accounts of mythology, claimed that this marked the transition from matriarchy to patriarchy.

  17. StillGjenganger says

    @Lucythoughts 14

    The best study I’ve seen on rape perpetration found 6% of the sample had forced someone to have sex with them by their own admission, with 4% having raped repeatedly. If that scaled up to the whole population it would suggest that 1 in 25 men were recidivist rapists

    That depends not only on the sample, but also on the definition of ‘rape’. Exaggerating slightly, I would suspect that whoever did the study believed in ‘enthusiastic consent’, so that any sex with an unenthusiastic partner would count as ‘rape’, as would any attempt to influence your partner’s decision rather than waiting for spontaneous enthusiasm to materialise. I might be wrong, of course, but I would need to look at the study in some detail to be convinced.

  18. lucythoughts says

    16. Marduk

    a) That’s fine. I may have misinterpreted you in your original post as to “being responsible for your community”, but then, that can happen with snark.

    b) Okay have it your way, but I’d be fascinated to know what you would consider to be a lot of rapists.

    18. Gjengager

    It’s here:

    http://www.davidlisak.com/wp-content/uploads/pdf/RepeatRapeinUndetectedRapists.pdf

    The researchers uses some specific surveys on sexual behaviour, and then use follow up questions etc if certain answers come back positive. The key questions related to sexual abuse of adults are:

    1. Have you ever been in a situation where you tried, but for various reasons did not succeed, in having sexual intercourse with an adult by using or threatening to use physical
    force (twisting their arm, holding them down, etc.) if they did not cooperate?
    2. Have you ever had sexual intercourse with someone, even though they did not want
    to, because they were too intoxicated (on alcohol or drugs) to resist your sexual
    advances (e.g., removing their clothes)?
    3. Have you ever had sexual intercourse with an adult when they didn’t want to
    because you used or threatened to use physical force (twisting their arm; holding
    them down, etc.) if they didn’t cooperate?
    4. Have you ever had oral sex with an adult when they didn’t want to because you
    used or threatened to use physical force (twisting their arm; holding them down,
    etc.) if they didn’t cooperate?

    You would be forgiven for wondering what would possess anyone to answer yes to those questions even if it was true, but then I’ve always wondered what would possess someone to film themselves assaulting someone and then stick it on the internet. People are unfathomable.

  19. Carnation says

    @ 19, 20

    It could be that the correspondents admitting to such actions were wracked with guilt? I do know, for example, that a study of men who’d paid for sex asked about regret and the overwhelming majority expressed it.

  20. StillGjenganger says

    @Lucythoughts 19

    Hm. There is no obvious way of dismissing that one (much as I might like to).

    I have to say, though, that I really do not know what to do with it.

    If a small proportion of men are particularly violent and tend to do many more crimes that the rest of us, that does not sound like something that can be made to go away. Some moderately widespread resentment of women in general is also unlikely to vanish – as long as many men are heterosexual and desperately desirous of sexual attention that women as a group are unwilling to give them. And given that rape is stressful to report, damaging to be accused of, and in a majority of cases impossible to either prove or disprove, what interventions I can think of tend to be pretty much zero-sum – you favour one group at the expense of the other.

  21. mostlymarvelous says

    StillGjenganger “…that does not sound like something that can be made to go away.”

    But it does give us a few clues. First and foremost, instead of cops first reaction to a woman reporting a rape or other sexual assault being doubt or dismissal, they should take it seriously because statistics/research tell us that the great majority of sexual offences are committed repeatedly by a very, very small group of men. Which means that 1) this bloke has probably done this before or will again, 2) getting hold of this particular bloke could very well prevent a whole lot of future crimes. (The disgraceful US situation of all those unprocessed rape kits has also shown this over and over again. One state finds the same DNA in a handful of rape cases and discovers that another state had that same DNA in a murder. The kits were collected a few or several years apart. If they’d been processed in a timely manner, the rapist might have been in jail or under supervision and unable to perpetrate that later murder.)

    We can’t make the men go away, but we can put them in prison or under supervision/ parole/ rehabilitation as soon as possible before they do too much damage. And, a bonus, if you read all the way through this item https://yesmeansyesblog.wordpress.com/2009/11/12/meet-the-predators/ you find that there’s a whole heap of crimes you can prevent if you concentrate on rape reports. It turns out that the men who rape repeatedly are also more likely to physically abuse women as well as to commit higher rates of both physical and sexual abuse against children. Unsurprisingly, these are all round bad people.

    ” The whole sample of almost 1900 men reported just under 4000 violent acts, but this 4%* of recidivist rapists results in over 1000 of those violent acts.
    If we could eliminate the men who rape again and again and again, a quarter of the violence against women and children would disappear. That’s the public policy implication.”
    *(4% = 76 men. 1000 violent actions = 13 per man for this group as against 3000 for the other 1824 men = 1.5 per man.)

  22. StillGjenganger says

    @MM 23

    Thinking more about it, there are some things we can do, yes.

    One conclusion is that the push to eradicate rape culture , change general male attitudes etc. is likely to be a lot less fruitful than you would think. Not useless, not all rapes are committed by serial rapists, but I do think that the John Worboys of this world are pretty immune to cultural pressures, much like the Jimmy Saviles.

    For rape handling it depends on how you play it. One approach would be to remain sceptical about individual rape complaints, make damn sure you got the name and DNA of the accused into the database regardless, and then come down like a ton of bricks the second or third time the name turned up. I could get behind that, but I can see where a lot of people might find this approach rather too laid-back. Alternatively you could treat all rape accused as probable serial rapists. Which would prevent more rapes but would be very hard indeed on those of them who were actually innocent. Zero sum, right?

    This is where we get back into the old discussion on false accusations. A personal anecdote to show where I am coming from:
    I have been in contact with (not part of) three different disciplinary procedures in my time – none of them sexual, fortunately.
    – There was the first year masters student who knew for a fact that he had purified the natural product that his professor had tried in vain to isolate for twenty years. So when the product could not be found in his samples, it could only be because the professor and post-docs were conspiring to switch his samples and rob him of the credit. And when no-one paid heed to his complaints, he drew attention to his plight by polluting the samples of his colleagues with junk.
    – Then there was the masters student who complained through three levels of appeals on claim that her thesis deserved a first, and the lower grade she got could only be due to malice. I have read that thesis. It did not deserve a first (though she might have other reasons to be unhappy, of course).
    – And there was the post–doc who worked for a couple of years in a stressful environment with a lot of hard deadlines without particular signs of distress. Then he got into a fight with his boss over the conditions for leaving, and (unlike the colleagues who had suffered the same stresses) rounded off by making a harassment complaint against the boss and all his coworkers, based on a detailed events diary going back at least 18 months.

    Anecdotes are not data, but it did make me think that there could be quite a few people who will make official complaints on a very flimsy basis because of a sense of personal grievance and a slight estrangement from reality. To this you can add the apparently common case of people (like Ally’s rape complainant above) whose stories contain a lot of provably untrue statements. Just how sure can we be that they are scrupulously honest about having been raped, and are only lying about everything else?

    The article Lucy linked to commented that the small number of highly prolific rapists might go some way towards explaining the disconnect between the number of rape complaints (official or anonymous) and the refusal of ordinary people to believe that rape could be that common, Maybe there is a subpopulation of people who are highly likely to take their frustrations out in official complaints, and most people refuse to believe it because they or the people they know would never do anything like that.

  23. Marduk says

    23. Sex offenders are also more likely to be robbers, thieves, arsonists etc. Criminals are responsible for a surprising amount of crime.

    But when you make the problem concrete like this, people find that extremely uncomfortable. See posts by well meaning correspondents above for a good example of this (contrast the optimistic call to vague arms of post 9 with the pocket calculator despair of post 14). So, sex offending is certainly an extremely difficult challenge but its well-defined and we’re stumbling towards some sort of clarity about how to understand the problem and address it. Yet somehow it seems easier to handle (or at least more fun) when its infinite in scope, said to permeate every pore of the social fabric and yet can be observed in its true form only within tortured theoretical formulations. Virtue signalling is in, telling a ‘partying acquaintance’ to unhand a barmaid is out. This is a well-known finding to psychologists, particularly in the area of addressing serious problems like climate change. People want a radical re-ordering of the global economy, they just don’t want to walk to share their commute to work with anyone or drink tapwater instead of bottled.

    We see this in other areas as well. Domestic violence activists would (literally) rather shout about patriarchy than seek to eliminate a problem caused mostly by substance abuse and psychiatric problems tied up with family dysfunction. Again, a fully trained and resourced social work team with time for every at risk family is an ambitious ask, but we could do it if we really wanted to. If even half of DV activists trained as alcohol counselors they’d exponentially increase their impact. Neither of these things will ever happen though, nobody wants it enough.

  24. That Guy says

    @ Marduk,

    So what you’re saying is that unless everyone does as you say they should, they condone rape?

  25. lucythoughts says

    Gjenganger; Mostlymarvelous

    A few points:
    1) As far as combating rape culture is concerned, I see it as serving two purposes: firstly to reducing the number of grey-area, probably legal but semi-abusive cases which are harmful in themselves; secondly in removing the muddy water so we can better see where the predators are lurking. This is about identifying abusers as much as it is about persuading people not to abuse. For example, a common argument against consent classes (other than that they tend to demonise men and discount female perpetration) is that they are unnecessary because every normal non-rapist knows the difference between consensual and non-consensual sex already, and the rapists obviously don’t care. Demonstrably, that is not true though, you can look at survey data to see that people have very vague and variable knowledge about this stuff. What they know is how to have consensual sex, not what it is and what specifically makes it different from the reverse. We know a lot of things on an intuitive level which stump us when we are asked to explain or define them. And people don’t look for reasons to think someone around them is an abuser or really know what the red flags are, so they tend to discount the evidence when it is in front of them. That goes for both bystanders and also potential victims. I think that well designed sex education could go a long way to making the environment more hostile for rapists to operate in (and that really doesn’t mean telling boys that they are a bunch of rapey bastards who should be ashamed of their sexuality).

    2) As far as unfounded allegations go, similar to what Ally said in the OP, I would say that making malicious allegations of rape is a totally different crime to rape, so really there is no reason too assume a fixed ratio between reports of rape and unfounded allegations. The number of rapes reported is a fraction of the number committed and, by definition, all of the unfounded allegations are included in that number (making it actually quite a rare crime, but nevertheless a problem). The trick would be to increase the number of rapes reported while decreasing the number of unfounded allegations, or at least identifying them early in the process. A lot of work lately has gone in to better detection methods and evidence gathering in sexual assault cases. Clearly there is still a long way to go with that, but it really isn’t zero sum. The criminal justice system isn’t based on a slider which you can push up or down to make crimes easier or harder to convict, it is a bit more sophisticated than that, and men don’t benefit from having violent criminals at large just because they are less likely to be targeted by them. We should all be pulling in the same direction on this one.

    3) As Mostlymarvelous says, based on the perpetration data, identifying repeat offenders should be a massive priority. Certainly, the police can’t say to a complainant who reports a rape “thanks for the info, once another two or three more victims have walked through the door we’ll nail the bastard” but there are more ways to go about it. The one suggested in the paper is that investigating officers should trawl through a suspect’s networks and past relationships to look for evidence of previous sexual and domestic violence so they can bring multiple charges. Then also it is worth keeping cases open even if they fail to meet evidence requirements so they can be included in a future prosecution if another victim comes forward. That is actually another really good reason to treat complainants better in the first place, because if someone is dismissed, or has been through the traumatic reporting process and then got brushed off with a formal “no plans to prosecute” letter from the CPS and no proper explanation, they are less likely to help you next time.

    Then something else occurs to me, would it be possible to create an agency, separate from the police, tasked with collecting information about historical cases of sexual violence which were not reported at the time, and creating a database which could be cross-referenced to identify repeat offenders. Most victims don’t report, and once some time has elapsed they know that there is very little chance of getting justice if they did, but it seems to me that #metoo etc has just highlighted again how much thirst there is out there amongst people who have been victimised to have their experiences acknowledged and also to stop future abuse. If there was an agency where people could give the details of their cases without the stress of automatically triggering an enquiry that they knew would go nowhere, a lot of people might be willing to do it in the public interest. There would have to be a lot of safe guards of course, but on the face of it I can’t see why it wouldn’t be possible.

  26. lucythoughts says

    Marduk

    You may call it pocket calculator despair, I call it realism, and pretending that what we are talking about “isn’t very many people” is just absurd. A small percentage isn’t the same as a small number, in population terms this is a huge number and actually, that is quite important. Extrapolating from this data, approximately 1 in 15 men have committed at least one rape, and that was a conservative estimate based on a population which was not economically or socially deprived. Brutally, that suggests that most social networks are likely to contain one. You’re view seems to be that we are getting pretty good at creating a hostile environment for sex offenders, and that it is everyone’s individual responsibility to step up to the plate on this; I think that is wildly unrealistic. What I have seen with my actual eyes is mostly people making all kinds of excuses not to intervene or condemn pretty clearly abusive shit going on around them. I don’t even think it is done maliciously, it is just that they don’t want to leave their social comfort zone or, indeed, risk getting punched in the face by some aggressive drunk. Making a meaningful impact on this will take policy implementation, both on the criminal justice side to imprison more dangerous criminals and also on the education side to give people a better understanding of what they are looking for and the skills to tackle it effectively. That is a tall order but it isn’t an impossible task, and it isn’t despair to say it. Despair is expecting this to sort itself out given a bit of time.

  27. That Guy says

    @ Lucythoughts

    Thanks for your concise and considered points well made. I am in awe of your vast reserves of patience.

