Women Who Don't Call It Rape

The Happy Feminist, Feministe, and The Debate Link have been discussing (seemingly) clear-cut rape cases in which the victim herself doesn’t agree she was raped. Here’s one of the examples from The Happy Feminist’s time as a prosecutor:

Victim’s male acquaintance breaks into her apartment and grabs her. He is in a rage because she had refused to go out with him. He roughs her up a bit, including belting her across the face and throttling her. He then forces her at gunpoint to drive him to his house, where he keeps her overnight. He specifically tells her that he will shoot her if she tries to escape. He is distraught and talks repeatedly about how much he loves her. He talks about wanting to live with her in Mexico. Her survival strategy was to pretend to go along with his plans. She wanted to gain his trust. When he had sex with her that night, she “went along with it” in order to survive.

After finally escaping, she went to the police. She expected that he would prosecuted for kidnapping, assault and threatening. She was, however, shocked when I brought a rape charge against him. She didn’t feel that she had been raped because she had “gone along” with the sex. When I questioned her, however, she said that she had “gone along” with it because she thought (quite reasonably under the circumstances) that he would blow her brains out otherwise. But, to my shock, in her mind, she herself felt that it was not a rape because she had not resisted in any way.

In another of Happy Feminist’s examples, a woman is forced to have sex by her boyfriend, but doesn’t believe it’s rape because she’s had consensual sex with him on other occasions.

Why do some women not believe it’s rape unless she resisted – or not believe it’s rape when their husbands or boyfriends force them to have sex? There are lots of possible reasons, but let’s not forget the simple fact that women are part of our society. There are a lot of myths about rape which have currency in our society – all of society, not men exclusively. Neither being a woman nor being a rape victim will automatically prevent belief in those rape myths. As Happy writes:

Unless the woman locks herself up in a monastery for her own safety, remains unmarried and virginal all her life, and fights to the death if anyone breaks into the monastery to rape her, she is at risk of being considered somehow complicit if she is raped. I am not saying these are well thought-out positions among the public at large, but these are the general attitudes that one encounters in rape prosecutions even among the victims themselves, even in the most egregious cases.

Does saying that women can be raped, without labeling the event as “rape,” contradict the feminist belief that women must be believed, in all circumstances? Well, insofar as such a belief exists, it contradicts it. But I doubt that belief exists among many feminists today. I doubt any feminists believe that women are incapable of being mistaken about what the law says rape is, for example.

The idea of privileging women’s view is called “standpoint theory.” But as Elisabeth Anderson points out, standpoint theory has virtually always been contested within feminism:

In the case of feminist standpoint theory, too, critical reaction within feminist circles was powerfully transforming. Feminist critics observed that there could not be a single standpoint of women, since women are differently situated by other social positions, such as race, class, and sexual orientation–a point stressed by black feminist standpoint theorists, feminist empiricists, and feminist postmodernists alike (Collins 1990; Longino 1989; Lugones and Spelman 1986). These debates led to a consensus on two points concerning any viable version of standpoint epistemology (Wylie 2003, 28). First, it rejected “essentialism,” which entails a rejection of any claims that women or feminists do or ought to think alike. Second, it rejected the attribution of “automatic epistemic privilege” to any particular standpoint.

It’s also important to understand that when feminists have spoken of “believing women” regarding rape, that’s said in the context of how society has habitually refused to believe women. On another thread, Cheryl Lindsey Seelhoff wrote something that is extremely applicable to this question (although Cheryl was writing in a different context).

…As feminist women we are not obligated to accept one another’s excuses, justifications, political interpretations or analyses of anything at all, that’s not what it means to believe women… We ARE obligated to believe another woman when she tells us she’s been fucking RAPED. Hello. And if we cannot find it in our hearts to believe her, then we are obligated to shut the hell up until we have more information. And why is that? Because we can *count* on it … count on it … that PLENTY of people are going to call her a liar anyway, without our help, that ALWAYS happens to rape victims, those calling her a liar don’t need our assist, which is why girls and women have continued to be raped in large numbers, by men, with impunity, from time immemorial (and still are). Feminism aimed to confront the way women are called liars for reporting their rapes and blamed for being raped. So. In part the solution to this problem of never believing rape victims was to simply believe them. Which is what feminists did and do. If we can’t believe a woman, then we reserve judgment pending further information, and we remain silent.

The point is, when feminists say women who have been raped must be believed, that’s in a specific context of counteracting the traditional belief that women habitually falsely accuse men of rape (in the words of Sir Matthew Hale, rape “is an accusation easy to be made, hard to be proved, but harder to be defended by the party accused, though innocent”). But nothing in that context applies to women who – due to loyalty to the rapist, or acceptance of rape myths, or ignorance of the law, or any other reason – don’t recognize their own rapes as rapes. It’s ridiculous to believe, as some anti-feminists have suggested, that “believing women” means feminists are obligated to give men who have in fact committed rape a pass whenever the victim isn’t sure it’s rape.

* * *

David at The Debate Link points to State v Rusk, a case discussed in one of his law school classes. From the victim’s testimony in that case:

“I was still begging him to please let, you know, let me leave. I said, ‘you can get a lot of other girls down there, for what you want,’ and he just kept saying, ‘no’; and then I was really scared, because I can’t describe, you know, what was said. It was more the look in his eyes; and I said, at that point — I didn’t know what to say; and I said, ‘If I do what you want, will you let me go without killing me?’ Because I didn’t know, at that point, what he was going to do; and I started to cry; and when I did, he put his hands on my throat, and started lightly to choke me; and I said, ‘If I do what you want, will you let me go?’ And he said, yes, and at that time, I proceeded to do what he wanted me to.”

In David’s class, all of the male students agreed this was unambiguously rape.

The women, however were split. They offered many of the same explanations that the woman in the first case presented–she didn’t actually resist, she could have done other things, and in this case that being “scared” wasn’t enough to make it rape. Again, I find this to be a relatively clear cut case. But why was it that the primary dissents came from the women in the classroom?

This pattern flies in the face of most recent feminist scholarship. They tell us that letting women tell their stories and privileging their perspectives will provide insights into criminal law that currently are missing. Classically, feminism posits that it is men that generally “don’t get” rape, or minimize it, or restrict applying it to only the most extreme cases. I don’t dispute that as a general matter, but these recent observations do seem to throw a wrench into the equation.

First of all, I think we need to be careful about assuming a pattern exists based on a single anecdote. As David acknowledges, this may have more to do with the environment of law school than with how men in general view rape.

Secondly, I think David’s argument about what “most recent feminist scholarship” says is a misunderstanding on David’s part. For example, feminist researcher Mary Koss has published a study which found that many women who are raped, do not identify what happened to them as rape (or at least, not as “definitely” rape). Koss’ findings were popularized in the book I Never Called It Rape; the title of the book is a reference to women who do not identify their own rape experiences as rape.

Among feminist researchers who study rape, Koss’s research is widely accepted. It is primarily anti-feminists, such as Christina Hoff Sommers and Katie Roiphe, who have argued that Koss’ findings in this regard contradict feminist beliefs. The anti-feminist arguments radically oversimplify what feminist standpoint theory says, and also ignore the ways that standpoint theory itself is contested within feminism.

David – who certainly isn’t an anti-feminist – acknowledges that standpoint theory has been heavily contested within feminism (although I think he’s mistaken when he says criticism of standpoint theory is mainly a third-wave thing). But David still sees harms in the privileging of women’s views over men’s within feminism. I do think there’s a serious discussion to be had there (David could certainly find some support for his view in the writings of bell hooks); many feminists believe that a feminist transformation of society will have to include a feminist transformation of how men think and act, and it’s hard to see how that can happen if men’s views are unwelcome in feminism.

But although that may be a legitimate discussion, it’s also a different discussion. The strongest case for including male views within feminism comes not from looking at how women have absorbed rape myths, but from issues relating to how the “cult of masculinity” harms and warps men (which leads in turn to some men harming women). I don’t think that framing the discussion of men’s place in feminism within a discussion of rape, as David has, is likely to be productive, or to reassure women who are skeptical of what, if anything, men can offer feminism.

* * *

There is one piece of news from the research on rape which I think is worth pointing out. In Mary Koss’ study of college women’s experiences, about three-fourths of the women who had been raped, did not identify their experience as “definitely” rape. That study took place in the mid-eighties, about two decades ago. A more recent study of college women’s experiences, conducted by the Federal government, found that about half of the women who had been raped, identified their experience as rape. If these results are comparable, that suggests that rape myths – such as “it’s not rape if I didn’t resist enough” or “it’s not rape if it’s my boyfriend” – may be less likely to be believed by women today, compared to 20 years ago. Let’s hope that trend continues.

[Edited to add the quote from Cheryl.]

NOTE: This comments thread is reserved for feminist, pro-feminist, and feminist-friendly posters only. If you suspect you wouldn’t fit into Amp’s conception of “feminist, pro-feminist, or feminist-friendly,” then please don’t contribute to the comments following this post.
This entry posted in Mary Koss controversy, Rape, intimate violence, & related issues. Bookmark the permalink. 

97 Responses to Women Who Don't Call It Rape

  1. Pingback: Lucky White Girl

  2. Pingback: Male Feminists Are Unicorns

  3. Pingback: privilege judo

  4. Pingback: Lucky White Girl

  5. Pingback: feminist blogs

  6. 6
    Sharon says:

    With these women who don’t identify non-consensual sex experiences as rape, I was wondering whether it is anything to do with a tendency to associate the word “rape” with the whole scary stranger-forced-me-into-a-darkened-alley-at-knifepoint idea, which then doesn’t fit so well with sex with a known man.

    Or maybe they are identifying rape as not so much with one non-consensual episode of sex, but sex with a person to whom consent was not given? That would account for the difference, if they were seeing it more as the person rather than the act that did not have consent.

    Just some random thoughts based on what I my reaction would be if I was ever raped. I have this idea (wildly speculative) that whilst both types of experience would not be good (to put it mildly), I imagine that a stranger-rape would affect me very deeply and I’d have problems travelling alone, especially at night, but if it was a rape by (say) an ex-boyfriend, the experience would affect me less deeply overall, affecting my opinion of my judgement more and leaving my ability to travel comfortably alone intact.

  7. 7
    Kali says:

    It is possible that women who don’t call it rape are pre-emptively defending themselves against accusations of “crying rape”. We have all seen how women who come forward with accusations of rape are treated in the court of public opinion. Therefore, women might believe that they have to meet impossibly high standards of credibility and proof to be accepted as being a rape victim. In the court of public opinion it is only/primarily the classic stranger-in-the-bushes-at-gunpoint rape that is accepted as meeting this standard for credibility. Catherine Mackinnon has examined this phenomenon with great insight in her book “Women’s Lives, Men’s Laws”.

  8. 8
    gengwall says:

    [Post deleted by Amp. Gengwall, this is a "feminists only" thread. I assume this was an innocent error on your part, but please be careful. Thanks! --Amp]

  9. 9
    Les says:

    The law school women could perhaps be described as having an experience like Stockholm syndrome. This doesn’t say how male-dominated the law school culture there is or what the ratio of men to women was in the class. Some women deal with this stress by becoming less female identified in that they tend to privilege men’s views over other women’s views, hoping to get their own views elevated to the status of “honorary male.” I’ve seen this happen, but I don’t know how conscious many practitioners of this are. Certainly, the patriarchy is to blame for this.

