One in five believe there is an excuse for domestic violence, and more…

// 9 March 2009

An opinion poll commissioned by the Home Office should be a powerful wake-up call on attitudes to violence against women.

Some of the headline findings have been reported in the press, but I would really suggest looking at the full poll results, which are much broader. (All the statistics refer to England & Wales.)

Here are some of the disturbing findings:

How acceptable or not do you think it is for a man to hit or slap his wife or girlfriend in response to … ?


That is, between 10-20% think domestic violence is acceptable in some way in response to “nagging”, flirting with other men, dressing in ‘sexy’ clothes in public, and not “treating him with respect”.

Meanwhile, victim blaming attitudes are even worse when it comes to women who’ve been sexually assaulted or raped:


These figures appear to actually show the situation is worse than we thought from that pivotal 2005 poll by Amnesty. For example, Amnesty found about 1/3 of people think women who’ve been flirting are responsible if they get raped, whereas the Home Office poll puts the figure at a shocking 43%. About 50% believe that women in prostitution bear some or all of the responsibility if they’re raped.

I couldn’t find this in the poll summary, but it’s been widely reported that there’s little difference between how men and women responded to this survey.

(The results also delve into how people would respond if they suspect someone they know is being abused by their partner, and what they’d do about it.)

The Home Office is launching a major consultation on how to tackle violence against women, and here’s the information on how to contribute.

Comments From You

elena // Posted 9 March 2009 at 1:57 pm

This is really shocking to me. Thanks for posting this.

emma // Posted 9 March 2009 at 4:21 pm

on the bright side though it seems that harman is really trying to improve things for women and after having looked at the consultation i think its a very good start at making this an issue to be addressed. There is also a online complete it and if you are around for the dates of the consultation tour get down there and give your opinion

rita // Posted 9 March 2009 at 4:55 pm

There’s never an excuse for rape or violence. What i worry most about is when i see young girls picking fights with boys and men, and every one seems to ignore it but when it’s the other way round, everyone wants to protect. I’m still young but i would never pick fights with anyone i did not know just incase i got knifed or kicked. And i was realy disturbed by the activist who threw custard over the minister and the attitude with which she walked. I still cannot get over that, i sat and thought to myself, what lesson am i learning from her about abuse? My answer was, when you are female, you can do it and probably get away with it. Am i wrong in thinking that way? I have known women to pour acid and hot water on men and seeing that activist do that, left me terrified to say the least. May be i am being overly sensitive, but it was wrong and a wrong message for young girls. I always say to myself, do not start something you can not handle. Even throwing insults to anyone, who knows what they will do next. I hear people say things like do not hit a woman, just walk away, but if i said the same to a woman, just walk away and not start something with insults, am i wrong? I do not support anyone who hits on a woman but i find it disturbing when women or girls are verbally abusive towards men and it is never acknowledged.

Aimee // Posted 9 March 2009 at 5:23 pm

I am disgusted that over 50 percent of people believe that a woman is partially or fully responsible for being raped if she doesn’t clearly say “no”. That tells me that most people consider a woman to be a man’s personal sex machine by default unless she expressly objects. Horrible. And frightening.

Ruth // Posted 9 March 2009 at 5:23 pm

Unutterably depressing. And I know I *should* be shocked, but…

Emily Essex // Posted 9 March 2009 at 5:47 pm

I can’t actually believe that ANY percentage think that the woman is partially or fully responsible for being raped if she walks out at night alone! No-one should be afraid of going out alone simply because of their gender, let alone blamed for something that’s out of their control. Appalling.

Laurel Dearing // Posted 9 March 2009 at 5:48 pm

wait… the way she chooses to dress herself makes it more acceptable to attack her than when she actually does something to upset him?? (not that is is acceptable in ANY case)

im glad (because its a sad world) that a wide majority wouldnt hold a raped woman responsible based on the mega-control of walking alone and wearing what you want where often its common to hear excuses from but it saddens me a lot that people thing prostitutes deserve it. of course they are at risk to it but it doesnt make them responsible for it. not many women choose to work in this area and even if they did, the person committing has still got to take the responsibility. i can see why some people think that women putting themselves in danger might make it a little bit their responsibility though i obviously disagree, but how can anyone absolve the rapist completely in any of these?

JENNIFER DREW // Posted 9 March 2009 at 6:05 pm

Whilst male violence against women and children is always a violation of women’s and children’s human rights, all too often we read claims ‘but women are equally as violent as men.’ Likewise the media salaciously reports isolated instances of women’s violence against men which leads the reader to assuming violence occurs in equal proportion to both women and men.

There are reasons why some women and girls do commit violence against men and boys but all too often the reasons are ignored. Some women and girls react in self-defence and we need to remember this. However, we must equally remember the numbers of women and girls committing violence against men and boys are miniscule compared to the huge numbers of men and boys committing routine everyday violence against women and girls.

The Crown Prosecution Service produced its first annual findings on male violence against women and overwhelmingly it was males who were charged with various crimes of violence against women and children not women. For example, in 2007-8 94% defendants were male in respect of violent offences against women. 86% of victims were female.

But of course the media has worked very hard and it appears very effectively in promoting the myth women are equally as violent as men. Likewise the media has consistently claimed that women are either partially or totally responsible for causing men to rape them. These are some of the reasons as to why individuals believe women are responsible for a man/men raping them.

It will take more than a consulation to change ingrained misogynistic attitudes because for centuries men as a group have been given the ‘privilege’ (sic) of believing it is their right and entitlement to discipline and control women’s bodies, women’s sexualities and women’s minds.

Perhaps after the closure date of this consultation the government just might accept the evidence and act – rather than publishing consultations which will show once again what needs to be done. Consultations have been undertaken in the past but always governments are incapable of taking the daring and radical step of actually addressing male violence against women. Instead the word ‘male’ is consistently missing because even stating one man is responsible for violence against a woman leads to an outcry of ‘man-hating feminists.’

Unless we address the issue of male violence against women by refusing to hide which gender is responsible we cannot even begin to address the social issue. The numbers of men acquitted of rape is now over 95% and this alone means rape is the easiest crime to commit with the least liklihood of male rapists being convicted. Even if a male rapist is convicted he is likely to receive a miniscule sentence compared to severe sentences for other crimes such as property or fraud.

Women’s lives are expendible whereas property and male on male violence is seen as far more important which in results in more severe sentences than men convicted of raping women and/or murdering them.

Ellie // Posted 9 March 2009 at 7:03 pm

Part of the home office response is a national roadshow thing. The first bus-stop will be in Dorking on Thursday 12th March. Not that I can actually get there due to that pesky job thing i have. And not that I’m actually convinved this will make me hate Labour any less than I do.

james // Posted 9 March 2009 at 7:51 pm

Do you know what Sandra Horley said when she had a go at Jacqui Smith? I’ve not been able to find out and you’re the only people who I thought might know.

Rachel // Posted 9 March 2009 at 8:20 pm

Somebody I know said this to me when we were discussing this research:

“A man and a woman are engaging in consensual sexual activity (for which no explicit “yes” has been said). The woman ceases to feel comfortable with the situation and wants to stop, but feels this would be unfair on her partner, so continues to actively engage in sexual activity despite not wanting to (she doesn’t say “no”). Her partner is unaware she doesn’t want to continue because she doesn’t change her behaviour (perhaps it does change a bit, but he doesn’t really know her, so doesn’t perceive the subtle difference that a longer-term partner might). As such, the couple have sex against her wishes, which constitutes rape. However, he didn’t know the sex was against her wishes. In this situation responsibility for the rape should be shared.”

