Feminism

learning the words: consent

hilary in pantsuit
[trigger warning for rape, sexual assault, and victim blaming]

 “Learning the Words” is a series on the words many of us didn’t have in fundamentalism or overly conservative evangelicalism– and how we got them back. If you would like to be a part of this series, you can find my contact information at the top.

I uploaded the above picture to my facebook this time last year. I’d spotted it, I don’t remember where, thought it was one of the funniest things I’d read on the internet and decided I’d share it with my friends– many who were just going through detox from our IFB college (a place where all women were required to wear skirts).

The comments exploded. In a matter of what felt like minutes, there were huge debates raging between maybe six different sets of friends. I hadn’t exactly expected that.

What I especially didn’t expect was for almost all of my friends who commented– men and women I respect, love, and admire– to instantaneously leap into deep victim blaming territory. One of them cited the supposed popularity of mini skirts in Japan and the problems the country has with upskirt photos and sexual assault on their subways. Another quoted a political leader in the Philippines as blaming their rape epidemic on mini skirts.

At that point, I interjected. I denounced the victim blaming that was happening and made this statement:

A victim is never responsible for his or her rape. 

It seems like a simple idea, but it’s not. It wasn’t even an idea I would have been capable of articulating even a few months prior to this– because of the simple fact that I blamed myself for my rape. Because of a whole host of ideas– ideas like it’s the woman’s responsibility to set up physical boundaries, and if a man ignores those boundaries, it’s the woman’s fault, because she didn’t set those boundaries up clearly enough. After all, “a man will only go as far as a woman will let him.”

A comment I got on a post I wrote on the link between the purity culture and abusive relationships made me cry. Because my story was almost exactly the same as the one left in that comment– I’ve been there. I’ve been terrified, and confused, and lost, and not able to really understand what had happened to me and how to deal with it.

The reason why I couldn’t understand what had happened, and why I blamed myself for my rape for so long, was because I didn’t understand what consent is. For me, personally, consent is the most important, most powerful word I have now.

First, let me make this brutally clear:

Rape is non-consensual sex.
Rape is having sex with someone who doesn’t want to have sex with you.
Rape is having sex with someone who has not given you a clear and enthusiastic yes.
Rape is having sex with someone in a way that he or she does not want to.
Rape is continuing to have sex with someone when he or she has withdrawn his or her initial consent.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Consent is based on the idea that, as a person, I have the right to determine what happens to my body. It is my body, and it does not belong to anyone else. I get to decide what I do and who I do it with–always. No exceptions. Any time that any person does something to my body that I don’t want to happen, it is sexual harassment, sexual assault, or rape (and yes— this includes how someone else looks at my body. I get to decide how people look at me and what I find acceptable, and absolutely nothing I do, nothing I say, and nothing I wear changes that. Ever).

Consent means that I get to decide when I have sex, who I have sex with, and how that sex happens. If at any point during sex something happens that I don’t want, I have the right to say “stop.” If my sexual partner continues in the behavior, that is rape. Because it has moved from consensual sex to non-consensual sex, and non-consensual sex is rape. And let me make it plain so no one suffers any delusions: consent is not the absence of a “no.” Consent is saying “yes.” Consent can only be a “yes.”

When I am consenting to sex, I am only consenting to how I want to have sex. Consent is not a blanket that allows the sexual partner to do whatever the hell he or she wants without consulting the other.

It is also not exclusively my responsibility to make sure that I have communicated my consent clearly enough. It is primarily the responsibility of the initiating partner to ensure beyond all doubt that the other partner is interested– and continues to remain interested.

This means something really simple: ask. And guess what you have to ask? It’s really easy:

Do you want to have sex with me?
Is this ok?

If the answer to these questions is no, going past the “no” in any shape or form is sexual assault or rape.

Also, just to be clear– I say all of these things as a monogamous married woman. And everything I’ve said here still applies. Signing your name on your marriage license is not eternal, blanket consent to any time your husband or wife wants to have sex. Consent is an ongoing process- it happens before sex, and it needs to happen during sex, too. And just because I’ve agreed to sex before does not mean that I’m going to– or somehow obligated to– agree to sex again.

I’m not really concerned with the legal definition of rape, mostly because in many states that definition (hint: it usually includes the word “forcible”) is based on a myth. I’m also not concerned with the legal definition of consent. And no, I’m not saying that sexual partners have to ask for and gain a verbal consent every single time they have sex, especially after a relationship and trust is established. However, there are nights when I initiate sex with my husband, and if I sense anything that could remotely be a lack of desire, I ask. Usually he just looks at me like “are you kidding?!” and that’s enough for us.

