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Jill has been blogging for Feministe since 2005.
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263 Responses

  1. Marle
    Marle February 24, 2010 at 11:38 am |

    It took me a long time to be ok when my husband told me he didn’t want sex. I’ve always understood, theoretically, that guys don’t always want to have sex and that’s ok, but it’s completely different when you’re ready to go and he’s telling you no. It is like he just told you you’re really ugly. It’s just so hard to take.

  2. Sarah
    Sarah February 24, 2010 at 11:53 am |

    Would you rather eat dinner with a glutton or a dieter, assuming you’re somewhere in the middle? I’d want to eat with the glutton, so I look less greedy in comparison.

    I think that’s what’s going on here. It’s embarrassing to be hungry (or horny) and be told “Restrain yourself! No, you can’t have what you want.” It’s embarrassing to be exposed as greedy.

    If men are (or are imagined to be) insatiably horny, then a woman can never be TOO horny. Whatever she wants, he wants it more. Anything she wants is mild by comparison to his enormous desires. If guys are supposedly all id, women have an excuse to have a little id. It’s a way to avoid the fear of rejection and embarrassment.

    I’d honestly be scared to be the “greedier” partner. Which makes me wonder how lesbians do it. Who would give the other an “excuse” to be horny?

  3. Faith
    Faith February 24, 2010 at 11:53 am |

    “It’s unethical, certainly, and inconsiderate, and you shouldn’t do it, but I’d argue it’s technically not classified as sexual assault (if you disagree, please debate it in the comments).”

    Well of course it’s sexual assault. No means no. End of conversation. If someone makes it clear that they don’t want to have sex, and you continue to badger them into submitting to sex with you, it is clearly a form of sexual assault. Is it the type of sexual assault that should be prosecuted? Perhaps not because it would be just way too hard to do so, which is exactly the way I feel when the situation is reversed. But I absolutely strongly feel that no means no and if you continue beyond that point, you are engaging in sexual predation.

    “For these women, being turned down for sex – even if only occasionally, even if only once – is read as communicating a whole lot of nasty things about them and their relationship. That their partner doesn’t find them attractive anymore, that he’s cheating, that their relationship lacks passion, that they’re bad in bed, that he’s not into women at all.”

    I’ve never had that particular problem. I’ve always assumed that if someone doesn’t want to have sex with me, that’s their right. That includes female partners as well as male partners. I assume that if someone doesn’t find me attractive anymore, they’ll let me know. And if they decide that they want to stop having sex with me, it might hurt depending on how much I want that person, but I’m won’t try to hold it over their heads and attempt to badger them into submission.

  4. Faith
    Faith February 24, 2010 at 12:08 pm |

    “Who would give the other an “excuse” to be horny?”

    Well, I’m not a lesbian, but I am bisexual. In my experience, no one gives any excuse for being horny or not being horny. If you both want to have sex, you do. If one of you wants to have sex but the other doesn’t, you don’t. It’s really not complicated.

  5. roses
    roses February 24, 2010 at 12:21 pm |

    For these women, being turned down for sex – even if only occasionally, even if only once – is read as communicating a whole lot of nasty things about them and their relationship.

    Yeah, this used to be me. The cultural narrative is that men always want sex and the only reason a man would turn it down is because he finds the person offering unattractive. So whenever my husband (then boyfriend) turned me down for sex I would think it was because he found me unattractive and I would be hurt and feel rejected and pout about it. He had to basically sit me down and explain to me that as a human being, he was sometimes tired or stressed or just not in the mood, and he deserved the right to turn down sex without me getting pouty just as much as I deserved that from him. It was really embarassing because here I considered myself a feminist but was buying into ugly gender stereotypes.

  6. Emeryn
    Emeryn February 24, 2010 at 12:43 pm |

    For these women, being turned down for sex – even if only occasionally, even if only once – is read as communicating a whole lot of nasty things about them and their relationship.

    That can apply for either gender. When my husband and I first started dating, we were constantly in bed. As the relationship progressed, my sex drive started to diminish while his stayed the same. He told me once it felt like I didn’t find him as attractive anymore, because he’d gained a little weight. Which wasn’t the case at all. My medications for my bipolar disorder had been adjusted and WHAM- I didn’t get aroused nearly as often. When we discussed this, the fears he had disappeared.

    But the point to that story is- never has he ONCE pressured me into doing anything physical if I’m not in the mood. Never had he, even before we discussed the difference in my arousal levels. Because he understands that No means No. It’s a simple definition that ANYONE should know, no matter the gender. And if you pressure someone into doing something sexual that they had objected to, guess what? You’re a sexual predator. That’s sexual harassment. The girl the Pluralist talks about is entirely guilty.

  7. ACG
    ACG February 24, 2010 at 12:49 pm |

    I found myself really thinking about this situation when I started dating a man who is considerably older than I am. I was used to men my age who were still in the “consistently insatiable” stage, whose sex drives more or less matched mine. But suddenly, I’m with a guy who just… isn’t. There’s nothing wrong with him; there’s just generally a significant difference in sex drive between a 25-year-old man and a 40-year-old man. But for me, in the beginning, it was confusing – what’s wrong with me? Am I doing something wrong? His last girlfriend was hot – am I not attractive enough? And while I understood, intellectually, that it’s a perfectly natural phenomenon, emotionally I couldn’t get over the idea that a) there was something wrong with him or b) there was something wrong with me.

    It kind of came to a head one night, about a month after he’d had shoulder surgery and his sex drive had fallen further because he was in freaking pain. He got an erection while asleep in the morning, and I thought, “Okay, fine, then, as long as I’m on top his shoulder won’t hurt,” and away I went. He didn’t object or seem angry during or after the act, but afterward I immediately realized what I’d done. And I realized that if it had been reversed, if he’d been pressuring me despite my disinterest in sex and had eventually climbed on in my sleep, it would have been a complete violation. You can’t imagine the disgust I felt when I realized that I’d committed sexual assault. And even though he never commented on it or complained about it, I haven’t gotten over it.

  8. Personal Failure
    Personal Failure February 24, 2010 at 1:01 pm |

    I think it is sexual assault, though not prosecutable.

    And yes, I had the same reaction to being turned down for sex, it made me frantic. Men *always* want sex, how disgusting must I be that I was turned down? And, yes, I didn’t understand exactly how physical (not mental) erections can be for me until I lived with one. When I saw that he would get unwanted erections entirely at random, I realized that erections have little to do with mental/emotional desire.

  9. Personal Failure
    Personal Failure February 24, 2010 at 1:02 pm |

    lived with a man, not an erection. sorry about that.

  10. Hugo
    Hugo February 24, 2010 at 1:13 pm |

    Thanks for posting this, Jill — and Rachel, thanks for writing it. Good discussion of an issue that comes up in almost every men and masculinity class I teach. Off to read the Feministing thread.

  11. Jadey
    Jadey February 24, 2010 at 1:55 pm |

    I’m only infrequently in relationships and never for very long (many reasons), but the only guy I’ve dated did throw me for a loop when he quietly informed me that he wasn’t ready for anything more intense then we were already doing (cuddling, mainly). I wasn’t hurt, but it was a paradigm shift. I was appalled and embarrassed once I realized I’d been assuming that because he’s a guy, of course he must want sex. I didn’t pressure him at the time (I was perfectly fine with where we were physically as well), but I can’t honestly say I never would have had I felt a reason to – my relationship judgement/common sense has never been high. I’m glad that he spoke up to me and that I managed to check myself and my assumptions – the insatiable male/reluctant female trope is incredibly destructive to everyone involved.

    Regarding lesbians, well, there *is* a stereotype about the so-called “lesbian bed death” and women who want to move in after a one-night stand, etc., which I’ve heard a few friends of mine attribute to sexist Western gender culture (i.e., women want relationships more than they want sex). Personally, i never learned about lesbians and gay women in my upbringing (I mean, I was a huge Xena/Gabrielle fan, but no one *talked* to me about them, so I was mostly in a happy lesbian bubble), and when my heterosexual relationship anxiety kicked in as a teenager, I was relieved to find myself attracted to women as well – less baggage for me to deal with. While I’m pansexual, my heterosexual attractions*, especially to guys who seem more conventionally masculine, are the ones most likely to make me panicked and anxious and respond in ways I regret later. I find my attractions to people who don’t trigger associations of gender stereotypes for me much less likely to bring out my own stereotyped behaviour.

    *to people who as far as I know identify as male, cis or trans

  12. CBrachyrhynchos
    CBrachyrhynchos February 24, 2010 at 2:11 pm |

    Oh, why did I click through to that painful discussion filled with apologists? And I get really frustrated with all these “is it really rape/abuse/sexual assault” rationalizations as if there is a hard line at which sketchy behavior is ethical on one side and horribly wrong on the other.

    If you have a situational or chronic difference in sex drive, there are things you can do to accommodate that from polyamory, to giving some solo space to play with favorite toys, to cuddling up while the horny person masturbates. It’s not that big of a deal.

  13. Thomas
    Thomas February 24, 2010 at 2:13 pm |

    I wrote about my own experiences in a post titled I Can’t Say No…. In part, I had this to say:

    I’ll cop to this being hard to write.

    I can’t say no to my spouse. In thirteen years together, I have not turned her down for sex; not once, not ever. If she wants me to top, I’ll top. If I’d rather bottom, I’ll ask. If she wants to be eaten, I go down on her, and if she wants to be fucked, we fuck. If I’d prefer to get fucked or to get a handjob, I’ll say so; she’s flexible about how she and I get off. I have no problem communicating a preference in how we’re sexually intimate, but … I can’t say no. I can’t just say I’m not interested.

    It’s not like she hasn’t noticed. She has said outright that she knows I’ve never turned her down. And that if I ever did, she would know something was seriously wrong. And that’s true. I wouldn’t turn her down just because I’m too tired or I have my mind on other things. I can always get my head in the right place at least for a quickie; I always have.

    In a way, it’s a moot point. The reason that’s the pattern is in part because I’m so hypersexual. Even as my body ages and finds its limits, my preference for frequency is much higher than what our lives allow. I pretty much am good to go all the time. And yet, it has occurred to me that our dynamics have evolved so that it’s not really an unconstrained choice.

    This is not a two-way street. She can be, and frequently is, too tired, or unwilling to give up the extra sleep, or just plain not in the mood. I don’t nag; if she says “no”, it’s a complete answer. Not that she ignores when I say no. I just … don’t say it. Not ever.

    The reason I bring this up is that I don’t know how much of this is my need to keep my partner happy; and how much of it is Thomas the self-described hypersexual kinkster. A certain amount of “anywhere, anytime” is important to my self-definition. And I don’t know how much of the rest is me playing out just the gender role Clarisse points out, and reacting to that role as my spouse projects it on me. But it’s not right to just let these assumptions hang around unexamined. So there it is.

  14. The Flash
    The Flash February 24, 2010 at 2:18 pm |

    Yes, Jill, many thanks for posting this. Good, even-handed discussion that gets to the heart of what really goes on.

  15. Henry
    Henry February 24, 2010 at 2:36 pm |

    I can say from experience that this is dead on. Being a “conventionally masculine” guy, there is an assumption that if I’m not immediately willing and eager upon request that there’s either something wrong with me (I’m gay, or less of a man in some way) or that there’s something wrong with her. And the tantrums that have usually occurred when I’ve declined are pretty intense, so in most situations I’ve just gone ahead and performed. And the remark about failing to come is accurate too. You’d think I just called her fat and said she looked like her mother.

    Interestingly enough, there’s a similar pressure to be acceptably aggressive in bed. Half the time I’m pretty certain there’s a sliding scale of manliness I’m being evaluated on. But sometimes you gotta play the role you’re assigned, I guess.

    “You can’t imagine the disgust I felt when I realized that I’d committed sexual assault. And even though he never commented on it or complained about it, I haven’t gotten over it.”

    I wouldn’t judge yourself too harshly. Relationships are complicated. There’s always that gray area of what Dan Savage refers to as “reasonable implied consent” in a relationship. Although I’d agree that if the roles were reversed it would be seen as worse.

  16. melancholia
    melancholia February 24, 2010 at 2:39 pm |

    Jill just nailed (pun intended?) my relationship. When I’m too tired, I get badgered by my girlfriend, who questions my sexuality, hints she’ll find some other way to take care of her needs, etc. etc. I’m a corporate attorney and work VERY long hours, sometimes weekends, and I just don’t always feel like having sex. Usually I just end up going along with what she wants because it’s better than her being all passive aggressive for the next week, and sometimes in a relationship I assume you just have to shut up and do it to keep the other person happy. It sucks but that’s life sometimes.

    When the situation is reversed and I’m ready to go but she’s not in the mood, I’d get told I’m being “rapy” if I tried to talk her into it.

  17. Jacquie
    Jacquie February 24, 2010 at 2:39 pm |

    This really hit home for me, because my bf and I have been talking about this very issue. I just identified myself as one of these offenders who can’t/won’t take no for an answer within the context of our monogamous relationship. Even knowing that I apply this type of pressure, and how unfair it is, I catch myself falling right back into the pattern…”oh, he won’t be ‘too tired’ if I just get him warmed up…” Thinking about it in gender-reversed terms could give me a lot of empathy for the bf that I now realize is a freaking saint.

  18. Laura
    Laura February 24, 2010 at 2:43 pm |

    I don’t see why it WOULDN’T be sexual assault, or even rape. There doesn’t seem to be a reason given in the post, just the statement and, I guess, the assumed reason that because it is happening to a male, it is “technically not classified” that way.

    I actually do want to hear the reason, I am not being disingenuous. I thought that one of the desired behaviors of feminist-behaving-people was that the benefit of the doubt is given to the victim, rather than placing the onus of proof and skepticism on the victim?

    Or how about, “It is sexual assault/rape if the victim says it is sexual assault/rape?” Isn’t that another one of the refrains that is important to avoiding victim-blaming? And letting people define their own experiences?

    You did say “I’d argue,” so I, for one, would like to hear those arguments.

  19. Hot Tramp
    Hot Tramp February 24, 2010 at 2:56 pm |

    How is the example at the beginning of this piece not sexual assault? It sounds like he didn’t enthusiastically consent — he grudgingly allowed sex to happen because he didn’t feel safe stopping it. Which is how rape within a relationship happens a lot of the time, no?

  20. Azalea
    Azalea February 24, 2010 at 3:25 pm |

    I’m of the mindset that it was sexual assault. There are have been MANY female rape victims who were self lubricated during or before a rape why is it hard for people to grasp hold of the fact that a penis responds to stimulation whether the person with the penis wants it to be stimulated or not?

    No one is a sex toy therefore no one should be expected to perform on demand or have sex with you simply because you want to. One no is more than sufficient to let it go and stop right there.

    I also clicked on the link about the heater and viagra and the comments section there really pissed me off. That man was raped and considering he suffered mutilated genitals as a result I’d say it was pretty violent.

  21. CBrachyrhynchos
    CBrachyrhynchos February 24, 2010 at 3:36 pm |

    I think beyond just “it’s rape/assault if the victim says it is,” that there is a layer of denial in which one’s own pain becomes inconceivable. As I grow older, I’m more and more sympathetic to Andrea Dworkin’s view that the way we construct sexuality and sex is deeply dysfunctional. We habitually brainwash ourselves into thinking that it’s ok, that we must have wanted it because that’s what romantic relationships are all about, that it was just meaningless experimentation or play.

    And our conversations about this sort of thing are utterly intolerant of ambiguity or mixed motives. We either want sex or we don’t. There’s no room for wanting sexual fun, love, and affection and getting manipulation, coercion, and abuse.

    I spent years reflexively making excuses for reasons that are complex. Even now, 15 years away from those situations, I really have to struggle with the conflict between realization and denial.

  22. Alara Rogers
    Alara Rogers February 24, 2010 at 4:00 pm |

    I’m glad for this discussion, because it articulates a lot of things I’d been thinking but never quite had focused enough to put into words.

    We all play out scripted roles — the script wasn’t necessarily written by society. Sometimes it’s family expectations, sometimes it’s the role your friends or lovers assign you, but whatever it is, you’ve absorbed it and you find it hard to break free of it, to identify yourself as something else. In sex, I think a lot of het couples have a script going where he is the one who wants sex all the time and she is the one who is choosier about when, and both of them feel pressure to live up to that role, so that he feels ashamed or embarrassed to say no and she feels embarrassed and humiliated if he does say no, and ashamed of being in the position of asking when the answer’s no. That script is partially written by social expectations and partially written by the patterns we fall into in our lives; the exact same woman who is embarrassed if her boyfriend says no to her might be perfectly comfortable with being turned down by her girlfriend, because maybe the script with her girlfriend is that the girlfriend wants sex less than she does.

    Wanting sex is a vulnerability. If you don’t admit to the want, you stay safe. But then you don’t get what you want, so feeling free to admit to your wants is a power. Society encourages men to have power in this area and encourages women to protect themselves from vulnerability. Make it about the desire for love, or the desire for babies, and it’s the other way around — women are encouraged to have the power to say “Yes, I want your love,” or “Yes, I want to have a child,” and men are encouraged to protect themselves from the vulnerability of putting that out there.

    I can’t break free from the need to protect myself from the vulnerability. I’m intellectually totally sex-positive; I know there’s nothing shameful about wanting consensual sex; but I can’t bring myself to verbally admit my wants. It’s not like my partner doesn’t bug me to admit them. :-) He’s always asking me what I want, but it’s so hard for me to say anything because making it into words admits that I’m vulnerable to sexual desire. And yeah, when he doesn’t want it tonight, there’s some of that sting, the “Am I too fat? Do I not turn you on? Is something wrong with me?” (Of course in my case I actually *had* an ex dump me after two months of no sex, because I was trying to be so understanding and not pressure him because I thought the problem was he was impotent, and it turned out the problem was he didn’t want me, so in my case I have reasons for those insecurities. But still, I know that with my current partner those reasons don’t apply.) I don’t verbalize those things either, though, because I personally can’t bear being vulnerable to jealousy or insecurity, and if I admit that I feel insecure then I make it real, and if I tell myself, “Oh, he’s just tired, we’ll do it tomorrow night,” I can make myself believe it. It helps that that’s usually true.

    I don’t personally think that a regular sex partner nagging you until you finally decide to have sex is rape, or even sexual assault, unless you did it out of fear; if you were worried that they’d hurt you or stop loving you or never let you get some sleep if you didn’t give in, it was assault, but if you did it because hell, if you’re going to be awake anyway listening to them whine about how they want sex, you may as well get an orgasm out of the deal, then no, I don’t think you were assaulted. But see, the only difference there is what goes on in the person’s head, which means there is no way whatsoever for the nagger to know if they are committing assault or not (if your partner’s afraid of you, odds are, they won’t admit it.) So the only useful way to look at it is to say it *could* be assault. And if you feel like your Nigel never raped you, you only gave in to his whining for sex because he sounded so pathetic and sad that it tugged on your heartstrings, then that’s valid. You don’t have to think Nigel’s a rapist or that you were raped. But you have to have a lot of faith in Nigel to believe that he’d have been able to tell the difference if you gave in out of fear. And if you *did* it to Nigel, you have no way of knowing if he changed his mind because he thought “well, hey, why not” or “if I don’t do it she’ll think I’m unmanly and that I think she’s ugly and I’m afraid of her having those opinions, so I better try to get it up.” So from the point of view of the person nagging… if you get to “yes” that way you have no idea if it was a real yes or not, and therefore you may have just assaulted someone. From the point of view of the person nagged, you know why you gave in, and maybe it was because sufficient time thinking about sex made you horny and there was no element of coercion at all… but you should realize the partner who nagged you doesn’t know that.

  23. Lindsay Beyerstein
    Lindsay Beyerstein February 24, 2010 at 4:27 pm |

    Alara is onto something. If you nag your partner for sex it doesn’t become sexual assault if they decide they’d rather give in than argue. It only becomes coercive when one partner resorts threats or emotional blackmail to get their way.

    In a loving long-term relationship, there should be space for negotiation/persuasion/seduction.

  24. ThankGoddess
    ThankGoddess February 24, 2010 at 4:31 pm |

    I cannot believe this is even a debate.

    NO MEANS NO. Anything less is SEXUAL ASSAULT PERIOD. What on earth does GENDER or SEX have to do with this statement?

    As long as we take the position that if a man says no, then it is not sexual assault or rape, then how can we even state with veracity that men are the main perpetrators of sexual assault? After all we’ve just dismissed all of those times men have been sexually assaulted.

    Further let’s move beyond NO MEANS NO and into YES MEANS YES. Unless it is an ENTHUSIASTIC and CONSENSUAL YES with NO coercion, it is sexual assault.

  25. Faith
    Faith February 24, 2010 at 4:43 pm |

    “In a loving long-term relationship, there should be space for negotiation/persuasion/seduction.”

    There’s a big difference between negotiating and refusing to take no for an answer. Negotiations about sex should take place outside the bedroom, so to speak. If one partner is trying to talk you into having sex and you don’t want to, that isn’t negotiating or seduction. That’s harassment. If you give in just to make that partner happy because you’re afraid or just unable to defend yourself for whatever reason, that other person has assaulted you.

    Even in a long-term relationship people have the absolute right to say no and have that no respected. If the other person does not want to accept that no, they have a serious problem that needs to be addressed by either discussing the issue -outside- the bedroom where the pressure to have sex isn’t so present, or by ending the relationship.

  26. Faith
    Faith February 24, 2010 at 5:06 pm |

    “But “Let’s do it” followed by “I’m tired” followed by “please?” in an otherwise healthy, non-abusive situation? ”

    I agree if it’s a simple as one please. But you move beyond that and it just gets way too complicated. That’s why I think it’s best to just accept the no and leave it there. Even in committed relationships, we do -not- have a right to sex and trying to talk that person into sex when they have already said no is behaving with entitlement. The intention might not be to cause harm to your partner or violate their right to have their no respected from the get-go, but that doesn’t mean that trying to convince them to have sex with you won’t cause them harm or violate that right.

  27. CBrachyrhynchos
    CBrachyrhynchos February 24, 2010 at 5:10 pm |

    But “Let’s do it” followed by “I’m tired” followed by “please?” in an otherwise healthy, non-abusive situation?

    Well, that’s sort of the central problem I find with both “yes means yes” and “no means no” is that it assumes that everyone involved has managed to get past the unhealthy relationship dynamics that are modeled as relationship ideals. I’d much rather see an ethos of care in which the awareness that we might say “yes” to things that are ultimately harmful to us gets taken into account.

    And this is where I think trying to figure out a hard bright line between rape and not-rape really hinders us. Putting out because a partner just wouldn’t shut up about how my grief and shock inconvenienced her erotic plans for the weekend wasn’t sexual assault or rape, but it certainly involved stupidity on my side and insensitivity on hers.

  28. Hot Tramp
    Hot Tramp February 24, 2010 at 5:14 pm |

    Actually, Jill, that’s exactly what you said: “I’d argue it’s technically not classified as sexual assault.” Hence the confusion.

  29. Sarah
    Sarah February 24, 2010 at 5:14 pm |

    I think anybody who’s been in a relationship has had grudging sex just to make her partner happy. Raise your hand if you’ve closed your eyes and thought of England when you didn’t feel in the mood. It’s a give-and-take thing.

    “Oh, all right, dear, we’ll have sex” is no more rape than “Oh, all right, dear, I’ll do the dishes” is slavery.

    I’m not condoning actual rape, by the way, which I understand to be forced sex.

    (Also, more concretely — I have enormous sympathy for “I JUST WANT TO SLEEP.” Being continually woken up when you’re achingly tired is torture. In fact it’s used as torture in many countries. By the time your partner is driven to screaming “LET ME SLEEP,” you should really give it a rest.)

  30. ThankGoddess
    ThankGoddess February 24, 2010 at 5:15 pm |

    Alara is onto something. If you nag your partner for sex it doesn’t become sexual assault if they decide they’d rather give in than argue.

    WOW! JUST WOW! Talk about triggering!

    Yes it DOES become sexual assault when you “nag” someone into sex THAT THEY DO NOT WANT! That is the DEFINITION OF SEXUAL ASSAULT.

    It only becomes coercive when one partner resorts threats or emotional blackmail to get their way.

    One of the definitions of coerce is:

    2 : to compel to an act or choice [was coerced into agreeing]

    which leads us to compel:

    1 : to drive or urge forcefully or irresistibly [hunger compelled him to eat]
    2 : to cause to do or occur by overwhelming pressure [public opinion compelled her to sign the bill]

    Notice this does not involve FORCE in all cases. Compelling someone to have sex when they have told you NO is absolutely coercion. It is RAPE and SEXUAL ASSAULT.

    This thread needs a LARGE trigger warning because many of us that have been there will feel sickened at the amount of rape apologizing that is going on here. It is simply unacceptable to hand anyone ammunition that places the onus on us victims because we said no, WERE IGNORED, and then raped.

    In a loving long-term relationship, there should be space for negotiation/persuasion/seduction.

    A *loving* relationship would not entail one partner “nagging”(coercing) the other partner into sex that they have said explicitly that they do not want.

  31. James
    James February 24, 2010 at 5:43 pm |

    Thought I’d weigh in with some personal experience. I liked Sarah’s comment the best, because it spoke to me and my relationship. As a twenty-year-old guy, it’s pretty much expected of me that I’d be ready to go pretty much 24/7. So yeah. I’ve had sex with my girlfriend when I didn’t want to appear unloving / unmasculine / etc or because I was too tired to refuse.

    But even worse is when I found myself physically unable to have sex. As a twenty year old guy, how exactly are you supposed to respond to impotence? My girlfriend sure didn’t respond well, getting frustrated and dissuading me from going to a doctor to get help.

    Of course, I get to the doctor and he says it’s a common problem and all that, but there is still so much shame associated with not being able to or willing to perform on demand for women in a committed relationship.

  32. La BellaDonna
    La BellaDonna February 24, 2010 at 5:48 pm |

    Okay, now I’m both concerned and confused. I haven’t had many relationships, but I WAS married, for a long time. I used to approach my husband sexually, only to get turned down every. single. time. I didn’t nag, I didn’t pout, I didn’t threaten, I didn’t even ask a second time the days or nights when I brought up the possibility; finally I just said, Well, I’m here, let me know when you’re interested. I DID finally say Do not come to me after midnight when you’ve been watching rerurns on TV all night and are FINALLY ready to turn the TV off. And he DID fight with me the time I said No, it’s after midnight – and all he had to say by the time the fight was over was “Well, we COULD have had sex by now!” Was I being predatory? Mostly my husband seemed to be much more interested in having other men envy him than actually having sex with me himself.