I know this is rape, and I strongly believe that a woman is NEVER responsible, in full or in part, for her rape. I have a notion of how traumatic this could be for the woman (although I am fortunate to have never been actually raped myself), and intuitively feel that it’s just as bad as every other sort of rape, but I don’t know how to answer the person who says that in this situation blame must be shared for the rape and that therefore the woman is partially to blame. Can anyone more articulate than me suggest an answer?

Anne Onne // Posted 9 March 2009 at 8:29 pm

I’m quite surprised that the largest number of people who thought gendered violence against women acceptable in the first table was for when women dressed skimpily. As in, more people thought that women should be beaten for showing some leg than having an affair. I really hadn’t expected that so many people believe they own their girlfriends/wives to such a degree that showing some skin warrants violence in their eyes. I would have expected that the worse the transgression in their eyes (so, for example, skimpy clothing

Cockney Hitcher // Posted 9 March 2009 at 8:46 pm

That surprised me too, Anne Onne.

Any man who is controlling enough to be angry with his female partner for wearing revealing clothes would SURELY regard her having an affair as the worst thing ever.

But anyway…These results make me very sad and angry.

Lara the Second // Posted 9 March 2009 at 9:11 pm

Rachel, I would say that situation is not rape. “The woman ceases to feel comfortable with the situation and wants to stop, but feels this would be unfair on her partner, so continues to actively engage in sexual activity despite not wanting to (she doesn’t say “no”).” She doesn’t want to stop, she would _like_ to stop but ultimately she wants to carry on because she feels it would be “fair” to her partner, and that’s what she decides to do. She hasn’t actually withdrawn consent, even inside her own head. Whether she wants to carry on because she thinks it’s “fair” or otherwise, she still wants to carry on and does carry on “actively” as you put it.

Obviously feeling like you “have” to have sex because of some kind of feeling of duty, when you don’t actually want to do it, is not nice, but unless you actually decide that you 100% don’t want to do it there’s zero reason to call it rape.

Maybe I’m wrong though…

Anna // Posted 9 March 2009 at 10:31 pm

I dunno – get a clear ‘yes’. It is a hard one, because I can see, and have often been in that position. I think, in a way – unless he’s obviously negligent in getting consent.. not so much it isn’t really rape, but oh god I don’t know. I’ve been in that situation so much, so often! I’m nineteen and have slept with thirteen people (I think, I can’t be bothered to count properly). Only the tenth – my current boyfriend – actually bothered to get active consent. Noone until then had stopped prior to intercourse and asked ‘you sure about this’?

Consequently, pretty much every time I’d had sex I’d not enjoyed it, and most of the time I had actively not wanted to, but people just assumed because we’re in a bed making out or whatever that they can climb on top. Only recently have I had the confidence to say ‘no’… and that’s sad.

I don’t know. If a woman gives active consent then changes her mind and gives no outward indication I don’t think the man can be called a rapist, really. I think the only way to really do anything about that is to try and give our girls and young women the confidence they need to say no.

Ashley // Posted 9 March 2009 at 10:48 pm

Heavens. Both of these are shocking. I’ve heard similar statistics on blaming the victim in rape cases before — so the indication to me for that part is mostly that the status quo remains appalling — but I’d never heard anything like this on domestic abuse.

Now, of course domestic violence is not something society can accept, no matter the justification, but nevertheless, I am completely unable to understand the reasoning behind the numbers for the various justifications here. To me it would seem that, out of the complaints listed in that table, one’s partner having had an affair is the most serious situation and the most likely to be emotionally upsetting. Similarly, one’s partner being dressed in revealing clothes in public seems by far the most frivolous complaint. Yet the latter is given as the most “acceptable cause” for the man to resort to violence; more acceptable than the former by a factor of more than two? Obviously we’re not as far from the burqa mindset as we like to think — men appointing themselves guardians of their female partners’ modesty is apparently seen as right and proper.

Spicy // Posted 10 March 2009 at 12:42 am

Do you know what Sandra Horley said when she had a go at Jacqui Smith?

Yeah – I do (I was there) She ranted about something that wasn’t even part of the consultation saying it was a gimmick and PR and a substitute for real change.

It was clear that she was (a) attempting (successfully) to dominate the media coverage and (b) ingratiate herself with the Tories in the belief they will win the next election (she said as much during her ranting)

I have no problem with people challenging the current Govt for their failures re. VAW but this was a misguided and misinformed attack for no apparent purpose other than as outined above. She was so out of order that other people – including those who you might think were on her side – told her to shut up. Her staff were so embarassed by her behaviour they spent the rest of the day apologising to other VAW charities.

Amy // Posted 10 March 2009 at 7:55 am


On the contrary, when a woman hits a man it’s acknowledged more! People are disgusted. I don’t think the activist would have got the same level of attention had she been male.

People have this impression of men they’re weak little boys. Of course when they get angry it’s always excusable (‘it’s just testosterone, and she was nagging’). It’s not hard to see how these results came about, when men pout and women come running to sympathise. If you look at the facts, 1 in 4 (and more) abuse women.

Besides, asking ‘what about the poor men?’ is woman blaming in its way, and indicative of the survey’s results suggesting this is a woman blaming society. Men get no sympathy from me, because to do so would be to shift the blame onto women who take the brunt of a lot, just because they aren’t the same privileged pouters.

cb // Posted 10 March 2009 at 8:12 am

Thanks for posting. Interesting but terrifying – and indicates how much more work needs to be done in relation to awareness.

Jess McCabe // Posted 10 March 2009 at 2:24 pm

Well, I think it’s a mistake to look for some sort of rational thought process behind the idea that it’s ever OK to be violent and abusive towards your partner.

rita // Posted 10 March 2009 at 2:43 pm

I am not making any excuses for any woman beater, and i understand that my thinking might have come across that way. I have a personal experience of a male relative who was verbally abused by his wife on almost a daily basis and i must say proudly, he never lay his hands on his wife. Though he suffered depression for years and lost his personality. And because of this, i think i have become very sensitive to the thought of women throwing verbal abuse. God knows i would never stand a woman beater. My ex bf only had to say the words, ” i will beat you” and i said to him, if my father never lay hands on me, i would dare you to lay yours on me. I ended it there and then because him saying that was as good as him doing it. But what happened was i withdrew and intentionally never argued with him, knowing what he was capable of until i was safely finished with the relationship. Is that an unreasonable approach? To be honest, i really worry about girls who start arguements with people they hardly know especially on nights out when they have had a few drinks or when they are trying to bully someone else. It’s not an excuse i am making, it is a problem i have witnessed on several occassions and sometimes i put it down to poor moral standards. Do they deserve a beating? No. But should they behave in such an unreasonable bullying manner? No.

Kez // Posted 10 March 2009 at 3:42 pm

“It was clear that she was (a) attempting (successfully) to dominate the media coverage and (b) ingratiate herself with the Tories in the belief they will win the next election (she said as much during her ranting)”

Well, if Sandra Horley believes that a hypothetical new Tory government will do anything about violence against women, I fear she may be in for a disappointment.

Ally // Posted 10 March 2009 at 3:45 pm


“Well, I think it’s a mistake to look for some sort of rational thought process behind the idea that it’s ever OK to be violent and abusive towards your partner.”

Thank you for saying that. I was waiting for someone to do so.


“Men get no sympathy from me, because to do so would be to shift the blame onto women who take the brunt of a lot, just because they aren’t the same privileged pouters.”