    More for my own benefit I’m just going to highlight this again, because I don’t feel that there’s any nature of this discussion that has to be a ‘zero sum game’ between men and women, and implying there is, is extremely harmful.

    I would say that making malicious allegations of rape is a totally different crime to rape, so really there is no reason too assume a fixed ratio between reports of rape and unfounded allegations.

  28. Marduk says

    29.
    I’m not arguing against policy, I’m not even arguing against culture (although I would see it as a lot more bottom up than top down), I’m arguing against high social theory and missing the wood for the trees. If it were merely recreational I wouldn’t mind, but we see useful actionable information crowded out and even denounced now (try telling a DV activist that substance abuse is kind of a big part of the problem, you’ll be told you are an apologist for patriarchal ideology and worse than Hitler). On the subject of abstract and impossible hopes vs. despair over mere concrete extreme difficulty, have a read of this and you’ll see whats going on: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Construal_level_theory

    “What I have seen with my actual eyes is mostly people making all kinds of excuses not to intervene or condemn pretty clearly abusive shit going on around them. I don’t even think it is done maliciously, it is just that they don’t want to leave their social comfort zone or, indeed, risk getting punched in the face by some aggressive drunk”

    So what you’re saying is that for every offender, there are 14 (or earlier, 24) people who could say something or intervene, and they have got to the point of recognizing the situation and are even actively considering doing something or at least aware enough to experience guilt that they should be.

    To me that is extremely hopeful. If only so many other social problems could be addressed by someone turning left when they could have turned right. If you want a prediction, I think we’re going to start to see a significant fall anyway, mostly to do with alcohol which generates the overwhelming majority of cases, because of both changes in the understanding of consent under intoxication and simply that people are drinking less and drunkeness is less and less socially acceptable as a wider thing. Wasn’t that long ago that getting hammered and waking up somewhere unexpected with someone unexpected was considered fairly normal, you see this across popular culture for thirty or fourty years but I’d say its days are numbered and people are going to flinch in the same way they would today at racist language when it crops up in old sitcoms and films. Its more fun to talk about patriarchy but I blame vodka, its use and misuse, a lot more. But that isn’t exciting or interesting to anyone, and I like a drink too, so…

    How is the project of “redefining masculinity” and “deconstructing patriarchy” going by contrast?

  29. That Guy says

    @ Marduk, You’re using a lot of big words and theories that my tiny little brain can’t understand, and your wikipedia links are impressively intimidating.

    That being said,

    How is the project of “redefining masculinity” and “deconstructing patriarchy” going by contrast?

    Well I suppose significant inroads have been made as to reducing alcohol consumption as a signifier of masculinity. I know it’s not real data, but if we take a look at some comments by contributors on this thread we can see indications that we’re on the right track

    drunkeness is less and less socially acceptable as a wider thing. Wasn’t that long ago that getting hammered and waking up somewhere unexpected with someone unexpected was considered fairly normal, you see this across popular culture for thirty or fourty years but I’d say its days are numbered and people are going to flinch in the same way they would today at racist language when it crops up in old sitcoms and films.

    I’m not so sold on the idea that alcohol consumption is the leading cause of rape*- even if a reduction in binge drinking is generally a good thing- Just for clarity, are you saying that alcohol leads to people being raped because rapists drink it? or because rape victims drink it?

    Do rapists repeatedly rape because they are always drinking? I’d be interested to know your theory. Since you know, we’re all agreed on policy and culture and we’re apparently only quibbling over high social theory.

    *Happy to admit that it plays a role, however.

  30. StillGjenganger says

    @That guy, Lucythoughts

    ‘Zero sum’ is obviously not correct across the board. As Lucy points out, it is in no one’s interest to have all those violent criminals going around free. But I do think some aspects are zero sum. Meanwhile it is fairly obvious that the costs and benefits of the various initiatives are unevenly distributed. Men were always less likely to be raped, more likely to be accused or in trouble for any given behaviour, and generally expected to have to take the initiative if they want anything to happen. For now it is men who are expected to change their sexual behaviour, to start dobbing in their mates, and to take much more responsibility for what other people are feeling. While women are expected – no, women expect to be safer, to have a social environment that suits them better, to be more cared for. One Guardian commentator even looked forward to a world where women could demand and get a better sex life. (Some of) these changes may be just or they may be necessary – I did find those numbers on self-confessed rapists rather scary – but there is no point in pretending that the costs and benefits are the same for all groups.

    ‘Malicious’ rape allegations are probably quite rare, in the sense of someone not feeling particularly hurt or violated, but coming up with a rape accusation they know is unjustified as a deliberate tactic. And those, yes, can only happen for reported rapes. ‘Unfounded’ accusations is a completely different matter. That is as much a matter of people who believe they have been wronged, feel they have been violated, and either believe or convince themselves that what happened constitutes rape, or at least that it is as bad and as deserving of punishment even if it does not quite fit to the statute book. But who may sometimes be mistaken, psychologically warped, or in denial. I totally disagree with the claim that all unreported rapes are well-founded. The three (non-sexual) complainants in my post 24 were all sincere and would all have reported the wrong done against them in a survey the same way as they reported it to the complaints board. We may have our estimates, but we do not actually know what fraction of accusations (to the police or surveys) are well-founded until we can determine what actually happened.

    Which brings us to the zero-sum part. The differences between sex and rape lies in the consent of one party and the reasonable belief of the other – that is in the mental state of the participants. In the absence of actual violence (or a third-party witness) there is no really good way to determine whether the complainant consented at the time. People can do all kinds of weird things during a sexual encounter, and it is not totally impossible that people sometimes might find them unbearable in retrospect and prefer to think that they were raped. So when you say, Lucy, that ‘we’ are getting much better at evidence gathering, I really wonder what you mean. If you mean that there are so many phone videos and people texting their innermost thoughts that this gives a useful window, you may well have a point. But if not, all I can see is a matter of which side you choose to believe. And that is pretty much zero-sum. To be a bit more precise, I think a lot of cases actually hang on plausibility – prior probability, if you like. If you are into BDSM or gang-bangs, or if you behave like DSK or Chad Evans, say, the assumption is that is is really unlikely for anyone to consent in the heat of the moment, and you will be deemed guilty unless you have evidence to the contrary. That is actually pretty sensible, as far as it goes. With this kind of stuff there is high risk of being mistaken about consent, there is a high risk of people getting emotionally hurt (whether they consented or not), and you ought to know that if you take that kind of risk no jury will believe you. And anyway, not taking that kind of risk without through preparation ought not to put too much of a crimp in your sex life. But it is a question of ‘presumed guilty’ as against ‘presumed innocent’. And as you get to more normal sex acts (two people going home together, some kisses, possibly some moral pressure, and sex at the end), it is a matter of which side you will favour if a common and well-supported activity ends in a dispute. And that is another zero-sum choice.

  31. Marduk says

    32.
    “Just for clarity, are you saying that alcohol leads to people being raped because rapists drink it? or because rape victims drink it?”

    Both. For the victim, self-report by victims and perpetrators give it at 70-80%. As to offenders, less clear, but the majority of violent crime in general is associated with alcohol so I don’t see why this would be different.

    It is hard to say how causal it is in rape when it can appear as means, motive and opportunity (perhaps simultaneously) but it would seem reasonable to me that if it was absent, the overall prevalence would fall proportional to the extent to which it fills those categories. Presumably a proportion of rapists would raise their level of violence instead or look for different types of vulnerability to exploit, but I don’t get the feeling it is the majority.

  32. lucythoughts says

    Marduk

    So what you’re saying is that for every offender, there are 14 (or earlier, 24) people who could say something or intervene, and they have got to the point of recognizing the situation and are even actively considering doing something or at least aware enough to experience guilt that they should be

    Well no, I didn’t actually say that did I? Or anything remotely like it. What I would say is that within the scope of my experience: a) most people don’t think much about what is going on around them at all, b) very few people will register anything done by someone they like as being bad or dubious whatever the evidence, and c) if directly challenged people will always defend their friends and provide excuses. People will even defend someone they don’t particularly like on the whole if the alternative is entertaining the possibility that there is a sex offender amongst their social circle.

    To quote your wiki page back to you:

    Research has shown that an action by someone who is dissimilar to oneself is construed in more abstract terms than an action by someone who is more similar, suggesting that similarity functions as a form of psychological distance

    Rape / rapist, abuse / abuser / sexual assault etc are abstract concepts, and very frightening ones, applicable only to strangers. Familiar people get familiar terms applied to them and to their behaviours, which seem less threatening, more ambiguous and easier to explain away. This is where sex education comes in, because it is possible to partially break through that disconnect and encourage intervention by using concrete examples, discussion, role-play, assertiveness training etc. Or you can leave it up to every individual to defy normal psychology and manage it all by themselves, but I won’t be holding my breath.

    The 1 in 25 were repeat offenders. It’s all there in the posts.

    How is the project of “redefining masculinity” and “deconstructing patriarchy” going by contrast?

    How should I know? No one has even mentioned them apart from you. But the fact is that while I have provided one or two genuine policy suggestions along the way, you seemingly think it should just be left to the responsibility of the individual a la Margret Thatcher while we wait for general social trends to solve the problem for us. So which of us is actually thinking on the lower construal level I wonder?

  33. lucythoughts says

    Gjenganger

    This is where we part company I’m afraid. You admit that the self-reported perpetration of rapes, not misunderstandings, not doubtful consent, not post-coital regrets, but unequivocal, self-acknowledged rapes, indicated terrifying numbers of these crimes being committed, and still you say that it is too much of an imposition on you to expect you to “dob in your mates” in order to meet women’s “expectations” of being safe from violence. No further discussion is possible between us on this subject because actually this isn’t a question of conflict of interest, it is a question of loyalty. Your primary loyalty is to your gender; mine is to my family. You would sacrifice the safety of your wife and daughter before you would compromise your loyalty to your brotherhood. That is your choice, but I have nothing further to say to you on this subject.

  34. lucythoughts says

    33. Gjenganger

    Having said I wouldn’t go any further, I am now partially changing my mind because reading this again there are a couple of other points there that should be addressed.

    I totally disagree with the claim that all unreported rapes are well-founded

    Firstly, this is logical nonsense. It they are unreported rapes then they are rapes that go unreported and can’t be unfounded by definition. What you mean is that you don’t think that everything reported in surveys is accurate, but that isn’t an unfounded accusation, it is, at worst, a crime against statisticians. The estimates produced by the ONS on rape and attempted rape include quite a wide margin of error, but even if they were slightly inflated, what devastating consequences do you see as resulting from that?

    Secondly, those three mildly delusional post graduate students you mention, can you estimate what percentage they constituted of the total post-graduate population that you have personally encountered in the course of your career? Because I get a strong impression that you think that women are generally pretty deluded about their own sexual experiences and a large proportion of them can’t tell the difference between “a bit of moral pressure” and being raped.

    So when you say, Lucy, that ‘we’ are getting much better at evidence gathering, I really wonder what you mean

    By “we” I mean the police of course and it encompasses a lot of things including collecting data from phones and computers (this being what they failed to do properly in the scandal that produced this thread), plus physical evidence and witness statements being gathered in a thorough and timely manner and processed properly. This is in contrast to a history of investigation practices which were haphazard, incomplete, delayed, procedurally flawed or never even conducted. No criminal case ever gets to trial based on nothing more than one person’s word against another’s, that is a myth.

    all I can see is a matter of which side you choose to believe. And that is pretty much zero-sum. To be a bit more precise, I think a lot of cases actually hang on plausibility

    Well, “guilty” or “not guilty” is always a binary choice, yes. Zero sum if you want to put it that way. It isn’t unique to rape trials that the jury has to weigh up the evidence on the basis of plausibility and come to a verdict in the absence of absolute certainty. But rapes, like other crimes, occur in a context, not in a vacuum and can be supported by significant amounts of corroborative or circumstantial evidence.

  35. StillGjenganger says

    @Lucythoughts 36
    I am sorry to hear that (and, BTW, I appreciate the calm way you communikcate even this message). But I think you are doing me a slight injustice. I am still digesting what to do, in the light of that paper. I do accept that the situation may well require some measures that I would rather prefer to avoid (and avoiding rapes is also an important goal for me, not just ‘something that women want’). But 1) I do think that men and women have somewant different interests here and so legitimately favour somehat different trade-offs, and 2) it is a question not only of who pays and who benefits, but also of how likely the project is to work. After all, any long-shot bet is a good investment – as long as you can get someone else to pay for it. Arguably the measures you propose would be a brilliant victory for the sisterhood even if they did not deter a single rape, as long as they “reduc[ed]the number of grey-area, probably legal but semi-abusive cases which are harmful in themselves“, and generally made for a more woman-friendly environent. Which are not necessarily bad goals, but which tne men who have to do the adjusting might find less compelling than the prevention of rape.

    Rounding off (in case I do not get another chance) your point 3) on investigating multiple rapists sounds like the way to go (even if I see the need for safeguards just like you yourself do). And your post 35 to Marduk isvery sensible and good analysis as it stands. I have to say that I have very low expectations of how those courses would work actually out. Rather than explanations that increaseunderstanding I would expect a massive indoctrination campaign, telling people what they ought to want instead of what they actually do want. Remember our discussion on ‘enthusiastic consent’? As I remember there was a sense of the term that was very reasonable, (but with a highly misleading name), having to do with requiring some positive signal of interest as a minimum before porceeding to sex.And there was the alternative interpretation as recommended by some practitioners, where the advice is to assume that your partner does not know what she wants, is not capable of deciding of of telling you her decision, and where you have absolute responsibility of ensuring that even so nothing happens she might regret, and has an enthusiastic experience to boot. For extremely diifficult disciplines like BDSM that actually makes sense, which is why being a BDSM top is a skilled job that nrequires training, and why the practitioners go through all the rigmarole of agreeeing safewords and soft and hard limits before they start. I fear that any ‘consent education’ would be used as a chance to push the second varioation of ‘enthusiastic conset’. with the result that students who listen and follow the rules would conclude (correctly) that this was beyond their skills and so tie themselves in knots between their desire for sex and their fear of ending up as rapists. While the students who actually wanted sex would simply conclude that their teachers (of either sex) were a bunch of old women and you should ignore what they were saying.

