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Jill has been blogging for Feministe since 2005.
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107 Responses

  1. maggiemay
    maggiemay July 19, 2012 at 11:18 am |

    im with you jill—i have really mixed feelings about prudies advice—i agree with it in principle, but prudie’s TONE is just unbearable

  2. EG
    EG July 19, 2012 at 11:22 am |

    What horrible things to say to somebody who’s coming to you for help. She’s not prim or punctilious; she’s upset.

  3. mxe354
    mxe354 July 19, 2012 at 11:35 am |

    Stop acting like a parody of a gender-studies course catalog and start acting like a loving wife.

    Aaaaand the asshole-of-the-week award goes to…

  4. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. July 19, 2012 at 11:40 am |

    Oh goodie. Thanks Prudie for telling women they shouldn’t set boundaries around their own sexuality that don’t conform to Prudie’s idea of what is appropriate. And by thanks, I mean, fuck off.

  5. mxe354
    mxe354 July 19, 2012 at 11:44 am |

    However, if two adults are in love and have frequently made love then each can assume implicit consent to throw such legalistic caution—as well as panties—to the wind.

    Maybe I’m reading this the wrong way, but I think this implies a victim-blaming attitude.

  6. Andie
    Andie July 19, 2012 at 12:08 pm |

    1) Prudie is an asshole.

    2)

    But when I realized that it was not OK for him to make advances on me in my state, I pushed him away and ran out.

    It sounds like she’s relying on someone else’s definition of what is ‘Okay’.. Maybe it’s simply the wording.. if it was worded more like “But when I realized I was not OK with him making advances on me in my state…” which may have been what she was reaching for. Who am I to say?

    Ugh.. I don’t even know how to word this without being an asshole. It sounds like someone went “Gah! I’m DRUNK and my husband is trying to have sex with me! That’s RAPE!”

    But then again, it’s up to the victim to decide if they are the victim is it not? So if she says she was raped, we should believe her, right?

    I think what bothers me with this is that it doesn’t sound like she’s calling herself a victim.. it sounds like someone has told her she’s a victim. Like somewhere along the lines she heard ‘If someone has sex with you when you are drunk that is rape. Period.’ and took it to heart.

    Ugh, again. This is difficult as all hell to parse without opening up a LOT of gray area re: marital rape. Which I definitely don’t want to do.

    Long story short: Consent can be withdrawn at any time. Consent can be withdrawn At. Any. Time.

    Once she realized that she didn’t want what was happening, did he back off, I wonder?

  7. Elfity
    Elfity July 19, 2012 at 12:15 pm |

    I don’t comment here much, but I suddenly feel the need to delurk. First of all: Fuck you, Prudence. Thanks for giving my rapist ex and his friends something to back them up when they say that I wasn’t raped even if I was drunk out of my mind or said yes under emotional manipulation and coercision.

    Second: I normally agree with most of what Jill says, but some of her statements rub me the wrong way. I don’t believe that consent is tricky- it is merely inconvenient. God forbid you have to stop for a moment to take a courtesy! The whole idea of consent being “tricky” is something that rapists hide behind all the time. It’s happened to me and it’s happened to people I know. I realize it’s difficult because it goes against sexual drive many times and people don’t want to break the mood, but it doesn’t make it any less necessary. I do work in this area, and it’s absolutely something that should be integrated into healthy relationships.

    The idea that it sounds like she’s having a case of regret that is causing her to cry rape is offensive and victim-blaming. That’s the implication that was made, and it’s unfair, especially when that seems to be the go-to explanation of so many rapists and rape apologists.

    Drunken consent is a major issue. Yes, two adults who are drunk can have sex. Should they? Maybe not, but their inhibitions and impulse control are out the window at that point. I often think the biggest problem is when one is drunk or very drunk and the other is either sober or only slightly drunk. Someone is being taken advantage of in that situation, and I absolutely consider that rape. If that’s happened to you and you maintain that for you, it is not assault, then fine. Just don’t say that others weren’t assaulted or erase their experiences.

    Now I hate to comment and run, but I’m terrified of the comments I’ll get saying that I wasn’t really raped.

  8. Amanda Marcotte
    Amanda Marcotte July 19, 2012 at 12:16 pm |

    I think you’re right; the high drama of the situation could be the result of people who are so poisoned with self-righteousness and weird guilt that they act in ways that make no sense. OR, it could be that there is some ill intent and bad feelings and it’s getting played out with feminist-sounding language because that’s the form this mind fuck has taken. The latter seems more likely, in my experience.

  9. Sam
    Sam July 19, 2012 at 12:19 pm |

    I agree that the tone may not be appropriate for someone seeking advice in a confused state. On the other hand, to be honest, reading the question, I did think “is this for real? Or is this a letter someone sent to make fun of feminist consent discussions”? Because it does read like a parody of a gender-studies course catalog, and is describing pretty much what a lot of feminists would describe as unrealistic forms of male paranoia with respect to consent.

    One impression I got from reading the original letter was that the woman was indeed more concerned with what she deemed to be OK conduct according to the gender-studies course catalog than what felt ok to her. Even in the initial case, where she even took of her panties herself (non-verbal cue) until she realized “that it was not ok” for him. To me this reads like, I actually consented, but now I feel like I should not because of some principles I believe in, so I better don’t consent anymore and instead run out.

    So here’s a question: for all the good the feminist emphasis on consent has done, maybe this story is actually an indication that it can also *create* (sometimes imaginary) problems (that is, creating formal *dissent* in meeting-of-minds-kind of situations), particularly by prescribing certain forms of “formalized”, usually verbal, consent, even though, as also Jill mentions in the OP, there are other entirely valid forms of consent.

  10. Cade DeBois (@lifepostepic)
    Cade DeBois (@lifepostepic) July 19, 2012 at 12:23 pm |

    Oh boy. Prudence should have backed off on this one and simply encouraged the woman to get professional relationship counseling or individual therapy to talk abut her feeling of being violated. Reading the woman’s letter, I had red flags waving like crazy. My thought is there’s more to this story–hard to say from that letter–but definitely more. And whatever that “more” is, it needs to be addressed.

    And I’m a bit aghast that Prudence would admonish someone for having feeling of being violated. We don’t feel violated for no reason. We may feel violated from very complicated reasons that we ourselves don’t understand, and we CAN transfer that fear and sense of being violated from past experiences to other, new situations and other people unconsciously and despite our wishes and will. Abused- related PTSD survivors like myself know this well. Whenever someone says they feel violated, you need to take it seriously and deal with it tactfully (certainly not by calling the ‘prim, punctilious’ and ‘punitive’–if this is a person with a history of past abuse or sexual trauma that she has yet to confront or is on the verge of confronting, for example, you’re admonishing her for the coping skills she’s adapted to survive that abuse or trauma, which just adds to her pain and confusion).

  11. Tori
    Tori July 19, 2012 at 12:27 pm |

    At the same time, they had an agreement — he had to get her verbal consent if she had been drinking (or at least that’s how I read “ask my consent”).

    That’s how I read it as well, in no small part, I’m sure, because my partner and I have a similar agreement. (That verbal consent = all the time.) For us (particularly for me as someone with PTSD who becomes pretty non-verbal when dissociative), it is a huge part of a safe and healthy sex life.

    This part of Prudie’s response:

    These often require getting explicit permission for every escalating advance. However, if two adults are in love and have frequently made love then each can assume implicit consent to throw such legalistic caution—as well as panties—to the wind.

    It looks like she’s categorically saying that when grown-ups do it, explicit consent = legalistic caution, instead of sometimes being, you know, part of a caring and respectful relationship.

  12. Amanda Marcotte
    Amanda Marcotte July 19, 2012 at 12:37 pm |

    I’ve certainly—and in this thread—see people take a legalistic “drunk sex is not okay” stance before. The reason seems obvious; it gives you a nice, clean line and simplifies things. But it doesn’t illuminate; reality is people have drunken, consensual sex all the time. Alcohol isn’t the issue; consent is.