However, this is where our definition of consent needs to begin.

Not in “well, she didn’t say no.”
Not in “but look at what she was wearing!”
Not in “her body language said she wanted it.”

And most definitely, it is not in “but she got wet” or “she got off on it.” Physical arousal has NOTHING, and I mean NOTHING to do with consent. At all. Period. End of story.

And for all those types who say “but stopping and asking will ruin the mood,” I say bullshit. Bullshit bullshit.

Do you know what does ruin the mood? Rape.

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  • I tend to say I was taken advantage of rather than raped. But I did say no and I did not want what was happening. I was just too drunk to do anything about it. I’ve heard that if a girl is completely drunk and a guy is not and has sex with her it is rape. It was the horrible incident that changed the path of my whole life.

    • Intoxication does bring another layer into this conversation, and one that I hesitated to discuss– but I think the principle of consent still applies. Just because I decided to get drunk does not mean I decided to have sex– and that getting drunk somehow means I should just expect whatever happens. No.

      Men and women need to respect autonomy and boundaries, no matter how intoxicated someone is. Explicitly asking “do you want to have sex with me?” will clear up a bunch of this supposed “gray area.” There’s things like the “Good Men Project” that have articles like “I didn’t know I was raping that woman, it was an accident” are ridiculous. And it’s because we don’t talk about consent. Ask for and gain an explicit yes. Anything less isn’t consent, especially when one or both of you are drunk.

      I think its especially horrific that our culture thinks it’s somehow “not real rape” for women who were raped while intoxicated– that it’s somehow not “as real.” It’s worse. I especially think the whole “get her drunk” concept is disgusting.

      • Yes and the “get her drunk” concept is laughed about on television and commented in casual conversation. I did say “no” when I was drunk, however.

        • It’s horrible that he went passed that. It never ceases to horrify me that some men are capable of pushing past a woman saying “no.” But it’s somehow all a part of this idea that women are all coquettes, and secretly, we actually want it, we’re just playing coy. It’s… so far beyond words. My heart aches for what happened to you.

      • Original Lee

        This is exactly why consent has to be a positive, affirmative action, rather than absence of resistance. If you’re too drunk to say yes, then you’re too drunk to give informed consent to anything.

      • Here’s a scenario. Both parties involved have had alcohol, and are heavily intoxicated. Both parties go to a room and sexual activity starts. One could even say that both are blacked out (not passed out) If you have ever been around a person who has ‘blacked out,’ then you know that telling the difference between a blacked out person and someone who’s heavily intoxicated is very difficult. Both parties engage in the sexual activity and can’t remember it the next morning. Both parties do not remember giving their consent.

        1) Is this rape?
        2) If so, who raped who?

        • If you look at the entire argument of my post, after my comment here I hope you’ll see that this is an integral part of my overall argument for consent.

          Rape is ethically and morally wrong because it is the violation of the autonomy of another human being. When you rape someone, you are ignoring their boundaries, you are violating their personal agency. That is what makes it wrong, and that is why it is a particularly heinous crime.

          When both parties are equally intoxicated and both incapable of giving consent, that is predicated upon the idea that they are not capable of making a decision. If you cannot make a decision (you do not have agency), then you are also not capable of making the decision to overrule someone’s autonomy.

      • Rape is ethically and morally wrong because it is the violation of the autonomy of another human being. When you rape someone, you are ignoring their boundaries, you are violating their personal agency. That is what makes it wrong, and that is why it is a particularly heinous crime.

        When both parties are equally intoxicated and both incapable of giving consent, that is predicated upon the idea that they are not capable of making a decision. If you cannot make a decision (you do not have agency), then you are also not capable of making the decision to overrule someone’s autonomy.

        Does this mean that both parties were raped? I think the very premise that intoxicated persons are incapable of giving consent is faulty, at best, especially when the alcohol was consumed voluntarily by both parties. I think we can safely assume that anyone who consumes alcohol is aware of its effects, and the possibility of potentially regrettable decisions that were made while intoxicated. Keep in mind that I’m not talking about individuals who are obviously not in control of their faculties… i.e. those who are passed out. I’m talking about individuals who are still in control, if intoxicated and making decisions that they most likely wouldn’t have made while sober. If an intoxicated person makes a decision, or ‘consents’ to an activity while drunk, they own that action and its consequences, whatever they may be. This includes making the decision to drive, get in a fight, yell at cops, or even have sex. The consequences are still there, alcohol or not. If the decision was made to have sex, if the consent was given while intoxicated, then that’s not rape. Sure, I grant that it will be regrettable, and even very foolish. However, to say ‘Well, I was drunk, therefore I wasn’t in control and wasn’t able to consent to that activity’ for literally any other drunken exploit would not allow a person to skip the consequences of their actions. Why should consensual sex be any different?