  36. StillGjenganger says

    @Lucythoughts 37

    We are misunderstanding each other here. To me an unfounded accusation is when soemone says (s)he has been raped, to a statistician, the police, or a close friend, in a case where an omniscient observer would conclude that the crime of rape had not taken place. The issue is not how many rapes there are. Even if as much of 25% of the rapes reported (to statisticians) were unfounded – and there is no evidence to suggest that – it would not make much difference to policy if there were 9 million rapes rather than12 million. The issue is: once a rape accusation is made, what is the inherent probability that a rape took place? And here it makes a lot of difference to the way we treat the accused whether the answer is 75% or 99.9%. To get the fraction of unfounded accusations you divide the number of unfounded accusations by total number of accusations. And if you assume that any accusation that is not reported to the police or where we do not know the details is by definition well-founded, you are getting a misleadingly low probability for unfounded accusations.

    It does not matter what fraction my three graduate students are compared to the entire population. It matters what fraction they are compared to people who raise complaints. And, anyway, two of them were male. So, no, I do not think that ‘women cannot tell the difference between bit of moral pressure and being raped’. I think that people, regardless of sex, who have have had a devastating experience, feel like shit, and blame it (quite reasonably) on someone else being an arsehole, could easily convince themselves that what happened was rape, and so entirely blamable on someone else, rather than an unfortunate series of events that they themselves may or may noot have contributed to. And who can blame them?
    But I do think there are enough unfounded accusations that we cannot assume that (almost) every rape claimed means a rape happened.

  37. That Guy says

    @ StillGjenganger

    You’ve got this weird technique where you divide society into men and women to do some sort of cost-benefit analysis- to make out it’s not really men’s worth to make whatever small effort required to meet women’s expectation of safety.

    (How dare women expect to be safe from rape, the harridans that they are!)

    I can’t digest this as anything other than the thinking of a sociopath- I’m not going to think that It’s beyond my care to indicate to anyone who thinks otherwise that it’s wrong to have sex with someone who can’t consent, because hey! I’m a man, and I’m probably not going to be getting raped! It’d only be a woman, whom I do not care about.

    That’s nonsense, we’ve all got mothers, sisters, lovers that we don’t want to be raped, and to say that the common-sense practices that we should undertake to not rape or allow others to rape are some huge burden is worrying.

    also

    . So, no, I do not think that ‘women cannot tell the difference between bit of moral pressure and being raped’. I think that people, regardless of sex, who have have had a devastating experience, feel like shit, and blame it (quite reasonably) on someone else being an arsehole, could easily convince themselves that what happened was rape, and so entirely blamable on someone else, rather than an unfortunate series of events that they themselves may or may noot have contributed to. And who can blame them?

    What weird and wonderful situation can someone end up in where someone has sex, it’s a devastating experience, and the other person isn’t to blame? Like honestly, unless you’re actively deceiving your partner into doing something you don’t like, (aw yeh bbycakes, punch me harder <3) anyone with enough social nous to start having sex with someone knows enough to tell when the other person is having a terrible time. If you are having sex with someone who does not like it, and you don’t at least stop to check things are OK, then you are a rapist. This shit shouldn’t need explaining.

    I mean, what other situations can arise where someone is wholly responsible for such a psyche shatteringly bad sex? Like, are you bitter because you slept with a salami slicer and you only had yourself to blame?

  38. StillGjenganger says

    @That Guy 40

    First, thanks for persisting.

    Second: It does make a difference which measures we are talking about, just how small and commonsense they are, and how well they help to avoid rapes. Women could reduce the number of rapes a bit by being clear ahead of time what their limits are, communicating them clearly, getting visibly furious when they are pushed, and not going home with strangers while drunk unless they want sex. But women, quite reasonably tend to think that they should not have to put limits on their fun just because some people are rapists, that these ideas are not very effective, and that anyway you cannot expect women to do all the work. Men would surely have the same right to disagree with measures that they felt were ineffective, onerous, and put all the work of avoiding rape on the majority (after all!) of men who do not rape anybody anyway. When it comes to not raping, my behaviour is totally safe already and I do not need additional rules. When it comes to not allowing others to rape, I am really in favour of the objective, but I would sort of like to discuss what measures we are talking about and how likely they are to actually work, before I sign up.

    How can sex be a devastating experience if the other person is not to blame?

    One problem is that having sex leaves you open and vulnerable to hurts and psychological damage. That is an inherent risk. Drink makes it worse, because drunk people do things they would not normally do, and might feel terrible about later. But then, that is exactly why people drink, because they want to do things they would not do normally. Drunken hookups are risky, even if there are no deliberate rapists around. But if we want to do them anyway (and I guess we do) we need to find ways of minimising the risk, that both parties contribute to, and accept that it will sometimes go wrong anyway.

    The Ched Evans case provides an example of one aspect. First, the complainant cannot be blamed for anything at all; she had every reason to go to the police, and since she did not remember what happened she did not make a (potentially) false statement at any point. Evans, on the other hand, behaved like a reckless asshole. Which is why I do not feel particularly sorry for him – when you stretch the elastic as far as he did you cannot complain if it snaps. But, according to the court of appeals judgment, he did (most likely) have consent at the time, so he is not a rapist.

    Ally told a story of a drunk woman at a party who grabbed his crotch and tried to push him physically into some corner or toilet and have her way with him. And he told how one reason for saying no (beyond matters of taste) was that he was afraid that she would regret it and feel raped the next morning (please correct the details if necessary, Ally). Now that was definitely a real risk, and it was commendable of Ally to consider it. But would you really call anybody a rapist who succumbed, through lust, fatigue, or drunkenness, even if it did turn out that the lady felt terrible afterwards?

    Now Ched Evans is certainly to blame, since he behaved like an asshole. For the record, I am not in favour of behaving like an asshole, and I think we should put considerable effort into teaching people that they should not behave like assholes. Further, we should teach people to care for the well-being of others even if fairly normal behaviour would be enough to hurt. Likely Lucythoughts and I would condemn most of the same things. But I insist that there is a difference between being asshole and being a rapist. Most of us, with the best will in the world, behave like assholes at some point in our lives. That is something we have to accept, even as we try to minimise it. Being a rapist, on the other hand is unacceptable to a much higher degree. So, let us put the limit where it belongs, and not conflate rape with lesser kinds of nastiness.

  39. lucythoughts says

    38. Gjenganger

    Arguably the measures you propose would be a brilliant victory for the sisterhood even if they did not deter a single rape, as long as they “reduc[ed]the number of grey-area, probably legal but semi-abusive cases which are harmful in themselves“, and generally made for a more woman-friendly environment

    I’d call it a victory for decent people everywhere if fewer people were subjected to traumatic abusive experiences, even if no laws have been broken. The law is kind of set at the extreme edge of what most people would consider unacceptable anyway, you don’t have to be any kind of saint to balk at behaviour which falls considerably short of what would land you two years in prison. And let’s not forget that very high numbers of men are also subjected to sexual assault and sexual coercion, but it gets ignored because it doesn’t fit a narrative structure that people feel they can understand. All in all, I think that many people would benefit if the bell curve of what is considered acceptable shifted somewhat (although I willingly admit that more women that men would probably see the benefit in it or consider it a priority).

    I have to say that I have very low expectations of how those courses would work actually out. Rather than explanations that increase understanding I would expect a massive indoctrination campaign, telling people what they ought to want instead of what they actually do want

    It is very reasonable to be concerned, initiatives of this kind have a patchy history. What I would like to see is an effective, evidence-based model of best practice for sex and relationships education emerge and be rolled out to schools. It really is vital to put this in place early, because when kids are learning the ropes, going out, learning to drink (and catastrophically misjudging their limits) and experimenting with sex, they are at very high risk. 16-19 year old girls are raped more than any other (adult) age group. I can’t promise that this is what will happen, but I think it is incumbent upon us all to try to push the consensus in that direction because this is one area where defaulting to the status quo just isn’t an acceptable option. I can sympathise with a degree of cynicism and distrust, mostly amongst men, but I would also say that if you (they) care about the issue, it is important that you contribute constructively to the debate; unless you are bringing your own ideas to the table, complaining that you don’t like everyone else’s ideas gets very tedious very quickly. And then women’s groups, feminists, victims and survivors and also random people like me will simply say, enough is enough, either board the train or get off the track.

  40. That Guy says

    @41

    OK, here is some important points.

    Women could reduce the number of rapes a bit by being clear ahead of time what their limits are, communicating them clearly, getting visibly furious when they are pushed

    So, there’s this internet meme about ‘nice guys’ and so on and this is borne out of an unwillingness of women to do as above, rather than being frank and saying “no, I don’t want to sleep with or have a relationship with you etc”. BUT the buck here doesn’t stop with the individual woman. This is a social thing- women are conditioned by society to not firmly reject, it’s seen as a ‘bitchy thing’ to do, and women often face social repercussions for doing so. Also, it’s not uncharacteristic for young men to get violent when they don’t feel validated by a woman. I’ve seen this ugly shit firsthand, and it’s a little unfair to place women in a binary situation where their choices are a) get raped b) get punched in the face (and maybe raped too)

    As with this regurgitation of Ally’s story- presumably this hypothetical Ally would not have enjoyed the encounter, as an unwilling participant. Regardless of gender, a person that forces themselves sexually on another person with no regard for their enjoyment or wellbeing is a rapist. Said woman would have by this definition been a rapist.

    Silly me, I didn’t account for the rapist’s feelings in my analogy- I assumed that was implicit, so allow me to amend-

    What weird and wonderful situation can someone end up in where someone has sex, it’s a devastating experience, and the other person isn’t to blame? Excepting the obvious case that they are a rapist

    Also, once more for emphasis (as it’s still valid)

    If you are having sex with someone who does not like it, and you don’t at least stop to check things are OK, then you are a rapist. This shit shouldn’t need explaining.

    Isn’t that fair? or am I just being old fashioned in thinking that sex should be a mutually enjoyable and pleasurable dialog between informed and consenting participants?

  41. StillGjenganger says

    @Lucythoughts 42

    Thanks for answering – I do value your opinion, even where I do not share it.

    Three separate points here:

    We quite agree that a lot of abusive, or just plain nasty, things happen that are nowhere near criminal, but that we would want to get rid of and teach/condition people not to do. I just disagree, strongly, that “[shifting] the bell curve of what is considered acceptable” describes a good way to do it. Because that sounds to me like redefing rape to cover less serious events, and to use the penumbra of rape as a motivator to discourage even less serious events. The people I have in mind are those who would, sort of, like to behave decently and not do unnecessary damage (which is hopefully the majority, otherwise we are screwed). Those people are surely smart enough to realise that going right to the edge of a prison sentence is neither smart not nice, and they had better leave a wide margin of safety. So when people push things that sound too much like “you are a rapist if you are having sex and your partner is not enthusiastic / does not like it”, they easily get the impression that they are just one unimpressive performance away from a prison sentence. Which is obviously an impossible position.

    What I do nto like (as well as some additional problems to address) is shown fairly well in this comment by Gaby Hinscliff https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2018/feb/14/carnality-and-consent-how-to-navigate-sex-in-the-modern-world. Comments like “If somebody isn’t an enthusiastic yes, if they’re hesitating, […] that equals no.” Coupled with the point that you are supposed to work out what the answer is without forcing anybody to actually tell you. As the article also points out, a lot of (well) men find it very hard indeed to figure out. You leave a date and honestly do not know how it went. So, how can you do anything if you need to know the answer, and don’t, and getting it wrong is rape? Of course, as you yourself have pointed out, it is in some ways quite easy. Simply assume that the answer is always no, and do not act until you have proof beyond reasonable doubt that this time it is ‘yes’. You will very rarely be wrong. The problem is where that leaves people who really want sex and who cannot generally rely on other people propositioning them all the time (i.e. men). We fall in different groups. Those with particular empathy skills can manage without being told (or at least get enough murky glimpses to dimly figure out the way). Those who are sufficiently attractive, or lucky can rely on others to do the work (or at least get enough experience and confidence to know how it looks when it is working). The strongly progressive (and the masochists) will find fulfillment in working on a never-ending task that benefits womankind. But that still leaves a large group with mainly two choices: If you are young and foolish you just try anyway, and accept that being called a rapist by the likes of That Guy is simply an occupational hazard of being a sexually active male. If you are older and wiser you realise that this is beyond you, stop trying, and buy a games console and a high-definition TV screen for your bedroom. Maybe some eager and enthusiastic lady will come knocking. And she does not, well you have little to lose by not trying, and at least you are free of the stress of trying to achieve the impossible and fathom the unfathomable.

