This post by Nick Kiddle over at Alas has caused quite a stir. You can see Nick’s follow-up here. To summarize, Nick went out one night for the express purpose of picking up men for sex. She met two men (paratroopers), and went back to their camp. In the process of engaging with these men (it’s not clear whether or not they were having sex, or what kinds of sexual activities they were engaging in), Nick noticed that one of them was no longer wearing a condom. She told him he could either get another condom and put it on, or they could stop. He didn’t agree to either of her solutions. She put her clothes on and left. Nick writes:
If he had persisted, if he had penetrated me despite my objections, that would have been rape. I had consented to sex, but I had made it clear that condoms were part of the deal. When the condom vanished, so did my consent.
In the following post, Nick writes:
In my ideal world, men would not be tempted to commit rape. Sexual encounters would be handled with negotiation, not with one partner’s insistence on getting what he wants at the expense of another. Men would respect the desires of women to control what happens to their bodies, whether they’ve known each other for ten minutes or ten years.
And in my ideal world, the fear of rape could not be used as a justification for slut-shaming.
Seems reasonable enough to me. But it’s not so clear to some other folks:
There is a strain of feminism that encourages women to behave as if we have arrived in some feminist utopia where rape is impossible. This stems from a very admirable desire to put the responsibility for rape on the men, not the women, and is an understandable backlash to rape trials that used to investigate whether the woman was “asking for it”.
Nonetheless, it’s stupid. Not only are we not in this utopia, we are never, ever going to be in that utopia. Even if we achieved a marvelously gender-blind society, there would still be some people who want to have sex with people who do not want to have sex with them. Indeed, the variety of human sexual fantasy being what it is, there will be some people who are almost exclusively interested in that sort of activity.
Some of those people will be women. But biology being what it is, the only ones who will be able to act on these desires will be men. Rape is, of course, tied up with our social ideas about sex and gender, just as theft is tied up with our social ideas about property rights and economic justice. But it is not simply a weapon of the patriarchy; it’s part of the natural human urge to force other people to give us what we want. (And let’s hope that we don’t develop compensating political philosophies to “redistribute” sex to the less privileged). That means women are going to have to take action to protect themselves.
Not sure where Nick Kiddle said that she actually lives in the ideal world she mentioned; she clearly doesn’t believe that she lives in a feminist utopia, or she wouldn’t have been almost raped, and she wouldn’t have left the situation for fear of being forced to do something she didn’t want to.
I’m not even going to get into the discussion about rape being a “natural human urge;” five minutes of Common Sense 101 should answer all the questions about that. Ditto for the “only men can rape” argument. (Who’s anti-man now?)
Feminists have never said that women shouldn’t take action to protect ourselves. Quite the opposite. What Jane here misses is that rape prevention is complicated and nuanced; while it’s important to take common-sense measures to protect yourself when and how you can, taking every safety measure in the world will not automatically protect you from rape. We need to offer women agency and control, but problems arise when we teach women that if they behave in a certain way, they’re “safe.” What we need to focus on is teaching all young people how to figure out what their own limits are, how to assert those limits, and how to respect the limits of others. The conversation has to go beyond “no means no” — we also have to teach young people how to say “yes” and mean it, and how to listen when someone else says “no.”
The comments on Jane’s post deteriorate pretty quickly in blame-the-victim, slut-shaming, and even anti-male arguments (funny how they’ll argue, “Men are animals who can’t control themselves, so women have to be self-protective” and then accuse us of man-hating), so I’ll include the lowlights.
I have a college-aged daughter, and she finally understood that she has to live in the real world, which is like the animal world, and some men are indeed predators.
Personal safety and survival are biologic imperatives. They cannot be set aside by laws, activism, or cognitive effort. To believe otherwise is evidence of a childishness, not unlike the magical thinking engaged by second graders. Worse, to behave otherwise tempts Darwin, which is surely a losing proposition.
The extreme end of this line of thinking occurs with books like Are Men Necessary? by Maureen Dowd, or the book Adam’s Curse: A Future without Men by Bryan Sykes, who “uses the structural puniness of the Y chromosome to demonstrate that men are as unnecessary biologically as they are dominant socially.”
They convey the message that at best, men are irrelevant, and at worst, men are the problem, and women the solution. Feh.
Now, wait: “Men are the problem, and women the solution” — that would be pretty much what you said about dealing with rape a few paragraphs up, right? Just checking.
