The rape myth in action

// 27 March 2009

In what to me seems like a clear example of how rape myths contribute to the appallingly low rape conviction rate, a man has been acquitted of raping a woman who he readily admits to having sex with because the judge and jury refused to accept her claim that she was ‘too drunk’ to give consent:

About five bottles of wine were consumed by the three in the house over the evening before the friend left – leaving Bacon and the woman alone. Bacon told police: “I thought she gave me the come-on – the body and eye contact was there and she did not give me the brush-off.” He said the pair went upstairs and had sex, but in the morning she accused him of rape.

Because eye and body contact and not telling someone to stop is consent to penetrative sex, right?

What I find so depressing here is that the judge and jury believe the woman would go through all the hassle and stress of bringing this guy to court if she believed the sex was anything other than rape. It seems that the idea that women frequently lie about being raped is so prevalent that it is now seen as the norm. Not only that, but their view of women – or women who accuse men of rape at least – is so low that they believe her incapable of judging for herself what happened to her.

Yes, she was drunk – Yahoo kindly point out that ‘blood samples taken from her showed the woman would have been at least twice the drink-drive limit at the time with memory loss and loss of inhibitions likely to have taken place’ – but so was he. Why should his story be believed over hers? Again, this idea that innocent men are getting banged up left, right and centre has skewed the public’s perception of justice. The norm, according to rape myths, is that women frequently lie about being raped, and men accused of rape are generally innocent victims who must be protected from jail and a criminal record at all costs: forget about the woman who is left with the double trauma of being violated and let down by the justice system.

It’s misogyny at its finest, and unless we challenge these rape myths, unless the public and members of the judiciary start developing some compassion for women, unless they start seeing as us human beings capable of judging when our bodies have been violated, rather than stupid, vindictive liars, rapists are going to continue to get off scott free.

Comments From You

Kitty // Posted 27 March 2009 at 12:34 pm

I just read this news report, and was shocked. How is this NOT sexual assault? This encourages men to actively prey upon women who are too drunk to give consent, because this is classed as non-consensual sex, and not rape, in our culture. So many young men have such a sad view of intercourse, if this is something they want to do – and I have known young men like this.

Frustrated! // Posted 27 March 2009 at 12:46 pm

http://news.uk.msn.com/uk/article.aspx?cp-documentid=15426829

On Hotmail news (editor’s picks – whoever editor is, there’s so much evidence he’s a sexist pillock) they told a great sob story about how the poor rapist couldn’t run out of there quick enough, he was so scared when she was crying. (She was crying like a demonic attention seeking whore of course – not so we could consider her reaction as a sign of damage from rape when she’d passed out.) ‘He didn’t even pick up his socks!’ :(

Right! Then a picture was shown of him as if he’d been actually stoned to near- death by the idea women are more than meat objects, and now he’s our favourite tested hero.

I hate when you KNOW the tone of a newspiece covering rape is totally sexist, but it keeps a vague neutral telling of the tale to cover its back.

Worst of this is what the judge said: he wonders what’s up with the idea that unconscious women can claim rape when they’ve been raped.

Then they had to throw in – it’s not sexist verdict, most the jurors were women!!!

Where are they getting these braindead journos from? Is being a sexist, logic- devoid tool an actual *requirement* these days for media jobs?

tefelome // Posted 27 March 2009 at 1:10 pm

i just listened to the jeremy vine program about this case, and some, or should i say most, of the responses were shocking. they were al feeling so sorry for the “poor man” and thought that the woman was no more than a crazed whore, and a lot of them thought that she should have taken responsibility for being attacked because she was drunk! people are so stupid!

Jennifer Drew // Posted 27 March 2009 at 1:17 pm

Despite claims to the contrary there is still no legal presumption that if a woman (yes because it is overwhelmingly women who are unconscious or drunk due to consuming alcohol and subsequently raped by men) is unconscious or legally drunk after consuming alcohol she is presumed incapable of giving consent.

Presumption means ‘consent’ cannot be challenged. Hence, if a woman alleges a man raped her whilst she was unconscious/drunk due to alcohol, the man cannot be convicted because women have to prove they did not consent – hence we have ‘all women consent to men sexually penetrating them unless there is 110% objective third party evidence the woman did not consent!’