    So what do I actually propose? I rarely talk about in, in the well-founded suspicion that few people are interested, but you sort of asked. First, rape means sex without consent, not sex without enthusiasm. The usual rules apply: No means no, she can change her mind at any time, she needs to be awake enough to decide. Second, there is a lot of scope for things to go wrong. Both sides should work on that, but as the active party most of it falls on you. So, you need a positive sign of accept, not just a blank face, you need to realise that people can freeze and be unable to answer (and even feel too embarrassed or scared to say that no, silly as it sounds) and be alert for signs that something is wrong. In short you need to do a serious and genuine attempt to figure out whether she is actually interested. But if ti keeps coming up green aftrer that, you are not a rapist.
    You might still cause a lot of emotional damage even so, so the next rule would be to try to be nice. Don’t be an asshole, appreciate what you get, aim to leave people reasonably content, that way they might even come back. And if you think that sounds too wishy-washy, remember that it is stupid to put people where they feel aggrieved, really want revenge, and can achieve it by a simple visit to the police station. The end result should be having men feel that yes, they are allowed to try, no, it is not impossible, yes, they do have a chance, and so they should behave well rather than badly.
    Meanwhile there is also some advice to women, In a classroom I would put it that men are pretty dense. They find it hard to understand the answers they get, and they have a strong temptation not to hear that no. So, one could make it clear to oneself how far one is willing to go (so you do not get ambiguous or confused even if someone surprises you at two in the morning), say it clearly when you get to the limits, and get angry rather than let yourself be rolled over. Of course if someone decides to rape you that all goes by the board, but until then try to make it easy for the poor fool to get the point. Hooking up is complex – everybody must contribute to the success of the enterprise.

    Beyond all that there are several clear rules that are easy to make, even to a high school class. For instance (#MeToo) that your underlings are likely to be afraid to answer honestly and vulnerable to pressure. So, don’t fool yourself, but keep your banter and your flirting to your equals. Women are not nearly as interested in your body or flattered by your attention as you are in theirs, so no dick pics, and no propositions out of the blue. They are not just offensive but silly. No drunken gang-bangs (like Ched Evans). There are surely women who go for that kind of thing, but they are kind of rare. So if you think she is interested (and sufficiently sober to boot), 1) there is a high risk you are fooling yourself, 2) There is a high risk she will be devastated about it tomorrow, whatever she is feeling now (and we are not into damaging people, remember)?) And 3) it is way too easy to turn you in to the police and there is a high risk that the jury will not believe you. None of these things are wrong in every single case (claim too much and people will know you are lying), but they are like BDSM – requiring extensive safeguards before you even try.

    I do not know if you think this makes me sound like an idiot or a misogynist. But I do think there is considerable scope for improving things even without claiming that anything short of enthusiasm is rape.

  42. lucythoughts says

    44. Gjenganger

    Certainly I don’t think you are an idiot or a misogynist and I am trying to see where you’re coming from, but my problem is, I find it all a bit hard to believe. Taking it a point at a time, the first thing I don’t believe is that anyone really thinks they are “one unimpressive performance away from a prison sentence.” People might be confused about exactly how “yes means yes” works in practice, but I don’t think anyone is so confused that they believe it means you are a rapist if your partner doesn’t have an orgasm. I generally prefer the term positive consent to enthusiastic consent myself because I think it is a bit closer to real life, where people can be awkward and shy as well as keen, but the point is that when two people want to have sex they will help each other in the right direction.

    What I do not like (as well as some additional problems to address) is shown fairly well in this comment by Gaby Hinscliff https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2018/feb/14/carnality-and-consent-how-to-navigate-sex-in-the-modern-world. Comments like “If somebody isn’t an enthusiastic yes, if they’re hesitating, […] that equals no.”

    Your editing of that quote is a bit misleading I think: she says, “If somebody isn’t an enthusiastic yes, if they’re hesitating, if they’re like: ‘Uh, I don’t know’ – at this point in time, that equals no.” I think that is actually quite fair. “Uh, I don’t know” is, in fact, an indirect no. And “at this point in time” is also important, because “uh, I don’t know” (i.e. no) to sex now doesn’t necessarily mean not ever, but it does mean you shouldn’t at this moment be trying to push things further. I don’t think that is particularly hard to interpret. If you ignore it then you are not necessarily going to rape someone but you aren’t acting in good faith.

    Coupled with the point that you are supposed to work out what the answer is without forcing anybody to actually tell you

    Where exactly does it say that? It seems to be implicit in this argument that you are never, ever allowed to ask anything verbally. You can’t “force” someone to tell you of course, but you can certainly ask them if they would like to go to bed / stay the night / or whatever. I guess people will say “ah, but women don’t like you to ask!” While it is true that most women don’t like to be asked “is this okay, is that okay” every thirty seconds, that doesn’t mean they expect you to take a vow of silence, there are lots of ways of getting verbal feedback along the way and most people use them. And honestly, if you are really not sure, and the available choices seem to be A. ask, B. walk away, C. take your cock out and hope for the best, then you’re probably best going with A.

    As the article also points out, a lot of (well) men find it very hard indeed to figure out. You leave a date and honestly do not know how it went

    This is actually a different thing; it is often difficult to tell how a date went, or whether someone fancies you, because the body language can be misleading and the behaviour isn’t very natural. My honest opinion about this is that getting to the sex isn’t that hard, the hard part is actually getting from nothing to snogging. Initiating a kiss can be a very hard thing to judge, but once you’re at the snogging stage the rest happens incrementally and your partner will usually be fairly clear, verbally or non-verbally, about when they have reached their limit. If they start to signal they have had enough and you listen and respond appropriately, you will quite likely be in the same place the following night but rather further along. This is really normal and usually works like clockwork. The main reasons for this system breaking down and things turning ugly is if someone chooses to ignore the stop signals, or tries to rush headlong towards sex without passing through the normal checkpoints along the way.

    So, how can you do anything if you need to know the answer, and don’t, and getting it wrong is rape? Of course, as you yourself have pointed out, it is in some ways quite easy. Simply assume that the answer is always no, and do not act until you have proof beyond reasonable doubt that this time it is ‘yes’. You will very rarely be wrong

    Can’t remember ever saying this. Sometimes it’s no, sometimes it’s yes, the other person will tell you. If you aim for a fun, mutually satisfying, shared experience, accept that this will sometimes but not always include actual sex, and act in good faith you will very, very rarely if ever get this wrong.

    Taking this back to where it started, what I mean by shifting the bell curve isn’t about changing what we call rape, it isn’t about redefining abuse, it is about recognising what is abusive when we see it. The research I linked demonstrates that a hell of a lot of people don’t have good intentions and when they commit these acts they know full well that the person they are having sex with is under duress. Most of us have encountered one or more of these people even though we may not have known it, we may have been on friendly terms with one; they can be superficially pleasant but in fact are deeply unpleasant. Identifying them, and cutting through the culture of impunity that they manage to draw around themselves is what is important. Most people are fairly sensible and don’t make catastrophic errors in their own sex lives, but most people are also willing to accept what other people tell them is okay, rather than applying their critical faculties. One way of reducing the damage done by rapists is to make it hard for them to get their excuses accepted and their abuses glossed over.

    To elucidate this with a couple of examples, if you pick up a steaming drunk stranger in a kebab shop at 1am and steer them home in order to have sex with them, is that rape? Well, not necessarily, they may consent to sex in which case it isn’t. But the thing is, people who act in that way are very likely to be rapists. So if the bell curve of acceptability shifts such that this behaviour is seen as very off, unacceptable and frankly suspicious, it makes it much harder for rapists to get away with operating in this way. This behaviour isn’t necessarily exclusive to rapists, but it is a red flag and it should be seen as such. Another red flag is pushing someone past their expressed boundaries. One way that rapists assess whether a potential victim will be an easy target or not is to push them into uncomfortable territory and see how firmly they hold the line. This isn’t victim blaming, the fact is that a lot of people are vulnerable to this kind of pressure because they have the whole weight of their socialisation telling them to avoid a confrontation, and the whole weight of their experience telling them that if they signal their discomfort enough the other person will get the message and back off. Those are the social rules we all follow, it isn’t silly timidity, it is absolutely the norm, and that is why it blindsides the victim when abusers fails to follow those rules.

    This is where we get into enthusiastic / positive consent again and it gets a bit messy. Not everybody who tries to push somebody towards sex despite signals suggesting it is unwanted is willing to resort to physical force or coercion, but on the whole, they are not just nice but inept people making a mistake either. They are not oblivious to the “no” signals they’re getting, they think it is okay to ignore them and if the other person can be pushed into giving them sexual gratification then that is good enough. This is the grey area between shitty behaviour and sexual assault, it is not necessarily illegal but it is abusive and it is also a red flag because a lot of people who do it will also be rapists. This is why I said in the first instance, shifting the bell curve to make this socially unacceptable is a change for the better in its own right, because people shouldn’t do this stuff, and it also actually makes it harder for people to rape and get away with it.

  43. StillGjenganger says

    @Lucythoughts

    Sorry for the delay, this one was harder than usual. Anyway, I am glad you are willing to keep slogging at this – maybe we can actually figure something out eventually.

    Admittedly, I have I have been using some slight pedagogical exaggerations along the way, which have probably not helped. ‘Simplify, then exaggerate’ as ‘The Economists’ style guide says. Or having my feelings run away with me? I shall do my best to keep a lid on it this time.

    I think I can see some clear similarities and differences between us:
    – We both prefer the term ‘positive consent’, but I interpret it more restrictively ‘You need at least some positive signal to hang your hat on, to counterbalance the confusion’, whereas I think you would want something rather more comprehensive (but OK, still well short of panting enthusiasm).
    – We both have a set of activities that you should avoid regardless, but yours is rather wider, I would limit out Ched Evans and you would limit out McDonald, let us say. Also I see it as advice to the man, on the lines of “Do not do this, the risk is way too high, and if it goes wrong you are for it”. Whereas you see it as advice to everybody else, “If anyone ever does this, come down on him like a ton of bricks”, which seen from the other side looks rather like “going home to have sex with that drunk stranger is evil in itself and will get you punished, whether she likes it or not.”

    Your last two paragraphs describe things quite well. I especially like the sentence “They are not oblivious to the “no” signals they’re getting, they think it is okay to ignore them and if the other person can be pushed into giving them sexual gratification then that is good enough.” And I guess this is where I cannot bring myself to back your recommendations – surely to my discredit. Because – while fully accepting both that this serves to cover deliberate rapists and that even without this it can still give pretty sorry results – it still sounds very like what I used to see as a normal dating strategy You think you see a chance, and you try some things, in a small way. The response is what will tell you how interested she might be (so far so good) and what space there might be to get her to change her mind (more problematic, I guess). If it goes well, you move on to the next stage and try more ambitious things, if not you give up at some point. Whereas your version, as I see it is “‘No’ means no. ‘Maybe’ also means no – you are not allowed to try to convince people, ‘Yes’ means yes – provided you first stop and double check that you are not fooling yourself and nothing is going wrong.” Which feels a little like the (exaggerated) version in my previous post: “Simply assume that the answer is always no, and do not act until you have proof” (my words, not yours).

    And yes, asking explicitly. Fine idea once both agree on the goal and it is just the short term that is at issue. But if you are still at the possibly, I hope, … stage, an explicit question is a) guaranteed to give a ‘no’, b) going to be so embarrassing that you have to leave immediately afterwards. You are better off leaving right away, without asking.

    I can understand if you think I am being a little hysterical here, but I think part of the difference is that we are looking at different scenarios. Yours seems to be the viewpoint of someone in the middle of a productive love-life. At the extreme you have two people who have already decided to be together and push this relationship as far as they can make it go – the rest is just settling the details and being careful avoiding unnecessary snarls. More normally you have somebody where this sex thing is just known to work. You know how these things go, it has worked in the past, and you expect it to work in the future. If not this week then next week, if not with this person, then with the next one. Which again makes for a great lack or urgency.
    I am imagining a scenario that I know rather better. You are single, insecure, insensitive, and inept – very. You vaccillate between ‘yes! yes! it is surely happening!’ and ‘No, cannot be, after all why would she want me?’, you have very little reliable information or understanding, and you can make gross errors of judgment in either direction because of that. Of course the answer is generally ‘no’, but if you accept that (in a situation where you do not actually know what is happening) you have no reason to try. Getting some feels desperately important, for having been there, for your sense of self, and for feeling that the world values you a bit, as a man or a person. Meanwhile you are batting zero after five years of grabbing every chance you see, and only a determined, irrational optimism keeps you from drawing the obvious conclusion. Which is “Let it drop mate! you have not got a hope. Who in her right mind would go for you?” Am I exaggerating? Not sure. But whatever the facts the feeling is true.

    Let me add that this is not my current situation. I have had my run, as it were, I am not awaiting anything particularly miraculous, and I never do anything anyway, abusive or otherwise, that could possibly change the mind of anybody. Nor was I particularly enterprising in the past, being too smart/insecure/moral/chicken to push it.
    Also, I admit that the possibility of trying to convince potential bedmates may not be of that much practical use. For one thing there may not be that many women around who are convinceable. And for another the men who want to try are frequently so inept that they could not convince a fish to swim (my younger self was one of them). But having at least the possibility of doing something to improve your situation (beyond waiting for fortune to strike), is really helpful when you need to keep trying. So I could not bear to give your message to my younger self. If he took it on board he might well give up hope and concentrate so much on ‘I an NOT trying, so I am NOT disappointed when I fail’ that he would push Ms Godot away even if she did come around and tried to seduce him. But most likely he would refuse to believe me, on the logic “If this was true it would be a disaster and my life would be hopeless – therefore (sic) it cannot be true.” Exaggerated? May well be. But I have been there. You try telling a twenty-year-old that his best plan for a sex life includes maturing for five years or so before he has a serious chance.