  13. DP
    DP July 19, 2012 at 12:41 pm |

    I think they should split up – clearly there are some deep issues in the relationship – but I struggle to see what the husband did wrong, exactly. They got drunk, he initiated sex, she enjoyed it and then…said stop and he did but felt like shit afterwards.

    A long time later, they got drunk again, he initiated sex by kissing her, she went along…then was too drunk to remember and felt…what, retroactively raped? If you’re kissing and cuddling and making every indication you are OK with sex, and you’re not trapped in an abusive relationship where that’s a survival tactic…I dunno. “Implied consent” is kind of an icky concept but in marriages not every sex act is going to be preceded by a legalistic contract.

    That said, Prudie definitely crossed a line with her snarkiness.

  14. TMK
    TMK July 19, 2012 at 12:45 pm |

    And yet something about this whole situation just strikes me as…. off.

    You mean, like the letter was written by Prudence?

    Yes, it is extremely weird.

    “However, I fee like l must divorce him”… huh?

  15. SophiaBlue
    SophiaBlue July 19, 2012 at 12:48 pm |

    Maybe I’m reading the letter wrong, but it seems pretty clear to me what’s wrong with the second time. They had a clear, specific agreement about under what circumstances sex was OK, and he violated that agreement. I agree with Jill that in most long-term relationships couples can accept more subtle clues, but that wasn’t the rule the agreed on in this relationship.

  16. Amanda Marcotte
    Amanda Marcotte July 19, 2012 at 12:51 pm |

    Dp, no need for the term “implied”, which I agree, is icky. Non-verbal consent is still explicit. I don’t know why that’s so confusing. We all know how to shake someone’s hand without grabbing it, for instance.

  17. Laura
    Laura July 19, 2012 at 12:55 pm |

    I think Prudence is 100% correct, if somewhat harsh. I think this woman needs some kind of therapy. I get the sense that she doesn’t trust her husband, and maybe she has real reasons not to, but it sounds like they don’t actually involve rape. What if she did say yes, and she doesn’t remember – is it still his fault? Does she think that there’s a possibility that she said no and her husband ignored her? Does she think that the only reason she initially appeared to enjoy the foreplay, and to take of her own panties, was because she was drunk? And otherwise she wouldn’t have wanted to have sex with him? It sounds to me like the real agreement should be that they shouldn’t have sex when she’s drunk. But even then, I mean, that’s just… sad, right? You should trust your husband not to rape you, and if you don’t, you should get a divorce. But I feel like it’d be a mistake to get a divorce because honestly it doesn’t sound like this guy did anything wrong. I mean, millions of women really are raped, but that doesn’t mean some other women don’t just have sad sexual hang-ups, and could use some help (albeit maybe from a doctor and not… Prudence) to be happier, healthier people. I do sincerely feel bad for this woman that this is what her married sexual relationship is like. But I mean, I know I’m not her, and I know this is none of my business….

  18. Athenia
    Athenia July 19, 2012 at 12:56 pm |

    To be a total jerk—I feel like this letter was written by the wife’s husband. It just seems so off. i.e. He’s loving etc…MUST DIVORCE.

  19. EG
    EG July 19, 2012 at 1:06 pm |

    Athenia, your comment just made the whole thing make sense to me.

  20. auditorydamage
    auditorydamage July 19, 2012 at 1:12 pm |

    I’d like to run this by the professional anti-abuse worker in my life before I offer a serious opinion on the letter (Prudie’s response is harmful regardless of the situation; it requires little further thought unless you also enjoy shooting fish in barrels). Something doesn’t quite add up, and my usual conclusion upon getting that feeling is that there’s an important piece of information missing, a motivating factor I’m not aware of.

  21. Ismone
    Ismone July 19, 2012 at 1:13 pm |

    Dp,

    I don’t think we know whether she enjoyed it or not, since she doesn’t remember it. If they had an agreement to no sex without some kind of specific consent, and he didn’t hew to that, well, he was in the wrong.

    Also, if a partner knows another partner is squicked by a certain kind of sex (drunk sex, drugged sex–and by that I include over-the-counter or properly prescribed medication, sleepy sex) then the other partner needs to respect that. I don’t like being messed with when I’m asleep, I have partners that are into that. Good for them, but they don’t get to do that to me, and I have serious reservations about doing that to them. So.

  22. roro80
    roro80 July 19, 2012 at 1:19 pm |

    I agree, this is a tough one. When it comes down to it, if this woman feels violated, and that her husband crossed a line previously discussed as her boundaries, she can either decide that the breach of those boundaries means she can no longer be with him, or that they can work on the trust needed to maintain those boundaries in the future.

    I’m seeing a sort of analogy to someone trying to, say, quit doing hard drugs. She made the choice that this is not something she ever wants to do again. If her partner/friend/etc may occasionally make her drug of choice available at a time when she is feeling vulnerable, she can decide that maybe that person isn’t safe to be around, even if she acknowledges that it isn’t the fault of this other person if she chooses to partake. The analogy isn’t perfect (it’s not as if the letter-writer above were ever “addicted” to drunken semi-consentual sex), but it shows that she can be unwilling to continue to be around her husband any longer without assigning him blame for the situation.

  23. rape in marriage « ¡Ay, Amarucita!

    […] http://www.feministe.us/blog/archives/2012/07/19/prudie-on-consent/ Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:LikeBe the first to like this. Published: July 19, 2012 Filed Under: Otras […]

  24. auditorydamage
    auditorydamage July 19, 2012 at 1:29 pm |

    @16: you’re right, he did violate the standard of consent they both agreed to years before and, apparently, adhered to all of that time. I feel as if something happened that strongly influenced her ability to trust her (or any?) partner, either prior to the first incident mentioned or the relationship as a whole (aw hell, why wait – taking the letter at face value, this screams “response to prior trauma” to me). Beyond that, without knowing who knows what and when, I don’t feel comfortable saying much else, and even my prior statements are nothing more than a guess. Again, missing information.

  25. Stephanie
    Stephanie July 19, 2012 at 1:31 pm |

    This is the part that really makes me doubt that this letter is for real:

    “He later felt so bad he wanted turn himself in for rape.”

    Really? That he might feel incredibly guilty, yes, I can believe that– but that he would march himself right down to the police station to confess to something that most non-feminists would not even recognize as rape? I’m sure men like this do exist, but when combined with the weird tone of the rest of the letter (which even Prudie described as “a parody of a gender-studies course catalog”), this statement really seems off to me. I would not be at all surprised if it was written by the husband, or if it’s just an MRA hoax of some kind.

  26. irishup
    irishup July 19, 2012 at 1:35 pm |

    Yeah, the narrative jumps from kissing to waking up the next day, and it’s hard to tell if this is an artifact of her memory, the editing of the letter by the Prudie staff, or a deliberate part of her narrative. It’s also not clear whether the kissing is or is not part of their consent agreement (ie are there non-verbal aspects to “asking”).

    If he flat out ignored steps of their mutual consent agreement OR deliberately used her inebriation as “cover”, this is a no brainer and I’d be getting a lawyer on the horn STAT.

    If he *believed* he had consent, then this is a really unfortunate situation. If she feels like this is the deal breaker, that seems perfectly valid on any examination. But she’s asking advice, and from a notorious victim-blamer at that, which makes me think she’d like to have a shot at a path through rather than out. To which, were I Prudie, I’d answer THERAPY THERAPY AND MORE THERAPY.

    If she’s experiencing this as a rape and/or violation (I don’t want to attribute a word she may not identify with) then that needs validation & support. THEY have trouble navigating this territory, and that needs a thorough and honest exploration. Their marriage isn’t a particularly safe space for either of them, and IMO, the only way to correct that going forward – IF they *want* a forward – is good professional help.

  27. auditorydamage
    auditorydamage July 19, 2012 at 1:40 pm |

    @24:

    Caught that too, eh? “She withdrew consent, he didn’t try to force her to continue… and he wanted to turn himself in???” The motivation doesn’t make sense on a basis of genuine concern. The more I think about it, it almost sounds like something an abuser would do to try and generate undeserved sympathy and coerce forgiveness from his victim.