    I’m not exaggerating about being turned down; I was in the emergency room, dying (literally), and was distracted by the doctor asking me, “Mrs. _______, have you ever had sex?” He was serious and I was stunned, because I’d been married for over 20 years at that time. I certainly wasn’t about to pester him into having sex with me, and I did want him to want me. I didn’t grope or whine or anything that I wouldn’t put up with, but I admit that I’m feeling kind of anxious now.

    And as for the apologists on the other site? What the heck happened to the goal of a joyful, resounding YES!?!

  33. Ellen
    Ellen February 24, 2010 at 5:50 pm |

    I would just like to interject one little thing here: the one with the “no” has all the power. The more consistently and often that one person says “no” in a relationship, the more power that person has. As long as a woman is the “gatekeeper” of sex, she has a certain power and the less frequently she says yes the more power she has until one day her partner takes back his power and goes elsewhere. The same is very true when a man is the one who is consistently saying “no.” Only he has an additional weapon in his power arsenal: he has the power to make her feel unattractive as well.

    Here is my bottom line – if you are going to be stingy with sex in your relationship for no reason other than you don’t want to be bothered with pleasuring another or because you just aren’t into sex, then you really need to be very clear about that at the beginning of the relationship. You might want to start the conversation with, “I am selfish about sex.” And then you shouldn’t be surprised when your partner eventually leaves.

  34. Thomas
    Thomas February 24, 2010 at 5:55 pm |

    James’s comment adds a different aspect: penetrocentrism. I bristle at the notion that men are “unable to perform” if our penises are not hard; that’s such a narrow conception of what sex is. I like intercourse, and I like to come, but I don’t think the exclusively define sex, and I think it’s insulting to suggest or say that a man who can’t get an erection can’t please a partner.

    There are plenty of people who have fulfilling sexual relationships without having a cock. There are men who have fulfilling sexual relationships without having a cock. We are not our cocks, and our cocks don’t make us men, and sex is not just what we do with cocks.

  35. realitybeam
    realitybeam February 24, 2010 at 6:04 pm |

    “I’m too tired right now, let’s just go to sleep” =”no”

    He is sooo obviously not interested in going along. That there is even a discussion about what is acceptable after someone expresses a “No” makes me throw up in my mouth. Some of these comments are really scary. All saying “please” after the fact does is broadcast that you think that what your wishes are more important than the other persons. What is loving about that? This is assault. It ain’t jumping on a stranger with a knife, but it’s still assault.

  36. CBrachyrhynchos
    CBrachyrhynchos February 24, 2010 at 6:05 pm |

    I would just like to interject one little thing here: the one with the “no” has all the power. The more consistently and often that one person says “no” in a relationship, the more power that person has.

    It’s bullshit like this that makes me want to give up on sexual relationships should I ever find myself single again.

  37. James
    James February 24, 2010 at 6:09 pm |

    @Thomas, Amen to that.

    I guess my problem is more a personal one, more emotional than mental. I can understand it intellectually and even practice it, by I’m still affected by the prevailing notions of masculinity, and therefore feel this shame, doubt, and hurt, not to mention the constant pressure to perform in my relationship.

  38. James
    James February 24, 2010 at 6:14 pm |

    @Thomas, Amen to that.

    I guess my problem is more a personal one, more emotional than mental. I can understand it intellectually and even practice it, by I’m still affected by the prevailing notions of masculinity, and therefore feel this shame, doubt, and hurt, not to mention the constant pressure to perform in my relationship.

    @Ellen
    What if you are ‘stingy’ because you’re genuinely afraid? That you won’t be good enough, or not handsome enough, or are just generally a failure? I dunno, I guess I put out just because I figure something is better than nothing, even though I’m still ashamed.

  39. qfiffle
    qfiffle February 24, 2010 at 6:24 pm |

    When we had been together for a few months, my then-boyfriend (now husband) was about to move overseas. He stayed the night before leaving in a shared house with friends, including his ex-girlfriend. On the morning he was due to leave, his ex (who knew about me), crawled into bed with him and gave him a “goodbye” blowjob while he was asleep.

    For months I was angry with HIM for “cheating on me”. It took me that long to realise I should have been angry with HER for sexually assualting him. (Sure, he woke up, told her to stop, but she continued, and he didn’t press the matter, for whatever reason. But she still initiated sexual contact without consent.)

    I don’t really know where I’m going with this comment, other than to say that I’m sure one of the reasons I victim-blamed at first was that the usual discourse about men and sex completely disregards the possibility of woman as predator/man as victim.

  40. CBrachyrhynchos
    CBrachyrhynchos February 24, 2010 at 6:24 pm |

    @James: Or because we just had a fight and I need time to myself to trust you again. Or because I had an ugly day at work and my skin is crawling with stress. Or because a a loved one is dying and I need time to mourn. Or because while I thought I was into you at the coffee shop, so far you’ve turned into a real asshole in private. Or because I want to wait until we’re both sober so it will be more fun. Or because you’re obviously drunk, angry, or upset and likely wanting to do it for all the wrong reasons. Or because I need more time to do that particular kink with you. Or because having given that kink a good try, it’s a big turn-off for me. Or because I need more foreplay before we do that. Or because I’m so overcome with emotion that I need to be held first. Or because I’m rebounding hard from another relationship and need more time to know you.

  41. Ben
    Ben February 24, 2010 at 6:42 pm |

    I was all prepared to come in and yell about how continued harassment after refusal is totally a form of assault, but after reading your clarifications in the comments, Jill, I agree with what you’re saying. Sooooo thanks for posting this and getting a conversation going about this issue!

    I’m a victim of sexual assault. An ex-girlfriend wouldn’t take no for an answer. It’s a problem that doesn’t get talked about enough for exactly the reasons you mention.

  42. James
    James February 24, 2010 at 6:43 pm |

    @CBrachyrhynchos: My point exactly.

  43. chava
    chava February 24, 2010 at 7:18 pm |

    Um, if pestering your spouse about sex is rape, well, I suppose I’m a rapist….

    Seriously, ya’ll? First of all, there IS a gender difference here. Women are conditioned to respond to pressure for sex differently and more readily, there is an overhwleming power dynamic in society wherein we are what some radfems call “the sex class.”

    So a man badgering a woman until she gives in has a very different set of societal “scripts” playing along with which, yes, means that mean have to be MORE careful about getting that enthusiastic YES than women do.

    Of course men can be raped. Of course they can be in abusive relationships. But flipping the genders around and saying “would this be squeachy if the genders were reversed” doesn’t always work.

    Men should absolutely be comfortable about asserting when they don’t want sex. But I’m going to side with Jill on the idea that in a long term, committed relationship you KNOW the difference between the “I’m tired, meh”=”why don’t you try convincing me dear” and the “I’m TIRED”= “leave me the f** alone.”

    Further, if both partners in an older marriage waited for the passion to spark and the huge YES to occur before any sort of kissing or cuddling, most people I know wouldn’t have much sex. At least for many of my friends, we might not be in the mood, but are willing to try that first five minutes and see how it goes. That’s not consenting to rape, it’s being a good partner.

  44. chava
    chava February 24, 2010 at 7:18 pm |

    “Men,” not “mean.” Sorry.

  45. Sailorman
    Sailorman February 24, 2010 at 7:19 pm |

    but… in a usual relationship, we do things we don’t really want to do, all the time. And assuming that it’s an overall “good” and happy and safe relationship, there’s nothing especially wrong with someone asking for sex, even twice.

    In a long term relationship sex is.. well, just something in the same category as anything else. It’s got it’s own set of pleasures and such, but it’s just part of human interaction between two people. As someone said above, bugging me to have sex is no more trying to rape me than bugging me to clean up the dog vomit is trying to enslave me, or bugging me to work more is trying to kill me faster.

    It’s simply ridiculous to expect two people in an intimate relationship to ask every single thing politely, never demand, and drop ever single thing at the first “no.” And once you’re past that, what makes sex so incredibly special to deserve super treatment?

    It’s not like “OMG A PENIS OR A VAGINA, QUICK GET OUT THE SPECIAL RULEBOOK.” It’s just… part of life. Asking for sex doesn’t need to be so different from asking for a kiss or a massage; or asking for someone to remember your birthday, or to do pretty much anything else.

    Sure: SOME relationships, and SOME people, sex is a Big Deal. Yes, I get that. If you’re not happy with it, then it’s not for you. If sex is a bigger deal for you, then fine with me. But for other people those bright lines aren’t there. It’d be nice if my wife and I (and people like us) could proceed with our “I don’t mind if you ask thrice, or even stick out your bottom lip” agreements, absent the accusations of rape or rape apology.

  46. Tiara
    Tiara February 24, 2010 at 7:28 pm |

    As a woman who was recently sexually assaulted (by a woman!), I find it troubling that third/fourth/fifth parties are so quick to judge on whether X is sexual assault or rape or not. As Jill said, we don’t know the people directly, we can’t get into their heads, and we don’t know the dynamics of their relationship. Also, there are legal meanings, social meanings, and political meanings to those terms, and they don’t usually match each other.

    I called up an assault support line soon after my assault and when talking about the experience was told “No, it was RAPE. It wasn’t sexual assault, it was RAPE.” She was talking over me and it made me feel distinctly uncomfortable. I was still coming to terms with what had happened to me, still trying to work out where it fit in with the other experiences of assault and rape that I had heard. I did not appreciate her insinuation that she knew better than me, that she was somehow doing me a favour by making definitions before I was ready. I felt unheard and unsupported.

    So before you’re so quick to judge – think about the impact your proclamations have on the receipient.

  47. Sarah
    Sarah February 24, 2010 at 7:31 pm |

    @CBrachyrynchos — if we’re talking about a couple, who already have a sexual relationship, I’m inclined to think that sex should almost always trump non-sex. It’s my own taste, of course — but I’d rather have a relationship where sex usually wins (one partner says “Oh, all right”) then a relationship where sex usually loses (and somebody goes to bed blue-balled or -ovaried.) There are fair exceptions, of course. (I think physical pain, for instance, is a fair exception.) And a dead-serious “NO NO NO” should be respected.

    But basically, if it’s not okay to wheedle, you’re going to have a relationship with less sex overall.

    Also — a sincere if oafish question about this “triggering” business. What’s the point of a few feminist sites making labels like “This post contains triggers” if the whole rest of the world doesn’t observe that convention? If you have PTSD, it’s not like you can effectively shield yourself from all triggers. (I don’t have any first- or second-hand experience with rape, but I did have an acquaintance with an eating disorder and I tried and failed to keep her from seeing triggering materials. It’s impossible unless you live in a bubble.)

  48. Faith
    Faith February 24, 2010 at 7:50 pm |

    Good fucking goddess. Considering that this is a feminist site, this is one fucking scary comment thread.

    It’s actually bad enough that I’m considering no longer reading or posting on this site at all.

    Just fucking wow.

    “but… in a usual relationship, we do things we don’t really want to do, all the time”

    That isn’t a usual relationship. That’s a severely fucked-up relationship. I don’t know what kind of relationships you people are having, but I’m damn sure glad that I’m not involved in them.

  49. chava
    chava February 24, 2010 at 7:55 pm |

    Nooooo, it isn’t a severely fucked up relationship, it’s a real one.

    I don’t know what you think Sailorman was talking about, but I got the “taking out the trash, staying up with sick children so the spouse can get sleep, not keeping the house at 58 degrees because you’re cold natured” kind of stuff that you do because what you want MORE is all the other good stuff the relationship brings you.

    Yeah, the balance can get skewed and things can turn ugly. But I don’t know anyone decent in a serious relationship who gets to do exactly what they want at that moment all the time. Or anyone in a family, for that matter. THAT kind of behavior, in fact, tneds to be pretty disfunctional and selfish.

  50. chava
    chava February 24, 2010 at 8:06 pm |

    I don’t know, I’ve heard from friends with young children that even if it is mutually pleasurable for both, making the time can also feel like a chore for both parties.

    I get the larger point Jill is making though, and there are absolutely circumstances where badgering or pestering for sex and bad, bad bad.

    I guess I want to mention that at the opposite end of the spectrum are couples with a dynamic where one partner actually likes being “pestered” for the feelings of desirability and power it gives them. I’ve seen this anywhere from a playful, whatever dynamic to a fairly emotionally abusive witholding dynamic on the part of the person witholding, who may actual be in the mood, but says no for any variety of manipulative reasons.

    All of which is basically to agree with Tiara’s comment that generalizing this sort of area is very difficult.

  51. Lyndsay
    Lyndsay February 24, 2010 at 8:24 pm |

    I completely agree that we can’t make a judgment on this particular situation. We don’t know if he continued to say no and she did whatever she wanted or if he changed his mind. People DO change their minds sometimes. I think particularly when two people have been together for a while, often both people will not want it at the same time, at least not until one person has asked the other one or two times and done a bit of foreplay. There is a difference between “I’m tired” meaning I really have to get up early tomorrow so this is NOT going to happen and “I’m tired” meaning I am tired I don’t feel like it but I could feel like it if you wake me up. But of course just before sex, both people need to want it to happen if it’s going to happen.

  52. CBrachyrhynchos
    CBrachyrhynchos February 24, 2010 at 8:30 pm |

    @chava: Men should absolutely be comfortable about asserting when they don’t want sex.

    Sure, it’s not equivalent and there are different social scripts at work. But my current partner and I were handfasted and in our second apartment before I felt slightly comfortable saying “no” at any kind of level. There was the partner who responded to “no” with drunken abuse and suicide threats. And then there was the guy who thought, “stop” meant “do it harder.” And then, there was the woman who complained all afternoon that my grief spoiled her kinky plans for the weekend.

    I have no problems with compromise, and with being convinced. But for fuck’s sake. If I say “no” to anything about sex, it means two things, 1) I really, really, really, don’t want to do that, and 2) I likely trust you a hell of a lot more than is required for saying “yes.” If I’m tired, I’ll say that. If I’m busy, I’ll say that.

  53. Faith
    Faith February 24, 2010 at 8:41 pm |

    “Nooooo, it isn’t a severely fucked up relationship, it’s a real one.”

    Uh, no, it’s not. I get that there are parts of a relationship that aren’t always pleasant and that you’d rather not do. But if you find that you are always doing things that you really don’t want to do, that’s a major problem. Either you need to reevaluate your feelings about your responsibilities in the relationship, or you need to find another one.

    And as Jill said, there is a big difference between taking out the trash when you’d rather watch tv and having sex or giving someone head when you really don’t want to. The two things aren’t even in the same stratosphere. One involves getting your hands dirty, the other involves having parts of your body penetrated, or stuck in someone else’s body.

    As a mother of two small children, I can fully understand how difficult it can be to make the time or the energy to have sex. But if you can’t make that time or energy, you shouldn’t force it. Either it will happen or it won’t.

    I also fully believe that this whole conversation is only occurring because we are talking about women sexually violating men. If it were the other way around, any argument against the idea that it was sexual coercion or assault would have been repeatedly shouted down quite violently by now.

  54. BadSarah
    BadSarah February 24, 2010 at 8:44 pm |

    There seem to be two Sarahs around here so I’m the bad’un.

    About triggering — okay, I see.

    About mutual pleasure — even that’s not so clear cut. Is oral sex mutual, or is it just a favor that one partner does for another? Can you even have a sexual relationship without favors being done, just to make the other partner happy? Do we need to be so legalistic?

    There’s a gray area between “absolutely don’t want to” and “could be talked into it, if YOU really want to.” That’s what wheedling is for. Wheedling, as I understand it, doesn’t involve the threat of force. Wheedling stops when the wheedler hears, “No, I will not be talked into this, absolutely not.” Wheedling takes you from “meh” to “sure, why not?”

  55. realitybeam
    realitybeam February 24, 2010 at 8:45 pm |

    @Jill
    “Sex can be, and should be, a mutual pleasure. that’s what makes it different from … back massages.”

    I hope you don’t mean that like it sounds. Some level of unilateral sex is fundamental to a healthy sexual bond. “You look stressed. Would you like a hand job?” or “I missed you. Can I make you cum?” are the kinds of intimate expression that make a relationship. It’s extremely selfish to say,” Honey, I will pleasure you, only when I feel like being pleasured too. “
    Reciprocity is something you balance over long periods of time, not on a nightly basis. If both partners MUST give and receive every time they are intimate, one of them is a control freak.

  56. Alara Rogers
    Alara Rogers February 24, 2010 at 9:07 pm |

    I think it comes down to power.

    If Person A genuinely feels like they have the power to say no, and they can enforce it (not by physical force, necessarily, simply that if they stand their ground on “no” it will be respected), then if Person B begs and wheedles for sex, it’s not assault. Person A might give in to shut B up, but it’s done from a position of power, the way I might give my kid a cookie to make them stop whining for a cookie. They’re not *afraid* of B’s reaction, they don’t feel blackmailed, they don’t feel threatened — but it’s unpleasant to have someone you love begging you for something and not give it to them, and if you really, truly didn’t want to do it, you feel secure that you *could* say no and it would be respected. So you have the freedom to say “oh, fine, all right”, and it’s fully your choice.

    The problem is that so many people don’t feel they have the power to say no. Women may feel like men will abuse them (or, if they’ve suffered abuse before, they don’t even need to fear that this specific man will abuse them to be triggered by the idea of him being mad at them), or like men won’t love them anymore, or like men will go cheat on them, if they say no. Men may feel like women will think they are unmasculine, or won’t love them anymore, or will laugh at them, or will be deeply hurt, if the men say no.

    I get the feeling sometimes in these conversations that there are some people with the privilege of being Person A most of the time in their own lives, and they’re talking to people who have never had the opportunity to be Person A. And for people who believe, deep down inside, totally and securely, that their “no” will be respected, and that nothing worse than a little whining will happen if they say no, it may be hard to imagine that there are people for whom even asking the question “can we have sex?” more than once after a no could be terrifying. And for people who believe, deep down inside, that it’s very likely or at least significantly possible that their “no” won’t be respected, it might be hard to imagine *not* living with that fear.

    And so we’re talking past each other. People with the privilege of feeling that their boundaries will be respected are talking about giving in to nagging and wheedling and giving their partner sex when they didn’t really feel like it the way that parents might talk about giving in and buying their kid that toy when they really didn’t feel like it. There’s no *threat* — it’s annoying, but you do it primarily out of love, because the fact that the partner is whining for it means they really, really, really want it, and you love them, so you give in. People who do not have that privilege, who live in a world where repeated requests for sex have in the past led to rape, assault, physical violence or emotional attacks, are talking about that horrible sick feeling when someone who supposedly loves you is pressuring you to do something you don’t want to do and you’re afraid of what will happen if you don’t say yes, afraid of being hurt or being raped or losing their love or losing their respect, so you give in because the consequences of not giving in could be awful, and you feel like a part of your soul is being chipped away. These are *not* the same situation.

    But here’s the kicker. Unless you really know a person well… you can’t actually know which way *they* will take it. Sure, if you’ve been married for ten years, you probably know exactly what frightens your spouse, and if you’re a good person you don’t do those things. But if you’ve been dating for a year, you may not actually know yet that your partner is triggered by pressure to have sex, that they’re giving in because they’re afraid of what you will do if they say no, not because you genuinely persuaded them or because they feel sorry for you. So the *nagger* cannot know if they are committing assault or not.

    This is both why I support the “relationships are complex and you can’t just blanketly declare people who whine for sex to be rapists” idea, *and* the “if you don’t want to be a rapist, get enthusiastic consent or give up on the idea of sex tonight” idea. It is not rape apologism to say that for many people, under many circumstances, a partner begging and wheedling for sex is *not coercive.* It can be *persuasive*, either because they convinced you that it would feel good or because they made sad puppy eyes and you can’t resist the sad puppy eyes, but it is not *coercive.* But it *would* be rape apologism to say that that is true for all people, that begging and wheedling can *never* be coercive. And because this is true, a partner who doesn’t want to commit rape or assault needs to respect a “no.” Not because all people feel coerced if you whine and pout and beg for it, but because *some* people do, and many of the people who do will not admit to you that they do, and you could be inadvertently assaulting someone you love, crumpling them under the weight of your wishes and giving them no space to express their own.

    Only the person who was on the receiving end of the nagging for sex can say if that incident made them feel like part of their soul was chipped off, if it made them feel like their wishes were being ignored, if it made them feel like their partner didn’t really see them and like they’re alone when they’re with that person, if it made them feel like an object. If those things are not true for them, if they felt like “hey, actually that felt pretty good, I’m glad I finally agreed to do it”, then they weren’t raped. If those things are true for them, then they were. They are the only one with the right to say if it was rape that time or not — not you, not me and definitely not their partner. And *that’s* why enthusiastic consent needs to be the standard — not because nagging someone for sex until they give in is always rape, but because it *could* be rape.

    BTW, all this aside, if a woman gets a man hard despite him saying “no”, and then has sex with him although he never said yes, that’s pretty much unequivocally rape. It’s the area where one partner whines and begs until the other finally gives in and says “yes” that I’m talking about; the presence of “no” and lack of any contradicting later “yes” is absolutely always rape.

  57. BadSarah
    BadSarah February 24, 2010 at 9:15 pm |

    Yes to Alara.

    Personal experience:
    New relationship, it’s gotten a little hot and heavy, I say,
    “Could we please … not have sex yet? I’m not ready.”

    He says:
    “Sure, of course. We’ll wait until you’re ready.”

    I was absolutely shocked and moved. I was expecting to have to physically fight him off. It hadn’t occurred to me that a dude might actually care what my point of view was.

    Let me just say, it’s really, really nice when the guy does that. It’s considerate. Please, men, do that. And women, if the situation is reversed.

  58. Olo
    Olo February 24, 2010 at 9:16 pm |

    I find the use of the words “rape” and “assault” to describe the actions of the woman in the original Feministing thread to be . . . problematic. No amount of wheedling, slurs to one’s manhood, threats of infidelity, or sleep deprivation can remotely compare to the physical threat of rape, which necessarily informs every expression of male heterosexual desire. Chava@48 is right; women simply don’t have to be as diligent about verifying consent as men do.

  59. Sailorman
    Sailorman February 24, 2010 at 9:38 pm |

    Faith 2.24.2010 at 8:41 pm

    “Nooooo, it isn’t a severely fucked up relationship, it’s a real one.”

    Uh, no, it’s not. I get that there are parts of a relationship that aren’t always pleasant and that you’d rather not do. But if you find that you are always doing things that you really don’t want to do, that’s a major problem. Either you need to reevaluate your feelings about your responsibilities in the relationship, or you need to find another one.

    And as Jill said, there is a big difference between taking out the trash when you’d rather watch tv and having sex or giving someone head when you really don’t want to. The two things aren’t even in the same stratosphere. One involves getting your hands dirty, the other involves having parts of your body penetrated, or stuck in someone else’s body.

    For you. I’m able to accept that people are different from me. That’s why if you say “this feels like rape!” I’m not entitled to say “oh, you’re wrong.”

    You need to pay others the same respect. What you’re calling a completely fucked-up relationship is actually a very happy one, for me and for others I know. Don’t complain about people invalidating your own perspective, at the same time you’re doing it to them.

  60. CBrachyrhynchos
    CBrachyrhynchos February 24, 2010 at 10:17 pm |

    Wheedling stops when the wheedler hears, “No, I will not be talked into this, absolutely not.”

    Except that for most people, this is like expecting them to hear the conversations of unicorns, or the sound of water falling off the edge of the Earth. Since men are biologically incapable of honestly uttering this, it must mean that they are really saying something else.

  61. CBrachyrhynchos
    CBrachyrhynchos February 24, 2010 at 10:40 pm |

    Actually, if I say “no” to sex, it usually does mean I’m saying something else. I’m saying that I have other needs at stake that are more important than to be someone’s sex toy. And if expecting a partner to give a shit about my emotional health and well-being makes me a selfish person, then I’m the greediest bastard on the planet.

  62. chava
    chava February 24, 2010 at 10:50 pm |

    @ Cbrach– Yeah, I do think that you’re right on the money with the prevailing discourse on masculinity being such that many women just can’t “hear” it when men don’t want sex, or deem them gay, effeminate, etc for not wanting it. Or for that matter, many men believe they SHOULD always be up for it.

    I think this is an excellent example of why the construction of masculinity can be so severely damaging both to feminism and to men & male-bodied individuals.

  63. chava
    chava February 24, 2010 at 10:50 pm |

    Ok, I swear I didn’t mean to make that pun…. *winces.*

  64. Olo
    Olo February 24, 2010 at 10:54 pm |

    Alara Rogers @ 64: “If a woman gets a man hard despite him saying ‘no’, and then has sex with him although he never said yes, that’s pretty much unequivocally rape.”

    Is the guy restrained from leaving? Is he in fear for his life? If not, then no, sorry, Not Rape.

  65. Ryn
    Ryn February 24, 2010 at 10:58 pm |

    If I could give Alara Rogers a hug for her comment, I would.

    I have always been Person B. I have never had any form of intimacy I’ve enjoyed, even kissing, because all of it were taken not only when I was uncomfortable but had said I was uncomfortable. It also took every ounce of my willpower to say I was uncomfortable. I have social anxiety disorder, and combine those two with date jitters and feeling uncomfortable getting physical right away and things get messy. Sometimes that second no after the wheedling is almost impossible for someone who is so nevous and scared that it feels like their stomach has dropped out. I can understand how it works for some couples, but it doesn’t work for everyone.

    There are also issues in that, in relationships, some people think that things said shouldn’t be taken literally but instead as “read between the lines” deals. So many people think those boundaries you put up are not really there, can be ignored, or they try to stick their foot over the boundary to see how much they can get away with before you get angry. I think to wheedle or pout is to ignore the boundary set up in favor of your own interests, and while it may not be sexual assault it is still unethical and disrespectful to your partner.

    I would rather be left horny any day than think that I might even possibly make someone I want to have sex with uncomfortable enough to grudgingly give in. I’ve been there, and those feelings of shame, anger, and disgust are things I wouldn’t wish on anyone.

  66. CBrachyrhynchos
    CBrachyrhynchos February 24, 2010 at 10:58 pm |

    I’m happy to say that it’s not rape, as long as it’s recognized that it’s still a bad and shitty thing to do to partners in a relationship.

  67. Maia
    Maia February 24, 2010 at 10:59 pm |

    Alara – Thank you for articulating that – that’s exactly my position and

    In feminist analysis of abuse it’s really important to emphasise that abuse isn’t about individual actions – it’s about power. The same is true for sexual assault. The OKness of a lot of behaviour does depend on someone’s ability to say no.

    I think your point about not knowing someone else’s triggers is also really important one. Which is why the default should be to absolutely respect anything which isn’t enthusiastic consent, until you’ve done the work together to know that you’re not pushing their boundaries.

    I’m really disturbed by some of the deregotary ways people have talk about people who have boundaries about sex in this thread.