    Which brings us back to to women being thrown and unable to cope when the normal expectation that of course others will respect their unspoken wishes does not hold during seduction. That is normal social interaction, yes, but then normal social interaction is heavily geared to never pushing or imposing, to avoid ill-will. I acknowledge that this can be hard and lead to bad results – just like I acknowledge That Guys point that women are socialised to avoid conflict (to be agreeable? to men?) (to preserve harmony? among their female friends?). As a man you should certainly take that into account and do your best to understand what is really happening. But I do ask myself whether it is fair to expect men to always err on the side of abstaining and so take all the responsibility for avoiding bad things without pushing women out of their comfort zone. After all we are expecting men to change their behaviour, their attitudes, and their social norms, sometimes quite radically. Is it really unreasonable to ask women, too, to make some changes that they might not feel comfortable with but that could help to lift some small part of the burden? After all, it is their own well-being this is supposed to protect.

  44. Ally Fogg says

    I’ve been trying not to interrupt this exchange because Lucythoughts has been explaining pretty perfectly IMO, but can’t resist throwing something in here:

    Gjenganger

    And I guess this is where I cannot bring myself to back your recommendations – surely to my discredit. Because – while fully accepting both that this serves to cover deliberate rapists and that even without this it can still give pretty sorry results – it still sounds very like what I used to see as a normal dating strategy

    Can I back you up here & say yes, this used to be pretty much every man’s normal dating strategy. We had no formal education on this stuff, but as someone coming of age in the early 1980s, this is what I thought was normal, acceptable behaviour. It is what I picked up from the culture, from movies & TV, books etc, that this is how it worked. I’m guessing you’re roughly of an age with me and so you did too.

    What I have learned over, say the last 20 years or so is that it was, frankly, terrible behaviour. It is a behaviour pattern that evolved during the era of (much more) extreme slut shaming & hypocrisy around sex, where women were expected to say no even when they meant yes, and that unless they started from a position of reluctance & then allowed themselves to be ‘seduced’ then they were terribly immoral.

    Women (in our society, for the most part, exceptions permitting etc) thankfully no longer have that attitude. If a woman is saying no it is highly unlikely that she is playing some kind of ‘hard to get’ ritual and that she is secretly waiting to be seduced more forcefully. It is now overwhelmingly likely that if a woman is saying no she really is meaning no.

    So while the type of behaviour which we grew up thinking was natural and normal and even necessary is – quite obviously – none of those things.

    There’s also been a growing awareness that the behaviour we are describing has always been incredibly dangerous, has always been a handy cover for rapists, has always contributed to both men and women having really quite bad sex (even when consensual.) All the stuff Lucy is describing above.

    Society has moved on. Sexuality has moved on. Attitudes have moved on. Don’t you think it would be kind of bizarre to imagine that male behaviour would not and should not move on with it?

    And yes, that involves some blokes (including those of our age group if they’re still sexually busy, shall we say?) having to unlearn some of the crap that we picked up as kids and growing a bit as human beings.

    Is that unreasonable?

  45. Carnation says

    @ Ally, @ GJGanger

    This is possibly one of the most difficult areas to untangle and get into. I “came of age” about 15 years after Ally did and, I’m pretty sure, things weren’t much different. And I’m sure, for men and boys coming of age now, who haven’t taken the time (or understood the need) to learn, grow, develop and mature sexually (and emotionally) to a position where they can understand their responsibilities in the world of sex and relationships. And also the potential for growth and pleasure and the risk of hurting and being hurt.

    Sex education must surely be more advanced than it was 15 or 30 years ago, but I don’t know. Maybe others can let me know? Sex education should be tied in with intimacy, consent, emotions and relationship education. Where there is a void, it will be filled by either “the culture, from movies & TV, books” or, more worrying and devastatingly, from online PUA/MRA trash.

    A feminist friend and I were discussing why most people who preferred being dominated sexually were women. She suggested that it was as a result of what Ally describes as “the era of (much more) extreme slut shaming … where women were expected to say no even when they meant yes, and that unless they started from a position of reluctance.” That is, they had the concept of choice taken off them. Maybe something in that? It’s a tricky, tricky subject. Certainly, since my mid 20s, I was very much an enthusiastic consent guy, in that I would outright ask and wait for a yes. But even within that, a direct proposition delivered in the right way and in the right circumstances can be just what someone wants to hear. In the wrong way and wrong circumstances, it’s harassment. How to get that right? There’s no magic formula, it’s all down to growing, developing, learning and, very importantly, listening.

  46. Carnation says

    The first paragraph should read:

    This is possibly one of the most difficult areas to untangle and get into. I “came of age” about 15 years after Ally did and, I’m pretty sure, things weren’t much different. And I’m sure, for men and boys coming of age now, who haven’t taken the time (or understood the need) to learn, grow, develop and mature sexually (and emotionally) to a position where they can understand their responsibilities in the world of sex and relationships (and also the potential for growth and pleasure and the risk of hurting and being hurt), things aren’t much different now.

  47. StillGjenganger says

    @Ally, Carnation

    You are so right, Carnation, this really is difficult. And while I am sure out of touch with the mores of the millenials, it sounds like at least in your time it was not much better.

    I have to say, though, that it is not that (young) men cannot be bothered or won’t find the time to “learn, grow, develop and mature sexually (and emotionally)” and understand the potential for growth and pleasure, as well as less joyful things. They want to get there all right. The problem is 1) that they have no idea how to get there, and may not take it on trust that several years of trying to be a good boy will get them anything but nice-guy syndrome. 2) That you really cannot do all that sexual growing and maturing without some kind of practice – and someone to practice with. And those are in kind of short supply.

    Some good sex education sounds like one of the few things that could really help (even if I doubt that whatever we are likely to get is going to qualify). But if it is only about how to be responsible, how to hold back, how to be patient, how not to feel entitled, and how to manage a deep relationship once you happen to be in one, at some point a lot of boys might conclude that these things are supposed to happen by magic, and if they have not happened to them yet it means that they are just losers. Or that the people doing the teaching think that boys are on earth to repress their own desires and spend their energy on making things better for ‘women and girls’. Don’t they say you should connect the teaching to the things people want to know? Which in this case just might be ‘HOW DO I GET LAID??’

    I have a similar problem with Ally’s point about the old ways leading to so much bad sex. Quite likely they did, and quite likely we could get rid of a lot of bad sex if we reduced that total amount of sex that happens. But bad sex looks a lot nicer to one who has no realistic way of getting anything better. All this moaning does sound a little like someone sitting in a Michelin-starred restaurant and telling the plebs that if they cannot get food up to this standard they really should stop eating.

  48. lucythoughts says

    Gjenganger

    I am going to break this into separate posts because there is quite a lot to cover.

    We both have a set of activities that you should avoid regardless, but yours is rather wider, I would limit out Ched Evans and you would limit out McDonald, let us say. Also I see it as advice to the man, on the lines of “Do not do this, the risk is way too high, and if it goes wrong you are for it”. Whereas you see it as advice to everybody else, “If anyone ever does this, come down on him like a ton of bricks”, which seen from the other side looks rather like “going home to have sex with that drunk stranger is evil in itself and will get you punished, whether she likes it or not.”

    Evil is a strong word, and in this context you are using it to shut down reasonable criticism. As I understand it McDonald literally bumped into a 19-year-old woman on the street who was staggering drunk, led her to and cheap hotel and had sex with her. Maybe she consented, maybe she didn’t, who knows? Even she doesn’t know because she was staggering drunk. I am not going to deploy a word like evil, however I would say that it was contemptible, and I would also say it was highly, highly suspicious. So yes, I would be quite happy to live in a culture which was punitively judgmental about people who did that kind of thing, and that isn’t because I have extraordinarily puritan views, it is because, as you often say yourself, there are trade offs to be made. The freedom for people to do whatever they like without judgement is exactly the same thing as a culture of impunity. Right now I think the impunity is far too great and results in the large-scale devastation of people’s lives; it is time we traded some of those freedoms in for some reasonable precautions.

    I think that the view you take on this is analogous to the view of the NRA right now; they believe that their freedom to own a semi-automatic is more important than controlling the risk to the public that semi-automatics pose in the hands of mass shooters. They think (and so do you) that the right to do whatever they want, however risky, is so important that they would rather hand that same right to everyone else, regardless of how vicious, untrustworthy, mentally unstable etc they might be, than have that right curtailed. The attitude you are describing is equivalent, it says that the freedom to hook up with someone so drunk that they can barely stand up is more important than the damage done by throwing a protective blanket of impunity over all the rapists in the population. And your suggested palliative, that we should just tell men to be careful, be nice, don’t be an asshole, is the equivalent of handing out a safety manual with the AR-15s and washing your hands of it. Under these circumstances the victims in either case are not unavoidable tragedies, I can’t think of them as anything other than voluntary sacrifices.

  49. lucythoughts says

    Gjenganger

    The bulk of what you have been saying over these few posts seems a bit diffuse and not terribly consistent, which makes it difficult. However, let me distil what I understand from it:

    You start off with this:

    First, rape means sex without consent, not sex without enthusiasm. The usual rules apply: No means no, she can change her mind at any time, she needs to be awake enough to decide. Second, there is a lot of scope for things to go wrong. Both sides should work on that, but as the active party most of it falls on you. So, you need a positive sign of accept[ance], not just a blank face, you need to realise that people can freeze and be unable to answer (and even feel too embarrassed or scared to say that no, silly as it sounds) and be alert for signs that something is wrong. In short you need to do a serious and genuine attempt to figure out whether she is actually interested. But if ti keeps coming up green aftrer that, you are not a rapist.

    Well, this seems reasonable so far. But then this happens:

    Meanwhile there is also some advice to women, In a classroom I would put it that men are pretty dense. They find it hard to understand the answers they get, and they have a strong temptation not to hear that no. So, one could make it clear to oneself how far one is willing to go (so you do not get ambiguous or confused even if someone surprises you at two in the morning), say it clearly when you get to the limits, and get angry rather than let yourself be rolled over. Of course if someone decides to rape you that all goes by the board, but until then try to make it easy for the poor fool to get the point. Hooking up is complex – everybody must contribute to the success of the enterprise.”

    So, you want us to tell vulnerable young girls that when boys / men try to push them into sex they don’t want, and have signalled that they don’t want, they aren’t really doing it on purpose, they are poor saps who don’t understand and you shouldn’t judge them harshly even if you end up having a harrowing sexual experience as a result. They know not what they do. It is your responsibility to set them straight and keep them in line. In fact, while we all pay lip service to “no means no” you had better make it a “no, NO, NO!” because otherwise they might be strongly tempted to accidentally not hear you. And although you should always be “awake enough to decide,” if it is two o’clock in the morning and you are fast asleep in your own bed when the poor, confused fool thinks it might be appropriate to surprise you with a hook up, you had better snap awake in time to disillusion him, because otherwise an unfortunate accident might occur. But obviously it wouldn’t rape; it is just that men are pretty dense. Are you kidding me with this?

    Obviously you are, because later you say this:

    I especially like the sentence “They are not oblivious to the “no” signals they’re getting, they think it is okay to ignore them and if the other person can be pushed into giving them sexual gratification then that is good enough.” And I guess this is where I cannot bring myself to back your recommendations – surely to my discredit. Because – while fully accepting both that this serves to cover deliberate rapists and that even without this it can still give pretty sorry results – it still sounds very like what I used to see as a normal dating strategy

    So here you acknowledge that the last part wasn’t actually true. That they do know what they are doing, they understand the “no” and ignore it because they are trying to get something from someone that they know full well the other person doesn’t want to give them.

    But hang on, you’re contradicting yourself again…

    You are single, insecure, insensitive, and inept – very. You vaccillate between ‘yes! yes! it is surely happening!’ and ‘No, cannot be, after all why would she want me?’, you have very little reliable information or understanding, and you can make gross errors of judgment in either direction because of that. Of course the answer is generally ‘no’, but if you accept that (in a situation where you do not actually know what is happening) you have no reason to try.

    Ah, so it really is just a terrible misunderstanding after all? I would add, don’t extrapolate too far from your own experiences, it has been suggested many times that sex offenders are mainly people who lack legitimate sexual outlets, but as far as I am aware no convincing evidence has ever been produced to support it. To the best of my knowledge they are as likely as anyone in the population to have a normal successful sex life. Even if they started out when they were young and sexually inexperienced, once they have found that forcing or just “pushing” people works, and none of the negative consequences fall on them, they keep doing it.

    having at least the possibility of doing something to improve your situation (beyond waiting for fortune to strike), is really helpful when you need to keep trying

    Hang on, doing what exactly? Chatting someone up? Asking someone out? Or trying to push past that pesky no so as to get to the sex?

    Which brings us back to to women being thrown and unable to cope when the normal expectation that of course others will respect their unspoken wishes does not hold during seduction. That is normal social interaction, yes, but then normal social interaction is heavily geared to never pushing or imposing, to avoid ill-will.

    Well that answers my question I guess, and once again we drop the pretence that this is done by accident. The reason social interactions are geared towards never pushing or imposing is because of a well founded belief that if the other party wants what you are offering you don’t need to impose it on them, and if they don’t want what you are offering you have no right to impose it on them. Let us think of a group in our society who routinely ignore the social conventions and tries to push you to take what they are offering in the face of your obvious reluctance: home improvement salesmen. If you make the mistake of letting one of those fuckers into your house they will never, ever leave until you have either signed the contract or overturned all of your social training by directly telling them to get out. It isn’t because they don’t know they are making you acutely uncomfortable, they just don’t care, all they care about is getting their commission. Ally suggested that you think this is normal behaviour in dating because you are dealing with the old fashioned notion that women are just playing hard to get and really want to be seduced; I suspect it is more depressing than that and what you actually think is that women never really want sex given a free choice, or at least only want it with a few lucky men who have some kind of special magic going for them, and so normal men either have to give them the hard sell to push them into it or accept that they’ll die a virgin.

