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Jill has been blogging for Feministe since 2005.
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333 Responses

  1. James T. Kirk
    James T. Kirk September 19, 2012 at 3:48 pm |

    It is rape. She should be jailed.

    1. Jadey
      Jadey September 19, 2012 at 7:28 pm |

      Absurd. I’m not familiar with any criminal code or current legal precedent in Canada, the US, or the UK which would suggest anyone would be convicted of an offense in this circumstance, regardless of the gender of either party involved. There is simply no evidence for a *legal* prosecution. That does not invalidate the discussion around the situation.

      1. PM
        PM September 19, 2012 at 8:00 pm |

        Lack of mens rea is not a defense for rape in the US. In several states, of course, a man cannot be raped by vaginal envelopment of the penis.

        1. PM
          PM September 19, 2012 at 8:05 pm |

          http://kittywampus.wordpress.com/2010/09/13/why-mens-rea-guilty-mind-matters-to-rape/

          Oops, looks like I was wrong, at least in many states.

        2. yes
          yes September 20, 2012 at 10:19 pm |

          I think you might be thinking of statutory rape, which often doesn’t have a mens rea requirement for some reason.

    2. Debon
      Debon September 24, 2012 at 11:18 pm |

      Between male privilege and prior sexual consent in multiple similar situations this seems sketchy.

      I hate labeling another person’s experience for them… but as a straight white guy and being a psychologist I doubt I’d experience it as violation unless I had previously had similar traumatic instances where I didn’t have control/power or had been violated. It could still happen, but it just seems unlikely based on the limited details.

      1. Tamen
        Tamen September 25, 2012 at 7:56 am |

        Debon:

        This is how I imagine a conversation between you and the boyfriend of the LW would go based on your comment above:

        - Is it the first time someone had non-consentual sex with you?
        - Yes
        - Have you had sex with the alleged perpetrator prior to this incident?
        - Yes
        - In bed at night, with her on top?
        - Yes
        - Ok, then, I hate to say this, but take your male privilege and be like me, a real white straight guy and a psychologist and don’t act so violated about this … this incident.

        Here’s why:

        Between male privilege and prior sexual consent in multiple similar situations this seems sketchy.

        Yeah, that’s something all male victims need to hear: “Due to male privilege you are not really hurt”. Is that part of the curriculum in psych101?

        Did you just use prior consent as an argument that he probably isn’t victimized and hurt? Is that a valid argument to lobby against let’s say victims of spousal rape?

        I hate labeling another person’s experience for them… but

        …yet you did.

        unless I had previously had similar traumatic instances where I didn’t have control/power or had been violated.

        When you wake up with someone fucking you, you per definition did not have any conscious control over whether to have sex or not. I don’t get why there has to be a prior incident for this to be traumatic? Is it some kind of screwed up idea that the first time something happens to one it’s harmfree?

  2. Kylie Brooks
    Kylie Brooks September 19, 2012 at 3:53 pm |

    This post does include triggering content (explicit depictions of rape). Can you please change the title and put at the top of your post that this has explicit depictions of rape?

    Thanks

    Kylie

    1. valentifan69
      valentifan69 September 20, 2012 at 2:37 pm |

      Kyle, I appreciate your concerns, but would care to express them in a way which is more sensitive to the anxieties of the 75,000 American who suffer gunshot violence every year. Thank you.

      1. LotusBecca
        LotusBecca September 20, 2012 at 3:50 pm |

        Wow. You are a total fuckhead, valentifan69

      2. mxe354
        mxe354 September 20, 2012 at 4:13 pm |

        You clearly don’t know what it means to be triggered, you asshole. Fuck off.

  3. Jadey
    Jadey September 19, 2012 at 3:55 pm |

    But I think that probably dude was asleep and woke up to his girlfriend having sex with him and freaked out. And… that’s a fair reaction. It doesn’t make her a bad person or a rapist, but it also doesn’t make him not-violated or not-raped just because she didn’t mean it.

    I had a huge wake-up moment in my early twenties when a guy I had been mutually flirting with for a while and I were sharing a bedroll with on a camping trip, and at one point he mentioned (not without some visible discomfort and embarrassment on his part) that he didn’t actually want to have sex. To be clear, I was a virgin at the time and wasn’t ready to have sex with him either, but I had two mental moments in quick succession after he said that: 1) “Huh, I thought all guys always wanted to have sex? Shouldn’t I be the one putting the breaks on?” and 2) “Holy shit, did I just think that?”

    And I realized just how much crap I had internalized not only about fucked-up sexual expectations of women, but fucked-up sexual expectations of men. Here was a guy about as shy and inexperienced as I was (but who probably thought I was much more experienced than I was, given my lack of traditional feminine demure), who I could have easily put into a position of feeling pressured into having sex, not physically but emotionally. I doubt I could have physically held him down and assaulted him, but I could have made him feel terrible, possibly even coerced him into sex, the way that I myself had once felt pressured to have sex because, “Isn’t that what sexy, empowered women do now?” or “If I do it, he’ll love me and he won’t go away” (two thoughts which I grew up with constantly in my mind, even if I was fortunate enough that they never came to fruition). There was a part of me which had learned, without realizing it, that the consent of a person with a penis could be assumed without question. I was appalled with myself.

    That’s when I realized how toxic and all-encompassing our rape culture was. We don’t talk about or understand coercive sexual roles or meaningful consent, we take genuinely good things, like enjoying sex, and twist them into negative things, “real women always enjoy sex”, and we are set up for painful situations described in the OP made worse by a lack of tools for actually dealing with this in a relationship and resources to fall back on outside of our relationships. We can’t even negotiate clearly what to call it because of all the baggage and assumptions and implications tied up in all the language.

    If this guy feels that he was raped (and he may not be comfortable describing himself that way for so many reasons), I wouldn’t say he wasn’t. Her intentionality doesn’t matter to his feelings of violation. I would feel the same way regardless of the gender IDs of the people involved, which is not to ignore larger social trends in sexual violence and who is most vulnerable to such violence (women and girls, yes, but also people marginalized in many ways, including the economically and racially marginalized, disabled, etc., of all genders), but to recognize that in a given individual instance, men can be and are raped and their consent matters and just because they have had sex with someone before, even in the context of a long-term sexually-active relationship, does not mean their consent can just be assumed or that they are a “guilt-tripping, blame-shifting motherfucker” for feeling violated. Dan Savage is, as ever, a raging asshole.

    More Up-Beat Epilogue: Camping guy and I had a fun flirty non-sexy good time and ultimately nothing came of it for other reasons, and I will always be quietly grateful to him that he took the step of asking that for himself and that I did not completely fuck up after hearing it.

    1. Voodoo Idol
      Voodoo Idol September 21, 2012 at 2:39 pm |

      This is the only good post anywhere as a response to this story and it’s the one that’s getting ignored.

      Somehow I’m not terribly surprised.

      1. David
        David September 23, 2012 at 10:26 am |

        Agreed

  4. Lamon Blitz
    Lamon Blitz September 19, 2012 at 4:14 pm |

    Is it rape if you don’t mean for it to be rape? YES! This is the entire reason for the development the enthusiastic consent guidelines! The guilty-mindedness of the perpetrator doesn’t make a rape victim any less hurt by their actions!

    1. Colfax
      Colfax September 20, 2012 at 6:17 pm |

      Surely initiating and then continuing to engage in sex would be seen as enthusiastic consent…? This is such a weird scenario that it could still have gone wrong even if she sought verbal reassurance (ask a question – any question – to someone who is half asleep and you can often get back some sort of groan or grunt that could quite reasonably for an affirmation).

      1. Colfax
        Colfax September 20, 2012 at 7:42 pm |

        *quite reasonably be mistaken for an affirmation).

      2. Bananas
        Bananas September 21, 2012 at 9:52 am |

        If initiating and then continuing to engage in sex would be seen as enthusiastic consent, then drunk/drugged people can give enthusiastic consent. Apply your logic to someone who had too much to drink/drugged and see if you still agree:

        Surely initiating and then continuing to engage in sex would be seen as enthusiastic consent…? This is such a weird scenario that it could still have gone wrong even if she sought verbal reassurance (ask a question – any question – to someone who is half asleep only had a few drinks and you can often get back some sort of groan or grunt that could quite reasonably for an affirmation).

        1. EG
          EG September 21, 2012 at 10:11 am |

          Wait, now having had “a few drinks” makes it rape? No. Being too drunk to consent makes it rape, and that depends on the alcohol tolerance of the person involved. My boyfriend is not raping me if we have sex after a few glasses of wine. Certainly there are people for whom a few drinks is too many, but it’s certainly not a general standard.

          By the way, I talk in my sleep. Extensively. Ever since I was a child, I’ve apparently been able to carry on conversations in my sleep. I could definitely give verbal, enthusiastic consent while sleeping.

  5. chava
    chava September 19, 2012 at 4:14 pm |

    I think the guy can feel violated/weird without it having been rape. A lot depends on their relationship, previous relationships, what sort of boundaries they had set up around explicit consent…

    Oh, wait. Most people just don’t talk about consent and hope for the best. *facepalm.*

    1. macavitykitsune
      macavitykitsune September 19, 2012 at 5:59 pm |

      I think the guy can feel violated/weird without it having been rape.

      This. Thank you.

      1. Bagelsan
        Bagelsan September 19, 2012 at 6:34 pm |

        Agreed. I think it could even perhaps be “rape” without her being a “rapist”, if that makes sense.

        1. macavitykitsune
          macavitykitsune September 19, 2012 at 6:51 pm |

          I think it makes perfect sense, actually. I was thinking over how to put what I was thinking, and you articulated it perfectly!

        2. PM
          PM September 19, 2012 at 6:57 pm |

          So what is she, then? Because she’s responsible for SOMETHING. This strikes me as the sexual assault equivalent to manslaughter. Genuinely unintentional, sure, but there’s still a victim.

        3. macavitykitsune
          macavitykitsune September 19, 2012 at 8:07 pm |

          This strikes me as the sexual assault equivalent to manslaughter. Genuinely unintentional, sure, but there’s still a victim.

          I think that the fact that we don’t actually have a term for this is symptomatic, personally. For instance, we’re able to better sentence murderers in a manner appropriate to their crimes because we have those gradations, in a manner that doesn’t suggest that some murder victims are less murdered than others.

          I’d actually really liek to see a rape equivalent of manslaughter created and applied. Not only would it ensure that people like the LW are both held responsible for what they did AND not punished beyond the bounds of an honest mistake, it would also cut the legs off of the “it wasn’t RAPE-rape” apologists.

        4. macavitykitsune
          macavitykitsune September 19, 2012 at 8:10 pm |

          HOLY SHIT that was supposed to be “sweep the legs off from under”. I had an epic brain fart and fucked up the colloquialisms. It clicked literally two seconds after I hit “post”. I do not advocate cutting legs off anybody.

        5. Bagelsan
          Bagelsan September 19, 2012 at 9:52 pm |

          I was actually okay with the leg cutting off. ;D

        6. deadleaf
          deadleaf September 19, 2012 at 10:07 pm |

          I’d actually really liek to see a rape equivalent of manslaughter created and applied

          +1

        7. Anon21
          Anon21 September 19, 2012 at 10:31 pm |

          I doubt the letter writer would be criminally liable under a manslaughter equivalent. If you keep the standards of mental culpability the same, you’d need to show the LW consciously disregarded a substantial and unjustifiable risk (or something along those lines) that the boyfriend wasn’t consenting. On these facts, especially given that the boyfriend had done this “many times before,” I really doubt you could find the required mental state beyond a reasonable doubt. Frankly, that seems quite reasonable to me–I don’t think the LW deserves criminal punishment.

          Incidentally, I find a lot of criminal law analogies to rape break down because they fail to acknowledge that rape is far more likely to resemble non-criminal conduct than are any of the analogous crimes, such as theft or, in this case, criminal homicide. That’s not to say that most rape resembles non-criminal conduct, but it is to say that it is basically outside our social experience for a person to willingly hand their purse over to a total stranger on the street, whereas it is decidedly within our experience for a person to willingly have sex with another person. And of course as feminists and decent people we should believe victims when they say the sex they had was not consensual, but when you get to the criminal law side of things, the “resemblance problem” and the presumption of innocence combine to create some genuinely vexing problems.

  6. Protagoras
    Protagoras September 19, 2012 at 4:22 pm |

    Situations can be complicated and murky. There is, unfortunately, a very dangerous and unpleasant faction of people who are looking for excuses for their behavior, who will try to turn anything complicated or murky into an excuse to be deployed in situations which really aren’t that complicated or murky but rather just straightforwardly wrong. Rejecting such excuses is extremely important, but I don’t think it is productive to try to do so by denying that there really are such things as complicated and murky situations (denying reality always has costs; for example, it undermines credibility).

    Still, one standard I tend to use is that for genuinely complicated and murky situations, usually both sides recognize that they’re genuinely complicated and murky. If one side says it’s complicated, and the other side says they were raped, usually the side saying it’s complicated is making excuses. And of course that’s the form of this story, though “usually” isn’t “always,” and admittedly this case does just look more complicated than most cases where someone’s making excuses.

    1. matlun
      matlun September 19, 2012 at 5:15 pm |

      I do not normally see it as a problem to recognize that there can be unclear situations. It is not relevant in the vast majority of disputed cases anyway, since the rapist is just straight up lying.

      Does it matter whether he tries to get away with it by saying “it was a misunderstanding because X” rather than “there was actual consent”?

      The only additional issue I see is that this might get into gaslighting territory causing additional abuse, but that presupposes that there is doubt in the mind of the victim.

  7. Lindsay Beyerstein
    Lindsay Beyerstein September 19, 2012 at 4:36 pm |

    I don’t think this woman raped her boyfriend, assuming she’s telling the truth about how it all went down. She thought she had consent, enthusiastic consent, no less. She says he motioned for her to get on top of him, and she complied.

    The boyfriend was understandably traumatized. Since he was asleep during the foreplay, it probably seemed to him like his girlfriend simply mounted him against his will. That would be rape. But, assuming the girlfriend is telling the truth, that’s not what happened.

    She should try to comfort him and give him space if he needs it. Now that they know he has this issue, they need to renegotiate their rules for sleepy sex. He should also get a workup from a sleep specialist.

    But I don’t think you can blame a person who incorrectly infers consent when all the behavioral and situational cues are pointing towards consent: He was rubbing against her, he motioned for her to get on top of him, and the two of them have a history of sex in the middle of the night.

    Rapists who use the “accidental rape” excuse usually start from the false premise that just lying there without protesting is evidence of consent.

    1. Bananas
      Bananas September 21, 2012 at 10:04 am |

      Regardless of his actions, he was unable to give or withdraw consent. Being asleep is like being drunk or drugged. He was probably in a dream and “sleep walking”. The current message is to get clear enthusiastic consent. If a guy can’t tell how drunk a girl is, he’s still a rapist; If a girl can’t tell if a guy is asleep, then she’s a rapist. If being an active participant is a sign of enthusiastic consent, then being drunk/drugged doesn’t come into play when considering consent. You can’t have it both ways.

      He should also get a workup from a sleep specialist. <- Victim blaming.

      1. EG
        EG September 21, 2012 at 10:17 am |

        No. The “can’t tell how drunk she is” allows that he can tell that she is drunk to begin with (and is usually bullshit), and thus it is reasonable to say that he should err on the side of not having sex with her, on the off chance. “Can’t tell that somebody is sleeping” is not at all comparable, unless you think it’s reasonable to err on the side of not having sex with a partner who has woken you up at night and given every indication of being awake and consenting.

        I can go along with “he was raped, but that doesn’t mean that she is a rapist,” but I’m not going to condemn a boyfriend who has sex with me because he is unable to tell that I’m asleep as a rapist. I carry on full conversations in my sleep, or so I’ve been told from childhood on.

        1. Bananas
          Bananas September 22, 2012 at 12:43 am |

          There is four issues here:
          1) Intoxication: How much alcohol is enough to not be able to give consent? Legal driving limit which is 0.08 in a lot of states is about 2 drinks for a woman weighing about 120lbs. They can still be a willing participant, but have impaired judgement.
          Blackout drunk? Sometimes you can’t tell the person blacked out, they might seem to be having a good time but they aren’t there.

          There are drugs which can also make you open to suggestion like Scopolamine, which is sometimes taken as a party drug, frequently used to treat motion sickness. If you OD yourself on it, then came out of haze while having sex, what happened there? You can go around and seem perfectly normal, and all someone has to do is merely suggest sex and you could accept.

          2) Sleep Walking: What if she got pregnant as a result?Should he be responsible for the child?

          What if the party in question wasn’t a significant other, like maybe a close friend or neighbor. Or was a sex act was something they never tried before, like anal for instance. Would this still be fine?
          Here’s a story where a woman went to bed with her fiance, walked to the landlords apartment and apparently had sex. You may need to scroll down as the relevant part is toward the bottom. Details are lacking for sure, but it’s not a far stretch.

          What if the roles were reversed, where she was having a sex dream, and he was awake but asking her to stop? Does a rapist exist then?

          3) Personalizing it: You are personalizing it and not wanting to condemn your boyfriend. I also have issues with sleep, and my brother has done all sorts of stuff while asleep like talking and carrying on, so I realize its easy to mistake the person for being awake. He wasn’t 100% coherent though, and often had signs of not being fully awake when you took a minute to pay attention.

          However, I think remaining objective to be able to consider the wider impact. [I realize the irony in the statement]
          Ex: If rapes can occur without a rapist due to no ill intent, then a lot of people will seek to protect themselves in this. That will cause conviction rates to go down, which seems to be a problem as colleges are lowering their bar for conviction and people in general seem to be upset when “a rapist goes free”. I’m for keeping the standard of proof high, but there is an argument that seems to be winning about the nature of the crime being he said/she said.

          4) Clear definition of consent and rape:
          It’s important that a clear definition for rape is established that is fair and understood by everyone. I’m not sure that the standard of enthusiastic consent is appropriate given the nature of sex being somewhat veiled and nuanced, but its a clear and easy standard to understand. If that’s the standard we want to use as a society, then yes you’ll have to miss out on some sex in order to err on the side of caution – sex can wait until one can be more than 110% certain of consent.

          Sorry if my thoughts are a bit jumbled. I’m not the best debater.

      2. Lindsay Beyerstein
        Lindsay Beyerstein September 22, 2012 at 12:25 pm |

        How is it victim-blaming to recommend a workup from a sleep specialist? Sleep sex a parasomnia, a family of sleep disorders that causes people to act out involuntarily in their sleep.

        What if, instead of asking for sex, he’d just started fucking his girlfriend in her sleep? What if he’d injured her, or gotten her pregnant? Sometimes people with parasomnias get rough and injure their bedmates, sexually or otherwise. Sometimes they hurt themselves. It’s not their fault that they have this proclivity. They have a brain disorder.

        It sounds like this guy just found out he had this problem. The first time wasn’t his fault because he couldn’t have known he was at risk. However, now that he knows he has this problem, it’s his responsibility to get worked up and learn what he can do to protect himself and the people around him.

        Some people with parasomnias manage the symptoms with drugs. Others, like comic Mike Birbiglia, who wrote about his parasomnia for This American Life, sleep in restraints. At the very least, he needs to know the facts about his condition so he can disclose them to everyone who sleeps with or near him.

        If he doesn’t get treatment, and he fucks someone against their will, then he’s the rapist because he knew he knew he was at risk and he didn’t do anything.

        1. PrettyAmiable
          PrettyAmiable September 22, 2012 at 3:14 pm |

          Are you serious? When he unwittingly fucks someone as a result of his disorder, he’s a rapist – but when someone fucks him against his will as a result of his disorder, they aren’t a rapist – they’re a victim of his disorder, right? He’s not a victim in the first case, and there’s no rape? You are one ridiculous ball of hypocrisy and it’s so sad to me how utterly lacking you are in empathy for the guy – THE VICTIM – in the OP.

        2. moviemaedchen
          moviemaedchen September 22, 2012 at 3:31 pm |

          @PrettyAmiable – agreed, yeah, the reasoning behind who counts and doesn’t count as a rapist here is a bit off.

        3. Chris
          Chris September 27, 2012 at 10:43 am |

          @PrettyAmiable and moviemaedchen, you all need to work on your reading skills. The last paragraph was a conditional statement: IF he doesn’t seek treatment, AND he hurts somebody THEN he is culpable.
          While Lindsay should have included a vice versa statement after that regarding the girlfriend, she clearly was not avoiding it, as she had previously addressed the fact that he has a disorder, this disorder is newly discovered, and -from now on- he needs to address disorder to keep -himself- safe as well. She had also previously intimated that IF he had been the one to assault her while he was asleep before realizing he had a disorder, he would also -not be culpable-.

  8. matlun
    matlun September 19, 2012 at 5:07 pm |

    This type of question is basically impossible to answer unless we can agree on a common definition of “rape”.

    For example: Should we go by Jill’s definition and include a “mens rea” element?

    An alternative question would be: Was her behavior morally blameworthy? If so, how bad was it?

  9. im
    im September 19, 2012 at 5:22 pm |

    I’m not really sure how to respond to this.

    The guy’s claim of trauma should not be lightly questioned in any case.

    1. BHuesca
      BHuesca September 19, 2012 at 6:06 pm |

      The letter writer insists she did not commit rape. But whatever she calls it, it has obviously caused strife in her relationship, as she admits. If he’s uncomfortable now with her touch, something is not ok in their relationship scenario, no matter what it’s called.

  10. Shadow
    Shadow September 19, 2012 at 5:42 pm |

    Firstly, Dan is full of shit. Dude was asleep, woke up and freaked out. It’s not like he was an awake, willing partner that suddenly decided to guilt trip her or something and, unless I’m reading this wrong, the sense I got from the letter is that the whole sex while he’s sleeping thing is not SOP. So fuck Dan and his “manipulative” bullshit.