        To see my point another way (and possibly see another flaw in this line of thinking), I want you to imagine a couple that had just finished a bad fight. One spouse goes to the bar and gets drunk. That spouse, in a drunken state of mind, sleeps with another person. If being intoxicated means being unable to render consent, would this mean this spouse really didn’t have an affair, because consent wasn’t given? Would this reasoning fly with the other spouse? Of course not.

        I think to define consent so rigidly does a disservice to rape victims, and will only increase the ambiguity of what the law is regarding sexual activity. In fact, in some states, a woman can retroactively change her mind for quite some time after the fact and charge a man with rape (for what was consensual at the time). If there is such ambiguity as to what’s consent or not, then innocent people will suffer at the hands of jealous or crazy people who have a reputation to keep. One of the things I think is wrong with the law now is that society is so zealous in prosecuting sex criminals that anyone who’s merely accused of a sex crime is effectively forced to prove innocence, rather than have it assumed. Sure, there needs to be a discussion on consent, but to define it so rigidly I think hurts the cause in the long run. Does this make sense?

        In contrast, I think that the idea of ‘no means no, but yes doesn’t always mean yes’ is foolish as well. It allows for too much ambiguity.

        • I appreciate the nuance of your point, and there is a reason why I was hesitant to discuss intoxication, because it has its own particular set of problems. There are gray areas in dealing with the intoxication. However, when one partner is sober and the other is intoxicated, particularly when the intoxicated person is a woman, this is where we get into the need for consent to be defined this rigidly. Because, hopefully you read Nicole’s original comment– she was raped while intoxicated, even when she was protesting and saying “no.”

          That is what’s normal. Not for a drunk woman to give her consent and then regret it later– and then accuse him of rape. That is rare. Incredibly rare. So rare, it barely even is worth mentioning, since it’s not particularly statistically relevant– but it comes up in every single bloody last discussion about rape and consent. Why? Because men try to get women drunk in order to get them to have sex. They try get women drunk because they know that a woman would not consent to having sex with them sober. That’s what happens most of the time. Because that’s the standard narrative. That’s what’s normal. That’s the pattern.

          Which is why it’s incredibly… well, problematic for this “cry wolf” idea to come up EVERY SINGLE TIME A WOMAN TALKS ABOUT CONSENT. Seriously. It needs to stop.

          And, also– sober men who have sex with women who are beyond inebriated? Gross. Disgusting. They are excuses for men, in my opinion. Because it is commonplace for a man to pressure a woman into a sexual situation, and then push past all of her boundaries. It is NOT normal for a woman to consent to sex while inebriated, regret it, and then accuse that man of rape. That… just doesn’t happen often enough to be a factor in these discussions. And the fact that it ALWAYS comes up in these discussions is disappointing and infuriating.

          It’s also ridiculous to assert that a woman “cries rape” because she has a reputation to protect. Stuebenville is a prime example. Do you think her reputation was protected because she accused her rapists of rape? Nope. That doesn’t happen. Women who come forward about their rapes are called sluts, whores, they are sent death threats, they face constant and unending accusations about what they did to deserve it, how they were asking for it, how they should have expected what happened to them.

          I HIGHLY recommend that you watch this video. Highly.

      • I’m not contesting a definite ‘no.’ Please understand that I’m not questioning anyone’s ‘no,’ alcohol consumed or not. Understand that I am in full agreement with ‘no’ meaning ‘no.’ Absolute, definite, no, anytime, anywhere, anyplace. When the original poster states she said raped and said no, I’m not contesting that.

        I did some research on the false rape accusation statistics, and to be honest, it’s difficult to get any clear consensus on what constitutes a false rape allegation. Making alcohol consumption irrelevant, Depending on the source or study, stats go from anywhere from 8-10% to as high as 50%. I’ll use the following link from slate.com, which tries to answer the question from your perspective and from the perspective of the men’s rights movements. If using 2008 stats, 200,000 rapes reported. Of that number, using 10%, that means 20,000 of those were false. In today’s society, that’s 20,000 innocent lives potentially destroyed. So I have to disagree that crying wolf is problematic. Even given the lowest available statistic found, that is a significant problem. The problem of false allegations is very relevant.
        http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/jurisprudence/2009/10/how_often_do_women_falsely_cry_rape.html
        I agree it’s commonplace. I also agree that a man who buys drinks for a woman solely for the purpose of sleeping with a woman is wrong. I will also concede, for now, that false rape allegations involving alcohol use may be statistically irrelevant. However, at this time I cannot concede that crying wolf is irrelevant. Given even the lowest percentage of false rape accusations, that needs to remain on the table.