I find that comment every bit as depressing as some of the survey findings above.

Do you really feel no sympathy for this man?

What about this one?

Or this one?

Yes, we can argue all day about the relative frequency and severity of violence against women, but anyone who says that they feel no sympathy for victims of violence unless they’re the ‘right kind’ is frankly sick.

Anne Onne // Posted 10 March 2009 at 7:50 pm

Anna’s comment is precisely why I think that we need to shift the view of consent from ‘saying no a lot means no’ to ‘saying yes a lot means yes’. Thank you for that comment. I don’t know whether you’d say you were raped, or taken advantage of, or just had lousy experiences, but it’s not your fault that men make assumptions and pressure women into going along.

I don’t think that all examples of sexual encounters are clear cut in how evident consent is, take for example Lara the Second’s example of a woman not wanting to continue but not actively trying to stop because she doesn’t want to spoil something. What exactly does this mean? I’d say that even encounters one might loosely put in this category fall into two groups: one where the woman knew it would be OK to say no, that she would be respected, and chose to go along because she thought ‘why not,I don’t feel strongly against it’. Then theres where the woman doesn’t really want to do it, but doesn’t feel like she can say ‘no’. ‘What if he calls me a prude?’ she thinks. ‘What if he goes off me, what if he laughs at me or thinks I’m being stupid, what if he doesn’t stop? Am I being stupid? It’s just sex, isn’t it? women do this all the time.’ so might her thought process go.

It’s because most encounters fall into another category that I believe this is a class of rape, morally not necessarily legally (I wouldn’t know the legal aspect). Because society operates under rules where men take advantage of women not feeling able to make their wishes felt, where men coerce women by force, by repeatedly badgering women until they give in, or simply by making assumptions that there is consent,and banking on women being too embarrassed, to afraid of being disliked or

Many women wouldn’t feel this was rape if it happened to them, whether because they didn’t feel coerced enough to class it as rape, or because they wanted to have sex to please someone even though they weren’t enjoying this, and I’m not going to argue with individual women on how they class their experiences.

But evidently, half-assed sex, whether it’s rape or not (depending on circumstances) isn’t going to be active, enjoyable sex, yet it’s often taken as the standard. The ‘women exist to be taken and should always be up for it’ trope.

These opinions need to be challenged, because assuming a woman you’re snogging is ready to sleep with you, and progressing to that level without actually getting some feedback from her is one end of a continuum based around men’s desires being put over women’s, the other end being dark alley stranger rape we all hear about. Whether men who carry on and don’t care whether women are really into it would be legally prosecuted successfully isn’t the point, it’s that men believe they have ownership of women’s bodies, starting from assuming we always want sex, and never bothering to ask, and often progressing to violent assault.

Men should take the initiative to make sure women want to have sex, but doing so would force many to confront the uncomfortable truth that they don’t normally give a fuck whether a woman really actually wants to have sex, so long as she puts out. That this doesn’t normally require force doesn’t make it a less disturbing viewpoint.

This is precisely what is meant when they bring out that old ‘well some feminist once said that all sex is rape’ card. I can see what they mean. It’s not about literal rape in the physical struggle kind of way, but rather a subtle struggle of wills in which society gives men the advantage.

In a society where women are pressured to go along with sex, even when they don’t want it, because saying no would be seen as weird, would be letting someone down, and nobody really cares about making sure they have consent, women get pressured into sex, not necessarily overtly,indeed, men might not realise they’re pressuring at all. But society tells men that the most important thing is getting laid, regardless whether the women want it, and that men should cajole and flatter and be bold and take the initiative.

Men as a whole benefit from the privilege of knowing women are unlikely to resist, because the men would make them feel bad. It’s these pressures, the ones that aren’t overt, that are more problematic to deal with for our society, because nobody sees them as wrong. We can all agree holding a gun to a woman’s head would make the resultant sexual encounter rape. But we often fail to acknoledge how social roles and conditioning play a part in making women feel like we need to give in to keep the peace, even when we don’t want to.

It may not legally be rape, because women do it grudgingly and think it for the best, but sex shouldn’t be like this. It’s definitely not consensual, healthy sex, not when men are never required to do the same.

Esther // Posted 10 March 2009 at 10:07 pm

Rachel: I was pondering that situation today. I think most people on this site will be clear that no woman should ever feel like that, and that it’s a pretty horrible situation to find yourself in. And also that no woman should be blamed for being in that situation.

And easier way to discuss that with someone than to place blame on the man who really had no way of knowing, might be to point out the rape culture that we live in. For example, why is a woman made to feel that if she changes her mind she shouldn’t say anything? This, to me, indicates how women are made to feel, through messages they receive in the media, etc. that a man’s sexual desires are more important than her own. Hopefully if we weren’t given these messages a lot more women would be confident changing their minds.

Amy // Posted 11 March 2009 at 2:06 am


I find it ‘sick’ you find a poster calling men privileged pouters more ‘deeply depressing’ than a clearly violent society against women. This violence is committed by men. To say otherwise is to be pedantic; and not at all realistic. Most posters here would agree about how unnecessary it is to bring men up in this thread and how they are also abused.

So we should look up at pouting grown ups every time we make a plea for women’s rights, and continually make stupid references about how neither men are equal? How unnecessary and ridiculous. It’s actually women blaming to address men’s inequality in threads like this more than the quarter of England’s women abused in question.

I want a world where genitals don’t incite different behaviour, whether males are treated unfairly or females. But addressing inequality isn’t as simple as ‘dig something up so men can be seen as unequal too.’ It’s not a competition between the sexes to be unequal; it’s appropriating consideration to inequality where that inequality is present most. Presenting men as unequal is an attempt to make females seem equal (‘we all have it bad so live with it’). So male privilege and whatever current inequality can persist.

If all victims turn against a bully, that bully will blend as he doesn’t want to be the odd one out so will assume victim status. He’ll also pout when the teacher comes running. This is completely the behaviour of sexists and those who cheerlead them when confronted with their behaviour for what it is. A consideration of how they are in any way the victims becomes necessary. Aggression turns into some need for a pity party.

Assuming I need a victim to be the right kind and that I’m sick, is fairly offensive. You clearly read something I didn’t say.

And I didn’t bother to read your articles. I doubt men would read an angry reference to how woman also suffer from ‘who gets the child’ cases, in a thread relating to stats showing the majority believe only women should tend children.

Also, why should I be accountable for opinions? I’m a feminist, but a poor student; and feminists hardly have the power people imply they do by holding them to their every word. People are out to get feminists as evil. Indeed how a media culture responded to female progression with rights and possibly went too far, was blamed on feminism. . I’m no government official whose every reference to a specific type of person must be scrutinised and thrown back down my throat.

Amy // Posted 11 March 2009 at 2:17 am

Also Ally,

The reason sexists readily turn aggression into a pity party, is because when women start getting the deserved attention for their pity, a pity party is where the power suddenly lies. And the sexists want a peice, as well as to hinder female progression by highlighting their own need for it.

Clearly I see through attempts to angrily make me aware of the 0.6% of men who suffer by women, and your claims I’m a man hating hairy freak just because I don’t consider these men when addressing a big problem for women.