    Missing information galore.

  28. LPBB
    LPBB July 19, 2012 at 1:43 pm |

    One of the things that I’m confused about is that she says “I liked it and went along, only to wake up in the morning and remember only half of it.”

    What does that mean? Which half does she remember? Her husband may certainly have pushed the boundaries or even flat out broken their agreement, but that statement needs a lot more clarification. I guess she’s saying that she remembers the making out part, but not anything after that, so she’s worried that he did not ask for and receive her consent? I think she and her husband, if they don’t divorce, need to agree to and hew to a flat, no drunken sex agreement. I get the sense that there’s a lot more going on than we’re being told and both she and her husband could benefit from counseling, either singly or together.

    On a slightly lighter note, I was astonished that Prudie actually made an attempt to answer the question at hand, rather than launch another diatribe about the “Evils of Alcohol” and “what do you expect, you drunken lush if you keep enjoying more than one cocktail per year” and/or “maybe you and your husband need to go to AA because you guys obviously can’t consume alcohol responsibly.” I know alcoholism is serious and agony aunts get a lot of letters about the damage it causes to families, but Prudence could give Carrie Nation a run for her money!

  29. DP
    DP July 19, 2012 at 1:55 pm |

    I don’t think we know whether she enjoyed it or not, since she doesn’t remember it. If they had an agreement to no sex without some kind of specific consent, and he didn’t hew to that, well, he was in the wrong.

    Also, if a partner knows another partner is squicked by a certain kind of sex (drunk sex, drugged sex–and by that I include over-the-counter or properly prescribed medication, sleepy sex) then the other partner needs to respect that. I don’t like being messed with when I’m asleep, I have partners that are into that. Good for them, but they don’t get to do that to me, and I have serious reservations about doing that to them. So.

    i thought the agreement was not to have do anything with her while asleep…in the second story, she is fully awake and consenting…and then there’s just an unexplained gap.

  30. Amanda Marcotte
    Amanda Marcotte July 19, 2012 at 2:03 pm |

    Upon reading this post, I have a somewhat revised opinion. Part of the problem is that most of us look at this through a “what’s normal” lens. That’s a really hard habit to break. Most normal, healthy people can get drunk and have sex without having all this confusion and drama over whether there was or wasn’t consent. But these two clearly can’t. Instead of beating themselves up over having this one neurosis, maybe they just need to accept it and make a blanket “no sex after drinking” rule. That one couple has that rule has no implications for the rest of us, and shouldn’t be confused with a grand statement about consent.

  31. jeffliveshere
    jeffliveshere July 19, 2012 at 2:07 pm |

    All of this is yet another reason that I love the concept of enthusiastic consent. From the Yes Means Yes blog:
    “Enthusiastic consent is a principle that says that “no means no” is crucial – if a sexual partner says no, you have to stop – but it’s not enough. In order to ensure consent and prevent sexual violence, everyone, regardless of gender, has to make sure that their partner is enthusiastic about what’s going on.”

  32. lynndee
    lynndee July 19, 2012 at 2:08 pm |

    @17:
    (long-time lurker, first time commenter…)
    Where do we draw the line re. non-verbal consent?
    I personally find verbal consent to work best and it can be done in incredibly sexy ways, too!

  33. SophiaBlue
    SophiaBlue July 19, 2012 at 2:11 pm |

    Amanda, that makes a lot of sense. It seems pretty clear that drunken sex makes her deeply uncomfortable, and whatever the reason for those feelings she has a right to them, and a right to define consent for herself based on those feelings.

  34. Jas
    Jas July 19, 2012 at 2:13 pm |

    I agree with Prudie’s response for the most part, if not her tone. Unless the LW’s agreement with her husband was, “we must never ever have sex when I’ve been drinking because I cannot consent when drunk”, it doesn’t sound like there was a breach of trust here. IMO, LW has a drinking problem. If the last thing she remembers before blacking out is enthusiastically making out with her loving husband, the problem isn’t her husband, it’s her drinking.

    I have been there. When I was younger I drank a lot, and there were (too) many times when I drank to excess, made questionable sexual choices (or non-choices), blacked out, and woke the next morning full of questions and regret. There were instances where it was unquestionably rape with no semblance of consent. Other times my partner should not have accepted my drunken consent (also rape, complicated by the poor judgement of my drunk partner.) But the times when I recalled saying yes willingly, then regretted it the next morning, are what made me realize that I was drinking too much.

    I’m married now, and when I drink to excess I’m more likely to fall asleep before sex than black out during. And I have definitely fallen asleep during drunken foreplay. (Sorry, Honey.) But even being a sufferer of PTSD with a sexual assaults in my past I can’t say I’d be mad at my husband for what the LW is describing. It seems unfair to him and I don’t understand why she’s with him if she doesn’t trust him.

  35. Jose
    Jose July 19, 2012 at 2:20 pm |

    I don’t think the agreement was very clear.

    Six years ago, when we were in our early 20s and had just fallen in love, after a night of partying and drinking, he woke me up in the middle of the night and started to have sex with me.

    This led to an agreement that he shouldn’t be afraid of coming close to me in similar situations as long as he asked my consent.

    After coming back from a friend’s wine tasting we went to bed and he started to kiss me. I liked it and went along

    I think there’s a difference between waking her up drunk in the middle of the night for sex and making out than having sex before they went to sleep. Also, she stated in the letter that she enjoyed sex at the time it was happening. I think the problem here is that they weren’t legalistic enough.

    I think for the majority of people a partner’s happy participation is consent.

    Also, it doesn’t sound like she’s upset that they had sex. It sounds like she’s upset that the rules were broken. But, there could be good and reasonable background behind why she wants to be in a relationship where she knows the rules will be followed at all times when it comes to sex.

  36. Stephanie
    Stephanie July 19, 2012 at 2:24 pm |

    auditorydamage @25:

    “The more I think about it, it almost sounds like something an abuser would do to try and generate undeserved sympathy and coerce forgiveness from his victim.”

    Yeah, good point. I was leaning towards the letter being a hoax, but if it’s real and things actually happened as described then your interpretation makes sense to me.

    I used to do advocacy for victims of DV & sexual assault, and sometimes we’d get fraudulent calls on the hotline (sometimes they were from abusers pretending to be the victim, but sometimes they were just stories made up out of whole cloth). It took me awhile, but I eventually got to the point where I could recognize them straight away. There was always something sort of off about the way the situation was described or the way that the people involved supposedly acted, and it was always “off” in a very specific way, with the caller using language that they thought would engage my sympathies as an advocate. But because they were just mouthing the words and not actually understanding the principles, it always sounded forced and artificial. This reminds me of that. It could still be real, but if it is, I’d guess that we’re missing some important information.

  37. Rhoanna
    Rhoanna July 19, 2012 at 2:25 pm |

    Enthusiastic consent, while a great concept, doesn’t necessarily help here, or for drunken sex generally. People can consent enthusiastically while drunk to things that they wouldn’t while sober, and ill-intentioned sober (or less drunk) people can take advantage of that. People can also regret enthusiastically consenting, or not remember whether they did at the time. The LW might have been very into the kissing and what followed and indicated such, or she might not have (‘I liked it and went along’ covers a variety of actions). And it’s little help when both people are impaired, and might misread the other person’s actions.

  38. Amanda Marcotte
    Amanda Marcotte July 19, 2012 at 2:28 pm |

    @24: You know, that seems like the biggest red flag. “I hate myself and I need to go to jail!” is a weird mind fuck to run on someone. It puts them in the position of comforting you, etc. There’s definitely more going on here.

  39. Amanda Marcotte
    Amanda Marcotte July 19, 2012 at 2:32 pm |

    Rhoana, regretting what you did later doesn’t mean you weren’t consenting at the time. There’s already a myth out there that women “cry rape” because they consented and then regretted. I’d hate to see it reinforced by feminists.