    I’m conflicted about the LW because, if we take her at her word then I can kind of understand (though I find it hard to picture being on top of someone and not realising they are awake). OTOH, it’s the POV of the perpetrator, so I don’t know how reliable that is.

    1. Anon21
      Anon21 September 19, 2012 at 10:38 pm |

      I got the opposite impression re: SOP. LW says the boyfriend had done this “many times before,” so it sounds like this was actually a common scenario, which goes a long way towards explaining why LW might not have realized that something was wrong.

      As to finding it hard not to know the person you’re having sex with is actually asleep, my understanding is that serious sleepwalkers frequently fool people around them into thinking they’re awake and conscious. I had a friend whose roommate had a half-hour conversation with her, and then woke up the next morning with zero recollection of it, because she’d been asleep. So, perhaps the LW is lying, but the account of what happened is entirely plausible.

      1. Shadow
        Shadow September 19, 2012 at 11:07 pm |

        I understood “many times” to mean the gesture, rather than the sex while sleeping. If “many times” refers to the whole scenario then I can kind of see why Dan went the whole “manipulative” route, though I still remain baffled as to what the manipulation intends to achieve.

        Re: the sleep thing. I’m familiar with sleepwalking because of my cousin, so I can understand it in that context. The thing is, the LW never mentioned their husband having that problem, and I would think it would be a pertinent detail. Of course it could just be that this is the first instance of this happening to their husband, or they forgot or something, but just from the letter itself I think one would have to give the LW a rather generous reading to diagnose their husband with a sleep disorder.

        1. Annabelle
          Annabelle September 20, 2012 at 12:44 pm |

          Sex in the middle of the night is hardly unusual; even if they have never done it before, it doesn’t seem like much of a cause for concern that something about the situation is off.

          As for sleep walking (or sexsomnia in this case), if this was the first time, then that simply further absolves the LW of wrong-doing. If her boyfriend had an established pattern of sleep walking prior to this incident, then I she would have had reason to question his wakefulness.

        2. Shadow
          Shadow September 20, 2012 at 2:18 pm |

          You’re fuckin joking right? Now he’s being criticized for having a problem with someone having sex with him when he’s unconscious even if he’s never consented to that before?!! Seriously, WTF. A blowjob is hardly unusual. I would hope you would still support someone who felt violated if they woke up with their partner’s dick in their mouth, absent prior consent.

          No one’s claiming that the LW was in the wrong for having sex with him, since he apparently gave her a preestablished sign of consent in his sleep. All anyone is saying is that dude has every right to feel violated, and he shouldn’t be blamed or shamed for his reaction. I didn’t realise that this would apparently be so damn difficult.

  11. macavitykitsune
    macavitykitsune September 19, 2012 at 6:06 pm |

    Jill, you hit this one right out of the park. Kudos! ^__^

  12. mxe354
    mxe354 September 19, 2012 at 7:10 pm |

    I’m pretty much in agreement with Jill here.

  13. Henry
    Henry September 19, 2012 at 7:13 pm |

    What’s the boyfriend manipulating for under Dan’s view, that’s a totally uncalled for attack and the subtext speaks volumes – it reads “he should be happy about this”- I can only guess that in Dan’s world all guys want to screw any available hole all the time even when they are not awake, so lucky guy is now out to ruin a realtionship for some other undisclosed reason – he must be, I mean he was assualted in his sleep by his GF – Dan would pay for that. I have to ask Dan if the genders were reversed would he write the same advice? Doubtful. There’d be a nice long advice column about making sure your partner really is conscious and consenting.

    1. mxe354
      mxe354 September 19, 2012 at 7:18 pm |

      I think you’re being too harsh on Dan. You can’t just assume that his response implies that he doesn’t oppose female-on-male sexual assault. This is a confusing case and so it’s no surprise that he came up with a response that sounds strange.

      1. Henry
        Henry September 19, 2012 at 7:38 pm |

        I would agree if he had not lead paragraph 2 of his response with this line: “As for what you should do, well, I think you should dump the guilt-tripping, blame-shifting motherfucker.”

        1. mxe354
          mxe354 September 19, 2012 at 9:55 pm |

          Good point; I stand corrected.

      2. PM
        PM September 19, 2012 at 7:39 pm |

        But it didn’t just “sound strange,” Dan actively assigned malice to the victim and assuaged the perpetrator’s guilt by assuring her that the boyfriend wanted wanted it along.

        Does he care about female-on-male sexual assault? Maybe. Does he understand it? No.

      3. Shadow
        Shadow September 19, 2012 at 7:42 pm |

        But that isn’t just a strange response, that’s straight up victim blaming. It’s one thing to tell her that she isn’t a rapist, that is a confusing situation. But to then turn around and say that her boyfriend is manipulating her is to completely wipe out his feelings on the matter, and project at IMAX levels onto the situation.

      4. miga
        miga September 19, 2012 at 8:27 pm |

        Actually, I read the Village Voice the day that letter premiered, and there were two cases of “sleep assault”within that column – another LW who would occasionally be painfully fondled by her husband while he was asleep. She felt traumatized but didn’t want to say anything to him in fear of making him feel bad. Dan told her to voice her concerns so the husband could get medication, and not to worry about the husband’s reaction. He said something like “if you’re feeling traumatized by it, the least he could do is feel bad.”

        It really struck me as a double standard.

        1. Alexandra
          Alexandra September 19, 2012 at 11:54 pm |

          I think it’s an extraordinary double standard.

  14. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. September 19, 2012 at 7:51 pm |

    I wish we could fully separate the idea of culpability from harm. If he experienced it as rape, then from his perspective he was raped. Period. But that he experienced it as rape is unrelated to whether she committed rape. She didn’t. She thought they had consensual sex. Those are not inconsistent ideas.

    I find the fact that we still connect guilt to harm is one of the problems with rape culture. Where else do we contend that a person isn’t harmed because the other person didn’t really mean it? I think the connection is rooted in our societies consistent efforts to undermine rape victims by disputing the reality of their experiences.

    1. Lindsay Beyerstein
      Lindsay Beyerstein September 19, 2012 at 8:53 pm |

      The boyfriend is confused about what actually happened. No doubt it felt to him like he was sound asleep and the next thing he knew, his girlfriend was fucking him without permission. That’s a terrible experience, and he deserves sympathy for that.

      It all comes down to whether he believes his girlfriend’s claim that he was displaying behavior normally associated with enthusiastic consent while unconscious. If he believes her, then he’s being a jerk if he blames her for what happened. Calling her a rapist is hurtful and uncalled for.

      Most people who plead error to get out of rape charges are lying or being disingenuous. Either they knew, or they should have known because the victim wasn’t displaying enthusiastic consent.

      If this woman’s telling the truth, and I see no reason to assume she’s lying, she’s as much a victim of this guy’s disease as he is. (People in these sleep disordered states can have their eyes open and appear to be wide awake. There are even documented cases of sleep driving.) She’s been through a horrible experience, too.

      No doubt, it’s very disconcerting to learn that your body is capable of acting sexually outside your awareness. Maybe he’s angry at his girlfriend because it’s easier than acknowledging his own fear and embarrassment about his involuntary behavior. Not that he should feel embarrassed of course. I don’t think it does him any good to say, if you feel ashamed then you are guilty. By the same token, just because he feels like his girlfriend wronged him doesn’t mean she actually did. What happened was upsetting for both of them.

      But part of why rape is so traumatic is that it’s a violation of trust. He should take comfort in the fact that she didn’t violate his trust. She wasn’t trying to take advantage of him, She was trying to do what he wanted. It may have felt like she set upon him while he was unconscious, but that’s his disease skewing his perception.

      The girlfriend was right to apologize when it turned out she was mistaken. But she’s not a rapist.

      If, after a reasonable cooling off period, the guy keeps blaming his girlfriend, he is being a jerk.

      1. PM
        PM September 19, 2012 at 10:15 pm |

        “If this woman’s telling the truth, and I see no reason to assume she’s lying, she’s as much a victim of this guy’s disease as he is. ”

        Oh, bullshit. Do I really need to analyze why this comment is wrong?

        1. White Rabbit
          White Rabbit September 19, 2012 at 10:45 pm |

          That’s seems like a rather harsh response. I thought the rest of the comment was spot on and that this sentiment could have been worded more clearly. I took it as an acknowledgement of the fact that the LW is suffering as a result of unwittingly hurting her partner terribly, and thus putting what was presumably a happy relationship in question. While I don’t necessarily see that as being “as much of a victim,” I do see that as being “also suffering the consequences” of this guy’s disease.

        2. Lindsay Beyerstein
          Lindsay Beyerstein September 20, 2012 at 1:09 am |

          Let’s assume that this guy has a sleep disorder that caused him to act like he was enthusiastically consenting to sex while he was unconscious.

          His disorder caused him to act as if he was initiating sex with his girlfriend. While he was in this altered state of consciousness, he “initiated” a sexual encounter. Presumably she wouldn’t have consented to sex with him if she’d known that he was unconscious. She didn’t sign on for zombie sex.

          Now her boyfriend is shunning her for doing what she had every reason to believe was a loving and consensual act. Not only did she not intend to have sex with him without his consent, she was actively attuned to his apparent signals of enthusiastic consent. So you can’t say that she was reckless or indifferent to his state of mind–which is what you’d need to construe this as a kind of sexual “manslaughter.” So, yes, she is a victim–if by “victim” you mean simply that she’s suffering through no fault of her own.

          The possibility that someone has suddenly developed a one-in-a-million neurological disorder that causes them to seem awake when they’re really asleep is so remote that no one could reasonably be expected to take it into account. Most people don’t even realize such a thing is possible.

          The boyfriend has every right to feel bad about what happened, and she should be compassionate to him, but that doesn’t extend to blaming her.

          What happened was essentially an accident of neurobiology. People get traumatized by accidents and illnesses all the time. We can empathize with their pain without positing that they are actually victims of violent crime.

          Everyone’s entitled to their feelings, but objective reality has to enter into this situation. It felt to him in the moment like she just jumped on him, but now that he knows that’s not actually what happened, he needs to rethink his initial take.

          Rational thought doesn’t automatically neutralize trauma. The guy might have PTSD from the feeling of being jumped upon, even though he now knows it wasn’t real. People get PTSD from mock executions, too. But that doesn’t give him the right to blame his girlfriend for something she had no way of preventing or controlling. He’s hurting, and she should be understanding. But he needs to take some responsibility for how he’s treating her.

          Obviously, it’s not this guy’s fault that this happened, assuming that he didn’t realize he had this problem until now. It’s not his girlfriend’s fault either. It’s a regrettable incident that was traumatic for both of them.

        3. moviemaedchen
          moviemaedchen September 20, 2012 at 11:29 am |

          @Lindsay Beyerstein

          Yes. Thank you.

      2. PrettyAmiable
        PrettyAmiable September 19, 2012 at 10:45 pm |

        What the flying fuck?

        This guy was violated. Whether or not you agree with him that he was raped (and the fact that you think you get to dictate his experience is such utter bullshit that I won’t touch it with a ten-foot pole), he has clearly been violated. He was fucked without his knowledge and ergo without his enthusiastic consent. If the genders were reversed, are you honestly telling me that you would say the guy was a victim of his girlfriend’s disordered sleep? That she wasn’t raped?

        Anyway, nice to see a woman victim-blaming a guy victim. Equality! This is what feminism has been fighting for, right?

        1. White Rabbit
          White Rabbit September 19, 2012 at 10:55 pm |

          She wrote that she woke up to him rubbing against her. Then she described how, “After a little while, he pulled my hand, motioning for me to get on top of him to have sex, as he has done many times before.”

          (emphasis mine)

          As best as we can tell from the letter, she had reason to believe that she did have his enthusiastic consent.

          And I personally don’t see victim-blaming in that comment, but I’m open to someone enlightening me on that point. Also, as a woman, I would have the same reaction if the genders were reversed, for what that’s worth.

        2. Kristen J.
          Kristen J. September 19, 2012 at 11:52 pm |

          @White Rabbit,

          Let’s make a list. (1) She’s just as much a victim of his disease as he is. (2) He’s only angry because he’s embarrased about how his body was unconsciously sexually aroused. (3) His “disease” is skewing his perception. (4) He’s not allowed to feel angry, confused, and hurt by what happened because she didn’t mean it that way.

          I think that about covers the waterfront in terms of the bullshit regularly leveled at women who are raped.

        3. Bagelsan
          Bagelsan September 19, 2012 at 11:56 pm |

          I’m with White Rabbit on this one. It’s not victim blaming to simply assign an actual reason for a situation occurring; no one’s saying it’s his fault for sleep-sexing.

        4. Alexandra
          Alexandra September 20, 2012 at 12:02 am |

          I agree with the previous criticisms. Telling somebody that they should sympathize with the person who violated them because it’s their fault they were violated because of some “disease” (since when was an occasional bout of sleep activity indicative of a disease?) is victim-blamey beyond all belief.

          Look, I’ve gone on the record here about my own personal experiences with sexual assault about just how grey and confusing people’s motivations can be and how badly people can fuck up when they don’t mean to, but my sympathies are – will always be – should always be —

          with the person who was VIOLATED.

        5. White Rabbit
          White Rabbit September 20, 2012 at 12:07 am |

          @Kristen J — I interpreted that comment very differently that you did, so I’m not sure what to say that wouldn’t result in a dissertation-length comment. FWIW, if I had interpreted the comment the same way that you did, I would also be appalled.

        6. Kristen J.
          Kristen J. September 20, 2012 at 12:19 am |

          @Bagalsan,

          Let’s flip the context. “Well, this only happened because she drank so much. How was he supposed to know she was incapacitated? He’s just as much a victim as she is. Obviously she wasn’t really raped, it was just a misunderstanding.”

          I’m fairly sure we can all agree, that is straight up victim blaming and that we would be appalled if someone said that the woman in that situation wasn’t raped.

          @White Rabbit,

          Fair enough.

        7. EG
          EG September 20, 2012 at 8:23 am |

          Well, but it’s not that hard to tell if somebody is drunk, particularly if they’re your long-term partner, so that “defense” would be bullshit. Unless we think she’s lying about thinking he was awake, it doesn’t seem like an analogous situation to me.

        8. Kristen J.
          Kristen J. September 20, 2012 at 9:25 am |

          I disagree. I’ve known a few people who appeared reasonably cogent while blackout drunk.

        9. EG
          EG September 20, 2012 at 9:28 am |

          That seems to fall into the category of being extra careful if you’re having a one-night stand with somebody you don’t know well and err on the side of not. Did they appear so cogent that a long-term partner wouldn’t be able to tell they were massively drunk? Because if so, I’m still wondering how we could then blame the partner for interpreting their enthusiastic consent as enthusiastic consent.

        10. Kristen J.
          Kristen J. September 20, 2012 at 9:42 am |

          Why do they have to “blame” anyone in order to describe their experience as rape. This very thing happened to a good friend of mine in college. She was blackout drunk. I couldn’t even tell she wasn’t capable of consent and we had known each other for years. She told this dude yes, and before she left she told me she was planning on having sex with him. The next morning she woke up sore and confused with zero memory of what happened. She didn’t blame the guy in question, she didn’t consider him a rapist, but she also felt raped. I don’t see how we somehow get to take that away from her because “he didn’t mean it that way.”

        11. matlun
          matlun September 20, 2012 at 10:06 am |

          @Kristen J: It depends on what definition you use for the word “rape”. For example Jill in the OP used a definition including a “mens rea” requirement.

          If you use the word in that sense, then unless you have someone to blame it is not rape. (At least in theory, since the rapist can be unknown etc)

          You seem to use another definition, which does not include that requirement.

          Perhaps this is just a failure of communication due to differences in language?

        12. Kristen J.
          Kristen J. September 20, 2012 at 10:30 am |

          Well, that was the point. This thread started with me saying that the mens rea requirement as a definition for victims is bullshit. Including a mens rea requirement *is part of rape culture.* You’re not alive if someone didn’t intend to kill you, you’re not unbruised if someone didn’t intend to assault you, but somehow a person is unraped if the other person didn’t intend to do it. That definition is part of a system of beliefs that undermines rape victims and perpetuates rape culture. I think we need to abandon it fully.

        13. matlun
          matlun September 20, 2012 at 11:17 am |

          Ok. I just wanted to check that everyone was on the same page since it seemed to me that you were talking past each other.

          You seem to put a lot of symbolic importance on whether it should be called rape or not. Personally I mainly see this as a question of whether we can communicate and clearly understand each other.

          Whether we call it rape or not does not affect how hurt and violated the victim is. The actual reality of what happened is not changed one iota whether we call it rape, sexual assault, or gurble.

          As long as the people you argue with are arguing in good faith (and not trying to minimize the trauma or do victim blaming) I do not see the actual label used as a critical issue.

          YMMV

        14. Kristen J.
          Kristen J. September 20, 2012 at 12:48 pm |

          @matlun,

          The label is often *very* important to survivors and denying the label is often part of what continues to reviticimize people who were *insert whatever euphamism people want to use*. I mean how often have we seen people saying it wasn’t really rape as a means of undermining victims? How often have we heard the stories of women who struggled for years with their own feelings because they were told that what they experienced wasn’t really rape.

          Labels matter because they help us contextualize our experiences. By saying this man couldn’t be raped under these facts, we’re saying what? His experience was sex? Is that the appropriate frame to put on these sets of facts?

        15. matlun
          matlun September 20, 2012 at 1:12 pm |

          @Kristen: Yes, I tried to cover that in the paranthesis above. Ie I am aware that questioning whether it was “real rape” is often a part of victim blaming or trauma minimizing discourse. But I am still leaning towards the problem then being the content of that speech and not the label.

          Sure, typically if a person I was talking about wanted to claim that label for their own experience, I would not dispute that out of respect for their feelings. But when discussing it in the abstract as here, that is a somewhat different case.

        16. Kristen J.
          Kristen J. September 20, 2012 at 2:44 pm |

          Except there may be survivors here, in this conversation who have experienced something similar or analogous. Our theoretical conversation isn’t theoretical to a lot of people.

        17. Bagelsan
          Bagelsan September 20, 2012 at 3:05 pm |

          Let’s flip the context. “Well, this only happened because she drank so much. How was he supposed to know she was incapacitated? He’s just as much a victim as she is. Obviously she wasn’t really raped, it was just a misunderstanding.”

          That’s not “flipping” it, that’s completely changing it. Your analogy is meaningless.

          The wife had every reason to believe she was being enthusiastically propositioned for sex; in fact, she woke up to his sexual advances. If that doesn’t make her part of the “victim” group then I don’t know what would.

        18. Kristen J.
          Kristen J. September 20, 2012 at 3:16 pm |

          The wife had every reason to believe she was being enthusiastically propositioned for sex.

          As did the dude in my analogy.

          If that doesn’t make her part of the “victim” group then I don’t know what would.

          I’m not arguing that she is a bad person who did something wrong, I’m arguing that whether she did or didn’t do something wrong has no bearing on whether he experienced it as rape.

        19. Bagelsan
          Bagelsan September 21, 2012 at 12:05 am |

          Well then you’re not arguing with me, because I said that exact thing upthread earlier. :p

  15. Datdamwuf
    Datdamwuf September 19, 2012 at 8:21 pm |

    So, boyfriend does actions that are done often to initiate sex in middle of the night with girlfriend who then reacts in (their) normal way but it turns out BF did those actions in his sleep and does not remember so he feels violated, I can understand he feels that way. I can understand girlfriend is feeling horrible too. I don’t see this as automatically rape on her part or manipulation on his part. It’s truly murky, this is not some guy she liked and started messing with while he slept. It’s her BF and he woke her with sexual moves that she reciprocated believing it was “normal” so it’s not knowable by us.

    I do have a perspective on sleepwalking/doing; I am a spectacular sleepwalker! I have repaired a toilet (replaced parts, I kid you not), thrown my cat in the trash can once and had coherent conversations with people while asleep. My eyes are open and I seem to be awake to the people that have interacted with me on those occasions when someone was around. The people who have seen me do these sleep moves say that when they first see me they think I’m awake and sometimes they realize I’m not because I do something weird (like put the cat in the trash) other times they never realize I’m asleep until they mention some episode and I’m saying “what the hell are you talking about?” Because I usually do not remember those episodes except as very odd dreams.

    1. miga
      miga September 19, 2012 at 8:32 pm |

      Yeah, I’m a sleep talker/sleep walker, and my ex boyfriend was a sleep-sexer. He’d make moves in the middle of the night, i’d wake up and reciprocate, and all of a sudden he’d stop moving or turn away and then I’d realize he was still asleep. It definitely happens.

      1. Anon for this
        Anon for this September 19, 2012 at 9:01 pm |

        Yea, I was sitting here feeling very strange, b/c I’ve been sleep sexed (ex bf) and I didn’t feel violated at all…I mean, we had sex right before bed and then again, apparently, in my sleep. He thought I was awake and was stunned when I told him that I had fuzzy recollections and I thought it was a drunken dream. The point here is that his actions and the actions of this woman were pretty much exactly the same. The difference is how we FELT about it. I did not feel violated in the slightest (and I’ve been in situations where I have felt and been violated) and I thought it was hilarious that I sleep-sexed. But, this guy felt violated, and that means he was violated. Absolutely. His feelings are valid (my husband just made it a point right now to tell me that he would not feel violated by this, just in case I was thinking about it) and that he feels upset about it means that he was sexually assaulted, in my opinion.

