LA Times: Women Should Stop Bitching About the Rape that Doesn’t Actually Happen

by Cara on February 25, 2008

in assholes, education and schools, media, misogyny, patriarchy, rape and sexual assault, slut-shaming, violence against women and girls

This is, without a doubt, the most offensive thing that I have read in weeks, if not months. Not because I haven’t read it all before. But because usually when I read long rambling articles about how women aren’t actually raped, the feminists make it all up because the idea of violence apparently makes them feel better, the “rape” problem is really just women being sluts, and our concept of “consensual” is just way too confusing because it requires desire and communication, it’s by some moron on an MRA blog. Yesterday, it was printed in the LA Times. And it was written by a woman.

I’m going to include a trigger warning, not because there are graphic descriptions of sexual assault, but because the comments about women who are raped and the women who want to end rape really are just that unbelievably offensive.

It’s a lonely job, working the phones at a college rape crisis center. Day after day, you wait for the casualties to show up from the alleged campus rape epidemic — but no one calls. Could this mean that the crisis is overblown? No. It means, according to campus sexual-assault organizations, that the abuse of coeds is worse than anyone had ever imagined. It means that consultants and counselors need more funding to persuade student rape victims to break the silence of their suffering.

It is a central claim of these organizations that between a fifth and a quarter of all college women will be raped or will be the targets of attempted rape by the end of their college years. Harvard’s Office of Sexual Assault Prevention and Response uses the 20% to 25% statistic. Websites at New York University, Syracuse University, Penn State and the University of Virginia, among many other places, use the figures as well.

And who will be the assailants of these women? Not terrifying strangers who will grab them in dark alleys, but the guys sitting next to them in class or at the cafeteria.

If the one-in-four statistic is correct, campus rape represents a crime wave of unprecedented proportions. No felony, much less one as serious as rape, has a victimization rate remotely approaching 20% or 25%, even over many years. The 2006 violent crime rate in Detroit, one of the most violent cities in the U.S., was 2,400 murders, rapes, robberies, and aggravated assaults per 100,000 inhabitants — a rate of 2.4%.

Such a crime wave — in which millions of young women would graduate having suffered the most terrifying assault, short of murder, that a woman can experience — would require nothing less than a state of emergency. Admissions policies, which if the numbers are true are allowing in tens of thousands of vicious criminals, would require a complete revision, perhaps banning male students entirely. The nation’s nearly 10 million female undergraduates would need to take the most stringent safety precautions.

None of this crisis response occurs, of course — because the crisis doesn’t exist.

Yeah, that’s an interesting thought, Heather Mac Donald. But here’s the thing: in reality, the crisis response doesn’t occur because self-loathing, misogynist assholes like yourself are so loudly denying that the crisis exists, and that’s what most people want to hear. Hell, it’s what I would like to hear, too — if it were true.

I think that what bothers me most here isn’t even so much that Mac Donald thinks the problem is completely fabricated, but that she finds the very idea of the crisis that doesn’t exist so fucking amusing. You can see the sarcasm dripping off of the page at the thought that an acquaintance is more likely to rape you than the culturally imagined big scary black stranger with a gun. And you also get the distinct impression that Mac Donald is actually so delusional as to believe that if women were being raped in large numbers, the powers that be really would decide to do something instead of just trying their absolute damn hardest to cover up and deny the problem. Delusion or malice? Based on her other work, I’m going with the latter — but either way, it’s wholly unacceptable.

Here is why Mac Donald thinks that the rape crisis doesn’t exist:

So where do the numbers come from? During the 1980s, feminist researchers committed to the rape-culture theory discovered that asking women directly if they had been raped yielded disappointing results — very few women said that they had been. So Ms. magazine commissioned University of Arizona public health professor Mary Koss to develop a different way to measure the prevalence of rape.

Rather than asking female students about rape per se, Koss asked them if they had ever experienced actions that she then classified as rape. One question, for example, asked, “Have you had sexual intercourse when you didn’t want to because a man gave you alcohol or drugs?” — a question that is ambiguous on several fronts, including the woman’s degree of incapacitation, the causal relation between being given a drink and having sexual intercourse, and the man’s intentions. Koss’ method produced the 25% rate, which Ms. then published.

It was a flawed study on a number of levels, but the most powerful refutation came from her own subjects: 73% of the women whom the study characterized as rape victims told the researchers that they hadn’t been raped. Further, 42% of the study’s supposed victims said they had had intercourse again with their alleged assailants — though it is highly unlikely that a raped woman would have sex again with the fiend who attacked her.

[. . .]

A 2006 survey of sorority women at the University of Virginia, for example, found that only 23% of the subjects whom the survey characterized as rape victims felt that they had been raped — a result that the university’s director of sexual and domestic violence services calls “discouraging.” Equally damning was a 2000 campus rape study conducted under the aegis of the Department of Justice. Sixty-five percent of those whom the researchers called “completed rape” victims and three-quarters of “attempted rape” victims said that they did not think that their experiences were “serious enough to report.”

Believing in the campus rape epidemic, it turns out, requires ignoring women’s own interpretations of their experiences.

Actually, it is highly common for a woman to have sex with a man after he has assaulted her. It’s called denial. When a friend rapes you, and he didn’t punch you in the face to make it happen, chances are you want to believe that it was all a big misunderstanding. Realizing that you’ve been raped by a friend, your boyfriend or your husband is extremely painful. It’s wrong. You don’t want it to be real. Also, we have idiots like Mac Donald writing for nationally distributed new papers, who say that the rape most women experience doesn’t count as rape.

Mac Donald’s reasoning for why the Ms. results are false is just plain astonishing. By her logic, a woman having sex that she doesn’t want to have as a result of being given alcohol or drugs has only been raped if: a) she is hardly conscious, b) we don’t live in a world where alcohol is linked to consensual casual sex and c) a man actually admits to having the intent to use alcohol and drugs as a tool to commit rape. It’s pretty amazing, to think that men can only commit rape when they intend to — especially when surveys show that changing the word “rape” to “forced sex” increases a man’s likelihood of saying he has or would commit it (read this study numerous times, couldn’t find a link — help? I’m almost positive that it’s also listed in The Beauty Myth). It’s also extremely rare for a man to admit to rape — though I doubt we would say the only actual murders committed are those where the murderer confesses.

Mac Donald gleefully mounts her high horse here by saying that women should be allowed to define their own experiences. This is certainly true to some extent. But we also happen to live in a world where — as this opinion piece demonstrates — our concept of rape is severely fucked. A world where 84% of men who admit to using force and coercion to obtain sex don’t define their actions as rape, where most high school students believe that forced sex is acceptable under “some circumstances” and where astonishing numbers of men admit anonymously that they would commit rape if they thought they could get away with it.

We live in a world where most women tell no one about their assault for many reasons. There’s the fact that reporting a rape is highly unlikely to result in a trial, let alone a conviction. There’s the fact that women who report rape are often harassed, ostracized and publicly smeared. There’s the fact that no one wants to believe their friend could be a rapist, that rape victims are often asked about what they were wearing and if they were drinking, and that rapists always make up a painful story about how very badly the rape victim wanted it. And there’s the fact that by the time many women are able to admit what happened to them, reporting feels extremely useless. Many if not most women I’ve talked to who have experienced any type of sexual assault or abuse — including myself — didn’t classify the violence as assault or abuse until well after it had been committed, whether that be weeks, months or years. It’s human nature to try to avoid feeling like a victim, and many people don’t realize that being victimized does not make you weak.