American Girl // Posted 11 March 2009 at 7:54 am

I don’t have a comment about the sad information provided, other commentators handled it well. I happened to read the rules for posting a comment and thought “those rules ROCK”

Amy Clare // Posted 11 March 2009 at 9:48 am

I have to take issue with the question in the consultation saying “when is it ok for a man to hit or slap his wife/girlfriend” etc. Specifically the use of the word ‘slap’. DV is not just a slap. DV victims are beaten up, kicked, punched, burned and scalded, strangled, tied up, raped, tortured, cut, the list goes on… even as far as murder, as we all know. Many are hospitalised for their injuries. This survery is using the most benign possible language to represent DV and it angers me because so many people still think DV is just a man losing his temper and slapping his partner in the face.

Although I would obviously say that even a slap is wrong, the Govt needs to represent DV the way it really happens on these surveys and not just pander to popular opinion.

Anna // Posted 11 March 2009 at 10:03 am

Terribly enough Anne, I’d almost like to define it as rape – because there certainly wasn’t my consent, or any regard for my feelings as a person, even from those who claimed to (and probably genuinely did) love me.. but I really can’t bring myself to do it, because out of the women I know I can’t find one (this does come up in drunken conversation every so often) who hasn’t had this happen to them at some point, whether they had the self-possession to tell the boy to fuck off or not – the majority don’t. Megan’s story is sad but it just confirms it for me; consent is pretty much assumed until you make it very, very clear you don’t want it.

I don’t even know how to articulate it; but it is like they are told so often that women are a) constantly gagging for it and b) going to make you beg for it, because ‘nice girls’ don’t put out without a certain amount of ‘ooh, no, really, I shouldn’t’ that pushing it a bit is considered normal; not just acceptable, but ..right. That they *should* go as far as they can, and take it as far as they can, because that’s what real men do and when women say ‘no’ they don’t really mean ‘no’ until they’ve said it several times, are getting pissed off and have probably physically pushed you away a couple of times.

And it depresses the hell out of me.

Princess Rot // Posted 11 March 2009 at 2:04 pm

Twenty freaking percent think it’s okay to hit a woman for wearing revealing clothing? WTF? For a moment there I thought we were in Saudi Arabia.

As for the relationship rape thing, no woman is obliged to continue pleasuring her partner for his sake when she does not want to. That reduces her to nothing but a masturbation aid. I do think it would be better if society viewed women as if we are in a perpetual state of “no” instead of a perpetual state of “yes”. Then, if you haven’t got permission to stick yer cock in, you don’t do it. Also, that privilege can be withdrawn at any time. That puts the onus on men to behave and removes their privilege.

Well, I know that’d be shouted down as man-hating, we can’t expect the poor dears to do SO much hard work for a boner, can we? I want to laugh at people who tell me that. Live your whole life being force-fed all the ways you’re expected conduct yourself in public, from what to say, where to go, what to wear, what to do, and what not to do to avoid inflaming lusty menz, because YOU ARE ENTIRELY RESPONSIBLE FOR THEIR BEHAVIOR BECAUSE YOU ARE THE GATE KEEPER OF TEH SECKS then come back and tell me it’d be hard to ask for fucking permission.

On The Issues Magazine // Posted 11 March 2009 at 4:15 pm

This study reminds us of how much we need to work to overcome the incorrect perceptions that somehow, at sometime, a woman deserves to be hit or abused. Rhonda Copelon wrote an article in On The Issues Magazine calling for domestic abuse to be classified as torture. If hitting your wife or girlfriend could get you arrested or thrown in jail on torture charges, maybe those doing the hitting would think twice before striking.

Damien // Posted 11 March 2009 at 6:40 pm

If two people get into a voluntary sexual situation we assume they are equal human beings doing what they enjoy. The corollory is that once it became acceptable for a woman to admit ‘Yes’ she wants and enjoys sex as much as any man, then she was free to say ‘No’ and mean it. Rape is sex against her stated wishes: ‘No’ means no.

Some of the comment above is returning to images of the woman as weaker, sexless. It is redefining rape from assuming equal desire between equals unless stated otherwise to assuming her sexless, only doing it for his sake, and then only if she has repeatedly told him she can bear to put up with it. She might as well ‘Lie back and think of England’ – “think of the sacrifice I am making for you dear”. Such an approach reduces all sex to a form of rape to something women only ever provide reluctantly.

A woman no more has to say ‘Yes’ than a man does. They are equals. She would not be there unless she felt the same way as he does. The assumption is that they are there for as much intimacy as they feel comfortable with.

That means until somebody backs off AND SAYS SO. It does not mean that women are feeble creatures constantly needing to reassure men that each touch really is safe and they won’t have a fit of the vapours. For God’s sake let’s recognise both sexes as equals instead of returning to some image of women as giving in to male lust which rapidly leads to an image that no decent woman ever would.

Both sexes feel equal sexual desire. The default of being together is ‘Yes’. ‘No’ only means No when somebody SAYS it, whether verbally or by turning away. But they must SAY it.

Rachel // Posted 11 March 2009 at 9:57 pm


She should make it clear – but if she does, what if he still rapes her?

I think you miss the point of the article. It’s about domestic violence.

ellana // Posted 12 March 2009 at 1:46 am

OK so Im a woman but I really don’t understand this violence against “women” thing, surely violence against anyone is wrong but to be honest if we are going to focus on one gender would it not make sense to focus on men since they are more likely to be victims?

and btw

Men in their early 20s are just as likely to be abused by their partners as women, according to the latest government figures seen by Newsbeat.

6.4% of men in England and Wales between the ages of 20 and 24 say they were victims over the last year, compared with 5.4% of women.

Damien // Posted 12 March 2009 at 5:56 am

Rachel. What if she strangles him? Several women raised a point that made it look as if sex were all one way and even if the woman did not actually refuse, the man should assume she’s not his equal and only doing it for his sake, so unless he treats her like a Victorian Virgin waiting for her to demand every mov, he’s a rapist.

If she does make it clear and he still forces her, that’s the legal definition of rape – so what do you need to ask for?

If she gets tired or goes off the idea or isn’t mightily struck on something she knows really turns him on but does it anyway – that’s called ‘caring’ and ‘loving’ and what women expect of men who care about their pleasure, so should expect to treat men the same – and mostly do.

His feeling may be to drive it in and rush to orgasm while she wants tenderness and oral sex. (Though I;ve known women the other way round complaining about being ‘too delicate’) Should he complain about her sexual abuse because he had to do something that wasn’t his top priority? So why should she expect perfect one-way devotion every time?

There’s a lot of old-fashioned bold man having to woo the timorous sexless girl hiding behind some modern rhetoric. Some could almost come from women of the 1960s protesting that it is outrageous to imagine that decent girls would ever want to do such things. By their nature they are perverted and no boy who respects girls would embarrass her by thinking to suggest them. Even if girls do do them, that is to please boys when they should know better, no matter what they say.

But your point isn’t a point. It is the legal and common definition of rape. So it is rape. End of story.

JenniferRuth // Posted 12 March 2009 at 9:56 am

@ Damien

Sorry, but bollocks. The biggest problem we have when it comes to rape reporting is assuming that woman are in a default consent state of “yes” until they explicitly state otherwise. The default state of consent should always be assumed to be NO until you can get confirmation otherwise. This goes the other way around too.

Victims of robbery or attempted murder don’t have to prove that they said no to being robbed or murdered. Why do women who have been raped have to prove that they said no? Of course, this is nearly impossible to prove, yet women are asked to do so in instances of rape. Consent is assumed, lack of consent needs to be proved.

Of course, this needn’t apply if the woman was drunk/alone/dressed revealingly/a prostitute/a slut/invited him home etc. etc. – in those situations, we’ll just assume that she consented anyway, right?