        BUT, on the other hand, I don’t think she is culpable for the assault. She had no intent and I think a reasonable person in her position could have also assumed that his actions showed consent (that is assuming that she is not lying about what he did). I don’t know if its unfortunate (I wouldn’t necessarily argue it is), but I think its pretty often (in U.S. culture at least) that consent is inferred from actions and not always verbally confirmed. Especially when two people are already in a sexual relationship.

        1. Anon for this
          Anon for this September 19, 2012 at 9:27 pm |

          Also, how sad that I just couldn’t bring myself to use my regular “name” in this post. Just that one parentheses admitting that I have been sexually assaulted was enough for me to want to be anonymous. I still have so much shame associated with it and kudos to the bf for being able and willing to express his feelings of violation to his gf.

    2. Henry
      Henry September 21, 2012 at 7:48 pm |

      Mens rea is a spectrum that ranges from (1) “I really want to do this” to (2) “not sure what’s up but I’m going for it anyways even if I might be wrong” to (3) “I wasn’t paying attention but reasonable people would have”. We assign different penalties for each. Items 1 and 2 should get you sent away, item 3 may get you sent away to for certain violent offenses (e.g. negligent homicide). There is always a state of mind for every act.

      You can’t tell from the one paragraph letter from the alleged perpetrator what happened. My issue with Savage is he’s being an asshole by passing judgment from on high because the victim is a man (and he’s further wrecking a relationship that may in fact be ok (or not) depending on circumstances we are all unaware of). But telling people to go to counseling and figure out what’s happened doesn’t sell newspapers so I guess he has his job to do.

  16. Dominique
    Dominique September 19, 2012 at 9:18 pm |

    I call trolling. I would be willing to bet this query/story was planted by some guy who wants to see how far feminists will go to excuse the female perp, or conversely, blame her. They want the shoe on the other foot. Fact is, the shoe will hardly ever be on the other foot. The rape culture in which we live guarantees the scales are severely skewed in favour of creeps who rape their girlfriends far more than they are in favour of women who might accidentally push their boyfriends into sex. It makes me doubt this incident very much.

    1. PM
      PM September 19, 2012 at 9:36 pm |

      Dominique, your post is all kinds of wrong. Wrong, because if you read the comments, you’d see that nothing of the blaming feminists sort happened in the following discussion. Wrong, because if you’d read the comments, you’d have seen that Dan responded to allegations like yours by saying that he edited out several details that he convinced him it happened.

      And most of all, WRONG, because it stifles the discussion about a certain type of rape that you don’t think is worthy of discussion.

      1. mxe354
        mxe354 September 19, 2012 at 10:13 pm |

        Wrong, because if you’d read the comments, you’d have seen that Dan responded to allegations like yours by saying that he edited out several details that he convinced him it happened.

        If important details are being left out, then…why are we even having a discussion about this?

        1. mxe354
          mxe354 September 19, 2012 at 10:18 pm |

          Oh, I completely misinterpreted your post – nevermind. >_>

    2. mxe354
      mxe354 September 19, 2012 at 10:10 pm |

      The rape culture in which we live guarantees the scales are severely skewed in favour of creeps who rape their girlfriends far more than they are in favour of women who might accidentally push their boyfriends into sex.

      Women can rape on purpose as well, you know.

      1. Henry
        Henry September 21, 2012 at 8:11 pm |

        Yep, and often, the victims are younger boys/teenagers and the perpetrators adult female educators. The reported cases of female adult on male adult I am aware of from news accounts involve drugs/alcohol or the use of weapons (and these get published under “weird news”). There are also many cases of female on female, especially in our prison system. I had the misfortune of watching the reality show
        “Beyond Scared Straight” where the program for at risk young women included a simulation of this by female prisoners and one of the students.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rape_by_gender – See footnote 23 Barbara Krahé; Renate Scheinberger-Olwig, Steffen Bieneck (2003). “Men’s Reports of Nonconsensual Sexual Interactions with Women: Prevalence and Impact”. Archives of Sexual Behavior 32 (5): 165.

    3. Shadow
      Shadow September 19, 2012 at 10:58 pm |

      I would be willing to bet this query/story was planted by some guy who wants to see how far feminists will go to excuse the female perp, or conversely, blame her.

      It makes me doubt this incident very much.

      ALL your irony are belong to us

  17. Alphabet
    Alphabet September 19, 2012 at 9:41 pm |

    My husband is a sleep-doer of all things and he remembers none of it ever. When he wakes up in the middle of doing something, he is horribly confused and disoriented. If the boyfriend didn’t know he was a sleep-doer, it would indeed be traumatizing to wake up to sex.

    It is also confusing for me, because I can’t always tell if my husband is actually awake as he is trying to seduce me in the middle of the night. Now I usually know and know how to deal with it, but it was awkward at first.

  18. Chatoyancy
    Chatoyancy September 19, 2012 at 9:46 pm |

    So if he was rubbing up against her while she was asleep and therefore not consenting, then isn’t that technically sexual assault?

    Not that two wrongs make a right.

    I had something kinda similar occur with a guy I was dating. He woke me up in the middle night moaning and deftly fondling me. After awhile he guided my head to his crotch and I obliged. So after a few minutes of going down on him he asks sleepily: “Hey, what are you doing?” He’d been asleep for most of it and wasn’t freaked out, but I sure was. We talked about it and were okay.

    Not that my experience means anything in the greater scheme of things. I’m just confused and freaked out all over again.

  19. PM
    PM September 19, 2012 at 10:06 pm |

    I make it a point to discuss sleep sex/sexual touching with anyone I sleep with, and I literally mean SLEEP with. I can sympathize with people that don’t think to have that conversation, though. I certainly didn’t for my first few partners.

  20. Amanda Marcotte
    Amanda Marcotte September 19, 2012 at 10:55 pm |

    It’s…..possible that he was asleep.

    The likelier possibility is he was awake the whole time and lying about it in order to screw with her sense of reality. Additionally, he can make her feel both guilty and humiliated, putting him in a Position of power over her.

    Gas lighting is the likelier explanation. Yes, it’s a weird, elaborate mind fuck, but hey, it’s not weirder than the guy whose girlfriend wrote to Captain Awkward becaus he’s controlling and humiliating her by not letting her use their bathroom.

    1. Anon21
      Anon21 September 19, 2012 at 10:58 pm |

      Sorry, why is that “likelier,” knowing nothing about the situation and people involved other than what was in the brief letter?

      1. Amanda Marcotte
        Amanda Marcotte September 19, 2012 at 11:07 pm |

        Statistically speaking, abuse is exponentially more likely than that level of sleepwalking. I’d give him more benefit of the doubt if he wasn’t making her feel bad for responding enthusiastically to a man who—may I remind you—woke her up in the middle of the night for sex. If a woman was like, “Hell yeah, fuck me!” like this guy basically was, and then said she was violated later, she would also be a jerk pulling a head trip. The demand that he read his mind and somehow know that he wanted the opposite of what he claimed in the moment is pretty classic gas lighting.

        Like I said, it’s possible. But the combination of both the oddness of the incident and his blaming her for taking enthusiastic consent as enthusiastic consent suggests that the likelier explanation is he woke her up for sex, she went with it, and he decided to concoct a strange story that conveniently means she feels guilty and will likely be afraid to set boundaries with him in the future, out of guilt. Statistically speaking, about 100 to 1,000 times more likely, I’d say.

        1. Li
          Li September 19, 2012 at 11:18 pm |

          “That level of sleepwalking”?

          Seriously?

          Men get erections while they’re sleeping. Like, 5-7 a night on average. Many people if they’re in bed with someone else will tend to spoon them even if asleep. There’s actually nothing in her description of what happened that doesn’t seem like fairly average behaviour for sleeping humans.

          If you can’t tell the difference between vague body movements while having a boner and “Hell yeah, fuck me!” then frankly you have no fucking business lecturing other people on enthusiastic consent, and I say this as someone who routinely chastises the people I am sleeping next to for letting their side of the sedan chair slip.

        2. Jadey
          Jadey September 19, 2012 at 11:30 pm |

          Statistically speaking, abuse is exponentially more likely than that level of sleepwalking.

          Sorry, in what universe do we have accurate stats on either subtle forms of abuse or sleepwalking?

          The victim-blaming on this thread by some commenters is disgusting. She’s not necessarily a rapist (though, again, I wouldn’t tell someone in his situation not to feel like he’s been raped if that’s how he feels), but to turn around and cast him as an abuser because he’s a man and she’s a women? Repugnant. And misogynistic.

          The fuck it was an “odd” incident – people in this thread have described similar experiences and it’s certainly something I’ve heard of before. There’s nothing particularly vague or weird about doing things in your sleep – only about our ability to talk about sex and consent.

        3. White Rabbit
          White Rabbit September 19, 2012 at 11:45 pm |

          @Jadey

          …to turn around and cast him as an abuser because he’s a man and she’s a women? Repugnant. And misogynistic.

          I can speak for myself to say that my take on this has nothing to do with gender. I can see the *possibility* that this *may* be abusive on his part based on his BEHAVIOR, not his gender.

          As I stated in a later comment – if he’s still upset and feels that he cannot trust her any longer, then the correct thing to do is to break up with her. If he stays with her and guilt trips her, then he’s at best a jerk.

          And yes, I would say the same thing if the genders were reversed.

        4. Jadey
          Jadey September 19, 2012 at 11:54 pm |

          White Rabbit, I wasn’t actually responding directly to you, although the fact that you would treat a women in this circumstance the same way doesn’t actually raise my estimation of you.

        5. EG
          EG September 19, 2012 at 11:57 pm |

          There’s actually nothing in her description of what happened that doesn’t seem like fairly average behaviour for sleeping humans.

          What about the part where he motions her to get on top of him, apparently with a gesture that they’ve used successfully many times before? That kind of clinches it for me. I don’t think he’s manipulative; I don’t think she’s a rapist. I do think people do things in their sleep they don’t remember, and I too would be freaked out to wake up and find myself in the middle of fucking someone. And I would be freaked out to find out that the dude I thought I was with and who I thought was enthusiastically consenting was actually asleep the whole time. This all sounds to me like it falls into the category of “weird shit happens and fucks people and relationships up without anybody actually being at fault in a way that they could help.”

        6. DonnaL
          DonnaL September 20, 2012 at 12:24 am |

          Sorry, in what universe do we have accurate stats on either subtle forms of abuse or sleepwalking?

          The same universe in which people with children have exactly 30% as much fun as people who don’t have children? I guess some people just like to use completely made-up statistics to lend a false air of precision to their personal opinions.

        7. Alphabet
          Alphabet September 20, 2012 at 10:39 am |

          According to research earlier this year, sleep doing is far more common than people realize: http://www.mercurynews.com/bay-area-living/ci_21096227/sleepwalking-is-no-joke-and-more-common-than

        8. Anon
          Anon September 20, 2012 at 7:42 pm |

          “That level of sleepwalking” is actually pretty common. My BF does almost exactly what the LW’s boyfriend did, and pretty frequently as well. He doesn’t sleepwalk, and he can’t hold a conversation or anything in his sleep, but sometimes after being asleep for an hour or so he will just roll over and start groping/making out with me. If I ask about it in the morning, he has no idea what I’m talking about. Fortunately I recognized this behaviour of his early on, so I always either wake him up or push him away and try to get to sleep. This situation nevertheless sounds extremely plausible to me.

        9. Gloria Sass
          Gloria Sass September 20, 2012 at 9:30 pm |

          Let’s say, for the record, you have some expertise in sleep behavior and sleep disorders (like sexsomnia, general somnambulism, sleep panic disorder… there are many odd things people do in their sleep) and actually know the statistics you are citing. On what authority do you exclude the subject from the group? On what symptoms or lack of symptoms, long term and well observed, did you diagnose him? None?

          That leaves you with nothing but a paranoid abuse fantasy indicative of a sick and twisted mind.

    2. Bagelsan
      Bagelsan September 19, 2012 at 11:11 pm |

      Usually I’m on board with you, but not this time. Just because the effect was that she feels guilty doesn’t mean that was his intention, any more than the fact that he feels violated means that was her intention. I think it’s just an accident that hurt both people involved.

      1. White Rabbit
        White Rabbit September 20, 2012 at 12:18 am |

        I really hope you’re right, but I also think it was fair for Amanda to raise this possibility. I’m not sure about the claim that her theory is more likely to reflect reality, though I appreciate that she explained her logic behind that, but as an abuse survivor, the same thought had crossed my mind. If I were the LW, I would appreciate hearing Amanda’s take on the situation, regardless of whether it turned out to be right or wrong.

        1. amblingalong
          amblingalong September 20, 2012 at 4:37 pm |

          I really hope you’re right, but I also think it was fair for Amanda to raise this possibility. I’m not sure about the claim that her theory is more likely to reflect reality, though I appreciate that she explained her logic behind that, but as an abuse survivor, the same thought had crossed my mind. If I were the LW, I would appreciate hearing Amanda’s take on the situation, regardless of whether it turned out to be right or wrong.

          Good point. That’s why whenever I hear about a woman coming forward with allegations of rape, my first reaction is to raise the possibility that she might just be regretting that she consensually had sex, or trying to get back at an ex, or trying to get attention, or deflect blame for a pregnancy out of wedlock. I’m not saying it’s true, I’m just raising the possibility.

        2. White Rabbit
          White Rabbit September 20, 2012 at 5:14 pm |

          @amblingalong —

          My mind went there because I’m a recent abuse survivor who endured a lengthy mindfuck from a particularly sadistic emotional abuser / gaslighter extraordinaire. My raising this as a possibility doesn’t automatically make me a hateful person chomping at the bit for opportunities to posit the possibility that someone is being abusive, nor does it mean that I am summarily dismissing the (IMHO greater) likelihood that the fellow in question here is genuinely traumatized.

          Also, it’s documented that 1 in 4 women experience domestic violence/abuse in their lifetimes. That number is much higher in some places in the world. I think it happens frequently enough – and enough people are not aware of what signs to look for, or that emotional abuse / gaslighting is even a thing to look for – that it’s fair to raise the possibility.

          By comparison, an extremely minute number of rape claims are false, so I personally would not feel the need to raise that possibility the way that you’re suggesting I would.

        3. amblingalong
          amblingalong September 20, 2012 at 5:25 pm |

          By comparison, an extremely minute number of rape claims are false, so I personally would not feel the need to raise that possibility the way that you’re suggesting I would.

          Your logic is making my head spin. Rape claims are usually not false, so you don’t question them, unless you think they might be a form of abuse, because abuse is common, so thinking a rape claim might be false because it’s abuse is likely to be accurate?

          Huh?

    3. White Rabbit
      White Rabbit September 19, 2012 at 11:12 pm |

      I’m not sure which scenario is likelier, but having been in a relationship with a cruel emotional abuser, it isn’t too difficult for me to imagine the gaslighting version of this.

      Assuming the LW told it like it happened, I can completely understand him being disoriented upon waking up and feeling upset and violated. I can also understand those feelings lingering for a while – even a long while, if there are extenuating circumstances (past traumas being triggered, for example).

      What reads as being off to me is that she has apologized and explained herself, and he *continues* to hold this against her and “can’t stomach” having her touch him. That’s a really intense reaction that I can understand in the moment, but it’s more difficult to understand once some time has passed and he’s had a chance to consider her perspective in the situation.

      Either the LW is leaving out key details that would make his reaction easier to understand (deliberately, to protect herself; or unwittingly, in the case where perhaps he’s overreacting for some understandable reason she isn’t aware of), or there’s that possibility that this is some elaborate jackass gaslighting maneuver on his part.

      1. Li
        Li September 19, 2012 at 11:22 pm |

        What reads as being off to me is that she has apologized and explained herself, and he *continues* to hold this against her and “can’t stomach” having her touch him. That’s a really intense reaction that I can understand in the moment, but it’s more difficult to understand once some time has passed and he’s had a chance to consider her perspective in the situation.

        Because sexual trauma totally disappears once there’s an apology, right? It’s not like it’s one of those things with long term impacts or anything.

        1. White Rabbit
          White Rabbit September 19, 2012 at 11:31 pm |

          That’s a fair point, and the sarcasm was totally unnecessary.

          In the event that he’s having difficulty getting past it and no longer feels safe with her, then the correct thing for him to do would be to break up with her. If he stays with her and torments her with guilt trips, then he’s a jerk.

        2. Li
          Li September 19, 2012 at 11:41 pm |

          You’ll forgive me if listings of “correct things for the victim to do” doesn’t unflip my sardonic switch.

        3. White Rabbit
          White Rabbit September 19, 2012 at 11:56 pm |

          @Li — You know, as a survivor of multiple traumas and a person who struggles with PTSD, I get fracking tired of this kind of crap. Are you here to have an honest discussion with people who presumably share many of your values, or are you here to pick a fight? Because there are ways of disagreeing and hashing things out that are far more respectful.

          I said it is “more difficult to understand.” That is my personal reality in that situation, and I thought I already demonstrated my openness to other perspectives in my last response to you.

          Also, I will quote Cliff Pervocracy AGAIN, as I believe the spirit of her words holds here: “I think refusal to distinguish between conscious bigotry and mere thoughtlessness is a huge problem in the social-justice-o-sphere.”

          I’m not the enemy. I’m just another person trying my best to understand and possibly fumbling occasionally. Being attacked doesn’t exactly make me want to keep coming back to spaces such as this.

        4. White Rabbit
          White Rabbit September 19, 2012 at 11:57 pm |

          And I mention being a trauma survivor, because I get annoyed at being spoken to as if I have no idea what it means to live with that experience. It still doesn’t mean I’m perfect and won’t ever overlook something, but I’M NOT THE ENEMY.

          Sigh.

        5. Li
          Li September 20, 2012 at 12:17 am |

          I don’t think you’re the enemy, but being sarcastic here is pretty much the only way I get to have this discussion without going total rageface meltdown (for the record, at commenters who aren’t you, but who have managed to put me in a fairly spectacularly foul mood anyway).

          Are you here to have an honest discussion or are you here to police my tone?

          Because: there are probably more respectful ways of saying that a relationship that involves the ongoing and unresolved impacts of sexual trauma isn’t necessarily viable than “If he stays with her and torments her with guilt trips, then he’s a jerk.”.

        6. White Rabbit
          White Rabbit September 20, 2012 at 12:43 am |

          @Li —

          Are you here to have an honest discussion or are you here to police my tone?

          Because: there are probably more respectful ways of saying that a relationship that involves the ongoing and unresolved impacts of sexual trauma isn’t necessarily viable than “If he stays with her and torments her with guilt trips, then he’s a jerk.”.

          I don’t care to police anyone’s tone for the sake of policing tone, but I will say something if the way someone is interacting with me is upsetting to me. I consider that well within my right.

          As for that comment, I was speaking from the perspective of assuming the guy *is* a gaslighting jerk, hence the lack of respect that came across.

          If he is genuinely suffering, I feel for him and would hope that he would take whatever steps are right for him, at whatever pace is right for him, to resolve the trauma. Or not, if he would rather not. (Ack. Now I’m doubting my word choice, because I don’t want to sound like I’m dictating the “right” thing for this fellow to do in this situation.) BUT, I think it’s important to acknowledge, given the context here, that whatever he does or doesn’t do, if he is traumatized, that doesn’t excuse him from being respectful toward his girlfriend.

          As for this earlier comment from me:

          In the event that he’s having difficulty getting past it and no longer feels safe with her, then the correct thing for him to do would be to break up with her. If he stays with her and torments her with guilt trips, then he’s a jerk.

          Upon reflection, I really don’t like what I wrote there. My perspective was very limited by the assumption of potential gaslighting on his part. Let me try that again:

          …In the event that he no longer feels safe with her no matter what they try to do about it, that’s truly sad for both of them, and I can’t see how the relationship could survive. That said, in the unfortunate event that he is gaslighting her, hopefully she will be able to discern that and make a decision about what to do about it that is right for her.

          Phew. Okay, thanks. I’m glad I went back and re-examined what I had written there.

      2. Jadey
        Jadey September 19, 2012 at 11:34 pm |

        Really? ‘Cause someone violated my personal boundaries in a way that was traumatizing and I still can’t stand to be in that person’s company, much less have them touch me. Because those kinds of reactions are totally the kinds of things which obey “reason” and fade quickly.

        FFS, as long as everyone else is engaging in wild speculation, maybe he has a past history of sexual abuse and this experience triggered something.

      3. amblingalong
        amblingalong September 20, 2012 at 4:42 pm |

        What reads as being off to me is that she has apologized and explained herself, and he *continues* to hold this against her and “can’t stomach” having her touch him. That’s a really intense reaction that I can understand in the moment, but it’s more difficult to understand once some time has passed and he’s had a chance to consider her perspective in the situation.

        Stupid oversensitive rape victims- why can’t they just get their shit together and get over it? If only they could take into account the perspective of the people who raped them, they’d probably feel way better.

        1. White Rabbit
          White Rabbit September 20, 2012 at 5:18 pm |

          @amblingalong

          Right. Because that’s obviously what I meant, despite all of my subsequent comments that clarified to the contrary.

    4. Fat Steve
      Fat Steve September 19, 2012 at 11:13 pm |

      It’s…..possible that he was asleep.

      The likelier possibility is he was awake the whole time and lying about it in order to screw with her sense of reality. Additionally, he can make her feel both guilty and humiliated, putting him in a Position of power over her.

      Gas lighting is the likelier explanation. Yes, it’s a weird, elaborate mind fuck, but hey, it’s not weirder than the guy whose girlfriend wrote to Captain Awkward becaus he’s controlling and humiliating her by not letting her use their bathroom.