We also have people like Mac Donald in this world who have been brainwashed into really, really hating women. People who are willing to use any excuse they can possibly get their disgusting hands on to excuse rape as women just acting like slutty whiny bitches. And yet again we can thank Cosmo fucking Magazine — whose grave I would happily dance on — for printing every rape apologist’s wet dream of a story about how rape is made up and the fault of women. “Gray rape” seems to be the new buzz phrase, and I honestly don’t know how the editors at that magazine can sleep at night knowing that the concept has already become this widely disseminated that they’re no longer even credited as a huge part of starting the problem.

So what reality does lie behind the rape hype? I believe that it’s the booze-fueled hookup culture of one-night, or sometimes just partial-night, stands. Students in the ’60s demanded that college administrators stop setting rules for fraternization. The colleges meekly complied and opened a Pandora’s box of boorish, promiscuous behavior that gets cruder each year.

This culture has been written about widely. College women — as well as men — reportedly drink heavily before and during parties. For the women, that drinking is often goal-oriented, suggests Karin Agness, a recent University of Virginia graduate and founder of NeW, a club for conservative university women: It frees the drinker from responsibility and “provides an excuse for engaging in behavior that she ordinarily wouldn’t.” Nights can include a meaningless sexual encounter with a guy whom the girl may not even know.

In all these drunken couplings, there may be some deplorable instances of forced and truly non-consensual sex. But most campus “rape” cases exist in the gray area of seeming cooperation and tacit consent, which is why they are almost never prosecuted criminally.

“Ninety-nine percent of all college rape cases would be thrown out of court in a twinkling,” observes University of Pennsylvania history professor Alan Kors.

Many students hold on to the view that women usually have the power to determine whether a campus social event ends with intercourse. A female Rutgers student expressed a common sentiment in a university sexual-assault survey: “When we go out to parties and I see girls and the way they dress and the way they act … and just the way they are, under the influence and um, then they like accuse them of like, ‘Oh yeah, my boyfriend did this to me’ or whatever, I honestly always think it’s their fault.”

But suggest to a rape bureaucrat that female students share responsibility for the outcome of an evening and that greater sexual restraint would prevent campus “rape,” and you might as well be saying that women should don the burka.

College officials have responded to the fallout of the college sexual revolution not with sound advice but with bizarre and anachronistic legalisms for responding to postcoital second thoughts.

University of Virginia students, for example, may demand a formal adjudication before the Sexual Assault Board; they can request a “structured meeting” with the Office of the Dean of Students by filing a formal complaint; or they can seek voluntary mediation.

Risk-management consultants travel the country to help colleges craft legal rules for student sexual congress.

“If one partner puts a condom on the other, does that signify that they are consenting to intercourse?” asks Alan D. Berkowitz, a campus rape consultant. Short of guiding the thus-sheathed instrumentality to port, it’s hard to imagine a clearer signal of consent, although Berkowitz apparently finds it “inherently ambiguous.”

That’s right: it’s a travesty that we “can’t” say women are responsible for rape. (Because people like me are going to call them names? Yeah, that’s really stopped it.) It’s an outrage that women think their boyfriend doesn’t have the right to force sex on them just because they drink and flirt. It’s a cultural hatred of men that says women can just “change their minds” after sex and call it rape, not a cultural hatred of women that says this is what actually happens. And the idea that a man should have to communicate with his partner, negotiate the sexual act, start a discussion if the woman underneath him is laying still and not actively participating and not just assume that every woman he meets wants his dick forced inside of her, that my friends, is the ultimate mood kill. Oh, and if you read the end of the essay, you’ll see that it’s the school’s fault that the rape that doesn’t really exist happens, because they teach about mutual sexual pleasure. And nothing causes rape like telling people that they have bodily rights and that there is nothing wrong with acting on genuine sexual desire.

Please, everyone reading this, take the time to write the LA Times a letter at letters@latimes.com. They say to send “well-written” letters only — perhaps you ought to craft a careful essay about how it’s ironic to demand of their readers what they don’t demand of their writers. But though polite letters are supposed to be “better,” I really don’t care what you send, so long as you send something to let them know that this is not okay. Personally, if I had a subscription to this magazine, I’d cancel it. I don’t necessarily ask you to do the same, but I do ask that you pass on the story and encourage everyone else who reads it to write a letter, too.

Via SAFER, and Feministing has more.

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{ 59 comments }

1 Feminist Avatar February 25, 2008 at 2:07 pm

Love the way she gets to criticise other people’s statistics but provides no evidence for her own assertions, and the evidence she does provide (such as the law prof saying college rape claims wouldn’t stand up in court) don’t actually say what she claims. The prof here isn’t saying the rapes aren’t real; he’s saying they wouldn’t stand up in court (which could say as much about the legal system as the victim).

Also, there are loads and loads of studies on the incidence of rape and they all come out with similar statistics, not just one. There are even studies interviewing college rapists on why they do what they do.

2 Kristen February 25, 2008 at 2:25 pm

Feminist Avatar,

That’s a great point re: legal system and rape. It drives me nuts when rape apologist use that tired old excuse. Sometimes I feel like saying…that great! So we can go tell Nicole Simpson she’s not dead since we couldn’t prove in court that someone murdered her. I mean seriously, in what other context do we deny that a crime has been committed merely because we can’t prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a certain person committed that crime.

3 Astraea February 25, 2008 at 4:41 pm

And note that he is a HISTORY professor. She picks totally random people to quote. Like she just called up a bunch of people she knew would say the things she wanted.

4 abby jean February 25, 2008 at 5:27 pm

The letter I sent:

I was more than dismayed to read Ms. McDonald’s “editorial” in yesterday’s paper – I was offended and disgusted. Not only does the article denigrate and mock women who have experienced rape and sexual assault (and the longer article from which this was taken actually denies one woman’s reported experience), it reinforces the social pressures and stigmas that have already made it so difficult for women to come forward. As a woman who was raped during college, my attempt to report the crime was met with administrators and counselors desperately trying to convince me that either nothing bad had happened, or if it had, that it was my fault. I was also told by former friends that I had become “damaged goods” and would be able to get lots of dates because “everyone knew I would definitely put out.” Because of this, I did not consider my experience “serious enough to report” because I had not lost a limb or been robbed – certainly the forcible taking of my sexual innocence did not seem serious to anyone else. Is it any wonder that women do not define their experiences as rape? That they focus on what they could or would have done differently in retrospect? That they turn inward in self-punishment rather than reaching out for support or justice? Sadly to say, articles like Ms. McDonald’s just reinforce those problems and attitudes. Congratulations, LA Times, you are now part of the problem!!

5 Kelsey February 25, 2008 at 8:30 pm

Thanks for posting about this. I am absolutely frothing over this. I will be sending a letter to the editor and asking all of my friends/coworkers to do the same.

6 mythago February 25, 2008 at 10:01 pm

Another great thing to do would be to write to their advertisers and explain that unfortunately, you will no longer be a consumer of their products while they choose to advertise in such an irresponsible publication. CC your letter to their editors.

They don’t give a shit about letters – they think controversy generates readership – but they do miss money when it goes away.

7 RachelPhilPa February 26, 2008 at 12:02 am

I sent the following letter to the LA Times:

RE: The op-ed of Feb 24th by Heather MacDonald: This is one of the most irresponsible and women-hating articles that I have read in a long time, and I am appalled that it was written by a woman. I am a survivor of repeated rape within a relationship, and I will not be a party to language that denies women’s experiences with rape. Articles like this are a major reason why women don’t report rape. People like Heather MacDonald seek to shame women who have been sexually assaulted, and spread the notion that women are the property of men without any bodily autonomy. This article is extremely irresponsible, reinforces cultural attitudes that excuse and encourage rape, and will result in more women being raped.