But in respect of drinking and driving there is a legal limit of consuming alcohol after which a person is deemed incapable of driving whilst under the influence. So this means driving a vehicle whilst drunk is considered a crime whereas men raping women who are either drunk or unconscious due to drink or drugs is not a crime but simply male right of sexual access to women!

One has to wonder just why the alleged male rapist voluntarily contacted the police in order to justify his actions of sexually penetrating an unconscious woman. Perhaps this male thought he might be charged with rape. One also has to wonder just why a man would engage in sexual penetration with a woman who was unconscious and therefore could in no way respond or demonstrate her active agreement to such an act. Is ‘sex’ just a case of one person sexually masturbating into another unconscious person then? Because if so, this means rape is never rape but just ‘sex’!

No one is capable of giving ‘consent’ when they are either unconscious or drunk but this fact can be ignored because we continue to live in a rape culture and one furthermore wherein men are legally entitled to target women who have consumed alcohol because if these men are charged with rape they will be acquitted.

So, end result is – men seek out women who are either drunk or unconscious because legally you will not commit rape – just enacting your male right of unlimited sexual access to women. This is irrespective of whether or not a man would commit such an act, because in law it is legal and therefore continues to privilege male sexual autonomy and male sexual rights over women’s non-existent sexual rights.

Lynsey // Posted 27 March 2009 at 1:25 pm

I think this is a REALLY tricky one. I have mixed feelings about it. I think it’s totally right that if someone is out of their head drunk, or unconscious, then that would be rape. But she was participating. You say eye contact and body language don’t equal consent, but they don’t not equal it either. She got up the stairs herself and took her own clothes off (apparently).

My feeling is that if waking up in the morning, not really remembering what happened, and feeling regretful is rape then a large amount of people in this country have been raped.

And if I, as a feminist, feel so conflicted about this, then it was obvious the case would be thrown out. The man on the street will never be able to get their head around it.

Lara // Posted 27 March 2009 at 1:28 pm

“what’s up with the idea that unconscious women can claim rape when they’ve been raped”

BECAUSE IF YOU ARE UNCONSCIOUS YOU CAN’T POSSIBLY GIVE CONSENT!!!

Lara // Posted 27 March 2009 at 1:42 pm

Also this is a complex case and perhaps had we been in the jury we may have felt that in this scenario the rape could not be proved ‘beyond reasonable doubt’.

HOWEVER, what do people hope to gain by reporting on this? It’s alright lads if she’s really drunk you’ll probably get off and then get off! It send out a really bad message.

This guy is clearly did take advantage of the women – or she wouldn’t have contacted the police – but he’s been painted as some sort of ‘wronged saint’.

I think the best thing this government did was the adverts that said ‘If you don’t get consent you could be tried for rape’ (and as Ricky Gervais said ‘what kind of society has to remind people NOT to rape’). However what they forgot to say was you will probably get off scot free.

lou // Posted 27 March 2009 at 1:43 pm

hmmm

I have been so drunk I can’t remember dancing or talking-that doesn’t mean I didn’t want to dance or talk to someone.

It IS horrendous that the man is portrayed as speaking the truth when his story could just as easily be wrong, or worse, a deliberate lie but *noone* knows what happened that night.

She may genuinely believe that she wouldn’t have consented, though she can’t remember any of it and he may genuinely believe that he would have stopped if she wasn’t actively engaging in the sex.

Unless she has a story of what happened that differs to his—how can we know that they weren’t just both engaging in drunken consensual sex and because she has previous experience of rape or something her loss of memory has shaken her up?

I am *not* saying she is lying-at all. I am not saying not saying “No” is “yes”….but that **active engagement** in sex while drunk can’t be called rape surely? If that’s what happened. If that isn’t what happened-if she doesn’t remember…how do we know? How does she know?

From this information, we have no way of knowing if **either** of them are remembering the evening right.

Laura // Posted 27 March 2009 at 1:51 pm

Lou and Lynsey – I see where you’re coming from, but the woman felt she had been raped, so much so that she reported it to the police and persevered with the case to the point of bringing the guy to trial. Why shouldn’t we believe her?

Jennifer Drew // Posted 27 March 2009 at 2:21 pm

My statement concerning ‘presumption’ is in fact not correct. Sexual Assault and the justice gap by Jennifer Tempkin and Barbara Krahe states clearly why men charged with raping a woman who was drunk or unconscious due to consuming alcohol are being acquitted.

