jc.tryps

– feeds your head

Rape = sex ?

There’s a lot of talk about rape these days. It’s been all over the headlines again the past week. Dominique Strauss-Kahn is the latest reason and people are falling over themselves trying to comment what happened. Did he do it? I don’t know, and I’m not going to speculate about his guilt. Before him it was Julian Assange. Rape seems to be the thing to do these days if you want to get in the headlines. Yes, I’m being cynical and no, I don’t think either of these men would agree with the saying that all publicity is good publicity, in these cases I think the opposite is probably true. But the debate generated by the charges pressed against these men really makes me want to throw up. The majority of the comments made are enough to render a life time’s worth of nightmares and I constantly find myself wondering if everyone has suddenly gone insane. “It’s not very plausible that Mr Strauss-Kahn would rape a maid, after all he has enough money to buy a prostitute.” Say what?! “Well, if the woman agreed to have sex with Mr Assange once, with a condom, then he can’t really have raped her when he had sex with her in her sleep without a condom.” Excuse me?! It sounds like ramblings from crazy people, but these comments are actually serious opinions expressed by people who have a voice in the media. And it makes me furious, scared and very nauseous. We live in a sick world, I know that, but I didn’t think it was this serious. Or rather, I didn’t want to believe it. 

But then again, it’s actually not that long ago that rape didn’t exist within marriage*, as in it wasn’t a crime. The general belief was, and still is in a lot of countries, that a husband cannot rape his wife. She is his wife and therefore he has a right to her body, she has no right to refuse him access. What does that say about a society? What does it say about a society’s view on sex? About the relationship between the two parties? In light of this the question “How could he have raped her if she agreed to have sex with him once?” all of a sudden becomes even more unpleasant. Because it shows that in spite of new legislation, nothing has changed. If you say yes once that means you have no right to change your mind. A yes constitutes indefinite consent to every type of sexual act.

We like to think of rapists as deranged men who stalk women in parks and dark alleys, not neat business men in suits. The general idea about rape is this that it has to do with being attacked and that the attacker is a stranger, but in reality that’s actually the rarest form of rape. In most cases the victim and the perpetrator know each other, or to put it differently, the most dangerous thing a woman can do is not walk through a park alone at night, but hang out with her male friends, because statistically they are the ones most likely to subject her to acts of sexual violence. It’s not the walk home from the party that puts you at risk, it’s being at the actual party. Going on a date is a lot more dangerous than going for a walk at night. All in line with the whole idea of “once you say yes”, right? And if we again look at what the statistics have to say, that danger will become a reality for 1 out of five women on this planet**. So this means that pretty much everyone who knows at least five women knows at least one rape victim. And most of these women didn’t get raped by a stranger in a park, but by someone they knew. Poses a rather interesting question: How many rapists do you know?

The arrest of Mr. Strauss-Kahn and the aftermath has frequently been referred to as the ‘sex scandal’ and some commentators have then felt urged to point out that the ‘scandal’ actually relates to a criminal offense and not some extramarital affair and therefore calling it a ‘sex scandal’ is very misleading. A remark that’s indeed very accurate, he is under suspicion of a criminal offense, but the offense he’s suspected of having committed is one of sexual violence. And this is where the argumentation starts to get dodgy. It’s often claimed that rape has nothing to do with sex, that’s it’s all about power and has nothing to do with sexuality, but is that really true? Isn’t that just a way to distance ourselves from the phenomena of sexual violence, to keep it out of our own reality? Could it be that rape is actually part of the vast spectrum of sexuality? That the conditioning in our society is such that violence in fact has sexual connotations, that it works as a tun on if you will. Yes, most likely. And that’s where the whole debate about ‘grey areas’ should be going, all those case where it’s claimed you can’t really be sure if it was rape or not. If this debate could be had with the acknowledgement that there is a power aspect to sexuality, the discussions about consent would probably be a lot more fruitful. Or at least more honest. Instead of asking whether the consent was clear or not, let’s ask what it’s really about: “Did you get turned on by the fact that she wanted to have sex with you or by the fact that she was helpless?” Because both scenarios can be true and that’s what we need to finally admit. Rape is sexual violence and that doesn’t only mean that it’s violence of a sexual nature, it also means that it’s part of our sexuality. And our sexuality is not an instinct, it’s a social behavior (another text on the same topic). Reproduction is an instinct, but sexuality has very little to do with reproduction in our society. Sexuality is something we learn. And if we are taught that there are degrees in terms of consent, and that it’s something that has to be debated, then we are way off. Either you want to have sex or you don’t and the only way to establish this, to be certain, is through communication. But you can only do that if you actually talk to the person you’re about to fuck. So if someone is sleeping, drugged, incapacitated or even underaged, the immediate conclusion should be that sex is out of the question. That would be the logical conclusion. If you’re not sure, back off. I couldn’t be simpler. So why the fuck don’t we just admit that the whole grey area actually doesn’t exist, or rather, it shouldn’t exist if we actually took the whole consent premiss seriously, but we don’t. It’s still all about whether it’s credible or not that the victim actually didn’t want to have sex with the perpetrator. And the mightier the perpetrator, be it in society or in the individual relationship, the less likely it is that the outcome will be to the victims advantage. Nice boys can’t be rapists and if a girl says yes once it means she’s given indefinite free access to all her body cavities. It seriously make me want to puke.