  68. CBrachyrhynchos
    CBrachyrhynchos February 24, 2010 at 11:09 pm |

    And by the technicolor yawn of Bacchus, how far is the belief that people should put out in relationships away from the belief that women should put out if he pays for the dinner on the continuum?

  69. chava
    chava February 24, 2010 at 11:24 pm |

    Um, I dunno about Bacchus, but I find it very different…

    When you get enter into a long term legal and/or emotional committment you presumably talked about your sexual expectations beforehand (or you should have), and I do think you have a responsibility to meet those expectations, within reason, and subject to life developments later. Pressuring a grief stricken partner into sex is absolutely a shit thing to do, I don’t hear anyone disputing that here!

    That’s a far cry from the “he bought me the lobster so I’ll give it up” thing.

  70. Azalea
    Azalea February 24, 2010 at 11:26 pm |

    Why are we using misogny to excuse coercing a male into sex?

    Men aren’t sex toys, if you are conditioned to believe that, the problem is what you’ve been conditioned to believe- not him saying no and refusing to be your sex machine. People are not robots – we’re all human and we’re all entitled to not being into sex at any given moment or time. Being in a committed relationship doesn’t mean you lose your right to say no to sex – it doesn’t matter what your gender is- bodily autonomy doesn’t go flying out of the window when you get into a serious relationship.

    No one would dare insinuate that its a wife’s duty to have sex with her husband even if she doesn’t want to or she’s selfish and a bad wife, so why do it to men? Because society tells you to?

  71. Bushfire
    Bushfire February 24, 2010 at 11:45 pm |

    It is really disgusting, shocking and disturbing that some of you think that forcing sex on a person that he does not want is not sexual assault.

  72. Erin
    Erin February 24, 2010 at 11:59 pm |

    Wow, Olo. That was really well thought out and really well argued. Good job. You totally convinced everyone.

  73. Athenia
    Athenia February 25, 2010 at 12:12 am |

    I haven’t had a significant other turn me down yet, but I can imagine if that did happen, I’d probably pout and be unhappy. I wouldn’t doubt their love for me, or think they’re unmasculine–but I think if it happened frequently, I’d get resentful. My sex drive ebbs and flows, one week I’ll be ready every day whereas the next week, it might be a struggle. I fully expect that my partner will have a higher sex drive than me so I fully expect to have sex when I’m not 100% into it. So when they turn me down, it’s just not a rejection of me, but that’s one less orgasm/fulfilling sexual experience for me and who knows when I’ll feel that way again.

  74. karak
    karak February 25, 2010 at 2:36 am |

    My definition of sexual assault includes fear, pain, coercion, disempowerment and a fear of the consequences of not having sex. I do believe in a grey area for sex, and I also believe that one person’s rape is another person’s forgettable night.

    I’ve never been rejected for sex because my significant other just was not in the mood for sex. I have, however, bought into the myth that men cannot be affectionate without desiring sex. This has led to problems between me and my very cuddly boyfriend–mainly of the variety that I *think* he’s trying to pressure me into sex when he *really* just wants a kiss and a hug.

  75. ThankGoddess
    ThankGoddess February 25, 2010 at 2:46 am |

    Faith 2.24.2010 at 7:50 pm
    Good fucking goddess. Considering that this is a feminist site, this is one fucking scary comment thread.

    It’s actually bad enough that I’m considering no longer reading or posting on this site at all.

    Just fucking wow.

    “but… in a usual relationship, we do things we don’t really want to do, all the time”

    That isn’t a usual relationship. That’s a severely fucked-up relationship. I don’t know what kind of relationships you people are having, but I’m damn sure glad that I’m not involved in them.

    THIS!

    It is because of ridiculous double standards like this that I have such a hard fight when I try to explain WHY I AM A FEMINIST to people. Men and women all of the time bring up arguments like these and I have to explain that feminists are for EQUALITY. There are NO DIFFERENCES between men and women. I no longer even recommend ANY feminist sites to anyone because of this kind of nonsense.

    NO MEANS NO except when it doesn’t????????

    UNREAL!

  76. Chally
    Chally February 25, 2010 at 2:54 am |

    Olo @73 Being restrained and being in fear of one’s life are not prerequisites for rape.

    This thread is really something else.

  77. S.L
    S.L February 25, 2010 at 3:06 am |

    “I also fully believe that this whole conversation is only occurring because we are talking about women sexually violating men. If it were the other way around, any argument against the idea that it was sexual coercion or assault would have been repeatedly shouted down quite violently by now.”

    You are absolutely right. Because in reality…the power is not balanced. You can’t flip it and say….what if it was a woman? Do you know how likely it is that a woman will be raped? Okay…do you know how likely it is for a man?

    The point is, women are more likely to feel uncomfortable saying no because damn, there is a 1 in 4 chance that at some point, whoever she is saying no to will not respect it. I would most certainly expect those who are looking at this through a feminist lens to point out that there are these things we call hierachies and division of power.

  78. S.L
    S.L February 25, 2010 at 3:06 am |

    Was it assault? I don’t know enough of the details. But I have had situations like:
    Him: Sweetie are you going to sleep?
    Me: yes
    Him: But…(kiss kiss)
    Me: I’m tired babes, let’s wait until morning
    Him: But I want you/you look pretty/….(or something)
    Me: ok.. Because i do enjoy sex with him, and because he is a pretty amazing person who goes out of his way to do things for me ALL the time and I love him and I like to make him happy. Not because I’m fearful. Because if you fear your boyfriend then he should not be your boyfriend. And if you are in a relationship that produces this type of fear….then THAT is the problem. Not someone asking more than once for sex.

    Some of you are treading a slippery slope.

  79. S.L
    S.L February 25, 2010 at 3:39 am |

    Sorry…I realize I post at the weirdest hours….

    “There are NO DIFFERENCES between men and women.”

    Um…that’s not exactly what i learned about feminst theory from the feminist academics. While I’m sure some feminists may agree I know that all of them don’t. I’m not even talking about biological differences. I’m talking about social differences. I mean…there isn’t much biologically different between whites and blacks, or rich and poor – but socially there IS a difference. A black woman may perceive something differently than a white woman because her views are different and the way SHE is viewed as different. Oh wait…the feminist movement already learned that. No, experiences are NOT the same for everyone. There IS a difference. That’s what I was saying. I sincerely doubt anyone is suggesting that sexual assault is okay. I know I’m not. I take it seriously.

    This is about the idea that an experience should be universal. I mean…seriously? It’s all the same for everyone, regardless of gender, sex, race, sexual orientation, etc???? I call bullsh** and I’m pretty sure the feminist movement already went down this “it’s all the same for everyone” and dismissing the fact that different people experience things differently. How did that work out?

  80. kaninchenzero
    kaninchenzero February 25, 2010 at 3:48 am |

    Fifteen years ago I was raped by my partner. I’m trans* and mostly identify as a woman (it’s complicated). At that time I hadn’t done anything about transition except research; my partner thought of me as male though she I’d told her I was trans* and planned, eventually, to transition. I thought of myself, then, as mostly androgynous.

    She didn’t wheedle, she didn’t nag, she didn’t say anything at all — so definitely no “Do you want this?” I was in bed reading. She came in and yanked my shorts down and. When she was finished she walked away.

    I didn’t say anything. I didn’t move. Couldn’t. Couldn’t believe what was happening. Did not like any part of it. Did not want it to be happening. Wanted it to have not happened when it was over. But I did know it wasn’t rape. Olo’s reasons were among my favorites.

    For most of the last fifteen years I believed that. I’ve written about what got me thinking about it.

    Olo? I already have more shame and guilt and emotional self-harm around this than I know what to do with. Please keep any more you’ve got to yourself, won’t you?

  81. S.L
    S.L February 25, 2010 at 3:50 am |

    And for the person who pointed out that in relationships you don’t always get what you want or do things that you dont want to…

    I agree and that is what I call give and take. Not f***** up or unhealthy. And I don’t just mean romantic relationships. I mean all of them. I didn’t exactly want to /take out the trash/help sister with homework/make copies for a friend/run errands for my mom when I was tired/ if by want you mean “super thrilled and excited and can’t think of a better way to spend my time” I don’t know that my mom wanted to run to the library for me/sister helped me get ready for event when she wasn’t feeling well b/c she knew I needed help, etc if that’s your definition. We do these things because we love each other and we want to do things. Even when we don’t, if that makes sense.

    Apologies if this is less than clear. I’m trying to be clear, and I’m trying to get adjusted to conveying tone online, and I’m exhausted. Great discussion, and I think this raised alot of interesting points. :)

  82. Faith
    Faith February 25, 2010 at 7:18 am |

    “The point is, women are more likely to feel uncomfortable saying no because damn, there is a 1 in 4 chance that at some point, whoever she is saying no to will not respect it. I would most certainly expect those who are looking at this through a feminist lens to point out that there are these things we call hierachies and division of power.”

    I’m well aware of the reality that women are more likely to be raped than men. I also do not need an education about the power imbalances that shift the power unfairly towards men in our society. But the point is very simple: Men have just as much right to say no and have that no respected as women do. And goddamn skippy, if a woman ignores a man’s no and has sex with him anyway, she’s a rapist.

  83. realitybeam
    realitybeam February 25, 2010 at 7:26 am |

    @Chava #48

    “the sex class”????

    Hmmm. So the group that is scripted to always be “up” for sex, literally, is NOT the sex class, but the group that is scripted to have the “headache” and need convincing IS? Sounds fishy!

    While I agree that the physically advantaged partner (it could be bondage, athletic female) may need to exercise lots of caution in specific intimate situations the idea that consent is “men’s work” is really absurd and offensive.

    If “I’m too tired right now, let’s just go to sleep” means a male partner should stop, then it also means a female partner should stop as well.

    I am not OK with double standards. This example has nothing to do with “male” reality vs “female” reality. Stop rationalizing.

  84. Natalie
    Natalie February 25, 2010 at 7:52 am |

    I really think a lot of these comments are missing the point.

    Sex is one of the most fraught things we humans do, and the heavily invested myths about male and female desire are what make the prevalence of dubious consent situations possible, as well as making them “debatable.”

    If we didn’t tell ourselves that men always want sex and are always ready for it, and if he’s not it’s a judgment on his partner, then men would feel free to say no and women would be able hear no without feeling judged.

    If we didn’t tell ourselves that women always want sex less often than male partners and that sex is always a bargaining chip to get something else then women wouldn’t feel humiliated for wanting sex at a time when a man doesn’t want it.

    I understand how coercion happens, but I think in an ideal world it wouldn’t. Ever.

  85. Clare
    Clare February 25, 2010 at 8:27 am |

    I cannot believe we’re having a conversation about giving in to sex because your partner might go to sleep without getting off and that being ohnoes unloving on the part of the person saying no. What is wrong with masturbation (for example with the non-horny partner spooning the partner getting themselves off)? I am with all the commenters who say that ‘occasionally having to be persuaded to do things we don’t want to in a relationship’ DOES NOT include sex (I agree that there is give and take and that we should all take the trash out and help each other, but I draw a line when it comes to our bodies and our personal space). Yes, a sex life is important to many (but not all; please let’s not forget asexual people for whom the dating game must be far more complicated to navigate) couples, but this thread is so triggering for me, because I’ve been in a relationship which involved sexual wheedling on the part of my partner, I did lie back and think of England, and IT WAS NOT NORMAL OR HEALTHY. Wheedling in the sense of ‘oh please, go on, I really want to and I want to feel that you love me’ – no fear involved, apart from perhaps the fear of being judged as an unloving girlfriend, but just a hell of a lack of respect for my needs and boundaries. Having, or even wanting that kind of entitlement over another person is so far removed from my concept of a loving relationship that I don’t know where to start reconciling the two. Being turned down for sex by your partner does not imply lack of love, or lack of consideration, or lack of give and take in a healthy relationship, and if I ever find myself in a relationship in the future where sex is done out of anything other than mutual desire, then that’ll be me you’ll see run screaming for the hills. And that includes whatever expectations about sex that you’ve ‘agreed to fulfil’ on entering the relationship; this comes ickily close to ‘men can’t rape their wives’, whether that meaning was intentional or not.

    In my present relationship, we generally always seek an active ‘yes’. I can think of only one time where my partner asked for sex, and I turned him down before changing my mind (I was too tired, and so we hugged and talked for a bit, and then I got into the mood and we ended up having sex). I think this fits the definition of ‘no’->’please?’->’oh OK’ that Jill mentioned, but I’d add that it really doesn’t take more than two seconds to check ‘is this OK, how do you feel about having sex now?’ and move forward with that, rather than assuming consent, particularly if the last actual word they said on the matter was ‘no’.

    There is a hierachy of these things, and one partner’s desire for sex should never trump someone else’s bodily autonomy. There are other ways of showing somebody that you love them.

  86. realitybeam
    realitybeam February 25, 2010 at 9:14 am |

    “and it doesn’t have much to do with who is expected to have sex.”

    I know the term. I made my comment, because of how “sex class” is being applied here. The initial example was a couple where the male partner said “I’m too tired right now, let’s just go to sleep” and the female partner continued anyway. This was not a discussion about who is expected to get coffee in corporate America, but who is expected to say “Yes” every time… to sex.

    Several comments about this man and those often made by our society concerning “loose women” in similar situations are eerily parallel. I guess male or female if you are viewed as “always wanting sex” plenty of people will feel you don’t get to say “no”.

  87. kaninchenzero
    kaninchenzero February 25, 2010 at 9:31 am |

    For me, I was working off the idea that mostly women were raped and at the time I wasn’t one and the kinds of rape men were victims of (I wasn’t a man either but in that context it’s close enough) weren’t anything like what happened to me.

    I knew at the time that some small fraction of rapists were not cis men but my concept of that was a person who used an instrument to penetrate, force or the threat of it to gain compliance, or used drugs or restraints to incapacitate. None of that was what my ex did, so it wasn’t rape. I knew intimate partner rape was common but only in the context of cis men raping lovers and wives. Very rarely someone not a cis man might rape a lover or husband and even then, it fit the conditions above. It took fifteen years and someone else’s story to get me to cut through all the denial and self-blame I’d built up around it to get to the core issue: I didn’t want to have sex; I never gave consent. She never asked for it, didn’t ask why I was uncomfortable. (It’s usually obvious; I’m very bad at hiding that I’m uncomfortable.)

    What I have the hardest time coming to terms with is that my ex could rape someone. Could rape me. I loved her; she loved me. She’s a good person. I liked her and wanted to stay in touch despite a spectacularly bad breakup and we did for a while. She even got to see me as me a few times, not as the person I was trying to be before, because it was important to me that she have that opportunity. I don’t want to believe this ugly thing about her. It hurts terribly.

  88. Sailorman
    Sailorman February 25, 2010 at 10:21 am |

    Is anyone else posting from work? Is anyone else working not because they want to but because they have to? IOW, you need the money for you (or your family, or for other things that you love and want to support) so you go to work even though you don’t want to?

    Wow, is that fucked up. You should quit your job for sure, especially if the reason you’re working is to help anyone else. because nobody should ever do anything they don’t want to do, ever.

    /sarcasm

    Going off of Jill’s request to return to the post topic: I sense that the wider you make the definition of rape, the less distinction remains between the sexes.

    For example, men commit the vast vast majority of physical-attack-type sexual assault. So if you define rape that way, then women very rarely rape.

    But if you define rape to include, say, “implying that you won’t love someone any more unless they sleep with you” then all of a sudden that includes many more women than did the first category. After all, the “I won’t love you any more unless ____” isn’t a “man” thing any more than is the desire to have sex, though there are differing social effects based on gender of course.

    And if you define rape to include people in a long term relationship saying “oh, c’mon, honey, pleeeease? i’m really, really, horny. Please?” then it becomes even more gender neutral.

    And if you define rape to include “anything, no matter what the relationship, other than completely dropping the request for sex like a hot brick at the first sign of anything less than fully enthusiastic consent” then it is going to include a hell of a lot of women.

    The important thing is that we be consistent in your definition of rape (or sexual assault) and your analysis of the ratio between men/women who fall into that category. One can logically maintain that almost no women are or could be rapists, and one can logically maintain that “anything other than 100% mutually enthusiastic sex is rape,” but one can’t logically hold both positions at the same time.

  89. mangotastic
    mangotastic February 25, 2010 at 10:28 am |

    Is the guy restrained from leaving? Is he in fear for his life? If not, then no, sorry, Not Rape.

    Olo, that’s probably the most fucked up thing I’ve read on this entire, bordering-on-rape-apologisty, thread. Since when did the criteria for rape become “you had to be afraid for your life” and “tied up to the bed”? You’ve obviously never met a male survivor of rape, or at least I hope you haven’t, because you’re just as bad as a drunk bro at a frat party high-fiving someone who came in dazed and confused because they blacked out and woke up to someone going down on him. Worse, because I bet you think you’re a feminist.

    And seriously, can we get a trigger warning on this thread? *Especially* for male survivors? I cannot imagine how horrific it would be as a female survivor to come onto this thread and hear that I had to be afraid for my life and be restrained to call what happened to me rape. I can’t believe my male survivor friends could come up on this without warning.

  90. chava
    chava February 25, 2010 at 11:19 am |

    @realitybeam–

    I was talking about power differentials with my comment about women being the sex class. One of the reasons I read this site and call myself a feminist and not a humanist is that I do believe women are that class in the world as a whole, and yes, I do think that given the existing dynamic, men need to be even more careful about enthusiastic consent from their partner. It doesn’t mean women shouldn’t be careful as well.

    The fact that you think men as a class are oppressed sexually is…well, different, and a little “what about the menz!” I’ve already stated that I believe men CAN be raped, that women SHOULD be careful–but that you can’t just flip the genders. It borders on offensive to me.

    Further, as numerous people have said in this thread, YOU CAN’T TELL from the details given if she “sexually assaulted” her partner. Many of us in relationships, on this thread, are pretty darn sure that our partners don’t feel assaulted, and we don’t feel assaulted when they ask us more than once. That DOESN’T mean that nagging or asking repeatedly might be triggering or very undesirable for some people. But implicitly calling myself and my husband mutual rapists/rape apologists here is more than a little disturbing.

  91. chava
    chava February 25, 2010 at 11:20 am |

    might NOT be triggering for some, sorry. Left out the “not.”

  92. chava
    chava February 25, 2010 at 11:23 am |

    That said, I do find the emphasis on physical threats of violence here disturbing. Can women present the same Shrodeger’s Rapist that men can in terms of physical power? Generally no, part of why men should be extra careful in how they approach women.

    But to suggest that money, mental health, use of children or pets as hostages, blackmail, or any one of a thousand other factors never played into a man or woman’s rape is fsking LUDICROUS. There is more than one kind of power.

  93. chava
    chava February 25, 2010 at 11:27 am |

    Ok, I seriously apologize for the four comments in a row and genufluct to the mods repeatedly—

    The bloody sentence with its pesky double negatives got well away from me. I wrote it right the first time. I.e., yes, for some people it might be triggering.

    *leaving now*

  94. ThankGoddess
    ThankGoddess February 25, 2010 at 12:01 pm |

    Do you think it’s possible to get the conversation back to the topic of the post? That is, not “How do we define rape?” but the ways in which we construct ideas about who can and cannot rape? Please?

    If we are saying that certain persons because of gender, class, social conditioning, age, race, or any other arbitrary condition CANNOT be raped, then we are indeed talking about HOW we define rape. You cannot separate the ways in which we construct ideas about who can and cannot be raped, when under EXACTLY the SAME circumstances, it is rape for one and not for another based on these just mentioned conditions.

    So that’s just what we are doing.

    SL. just because men and women are PERCEIVED and TREATED differently doesn’t mean we ARE different. I am JUST AS CAPABLE as a man. I should have JUST AS MUCH AUTONOMY to say NO. When we say that under the same circumstances that a woman was raped but a man was not THAT IS REPULSIVE and DISGUSTING. The patriarchy HURTS MEN TOO! I will NOT ASSUME that because a rape victim is male that he SPECIFICALLY has some sort of privilege which would PREVENT him from being raped.

    So all of those that claim they are opposed to sexual assault and rape, but are so ONLY when it is persons LIKE THEM, are as guilty of promoting the patriarchy’s harm as anyone else. We need to stand up for ALL rape victims, and STOP SHAMING LANGUAGE, no matter the status, class, gender, race, age, or any other aspect of the victim.

    Faith and all the other non-apologists, thanks for not changing your stance because of any condition that has nothing to do with the reality of rape. If this post were about one of us, instead of a man, and this conversation was going on a menz rights site, we’d ALL be RIGHTFULLY APPALLED!

    Why, all of the sudden does no NOT mean no? In what victim shaming reality is THIS KIND OF THINKING promoted and allowed?

  95. ThankGoddess
    ThankGoddess February 25, 2010 at 12:04 pm |

    Mangotastic, this thread DEFINITELY NEEDS a trigger warning.

  96. Kristin
    Kristin February 25, 2010 at 12:44 pm |

    “Why, all of the sudden does no NOT mean no? In what victim shaming reality is THIS KIND OF THINKING promoted and allowed?”

    This, damnit. I would also submit that it’s *really bloody difficult* to seriously discuss a post that contains such an asinine and offensive assertion (i.e., that the experience described in post did not constitute sexual assault). Jill, I never thought you were one to buy into double standards around issues like rape–or to whitewash women’s culpability when they *are actually* guilty of crimes. But validating this post by publishing it here is just…really surprising and disappointing to me.

    Yeah, coercion is coercion is coercion, and no one really belongs to a class that is Too Oppressed to Commit Rape. This entire discussion is disgusting, and it trivializes the experiences of people who *have* in fact experienced sexual assualt and/or rape by a perpetrator who was not male.

    We all know that men are more often perpetrators of rape than women, but this kind of double standard is…really really disturbing. I am horrified to find it here. Women are not universally *weaker* than men and *incapable* of using coercion. I can’t believe this is even up for discussion. Bloody hell.

  97. LC
    LC February 25, 2010 at 12:56 pm |

    My thinking pretty much lines up with Alara’s at post 64. There’s a question of power involved, and respect for the actual no, and these things are not always obvious from the outside. (Also, this specific case, with a 4th-hand paraphrased account is kind of difficult to address.)

  98. kaninchenzero
    kaninchenzero February 25, 2010 at 1:04 pm |

    chava, people are pointing out that what you’ve said is rape apology because it is. ThankGoddess described why pretty clearly — you and others have stated explicitly that the standard by which an act is judged to be sexual assault is different for different classes of victims. Thus the definition of who is a rapist is different for different classes of rapists.

    A very clear social power differential exists between cis men and cis women — and everyone else — but you haven’t made a convincing case as to why that makes something a cis woman might do not-rape that would be rape if a cis man did it. If a person is trying to go to sleep and their partner is pestering them to have sex and they finally do because if they don’t their partner won’t let them sleep? That is coercion. Interrupted and insufficient sleep are excellent weapons for abusers. A coerced ‘fine’ is not enthusiastic participation. It is at the very least exceedingly skeevy behavior.

    Please don’t try to explain why the genders of the partners in that scenario make a difference as to what the act is. There isn’t a convincing case to be made and I don’t need more anxiety today.

    Adding my voice to mangotastic‘s also: How is there not a trigger warning on a rape thread?

  99. Melissa
    Melissa February 25, 2010 at 1:22 pm |

    I agree that there are women who have raped.

    Lately, I have been reading an inspiring story about a woman who was raped, and how she moved forward.

    An inspiring and True story told by Rosemary Trible, a woman who spent a night of terror being raped at gunpoint. She tells in her book, “Fear to Freedom,” how she came through her journey from fear to faith to forgiveness to freedom and her life was transformed. The insights and lessons she shares will help all those who struggle with fear and pain to begin their own journey of healing.

  100. figleaf
    figleaf February 25, 2010 at 1:48 pm |

    Ooh, ooh! What Natalie said a couple of comments back!

    If we didn’t tell ourselves that men always want sex and are always ready for it, and if he’s not it’s a judgment on his partner, then men would feel free to say no and women would be able hear no without feeling judged.

    If we didn’t tell ourselves that women always want sex less often than male partners and that sex is always a bargaining chip to get something else then women wouldn’t feel humiliated for wanting sex at a time when a man doesn’t want it.

    Yes! Those two scripts seriously distort the hows and even whethers of consent. Because in that construction a man “can’t be raped” because if he doesn’t want it all the time our transactional ideology of heterosexuality breaks down. Similarly straight-up sexual aggression is invisible in women because sexual expression is culturally defined as predicated on men’s initiative.

    That’s what’s so cool about Pluralist and Rachel Hills posts, and why Jill and others are reposting them: they confront those assumptions from a direction the usual scripts aren’t at all prepared for. With the result that both, say, Olo’s apologetics and S.L.’s absolutism sound reflexive rather than reflective.

    When you dig a little deeper into the question of consent you stop looking at its nature (was it enthusiastic, grudging, resigned, gradually warmed-up-to) and reach the more fundamental question of whether the person making the decision is being respected. There’s clearly quite a bit of room for thoughtful people to debate whether Pluralist’s acquaintance’s overtures to her long-term partner were coercive. (I say yes she was, for instance even, though he eventually consented. But for their own nearly opposite reasons S.L. or Olo might credibly disagree.)

    There’s no question, though, that she failed to respect his decision when, whatever her reasons, she decided to continue pressuring him.

    Sexual consent is bogglingly important. But it’s also only a legally-definable and -determinable proxy for a much more complex human decision-making interactions. Recognizing this expands rather than refutes what we know about who can rape and be raped.

    Thanks for bringing this back up Jill.

    figleaf

  101. Kristin
    Kristin February 25, 2010 at 1:51 pm |

    “chava, people are pointing out that what you’ve said is rape apology because it is. ThankGoddess described why pretty clearly — you and others have stated explicitly that the standard by which an act is judged to be sexual assault is different for different classes of victims. Thus the definition of who is a rapist is different for different classes of rapists.

    A very clear social power differential exists between cis men and cis women — and everyone else — but you haven’t made a convincing case as to why that makes something a cis woman might do not-rape that would be rape if a cis man did it. If a person is trying to go to sleep and their partner is pestering them to have sex and they finally do because if they don’t their partner won’t let them sleep? That is coercion. Interrupted and insufficient sleep are excellent weapons for abusers. A coerced ‘fine’ is not enthusiastic participation. It is at the very least exceedingly skeevy behavior.

    Please don’t try to explain why the genders of the partners in that scenario make a difference as to what the act is. There isn’t a convincing case to be made and I don’t need more anxiety today.

    Adding my voice to mangotastic’s also: How is there not a trigger warning on a rape thread?”

    Just signing on to all of this.