    On another note, I don’t think always believing the woman no matter what is necessarily a feminist belief or perhaps I am misunderstanding the implications of that? Does it mean factually believing a woman even if there is exceedingly strong evidence to the contrary? Or does it mean always believing that something is emotionally true for her, rather than in a factual sense? Believing women is certainly important and is the right thing to do a vast majority of the time. My problem is just the word “always.”

  10. 10
    Vonski says:

    From my hetero-male point of view, I think that even though these women may have ‘rationalized’ that the sex was consentual, it was coerced and therefore considered by me to have been rape and wrong of the men to have done that.

    It makes me sad to hear stories of people being terrorized into making a choice they would not have made in a safer environment.

  11. 11
    Lu says:

    I have of course no way of proving it, but I think this is part of the female “it couldn’t happen to me” defense mechanism. I think women are tougher rape-case jurors than men because they say to themselves “I wouldn’t have gone there/done that/worn that/drunk that, so if she did it’s her fault if the man got the wrong idea.”

    To know that you are always, always vulnerable, anywhere, any time, whatever you do, is terrifying. I don’t think any man can comprehend it. A lot of women can’t deal with it. In these cases I think it’s about control: the woman made the choice to submit to sex to save her life because it looked like her best option, so she had some measure of control, so it wasn’t really rape.

    Which is like saying that if someone holds a gun to your head and demands all your money and you give it to them, you weren’t really robbed.

  12. 12
    nik says:

    [Post deleted by Amp. This is a "feminist or pro feminist only" thread, and with all due respect, Nik, y'all have never seemed to be feminist or pro-feminist. I assume posting on this thread was an honest error on your part, but please be careful not to post on it again. Thanks! Amp]

  13. 13
    nolo says:

    Women who don’t call it rape may also be protecting themselves from feeling like they were totally helpless in the situation. Women who focus on their own behavior (whether before or during the incident) may not simply be confused about what constitutes rape. They may be holding on to the notion that they still had some control.

  14. 14
    nolo says:

    Lu beat me to it ;)

  15. 15
    silverside says:

    Back in the late 70s, I was raped by a boyfriend. I considered myself a feminist back then, had read The Second Sex, but didn’t classify it as rape at the time. Partly, I think, because he was a boyfriend. Partly because it wasn’t in an alley with a gun. And partly because I didn’t resist in terms of fighting back, because it didn’t compute. In fact, I had the hardest time for a very long time connecting with the experience at all, because, you see, I WASN’T THERE. Nope, I was floating above the scene, taking a vaguely distasteful interest in what was going on below me. Now, of course, I recognize that this is a classic sign of shock or a near-death experience. But then, it just meant that I didn’t claim the experience as something that had really happened to me. For years afterwards, I became totally unglued at any depiction of sexual violence in a movie, etc. In fact, I would say it took me about ten years to come to terms with what had happened to me, and finally figure out that it was rape that I had experienced. If this is the case for someone who was a self-identified feminist, then it doesn’t surprise me at all that other women have developed distancing techniques that keep what happened to them at bay.

    Somehow I suspect that the literature on torture (which includes and is similar to rape in its very personal and focused attack on the body as an attack on the person’s soul) also shows that victims develop all kinds of coping techniques which avoid the admission that “I am being tortured” or “I was tortured.”

  16. 16
    Matan says:

    Just some random thoughts based on what I my reaction would be if I was ever raped. I have this idea (wildly speculative) that whilst both types of experience would not be good (to put it mildly), I imagine that a stranger-rape would affect me very deeply and I’d have problems travelling alone, especially at night, but if it was a rape by (say) an ex-boyfriend, the experience would affect me less deeply overall, affecting my opinion of my judgement more and leaving my ability to travel comfortably alone intact.

    On the other hand, if a woman is raped by a man she formerly trusted, it seems like she’d have reason to travel with other people she would normally trust. I don’t think it’s meaningful to say that this is better than being afraid to be alone.

  17. 17
    beth says:

    we look at it from the outside as her making excuses for her rapist or buying into rape myths, but another way of thinking about it may be that she insisted on saying it wasn’t rape because she credits herself with using the sex to escape.

    in an already out of control situation, in which she had been forced to change locations without her consent, forced to stay with this man without her consent, forced to talk to him as if she cared while held at gunpoint, forced to endure physical assaults and untold traumas, believing the sex was her idea and given with her consent when so much else of that situation happened in a way that could not even be pretended was with her consent might be her way of clinging to control over what happened to her.

    if this were the case, forcing her to acknowledge that this man did *everything* to her, that she was, from moment 1, utterly helpless and powerless to save herself, that he only let her go because he simply decided not to kill her for the same irrational and inexplicable reasons he took her in the first place (regardless of whether or not that reality is one we all can agree upon), and not allowing her to construct the situation in her mind in a way that salvages even a scrap of her sense of autonomy, might be considered a cruelty.

    that’s why a standpoint theory could apply here.

  18. 18
    beth says:

    just realized lu beat me to this comment. sorry for the repeat.

  19. 19
    David Schraub says:

    I just want to clarify that I don’t go to law school–Carleton College is an undergraduate institution within which I am a Sophomore. I just happened to be taking a Philosophy class entitled “Philosophy of Law.” To answer Les’ (implicit) question, Carleton is, I believe, around 52% female overall, the class was probably split roughly even between male and female, and the professor was female. I’d also say that we are one of the more liberal-leaning liberal arts colleges in the country. This is not to comment on the levels of sexism that may or may not be present at Carleton–I’m hardly qualified to opine–just the statistical background.

    The comments to my post have certainly expanded my knowledge about feminist examinations of rape. And certainly, we shouldn’t generalize based on one anecdote. At the same time though, I’m going to hold to my position that male perspectives ON RAPE are independently valuable to the feminist project, at least in certain circusmstances. I do not agree with Amp that

    framing the discussion of men’s place in feminism within a discussion of rape, as David has, is [not] likely to be productive, or to reassure women who are skeptical of what, if anything, men can offer feminism

    For starters, while I’ve gotten a fair bit of commentary explaining why it is women might be conflicted on what I thought was a clear “rape” case (much obliged, btw), I’ve gotten almost no analysis as to why men had the unanimous opinion that the case was rape. In a way, this is a clear bite into the harm I was talking about, because it shows that we’re missing a key perspective that is at some level counter-intuitive by not having any feminist-friendly andro-centric analysis (God is that line going to come back to haunt me). In other words, plenty of people have told me why the women in my class thought the way they did. Virtually no one has told me why the MEN in the class thought the way they did. This is the theory-gap that I think both needs to be filled and whose examination could have benefits for the feminist project writ large. And my call for situating men in feminist discourse (rape and otherwise) has to occur in this paradigm–Amp is still not analyzing the men, only the women as situated next to the men.

    Even granting that women are going to have mixed feelings about what is/isn’t rape, all that should prove is that women are not going to be any more likely than men to call rape “rape,” just for different reasons. But as I understand it, the theoretical hypothesis still hold that men buy into rape myths too–we should also be saying that X act wasn’t rape for our own patriarchally motivated reasons. That we aren’t (at least in this particular circumstance) raises questions that I feel need answers, and presumably an examination of WHY a set of progressive, intelligent male students at an elite liberal arts college are far more likely to call rape “rape” could yield interesting insights or ideas for coalition building that could prove useful over a variety of situations.

  20. 20
    piny says:

    Okay.

    What if the men in the class are engaging in their own kind of dissociation? Except, in this case, they’re creating distance from their potential ability to commit rape, rather than from their potential vulnerability to rape. The actions described in the scenario are something that guy does or would do. It’s therefore not at all difficult for the men in the class to condemn them. They’re not implicated. Reframe the scenario with something like, “You and your girlfriend are…” or, “What happened when your girlfriend said…” and the answers might change.

    The women, on the other hand, are hearing about a woman in a situation they probably recognize very well, circumstances in which they may actually have been victimized themselves. In order to maintain the illusion that they are not vulnerable, they must redefine that situation as not-rape, and convince themselves that that woman and all women have the ability to protect themselves from rape.

  21. 21
    nik says:

    [Post deleted by Amp. This is a "feminist or pro feminist only" thread, and with all due respect, Nik, y'all have never seemed to be feminist or pro-feminist. I assume this and the previous post on this thread were honest errors on your part, but please be careful not to post on it again. Thanks! Amp]

  22. 22
    Lauren says:

    As a survivor of rape, this post definitely caught my attention.

    In response to Sharon: I was raped by a boyfriend when I was 16. I completely see your point in that it wouldn’t seem as bad to be raped by someone you know as to be raped by a stranger (and if I had my pick, I guess I too would choose someone I know…I guess), but actually I don’t think that’s true. Most of us learn from an early age that we should beware of strangers. Few of us learn to beware of boyfriends…fathers…uncles…and to be fair, girlfriends…mothers…etc. In some ways I think it could be easier to fear someone lurking in an alley rather than a man or woman who loves you. To put it simply, my life has been greatly affected by my rape. I have come close but have not yet been managed to have a healthy relationship because of my experience. And my rapist was my first boyfriend ever. To be raped by someone who supposedly loves you will inevitably deeply affect your life…and your love-life!

    In response to Kali: At least in my case, you hit the nail on the head. When my experience first happened, I did speak out about it – and was shot down by my peers. As a result I never told my parents and learned to shut up about it all. When I was 19, I finally had a friend listen to my story and call it rape. It was only then that I began a long journey toward appropriately classifying what happened. I’m 24 now and I use the term sexual assault rather than rape (which is progress from when I used to just say “I once had a bad boyfriend”). I’m working on it though. What really really bugs me is the whole “he said she said” perspective on rape. Watch the documentary “Searching for Angela Shelton” if you want a chilling example of that. For anyone who may be reading this that is a survivor of any form of sexual abuse, check out http://www.operationfreefall.com – it’s a two-mile high stand against sexual assault. I am participating and would love to see more people get involved. Only through using our voice can we really be heard.

  23. I was very pleased to read comment 12 from Beth regarding the possibility that the victim resisted the rape label because it may have interfered with her sense of having exercised some control over the situation she was in.

    I don’t know if that is how the victim felt. But one aspect of that trial that I was proud of was that I presented the victim as someone who HAD exercised a great deal of intelligence and courage, and deserved credit for handling the situation in such a manner that she was ultimately able to escape. (She actually persuaded her captor to drive her home to pick up some items, and once home and once she’d gotten him to relax his guard, she made her move.) I think that my presentation of the victim as a heroine who saved herself was in fact the truth, but I think it is the sort of truth that is often not recognized in rape cases. I am not sure how I feel about standpoint theory, but I have suspected that a male prosecutor might have been more likely to present the victim as completely helpless.

  24. 24
    Magis says:

    This clearly shows that feminism is as much about educating women as it is about educating men. The idea that anything done to you, let alone something sexual, without your full consent is not a violation of your mental and physical person is wholly beyond me. It is unnatural. For this condition to exist must require a negative self-image which is also not natural but must be imposed.

    I had a female friend who was eventually murdered by an abuser. Her friends at one time talked her into leaving him and even after that something, something I will never understand, drove her back to him and eventually to her death. It haunts me to this day. As a man, my interest in modern feminism stems from this.

  25. 25
    RonF says:

    Hm. The way I read the example is:

    1) He kidnapped and physically restrained her under the threat of the use of deadly force.
    2) He initiated sexual activity.
    3) She physically cooperated in fear of her life.

    Yup, sounds like rape to me. Plus a few other felonies. I’m a death penalty opponent, so I say lock him up for a very, very long time.