There is still no irrebutable presumption of absence of consent due to intoxication, but instead there is a rebuttable presumption under the current Sexual Offences Act. This means defence can rebut claims a woman did not consent when the man allegedly raped her, even though she was unconscious at the time.

Quoting Tempkin ‘The Sex Offences Review proposed there should be a presumption of non-consent where a person was too affected by alcohol to give free agreement (Home Office, 2000a: vol. 1, 19). This would apply to self-induced intoxication. However David Blunket (Home Secretary at time of Sexual Offences Review) rejected this by saying “I have rejected the suggestion that someone who is inebriated could claim they were unable to give consent – as opposed to someone who is unconscious for whatever reason, including alcohol – on the grounds that we do not want mischevous accusations.” (Office for Criminal Justice Reform, 2006:12). This statement is a prime endorsement of several key rape myths, namely that false rape accusations are common and that women who allege rape having drunk too much are in fact likely to have consented and then regretted it afterwards.’

So, as Tempkin says ‘Where a person is unconscious through drink, a situation which is not unusual, then consent is not possible. People who are highly intoxicated drift in and out of consciousness.’

But instead when the Sexual Offences Act, 2003 was being drawn up, no irrebutable presumption of absence of consent due to intoxication was drafted. Instead, we have a rebutable presumption wherein defence is able to produce evidence to argue a woman did consent even though she was unconscious at the time she was sexually penetrated by the man.

So, irrespective of how intoxicated a woman is, if it can be proved she ‘consented’ and was conscious at time of ‘consent’ it it is irrelevant her faculties were impaired due to alcohol. How does one ‘prove’ the woman was unconscious at the precise moment the man sexually penetrated her – given that intoxicated individuals commonly lapse in and out of consciousness.

To overcome such claims ‘but she consented because she was conscious at the time even though she was drunk – we must have an irrebutable presumption of non-consent due to intoxication by alcohol, irrespective of whether it was self-induced or administered to the complainant. The legal definition of intoxication applies wherein anyone driving a vehicle after having consumed a certain amount of alcoholic units is declared to be incapable of driving.

Additionally, no one can give ‘consent’ to non-emergency medical surgery if they are intoxicated because they are deemed incapable of giving free and informed consent. Instead a medical practitioner has to wait until the patient is completely sober. But when it comes to women having ownership of their sexuality and bodies, the law considers this irrelevant because all women are judged to be ‘consenting’ unless there is third party objective evidence proving otherwise.

Ellie // Posted 27 March 2009 at 2:25 pm

Laura – because while there must be a reason this woman was willing to take the case so far, this reason does not have to be because she was actually raped. That would be a stupid way to judge a case.

The judge and the jury have heard evidence and personal statements that we have no access to, the reporting in the linked article is hardly well detailed. Therefore it is pretty impossible to draw definite conclusions about the case.

Lynsey // Posted 27 March 2009 at 2:39 pm

Lara; she wasn’t unconscious. She ‘performed a sex act on him’; I think we all know what that means- but it suggests she was awake and functioning, surely?

Laura; the key words in your sentence are ‘felt she had been’. But had she?

I am sickened by the front of the daily mail bragging ‘cleared in 45 minutes’ because it damages rape victims credibility. But in this case the areas were so grey. People dont want to convict violent rape because its ‘he said/ she said’. Do you honestly think they have any sympathy for a drunk woman who just happens to know the law?

The law was put there for a reason. But I just don’t see a case like this EVER ending with a guilty verdict.

Interesting discussion on the guardian website about this, where I have been arguing for the other side…

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/mar/26/john-yates-police

Just a glance at some of the attitudes on there tell you everything you need to know.

Lou // Posted 27 March 2009 at 3:09 pm

Hey

I have no problem beliveing her…and I think the NHS and counsellors and the police while investigating should believe her and treat her as a true victim of a horrible crime.

I just don’t think I could convict him on this evidence. Which is horrible, but how could I?

I think it should be a note on his file that only comes up in a search in the event of a further complaint against him in the future.

Lou // Posted 27 March 2009 at 3:15 pm

Also I think when there are obvious problems with rape investigations with a lot of evidence i.e. the case of Worboys and Reid where many many women were not believed/trivialised by the police-this story shouldn’t overtake that.

This is a story of one man who was not necessarily wrongly accused and **DID NOT** go to prison.

The others are examples of many many women being raped unecessarily because a rapist went free.

