This post is political, but not party political in essence. I have been, over the last few days involved in a discussion around the very emotive and serious issue of rape. I’m well aware this is a satirical political blog, but my treatment of this difficult subject is anything other than satirical. It’s rough going, and some of the views expressed by some in the article might be left unread if you have an experience of sexual assault or caring for someone affected.
A report was issued on Monday that outlined the attitudes people (the survey was a survey of Londoners) have to rape, to rape victims and to what constitutes rape in the first place.
- Close to one in five respondents agreed with the statement,” most claims of rape are probably not true” (18%)
- Men are almost twice as likely to take this viewpoint than women (27% vs. 14%)
- People who are heterosexual are less likely to agree that “most claims of rape are probably not true” (16% vs. 44% of people who are asexual)
But that’s not the worst of it.
- Close to one in five respondents do not know whether in a committed relationship it is rape when a man makes their partner have sex when they don’t want to (18%)
- One in ten do not believe it is rape when a man makes their partner have sex when they don’t want to (10%)
- The older generation are most likely to agree that this situation is in fact rape (76% of 35 to 50 year olds vs. 68% of 18 to 24 year olds)
For me, all these things are completely crazy. I hope it’s the same for you as well; it should be clear that no means no, and that consent, and its withdrawal, could come at any time during the act.
Now, much has been made of the frankly bizarre attitudes of women to the issue; apparently more than half of women consider that there are some circumstances in which a woman can be responsible for her own rape. Let’s break down those figures from the survey just to identify how utterly, terribly mind-boggling they are.
There are many situations in which some people feel that a person should take responsibility for being raped. Over half (56%) of those surveyed think that there are some circumstances where a person should accept responsibility. Of those people the circumstances are:
- Performing another sexual act on them (73%)
- Getting into bed with a person (66%)
- Drinking to excess / blackout (64%)
- Going back to theirs for a drink (29%)
- Dressing provocatively (28%)
- Dancing in a sexy way with a man at a night club or bar (22%)
- Acting flirtatiously (21%)
- Kissing them (14%)
- Accepting a drink and engaging in a conversation at a bar (13%)
Let’s unpick that; more than one in five people think that a woman could be responsible for her own rape for dancing in a sexy way with a man. More than two thirds thought that simply getting into bed with a man could make her responsible for her own rape.
My first observation was that people interviewed must have been randomly selected from among reformed churches, orthodox synagogues and people wearing burkhas. But apparently not; apparently the people surveyed were pretty diverse; a sample of 1061 in London. What on earth was going on?
It seems that people must have a pretty strange view of what consent is, and the value of consent as a concept. It could be that the language being used, or the concept of rape itself, is something complex or misunderstood. So let’s unpick that as well.
To me, a human being’s right to the control of his or her body is essentially inviolable while he or she is capable of taking decisions about such control. In addition, it is clear to me that, where sex is concerned, a person has an morally inviolable right to decide, on criteria they determine themselves and which is unchallengeable, whether or not to have sex with someone who offers to have sex with them. Further, a person may only have sex with someone who agrees, expressly, to have sex with that person.
Since rape is an activity perpetrated by one (or more) person on others, against their consent, it follows that the person taking the decision to perpetrate the rape is always, always, always to blame. It is never the raped person’s responsibility, and not taking every even unreasonable precaution against rape is not a justification for it. If you think a woman is responsible for her own rape because she got drunk and danced in a sexy way, ask yourself if you think the World Trade Centre was responsible for 9/11 because it’s tall and didn’t have barrage balloons.
I thought we were all on the same page on this stuff? I thought all of this was self-evident, and I thought most people understood that, unless sex is consensual it’s not really sex, and can certainly be considered rape.
When I got over bemusement and exasperation, a facebook conversation I had made me actively angry. I really hope you’ll forgive me my indulgence of reporting that conversation here; there were two particularly unpleasant and unreasonable posters whose views were so ridiculous it made my blood boil.
One man, who shall remain nameless since he isn’t a person in public life, said:
Let me get this clear in my confused little mind: A woman is allowed to say ‘No’ after enthusiastically saying ‘Yes’ ????????
Of course she is. At the point where she withdraws her consent, if you don’t comply you’re assaulting her. Is that not obvious? Why would that principle change?
So if a naked woman climbs into your bed you simply assume that she is tired and just wants to sleep or read a good book? I suppose that would be quite logical if you were gay.
So here we go. Straight men have a right to assume that a woman definitely wants sex if she gets into your bed, and consent can be assumed from that. I agree that in many cases this could be an indiction, but it’s certainly not clear consent. Alos, one would have to be gay to have a naked woman in his bed and not assume he has carte blanche to have sex with her.