Ms McDonald, your kind of hatred has no place in public discourse. Editors of the LA Times, you are extremely irresponsible for running this misogynist tripe, and your decision to run this piece has put the lives of many more women in danger.

I’ll add to that: It took me four years to acknowledge that I was raped. I was under the belief that rape = man jumping you from behind the bushes. Only after reading feminist blogs for more than a year, and finally understanding the concept of enthusiastic consent, did I get that sinking feeling “OMFG” in my stomach.

Does Ms MacDonald really believe that rape cannot occur within a relationship? Does she deny that a partner can continue to perpetrate sexual assault by force of keeping the other partner in a state of fear or shame?

And does she think that I should have reported the abuse to police? My rapist died *three years* before I admitted to myself what happened. But I guess she’ll just use that as “evidence” that I made it up.

The only thing that makes sense to me is that Ms MacDonald was raped or sexually abused herself, and is still in denial about it, and must shame other women in order to maintain her state of denial.

8 Cara February 26, 2008 at 12:18 am

The only thing that makes sense to me is that Ms MacDonald was raped or sexually abused herself, and is still in denial about it, and must shame other women in order to maintain her state of denial.

Sadly, Rachel, now that you mention it, that does seem like a possibility. But my inclination is still towards and explanation that Amanda Marcotte invokes often: these women think that the women who are raped broke the patriarchal rules, and that if they continue to follow the patriarchal rules — which include blaming women for rape — they will be able to magically avoid rape themselves.

Either way, in a general sense, I usually both hate and pity these women. But not Mac Donald. There is a point at which a person I would otherwise feel sorry for can spread their ignorance so widely and do so much damage that they’ve more or less nullified my compassion.

9 RachelPhilPa February 26, 2008 at 1:08 am

these women think that the women who are raped broke the patriarchal rules, and that if they continue to follow the patriarchal rules — which include blaming women for rape — they will be able to magically avoid rape themselves.

That’s an important point, one which I keep forgetting, and it’s very likely MacDonald’s engaging in exactly that behavior. So often, people will step on others in their own community to curry favor with the dominant group.

There is a point at which a person I would otherwise feel sorry for can spread their ignorance so widely and do so much damage that they’ve more or less nullified my compassion.

Well, if she was indeed raped and this is her reaction to it, I can have compassion for her as a victim of rape, while still acknowledging my anger (ok, rage, because what she said is immensely triggering) at her and working to stop her from spewing her hate and harming others. I feel really, really sad for these right-wing xtian women, and how their autonomy is totally crushed out of them, but I won’t permit them to walk all over my body.

10 JaneDoe February 26, 2008 at 1:33 am

For Christ’s sake, didn’t Katie Roiphe say this same load of crap like ten years ago? It makes me so sad that after over a decade people like MacDonald can still stick their heads in the sand and encourage the complete denial of a crisis this is hurting women everywhere. Depressing.

11 Cara February 26, 2008 at 8:56 am

Well, if she was indeed raped and this is her reaction to it, I can have compassion for her as a victim of rape, while still acknowledging my anger (ok, rage, because what she said is immensely triggering) at her and working to stop her from spewing her hate and harming others.

Agreed, Rachel, I was unclear — I meant as a brainwashed tool of the patriarchy, which we know she is for sure. We obviously have no idea if she has experienced sexual assault, but if it turned out that she did, yes I would have compassion for that.

12 sophiefair February 26, 2008 at 12:55 pm

hey, came over from shakesville. i’ve read (and agreed with) so many of your comments there and at pandagon.
i wanted to point out that the “crisis response” that mcdonald says isn’t happening, in fact probably is — just not at the level of college administrators and police and such. for every young woman going out drinking, i am sure that there are at least 3 that are staying home, or being very careful where they go and with whom, and watching their drinks and doing all the things that the patriarchy tells us will keep us safe from rape. and those things don’t work. never have. because as melissa at shakes says, the causative factor for rape is the presence of the rapist. not anything that the victim does or doesn’t do.
still, my point is that just because the “adults” have not initiated an appropriate crisis response, doesn’t mean that many college women don’t already feel like they are living under siege.

13 kitrona February 26, 2008 at 11:50 pm

‘A female Rutgers student expressed a common sentiment in a university sexual-assault survey: “When we go out to parties and I see girls and the way they dress and the way they act … and just the way they are, under the influence and um, then they like accuse them of like, ‘Oh yeah, my boyfriend did this to me’ or whatever, I honestly always think it’s their fault.”’

This is incredibly sexist and insulting to both genders. Apparently men have no control over their actions if they see a woman dressed in a certain way? That sounds like a problem that could use some medication. Women have to be careful to not dress that “certain way” to avoid being raped? Please.

Give both genders the credit they deserve, Ms. Mac Donald. Every person has the power to choose their own actions, and the responsibility for the results of those actions. “Dressing provocatively” or drinking does not automatically carry with it “rape” as a consequence, and pretending like it does or should is disgusting, insulting, and a disservice to all humans.

14 Wisteria February 27, 2008 at 4:34 pm

I am appalled that this piece of right-wing propaganda made it into the LA Times in the first place. The response,written by SAFER’s Nora Niedzielski-Eichner, does an excellent job at exposing how the tired rape denialism argument has been repackaged over and over again by the same set of “culture war”-fueling right-wing institutions and, specifically, MacDonald’s connections to these institutions.

Not only is this denialism argument old and discredited, it is part of a larger effort by right-wing organizations such as the Manhattan Institute, the Heritage Foundation, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) and the Independent Women’s Forum to delegitimize and combat feminist successes on campuses nationwide, particularly the rise of women’s/gender studies departments, rape crisis centers, and other anti-violence programming. This is a longstanding strategy bankrolled by the top right-wing foundations (Scaife, Olin and Bradley, among others) and implemented, in large part, through a great deal of media savvy and a suspect ability to place even the most discredited propaganda in the pages of respected news publications.

Even the most minor of fact-checking endeavors would reveal MacDonald’s op-ed as not only dated, unoriginal and a complete rehash of numerous past efforts bankrolled by the same institutions, but also one that has been torn apart time and time again in a wide variety of forums. The Times owes its readers an explanation of how it is that think tanks such as the Manhattan Institute, with their old, discredited propaganda, have such access to their op-ed pages.

Check out the united bloggers’ responsesto this disgusting distortion.

15 Jen February 28, 2008 at 10:31 pm

This is ridiculous!

God!!! How can something this craptastic still get printed? And why the hell does she quote a history professor?? What the hell does that have to do with anything? Was he the only one on campus with a Ph.D. that would give her the time of day?

Besides, the rapes ARE going unreported. Especially by 18 or 19 year old girls (you know, the typical college freshmen age). I should know; I didn’t tell anyone about my assault until 2 or 3 years after the fact (prompted only by extreme anger when the prick tried to contact me) & then the only person I’ve talked to about it (other than anonymously) was my best friend in the world.

And guess what, the guy wasn’t a stranger in a back alley. It was an ex; in his car. I was 19 and of course, thought I was to blame. (Even though I was sober, said no and hadn’t done anything to lead him on other than agreeing to go for coffee – not that being drunk or whatnot excuses sexual assault, I’m just clarifying that there wasn’t even an ounce of grey area here and I still felt like I was to blame.)

This kind of “reporting” perpetuates the myth that most rape victims are crying wolf and are actually regretful sluts. Which, you know, sort of discourages young women who have been brutalized from reporting it.

