Cognition & Reality

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Trivializing Rape

Filed under: Date Rape — drtone @ 12:58 pm

I admit to some fear that some reader might perceive my recent blog entries, as trivializing rape, because I was questioning the criteria used in identifying a “date rape.” When I thought about it further, however, I realized that it’s organizations like RAINN and the prevailing fixation on “date rape” that trivialize rape. There may be many situations in which a woman, at the time or later, feels sexually abused that do not measure up as a felonious assault for which the alleged perpetrator may be sent to prison for years. There is a big difference between a situation in which a woman feels disrespected, or coerced, or even violated and one in which she was actually forced into sex.

As I said in a previous post, widely disseminated “rape statistics” lump together, in counting all rapes, the “stranger rapes” that account for most police reports of rape and the purportedly much larger number of “acquaintance rapes,” almost all of which go unreported. The latter, according to the prevailing view, often result from miscommunication between a man and woman, creating situations in which a woman is coerced into sex. The typical scenario They go unreported for a lot of reasons, one of the most important of which is that the prospective complainant knows, because consent is not all-or-nothing, what occurred might not be perceived as rape by a neutral authority, such as the police.

Is it “rape” when two people are in bed about to have sex and the man refuses to put on a condom and, against the woman’s wishes, fucks her, anyway? It is certainly disrespectful and may involve some violence, but it strikes me as ridiculous to place it in the same category as an event in which a stranger forces a woman to have sex through threat of serious bodily injury. It is simply not the same thing. To begin with there is a vast difference between a sex act that occurs in the described context, which involved the choice of the woman to get in bed with the guy in question, and one in which a woman is forced into sex by a stranger. Of course, the man in the story ought to have put on the  condom. What he did was immoral and unjust, but it was not illegal, as the cops the woman talked to knew, nor can it be. Whether the guy has a condom is not in the same universe as whether he has knife in his hand.

Is it rape when a woman gets drunk and goes home with a man she doesn’t know well, passes out, and has to find out if she had sex by going to the doctor the next day? My response to such an instance is fury: The implication is that, whatever happened, the woman wasn’t responsible for her behavior because she was “out of it,” the further implication of that being that she was “roofied,” when in fact she chose to get drunk. The chain of poor judgment that led up to the sex act that she doesn’t remember is supposed, somehow, not to count in deciding whether what occurred is rape, and her story then is featured as an account of “date rape.” For all we know, she explicitly consented to the sex without remembering that, either. If what happened to her is “rape,” what do we call an event in which a woman is caught in a deserted alley and brutally fucked while a gun is literally held to her head?

To equate sex that follows an unpleasant wrestling match on a couch, or sex one can’t remember, or sex that was involuntarily unprotected with being jumped in a parking lot by a stranger who may be ready to kill is not only absurd, it is despicable. It must be said that the physical force implied in my use of the term “wrestling match” is actually near the worst end of the “date rape” scenario, because physical force usually does not come into play in alleged acquaintance rapes, as the above examples illustrate. As this scenario from the same web site indicates, however, a date rape can definitely still be rape, a situation in which a woman is clearly forced into sex against her will by someone she chose to accompany. Every unpleasant sexual encounter is not a rape, and to pretend otherwise disrespects the women who have actually been raped.

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