        I think I should clarify. There are numerous reasons why someone knowingly making a false accusation would make the accusation. Given the stats I gave above, those are 20,000 reasons for false accusations. Yes, I concede that women who come forward will be treated terribly by some. It’s inevitable. However, on the flip side, those who are falsely accused also suffer terrible fates. More often than not, a mere accusation in enough to land the accused on sex offender registries, land death threats, called foul names, and the constant unending accusations of rape when all of the evidence has not been examined and cross examined in a court of law.
        I think what everyone seems to forget is that anyone accused of a crime is to be presumed innocent until proven guilty. No one deserves to have their life destroyed from a mere accusation, and those who do come forward do not deserve the harassment that comes with it.

        • First of all, the only evidence that the Slate article links to apparently doesn’t exist anymore or the link is broken. So here’s this:

          http://theenlivenproject.com/the-truth-about-false-accusation/

          Look at that. Look at it again. There’s something I really, really want to highlight from this article:

          The difference between a false report (how data is counted and being falsely accused (the fear at the individual level). Lonesway, Archembault, and Lisak, the authors of the article from The National Center for the Prosecution of Violence Against Women, use the following definition: A false report is a report of a sexual assault that did not happen (i.e., it was not completed or attempted).” The report goes on to discuss the challenges of defining whether the assault in fact didn’t happen or whether investigators or prosecutors decide that it did not happen based “simply on their own views of the victim, the suspect, and their credibility.”

          That last sentence should be illuminating, because the reaction for a police officer to completely dismiss a rape accusation based on nothing more than his perception of the woman (and label her report as “false”) is an important factor in this conversation. And why do police officers dismiss completely legitimate rape accusations? BECAUSE OF SLUT SHAMING AND VICTIM BLAMING.

          And yes, being falsely accused of any crime is traumatic, in the truest sense of the word. It’s horribly wrong, I agree. But, for the context of this conversation, there’s something we need to understand: when a woman accuses a man of rape, and even if that man is convicted of the rape (which rarely happens)– do you know what the typical reaction is toward the man? “Oh, this is so horribly sad! He’s going to be on the sex offender registry for the rest of his life! Oh, my God, his life is ruined!” That happens, when the man has just been bloody convicted of rape.

          So yes, false accusations happen. False accusations are NOTHING compared to the fact that a woman is raped every 2 minutes in the United States and that only 3 of every 100 rapist will ever spend a night in prison.

      • Now in response to the video, I will preface this by saying that I cannot imagine what it would be like to be raped. It’s something I cannot fathom. I have personally counseled rape victims before (friends who needed someone who could keep their trust and not tell anyone), and it’s a very emotional experience just hearing about it. I cannot imagine the pain and anguish one must go through. I cannot watch rape scenes in movies or read about them in books because of this. The mental images overwhelm me.

        That being said, when it comes to ‘slut shaming’ and whatnot, it happens. Sometimes, it happens in very public cases. A woman dressed in skimpy clothes, who may be promiscuous can still be raped, and absolutely should come forward with her rape. However, telling men not to rape is like telling minorities they can stop crime or telling women they can prevent babies being thrown in dumpsters. This is very unfair to the millions of good men who don’t take advantage of women and treat them with the utmost respect. A pig is going to be a pig, law or no law. There were at least two individuals in that scenario who could have stepped in and stopped that man, one of them being a woman. Why didn’t she step in? Why didn’t the boyfriend step in? Her friend actively encouraged the situation and did not step in to put a stop to it. Why, in that scenario, is the blame placed soley on that man’s shoulders? Yes, the man committed the physical act, but her friend not only enabled the date rape to take place, but then have the gall to spread the rumor that she was to blame. Her friend is just as guilty of that rape as the man was, because she not only allowed it, but actively encouraged it. In this case, the man wasn’t the one who was slut shaming. It was her friend doing the slut shaming.

        Both men and women have equal responsibility to stop rape. Any woman who allows her friend to get raped and encourages a situation where a date rape is likely is just as guilty as the man when the rape occurs, because she was an accessory to the crime.

        • That being said, when it comes to ‘slut shaming’ and whatnot, it happens.

          Bloody hell. That is . . . so completely inappropriate and completely the wrong reaction. Not ok. Not ok at all. Putting “slut shaming” on the level of “shit happens” and then using the language of a shrug? What the hell, dude?