16 john March 5, 2008 at 1:41 pm

This kind of “reporting” perpetuates the myth that most rape victims are crying wolf and are actually regretful sluts. Which, you know, sort of discourages young women who have been brutalized from reporting it.

I thought the article was good. It is simply pointing out that the statistics are over hyped. Your situation should have been reported. If someone forces themselves on you, you should report it. False accusations do happen all the time too. The sooner we cut back on those and get real victums reporting the better.

I’d be interested in hearing more about your case. I don’t even understand myself how an un-willing woman who clearly says no and fights could have sex without being beaten.

17 Cara March 5, 2008 at 2:01 pm

I thought the article was good. It is simply pointing out that the statistics are over hyped.

But they’re not. And MacDonald does not offer an ounce of proof that they are.

Your situation should have been reported. If someone forces themselves on you, you should report it.

As I said in the post, I didn’t realize that what happened was assault until about a year later. Secondly, if I had reported, it never would have been prosecuted. I wish desperately that I had been able to stop him from abusing and assaulting other women. With our legal system, it wouldn’t have happend.

False accusations do happen all the time too.

Wrong, according to the FBI. Look it up.

I’d be interested in hearing more about your case. I don’t even understand myself how an un-willing woman who clearly says no and fights could have sex without being beaten.

My sexual assault is nowhere even near the realm of your personal business. But I can tell from your final sentence that you’re only here to mock — a woman who says no and fights is not the only woman who can be called a victim of rape or sexual assault. A woman does not have to fight. Saying “no” is more than enough. A woman does not even have to say “no” — she simply has to have never said that she wanted to engage in the sexual activity. Women are not holes for you to stick your dick into unless they manage to give you a black eye before you get the chance. They are people. Without thoughts and feelings and bodies that belong to them.

Consent does not mean “not saying no.” How would you feel if a doctor performed elective surgery on you without your consent? And then later said to you “hey, you never said no. It’s not my fault you didn’t punch me in the nuts when I turned on the anesthesia.” You’re not expected to pre-emptively tell doctors that they can’t perform medical procedures on you. They’re expected to tell you want they’re going to do and make sure that you’re okay with it. People are expected to do the same thing when having sex.

18 Betty Boondoggle March 5, 2008 at 2:36 pm

“It is simply pointing out that the statistics are over hyped.”

They’re not “over hyped”. And MacDonald utter fails to prove that they are.

“Your situation should have been reported. If someone forces themselves on you, you should report it.”

It must be so nice to live in a man’s comfy, privilege world.

“False accusations do happen all the time too.”

No, they don’t. False accusation rates are at the same rate for other crimes. See, the FBI, the BOJ, etc.

“The sooner we cut back on those and get real victums reporting the better.”

And I suppose you think that by lying and saying false accusations are frequent that you’re helping the situation?

“I’d be interested in hearing more about your case.”

Cara – wank fodder warning.

” I don’t even understand myself how an un-willing woman who clearly says no and fights could have sex without being beaten.”

Rape apologetics. What a surprise.

19 Stephen M Weiss March 5, 2008 at 5:29 pm

I came here from GlennSacks site. There posts here are much higher quality than at feministing.com.

I see a lot of claims that the ‘other side’s’ research is old and debunked. I like good clean data, and frankly, a lot of people treat this gender war crap as a religion, and use faith rather than logic.

Can people provide links to their favorite studies of rape prevalence?

I have researched a few, and I find the ones that relate that rape is the biggest problem come from institutions that get a majority of their funding from VAWA grants. It always makes me suspicious when I find that everything that has been published at an institution is all in the same direction, sensationalist, and is funded by partisan sources.

I must say that from my own experience, I know rape exists, and affects many people, male and female. Male on Male, Male on Female, Female on Male, and Female on Female rapes all occur. Getting good data is really hard due to the closed door nature of the issue. People lie. Physical evidence is likely slight.

My wife says that of her friends in her life, she has never know any who have ever admitted to her being raped. I had 1 girlfriend out of 15 that admitted to being raped. I wont discuss my own experiences, but I will admit being targetted both by males and females. I am not a rape denier.

Finally, I have read accounts from tribal cultures wherein kidnap-rape was systematic, and appeared to be an important element of gene transmission. This is similar to behaviors found in pack based socieities in animals. Whereas I was personally appalled at the concept, I do admit the possibility that rape may have different meanings in different cultures, and we do have a melting pot of cultures here in America.

Another funny issue is damage and punishment. Punishment for rape is frequently more severe than for murder, which may cause some rapists to murder just to cover their tracks. That’s a horrible side effect of a law which is supposed to protect.

Well, I may have rambled a bit, and I am sure some radical feminists will think I deserve violence for my ponderings, but I wonder if there are any biology/scientific studies of rape your readers may have.

Thanks, and I hope I have not offended anyone.

20 Mariner March 5, 2008 at 6:22 pm

Interesting article. It would be more effective if your sources could be cited. Saying something doesn’t necessarily make it so – if the stats are over hyped, cite the sources of your statistics so they can be examined. Without them, your article is just..well…drivel.

21 Cara March 5, 2008 at 9:14 pm

Stephen, I am indeed offended by much of what you have to say. You have, however, been by far the most cordial of all commenters from Glenn’s site (you should see the ones that haven’t gotten through), and you do strike me as being potentially genuine. For that reason, I’m actually going to take the time to respond to you.

I ask of all other commenters to please be cordial to Stephen until he proves that his offensive remarks come from malice rather than misinformation.

First of all, responses to your remarks:

I have researched a few, and I find the ones that relate that rape is the biggest problem come from institutions that get a majority of their funding from VAWA grants. It always makes me suspicious when I find that everything that has been published at an institution is all in the same direction, sensationalist, and is funded by partisan sources.

There is a reason for this — organizations that get funding from VAWA are generally the only organizations that have the money to do that kind of study and enough interest to take the time.

My wife says that of her friends in her life, she has never know any who have ever admitted to her being raped. I had 1 girlfriend out of 15 that admitted to being raped.

You have to remember that rape is something people talk about rarely talk about. When it comes up, it’s usually in the context of a news story, with people openly questioning whether or not the victim is telling the truth. This is not a context that encourages people to share their experiences. Furthermore, women who have been sexually assaulted are unlikely to tell anyone but those they know best, and many don’t tell anyone. And as I said above in the post, many women are in denial over whether or not what they experienced was indeed rape/sexual assault. Because we don’t talk about it, because there is so much victim-blaming, people often don’t even understand clearly what sexual assault is and feel that their circumstance does not apply (because the rapist was a boyfriend, because she said “no” but didn’t struggle, because she was drunk, because she consented to oral but not vaginal, because she wasn’t physically injured, etc.).

Finally, I have read accounts from tribal cultures wherein kidnap-rape was systematic, and appeared to be an important element of gene transmission. This is similar to behaviors found in pack based socieities in animals. Whereas I was personally appalled at the concept, I do admit the possibility that rape may have different meanings in different cultures, and we do have a melting pot of cultures here in America.

This is just racist. It’s true that what rape “means” can vary from culture to culture, but that doesn’t change what rape is, and it doesn’t change the ways in which victims suffer afterwards. The systematic rape you talk about is not a consequence of genetics, it’s a consequence of war. Rape is a tool of war and a tool of genocide. It has nothing to do with genes, as soldiers in all different times and from all over the world have used it — yes, including U.S. troops. The term “rape and pillage” comes from somewhere. People have indeed made arguments that the propensity to rape could be genetic. I don’t buy them, and have never seen an ounce of evidence to back up the theory.

Another funny issue is damage and punishment. Punishment for rape is frequently more severe than for murder, which may cause some rapists to murder just to cover their tracks. That’s a horrible side effect of a law which is supposed to protect.