Getting a yes from your partner has NOTHING to do with “giving in to male lust” – frankly, if you are not getting an enthusiastic yes then you probably shouldn’t be having sex.

Anna // Posted 12 March 2009 at 11:34 am

‘A woman no more has to say ‘Yes’ than a man does. They are equals. She would not be there unless she felt the same way as he does. The assumption is that they are there for as much intimacy as they feel comfortable with.’

Um. No. My own experiences and that of my teenage, female friends completely contradict that – as have several others on this site/thread, and countless other women out there.

Because I’m in bed with a guy making out with him doesn’t mean he’s got the right to try and stick his cock where he likes, nor should the onus be on me to refuse. It’s on him to ask.

I don’t go jabbing my thumb up the boy in question’s arse because I ‘assume consent’, so he can damn well refrain from trying to stick his penis in me without doing me the courtesy of asking ‘do you want to’ first. Oh yeah, and when I say ‘no’, that means ‘no’. Not ‘ask me again in five minutes time in the hope I’ll let you get some’.

The last comment had nothing to do with Damien, just a particular annoyance of mine.

Louise // Posted 12 March 2009 at 12:21 pm

I don’t know what all the fuss is about. Why should it surprise anyone that some people think a woman might be partly responsible in some cases for what happens to her? Are we supposed to think that women are all entirely helpless and have no control over their own behaviour at all?

As far as the hitting thing goes, anyone with common sense knows that it is possible to goad someone beyond endurance, so that they will lash out. Men are not made of iron any more than are women.

Kath // Posted 12 March 2009 at 12:51 pm

I agree with Anne Onne’s analysis and other comments along the same lines but.. I am in a quandry. If my boyfriend asked me for verbal consent every time we have sex I would find it extremely tiresome. I think the fact that I am actively involved in the sex implies consent, but if I changed my mind the only way to stop it would be to say “no, stop” or more likely “can we stop, I’m not in the mood” (the ‘can we’ being a turn of phrase as opposed to an actual question). I think this is quite close to what Daniel is saying BUT I think that women (and men) should be in a state of assumed non-consent unless otherwise (clearly) indicated. I’m not sure all this squares up though. Comments?

Paul // Posted 12 March 2009 at 12:55 pm


I thought in this day and age men are supposed to assume that women are just as interested in having sex as women are. Therefore if a woman does not say NO clearly then it is a reasonable assumption that she does want sex.

You feminists can’t have it both ways. If you want the same freedoms as men then you can’t suddenly act all innocent and pre sexual liberation when it suits you and thereby abdicate responsibility.

Jess McCabe // Posted 12 March 2009 at 1:49 pm

Consent goes further than saying ‘yes’ or ‘no’; it’s also about paying attention to your partner’s body language, expressions and more.

The problem is exacerbated precisely because of the cultural/social myth that it is generally hetrosexual men who desire sex and generally hetrosexual women are a sort of ‘gatekeeper’, heterosexual men as the active ones and women as passive. Figleaf talks about this quite a lot, about how women are socially constructed as the ‘no sex class’. That leads to these cases described in the thread of men continually trying their luck, as it were, because in this worldview, women can’t really be sexual actors. I can only chalk it up to the men who buy into this really not caring if their partner is interested or not, and feeling perfectly at ease cajouling someone into a sexual act they aren’t actually interested in, or at least not at that point or with that person.

We also have to consider the fact that our social construction of what sex ‘is’ generally revolves around a very specific, weirdly goal-oriented, set of sexual acts, culminating in penetration. Because this has such a strong social encoding of what’s ‘normal’, I think that adds an extra element in our understandings of what consent is, how to incorporate it into sex and so on.

Continually checking in to make sure that your partner is enjoying themselves and is OK seems to me to be a really good model to adopt.

Anna // Posted 12 March 2009 at 2:09 pm

‘I thought in this day and age men are supposed to assume that women are just as interested in having sex as women are. Therefore if a woman does not say NO clearly then it is a reasonable assumption that she does want sex.’

So sleeping, incapacitated and unconcious women are fair game? I strongly suggest you rephrase.

I tried to write a reasonable, coherent response to the rest of that tripe but there’s just too much wrong with it. Very briefly: just because I enjoy sex doesn’t mean I want it all the time, similarly just because my sexual desires and pleasure are just as important as those of whoever I happen to be in bed with (man or woman) that doesn’t mean I am in some constant horned up state of being ready to fuck, the fact I would like my partner to have some basic respect for my body doesn’t mean I’m ‘acting innocent and abdicating responsibility’.. and your comment comes dangerously close to victim blaming (‘oh, well, what did she expect – can’t have it both ways, etc’) That’ll do for now. Mm.

Jess McCabe // Posted 12 March 2009 at 2:11 pm

@ellana – Please check out these statistics on violence against women. Violence against men is obviously a Bad Thing as well, but ultimately the statistics demonstrate that overwhelmingly rape, sexual assault and domestic violence are carried out by male attackers on female victims. Two women a week are murdered by their current or former partner in the UK.

Just to let everyone know, I’m not posting any more comments about how men are also victims of domestic violence and sexual violence. Please consult this post on Feminism 101 to understand why.

I’m also not posting any more comments excusing or justifying domestic or sexual violence, or anything along the lines of women goading men into being violent.

Kath // Posted 12 March 2009 at 2:19 pm

Sorry, Damien, not Daniel.

Kate Smurthwaite // Posted 12 March 2009 at 2:22 pm

“if a woman does not say NO clearly then it is a reasonable assumption that she does want sex.”

Erm ok in a word: NO. The rule is this: if a woman doesn’t say YES clearly – don’t.

Also it’s important to remember that consent is an ongoing process and can be withdrawn at any time. Saying “yes” to the sex initially doesn’t mean consenting to any and every kind of sex to continue until the other party feels they’ve had enough.

“I thought in this day and age men are supposed to assume that women are just as interested in having sex as women are”

Again in a word: NO. No-one is supposed to assume anything about another person’s sex drive. If you want to know if someone wants to have sex – you ask.

If you think about what you’re saying it’s totally messed up. I mean I think in this day and age we all know the male G-spot is up a guy’s ass but I don’t think that makes it ok to assume that if a guy hasn’t said “NO” you can grab a strap-on and surprise him.

All sexual activity has to happen by continuous mutual consent. Otherwise it’s rape.

Rachel // Posted 12 March 2009 at 5:17 pm


You ramble, take up half the thread and haven’t even touched the subject, just to enlighten us with a dude’s opinion of rape.

It’s easy to play stupid with privilege. It means you’re angry but don’t have any logical argument against oppression. So you come up with ‘What if she strangles him?’ ‘What if she wanted rape?’

On another planet? Maybe that’s where you need to take your backward logic.

Qubit // Posted 12 March 2009 at 5:46 pm

I think the question is if consent is assumed unless stated otherwise where do you begin this consent.

I know a lot of people who would argue that a woman sleeping in a man’s bed should expect him to ‘have sex’ with her while she is unconscious or at least not complain if he does, after all she was naked in his bed. This is a disgusting view point in my opinion but it doesn’t stop the fact quite a lot of people hold it.

Similarly I can imagine a large proportion of women might not say no if they were raped by a stranger. It isn’t that hard to imagine especially in a situation where saying ‘no’ is unlikely to have any effect.

In fact this puts a strange onus on women to always establish non-consent. I won’t go into my office and if only a male colleague is there explain to him that I don’t want to have sex because there is no assumption of consent. Any attempts by him to do such a thing might not be met by a simple ‘no’ due to a mixture of shock and horror.