  102. ThankGoddess
    ThankGoddess February 25, 2010 at 1:55 pm |

    My thinking pretty much lines up with Alara’s at post 64. There’s a question of power involved, and respect for the actual no, and these things are not always obvious from the outside. (Also, this specific case, with a 4th-hand paraphrased account is kind of difficult to address.)

    ANY SPECIFIC case without THE FACTS is going to be difficult to address. We understand that. That is not the point of the post or the question.

    1. When a woman says NO and her partner (or ANYONE) PRESSURES her to have sex anyhow, it is RAPE.

    2. When a man says NO and his partner (or ANYONE) PRESSURES him to have sex anyhow, it is RAPE.

    3. When a PERSON says NO and their partner (or ANYONE) pressures them to have sex, it is RAPE.

    There are some that would have us believe 1 is true, 2 is not, and 3 might be true depending on the gender of the “alleged” victim. Alleged, because if maie then he’s not a victim at all!!!

    Now to your question of POWER. It is RIDICULOUS to assume that in any PARTICULAR relationship or situation WITHIN that relationship, it is ALWAYS the man that is holding the power. Indeed if all we have to do is say, well, he was the man therefore he was not raped, we DENY THE VERY POWER that enabled the woman to rape him. HOW OFTEN DO MENZ RIGHTZ ADVOCATES do the same to feminists and women claiming WE have all of the power (via the courts or other such nonesense!).

    It is INCREDIBLY SHAMING to say that the man SHOULD HAVE SAID NO IN A MORE STRONG WAY! UNBELIEVABLE that some of the posts here would shame ANY RAPE VICTIM in such a manner.

    What is most amazing is that all of the commentary which shows such shaming is DISGUSTING and HURTFUL to ALL rape victims, persons KEEP ON POSTING the same RIDICULOUS claims. I am glad as f*ck that I didn’t have to listen to arguments like these in womens studies classes! I would have had to WALK OUT because of my own experiences of rape. And yet, the rape apologizing, victim shaming, and OUTRIGHT MISINFORMATION just CONTINUES carte blanc!

    I know that I cannot be the only person that is SICK TO MY STOMACH READING THIS CRAP!

  103. chava
    chava February 25, 2010 at 2:10 pm |

    I think I’ve stated my position pretty clearly, which is that men, given how the world is, have a responsibility to be even more careful than one might assume they need to be as regards consent issues.

    That doesn’t mean men can’t be raped. It doesn’t mean they want sex all the time. It just means that I don’t think you can automatically flip the genders of any given situation and use that as a bar to determine if it’s skeevey. That said, if a woman like the OPs friend told me her spouse bugged her for sex after she said she was tired, I wouldn’t necessarily think of that as rape either. It really depends on the individual relationship, the kinds of implied consent you’ve given/negotiated with each other, etc.

    Just to reiterate what I’ve said before, I do agree with figleaf that the construction of masculinity hurts men as well as women, and that it is these very scripts that damage much of our interactions.

  104. Jadey
    Jadey February 25, 2010 at 2:15 pm |

    BAH. Do. Not. Want.

    I’m with everyone else who’s mentioned how horrifying this thread is. I mean, I agree that relationships are complicated, but, damn it, the discussion of rape is *not* a zero-sum game – we can talk about sexual assault of men without somehow undermining the discussion of sexual assault of women.

    I think the original post clearly demonstrates how the same rigid sex role dichotomy (men want and want/women can only tease) sets up situations for either party to be raped, because the assumptions inherent in those roles make real consent moot; it’s presumed that men must always be consenting and women can’t be trusted to (but secretly want it). Surely we aren’t unfamiliar with this discourse? It just works both ways too.

    It’s the failure to communicate and talk about our mutual wants and needs that destroys us, because the fairy tale version of sex and romance is that we’ll never have to talk about it, that being in love is like gaining psychic powers, and soulmates always come together. Bullshit.

  105. Jadey
    Jadey February 25, 2010 at 2:17 pm |

    *sigh* One day I will remember how that blockquotes thing is supposed to work before hitting submit.

    I meant to be quoting this:

    Olo @ 67 “women simply don’t have to be as diligent about verifying consent as men do”

    And I reiterate: BAH.

  106. kaninchenzero
    kaninchenzero February 25, 2010 at 2:17 pm |

    ThankGoddess, you are not alone. One thing though: Is an active ‘no’ required?

  107. ThankGoddess
    ThankGoddess February 25, 2010 at 2:24 pm |

    Just to reiterate what I’ve said before, I do agree with figleaf that the construction of masculinity hurts men as well as women, and that it is these very scripts that damage much of our interactions.

    We’re FEMINISTS. We don’t HAVE to live by those scripts. We’re ALWAYS creating OUR OWN SCRIPTS and REJECTING these ones which create INEQUALITY. THAT’s PART of the POINT of being a feminist.

    I don’t care what the script says a man SHOULD do. I don’t accept for one minute that ANYONE has to be MORE CAREFUL about consent than ANYONE ELSE. EVERYONE should be acquiring ENTHUSIASTIC consent before they have sex with someone. What makes this entire topic even MORE DISGUSTING, is that not only is it viewed as ok to NOT have enthusiastic consent, it is ACCEPTABLE to move forward AFTER A SPECIFIC NO was stated. Because after all men always want sex with all women and so he could not possibly have MEANT NO when he SAID NO. So now we’re just supposed to go entirely with what WE THINK he meant and what society TELLS US he meant.

    That sounds SUSPICIOUSLY like what the patriarchy would have us believe about another group of persons. FEMALE rape victims. She didn’t MEAN no, she LIKED it, she WANTED it, she’d had sex with him LOTS of times before, it’s not rape because they were in a relationship. UGH UGH AND SICKENING DOUBLE UGH! Having lived through ALL of these CLAIMS, I’m just now supposed to believe that OTHERS experiences who are IDENTICAL TO MINE, DONT COUNT because they are male?

    WOW!

  108. ThankGoddess
    ThankGoddess February 25, 2010 at 2:33 pm |

    kaninchenzero 2.25.2010 at 2:17 pm
    ThankGoddess, you are not alone. One thing though: Is an active ‘no’ required?

    Kaninchernzero, THANK YOU! This thread has me in tears. I find the entire idea that consent when REVOKED can somehow mean it’s not rape sickening.

    No an active no is not required. We should ONLY ALWAYS BE getting an ACTIVE and ENTHUSIASTIC YES! PERIOD. But what is really disgusting here is, that even in a case of an ACTIVE NO, we’ve got folks victim blaming, shaming and claiming it’s NOT RAPE. While yes means yes, some persons are sometimes confused as to what is yes, because we’ve got a LOT of education yet ahead of us. But no means no has had a long time to take hold. But, even if the rest of society gets it wrong, WE AS FEMINISTS should never victim blame someone, based on their gender when they have stated an active, explicit no.

  109. chava
    chava February 25, 2010 at 2:40 pm |

    But not every woman or man is a feminist, and many people can’t see outside those scripts.

    Indeed, it’s almost impossible to get outside the patriarchy/those scripts if you live in the world. You can try to effect change from the inside the best you can, but that’s it.

    I’d like to know where I have victim blamed someone here. I haven’t invalidated the experience of anyone on this thread–if you feel you were raped, in your relationship, then I’m not going to contradict you.

    But to make some of the blanket statements you are making seems ignorant of the way many relationships work, and work just fine. I’m 100 percent certain I’m not raped daily. I can tell the difference just fine FOR ME, in MY relationship between being asked, yes even three times after a “no” and being coereced. So does my spouse. That doesn’t mean you feel the same way or that your relationship works the same way. But it does for some people.

  110. Anony Mouse
    Anony Mouse February 25, 2010 at 2:54 pm |

    I’m not really following your point, ThankGoddess, that no one has any obligation to be more cautious than anyone else, or that the identity of an actor has no bearing whatsoever on how we judge an act, or that an action may mean different things in different contexts or relationships. That seems disingenuous, not to mention extreme.

  111. ThankGoddess
    ThankGoddess February 25, 2010 at 2:58 pm |

    But not every woman or man is a feminist, and many people can’t see outside those scripts.

    We ARE feminists and we are discussing this from a FEMINIST PERSPECTIVE. It is our work to HELP people that cannot see outside of those scripts to DO SO. If we had taken this view, we’d have never arrived at yes MEANS yes and no MEANS no. Just because OTHERS are not there yet, does not mean that EXCUSES such behavior.

    I’d like to know where I have victim blamed someone here. I haven’t invalidated the experience of anyone on this thread–if you feel you were raped, in your relationship, then I’m not going to contradict you.

    It’s very easy to SAY you are not victim blaming and that you are not invalidating the experience of anyone ON THIS THREAD. But guess what, you ARE. When you decide that rape isn’t really rape because, well you know:

    “Men should absolutely be comfortable about asserting when they don’t want sex.”

    Because there is a script that the man has to play, that he knows, and of course he is fully COMFORTABLE with that ridiculous script.

    And when you’ve summarily dismissed those who have been raped by being “pestered” with statements like:

    “Um, if pestering your spouse about sex is rape, well, I suppose I’m a rapist….”

    you absolutely ARE dismissing people ON THIS THREAD and ELSEWHERE that HAVE been raped. Right off the bat you started being dismissive of rape victims.

    You’ve made other statements that are valid, you pointed out that physical prowess isn’t the ONLY kind of power. So knowing that you should know that every man is NOT going to “play the script” the way society, you, or others THINK he should. I REJECT your script and I reject the script of society. If I want to have sex with any particular man *I* GET his consent FIRST. If he is NOT enthusiastic, I let him be. If I were ever then to receive a NO, I’d STOP. PERIOD.

  112. Danny
    Danny February 25, 2010 at 3:05 pm |

    Faith:
    I’m well aware of the reality that women are more likely to be raped than men. I also do not need an education about the power imbalances that shift the power unfairly towards men in our society. But the point is very simple: Men have just as much right to say no and have that no respected as women do. And goddamn skippy, if a woman ignores a man’s no and has sex with him anyway, she’s a rapist.
    True and pulling out the 1 in 4 stat and saying that men have power and women don’t doesn’t not magically mean that a man cannot experience the fears, shames, and other feelings associated with being raped just because his rapist is a woman. Might not happen as often but it still happens and it still hurts. Being a man doesn’t grant immunity to this. And I find it a bit shocking that people seem to be running a gender check to decide whether or not a situation is rape and dictcating what a man may feel about it.

  113. chava
    chava February 25, 2010 at 3:09 pm |

    ” “Men should absolutely be comfortable about asserting when they don’t want sex.”

    Because there is a script that the man has to play, that he knows, and of course he is fully COMFORTABLE with that ridiculous script.

    And when you’ve summarily dismissed those who have been raped by being “pestered” with statements like:

    “Um, if pestering your spouse about sex is rape, well, I suppose I’m a rapist….” ”
    ——————————————————————-
    —–OK, as for the first statement, I fully believe that we should support men feeling comfortable to say no, support their breaking out of masculinist stereotypes. How is that bad at all, for heaven’s sake? Of course all men don’t feel comfortable. That was the whole point of my comment. Just as men have a reponsibility to help women defy their own “scripts” by being extra careful about consent issues, I think women have a responsibility to let men know that they DO NOT have to conform to masculinist stereotypes. You help each other break out of these roles, but that doesn’t mean the roles go away.

    —-My comment about “I suppose I’m a rapist” was to point out that your generalizing that ALL pestering is rape does not apply to ALL relationships. I accept that it can be rape. I accept that it can be abuse. But it isn’t always and already so.

  114. Brian
    Brian February 25, 2010 at 4:27 pm |

    OK, as for the first statement, I fully believe that we should support men feeling comfortable to say no, support their breaking out of masculinist stereotypes.

    Of course, that’s so far from where typical men are as to be meaningless. More likely, it’s never even crossed most men’s minds that they could say no, that they could want to say no. Men who don’t want sex are going to have a terrible time articulating it, I’d guess worse than women (although it certainly true that they’re at less risk of someone violently ignoring their “no”, at the “no means try harder” level, it’s likely to be pretty common. (Certainly, it’s my experience that “I really don’t feel like it” is likely to be ignored/unrespected, or will go the otherway, and be devastating to whatever kind of relationship you have.)

    That said, it’s often true that even in a “self-identifying” context, men’ll react differently to similar situations than will women, because we’re trained to look at things differently/picture ourselves differently. Reading feminist discussions, I constantly feel like I should feel assaulted for having had unwanted sex when I was blacking-out drunk, but I did say “Well, okay” (I’ll gloss over some details), and I just can’t get myself to see it as properly assaulting. (Even though all the feminist discussions of sexual assault cause my brain to gum up on this point.)

  115. S.L
    S.L February 25, 2010 at 4:51 pm |

    “SL. just because men and women are PERCEIVED and TREATED differently doesn’t mean we ARE different. I am JUST AS CAPABLE as a man. I should have JUST AS MUCH AUTONOMY to say NO. When we say that under the same circumstances that a woman was raped but a man was not THAT IS REPULSIVE and DISGUSTING. The patriarchy HURTS MEN TOO! I will NOT ASSUME that because a rape victim is male that he SPECIFICALLY has some sort of privilege which would PREVENT him from being raped. ”

    Thankgoddess first, I’m not saying that women are not as capable as men so please do not turn it into that. I said women and men are still not seen as equal. That divisions exist, that there is a hierarchy, and there is imbalanced power between the two. If you want to pretend that socialized differences do not exist…so be it.

    Second, I didn’t say that it was or was not assault. I said I didn’t know based on the information given. BUT whether male or female, I don’t think having sex with your partner when you maybe would rather be sleeping is rape. Please stop all of this “Oh my gosh!! You all support rape!!!” hysterical response. No one here said that. No one here thinks that. I’m disagreeing with how some of you define rape/sexual assault.
    There is a difference between being forced and being convinced to do something. Lets define that.

  116. CBrachyrhynchos
    CBrachyrhynchos February 25, 2010 at 5:07 pm |

    What Brian and Jill said.

  117. ThankGoddess
    ThankGoddess February 25, 2010 at 5:24 pm |

    Chava,

    What you just said you meant (the point of your post) and what you actually said (what you actually posted) are two different things. First you open up your post insulting people who are stating quite plainly that no means no and is rape by your dismissive language. Then you speak of the “script” that men are supposed to follow then you say that men should be able to say no. That path makes it VERY EASY for me to conclude you meant what I interpreted.

    However, since you are now saying that is not what you meant so be it. I am not in your mind.

    —-My comment about “I suppose I’m a rapist” was to point out that your generalizing that ALL pestering is rape does not apply to ALL relationships. I accept that it can be rape. I accept that it can be abuse. But it isn’t always and already so.

    This is just offensive on ALL levels. Whether you MEANT to be offensive is irrelevant. If some man said “If having sex with a woman who at first said no so I had to harass her over and over again is rape, I suppose I am a rapist” everyone here would be clamoring for his skin. It is an offensive statement. Modifying the word harass to pester, does not lessen the significance of the sexual assault.

    In any case where we say “this is sexual assault” we are NOT taking the self identifying freedom of another. In any SPECIFIC case anyone can identify their own experience AS THEY CHOOSE. But that will not prevent the vast majority of us from expressing that having sex with a drunk, passed out woman, is rape. Or that if a woman has said no, and she is PRESSURED into having sex, then that also is rape. So why should we just accept the rape shaming language that has been so prevalent on this thread, and say the OPPOSITE when the victim is a man?

    Jill (or whoever is responsible) thank you for acknowledging the seriousness of this issue and posting a trigger warning. i hope when we talk about issues of rape we continue to do so.

  118. ThankGoddess
    ThankGoddess February 25, 2010 at 5:29 pm |

    SL, no one claimed AT ALL that society is treating us the same as men. ALL that we are saying is that that lack of equality does not mean that a male cannot be raped and further, that in any case where we would call it rape if the victim were a woman and her attacker a man, that it is also rape when the situation is reversed.

    You are also flat out wrong. Several persons have said plainly that if this is a man it is not rape. This is NOT HYSTERIA! I absolutely will no tolerate such silencing language from you. I’ve had ENOUGH of that from the patriarchy.

    UNBELIEVABLE.

  119. kaninchenzero
    kaninchenzero February 25, 2010 at 6:03 pm |

    Several of y’all have said, repeatedly, that an act that you’d define as rape if a cis man committed it against a cis woman might not be rape if a cis woman committed against a cis man. That there has to be something more for it to be rape when it’s a cis woman assaulting a cis man: violence, more blatant coercion (did nobody read my comment on how coercive keeping someone from sleep can be?), physical or chemical restraint. It’s accompanied with the observation that cis men are in a position of privilege and social — and often physical — power over cis women. This is true but irrelevant.

    Why should the standards be different based on who the perpetrator is and who the victim is? It’s not quite as rapey if a cis woman rapes a cis man because turnabout is fair play? Is that the deal?

    (I specify cis folk here because trans* folk have been disappeared from the discussion. As we so inevitably are in discussions of rape. It’s very odd, being here and feeling so not-here. In case you wondered.)

  120. kaninchenzero
    kaninchenzero February 25, 2010 at 6:08 pm |

    Irrelevant to the topic posed by Jill, I mean. Does being a disadvantaged person mean that one cannot rape? Is less culpable for rape? Should be granted broader license for acts that would be considered rape?

    Is that a box we want to open?

  121. CBrachyrhynchos
    CBrachyrhynchos February 25, 2010 at 6:33 pm |

    In my opinion, I think the notion that men always want sex, and are always sexual affected me in two slightly different ways.

    First, when I was fairly sexually harassed and assaulted as a young teenager, the belief that I should have wanted it, that it should have been nothing led to deep denial and some counter-productive defense mechanisms of trying to be more crude than anyone else.

    The second issue is that in my early sexual relationships I found it difficult to say “no” without getting into a conflict over every single aspect of the relationship because “no” was interpreted to mean, “I don’t like you,” or “I’m not really attracted to you.” As those conflicts often escalated to emotional and physical abuse, it’s still a very scary thing.

  122. Julie
    Julie February 25, 2010 at 6:36 pm |

    I don’t know if it’s the gender of the person or the relationship of the people involved that’s being talked about. I don’t personally think that in the context of a long term relationship it constitutes sexual assault to ask a partner again after they have said no, so long as the person feels safe to say no. I know there have been nights my husband has wanted sex and I’m tired, but he’ll rub my back and say something like “are your sure?” or “can I get you interested?” and sometimes I tell him no I really am exhausted and sometimes rubbing my back or something similar can get me interested. I don’t think that makes him a rapist and when the situation is reversed (as it is sometimes) I don’t think it makes me a rapist either. Now, if someone I didn’t know wanted to have sex and I said no and they started touching my back and asking again? I’d be seriously freaked out and might be afraid to say no, which could definitely lead to coerced sex or sexual assault. But my husband, who I’ve shared a bed with for over ten years, who I feel safe saying no to? I don’t think it’s rape. Which is not to say that you can’t have rape in a long term relationship- obviously you can, because if they say “no, I don’t want to do this” and you do it anyway, that’s rape regardless of your relationship status. But I think that’s a lot different from “meh, I’m not really into it, but why not?”.

  123. Julie
    Julie February 25, 2010 at 6:42 pm |

    And yeah, definitely I think the societal message that men always want sex is damaging to men. I have a friend who was at a party and drunk enough that he couldn’t fend off advances. A woman tried to have sex with him, he said no, she ignored him and did it anyway and while he still maintains he was raped, he’s never pursued it because he knows no one would believe him that he turned down sex. So, yeah I think in general men who say they are raped are looked at skeptically because men are assumed to absolutely always want sex under all circumstances. I think the more awareness that is raised concerning individual differences among sex drives rather than gender differences between sex drives, the more this narrative will fall apart, but it takes people willing to have that conversation.

  124. IrrationalPoint
    IrrationalPoint February 25, 2010 at 6:51 pm |

    I’m pretty shocked at this thread. Feministe is usually good on autonomy issues, but this comment thread is flat out scary.

    –IP

  125. Natalia
    Natalia February 25, 2010 at 6:53 pm |

    Three things:

    1. “We either want sex or we don’t.” Hmph. I’ve experienced intense desire and intense doubt, and even fear, all at once. I don’t think this is unique, or even rare. We’re all individuals, in possession of different boundaries, after all.

    2. ThankGoddess, I think we have to be very clear on how we define pressure and coercion. Just to give a few examples, I’ve been in situations where I would say, “nah, I really don’t think I should do this, I am going to get up now and go home,” just to have the man in question make an excellent case for why I should stay. I’ve had a man tell me, “go away, you’ll ruin my life,” while I was going, “but don’t you really, really want me to?” and the answer was basically “yes, repeatedly.” Seduction is a form of pressure, I would argue. It’s not always a positive thing either. But it’s also part and parcel of human sexuality. It’s not my wish to muddy the waters, but I do think that you are being too categorical with some of your statements here. This is all besides the revolutionary idea that desire itself can take on different forms, and can be very intense, or not-so-intense, you know?

    3. I’m for enthusiastic consent, obviously, but I think that it’s important to note that it can be expressed in different ways.

  126. figleaf
    figleaf February 25, 2010 at 7:25 pm |

    Chava and ThankGoddess. I think a good way to resolve your current impasse would be to say that while everyone needs to be equally attentive we also need to be particularly wary of the gendered scripts our respective sexes are exposed to.

    For instance because of scripting women are inclined to assume a rejection implies personal inadequacy. (See for instance Marle’s assumption it must be ugliness in comment #1) with the result that something about them must be especially bad about them, if they fail. The alternative, which I think may have fueled Pluralist’s friend, is the assumption that if a woman is rejected there must be something wrong with the man. Obviously neither of these things need to be true.

    Meanwhile men’s scripting assumes rejection is universal and therefore something has to be really special about them if they succeed. (The telling line there is men call it “getting lucky.”) Or else something has to be really wrong with the woman (“fallen,” “crazy,” or “wild.” Or else “easy,” as if that was a bad thing.) None of this needs to be true either.

    The result for both men and women can be identical failures to respect a partner’s decision to decline that nevertheless come from very different social conditioning.

    Point being that Chava’s right that straight men need to be particularly careful, but ThankGoddess is right that so does everyone else.

    Quick note to ThankGoddess — I really, seriously admire your willingness to identify and rewrite scripting. I’m skeptical that they can be rewritten as easily as you make it sound in part because social scripts sort of by-definition can’t be changed unilaterally. One of the things I like about posts like this, though, is that the reconsideration of roles it forces creates openings for new, more realistic narratives about gender to emerge.

    figleaf

  127. ThankGoddess
    ThankGoddess February 25, 2010 at 7:56 pm |

    I don’t personally think that in the context of a long term relationship it constitutes sexual assault to ask a partner again after they have said no, so long as the person feels safe to say no. I know there have been nights my husband has wanted sex and I’m tired, but he’ll rub my back and say something like “are your sure?” or “can I get you interested?” and sometimes I tell him no I really am exhausted and sometimes rubbing my back or something similar can get me interested. I don’t think that makes him a rapist and when the situation is reversed (as it is sometimes) I don’t think it makes me a rapist either.

    Yes. We’re not merely talking about someone KINDLY VERIFYING that indeed we DO MEAN NO. It is ok to verify. It really is. But you should VERIFY NOT PRESSURE. To many pressure under the guise of verification. It’s bullshit.

    But we must also remember that everyone’s experience is not ours. We might only feel unsafe if someone new “verified” we weren’t interested. But as you can see from several of the men posting here, IN relationships, it was QUITE UNSAFE for them to say no. They have been belittled, humiliated, accused of not being in love, manly, and more.

    This thread REALLY makes me wonder how many men ARE being raped? When women are raped we only report it in about 1 in four cases. Based on the attitudes displayed here, what are the numbers of men reporting? 1 in 10? 1 in 100? We have no idea because even feminists are saying rape is not rape and as long as we refuse to admit when rape is rape, our figures and understanding of rape are untenable.

    It’s not my wish to muddy the waters, but I do think that you are being too categorical with some of your statements here.

    Really? So tell me just what is “too categorical” in your apologetic opinion with NO MEANS NO? Under what circumstances is it OK to PRESSURE someone into having sex? (That is, when the one being pressured is a woman? a man? a green martian?)

  128. ThankGoddess
    ThankGoddess February 25, 2010 at 8:01 pm |

    Figleaf, I do not believe there is anything easy about rewriting the scripts. Look how amazingly difficult it is to get we feminists, that have identified the scripts, to reject them. This does not lessen our culpability when we blame victims for their own rapes. And that’s the point most of us are saying, it doesn’t matter that the victims are men in some cases.

    I would also like to point out as was mentioned by kaninchenzero how the entire way this thread is framed is dismissive of trans persons.

  129. chava
    chava February 25, 2010 at 8:29 pm |

    “This is just offensive on ALL levels. Whether you MEANT to be offensive is irrelevant. If some man said “If having sex with a woman who at first said no so I had to harass her over and over again is rape, I suppose I am a rapist” everyone here would be clamoring for his skin. It is an offensive statement. Modifying the word harass to pester, does not lessen the significance of the sexual assault.

    In any case where we say “this is sexual assault” we are NOT taking the self identifying freedom of another. In any SPECIFIC case anyone can identify their own experience AS THEY CHOOSE. But that will not prevent the vast majority of us from expressing that having sex with a drunk, passed out woman, is rape. Or that if a woman has said no, and she is PRESSURED into having sex, then that also is rape. So why should we just accept the rape shaming language that has been so prevalent on this thread, and say the OPPOSITE when the victim is a man?”

    ThankGoddess, I have tried to state this over and over, but my problem with your generalizations is that I feel they disappear my experience, and the right of myself and others to define our own sexual encounters with our partners as assault or not-assault. That was why I opened my post in the way I did–I felt disappeared and worse, called a rapist and indeed RAPED, which I do not feel I have been. In the same breath you say I get to define my own encounter and then compare it to sleeping with my husband when he is passed out drunk (or vice versa).

    As Julie said, there is a vast difference between when my husband (or I) ask or even annoy each other a few times and if some guy I barely knew did the same thing. It’s extremely situational. Comparing the OPs situation to sleeping with a woman (or man) who is passed out is apples and oranges, especially without knowing the couple in question or knowing more details.

  130. Sailorman
    Sailorman February 25, 2010 at 8:57 pm |

    Really? So tell me just what is “too categorical” in your apologetic opinion with NO MEANS NO? Under what circumstances is it OK to PRESSURE someone into having sex? (That is, when the one being pressured is a woman? a man? a green martian?)

    Simple:
    1) It’s not OK to pressure someone into having sex; and
    2) YOU don’t get to define what MY line is between “pressure” and “asking nicely, more than once.” You also don’t get to define it for (apparently) Julie, Chava, and a variety of other people in the thread.