      I was thinking exactly this on my first reading…but seeing the comments above about ‘sleep-doers’ from people who I know are far from rape apologists, I re-read the letter again and now I’m thinking maybe it was less gaslighting than an inability to accept that he may not know everything. My guess is that he would rather imagine that it was all her than admit he’s a ‘sleep doer.’ Although there could be numerous other factors, such as alcohol, prescription drugs that caused him to not be entirely conscious and maybe he doesn’t want to own up to that.

      So, I guess I’m saying, I believe what both of them are saying, but I do think he is being needlessly shitty, as the story she describes prtrays him clearly initiating contact and giving non-verbal consent, whether he remembers it or not, so the only way he should feel violated is if she’s lying. If he can’t trust his girlfriend to tell him the truth, this issue goes far deeper and this relationship needs serious work in other areas or just ending.

      1. Anon21
        Anon21 September 20, 2012 at 8:40 am |

        the only way he should feel violated

        I just don’t think that’s a call other people get to make for him.

        1. moviemaedchen
          moviemaedchen September 20, 2012 at 9:12 am |

          +1

      2. moviemaedchen
        moviemaedchen September 20, 2012 at 9:08 am |

        I don’t think it’s fair to state that he would only have reason to feel violated if she’s lying. He has a right to feel whatever the hell he feels, no matter what the actual circumstances of the incident were before he understood them. The felt sense of having been violated isn’t something dictated by reason – especially if any previous trauma was triggered by this incident, but also even if it’s the only thing bothering him. It’s bodily, emotional, not rational, but real and deserving of respect. If we go by your standards for when it’s permissible to feel violated, for example, I wouldn’t have standing to feel violated by the guy who assaulted me because he thought it was consensual. Nevermind my actual emotional state afterward, or my inability to feel physically safe around him, even after I told myself he thought he had consent and hadn’t meant to rape me. Thanks for dismissing the lived experience of assault survivors and adding to the reasons survivors have for guilting and blaming themselves. Yeah, fuck that noise.

        He feels, and has a right to feel, whatever the hell he feels. His girlfriend also feels and has a right to feel whatever she feels. I have full sympathy for her, and cannot blame her for interpreting signals that usually for them meant enthusiastic consent as signaling enthusiastic consent this time – she’s in a hell of a situation. But, if the guy feels violated, then he feels violated. Period. That’s not up for a fucking debate. He needs his feelings to be respected, not audited grain-by-grain by goddamn internet commentators who weren’t there and aren’t him.

        1. Fat Steve
          Fat Steve September 20, 2012 at 10:27 am |

          Yes, I worded that badly, I wasn’t saying he couldn’t have felt violated if she was telling the truth, I meant that the fact that he feels violated makes it seem that he doesn’t think she was telling the truth.

        2. Fat Steve
          Fat Steve September 20, 2012 at 10:41 am |

          don’t think it’s fair to state that he would only have reason to feel violated if she’s lying.

          Actually, it is fair because, as you say,

          The felt sense of having been violated isn’t something dictated by reason

          I was not dictating what his feelings SHOULD be in that sense. I was merely saying what logic dictates. He has the right to feel however he wants.

        3. Evan Carden
          Evan Carden September 20, 2012 at 10:52 am |

          Fat Steve:

          I can’t say I agree. If I didn’t know I sleepwalked/sleepwhatevered (as far as I know, I don’t) then discovering I do and that someone I love/trust/whatever couldn’t tell the difference between me awake and asleep…

          Without denying that I may well have acted perfectly normal, yes it would be both hurtful and reasonably so.

        4. moviemaedchen
          moviemaedchen September 20, 2012 at 11:05 am |

          I still disagree with you, honestly. His sense of violation is not necessarily about his logical, rational grasp of the situation. Maybe he doesn’t think she’s being honest and that’s adding to his sense of violation (we don’t know, because hey, he’s not the LW!). But speaking from the POV of someone who has been ‘accidentally raped,’ I can completely believe that he might BOTH believe her account, AND still feel violated. Because, that sense of being violated is not just some sort of rational response to his conscious understanding of the situation and may or may not have anything particularly to do with what he thinks his girlfriend’s mindset was or is. That feeling of being violated can exist even when the conscious and genuine belief is present that the other party was not and is not being malicious. And when that happens, it just makes the whole situation even more fucking confusing and emotionally fraught, because then you’re feeling conflict within yourself about what you ‘should’ or ‘shouldn’t’ feel and why as well as uncomfortable with the other person.

          In short, I think you’re unfairly judging someone, whose perspective we don’t have, on the basis of a non-voluntary and non-rational* emotional response to a legitimately upsetting situation instead of fucking empathizing with him as a first step. If I come across as harsh here, it’s because that shit verges on triggering for me. So maybe take a step back and rethink how/why you’re interpreting his emotional state as somehow indicative of conscious shittiness on his part, instead of just as possibly a goddamn emotional reaction to an emotionally fraught situation.

          Yes, it’s possible he’s being a shitty manipulative ass. It’s also possible that he’s in the middle of a hellishly confusing emotional shitstorm and is groping for a way to handle it properly. Without his POV we can’t make that call. But I don’t see why it’s such a problem to take the stance that, absent actual *evidence* of gaslighting/etc., the feelings of the potentially violated person ought to be respected first off instead of immediately questioned/used against hir. For fuck’s sake.

          *By “non-rational” I mean only ‘not subject to or arising due to rational thought’; I don’t in the least mean to demean such feelings or say they are invalid.

        5. moviemaedchen
          moviemaedchen September 20, 2012 at 11:06 am |

          My last was directed at FatSteve.

        6. moviemaedchen
          moviemaedchen September 20, 2012 at 11:18 am |

          I was not dictating what his feelings SHOULD be in that sense. I was merely saying what logic dictates. He has the right to feel however he wants.

          This is crap. You’re still trying to make his emotional state follow the dictates of what *you* think is “logical” to feel or not feel in a given situation. You ARE saying what his feelings should be in a given situation, because you’re assuming a neat correspondence between “he feels X” and “thus the situation is Y.” It doesn’t matter which way you are reading that equation (‘he should/shouldn’t feel X because the situation is Y,’ OR ‘the situation is Y because he feels/doesn’t feel X’). There is no direct logical connection between X and Y strong enough and unique enough for someone on the fucking internet to be able to know that he MUST think she’s lying just because he feels violated. Different people in that situation might feel and think any range of things, including ‘I feel completely violated, she’s definitely lying’ to ‘I feel so weird and violated about this, but I know my GF and she wouldn’t lie to me about this and didn’t mean it, so why can’t I just feel comfortable with her, what the hell is wrong with me’ to something completely different.

          His emotional state isn’t bound by (what you consider) logic at all. It’s a fucking emotional reaction, and that particular reaction of feeling violated can exist independent of belief/disbelief/uncertainty in his GF’s honesty. I just don’t think there’s nearly enough data here for you or anyone to be able to know anything about what’s going on in his head beyond the sense of violation his GF reports. (I take that report as credible because it’s not in her interest to claim it.)

        7. Fat Steve
          Fat Steve September 20, 2012 at 11:42 am |

          His emotional state isn’t bound by (what you consider) logic at all. It’s a fucking emotional reaction, and that particular reaction of feeling violated can exist independent of belief/disbelief/uncertainty in his GF’s honesty. I just don’t think there’s nearly enough data here for you or anyone to be able to know anything about what’s going on in his head beyond the sense of violation his GF reports. (I take that report as credible because it’s not in her interest to claim it.)

          But he reports that he doesn’t want her touching him? Doesn’t that at least slightly imply that he still blames her for the violation? You’re saying that it’s just as likely that he 100% believes her as he thinks she may be lying about something?

          I’m not saying I’m right, you may be right. You are definitely right about us not having the data to make that call for sure. It’s just my reading of the situation.

        8. PrettyAmiable
          PrettyAmiable September 20, 2012 at 12:07 pm |

          But he reports that he doesn’t want her touching him? Doesn’t that at least slightly imply that he still blames her for the violation?

          Sure, the same way I obviously blamed everybody when I didn’t want anyone touching me after my experience. i.e. not at all. And if he does, good for him. It’s his right to feel however he wants after being violated.

        9. moviemaedchen
          moviemaedchen September 20, 2012 at 12:17 pm |

          @FS:

          It doesn’t necessarily imply anything beyond he doesn’t want her touching him. He might not want her touch because, yeah, he genuinely believes she’s a lying rapist shitbag. Or, he might not be completely sure what he feels or thinks about it right now, and isn’t sure if he ‘blames’ her in the sense of just seeing her as factually ‘responsible’ (in the causal sense) for his sense of violation, or as also morally culpable, and what he “should” feel/think about it.

          Or, he may genuinely believe her and still feel fucking uncomfortable being touched by her because it brings up memories of waking up to her having sex with him he did not remember initiating, and feel horrible for feeling weird about her because he believes her! I don’t think you can reasonably impute that he probably thinks she’s lying and blah blah whatever solely on the basis of “he feels violated and not comfortable with being touched by her right now.”

          My problem with your ‘he only should feel violated in X or Y situation, therefore it’s X or Y not anything else’ logic is that 1) you don’t have the data to be making any sort of call like that, but also more importantly IMHO 2) it plays into a way of thinking about how victims react to being assaulted that supports rape culture and the kind of emotional auditing that adds a whole other layer of mindfuckery onto the experience of being assaulted for rape survivors. Specifically, I have enormous problems with the notion that survivors of assault will feel in X, Y or Z ‘logical’ or ‘rational’ ways and thus distant observers can assume to know and judge the thoughts, feelings, mental state, etc. of a survivor without hearing their POV first.

          It’s not about who is right or wrong about whether or not he actually thinks she’s lying. Maybe he does, maybe he doesn’t – I don’t give a fuck. What I give a fuck about is the idea that you or anyone else here who hasn’t talked to the guy presumes to know and judge what the hell he is thinking or feeling and why simply on the basis of a one-sentence report about his behavior from a third party!

        10. tmc
          tmc September 20, 2012 at 12:56 pm |

          But he reports that he doesn’t want her touching him? Doesn’t that at least slightly imply that he still blames her for the violation?

          I once had a dream, early in my marriage, that my husband raped me. It was an awful nightmare, it was very realistic and just horrifying and I thought it was actually happening until I woke up. When I woke up next to him in the morning, I couldn’t look at him. I couldn’t make eye contact, and I couldn’t touch him or stand to let him touch me. I barely talked to him all day.

          At no point did I ever blame him for my dream. How could I? He could not have helped it and he didn’t even know about it until I told him about it the next day (and by then, I was okay again). The problem was literally all in my own head.

          I wasn’t mad at him, and I didn’t blame him. But every time I looked at him I pictured what he’d looked like in my dream, every time he touched me I thought of how he’d touched me in my dream, and my entire being just shrunk away from him until I could shake off the residual horror of my nightmare. It was nobody’s fault, and rationally I knew that it made no sense for me to be freaked out by a literal figment of my imagination, but it didn’t stop me from looking away from him every time he tried to catch my eye that day.

        11. Fat Steve
          Fat Steve September 20, 2012 at 1:15 pm |

          It’s not about who is right or wrong about whether or not he actually thinks she’s lying. Maybe he does, maybe he doesn’t – I don’t give a fuck. What I give a fuck about is the idea that you or anyone else here who hasn’t talked to the guy presumes to know and judge what the hell he is thinking or feeling and why simply on the basis of a one-sentence report about his behavior from a third party!

          I realize that what I initially said was full of assumptions and inaccuracies, not to mention the fact that I clearly wasn’t taking into account the man’s point of view.
          But as far as everyone making judgements, isn’t that what this is all about really? Making a judgement? Comments like yours and the others above helped me realize my initial judgement was largely wrong and stupid. If people here weren’t throwing out their judgements to be challenged they wouldn’t be able to evolve.

        12. moviemaedchen
          moviemaedchen September 20, 2012 at 2:54 pm |

          @FS:

          I see nothing in your comments thus far to indicate that you actually understand what, specifically, I was objecting to in your first set of comments, or why it might be problematic.

          Do you understand the difference between making a judgment about a situation and how it might change how we conceptualize something like rape, and claiming to know what is happening inside another person’s head without actually hearing their input?

          Because I did not, in fact, call into question the entire idea of anyone, anywhere, making judgments of any kind about anything. I called into question very specifically your (and anyone else’s) ability and right to claim to know exactly what is happening inside the dude’s mind without having heard his perspective.

          For fuck’s sake.

        13. Fat Steve
          Fat Steve September 20, 2012 at 3:17 pm |

          I see nothing in your comments thus far to indicate that you actually understand what, specifically, I was objecting to in your first set of comments, or why it might be problematic.

          Do you understand the difference between making a judgment about a situation and how it might change how we conceptualize something like rape, and claiming to know what is happening inside another person’s head without actually hearing their input?

          Yes, of course. That’s what I meant by labeling my judgement as stupid, because it was clearly not based on a full evaluation of the facts. I made all sorts of assumptions about what was going on in the man’s head.

          I didn’t say you were criticizing all judgements, merely that you were criticizing hasty bad judgements, and was making the point that if someone offers a poorly thought out hasty judgement and you correct them, you can change their opinion.

    5. amblingalong
      amblingalong September 20, 2012 at 4:32 pm |

      Well, that’s the last time I read anything written by Amanda, ever. Never expected her, of all people, to be such a contemptible piece of trash rape apologist, but hey, there you have it.

      Oh, and everyone trying to explain how the BF here needs to just calm down and get over it (looking at you, Fat Steve)… fuck you, too. This is some seriously fucked up shit and if the genders were reversed here I have absolutely 100% confidence this discussion would not be going this way. Right now I’m trying to decide if you’re only as repugnant as MRAs or whether the fact you should be better educated makes you worse.

      1. PrettyAmiable
        PrettyAmiable September 20, 2012 at 4:41 pm |

        I’ve found this thread useful for confirming whose opinions I respect, fwiw. Kristen, for ex, has been an utter rock star.

        1. amblingalong
          amblingalong September 20, 2012 at 4:47 pm |

          Yeah, agreed. And MSGD has a pretty good post further down.

          It’s just distressing to find out that commentators I’d previously respected still think the appropriate response to someone’s account of being raped is to immediately dissect their truthfulness/motivations/share of the blame for the rape. I mean, seriously, I thought we were past that. Fuck.

        2. Fat Steve
          Fat Steve September 20, 2012 at 4:57 pm |

          It’s just distressing to find out that commentators I’d previously respected still think the appropriate response to someone’s account of being raped is to immediately dissect their truthfulness/motivations/share of the blame for the rape. I mean, seriously, I thought we were past that. Fuck.

          I’d hate to think of myself as someone respected, but I acknowledge my first reaction was insensitive to the victim and substantially wrong-headed. It was probably partially due that we only get the woman’s side of the story and though I wasn’t consciously thinking it, partially due the fact that I may have reacted differently. Both extremely shitty reasons.

          So, what? You’ve never gotten anything wrong? You’ve never spoken too soon on a topic? OK, I guess that makes you perfect.

        3. Fat Steve
          Fat Steve September 20, 2012 at 6:55 pm |

          That is, you got defensive and claimed I was behaving unreasonably and hypocritically.

          Yeah, I’m done.

          No, I was saying you were absolutely right, but please give me a break, because none of us is perfect.

      2. amblingalong
        amblingalong September 20, 2012 at 5:08 pm |

        So, what? You’ve never gotten anything wrong? You’ve never spoken too soon on a topic? OK, I guess that makes you perfect.

        Sure, I’ve gotten plenty of things wrong. I’ve never attacked a rape victim for ‘overreacting,’ though. Substantially wrongheaded doesn’t begin to cover it, Steve. Not good enough.

        1. amblingalong
          amblingalong September 20, 2012 at 5:14 pm |

          I mean, to be perfectly fair, I chose to use your name since yours was the most recent awful post I’d read. But I mean, there’s Lindsay Beyerstein, who’s on record as saying that being raped is no worse than accidentally raping someone, and like 200 other obscene things here, so it’s not like you’re the only one.

        2. Fat Steve
          Fat Steve September 20, 2012 at 5:52 pm |

          Sure, I’ve gotten plenty of things wrong. I’ve never attacked a rape victim for ‘overreacting,’ though.

          I wasn’t attacking him, but I totally agree that I was out of line. I said it before, I was stupidly mis-conflating what ‘he should have done’ with what I would have done.

          And yes, you are probably right that I would probably not have reacted the same way were the gender roles reversed. I am no better than anyone else when it comes to being affected by the prejudices of our current day, and men being raped by women is something that I should I look at with the same view as the other way around, regardless of the frequency of either.

          You see, I appreciate the opportunity to have my views corrected. Just because I’m committed to an idea and seem tenacious if I’m passionate about it, doesn’t mean I insist that every single comment I make is worth defending and not worth and entire re-think.

        3. amblingalong
          amblingalong September 20, 2012 at 6:44 pm |

          Funny, because I’m pretty sure you wrote

          I do think he is being needlessly shitty

          which sounds a lot like an attack, to me.

          You see, I appreciate the opportunity to have my views corrected. Just because I’m committed to an idea and seem tenacious if I’m passionate about it, doesn’t mean I insist that every single comment I make is worth defending and not worth and entire re-think.

          Here’s what you wrote when I called you out, in case you forgot:

          So, what? You’ve never gotten anything wrong? You’ve never spoken too soon on a topic? OK, I guess that makes you perfect.

          That is, you got defensive and claimed I was behaving unreasonably and hypocritically.

          Yeah, I’m done.

        4. Fat Steve
          Fat Steve September 20, 2012 at 7:03 pm |

          Nesting fail: read my comment up above.

          ambling, I’ve clarified my position and admitted I was wrong with my initial reaction. I’m not doing so for your benefit, so feel free to still hate me. I just want to make it clear that after reading and thinking about comments from people like Kristen and Maedchen, I really saw how wrong I was getting it on this issue and how right they both were.

        5. Lamech
          Lamech September 20, 2012 at 11:34 pm |

          You would be surprised at how badly people can screw up on accident.

      3. PM
        PM September 20, 2012 at 6:46 pm |

        Thank you.

    6. PM
      PM September 20, 2012 at 6:42 pm |

      Oh, wow, what should I do?

      On the one hand, I have the statistic that one in six men will suffer an abusive sexual experience before the age of 18, and a letter-writer claiming she raped her (now ex-) boyfriend.

      On the other, I have Cool Sex Guy Dan Savage and Noted Internet Feminist Amanda Marcotte re-writing the experience of the letter-writer for her, and Amanda Marcotte using Really Real Statistics to paint the man as a vicious gaslighter.

      What a bind!

      1. PM
        PM September 20, 2012 at 7:09 pm |

        Looks like the “now -ex” part wasn’t true, I was thinking of a comment on the thread at Dan’s page. The rest stands.

    7. Lamech
      Lamech September 20, 2012 at 11:38 pm |

      … Okay then. So I have a folder full of links I can use when I want to be overly judgmental about something/someone. This has got to be one of the better things in their.

      Guy gets sexually violated, Important Internet Feminist comes along and says that no, he’s the abusive one.

      Or to put it another way… how do we know you are actually Amanda? Because really this looks like a false flag.

      1. amblingalong
        amblingalong September 21, 2012 at 2:59 am |

        Yeah, my estimation of Amanda just took about as sharp a nose-dive as I can remember.

      2. Li
        Li September 21, 2012 at 3:12 am |

        For the record: None of what Amanda just said is particularly inconsistent with my previous experiences of her writing/comments. I get other people may have had a much higher opinion of her coming into this discussion than I did, but yeah, this is actually pretty classic Amanda Marcotte.

        1. tmc
          tmc September 21, 2012 at 8:16 am |

          Yep. Not surprised one bit.

        2. PM
          PM September 21, 2012 at 7:37 pm |

          Yeah, this wasn’t surprising, unfortunately.

    8. Valerie Keefe
      Valerie Keefe September 21, 2012 at 2:36 am |

      Oh rape apologia, how lovely. Last I checked, we were presuming non-consent unless explicitly informed otherwise. But hey, you know, accuse a rape victim of lying why don’t you, and using a rape accusation to create a power imbalance… That’s… well, despicable, but cisfeminist is as cisfeminist does, knowing she’ll have plenty of people who will be happy to erase a rape.

      Barring evidence to the contrary, it is more likely that a person who says they were raped, was raped than any other explanation. While that’s not enough to convict someone, and rightly so, I’m gonna say this:

      Stop making excuses Amanda. Stop perpetuating rape culture. Stop treating bloodflow to the genitalia different if those genitalia are Wolffian. Stop making me ashamed to call myself a feminist. And yes, if someone misinterprets an action as consent, and it isn’t, the person who was accidentally raped is still raped, even if basic intent wasn’t established, and guess what? Rape victims can be traumatized even if that wasn’t the intent, because intent isn’t fucking magic.

      So again Amanda:

      You’ve erased a rape.

      You’ve presumed untruth from someone who says they were rape.

      You’ve treated an involuntary sexual response as consent.

      You’ve referred to rape accusation as a form of abuse.

      And if we switched the CASAB of all people involved, including you, you’d be called a fedora-wearing, neckbeard (classist, masculosexist language aside) of a right-wing MRA, and rightly so.

      So, like other posters, I’m going to ask you to produce stats on incidence of false somnambulistic rape accusations, somnambulistic sex, and persons reporting somnambulistic sex as a rape.

      But you can’t do that… you can just make assumptions, and accuse someone who’s said they were raped of lying, because that’s all that fits your tidy unidirectional model.

      Sincerely,

      A survivor who’s really disgusted.

      1. Jay
        Jay September 21, 2012 at 12:10 pm |

        Thank you for everything you’ve written here.

        (And especially thank you for sending me to googles for Wolffian – now I’ve certainly learned something today.)