  26. 26
    Les says:

    I think the reason that we’re not generally questioning why all the men in the class thought it was rape is because we all (more or less) agree with them. The question is not then “how is it that all the men got it right?” but rather “why are the women getting it wrong?” (Please excuse my judgemental phrasing.)

    I think it shows that feminism is getting through to men and causing them to use their judgement in a way that we can agree with. So the question arises, “if men get it and they have little to gain by getting it, why is that women who have so much more to gain don’t get it?” I think that’s been well answered above.

    So what question should we be asking about the men being in agreement that having sex with somebody held at gunpoint is rape?

  27. 27
    piny says:

    I think the reason that we’re not generally questioning why all the men in the class thought it was rape is because we all (more or less) agree with them. The question is not then “how is it that all the men got it right?” but rather “why are the women getting it wrong?” (Please excuse my judgemental phrasing.)

    Good point. It’d be like finding out that more men than women are against job discrimination on the basis of sex. Of course, it’s a great idea to question why they feel that way, and to see how that might fit into a larger framework that enables rape and endangers women, but it is counterintuitive.

  28. 28
    Interrobang says:

    Speaking as a rhetorician, do you suppose the terminology is a problem? If you called it “nonconsensual sexual activity” or “sexual assault” or anything other than “rape,” do you suppose you’d get different answers?

    I’m asking because I perceive connotations around the word “rape” which might limit the contexts in which rape victims and/or people in general might apply the word (something which other posters have touched on — the standard of proof, the association of “rape” with “stranger rape,” and so on), and it might not be a term that women want to associate with themselves. It might be easier for women to say “I was sexually assaulted,” or “He did that to me without my consent,” than to say “I was raped,” simply because of what the word “rape” signifies.

    That may also be why the men in the class were more able to make the determination, since they may not have as much cultural baggage attached to the word. (Many men also believe — erroneously — that “rape” doesn’t apply to them, so for them, it may be a neutral signifier. My best friend in high school was raped at knifepoint by another man, and the word most definitely applied to him. He understood both the denotation and the connotation after that.)

    I’m certainly not trying to suggest that the other posters’ comments are invalid, but language itself might be a contributing factor.

  29. 29
    lucky says:

    Well, first of all, Les: I think women have a lot to lose in society’s terms by calling it rape. For the victim there are all the reasons cited above but for the women in the class who didn’t want to call it rape in front of their classmates, they might be thinking any number of things including class dynamics (just because the class is taught by a women doesn’t mean it’s not male-oriented), or not wanting to cede the woman’s control over the situation. Depending on how the case was worded it could’ve sounded like the woman employed some pretty smart survivalist psychological tricks to defuse the situation and get out of it alive. Calling it rape would devalue that proactive strategy and make her more of a victim which isn’t very empowering. And I think Interrobang and Amp are right the popular myth in our society is that rape is when someone grabs you in a dark alley, so it might very well be a problem of terminology.

    But that brings us to the whole standpoint theory and priviledged viewpoints discussion, so I have a couple of things to throw out there.

    One, I have to say I really like standpoint theory a lot and I’ve heard the essentialism criticisms of it and think that they’re right on if someone is arguing that there is only ONE female standpoint but I don’t think that has to be the case. My understanding of standpoint theory is that it says that all knowledge is localized within a specific time and space and that things like gender and race provide context for those standpoints. The world looks different depending on where you view it. The idea of a standpoint or standpoints doesn’t have to be a unitary, singular, essentialist concept.

    And regarding priviledged standpoints, I don’t think that means some knowledge from some standpoints is better, per se, than other but that people who have various sorts of oppressions are in a better position to critique the structures of dominant society because they directly feel the effects of those unequal structures. But that doesn’t mean they’re always going to do that; there are other complicating factors. Women aren’t born feminists. And it doesn’t mean that there’s no room in feminist movements for people whose standpoints put them in a more dominant position in society, just that they might have to work harder to see – they might have a little more trouble seeing the problems with the dominant structure because it directly benefits them. Not that they won’t ever be able to, just that it takes effort; it’s a learned thing. Precisely because of this, I don’t think standpoint theory means to exclude men from discussions on sexism and white people from discussions on racism. Like you said, (and like bell hooks says) there has to be transformation on both sides. Feminism has to be learned by everyone.

    I think in some ways it’s offensive to assume that because they’re women they should see this case as rape when 1.) feminism isn’t inherent in all females and 2.) there might be strategic reasons for those women in that context not to have called that a rape.

  30. 30
    Richard says:

    As a college professor, I don’t think David’s question about why all the men identified the rape in question as rape is really all that difficult to answer, especially when the circumstances of a rape are as clear cut as they are in this case. My male students–and the majority of the students I teach are not necessarily liberal, progressive or elite–have no problem recognizing when the description of an encounter between a man and a woman fits the definition of rape that they have been taught and that they have been taught they must accept in order to be considered a decent person. In other words, it is possible that at least some of the men David talks about were simply repeating what they knew they were supposed to say. My own experience is that even though the men in my class might label a situation rape, their attitudes are more fully revealed when they start to talk about the character of the woman involved. They might, for example, agree that she was raped, but still call her “a slut.” Indeed, I’m not sur how many semester ago, there was a huge discussion in my class about a situation not unlike the one at the beginning of Amp’s post–I do not remember whether it was a news story or a piece of literature I had asked them to read–where the woman “went along with it” as a survival strategy. The men in the class did not have a problem agreeing that a rape had occurred, but they saw the woman as “a slut” nonetheless, arguing that even though she hadn’t really wanted to, she had still done what the man wanted.

    My point is not that there is not an important question about why there were such differences between male and female responses in the situation David talked about; rather, my point is that we need to make sure we are asking the right question. As people in this discussion have pointed out, there are all kinds of reasons why women might equivocate on whether what we would call an obvious rape was indeed rape–and I should be clear here that I am talking about the women in David’s class, not women who have themselves been raped and don’t want to call it rape–and they all boil down, more or less, to the women’s underlying identification with the woman who was raped and to a kind of internalized oppression/self-hatred. When we ask about why the men found it so easy to identify the rape as rape, though, I think what needs to be asked is whether and to what degree that identification is congruent with the other values they hold about women and sex. It is not, in other words, simply their attitudes about rape per se that matter.

  31. 31
    FurryCatHerder says:

    I’m less willing to give the men all the props they are being given precisely because the case is so clear cut. Agreeing that it is rape accomplishes nothing because so many other rapes don’t involve guns, cars, getting pistol whipped.

    I would argue (hey, I’m in the mood to argue and I still don’t have enough shirts for a 4 day weekend …) that presenting cases such as this reinforces the belief that rape is this big violent crime. AND that having men agree that rape is this big violent crime does nothing to educate them that rape also includes “Oops, I was asleep!” or “Oops, I didn’t know she was drunk!” or “Oops, how did my penis get in there?”, all of which many feminists would consider to be rape.

    So, yeah, the guys agree that being kidnapped at gunpoint makes any sex that happened “rape”. Do they agree that taking a woman to a dimly lit park after a date and then demanding sex with the implication that they aren’t leaving this dimly lit park until she puts out is also rape? If they get that, then I’ll give them a nice feminist-awareness pat on the head.

  32. 32
    piny says:

    So, yeah, the guys agree that being kidnapped at gunpoint makes any sex that happened “rape”. Do they agree that taking a woman to a dimly lit park after a date and then demanding sex with the implication that they aren’t leaving this dimly lit park until she puts out is also rape? If they get that, then I’ll give them a nice feminist-awareness pat on the head.

    Exactly. I’d expect to see the same equivocation if the discussion centered around their actions rather than the actions of Hypothetical Guy.

  33. 33
    Caterpillar says:

    “Speaking as a rhetorician, do you suppose the terminology is a problem? If you called it “nonconsensual sexual activity” or “sexual assault” or anything other than “rape,” do you suppose you’d get different answers?”

    Speaking as a defense lawyer, this makes a lot of sense. First rule of defense is never admit to anything without your lawyer. You “robbed” someone in front of a cop. He sees you. Do you admit to robbery? No. Because you have no idea what “robbery” means. Maybe you only thought you “robbed” someone. Maybe it wasn’t robbery. Maybe it was burglary, or larceny, or theft, instead. That depends on the penal code, not common understandin of the word. But if you admit to “robbery”, that’s a confession, whether you knew what you were saying or not.

    Similarly, “rape” is defined by the penal code. Too most feminists, date rape was “rape”, even when the penal code didn’t say so. For similar reasons, today some women don’t think date rape is “rape”, even though the penal code says it is.

    And in truth, putting aside which is “worse”, stranger rape and acquaintance rape are often perceived as so very different, that it is understandable to think that there would be two distinct words to describe them.

    Rather than attempting to educate women that the word “rape” does not mean what they may think it means, I would suggest a crime called something unfraught — like “nonconsensual sexual congress” with the exact same penalties as rape! (or a higher or lower penalty, depending on whether we decide that acquaintance rape is more or less evil) — so that we do not have to force people to believe that two things that are untuitively different are really the same in the ways that matter.

  34. 34
    Cleis says:

    I just want to clarify – and this has been alluded to but, I think, not said straight out – that feminist standpoint theory (FST) is not the view that women, merely by virtue of being women, are more likely to be right about sexist oppression. Nor is it the view that men can’t have the same kind of feminist knowledge that women have. You can endorse FST and still think that, epistemically, we shouldn’t defer to women just because they are women, nor need we believe that their recounting of their experiences is somehow objectively true.

    Rather, feminist standpoint theory privileges the feminist standpoint(s), where that is seen as an epistemic achievement – i.e., you gotta have your consciousness raised. Further, according to FST, women, because of their subordinate position in the hierarchy of sexist oppression, are better situated to achieve the feminist standpoint(s) than are men.

    I think it’s easily demonstrable that privilege makes us ignorant – white people are less likely to “get” racism, rich people are less likely to “get” classism, and so on. However, certainly there are white people who really get racism (maybe not a lot of white people), just as there are men who really get sexism. The question remains, can a man “get” sexism to the extent that, or in the same way that, a woman does, assuming that both have their feminist consciousness raised? If the answer is yes, then weak feminist standpoint theory may be right: women are better situated to achieve feminist consciousness, but men, with enough hard work, can, too. If the answer is no – if you think that there are some things that men, just by virtue of their being men, can never understand about women’s lives – then you endorse strong feminist standpoint theory: the view that there are some kinds of knowledge that only women are capable of achieving.

    FWIW, I endorse weak feminist standpoint theory. I think men can achieve the same kind and degree of feminist knowledge that women can, but I think it’s a hell of a lot harder for them to do so. Social advantage is an epistemic disadvantage.

    (Elizabeth Anderson was one of my undergrad profs and advisors; she rocks the world.)

  35. 35
    No name please! says:

    I’d rather not ID myself here, although I’ve supplied my e-mail address for the site in case they want to contact me.

    This is what happened to me a long time ago. I was 18 and in my second year at the University of Michigan. This was not a happy time for me in general. I was so awkward, utterly unprepared for life at a university, and was trying hard to do things that would help me feel like I was a part of everything. Among my activities were taking psychedelic drugs now and then, and trying out having sex with men. None of it was much fun, but the sex was all consensual…except for one event that I’ve hardly ever talked about, with anyone, for all these years.