Funny the injustice against one man has the public up in arms more than the injustices of the met who failed so many women.

Qubit // Posted 27 March 2009 at 3:37 pm

I personally think there is a lot of uncertainty in this case and the jury were right in finding the man in question innocent. It is also likely the woman had reasons to feel like she was raped and it wasn’t malicious baiting.

I think maybe the key aspect to this is we need to encourage respect amoung sexual partners. While a one night relationship is often just about the sex for both parties that doesn’t have to exclude mutual respect. If we teach both men and women to think about whether the other party wants sex, whether they are drunk to the point of confidence or drunk to the point of not knowing what they want and to act on this behaviour I think this type of case could be reduced. I think respect for the partner and their feelings can be lacking in sex only relationships but just because you aren’t going to form an emotional connection doesn’t mean you should ‘use’ your partner for everything you can get regardless of their feelings.

If we could teach the idea of respecting your partner and establishing mutual consent we could make the world a happier place. Reduce the cases of rape by a small amount and reduce the number of cases where both parties were uncertain what happened. This would be beneifcial to men and women and just involves treating the opposite sex as a human being with emotions and not just someone to get sex from.

I think at the same time we need to try to reduce the way society frowns upon one night stands for both women and men. If this can be seen as a respected decision I think the respect each party offers to their partner will increase.

Oliva // Posted 27 March 2009 at 4:20 pm

This reminds me, just when is somebody at the “very sorry” Met going to get the sack for the incompetence of the so-called “Sapphire” teams?

Sophie // Posted 27 March 2009 at 4:34 pm

“Funny the injustice against one man has the public up in arms more than the injustices of the met who failed so many women.”

I think this is what we’re indignant about Lou. There’s no way of knowing if he’d raped her, the context is so important and we only have his account.

It’s the predictable ‘So there!’ attitude in the media. Yay a man walks free who a drunk slutty woman dared to call out as rapist. The kind of ‘look how damaging feminism is, this poor boy…’ anti- woman tone of it.

Lynsey // Posted 27 March 2009 at 5:07 pm

Sophie, that part is spot on. I also didn’t appreciate him grinning gleefully as he came out of court. But it’s the people saying that the woman was unconscious that are making us, as feminists, look reactionary. Because she wasn’t.

Rhona // Posted 28 March 2009 at 1:15 am

Sophie, you’re absolutely right.

I don’t think ANY feminist would ‘rejoice’ in seeing an innocent man convicted of rape if that wasn’t the case, but there DOES seem to be an incredible media-led bias concerning the reportage of ‘bad-woman-accuses-innocent-man’ as opposed to ‘many-women-report-bad-man-yet-bad-man-gets-off’-type cases.

Incidentally, is anybody else deeply, DEEPLY sick of the numbers of eejits on CiF who ‘demand’ statistics on wrongly reported/false accusations of rape any time any kind of gender-based violence story comes up? I’m seriously considering asking the Grauniad to put up some kind of permanent link to actual Home Office figures to try to deflect these stupid f*cking questions.

polly styrene // Posted 28 March 2009 at 8:22 am

The point here is that there WAS no “injustice” against the man, because he was found innocent.

But IMO, anyone who wants to have sex with someone they’ve just met, who’s clearly pissed out of their head is not exactly a nice person.

maggie // Posted 28 March 2009 at 9:54 am

I read about this in a lot of papers of the week, and it just really angered me. Yes it feeds that perception out there that most rape cases are untrue and caused by some lying evil woman, trying to ruin a mans life. It also is mysoginist in the respect that a couple of articles I read seemed to ridicule the woman because she was so drunk(Its ok for boys to get pissed but not us girls). Its just fuels everything that is wrong in society about rape. No one paper has picked up on the fact that if someone is totally unconscious with drink, then how about not having sex with the person? Its totally insane. I feel like an alien on this planet!

crossroadsvirgil // Posted 28 March 2009 at 10:16 am

This story is going to have an unfortunate effect in supporting the ‘myth’ of the woman who cried rape, but in this case I don’t really see how the jury could have come to a different conclusion.

As reported in the press, the facts of the case are:

Two people had a couple of bottles of wine each, went to bed and intercourse took place.

In the morning the woman couldn’t remember what had happened the night before and accused the man of rape.

We only have the account of the man about what actually happened the night before because he is the only person who remembers. His account is that she actively participated in sex.