His earlier post is the one which betrays his attitude to the issue of consent and withdrawn consent. He seems to be suggesting that if a woman at some stage ha been enthusiastically in favour of having sex, she must then go through with it. It does not seem to be compatible with the idea of withdrawing consent. Perhaps I’m misinterpreting. Tell me if you think I am.
Later in the discussion, a woman posted this, which I thought was quite reasonable:
The other thing is that even if a woman consents to sex, she still has the right to refuse certain types of sex e.g., if she consents to vaginal penetration, it doesn’t automatically give the man a right to anal sex. If he persists after she’s said no, then it’s still rape, no matter what else she’s let him do.
This would be exactly oppositional to the position taken by 73% in the survey, but I consider it self-evidently true. One chap who didn’t happens to be a UKIP PPC:
I hope the next man you sleep with beats you by three seconds and withdraws. So you’ve had yours, not in a multiple type of mood say to man.” Can you get out now?”
Now, I don’t have a clue what his appalling abuse of the English language indicates. Incomprehensible, except the hope that the next man who sleeps with the woman who thinks that consent isn’t needed after he’s started (the Magnus Magnusson defence? “I’ve started so I’ll finish”?) reaches orgasm before she manages to express her withdrawal of consent. Appalling.
He follows up that intellectual tour de force with:
Ben You have just got to be gay. No straight man in the world would think like that. If you are straight, women beware this man is lying to you.
Back to the ‘you have to be gay if you think sex without consent is rape’ argument. And also, by incredible logical deduction, I am a risk to women.
Don’t be an arsehole all your life. I’m entirely straight, but I happen to have perhaps more than my fair share of dealing with women who have been through the trauma of rape.
A reasonable thing to do would be to work on the basis of express consent, that is specifically asking whether she wants to, and only then continuing.
Why would a reasonable man continue doing something his partner didn’t consent to and wasn’t happy with? Absolutely mystifying.
Your attitude condones rape by pretending sex without consent isn’t rape. I’m not arguing that it’s not possible for a woman to send out incorrect signals and lead someone to believe she wants to have sex But when she says ‘no’, it’s an appalling assault if you continue.
Not detecting the error of his ways, he decided to go down the academic route:
If your not gay your a sychophantic git. Women like proper men not suckers. So if you think women will fall into your arms because your so understanding, you are sadly mistaken. It must be terrible for a women to be raped. It must be equally terrible to be accused of rape, when all you did was keep it in after she’d had some guilt trip.
Let’s unpick that. I’m either gay, or, for some reason, a sycophant. (All the spelling errors are uniquely his). In addition, women like ‘proper men’ who presumably don’t take no for an answer. His last line is just entirely reprehensible. He’s defending the offence of rape even after explicit withdrawal of consent, which he considers a ‘guilt trip’. I was in real intellectual agony and developing a quite serious anger on this point.
Is this official UKIP policy? Nothing sycophantic about it, as it happens. The basic rule is that if she says ‘stop’ you stop. If you keep going, you’re committing a rape. Why is that such a tough thing to comprehend?
A woman intervened (same woman from earlier)
Good lord… I can see that women may have to be aware when their behaviour might increase their risk of being offending against… but the right to withdraw consent at any time by male/ female WHATEVER is absolute!! . [TWO MEN ARGUING AGAINST BEN]- you are a disgrace !!!
Our UKIP contributor again responded:
So Claire if you are Judge in Court of Law. What sentence are you going to give the man who carried on a minute after she said no. Life maybe? Everybody should take responsability for their actions. Women as well as men. I’ll accept a womens right to say no right up until penetration. After that you could not say a man is guilty beyond reasonable doubt.
This argument made me a little sick rather than angry. ‘A minute after she said no’? A millisecond is too long in my view. If consent is withdrawn, it is withdrawn with immediate effect and must be respected. This guy is seriously arguing that the guy has some sort of right to continue. He doesn’t get it at all, and he is aggressively arguing his point. His argument then becomes pseudo judicial; since he thinks a conviction would be tough, it’s probably not a crime. Angry yet?
He follows on with another intellectual tour de force:
My previous post has gone awol so I ask Ben do you live with your Mum?
Looks like the work of a genius to me. I don’t like the idea of women’s rights to control their body being violated, and that could only come from living with my mother. As it happens, I live in an apartment in Dublin.
I just received this response:
So you do live with your mum. Blog all you like. Make sure you use your spellchecker. I can see it now, don’t let this UKIP PPC penetrate you cause he might not pull it out the instant you say so. Reading what you’ve wrote I know why this country is in the state it’s in. Oh my God! I’ve lost the women who start to make love to a man and then change their minds vote. I wish you well. Thanks for the publicity.
I am seriously considering naming the man responsible for many of these posts, since he is a candidate for Parliament.