    The guy wasn’t a student, but he played in one of the better local bands and I thought he was handsome and cool, and we had some mutual acquaintances. We had two sexual encounters. Here’s what happened at the second one: we were there in his bedroom, neither of us was impaired by alcohol or drugs. I thought we were going to have sexual intercourse, and then, rather quickly, he introduced what he figured (I guess) would be a fun variation. He flipped me over to my hands and knees and commenced the butt-fucking. As soon as I realized where he was going (and I was still relatively inexperienced at this point) I said no, and frantically tried to pull away. He held me more tightly, hissing “Yes!” and kept going.

    When it was over, I numbly cleaned up and got dressed and went home and never told anyone, not for years. And I didn’t think of it as rape.

    But lately it occurs to me that I can distinguish between rape that is or might be legally actionable, and mean, coercive sex that might be better dealt with by getting the hell out of there and never letting the guy near me again.

    If I could go back in time to the immediate aftermath, knowing what I know now, I still wouldn’t report it to the police. I can’t imagine that anything positive could come of it. This young man was mean to me and mistreated me, but the surrounding circumstances would, I am sure, have precluded me from being taken seriously, even though I’d said no, and it hurt like hell and I was scared. Although I hadn’t thought of myself as a groupie, apparently he had, and I guess he felt that gave him license. It didn’t, but a lot of people would agree with him, not me.

    But what I kinda think I might have done instead is printed up a bunch of flyers, like “Think twice about getting it on with this guy. He’s a stealth butt-fucking bully” and posted them in the women’s bathrooms around the town clubs. And then maybe I’d have slashed his tires or put sugar in his gas tank, or done some other kind of stuff that’d mess with him. It couldn’t replicate the pain and humiliation of my episode, and it surely would’ve been illegal, but it would have been some small payback. And I still don’t think trying to press charges would have accomplished anything except having to endure telling the story over and over again to a bunch of male cops.

    So this is why I’ve equivocated when faced with the question of whether I’ve ever been raped.

  36. 36
    Empiricist says:

    For what it’s worth, my criminal law class last semester discussed a similar rape case, and nobody of either sex expressed the view that it wasn’t rape.

    If the anecdote is accurate, I suspect part of the reason may be self-censorship on behalf of the men. Being publicly labeled a sexist is stigmatizing, especially on a liberal campus environment (even the conservative-for-academia legal academy), and male students are consequently cautious about what they say in public fora like classrooms. My experience is that if you listen to them among themselves, you hear something very different.

  37. 37
    Polymath says:

    so….about this tendency for feminists to want to believe a woman over a man in a he-said/she-said alleged rape story. i certainly understand the tendency. i would tend to believe a woman in that situation, not just because i consider myself a feminist or because i want my friends to believe i’m enlightened, but because, rationally, she’s likely to be telling the truth. but just today, i went next door to borrow a wrench, and the only person there was the 16-year-old girl who lives there. as i walked away with a wrench, i felt the same fear i always feel…what if she claimed i tried to molest or rape her? would version 2 of me believe her?

    i am certainly no MRA in the sense that this term is used on this board. but, of course, men do have rights. and i know that false accusations of rape are rare, they surely do exist. perhaps this is just my ignorance speaking, and i’m hoping to be educated here (that’s sincere, not sarcastic), but what is a good, feminist response to my fear? i mean, my career (as a teacher) could be ruined by one upset, troubled, deluded 14-year-old kid (girl or boy) who wanted revenge and accused me of even improperly looking at him or her.

    this is very internally conflicting, because i know that if i heard a story about a kid accusing a teacher of something (especially if it was a girl), i’d likely want to believe her. but i know i’d resent anyone who believed a girl accusing me if i hadn’t done anything wrong.

    i don’t have a point here except that this is conflicting. the right answer might be “tough shit, buddy…your gender is in control, and that threat is the price you pay.” which i can logically almost buy, but is very unsatisfying emotionally.

    i dunno…any ideas?

  38. 38
    cicely says:

    For what it’s worth, my criminal law class last semester discussed a similar rape case, and nobody of either sex expressed the view that it wasn’t rape.

    If the anecdote is accurate, I suspect part of the reason may be self-censorship on behalf of the men. Being publicly labeled a sexist is stigmatizing, especially on a liberal campus environment (even the conservative-for-academia legal academy), and male students are consequently cautious about what they say in public fora like classrooms. My experience is that if you listen to them among themselves, you hear something very different.

    This has the ring of truth, Empiricist. Being publicly labeled an adulterer, a purchaser of the sexual services of a prostitute, a heterosexual and married man who participates in anonymous sexual encounters with gay men etc, etc would be stigmatizing as well. But who would deny that all of these things occur on rather a grand scale.My point is that around matters sexual, open-ness and honesty are not the prevailing attributes of men. Alongside this yawning silence the most prevalent attitude is one of entitlement to have sexual satisfaction. I certainly think ‘Don’t accept wholly what I say if you don’t know what I do’ is the wisest approach with regard to men and their sexual attitudes and behaviour, particularly if you are a woman.

  39. 39
    VK says:

    I have a friend who doesn’t believe her rape was rape. She’s an alcoholic, and one of the main events that caused her to admit this and stop drinking was what I consider rape. She drunk herself into unconciousness at a party. A guy dragged her into one of the bedrooms, fucked her and left. She didn’t wake up until the next morning, and only worked out what had happened because he didn’t use a condom. But it’s not rape, she tells me, it’s her fault for getting drunk – if she didn’t have the self preservation to make sure she passed out somewhere safe then whatever happens is her fault.
    We’ve had to stop talking about it because I end up either crying or shouting at her when she tells me this. Partly it’s the idea that a women’s body is available for sex if no one is protecting it, and partly the idea that the sort of man who rapes unconcious women isn’t getting called out on it.

  40. 40
    Magis says:

    Perhaps the reason the males didn’t have any trouble seeing it as rape is that they were raised correctly. If it involves force, coercion or duress; it’s rape. Simple. The only other case before us is the rape of the unconscious woman. That is rape because, being unconscious, ipso facto she cannot give consent. Simple.

    When I was a boy my father told me “you don’t hit girls, ever.” When I was nearly a man he told me, “If I ever find out you raped a woman, you won’t have to worry about the cops.” (You had to experience those cold grey Celtic eyes to appreciate them)

    While I admit my upbringing was paternalistic (hold chairs, doors, etc.) there was a positive side. I was taught to respect women. The idea of rape to me is beyond evil, it is anathema. I don’t advocate returning to the days when we taught boys to put women on pedastels; but they do need to be taught that their superior (usually) physical strength is never to be used to coerce or force. Behind every rapist is failed socialization.

  41. 41
    piny says:

    Perhaps the reason the males didn’t have any trouble seeing it as rape is that they were raised correctly. If it involves force, coercion or duress; it’s rape. Simple. The only other case before us is the rape of the unconscious woman. That is rape because, being unconscious, ipso facto she cannot give consent. Simple.

    This reminds me of that scene in To Kill a Mockingbird where Scout asks what rape is and Atticus tells her it means to have carnal knowledge of a woman without her consent.

    …Okay, then.

    This is simple, but it’s not so simple to parse “force, coercion, or duress” as most people understand them, and to identify and explode unexamined sexist ideas about what constitutes violation when the person being violated is a woman. Mary Koss’s work explored this problem, the difference between rape in the popular imagination and forced, unwanted, and coercive sex as it occurs in reality. It’d be like if our society only understood “theft” to include mugging, and had no context for things like cheating your employees out of their wages or stonewalling on an insurance settlement.

    I’m not arguing, mind, that your understanding is inadequate, but “Don’t rape,” doesn’t work if “rape” only involves strange men with guns in dark alleys. Coercion in the context of transparent inequality can become a very subtle thing.

  42. 42
    Meteor Blades says:

    I have nothing to contribute regarding the content of your post that others have not already said. However, I do want say that since I was turned on to your blog a few months ago while engaging in a discussion about false rape allegations with a woman at another blog, I have found this a terrific place to obtain sane and enlightening examinations on matters of importance to me. I’ve learned a lot, and although I’ve called myself pro-feminist since the late ’60s (and tried to act accordingly), I’ve gotten a fresh perspective here and I very much appreciate it. This post provides another example.

    Kudos. And thanks.

  43. 43
    LauraB says:

    My experience in law classes (which may or may not be relevant, given that David’s identified his class as an undergrad course, not a law school course) suggests another interpretation as to what may’ve been going on in the discussion David described:

    A key point about many class discussions in law school is that what’s being taught isn’t just the stuff that makes up the substance of the discussion–you’re also learning to argue. Part of that isn’t just being able to express your own views, but being able to anticipate and articulate the arguments that other people might make against you. After all, there’s no better position than knowing that you can make your opponent’s case as well as he can, and knowing further that when you’re done making it, you can proceed to blow it out of the water.

    So my first thought was that it wasn’t clear from what David wrote whether the women in his class were articulating things they actually believed, or talking about the hypothetical views they thought someone might hold. It’s not too surprising to me that women, more than men, would anticipate the ways a rape victim’s testimony might be attacked, and be able to recognize how those attacks might be applied even in what should be a clear-cut scenario. And, too, a woman who sees those attacks coming might choose to speak up first just because it can be easier to present a hurtful argument yourself–thereby keeping it in hypothetical terms–than to hear it articulated by someone who actually believes it.

  44. 44
    Thomas says:

    Piny, you’ve got that right. I’m raising a son. Right now, he’s a toddler, so I have a little lead-time on concepts like consent. When we get there, it’s my job to teach him that consent is not just the absence of “no” or a word or a hurdle to overcome; that it’s the presence of real participation. I need to make him understand that if she (or he) isn’t into it, silence or meek acquiesence is not a license. Consent is enthusiastic participation, and if he can’t find that in a partner then he can’t have partnered sex.

  45. 45
    Magis says:

    piny:

    I guess I was being over-simplistic. Coercion can take many forms. However, and I suppose I didn’t shed much light either, the thread started as why those women didn’t feel raped and I was speaking in that context. Normally I would say, “if you feel like you were raped you were.” However, they didn’t feel that way or at least refused to define it that way. The cases presented, to me, were prosecutable rape. Maybe I was feeling a little outrage that they didn’t feel the same way.

    On a philosophical rather than a legal level, rape can be much more. On that level, you can rape someone’s mind without ever touching them. Rape should, on that level, be defined as theft of dignity or self-worth. Perhaps even worse, it is a breach of trust.

    Still, all in all, it comes back to socialization. Girls need to be taught to be more assertive in making their feelings known and boys need to be taught to be respectful of those feelings.

  46. 46
    Richard says:

    Polymath, you wrote:

    i mean, my career (as a teacher) could be ruined by one upset, troubled, deluded 14-year-old kid (girl or boy) who wanted revenge and accused me of even improperly looking at him or her.

    It is deeply important, for all of the reasons that have been cited so far, to validate the feelings of a woman who has the courage to come forth with such a statement, but the initial impulse to believe a woman who says that she’s been raped, or sexually harassed, is not the same thing as an investigation into her accusation, and any academic institution should have in place investigative procedures designed to guarantee first of all, the presumption of innocence on the part of the accused and, second of all, that the accuser will be held accountable for her accusation in the sense that it will have to be supported by evidence. I have heard that, at my school, there have in fact been false accusations, not of rape, but of sexual harassment, and they have been found out precisely because we have a good investigative process in place.

    Whether or not what I have just given is a feminist answer, I don’t know, but I also want to say that I understand your concern. There have been, over the years, women in my classes–not many, but more than a few–with whom I always made sure, when we met in my office, that there were other faculty members around. I took this approach with these women, though, based on very specific things they either did or said in my class or in previous meetings with me, not on my sense that I am in constant danger of false accusations being leveled against me. I would argue, however, that this fear, which I have heard a lot of teachers express, is more the result of a very consciously manipulated social and cultural backlash against what I will call “rape awareness” on the part of women than it is of an accurate assessment of what is really happening in cases where students accuse teachers of sexual impropriety and/or harassment and/or assault.