This is just plain false. From where are you getting this information? With the exception of particularly brutal or repeated rapes of children by full grown adults, rape is generally punished extremely lightly. Of course, sometimes murder is, as well. But you don’t get probation for murder. You can for sexual assault. And it’s rare enough to get a conviction, anyway.

As for links:

This information backing up the statistics that MacDonald attacks is particularly relevant.

I find this to be a great list of compiled studies.

In addition to studies that record the prevalence of rape, I have a few other favorite studies.

This one discusses attitudes towards rape, particularly men’s.

This study shows that contrary to popular myths, when rapes involve alcohol, both the victim and rapist have usually usually drinking — when only one person has been drinking, it’s more than twice as likely to be the rapist instead of the victim (pdf).

Lastly, this recent study shows that jurors in rape cases have generally made up their minds before they step into the court room. Also, astonishing numbers think that rapes occur simply because men cannot control their sexual urges — both highly insulting the majority of men who are not rapists and implying that it is therefore a woman’s job to make sure that she isn’t raped.

22 Cara March 5, 2008 at 9:25 pm

Mariner,

Thanks for the “compliment,” but I find it funny that while you expect me to cite statistics disproving MacDonald’s points, you find no need for her to have used statistics in an in attempt to disprove mine. That’s quite the double-standard.

With that in mind, I have to say that this post was written for a feminist audience. It was most certainly not aimed at a mainstream audience that is not very familiar with sexual assault issues. It certainly wasn’t intended to end up on MRA websites, and I’m actually rather miffed that the piece is being treated as some kind of official feminist rebuttal when it was never written in that way.

If I was writing a post for that audience, I would certainly include statistics. But I have no interest in writing a piece for a group that will dismiss anything I’ve said before I’ve finished saying it. If you are indeed terribly interested in statistics, see the comments above.

23 John Spragge March 5, 2008 at 11:58 pm

I agree that:

1) No means no
2) Anything other than ‘yes’ means no
3) Anyone can withdraw a ‘yes’ at any time

That leaves the problematic notion of “enthusiastic” consent. A clear yes, great. A freely given yes, absolutely. But (and I’ve tussled with others on this as well) you can’t justify demanding people detect enthusiasm, because not everyone can. Apart from the problem of picking up cues in a cross-cultural context, up to 10% of the population has physical (neurological) limits on their ability to read these cues.

Apart from the principle (setting up a universal obligation that everyone can’t meet denies the humanity of everyone you exclude) it feeds into some very ugly assumptions about people with disabilities.

24 Betty Boondoggle March 6, 2008 at 10:19 am

“But (and I’ve tussled with others on this as well) you can’t justify demanding people detect enthusiasm, because not everyone can. ”

John, this ain’t rocket science. No one is expecting anyone else to read minds. If you’re partner isn’t enthusiasically saying “yes!”, stop. Red flag.

If you’re so afraid of the mythical false accusations, why put yourself in a compromising position?

Of course, the easiest answer is “know your partner” but that ignores the realities of flings, one nights stands, etc.

Basically, be an adult. If something seems off, stop and ask. If this is a new partner and you don’t know what to expect, ask.

25 Roy March 6, 2008 at 10:42 am

Exactly, Betty.

Apart from the principle (setting up a universal obligation that everyone can’t meet denies the humanity of everyone you exclude) it feeds into some very ugly assumptions about people with disabilities.

I disagree. It may not be perfect, but it’s better than a system that assumes anything less than an enthusiasatic “no” means “yes”, which is largely what we have, now. The expectation should be on some form of positive consent- active affirmation. If you’re remotely unsure of whether you’ve got enthusiastic consent, you should be stopping to check in. I don’t think that denies the humanity of people who have trouble detecting enthusiasm- I think that it reaffirms the humanity of everyone involved. It reaffirms the humanity of potential sex partners by showing that their affirmative consent is important.

26 Betty Boondoggle March 6, 2008 at 2:38 pm

And you know what they say, if your partner isn’t enthusiastic, you’re doing it wrong.

27 John Spragge March 6, 2008 at 3:52 pm

A lot of the people who can do rocket science lack, to varying degrees, the ability to read emotional cues. To a fair fraction of the population, an “enthusiastic” yes and a flat, resigned yes sound exactly the same. However many times they “check in” about their partner’s wishes (something I agree with completely, by the way), they still have to trust their partner to tell them, verbally, what they really want.

I have no problem with calling for an explicit yes, an affirmative yes; anyone can negotiate these things. Anyone (assuming a common language) can ask what their partner wants; anyone can ask if they mean it. Not everyone can detect the emotions (or the level of emotions) behind that yes. And you can’t lay out a requirement that everyone must do what not everyone can do.

By the way, Betty, nothing I wrote implied in any way a possibility of “false accusations”, nor did I have any particular concern that women make false accusations when I wrote my post.

We obviously disagree about language; I can’t tell for sure if we disagree about principles. As I said, only yes means yes, and if you have reason to doubt that yes, you should check it out. But I do insist, given the seriousness of the subject, that the language we use include everyone. If we use language that implies getting consent implies detecting an emotional state, then we exclude a good many people.

28 Betty Boondoggle March 6, 2008 at 4:13 pm

If you’re not the John who wrote this: john on March 5, 2008 1:41 pm, then apologies. That’s the guy that was talking about the myth that false accusations are frequent.

“A lot of the people who can do rocket science lack, to varying degrees, the ability to read emotional cues. To a fair fraction of the population, an “enthusiastic” yes and a flat, resigned yes sound exactly the same. However many times they “check in” about their partner’s wishes (something I agree with completely, by the way), they still have to trust their partner to tell them, verbally, what they really want.”

In an effort to bridge this gap, let me suggest that this is the point where comprehensive sex ed would benefit all greatly.

If people were taught that only yes means yes and the absense of no doesn’t mean yes, then we wouldn’t have to talk about “emotional cues”. Having consent or not having consent would be outlined.

Perhaps if people were armed with accurate knowledge and not shame and misinformation, they might have the tools with which to make the correct decisions, etc.

29 Stephen M Weiss March 6, 2008 at 5:28 pm

Cara,

Thank you for consenting to some discussion of this issue. Again, I am sorry if some of my views were offensive. This topic is clearly a very emotional topic for many people, yet one where some decent discussion would really help.

I am not emotional about it in particular, but I too can get offended. My particular sore spot with this is is such a common sore spot it is recorded in the Ten Commandments: Bearing False Witness. Let me know ahead of time if you consider the view offensive that some (still open for discussion, research, and debate) fraction of rape accusations are completely false, groundless, and a ploy to get money or punish. If that is an off-limit topic, ok, we can leave that out.
With respect to VAWA funding, it sounds like you note the same issue. This issue of reporting bias is a common one in all types of research, and academia has ways to address this, but they only work when people will be unemotional about the results and allow cross-review and examination. Also, funding must not come with a political objective. VAWA I am afraid is tarnished by its very title. If it were purely a study of the role, effects, and magnitude of inner family violence then I could believe in the research better.

I agree, data on rape is difficult also because of non-reporting. I really do not know what can be done about that, but having an accuser not have to face the accused is not the answer.

By every published definition of racist, I am not racist. It seems you meant that I believe that there are certain genetic and cultural differences between peoples from different areas. Yes, I do believe that. I do not believe that any single ‘race’ has a monopoly on positive traits, and I do not believe that any given set of genes is superior in every way to all other sets of genes. That would be as foolish as saying that one tool does every job best. Your claim that I am racist does not seem well supported. Let’s stay away from that type of discussion, it tends to lead to the end of the discussion.