This whole debate has, once again, shed light on the fact that we a seriously distorted understanding of the whole phenomena of rape. As soon as the perpetrator doesn’t fit the idea we have of a rapist we immediately try to renegotiate what happened so that it won’t fit the definition of rape. But there’s actually not all that much to negotiate, if there was no consent, it’s rape. And it doesn’t matter if we don’t like what we see, if it forces us to reevaluate our understanding of the world. I’m not saying Strauss-Kahn is guilty, what I’m saying is that just because he happens to be rich and powerful it doesn’t mean that he wouldn’t get off on forcing a chambermaid to have sex with him. His status doesn’t disqualify him from being a rapist, only a fair trial can do that. But I am saying that if it’s true that Assange has admitted to having sex with that woman without a condom and in her sleep, despite her prior statement about not wanting to have unprotected sex, then he has also admitted to being a rapist, because even without her prior explicit statement about not wanting to have unprotected sex, it’s still rape. Someone who’s sleeping is actually incapable of giving consent and sex without consent is rape. And it doesn’t matter if the victim said yes once or if the perpetrator wears a suit. Rape is a crime. Imposing your sexuality on someone without consent is a crime, regardless of who’s involved. And it’s about time we start to try to get a grips on the shadier parts of sexuality and initiate a massive reconstruction. The male sexuality spectrum would be the most pressing item on the agenda.

* In the 1993 UN ‘Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women’ marital, or spousal, rape was established as a violation of human rights. For an overview please see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marital_rape

** One of the sources for this number is WHO, but there is wide consensus on its accuracy as a minimum value.

2 responses to “Rape = sex ?

  1. noel May 24, 2011 at 12:40

    Another good post. I think this bit hits the nail on the head: “So why the fuck don’t we just admit that the whole grey area actually doesn’t exist, or rather, it shouldn’t exist if we actually took the whole consent premiss seriously, but we don’t. It’s still all about whether it’s credible or not that the victim actually didn’t want to have sex with the perpetrator.” In the UK an MEP (Conservative) has just done a blog suggesting that in “date rape” (he actually describes rape within a relationship, where the woman “sets up expectations” and then “gets cold feet”, and the man “can’t stop himself”) the man is “less culpable”, because the woman “shares some of the responsibility”. And even with over 100 responses pointing out that he is a rape apologist, because when consent is withdrawn, No means No, he still doesn’t get it!! I imagine he will be forced to resign, but it is still incredible that No Means No appears to not be simple enough for some men. http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2011/may/23/tory-mep-rape-kenneth-clarke-helmer

  2. jc.tryps May 25, 2011 at 09:50

    I think I just had a minor brain melt-down… The only positive thing in that story is that people have actually reacted and told him that he’s way out of line and the he’s resigning. What I don’t get is that not more men are objecting to this view of men as brain dead troglodytes incapable of rational thought as soon as it comes to their dicks and the opportunity to stick it in a woman. Sure, it makes it easier in the sense that you don’t have to get into discussion about male sexuality and the potentiality that it contains a power element, but is that really worth the resulting image of men as idiots? “The young man, in the heat of the moment, is unable to restrain himself and carries on.” Seriously, if this would be true, “young men” shouldn’t be allowed to roam free but should be locked up to protect the public. It’s what we do in our society to people who are “unable to restrain themselves” from causing harm to their fellow human beings.

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