    In other words, because “rape awareness” gets at the heart, or at least one of the centers, of male privilege in this culture, it cannot help but make men as a whole feel very vulnerable. Even if you have never raped, even if the thought of raping has never entered your mind, ever, male privilege is something you have and you will feel it when that privileged is threatened. People who want to hang on to male privilege will attempt to shore it up by portraying “rape awareness” as this pervasive attempt by women to hold men hostage to the fact that men rape women, allowing women to use rape accusations to punish men against whom the women want to retaliate. “Rape awareness,” in these terms, becomes just another example of hysterical women run amok, which is an image that has often been used in the mainstream media and other places to discredit feminists, feminism and the gains they have made.

    The fact is that, given the stigma attached to a woman who has been raped–and that stigma is still there in a big way in society at large–it takes a lot for a woman to say that such a thing has happened to her, and while I will not deny that there are women who make false accusations–and here I would go back to what I said about investigative procedures and the presumption of innoence–I doubt that most women or girls see it as a power ploy that they would be willing to use in the way that you describe.

    (I hope this post is not too garbled; I have been typing quickly here in the library, trying to finish before they kick us out.)

  47. 47
    piny says:

    I guess I was being over-simplistic. Coercion can take many forms. However, and I suppose I didn’t shed much light either, the thread started as why those women didn’t feel raped and I was speaking in that context. Normally I would say, “if you feel like you were raped you were.” However, they didn’t feel that way or at least refused to define it that way. The cases presented, to me, were prosecutable rape. Maybe I was feeling a little outrage that they didn’t feel the same way.

    Like I said, I didn’t mean to imply that your understanding of consent is either shallow or inadequate. Just that an ability to condemn this situation–and, I gotta add, when some other guy is involved–isn’t necessarily indicative of having been raised right.

    And I do worry that parents aren’t necessarily interrogating their sons’ understanding of “consent,” and that they see emphatic condemnation of rape (which is definitely a good and important thing, don’t get me wrong!) as sufficient absent a discussion of where those boundaries are. I think it’s great that your dad communicated outrage, and a huge step forward from ‘boys will be boys,’ but male entitlement and rationalization shape a lot of discussion of what it means to violate a woman.

    Some of those oversights can be explained by other things than sexism. It’s inconceivable to me, and I’m sure to my parents, that anyone could justify rape as I’ve seen it justified on this blog and in many other places. I’m not sure it ever occurred to them that their definition of rape wouldn’t become mine. And a discussion of consensual sex is a detailed discussion of sex, and that can be a difficult topic for parents to broach with their children. God knows I wouldn’t have wanted to hear “enthusiastic participation” coming out of my dad’s mouth. And admitting that your child needs a clear understanding of rape means admitting that your child is a sexual adult, a man, albeit a young one.

  48. 48
    Thomas says:

    Piny, my wife has already ceeded the sex talks to me because I don’t blanche when talking about sex. I think part of the reason parents have trouble talking about sex is their own embarrassment, and part of it is that their kids clam up when they realize it’s a difficult subject for their parents. Neither of those is a problem I’ll have. Besides, if he’s not ready to hear me say, “whatever you’re doing, it has to be something you’re doing with her and not to her;” if he’s not ready to hear what a condom is for, how to put it on and what its limitations are; then he’s not ready to communicate honestly and openly with a partner.

  49. 49
    piny says:

    I think I may have been disturbed by how eager my parents were to discuss sex with me. Of course, most of the discussions I had with my mom were elaborations on, “What do you mean you’re a lesbian?! Sex with men is awesome!”

    Anyway.

    I definitely don’t mean to absolve parents of responsibility for having these discussions, and I hope I’m not coming off that way.

    Besides, if he’s not ready to hear me say, “whatever you’re doing, it has to be something you’re doing with her and not to her;” if he’s not ready to hear what a condom is for, how to put it on and what its limitations are; then he’s not ready to communicate honestly and openly with a partner.

    This is absolutely true.

  50. 50
    Shoaib says:

    Scary to hear how people rationalize their own experiences … but at the same time I can understand how one would need to do ‘something’ to be able to cope … and that something might be to reduce the incident to something less humiliating and dehumanizing.

  51. 51
    Princess of Cybermob says:

    I have to say that Polymath’s post rubs me the wrong way. I didn’t expect to see a man get away with “worrying that he’ll get falsely accused of rape” bullshit in here. Ugh.

    Anyway.

    I’m going to share my view on my rape and explain why I usually don’t call it rape.

    I will start with telling you that I had been raped two times before. Once as a teenager and the rapists were two “friends” of mine and I had willingly gone to where one of them lived after a night out. We were all drunk.

    Ten years later a “friend” of mine was locked out of his house and asked to crash in my home. He was drunk, I was sober. My fuckbuddy at the time had just left. That was one of the reasons I couldn’t have reported the rape: I had been having sex with another man just before the rape, it would have been easy for the rapist to say that the bruises and such were by the fuckbuddy.

    After the nervous breakdown I suffered after the second rape and having been in counseling at the women’s rape shelter for a while, I got a visit from the fuckbuddy. At that point I had heard about things that he had been doing behind my back so I told him it was all over between us and wanted him to leave. He asked if he could spend the night, he was tired and promised he only wanted to sleep. He was drunk, I was sober. You can see where this is going, right? But I didn’t, even after all this.

    Afterwards he seemed to be in even more shock than I was. He cried and asked my forgiveness. He talked about his aunt who worked at the rape shelter (ironically, my counsellor) and that he would never be able to look her in the eye. So, he both admitted what he did and was sorry. He came back few days later and repeated the apology and what he had said about all this.

    I did tell his aunt, of course, and one of our mutual friends and later on my therapist. But I never talk about my third rape although all my friends know about the other two.

    Why?

    Because he was sorry.
    Because I was jaded.
    Because it was over so quickly, not the act itself, but the process of blame ending up where it belonged (with him).
    Because I was already in counseling.
    Because if I would have said one more time to my friends – I was raped again – the world would think that I was mad and blaming every man that so much as looked at me for raping me and the other two rapes were fabrications of my grotesque imagination.

    There might be more reasons (feel free to suggest them) but these are the ones I’ve been able to figure out.

    For those who wonder:
    I do not blame myself for any of this (that is what counseling and therapy have done for me), even if I see a pattern of trusting men that weren’t trustworthy. But I have serious doubt in my judgement to this day and I certainly don’t trust men – not even my friends. No cookies for those who figure out why that is.

  52. 52
    shiloh says:

    Sharon said (first post):

    I have this idea (wildly speculative) that whilst both types of experience would not be good (to put it mildly), I imagine that a stranger-rape would affect me very deeply and I’d have problems travelling alone, especially at night, but if it was a rape by (say) an ex-boyfriend, the experience would affect me less deeply overall, affecting my opinion of my judgement more and leaving my ability to travel comfortably alone intact.

    Most studies on adults who’ve dealt with it show no real difference in recovery time or intensity of impact between stranger rape and acquaintance rape (there are considerable differences with children who deal with sexual trauma – if the adult is an authority, someone they need to trust, it has a far more intense and damaging impact). The studies that did show a difference, it was the women who knew the man who raped them who had the harder time recovering – one study compared them three years after the event, and women who’d dealt with acquaintance rape rated themselves as more conflicted when it came to trust issues, feeling safe, etc.

    I think a lot of women who say they weren’t raped are protecting themselves. I’ve known women who denied the intensity of their experience for years – and when they finally did define it as rape, they were in a “safer place” in terms of their life over all. They’d recently gotten married, they’d worked out issues within their family, whatever – they just felt more secure in general, and so the fact that they’d been raped was somehow less threatening. Sadly, once they did start dealing with it, the emotions were if anything more intense than if they’d faced it at the time – some researchers believe that the longer the woman avoids the issue, the harder it is to work through.

    I have seen it argued that women who “take responsibility” by saying “it wasn’t a rape; it was a mistake she made” actually deal with the rape better. I’m skeptical about that because of the women I’ve known who seemed to have handled the experience very well but fall completely apart some years down the line. I haven’t seen the studies that supposedly support that theory, but if they’re done with women who were raped only a year or two back I would consider the results pretty questionable.

    A woman has to take responsibility for her recovery; she has to accept that, even though this experience was not her choice, she has to face the pain and do all the work to heal and etc. But I don’t agree with the idea that a woman should deny that what happened was a rape in order to recover. That concept hasn’t been suggested here, but it is out there and may have influenced some of the women in David’s class. Many women believe that saying, “It wasn’t rape” will lessen the impact of the event, so they may be more likely to argue that various events aren’t rape when they clearly are.

  53. 53
    Polymath says:

    princess says:

    I have to say that Polymath’s post rubs me the wrong way. I didn’t expect to see a man get away with “worrying that he’ll get falsely accused of rape” bullshit in here. Ugh.

    hmmm…i certainly didn’t want to make anyone feel uncomfortable. and i know that many women roll their eyes at the idea that men worry about being falsely accused of rape. but i hope i conveyed the idea that i myself roll my eyes at the idea, but that some other part of me (like probably almost all men) still has a sense of dread about it.

    i, of course, concede that it’s nothing like the sense of dread that women have about the possibility of rape. i certainly don’t mean to put my fear in that category.

    but i assure you…all men think about this. and if you’re going to have a discussion with one about it (and i think openness about it is important), i think you’ll find me more patient and open to new ways of looking at the problem than most men.

    but a response of another eye-roll and “suck it up and worry about the women, and not the men” (which wasn’t your response, but it’s the response i often sense) will just continue to suppress men’s honest discussion about rape.

    so….i’m just asking…if you really trusted a man, and knew he would never think about hurting a woman, and he was trying to live his life according to feminist ideals, what might you say to him about his concern over false accusations of rape (or “merely” sexual harrassment, even)?

  54. 54
    Richard says:

    Polymath wrote:

    but a response of another eye-roll and “suck it up and worry about the women, and not the men” (which wasn’t your response, but it’s the response i often sense) will just continue to suppress men’s honest discussion about rape.

    so….i’m just asking…if you really trusted a man, and knew he would never think about hurting a woman, and he was trying to live his life according to feminist ideals, what might you say to him about his concern over false accusations of rape (or “merely” sexual harrassment, even)?

    While it seems to me perfectly reasonable to ask a woman this question, I think I hear beneath what you’ve written–and if I am wrong, I apologize–the assumption that the discussion you want to have about men’s fear of false rape accusations is a discussion that needs to take place between men and women. I would like to suggest that this is a discussion that needs to take place first between and among men because the fear of false accusation that you are talking about is really a problem of how men perceive a world in which male heterosexual privilege no longer has the free reign it once did. More to the point, coming to terms with that perception, along with what alternative perceptions might be available to us, is something that men have to work through for ourselves; it is not something that women should have to do for or with us.

    Women’s analysis of male privilege, of course, can be helpful, and if the discussion I am talking about is going to be a feminist one, then it would need to include women’s analysis by definition, but to ask them to do the work of figuring out what we ought to do with our fears–and that is what your question asks women to do–is to ask them to shoulder a responsibility that should be ours.

    As well, having this discussion in a male-only environment–and I guess I should be clear, since I did not say this earlier, that I am making here the very big and risky assumption that the discussion will be carried on honestly and with a pro-feminist agenda–will remove the problem of how to deal with women’s eye-rolling responses. Because in this you are right, that kind of response can have a silencing effect.