If we presume that his account is true (and the complainant doesn’t challenge it), then what happened is quite different from a case, say, where a man penetrates an unconscious woman.

What seems to have happened here is that the complainant has inferred from the fact that she can’t remember what happened the conclusion that she was to drunk to consent. This seems like a dubious inference; being that drunk seems quite compatible with fully active and enthusiastic participation in sex.

That is not to say that I’d think intoxication irrelevant to consent, but each case should be taken on its merits.

Jennifer Drew–

Are we seriously going to say that if you are drunk you are unable to consent to sex? By that measure there’s an awful lot of non-consensual sex going on in this country that is enjoyed by both partners– and a lot of men are being raped by woman.

On the other hand– if someone is so drunk they’re going in and out of conciousness surely you’d have to say they were unable to consent, regardless of whether they were ‘in’ or ‘out’ of conciousness at the time of penetration. That however, requires one to be a very great deal more drunk then someone who is just over the drink-drive limit.

Shea // Posted 28 March 2009 at 1:51 pm

no one can give ‘consent’ to non-emergency medical surgery if they are intoxicated because they are deemed incapable of giving free and informed consent. Instead a medical practitioner has to wait until the patient is completely sober. But when it comes to women having ownership of their sexuality and bodies, the law considers this irrelevant because all women are judged to be ‘consenting’ unless there is third party objective evidence proving otherwise.

Yes! Hell yes!

if he was intoxicated as her, how could he know she “gave him the come on”. Wouldn’t it have been better to make sure he was clear on whether she was, rather than relying upon his own interpretation of her body language?!? How could he be sure she was consenting? That’s why drunk driving is prohibited, your judgement is severely impaired.

Its this presumption that men are always telling the truth and women must be lying, its always there in the media, in the law and the courts. The undercurrent of misogyny that greets any woman brave enough to stand up and say “actually its not alright”.

Lisa // Posted 28 March 2009 at 3:29 pm

She wasn’t unconscious and she was participating by performing a sex act on him – according to him.

She can’t remember ? She ‘feels’ she was raped ? her inhibitions were lowered by alcohol and she had sex that she wouldn’t have done sober and ‘feels’ taken advantage of ? – these do not constitute rape.

Woman must be very careful before using ‘because of the alcohol I was all over him but I wouldn’t have been sober and therefore it’s rape’ because that’s exactly what men have been saying for millenia – alcohol lowers a woman’s inhibitions and makes her much more likely to consent. That’s why women didn’t use to drink and were chaporoned !

The truth is that when this much alcohol has been consumed the resultant drunken fumblings are unlikely to be remembered much the next day and a woman may well regret her loss of inhibition. We must take responsibility for this though and not demand a return to Victorian era one rule for women and another for men. Next thing women won’t be allowed to drink, be alone unchaporoned with men etc in case we lose control of ourselves and do something we’ll regret in the morning- like the irresponsible children men have always claimed we were !

I (and many women know) that when drunk I probably would have sex with a hell of a lot of men and regret it later – that’s one of the reasons I don’t get drunk. It’s got nothing to do with rape, the men but everything to do with me. I’m not the only woman who’s honest with herself about this either.

Natalie // Posted 28 March 2009 at 10:09 pm

Finally, there are comments online that have some sense, its depressing to read what’s on the news websites.

I think that it was more likely to be rape than not, having read what was said afterwards. The woman had a reputation for getting drunk, a male friend rang the defendant to come over once she was drunk, then left the house. We only have his word about what happened next. No witnesses.

He said after the court case that he’d planned to “have a one night stand with coffee and breakfast” but was she aware of his plans? Unlikely as she’d met him only twice before and was drunk when he arrived at the house.

Planning to have sex with someone, without checking to see if that was her intention too is actually rape, isn’t it.

Since when does, “you look young” mean “lets have sex” or since when does being drunk mean “lets have sex” or since when does smiling at someone mean that either.