          However, telling men not to rape is like telling minorities they can stop crime or telling women they can prevent babies being thrown in dumpsters.

          I… just… wow. Just… wow. I don’t even have a response for that, it’s so horrific.

          Ok, moving on.

          I want to ask you a question that I hope is thought-provoking.

          Why is it that men (and, in my experience, it is always men) who come onto posts about rape and consent, and start talking about all the reasons why it’s not really the man’s fault– or at least not entirely his fault that he decided to rape someone? Or starts proposing examples and hypothetical situations for all the ways that a man could escape any kind of responsibility for being an in-general asshole, even if he isn’t a rapist?

          Why do men go around the internet arguing for their “right” to have sex with women– and maintain that they have this “right” even in the face of ultimate ass-hattery? What is so appealing to men to have sex with defenseless, inebriated women? Why does this question in particular almost always come up? What is it about sex with intoxicated women that they just want to continue having without thinking about any of the possible consequences?

          Why aren’t men joining in this conversation with saying, “hey, sex with women I met a few hours ago who are so drunk I don’t know if I got a clear “yes” is not sex I want to have?”

          Why is it that men jump into this conversation instead saying “I want to defend my right to have sex with women I just met who are so drunk I don’t know and can’t tell if they said yes and meant it!”

          WHY?

          And why does this argument show up everywhere even though most rapes are committed by someone the victim knows? Seriously– 73% of rapes are committed by someone the victim knows personally. This whole idea that rapists are strangers is only true 27% of the time. That’s 1 in every 4 rapes. Every 3 in 4 rapes are committed by someone who knows if the victim consented or not.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy

        “Get her drunk” has been around for a LONG time.

        “Candy is dandy
        But liquor is quicker.”
        — Ogden Nash

        Still, when at a party where you don’t know everyone (or worse, a Spring Break situation that WILL attract sexual predators cruising for easy victims), getting drunk is just STUPID.

        • It’s wrong to make a sweeping statement on that level, first of all. But do you know why people think it’s “stupid” for a woman to get drunk in public? Because our culture tells men that they can get away with rape because women are stupid for getting drunk, and therefore, they deserve what happened to them.

          Getting drunk lowers your inhibitions and can make you vulnerable– to both men and women, but that doesn’t make it stupid. As long as we keep perpetuating the idea that women are just “dumb drunks” and that “it’s stupid not to anticipate consequences,” we’re going to keep seeing women raped every 2 minutes.

          What we should be saying instead is “y’know what, RAPE IS EVIL. End of story.”

      • Bloody hell. That is . . . so completely inappropriate and completely the wrong reaction. Not ok. Not ok at all. Putting “slut shaming” on the level of “shit happens” and then using the language of a shrug? What the hell, dude?

        Don’t misconstrue what I’m saying. There will always be those who will attack the alleged victim, and there will always be those who will attack the alleged rapist, even if the all of the evidence has not been examined. Both parties will be unnecessarily attacked, and that is something that needs to be faced and recognized. It will happen, and the sooner both parties face that reality, the sooner both parties will be able to properly deal with it.

        I… just… wow. Just… wow. I don’t even have a response for that, it’s so horrific.

        So now you can see why telling men they can stop rape and placing responsibility squarely on their shoulders in a bit unfair and offensive to honest, good men who treat the women in their lives with the utmost respect, just as telling minorities they can stop crime is unfair to law abiding minorities and telling women they can stop babies being thrown in dumpsters is unfair to good, honest women. I hope that point has been made.

        I want to ask you a question that I hope is thought-provoking.
        Why is it that men (and, in my experience, it is always men) who come onto posts about rape and consent, and start talking about all the reasons why it’s not really the man’s fault– or at least not entirely his fault that he decided to rape someone? Or starts proposing examples and hypothetical situations for all the ways that a man could escape any kind of responsibility for being an in-general asshole, even if he isn’t a rapist?

        I never said it’s not really the man’s fault. If the man’s at fault, the man’s at fault. Plain and simple. That does not mean that he’s solely to blame for the incident, as there may be others who could have put a stop to the rapist and chose not to. Imagine a few bank robbers with a guy at the wheel of a getaway car. The robbers are the one who actively rob the bank, yet the driver is just as guilty of the robbery, even though he didn’t commit the physical act of robbery himself. He was an active enabler of the crime. It’s the same thing with the story in the video. There were two accomplices to the crime, one of them being a woman. Yes, the roommate committed the physical act, but there were two people who not only enabled the crime, but actively encouraged it. There was one man and one woman who could have stopped that date rape, and did nothing. They are just as guilty of that rape as the roommate because they helped enable it.