Yes, the ‘tribal’ rape I read about was within the context of small scale tribal war, ‘raids’ really. But these were not genocidal. A few defending men died, but the men got away from the attackers but the women were too slow and got captured. The captured men were killed, the captured women were subdued, tied, and eventually sold. In the story I read, the sold girls ended up competing amongst each other for the favor of their captor, and the author, the girl who ended up winning the favor, did end up bearing the children of the captor. That is not genocide. Don’t make too much of my recounting this one story, I don’t make too much of it, I just note that when Native Americans or Native Hawaiians are found to have higher rates of DV, rape, alcoholism, drug use, you name it, then this is used as a reason to increase punishment for those offenses. That, to me, is racist, and genocidal. Note, I am of Austrian heritage, and I am not a radical defender of native peoples, I just note the flow of politics and punishments.

With regards to the relative punishments for rape or murder: Well, I am not a criminal lawyer, and my evidence is from newspapers and from reading the father’s rights stuff. So, obviously, if a guy is accused of rape he doesn’t think was rape, he is going to be pretty mad, and may tend to join father’s rights causes. But, another friend of mine was falsely accused in Canada because the Canadian wanted to get US citizenship, so, this topic does touch us.

Thanks for the links to data sources. If it is ok, I would like to bring back a few that get tossed around on GlennSacks. One that was interesting is about the Innocence Project, which used DNA testing on physical evidence from old convicted rapists. My recollection is that 9/20 of the first cases they looked at showed the wrong DNA, ie, the wrong guy was convicted. This is not to say that the woman meant to falsely accuse, and it does not say she was not raped, it just shows that it is a tough topic, and the courts only get it right about 50% of the time. Conversely, I suspect that guilty rapists are found not guilty even more often. All these things can be true at once.

30 Cara March 6, 2008 at 6:01 pm

Stephen,

Where to begin?

First, it seems to me that you and I have very different definitions of what constitutes “racist” — mine comes from the common anti-racist perspective that we live in a racist society that benefits white people and it is therefore virtual impossible for a white person to not be racist on some level, no matter how small. That would include myself. I do understand that the mainstream view on this topic is very different, but what’s most important here is the fact that I never called you a racist. I said that your argument was racist, and I stand by that. There are huge differences between attacking someone’s argument and attacking a person.

Moving on.

That is not genocide.

Yes, it is. Forcing women to bear the children of another group who has killed maimed and destroyed their people through the use of wide-spread systematic rape is indeed genocide. And it’s the point — to wipe out a group of people through forced reproduction with the genocidal group.

My particular sore spot with this is is such a common sore spot it is recorded in the Ten Commandments: Bearing False Witness. Let me know ahead of time if you consider the view offensive that some (still open for discussion, research, and debate) fraction of rape accusations are completely false, groundless, and a ploy to get money or punish. If that is an off-limit topic, ok, we can leave that out.

There are indeed a fraction of accusations that are false, but the number of them is so small as to be all but insignificant. And I also see no way that this argument would be relevant at all to the topic at hand. So yes, off-limits.

Well, I am not a criminal lawyer, and my evidence is from newspapers and from reading the father’s rights stuff.

That would be the problem, I’m afraid. (for the record, I have absolutely no issue with and nothing but support for a concept of “father’s rights” that does not infringe upon the rights of women. Unfortunately, virtually every “father’s rights activist” I’ve come across seems far more concerned with the right to beat their wives and with proving that women lie about rape than with creating gender equality in the realm of parenting — something that would benefit women, as well.)

One that was interesting is about the Innocence Project, which used DNA testing on physical evidence from old convicted rapists. My recollection is that 9/20 of the first cases they looked at showed the wrong DNA, ie, the wrong guy was convicted. This is not to say that the woman meant to falsely accuse, and it does not say she was not raped, it just shows that it is a tough topic, and the courts only get it right about 50% of the time.

I’ve seen this data before, as I imagine most readers here have. I also don’t contest it and fully support the Innocence Project. Unfortunately, most of the false convictions you refer to came about due to racism and or classism, and these men should absolutely be freed. I appreciate that you realize that identifying the wrong person is not the same as lying about rape (most men seem to miss this), but I do think that you miss a larger point. That point would be that these cases have little to do with rape cases now and are highly unrepresentative of typical rape cases. Every case I’ve seen where a man has been found to be innocent has been a case of stranger rape, where misidentification is possible. This is only a tiny fraction of rapes, though it is the most likely to either make it to trial or win a conviction. I don’t find this to be any evidence at all that courts wrongful convict men for rape about 50% of the time. Firstly, far more rapist walk free than either accused or actual rapists go to jail. Secondly, we do now live in an age of DNA testing, and these kinds of cases could be avoided at the outset. If there is DNA evidence and it doesn’t matched the accuse, they’ve got the wrong guy. The sad fact that this technology was not available back then doesn’t have a whole lot of bearing on whether or not innocent men are convicted today. There’s also the fact that while DNA evidence can disprove a rape, it can very rarely prove rape all on its own — in almost all cases, the accused will simply claim the contact to have been consensual, and juries have a strong tendency to believe it.

31 Stephen M Weiss March 6, 2008 at 7:38 pm

Cara said: “for the record, I have absolutely no issue with and nothing but support for a concept of “father’s rights” that does not infringe upon the rights of women. Unfortunately, virtually every “father’s rights activist” I’ve come across seems far more concerned with the right to beat their wives and with proving that women lie about rape than with creating gender equality in the realm of parenting — something that would benefit women, as well.)”

This is great, we have achieved common ground. So, you admit you are an equalist, as I am, and we have only to discuss how to accomplish this in the best and most fair manner!

You make an interesting point about DNA testing and the Innocence Project being about stranter rape. Back to the sticky wicket of marital, date rape and/or bad sex, who to believe?

I think this issue is like proof of the existence of god. I always thought Hume handled that best, and said it was impossible to prove if or if not God exists, but it is also impossible to prove this very claim. So it is also impossible to prove non-violent physically damageless rape within the confines of a closed room with no witnesses. Judgements of this type are more about who is a good liar, because if one party tells the straight truth with no physical evidence, but the other party carefully creates a story to match available physical evidence, the advantage always goes to the liar. This liar could be the rapist, or this liar could be the accusor.

Any rules or assumptions of what type of evidence is looked at can only bias the decision against one side or another. Having a court or jury try to decide an issue without good evidence is the basic problem.

So, any assumptions that accusors are telling the truth and are accurate will get vehement protest from me, and a lot of people. It seems my ancestors left a continent where the culture was allowing such accusation against certain political groups.

Do you really feel that women deserve the right to automatically convict any man of rape? Do men deserve this same right? I do not think you believe that, that would be completely inconsistent with being an equalist.

I have strayed, I need to get on with researching your links. sry for that.

32 Stephen M Weiss March 6, 2008 at 7:59 pm

Ok, I did a quick review of the links. Just so you know, I like studies best, so the last link is the one that hit. One was a link to a bunch of opinions. Again, this issue is like religion, people get really wild about it.

I am going to go through the last one, the hawaii study. I particularly want to find out why and how they targetted blacks in the inner city, and why they felt such verbal responses were worth reporting. Insurance fraud investigators have some really mathematical and valid evidence about the quality of evidence from certain groups of people, and the selected group for that rape study is NOT one known for truth. The overall results didn’t look wrong particularly, I am just saying that is about the worst way to study it, and doing so is really suspicious.

33 Cara March 6, 2008 at 9:24 pm

This is great, we have achieved common ground. So, you admit you are an equalist, as I am, and we have only to discuss how to accomplish this in the best and most fair manner!