Natalie // Posted 28 March 2009 at 10:17 pm

The thing about women jurors – well. Its a fact that women are less likely to believe a woman who says she has been raped. Men are more sympathetic. The main reason is that women do not like to think they MAY be raped, so to feel safe, tell themselves that “only bad women get raped so I am safe because I am not a bad woman” or whatever version they prefer, women who wear short skirts, drink a lot etc…

The downside to this is that when faced with a woman who is saying they have been raped, their belief means they label the woman as a “bad woman” and then disbelieve what they are saying as “women lie about rape”

If I went to court, I would prefer an all male jury

Tim Worstall // Posted 29 March 2009 at 1:54 pm

“The norm, according to rape myths, is that women frequently lie about being raped, and men accused of rape are generally innocent victims who must be protected from jail and a criminal record at all costs:”

Not quite. “Some” women lie and “some” accused men are innocent. That’s actually why we have a legal system, all these trials, rules of evidence, juries and all the rest. To try and work out whether one specific individual is a member of that group of “some” or not.

I’m certainly not claiming that the system is perfect but I certainly prefer it to one in which the accusation is the proof.

Barnaby Dawson // Posted 29 March 2009 at 6:09 pm

I disagree strongly with this article and some of the responses to it which is unusual for me. I’m responding in part to the article and in part to other comments. I have read the yahoo, times and msn reporting of the case and my points below are based on assuming those reports are accurate.

Several comments state that she was unconcious. From reading the articles it is not clear that the women was unconcious during the sexual act. She may have either lost the memory later due to acohol or she might be lying. From the reporting I don’t think we have enough information to decide on that matter. Lynsey points out too that she is said to have ‘performed a sex act on him’ which seems to imply she was concious.

In addition false rape accusations (that make it to the courts) like many other false accusations are rare. This doesn’t justify assuming all such accusations are true. We lack any background information which might help us decide whats true here (Ellie above expresses it better than I can).

If we take the position that intoxication implies no consent and we don’t allow a crime to be defined by someone’s feelings about the matter at a later time then logically both the man and the women would be guilty of rape (assuming the man is not lying about her decisions leading up to and at the time of the sexual act).

If we do allow the crime to be defined in part by someone’s subsequent fealings when they were intoxicated at the time of the sexual act then we’re left in the position that the man could equally validly have claimed rape the following morning.

It seems to me that a significant imbalance in intoxication should be taken to imply no consent but that if both parties are equally drunk that their consents are either equally valid or equally invalid. Equally valid seems to make more sense to me.

LauraJo // Posted 29 March 2009 at 7:02 pm

I have just finished reading the comments from the guardian article that Lynsey brought attention to, and there were quite a few of “feminist agitator” comments regarding rape accusations, unsurprisingly, I add regretably.

It startles me how many people truly believe that many victims of so-called drunken-rape are doing it out of revenge or shame. The trouble an accusor will have to go through to get the case as far as court, should be an indication of it’s seriousness. For “feminist aggitator” in this commentor’s opinion read “man hater”. Allowing cases of this kind to come to court is not part of some evil feminist campaign of penis hate, people! It’s a realisation of the importance of consent, rather than the right to use a woman’s body because she’s probably not concious enough to be distressed by it, and really, what are the odds she’ll remember anyway?

On the other hand I have the unpleasant experience of being the recipient of drunken sex when I was totally incapacitated. I, knowing the boy, did not judge it as rape because i truly did not think he meant to take malicious advantage of me, even as he was being a horny opportunist. Was I wrong? I did indeed have feelings of shame, confusion and violation and to this day I argue with myself over whether I’m right to feel the way i do about it.

Rumbold // Posted 29 March 2009 at 7:23 pm

Others have covered it better than I, but I presume that Laura Woodhouse believes that a person’s word should be enough to convict someone else.

Amy Clare // Posted 30 March 2009 at 11:52 am

Rumbold et al –

When you have a ‘justice’ system that only convicts someone for approximately 5% of reported rapes (and the unreported rapes, were they counted, would push this percentage down even further) then you have a system massively skewed in favour of the perpetrators, i.e. many, many guilty rapists are walking free. This is not acceptable – the law isn’t even trying to balance the need to protect victims with the need to ensure human rights for all. It is effectively saying that rape victims don’t really exist (unless you’re a pure, sober virgin who screamed ‘no’ every five seconds and was witnessed doing so). When cases like the one in this post are reported on by the media in the way this has been, it gives the general public the impression that this status quo is okay. It is not, and that’s what’s got us so angry.

I have to add, also – women are intelligent, adult human beings who know the difference between having sex when drunk and regretting it, and rape. I might add that the man didn’t have any evidence to back up his side of the story either, but he was automatically believed. There’s only his word that she ‘performed a sex act’ on him – perhaps he could be the one who’s lying?