    Also, if anyone is interested, I have posted on my blog a personal story about rape that is tangentially related to this discussion but that I do not want to post here because it would shift the focus away from women and rape in a way that would be inappropriate.

  55. 55
    dorktastic says:

    I’m glad that I’m not the only one who was rubbed the wrong way by Polymath’s post(s).
    In the first post (#32), polymath wrote:

    i went next door to borrow a wrench, and the only person there was the 16-year-old girl who lives there. as i walked away with a wrench, i felt the same fear i always feel…what if she claimed i tried to molest or rape her? would version 2 of me believe her?

    And I can’t help but wonder, how does that 16 year old girl feel when you come over to borrow something and she’s the only one there?

    This was followed by this gem:

    i mean, my career (as a teacher) could be ruined by one upset, troubled, deluded 14-year-old kid (girl or boy) who wanted revenge and accused me of even improperly looking at him or her.

    When someone said that this made her uncomfortable, polymath said:

    so….i’m just asking…if you really trusted a man, and knew he would never think about hurting a woman, and he was trying to live his life according to feminist ideals, what might you say to him about his concern over false accusations of rape (or “merely” sexual harrassment, even)?

    There are very few (I don’t even know if there are any) men that I trust so much that I would know that they would never think about hurting a woman, no matter how committed they are to feminist ideals.

  56. 56
    Richard says:

    I want to come to Polymath’s defense here, though in a very qualified way. People are taking him to task for admitting that he fears false rape accusations and, more specifically, accusations from students of sexual impropriety. If all he had done was express these fears as if they were rooted in an objective reality, what he wrote would be more than problematic. However, he did not do that. He acknowledged in comment #32 that “false accusations of rape are rare” and his whole post carried the clear implication that he does not like the part of himself that is so afraid of them. More to the point, in his next post, #48, he said this, pointing explicilty to the conflict he feels within himself:

    and i know that many women roll their eyes at the idea that men worry about being falsely accused of rape. but i hope i conveyed the idea that i myself roll my eyes at the idea, but that some other part of me (like probably almost all men) still has a sense of dread about it.

    It seems to me entirely reasonable for women to say, “This is not our problem” because, as I said in my previous post, it is decidely not and for any man to ask women to make it their problem is for him to avoid taking responsibility for his privileged position as a man in this culture. Nonetheless, I also think it took courage for Polymath to expose himself the way he did and to respond as if he were simply trying to get away with, as Princess of Cybermob put it, “‘worrying that he’ll get falsely accused of rape’ bullshit” is to refuse to hear the ways in which Polymath was being, or at least trying to be, self-critical.

    I will say again that I think the discussion he wants to have is one that should be had first and foremost between and among men. As Dorktastic points out in her post when she asks about the feelings of the 16-year-old from whom Polymath borrowed a hammer, women’s first concern is and should be the feelings and experiences of women. Further, no woman should ever be made, ever, by anyone, to feel obligated to put a “stamp of feminist approval” on any particular man’s stance towards feminist issues, which Polymath’s question (quoted below) was looking for, at least by implication:

    if you really trusted a man, and knew he would never think about hurting a woman, and he was trying to live his life according to feminist ideals, what might you say to him about his concern over false accusations of rape (or “merely” sexual harrassment, even)?

    There was a little bit more that I wanted to say, but I got pulled away from the computer and I have forgotten the point I wanted to make. So I guess I will end simply by saying that I think Polymath deserves credit for being as honest as he was, though I think also that his question would be better directed towards an all-male, pro-feminist discussion group.

  57. 57
    roberta robinson says:

    I am not sure what you mean by feminist pro feminist and stuff, but I think the word brainwashing sounds plausible, considering that society treats woman who are raped like they are the worst thing that walked the planet. i can’t imagine them treating a robbery victim like that. or even a murder victim, with they asked for it.

    in court the defense attorney is only interested in winning, usually, so naturally they will rack her over the coals to make it look like she is a slut who is just mad at the guy and trying to get back at him then they turn to make it look like the guy is a total gentlemen, and why shouldn’t he? society has already taught men that they can force sex and basically it is okay, or at the very least just a minor error, so naturally he feels no sense of guilt or conscious so he looks serene, and thus guiltless..

    I think many time prosecutors have the same notion in their minds such was it really rape? how many woman recanted their rape charge not because they weren’t raped but rather because they were trying to get away from all the harassment, character defamination and finger pointing by everyone involved.

    and the societies sneers. by the way it was rape. anytime you can’t walk away without being killed or harmed in some way it is rape.

    RR

  58. 58
    roberta robinson says:

    forgot to add that woman have been made to believe that when things don’t work out, the family falls apart, the husband leaves, or she is raped it is their fault. men are not usually taught that. if a man loses his job it is because the boss is a jerk or because of discrimmination which may be true or not, but he isn’t going to even enertain the idea he got fired because he was a lousey employee, late all the time, abusing lunch breaks and even stealing company time and property.

    no he isn’t going to take responsiblity for that. and this only translates into other areas of life including treatment of woman, if the relationship fails or if things don’t go the way he wants he blames everyone else instead of himself. I see this everyday on the movies and such and in real life situations sometimes. he is not going to entertain the idea the relationship failed because he has a temper and hits her and abuses her and that he has a drinking problem and refuses to do anything about it.

    and this all started in childhood, the message they see in how men and woman are treated differently and how they are expected to act.

    RR

  59. 59
    mythago says:

    I just want to clarify that I don’t go to law school”“Carleton College is an undergraduate institution within which I am a Sophomore. I just happened to be taking a Philosophy class entitled “Philosophy of Law.”

    Thanks for clearing that up–I was really scratching my head as to why a group of law students would have difficulty with this.

    I’m sure this has already been pointed out, but there’s a psychological mechanism by which we blame victims in order to distance ourselves: SHE was raped because she did x, y and z; I don’t do any of those things, so I don’t have to identify with her and worry about rape. There may be something similar going on here–especially if some of the women in your class have been in similar situations. (“If I admit that it’s rape, I’d have to admit that my boyfriend raped me”–that kind of thing.)

  60. 60
    tigtog says:

    Virtually no one has told me why the MEN in the class thought the way they did.

    I think its largely a socialisation thing – boys are taught about coercion in the playground and are very clear on how having your marbles taken by the bully because of threats of harm is still theft. And that if your dad keeps order with an iron fist boys are expected to not take it anymore once they’re big enough to fight back, but they don’t blame themselves for caving when dad was still the stronger one. “He forced me” is something they understand.

    Girls on the other hand are often socialised to tiptoe around a father with a temper, and that doing all sorts of trivially unreasonable things in the home to comply with dad’s demands is the way that the world works, and they see so much of this in their own and other families that “giving in” to the everyday demands of a father/brother/boyfriend is seen not as being forced to do things they don’t want to do but rather just as “keeping the peace”. Women often simply do not see obedience/compliance as something that is a response to force – after all, it is meant to be a woman’s highest religious duty.

    So, when they hear that this girl had sex in order to trick the guy into not killing her, they view that as an extension of their own life experience where the women are always “giving in” to keep the peace, and are uncomfortable viewing that transaction as “force” because its too close to acknowledging how their mothers and themselves are persuaded by the background threat of force to compromise, comply and obey every day.

    Even for the women who come from the bulk of households where dad doesn’t have a temper that has to be tiptoed around, they still see this model around them in the families of their female peers and the families they see on television. It can be hard to view the fathers of their friends and relatives as self-entitled bullies when there aren’t actual bruises, even when those families obviously defer in a fearful manner.

    The men, raised with a strong understanding of how “giving in” to someone stronger and angrier in no way implies denying that coercion is taking place, are free to acknowledge that coerced sex is rape.

    The women, raised with the premise that “giving in” to someone stronger and angrier is “being persuaded” rather than coerced, find it more difficult to see “giving in” to unwanted sex as rape.

  61. 61
    Magis says:

    I don’t think Polymath is being trollish. But that kind of thing does tend to derail the discussion. I’m sure false accusations of rape occur, but nonetheless, fear of them is primarily an irrational fear. Really now, what are the odds that the 16-year old girl he borrowed the tool from is going to charge him with rape?

  62. 62
    dorktastic says:

    Looking back, I do think I was being a little unfair to polymath. I think that Richard’s comment about the appropriate context for a discussion of men’s fear of being falsely accused is a good one.

  63. 63
    Tuomas says:

    I wonder whether I’m considered feminist-friendly enough to comment on this. I hope so.

    Not to pile upon Polymath overly, but the thing that bugged me about what he has written here so far was something that looks a bit like a double standard: Basically Polymath expects women to trust he is a committed feminist man who would never harm a woman by rape, yet he himself does not trust women (from age 14 and up) to not falsely accuse him of rape.

    (not about Polymath specifically anymore)
    This is a problem in progressive/pro-feminist/feminist men (me included): To caricaturize slightly: “Men do awful things to women, but not me, I’m such a committed saintly man. This is true because I say so”. This not only is wrong and arrogant, it also is a big reason while feminist ideals are not catching with men in general, and also a reason why many feminist women do get angry with feminist guys.

    In general, trust, like respect (excluding basic respect of human rights of others) is a commodity we are not entitled to, but rather it is something we must earn. It is rather privileged to just demand trust and to preach to women who do not trust a guy (this is an aspect of rape culture, the damned-if-you-do-damned-if-you-don’t of: “If you trust men it’s your fault if you are raped, if you don’t trust men you are a stuck-up mean bitch”). It would be better if we men just accepted that some women get bad vibes from us and trust their instincts, thus being suspicious. And this isn’t really gender-specific and applicable to other situations.

    FTR, I’ve never really worried about being falsely accused of rape. I’m not saying this in a holier-than-thou manner, I guess I’m just a carefree fellow in that way. (Not a very coherent post, but the brain doesn’t like the hangover.)

  64. 64
    humbition says:

    I think this attitude comes from a sense that men who are confident in their own integrity are being asked to question this — as if women who are concerned about men being possible rapists are essentializing the particular feminist man and questioning his own self-knowledge. This is not really logically entailed at all by women’s lack of trust. As I see it, the women are caught in a kind of prisoner’s dilemma, because there is no foolproof way (there is gut intuition perhaps, but this is not failsafe) to detect men who will harm them. They can be strangers or acquaintances, can mimic decent or even feminist men, etc. It should not be personal. One can do the thought experiment: if there is man X and man anti-X, and one is decent and the other is a rapist, and there is no foolproof way of telling from the outside, how should one respond?

    I don’t see the need to bring privilege or demand into this, everyone wants to be trusted, and worries about this kind of lack of trust may have more to do with an anxious temperament than with assumptions of privilege. Also there is sometimes a feeling that if one got absolution from a bunch of women… but actually this does not help the situation at all, because it is structural and not really personal. Or should not be.

  65. 65
    Tuomas says:

    Hmm. Humbition, you make good points. The how can women know -dilemma is just what I was trying to get at. And I suspect you are also right about the anxiety.

  66. 66
    Q Grrl says:

    I think what bothered me about Polymath’s dilemna is the underlying myth that women are mysterious, secretive, can’t be known, can’t be read etc. etc. How will *he* know if she will accuse him of something? How will he be able to read her after she is done reading him… or does Polymath just think that random accusations float through space? Chance are that Polymath has *never* worried that a man will accuse him of violating boundaries. But because women can be viewed as the mysterious and unknowable, men, like Polymath, can claim and justify a fear of false accusation (and then expect women to address this fear and fix it). A man who will not harm women because they are women (ie. rape), is not a man who will fear false accusations. A man who is secure in his sexuality and non-objectification of women is not going to fear a teenage girl — much less see her as sexual, which is part of Polymath’s underlying fear.