        Why do men go around the internet arguing for their “right” to have sex with women– and maintain that they have this “right” even in the face of ultimate ass-hattery? What is so appealing to men to have sex with defenseless, inebriated women? Why does this question in particular almost always come up? What is it about sex with intoxicated women that they just want to continue having without thinking about any of the possible consequences?

        I never once argued that men have a right to have sex with a woman. What’s at contention here is the definition of ‘consent.’ I believe we both agree that a ‘no’ means a definite ‘no.’ There is never a time in which ‘no’ means ‘yes.’ There is never a ‘right’ to have sex with a woman. I never said that, and I never implied that. The main issue is the actual definition of ‘consent.’

        This post, in my opinion, defines consent so rigidly that it makes it difficult to have any sort of meaningful discussion on the issue without someone being attacked unfairly. I also believe that to define consent so rigidly as this post has is to not be able to take you seriously, as they don’t want to be unfairly labeled or accused of nonsense, like claiming somehow men have the right to have sex with women when the man never said such a thing. It’s also unfair to actual victims of sexual assault, those who were forced upon and physically assaulted. It also opens too many opportunities for abuse.

        I agree that continued unwanted sexual advances or looks constitute harassment and should be prosecuted, but that is not rape. I will also contend that merely being intoxicated does not automatically remove one’s ability to consent to sexual activity. If the drug was taken unwillingly, as in the case of ‘roofies,’ then that is actively removing the ability to consent, and thus that would be rape. If the party in question is obviously passed out or not able to respond to a request, then a sexual act with that person would be rape. However, if the party in question willingly consumed the substance that caused inebriation, and if there is a decision made in the inebriated state, then that is not rape. I don’t know if you have been around individuals who have blacked out from alcohol use, but I will tell you that it is very difficult to tell someone who is blacked out as opposed to merely drunk. Would it be wise for a person to not pursue sexual activity in these circumstances? Absolutely! However, if consent is given when the intoxicating substance was willingly consumed, then consent is given. There is not another case in which a person could get out of a regrettable decision or consequence by claiming that intoxication removed their ability to consent to an activity. Consensual sex is no different.

        Why aren’t men joining in this conversation with saying, “hey, sex with women I met a few hours ago who are so drunk I don’t know if I got a clear “yes” is not sex I want to have?”
        Why is it that men jump into this conversation instead saying “I want to defend my right to have sex with women I just met who are so drunk I don’t know and can’t tell if they said yes and meant it!”

        There are entire campaigns in the military and college campuses around the country that actively encourage waiting for sobriety to ask for sex. Yes, seeing the douchebag on TV or the jock putting as much pressure as possible on that drunk woman is unconscionable, but most men are not like that, and they are not arguing that they have a right to have sex with that woman. Ask most men, and they will agree with you that a ‘no’ mean ‘no.’ They will agree that there is no circumstance that a ‘no’ means ‘yes.’ However, I believe one can argue that merely being intoxicated does not automatically remove the ability to consent without having their argument twisted unfairly. Not one time have I argued that having sex with a woman is a right. To say ‘being intoxicated doesn’t mean unable to consent’ is not saying ‘I have a right to have sex with that woman.’ That does not treat the person making the argument with respect, nor does properly address what is actually being said.

        And why does this argument show up everywhere even though most rapes are committed by someone the victim knows? Seriously– 73% of rapes are committed by someone the victim knows personally. This whole idea that rapists are strangers is only true 27% of the time. That’s 1 in every 4 rapes. Every 3 in 4 rapes are committed by someone who knows if the victim consented or not.

        I hesitated to use any official sources because any official statistics regarding rape and sexual assault vary widely from source to source. I used the link I did as a base to merely make a point that false allegations are not statistically irrelevant. Any hard stats given are going to be taken with a grain of salt, as there are very few official sources that agree with each other. There are trends and noticeable patterns, like the majority of assaults occurring from someone the victim knows. Personally, I believe it comes up so often when discussing rape because there needs to be a response to what actually constitutes rape and what does not constitute rape. If there is only one party that is allowed to define what rape and sexual assault actually is, then that only opens the door to potential abuse of the system and will allow the unfair prosecution of innocent individuals. There is a lot of emotion involved, and that emotion needs to be grounded with rational discussion on both sides.

        • First of all, this will be the last time I respond to you. After this, I’m done dealing with you.