    Can’t you see that there are multiple experiences here? Stop trying to impose your own personal definition on everyone else. And you may want to consider that you’ve implied that a lot of people in long term happy healthy relationships* are either rapists or victims, or BOTH. For chrissake. Can you not see the problem with that?

    *The status of a relationship is another thing that you don’t get to define for others. Get used to it.

  131. chava
    chava February 25, 2010 at 9:01 pm |

    “Several of y’all have said, repeatedly, that an act that you’d define as rape if a cis man committed it against a cis woman might not be rape if a cis woman committed against a cis man. That there has to be something more for it to be rape when it’s a cis woman assaulting a cis man: violence, more blatant coercion (did nobody read my comment on how coercive keeping someone from sleep can be?), physical or chemical restraint. It’s accompanied with the observation that cis men are in a position of privilege and social — and often physical — power over cis women. This is true but irrelevant.”

    Allright, I think “somebody” is mostly me here so let’s break this down.

    1) Men can be raped. Let’s be clear about that. Force doesn’t have to be involved, greater coercion doesn’t have to be involved.

    2) Men are, on the whole, raped differently than women. While you can have penetrative rape, especially with the high rates of unreported abuse in gay relationships, we’re talking about a male-identified person being raped by a female-identified person.

    3) While these kinds of rape are still unequivocally rape and/or harassment, when you are not the person being harrassed, it is much harder to determine what’s going on in the relationship.

    4) When I hear of a woman being harassed by her boyfriend into sex, the facts that often go along with this include the assumptions that she is generally, in a position of less power, and the recipient of the “rapee” messages of rape culture. THIS IS NOT ALWAYS TRUE. However, if we are talking about reactions to a general story as told by the OP, or creating “rules for what is rape, I think that a) pressuring the person with significantly less power in the relationship is never ok b) given statistics, it is reasonable to assume a certain bias towards the female-identified partner.

    5) I know the following is controversial, and I want to state up front that if you are a man (or a woman), and you have been non-penatrively raped, you have a right to your feelings and any hurt or damage you feel you have received. That said, as a female-identified person, I do feel that penetrative rape carries greater risk for injury, greater risk for disease transmission, and if you re a cis female, greater risk for pregnancy. Further, given rape culture, the “violation” associated with penetrative rape is extreme and can create severe psychic trauma.

    I would not call it “worse,” because each rape victim has such an individual experience, and a terrified man raped by his girlfriend is not necessarily better off than a female identified victim of penetrative stranger rape. But I do think it is different and cannot be treated as the exact correlate of the kind of male rape we are discussing.

    As long as we are on the topic, can I put a shout out for the big elephant in the room that is prison rape?? We joke about this sick topic until we are blue in the face, but men are raped and abused for YEARS in the prison system and no one seems to care.

  132. Olo
    Olo February 25, 2010 at 9:12 pm |

    This thread certainly needs a trigger warning for any woman coming in here and finding a female wheedling a male for sex being compared to rape.

    In a world of perfect equality, requests/wheedling/demands for sex could be given equal weight regardless of the gender of the demander. But in the real world, male wheedling simply carries more baggage than female wheedling. Equating the two just gives ammunition to the MRA douches.

    This social context extends to rape, which is a hate crime perpetrated by men to terrorize and oppress others (women and men). The fact of rape culture creates in women a baseline level of fear and doubt that men, by virtue of their privilege, are free of. For a man in our society, being badgered into sex by a woman doesn’t threaten his sense of personal safety or damage his capacity for future intimacy with the systemic terror that is experienced by female rape victims.

    Chally @ 85: “Being restrained and being in fear of one’s life are not prerequisites for rape.”

    In most cases, you are right, but when it’s a woman demanding sex from a man, then they are prerequisites. That’s coercion; whining and calling him gay doesn’t cut it. When his life is threatened, then his experience is comparable to a woman’s under rape culture.

  133. kaninchenzero
    kaninchenzero February 25, 2010 at 9:25 pm |

    This is vile. How is blatant victim blaming and rape apologia productive?

  134. S.L
    S.L February 25, 2010 at 9:26 pm |

    “You are also flat out wrong. Several persons have said plainly that if this is a man it is not rape. This is NOT HYSTERIA! I absolutely will no tolerate such silencing language from you. I’ve had ENOUGH of that from the patriarchy.”

    My apologies. I should have said I don’t believe that rape is acceptable if it was a man as the victim. However, if I am interpreting this story correctly, I don’t think I would call it rape….even if it were a woman. Based on what I know. Which is not much, which is why I refrained from making it specific to the story. I’m saying that a man or woman trying to convince a long term partner into sex is not the same as being forced. That saying “come on baby, I really want you” is not coercion. Annoying, maybe. That is what I am talking about. And if you fear for your safety at any time around your significant other, THAT is a problem. That means that relationship needs to go. But if you have never had a reason to fear your SO, then “baby come on” should not force you into anything. You will feel comfortable enough to say “NO” and know that he will respect it. So we can’t make this universal. Some of us may not have partners that respect us, so we do things we don’t want to out of fear. But if you have a healthy relationship…fear should NEVER be a factor.

  135. S.L
    S.L February 25, 2010 at 9:35 pm |

    I’m starting to wonder how many women are in abusive relationships. And I don’t say that to mean or hurtful….I say it because the fact that anyone can’t see how “baby, I really want you” could be considered non threatening must be used to situations where it IS a threat. And that makes me sad. Because no one should be with anyone who makes them feel that way.

  136. kaninchenzero
    kaninchenzero February 25, 2010 at 9:55 pm |

    Those of us who have been in unhealthy relationships have been saying that “come on baby, I really want you” can be coercion. Even in context of a long-term partnership. Especially in context of a long-term partnership. Fear is not the only means by which coercion can be effected. Shame works, guilt works, love works. It’s still coercion.

    What on earth makes you think “That means that relationship needs to go” is a thing that is okay to just blithely assert? Even healthy relationships are hard to end and untangle from; abusive relationships are harder to get out of.

    But if you have never had a reason to fear your SO, then “baby come on” should not force you into anything. You will feel comfortable enough to say “NO” and know that he will respect it.

    This is flat wrong. (And cis- and binary- and heteronormative.) Maybe it’s just the PTSD talking but I am not ever comfortable. I have not known that my ‘no’ would be respected even in the best relationships I’ve been in. With reason. It has taken saying “If you keep going it will be rape” to get a SO to stop. In a healthy relationship. She was just saying “baby come on” with her hands on me; she wasn’t listening to my ‘no.’

    But please. Do go on telling me how fucked up I am. It’ll go so well with chava’s explaining how I wasn’t rape-raped. This has been the greatest discussion ever.

  137. chava
    chava February 25, 2010 at 9:59 pm |

    Yes, kanichen. That’s EXACTLY what I was saying. Not perhaps that there ISN’T a “rape rape” but that there are different kind of rape, any maybe the discussion of male rape needs to start from ground zero rather than assuming cis female norms can simply be swapped in for it.

  138. kaninchenzero
    kaninchenzero February 25, 2010 at 10:15 pm |

    I’m not male. I’ve never been.

  139. chava
    chava February 25, 2010 at 10:19 pm |

    And did my last post, which you were referencing, say anything about your rape specifically? No, I was talking about the rape of “male identified persons” vs a vs female identified persons.

    From your earlier comment, I understand that you were raped while considering transitioning but presumably (from your latest comment) considered yourself female identified while partnered with a (straight, cis? not sure from your comment) woman.

    It seems to me that this would be a case of how trans rape has its own specific nuances and difficult situations, specific kinds of terrible violation, etc to think through, in the same way that male-identified rape has ITS own set of these things.

  140. AMM
    AMM February 25, 2010 at 10:23 pm |

    I find this comments thread pretty depressing.

    I’ve been in a situation that’s pretty much like was described in the post, except it wasn’t as nice — being waked up in the middle of the night by my (now ex-)wife for sex and being expected to believe it was what I wanted. But I would resent someone telling me, “you were raped” or “you were assaulted,” because that would be ignoring the context in which it happened and the ongoing behavior patterns of which this was a comparitively benign example. If our relationship had been different, if I could have felt able to voice my inconsistent and ambivalent feelings and could have felt that my ex-wife could have actually listened to me, the exact same sequence of events could have been a growth experience, instead of one more brick in the prison cell that my marriage became.

    That’s what I find so annoying and depressing about the “it was rape”/”no it wasn’t” ping-pong game. It isn’t about what the two people mentioned in the post went through (we don’t know, anyway), or what I went through, or what Tiara (comment #51) went through. It feels like the speakers are just projecting their own issues onto other people, or maybe warding off all those anxiety-provoking ambiguities and complications and YMMV’s by forcing everyone and everything into the Procrustean bed of this or that Feminist slogan.

    It doesn’t help that my wife loved to use Feminist concepts and phrases to justify walking all over me. If you want to talk about “triggering,” well, when someone uses their pet Feminist theory to dismiss someone else’s experience or feelings, I re-experience the hell of my marriage all over again.

  141. ThankGoddess
    ThankGoddess February 25, 2010 at 10:34 pm |

    kaninchenzero I am sorry for what you went through, I really am. No one should be told what their experience is. It’s really disgusting that we’re saying that when someone has been raped it IS rape only to have it turned on us to claim that WE are trying to determine the experiences of others. In reality what is going on with the rape apologetics, is that THEY are trying to define the experience of rape victims. It is simply UNACCEPTABLE.

  142. kaninchenzero
    kaninchenzero February 25, 2010 at 10:47 pm |

    I identify as mostly female and partly non-binary. It’s complicated. At the time I was assaulted the proportions were the other way round. I was terrible at trying to be male but I’m pretty okay at androgyny. And yes, we do have our own very special kinds of violation to deal with. I can’t possibly describe how much fun it is to be out dancing with friends and realize that the men at the next table have been stalking the three of us all night and, paranoid thing that I am, start wondering what will happen if they follow me out of the club to the parking lot — is there a way I can submit to being raped where they won’t find out I’m trans and beat or kill me for threatening their heterosexual masculinity? It didn’t happen to me personally, but it happens enough that the fear is justified.

    When you set up penetrative rape as the standard by which all rapes are considered you are saying that other kinds of rape are less than. You mentioned how it was more physically traumatic than other modes of assault, how it would cause severe psychological trauma. I can read a text as well as anyone. I can read subtext. If you’re going on about the trauma caused by penetrative rape it’s because it is more traumatizing than non-penetrative rape. Your disclaimers that people assaulted in other ways were entitled to their distress didn’t change that. My assault didn’t include penetration. You were talking about me whether you knew it or not. You were talking about people of every gender who were assaulted and not penetrated, and you said that our assaults were not as traumatizing. They didn’t measure up to your standard.

  143. chava
    chava February 25, 2010 at 11:58 pm |

    It should not be the standard, and I was not setting it up as the standard. Par of why I think you do need a different framework for all genders (not merely binary) is because there shouldn’t be *one* standard extracted primary on phallocentrism and cis female experience.

    That said, it is *different.* And yes, I think that given our current culture, it should be given special consideration and perhaps heavier legal penalties, although that’s a very complex question.

  144. chava
    chava February 26, 2010 at 12:06 am |

    Also, not sure if you read my comment about trans rape having its own distinct special issues as sarcastic, but it really, really wasn’t and I’m sorry if it came across that way.

    I am willing to admit that I’m not sure about this, but I do think you can state that, on the whole, X kind of assault may deserve a heavier penalty than Y kind of assault while still maintaining that each case must be looked at individually and each individual’s trauma given its own consideration. Those things aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive. If you couldn’t make that distinction, than a rape/hate crime perpetrated against a trans individual would not carry the extra legal heft many have been fighting for (such as the Angie Zapata case, although this was a murder/hate crime).

  145. Lizzie
    Lizzie February 26, 2010 at 12:17 am |

    ThankGoddess, Chava, figleaf – interesting points from everyone. I would add that we cannot overstate the importance of other hierarchies that play into who has power in a relationship. For example a black man and a white woman. Or a higher-class woman and a working-class man. Or a breadwinner/heir(ess)/richer partner vs a homemaker/poorer partner.

    People oftensuppose that anyone with a privilege they personally do not have is “unrapeable”, or “unoppressable” by virtue of that privilege. But there is no hierarchy of suffering. A straight, white, cis, graduate man may be abused. He may have more resources should he walk away, but that’s just as well, since he’ll get fuck all sympathy too, because he was privileged, so people say it was his fault for putting up with it.

    I think people want to imagine that there is some zenith of privilege that is reachable (“I may be black, but I am rich”, or, “I may be female, but I am upper class”) whereby they can become unoppressable. They can have total control of their life. And when they see a tale of someone who holds what they believe to be the keys to the kingdom, and still gets abused, they can’t process it. It’s simply inconceivable, so they deny that it happened or blame the victim.

  146. Lizzie
    Lizzie February 26, 2010 at 12:46 am |

    Cbrach, Brian – yes I think men need to be offered “acceptable” scripts to say no for those who are not comfortable coming up with their own. For example my husband is extremely good at saying no in a manner that leaves far less room for insecurity or feelings of rejection. It goes like this: “I love having sex with you, but right now I am just so tired/stressed/busy/sick, I wouldn’t be in the moment/give you the lovin’ you deserve/able to finish. But I think I’ll have energy/be more relaxed/have time/feel well enough tomorrow morning/Saturday afternoon/whenever. If we postpone to then I am sure we’d have a really great time. What do you think?” It’s a neat way to reaffirm your attraction to the partner without rejecting them outright. In a relationship, it’s usually a given that there will be future opportunities for sex, which he will “lock in” in the same breath as turning down the current offer. The idea is to help ensure the horny partner truly feels the distinction that is, “I may not want SEX right now but I ALWAYS want YOU.”

    I am lucky to be very secure in our relationship and in my attractiveness (to him anyway, and I am happy in and of myself in that regard), but his ex did not feel this way – if he said no she would accuse him of cheating on her or thinking she was ugly. So he found other ways to say it, and I am the beneficiary now, even though it’s more than I might need – a little extra consideration or politeness than necessary never hurt anyone after all. This script might not please everyone but I think it beats the hell out of the alternatives on offer to men just now.

  147. Butch Fatale
    Butch Fatale February 26, 2010 at 1:01 am |

    I object to the idea that the person who has more social privilege can be assumed to be the powerful person in the relationship. While it may make it easier to leave a bad relationship, it won’t protect you from being abused in the first place, in my particularly well-informed experience. And trans rape? What is this new special category? Which trans rape victims does it apply to? Do we have to tell you our identity history & the narrative of how it went down, or is it enough to know that the victim was or is trans? What about the perpetrator?

    Any specific person’s rape has specific harms and traumas and problems, but to set aside “trans rape,” whatever that is as its own special thing away from rape full-stop is just fucked up. And why would a trans person discussing her or his rape as rape necessarily be swapping in cis female norms? Maybe it’s possible that cis females don’t have a special unique corner on the rape market. Some of the rest of us are rape raped too. I didn’t think kaninchenzero was swapping in anything – she was discussing her experience and her difficulty in realizing what had happened to her. Many people who have non-standard rape experiences have difficulty identifying what happened to them as rape – including people whose experience was actually pretty common, because what we hear about how it has to happen to “count” is a pretty limited set of circumstances.

    Fail. Fail fail fail fail.

  148. Butch Fatale
    Butch Fatale February 26, 2010 at 1:03 am |

    And by “non-standard” I hope we can be clear that I meant “not the standard meme” as opposed to “not actually rape” or “unusual.”

  149. kaninchenzero
    kaninchenzero February 26, 2010 at 1:26 am |

    I’m not the one centering penetration and cis women’s experiences of rape by cis men. In centering it you mark all experiences that differ as Other. The Other is less-than; it’s still a kyriarchy.

    It doesn’t have to be a complex question. A sexual act with a person who has not given consent is rape. Everything else is obfuscation and it always works against the victim. You know this when it’s cis women who are the victims and cis men the perpetrators. Claiming that the definition of rape is different because the genders of perpetrator and victim are not the genders of those in most rapes is telling those victims that what happened to them wasn’t really rape, that they are not entitled to the trauma they feel. I have lived this.

    I didn’t resist physically and I didn’t say no — I couldn’t move, couldn’t speak. This may be idiosyncratic to me: I have a communication impairment that makes it difficult to impossible to speak in times of fear and stress; I was physically abused until I was thirteen and have been emotionally abused my whole life and I tend to freeze when I panic. I was assaulted by my partner. Who didn’t say anything either; there was no pestering involved and no attempt to ask if it was something I wanted. I didn’t like it. I was uncomfortable and felt ugly as hell about it. But I wasn’t penetrated. I hadn’t tried to resist. I hadn’t said no. It wasn’t rape.

    I know these things you are saying are rape apologia and victim blaming because I used them against myself for over a decade. I did a lot of damage. (And don’t think I am not resentful like fuck that I feel I need to lay out details of my life, my disabilities, my gender identity, and my traumas in the hope that you might actually believe I know what I’m talking about.)

    I would like to see these things not used against others. I would like cis men to know that they can not want sex and they do not exist in an aura of presumed consent and that if someone fucks them and they have not given their consent it is rape — exactly as I want it for everyone. I want cis women to know that cis men are not always in the mood for sex and that they do not exist in an aura of presumed consent and if they don’t get positive consent before they fuck someone it is rape — exactly the same as it is for everyone. Right now in this rape culture these things are not widely known about anyone. Right now in this thread on this blog dedicated to social justice these things are not widely accepted for everyone.

    The vast majority of rapes are committed by cis men and the vast majority of those are committed against cis women. That might change somewhat if men became more aware that they could be raped at all which many aren’t. Clearly cis men have the bulk of the work to do on not raping people. I support that idea wholeheartedly. This discussion in this thread is not about that but is about how we perceive rape when the rapist is not a cis man. Most of us have trouble perceiving it as rape, wanting proof we wouldn’t ask of a cis woman who’d been raped by a cis man.

    I’m aware gender isn’t binary. Nor genitals. Nor are chromosomes much help; 23 aneuploidies — monosomies, trisomies, quadrosomies — rarely have lethally severe developmental effects and are common.

  150. chava
    chava February 26, 2010 at 1:59 am |

    Butch Fatale–

    Do you object to hate crime legislation piling an extra legal penalty on top of the penalty for rape when a trans person is the victim of a rape that was also demonstrably a hate crime? Because that’s really what I was getting at there…

    As far as I know, there are different penalties for oral rape, vaginal rape, statutory rape, forced sodomization, etc. All these things are rape, but they carry different penalties–and I rather think they should. Of course, the legal system is so not perfect, and it doesn’t account for grey areas. But I’ve been subject to what you could call “rape,” in a certain light, and I’ve known women whose experience was, yes, worse than mine. And I wanted their rapists punished accordingly.

    I do not think Kanichen swapped in cis female norms when speaking about her own experience. I do think that some of the larger generalizations about the experience of and “rules” for what is rape on this thread have done so.

    @ Lizzie–totally agree with you there, and I admit that I am biased to look at gender privilege first. another great example of why each situation is individual–and of course, no one is unrape-able.

  151. chava
    chava February 26, 2010 at 2:05 am |

    Quick addendum:

    I can see how my use of the term “trans rape” could be offensive and I’m sorry I didn’t find a better way to phrase it.

  152. kaninchenzero
    kaninchenzero February 26, 2010 at 2:22 am |

    Yeah, rape for us is still rape. There isn’t really any aspect of it that we don’t share with cis people. Cis victims of rape are battered and killed. Cis people face the threat of “corrective” rape. Rapists/batterers/murderers of cis people also use a panic defense.

    Butch Fatale: Thank you.

  153. piny
    piny February 26, 2010 at 3:16 am |

    Oh, this thread.

    Chava, one of the big problems that trans rape and sexual assault survivors have is the insistence that they are categorically different victims from cis men and women. Or that there are clean lines to be drawn by gender–or across gendered bodies–between different individual experiences of violation. There’s no one gendered experience of rape. There’s no one gendered experience of anything.

    This attempt to find some system that will accomodate the misogyny faced by cis women without leaving out the trans misogyny faced by trans women but of course also the unique and complex oppressions faced by…everyone else…seems like pretty good proof of that. A hate-crimes statute is not a justice cookbook.

    I find these references to rape rape troubling in part for that reason: they’re an attempt to define a very subjective experience by broad and imperfect categories. If a man has been told all his life that he has the power and she doesn’t, is it just his damage if he doesn’t believe it?

  154. chava
    chava February 26, 2010 at 3:29 am |

    Piny, thanks for the 101, it is appreciated.
    I can see how the insistence on being different from cis women even and especially in that situation would be especially hurtful and damning.

  155. Aleia
    Aleia February 26, 2010 at 3:40 am |

    de-lurking to leave a comment.

    I actually mostly just want to post to say that, even though hard to read because of how intense it’s gotten at parts on both sides of the debate, I’ve actually really appreciated reading the back-and-forth between Chava, Kaninchenzero, and ThankGoddess.

    I personally, as a cis-female in a long-term committed relationship with my cis-male partner have been pondering what basically you all have been debating. Because he has pestered me into sex, and sometimes that was fine, but there did come a time when it was *NOT FINE* where even though he’s an amazing guy and I believe he loves and respects me, then in those times, he was not respecting me, and it got to the point where to avoid arguments or guilt I would have sex and then cry afterward.

    All of this led to my needing to take a break from him, because I didn’t know at all what I thought. I never questioned that he loved me, but he had hurt me and I really wasn’t sure what I thought about any of it.

    I’m still not sure where I lie on any of it, but reading all of this – well I feel like I’ve been given good arguments on both sides, which I think is helpful and is going to help me to find my balance and really know what I feel about what I experienced.

    Sorry for the really long personal comment, but I wanted to share, especially given how intense and slightly nasty this has gotten at points to say that I’ve really appreciated reading both sides.

  156. Natalia
    Natalia February 26, 2010 at 4:42 am |

    Really? So tell me just what is “too categorical” in your apologetic opinion with NO MEANS NO? Under what circumstances is it OK to PRESSURE someone into having sex? (That is, when the one being pressured is a woman? a man? a green martian?)

    You are being too categorical because some of your categories simply don’t fit other people’s lived experience. Calling me “apologetic” isn’t helping this conversation either. You have said, upthread, that no one should be told what their experience is – I’m hoping you extend that to everyone involved in this discussion.

    Like I said, I’ve been seduced, and have done the seducing, enough times in my life to where I know that it’s both a good and bad thing – and yes, a form of pressure as well. And the implication here is, “well, if you have experience with it, then you’re a rapist/have been raped.” I don’t buy that at all.

  157. Richard Jeffrey Newman
    Richard Jeffrey Newman February 26, 2010 at 6:58 am |

    I am coming late to this conversation and there are so many comments that I have not been able to read all of them, but I’d like to share something I wrote on a very similar topic about what happened when I had intercourse for the first time when I was sixteen. This is from the conclusion of the post, which is called “A Personal Story About Rape:”

    That she was clumsy in trying to navi­gate her way through all these issues is clear, and the result was that my trust and my boun­da­ries were vio­la­ted. At no time, howe­ver, did I feel that I was to her a con­quest of any sort, not as the ste­reoty­pi­cal notch on her bed­post, not as a vic­tim on whom she’d cho­sen to prey; and so to sug­gest that what she did was at all ana­lo­gous to what the men who moles­ted me did, or what men do who rape women, or what female abu­sers do to their male vic­tims, seems to me to mis­re­pre­sent all of those expe­rien­ces. It fails to dis­tin­guish bet­ween out-and-out pre­da­tion and what hap­pens when the social script you are used to follo­wing, that you have been taught you are sup­po­sed to follow, goes awry.

  158. Natalie
    Natalie February 26, 2010 at 8:04 am |

    @Figleaf: I admire your attempt to build bridges here, since it’s far more important to me that people come to a better understanding than that someone emerge as the Feminist Victorious: One True Defender Against Rape.

    @kaninchenzero: I just wanted to respond that although you may feel invisible in this thread, you’re not to me. I have read everything you’ve written and have been thinking about it, I personally just wanted to avoid putting my foot in my mouth and saying something ill-considered, but you are really here to me.

    I partly agree with a lot of people here. I do think that swapping privileged for unprivileged is usually a faulty tool, but I find that to be less and less true the more intimate the relationship. I wouldn’t stand for it if someone said “The rape of men is as much of a problem in society as the rape of women” because the numbers just don’t support that. But I would say that the rape of a man and a woman are equally problematic (whether they are cis, trans, or non-binary identified).

    A lot of times when people say “The patriarchy hurts men too” I think it’s just an excuse to be all “What about the menz!” but in this case, cultural conceptions around masculinity make it impossible for a man (or someone who feels like she is expected to behave like a man)* to recognize or report a rape, or often even to say no in the first place.

    The gold-standard for sex should be two people who want to do it, no force, no coercion, no persuasion. There may be things that don’t qualify as rape in the persuasion area, but regardless, it’s less than ideal if both parties are not into it.

    Cis women are not the only people who should be allowed to say no to sex. Whether or not women raping men is AS big a problem for society, it is AS big a problem in your bedroom.

    *I am assuming that these expectations of masculinity come into play in many cases.

  159. Brian
    Brian February 26, 2010 at 8:19 am |

    If a man has been told all his life that he has the power and she doesn’t, is it just his damage if he doesn’t believe it?

    Rightly or wrongly, it’s pretty common for men to believe they have little or no power in sexual relationships, and act accordingly. “I have the power to not want this, say no, have that respected” isn’t crossing the minds of a large swath of men. You’re going to act with the power you think you have, not the power you have (and even then, individual power dynamics regularly fail to duplicate class power dynamics.)

    Even then, consider that although we invest a fair bit of effort trying to help women identify whether they’re been raped or not, they’re still pretty bad at it. They still blame themselves, see situations as unproblematic, whatnot. And we invest no effort in helping men identify whether they’re been raped (adult men, anyways) and they’re almost unmitigatedly awful at it. I’ve only ever known one man who self-identified as having been raped, and (and here, I’m uncomfortable with the mildness of the trigger warning at the top) he was handcuffed to a radiator. Men I’ve known who’ve say, had sex with their bosses when they were unsure of what the consequences of not doing so would be, or had sex when they were too drunk to appreciate what was going on around them (or stand, for that matter), or had sex with a 28 year old when they were 13, just don’t have a vocabulary to express doubt that it could’ve been anything other than positive.

    I mean, if we answer figleaf’s question, it’s not hard to apply the same technique to men as we do to women, that is, ask them about their experiences and then apply “is this sexual assault criteria?” to that, and we get the number that’s less than women, buy still very high (somewhere from one in six, to one in twelve). Part of (the usual, anyway) feminist package is not just allowing people to define their experiences as rape (or not), but empowering them to do so. Now, I ain’t sayin’ that there’s an obligation on feminist activists to do anything active about it (I’m fairly sure there ain’t, though I wonder if it correlates to women being less likely to report sexual assaults by other women than by men.), but there probably is one to, yeah, not undermine it.