  67. 67
    Polymath says:

    hmmm…i certainly didn’t think i’d touch off so much discussion, but i did, so let me clarify some things:

    1. women’s fear of rape is statistically pretty well-justified.
    2. men’s fear (including mine) of false rape accusations are not well-justified. i pride myself on being rational, and i realize this fear is irrational.
    3. i don’t distrust the 14-year-old girls i teach.
    4. i don’t expect women to trust that i won’t harm them just because i say i won’t. (although i don’t believe i’ve harmed anyone here (annoyed maybe, but not harmed), so i don’t think that trying to initiate a discussion based on trust is out of line.)
    5. i am not looking for anyone’s stamp of approval; i know i would never hurt anyone intentionally, and i live my life that way, and i’m confident that people who know me (men and women) see me as ally, not an antagonist. as such, i can accept many of the criticisms against my posts here as reasonable, even if i don’t agree with them.
    6. i’m not looking to troll here.
    7. thanks to robert for both the defense and for the suggestion that this ought to be taken up in a feminist-men-only discussion. point taken.
    8. i truly understand why feminist women might roll their eyes at any discussion of men’s fears of false rape accusations, for the reasons (among others) that robert described, but
    9. while that eye-rolling may not deter me from feminist ideals, i have no doubt that it does deter many men, so therefore
    10. i still think there is room for rational discussion of men’s fears of losing the power they have taken for granted for so long.

    in short, whether you like my fear or not, i think that the “your party’s over, bucko, you have to deal with strong women now” vibe is both necessary for compelling real change and (paradoxically) harmful to the cause of bringing marginally sexist men to the cause. so, i’m not criticizing it. but i don’t think that attitude is necessary with many of the men posting here (it’s not necessary with me, i think).

    but please remember that societal conditioning is strong–it’s why women have such a hard time making real progress towards equal rights/conditions. it’s also why my irrational fear is so hard to shake.

    [ducking and covering head in anticipation of a few more rotten tomatos]

    p.s. thanks amp for not removing my posts…i still consider myself feminist-friendly, and i’m glad you don’t disagree to the extent that you feel the need to remove them.

  68. 68
    mythago says:

    i still think there is room for rational discussion of men’s fears of losing the power they have taken for granted for so long

    Sure. But bringing it into this thread smacks of “lookame!” derailment.

  69. 69
    Polymath says:

    i don’t know, mythago…the original post was about a) to what extent we might or might not believe women’s claims about rape and b) why men and women differ on whether particular incidents count as rape.

    i think it’s relevant because

    a) the likely correct percentage of times we ought to believe women who say they were raped is so high that it plays into the hands of men who use the false rape accusation to claim that we ought not believe them that often and

    b) i think that one of the reasons so many men in that case study labeled the incident a rape is because many well-intentioned men (i think) feel the need to let it be known that they can recognize rape so it will be less likely that some incident in their lives might (correctly or not) be labeled as rape.

    i used my personal thoughts and situations as an example, but i think the issue is relevant to this thread.

  70. 70
    Mickle says:

    On another thread on (I think) another site, a female poster was talking about her rape and saying that she rejects the label of victim. She said that the choices she made were stupid and that focusing on only the actions of the perpetrator wasn’t helping young women who may make the same mistakes. (I’m a little hazy on how exactly she worded it and on if she even called it rape). What struck me about her argument (and why I mention it now) was that it seemed as though she couldn’t imagine being a victim that had also made bad choices.

    I don’t meant to start a discussion on how we always blame rape victims. I personally think victim blaming is a vastly larger problem than women not being cautious enough. I just wanted to point out that it seems that many women may not recognize certain types of rape as a crime simply because we set up a false dichotomy that either one is a person who made choices or a victim – one can’t be both. As Lu, Happy, and others have pointed out this may be what the woman who was kidnapped was doing. Since we’ve set up this false dichotomy that she must be either in control or have no impact on the situation – she felt she needed to choose “having some control” over “not being in control.” Claiming rape didn’t fit with her view of herself and her actions.

    We don’t set this up as much for other crimes. I can leave my cds in plain view in the front seat of my car and when it get’s broken into the sympthay comes as fast and as quickly as the reminders to put valuebles out of sight. I can be mugged and no one will question that I was robbed – no matter what else I did. I can even manage to be at fault in a car accident and friends will sympathise. In everything else in life – it’s not only ok to make mistakes, it’s possible to make mistakes and still be a victim.

    I think also that Richard and others have an interesting point regarding the views of the men in the class. Their legal response doesn’t mean that they don’t seperate out women into the “bad” and “good” catagories that society at large uses to excuse rape. Such actions by a victim are often seen as either capituating or being manipulative – not courageous or strategic. In that sense, it’s possible for men to empathise with the perpetrator – in the sense that they “understand” what it’s like to be “used” by women and consequently feel less sympathy for the victim – but still adhere to the letter of the law by shifting the dichotomy to a moral, rather than legal, question.

  71. 71
    Richard says:

    Polymath–

    Just for the record, my name is Richard, not Robert, though maybe I should change it. For some reason, people have been calling me Robert all my life. :)

  72. 72
    Tuomas says:

    i don’t distrust the 14-year-old girls i teach.

    Perhaps I misread you, Polymath:

    i mean, my career (as a teacher) could be ruined by one upset, troubled, deluded 14-year-old kid (girl or boy) who wanted revenge and accused me of even improperly looking at him or her.

    I read this as a certain level of distrust and fear. I apologize if this wasn’t your intention, perhaps you only illustrated a point. Or perhaps you mean that you only fear hypothetical 14 year old false accuser girls.

    (No offense in all this, I’m just blunt)

  73. 73
    Tuomas says:

    Or hypothetical false accuser boys.

    This discussion would be better handled among men (thus, I agree with Richard.) Anyway, thanks for honesty, Polymath.

  74. 74
    Diane says:

    As a psychotherapist, I hear amazing minimization every day, not just about coersive sex, but many matters.

    Just a few days ago, a woman told me her husband penetrated her best friend while she was drunk and sleeping on the floor. She was amazed when I used the word “rape” in my next question about the event.

    The corker was a woman who, in an initial interview, said she had never been sexually abused. When I couldn’t match the number of children she had to the number of husbands/partners she’d had, she said “Oh, that other one was by my father–I was 14.”

    Often, women claim they were not raped because they do not want to “betray” a family member, co-worker, or friend of the family. Also, early on, when they are 13, 14, and 15, they are told by their family members that the rapes they experienced were not rapes. Family members frequently blame the victim, or they simply don’t want to get involved in a legal experience. I think that, as a result, these girls enter womanhoood with rape re-defined for them.

  75. 75
    Hershele Ostropoler says:

    Caterpillar way up at 28 hints at what I think is an important distinction among bad sex, wrong sex, and rape.

    I think pretty much everyone can separate the first from the other two. Misogynists like to claim that women call buyer’s remorse “rape” all the time, but I don’t buy it.

    “Wrong sex” is what one might call stuff that should be rape, but isn’t. A lot of wrong sexual encounters would inevitably boil down to he-said-she-said. A lot of things that used to be wrong sex have been criminalized: sex with someone who’s extremely drunk, for example. A lot of stuff falls on the line between seduction and wrong sex.

    Or this: a) I ask my girlfriend for sex (that’s in inexact way of putting it; I can’t be the only person in a long-term relationship who rarely makes this request verbally) and while she’s not interested specifically, it doesn’t cost her anything and makes me happy, so she grants bare consent*. Or b) she worries I’ll get angry if she says no. Or c) she worries, based on the general tenor of my personality, that I’ll get angry if she declines. Or d) she fears, based on past experience with me, that I’ll get angry if she says no. Or she fears I’ll get abusive if she says no, e) in general or f) based on the general tenor of my personality or g) based on past experience with me.

    (g) is probably rape, and (f) might be too. The rest I don’t think are. Or should be, though I’m open to argument. But I wouldn’t hesitate to classify, at least, (d) and probably (c) as wrong sex.

    What about if I don’t ask, but simply say “we’re going to have sex now” h) when she’s really into it or i) when she’s not thinking about sex at all or j) when she’s not in the mood or k) when she’s mad at me?

    What if it’s not my girlfriend but (a’-k’) someone I’m dating; that is, we’re not at the boyfriend-girlfriend stage yet?

    Most of these 11 situations are wrong if not illegal. I don’t know if it’s practical or useful to outlaw many of them.

    As for the Polymath discussion: I have a non-trivial sex life, and I’m not afraid of rape accusations. I could just be naive, I suppose.

    *All hypothetical, except occasionally (h)

  76. 76
    Polymath says:

    ummm, sorry richard, about the name thing.

    and about the seemingly contradictory statements, i agree they seem contradictory. the kids at my school are quite high-functioning and well-adjusted, for the most part, and so when by the time i get to know them, i do trust them. so you’re right that my irrational fear is of the hypothetical kid (girl or boy) that claims i flirted or touched too much (i have to keep it to handshakes, high-5′s, and taps on the shoulder, pretty much…female teachers can get away with hugs) or made a sexually suggestive comment.

    but what bothers me in the context of this post is the very fact that i’m not “supposed” to acknowledge this fear. i’m not supposed to because it makes me look like either a creep for even thinking about the possibility that an underage girl might possess some sexuality, or like i would not really believe a woman who claimed to be a rape victim. that’s why i think those men were so vociferous about labeling the incident as a rape.

    i doubt i’m the only man with this fear, and i suspect that leaving this fear in eye-rolling territory is overall a detriment to the movement to prevent rape. maybe that’s the best way to summarize what i’ve been trying to say in my posts on this thread, so i’ll leave it at that.

  77. 77
    Richard says:

    Hershele Ostropoler’s comment reminds me of an experience I had with a woman when I lived in Korea almost 20 years ago–I was an English teacher in Seoul. I wrote an essay about it that was published in Salon that people in this discussion might find interesting.

    And, by the way, Hershele, it’s nice to know that Jewish folklore sometimes comes to life–my son loves the story about you and the Chanuka goblins. ;)

  78. 78
    Mickle says:

    polymath – I don’t think it’s that you aren’t supposed to acknowledge it – just that when the actual topic is rape, and not your own personal issues, it needs to be considered in context.

    I distinctly remember my brother complaining once when trying to find an apartment that it was much harder for him as a guy because so few women were willing to live with guys they didn’t already know, but guys were willing to rent rooms out to women they didn’t know.

    I think that had to be one of the most arrogant statements to ever come out of his mouth (and my brother’s ego is not small).

    Yeah, it sucked for him that so many of the ads excluded men. However, when the reason is because not only are women told they are risking rape by living with men, but that this also means they are somehow at fault if they are gender blind and it backfires, the real problem is not that he had a harder time finding an apartment to share. The real problem is that we value women so little and how such a low opinion of men – not that certain individuals were willing to discriminate in order to keep themselves safe.

    (Besides, it’s not as if many women reading the same ads were going to jump at renting a room from a strange man just because he were willing to rent it out to her – so in the end, the number of realistic choices available to both genders were just the same.)