Mobot // Posted 30 March 2009 at 11:55 am

Ok, I think there is some confusion arising about precisely what is being objected to here… although I can’t speak on behalf of anyone else, I don’t believe that anyone posting here claims that they have all the evidence to objectively judge what happened in this case themselves. It’s difficult to know exactly what went on due to the alcohol consumption involved and the confusion about what consent actually is, but it’s not solely the fact that he wasn’t convicted that’s the problem. As previously mentioned, it’s the way the case has been handled and reported on that’s disgusting. Classic victim blaming! Ok so it might be possible to argue that she may not have been simply a victim of the accused’s malicious intent but nevertheless, painting him as the innocent victim in all of this is at best unhelpful and at worst sickeningly misogynistic. Oh and Barnaby, I’m sorry if this appears simplistic but I’m not convinced he could have equally claimed rape due to having been intoxicated – how could she physically have managed this exactly? Yes, women are capable of sexual assault but forcing a drunk man to penetrate her? Doubtful.

Barnaby Dawson // Posted 30 March 2009 at 3:06 pm

To Mobot: Firstly sex is not just defined as vaginal penetration in the missionary position (both sexes can be active partners in sexual acts). Secondly erections are not necessarily voluntary (it is a common myth that men must want to have an erection for one to occur). Thirdly if intoxication invalidates otherwise valid consent then this would apply to the man as well as the woman. So if we take this (admittedly dodgy) position then it implies that both the man and the women were guilty of rape as they were both drunk at the time of the sexual act. If the man is telling the truth (and this is within a reasonable doubt) then both parties consented at the time and the woman was active in the sexual act. The only issue is whether consent should be regarded as valid in the circumstances.

On Mobot’s point I am objecting to the claim that the man here should have been convicted of rape (based only on what has been reported).

Qubit // Posted 30 March 2009 at 5:11 pm

I don’t think she should be charged with his rape for the following reasons

1) He remembers events clearly (or at least claims to) and remembers consenting. This implies a level of intoxication far below the level of the woman.

2) It sounds like he initiated events (based on what her body language seemed to suggest) and then continued to be in control through out. This is not rape but if you are in completely voluntary control of what happens physically and mentally it is hard to argue rape. In this case this is exaggerated by the fact the woman was obviously not even thinking sanely about what she wanted let alone what he wanted.

3) Women are generally weaker than men (this seems to be significant in why women should earn less etc but when it comes to crime it is ignored). In general, while there are some woman who could constrain a man who is relatively sober compared to them it is a lot less common than men who can constrain a woman. I know my boyfriend COULD constrain me and do physically to me whatever he wanted, I trust him not to do this however relative strength means I wouldn’t be able to do anything. If I tried the same to him then he could and hopefully would escape easily. Most couples I know have this scenario, where technically the man could do whatever he wanted to the woman.

This case shouldn’t have resulted in conviction. I think he had zero respect for her and was a dick but that isn’t a crime, nor would I say should it be. There is no word to go with but his. However I don’t think it is fair to say she should be charged with raping him, as none of the evidence points to this being what happened, especially as his evidence suggests he remembers consenting.

Mary // Posted 30 March 2009 at 8:00 pm

Jennifer Drew: But when it comes to women having ownership of their sexuality and bodies, the law considers this irrelevant because all women are judged to be ‘consenting’ unless there is third party objective evidence proving otherwise.

I’ve got to say, I’m cool with that! I never want to get non-emergency medical treatment when I’m drunk, but I sure as hell want to have sex when I’m drunk.

I know what you’re trying to say here, but you do not deal with the problem of rape by legally limiting the circumstances under which women are able to consent to sex: that’s just a scary road to go down. The right to say yes is just as important as the right to say no: the latter can’t exist without the former.

My feelings on this are that this is perfect demonstration of why the legal system is ill-equipped to deal with the problem of rape and sexual assault as they currently exist. It is right that we have a higher standard of proof to convict than we do to acquit. Therefore, if you only have two people’s testimony of what happened, and one says a crime was committed and the other says a crime was not committed, and both are equally plausible, you have to acquit. This is the standard of proof that our justice system rests on.