      2. amblingalong
        amblingalong September 21, 2012 at 2:44 pm |

        +1. And seriously, where the fuck did Amanda go? Either defend your position or apologize, but this hit-and-run commenting is obnoxious when what you say so obviously is going to infuriate people.

        1. Valerie Keefe
          Valerie Keefe September 21, 2012 at 3:27 pm |

          Don’t worry. Any time I see her spreading her unidirectionalist duckspeak over the web, I’m going to confront her with this. Not in my name. Not in my feminism.

        2. Fat Steve
          Fat Steve September 21, 2012 at 5:18 pm |

          And seriously, where the fuck did Amanda go? Either defend your position or apologize,

          Well, perhaps she’s afraid that you won’t accept the apology unless it’s worded exactly the way you want it.

        3. Lolagirl
          Lolagirl September 21, 2012 at 6:39 pm |

          Apparently Amanda was too busy to come back and defend her offensiveness posting another XXFactor piece on Slate about how the childfree have 30% more fun than parent types. Oh, and also taking personal credit for the success of every restaurant in NYC parents never have time to patronize as well as for every successful movie available on Netlix and every awesome song on iTunes we will never have the time to enjoy because of our miserable childfull existences.

          As I’m sure you must understand, this was a really much more important, pressing matter that takes precedence over her explaining away her rape apologism in the comment above. Then again, Amanda is never, ever wrong, about anything ever. So I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for her to admit to it here or elsewhere.

        4. Shadow
          Shadow September 21, 2012 at 7:36 pm |

          Well, perhaps she’s afraid that you won’t accept the apology unless it’s worded exactly the way you want it.

          And as everyone knows, you only owe people an apology if you’re sure that they’ll accept it.

  21. igglanova
    igglanova September 19, 2012 at 11:44 pm |

    Assuming everything in the letter is true, no rape has occurred. The LW is no more a rapist than a motorist, having accidentally hit someone, is a murderer. The (completely legit) feeling of violation is not enough to make that experience rape – for that, we need some kind of ill intent, or choice to disregard obvious refusal cues (of which there were none, until it was too late).

    1. Kristen J.
      Kristen J. September 20, 2012 at 12:05 am |

      Sooo…no medical rape? No rape of a person who is incapacitated by someone unless that someone had “ill intent”? No rape of a person who froze when the other person instigated intercourse? I mean this definition takes a whole swath of people who define their own experiences as rape.

      1. igglanova
        igglanova September 20, 2012 at 12:12 am |

        I think this is a willful misreading of my comment, which is particularly revealed by your choice to blow past this last part of my ‘ill intent’ sentence:

        for that, we need some kind of ill intent, or choice to disregard obvious refusal cues.

        Going still as a dead fish = obvious refusal cue. Being anaesthetized in the context of prepping for surgery = obviously so outside the realm of seduction that any twit doctor should know better. Capisce?

        1. Kristen J.
          Kristen J. September 20, 2012 at 12:26 am |

          I don’t think everyone sees that as an obvious refusal cue, but even given that…what about a woman who appears to be consenting but is blackout drunk? What about someone who is being coerced by a third party? Saying rape only happens when someone means to commit rape or there is some obvious (whatever that means) refusal leaves out a lot of victims. I’m not trying to willfully misread your comment, I just don’t understand how this definition can possibly work.

        2. Fat Steve
          Fat Steve September 20, 2012 at 12:40 am |

          I don’t think everyone sees that as an obvious refusal cue, but even given that…what about a woman who appears to be consenting but is blackout drunk? What about someone who is being coerced by a third party? Saying rape only happens when someone means to commit rape or there is some obvious (whatever that means) refusal leaves out a lot of victims. I’m not trying to willfully misread your comment, I just don’t understand how this definition can possibly work.

          I don’t think saying the woman in this case isn’t guilty completely precludes the man being a victim. I mean, let’s take, your example of someone being coerced by a third party. If I was to threaten to kill your husband unless he went home and made love to you in the normal way you do it every night, he would be the victim of a horrible violation, but that doesn’t make you a rapist because you had no way of knowing.

          I’m not saying this case is as clearcut, but I don’t think her comments show her to be anything but genuinely sympathetic to the victim of what she believes to be an honest yet utterly horrible mistake on her part. She just probably wishes that the accidental aspect would count for something.

        3. igglanova
          igglanova September 20, 2012 at 12:50 am |

          ‘Ill intent’ doesn’t have to be as literal as ‘intending to rape.’ (After all, lots of rapists never call their assaults ‘rape’ to begin with.) I would argue that anyone choosing to have sex with someone who is blackout drunk is intending to take advantage of that person. Coercion also an obvious manifestation of ill intent.

          Perhaps I should have used the phrase ‘apparent refusal cue’ instead of ‘obvious’, though, because ‘apparent’ removes any implication that victims should be trying extra hard to communicate nonconsent. (This probably sounds like I’m trying to come up with some phony science-y objective terminology here but I swear I’m not. ‘Refusal cue’ was just the way that idea manifested most clearly inside my head…)

          However, I’d like to get back to my original point. We’re fond of saying things like ‘intent isn’t magic’ around here, but intent really does matter a great deal when we’re talking about crimes like rape. It is not inconceivable that perfectly decent people could violate sexual boundaries by accident. And I’d argue that a rape cannot happen by accident. Again, by way of analogy – there’s a reason we differentiate murder from accidental death. A person who was killed by accident still experienced death, but s/he did not experience murder. The only difference in those competing scenarios is intent, but that difference is powerful.

        4. Kristen J.
          Kristen J. September 20, 2012 at 1:08 am |

          So people who were penetrated against their will can’t define their experience as rape unless they can demonstrate that the perpetrator had ill intent or ignored cues? I don’t understand how we can use a definition targeted at defining wrongdoing to police who is and isn’t a victim.

        5. igglanova
          igglanova September 20, 2012 at 1:26 am |

          So people who were penetrated against their will can’t define their experience as rape unless they can demonstrate that the perpetrator had ill intent or ignored cues?

          Well, yeah. Nobody is obliged to present me, personally, with a watertight case, or anything. But it’s not possible for a rape to have occurred if there is no rapist.

          As an aside, people can define their experiences however the hell they want. That doesn’t mean that definition becomes reality.

        6. EG
          EG September 20, 2012 at 8:19 am |

          So people who were penetrated against their will can’t define their experience as rape unless they can demonstrate that the perpetrator had ill intent or ignored cues?

          “Demonstrate” seems pretty strong to me unless we’re in a court of law; personally, I’d take somebody’s word for it if they said the other person ignored cues or assumed consent without any cues. But if the situation is that there are no cues that consent is not given (i.e. being blackout drunk and thus unable to give consent) and there are cues that consent is being given (participating in sexual contact, motioning for one’s partner to get on top) then it is hard for me to see the event as rape or the other person as a rapist. That doesn’t mean it’s not a violation, but other people aren’t psychic, either, and if a person is actively participating and gesturing for sex to occur…how would someone know they were asleep?

        7. Kristen J.
          Kristen J. September 20, 2012 at 11:41 am |

          The thing is, I see clients with a fair amount of frequency who do not meet your definition of rape in situations where consent was ambiguous or constrained. And the idea that we would just dismiss their experience because they don’t believe their partners/spouses are rapists strikes me as very similar to the logic behind “grey rape.”

        8. EG
          EG September 20, 2012 at 2:31 pm |

          I see that, and it’s really a problem. But if somebody is giving every indication that they’re consenting…as seems to have been the case here (providing that we’re accepting her version of events), how would the partner know? I (apparently) have entire conversations while asleep that I don’t remember upon waking, and have had my entire life. If I say “yes” to my partner while I’m asleep, how can he be a rapist? He got consent. He didn’t know I was asleep. We’ve woken up in the middle of the night and had sex before, so it’s not like it would be out of character.

          I’m not judging the husband’s reactions or feelings, and if he doesn’t feel safe with her, he doesn’t feel safe, but I honestly don’t see what she could have done differently unless we do away with the notion of non-verbal consent altogether–and even verbal consent, in my case, would be suspect.

        9. Kristen J.
          Kristen J. September 20, 2012 at 2:38 pm |

          I agree, based on the facts, she did nothing wrong. I’m not objecting to the idea that she’s not a rapist. I’m objecting to the idea that since she’s not a rapist, therefore he could not have experienced rape.

        10. EG
          EG September 20, 2012 at 2:50 pm |

          Oh, I see. Yes, I’m on board then. This seems like one case–perhaps the only one–where passive voice would be the best way to articulate what happened.

        11. igglanova
          igglanova September 20, 2012 at 3:15 pm |

          I swear I don’t have any vested interest in being a mean bitch to victims of trauma. It would be helpful to discuss these cases that you think are outside my previously given definition in more detail, because I don’t see this gaping hole in my logic with the degree of clarity that you seem to.

          For the time being, though, I don’t think we are invalidating anything about a traumatic sexual violation if we just use a different word to describe it than rape. The only reason I’m being a stickler for terminology is because the word ‘rape’ indicates both a victim and perpetrator in the same way that ‘murder’ does, and it is unfair to characterize a person as having been a rapist if the situation was a complete accident.

        12. Kristen J.
          Kristen J. September 20, 2012 at 4:52 pm |

          Okay. Client 1 was coerced into a threesome by an abusive ex boyfriend. She did not want to engage in sexual activity with the sex worker he hired but she did because she was afraid of how he would react if she refused. Client 1 describes the experience as rape but as a technical matter her boyfriend didnt touch her and she feigned enthusiasm. She doesn’t consider the sex worker involved to have committed rape.

          Client 2 is married to an alcoholic who is an abusive drunk. He has forcibly rape her twice while intoxicated. She doesn’t call him a rapist, but has recently realized that she has RTS and calls the experience rape.

          Client 3 is a childhood sexual assault victim. She responds to certain types of sexual overturesby becoming very compliant. She doesn’t want to have sex, but she becomes frightened in response to certain stimuli which would be perceived as an invitation

        13. Kristen J.
          Kristen J. September 20, 2012 at 4:55 pm |

          Dammit hit okay too soon.

          …by others. She doesn’t blame the men involved but her experiences feel like rape to her.

          I could go on. But does that give you some idea of what I mean?

        14. Shadow
          Shadow September 20, 2012 at 7:51 pm |

          I have to admit, I’m confused as to how Client 2′s husband can be lumped into the same category as the men in Clients 1 and 3′s stories. I mean, I can understand not referring to him as a rapist to the client out of respect for their wishes, but I don’t see how dude isn’t a straight up rapist, there doesn’t seem to be anything grey about the situation at all.

        15. Kristen J.
          Kristen J. September 20, 2012 at 10:45 pm |

          @Shadow,

          If you had told her that rape requies that someone be a rapist she never would have been able to accept that she was raped and get treatment. That’s fairly common among DV survivors.

        16. igglanova
          igglanova September 20, 2012 at 10:53 pm |

          @ Kristen J: I’ll offer my opinion on those three cases, since you asked. I think case 2 is a straight up rape with no ambiguity whatsoever, and case 1 is an ugly case of rape-by-proxy due to the strong element of coercion. I still think those scenarios are covered by my previous metric.

          Case 3 just makes me extremely sad. I think at least some of those men probably could tell that she was not enthusiastic about sex, but they chose to go ahead and use her anyway. If that’s how it all went down, then I’m not uncomfortable with calling that scenario rape. Since they most likely could tell that something was up, continuing the sexual advance was a selfish decision to prioritize their desires over your client’s need for safety, and freedom from violation.

          If it really was impossible for those men to tell that she felt violated by the whole act, though – say, she was very convincingly feigning enthusiasm, though the way you’ce described it makes me doubt this – then I would not agree with calling those experiences rape. I wouldn’t argue the point with her, of course, but I wouldn’t just passively accept it, either.

          I don’t think we’re going to resolve the fundamental conflict, here. I still think that we cannot discount intent when determining if a given situation was rape. We might have to agree to disagree.

        17. Kristen J.
          Kristen J. September 20, 2012 at 11:08 pm |

          I’m willing to agree to disagree on this but I do want to ask one more question. If defining rape differently helps one person who has been sexually violated, why wouldn’t we define it that way? Who are we harming by saying that Client 3′s experience was rape? What social value are we upholding by defining rape narrowly?

        18. igglanova
          igglanova September 20, 2012 at 11:30 pm |

          Conveniently, we have a situation right in front of us where defining an experience as ‘rape’ can be harmful. The current popular understanding of rape, being what it is, would necessarily imply that the LW in our OP raped her boyfriend, which will only exacerbate the guilt that she’s currently feeling.

          I don’t think this is an all-or-nothing type of situation, though. A victim of ‘violation’ (or whichever word you’d like to use) has just as much legitimacy and dignity as a victim of ‘rape.’ My personal preference would be to work toward this sort of understanding rather than to attempt an expansion of the definition of ‘rape’, but of course YMMV.

        19. Kristen J.
          Kristen J. September 20, 2012 at 11:47 pm |

          Except that’s only true if we continue to insist that rape requires a rapist. If rape can occur without a rapist, then that concern is resolved. She isn’t a rapist. He was raped.

        20. igglanova
          igglanova September 21, 2012 at 12:00 am |

          That’s true, but the definition is not going to change as soon as we decide that it should. I don’t think the confusion that would result from a linguistic transitional period would be worth the rewards, to be honest, because it is still possible to successfully treat victims of trauma without trying to recruit an entire society in the redefinition of a word.

        21. Shadow
          Shadow September 21, 2012 at 10:21 am |

          @Kristen J

          That’s my point though. It’s one thing to tell HER he’s not a rapist in order to help her with identifying what happened to her and with her recovery. I’m all for that. It’s another thing entirely to redefine rape in such a way that we can speak of her husband as not a rapist, that’s completely removing his culpability in the equation and acting like what happened to her was just a status change, as opposed to someone deliberately violating her. We (rightfully) consider “I was drunk” to be a bullshit excuse. I don’t see how that redefinition would not effectively endorse the husband’s drunkeness as a valid excuse.

          Again, I’m not objecting to doing what’s necessary to help the victim cope on an individual basis. My objection is to changing the societal discussion of rape to allow this scenario to be described as a rape with no rapist.

        22. Kristen J.
          Kristen J. September 21, 2012 at 11:09 am |

          @Shadow,

          I think the disconnect here is that *she* is a member of society. She could not acknowledge that she had been raped for *years* because the social definition of rape requires a rapist. That social construction was an impediment to her getting the help she needed. It wasn’t until she was told otherwise that she was able to accept her own feelings. These definitions aren’t theoretical. They impact how actual survivors classify and process their own experiences. Client 2 had a lot of resources and a lot of people fighting for her. What about the woman out there reading this thread and living through the same experience. Is she going to stuff down her feelings, ignore the flashbacks, swallow her cringe reaction, because we join the chorus of people telling her she wasn’t raped unless her husband/partner is a rapist? No technical definition is worth that outcome in my view.

        23. EG
          EG September 21, 2012 at 11:49 am |

          Kristen, I think that perhaps some of the opposition may come out of a concern that if “rape without a rapist” becomes a social norm, it will be yet one more way for rapists to evade blame, responsibility, punishment for their crimes, one more way to justify what they do, one more loophole that allows them to go on preying on people. I realize that it’s not like we have an airtight culture surrounding that anyway, but that is the gut anxiety for me. I can get on board “rape without a rapist” in the letter-writer’s sense, but that is what prevents from feeling 100% OK with it regarding your second client. It sounds to me like changing a definition to reflect a kind of Stockholm Syndrome understanding, rather than changing a definition to reflect a truth (as debatable as that term is).

        24. Kristen J.
          Kristen J. September 21, 2012 at 12:16 pm |

          I guess I just don’t get how decoupling the definition would get us to that result. You and I know he’s a rapist just like we know he’s an abusive asshole. Agood number of people would probably agree with us. He is a rapist based on *his* actions.

          Is it that people think that we’ll somehow increase the belief that a person didn’t commit rape even if they believe the victim was raped? Because at least from my seat how most people/juries/judges reason is “He doesn’t sound like an evil rapist, therefore she wasn’t really raped.” not “She was raped, therefore he is an evil rapist.”

        25. EG
          EG September 21, 2012 at 12:25 pm |

          I think that is the concern, yes, that rape-apologists will seize on any excuse to say “Yes, but”: “Yes, but she led him on,” will morph into “Yes, she was raped, but he’s not a rapist.” You may well be right that those assholes will find an excuse anyway, but that is the knot of concern about it in my stomach.

        26. Shadow
          Shadow September 21, 2012 at 12:48 pm |

          Basically, exactly what EG said. To me, decoupling the definition changes rape to something that happened to you, instead of something that was done to you.
          Of course we can’t hang everything on what rape apologists will do, since like EG said, they’ll always find a way, but this gives them a very powerful weapon IMO. Yes he’s a rapist based on his actions, but his actions are implicitly tied to the fact that someone else was involved. You can’t just rape, you have to rape someone. In the same way, you can’t just be raped by yourself, someone has to be involved. In a society where people have to fight tooth and nail to have people accept that you were raped by someone, I don’t see how this won’t make things harder for many victims to gain justice, even as it makes it easier for some victims to come to terms with what happened to them. I’m not suggesting some “needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few” type bullshit, but I feel like this would harm more victims than it would benefit.

        27. Kristen J.
          Kristen J. September 21, 2012 at 1:02 pm |

          @Shadow,

          I guess this depends as usual on where you si. From my perspective, very, very few women ever get justice or even seek justice. Justice isn’t a goal that’s on the table. But amost every victim needs validation and support. I can count on one hand the number of convictions for rape my clients have gotten. But I couldn’t have kept track of the number of women who have described being raped, but couldn’t call it that because it means their partner is a rapist.

        28. Shadow
          Shadow September 21, 2012 at 7:28 pm |

          @KristenJ

          Fair enough, and you’re completely right about where I’m coming from. FWIW I have neither your experience nor your expertise on the matter, as well as being a straight dude who’s never been raped, so I’m sure my view on things is much more naive than it is realistic.

      2. Valerie Keefe
        Valerie Keefe September 21, 2012 at 3:29 pm |

        When people are killed without the person who caused their death intending them to be killed, we still refer to it as homicide, though we treat the action differently from a legal point of view.

        When someone is raped, it’s clear that intent needs to be there for a conviction, but intent doesn’t need to be there for that person to be raped.

        1. Lindsay Beyerstein
          Lindsay Beyerstein September 21, 2012 at 4:56 pm |

          Hypothetically….

          What if the boyfriend woke up to find himself masturbating on the front lawn. That’s was sex without consent. Did he rape himself?

          What if his girlfriend didn’t get on top of him, but he hallucinated that she did? Despite her adamant denials, he feels like he was raped. Does that make him a rape victim? You might stipulate that there has to be sex before he can feel raped, but why? If it’s all about how he feels, then the facts about whether sex took place are irrelevant.

          What if he’s actually suffering from retrograde amnesia, rather than a sleep sex disorder? Suppose he was wide awake and enthusiastically consenting when he initiated sex, but he doesn’t remember anything prior to waking up with his gf on top of him. Was he raped then?

          His girlfriend wouldn’t have consented to sleep sex if she’d known he was unconscious. Did he rape her? If she feels like she was raped, is it okay for her to shame him, even though he wasn’t responsible?

        2. amblingalong
          amblingalong September 21, 2012 at 5:12 pm |

          What if the boyfriend woke up to find himself masturbating on the front lawn. That’s was sex without consent. Did he rape himself?

          Oh, FFS.

          What if he’s actually suffering from retrograde amnesia, rather than a sleep sex disorder? Suppose he was wide awake and enthusiastically consenting when he initiated sex, but he doesn’t remember anything prior to waking up with his gf on top of him. Was he raped then?

          No. He gave consent to sex, which he then had. This is different from not giving consent to sex that he had.

          His girlfriend wouldn’t have consented to sleep sex if she’d known he was unconscious. Did he rape her? If she feels like she was raped, is it okay for her to shame him, even though he wasn’t responsible?

          Where in this entire thread did anyone support the idea of shaming the girlfriend?

          Are you trolling?

        3. mxe354
          mxe354 September 21, 2012 at 5:12 pm |

          What if the boyfriend woke up to find himself masturbating on the front lawn. That’s was sex without consent. Did he rape himself?

          Bad analogy. When people call rape sex without consent, they are specifically referring to nonconsensual sex between 2 or more people.

          What if his girlfriend didn’t get on top of him, but he hallucinated that she did? Despite her adamant denials, he feels like he was raped. Does that make him a rape victim? You might stipulate that there has to be sex before he can feel raped, but why?

          Because rape without actual sex isn’t rape.

        4. Lindsay Beyerstein
          Lindsay Beyerstein September 21, 2012 at 8:35 pm |

          So, now you’re agreeing with me that the facts matter after all? How he feels isn’t the final arbiter of whether he was raped.

          Even if he feels raped when there was no sex (or no partnered sex), that doesn’t mean that he was raped.

          Even if he feels raped because he doesn’t remember consenting to sex that he actually consented to, that doesn’t mean he was raped.

          He’s going to feel however he feels, and we should empathize with him if he’s suffering. But that doesn’t oblige us to agree that he was raped just because he identifies as having been raped. Maybe he feels just as bad as someone who was actually raped, and we should have compassion for that. But we can honor his suffering without calling what happened to him “rape.”

          The only reason to call this “rape” is if we want to imply that he was morally wronged in some way. Otherwise, we could just call it what it is: a terrifying traumatic experience.

          All of Kristin J’s client examples involve men who wronged women terribly. What they all have in common is mens rea, even in the case where there was no sex between abuser and victim or the case where there was no overt coercion. For these victims to be able to say they were raped is a genuine step forward, even if they’re not ready to call their partners rapists. They’re at least acknowledging that some grievous wrong was done to them. Kristin J’s examples suggest that mens rea is even more important than sex in determining rape. As they say, rape isn’t about sex, it’s about power. All of these cases involve abuse of power.

