Cognition & Reality

Friday, 11 March 2011

Alcohol And Unwanted Sexual Advances: Addendum

Filed under: Date Rape — drtone @ 12:04 pm


In my post of yesterday, a discussion of the above article, I forgot to indicate something the article said that struck me as encapsulating its idiocy. Introducing its topic, the article identifies “…men who believe that women who drink or engage in petting are signaling a desire for sex.” This clause puts together two different types of behavior as if they belong in the same class when they do not. A man who observes that a woman is drinking and believes that she is interested in sex is operating from a widespread stereotype about the meaning of a particular social behavior. OTOH, the signals being issued by a woman who responds positively to being fondled, fallible though they may be, are precisely the signals a woman sends when she does desire sex. By confounding a social stereotype with a type of sexual behavior, the authors are signaling their own confusion about this issue.

The concept of sexual behavior presented in the article is stunning in its distance from reality. The authors’ idea about sexual reactions does not appear to include the possibility that what is happening in a sexual encounter is that both parties, the woman included, are enjoying each other and encouraging each other in escalating the degree of intimacy they experience together. It is fair to say that, in the real world, that is the default in most encounters that lead to sexual intercourse. In the alternative world the article depicts, on the contrary, a woman doesn’t experience sexual arousal, but allows a sexually excited man access to her body in a social ritual that does not engage her own physiological responses.

This conception of sex as the submission of women to men’s grosser desires descends directly from a Victorian morality in which women are pure, fragile vessels, fundamentally passive and always in danger of being led astray by men who will “take advantage” of them. It is clearly at odds with other widely held ideas about women, as independent free agents with the same rights and responsibilities as men, a vision that includes women as sexual creatures with sexual appetites. Clearly, our society’s rules and restrictions have not caught up with the enormous changes in the status of women that has occurred in the last couple of generations.

The “date rape” construct, with its deep hypocrisy and “date rape drugs,” is an effort to square this circle. Women can go to bars, drink, flirt, engage in various forms of foreplay in a manner that is entirely unobstructed. These behaviors bring with them certain risks for both men and women. When shit happens, however, and an evening of “harmless” drinking becomes one of disturbing debauchery, a woman’s rights remain, but her responsibilities go out the window. The absurd “science” in the article in question, encrusted with conflicting values and value judgments, is symptomatic of a society in the throes of solving some problems it has inadvertently created in pursuing a laudable and difficult project, the full emancipation of women.


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