    Then you obfuscate further with this:

    Whereas your version, as I see it is “‘No’ means no. ‘Maybe’ also means no – you are not allowed to try to convince people, ‘Yes’ means yes – provided you first stop and double check that you are not fooling yourself and nothing is going wrong.”

    And this:

    a lot of boys might conclude… that the people doing the teaching think that boys are on earth to repress their own desires and spend their energy on making things better for ‘women and girls’

    And this:

    I do ask myself whether it is fair to expect men to always err on the side of abstaining and so take all the responsibility for avoiding bad things without pushing women out of their comfort zone. After all we are expecting men to change their behaviour, their attitudes, and their social norms, sometimes quite radically. Is it really unreasonable to ask women, too, to make some changes that they might not feel comfortable with but that could help to lift some small part of the burden? After all, it is their own well-being this is supposed to protect.

    Taking those in order:

    1) Okay, once more from the top. Yes means yes; no one is asking you to double check. No means no; stop trying to make out it wasn’t no when you know it was. Maybe means maybe; yes you can try to convince her / him but you have to do it the hard way, by being attractive until they want to have sex with you, not by backing them into a corner from which sex seems like the only viable escape route.

    2) Here you are trying to make the above sound terribly unreasonably by representing those obligations as constituting an unprecedented sacrifice of your own interests to benefit women and girls. It isn’t, it is completely equitable. Nobody, male or female, has a god given right to extract sex from other people like they are pulling teeth. This isn’t handing the manor to the women, don’t pretend it is, this is righting a pre-existing wrong. The fact that you would rather keep the inequality that we have now because you think it improves the chances of your buddies getting what they want doesn’t make any difference whatsoever to the ethics of the debate.

    3) I believe (although I’m not out there) that one way that woman are already changed their behaviour is in being more willing to initiate sex when they want it. That is, like Ally said, because the slut shaming is less severe than it used to be, and I’m sure we can all celebrate that change. What I guess you really mean is that you want women and girls to learn to be much more firm in rejecting unwanted advances. Well, I don’t see why not if it helps, we could even give them assertiveness training to help them master the skills, but let’s be honest, we wouldn’t be doing it because men don’t know a “no” when they hear it, it would be the equivalent of saying to these girls “there are bears in the woods, take a shotgun with you.” And let’s be realistic, no one is asking all, or most, men to change their “behaviour, attitudes and social norms,” because most men don’t act this way. If they did, the women would already have tailored their responses to cope with it, that is how social behaviour works. It is because this is the aberrant behaviour that the issue arises. However, if you would prefer women to be firm and unequivocal then that’s okay by me, just be careful what you wish for. We have a sort of social contract where men are expected to make the initial approach and women are expected to signal yes or no (and men are expected to believe them!). It might be better if we didn’t do it that way, and it is probably starting to change, but that is still broadly the norm. There are behaviour codes for both sides; men and boys have to learn how to do their bit, which involves making yourself quite exposed and nerving yourself for a rejection, and women and girls are expected to do their part in greasing the wheels: if they are interested they provide a lot of subtle non-verbal cues that your attention is welcome, and if they are not interested they are supposed to let you down gently so the process isn’t too ego battering. So, consider these two alternative scenarios:
    a) You like a woman, so you approach her and try to chat her up; she listens to your opening gambit, smiles politely, laughs a little if you make a joke, and then hints that she has to go away now for unrelated reasons. You know that you have struck out.
    Or
    b)You like a woman, so you approach her and try to chat her up; she looks you up and down appraisingly and says “I’m not interested, go away.” You die inside.
    Which of these worlds do you really want to live in? This isn’t about women not wanting to leave their own comfort zone of being polite and indirect, they do it this way for everybody’s comfort.

    So, to summarise what I have taken from your posts: you think that boys and men need sex very much for their own pleasure and self-esteem (and on the whole that women don’t? or not nearly as much?) and even though you admit that it isn’t right and can cause huge distress and long term damage to a girl’s sexual development, you still think they should be allowed to try to push girls and women into it to them. You feel that there is a line there somewhere that they shouldn’t cross, but you are hazy about exactly where it is, you don’t think it should be socially enforced but rather that perhaps we should try to persuade them to exercise better judgement. You feel strong empathy for a boy’s sexual deprivation in a way that you just can’t feel for the girls who are subjected to their pushy, abusive behaviour. For that reason it is convenient to you to pretend that they aren’t deliberately doing anything wrong, or if they are that it is what everyone does, and encourage a social climate in which they are cut an almost infinite amount of slack; they are perpetually forgiven, while the girl’s experiences are perpetually explained away as accidents that really only they themselves have the power to prevent. You acknowledge that this not only causes a great deal of harm, but also provides cover for rapists to operate with impunity. That makes you very uncomfortable, but honestly, you can’t see any way around it that you would consider tolerable.

    Is that fair? Perhaps you will say it is not, but at least give me the credit for having gone through your posts thoroughly in a genuine attempt to extract a cogent position from them. And if what I have got down here isn’t worlds away from the truth, might I suggest as one friend to another that this would be a good opportunity to rethink, realise that I am right and you are wrong and totally overhaul your views on the subject? 🙂

  50. That Guy says

    @ Lucythoughts

    Not to derail, (Ok, I totally do mean to derail)

    There are behaviour codes for both sides; men and boys have to learn how to do their bit, which involves making yourself quite exposed and nerving yourself for a rejection, and women and girls are expected to do their part in greasing the wheels: if they are interested they provide a lot of subtle non-verbal cues that your attention is welcome, and if they are not interested they are supposed to let you down gently so the process isn’t too ego battering.

    I’ll preface this by saying I understand why this happens, but that it’s required to happen and the end result grinds my fucking gears.

    I interact with a lot of people who are on the spectrum, and to them these non-verbal cues are basically white noise. Say what you like, about being told you’re a fugly gargoyle, but at least it leaves little room for doubt. I think this is probably what gives birth to the WOMEN DON’T KNOW WHAT THEY WANT, AM I RIGHT? and BUT IM SUCH A NICE GUY memes.

    Of course, this isn’t likely to change until the risk that a woman on the train gets screamed at and a bag of chips thrown at her because she ignored the clumsy forceful advances of Hull’s answer to Nick Griffin is zero.

    In summary and conclusion, everything is terrible and I welcome the future extermination of the human race by an army feminist crayfish.

  51. lucythoughts says

    53. That Guy

    Sorry. There’s nothing I can really add, it isn’t fair to people who are on the spectrum but that is true of a lot of social situations I’m afraid. I don’t know about the memes but I would say that women can’t do right for doing wrong when it comes to rejecting men. No one likes being rejected and people aren’t very rational in the face of disappointment.

    50. Gjenganger

    Okay, this really is my last one.

    I have a similar problem with Ally’s point about the old ways leading to so much bad sex. Quite likely they did, and quite likely we could get rid of a lot of bad sex if we reduced that total amount of sex that happens. But bad sex looks a lot nicer to one who has no realistic way of getting anything better. All this moaning does sound a little like someone sitting in a Michelin-starred restaurant and telling the plebs that if they cannot get food up to this standard they really should stop eating.

    Perhaps it’s unreasonable, but this really pisses me off. We are talking about sex with a miserable partner who doesn’t want it, but is enduring the experience because they can’t see any way out. Some people, Ally for example, might ask, if the sex is that bad, why do you even want it? Your reply is that this he is in a privileged position, because only people with an all you can eat buffet of great sex available to them would turn down the bad stuff. No. You are the one with the privileged position here, because in your mind bad sex with an unwilling but consenting partner mean boring sex, not very satisfying sex, a partner who lies there like a log and doesn’t put any effort into maximising your pleasure. Boo fucking hoo. For the woman though, it means a smothering sensation of claustrophobia and intrusion, it means the degradation of having your body treated like a masturbation aid, very often it also means pain or acute physical discomfort. It is deeply, viscerally unpleasant and dehumanising. And that is just consensual, bad sex. The fact that women, many, many women, will endure this right to the bitter end says volumes about the sense of sexual obligation we manage to instil in them.

    I find it hard to believe that you don’t know that on some level, you’ve gone on before about how women can feel violated after a bad, consensual sexual experience. So what are we to conclude? That you don’t care very much so long as you get yours? That you feel better about not caring very much if you pretend that no other man really cares either? And that any normal person would be willing to participate in this travesty of intimacy if nothing better was on offer? After all, if you can’t eat in that Michelin star restaurant, who wouldn’t resort to cannibalism?

    Secondly, sex education really isn’t there to teach people how to get laid. It is there to improve sexual health, which broadly means reducing incidents of STIs, unplanned pregnancies, abortions and psychologically damaging abusive experiences. Amongst other things that means teaching kids about consent. On the whole, boys and girls seem to know how to get laid, the median age for first heterosexual sex is 16, about a third of kids under 16 have had sex and something like 80% have had sex by 18. What sex education is supposed to do is teach them to get laid safely.

  52. StillGjenganger says

    @Lucythoughts

    First, thanks for taking the trouble. My thoughts are indeed somewhat hazy; just working out my answers have helped clarify things, and going through your latest posts will hopefully help me understand even better where I am. It will take some thinking first, though. Second, thanks for communicating these rather damning conclusions in a way that allows me to consider them calmly.

    For now, only two specific points.

    @51 I obviously do not like your NRA analogy, but I cannot deny that you have a point. Pending further thought on the ethics, can we see if we agree about what you are actually recommending, on the specific point of sex and alcohol?

    – The legal threshold of what constitutes rape is for the victim to be too drunk to take a decision, or to move. This stays unchanged.
    – The social threshold, beyond which you will have earned public opprobrium and twitter campaigns, is having sex with anyone who is ‘drunk’. What more precise definition could stand?
    – Considering that twitter mobs are not generally thoughtful or well-informed, and do not require ‘beyond reasonable doubt’ or even ‘balance of probabilities’, you might be wise to leave a clear safety margin short of ‘drunk’, for your own protection. If you are careful or worried, you would add compensation for your own uncertainty and lack of judgment as well.
    – I see no provision in here for the enthusiasm or otherwise of the partner. If she is too drunk she is too drunk regardless.
    – Distilling this down to a rule simple enough to apply while drunk and excited, we might settle on maximum number of drinks you could allow your partner before you would have to refuse. People would make different choices, but it would be useful if we could get a ballpark figure. How does ‘No more than three pints’ sound to you?

    Possibly you think I am exaggerating and being deliberately obtuse. But it is actually the kind of thing I could imagine coming up with as a young man. If you accept that your hypothetical young male is highly uncertain about any kind of signals he might get; worried about going too far (or being seen as doing so); and looking for a simple and reliable guide that will see him safe, what would you tell him?

    Next (This one is also for you, That Guy)
    There are two more scenarios, in addition to your a) and b):
    c) You get so attuned to possible negative messages that the moment she needs to go to the toilet or looks away from you, you take it as a ‘no’
    d) The converse: You try something, and get a polite smile and an evasive remark. Being thick-skinned you try the next thing, and get a polite smile and an evasive remark. Nothing clear is ever said, as one side gets ever more uncomfortable. In the end you can end up with something like Aziz Ansari.

    The kind of world I would hope for is one where people are polite and evasive and try to let you down gently. But where they give a clear no before you ruin their entire evening, if you do not pick it up on the first 2-3 tries. In the long run that would reduce my discomfort (not to speak of their own). I rather like this comment by Tiffany Wright in the Guardian. Here is a salient quote:”it is not victim blaming to say that we need to work harder to empower women to firmly say “no” when men are acting entitled, as well as teaching those men to look for nonverbal cues and ask their partner explicitly how they’re feeling before proceeding.

  53. StillGjenganger says

    @Lucythoughts 54

    A long answer may be coming later (which I assume you will ignore when this discussion gets too boring – I am amazed you have hung on as long as this).

    I am sorry, but comments like “has always contributed to both men and women having really quite bad sex (even when consensual.) just strike me as incredibly sanctimonious. If you wanted to say that people are inflicting untold suffering on their poor consenting partners, you would put it differently. What this says to me is ‘That sex you are getting is so bad. You do not really want it, do you now? You should leave it behind and do so much better’. Which does beg the question ‘How?’

    I know that sex education is not there to teach people to get laid (I was wondering about that phrase as I wrote it). But it would be useful if in addition to talking about all the things that can go wrong and all the things you must not and should not do, you could say something about how it can actually be nice. And about how people can go about, concretely, trying to get to it.

  54. lucythoughts says

    55. Gjenganger

    I realise some of that was kind of brutal, so thank you for taking it in good part. I appreciate the fact that we can have these exchanges and maybe learn something from each other. Also, in case it isn’t totally clear, I really don’t think you are some kind of bastard who doesn’t give a shit about people, so I hope you didn’t get that impression. If I didn’t like you and think you were a good person I wouldn’t spend my time writing these long replies to you.

    So briefly:
    On sex and alcohol, I see your point, I am not a twitter user and I don’t really know how it works or factor it in. What I would expect is that when it comes to the private actions of private citizens, the opprobrium is also usually be private rather than public. So, for example, a lot of people are pretty judgmental about adultery, but Mr or Mrs Smith cheating on his / her spouse isn’t likely to catch the imagination of a twitter mob. However, within their own family and friendship group it could make things very uncomfortable, if their circle took a hard line on that kind of thing. When it comes to alcohol and sex I think we are too far in the direction of tolerance; right now it is still true in a lot of circles that deliberately trying to get someone drunk in order to bang them is seen as okay, people will laugh along with that, or even aid and abet you. If a rape then takes place, everyone is automatically incentivised not to believe it, after all, they are pretty much accomplices. Equally, if you see a friend blind drunk and another friend offers to take them home, you might think nothing of it, but if the next day you find out that they got them back to their place and had sex with them, serious alarm bells should be ringing. We should not be treating that as okay. If the drunk friend seems upset and doesn’t want to talk about it, the worst case is very likely to be the real case. It is friendship groups on the whole that have the power to condone or control that kind of behaviour, and they also have a lot of power to permit or prevent victims from coming forward.