    It sucks that you fear being accused of rape when you go to borrow something from your young female neighbor. But the real problem isn’t that we don’t address these fears – it’s that we don’t address the dynamic that creates them: The social pressures that tells her that men are not be trusted – and the ones that tell you that men are not to be trusted (even if you know that you can be). This is part of what convinces you (for that moment) that accusations of rape or molestation are easy to believe (even when they rarely are in practice). It’s not just the “othering” of women – although I think that plays a big part – but the utter belief that it’s at least normal enough for men to want to do this that people will not express shock that it was done by such a normal person – even if society may express shock at who in particular did it or outrage that it was done (in their neighborhood).

    Voicing such fears is important – but it can easily become counter-productive if the focus is on keeping a tally of what hurts whom – rather than how it’s all connected and what the root causes are.

    Which I think is why so many were saying that what you were bringing up belongs in a male pro-feminist forum. You may not be crossing over fully over into the broken record of “but what about me!” – but you seem to be more in “share” mode than “share and analysis” mode.

  79. 79
    Shell says:

    I’m sure this has already been pointed out, but there’s a psychological mechanism by which we blame victims in order to distance ourselves: SHE was raped because she did x, y and z; I don’t do any of those things, so I don’t have to identify with her and worry about rape.

    An analogy, which applies to men: This kind of distancing happens in everyone who rides a motorcycle. The first thing your friends will discuss is what you should have done to avoid an accident. Completely egregious actions by car drivers will be construed as actions you SHOULD have anticipated and arranged to avoid. There will be extensive conversations about what you should do to protect yourself and what you should have done in this case.

    This is because riding a m0torcycle IS an inherently risky choice, and people can only rationalize their continued risky riding if they can say “I would have done such&such and avoided the accident my pal had.” It is a necessary part of continuing to view the risks as acceptable and it marches exactly (IMO) with some women’s view of rape.

    How it is that an *inherently dangerous* activity like riding a motorcycle in traffic can analogize with being female in our society is another matter. It’s a little to close for me.

    I also just want to say that #55 is dead nuts on.

  80. 80
    Richard says:

    Mickle wrote:

    It sucks that you fear being accused of rape when you go to borrow something from your young female neighbor. But the real problem isn’t that we don’t address these fears – it’s that we don’t address the dynamic that creates them: The social pressures that tells her that men are not be trusted – and the ones that tell you that men are not to be trusted (even if you know that you can be).

    This is SUCH an important point! An exercise I have used with young men at the college where I teach:

    1. I ask them to imagine that they are at a bar with some friends and a woman they know, a friend’s sister, a neighbor, classmate, someone other than a female relative (because I want to avoid here getting into, say, the sexual protectiveness a brother might feel for a sister) comes up to them and tells them she’s met this guy and she needs some advice.

    2. She points to the bar at a man who looks to be about her age, is nicely dressed, and appears well-mannered. In other words, there is nothing about the way he looks that sets off any red flags. She says that they have been having the most amazing conversation; they have a lot of interests in common; he seems really sensitive; he’s funny and charming; not overly flirtatious, but he has let her know that he’s interested in her.

    3. So here’s the question: He has asked her to take a walk around the corner to his apartment for a drink so they can continue their conversation in peace. She wants to go with him because she is definitely attracted to him, but she’s not sure if she should. She’s asking your advice, I tell the men. How many of you would tell her to go for it?

    4. I have done this exercise three or four times so far, in both and male-only groups, and not a single man has raised his hand. When I ask them why, someone inevitably says the obvious, i.e., that she doesn’t know him; just because he looks/sounds okay doesn’t mean he is okay; he could have asked her to go to a diner or someplace quieter than the bar; and so on.

    5. So, I tell them, you agree, then, that there is a problem out there with men, with us, that women have good reason not to trust us right off the bat. And since I assume, I continue–and of course I am giving here the abbreviated version of this–that no one in this room has ever committed rape–which I am aware may not be factually accurate, but is necessary rhetorically–you agree that this problem is not yours personally, that it is a social and cultural problem in terms of what we understand male heterosexuality to be….and I am sure that people in this discussion can fill in the rest.

    6. What follows, usually, is a very awkward silence in which the men digest the fact that they too believe on some level that all men are at least potential sexual predators, and they start to talk and some of them have said the most remarkably honest things about themselves, about the ways have and have not behaved sexually and so on. I have no idea if this exercise has resulted in real and lasting transformation, but I do know that them who have participated in those conversations have, at least for a short time, had their consciousnesses, and the consciences, raised.

  81. 81
    Hershele Ostropoler says:

    Richard, that’s really confusing. Your writing is clear, but the situation is a mindfuck.

    On the other hand, had I been raised as a Korean man, I might be better able to navigate that sort of thing.

  82. 82
    Melinda says:

    Shell,

    I find it interesting that you make the anology to riding a motorcycle. I can tell you, as a woman and a rider, that it isn’t other riders that will second guess, question, and tell you what you should or shouldn’t have done. It has been my experience that the people who’ll tell you those things, are those that have never ridden a bike and have no experience with it at all.

    That’s the thing with blaming the victim, no one but the victim has ever been in that particular spot at that particular time. I don’t believe anyone has the right to second guess a victim’s behavior. Then again, that is just my opinion.

  83. 83
    Shell says:

    Melinda:

    Well, what triggered my familiarity with the “I woulda done such & such and it wouldn’t have happened to me” was specifically my MSF (motorcycle safety foundation) course. A guy had been in a wreck and totalled his bike. He took the course because he was second-guessing himself, thinking that there was something he should have done, some way he could have avoided the “elephant charging out of the train car.” We all grilled him pretty well about it, and most of us obviously felt there was *some* way *we* would have avoided that accident.

    I’ve seen blaming the victim of accidents before and since, but only amongst other riders; because, to tell you the truth, I wouldn’t even accept that kind of feedback from non-riders without cusswords and hard feelings, and most of the riders I know feel the same way.

    Even amongst riders, it is the people who have been there, who stopped at a light and saw two spinning cars coming their way and nowhere to go, who are the only ones who really know it ISN’T your fault. The others are still in denial.

    Anyway. Quite a tangent. But the similarities did strike.

    Shell

  84. 84
    Mickle says:

    Shell and Melinda – I think there’s a certain amount of both.

    Men who blame the victim often do so because it means absolving themselves of responsibility and protects their priviliged status.

    Many women blame the victim because it allows them to pretend they have nothing to be afraid of.

    With a decent amount of overlap occurring with regard to women supporting the status quo and men pretending that the women they love (or themselves) are safe.

  85. 85
    Richard says:

    Richard, that’s really confusing. Your writing is clear, but the situation is a mindfuck.

    On the other hand, had I been raised as a Korean man, I might be better able to navigate that sort of thing.

    Thanks, Hershele. Mindfuck is a good term for it, both in terms of when it happened and in terms of trying to make sense of it in cross-cultural and feminist (or pro-feminist) terms.

  86. Pingback: It’s All Connected… » Thinking About Teaching, the Fear of False Rape Accusations and the Erotics of the Classroom

  87. Pingback: Alas, a blog » Blog Archive » The IWF Attack On Rape Statistics

  88. 86
    B says:

    I think post nr 70 said some of what I was thinking on the original question.

    It is difficult for women to see the difference between consensual and non-consensual sex because so many women have sex while not enjoying it.

    Many women are not used to orgasms during intercourse, their first few sexual experiences were painful and every now and then they have sex solely to please the man in their life.

    For these women the difference between sexual experiences does not lie on wanting versus not wanting, but on agreeing versus not agreeing.

    Thus the fuzzy boundaries.

  89. Pingback: Bitch | Lab » Who are the women?

  90. Pingback: What’s her point? | Feminist Critics

  91. Pingback: Richard Jeffrey Newman - Repost: A Personal Story About Rape

  92. 87
    Jessa says:

    I’d like to thank you for this article and those of you who understand how serious this is. If you’ve ever watched a show called True Blood you’d know that there is a character named Tara who is kidnapped, restrained, terrorized, and threatened by her abductor. He hints that he wants to have sex with her and she uses this to get him to untie so that she can escape. A few episodes later she goes to rape counseling.

    Lots of people are up in arms about this and don’t understand how she was raped. The audience is more than aware that her kidnapper is psychotic but feel that it was a cop out. Were we all watching the same show? They state the case that she wanted it and it was consensual. He had made it clear in many instances that he did not take rejection well as far as killing past “lovers” who had.

    It’s been over 4 years since this article has been written and my heart bleeds for those in this situation that are told that it is not rape. It scares me to know that not much has been learned with all information and evidence given as to otherwise. I do not find the show misogynistic. It is dark comedy/satire and does it’s job well. My husband and I as well as our friends have had many eye opening debates because of it. It scares me though that most see nothing wrong.

  93. 88
    K says:

    So I have been searching the web looking for articles on rape. In the last paragraph you talked about college students believing they were raped and not using scenarios about how it was their boyfriend or resisting. This part I struggle with, mainly because this is exactly what happened to me. I didn’t hit back, I just resisted a little and told him no repeatedly. I guess I cannot consider my own situation as rape because the world and dictionaries do not clearly define what rape is. I wish I would have went to someone when it happened. It was 9 year ago, but I have just started to deal with it this year because I was in denial. How do you redefine rape in a world that views it only as violent sexual assaults? I wish someone could clearly define it and let me say that it was, if it was. I hate the world’s acceptance of the word as anything than what it really is.

    Thank you for the post,
    K

  94. 89
    Stefan says:

    I didn’t hit back, I just resisted a little and told him no repeatedly. I guess I cannot consider my own situation as rape because the world and dictionaries do not clearly define what rape is

    I was about to tell you “what kind of dictionary do you have that doesn’t define this as rape ?!”.And then I looked into my dictionary and saw “rape” defined as “constraining a woman, by physical force, to a sexual relationship” :( It annoys the hell out of me, it was supposed to be “having sex with someone against their will”.Fortunately the law defines it in a more progressist way, it disregards the sex of the victim and says “constraining, or taking advantage of their impossibility to defend themselves, or of their impossibility to express their will”.

  95. 90
    Toni says:

    When the piece of shit, so-called human being I was dating raped me, I didn’t call it rape until two days later. Even though, it took me two days to name what happened to me, my body knew immediately and even during the rape. During, I disassociated from my body so much it was as if I was floating above watching the horrible events unfold. When I managed to get out and make it home, I took a shower. This wasn’t conscious on my part. I just wanted to wash that thing off of and out of me. I disassociated in the shower and didn’t realize I had done so to I realized I was crawled up in fetal position, violently shaking. The shower water had long gone cold. By pure instinct, I just “happened” to put my clothes into plastic bags as if they were evidence. Then I crawled into bed and violently shook for most of the night. I don’t know if I slept. I was pretty much disassociated the next day and most of the next afternoon. I was headed to the beach to play volleyball with friends when my body started shaking so badly, I couldn’t drive. I then started screaming in terror and weeping. I leaned out the window and vomited. I managed to pull over and pulled out my phone. I punched in “rape” into my GPS and got the local rape treatment center. I was still trying to minimize it. When they told me they were closed, I immediately cut them off and said I’d just come in Monday morning. Thank goodness the woman, quickly told me she was on call and would meet me in the emergency room with a nurse within twenty minutes. These women along with the woman who ended up being my counselor for almost two years now saved my life literally. They acknowledge the pain, the grief and the rage and when I would go into minimizing mode which is typical of a survivor of any trauma (it’s hard to acknowledge that another so called human being would commit such vial acts on your personhood) my counselor would reaffirm everything that happened to me and the right I had to the rage.

  96. Pingback: tumblr backups

  97. Pingback: tumblr backups