No, I’m not an “equalist,” because I find this to be a highly silly term and one that is designed to do nothing more than smear feminist. I do believe that men and women should have equal rights. That is what we call feminism.

Back to the sticky wicket of marital, date rape and/or bad sex, who to believe?

That you would include “bad sex” along with marital rape and date rape is rather astonishing to me, and I haven’t got the slightest clue what to say except that it’s highly offensive and has very rapidly made me lose faith that you have any genuine interest in taking the problem of sexual assault seriously.

So, any assumptions that accusors are telling the truth and are accurate will get vehement protest from me, and a lot of people. It seems my ancestors left a continent where the culture was allowing such accusation against certain political groups.

In this case, I’m not really sure that we have very much common ground at all.

Do you really feel that women deserve the right to automatically convict any man of rape?

No. But as people who are not on a jury in that courtroom, women do deserve the right of having us automatically believing her. In a courtroom, one has to rule out reasonable doubt. Of course, what we use as reasonable doubt in a courtroom with regards to rape cases are absurd — wearing a short skirt, not being a virgin or having a drink have all been used against women to create “reasonable doubt” as if these factors are in any way relevant. Rape victims should be treated in a court of law just like any other victim is. Notice how we don’t say to victims of car theft, “are you sure you didn’t want him to steal your car? I have it on good authority that you’ve let someone else drive it in the past!”

I am going to go through the last one, the hawaii study.

I’m not sure what study you’re referring to, but from your description it seems that you think black men who live in the city lie much more often than other people.

34 Cath March 7, 2008 at 10:15 am

He’s revealing his true colors, Cara. Time to stop wrestling with the pig.

35 Cara March 7, 2008 at 10:40 am

Yeah, I agree.

36 Stephen M Weiss March 7, 2008 at 1:25 pm

Ok, fair enough. From your responses, I understand you.

We are at war.

Adieu, fight well.

37 Cara March 7, 2008 at 1:45 pm

At war? Ooooh, I’m shaking.

I’m sure that we’ll miss you terribly . . .

38 lauredhel March 8, 2008 at 8:25 am

” To a fair fraction of the population, an “enthusiastic” yes and a flat, resigned yes sound exactly the same. ”

You’re only going to get a “flat, resigned yes” if you’ve already been an intrusive, nagging, harassing, potentially threatening asshole. Try not doing that, and you’ll be fine.

39 John Spragge March 11, 2008 at 6:16 am

lauradhel:
Setting up a requirement that not everyone can meet constitutes ableism. Claiming that the form of ableism you advocate will only affect people who don’t behave perfectly doesn’t justify it.

So I’d like to try this from another angle. Please explain to me why you need the word “enthusiastic” added to consent. What value does that word convey that you can’t find another word to express.

40 Betty Boondoggle March 11, 2008 at 8:48 am

“Please explain to me why you need the word “enthusiastic” added to consent.”

This sort of thing sends icy chills down my spine. What kind of boy doesn’t want his partnet to be expressively and obviously into having sex with him.

A rapist.

41 Betty Boondoggle March 11, 2008 at 8:52 am

To answer the question, John, enthusiastic is added to diferentiate between the flat resigned “yes” of a woman harrassed into sex (which is rape), and a woman actually interested in having sex.

I’m not buying this “someone people can’t tell the difference” thing. It comes off as someone trying to find out how to coerce a woman just shy of being considered a rapist. Which, is not me accusing you of anything, understand, just an observation of how these vague exceptions to the rule usually pan out.

So, be specific – what people are you talking about when you accuse us of “ableism”?

42 John Spragge March 11, 2008 at 1:08 pm

Betty– I don’t accept the insinuation that I condone rape in any way. It disrespects me, and it disrespects the importance of the issue. If you don’t know what I mean, I please ask first and insinuate later.

In answer to your question — ADHD and all of the autism spectrum disorders, including Aspergers, affect the ability to perceive emotions. That means that up to 10% of the population varies significantly in the ability to detect emotions.

So let’s try this again. As I’ve already said (you can look up my previous posts) I agree with the concept of an affirmative yes, freely given. If we can agree on this definition of “enthusiastic”, fine, we have no serious disagreement. But I ask to have the concept of “enthusiastic consent” clarified in this context, precisely because it can also translate into a requirement that people detect the emotional states of their partners.

So I will ask again: given that we have plenty of words and phrases to indicate clear, willing, affirmative consent, or even better, simply advising people to ask what their partner wants, why do we need the one word which clouds the issue by suggesting that people have an obligation to try to read the feelings behind the words?

43 Betty Boondoggle March 11, 2008 at 1:22 pm

“– I don’t accept the insinuation that I condone rape in any way.”

I didn’t insinuate anything against you. You didn’t say you were against getting enthuastic consent, which were the people I was refering to. You asked for clarification.

See also, here: http://shakespearessister.blogspot.com/2007/10/modest-proposal-thorny-issue-of-sexual.html

WRT: those less able to discern emotions. Aren’t these then another group of people that should be getting clear verbale consent before continuing? That’s what is meant by enthuastic consent. A positive, clear, freely given “yes” to a simple question: “Do you want to have sex with me.”

Which is why I mentioned, also, comprehensive sex ed. Sex ed that doesn’t just focus on prevention of disease and pregnancy, but sex ed that also teaches the difference between consent and coercion.

44 Cara March 11, 2008 at 1:30 pm

John, people with autism and Aspergers understand the difference between right and wrong. It is also my understanding that they are more likely to understand the importance of respecting the physical boundaries of others. And while they may have difficulty reading body language or voice inflection, I am not aware of any reason that the condition of autism would prevent a person from understanding that a.) you should never badger someone for sex and b.) both people should be actively participating in sex. There’s a big difference between expecting someone to notice whether or not a woman is lifting her hips and asking someone to notice whether or not the woman is touching, kissing, or responding to you.

The phrase affirmative consent is useless, because it holds the same definition of consent. Consent, by its very nature, is affirmative. Consent has not been established without agreement. But one does not have to agree of their own free will or with a lack of fear in order to express agreement. You say that we have plenty of words to indicate the expression of wanting to enter into an agreement freely and happily, so what exactly do you suggest we replace the word “enthusiastic” with, without us ending up with a long and cumbersome phrase?

45 John Spragge March 11, 2008 at 3:42 pm

Cara–

On boundaries: people with differing abilities to read emotions do often have a strong sense of boundaries. That would have more relevance if I raised this as an excuse for sexual coercion, but I did not raise it for that reason. I want a definition of rape that doesn’t suggest to millions of people that they ought not to consider themselves fit to have a sexual relationship with a willing partner.

On consent: I think of affirmative consent as an antonym for tacit consent.

Frankly, if it takes a cumbersome phrase to define the issue in a clear and non-ableist fashion, I don’t have any problem. Nor do I see anything particularly cumbersome in a phrase such as: clearly expressed, voluntary consent, obtained without deception or threats.

46 Betty Boondoggle March 11, 2008 at 4:19 pm

“I want a definition of rape that doesn’t suggest to millions of people that they ought not to consider themselves fit to have a sexual relationship with a willing partner.”

And yet, this was never suggested. You seem to be caught up in this incorrect assumption that we’re asking people to read minds, or subtle emotion. We’re not.

“Nor do I see anything particularly cumbersome in a phrase such as: clearly expressed, voluntary consent, obtained without deception or threats”

On, stated in shorthand – enthusiastic consent.