    Rape happens a lot after drinking not because people are confused about what they want. It’s because rapists target drunk people, and they do that for two reasons. One, drunk people are less capable of defending themselves. Two, they can be more assured that people blame the victim—they may even chalk it up to “regret”!—if she’s drunk.

  40. Jadey
    Jadey July 19, 2012 at 2:41 pm |

    As someone who is kind of a control freak (to the point where I just do not drink, straight up, because I hate the idea of my awareness being clouded), I can understand how someone could be completely thrown by a partner not following the ground rules they’ve created about sex, *regardless of enjoyment at the time*. Honestly, if I did drink and have an active sex life (two things I am basically avoiding for said control freak reasons, whoops), I’d probably do the same thing because I wouldn’t trust myself while intoxicated to be able to observe and take care of my own boundaries and therefore wouldn’t want a partner to be negotiating sex with me at that time for any reason. And if I had a partner who couldn’t keep to that, even if it was because when intoxicated they didn’t possess the requisite self-awareness either, then either the alcohol would have to go or the partner would.

  41. Jadey
    Jadey July 19, 2012 at 2:44 pm |

    +1 to everyone pointing out the weirdness of the original letter, though, in terms of some of the details. The offer to turn himself in for rape in those circumstances was rather… extreme. Not impossible, but really unlikely. Best case, he was sincere but deeply, deeply naive?

  42. Willian
    Willian July 19, 2012 at 3:04 pm |

    As someone who’s dated/been married to the same woman for 11 years now, I’d say that this woman is trolling Prudie (and by extension, all of you). The idea that someone’s wife would consider leaving their husband because she can’t remember whether they gave consent in their drunken state is absurd.

    This does play out like some self-parody.

    And no, I am not one who believes that marriage=free access to the panties at all times. It’s just, it doesn’t play out like that. I call shenanigans.

  43. irishup
    irishup July 19, 2012 at 3:05 pm |

    OK, I have another comment in mod, but since writing that, I’ve read a bunch of the other comments pointing out the inconsistencies in the description of the first event. I didn’t pick up on those before.

    If this guy is a gaslighter/abuser, that would easily explain why she’s asking someone *else*, even Maude-help-us Prudie, whether she’s right to feel how she feels.

    So I still go with lawyer and therapy, STAT, but withdraw BOD as to whether he made a mis-step or misinterpreted or whathave you. The first incident was sufficiently worrisome that anything close to a repeat should get the side-eye. If anything, a guy who was in truth that *earnestly remorseful* the first time, should have erred on the side of “No” in all future similar situations.

  44. DouglasG
    DouglasG July 19, 2012 at 3:06 pm |

    A bit of clarity and context from the LW would certainly have helped. I’ve spent much of the day unable to decide whether they could tweak their agreement for improvements and sail on quite happily, or whether one or both of them are contorting themselves into forced attitudes and making the relationship much more strain than it merits.

    At least the discussion here is more edifying than that at Slate.

  45. roymacIII
    roymacIII July 19, 2012 at 3:12 pm |

    Without knowing more of the details, impossible to say. As far as “He later felt so bad he wanted turn himself in for rape” bit goes… I’m skeptical. Maybe “he later felt so bad that he *offered* to turn himself in [if I felt like he had raped me].” I’m trying to imagine a situation where what she describes happens, and I can imagine someone saying “Look, I love you and I certainly didn’t intend to do anything to hurt you, but if you’re saying I did, then I’ll face the consequences for it, because I’m truly sorry for what happened.” Not a desire to turn himself in, but a desire to do the right thing in the face of being told he’d violated someone he cared about.

    Or maybe not. I wasn’t there, obviously.

  46. Willian
    Willian July 19, 2012 at 3:14 pm |

    My comment is still awaiting moderation, but thought I’d follow up with noting that the type of dude that hooks up with an unconscious woman is a cowardly slimebag of epic proportions, i.e. NOT the type of guy who’d be all emotional and remorseful to the extent he’d turn himself in for rape.

    Again, something is fishy here. The wife is either struggling with her grasp of the truth, or the husband is ghostwriting this and is an even bigger turd that I first thought.

  47. Chiara
    Chiara July 19, 2012 at 3:36 pm |

    uhmm is it just me or this whole drunk sex = rape thing kinda sexist?

    i mean if both parties are drunk and neither is in their right mind then why is it automatically the guy that is the rapist? this reeks of the whole ‘girls dont want sex’ attitude where sex is just for the guy only.

    the woman who wrote the letter obviously has serious mental problems that go far beyond drunk sex. It seems to me that she is more concerned with violation of the formal rules in her head rather than whether she actually feels like she was raped or not.

    just because you cant remember something doesnt mean it was bad or against your consent. oftentimes i go out then i wake up and i dont know where I went the night before… that doesn’t mean I accuse my friends of kidnapping me or something.

  48. Stentor
    Stentor July 19, 2012 at 3:47 pm |

    Another theory on the “turn himself in for rape” aspect: there are a lot of guys out there who believe that rape only counts if the victim reports it to the police. (In another community I participate in, I’ve lost track of the number of people saying that the community should not do anything about abusers unless they have a police record.) So I could see a case where she’s saying she feels like it might have been rape, and he comes back at her with “well if you’re going to accuse me of rape, we can go down to the police station and turn me in. If you’re not willing to do that, then it must not have really been rape.” So he could have been escalating things to force her to back down.

  49. Athenia
    Athenia July 19, 2012 at 3:54 pm |

    Also…they went to a *wine tasting* and she later blacked out? I’d like to believe this letter, but….really?

  50. Echo Zen
    Echo Zen July 19, 2012 at 3:55 pm |

    Anything Prudence writes on the topic of (not?) violating women’s bodies is pretty much a guaranteed fail.

  51. Willian
    Willian July 19, 2012 at 3:58 pm |

    @Chiara, love your comment, and think that’s an interesting point everyone is overlooking. I think when there’s drunk sex that the women can’t remember people automatically assume the “he took advantage of her” position, because that’s traditionally how it’s played out. But the notion that a woman can’t get fucked up, forget what happened, and then laugh about it the next day is unfair.

    Of course, there’s a historical dynamic that can’t be ignored. One where, until recent times, women have been subject to/at the mercy of hoping the guy isn’t the type to take advantage, which is why we all go default to the “what did he do to her” mode.” Without stating the obvious, just down to shear physical differences, an unconscious female alone with her conscious male counterpart faces a different set of concerns than a male in a vice versa situation.

    IF this is a real letter, then the fact that two married people could let themselves get to this point is proof positive to me that they should divorce. If you can’t pass the fuck out and trust your spouse, then time to split. It’s a grossly reductionist comparison, but in college, I had a few friends who fucked around with me one time when I passed out. After scrubbing the “cocks” (both written and drawn) and “pussy” off my face and chest, I vowed never to spend any time around them again; especially no drunk time.

  52. Jadey
    Jadey July 19, 2012 at 4:03 pm |

    the woman who wrote the letter obviously has serious mental problems that go far beyond drunk sex. It seems to me that she is more concerned with violation of the formal rules in her head rather than whether she actually feels like she was raped or not.

    No. And hell no to the ableism of “obviously has serious mental problems” as a way of dismissing someone. Read the rest of the thread.

  53. Thomas MacAulay Millar
    Thomas MacAulay Millar July 19, 2012 at 4:07 pm |

    I think we’re all getting lost in a side issue. The letter is very wierd and it’s impossible to tell what happened from it. The real issue in my view is that Prudie is consistently awful and Emily Yoffe needs to be fired.

  54. Lindsay Beyerstein
    Lindsay Beyerstein July 19, 2012 at 4:35 pm |

    The LW is a survivor of trauma, if not rape. Her future husband started having sex with her while she was asleep and drunk. When she realized what was going on, she jumped up and ran away. This wasn’t sex she consented to. It was either a terrible misunderstanding or an assault.

    The LW and her husband have a fraught history around drinking and ambiguous consent. They decided to give up on implied consent for drunk sex all together, because clearly it wasn’t working for them. They shifted to some kind of explicit consent model.