          You assert that “there will always be unnecessary attacks.” That is a position that I fundamentally disagree with. Societies have proven over and over again that they are capable of evolving past things. Slut shaming and victim blaming is something that we can change, and I refuse to accept that “this is just the way things are.” I also think that attitude is negligent and damaging, and shows an astonishing lack of empathy. You’re not particularly affected by it, so I realize it’s difficult for you to understand or care why this matters. The slut shaming and victim blaming that a woman faces today in our culture is not comparable to the fallout a man faces by being accused of rape. They are not the same. They are nowhere near the same.

          The fact that you think that the definition of consent that I presented in my post is “rigid” and that it’s “unfair to victims” just shows that you have no bloody idea what it’s like to have your “no” completely overruled, in fact, told that you are a bitch for saying “no,” and then after being raped you’re called a whore. Rigid? I don’t think so. It’s the only way to have sex that doesn’t violate boundaries and respects each others bodies.

          And the fact that you only think that violent, forcible rape counts is appalling and disgusting. You have no idea what you’re talking about. None. At all.

          I also made it very clear to distinguish between sexual harassment, assault, and rape. I never said any of those is the same thing. Objectifying me and ogling me in public after I’ve told you to stop it is not rape, it’s harassment.

          I disagree with you on pretty much every point, and where I don’t disagree with you, I think you’re wholly incapable of really understanding what is truly at stake here, so I’m no longer “feeding the troll” so to speak.

  • This is an important discussion: we can still be drunk, dressed “inappropriately” and wearing a t-shirt from a liberal think-tank; and still, if we say “no” we mean NO.

    Anything less removes our ability to say NO

  • notleia

    One of my personal rage-buttons is the “no means try harder” mentality, that “playing hard to get” is the standard female response to romantic/sexual advances. I probably can’t come up with much to express my opinion of that besides swearing. I know guys who can come up with several examples of women who really believe and do that shit, as if that’s supposed to somehow justify the creepy-ass harassment.

    • Y’know that scene in Pride & Prejudice when Mr. Collins proposes to Lizzy, and he says:

      “That it is usual with young ladies to reject the addresses of the man whom they secretly mean to accept, when he first applies for their favour; and that sometimes the refusal is repeated a second or even a third time. I am therefore by no means discouraged by what you have just said, and shall hope to lead you to the altar ere long.”

      And then Lizzy says:

      “Your hope is rather an extraordinary one after my declaration. I do assure you that I am not one of those young ladies (if such young ladies there are) who are so daring as to risk their happiness on the chance of being asked a second time. I am perfectly serious in my refusal. — You could not make me happy, and I am convinced that I am the last woman in the world who would make you so>.”

      BOOM. Jane Austen had it right 200 years ago.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy

      One of my personal rage-buttons is the “no means try harder” mentality, that “playing hard to get” is the standard female response to romantic/sexual advances.

      From vague memories of my mother, “playing hard to get” was a standard cultural female response in the 1930s/40s/50s. Not exactly sure how widespread it was, or the demographic breakdown and history, but it DID exist. I’m not surprised there are women who still do it and men who use it as an excuse; it was apparently established for a long time.

      • No, no, it wasn’t. It wasn’t any more real then than it is today, or was 200 years ago. It’s an excuse men use when women say no, so they can continue pressuring them. A man who believes this is also the kind of man that screams “bitch!” at me from a care when I ignore his catcalls.

  • H

    The shared blame analogy is faulty, because the other people in the video scenario did not know the intentions of the rapist. The getaway bank robber knows what is going on and is an active participant. The video people are more like people walking on the street outside of the bank and thinking, “Hm, that’s kind of odd” before walking on. They probably should have done something, but they are in no way responsible for the crime.
    Rape culture is a problem because most serial rapists (based on interviews) believe that all men rape. When we are explicit about what rape is and that it is wrong, when we stop blaming the victims and blame the perpetrators, then two classes of rapists are affected: the so-called “accidental rapist” who did not understand consent and the serial rapist who lacks societal support.

  • Pingback: he would say I “cried rape”: false allegations and rape culture | Defeating the Dragons()

  • Colinde

    Wow, thank you for this. I don’t think I truly understood consent until I read this. It appears there have been some major holes in my understanding over the years. Good thing to start trying to get it all unraveled in my mind.