  160. becky
    becky February 26, 2010 at 9:40 am |

    Although this thread has been so controversial, and, sadly, horrible to read for people who have been raped, but must now read it hasn’t *really* been so, I have to say that, at the very least, it has been very helpful and educational to me. I now have to admit that I *have* been a rape-apologist when it comes to men being raped by women, even in (or, until now, because of!) my way of “feminist” thinking. I think following this debate has helped people become more aware of how much more sensitive we need to be when it comes to the rape of men or trans-gender people and how rape is rape – period.

  161. R. Dave
    R. Dave February 26, 2010 at 10:19 am |

    consider that although we invest a fair bit of effort trying to help women identify whether they’re been raped or not….And we invest no effort in helping men identify whether they’re been raped….

    LTTP, but wanted to chime in with some thoughts about this. Certainly there are times when people (male or female) are actually traumatized by an event but have been conditioned to excuse the perpetrator and/or blame themselves. And in those cases, it’s important to help them come to terms with what happened so the trauma can begin to heal.

    However, there are also many times when people (male or female) are not actually traumatized by an event, and in those cases, I think “helping [them] to identify whether they’ve been raped” is unnecessary and, indeed, harmful. For instance, I’ve had sex while intoxicated or following the kind of pressure described above, and while I sometimes regretted it or resented it, I never felt victimized by it. There’s no trauma, no self-doubt no recrimination. Oh, I’m fully aware of all the cultural scripting involved (I’m a cis male), and I understand that on at least some of those occasions I wasn’t “enthusiastically consenting”, but meh, I really just don’t care. So, what would be the benefit in convincing me that I was really a victim? Why should some abstract definition of rape/assault that some people hold to trump my own experience and sense of identity?

    This ties into the difference between male and female experiences in general, because we really do invest a fair bit of energy in convincing women who’ve had experiences they weren’t comfortable with that those experiences constituted rape/assault, while we take the exact opposite approach with men. And as a result, men are far less likely to feel traumatized by such experiences than women are. Now, I’m not advocating for a weaker definition of assault/rape; I’m advocating for a less universal definition. I’m suggesting that the effort to define every sexual encounter that falls short of the (arguably) ideal enthusiastic consent model as assault is narrow-minded and harmful to the very people it’s intended to help.

  162. Butch Fatale
    Butch Fatale February 26, 2010 at 10:49 am |

    Chava, hate crimes legislation and my thoughts on the subject are pretty off topic. But in short, no, I’m not for longer prison terms in almost any context.

  163. Natalie
    Natalie February 26, 2010 at 10:55 am |

    R. Dave: I would caution against universalizing your experience.

    I would be shocked if anyone is out there trying to convince women that experiences they had that they feel fine about were rape, but it can be a tremendous source of relief, if you’ve felt for a long time that you had an experience that felt wrong but that everyone has told you was actually just fine and normal , to have someone tell you you aren’t crazy to feel hurt by your experience.

    And the point of this article is that men aren’t feeling universally fine about the expectations masculinity prescribes for them.

  164. figleaf
    figleaf February 26, 2010 at 11:01 am |

    Butch Fatale #157

    Many people who have non-standard rape experiences have difficulty identifying what happened to them as rape – including people whose experience was actually pretty common, because what we hear about how it has to happen to “count” is a pretty limited set of circumstances.

    If you also add “any people who have non-standard rape experiences have difficulty identifying what they did as rape” then you’ve got the crux of this post — of why Pluralist, and Rachel Hills, and Jill, and I think this is such a crucial topic.

    We’re all aware… some of us tragically so… that there are individuals who are conflicted about, or even oblivious to, rape because it wasn’t a “jump out of the bushes with a knife” scenario. There are people who think it didn’t happen to them, and people who think what they did couldn’t have been.

    This might sound like a slight digression but earlier this year we had an incident of girls beating up another girl in a local Metro transit center. Just the other day I overheard, I think, Rachel Simmons on a local public radio show talking about assumptions what were made about what defines bullying. She made the point that “as usual” researchers initially focused only on bullying by socialized boys-to-boys, which tends towards direct physical violence, with the result that socialized girls-to-girls bullying, which tends towards emotional and social rather than physical violence was ignored or disregarded.

    The point being that just as it was an error to make assumptions about bullying it’s almost certainly as large a mistake to assume that everyone will commit rape using the same methods stereotypically used by the most stereotypical perpetrators. Date- and domestic-partner rapists got away with that for generations.

    With that in mind what’s important about Plurality’s friend’s action isn’t whether the degree of what she did was actionable — even though that seems to be the focus of a lot of the discussion here and elsewhere. Instead it’s interesting for indicating one corner a whole domain of coercion that has been overlooked because it didn’t conform to our (highly gendered!) assumptions about what rape, and rapists, and rape victims look like.

    A corollary of that, by the way, which really shows up in Plurality’s story and which I saw as the point of Butch Fatale’s comment, is that we also have incomplete assumptions about what non-consent looks like, and therefore of what victims look like.

    The man in Plurality’s story felt conflicted enough to have not gotten over what happened even months later. That’s a big clue that non-consent was involved. I’m reluctant to go further into that because this really has nothing to do with “what about the men.” Instead I’ll point out that the woman in Plurality’s story also felt conflicted enough about it to tell Plurality about it, instead of, say, to blow it off. That’s another big clue.

    There’s a lot of 2nd- and 3rd-person conversation in this thread, for instance, along the lines of “well if this man…” or “well a cis-person might…” And there’s (probably for obvious reasons when you think about it) an awful lot of comments by people who are confident about having been victims. There have even been digressions into what constitutes privilege. All of which are of course perfectly relevant.

    What Pluralist’s story suggests is that what we’re not hearing are whole classes of comments that would be even more relevant: the cis persons, the trans persons, the straight persons, the genderqueer persons… the women or men who like Pluralist’s friend can and may have been perpetrators — and who therefore might be able to contribute cautionary perspectives — are silent.

    Though not, I ardently hope, silenced. Because this very large, very important bottle wouldn’t have been uncorked in the first place had Pluralist’s friend not disclosed her own conflicted feelings about her own assumptions that led to her own inability to respect her partner’s decision when he declined her overtures.

    Bottom line is that addressing Butch Fatale’s broader point about identifying who can be victims and perpetrators undermines the two-sphere model of gender. Even if, as, say, Bond of Dear Diaspora argues, we should have tolerance for some degree of gender construction, the exclusivity of the two-sphere model, and the denial and lies needed to maintain it, leaves everyone vulnerable.

    figleaf

  165. CBrachyrhynchos
    CBrachyrhynchos February 26, 2010 at 11:04 am |

    These threads always depress me because they always end up in turf wars over defining rape/not-rape. I’m sympathetic to the views of Olo that without the systematic threat that these negotiations could escalate to physical violence or murder things are different for men and women. I just want for a place to talk about these things that doesn’t bill me by the hour.

  166. Richard Jeffrey Newman
    Richard Jeffrey Newman February 26, 2010 at 11:27 am |

    figleaf wrote:

    What Pluralist’s story suggests is that what we’re not hearing are whole classes of comments that would be even more relevant: the cis persons, the trans persons, the straight persons, the genderqueer persons… the women or men who like Pluralist’s friend can and may have been perpetrators — and who therefore might be able to contribute cautionary perspectives — are silent.

    I hope it is not inappropriate to refer people here to something else I wrote–this one more than 10 years ago–that speaks to this question with a cross-cultural slant. The essay, “Sexual Charades in Seoul” (the editor’s title, not mine) was published in Salon.com with this (in my opinion sensationalizing and reductive, but it was also the editor’s and not mine) tag line: To save face, I had to pretend to rape my Korean girlfriend, and she had to pretend to resist. While I think the piece speaks to the question figleaf raises, I will also say that there is a lot that I would write differently, were I writing the piece now.

  167. Danny
    Danny February 26, 2010 at 11:40 am |

    ThanksGoddess:
    Based on the attitudes displayed here, what are the numbers of men reporting? 1 in 10? 1 in 100? We have no idea because even feminists are saying rape is not rape and as long as we refuse to admit when rape is rape, our figures and understanding of rape are untenable.
    If I’m not mistaken I think the reported value for men is really not that far behind that of women at 1 in 6 or 1 in 7. But as you ask (and is true about women victims as well) how many are raped and don’t report?

    Olo:
    In a world of perfect equality, requests/wheedling/demands for sex could be given equal weight regardless of the gender of the demander. But in the real world, male wheedling simply carries more baggage than female wheedling. Equating the two just gives ammunition to the MRA douches.
    The existence of the baggage does not make one rape and the other not. And you can call MRAs what you want but they are not wrong for recognizing something that you seem to not be able to comprehend. You seem hellbent on trying to claim that so called institution should be the measuring stick for individual experiences and that is wrong.

  168. ThankGoddess
    ThankGoddess February 26, 2010 at 11:44 am |

    You are being too categorical because some of your categories simply don’t fit other people’s lived experience. Calling me “apologetic” isn’t helping this conversation either. You have said, upthread, that no one should be told what their experience is – I’m hoping you extend that to everyone involved in this discussion.

    Alright, you failed to answer the question, which part of NO MEANS NO should we NOT follow? Does no NOT mean no when WE THINK the other person REALLY DIDN’T mean it? Does it not mean no if we “pester” (harass) them? Does it not mean no as some have implied when it is a cis-man? trans-woman? When we say NO MEANS NO we are creating a broad category that allows for EVERYONE to say no. Then under their INDIVIDUAL CIRCUMSTANCES each can decide if they WANT to be seduced. IN NO CASE have I EVER SAID in THIS THREAD OR OTHERWISE anything different.

    Read the article linked to and you see THIS IS NOT A CASE of “seduction”. As figleaf pointed out the cis-man was troubled enough that months later he was still bothered by it. If HE defines this as rape, then his rapist we note ALSO is troubled by it months later.

    The issue I am bringing up is that in this thread many are saying it is NOT rape. Yet if this roles were reversed MOST HERE WOULD be calling it rape. That is DISINGENUOUS. It is also disingenuous to act as if I’ve said something I’ve not said.

    The problem with your “seduction” theory is that it strips people of power that DO NOT WANT to be seduced, but find themselves UNABLE to say so. So when they have found their voice to say NO, that no should be RESPECTED. In the case of cis-men “seducing” cis-women almost ALL of us AGREE that it MUST be respected. Yet here we are finding folks saying otherwise it DOESN’T or, when it ISN’T, then it is NOT rape or sexual assault. Well then what is it? Just a bad, so sad, so sorry situation for the man not consenting?

    You can call it whatever you want, doloodap for all I care. But it is UNREASONABLE to expect that we should only respect consent in the case of women (cis or trans or otherwise), or more specifically only in the case of non cis-men. If NO MEANS NO or YES MEANS YES is TOO categorical for some people, then THEY are the ones with the problem, not those of us that insist on its application. Because doing so REDUCES the chances of harm to the greater number of persons.

    Figleaf, butch-fatale and others, thank you!

  169. chava
    chava February 26, 2010 at 11:51 am |

    To speak to figleaf’s question briefly–

    There have been times where I feel that I’ve crossed a line with my current partner, and vice versa. Mainly back when we were teens, but not completely.

    Do I think I did a shit thing? Yes. Do I feel like I sexually assaulted and /or raped him? No, and as far as I know, neither does he.

    In the interests of his privacy I don’t want to go into too much detail, but when we were in our late teens he refused a few particular sex acts that were supposed to be the ne plus ultra for boys of that age. I respected his choice at the time, and continued to do so until he was ready–BUT I made fun of him for it for YEARS. Which is, obviously, not okay.

    Again being general out of privacy concerns, but I have once in our relationship crossed what I would think of as the line between wheedling/pestering and harassment when he was tired. Again, not okay.

    I’m not uncomfortable admitting that I did these things and that I screwed up. I AM uncomfortable equating it to rape or assault.

  170. ThankGoddess
    ThankGoddess February 26, 2010 at 11:54 am |

    If I’m not mistaken I think the reported value for men is really not that far behind that of women at 1 in 6 or 1 in 7. But as you ask (and is true about women victims as well) how many are raped and don’t report?

    Danny, thank you. But I am not sure I agree after reading this thread. I have known many men that have told me stories that I would interpret as rape and that they were hurt about, but not a one ever reported it or even RECOGNIZED it as rape. Even when it is very obviously sexual assault, they don’t phrase it as such.

    So when we refuse to see something as rape, all of those men are going uncounted. Based on the admissions here, those who have had sex without consent, and now recognize it as rape or at least POTENTIALLY rape, and those who have done so but insist it is not rape, I’d not be surprised at all if the numbers of men raped approached the numbers of women raped.

    I want to clarify I am not SUGGESTING the numbers are equal. Just that now I would not be SURPRISED if they were anywhere near the same. After all, as long as we say “this is not rape” then any figures are dubious at best. Until we ACKNOWLEDGE that a rape IS a rape, any figure on the numbers of men raped, are mere conjecture.

  171. Natalie
    Natalie February 26, 2010 at 12:09 pm |

    I’d not be surprised at all if the numbers of men raped approached the numbers of women raped.

    I want to clarify I am not SUGGESTING the numbers are equal. Just that now I would not be SURPRISED if they were anywhere near the same.

    Just because you say it doesn’t make it so. Your first sentence is, in fact, a suggestion that the numbers are equal, and that just minimizes the scope of the problem for women.

  172. Sailorman
    Sailorman February 26, 2010 at 12:12 pm |

    So, TG:

    Say my wife of more than 10 years asks for sex and I say “Nah, not tonight.” And say she then strokes my neck and says “can I get you interested?” and although I’m not really in the mood we proceed to have sex:

    Are you classifying that particular interaction as rape? That’s a YES or NO question, by the way. Try not to duck it. Is she a rapist and I a victim; would I be a rapist and she a victim if the situation were flipped? those are YES/NO questions as well.

    If the answer is “yes” to either: congratulations! You’ve managed to describe a rape where neither the alleged per nor the alleged victim give a fuck about it afterwards, were especially bothered by it at the time, or carry the slightest concern about doing it again. What on earth is the benefit to calling that “rape?”

  173. Natalia
    Natalia February 26, 2010 at 12:16 pm |

    ThankGoddess, you are talking past me and around me, not to me. You were discussing pressure in fairly general terms, I brought in the issue of seduction, illustrated by my personal experience (as opposed to theory), but clearly, you have no respect for/no interest in my personal experience. Fair enough.

    I’ve lived through various assaults myself, though, so I especially don’t appreciate being told that I have a “problem,” or having words put in my mouth by you, or being called “apologetic,” or having you scream at me that I obviously do not care for the importance of “no means no” (have you actually read anything I’ve said to you here? Or is this more of a contest in CAPSLOCK RAGE!!!11!…?)

    This is a very broad discussion we’re having here, and an important one, for very many reasons, and I’d like to be a part of it as well, but I also feel it’s kind of narrow, for reasons stated above. Perhaps you feel that sticking labels on people at this juncture is helpful. I do not.

  174. Natalia
    Natalia February 26, 2010 at 12:18 pm |

    Whups – substitute “intense” for “broad” in my last paragraph, and maybe it will make more sense.

  175. Danny
    Danny February 26, 2010 at 12:27 pm |

    TG:
    I want to clarify I am not SUGGESTING the numbers are equal. Just that now I would not be SURPRISED if they were anywhere near the same. After all, as long as we say “this is not rape” then any figures are dubious at best. Until we ACKNOWLEDGE that a rape IS a rape, any figure on the numbers of men raped, are mere conjecture.
    I get you on that. Like many you would just like to see a true representation of the figures. No sweeping one set under the rug to make the other look more important or highlighting one in order to downplay the other.

  176. Faith
    Faith February 26, 2010 at 12:29 pm |

    “However, there are also many times when people (male or female) are not actually traumatized by an event, and in those cases, I think “helping [them] to identify whether they’ve been raped” is unnecessary and, indeed, harmful. For instance, I’ve had sex while intoxicated or following the kind of pressure described above, and while I sometimes regretted it or resented it, I never felt victimized by it.”

    I have to fully disagree. I do think that it is very important for people to understand whether or not they have been raped. I also think it’s important for people to understand that they can be raped and not feel victimized by it. I know that this can happen because it has happened to me. I was raped by the legal definition of the word: as in I absolutely did not give consent and he was fully aware that I did not give consent. Was I traumatized by this act? No. Was the act still wrong and absolutely rape? Abso-fucking-lutely.

    That I didn’t feel particularly victimized does not change the fact that I need to understand what happened to me in order to process it. It is also obviously very important for the rapist to understand that what they did was wrong, regardless of whether or not the person actually felt traumatized or victimized by the event.

  177. Brian
    Brian February 26, 2010 at 12:37 pm |

    After all, as long as we say “this is not rape” then any figures are dubious at best. Until we ACKNOWLEDGE that a rape IS a rape, any figure on the numbers of men raped, are mere conjecture.

    ThanksGoddess – that’s a pretty well understood problem, and is (seemingly) easy to overcome. Don’t asked people if they’ve been raped, but ask them if they’re ever had sex/sexual contact/et cetera when they didn’t want to/explicitly objected/whatever and they’ll be straightforward. This is pretty much standard operating procedure for that kind of study, to get ~25% of women, or ~15% of men identifying as rape victims, you ask them if they’ve had unconsensual sex, identifying what you mean by consent. If you ask women plainly “Have you ever been raped?” you get “yes” as a response only ~5% of the time, and lower than that for men.

    That does mean you have to set a threshold for “consent/nonconsent”, which may be seen as too stringent by some. But it is the way it’s done, and it’s probably less problematic than anything else that’s plausible. Given that consistency, we probably are safe in concluding women are more than 50% of rape victims (perhaps as much as 80%).

  178. pololly
    pololly February 26, 2010 at 12:59 pm |

    Without wanting to step into the firing line, I have to say that I have really found this thread interesting and educational, even though it may have been difficult for some to read.

    There is still something within me that jars a little bit at attempting to ‘flip’ privileged to unprivileged in examples because I don’t usually find it particularly helpful but I guess this is where I stand on it. I’m a WOC so I’ll use race as an example because it’s probably less fraught (for once LOL) than the gender issue, shouldn’t be triggering to anyone and I feel comfortable with the analogy.

    Let’s say that a bunch of black guys commit a hate crime against a white guy. I mean they attack him, torture him, beat him up, sling racial slurs at him, really brutal stuff. They admit that they targeted him because of his race. In fact (to make it even more sympathetic) this white guy grew up as a ‘minority’ within a minority majority neighbourhood so he has faced continous racial slurs and feeling isolated because of his race, maybe even facing other smaller incidents of physical violence. Is this a hate crime? Yes it is. It is a hate crime, at least in my opinion, despite the fact that one person with privilege is the one being attacked. No arguments here, it is a hate crime.

    However, is it exactly the same as a hate crime with the races reversed? I think no. Because the white guy still has privilege within wider society. He has still had his race reinforced throughout his life (even though he may not know it) as the superior one and while he may not see those privileges, they still exist. A POC being attacked does not have that reassurance. For that POC every level and every sphere of society reinforces one thing – that his race is considered inferior and as such he is entitled to worse treatment than people of a different race. This is not a ‘neighbourhood kids picked on me thing’, this is a ‘white supremacy is built into every layer of our society in such a way that every interaction and sphere protects and reinforces it’ thing.

    So I don’t think you can deny that the attacks would take place within a different cultural context and I think it would be appropriate to be careful of how they were discussed and compared.

    The thing is that the white person being attacked in this situation cannot conceive of how it would be for a POC to be attacked because they cannot concieve of what it is to live life as part of a racially oppressed group.

    I think that while Olo expressed it badly I think that there is a fundamental ‘fear’ – not in rape but in rape culture. All women are steeped in it. We are taught that we must be afraid and it affects all women regardless of whether they have been raped or not. And I cannot see how that can be discounted from discussions about rape. Surely in the same way that hate crimes against minority groups reinforce their status in society, crimes against women do the same. Sexual crimes against women are used to threaten, castigate and control all women. They are used to define women’s experiences of sex, of college, of marriage, of everything. Sexual crimes against men do not.

    I don’t think it’s about saying that privilege makes people ‘unrapeable’, (and as per my analogy I think it was rape) but I do think that it’s acknowledging that privilege isn’t some coat that you take off and which goes away if someone’s talking a little bit louder than you. That’s why some of the ‘IT’S ALL THE SAME – HOW DARE YOU!!!1′ comments I think are a bit heavy handed.

    Anyway, what I’m saying is that I think some people on the thread (or maybe not, maybe I’m wrong) were struggling to define why they thought there was some ‘difference’ in a non offensive way and I guess I’m saying that without minimising or othering, I cannot see male-female interactions as privilege blind.

    Oh and (sorry this is so long) I think the idea that the way to reconcile this is to ‘rewrite your script’ is based on a very flawed interpretation of how privilege works. Those scripts mask real power differentials which cannot just be wished away.

    Yeah, I guess no one’s really satisfactorally addressed the issue of power here, for me.

    Sorry – flow of consciousness here – I think that this is not about individual experiences and saying ‘was it?wasn’t it? (offensive, much?), more than discussing this groups as a class and why I think that some of the statements:

    *There are NO DIFFERENCES between men and women.
    *patriarchy hurts men too
    * just because men and women are PERCEIVED and TREATED differently doesn’t mean we ARE different.

    are honestly missing the point.

  179. ThankGoddess
    ThankGoddess February 26, 2010 at 1:01 pm |

    Just because you say it doesn’t make it so. Your first sentence is, in fact, a suggestion that the numbers are equal, and that just minimizes the scope of the problem for women.

    I said exactly what I meant. It is in NO way a suggestion and taking my statement OUT OF CONTEXT does not change it to fit your claim. When we DENY that rape IS rape THAT minimizes the scope of the problem for women. When we declare that CONSENT REFUSED is NOT rape for ANYONE then that takes us to the path to allow consent refused to NOT be rape for EVERYONE. When we deny that rape is rape, the reality is that we CANNOT DEPEND on the numbers of rape being ACCURATE. And THAT minimizes the problem of rape for everyone INCLUDING women.

    Are you classifying that particular interaction as rape? That’s a YES or NO question, by the way. Try not to duck it. Is she a rapist and I a victim; would I be a rapist and she a victim if the situation were flipped? those are YES/NO questions as well.

    You don’t get to come to this space and frame how *I* speak or answer you. They are NOT yes or no questions and you know it. If they were the thread would have lasted one post.

    EACH INDIVIDUAL is entitled to process their experience IN THEIR OWN WAY. If you do not define something that occured to YOU as rape, you do not get to use YOUR EXPERIENCE to ROB other victims of THEIR EXPERIENCE. Which is exactly what you are attempting to do. YOUR relationship dynamic DOES NOT APPLY to the cases of OTHER people.

    Natalie, YOUR experience is YOURS. I am neither talking AROUND you or in any other way IGNORING you. I am saying ONLY what I have said all along and that is that NO MEANS NO and YES MEANS YES. Because you are fine saying no and being seduced, does NOT give you license to expect that anyone else has to ELIMINATE OUR STANDARDS AND REQUIREMENT for consent. The “problem” I was refering to was plainly the problem you have WITH US who INSIST that CONSENT IS REQUIRED. And like I said to Sailorman, you don’t get to frame how I speak. I use caps to emphasize certain points because it is EASIER than typing html code.

    Perhaps you feel that sticking labels on people at this juncture is helpful. I do not.

    Insisting on a NO MEANS NO and YES MEANS YES viewpoint of consent has nothing to do with labels. It is nice that you are so dismissive of those of us that have experienced sexual assault because you accept seduction whereas we are TELLING YOU PLAINLY that there are some persons MANY persons that call seduction PREDATORY. We NEED to KNOW that we can say no ONCE and have it RESPECTED without FURTHER PRESSURE. The fact that YOU are comfortable being asked a second time, does not mean that OTHERS ARE comfortable, even when asked NICELY.

    What is it going to take for you to STOP BEING DISMISSIVE of victims? WHY are we experiencing such opposition in this space to the idea that the way sexuality and sexual experiences are framed, from an ASSUMED CONSENT model, are WRONG? And yes it IS assumed consent when we say that NO means NO and you tell us through YOUR experience, that it doesn’t always mean No for YOU. That is FINE FOR YOU. NOT for everyone else. And the problem with assuming that it’s fine for you means it shouldn’t bother the rest of us, is that it DOES bother the rest of us IN OUR CIRCUMSTANCES.

    You and sailorman and all of the other rape apologists can give us one hundred thousand examples of when no actually means yes IN YOUR CASES. NOT a SINGLE ONE of those examples applies in the cases of OTHERS to whom it DOES NOT APPLY. We are NOT telling you to interpret YOUR CIRCUMSTANCES as anything other than WHAT YOU interpret them as. But you ABSOLUTELY DO NOT get to tell US how we interpret OUR circumstances. WE REFUSE to ALLOW you that power.

    I get you on that. Like many you would just like to see a true representation of the figures. No sweeping one set under the rug to make the other look more important or highlighting one in order to downplay the other.

    Thank you Danny for not trying to twist my words. And you said exactly what I feel. I feel that all of the times women have been raped are actually being minimized by the rape apologists in this thread because, if consent is NOT the touchstone for sexual assault, if it can ONLY include someone stronger, physically forcing us down, only include those with POWER over us, then all of those times we were raped by someone not in the power structures, don’t count. That’s really why so many of us victims are objecting, because that’s what they are doing. Rape is not about gender, rape is about consent.

    That I didn’t feel particularly victimized does not change the fact that I need to understand what happened to me in order to process it. It is also obviously very important for the rapist to understand that what they did was wrong, regardless of whether or not the person actually felt traumatized or victimized by the event.

    Which is why it is so important to understand that CONSENT IS REQUIRED. While we might be fine with being “convinced” in a relationship with a particular person, maybe, just maybe, we won’t be with that person forever. Maybe their next lover won’t feel as fine being “convinced”. Now, NONE OF THIS makes US responsible for their next relationship. But what we don’t get to do is tell the next lover that they are WRONG in their interpretation of interactions with our former lover. How much so with folks we don’t even know? It is becoming appalling that so many people on this thread expect those of us with experiences in this area of TRAUMA to just lay down, go away, answer as THEY choose, speak how THEY demand, interpret things as THEY say. It’s like being on a d*mned mens rights site with all of their attempts to distract from our experiences.

    UNREAL. Seriously NOT cool in ANY way.

  180. ThankGoddess
    ThankGoddess February 26, 2010 at 1:03 pm |

    Brian,

    Thanks! That is very helpful! And that will help me when I talk to others about the numbers.