    It’s not clear whether the husband followed the rules for the second encounter. If he didn’t get explicit consent the second time, then, yes, he’s an abuser. If he did, then he didn’t do anything wrong.

    Either way, they need to rethink the whole drunk sex thing. If implied consent isn’t working and explicit consent isn’t working, maybe they need to swear off drunk sex for a while. It’s obviously very traumatic for the LW and if her husband’s a decent guy, he’ll respect that.

  55. Icaarus
    Icaarus July 19, 2012 at 5:56 pm |

    @Stephanie (24)

    Yes men like that do exist. However any man sensitive enough to feel that level of shame would in no way continue the relationship. If he had been that distraught over the potential harm he did her (potential because not enough information exists for either event to be definitive) he could not have stayed. From an emotional standpoint it would have been upsetting and from a rational standpoint it would have been clear that the relationship was unhealthy for her. So no this screams missing or made up.

  56. yes
    yes July 19, 2012 at 5:57 pm |

    Yeah, definitely not enough information in this letter for anything approaching a situation-specific response from anyone, imho. Probably fake or trolling. Still, “saying stupid shit that gets people talking about why your shit is so stupid” seems like prudie’s regular contribution to society, so yay.

  57. Icaarus
    Icaarus July 19, 2012 at 6:06 pm |

    Correction and added comment to my last
    Should be 27 not 24.

    And if this is more truth then fiction, neither partner is in the greatest mental health – him for whatever went on 6 years ago and how he made her feel after, and her for staying with him after experiencing that level of mistrust and pain.

  58. snorkellingfish
    snorkellingfish July 19, 2012 at 7:10 pm |

    Six years ago, when we were in our early 20s and had just fallen in love, after a night of partying and drinking, he woke me up in the middle of the night and started to have sex with me. I was dozing and still drunk and, yes, I took my panties off myself. But when I realized that it was not OK for him to make advances on me in my state, I pushed him away and ran out.

    So, she’s asleep. He initiates sex. She takes her panties off while still dozing. When she wakes up enough to realise what’s happening, she runs off. If I’m interpreting this right, it sounds an awful lot like rape – someone who’s asleep can’t consent to sex.

    In that context, his act of offering to term himself in sounds potentially manipulative. I could imagine an abuser offering in order to convince his victim that he’s contrite and that it was an accident – or, as Stentor suggested, to escalate matters knowing that the police were unlikely to do anything and she was the one who’d come out looking like she’d overreacted.

    The wording does strike me as off, though, and I’m with the people wondering if the husband wrote it in order to manipulate her.

    My reaction would be to tell her to get out. Even if the husband didn’t do anything, the fact that she felt the need to write this letter says a lot in itself. I get the sense that she’s looking for permission to leave him, but can’t necessarily put her finger on why she wants to. Honestly, if that’s what her gut’s telling her, I think it’s what she needs to do, especially when we’re told far too often not to trust our own instincts and to give boyfriends/husbands/partners a second chance.

  59. PM
    PM July 19, 2012 at 8:51 pm |

    As a guy who was dumb as a bag of bricks when it came to dating and sex in my early-20s and carrying a load of Catholic guilt regarding my sexuality (no, I didn’t do drunken hook-ups with people, definitely for the best), I could totally see my past self offering myself up for punishment if I was the perpetrator in an incident like that. I was a big white knight-type, too, so I definitely had the “women are delicate flowers” mentality.

    I am not taking a position on whether this guy had that idea or was using it as a manipulative tactic or whatever. I have no idea. But are there certainly men that are just that clueless about sex, alcohol, relationships, and consent.

  60. Mike Ballard
    Mike Ballard July 19, 2012 at 10:42 pm |

    To have a drink or not, is your own decision, woman or man. To have sex or not is a woman’s decision. As a man, I steer clear of women who don’t want or like to have sex with me. It’s obvious when a woman doesn’t want you, just as it is obvious when a man doesn’t want to have sex with a woman. The difference is, of course, that a man can rape a woman who doesn’t want to have sex with him, whereas a woman cannot rape a man, even if she wants to. Non-consensual sex is a turn-off for me. Only the sadistically inclined get off on non-consensual sex. Women who don’t want to engage in non-consensual sex should steer clear of sadists.

  61. Raincitygirl
    Raincitygirl July 19, 2012 at 10:57 pm |

    And all sadists are clearly labelled ahead of time with a large “S” tattooed on their forehead, so women know to avoid them.

  62. Raincitygirl
    Raincitygirl July 19, 2012 at 10:59 pm |

    And don’t even get me started on the whole thing about how a woman cannot rape a man, because we’ll be here all night.

  63. Icaarus
    Icaarus July 19, 2012 at 11:03 pm |

    Mike

    You are horribly mistaken if you think that women do not have the power to rape men. This is not the place to make that mistake, and oh have I said stupid things here and been rightfully torn asunder for them.

    As for this post, I think the only thing that is clear is that willingness and consent are not always the same thing. Taken at face value the first part of the original letter showed indications of willingness, at least until she had enough wherewithal to decide upon consent. Or more plainly, willingness is reading someone’s involvement. Consent requires more mental capacity and engagement.

  64. Icaarus
    Icaarus July 19, 2012 at 11:03 pm |

    Mike

    You are horribly mistaken if you think that women do not have the power to rape men. This is not the place to make that mistake, and oh have I said stupid things here and been rightfully torn asunder for them.

    As for this post, I think the only thing that is clear is that willingness and consent are not always the same thing. Taken at face value the first part of the original letter showed indications of willingness, at least until she had enough wherewithal to decide upon consent. Or more plainly, willingness is reading someone’s involvement. Consent requires more mental capacity and engagement.

  65. Icaarus
    Icaarus July 19, 2012 at 11:04 pm |

    Sorry about the double post. Jill could you fix that please.

  66. susan
    susan July 19, 2012 at 11:15 pm |

    I actually emailed her about this letter. the writer describes going to a “wine tasting” and then has a blackout where she doesn’t remember what happened? this woman is deflecting her alcoholism by making it seem like a sex problem. the real problem in this relationship is her drinking, no two ways about it. Better advice would be, why not just stop drinking and then you’ll see if your marriage is worth saving.

  67. Emie
    Emie July 20, 2012 at 12:38 am |

    Good grief. “start acting like a loving wife”. Really, Prudence? That’s your response? This woman feels violated at what her husband did. And that’s one of the things she’s going to say? Screw you Prudie…
    This woman was obviously upset, she doesn’t need any “victim-shaming” to go along with that.

    (on a side note that’s really just an observation, and not really to do with the blog) I’ve noticed that more times when a woman on any website describes their boyfriend’s/husband’s personality one of the things they say is that they are “funny”. But whenever a man talks about their girlfriend’s/wives on any website, I’ve never seen them say that.
    It was just an interesting observation I’ve noticed, with gender/sex.

  68. ruggersban
    ruggersban July 20, 2012 at 2:25 am |

    i’d like some clarification on something:

    After coming back from a friend’s wine tasting we went to bed and he started to kiss me. I liked it and went along, only to wake up in the morning and remember only half of it.

    if she was so drunk she only remembers half of it then what the hell was her husband doing still doing her? when you’re that drunk you’re either blacked out or incoherent — surely someone you’ve been married to for six years can tell your state of mind at the time. isn’t that the point of enthusiastic consent? that it’s “ongoing” i.e. if you look up and see your partner’s eyes lolling back into their head in drunken oblivion, that’s usually a good point to stop, nevermind any “yes” obtained beforehand? (and i don’t care if he was drunk also – clearly he was not too drunk to continue and therefore the onus was on him to make sure his partner was as engaged and enthusiastic throughout. yeesh.)

    i’m annoyed by her husband now, and annoyed by all the commenters blaming the letter writer for being a drunk, or not remembering half the experience, or for having rules in her head about this kind of thing.

  69. Natalia Antonova
    Natalia Antonova July 20, 2012 at 3:47 am |

    I smell a troll, personally.