          In the case of the young woman who had sex while drunk and later couldn’t remember consenting, didn’t she at least suspect that the guy took advantage of her? She must have seemed pretty drunk at the time, even if she was still walking and talking. Everybody knows that it’s sleazy at best, and criminal at worst, to take advantage of someone in that state, even if they’re alert enough to nominally consent. For her to say she felt like she was raped is probably a way of saying that she felt wronged, even if the offense legally fell short of rape. I agree that we need language to talk about sexual coercion and victimization that falls outside the narrow legal categories.

          A sleep sex mix-up is not an abuse of power. The boyfriend had a bad experience, but he wasn’t morally wronged. He had a neurological malfunction that caused him to lose control of his behavior. That wasn’t his fault. What happened was as much an accident as if he’d had a seizure at the wheel of his car. It’s nobody’s fault. The sooner he and his girlfriend accept that, the better off they’ll both be.

          If he tried to shame her in any way, or imply that she was at fault for his brain malfunction, he owes her an apology.

    2. Andrew Pari, LCSW
      Andrew Pari, LCSW September 24, 2012 at 2:54 pm |

      We’re using two definitions to mean one thing. I think this is part of the problem in these conversations when it seems like we aren’t getting each other. We use the word rape to mean a lot of different things.

      Rape, the legal definition, can be very different from rape, the sense of a personal sexual boundary violation. One doesn’t negate the other and both don’t have to exist.

      Kristen J., it sounds like you’re also a therapist who works with sexually assaulted clients. I think for those of us working in the mental health field, there can be a vast difference for how we need to work with clients so that they can gain a sense of understanding and healing for themselves versus what is criminally prosecutable.
      I run into this more times than I care to count, as it seems you have.

      When we conflate the meanings of the word rape into one thing and insist that one definition must meet the other, we will have understandably intense disagreements.
      One can feel raped/sexually assaulted in a psychological sense and at the same time have no crime element OR not be ready or want to deal with that aspect.

      I don’t know if Marcella Chester is around anymore, but she used to talk about this concept of “rape without a rapist.” A person feeling all the elements of RTS or PTSD without there being an identifiable rapist due to the situation it happened in.

      And, yes, there IS a danger in this concept moving outside the mental health field or these types of discussions into mainstream for all the reasons people here said, but until we change the entire verbiage for rape and sexual assault, I think we have to accept the potential for confusion.

      1. Kristen J.
        Kristen J. September 25, 2012 at 9:04 pm |

        To clarify, I’m not a therapist. I’m an attorney who does a good amount of DV advocacy. By clients I mean people who have sought my advice in that capacity.

        1. Andrew Pari, LCSW
          Andrew Pari, LCSW October 1, 2012 at 7:39 pm |

          Gotcha. Thanks, Kristen.
          Sounds like conceptually we hear a lot of the same thing.

  22. karak
    karak September 19, 2012 at 11:46 pm |

    This reminds me of a scenario where my boyfriend, asleep, took my hand and put it down his hands. Offended, I jerked my hand away, and he grabbed me and did it again. Pissed, I rolled to the other side of the bed.

    The next day, I confronted him about this, and he had no memory at all, and was pretty embarrassed and very apologetic. My *guess* would be that the letter-writer’s partner was having a sex dream and couldn’t discern reality from dreaming. I don’t blame him for being upset and I understand why she’s reluctant to take the label of rapist.

    But she did cross a boundary, and she needs to face up to that, and honestly talk to her boyfriend about what this means, and especially listen and work very hard to not demean his feelings, and give him some space to talk about them, because males, in general, have baggage about being “unrapeable” that he might be tangling with. I hope she feels appropriately upset about how her actions have upset him, because all accidents aside, she had sex with someone unable to consent and they were hurt.

    1. Lamech
      Lamech September 20, 2012 at 11:41 pm |

      My *guess* would be that the letter-writer’s partner was having a sex dream and couldn’t discern reality from dreaming.

      Pretty sure your wrong. You should be close to paralyzed while dreaming. It probably happened when he wasn’t dreaming.

      1. EG
        EG September 21, 2012 at 10:13 am |

        Not necessarily. The nervous system glitches on that all the time. I hit an ex-boyfriend in the face once because I was slamming a door in a dream.

        1. shfree
          shfree September 21, 2012 at 12:57 pm |

          My ex once got up and made a peanut butter and jelly sandwich after pulling all the blankets off of me, then went to eat his sandwich on the couch. He was definitely asleep, and I would have a hard time believing he wasn’t dreaming.

        2. Brandy
          Brandy September 21, 2012 at 3:07 pm |

          Yep, I’ve gotten hit and kicked (not too hard, thankfully) a few times because my boyfriend is always fending off movie villians in his dreams. Usually it comes with a bunch of mumbled swearing.

        3. Lamech
          Lamech September 22, 2012 at 1:34 am |

          Indeed. Generally sleep walking is in non-REM. Of course, not always.

          So I stand by my assertion that I’m pretty sure you are wrong. Not 100% of course.

  23. Alexandra
    Alexandra September 20, 2012 at 12:18 am |

    Heh. Once upon a time, my then-boyfriend punched me in the face while he was asleep (I had insomnia, and was awake for this). He didn’t punch me very hard, mind you, but it was distressing!

    I come from a family of weird sleepers. My father has night terrors, I have hypnogogic hallucinations/sleep paralysis, and according to my mother I thrash around a lot in my sleep too. I’ve had conversations with people before and successfully got out of bed, turned off the alarm, showered, fallen asleep again with no memory. Particularly when I’m on medications with sedative effects, or on prescription sleep meds like Ambien, I can have weird sleep.

    So I totally understand both situations in Dan’s column today – the one where the sleeping party is doing the violating, and the one where the sleeping party is getting violated. I think this stuff is actually fairly common (on a population level) and I can only hope that most people have the necessary level of trust and tools to make things work. After my then-boyfriend punched me in his dream (he woke up because his hand hurt!) we talked, laughed it off, and I told him that if he did it again, I might start sleeping in a different bed. It didn’t happen again, thankfully.

    In the first letter I hear a woman who loves and doesn’t want to hurt her husband and who understands that he doesn’t know what he’s doing, who is going to great lengths to protect him at her own expense. I think Dan’s advice to her is great. In the second letter, I hear a woman who is baffled that her boyfriend is still upset about an incident that, to her, seemed minor at the time and seems minor to her still – because she is unable to put herself in his place, to experience his disorientation, confusion, and sense of violation. I bet she’s also unable to understand that men do not walk around horny and desirous of fucking every moment of the day, because it’s such a common trope in the culture. And I’m willing to bet this woman’s inability to understand her boyfriend’s initial hurt is part of why he still doesn’t want her to touch him — because he doesn’t trust her to be able to empathize and validate his emotions! Until she finds a way to express to him that she understands what it felt like to him, they’re not even going to get to the conversation about preventing future incidents.

    1. Miss S
      Miss S September 21, 2012 at 2:56 pm |

      I’ve been punched in the face by my sister (when we used to share a bed when we were younger).

      I also have insomnia, and sometimes when I take sleeping pills, I do bizarre shit. I accused an ex of having an affair with an Amish girl one night. Which is one of the most bizarre statements I’ve ever heard, and have no idea where it came from. I’ve cleaned, shopped, had conversations, done laundry, showered, had arguments, etc.

  24. Caperton
    Caperton September 20, 2012 at 1:06 am | *

    I’m a heavy sleep-everythinger, particularly the walking and the talking. It’s been going on since I was a kid, but the scope of the problem has gotten more significant as I’ve grown up. I’m capable of having complete, lengthy, coherent conversations while dead asleep. I can talk on the phone. I can engage in sex. I can initiate sex. And nothing about my speech patterns, my tone of voice, or my facial expressions would indicate that I’m anything but wide awake. And I don’t even get a funny feeling or a sense that I was dreaming the next day–I have no memory of it all. I pretty much rely entirely on people I trust to not take advantage of me.

    It’s terrifying. The thought of being that completely vulnerable when I’m asleep is really scary. The fact that I could answer the phone or the door in the middle of the night and have no memory of it the next morning is really scary. (I have an uncle who has the same problem; he once bought a motorcycle while he was asleep.) The fact that I could be in danger, but no one would know to help because I look so aware, is really scary. And while sex, sleeping or awake, with The Boy has never been a problem, I can’t say it wouldn’t be with another guy. So if LW’s boyfriend says he’s freaked out and uncomfortable, I can’t really question that, particularly if there are trust issues or past trauma involved that LW didn’t know about or didn’t mention. This isn’t to say that I think she’s a rapist or a horrible person–just that automatically dismissing her boyfriend’s feelings as manipulation and not letting him define his own experience is out of line.

    1. Miss S
      Miss S September 21, 2012 at 2:43 pm |

      he once bought a motorcycle while he was asleep.

      Holy shit. That’s a major purchase.

      I’ve also bought things while sleep/half asleep but completely out of it because of ambien. It’s really bizarre. I’ve also rearranged my room and not been able to find things the next day, cleaned the bathroom, had conversations, had arguments, and had sex.

      1. Fat Steve
        Fat Steve September 21, 2012 at 4:23 pm |

        I’ve also bought things while sleep/half asleep but completely out of it because of ambien. It’s really bizarre. I’ve also rearranged my room and not been able to find things the next day, cleaned the bathroom, had conversations, had arguments, and had sex.

        I have had the same experience on Ambien and also stuff like Xanax and Klonopin. I have to fly a lot for work and I am an incredibly nervous flyer. So, when I fly I end up taking a pill or two more than the recommended dose, and as such I’m no stranger to forgetting large periods of time due to hypnotic drugs.

        Is this the same thing as sleepwalking? I never connected the two before, and I’ve never been even told I talk in my sleep.

  25. Natalia
    Natalia September 20, 2012 at 3:39 am |

    I find this story believable.

    These things happen – and the aftermath usually depends on the level of trust in the relationship, as well as how individuals deal with these sorts of accidents.

    Shortly after I got married, I woke up to find my husband coming on to me in the middle of the night. He’s kissing me, whispering how much he wants me, etc. I’m a little tired and disoriented, but am still like, “Woo hoo!” We have sex, it’s all very loving and sweet (which, perhaps, should have tipped me off – since it’s rare for both of us to be into the stuff people refer to as “gentle lovemaking,” but hey, I was going with the flow), and then in the morning, he tells me that he had this very vivid dream of us having sex.

    I tell him, “Whoa, dude, NOT a dream” and we end up laughing about it and recalling other strange sleep stories. Point is, he’s not the sort of individual who would be traumatized by what happened, he just found it hilarious.

    However, other people are not like that, and the boyfriend in this instance is entitled to his feelings. What happened sucks because of that – though I don’t think it’s anyone’s fault.

    There is no “correct” way to deal with this kind of stuff either. It may very well be that LW’s boyfriend never had a high level of trust for her to begin with – which is why he is reacting particularly badly – or it may be that he trusted her 100% and can’t wrap his mind around how something like this could have occurred.

    Either way, it’s a shitty situation for both of them.

  26. msgd
    msgd September 20, 2012 at 11:37 am |

    People are obviously using the word “rape” to mean completely different things in this thread.

    (1) People defending the woman are saying that she is not morally culpable for having committed rape, because she was not, and could not reasonably have been, aware that her partner was not consenting to sex. Rape in this case requires that the “rapist” is (or should be) aware that they are committing non-consensual sexual activity.

    (2) People reacting to that seem to be saying that it is not true that the man in this situation was not raped. He had sexual activity perpetrated on him without his consent.
    In this case, “rape” is a status. A person who has had sexual activity committed against them without their consent has been raped regardless of the mental state of their rapist.

    Notice that (1) being true does not preclude (2) from being true. People attempting to argue about whether or not this is “rape” are just talking past each other. The first thing we need to decide is whether “rape” refers to a moral judgment of a hypothetical rapist’s actions or whether it refers to what is happening to the hypothetical person being raped. These are not the same, and unless we agree about what we’re talking about, this is going to go nowhere.

    1. msgd
      msgd September 20, 2012 at 11:43 am |

      Oh, and I want to importantly note that there is no “true” answer about what a word means. It means whatever its users decide it to mean for the purpose of their conversation. I’m not saying that either (1) or (2) is “real rape” and other things are not, and so can’t be part of the discussion. I’m saying that words must have defined meaning for people to actually communicate effectively.

      1. deadleaf
        deadleaf September 20, 2012 at 11:00 pm |

        I agree with you, but FYI the argument’s where I’ve used the “meaning is a perspective” argument in feminist circles have typically been met with the “words mean things” argument.

        1. msgd
          msgd September 22, 2012 at 2:50 am |

          Eh, I’m starting to think people just want to talk past each other so that they can all feel right.

    2. Andrew Pari, LCSW
      Andrew Pari, LCSW September 24, 2012 at 8:33 pm |

      @msgd:

      Well that’s what I get for not reading through ALL the comments before putting my 2c in.

      You said exactly what I did, only clearer and 4 days earlier.
      This misunderstanding of definitions of “rape” seems to be a sticking point over and over again. It surprises me that we, meaning those of us in social justice circles, haven’t already figured out a neat way around it.

      1. Henry
        Henry September 25, 2012 at 11:24 pm |

        It’s because you’re assigning two different, but closely related meanings to the same word, a word with its origins in criminal behavior – and criminaltiy is a place where society tries to meld acts upon victims with intent of the actor because we are putting people in jail or severing their heads or whatever society deems is the punishment at the time. Now you’re using the perception of the criminal act as a basis to define a trauma. That trauma can occur where there actually was the crime (the overwhelming majority of the caseswhere there was an accident (Ex. the OP), or where nothing at all happened and it’s purely imagined. But all three instances I would imagine will seem equally traumatic to the person experiencing them. Perhaps a better word would be rape trauma as oppose to rape. I can only imagine confirming for the LW’s BF that he suffered a rape, and telling him it was not a crime will only further confuse the victim – if it’s confusing the observers here so badly.

        1. Andrew Pari, LCSW
          Andrew Pari, LCSW October 1, 2012 at 7:37 pm |

          Yes, that is what I said. Although I disagree on the “purely imagined” part. Unless someone is having a delusion or hallucination, there is generally far more to it than pure imagination.

  27. rhian
    rhian September 20, 2012 at 11:45 am |

    There is NO indication in this letter that the LW is female, and I’m not sure why everyone is assuming that ze is.

  28. Jeff
    Jeff September 20, 2012 at 4:58 pm |

    I love how none of you have questioned her story of how she “thought” he was awake and engaging in sexual activity. Perhaps she was truthful, however, I highly doubt the same understanding and belief would be held if the table were turned.

    1. igglanova
      igglanova September 20, 2012 at 10:22 pm |

      Fail. Lots of us have prefaced our statements with something to the effect of ‘If we assume that the LW is telling the truth, then…’. This is an explicit acknowledgement that we do not have the full story, and there are potential details that could change our assessments of the situation dramatically.

      This would be obvious to you if you actually bothered to read the thread before dolloping out the butthurt.

      1. Jeff
        Jeff September 21, 2012 at 1:08 pm |

        Such hostility in you. Look how many comments there are in this thread. Perhaps I should have wrote “99%” instead of “none”. My mistake. However, it doesn’t change the blatant generalizations that are going on in this thread.

        I absolutely love forums. Why? Because it helped shine a light on the feminist and MRA movements. Both are riddled with misogynists and misandrists swirling around in their own hate attempting to ruin it for the rest of us.

        1. Lyanna
          Lyanna September 21, 2012 at 4:13 pm |

          Your emotions are clouding your reading comprehension skills. Most people are pretty clearly stating that we don’t know whether she’s telling the truth or not.

        2. mxe354
          mxe354 September 21, 2012 at 4:45 pm |

          Such hostility in you.

          Assuming for no good reason that we’re being misandric isn’t what I’d call friendly, you know.

          Look how many comments there are in this thread. Perhaps I should have wrote “99%” instead of “none”. My mistake. However, it doesn’t change the blatant generalizations that are going on in this thread.

          And guess what? Many people are criticizing the people making unjustified generalizations. For instance, quite a few denounced Amanda’s misandric assumption about the survivor. As for why not every single person is questioning the LW’s claims, that’s because the main topic here is not about the truth of the LW’s claims or whether the man was sexually violated, but rather whether the situation that the LW described was rape due to the circumstances. And besides, we have no way of telling for sure whether the LW is being dishonest, so all of our suspicions about her, while reasonable, are nevertheless pointless.

          Oh, and you’re ignoring the fact that there has already been a similar thread here in which we questioned whether a man raped his wife. And guess what? Quite a few came to his defense, arguing that it’s possible that she actually consented.

          I absolutely love forums. Why? Because it helped shine a light on the feminist and MRA movements. Both are riddled with misogynists and misandrists swirling around in their own hate attempting to ruin it for the rest of us.

          You know why I hate forums sometimes? Because of idiots like you who lack adequate reading comprehension skills. It’s as if you just skimmed over this goddamn thread. If you want to participate in a discussion, read the fucking posts and try to understand the discussion, not skim the posts and scream “LOLOL THIS IS FURTHER PROOF THAT FEMINISTS HATE MEN!1″

        3. Jeff
          Jeff September 22, 2012 at 2:50 pm |

          Mxe, Thank you for the personal attacks. I am sorry that you have such anger. I hope you one day are able to release your bitterness so you may live a happy life. May I point out that what you said is verbally abusive. Next time you read a story about a man beating a woman, ask yourself if a verbally abusive woman were a large man, would she be physically abusive (Generally speaking)? Would you be physically abusive? Are you? What is the difference between verbal and physical abuse?

        4. Li
          Li September 22, 2012 at 3:04 pm |

          Such hostility in you.

          Mxe, Thank you for the personal attacks. I am sorry that you have such anger. I hope you one day are able to release your bitterness so you may live a happy life.

          I sense much misogyny in you, young Skywalker.

        5. Jeff
          Jeff September 22, 2012 at 3:18 pm |

          Luke Skywalker doesn’t hate women, nor do I. I love much about women, just as women should love much about men. We are supposed to work together, not against each other.

          Where do you stand?

        6. Li
          Li September 22, 2012 at 3:25 pm |

          Nawww. That would be heartwarming if you hadn’t just mobilised the angry/bitter feminist trope against two people in this thread. Which; funny story: does not actually place the fact that you keep drawing equivalencies between MRAs and feminists in a particularly great light and kind of shows up this latest comment as the disingenuous rhetorical trick it’s so desperately attempting to be.

        7. Jeff
          Jeff September 22, 2012 at 3:44 pm |

          Perception. That is all that I am going to say. It is an absolutely beautiful day here in Florida. My girlfriend and I are going to take our dog hiking and enjoy some of the best in which life shares with us. Best wishes to you.

        8. mxe354
          mxe354 September 22, 2012 at 8:01 pm |

          Mxe, Thank you for the personal attacks. I am sorry that you have such anger. I hope you one day are able to release your bitterness so you may live a happy life.

          Thank you for the concern, but my life is pretty happy despite my occasional bitterness. I reserve my bitterness for dipshits like you.

          May I point out that what you said is verbally abusive.

          No. Calling you an idiot who doesn’t care about reading the thread and only wants to find “evidence” that feminists are evil is not abusive. I’m merely calling it as I see it. I highly doubt that my words were abusive. And no, my words were not equivalent to physical abuse.

        9. mxe354
          mxe354 September 22, 2012 at 8:09 pm |

          @Li

          I sense much misogyny in you, young Skywalker.

          I hate to spoil things, but I’m a man. =P

    2. deadleaf
      deadleaf September 20, 2012 at 10:56 pm |

      Dude, somebody on feministe is getting the benefit of the doubt, you realize how rare that happens like EVER?! IMHO We should be jumping for joy not jumping down people’s throats.

      1. mxe354
        mxe354 September 20, 2012 at 11:48 pm |

        Feministe is full of hysterical ladies, don’t you now that? They don’t like giving anyone the benefit of doubt because they’re just so emotional and mean-spirited.

        Either that, or you’re just an idiot who hasn’t noticed that Feministe commenters, just like countless other people, can easily give the benefit of doubt. It’s not a rare occurrence; I see it happen here almost all the time.

        1. deadleaf
          deadleaf September 21, 2012 at 9:54 am |

          It’s not a rare occurrence; I see it happen here almost all the time.

          LOL, yea “agree to disagree” on that one buddy ;)

        2. mxe354
          mxe354 September 21, 2012 at 10:35 am |

          Given that you seem to be heavily inclined towards skimming over people’s posts, I’m inclined to trust myself more than you in this matter.

    3. mxe354
      mxe354 September 20, 2012 at 11:44 pm |

      First of all, people here have already questioned the LW’s claims. Second, there has been a similar thread here in which people have questioned whether a man actually raped his wife. I think it’s called “Prudie On Consent.”

      So no, there is no hypocrisy here.

      1. deadleaf
        deadleaf September 21, 2012 at 9:52 am |

        I know, I remember that thread, by the end of it, pretty much the entire thread had concluded that he “clearly should have been more thorough when searching for enthusiastic consent

        1. mxe354
          mxe354 September 21, 2012 at 10:40 am |

          That’s beside the point. What matters is that they also questioned the behavior of that man.

          Also, people in this thread have already questioned the claims of this LW. I guess it’s convenient for you to ignore that, though.

        2. Lindsay Beyerstein
          Lindsay Beyerstein September 21, 2012 at 3:39 pm |

          In the case of the Dear Prudence column, it wasn’t clear if the woman had apparently given enthusiastic consent or not. She didn’t remember one way or the other.