I have never understood the supposed logic behind the thought that men and women are exactly equal in every way. Because I was raised (in the 60’s) by fairly conservative parents who taught me that I was as intelligent as any male, I have always felt that the belief of the intellectual inferiority of females was the real demon. Yes, the opportunities opened to women because of the feminist movement are unparalleld, yet the specter of sexual assault is always in the shadows. Even the average 15-year-old boy is already easily as large or larger than the average woman, and already has bested her in terms of upper body strength -so there is just no contest in the physical sense. This is not at all to say that every man is a rapist, but every woman must approach situations in mind that rape may be a wild card floating around. While this should not be a paranoid and paralizing fear, ignoring the possibilities might ,indeed, be interpreted as “asking for it.”
Ignoring the possibility that every man you meet is a potential rapist is asking for it? Ladies, you may be as smart as any male, but you are not equal — how can you be if you have to walk around assuming that half the population might try and rape you at any given moment?
Sure looks like times have changed. What constitutes “rape” is being changed radically by the feminists. “Rape” as defined when I grew up truly was a crime of violence and not sex (e.g., as described in Susan Brownmiller’s book Against Our Will), but the feminists on that web site actually believe that they can engage in consensual sex and say no at any time and the male is just supposed to stop. Sorry for maybe being old-fashioned, but that’s not rape to me if the guy keeps going at that point.
All right, here’s my question: What kind of man engages in consensual sex, and when his partner says, “please stop” or “stop you’re hurting me” or screams “stop, get off me!” keeps going? That’s not old-fashioned, that’s heartless. And fucked up.
This discussion is further hampered by biology and evolution. At some point in our past, rape (defined as non-consensual sex) was common enough for women to evolve to handle it. That Scandinavian study (sorry, can’t remember which country) that came out a few years ago was very interesting. Women who viewed rape scenes or violent pornography became physically stimulated even though when questioned they expressed disgust or censure over the scene. There are several conclusions to be drawn from this. First is that women evolved to become stimulated when raped for sheer survival reasons. Second is that it is natural for women to have “enjoyed” the act at some subliminal level when forcibly raped, which I imagine is why not all women report forcible rape, because they don’t understand why their body should react the way it did when they were being forced. (Please understand that “enjoyed” is in quotes not because a raped woman actually enjoys rape, but because her body frequently acts like she does.)
Ah yes. We evolved to be raped! Lovely. I wonder where intelligent design plays into all of this?
I so feel sorry for men in these days…
Rape as a crime of violence is well known to us all, easily defined – but, like “torture,” it’s acquiring some postmodern definitions too, and they’re much harder to deal with.
Right. It’s all just like a fraternity prank!
Once upon a time there was something called “ravishment”. The term seems to have disappeared from our vocabulary, overwritten by the expansion of the use of the word rape. It is the non-violent act of seducing her against her wishes, and according to the bodice-rippers is ultimately consensual.
Honey, you weren’t raped, you were ravished. Doesn’t that sound prettier?
Because men know this–because in the real world “no” does not always mean no–speaking the word “no” is not the ideal way to communicate to a man that what is happening has changed from persuasion, or pressure, to compulsion. Men not only want sex, the male mindset holds that overcoming the woman’s “no” is part of manliness. Few men will rape if that’s what they think they are doing. Many try to push past “no” and tell themselves that what they are doing is manly persuasion of the naturally hesitant female. “Had we but world enough, and time/this coyness, lady, were no crime:” Andrew Marvel, circa 1650.
There has to be a better way than the word “no” to communicate to the man that he has crossed the line, and that better way must be widely agreed upon. Here’s my proposal: If the line is crossed, women should say, “This is rape!”
Well, sure, that would be nice — but sometimes when you’re paralyzed with fear, you aren’t so much able to make complete sentences after you already said “no” a dozen times. Again, men are not animals, and they are not idiots. If I’m engaing in any sort of sexual activity with someone, and they say, “Jill, no,” I’m going to stop. It’s that simple. I honestly cannot imagine ignoring them and continuing. And it’s deeply disturbing to learn that some men believe that pushing women until they stop saying “no” is a way to demonstrate their masculinity.
This Nick story is a case in point. She picks up a couple of guys in a bar, gets them all liquored-up, and then claims to be frightened that they won’t be able to exercise self-control when her whims change.
Is this chick demented, or what? Rape laws say that women can’t give informed consent after a couple of beers. Why assume that men are capable of perfect self-control in same condition?
First, her whims didn’t change. Their actions changed. The agreed-upon scenario was that they would both use condoms; when one didn’t, he violated the original agreement, and changed the scenario into something that Nick never agreed to. Second, this is totally miscontruing the law. Drunkeness is not an excuse for law-breaking. You can’t rob someone’s house and then argue, “Well I was wasted! Besides, women can’t consent to sex when they’re drugged or intoxicated, and so it follows that when I’m drunk, I’m not capable of perfect self-control and therefore I didn’t do anything wrong here.” Yeah, what?