  70. f.
    f. July 20, 2012 at 4:15 am |

    Amanda @ 32:

    That is exactly what I was thinking too. People react differently to mind-altering substances. It sounds like the LW is not comfortable with the way alcohol lowers her inhibitions, maybe due to her difficult history with it, and gets some pretty sudden blackouts. Both of those are legit reasons to avoid having drunk sex, and to ask her partner to respect that limit.

    BUT, our culture has so little room for discussions about alcohol and sex that fall in between the extremes of “Wooo, gettin drunk and laid” and “Always rape, no matter what”. Our sexual health is really, really, really ill-served by those extremes. That makes it hard for couples like the LW and her husband to have frank discussions about drunk sex and set appropriate limits for their situation without completely freaking out about it.

    Honestly that is my best guess about why the husband felt like he needed to go to jail after the first time. Plenty of men are raised to feel like they are natural predators who are just bound to hurt someone sooner or later, whether due to religious norms or misguided interpretations of consent culture. That can cause men to overinterpret a situation like the one they faced as a young couple, focusing the whole thing on judging their own actions way too harshly and ignoring what their partners may or may not be going through. At the same time, she is dealing with feelings of violation that she isn’t “supposed” to have because after all, alcohol isn’t really a drug and our limits around it don’t really count.

    As a caveat, it is still possible that she is dealing with a gaslighting abuser – but it would be impossible for an advice columnist to figure that one out from a brief letter.

    Whatever is going on, this couple needs compassion and a second opinion from a qualified counselor. NOT Prudie’s admonition to shut up, shut up, shut up and if you can’t do that, give up on your generally harmonious and happy marriage. She has proved time and again that she is absolutely terrible at answering any question dealing with consent. I feel so bad for this woman in crisis who reached out to a stranger only to be publicly berated and have her concerns mocked and ignored.

  71. Partial Human
    Partial Human July 20, 2012 at 4:58 am |

    I’m with Athenia.

    It’s an MRA troll, attempting to show his slimy friends how women “cry rape”after drunk sex.

    or

    It’s a rapist husband, looking for external validation that his abused wife is wrong, and he’s right.

    It has reddit all over it, to be quite frank. There are so many red flags that it looks like a Mao-era communist rally.

    It’s there right from the beginning.

    “He’s totally amazing, I must divorce him” reads like “I’m a great guy, why should a bit of rape matter?”

    “He felt bad, wanted to turn himself in” is “I didn’t get consent. She made me feel bad about it, I offered to go to the cops to show her how ridiculous she was being”

    “I blacked out and don’t remember anything after the kissing” is “She was going along with it just fine. If she doesn’t remember anything, how does she know I didn’t ask her, and she didn’t say yes?”

    From beginning to end it’s:

    “I’m great, a total dudebro catch, but my wife’s ideas about ‘consent’ are harshing my boner.

    She was indoctrinated with all this ‘consent’ crap at college, and even though I’m her husband now, she’s acting like it’s rape if I want sex and she doesn’t.

    She’s hurting my feelings and making me feel bad. If she really thought it was rape she’d go to the police, amirite?

    How do I get her to realise this ‘consent’ stuff is bullcrap, and get her to lighten up and not be afraid to have fun?

    Yours, Mr A “

  72. DouglasG
    DouglasG July 20, 2012 at 8:04 am |

    Ms Athenia/Ms Susan – Ah, yes, the Wine Tasting. While I’m a lifelong abstainer, my mother, who drank consistently, went to many Wine Tastings and generally came home less impaired than if she’d stayed home alone all evening. Not that that makes a general rule, but on that basis I supposed that perhaps neither husband nor wife had any idea until the next day that she was drunk. Also, perhaps he was unknowingly fuzzy enough to miss a crucial step. Not to excuse him, but perhaps to extend the agreement to when either of them has been drinking, if that’s what’s needed for them.

  73. Treebeard
    Treebeard July 20, 2012 at 9:01 am |

    I agree it sounds like a troll. It makes no sense on many levels if you try to picture them as actual people, but it DOES sound like a carefully constructed example to try to make feminists and women’s studies types look bad.

  74. quentin
    quentin July 20, 2012 at 9:31 am |

    My husband raped me, in the context of emotional abuse & gaslighting, so it was years before I could name it. Once I did, he jumped at taking responsibility for it, did all kinds of internet research, went to therapy, validated my feelings, all in an effort to get me to stay. As soon as I left, of course, my accusations became absurd. Like the LW, I scrambled in the years I stayed to find some, any, boundary I could enforce: not when I was sleeping, let me take my showers alone, not when I had my period. Nothing objectively wrong with sex in those circumstances – I’d had it with my husband and have since I left him – it was a desperate (& vain) attempt to shore up my autonomy & offer him a way to earn back my trust. Either the husband wrote the letter or she’s looking for some validation of her irriational-seeming instincts.

  75. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. July 20, 2012 at 9:47 am |

    I don’t know that I’d be as quick to dismiss this as a troll. I have heard clients tell their stories this way particularly when they were abuse survivors prior to this relationship. The husband offering to turn himself in for rape is also something I’ve heard before as a tactic. I’m not saying its definitely not a troll, but I wouldn’t dismiss the possibility that there is a women here who is seeking some help from a very fractured perspective.

  76. JLondon
    JLondon July 20, 2012 at 10:49 am |

    I was thinking something along the same lines as Kristen. There could be something we can’t know going on where it’s just hard for the woman to put into language what is happening to her or bothering her. There are so many things that are unclear about the story, but my first thought about the weirdness was not that it was trolling. Rather, I think it is possible that boundaries are getting violated in some way and the author just doesn’t have the language for describing how so.

    The whole story is told like a hazy memory with no definite chronology. As I was reading the part about how her husband woke her up to have sex, I could not figure out how conscious she was when he came on to her or how awake she was when she removed her underwear. I could not figure out if she was aware of what she was doing. There was nothing about the specific’s of the husband’s behavior such as when and how he initiated sex. I was wishing I could as the writer whether she was awake or behaving in a way her husband ought to have recognized as a state where consent could not be given. What did she mean by dozing? That sounds like a state where consent can’t be given. Did she then wake up more fully and bolt? The whole story sounds gappy, but sometimes memories are gappy when you’re drunk and traumatized. Sometimes talking about it might come out all jumbled. Doesn’t mean troll.

    As a few people have pointed out, it’s also not obvious what she meant by it not being ok for him to make advances in that state. As a statement, it comes off as weird if you interpret it to be some kind of universal principle enforced after the fact about the evilness of drunk sex, but it makes a lot of sense if she just meant that she didn’t think she was in a state where she could make a choice.

    I think others may have also pointed out that she never says what kind of consent is agreed upon by the couple, but her discomfort with the second incident seems to imply that it was not nonverbal consent they’d agreed upon as acceptable. If this is the case, then the second incident is pretty obviously a huge violation of trust, but it all really hinges on absent information.

    Someone mentioned that it was rather odd to be that blackout drunk from a wine-tasting. Yet more missing information is just how drunk they were. How drunk did she think she ought to be given how much she consumed?

    The other thing noticeably absent is what parts of the experience she remembers and what that experience even was. It just says he started to kiss her and she went along with it. It doesn’t even specifically say they ever had sex of any kind; we’re all just assuming that was the direction things progressed.

    I do find these gaps weird, but then I remember all the gaps in my own memories of times where I’ve felt a little betrayed and violated even when totally sober. I remember trying to explain what happened to myself or friends and not being able to remember whether I was completely asleep or just on the verge of being asleep. I recall mixing up the order of events and forgetting my own responses to them. Like the woman, I wavered between labels to try and name it. I actually went too far at times and labeled the experience something it probably wasn’t because I was angry and confused and I didn’t have any other language for it. Perhaps the gaps in her story and explanation are a reflection of actual gaps in her understanding of what happened to her or gaps in her memory. People are probably right to suspect that this a troll or imposter of some kind, but we shouldn’t forget how freaking disorienting it can be when we feel violated.