          I argued at the time that if she acted like she was giving relatively sober enthusiastic consent, then she wasn’t raped. The issue was whether she trusted her husband to tell her the truth about whether he asked (like he promised) and whether she acted like she both enthusiastic and sober enough to consent.

          It’s basically the same question as we’re facing here. Does the boyfriend trust his girlfriend to tell him what really happened? She says he acted like he was awake and eager to have sex. Maybe she’s lying, but the comments on this threat suggest that this kind of sleep disorder is surprisingly common.

        3. amblingalong
          amblingalong September 21, 2012 at 4:47 pm |

          clearly should have been more thorough when searching for enthusiastic consent

          I realize I may be about to bring down a shitstorm on myself, but I really don’t think obtaining consent that’s not enthusiastic means sex = wrong (let alone rape). I agree to do all kinds of things I’m not enthusiastic about, for all kinds of reasons. Occasionally sex is one of them. I really, really dislike the idea of diluting the idea that sex with consent is not rape, and sex without consent is rape (except perhaps for very unusual circumstances, like in the letter writer’s story).

          Sometimes I feel ambivalent about sex, but my partner really wants to, and I love my partner, so I’m happy to go ahead. I have heard from asexual people who practically by definition are not enthusiastic about consent, but who for various reasons want to have sex anyways. I have a pair of married friends who are trying to have a baby and so have had sex that neither of them were particularly enthusiastic about, but absolutely consented to. Sex workers may not be enthusiastic about their jobs, but want to make money (I realize this example is probably controversial). There are all kinds of things people do non-enthusiastically, and I don’t think that implies anything ethically questionable.

        4. mxe354
          mxe354 September 21, 2012 at 4:55 pm |

          Sometimes I feel ambivalent about sex, but my partner really wants to, and I love my partner, so I’m happy to go ahead.

          To me, it sounds like you’re enthusiastically consenting to sex because you want to please your partner. And judging by what you’ve said, it doesn’t sound like a “I guess so” kind of want, but rather a “I’m happy to please my partner” kind of want. And that’s pretty much what you’ve said in a slightly different way. I could be wrong, though.

        5. amblingalong
          amblingalong September 21, 2012 at 5:08 pm |

          To me, it sounds like you’re enthusiastically consenting to sex because you want to please your partner.

          Sure, but where does that logic stop? If the enthusiasm doesn’t have to be for the sex itself, I can’t really think of an example of consent, obtained without coercion, which isn’t ‘enthusiastic’ enough to be valid for the purposes of guilt-free banging.

          I really am sorry if I’m badly missing the point- I’ve read all the ‘enthusiastic consent 101′ articles- but I guess I just don’t see the value in saying diluting the concept of consent. If you say yes- without coercion- that should be enough.

          I appreciate you taking the time to help me figure this out.

        6. EG
          EG September 21, 2012 at 5:34 pm |

          Well, if you say yes, but you say it in a low monotone, and then stiffen up or go limp or something, as an ex-girlfriend of an ex-boyfriend of mine did, and the partner should understand, as he did, that something was wrong. It’s not just about an uncoerced “yes”; it’s also about the person’s affect.

        7. mxe354
          mxe354 September 21, 2012 at 5:46 pm |

          Sure, but where does that logic stop?

          Personally, I think it stops at situations in which you completely lack the desire to have sex for any reason (including pleasing your partner) and just “give in” because you feel that you don’t have any choice but to have sex. There is no enthusiastic consent there. Such a situation is based on manipulation, which is coercive.

      2. Lindsay Beyerstein
        Lindsay Beyerstein September 21, 2012 at 5:09 pm |

        Amblingalong, I agree that “enthusiastic consent” is a bit of a misnomer. Sometimes it means genuine enthusiasm, but it can be almost any kind of affirmative consent. What matters is that the person deliberately and explicitly signals that they are agreeing to do this, rather than simply allowing it to happen.

        1. amblingalong
          amblingalong September 21, 2012 at 5:14 pm |

          How does that differ from the concept of ‘consent’ that feminists have been advancing for the last fifty years? I mean, I can’t remember ever hearing a (nominally mainstream) feminist say “the absence of a ‘no’ is good enough for consent.” The idea that you need a ‘yes’ is pretty old, whereas the talk about ‘enthusiastic consent’ is something I’ve really only watched catch on within the last few years. So it seems there must be some distinction, right?

        2. EG
          EG September 21, 2012 at 5:26 pm |

          I think you’re mistaken about how old the idea is. In my youth, the anti-rape slogan was “no means no.” Anti-rape workers were focused on getting men and our larger society to acknowledge that a woman’s “no” should be respected. I was actively participating in feminist activities and reading feminist thought from the time I was very young, but it wasn’t until I was in college in the mid-90s that I heard the idea that the absence of no wasn’t good enough, and my gut reaction was to think that it was silly, mostly because then I would have had to question some of my own experiences.

        3. mxe354
          mxe354 September 21, 2012 at 5:49 pm |

          “enthusiastic consent” is a bit of a misnomer. Sometimes it means genuine enthusiasm, but it can be almost any kind of affirmative consent. What matters is that the person deliberately and explicitly signals that they are agreeing to do this, rather than simply allowing it to happen.

          Well said.

  29. Gloria Sass
    Gloria Sass September 20, 2012 at 8:47 pm |

    No matter how nicely you phrase it, no matter what kind of rationalization you couch it in, the letter describes a scenario which, were the sexes reversed, would be called rape by rape counselors, feminists, abuse victim’s advocates, and in some areas, law enforcement.

    From my own perspective, either it is, or it isn’t. That is to say, either it is rape when a woman does it to a man just as much as it is when a man does it to a woman, or it is no more rape when a man does it to a woman than it is when a woman does it to a man. The double standard is an indication that under circumstances like this, to those who want to insist on applying it, the label “Rape” is more of a word used to wield power or gain sympathy than to define the individual’s experience of what occurred.

    1. Lyanna
      Lyanna September 20, 2012 at 10:14 pm |

      No matter how nicely you phrase it, no matter what kind of rationalization you couch it in, the letter describes a scenario which, were the sexes reversed, would be called rape by rape counselors, feminists, abuse victim’s advocates, and in some areas, law enforcement.

      This is just false, sorry.

      If the letter writer is telling the truth, this is a situation where the “perpetrator” had every reason to believe there was consent. Her partner communicated consent in a way that he had done in the past. For this woman to be a rapist, she’d have to at the very least be negligent in paying attention to whether her partner was consenting or not. There is nothing in her story to suggest that she was negligent.

      I’ll grant you that maybe some feminists would be less willing to accept the letter writer as truthful if she were a man, since men are so much more likely to commit sexual assault. But if we accept her as truthful, what she’s describing is not rape.

      And I agree with igglanova above: “rape” requires a rapist. A person can feel violated without being raped. They can feel raped and discuss their feelings with a rape counselor even if they don’t meet the societal definition of rape. This doesn’t make their trauma or other feelings any less important.

      With regard to Kirsten J’s three examples, I’d say the first two are rape and do have a rapist. In the first example, the abusive ex-boyfriend is the rapist. He doesn’t have to touch her to put her in fear, or to negligently overlook the possibility that she is in fear. In the second example, the husband is. In the third example, there is no one who is doing anything wrong to put the victim in fear (or negligently overlook the possibility that she is). So yes, she’s been violated, and I would never tell her she shouldn’t call the experience rape if that’s what feels appropriate to her, but the law and society shouldn’t call it rape.

      1. deadleaf
        deadleaf September 20, 2012 at 10:54 pm |

        so, “she didn’t say no so I thought she was into it” is negligent but “I didn’t know he was asleep” isn’t?

        What exactly constitutes negligence in the case of rape?

        1. Lyanna
          Lyanna September 21, 2012 at 11:23 am |

          “Not saying no” isn’t legally consent in most jurisdictions. It should not be consent in any jurisdiction.

          Saying “yes” is, and should be, consent.

          Negligence is assuming the existence of legal consent where a reasonable person would not. If a man reasonably believed a woman was saying “yes” (which would be true in this case if the genders were reversed, because the victim communicated consent in a manner that he had used in the past), he would not be negligent.

          If he assumed she was saying “yes” because, well, she didn’t say no, that’s at the very least negligent (possibly worse), and would be if he were a woman as well.

        2. Lindsay Beyerstein
          Lindsay Beyerstein September 21, 2012 at 3:44 pm |

          “I didn’t know he was asleep” isn’t negligent in this case.

          If your boyfriend is pestering you for sex in the middle of the night (like he often does) and his eyes are open and he seems awake, it’s not negligent to assume he’s awake, especially if you have no idea that he has a sleep disorder than can make him seem awake when he’s not.

          Was the guy who sold Caperton’s uncle a motorcycle negligent for selling a bike to a customer who seemed to be wide awake and eager to buy it? No. Because no reasonable person considers the possibility that the seemingly awake person in front of them is actually sleepwalking.

      2. mxe354
        mxe354 September 20, 2012 at 11:34 pm |

        @deadleaf:

        so, “she didn’t say no so I thought she was into it’ is negligent but ‘I didn’t know he was asleep” isn’t?

        Did you even read the letter? There were clear (albeit unintentional) cues for enthusiastic consent; she couldn’t have known that he was unable to consent.

        However, I disagree with Lyanna on the idea that rape requires a rapist. If a survivor experiences nonconsensual sex, then that survivor has been raped. Of course, if the perpetrator actually wasn’t trying to rape the other person, then the perpetrator isn’t a rapist. But that doesn’t change the fact that the survivor was raped.

      3. Gloria Sass
        Gloria Sass September 23, 2012 at 1:18 am |

        I’ll grant you that maybe some feminists would be less willing to accept the letter writer as truthful if she were a man, since men are so much more likely to commit sexual assault.

        This is a false and baseless assumption.

        As for the rest, it’s easy to say that now, when we’re discussing a female on male sex act, but in reality feminism does call it rape when the sexes are reversed. To deny that just because you’re discussing a male victim instead of a female victim is hypocritical.

        1. EG
          EG September 23, 2012 at 7:27 am |

          This is a false and baseless assumption.

          No. Actually, it’s well supported by the stats. Female adult-on-male-adult rape is much, much rarer than male-adult-on-female-adult.

        2. matlun
          matlun September 23, 2012 at 8:45 am |

          Even if we are talking generally about “sexual assault” (per the above comment), which is a wider category, the offenders are still over 90% male.

        3. Tamen
          Tamen September 23, 2012 at 2:03 pm |

          EG:

          No. Actually, it’s well supported by the stats. Female adult-on-male-adult rape is much, much rarer than male-adult-on-female-adult.

          According to the NISVS 2010 Report female adult-on-male adult rape is currently not much, much rarer than male-adult-on-female-adult rape.

          In 2010 1.1% of women reported being raped (inkluding attempts) in the last 12 months.
          In 2010 1.1% of men reported being “made to penetrate someone else” in the last 12 months.
          (Tables 2.1 and 2.2 page 18-19)

          79.2% of all the men who reported “being made to penetrate someone else” reported a female perpetrator. (p.23).

          Definitions of rape and “being made to penetrate someone else” as used by the NISVS 2010 Report can be read on page 17.

          And, yes, the lifetime prevalency numbers displays a larger difference in numbers of male and female victims, however, the last 12 months prevalency numbers did not.

        4. mxe354
          mxe354 September 23, 2012 at 2:15 pm |

          Absolutely false. The study explicitly says that the majority of perpetrators were male. I don’t think you read the study clearly.

        5. mxe354
          mxe354 September 23, 2012 at 4:19 pm |

          Upon reading the study again, I have found that your numbers are correct, but you are still making a false assumption: that being made to penetrate is necessarily forced envelopment. The definition clearly says that it also includes being made to penetrate someone else e.g. a perpetrator forcing someone to have sex with another person. That number includes male victims who were made to penetrate other people besides the perpetrator and male victims of forced envelopment. So unless all of the male victims were forcibly enveloped, it’s inaccurate to say that female-on-male rape is just as common as male-on-female rape.

        6. Tamen
          Tamen September 24, 2012 at 12:10 am |

          mxe354:

          So unless all of the male victims were forcibly enveloped, it’s inaccurate to say that female-on-male rape is just as common as male-on-female rape.

          Why are you distorting my claim?
          I did not make any claim that female-on-male rape was just as common as male-on-female rape. I claimed that male-on-female rape was NOT much, much more common than female-on-male rape.
          You do see the difference?

          The definition clearly says that it also includes being made to penetrate someone else e.g. a perpetrator forcing someone to have sex with another person. That number includes male victims who were made to penetrate other people besides the perpetrator and male victims of forced envelopment.

          Are you saying that if a woman A violently forces me at gunpoint to penetrate another woman B then only B have been raped? Seriously?

          One could just as easily construe the same hypothetical scenario for the rape definition used by NISVS as it doesn’t state that the perpetrator must be the one who do the penetrating. So if a man A violently forces a woman to perform oral sex on man B then the woman hasn’t been raped, but man A has? In my view both those examples are in fact rape.

          I guess I should be satisfied with you actually reading the study after first dismissing my numbers outright, but I have to wonder why the response is an attempt at narrow what should be considered rape rather than horror at the fact that there are many more rape victims than one first believed there to be.

        7. Lamech
          Lamech September 24, 2012 at 12:52 pm |

          @Tamen: Sorry the study says nothing of the sort. The rates for the lifetime gender of the perp may or may not be similar for the twelve month. The so called “lifetime” stat is not particularly useful when trying to determine rates.

          So you would be right to say that among 17+ people, who are not institutionalized, not to poor to have a phone, generally reachable by the survey etc. the rates of rape are equal for males and females. However we cannot go from that to the gender of the perps.

          @mxe354:

          That number includes male victims who were made to penetrate other people

          … That’s rape mate. *facepalm*

        8. Shadow
          Shadow September 24, 2012 at 2:23 pm |

          @mxe354

          I agree with Lamech and Tamen (even though Tamen’s been known to play fast and loose with stats on Manboobz). If the perpetrator is female, regardless of who the man is forced to penetrate, she is in effect a rapist.

        9. Tamen
          Tamen September 24, 2012 at 3:33 pm |

          Lamech:

          So you would be right to say that among 17+ people, who are not institutionalized, not to poor to have a phone, generally reachable by the survey etc. the rates of rape are equal for males and females.

          I don’t understand the motivation for misrepresenting the size of the sample for the NISVS 2010 Report.
          18,049 were interviewed from 22nd of January to 31st of December 2010. 17+ is a gross mischaracterization of the sample size.

          One could also note that the sample population had a higher percentage of lower household income than the US population (table B1 p.103). 7% came from households with less than $10,000 income compared to 4.8% who belongs to that category in the US population.

          Other differences were that the sample population had higher education than the US population and more were never married and fewer were currently married.

          Sorry the study says nothing of the sort.

          When you don’t quote me I find it hard to see exactly what claim I made about the report which you object to.

          The rates for the lifetime gender of the perp may or may not be similar for the twelve month. The so called “lifetime” stat is not particularly useful when trying to determine rates.

          Though in this case the (unusual) low ratio between lifetime and last 12 months numbers for male victims makes it more useful than it normally would be.

          Reported lifetime figure is 4.8% – an estimated 5,451,000 victims.
          Reported 12 months figure is 1.1% – an estimated 1,267,000 victims

          A whopping 23% of all male victims who reported “being made to penetrate someone else” in their lifetime were victimized in 2010*.

          79.2% (4,317,192) of the total of 5,451,000 male victims reported a female perpetrator.

          You are correct that the 79.2% number not necessarily is the same for the “last 12 months” prevalency, but it has to be some pretty unplausible scenario to make the number of female perpetrators in 2010* low enough to dismantle my claim that female adult-on-male adult rape is currently not much, much rarer than male-adult-on-female-adult rape. Even if we assume the unplausible edge case where 100% of all pre-2010 incident were committed by women there still are 133,912 (10.6%) female perpetrators left for the 2010 incidents.
          The other edge case is of course that 100% of the incidents in 2010 were committed by women and 72.9% of the incidents prior to 2010 were committed by women.

          * Short for last 12 months in this context. The use of 2010 is a simplification since not all interviews were done on 31st of December 2010, but it should not change the math.

        10. Tamen
          Tamen September 24, 2012 at 4:29 pm |

          Shadow:

          even though Tamen’s been known to play fast and loose with stats on Manboobz

          I can’t recall having stated any other statistics on Manboobz than the ones I’ve quoted in the comments in this thread. Since you brough this allegation to this forum I trust you can provide a link to my loose and fast play with stats on Manboobz?

          I didn’t know that I made enough of an impression on the commenters at Manboobz that some of them remembers me some 6+ months later.

          The initial responses on Manboobz when I quoted the NISVS 2010 Report in a discussion there (prompted by commenter pillowinhell who said she had seen a study which showed almost as many male victims or rape as female victims) were quite reminiscent of mxe354 initial response here, to paraphrase: “that’s not true – learn to read”. To the Manboobz commenter’s credit I don’t recall any of them trying to argue that “being made to penetrate someone else” isn’t rape. What I do recall is that they argued that the lifetime figures are more important and that the last 12 months numbers might just be a blip/spike. It was also clarified by someone there that the 79.2% of perpetrators of “being made to penetrate someone else” number were for all incidents (lifetime incl. the last 12 months).

        11. mxe354
          mxe354 September 25, 2012 at 9:22 pm |
          That number includes male victims who were made to penetrate other people

          … That’s rape mate. *facepalm*

          As far as I know, being made to penetrate (at least in the case of female-on-male assaults) is only rape when it involves a woman herself forcibly enveloping a man. One person making another person penetrate someone else is a form of sexual assault, not rape. However, the distinction doesn’t make one somehow more acceptable than the other. In my view, both are equally despicable crimes. I don’t mean to belittle any form of sexual assault.

        12. Egalitarian
          Egalitarian September 25, 2012 at 10:04 pm |

          It seems that feminists just can’t admit they were wrong about rapists being 99% men. The CDC report proves that women are a significant percentage of rapists, and male survivors/advocates are not going to stop pointing it out, so you might as well just accept it.

          By the way, the men’s rights movement was discussing rape by envelopment long before the CDC report. And feminists say they’re the progressives and MRAs are the reactionaries…

        13. Lamech
          Lamech September 25, 2012 at 10:16 pm |

          @Tamen:

          I don’t understand the motivation for misrepresenting the size of the sample

          I was talking about age. 17+ years old. They surveyed 18 year olds, and it reached a month back in questioning.

        14. mxe354
          mxe354 September 25, 2012 at 10:19 pm |

          It seems that feminists just can’t admit they were wrong about rapists being 99% men. The CDC report proves that women are a significant percentage of rapists, and male survivors/advocates are not going to stop pointing it out, so you might as well just accept it.

          I can, and I’m sure many others can as well. All I want to see are more studies confirming these statistics because they contradict what countless other studies have suggested. Of course, since this study has a good methodology, I don’t believe that it’s a flawed study. What I object to is not good scientific research, but rather the misuse of science, especially bad scientific research.

          By the way, the men’s rights movement was discussing rape by envelopment long before the CDC report.

          So were feminists.

        15. EG
          EG September 25, 2012 at 10:50 pm |

          From the study you link to:

          Lifetime percentage of men who have been forced to penetrate (which includes attempted forced penetrations), who have been forcibly penetrated, who have suffered an attempted forced penetration, and who have suffered a drug/alcohol facilitated penetration: 6.2%

          And for women: 18.3%

          That’s a bit over 1 in 20 men, lifetime, and almost 1 in 5 women. So I stand by my original assertion. 2010 may have been a freakish year, but the rapists of 2009, 2008, 2007, etc., didn’t just vanish. They’re still out there, and they’re still overwhelmingly male.

        16. Tamen
          Tamen September 26, 2012 at 1:04 am |

          Lamech:

          I was talking about age. 17+ years old. They surveyed 18 year olds, and it reached a month back in questioning.

          That makes sense. The lack of the words “years old” in your original comment threw me off.

        17. Tamen
          Tamen September 26, 2012 at 1:13 am |

          mxe354:

          As far as I know, being made to penetrate (at least in the case of female-on-male assaults) is only rape when it involves a woman herself forcibly enveloping a man. One person making another person penetrate someone else is a form of sexual assault, not rape.

          Do you believe that if a person forces a woman to have sex with another person that is not rape, but a form of sexual assault?

          If no, then why the different standard?
          If yes, then I guess we’ll just have to disagree.

        18. Tamen
          Tamen September 26, 2012 at 3:54 am |

          EG:

          From the study you link to:

          I am not sure whether you are addressing me or Egalitarian, but here goes.

          Lifetime percentage of men who have been forced to penetrate (which includes attempted forced penetrations), who have been forcibly penetrated, who have suffered an attempted forced penetration, and who have suffered a drug/alcohol facilitated penetration: 6.2%

          First a minor thing: I’ve been told, and I am pretty sure it’s correct, that you can’t add the 4.8% lifetime prevalency for “being made to penetrate someone else” with the 1.4% lifetime prevalency for rape (as defined by NISVS 2010) to get 6.2% as you don’t know whether there is any overlap between them.

          That’s a bit over 1 in 20 men, lifetime, and almost 1 in 5 women. So I stand by my original assertion. 2010 may have been a freakish year, but the rapists of 2009, 2008, 2007, etc., didn’t just vanish. They’re still out there, and they’re still overwhelmingly male.

          I tried to address this in my original comment by using the word currently, but I see that was unclear. In hindsight I should’ve used in 2010.

          However, you do make an assumption in your argument about the distribution of the 4.8% of men who reported being made to penetrate someone else in their lifetime. In an edge case there might’ve been a significantly number of female perpetrators in 2007, 2008 and 2009 as well.