  181. CBrachyrhynchos
    CBrachyrhynchos February 26, 2010 at 1:03 pm |

    Sailorman: Ok, since rape/not-rape is a big issue for you, let’s take that question off the table. It’s clearly not rape.

    But what you describe is the kind of ambiguous “no doesn’t always mean no” hedging that, in other relationships and in other contexts, is liberally used to justify sexual assault on the grounds that that the lack of consent wasn’t clearly communicated, and encourages people to push for consent.

  182. Richard Jeffrey Newman
    Richard Jeffrey Newman February 26, 2010 at 1:13 pm |

    Seems to me that part of the problem here is that the language we have available for talking about sexual violation is impoverished. We ask the word “rape,” for example to do an awful lot of work. On the one hand, we want it to mean any sexual activity that fits the definition Brian gives in comment 189: to have sex with someone when that person doesn’t want to, explicitly does not consent, etc., and we want anyone who has sex under those circumstances to understand that they have been raped. (And let’s be clear: this does not apply to someone who consciously, actively decides, even though he or she is not in the mood, to have sex for any of the perfectly non-violent, non-coerced variety of reasons people decide to have sex when they are not initially in the mood; we’re talking about a situation where the lack of consent exists even while the sex itself is going on.) On the other hand, though, we want the word rape to carry–as, among other things, an accusation, a description and a verdict–the full force of protest against patriarchal rape culture that feminism can bring to bear, and the problem is that there is a lot of gray area between those two hands, in terms of perception, intent and the experience of both the victim/survivor and the perpetrator.

    I am not saying that rape is not rape, that violation is not violation, that it would be okay to talk in terms of “rape,” “almost-rape,” “rape-rape” or any other kind of ultimately reductive system of gradation, but one of the reasons that I stopped calling date rape what happened to me when I lost my virginity, as I suggested in the excerpt from my post in comment 169, was that it seemed wrong to me to use a word that equated what my girlfriend did with what the men who sexually abused me when I was a child did.

    Do the two experiences, mine and that of the people who violated me, exist along a continuum of sexual violation? Yes. Incontrovertibly. Are there ways in which it is crucial for me as the person who was violated and for the people who violated me to understand the meaning and significance of that continuum, of rape culture, etc.? Also yes. Incontrovertibly. But it is also incontrovertibly difficult not to have language that distinguishes between the predatory nature and intent of the man who shoved his penis in my mouth for the express purpose of violating me, of making me dirty and ashamed, and the girl who sincerely thought she was doing what I wanted (giving me the gift of sex) by making it possible for me not to have to ask for it, because nothing in her experience had taught her how to believe that I truly didn’t want what she was giving me. (That’s a little awkwardly stated, but I hope it makes sense.)

    In the event that people respond to this and wonder why I don’t respond back: I am off to grade papers and try to catch up on a ridiculous amount of work.

  183. chava
    chava February 26, 2010 at 1:22 pm |

    polloly, I think your “stream of consciousness” expressed what I’ve been trying to get at better than I have, so brava and thanks.

  184. figleaf
    figleaf February 26, 2010 at 1:44 pm |

    Following up on #176 I really want to add that rather than absolving men with some kind of “but women do it too” shenanigans (as if two wrongs had ever made a right), breaking down gendered notions of what constitutes coercion and/or consent leaves less “gray area” for men to hide it. For instance no matter who you are it really is questionable at best do to one’s partner what Pluralist’s friend did to hers. Understanding that takes away cancels any form of “it must be ok because women do that too” defenses.

    Richard Jeffrey Newman #178: I can’t speak at all to cultural Korean values so I can’t assess whether that’s really how couples in that situation are expected to save face. Instead I’ll just emphasize again that the critical distinction between role-playing and reality is recognition and respect for each player’s decision to participate or to decline.

    Chava #181. Similar to #178 the measure is whether we recognize and respect each player’s decision. For better or worse, we probably can’t unilaterally make the assessment of our effect on others or how far over the line we’ve crossed. That’s not an indictment, by the way. It’s great that you stepped up. Grounding dialogue in how we have acted and how we act now makes dialogue about how we could act more practical and a lot more powerful.

    Sailorman #184: I’ll keep stressing that the objective isn’t to create ever wider definitions of rape and assault. But neither is it to engage in further hairsplitting at the margins. In your “can I get you interested” scenario the question would be whether your partner was respecting your decision and, in particular, whether she was seeking to clarify it (ok, especially in a trusting relationship) or to disregard and override it (not at all ok.)

    And for Natalie #175 and Faith #188: Yes, absolutely. I grew up believing women and girls couldn’t commit sexual assault. I believed it so thoroughly that I even said it to the director of a local Rape Relief program when I interviewed her for a college newspaper story. When she gently but with considerable authority corrected me I had an almost cinematic sense of perspective shift. It resolved a coercive sexual childhood experience when I was very young that I grew up thinking shouldn’t have bothered me, and that I’d thought I maybe even should have felt lucky for (one of the dads who was in on the rescue said something to another adult about me “getting an early start”) that had nevertheless affected me. Victimized? No, social scripting about male gender might have, for once, possibly unfairly, helped mitigate some of that. Traumatized? Any consequences were nothing compared to the consequences ruthless, sustained, but non-sexual bullying I experienced later. But just those few words from the shelter director were exactly what I’d needed to get resolution.

    figleaf

  185. Natalie
    Natalie February 26, 2010 at 1:47 pm |

    @pololly: I think your analogy is very helpful.

    @ThankGoddess: I think your claim that I took your words out of context is ridiculous, since I quoted what you said immediately before and after. The fact that I disagree with you doesn’t mean you were misquoted.

    Natalie, YOUR experience is YOURS. I am neither talking AROUND you or in any other way IGNORING you. I am saying ONLY what I have said all along and that is that NO MEANS NO and YES MEANS YES.

    I think you’re confusing me with Natalia, since I haven’t said word one about my experiences.

  186. kaninchenzero
    kaninchenzero February 26, 2010 at 1:53 pm |

    Oh, I get it. Nobody’s rape can be quite as traumatic as yours. Yours is special. The rest of us? We get the second-hand rape, the ‘gently owned’ trauma.

    And you are not listening. I am telling y’all I have lived through what you are saying does. I told myself and told myself and told myself that what happened to me wasn’t rape. I’m not a man and wasn’t then, but my partner was a cis woman who saw me that way though we’d talked about my being trans. So it’s a context that can sort of fit, from her perspective if not mine. There wasn’t force. There was no threat. There was no struggle. I didn’t say no or yes or anything. She didn’t say is this what you want? or anything. She just. Got what she wanted and left. I lay there and shook and eventually got up and sat in the shower until the hot water ran out. But I should’ve been fine; I wasn’t raped. My emotional and mental health went to shit — there was other stuff going on but this didn’t help any — and I shot myself a couple years later.

    But it’s cool. I wasn’t actually raped. It’s sure not that traumatic now that I’m dealing with the effects of having been in denial so long. It wasn’t as traumatic as a real rape where there’s a cis man and a penis and a cis woman and being penetrated.

    Y’all hang on to that. May it keep you warm at night.

  187. ThankGoddess
    ThankGoddess February 26, 2010 at 2:17 pm |

    Seems to me that part of the problem here is that the language we have available for talking about sexual violation is impoverished. We ask the word “rape,” for example to do an awful lot of work.

    Richard, in one sense it is impoverished. That is, that if a particular individual wants to describe THEIR OWN experiences differently, there is perhaps a dearth of language.

    On the other hand, many of us have many experiences and see little difference if such things happen to us and rape is the word we use. In your own circumstances it’s ok to define. But the way you framed your argument, even without intention, dismisses others.

    Yes you can view the penetration in your case as something more than a woman have sex with you without your consent. That is OK. But in no way should this then be used to imply that the rest of us have a dearth of language because we do not. When we use the word rape for our experiences, there is for us no difference than what you experienced with penetration.

    It does not matter to us if the rapist raped us to humiliate us, or for their own sordid pleasure. The resultant humiliation, shame, pain, trauma IS THE SAME. Kaninchenzero’s experience is no less than yours because it did not involve penetration. I am not claiming you meant to imply that it is less. It is just that your comfort level with the words you use to describe your experience should not inform on the way the rest of us describe our experiences. For you it might require something different. For some of us, it is enough that we were not asked, or once asked our NO was not respected.

    Kaninchenzero, I am truly sorry for your experience and I know I cannot say anything more than that. Please do not feel dismissed by either the un-intended words of another or the outright rape apologizing going on in this thread.

  188. Danny
    Danny February 26, 2010 at 2:27 pm |

    pololly:
    Sexual crimes against women are used to threaten, castigate and control all women. They are used to define women’s experiences of sex, of college, of marriage, of everything. Sexual crimes against men do not.
    Really? The idea that men cannot be raped because we want sex all the time isn’t used to define men’s experience of sex? The idea that if a man turns down sex with a woman his sexuality and manhood come under question isn’t used to define and control men ? The idea that if a man is raped it is a sign that he isn’t “a real man because he LET it happen to him” isn’t way of trying to control men?

    I’ll be the first to agree that the definitions cast upon men on those subjects are different and damaging in different ways than they are to women but to say they don’t happen is wrong.

  189. Anony Mouse
    Anony Mouse February 26, 2010 at 2:39 pm |

    I’m not sure I understand the point of insisting that all rapes are the same. That all rapes are traumatic and horrid and wrong? Yes, of course. But asserting that all experiences that can be described as rape are qualitatively the same, and saying that it is offensive to try to understand or articulate different cultural/ social/ personal contexts of rape makes zero sense to me.

    And, not to go too far off-topic, but isn’t the fact many more male victims of rape are victimized by men than by women kind of a huge elephant in the room? I’m just wondering if one of the huge impediments to conceiving of men as victims of sexual assault is the additional stigma of implied homosexuality. I realize this is not what the post is talking about directly, but I just wonder if it makes sense to examine ‘why we don’t think of men as victims of rape’ as a corollary to ‘why we don’t think of women as perpetrators of rape.’

  190. CBrachyrhynchos
    CBrachyrhynchos February 26, 2010 at 2:39 pm |

    Sailorman’s insistence on a yes/no answer is that ignores the fact that meaning and communication also includes context and non-verbal cues that can be interpreted in ambiguous ways. And that’s why we try to encourage more explicit communication about our sexual desire or lack of desire.

  191. Natalie
    Natalie February 26, 2010 at 2:41 pm |

    Don’t confuse “the patriarchy hurts men too” with “the patriarchy is not for the benefit of men.”

    Rape is used to control women’s behavior in all aspects of life. Men only have to be aware of rape when it comes up.

    I said this above, but I think it bears repeating: on a societal level the threat of rape has a greater impact on women. On the individual level of the rape victim the effect is the same.

  192. ThankGoddess
    ThankGoddess February 26, 2010 at 2:48 pm |

    Anony Mouse,

    We’re not claiming all rapes are the same. Each person, and even the same person have different experiences, is simply different. What we ARE stating plainly, and have been from the beginning, is that consent is required. Period. All the attempts at nuance of consent in this or that or the other circumstance, cannot eliminate the trauma of a person that has been raped. Indeed, such attempts are nothing more than dismissive of victims. THAT is what we are saying.

    Just because some persons experience trauma immediately and physically, does not make the trauma of a person who was raped through harassment after they had said no, any less traumatic.

    Sailorman’s insistence on a yes/no answer is that ignores the fact that meaning and communication also includes context and non-verbal cues that can be interpreted in ambiguous ways. And that’s why we try to encourage more explicit communication about our sexual desire or lack of desire.

    This.

    Why is it suddenly seen as so difficult to get a positive YES with enthusiasm rather than proceeding after an EXPLICIT NO was stated, and in so doing it not be seen as assault? ESPECIALLY when people are stating so emphatically that proceeding forward after an explicit no IS traumatic for so many?

  193. Sailorman
    Sailorman February 26, 2010 at 2:51 pm |

    figleaf, you’re reading me backwards.

    If you’ll read the whole thread, you’ll see that the yes/no issue is because there are a whole lot of people in this thread who are NOT allowing for relativity. See, e.g., posts 54, 105, 112, etc.

    I’ve been saying over and over again that, duh, what works for me and my wife may not work for everyone else. It’s possible that she’d be offended even by asking (in which case I shouldn’t ask!) and it’s possibie that she won’t be offended if I do something well over my own boundaries. the obvious thing is that SHE gets to set what’s good for HER, just as I get to set what’s good for ME.

    My desire for a yes/no was to point out how ridiculous it is to try to use a single standard and apply it to individuals. How ridiculous it is to try to impose your values on someone else. How more clear can I be?

  194. chava
    chava February 26, 2010 at 2:55 pm |

    Danny, given that your blog links to articles denying the existence of male privilege and have posts commenting that “you suppose” you are grudgingly pro-choice, and that you are not a feminist–I feel a little less insane now for the sense that this thread has some elements of the MRA crowd. You define MRA’s on your blog as “those who are trying to make life better for men” and propogate ugly feminist stereotypes. (such as “Now this [treatment of MRA's] is not some excuse to just right off the entire movement as a bunch of man-hating power trippers because they aren’t (well all of them aren’t anyway).”

    Sorry, the little parenthesis doesn’t make it all better.

    Men (be they trans or cis) are not the oppressed class when it comes to sex. Full stop. Yes, stereotypes about masculinity hurt men, especially when it come to reporting their own rapes and being taken seriously. No one is denying that here. But stop trying to talk your way into men being just as much of the sex class as women are. It ain’t so. AND IT DOESN’T MEAN MEN CANNOT ALSO BE RAPED.

    I’m sorry if it seems off topic but I really have had the sense that parts of this thread are on an MRA board, and I think this illuminates why.

  195. kaninchenzero
    kaninchenzero February 26, 2010 at 2:59 pm |

    By gendering experiences of rape, necessarily some genders’ experiences of rape will be regarded as less traumatic and horrid and wrong. There is ample evidence of this.

    In USian racial history, black women were regarded as being incapable of even feeling trauma from rape. They were sturdy, accustomed to being used hard, and who knew what-all they got up to off by themselves (monogamy?). White women — especially if the fellow was black — were assumed to be ruined by the experience and the only thing to soothe her hurt (rather, her husband’s or father’s or brother’s sense of damaged property) was to have the man killed and mutilated.

    It happens now. Non-white womens’ trauma is regarded as less than white womens’ trauma. The justice system barely acknowledges that sex workers can be raped at all. Trans folk are left out of discussions of rape and treated as exotica.

    I personally would like to cut all that shit out. I don’t see any way to do that than to say yes. Every rape is, essentially, the same. Because it’s not about genitals and it’s not about fucking. It’s about violations of trust and consent and bodily integrity. Everyone has those. Anyone can be violated.

  196. ThankGoddess
    ThankGoddess February 26, 2010 at 2:59 pm |

    Don’t confuse “the patriarchy hurts men too” with “the patriarchy is not for the benefit of men.”

    Rape is used to control women’s behavior in all aspects of life. Men only have to be aware of rape when it comes up.

    I said this above, but I think it bears repeating: on a societal level the threat of rape has a greater impact on women. On the individual level of the rape victim the effect is the same.

    Now we’ve entered the victim olympics. GREAT way to dismiss all of the male rape victims have that posted on this thread. Great way to dismiss nearly all of the other victims of rape as well. The moment you dismiss one victim, their tragedy is not as great as mine, hers, his, ours, yours, you dismiss and MINIMIZE us ALL.

    If she is living well, her rape isn’t as bad as a destitute woman? If she lives in an area where rapes occur with far less frequency, do her rapes have less of a ‘societal impact’?

    To all of you rape apologists, WE GET IT. YOU get to define the level of trauma, the seriousness of the rape experience, the “quality” of what we went through. YOU get to decide for OTHERS that they don’t count AS MUCH, because, well you know, you were affected differently.

    How the f*ck do you know how MUCH someone was effected by their assault? This IS NOT a NUMBERS game where people are just statistics. REAL PEOPLE are being RAPED and in EVERY EFFORT to deny it’s SERIOUS IMPACT you and other apologists are THEFTING and DISAPPEARING not only the experience of those men that have been raped BUT THE REST of us that have been raped.

    NOT ACCEPTABLE ON ANY LEVEL! WHEN are you going to hear and STOP?

  197. chava
    chava February 26, 2010 at 3:02 pm |

    “Rape is used to control women’s behavior in all aspects of life. Men only have to be aware of rape when it comes up.”

    YES. I would nuance it slightly bu pointing out that I think anyone who takes on feminine traits has this worry to some extent–i.e., my effeminante gay friends. It isn’t quite the same for them, but the fear is there.

  198. ThankGoddess
    ThankGoddess February 26, 2010 at 3:07 pm |

    My desire for a yes/no was to point out how ridiculous it is to try to use a single standard and apply it to individuals. How ridiculous it is to try to impose your values on someone else. How more clear can I be?

    Like for instance when someone imposes their standard of not requiring a yes, or worse when a no is stated of moving forward? Yes it IS a simple standard. It is a simple standard that if applied would ELIMINATE RAPE. What is so objectionable about that?

    Men (be they trans or cis) are not the oppressed class when it comes to sex. Full stop.

    WHAT? Do I need to really comment on this disgusting claim about trans persons? Trans men are NOT OPPRESSED when it comes to sex? In what world?

    I personally would like to cut all that shit out. I don’t see any way to do that than to say yes. Every rape is, essentially, the same. Because it’s not about genitals and it’s not about fucking. It’s about violations of trust and consent and bodily integrity. Everyone has those. Anyone can be violated.

    Yes.

  199. Natalie
    Natalie February 26, 2010 at 3:12 pm |

    Now we’ve entered the victim olympics. GREAT way to dismiss all of the male rape victims have that posted on this thread. Great way to dismiss nearly all of the other victims of rape as well. The moment you dismiss one victim, their tragedy is not as great as mine, hers, his, ours, yours, you dismiss and MINIMIZE us ALL.

    Are you kidding me with this? I haven’t dismissed anyone’s experience with rape, my very first comment on this thread was to say that expectations of a certain form of masculinity are damaging to men because they encourage women to disregard a no. And I said that was a problem. And later in the discussion I broadened that to include people incorrectly perceived as men.

    But it’s basic feminism to understand that the patriarchal context matters. To use the race metaphor above, if a student tacked a noose to a white professor’s door, that would be terrible. If a student tacked a noose to a black professor’s door it would be terrible AND have the full weight of racism behind him. But I didn’t say the first one wasn’t terrible, and I haven’t discounted anyone’s rape experience or said that it was any less damaging to any rape victim regardless of gender.

    I am saying that you are being fucking ridiculous by acting as if rape, on a societal level affects men as much as it effects women. That’s why you seem like an MRA apologist.

  200. Richard Jeffrey Newman
    Richard Jeffrey Newman February 26, 2010 at 3:12 pm |

    ThankGoddess wrote, as part of responding to what I wrote in comment 194:

    Kaninchenzero, I am truly sorry for your experience and I know I cannot say anything more than that. Please do not feel dismissed by either the un-intended words of another or the outright rape apologizing going on in this thread.

    I don’t have time to respond to the rest of what ThankGoddess wrote, but I would like to say this: If anything I wrote had the effect of making any rape/sexual assault survivor here feel dismissed or invisible, then I am deeply, deeply sorry. Certainly, it was not my intent–especially since I know from personal experience what it feels like to be made to vanish in that way.

  201. S.L
    S.L February 26, 2010 at 3:15 pm |

    “This is flat wrong. (And cis- and binary- and heteronormative.) Maybe it’s just the PTSD talking but I am not ever comfortable. I have not known that my ‘no’ would be respected even in the best relationships I’ve been in. With reason. It has taken saying “If you keep going it will be rape” to get a SO to stop. In a healthy relationship. She was just saying “baby come on” with her hands on me; she wasn’t listening to my ‘no.’”

    I’m not saying you are f**** up. I’m saying a relationship partner that scares you (and by you I mean anyone) is f***** up. And I do understand that everyone is different. I also understand that someone who has PTSD (or anything along those lines) or someone who has been a victim of sexual abuse will see the situation differently than someone who has not. That’s why I’m arguing that you can’t slap a one size fits all universal theme onto this. And I don’t believe in flipping it and saying “but if it was a woman!!!” because I realize that these things do not happen in a vacuum. Someone who is hetero can experience something differently than someone who is trans even if they have the same experience. Same goes for male and female. And I take issue with the “oh but come on guys, we’re all the same” bullsh** rhetoric I have seen here. Because as people who identify as feminists, we know that’s not the case.

    I was actually coming to post something similar to pololly. I couldn’t have said it better myself. And I’m wondering why, on a feminist board, there seems to be an agreement to sweep privilege under the rug for this particular story.

  202. ThankGoddess
    ThankGoddess February 26, 2010 at 3:15 pm |

    Richard,

    Thank you for your sincere words, as I feel all of them have been. There are so many times that we frame our experiences a certain way, and that does effect others. When we know that we’re speaking from their own experiences and not attempting to force us to frame our discussion or experience their way, it helps.

  203. chava
    chava February 26, 2010 at 3:25 pm |

    Of course trans men have their own difficult experiences and are oppressed sexually. But if you present as/are/pass as as a traditionally masculine man, for as long as you are passing* you gain the privileges that men have as a whole in our society. It doesn’t make the other oppressions trans men suffer meaningless. Of course it doesn’t mean trans men are just transitioning to “get the privilege” (drivel I’ve heard spouted elsewhere).

    * Trans men are real men. Full stop. “Passing” here means “accepted without question by society as a whole.”

  204. chava
    chava February 26, 2010 at 3:29 pm |

    I’d like to add that since I am a cis woman, i feel both uncomfortable NOT including trans men in my first post and then including them in my followup comment. In the first instance, I was responding to some of the comments about the disappearing of trans bodies and the centering of cis rape and cis experience. Should I not include “trans men” with “men”?

    I do not know what the experience of a trans person is and can never know, no matter how much reading I do or friends I speak with. I apologize if anything I have said gives unintended offense.

  205. Danny
    Danny February 26, 2010 at 3:32 pm |

    chava:
    Men (be they trans or cis) are not the oppressed class when it comes to sex. Full stop.
    I don’t recall saying they were the oppressed class. Full stop.

    Yes, stereotypes about masculinity hurt men, especially when it come to reporting their own rapes and being taken seriously. No one is denying that here.
    So when pololly said:
    pololly:
    Sexual crimes against women are used to threaten, castigate and control all women. They are used to define women’s experiences of sex, of college, of marriage, of everything. Sexual crimes against men do not.
    There was no denial of the experiences of men?

    But stop trying to talk your way into men being just as much of the sex class as women are. It ain’t so. AND IT DOESN’T MEAN MEN CANNOT ALSO BE RAPED.
    I never said men were just as much of a sex class as women are. In fact I simply said it also happens and you immediately accuse me of trying to say that men have it worse so who is the one trying play the numbers game here?

    You seem to have a problem with simply acknowledging that such things happen to men so you make up for it with a quick reminder that women have it worse. But I’ve gone far enough off topic. If you actually want to talk about your greivances with me and my opinions instead of grandstanding you know where to find me.

  206. CBrachyrhynchos
    CBrachyrhynchos February 26, 2010 at 3:34 pm |

    S.L. I was actually coming to post something similar to pololly. I couldn’t have said it better myself. And I’m wondering why, on a feminist board, there seems to be an agreement to sweep privilege under the rug for this particular story.

    Well personally, I’m frustrated on two points.

    First, we can’t seem to talk about how to change the dominant discourse of rape culture which treats sex as something to be negotiated, wheedled, and bought from women because each relationship is a unique special snowflake distinct from that larger culture.

    Second, we can’t seem to talk about the needs and concerns of male survivors of sexual harassment/abuse/violence because we’re too busy belaboring the fact that they are different. No shit it’s different, and perhaps those of us who have actually experienced it might actually have some insight about how that difference works.

  207. kaninchenzero
    kaninchenzero February 26, 2010 at 3:39 pm |

    But if you present as/are/pass as as a traditionally masculine man, for as long as you are passing you gain the privileges that men have as a whole in our society.

    Oh, bullshit. For one thing, no one passes that completely. Yes we’re really men and really women (those of us who identify as such; those of us who aren’t, aren’t) thanks for that. Maybe if we transitioned during infancy we could, but most of us transition as adults. Which means we have histories, paper trails, credit records, job reviews that follow us around. And every time we interact with a medical professional we have to out ourselves. Every time. Because it’s relevant. And every last fucking one of them will ask you about your genitals: “So. You’ve had the surgery and everything?”

    A man who hasn’t had the history of growing up soaking in the knowledge that he is in fact entitled to fucking everything? Is going to be different from one who has.

    And none of us ever shakes off the fear of being outed. There are few legal protections for us in the US: we can be fired from our jobs and evicted from our homes (if we rent) with impunity nearly everywhere. We get assaulted a lot. Killed too often. Tell me, does male privilege come with this much fear?

    Do not tell me any of us has the privileges of a cis person.

  208. Faith
    Faith February 26, 2010 at 3:40 pm |

    “I am saying that you are being fucking ridiculous by acting as if rape, on a societal level affects men as much as it effects women. That’s why you seem like an MRA apologist.”

    Yes, this thread has become creepy and disturbing in multiple ways.

    For the record: While I agree that men can be raped by women, I absolutely do not agree that the problem of women raping men is as great a problem as the problem of men raping women. On an individual level, I believe that it can be at least nearly traumatic. Definitely as traumatic if force or penetration is used. But on a societal level, the problem of women raping men does not even begin to compare to the reality that women face when it comes to being raped and the very real fear and reality of rape that we live with every day.

  209. chava
    chava February 26, 2010 at 3:45 pm |

    Kaninchen, I fucked up unintentionally there and I apologize. I think I should stop there.

  210. james
    james February 26, 2010 at 3:49 pm |

    *Trigger Warning*

    About the ‘does it matter if the victim feels victimised’ debate.

    I remember once speaking to a guy who worked in some sort of mechanical engineering environment. A tire fell on him and pinned him down, his friends found him and decided, before they helped lift off the tire and release him, to exploit the opportunity by slapping him in the face with their genitals and taking pictures with their camera-phones while he was powerless.

    Now I was listening to all this with increasing horror. But that wasn’t what he was trying to convey at all. He thought it was hillarious. It was a spontaneously offered annecdote to illustrate what a fantastic job he had, the laughs he had a work, how lucky he was to be employed there, and was a brilliant bunch of lads he got to hang around with all day.