  77. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. July 20, 2012 at 11:42 am |

    @JLondon,

    Exactly. Plus when there are gaps,often people fill them in with what others have told them happened. This happens All.The.Time. Some clients have a solid narrative of what happened, but the majority of the time, clients have a very jumbled recollection that is further manipulated by the abuser (Ze grabbed my arm to prevent me from falling or Ze didn’t push me down the stairs, I tripped) and those “manipulated” recollections are mixed in with genuine recollections so that a client might say Ze broke my arm and in the next breath say it was to prevent zir from falling. It often sounds like lying to a judge, but I think its just one of the brain’s responses to stress and trauma.

  78. Thomas MacAulay Millar
    Thomas MacAulay Millar July 20, 2012 at 11:53 am |

    I think, also, that the letter may seem strange because it has been edited for length and may have lost context, detail, or just naturalistic language. We might have a better idea what was going on if we had the original and not Prudie’s [I’m presuming edited] version.

  79. mxe354
    mxe354 July 20, 2012 at 12:15 pm |

    The difference is, of course, that a man can rape a woman who doesn’t want to have sex with him, whereas a woman cannot rape a man, even if she wants to.

    Women who don’t want to engage in non-consensual sex should steer clear of sadists.

    Victim-blaming asshole. Get the fuck out.

  80. Sam
    Sam July 20, 2012 at 12:30 pm |

    Treebeard,

    “I agree it sounds like a troll. It makes no sense on many levels if you try to picture them as actual people, but it DOES sound like a carefully constructed example to try to make feminists and women’s studies types look bad.”

    Again, I agree that it *sounds* not realistic, not like actual people would likely interact. But I also find it kind of strange that a lot of people here seem to be willing to assume either psychological issues caused by prior abuse or an MRA troll and no one seems to contemplate the possibility that the LW’s odd behaviour could be the consequence of her interpretation of what would constitute ok consent according to the “gender studies course catalog”…

  81. roymacIII
    roymacIII July 20, 2012 at 12:42 pm |

    I would find it a lot more strange if people were taking that possibility seriously.

    I mean, I guess it’s possible that’s the cause of all this. Lots of things are possible. Doesn’t make them likely. Why should people give one of the least likely explanations for the letter a lot of time or discussion?

  82. Ismone
    Ismone July 20, 2012 at 12:57 pm |

    susan,

    I have had friends who will black out after a couple. I have only ever blacked out once, and at times I drink a lot. And there are wine tastings and wine tastings. Sometimes people, even with high tolerances, drink a fair amount at them. It does not make them alcoholics.

    And even if she was an alcoholic, it does not mean her husband gets to have sex with her in a way that violates her boundaries.

    Sam,

    I am guessing that you do not know many sexual assault victims (or plain old assault victims) by what you have written. Many times, it is very difficult for people to understand that what happened to them is not okay. This is not caused by feminist discussions of consent, this is caused by the trauma of being unexpectedly assaulted, sometimes by someone the victim cares deeply about. I got grabbed at a party by a guy, and he squeezed my neck twice, and groped my leg and upper thigh twice. I used that story for years as an explanation of freezing up in the case of sexual assault–usually, if someone touches me in a way I don’t like, I defend myself pretty ably, but I was so stunned by his improper behavior to do so on that night. It was only after 2-3 years of telling that story, online and in person, to explain freezing up, that I realized that the guy who grabbed me committed assault. (Or battery, depends on the state, but never mind.) Point being, I was a law student focusing on criminal law. I could recite the definition of assault in my sleep.

    The reason I didn’t name it initially isn’t because the d-bag didn’t assault me, or because “feminism confused me,” it was because I had gone 25 years of my life without being grabbed repeatedly and inappropriately by a man I was just making the social acquaintance of.

    It is possible this is trolling, but it is also possible that this is a woman coming to terms with something that is really hard to accept, as others have pointed out.

  83. Sam
    Sam July 20, 2012 at 5:39 pm |

    Ismone,

    sorry about your experience…

    I am guessing that you do not know many sexual assault victims (or plain old assault victims) by what you have written. Many times, it is very difficult for people to understand that what happened to them is not okay.

    you’re right to assume that I don’t know a lot of abuse victims, and I suppose your explanation for the LW’s confusion is making sense.

    However, as I already mentioned above, one impression I got from reading the original letter was that the LW was indeed more concerned with what she appears to have deemed to be OK conduct [according to the gender-studies course catalog?] *than what felt ok to her*.

    In the initial case, she even took off her panties herself (non-verbal consent?) until she realized “that it was not ok” for him (as opposed to “I didn’t feel it was ok for him”). To me this reads like “I sort of like this, but, wait, the way this is happening means that I am supposed to not like it because of the principles I believe in, so I better run out.” A bit like someone trying to adhere to religious principles about pre-marital sex – “I’d want to, but we’re not married, so I’m not allowed to want it and better run out – and you’re unfair to put me in this position.”

    The general point I am trying to make is that having specific procedural practices for consent may be helpful in many cases, but can also *create* dissent due to procedural infringements where there would have actually been consent (like, possibly, in the LW’s case).

  84. DouglasG
    DouglasG July 20, 2012 at 7:23 pm |

    I agree with Mr Millar about the possibility of editing, and am particularly open to the possibility that the letter was edited with a mind to making Ms Prudie’s answer look wiser or wittier, at least to their target audience. This time, at least, they appear to have performed with considerably more than their usual skill.

  85. Mike Ballard
    Mike Ballard July 20, 2012 at 8:12 pm |

    “Victim-blaming asshole. Get the fuck out.”

    Your ability to reason is undoubtedly clouded by your self-righteous anarchist ideology, whoever you really are, ‘mellowness’.

  86. Raincitygirl
    Raincitygirl July 20, 2012 at 8:20 pm |

    That’s nice, Mike sweetie.

  87. Mike Ballard
    Mike Ballard July 20, 2012 at 9:38 pm |

    Please explain how a woman can rape a man, “Raincitygirl”. I’m 67 years old and in all my years, I’ve never heard of (except in contemporary African news stories about witches) nor experienced it.

    BTW, I think one *can* suss out sadists by how they act toward the question of freedom for an individual. A sadist will always define freedom negatively in terms of his or her relation with another person e.g. one person’s freedom will be conditioned on the other person’s un-freedom. This negative concept of freedom will appear in this person’s actions toward you and others. No big red ‘S’ necessary (Hawthorne reference noted). The negative conceptual ideology concerning freedom is, IMO, is one of the dominant paradigms of bourgeois acculturation.

    The employer/employee relationship, which is ubiquitous within the wage-system is a prime example of bourgeois acculturation. One can refuse to be dominated in this dominance and submission set of social relations by becoming aware of the top down power structure into which we are all born and then, organising to sublate it through advocating and helping to create a society where equal political power between all men and women is the norm.

  88. Chiara
    Chiara July 20, 2012 at 9:44 pm |

    Please explain how a woman can rape a man, “Raincitygirl”. I’m 67 years old and in all my years, I’ve never heard of (except in contemporary African news stories about witches) nor experienced it.

    are u dense or something? woman has sex with a man when the man does not consent (or cannot consent). that’s rape. it’s not rocket science

  89. LC
    LC July 20, 2012 at 9:47 pm |

    The general point I am trying to make is that having specific procedural practices for consent may be helpful in many cases, but can also *create* dissent due to procedural infringements where there would have actually been consent

    Ok, I can get that.

  90. OutrageandSprinkles
    OutrageandSprinkles July 20, 2012 at 10:06 pm |

    @Mike Ballard, are you fucking kidding me? So you’ve never heard of it? Try Google. Also maybe consider that just because no man has ever walked up to you and said “Just so you know, I’ve been raped by a woman” doesn’t mean it hasn’t happened. Educate yourself before you talk about this subject.