          I also don’t share your theory that 2010 was a freak year, rather than the lifetime numbers being under reported. There are one study which found that men were more likely than women to underreport childhood sexual abuse in surveys. If I recall correctly they did this by creating a sample from male and female victims of childhood sexual abuse cases where the perpetrator had been convicted in court. They then surveyed them (without letting them in on how they were sampled I presume) and asked them whether they had experienced any childhood sexual abuse. More male victims than female victims said no.
          That’s the blatant underreporting, and then there’s the more subtle one where I believe older men often will re-frame or mis-remember any incidents so they fit into their belief that men can’t have sex without their consent (because erection and difference in physical strength).

          Younger men are getting more and more aware of the fact that they can be made to have sex without their consent and that that in fact constitutes rape. Since they are younger, any incidents they report will be more skewed to the right in the total lifetime “span” of a survey like NISVS 2010.

          So my theory (which I guess only further research and future NISVS reports will confirm or dismiss) is that 2010 is not a freak year, but the distribution of incidents of “being made to penetrate someone else” found by the NISVS 2010 report is increasing over the last few year because there is an significant underreporting for the lifetime number related to gender and age of the victim as well as how long back in time any incidents happened. You of course can disagre with this, but my theory seem to match research on male victims disclosure.

        19. EG
          EG September 26, 2012 at 3:47 pm |

          If there is overlap, then the percentage of men would be even lower. I was giving the best benefit of the doubt I could.

          There are one study which found that men were more likely than women to underreport childhood sexual abuse in surveys. If I recall correctly they did this by creating a sample from male and female victims of childhood sexual abuse cases where the perpetrator had been convicted in court. They then surveyed them (without letting them in on how they were sampled I presume) and asked them whether they had experienced any childhood sexual abuse. More male victims than female victims said no.

          How many more? One study? Because numerous other studies, including ones done by talking to victims who have not gone through the trauma of the court system continually reaffirm that the vast majority of rapists are men.

          You can believe/suspect what you like. But unless you have some plausible reason why men would just decide to report at a much higher rate in 2010 than ever before, and some evidence, you’ve got nothing but a freak year. And that happens.

        20. Egalitarian
          Egalitarian September 28, 2012 at 9:57 am |

          Here’s a study that shows equal rates of rape by gender among university students:

          http://pubpages.unh.edu/~mas2/ID45-PR45.pdf

          Here’s a summary of the results: http://feck-blog.blogspot.com/2011/05/predictors-of-sexual-coercion-against.html

          Here’s another study: http://www.ejhs.org/volume5/deviancetonormal.htm

          I understand the reluctance of feminists to accept new data about rape perpetration because it is yet another blow to the false narrative of how “privileged” men are, and how the victimization of men is relatively insignificant and not worthy of the anywhere near the same attention as violence against women. But in reality, it is a confirmation of what feminism was supposed to be about; that men aren’t inherently better or worse than women, meaning women are capable of both good and bad, just like men. It is ironic that the men’s rights movement is the champion of this idea.

        21. mxe354
          mxe354 September 28, 2012 at 11:28 am |

          @Egalitarian

          I’ll tell you why most feminists are reluctant to accept such studies; they’re hard to believe. Of course, it’s much more fun to just accuse us of being blinded by ideology, so go ahead and do that.

          As for those studies, these are just two studies: countless other studies have shown a lower number of incidents for female-on-male rape victims, including that CDC study mentioned above. Also, those two studies are about sexual aggression, which may or may not include rape. So much for paying attention.

          The authors of the first study expressed concern over whether their sample size was representative. Moreover,

          the measure of adult sexual victimization in the current study may not have captured all the sexual victimization experiences of the participants. For example, participants reported only sexual victimization experiences in the past year of their current or most recent romantic relationship, and therefore, any prior sexual victimization experiences would not have been captured.

          Lifetime rates generally show a huge difference between men and women. The CDC study mentioned above is an example of a study that shows such results. Lastly,

          “the measure did not ask whether the participants were given alcohol in order to lower either their inhibitions against engaging in or their ability to resist sexual behavior, an occurrence that is common among college students in the United States and is considered a form of sexual coercion.”

          That’s a massive flaw right there. The measure wasn’t as inclusive as it should have been.

          As for the second study, some of the results are ambiguous. For example, in the first table given:

          “32% to 51% reported initiating sexual contact with a man who was “under the influence” of alcohol or drugs”

          Having sex with someone who is under the influence is not rape unless the other person does not or is unable to consent. How much of these incidents counted as rape by the legal definition? The researchers don’t say. Moreover, they don’t state the difference between being “pressured” and being “forced”. Perhaps they mean the same thing, but if so, why include both words?

          So yeah, I’m not inclined to trust those studies.

    2. mxe354
      mxe354 September 20, 2012 at 11:25 pm |

      The double standard is an indication that under circumstances like this, to those who want to insist on applying it, the label “Rape” is more of a word used to wield power or gain sympathy than to define the individual’s experience of what occurred.

      Given the reasons some people here are reluctant to call it rape, I think that’s an absurd interpretation.

      1. Gloria Sass
        Gloria Sass September 23, 2012 at 1:21 am |

        They’re the same reasons which are rejected out of hand when the victim is female. You cannot have a double standard like that. It does not matter whether the victim is male or female. If it’s rape when a guy does not first obtain verbal consent, when he assumes that the girl showing initial interest is consent, but does not ask, then it is equally rape when a woman does it. If it isn’t rape when a woman does it, then it’s not rape when a man does, either, and calling it that is a fake attempt at getting sympathy, or a means of using the word as a weapon.

        1. mxe354
          mxe354 September 23, 2012 at 2:21 am |

          By “it” I was referring to this particular situation. People aren’t reluctant to call this experience rape because of hypocrisy; rather, they are reluctant to do so because it prompts the question of whether rape has a mens rea requirement. I feel that you haven’t really been paying attention to this thread.

        2. EG
          EG September 23, 2012 at 7:24 am |

          Nobody here has ever specified that consent must be verbal. Using an established gesture to ask a partner to get on top would count as consent from a man or a woman.

        3. matlun
          matlun September 23, 2012 at 8:02 am |

          If it’s rape when a guy does not first obtain verbal consent,…

          It isn’t, and no reasonable person would believe this. There is no reason consent has to be communicated verbally or explicitly. (And no, it does not have to be an “established gesture” either)

    3. amblingalong
      amblingalong September 21, 2012 at 2:53 am |

      And I agree with igglanova above: “rape” requires a rapist.

      So two people are forced to have sex at gunpoint. Both people are forced to have sex against their will; neither person is morally culpable for the crime. So according to your logic, either a) this is not rape or
      b) both people are rapists. Both options sound pretty ridiculous to me.

      If the idea of rape without a rapist seems too odd, consider: if you run out into the street chasing a hat that blew off your head, and I can’t stop my car in time and run you over, you may have been killed, but I don’t think calling me a ‘killer’ would really convey an accurate understanding of events, right? Perhaps not a 100% perfect analogy, but it’s not like the idea of passive voice is entirely new.

      1. igglanova
        igglanova September 21, 2012 at 3:05 am |

        So two people are forced to have sex at gunpoint. Both people are forced to have sex against their will; neither person is morally culpable for the crime. So according to your logic, either a) this is not rape or
        b) both people are rapists. Both options sound pretty ridiculous to me.

        The rapist in this case is the person morally culpable for the rape: the gunman. Both persons who were forced to have sex with each other are the victims. It’s a rape by proxy. This reading of the situation is completely within the bounds of a restriction stating that ‘rape must have a rapist.’

      2. matlun
        matlun September 21, 2012 at 6:09 am |

        If the idea of rape without a rapist seems too odd, consider: if you run out into the street chasing a hat that blew off your head, and I can’t stop my car in time and run you over, you may have been killed, but I don’t think calling me a ‘killer’ would really convey an accurate understanding of events, right?

        Right. But you would not have said that this person was murdered. While you might have done that in a similar situation where the person in the car hit you on purpose.

        So the question is whether “being raped” is in the same category as “being killed” or “being murdered”. I do not really see how this thread can end in general consensus on this question.

        1. amblingalong
          amblingalong September 21, 2012 at 2:39 pm |

          So the question is whether “being raped” is in the same category as “being killed” or “being murdered”. I do not really see how this thread can end in general consensus on this question.

          Yeah, that’s fair, and like I said below (damn nesting quotes) since we seem to agree on the actually moral principle at work, I’m fine leaving the semantic argument to someone else.

    4. mxe354
      mxe354 September 21, 2012 at 10:58 am |

      No matter how nicely you phrase it, no matter what kind of rationalization you couch it in, the letter describes a scenario which, were the sexes reversed, would be called rape by rape counselors, feminists, abuse victim’s advocates, and in some areas, law enforcement.

      Seriously? This is a complicated situation in which people are debating whether the woman is at fault here due to the situation’s unusual circumstances. If the sexes were reversed, there would most likely be a similar discussion about the male perpetrator. In fact, there was a similar discussion here a while ago, and yes, there was also confusion surrounding the perpetrator’s actions. Given the responses in this thread, I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that those abuse victim advocates, rape counselors, feminists, and so on that you’re talking about would also question whether the woman was at fault.

      And I know countless abuse victim advocates, rape counselors, and feminists who don’t engage in rape apologia when it comes to female-on-male rape survivors. A shining example of an organization that doesn’t dismiss male survivors is RAINN. And it’s not easy to find a feminist, rape counselor, or an abuse victim advocate who actually believes that men can’t be raped.

  30. Jay
    Jay September 20, 2012 at 10:10 pm |

    Can someone please verify if that is really Amanda Marcotte that made the remarks above attributed to her?

    Regardless of whether it is rape or not, Amanda Marcotte is not just victim blaming here but viciously claiming this was intentional gaslighting behavior on the part of the man.

    These are horribly misandrist claims and are ad hominem, sexist and unsupported by anything in the original article.

    How is this not abusive? How are her comments not off-topic? How her comments not violate your content rules?

    Flip the genders on her comments — would your reaction be to publish them or to censor them and censure the author?

    At the least her comments need a trigger warning: misandry.

    1. mxe354
      mxe354 September 21, 2012 at 11:12 am |

      I’ve seen some misogynist comments on Feministe that aren’t deleted, either.

      As for trigger warnings, someone else already requested a trigger warning for something else, but ze was ignored. That’s probably because Jill, while she does support the use of trigger warnings, doesn’t go out of her way to listen to requests for trigger warnings for things like prejudice.

    2. Lyanna
      Lyanna September 21, 2012 at 11:27 am |

      I’ve seen PLENTY of non-deleted misogynist comments here. This is also not a site that is particularly free with the use of trigger warnings.

      I do agree that Amanda’s comment was revolting, as many other commenters here have told her.

    3. PM
      PM September 21, 2012 at 4:01 pm |

      Amanda’s comment should stay up, Jay. People should be able to read it, though not for the reason she intended.

      1. Jay
        Jay September 21, 2012 at 6:11 pm |

        I agree 100%. I wasn’t actually asking for the comments to be taken down, I was trying to explore Jill’s conclusions about those comments.

  31. amblingalong
    amblingalong September 21, 2012 at 3:54 am |

    The rapist in this case is the person morally culpable for the rape: the gunman. Both persons who were forced to have sex with each other are the victims. It’s a rape by proxy. This reading of the situation is completely within the bounds of a restriction stating that ‘rape must have a rapist.’

    Really? So you can rape someone without being in the same room as them? Without even having met them? Without even being aware of their existence (I mean, one can construct those scenarios pretty easily, given the above conditions)? That’s broadening the definition of rape waaay further than the whole ‘raped without a rapist’ thing.

    Essentially you have to pick; either there can be rape without a rapist, or you reject the notion that rape = sex without consent. Because there are plenty of easily conceivable scenarios in which someone doesn’t give consent, but the other person believes they’ve properly obtained consent.

    1. amblingalong
      amblingalong September 21, 2012 at 3:55 am |

      Ugh, is it just me or does this nesting thing randomly stop working, sometimes?

    2. Lyanna
      Lyanna September 21, 2012 at 11:26 am |

      Really? So you can rape someone without being in the same room as them? Without even having met them? Without even being aware of their existence (I mean, one can construct those scenarios pretty easily, given the above conditions)? That’s broadening the definition of rape waaay further than the whole ‘raped without a rapist’ thing.

      Not at all. You can murder someone without being in the same room as them, or having met them. Simply hire a hitman.

      “Without being aware of their existence” is tough if you’re forcing them at gunpoint, though. Which was your original scenario.

      If you are responsible for the use of force, or the threat of force, in the situation, then you are the rapist.

      1. Lyanna
        Lyanna September 21, 2012 at 11:28 am |

        The gunman would also be a rapist even if he were a hired gun, of course.

        But amblingalong’s original scenario had a gunman who was not specified as being hired.

    3. Lyanna
      Lyanna September 21, 2012 at 11:33 am |

      Sorry for the spam; just wanted to add one more thing:

      Essentially you have to pick; either there can be rape without a rapist, or you reject the notion that rape = sex without consent.

      I think rape = sex without consent AND with moral culpability of some kind. (Doesn’t have to always be the worst kind. There are levels of criminal intent, starting with negligence as the lowest, and going upwards to willfulness). I think the word ‘rape’ strongly implies moral culpability, and as igglanova says above, that definition is deeply rooted.

      So rather than trying to change the definition of ‘rape’ so that it no longer requires somebody to be culpable, I think it’s better to say that sexual trauma can exist without rape. And this is totally legitimate and the victims of such trauma can and should seek help.

      YMMV.

      1. amblingalong
        amblingalong September 21, 2012 at 2:37 pm |

        So rather than trying to change the definition of ‘rape’ so that it no longer requires somebody to be culpable, I think it’s better to say that sexual trauma can exist without rape. And this is totally legitimate and the victims of such trauma can and should seek help.

        OK. I doesn’t sound like we really disagree about the fundamental ethics here, so I’m totally willing to agree to disagree on the semantics.

  32. Miss S
    Miss S September 21, 2012 at 2:52 pm |

    This is one of those weird situations, where I can’t put blame on anyone. He did consent, IMO, by fondling her and motioning for her to get on top of him. She didn’t just hop on him because she wanted sex at that moment- he initiated it. Neither one of them actually did anything wrong.

    I remember one night I woke up on top of my ex, having sex. It was weird, but we realized later that we both started hooking up in our sleep. I’ve also bought things, had conversations, cleaned my bathroom, scrubbed floors, had arguments, etc while asleep/on ambien. I’ve been punched in the face by my sister while she was sleep. Sleep is weird for some people.

  33. It’s not rape if a woman does it | Toy Soldiers

    [...] Jill of Feministe manages to trump that: Dan tells her that she didn’t actually rape her boyfriend. And obviously [...]

  34. no name for this
    no name for this September 21, 2012 at 5:46 pm |

    The comments here are seriously upsetting. It really pisses me off to see so many commentors, a number of whom I often agree with, insisting on defining BF’s experience for him.

    My ex fucked me in my sleep. I don’t want to call him a rapist because we have a child together, we are still “friends,” and have a lot of mutual friends. His siblings consider me family. I don’t want my family to be disrespectful to my son’s father. I have a ton of really good fucking reasons that are no one’s business but my own for pretending that that incident, and a number of other non-consensual and coercive instances, never happened.
    I brought it up to him once, while trying to work through my feelings about it all, nearly ten years later. He claims not to remember it. He claims he never intended to violate me. I don’t think he intended to violate me, he just intended to do as he pleased without caring whether I wanted to or not, or even whether I was awake or not.
    Just because I don’t want to call it rape doesn’t mean it wasn’t. I still have issues from it, to where sex with new partners gives me shaking anxiety attacks, that I cover up with “geez, it’s cold!”

    If LW’s BF doesn’t want to be touched this soon after experiencing what LW refers to herself as rape, that’s something LW and EVERYONE ELSE should respect. He’s probably not being a big meanie-jerkface, he’s probably confused and/or traumatized.
    I don’t feel like allowing him to define his experience as rape, even as accidental rape, is taking away anything from other victims of rape. It’s not a fucking contest of “who got raped the worst.”

  35. ThatGuy5555
    ThatGuy5555 September 21, 2012 at 6:07 pm |

    I accidentally raped my girlfriend. What happened was I awoke to find my girlfriend rubbing up against me. After a little while, she pulled my hand, motioning for me to get on top of her to have sex, as she has done many times before. I obliged, and all was well, until she apparently woke up and pushed me off of her. I did not have any indication that she was asleep, since she was an active participant the entire time and was NOT lying there like a dead fish. In the morning, she expressed her displeasure about being woken up with sex. She said that she felt really violated. I apologized and explained my understanding of the situation. Now she says she feels really weird about what happened and she can’t stomach me touching her. What should I do?

    If this were the question, the comments would be very, very, very different….

    1. Bagelsan
      Bagelsan September 24, 2012 at 10:03 pm |

      Troll is concerned.

      1. EG
        EG September 24, 2012 at 10:12 pm |

        This all comes of insufficient numbers of billy goats.

    2. mxe354
      mxe354 September 24, 2012 at 10:27 pm |

      Given that this situation is unique, no, the comments would be largely the same. Fuck off with your “OMG PROOF THAT FEMINISTS ARE EVIL” bullshit.

  36. Egalitarian
    Egalitarian September 22, 2012 at 2:02 am |

    I am curious why everyone accepts woman’s account as fact. If the genders were reversed, I’m pretty sure feminists would be very suspicious of the man’s story.

    1. thinksnake
      thinksnake September 22, 2012 at 4:18 am |

      Did you just… miss the entire conversation above?

    2. mxe354
      mxe354 September 22, 2012 at 9:56 am |

      1) People have already questioned the LW’s claims and 2) whether the LW is being truthful is irrelevant to the discussion at hand.

  37. Sharing the love « The Lady Garden
    Sharing the love « The Lady Garden September 22, 2012 at 4:53 am |

    [...] Feministe discusses an unusual and complex “is it rape” scenario. [...]

  38. Sarah
    Sarah September 22, 2012 at 10:17 am |

    Okay so… wait. He regularly wakes her up with sex, and that’s cool: he gets woken up with sex that he initiated, as usual, and suddenly that’s not cool? If he doesn’t have undiagnosed sexsomnia or something, I am having a hard time not being really suspicious here.

    I know it’s just my own personal experience talking and I totally, completely admit to some paranoia here (abusive relationships will do that), but that sounds an awful lot like gaslighting to me.

    1. amblingalong
      amblingalong September 23, 2012 at 3:20 am |

      Big difference between ‘waking someone up with sex’ and ‘waking someone up to ask if they want sex.’

  39. “Is it rape if you don’t mean for it to be rape?” « Clarissa's Blog

    [...] A debate – an actual long and intense debate – raged at Feministe website aimed at answering the question ”Is it rape if you don’t mean for it to be rape?” [...]

  40. alanc
    alanc September 26, 2012 at 10:37 am |

    Well if George Galloway is to be taken seriously, one does not need to “ask prior to every insertion” if you’re already in bed together.

  41. GendErratic
    GendErratic September 30, 2012 at 12:17 pm |

    [...] Then there is gender-selective rape apology. You need to read the whole thing, including the hot mess of a comment thread, to follow what is actually going on, but mostly it’s just bigoted fail. Most of the commenters are probably truly unaware of how misandrist their sophistry is, but that doesn’t change anything. Jill says in the OP: “This, though, is one of those weird wild world scenarios. I’m not sure it even matters if we call it “rape” or not (and it doesn’t sound like the boyfriend does call it that). He was sexually violated; whether she intended to or not, that’s the fact of what happened. Or it’s possible that Dan is right and the dude is being a manipulative jackass.…” [...]

  42. Natalie
    Natalie October 8, 2012 at 5:57 pm |

    I live in NZ and here the definition of rape has 2 necessary parts:
    1. A has some form of intercourse with B without B’s voluntary consent (i.e. consent at gunpoint is not voluntary, and a sleeping/unconscious person is not in position to give/withhold consent)
    2. A does not reasonably believe that B voluntarily consents

    In this particular example, A clearly was under the impression B was awake, and B’s responses were such that A perceived consent. So legally it would not be classified as rape, and A would not be labeled a rapist.

    HOWEVER, B still WAS violated, due to being asleep. Doesn’t matter that A and B have a sexual history, it is still not ok to be had sex with when you are asleep. It seems quite natural that B feels traumatised and “weird” – all the more weird, probably, because of knowing that A was not being aware of violating him. I also wonder if B might be feeling guilty for, unconsciously and unintentionally as it was, leading A to perceive consent and therefore partly causing this situation. Of course B is NOT actually responsible, as we can’t control what we do in our sleep, but nevertheless I imagine he might be feeling this way.

    All in all a very sad situation. And what is to be learned from this, really? To always ask our partner if they are awake? Doesn’t seem entirely realistic…

  43. Natalie
    Natalie October 8, 2012 at 6:20 pm |

    The fundamental question this article asks is whether all penetrative sexual violation constitutes rape. I think it would be dangerous to answer yes to that question. Personally I think the word rape is being stretched too thin: there are propositions, for example, to apply it to a situation where one party gives voluntary consent without actually having the desire. But desire and consent are very different things, one a feeling another a decision…
    From legal definitions I’ve seen, rape is a form of sexual violation that involves one party expressing a lack of consent or being altogether unable to give voluntary consent. That’s why it’s called rape if the accused cannot be seen to “reasonably believe” that the victim consents. Of course some rapists may still believe there is consent if the victim screams and fights, but believing this is unreasonable and hence constitutes rape. Therefore while all violations are horrible and traumatizing and require treatment, it seems not all of them would fall into the rape category.

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