    So, if you want a specific rule, like units of alcohol, then the three pint rule would be okay I guess. I would expect a slightly more nuanced code to evolve in practice, so with a friend or acquaintance they should be pretty sober or not at all, that is a high-risk scenario. Equally with someone significantly younger than you, or someone who hasn’t had sex before. On a first date you would expect someone to have had a couple of drinks anyway, but not five or six and not be visibly drunk. A girlfriend or boyfriend however, I would say knock yourself out: if they are sober enough to tell you they want a shag then you’re good. Is that okay? I realise it isn’t hard and fast but these things aren’t. The level of restraint you place on yourself will depend on how careful / paranoid you are, but the level of restraint you place on other people would reflect how egregiously they have behaved.

    Secondly, your extra points:
    c) Yes, this happens. Some people are very inhibited and will never risk accidentally imposing on anyone no matter how encouraging they are being. I do feel genuinely sorry for people like this and I have no wish really to make the matter worse. This is where I get frustrated because I am sure in my bones that in reality nearly everyone (excepting people on the autistic spectrum, as That Guy rightly points out) know how to judge this stuff right and actually the constant wrangling over how we can tell if someone is consenting gives the strong impression that something which is really quite straightforward is actually mind blowingly difficult. That just makes scared people even more scared, when they are the least likely people in the world to cause anyone a problem. The social rules really are very similar to every other part of life apart from with the added, easy-to-read bonus level body language that happens when someone is actively flirting back with you, or snogging you back if you have got to that stage. If that isn’t there and all you are getting is normal polite conversation then it is quite likely that nothing is happening there, but if the chemistry is there, people know. It is worth trusting your instincts on this stuff, they are there for a reason.

    d) This is the one I have little time for. People know. I find it almost impossible to believe that Ansari didn’t know anything was up, although who can guess what he was thinking because everything about that encounter sounded weird. Following her all over the room trying to shove his fingers down her throat? Okay, I’m long married and out of touch but really, who does that? The whole thing seems to have entered some kind of parallel universe in the first five minutes when he started stripping her as soon as the door at closed behind them with no preamble at all, and spiralled downwards from there. It would certainly have been better if the young woman had been able at any point to get her head together and take control of the situation, but I don’t think any remotely normal person would have put her in that position in the first place.

    I agree that girls should be encouraged to be more assertive, I have no problem with that at all. I’m afraid back when I was a teenager I was assertive to a fault when it came to protecting my boundaries and probably scared the shit out of one or two perfectly nice lads. That’s how it goes, we are all on a learning curve in the first few years. What I do think however is that we should stop the knee jerk reaction of blaming the girl / woman / victim / whatever for not being assertive or explicit enough, and assuming that the boy / man / perpetrator just couldn’t tell. That is one of the least likely reasons for things going wrong. Rape victims are always asked whether they explicitly said no and if not, why not? The explanation is simple, a rape victim generally doesn’t explicitly say “no, I don’t want to have sex with you” for the same reason that a mugging victim doesn’t explicitly say “no, I don’t want to give you my wallet.” It would be totally redundant; the perpetrator knows, that is why they’re mugging you, not simply asking to borrow a tenner.

  55. StillGjenganger says

    @Lucythoughts

    You’ve made some telling points, which I need to go over at leisure, but I can’t help thinking that I have not done justice to my position. I have re-read that post by Tiffany Wright I linked to, and it seems to me that she is saying much the same as I am: On the need to distinguish between assholes and crimminals in the way you view and treat them; on the fact that things can go quite badly wrong just from neither party making clear what is in their head or understanding what is in the ehad of the other; on the need for women , too, to change their behaviour to achieve the best mutual result; and on sex and alcohol. I think she would disagree with what I understand you to be proposing (like the three-pints rule) much like I do. Now, does she anger you as much as I do? Does this help to clarify what I am saying? Or where do you see the big difference between me and her?

    Trying to step back from the details, condemning the kind of behaviours you are talking about in hte general way we condemn adultery sounds prefectly reasonable. Being called a ‘love rat’ on a tablouid front page is hardly unfair, and that kind of thing is likely to stay mostly private. But if you want stronger and more consistent punishment than that, we are getting where people get fired and boycotted if their name comes out. After all you want a situation where people who are happy enough to rape, deliberately, refrain because they are afraid of the social condemnation they would get. That would be enough to make any sensible person run a mile, even if they were sure that it was actually OK this time.

    One difference between us I think, is that you believe, from your experience, that these interactions are really easy, so that anyone saying the opposite must be deliberately obtuse. I know, frm my experiences, that these things can legitimately be very difficult, especially if you have never experienced how it works when both sides are clear and eager from the word go. When I was young I was (sure that I was) notoriously bad at reading and doing social interactions. To illustrate: I was almost eighteen when I found out – through trial and error and subsequent analysis – that when a girl said ‘later, not right now’ she meant ‘go away’ and not, as I thought, ‘come back in 15 minutes, and we will dance then’. In fact as a young adult I took an explicit decision never to rely on my instincts for important matters like courtship, since they would clearly lead me astray, and always go with logical analysis. I changed that decision when I found out, again through experience, that unreliable though they are, your instincts are the best you have, and you will make even worse mistakes if you disrgard them. I have go tquite a bit better over the years, but when you say ‘trust your instincts, they are there for a reason’.my reaction is ‘you are right, and I willl do the best I can, but you have to accept that I will sometimes get it wrong’.And if that is not good enough, I shall have to refrain from playing.So when I summarise your proposals as “Assume the answer is always no, unless you can prove ‘yes’ beyond resonable doubt” it is not just hyperbole. For significant parts of my life I might have taken that to heart as literal advice (had I not refused the sexless life that looked like condemning me to).

    I do not know if this puts me on some kind of spectrum, but I actually think that that is a bit of cop-out, on either side of the debate. If you have a medical diagnosis of a mental disorder, that is one thing. For the rest it makes more sense to say that there are quite a few people like that in the population, with the same obligation to manage life among others, and the same right to be considered, as people with different kinds of personalities.

    Finally, you are absolutely wrong, I am sorry, when comparing mugging with rape. There is never any legitimate reson why people hand over their wallet, so there is no room for misunderstanding, whether in the participants or in the courtroom. But peoplechoose to have all kinds of weird sex, in all kinds of weird circumstances, sometimes. That is why there is ample room for misunderstanding when it comes to sex. And why the crime of rape, unlike the crime of theft, depends so strongly on the mental state of the participants, consent on one side, and resonable beleif on the other.

  56. Carnation says

    @ GJGanger

    I think consent on one side is what’s important. Reasonable belief on the other is completely irrelevant. I don’t doubt that a majority of rapists believe they are innocent, most likely resorting to a variety of offensive justifications.

    As to the rest of your post, I think it takes a fair degree of bravery to analyse yourself like that, so kudos for that.

    Sex is clearly important to you. Something that I think you’ve said in the past (though I am open to being corrected) is that you don’t “get” much sex. I think the difference between looking at sex as something you “get” to something you “do” or “have” (or share., enjoy) etc is vitally important. A lot of men make this mistake.

    To have good sex, it’s a requirement to have two willing, interested and communicative partners. Now, on this blog (and I must confess, in real life) I have been accused of sounding like a rich person telling poor people how easy it is to get rich when it comes to sex. But, I think if a person is committed to understanding their own sexuality, overcoming their own fears of rejection and confronting their hang-ups, then there is a wide open world of sex an sexuality to be explored and enjoyed. Largely thanks to feminism (IMHO), there was a sexual revolution. Then there was the internet revolution. Every conceivable kink now has a community (for better or ill).

  57. StillGjenganger says

    @Carnation 59
    Thanks.And my appreciation for your reciprocal honesty, Unfortunately you got it right – pleasant as it might be to follow your suggestions, it comes across to me, exactly, ” like a rich person telling poor people how easy it is to get rich when it comes to sex”.

    Two minor clarifications:
    This is political problem for me, not a practical one. There is nothing that i did, do, or plan to do that is limited by the rules on consent.
    The crime of rape is defined to include intent. Unlike some crimes (having to do with e.g. workplace safety?) you are not criminally responsible for what you do not know. Even if you do not have consent you can still be innocent, provided you believe you do have consent, your belief is reasonable, and you make adequate efforts to find out. Clearly you cannot stay innocent by gaming this one, and anyway any decent person would aim to have consent, not just to stay out of prison. But the law remains the law, and surely it makes sense?

  58. lucythoughts says

    Gjenganger

    I’m really not angry with you, there were one or two bits that annoyed me I admit, but generally I just get impatient with these debates. So let me try now to cover few point and see if I can clarify things:

    Finally, you are absolutely wrong, I am sorry, when comparing mugging with rape. There is never any legitimate reson why people hand over their wallet, so there is no room for misunderstanding, whether in the participants or in the courtroom. But peoplechoose to have all kinds of weird sex, in all kinds of weird circumstances, sometimes. That is why there is ample room for misunderstanding when it comes to sex. And why the crime of rape, unlike the crime of theft, depends so strongly on the mental state of the participants, consent on one side, and resonable beleif on the other.

    More than anything else, I think this is why we can’t talk constructively about the issue. It really isn’t as different as you think, the vast majority of rapes are deliberate. The big difference is that when a mugging takes place a third party can almost always safely assume a crime has been committed. When a rape takes place, while what is happening is usually completely obvious to the people there in the situation it is much harder to proof to an outsider. Go back and look at the perpetration data, these people know what they are doing. Accidental rapes / maybe not rapes are the marginal cases, yet whenever a debate gets going they hog the limelight like divas. This is why I get frustrated (and sometime short with people perhaps?), because I see there as being a main, extremely important issue at stake, which is continually derailed by side issues. The main issue is preventing deliberate rapes, which are disturbingly common.

    These are a few of the side issues which derail any progress from ever being made on the main issue: shifting the blame into victims; shifting the blame onto diffuse non-specific cultural factors; shifting the debate from deliberate rapes (the vast majority) to accidental ones (the fringe); shifting the debate from rape to sexual harassment and sexual touching where consent is less clear cut (implying that if it is easy to be confused about whether someone fancies you or wants you to kiss them, it is equally difficult to know if they want you to penetrate their vagina, mouth or anus). These are not non-issues, I can understand why people might want to talk about them, but they are not the issue of preventing rapes. Is that so hard to look at directly? Just once?

    The article you linked is a good example, although in fairness the author never claimed to be talking about rape or prevention. Again, I’m not angry with her, but I am impatient. She makes a whole lot of points, some good, some bad, but none which advance the issue one millimetre. Her main point is that you shouldn’t call what Ansari did sexual assault because assault isn’t about how you feel, it should have a specific definition. Well that is fine, although she doesn’t provide a specific definition, and there is good a reason for that, because it is actually a bit vague. Personally I don’t much care how we define it, or which instances get counted, it isn’t my problem, I would say that is a matter for the police. In my post I described this stuff as “the grey area between shitty behaviour and sexual assault,” so basically stuff we could well live without. But wrangling over what should appear under the #MeToo hashtag, or who is a good feminist and who isn’t? I just don’t care. To be honest, I find it a bit petulant.

    Addressing sexually aggressive behaviour has a legitimate part to play in rape prevention because a) accepting this as normal, mostly accidental or not really anybody’s fault gives extraordinarily good camouflage for rapists; b) On the whole these people are not clueless, they are bad people, and while there is a clear distinction between behaving like an asshole and raping someone (and I have no wish to alter that distinction at all), that doesn’t mean that an assholes cannot also be a rapist. Neither rapist nor assholes are rare, neither are the majority either, why wouldn’t there be significant crossover between the groups? If I was trying to identify a rapist I would start by looking amongst the serial assholes.

    I think she would disagree with what I understand you to be proposing (like the three-pints rule) much like I do.

    But if you want stronger and more consistent punishment than that, we are getting where people get fired and boycotted if their name comes out. After all you want a situation where people who are happy enough to rape, deliberately, refrain because they are afraid of the social condemnation they would get

    You came up with the three pints rules, not me. I didn’t much like it, but I understood you to be seeking a specific rule that a younger you could have followed with safety without having to rely on his own judgement. I would have set the bar lower, not so much drunk as very drunk, but I recognise that it isn’t always obvious how drunk someone is and very easy to pretend you didn’t know someone was drunk after the fact. The problem with trying to specify a rule for this stuff is that they don’t actually do what you want them to do, so no one follows them. A bit like with establishing consent, to be effective it actually has to be done in a messy way. So, taking it back to what we are trying to achieve, I don’t see it as being about scaring rapists into not raping, we have prison for that and it doesn’t work because most people don’t get caught. The purpose is to get people to understand what patterns of behaviour are used by rapists and to look out for them so they will intervene to prevent dangerous situations developing, and also to help them identify people within their wider circle who could be dangerous. To do that, you establish social norms and identify and penalise people who step outside them, not by having them fired, but by monitoring what they do, keeping them away from your vulnerable friends, stopping them giving that drunk girl a lift home, or if you can’t, checking up on her the next day. If you have strong reason to think they are dangerous, expose them, exclude them, report them if appropriate. Create a culture in which they are very, very likely to get caught and most people stop offending.

