This is a guest column by Sex + Cookies 2.0, whose advisers include Feministe contributor Echo Zen and students who’ve been pushing sex-positivity since before Tumblr made it cool. We’re stoked to be Feministe’s first relationship vloggers.
A well-meaning mother****er at one of our schools recently suggested that integrating consent into sex education should prevent rape, because it helps date rapists to understand what consent does and doesn’t look like. Bollocks, we say. Whilst teaching consent does create a more feminist, hostile environment for rapists who try operating without being called out, it’s not the same as educating date rapists to recognise signs of consent – because rapists in fact know damn well what consent looks like, despite claiming they just didn’t realise their dates said no. And coincidentally, that’s the topic of this episode…
Sex + Cookies 2.0 | Episode: “Consent Lies”
Okay, someone emailed this message to us…
“You should make an episode on recognising the signs that someone doesn’t want to have sex. You know how most rapes are actually committed by acquaintances, who didn’t get consent.”
Now hold on a minute. We take issue with the notion that rape happens because a rapist doesn’t know how to read the signs. In fact, the vast majority of studies indicate the opposite is true.
According to the U.S. Justice Dept, almost 90 percent of (campus) rapes are committed by friends or family. Are all these attackers simply too clueless to realise their victims didn’t give consent?
In 2007, a study of male students found evidence to the contrary (O’Byrne, Hansen & Rapley). In the study, virtually all men reported recognising the signs of refusing sex, be it through body language or verbal cues. In fact, they would use these same signals to deny sex to women who made passes at them.
However, when confronted by women saying no to sex using these same signals, the men did a complete reversal. Suddenly they claimed body language and verbal cues weren’t enough. Unless a woman fought back or screamed no, it wasn’t sexual assault.
Instead, women who were raped because they didn’t protest strongly enough were responsible for their own rapes. Talk about victim-blaming.
The takeaway message here is that men (i.e. male rapists) do understand what “no” looks like. They just don’t care if women are the ones saying no, because their consent just isn’t as important.
Other researchers have found rape to be far from an accident committed by clueless friends. In fact, multiple studies involving thousands of everyday men support a more disturbing conclusion. Their findings indicate 5 to 10 percent of men engage in actions meeting the criminal definition of rape (McWhorter).
However, these men are responsible for over 90 percent of rapes against women in their cohort (Ibid, Lisak & Miller). When the average date rapist commits 6 rapes before stopping or being stopped, it’s impossible to argue it’s an accident.
Concisely, the idea that rapists rape because they’re naïve, clueless blokes who misunderstand what consent looks like… is bull****. And if we sound like angry bra-burning feminists today, it’s not because we ran out of bras to burn or because we don’t like when well-meaning teens ask questions.
Actually the real reason is more mundane. When we teach at schools, our (rightful) job is to be impartial and nonjudgmental. Thus, someone might say, “I don’t see the problem here… if she doesn’t want it, she should say no.” And rather than torching the wanker for victim-blaming, we facilitate the discussion so (women) peers can school him on how there are reasons girls can’t always verbalise no.
But a mistake we think we’ve been making with these initial episodes is applying that same impartiality to this vlog. True, in a school setting, we can’t expect everyone to know off the top of their heads that nice guys differ from Nice Guys™, or friend zones are a form of rape culture. But that’s not true of the blogosphere… or vlogosphere, or whatever. If someone mansplains on the Internet, then acts confused when called out on it and asks to be educated on what he did wrong, especially when Wikipedia is sitting right there… frankly he deserves all derision thrown his way.
Yes, Jill’s blog is educational, like uni, minus the absurd tuition (if you’re stuck in American college hell). But vlogging here should be… for fun. Nobody watches a vlog just for education, especially when it would be easier to read an article on the same topic. It’s something we think we lost sight of as we focused on the technical nuts and bolts, and of which we were reminded after the muted response to our previous episode.
So for the next few episodes we’ll try experimenting with a shift in tone, away from stuffy English detachment (though we can’t fire our English narrator till we find an alternate), toward a more sarcastic, profane attitude. Maybe it’ll be for the better, or end up being a bad idea – our adviser thinks sarcasm is a terrible advocacy method, even if it works online for Jezebel. But there are no sacred cows we can’t touch (yet), so we’ll see how it goes…