I think there is an assumption the woman failing to say no implies a situation as the one described above where the woman continues without really wanting to since the man takes no effort to establish consent. While I think the moral behaviour of the guy in this situation is seriously dubious I wouldn’t consider it rape because he had reasonable reasons to assume consent that weren’t overturned. He is however likely to have noticed his partner wasn’t enjoying it and the fact that this didn’t stop him or at least make him check suggests that he isn’t a nice guy.

I think it is important to establish there are numerous reasons why a woman might not say no, especially when talking about a situation which has jumped from friendly to physical suddenly and against the woman’s will. Shock, horror and betrayal are strong emotions are the results aren’t always logical. Also if someone is doing something against your will you are unlikely to think saying no will help.

It is too easy to turn this into denying women’s rights to sex. However the fear of not having control and having to ‘go through’ with sex even if you don’t want to is more of a threat than the need to have consent established at some point in my opinion.

katy // Posted 12 March 2009 at 10:30 pm

I had a bad experience last year, I had been partying at a friends shared house, I was pretty intoxicated by the time I wanted to go to bed and asked a guy I knew if I could stay somewhere, he offered his bed. He didn’t say he would share it with me. I got into bed and passed out only to wake up to find him groping me and trying to have sex with me. I said no, and he continued trying and I said no again and again. eventually he gave up and we both passed out. At the time I felt guilty that it was my fault because I was drunk and got into his bed, but when talking to friends they helped me to see how out of order it was. I never gave any indication that I wanted any sort of sex, and I didn’t and eventually felt very angry about it and confronted him about it. He said he thought I was ‘fair game’ as I got into his bed. Its disgraceful that people have attitudes like this – even worse as he was someone I knew and trusted. It was a lesson learned for me, and sadly led me to become mistrustful of men, even though some of them are my closest friends. I felt better for confronting him but it never got resolved really because his attitude never changed no matter what I said. I wish we could change our attitudes so that this sort of thing was no longer acceptable. After I came out about it all, it turns out that he had tried it with other girls in the house, but they hadn’t had the strength to say no and went along with it. He just carried on thinking he wasn’t doing anything bad and that men and women could ever be friends without a sexual dynamic. I know he doesn’t represent all men but it saddened me to think that some still think this way.

Tovah // Posted 13 March 2009 at 12:38 am

I looked a the full statistics and I find it interesting that, on the very first question, fewer women than men found it unacceptable to hit a woman if she was nagging him. So far as I could tell, this was the only question where that happened; in all others, more women than men found hitting unacceptable.

I don’t really know what to think about that, or if it even means anything. Personally, I can’t imagine a situation where hitting is acceptable, period, but I’m not so naive as to think it doesn’t happen or that some people don’t think that way…

Mr. Mann // Posted 13 March 2009 at 10:01 am

Men who think it’s OK to do violent things learn this attitude, usually by being the victim of violence at one point, usually by a parent or sibling. The re-education process that violence is not OK is painful and difficult. Please look upon the acceptance of violence as the contagious disease that it is. And to the judgmental among us… where were you, when it was these men who were being abused?

BareNakedLady // Posted 13 March 2009 at 12:07 pm

Personally I think it’s completely unrealistic to expect a ‘check-in’ with a partner – nothing would ruin the moment more for me. I’ve never asked and I’ve never been asked – the issue isn’t that one person should clearly ask for a ‘yes’ or ‘no’, it’s that if/when/however the ‘no’ is given, it should be listened to. If the woman starts to stop, to push the man away, tries to get up, then she’s made it clear that there’s a NO, and for the man to force her would be rape, irrespective of the fact that she hasn’t said it out loud. Equally, it’s perfectly possible to have a situation where a couple has progressed along the line from in a club to naked in bed together – consent has been implied so far without the need for any questions, so *both* parties, not just the woman, are assuming that the other will say/do something if they are uncomfortable with what’s going on.

In any other situation (stranger rape, if the woman is somehow incapacitated, etc) then obviously consent is not given. But if consent has been implicit for the first few ‘stages’ of sexual activity, then it’s going to be implicit for the next stages, and if one partner is uncomfortable with that then they need to indicate a clear ‘no’.

Aimee // Posted 13 March 2009 at 5:28 pm

I’m quite interested to see the commenters that feel that it is more equal to say that a man *can* hit a woman, because to say that he can’t is an expression of women’s physical inferiority.

I think, in the context, this isn’t really relevant, because domestic violence is not about a fist fight between a man and a women, it’s systematic, prolonged abuse. We must also consider the reasons given for violence. There’s a big difference between feeling you have the moral right to hit a woman because she’s doing something which you feel vioates the limits of her role as a woman, and hitting a woman because she’s hitting you!

I’d like to get away from the whole “boys shouldn’t hit girls” thing, because firstly, I think that anyone should have a right to defend themselves if they’re being punched in the head! If this is by a girl, then so be it! BUt this isn’t the same situation, it’s about feeling that violence is justified because a woman doesn’t know her place. That is what’s wrong.

It’s the same with the sex thing. Many of the commenters can’t seem to get their heads around the fact that society makes women feel like they have to be constantly up for it! Putting your willy in someone is an extraordinarily personal thing! You shouldn’t just do it without asking! Especially when this act exists in an environment where women often feel that they cannot say no! Men have created this situation, men have to rectify it by exercising respect over a woman’s body. SOrry if this is seen as “putting men out” or being overly tedious about the situation, but when the day comes when a women never ever feels like she should be having sex when she doesn’t particularly want to, THEN there will be no need for it. Up until then, I don’t think it’s too much to ask to establish consent!

Anne Onne // Posted 14 March 2009 at 12:17 am

Katy, I’m sorry you experienced that, and thank you for sharing your story. This is what we’re talking about, people: the personal effect of the assumed always-present consent women are supposed to have. When women are thought to be consenting to sex by default if they flirt with a man, or sleep over, or share a bed, or visit their flat or whatever, rapes happen. They happen because we teach men to assume consent because it’s easier and gives them what they want most of the time because the women might consent heartily, or might consent grudgingly, or might freeze in panic, or might put up only a bit of a fight or whatever. It’s depressing that many men wouldn’t stop what they were doing if their partner froze up. Anything other than active participation is clearly not consent: nobody who really wants to be having sex just lies there, yet there are so few consequences socially or legally for pushing boundaries they don’t have a right to push, that many men don’t care. Or can’t spot the difference, so used are they to sleeping with women who are doing it out of guilt or fear.

It seems the ‘men and women can’t be friends’ dynamic at least partly exists because of this idea that men must always want sex, and women must always be sexually available, therefore every situation between man and woman must be potentially sexual. Which is bollocks obviously, but it gives misogynists an excuse to objectify women with the belief that it’s inherent in them to act like douchebags.

Aimee: On self defense, I think it’s important to stress men and women, people of all shapes and sizes and abilities have the right to defend themselves. However, the force each person should use depends on the situation, and on their strenght, size, fitness and training. For example, if hypothetically woman A (short, average weight, average fitness) was to get into an altercation with man B (tall, fit, strong for a bloke), what would be reasonable force for both would differ. If he was attacked by her, he has strength and size on his side, and has to make a decision on how much force to use, because he could do a lot of damage. If she’s going all out to try to kill him, he should obviously try to prevent it any way he can, but he has a responsibility to not use his force to harm someone less strong than him more than he has to.

If she was attacked by him, she already has a huge disadvantage physically, so would be justified in going all out (not always an option,we’re talking theoretically here) to compensate because of her relative disadvantage.