47 Cara March 11, 2008 at 4:46 pm

John, we are talking about sexual coercion. That’s precisely the issue we’re dealing with the difference between “consent” and “enthusiastic consent.” The potential for coercion is precisely why the two are not identical. I have no issue with using non-ableist language and the idea of having a clear phrase is precisely the reason behind “enthusiastic consent.” You’ve failed to convince me that the idea is ableist, since I have yet to find anything in the definition of enthusiastic consent that someone on the autism spectrum would not be able to meet. You say that you don’t want a definition of rape that suggests to millions of people that they aren’t fit for a sexual relationship, but that’s not how we’re choosing to define rape. You haven’t argued with any of my points about why I feel that enthusiastic consent does not exclude those with autism.

I’m also for an inclusive legal definition of consent. The idea behind enthusiastic consent is to rely on consent both expressed in words and participation. But the way that different people meet these requirements could vary. A person with a physical disability who wants to engage in penetrative sex but needs assistance to get into a position to do so can and should work out alternate means of expressing consent than we would expect of most able-bodied people. And I also wouldn’t expect people who we would consider to be able-bodied to go off of some kind of universal script, either. People use language, use their bodies and express desire in different ways. Again: the goal is clarity and participation (unless of course you’re playing some kind of sex game, i.e. where one partner is bound, and conditions of enthusiastic consent, “safe words,” etc. have been met beforehand). There is no one way to meet that requirement, and I don’t feel that we’ve suggested otherwise.

As for cumbersome phrases . . . I wish that buzzwords weren’t important. But from a messaging standpoint, they unfortunately are. This is particularly the case with anti-rape activism, since most means of defining consent in an unproblematic manner have been met with mockery — precisely because they’ve been perceived as cumbersome. To use the phrase that you have suggested would make widespread education more difficult. I would love to live in a world where people weren’t terrified of thinking critically and didn’t need concepts reduced to sound bites to pay any attention. But since I don’t think we’re going to be leaving that culture anytime soon, we have to work with what we’ve got. I would really like to effectively educate about rape regardless of whether or not we can stage a media revolution.

48 John Spragge March 11, 2008 at 6:37 pm

Betty: I come back to the basic anti-oppression tenet, which applies to ableism: it doesn’t matter what you say you mean, it matters what you actually say or do. The word “enthusiastic” refers to an emotional attitude. Using it in this context suggests that failing to discern an emotional attitude can make you guilty of rape.

Cara: OK, to take your argument specifically, the ideal of mutual participation in sex, while it has value, doesn’t work for this purpose. In most places, touching a person sexually just once without their consent violates the law. Someone with ADD or any autism-spectrum neurological variation can and should talk about and get consent, to make that first touch, but in the end, they have to trust the yes they hear.

If you need a word to replace “enthusiastic”, try “free”, or “clear”; a phrase such as “listen for a yes, don’t push for a yes” also gets the point across pretty well. I respect your goal of education; I think you can reach it without using language that has an ableist effect.

49 Betty Boondoggle March 12, 2008 at 9:07 am

“Using it in this context suggests that failing to discern an emotional attitude can make you guilty of rape. ”

It’s statements like this that cause me worry. The reason being that this is pretty much the same argument that I’ve seen from other men, not specifically talking about ableism, on why the term “grey rape” is a good one.

To stop the misunderstanding before it occurs, let me state that I’m not insinuating or accusing you of anything.

But, the myth that rape can have a grey area is a myth that just won’t die.
While a valid point, this gets too close to “grey rape” for comfort.

That said, I agree with your statements on additional phrases that could be used. Education is the key.

50 John Spragge March 13, 2008 at 8:16 am

Betty–
I absolutely agree, both on the need for education, and on the need for avoiding ambiguity in our discussion of rape. I object to and resist the use of ableist language in this context largely because the features of ableism include legal ambiguity, particularly in this context. Language that makes no provision for neurological diversity feeds into historic attitudes and policies that have defined people with ADD and people on the autism spectrum as morally and legally suspect. Therefore I believe that to avoid grey areas, you must shun this kind of ableist language.

51 GallingGalla aka RachelPhilPa March 13, 2008 at 9:19 pm

G-ddess f-ing dammit, John Spragge, knock it off. I am *both* autistic *and* a survivor of long-term, ongoing sexual abuse within a relationship.

Yeah, I do frequently have trouble reading subtle cues in other people’s speech and body language.

But, G-ddess damn it, I think I can tell the difference between enthusiastic consent and grudging pseudo-consent. One is “Yes, yes, Yes, YES!!! Oh, OH!!” and / or s/he’s jumping my bones, and the other is laying there and staring at the ceiling and just allowing him to do it and waiting for it to be over, which is how I got through it every time he raped me. How hard can it be to tell the difference between those two reactions? Freakin’ night and day, if you ask me, and very easy for this autie to distinguish.

When we talk about *everybody* needing to establish the other person’s enthusiastic consent before proceeding, what this means for me is that if I have the *slightest* doubt that the other person is giving me enthusiastic consent, I’ll stop and ask. That is all that anybody is expecting.

52 John Spragge March 14, 2008 at 3:53 am

GallingGalla aka RachelPhilPa:

I wish you health and recovery.

But with respect, I react to the word “enthusiasm” precisely because other people have said they expect more than just asking, more than just clearing up ambiguities, more than just getting clearly stated consent. To quote, one writer wants us to “make sure that the feelings, words and actions of our intimate partners are congruent…. do this difficult but not impossible emotional work” (look up the “Tikkun olam” post at hugoschwyzer.net). Unfortunately, the word “enthusiastic” permits this interpretation.

Unclear words create an unacceptable gray areas. Given the importance of clarity, I think we should use words carefully. We’ve got words for clarity, we’ve got words for checking things out. I simply suggest we the words that express exactly what we mean, rather than the words which mean things we don’t want to say.

53 GallingGalla aka RachelPhilPa March 14, 2008 at 4:20 am

*yawn*

I’ve heard it all before, John.

54 lauredhel March 14, 2008 at 8:05 am

This conversation is giving me the creeps.

If you truly, honesty have absolutely no fucking idea what emotions the woman you’re about to stick your dick in is feeling, ASK HER. Y’know, in WORDS.

Geez. It really ISN’T complicated.

55 Betty Boondoggle March 14, 2008 at 8:39 am

“ASK HER. Y’know, in WORDS.”

Which is what I’ve been saying all along. His quibble is an academic one, I think, because it’s entirely over the word “enthusiastic”, not over the concept of expressive consent, or education.

56 lauredhel March 14, 2008 at 10:24 am

Yep. I’m not talking about just “asking her” in the sense of “Do you want to have sex?” I’m talking about asking about feelings. If someone can’t read body language and non-verbal cues, in situations where sexual communication is needed, words help. Don’t know whether the consent is enthusiastic? Don’t know whether she actually wants to? Don’t know how she’s feeling? Ask, clarify, double check.

This is pretty much Coping With Autism 101, which is why my troll sensors are firing.

I’m pretty much at a loss as to why anyone would want to fuck someone without bothering to find out how they’re feeling about it. If you’re worried that she might up sobbing in a police station the next day, back the fuck off. Why all the rape-brinksmanship?

57 John Spragge March 15, 2008 at 5:57 am

Betty: I think we basically agree, although for reasons I state below, I consider language more than a quibble.

lauredhel: This has nothing to do with rape brinkmanship; it has to do with finding clear and non-exclusionary language for anti-rape education.

58 Paul March 17, 2008 at 9:17 am

Would this be *the* John Spragge the famous Objectivist?

59 John Spragge March 17, 2008 at 1:24 pm

No.

In fact, I googled and I see no evidence of an famous objectivist named John Spragge.

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