  • I’ve been reading so much about consent lately and this post and all of the comments were fascinating to read. The person you accused of being a “troll” – I’m on your side, but I think Nuclear_Theology is a logical person hoping to have a real discussion on these topics. I think dismissing him (or her? I don’t know) as completely so far from understanding anything or having empathy is a little unfair. I’ve seen firsthand my mother falsely accusing my father of assault – non sexual, completely different – and I fully acknowledge one of the biggest problems with all sorts of kinds of assault being properly treated in society/by police officers/people actually getting arrested – is that in a “He said, she said” case, it’s almost impossible to get “proof beyond a reasonable doubt”. When definitions of what constitutes “rape” or other crimes get more murky, it adds to the confusion. I was abused for pretty much my whole childhood by my mother in an emotionally abusive and verbally abusive way. Would it count as abuse in the eyes of the law? Probably not. And even if it would, without physical injuries, you have no “proof” that you were abused. So I didn’t dare risk telling my teachers at school that my dream was to never have to see my mother again. When I had to have foot surgery when I was 14 after a freak accident that broke and dislocated 3 of my bones, a nurse specifically asked me, as part of procedure, if I’d been abused. Because I could not dare risk if my mother found out I’d reported her as abusive, I said “no”. I felt like I was lying. I knew it was abuse. But without feeling confident that I’d be safe, I couldn’t report her. My mother was abusive toward me, my brother, my father, her new fiance. She was both physically and verbally abusive over the years. I understand the complicated nature of actually getting convicted of crimes, and the importance of innocent until proven guilty.

    The truth of the matter is, if a guy says a women physically hurt him, they will few the guy as weak, and able to fight back, and that the accusation shouldn’t have had to have been made in the first place. They will be surprised. They will find it hard to believe that women can be violent. If a women says to person B that a man who person be knows raped her, person B won’t want to believe her, because rape is equated with “murder” as one of the most horrific crimes possible in our society. It shouldn’t be treated the way it is, and it shouldn’t be so hard to believe that someone you know might be capable of rape. But it is. Just like it’d be hard to believe that someone you know is capable of murder. Then there is the added issue of how women, if they were *really* being raped, would have the physical scars of trying with intense physical effort to get away. But that’s not what rape is for most people. Rape is feeling like you’ll go along with it and hopefully it’ll be over soon. Rape is being scared of getting a physical scratch or bruise, so maybe you say no, but if it’s ignored, you don’t do more than that. Rape is complicated, and nuanced, and yes some rapes or sexual assaults are way “worse” than others, even if all are bad and unfair and have the potential to be traumatic. I think consent does need to be a completely enthusiastic yes that your partner is constantly re-checking to make sure you’re giving. I think overall the idea that anyone is called a liar or a slut or questioned in the slightest when they admit to having been raped is completely and insanely horrible. I just… idk. It’s a really complicated matter in some ways.

    • *”Person B”, not “person be”, whoops.

      Also, I’ve now read your new post on why the idea of false accusations being brought up bothers you so much. http://defeatingthedragons.wordpress.com/2013/07/31/he-would-say-i-cried-rape-false-allegations-and-rape-culture/ And you have every right to be upset about it.

      People should be believed when they report rape, or any other crime. But people shouldn’t be putting anyone on sex offender’s registries or convicting them of crimes either until they are proven guilty. It’s complicated, because innocent until proven guilty doesn’t usually stand in our society. When someone has “allegedly” committed a crime, usually it’s treated as if they’re already guilty. When someone has allegedly committed a rape, should we treat them the same way, or should we stop treating ALL only-in-the-accused-stage criminals as guilty and rather really live up to our innocent until proven guilty mentality? There is a common belief in society that people don’t lie about crimes. That if someone is accused, they must have done something. I guess that doesn’t apply for rape. Treating rape differently isn’t fair.

  • CR

    Thank you, for all your writing, but especially for this, for all your writing on consent. I was assaulted on campus at my university in October. I go to a secular school with a very high global profile, and an very liberal campus atmosphere. There are presentations at the beginning of each school year on consent, and sexual assault is a near daily topic of conversation. Even here, I’ve heard a lot of victim blaming, from my friend who told me that she thinks it’s “more complicated than just assault” and she “still chooses to be his friend” to my school counselor who never once told me what had happened was rape, and that she wanted me to take responsibility for it. It’s one thing to be educated about consent and sexual assault- when it’s someone else. It’s another thing to internalize it after an assault. It’s another thing to realize your once good friend raped you and you won’t ever get justice. I still live in the same dorm as he does. I reported a few weeks ago but they won’t move him so I’m moving at the end of the year instead.

    I wish I had read this much earlier, it would have saved me a lot of pain during my recovery. It took me a long time to call it what it was, my mother was the first person to call it rape, and she did so the second I told her the details of what happened. My friend who I had described the incident to in detail later told me she thought it was rape right from the get go but didn’t want to use the word before I did. It was rape. It was wrong. It was not, in any way, my fault.