    I can’t say I really understand any of this one bit. I’m just even years later at a dead loss. We’re certainly not talking about consent, let along enthusiastic consent on his part. It’s certainly a scenario from one of my worst nightmares. But he was presenting it as some sort of positive experience and life affirming experience. I just really don’t know. I’m a sensitive guy who reads feminist blogs: they’re no way anyone’s going to convince me of anything other than it being a serious case of sexual assault. But… how do you carry on or respond to any of that? I couldn’t have pursuaded him of that, or even if I had, what – he goes from someone enjoying life to an abuse victim? Or maybe sexual assault is an interpretational thing and in different contexts the same acts with the same lack of consent can have totally different cultural meanings? I don’t know.

  211. ThankGoddess
    ThankGoddess February 26, 2010 at 3:53 pm |

    But if you present as/are/pass as as a traditionally masculine man, for as long as you are passing* you gain the privileges that men have as a whole in our society. … “Passing” here means “accepted without question by society as a whole.”

    I would like to know when such things ACTUALLY happen. Transmen are accepted without question by society as a whole? They have the privileges of society?

    You and your cis-privilege are straining I hope not just my credulity, but that of every feminist on this site. Every single one of your posts oozes with apologism, privilege, and you’re ignoring all of those that are telling you so.

    Maybe you should ACTUALLY READ what Kaninchenzero is saying:

    Do not tell me any of us has the privileges of a cis person.

    And I am curious why such blantant privilege and ignorance is being tolerated here? We’d NOT STAND FOR IT if such comments were being made about cis-women, WHY do we when it is transmen or transwomen?

    I’m done with SL, their comments are significant enough to demonstrate continued rape apologetics and its incomprehensible to me that we keep tolerating these things here.

    You seem to have a problem with simply acknowledging that such things happen to men so you make up for it with a quick reminder that women have it worse.

    And what really ends up happening is that chava is dimissing all of those that have not been “really” raped because our experience was so like those men. We said no and our no was ignored. We weren’t held down, struck, threatened. We were just ignored. OUR desires weren’t good enough. When rape victims are dismissed because of their gender, we dismiss ALL victims.

    Second, we can’t seem to talk about the needs and concerns of male survivors of sexual harassment/abuse/violence because we’re too busy belaboring the fact that they are different. No shit it’s different, and perhaps those of us who have actually experienced it might actually have some insight about how that difference works.

    Perhaps. Some of us ARE listening CBrachyrhnychos.

    — Prepost Edit:

    Chava apologized to Kaninchenzero. I am leaving my original comments but acknowledging that Chava has already addressed the issues I brought up.

  212. CBrachyrhynchos
    CBrachyrhynchos February 26, 2010 at 3:57 pm |

    Faith: For the record: While I agree that men can be raped by women, I absolutely do not agree that the problem of women raping men is as great a problem as the problem of men raping women. On an individual level, I believe that it can be at least nearly traumatic. Definitely as traumatic if force or penetration is used. But on a societal level, the problem of women raping men does not even begin to compare to the reality that women face when it comes to being raped and the very real fear and reality of rape that we live with every day.

    As far as I’m aware, no one has come close to saying it’s the same thing on the societal level. And most of us are in agreement that there are important differences on the personal and relationship level.

    What has been suggested is the view that “no” means “try harder” can also be creepy when applied to male partners in relationships.

  213. ThankGoddess
    ThankGoddess February 26, 2010 at 3:57 pm |

    But on a societal level, the problem of women raping men does not even begin to compare to the reality that women face when it comes to being raped and the very real fear and reality of rape that we live with every day.

    I agree. On an individual level, each person’s on experience should not be dismissed because it prevents any movement forward in eliminating the societal level, if victims are not believed, we’ll tend not to believe them regardless of their gender. When victims are believed then we don’t dismiss them because of gender.

    This does not lessen in any way the very REAL impact of trauma on a person’s life, even if the rest of society is not as deeply impacted.

    Thank you Faith for saying it this way.

  214. Natalie
    Natalie February 26, 2010 at 4:08 pm |

    As far as I’m aware, no one has come close to saying it’s the same thing on the societal level.

    Well ThankGoddess has been saying this throughout the thread, that it’s appropriate to just switch the genders and voila! Ignoring the fact that things said to a man by a woman do NOT have the weight of things said by a man to a woman.

    And she has called everyone who points out that there is a patriarchal context a rape apologist even if that’s the only point on which they diverge from her opinion.

  215. CBrachyrhynchos
    CBrachyrhynchos February 26, 2010 at 4:16 pm |

    Natalie: Well, I’m not certain how that’s on a “societal level.” And I’ve not really heard a compelling case that those differences in patriarchal privilege mean that we should have fundamentally different standards in negotiating consent.

  216. ThankGoddess
    ThankGoddess February 26, 2010 at 4:18 pm |

    Natalie, just WHAT have I been saying throughout that is inaccurate?

    Yes it IS rape if ANYONE has sex with someone that is NOT consenting. PERIOD. GENDER does not matter.

    NO that does not change the reality that rape of women has impacted society deeply in ways that rape of men has not. Faith said it exactly right.

    No that does NOT change the TRAUMA of the men that HAVE been raped. We refuse to tolerate victim olympics just because more women have experienced rape than men.

    No I will NOT change my position that NO MEANS NO regardless of gender. And that those who think it does ARE rape apologists. By apologizing for rape they are not merely dismissing the male victims, but the female as well.

    And finally NO I have NOT said that it is the same on a societal level. Requiring that we ALL abide NO MEANS NO and YES MEANS YES does not say it is the same on a societal level any more than saying NONE of us should murder in any way implies that a single murder is the same as a genocide.

    STOP framing MY conversation YOUR way. I’ve only said EXACTLY what I MEAN. I won’t tolerate YOU or anyone else THINKING FOR ME. I had ENOUGH OF THAT with the patriarchy thank you very much!

  217. chava
    chava February 26, 2010 at 4:21 pm |

    “What has been suggested is the view that “no” means “try harder” can also be creepy when applied to male partners in relationships.”

    I haven’t heard anyone (excpet maybe Olo) claim that it can’t be creepy–just that for them, in their experience, it had not always been or was not.

    It can absolutely be creepy and abusive, as I think most of us have already stated, repeatedly.

  218. Natalie
    Natalie February 26, 2010 at 4:23 pm |

    Well, to repeat my example, context matter. Noose on the door of a white professor’s office vs. noose on the door of a black professor’s office. Both are terrible! One taps into a long history of history of oppression. Saying that you can tell how terrible something is by reversing the race or gender denies that there are these long histories of oppression that still affect us.

    Again, as I’ve said before twice now, I don’t think that matters in terms of negotiating consent on an individual level.

    But ThankGoddess has basically been denying that male privilege exists all thread (going so far as to say that she won’t recommend feminist websites to friends because feminism isn’t about equality) which is just bullshit.

  219. CBrachyrhynchos
    CBrachyrhynchos February 26, 2010 at 4:26 pm |

    chava: I haven’t heard anyone (excpet maybe Olo) claim that it can’t be creepy–just that for them, in their experience, it had not always been or was not.

    Which gets us right back to the argument that we dare not question how sex in rape culture is conceived of as something that’s negotiated, wheedled, seduced, bought, or coerced because everyone’s personal relationship is a unique and precious snowflake.

  220. ThankGoddess
    ThankGoddess February 26, 2010 at 4:34 pm |

    Well, to repeat my example, context matter. Noose on the door of a white professor’s office vs. noose on the door of a black professor’s office. Both are terrible! One taps into a long history of history of oppression.

    Your example would work if we were talking about SYMBOLIC acts. TALKING to a man who HAS NOT BEEN RAPED about rape IS VASTLY different than talking to a woman who has not been raped.

    CONTEXT CHANGES when they HAVE been raped. The noose in your example is no longer on the door, but on the throat of each and they are DANGLING in front of a crowd. See how that works?

    I have NOT been talking about people that HAVE NOT been raped. OF COURSE a male with privilege in such a case IS going to THINK and FEEL differently than me. PERIOD. But from what I have experienced, when it comes down to HAVING BEEN THERE, I have a LOT in common with MEN that have been raped.

    I have not DENIED FOR AN INSTANT male privilege. I have said REGARDLESS OF that privilege EVERYONE IS ENTITLED to CONSENT or to DENY consent. This in NO WAY denies male privilege.

    Now as to your claim that I don’t recommend feminists sites because feminism isn’t about equality, let’s see what I REALLY said:

    It is because of ridiculous double standards like this that I have such a hard fight when I try to explain WHY I AM A FEMINIST to people. Men and women all of the time bring up arguments like these and I have to explain that feminists are for EQUALITY. There are NO DIFFERENCES between men and women. I no longer even recommend ANY feminist sites to anyone because of this kind of nonsense.

    NO MEANS NO except when it doesn’t????????

    UNREAL!

    Notice I said EXACTLY THE OPPOSITE of what you just said I said.

    If you would take FIVE MINUTES to realize that NO MEANS NO for ALL PERSONS no matter their standing, gender, race, age, privilege, and stop acting as if somehow no means no is just a little bit less of a no in the cases of cis-male persons, and it’s not exactly rape in their case, you’d not have to say I said things I NEVER said.

  221. CBrachyrhynchos
    CBrachyrhynchos February 26, 2010 at 4:34 pm |

    Natalie: Saying that you can tell how terrible something is by reversing the race or gender denies that there are these long histories of oppression that still affect us.

    Well yes. You can’t say “how terrible” something is just by flipping the gender. But the principle remains the same that pushing consent is ethically problematic regardless.

  222. Natalie
    Natalie February 26, 2010 at 4:42 pm |

    Jesus. Christ. This is now the fourth time I’m saying that I’ve never said pressuring someone isn’t a problem. Pressuring someone of either gender is a problem.

    @ThankGoddess: Sorry for misremembering your wording, although you still seem like you think you are the coolest person in the room for saying it should all be about equality while denying present structural imbalances.

    Your example of hanging the two professors just reinforces the point. Yes. It is equally bad for both professors, just as rape is equally terrible for both rape victims, but the death of the white professor will have no impact on the lives of other white people whereas the death of the black professor will remind black people that they must always live in fear.

    Rape against women, like lynchings against black people are a means of social control.

  223. ThankGoddess
    ThankGoddess February 26, 2010 at 4:43 pm |

    CBrachyrhnychos,

    I think you can say “how terrible” it is by reversing the genders, because rape is terrible. What we cannot say is that we all experience something the same, or process our experiences the same. This does not lessen the trauma for those that are traumatized.

    The objection to saying something is terrible if we reverse the genders is problematic because it denies autotonmy to everyone. Are only we allowed our freedom to consent but men are not? I find that appalling on all levels. It is only when we recognize the right of each person, in all circumstances, in all society and all subcultures, that we can even begin to eliminate rape.

  224. kaninchenzero
    kaninchenzero February 26, 2010 at 4:46 pm |

    Which is why gender needs to be removed from questions of what consent and rape mean entirely. While privilege and social structures inform the assumptions we start with they’re not very helpful when we get to the level of what’s happening in an individual relationship. Many relationships may follow the patterns we expect from privilege. Some will not and we can never know which is which.

    If these issues are gendered, some people will be protected less well. Some people will be considered less harmed by rape. We don’t have to guess; this isn’t a slippery slope argument. This is the current state of things. It harms everyone.

  225. kaninchenzero
    kaninchenzero February 26, 2010 at 4:48 pm |

    And your gender constructions leave a lot of people out entirely, or try to make us fit into roles we don’t belong in.

  226. Lurkin Merkin
    Lurkin Merkin February 26, 2010 at 4:49 pm |

    What surprised me most about this was not the fact that men can be raped/pressured to have sex by women, but that a woman would be offended by a man not wanting sex or not being able to orgasm every time. When those things have happened to me with my boyfriends, I always feel a little bit relieved, to tell the truth. Not because I don’t want sex, or don’t want him to come, but because its nice sometimes to have stereotypes proved wrong, I guess. It makes me feel more human. This is very much besides the point though.

  227. ThankGoddess
    ThankGoddess February 26, 2010 at 4:53 pm |

    Natalie,

    I am NOT denying imbalances. Never did. I said several times that society views and treats us differently. I am saying that those imbalances do not make it NOT rape. You say pressuring someone is a “problem”, I say it is rape. If men were saying that pressuring a woman is a problem, I’d be livid. I am JUST as livid when we think of pressuring ANYONE as “a problem” but refuse to admit it is rape or sexual assault.

    I didn’t have “a problem” when i was raped. It wasn’t problematic, it was traumatic. From the sound of males on this thread and those that have opened up to me in person, it is also traumatic for them. I WONT dismiss them. Your choice of language is doing just that, it is dismissive and offensive.

    but the death of the white professor will have no impact on the lives of other white people

    I’m just shaking my head at this. Nice to see someone living such a privileged and insulated life that they can believe the death of someone will not have an impact on others.

    As to your claim that rape against women are a means of social control, I assume with the implication that rapes of men are not, that has ALREADY been answered quite well by another commentor. And yes, rape against men ARE a means of social control. The degree of the impact of that control may not be as deep as the control of women, but it is an appalling assertion to state that rape is not about control.

    If these issues are gendered, some people will be protected less well. Some people will be considered less harmed by rape. We don’t have to guess; this isn’t a slippery slope argument. This is the current state of things. It harms everyone.

    Kaninchenzero thanks for summing up the best argument to date.

  228. Danny
    Danny February 26, 2010 at 5:00 pm |

    kaninchenzero:
    If these issues are gendered, some people will be protected less well. Some people will be considered less harmed by rape. We don’t have to guess; this isn’t a slippery slope argument. This is the current state of things. It harms everyone.
    Yes yes yes it is the current state of things. This is why depending on who you’re dealing with different things happen when a rape is reported and those differences are very gendered. Depending on the gendered thinking of people a rape report is often treated differently depending on the genders of the victim and rapist.

    While the the context, historical effect, history, privilege, etc… will vary depending on gender none of that should have any affect on whether or not rapes are prosecuted/punished. But as it stands now it does.

  229. Natalie
    Natalie February 26, 2010 at 5:01 pm |

    @kaninchenzero: I don’t know if your last two comments are aimed at me or not, but if they are, I want to reaffirm that I believe you about your experience and I trust that you have labeled it correctly.

    If I have seemed to leave out the trans experience with my comments it’s not because I intended to be erasing but because I took piny’s comment to heart that labeling the trans experience of rape as fundamentally different from the male or female is damaging. I will think about how I can make that clearer and be more inclusive in the future.

    The only reason I’ve been so vehement on this point is that, while I agree with most of what ThankGoddess has been saying (pressuring a partner into sex is wrong, assuming men are in a permanent state of consent leads to female on male rape, individual experiences of rape are equally harrowing regardless of gender, whether female, male, or non-binary) I can’t condone her denial of the existence of male privilege.

  230. ThankGoddess
    ThankGoddess February 26, 2010 at 5:06 pm |

    I can’t condone her denial of the existence of male privilege.

    A denial I NEVER made. I have stated time and again that male privilege does NOT ELIMINATE the need for male consent.

    I side with Kaninchenzero on REMOVING GENDER from discussions of assault, because doing so, disappears entire groups of people, namely sexual assault victims.

  231. CBrachyrhynchos
    CBrachyrhynchos February 26, 2010 at 5:08 pm |

    Natalie: I might be completely reading it wrong, but a chunk of this discussion has included the idea that pressuring someone is sometimes ok in some relationships.

    Which you know, I can sometimes badly playact shock at my top’s intentions in a scene myself. I’m still not convinced that invalidates “no means no” as a good general rule.

  232. Natalie
    Natalie February 26, 2010 at 5:08 pm |

    I’d not be surprised at all if the numbers of men raped approached the numbers of women raped.

    I want to clarify I am not SUGGESTING the numbers are equal. Just that now I would not be SURPRISED if they were anywhere near the same.

    To quote you again: how is this not suggesting the problem is the same, societally for men and women? That is a denial of male privilege, one of the hallmarks of which is getting to live, as a class, free from fear of rape.

  233. ThankGoddess
    ThankGoddess February 26, 2010 at 5:10 pm |

    CBrachyrhynchos, agreed. Play acting is one thing. VERIFYING in cases where you KNOW the person is OK with you verifying, is ok. PRESSURING is NOT ok. Having these conversations OUTSIDE of the bedroom to find where your lover stands is the best policy. That is one aspect of yes means yes.

  234. Li
    Li February 26, 2010 at 5:10 pm |

    Faith: “On an individual level, I believe that it can be at least nearly traumatic. Definitely as traumatic if force or penetration is used.”

    Um, no? Degrees of trauma are not determined solely by the actions that initiate the trauma, but by a whole lot of different interacting factors including but not limited to structural oppression and personal grief. Given that this whole thread has been about how partners persistently asking for sex produces entirely different levels of trauma in different relationships and context, can we please not play the “how allowed is you trauma from your non-penetrative rape” game? Personal trauma is really freaking complicated and that kind of universal anatomising of it is intensely bad form. Especially not with phrases like “at least nearly traumatic”.

    I totally don’t have the spoons to deal with the rest of the discussion yet, but I am reading it.

  235. Natalie
    Natalie February 26, 2010 at 5:10 pm |

    Natalie: I might be completely reading it wrong, but a chunk of this discussion has included the idea that pressuring someone is sometimes ok in some relationships.

    Yes, some people have been saying that. I have not.

  236. ThankGoddess
    ThankGoddess February 26, 2010 at 5:16 pm |

    No it’s not Natalie. You keep leaving out PARTS of what I have said to imply that I met something else. I am talking about the fact that here we have a situation, which if it were a woman being pressured MOST of us would call that rape. Because it is a man, some are NOT defining it as rape. As long as we refuse to define THE SAME ACT as NOT being rape, then the numbers are NOT congruous with the belief that they numbers are different.

    However, as you see Brian (I believe) explained HOW the numbers are arrived at in these studies. That is that persons are asked if they have ever had sex when they did not want to. This reduces the possibility that the same act is in one instance ignored and in another validated.

    Now it is not suggesting because it is NOT suggesting. But I AM ALLOWED to wonder OUT LOUD that if we are defining the SAME ACT in the case of cis-men on cis-women rape, but NOT defining it as rape in OTHER contexts (cis-women on cis-men in this case) then how can we KNOW that women are raped by men more than men are raped by women. Brian’s comment let me know HOW.

    But, that was ALREADY explained to you and is THE SAME THING I have been saying ALL along. CONSENT does not KNOW GENDER. Saying that it does not, does NOT DENY male privilege.

  237. Danny
    Danny February 26, 2010 at 5:18 pm |

    Natalie:
    To quote you again: how is this not suggesting the problem is the same, societally for men and women? That is a denial of male privilege, one of the hallmarks of which is getting to live, as a class, free from fear of rape.
    Because they are only speaking of the numbers, not the pressures and social affects. Saying they would not be surprised if the gap is not as big as we currently believe does not mean they think that the pressures and affects on men and women are the same. Its not like male privliege means that the numbers on men are properly accurate and beyond question.

  238. Natalie
    Natalie February 26, 2010 at 5:23 pm |

    Ah but she doesn’t say “not as big as we thought” she says “approaching the same.” Which is an important difference.

  239. Brian
    Brian February 26, 2010 at 5:27 pm |

    Natalie

    Numbers are just something we can measure. Men get raped pretty commonly. Not as commonly as women, but the numbers certain “approach” that – the difference is a factor of two or maybe three; asking someone on the street their stereotype would probably get you a factor of a hundred or more. Men (as a class) generally do live free of the fear of rape, but it isn’t because they’re rarely or never raped, it’s just because they’re told they won’t be. Being a man generally does mean being free of the fear of rape. Being free of actual rape, not so much. (See, for instance http://www.1in6.org/ )

    That isn’t relevant to the question of male rape victims, who (generally) will have a much harder time thinking their gender makes them immune to the fear of rape, either while they’re being raped, or after they’ve been raped.

  240. Danny
    Danny February 26, 2010 at 5:28 pm |

    Yes but still she is talking about the numbers and not the affects and pressures.

  241. Natalie
    Natalie February 26, 2010 at 5:33 pm |

    Well numbers are part of the effect. It’s disingenuous to claim that something that affects women in disproportionate numbers affects nearly the same number of men. Part of what makes rape such a big issue for women is knowing how likely we are to be raped.

  242. Sailorman
    Sailorman February 26, 2010 at 5:36 pm |

    I agree with what RJN said above, which is pretty similar to what I said in comment #99: it doesn’t matter howwe define rape, really (although it is a pretty loaded word.) It’s more that the definition of rape and the statistics around rape and the censure/guilt/victimization/concern about rape all have to MATCH.

    Faith/ThankGoddess: If you want to define rape so that it includes things which a lot of people consider normal, acceptable, interaction: OK, that’s your call. But in that case, being labeled a “rape apologist” or a “rapist” or a “member of a seriously fucked up relationship” doesn’t mean much, does it?

    It’s a bad dichotomy: if we have to decide whether most people are rapists and/or rape apologists, or whether you’re unreasonable extremists… you lose. You say that your language is merely trying to help; I think it’s simply so extreme as to hurt the cause you’re professing.

    Life is nuanced. The reason it’s so damn difficult to discuss rape at all is because so much of it IS nuanced: it represents a “not OK” border between people who often communicate poorly and act thoughtlessly and who each have their very own set of rules and likes and dislikes and circumstances. Unless you’re living in a police state or 1984, you have to deal with that.

    And returning again to the earlier post: the more individual we get, the less the general rules apply. Men are generally more privileged than women, but some men are less privileged overall than are some women. Men are more likely to rape and less likely to be raped, but that doesn’t mean a given man isn’t a victim, or that a given woman isn’t a rapist. And so on.

    The reason that it sounds so weird to talk about women who are rapists is because women tend not to do “violent assault penetrative rape” which is what society reflects. And women, being less empowered and less physically strong generally, also do less “implied threat of violence of economic ruin-type rape.”

    But when we are really out of that trend? If we start classifying “anything other than fully enthusiastic consent” as rape? Welcome, women, to the experience of being schrodinger’s rapist. It’s an odd feeling, isn’t it?

    So this is an interesting test. It’s easy to say that we can wrap our heads around the concept that sexual assault is gender neutral. but it’s a bit trickier put into practice. And although i don’t agree with the hard liners here, I have to assume it’s the first time that some women here have been (indirectly or not) accused of being rapists and/or rape apologists, and I wonder how that will affect their future rape discussions.

  243. Faith
    Faith February 26, 2010 at 5:44 pm |

    My head is going to explode after much more of this. I’m going to go drink another beer. Maybe that will help.

  244. kaninchenzero
    kaninchenzero February 26, 2010 at 5:51 pm |

    I’m saying that when all y’all talk about rape with the cis woman’s experience of penetrative rape by cis men centered in a context of male privilege and female oppression you aren’t wrong that these are the majority of rapes that we know about.* This is clearly the area where most of the effort to end rape needs to be focused.

    Every thread here about women’s experiences with rape is moderated heavily to keep derailments about men’s experiences with rape out and rightly so. But this thread was supposed to be about those rapes that fall outside that cis-woman-centered experience. We’ve had a two-hundred-plus comment thread with so many of y’all complaining that this one didn’t center your experiences also. Those of us whose experiences didn’t fall into that cis-woman-centered frame got buried. Some of you acknowledged mine, eventually, because I stayed here and kept at this. At a fairly large emotional cost to me — trying to talk about this in the face of people who want to have a theoretical discussion about themselves is a bit taxing.

    And when you talk about rape in terms of men and women you are leaving everyone not cis and not binary out of it. When you talk about male privilege you mean cis men. When you talk about the female experience of rape you mean cis women. Even though what we experience when we are raped or when we commit rape is not actually alien**, the concepts you are using to frame the discussion exclude us. And they exclude a good many cis women and cis men whose race or class or just the peculiar circumstances into which they were born puts them in a position where they never had any expectation that they would not be raped; there was never any safety to be violated.

    You talk as though your particular experience is or should be universal. Which is the frustration so very many of us have with feminism. Y’all have no idea.

    * I suspect that with more awareness and more acceptance we would see more men reporting sexual contact without having given consent. Just as with any event, some will be traumatized and some won’t. But these are just personal conjectures. If the rape culture has taught us anything it is that consent is always presumed. Tracing abuse back through my family shows me that anyone can be an abuser. Privilege helps, but is not required.

    Every survey of rape I have ever seen has exactly two gender categories. Yeah.

    ** A lot — with regards to what is actually done to us — depends on the attacker’s perception of our gender and whether that perception changes during the assault. Our own experiences are, well, I haven’t been anyone but me but yes! My rape was traumatic. Not because the act was that violent though it wasn’t exactly pleasant either. It was traumatic because someone I loved and trusted and I thought loved and respected me violated that trust and used my body without consideration for my needs.

  245. realitybeam
    realitybeam February 26, 2010 at 6:21 pm |

    “ Men only have to be aware of rape when it comes up.”

    Natalie,

    Please process that your comments have put tears in my eyes. I was routinely raped as an adolescent by a baby sitter. As the right words escape me right now, what she did to me amounted to sexual hazing. I was really fucked up by it through high school, well into college and still have residuals. While as a full grown man I don’t have fear of being attacked by women on the street, there are routine situations that trigger trauma. A woman with a certain brand of cigarettes, wearing a specific article of clothing, or hearing certain songs can leave me shaking. I still sometimes have embarrassing erection issues… either getting them at the wrong times or not getting them at the right times.

    In your quest to be so damn right, you keep missing the point. This is not a numbers game. People like you are the reason I never reported it… and rarely bring it up. Would you dare say to blacks that racism is not as BIG a problem as sexism because blacks only make up 12% of the population and women 51%. Please stop comparing like you do. It’s sick… and sickening.

    Here are some stats from Rainn. Bless you Tori Amos!
    7% of girls in grades 5-8 said they had been sexually abused.
    3% of boys grades 5-8 said they had been sexually abused.
    What is an acceptable number of male victims and female perpetrators for you to start listening?

  246. Consent negotiations « Modus dopens
    Consent negotiations « Modus dopens February 28, 2010 at 8:06 am |

    [...] This thread on rape perpetrated by women against men at Feministe raised some interesting and important questions.  I struggled with the parameters of [...]

  247. The Spectrum of Sexual Assault and the Limits of the Law « Kittywampus

    [...] 28, 2010 by Sungold At Feministe, a guest post by Rachel Hills (originally published at her own blog) ignited an acrimonious discussion. The post in question drew [...]

  248. Your Monday Random-Ass Roundup: 8.8 « PostBourgie

    [...] you’re a man. Here’s an interesting piece on Feministe about sexual assault committed by women and it’s relationship to our ideas about male sexuality. [...]

  249. But It’s Not Really “Rape” « Toy Soldiers

    [...] same thing occurs on a recent Feministe post. The guest poster Rachel Hills recounts a post from Feministing in which a woman [...]

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