    That means the non-rapist majority actually have to exercise good judgement and be responsible about sex and alcohol, not just accept that anything goes, and take responsibility for each others safety. On this I cannot agree with Tiffany Wright: she says that it is silly to say people can’t consent if they’re drunk – I agree, of course they can. She then says that it infantilises women to say other people should not accept their consent and have sex with them when they’re drunk. Here I disagree: sex involves two people (usually) and they each bear a burden of responsible for the other person’s welfare and also for their own. I wouldn’t have sex with a man who was dead drunk no matter how much I fancied him, or how much he might think it was a good idea right then. If he still thought it was a good idea once he was over his hang over, he can come back to me then. My judgement matters, and it matters all the more if I have reason to think the other person’s judgement is impaired.

    One difference between us I think, is that you believe, from your experience, that these interactions are really easy, so that anyone saying the opposite must be deliberately obtuse. I know, from my experiences, that these things can legitimately be very difficult

    As I said before, I think this is an issue which, while important in it’s own right, is tangential to the issue of rape. If you would like to have that conversation, I am very happy to do it separately and in parallel, but if we keep conflating the two I am going to keep getting annoyed and dismissive, which is unfair to your legitimate interest in the discussion.

  59. StillGjenganger says

    @Lucythoughts

    Yes, it is time to wind this one up. I would say, mutual respect (as always), learned a few things, but less fruitful than other discussion we have had.

    I think I understand what you are saying: This is about the deliberate and all too common crime of rape, and what must be done to reduce it. And if anybody want s to to bring in other aspects, be it the effect of misunderstandings and confusion, anything women themselves could consider doing to help, the related fields of sexual harassment etc., what will happen to social codes in general or dating rules in particular- you do not want to hear about it. At best any additional point is irrelevant guff that distracts form we we must be doing right now, at worst it is a deliberate smokescreen put up by people happy to let the raping continue. Now, rape being such a serious problem that is not necessarily an unreasonable attitude (and in fairness I probably would agree with on most specific instances).

    I still have a couple of things against you. All those extra arguments actually concern the direct consequences of your own proposals. You are saying that everybody should change their norms and behaviour, also the majority who are not rapists, also in a lot of cases where their actions do no harm and are the joint desire of the participants. The idea is to squeeze ambiguous behaviours out completely, on the principle that ‘if no one ever does it, rapists cannot do it either’, without being rumbled at least. It seems only reasonable that in order to evaluate your proposals we should analyse and take into consideration all the consequences, not just the one you care most about. I would go further. I believe (and try to live by) that there is a moral obligation to acknowledge and consider the negative consequences of your own positions. And i find you a little remiss on this point. It would be more convincing if you took the discussion, accepted the legitimate interests of people who disagreed with you, got to a realistic estimate of the consequences of your proposals, and then said ‘yes, I think those unfortunate consequences are justified by the benefits’.

    Between you, Ally, and Carnation there are three main countearguments:
    – ‘These changes will only lose a lot of bad sex, which is not worth having anyway.’ To which I answer that I do want the bad sex, if it is the best sex I can get – and it is really not up to other people to tell me what I should want.
    – ‘All those things are bad and abusive’. Which maybe many are. But I call Tiffany Wright as witness that there are people who find that sex while drunk, or maybe even quite assertive partners can be a good thing to have.
    – Which brings us to the final argument, that common sense will anyway prevail, and we will end with good things proceeding unimpeded and only bad things banned. Which I find totally unbelievable. If you rely on common sense, you have to allow people to use their judgment, make allowances for different decisions or priorities, and accept that people will not interfere with their friends as long as their behaviour is halfway within bounds. Which is exactly what you do NOT want, you want clear limits with strong social control, to get rid of the ambiguity. That requires a situation where e.g. sex with anyone who can be considered drunk is ipso facto wrong. And where social control makes sure that they do not happen. Of course no one in the 21st century would dream of saying that women were not free to anything they felt like., including having sex while drunk. But if the only people up for it are antisocial rapists and the criminally reckless, there will be few men left to have it with.

    I appreciate your willingness for another discussion, just like I appreciate all the time you put into this one. But I do not think we will have a conversation about ‘those tangential issues’. If they are beneath consideration when we are discussing how to organise social and sexual etiquette for the future, they are no more than anthropological curiosities, like medieval court etiquette. That is hardly the kind of thing we want to spend our time on.

  60. lucythoughts says

    Gjenganger

    Fair enough. It has been unproductive from my point of view also, because I don’t seem to have been able to pin you down to be specific about what you actually think and any time. If anything I think you have been unusually evasive and vacillating on this one. You started off saying that you think people should not be assholes (your word), and should be conditioned (your word) not to be assholes. But you have then spent the rest of the discussion, such as it was, defending people’s right to be assholes without any social consequences. We have talked at length about pushing people into sex that they don’t want, and I still can’t figure out if you think it is a good thing or a bad thing to do. Or if you think it is a bad thing to do, but that people should be free to do it anyway. You have talked about the problem of people being unable to tell what the other person wants, and misunderstandings occurring. While I am happy to talk about that, but am not happy with the obfuscation whereby at any one time I can’t tell if your talking about non-consensual sex, sexual harassment in public, Ansari style sexual aggression, or simply trying to score a date. I tried suggesting we make that into a separate discussion so I can try to unpick what the hell you are talking about without the necessity of creating novella long posts covering multiple disparate, and yes tangential questions, and you get in a huff. So yes, I am quite happy to give up on this one.

    Finally, this I’m not willing to let slide:

    if anybody wants to bring in other aspects, be it…. anything women themselves could consider doing to help…. you do not want to hear about it.

    Two or three times you have suggested that women or girls should learn to be better at defending their boundaries and two or three times I have agreed with it, yet consistently you pretend that I have disagreed with it for reasons which are obscure to me. Could it be because this seems to be the only thing you would consider changing in order to help reduce sexual victimisation, and it is more convenient to you to pretend that I am the one refusing to make any compromises?

  61. StillGjenganger says

    @Lucythoughts

    OK, I think I contribute something useful here.

    – On assholes. I am against them. But yes, I think being an asshole is a bad thing, but (unlike rape) it is something that people are free to do.
    – You were the one comparing sexually pushy people to double glazing salesmen (who are indeed assholes). But it seems that you want to treat those pushy men, not like double glazing salesmen, but like Julian Green (if not Harvey Weinstein).
    – On pushing people into sex, I think that the use of power is a continuum, from making yourself attractive through persuasion, moral pressure, and up. That is a normal part of social interactions (and you can change a lot of minds and make a lot of people unhappy even if you stick to persuasion). It only goes from lucky to immoral in some hard-to-define point short of blackmail and the use of violence. You, it seems, sees it as an absolute either/or. And the only clear dividing line is at using no pressure at all. Zero.
    – If I am imprecise between sexual harassment and just trying to score, that is in part because I do not see that you are making any distinction between them in the practical effects one can expect from your proposals (you target behaviours because rapists can hide behind them, not because of their inherent problems). If you did make such a distinction I would fell a lot happier with where we were.
    – On protecting your boundaries, you did mention “shifting the blame into victims” as one of the insufferable derailing factors. I understood that as referring to my comments.

  62. StillGjenganger says

    @Lucythoughts
    Typos:
    – “I think I can contribute.
    – And, especially: “I only goes from yucky to immoral” (not ‘lucky’)

  63. lucythoughts says

    65. Gjenganger

    Okay, thanks for clarifying all that. It would seem that the summary I suggested in #52. was correct in every particular, which should give me some slight satisfaction. It is also a little bit interesting to know that there is this one area in which my opinions are so much closer to the socially conservative majority than yours are. There are very few people so liberal that they think there should be no social consequences – zero – for any form of sexual coercion short of rape, violence or blackmail, and that there is no extremity of intoxication past which it isn’t okay to try to pick someone up for sex.

    To wrap things up from my side:

    If I am imprecise between sexual harassment and just trying to score, that is in part because I do not see that you are making any distinction between them in the practical effects one can expect from your proposals

    The reason I make no distinction is because I have never brought either into the discussion at any point. Everything I have said about pushing people into sex is about just that – actions in private relating to initiating sex. Sexual harassment in public and dating behaviour are certainly related things but neither are affected at all by better consent practices in the bedroom. The only area in which my proposals intersect with public dating behaviour is in relation to alcohol.

    On alcohol, I firmly believe the most people would agree with me that hitting on someone so drunk they can’t walk in a straight line is not okay. There are groups where this is normal and I think they should be strongly discouraged from doing it. It is very high risk behaviour in its own right and reducing it would prevent a lot of negative consequences (shame, distress, unwanted pregnancies, STIs) but I wouldn’t be so hardline about those if it didn’t also create the conditions in which rapists can operate with absolute impunity. Certainly, reducing those practices overall would result in the loss of a certain amount of high risk drunken sex, which would after the event have proved to be harmless, but I think the sacrifice is overwhelmingly worth it to prevent vulnerable people, mostly vulnerable teenagers, from being raped. Sex without contraception can very often turn out okay too, and be fun, but I would still really discourage it and educate people not to do it.

    You were the one comparing sexually pushy people to double glazing salesmen (who are indeed assholes). But it seems that you want to treat those pushy men, not like double glazing salesmen

    Oh come off it. Aggressively pressuring someone to buy your windows isn’t remotely the same as aggressively pressuring someone to give you intimate access to their body. The latter is an utter violation of a delicate relationship of trust; it is so far from what is normal and expected that it is highly disturbing and disorientating if not downright frightening. It says loud and clear that they have no respect for you, they have no respect for your boundaries, they don’t give a damn about your volition. What would make you think that anyone who does that would balk at having sex with someone who had passed out drunk or was sleeping, or using force against an intimate partner? Your desire to give these people total social impunity is quite extraordinary.

    I think that the use of power is a continuum, from making yourself attractive through persuasion, moral pressure, and up…. You, it seems, sees it as an absolute either/or. And the only clear dividing line is at using no pressure at all. Zero.

    That’s absolute rubbish. You have never asked where I drew the line between reasonable persuasion and coercive pressure, and consequently I never saw any reason to tell you. It is an absolute certainty that I would draw it in a radically different place from you however, that is one thing that has become obvious. The hint that I don’t see it as an absolute though is in the fact that I called these behaviours a bell curve rather than a line.

  64. StillGjenganger says

    @Lucythoughts 66.

    Hold on:

    Everything I have said about pushing people into sex is about just that – actions in private relating to initiating sex.

    So, except for the alcohol, this is all about private behaviour – which means it is by definition impossible to police socially (there being no witnesses) and amounts to advice or exhortation to the participants? That does not sound like I could disagree with it, but is that really what you are saying?

    I’d still be curious about where you would draw the line – that is my main preoccupation, where you draw the line – but I can see we are unlikely to get to anything constructive, even if you do decide it is worth your while to answer.

  65. lucythoughts says

    67. Gjenganger

    So, except for the alcohol, this is all about private behaviour – which means it is by definition impossible to police socially (there being no witnesses) and amounts to advice or exhortation to the participants? That does not sound like I could disagree with it, but is that really what you are saying?

    Really? You don’t feel the need to defend sex abusers from the tyranny of unwanted advice? They’ll be devastated at being bereft of your advocacy. But don’t worry, I’m sure I can come up with something that might make a practical difference so you can oppose it. I’m done with this discussion but I’ll provide an answer for any lurkers out there who are interested:

    Firstly, lots of private behaviours are policed socially. Do you think adultery and unfaithfulness aren’t socially policed? Or homosexuality? Private doesn’t mean secret. People find out about things in all sorts of ways, through context and observation and also because the participants talk about it. People who like to abuse woman and girls often also like to brag about abusing women and girls, and on the whole their mates will laugh it off (not taking them seriously, or providing some excuse), thus reinforcing their sense of social impunity*. Meanwhile, the victim will also sometimes talk about what happened, although in that case the social response is generally to repress disclosures through blame and dismissiveness. This is the rather twisted set of social norms we have around this stuff but they are not set in stone.

    It starts with education, which is a type of social control in itself. Sex and relationship education shouldn’t be a teacher delivering a lecture, it should be discussion based, so you use the discussion format, which allows people to bring in their personal experiences, wishes and feelings, to create an understanding and consensus around positive consent. The great majority of people are broadly decent, those people who aren’t should be aware that they will be excluded from the mainstream, not embraced and protected by it. I would go further, and also work on awareness of patterns of abuse and victimisation, and encourage people to watch out for each other’s safety and be prepared to intervene to prevent dangerous situations from developing or escalating. This is basic safety stuff, it isn’t onerous, intrusive or patronising, it is about being responsible. It’s the kind of thing I used to do all the time in other contexts, like if I was out with a friend who was getting high and wasn’t used to it or whatever. What used to surprise me was how many people were out there without one single friend they could trust to look after them if something went wrong.

    I personally feel there is a lot of benefit to this approach because it is practical in its application and encourages a culture around sex and consent in which victims are more likely to find support and perpetrators are more likely to be identified and kept from doing harm. I also hope and believe it is not inherently likely to alienate boys, which is very important. It presupposes that the vast majority boys are actually not out to fuck anything that moves, whatever it takes; they are nice people who like and respect girls and have a normal, well developed moral compass; it is about enlisting their help to deal with a problem, rather than blaming them for one. It also appeals to pro-social instincts, by promoting community, responsibility and compassion.

    * I am aware that this discussion has revolved around male perpetrator / female victim sexual abuse; everything I have said is intended to apply equally if the genders were reversed or in other gender combinations. The social dynamics may be different but the measures should be essentially the same.

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