Men hitting women and women hitting men isn’t going to be the same because of the physical, social and personal dynamics.

Obviously domestic abuse is different and does not always follow these physical imbalance ratios, but there is often a physical difference between abusers and abusees. I brought in these examples to address the idea that men hitting women and women hitting men is exactly the same, because statistically, it isn’t. Two women die a week at the hands of their male abusers. We know the rape statistics aren’t pretty either. The idea that women are victimising men as seriously, or in as great a number incorrect, and serves to take attention * away from the very serious issue of gendered violence against women.

Agree about the importance of establishing consent. It’s important that men, with actions as well as words, make women feel secure, able to say no, and able to say yes. Assuming consent works sometimes in some situations, where people are lucky to be with considerate partners and actually be consenting – but how quickly things can change when a woman decides that no, actually she’d rather not. Rapists don’t rape every single time they have sex, they’re perfectly capable of having consensual sex. If someone’s lucky and they’re with a good partner, it’s their business how they choose to consent, but this society has a problem with assuming consent as a default, and the only way to battle that is to change the assumption to assuming non-consent. Because unless someone is very enthusiastic, you have no proof they actually want sex. And that their consenting to snogging or dry humping or whatever means they want sex.

*As in, people replying to anything to do with rape or violence against women with ‘well women hit men on TV all the time’ (yeah, and Coyote drops anvils on Roadrunner, your point?) as if this is the same, or we can’t ever talk about something that affects women without talking about poor men.

Mary // Posted 14 March 2009 at 12:21 pm

>I’m quite interested to see the commenters that feel that it is more equal to say that a man *can* hit a woman, because to say that he can’t is an expression of women’s physical inferiority.


– once hit a male partner and been told that if it ever, ever happened again, we were breaking up,

– am now in a same-sex relationship,

– have had a female partner who had been hit by her ex-girlfriend

and I’m completely happy with saying that people should not hit their partners, full stop, no qualifications about gender needed. Male-on-female violence IS a bigger problem, no doubt, because it happens more and is often more severe, but I don’t think we need any kind of rationalisations of why women hitting men is different or somehow less wrong in the individual circumstance than vice versa.

I hate the pop culture cliche that a woman who slaps a man is a “go-getter” or “taking no nonsense” or whatever. No. She hit him. It’s wrong. The reason I hit my ex-boyfriend is because I had that idea in my head that if I resorted to violence, it meant that he’d pushed me too far, my words had run out and hitting him was an eloquent expression of my feelings: it is EXACTLY the same rationalisation that men use about hitting women. I am still extremely grateful to that man for being completely zero tolerance about it and making me realise that violence was not acceptable under any circumstances, no matter who’s doing it to whom.

Spicy // Posted 14 March 2009 at 1:22 pm

I completely agree: violence is wrong irrespective of gender identity or sexuality or sex. I would go further even and say that causing deliberate pain to another is wrong.

Acknowledging the part that gender / sexuality / ethnicity/ etc etc plays in shaping one’s experiences of and responses to violence is, however, essential. That doesn’t means saying all abusers are male or all victims female.

When domestic violence is referred to as a gendered form of violence it means the way we think about gender is part of the problem – for victims of *all* genders and sexualities. Some people think that the way to deal with it therefore, is to ignore gender and pretend that all victims are equal. Some people (like me) think it challenges us to think and question more deeply about how gender is constructed and the impact this has in shaping our beliefs, values and subsequent behaviour / responses to others’ behaviour.

Anne Onne // Posted 14 March 2009 at 2:59 pm

Mary, you’re right, the pop culture trope of women hitting men being a way for women to express their feelings and almost romanticised is wrong.

I’m behind the message that nobody should hit anybody (the exception being self-defense), and that same-sex partner violence, or violence against a partner stronger than you is also wrong.

But the reason we address male-on-female violence in particular isn’t that we deem female-on anyone else violence acceptable, but that as a result of many things (patriarchy, physical differences, etc but predominantly patriarchy), women are victimised far more often, and to a worse extent than men, on average. In this case we’re focusing on the most pressing, most serious cases of abuse, and on the media tropes that condone it (just look at all the people flocking to defend Chris Brown). The media condones women hitting men as a ‘quaint’ way for silly irrational females to try and make their point felt, but the overall message the media as a whole gives focuses on men teaching women their place more than vice versa.

In addition to fighting the very real problem of extreme male partner on female partner abuse, we do, I admit, need to address the problem of abuse as a whole, including female on male abuse, and same sex partner abuse, child abuse and other forms of abuse.

In short, The point that nobody should hit anybody is well worth repeating. But, I believe acknowledgement of the context of different abusive behaviours,and the incidence and severity of the results are relevant, too. Nobody should hit anybody, and whilst many people are hitting each other, but its women who get hit the hardest and most often.

Chandra // Posted 15 March 2009 at 3:38 am

I wonder if reverseiong the sexes in the questionnaire would result in the same sentiments with the sexes reversed in either answers or comment?

Aimee // Posted 15 March 2009 at 9:28 am

I totally, utterly agree. Violence is not acceptable … by anyone!

Jackie Bather // Posted 15 March 2009 at 6:38 pm

Some years ago,I once had a boyfriend who,during a verbal disagreement with me,

smacked his hand against a wall and broke two fingers ( he used that degree of force ).Later, he blamed me for disagreeing with his viewpoint , which he alleged, ‘made him’ hit the wall .Apparently,in his view,I was responsible for his self-inflicted injury.How attitudes change so slowly…

Emma // Posted 15 March 2009 at 10:20 pm

I will say this, all of the contributions to this article have really given me food for thought.

I’m surprised that so many differing opinions on the assumptions of consent or non-consent even exist! It’s something I’d never thought about. It sounds like on this point one of the issues may be a huge break-down in communication between the genders (or people and their personal preferences) on what means ‘yes’ and what means ‘no’, and it’s good to see people discussing it and trying to tease it out because really, these differences in definitions should be delt with so that they no longer constitute an excuse. Paul’s comment is a good example that we’re clearly not all singing off the same song sheets here. We all know sex shouldn’t happen if it’s not wanted by both parties, but there is clearly still a lot of confusion around what constitutes consent and what doesn’t. The media and society deliver terribly warped signals to women AND men about what they should expect from one another – Very few movies have saucy sex scenes where the woman turns around and says “actually hun, this doesn’t feel right”. This might seem irrelevant but as someone living in Dublin in Ireland witnessing the rise of D4 culture [Irish girls and guys who talk and act like Valley girls and guys] I have really witnessed the major effect T.V. has on people, their perceptions of each other and how they can treat the rest of the world. The fact that the topic is taboo as well isn’t helping heal this break in communication. No one should ever be forced into anything they don’t want to do, and the statistics only prove that its definitely time that the government, the media, schools etc. started speaking the same language in relation to this issue – and even just speaking about it in general! Personally, I am fortunate enough to never have experienced sex with someone I didn’t know very well so I have never had this problem – I apologise if this may have influenced what I’ve said.

My stance on the whole argument is that violence against anyone EVER is wrong. I’ve met people who like picking fights when they’re angry, or even just in general, but I think that Anna Onne has made a crucial point about the different physical factors in a physical fight. If a girl is, indeed, trying to kill a much bigger and stronger guy, he should use whatever force is necessary to defend himself and no more – but a woman dressing in a way that makes her feel attractive is NOT even vaguely an equivalent situation, and therefore does not merit violence. Few situations ever do. A woman walking home alone could not possibly be the same thing either! I just can’t believe that people equate such wildly different things. Statistics sadly prove women to be the victims far more often than men [and I think it’s important to note that the article under discussion is dealing with violence against women. Violence against men shouldn’t happen either, but it’s not what the article posted was intended to address, I think].