But all this says is that we need to look elsewhere for solutions. What we need is education, education, education: we need to point out repeatedly that getting so drunk you sexually assault someone because you’re incapable of knowing whether they consent is a risk. We need to live in a culture where “getting drunk and having sex” is seen as a risk to everyone involved, not something that boys do with impunity and girls have to guard against.

drudgydruff // Posted 30 March 2009 at 9:09 pm

Why so much focus on the standard of proof as opposed to what’s really at issue here a woman- hating media? (as people have many a time pointed out)

Don’t waste your breath folks. Talk about rape, domestic violence. How men also get tragically raped will be brought in soon enough.

Argh I’m an alien in this piss- takingly logic foresaken planet. Why is it ‘men who are raped’ get brought up, as if general necessity to the conversation? A big H-E-L-L-O HERE!

– Why do we need to hear about men being raped Barnaby? Also it’d be nice if people didn’t pick straws in their arguments.

Rumbold // Posted 30 March 2009 at 9:58 pm

Amy Clare:

Person A said one thing.

Person B denied it.

So Person B should be convicted then?

It would say that it is good that this case was reported- it should hopefully spur the CPS to concentrate on cases where they have some evidence, and thus increase the chances of convicting actual rapists.

Mephit // Posted 30 March 2009 at 11:38 pm

What was most disturbing to me about the media coverage was that this story of acquittal was on the front page of papers, such as the Daily Mail (hawk, spit) and the Express (hawk, spit), rather than the conviction of multiple rapist Kirk Reid…

Barnaby Dawson // Posted 31 March 2009 at 12:40 pm

To drudgydruff: The original article states clearly (or at least heavily implies) that the man should have been convicted. A number of people commenting on this blog disagree with that statement and its not just ‘the normal suspects’. Responding to it is not knocking down a straw man.

Another commentator voiced a rape myth concerning male rape and I responded to that. I would not otherwise have brought up the subject.

To Qubit: If you read my post carefully you will see that I never said that she should be charged for his rape (and I certainly don’t think that). I was mearly pointing out that a naive rewriting of the law could result in women in similar situations being charged. (1) I have never lost memories whilst drunk despite getting very drunk on occasion but friends of mine forget things when just very tipsy. From what I’ve read we don’t know how drunk he was. (2) is wrong if Lynsey is right in saying that ‘she performed a sex act on him’. (3) is irrelevent to my point which concerns the validity of consent given under the influence of alcohol.

I agree that the man was behaving very badly of course.

Qubit // Posted 31 March 2009 at 1:19 pm

I do disagree with you in that I think it is possible to be too drunk to consent.

I remember once when a friend of mine was really drunk she was conscious but not forming coherent words, she would have been aware she didn’t want sex but would have been unable to communicate this to the person in question in any way. She would have probably been able to make some attempt to push him off but he could have easily claimed these attempts at a come on.

Later on (about 3 hrs later) when she had sobered up a bit she was speaking coherent words in nonsense sentences. Again her ability to judge what was happen and comment on it was lacking and to actually interpret the question of wanting sex and then respond was lacking. I have no doubt she would have not wanted to consent but she wouldn’t have been able to express that lack of consent.

I have only seen a couple of people like this however I think in this scenario assuming informed consent would have been rape. A decent person can judge the level of drunkenness a person is at and know when consent is either forced or not really given, especially when this other person is relatively sober. Luckily the girl in question was with friends who helped her not someone who took advantage.

Anita // Posted 2 April 2009 at 7:52 pm

Just saw this on the BBC news website:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/7980061.stm

I realise that this is a completely different situation to what Laura posted on – but look at how stranger rape is dealt with. A paltry minimum 7.5 yrs is cut down to even less – 5 years! What kind of message does that send out?

It makes my blood boil.

Sam Rico // Posted 3 April 2009 at 2:54 am

this is ineresting, especially because i had a massive argument in my philosophy class about this with every other boy there. at least i have some people on my side, they almost made me think i was being stupid. well, not really, but you know. anyway, you are right, it seems to me the most ridiculous idea that women take a case all the way to court just because they, err, i dont know, feel like it? and yet, everyone seems to just accept this explanation of events, and apply it to all rape cases- often before they have even read the details. it especially alarms me that this is true in my law class, with its many would-be solicitors. in one case we studied (as a main case which we use to decide other cases), a guy invited several friends to have sex with his wife, claiming that she would protest, but it was a fantasy and she really liked it. they all raped her, and got off on the defense of ‘honest mistake’…. i mean WTF? are we seriously meant to believe they couldnt tell? well, sorry for rambling, thanks anyway.

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