    1. Mike Ballard
      Mike Ballard July 20, 2012 at 10:29 pm |

      Ah…I see. Oral sex with a sleeping man. I must admit, I’ve never given consideration to this. Here we go: “At trial, prosecutors will allege Elder, of Parkside, broke into a house while its male occupant – who cannot be named – was lawfully on the premises.
      They will also say she broke in with the intention of committing a further offence of rape.
      Finally, prosecutors will accuse Elder of raping the man by performing an act of oral sex without his consent.
      Judge Wayne Chivell remanded Elder on continuing bail until a directions hearing next month.

      Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2118300/Rebecca-Helen-Elder-accused-raping-man-breaking-house-stand-trial.html#ixzz21DwJdpOZ

      Thanks for the enlightenment. I’m not much in to oral sex so the prospect didn’t occur to me. Anyway, this woman is innocent until proven guilty as the old Anglo-Saxon form of jurisprudence still applies in Australia.

  91. OutrageandSprinkles
    OutrageandSprinkles July 20, 2012 at 10:08 pm |

    I know it’s not policy to ban people on request and I know I’m not the boss of anyone, but I would like to politely request that Mike Ballard be banned for both the denial of the existence of male rape victims and the victim-blaming of female rape victims.

  92. Donna L
    Donna L July 20, 2012 at 10:12 pm |

    Just in case your ignorance is genuine, Mike, think (among other things) sleep. Intoxication. Involuntary/ unconscious erections. And that’s just where PIV is concerned. You do know that there are other forms of rape, right? Including any kind of penetration? With any body part or object?

  93. Comradde PhysioProffe
    Comradde PhysioProffe July 20, 2012 at 10:13 pm |

    Dear Prudence is the fucken worst. If you like advice columns–and who doesn’t?–go check out Captain Awkward!

  94. librarygoose
    librarygoose July 20, 2012 at 11:14 pm |
  95. TMK
    TMK July 20, 2012 at 11:42 pm |

    Mike Ballard,

    Please explain how a woman can rape a man, “Raincitygirl”. I’m 67 years old and in all my years, I’ve never heard of (except in contemporary African news stories about witches) nor experienced it.

    Here you go.

    http://pjmedia.com/blog/ask-dr-helen-can-a-man-be-raped-by-a-woman/

    1. Mike Ballard
      Mike Ballard July 21, 2012 at 12:11 am |

      I liken this story to the sort of fishing tale which is told in pubs about the big one which got away. As this person commented:

      Lynn
      “She had apparently brought me to erection — not hard as I’m one of those men who can hold one for hours, awake or asleep, sober or drunk.”

      How do you hold an erection for hours? By counting to like a kazillion? Making a mental yearly shopping list?
      ************************
      I also think this person has a point:

      SarahW
      Let me be more blunt. You’ve fallen for a fantasy or confabulation created with the specific intention of having others be subjected to a prurient exagerration of his capacities and vulnerabilities.
      His “harpy” rape is a masturbatory fantasy and the literary equvalent of flashing.
      *******************
      As I wrote in my original observation: ” Non-consensual sex is a turn-off for me. Only the sadistically inclined get off on non-consensual sex. Women who don’t want to engage in non-consensual sex should steer clear of sadists.”

      Once upon a time in a Marine Corps barracks on Okinawa a long time ago, I was fast asleep in my bunk when I awoke to be stroked on my butt by a guy. Whoah! I jumped out of bed and the guy ran away. Non-consensual sexual contact does happen and I oppose it. I’ve stated that.

      As for the definition of ‘rape’, I think there is no hard and fast legal definition which applies universally to all cultures at present. Please correct me, if I’m mistaken. And remember this: ‎”The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.” “The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master— that’s all.”

  96. Lindsay Beyerstein
    Lindsay Beyerstein July 21, 2012 at 12:14 am |

    Who cares if she was influenced by feminist theories of consent? Her values are her values and her boundaries are her boundaries. Calling them “legalistic” is just another way of dismissing her perspective. Prudie seems outraged that this woman has the nerve to negotiate her own boundaries within her marriage.

    If feminism reminds large swathes of the population that it is wrong to start performing sex acts on the body of an unconscious or semi-conscious person, hooray for feminism! It is wrong. At some level, everyone knew it was wrong even before feminism. As far as I know, it is against the law in every U.S. state to have sex with an unconscious person.

    Enthusiastic consent is an important moral principle. If you suddenly realize that someone is touching you and they didn’t ask permission, you have good reason to be outraged.

  97. mxe354
    mxe354 July 21, 2012 at 1:08 am |

    Your ability to reason is undoubtedly clouded by your self-righteous anarchist ideology, whoever you really are, ‘mellowness’.

    You said that women who want to avoid rape should avoid sadistic people. That implies a victim-blaming attitude and a deep level of ignorance regarding the reality of rape in society. Saying that women can’t rape men also implies a victim-blaming attitude because it suggests that men who get raped by women are not real victims. So I maintain that you’re an asshole.

    Your personal attack is amusing, though, because even if I weren’t an anarchist, I would still call you a victim-blaming asshole. How about you read about the pain and suffering of female-on-male rape victims and the reality of victim-blaming instead of hurling empty personal attacks at me?

    Gain some empathy for rape victims or get out; a safe space like Feministe has no tolerance for rape apologism.

  98. DonnaL
    DonnaL July 21, 2012 at 1:21 am |

    a safe space like Feministe has no tolerance for rape apologism.

    I certainly hope it has no tolerance for rape apologism, but let’s not get carried away. Feministe has never been or purported to be a “safe space” at any time since I’ve been familiar with it.

  99. mxe354
    mxe354 July 21, 2012 at 1:35 am |

    I certainly hope it has no tolerance for rape apologism, but let’s not get carried away. Feministe has never been or purported to be a “safe space” at any time since I’ve been familiar with it.

    I thought it said that in the comments policy section of the blog, but I guess I’m wrong. In any case, this is no place for rape apologism.

  100. TMK
    TMK July 21, 2012 at 4:21 am |

    Mike, erection is controlled by autonomic nervous system. You don’t directly control it, not anymore than your pupil size.

    It’s possible to threaten, say, a marine with a gun, stimulate him so he gets an erection, and abuse him sexually. Whether that particular story is true or not is completely irrelevant.

    (oh, and as a side note, it’s possibly to have hour-lasting erection, i’ve got to see it with my own eyes)

    And of course there are other ways to coerce a man. I remember one such story posted at feministe, even, and it flew under the radar of most of the commentariat (it was included in “first time” stories). Can’t find it anymore, sadly.

    Not that i think it would matter, since anybody with half a brain would – if he was genuinely asking how can man be raped – already understand how can it happen by reading the links and imagining the gaps. So, you’re either dumb or disingenous. I pick the latter.

  101. roymacIII
    roymacIII July 21, 2012 at 7:30 am |

    Mike, if you really want to know how men can be raped by women, I’d really recommend you do a little research on your own. The concept is pretty damn simple.

    BTW, I think one *can* suss out sadists by how they act toward the question of freedom for an individual. A sadist will always define freedom negatively in terms of his or her relation with another person e.g. one person’s freedom will be conditioned on the other person’s un-freedom.

    Oh, is that what a sadist will always do? Really? Can you point to the studies and research that supports this? Any citations at all? No?
    And, of course, everyone always engages in philosophical discussions about freedom with every person they meet, right away.

  102. Lindsay Beyerstein
    Lindsay Beyerstein July 21, 2012 at 9:48 am |

    How about we summarize the points we all agree on and move forward?

    1) Men can be raped by women.
    2) There are documented cases of men being raped by women.
    3) The vast majority of rapes are committed by men.
    4) Victims of all genders deserve compassion.

  103. Kate
    Kate July 31, 2012 at 1:10 pm |

    I’m late to the party but it seems to me like we could talk a little about dude’s thought process?
    “sweet! Naked time!…wait…this situation seems sort of familiar…she seems into it, but she’s been drinking…I thought she was into it that other time and that time went bad…I love my wife and don’t want to do anything to hurt her or strain our relationship…maybe I call off sexy time until later, then there’s the chance of sexy time for decades to come!”

    and scene. Seriously – can we not expect so little from a boy with an erection?

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