Writing this comment has actually been very tricky, because every word you say/type relates to a real life violent act, and in some cases, horrible experiences some people may have had to endure. But I still think it’s important that we all do this – talk about it. Kudos for posting this article!

Kath // Posted 15 March 2009 at 11:35 pm

Interesting comments. Think BareNakedLady could be right that consent doesn’t have to be verbal and nor does withdrawal of consent, so long as you can make it clear what you want/don’t want. In terms of withdrawal of consent BareNakedLady mentions the woman stopping, pushing someone away or trying to get up and I think that’s clear that means NO, even if she doesn’t say it. On the other hand for example undressing someone, sitting astride them and pulling them inside you can be taken as consent (to each particular ‘stage’), without verbalising it. This is being “very enthusiastic” as Anne Onne puts it. I personally can’t imagine taking part unenthusiastically in sex but if someone was doing then I think other commenters are right and verbal consent should be sought to know what they really want.

Amy // Posted 16 March 2009 at 12:16 am

Mary –

No one here is displaying that ‘go get’ attitude for anyone slapping their partner. The opposite.

Difference is, people are speculating the facts looking at this ‘bigger problem’ you mention. What’s so wrong with that? Why on a thread about this bigger problem is everyone suddenly so concerned about all these women who slap men? Surely this is an issue in itself. Both men and women in the masses who rush to defend men.

To me this is reflective of a society which thinks way too little of women and any issue which affects them.

Kitten // Posted 16 March 2009 at 9:21 pm

I was in a semi-formal relationship with this guy. We weren’t dating but we pal-ed around a great deal. One day, were fooling around again kissing, oral, ect), and went in for full intercourse. I shrugged him away, but he grabbed me again and forced himself in me. I struggled against him, crying and trying to get away. He pinned me down and covered my mouth with his hands and continued.

When h was done, I went into the bathroom and threw up. I was sobbing and literally torn between my legs.

He said it was hot.

Never talked to him again, and he never undestood why I hated him.

But I never said “no”.

So… was I raped?

Kitten // Posted 16 March 2009 at 9:22 pm

@ the OP.

Sad, but it doesn’t suprise me.

SayBlade // Posted 16 March 2009 at 10:25 pm

While violence of any sort towards anyone is never justified, it would be interesting to set these results against a similar survey where the man is the would-be recipient of the same treatment under the same circumstances. I daresay it would add further credence to this study’s findings.

Laurel Dearing // Posted 17 March 2009 at 12:57 am

crying and trying to get away? would you assume someone was okay if they were acting like that? let alone that they wanted something like that? i think you were pretty easy to read for anyone that wanted to read it or gave a damn

Sabre // Posted 17 March 2009 at 10:24 am

@ Kitten

How could you have said no if he covered your mouth? Seems like you made it very clear you didn’t want to have sex and he continued regardless. Crying and struggling should have been an obvious ‘no’ signal for him.As some have said previously, perhaps it should be about a man actively seeking consent, rather than leaving it to the woman to refuse. And even if consent was intitially given, if you then changed your mind he should have stopped.

Kath // Posted 17 March 2009 at 1:53 pm

Kitten, I’m so sorry you went through that. Shrugging him away should have been enough to put him off. He then forced himself on you. That isn’t sex, it’s rape. Saying no or not shouldn’t make a difference because he knew he was going against your wishes. You shouldn’t be required to say no to rape because rape is never consensual.

Jaye // Posted 20 March 2009 at 2:22 am

Just a passer-by from across the Pond, but I do have to agree that there is some meaty food for thought in here.

Let me say this before I go further, so you have some idea of where I’m sitting (other than on my couch).

I am a woman.

I am American.

I am 28.

I’ve been raped, had consensual sex, and had dubiously consensual (i.e., “date rape” — and what a horrid word) sex.

I am not a feminist. I am an equalitist.

I’m going to meander and/or rant in equal parts. In no way do I mean to lessen or trivialize another’s pain. Take my meandering thoughts with a grain or two, please.


My one wish for the world would be that we could legislate as if there were such a thing as common sense.

There would then be only one rule and it would be: “Behave as if your deity of choice/mother-figure were watching.”

The ‘common sense’ law I’d enact if I trusted humans to act only relatively humanely?

“If you’re in a loving relationship, consent is implied, but non-consent is acceptable and should be respected.

“If you’re anything less, from close friend to total stranger, non-consent is implied, but consent is acceptable and should be respected.

“If you’re incapacitated in any way — drugs, alcohol, etc. — non-consent is implied and consent is not acceptable and should be respected.

“If you’re not sure what your situation is, err on the side of Not Being an Inconsiderate Moron, regardless of your penis- and/or vagina-having- and/or using-ness.”

The issues debated here seem like the cases that fall in the nebulous in-between, and unfortunately, there are no hard-and-fast rules about those kinds of situations, because they aren’t hard-and-fast situations. Usually, if the situation is clear-cut, so, too, is the answer. (Aimee, my darling, yours is one of those. Please seek therapeutic assistance nigh unto immediately, even if you don’t think you need it.)

If a sober boy pushes himself onto/into a drunken co-ed while she screams/cries/says “no”: this is rape, clearly.

But what we’re trying to discuss here is much more indistinct: who is to blame when blame cannot be clearly assigned? In the situation Rachel brought up earlier, we never clearly defined (in a way that could be legislated, I mean) the answer.

“The man?” Partly, for not paying more attention to the subtle signs.

“The woman?” Partly, for not being more vocal when the subtle signs went unnoticed.

“A little of both?” If I say yes, am I still “blaming the victim?”

So the question we truly seek to answer is, “It’s always __who__?”

Well, it isn’t ALWAYS anyone, regardless of gender/age/creed/orientation. To say rape is always the man’s fault/responsibility is as willfully ignorant and bigoted as saying that violence is always committed by female Gay Black Jewish-Muslim-converts. Always blaming the man has always bugged me: It’s a little gender-specific for an equality-seeking group. And, having had many male friends, I’ve seen it unnecessarily punish people who’d never do that, to catch those who do regularly in a snare. Those people deserve to be punished for their crimes, but do the innocent?

This is not to say that it’s never been the man’s fault, nor never will. This is also not to imply that if a woman doesn’t explicitly STATE she wants to have sex and have him sign an acknowledgment in triplicate, she somehow failed in her duty to properly consent and the man must therefore be lashed and/or castrated.

Unfortunately, my wish hasn’t come true yet, and the world is still a complicated, diverse, and messy place. Our images of gender roles are changing, and not apace; the way we see ourselves is changing, but the way others see “us” may not be. There are no more defined “gender roles” to provide both restriction and guidance, though we, some of us, cling to them. Men can raise children. Women can dig ditches. Women can wear pants and go bare-faced and men can wear skirts and makeup.

I believe the most important thing for us (as lawyers) to do, is to set down some basic guidelines and leave the rest fluid, to be hashed over later by a panel of intelligent, opinionated folk like this one. The most important thing as humans is to respect one another. We aren’t quite there yet.

David Perry Davis, Esq // Posted 21 November 2009 at 12:14 am

It’s difficult for me to read something like this. I’m a volunteer for “Tempura House” (It’s a shelter for lightly battered women).

Very shocking to hear these poll results!

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