Silence Does NOT Equal Consent

// 26 April 2010

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Jack Tweed and Anthony Davis have been found not guilty of raping a teenage girl.

While this verdict has now been passed, and I therefore cannot suggest that either of them are guilty, I do want to challenge the idea that a woman not saying no means that you are able to just fuck them.

In Davis’s testimony, it turns out that

The court heard that in the police interview Mr Davis said he saw his friend having sex with the woman against a window and that “she didn’t protest it”.

“She didn’t say ‘stop’. She didn’t say anything to suggest she didn’t want it to happen,” he added.

“She didn’t say anything at all.”

“I just got closer and closer. She didn’t say anything.”

It is never ok for a man to presume that he can fuck a woman based on the fact that she is being fucked by someone else, and that when he approaches she doesn’t say anything.

Hugo Schwyzer says, “The opposite of rape is not consent. The opposite of rape is enthusiasm”, and there is a lot of truth in that.

Davis went on to say

“If a girl had been assaulted or raped, she would have come out of that room traumatised.

“She would have been screaming, surely someone would have heard something.”

This is a common misconception, and one which contributes to the low conviction rates of rapists in this country. That rape victims behave in a certain way. If she is not screaming and crying, if she doesn’t instantly call the police, then she can’t have really been raped.

Women cope in whatever way they can in order to survive. This can include denial and withdrawal as much as anger and seeking justice. There is a lot of shame for rape survivors, and a lot of self-questioning, which can mean that women do not immediately tell people – least of all the police, who don’t have a great reputation for sensitivity in these situations – what has happened. This does not mean it did not happen!

aest.org have an article about Rape Trauma Syndrome which outlines and explains some of the many possible reactions that people who have been raped can experience and display.

I can’t comment on Tweed and Davis being found not guilty. But I am using some details of their testimony to challenge some commonly-used assumptions about women’s reactions to male violence, which apply in many rape cases we see.

Comments From You

Jennifer Drew // Posted 26 April 2010 at 8:09 pm

Completely agree – since when does silence = ‘consent’ to a male(s) penetrating a woman? When it happens in the UK and when contrary to the 2003 Sexual Offences Act, which specifically states a person must demonstrate they have sought the consent of the other party, before proceeding to penetrate their body.

However, passing an act is one thing whereas actually implementing this act is clearly irrelevant.

So, true – women who are subjected to male sexual violence do not commonly enact male-centered stereotypical behaviour but clearly embedded rape myths and the continuing media promotion that women survivors of male sexual violence all commonly make false rape allegations against supposedly innocent men, has played a central role in the numbers of male rapists being acquitted.

There is one clear message from this case and that is it is acceptable for males to rape women and girls because unless a woman/girl is able to provide independent male witnesses who can state they witnessed the female rape survivor say that supposedly ‘magical word “no” then male sexual violence against a woman/women does not happen.’

Truth About Rape

Elmo // Posted 26 April 2010 at 8:29 pm

Im so glad somebody brought this up-ive been following it in the news recently, I find the whole thing very disturbing-especially the press’ use of language-even in non-biased places like the bbc-as well as the testimony.

There have been situations I have been in (luckily nothing even close to this) where something has happened-and I just stand there awkwardly, I dont make a fuss or scream, and its only when its too late that you realise what has happened. You go into shock.

This is what I imagine happens in many, many rape case-women simply cant believe whats happening to them (especially if they have been pedalled the myth of rape being a strictly back- ally- dark- stranger situation). Doubly so if it happens with someone they trust/have had a sexual realtionship with.

Frankly I cant believe that this argument of “she wasnt saying no” stood up in court- I mean I can, given the statistics of court cases, but I cant believe no one asked him “why would assume to initiate sex with someone who wasnt saying ‘yes’ ?”

Anyway, thanks for covering it Philippa

aimee // Posted 26 April 2010 at 8:29 pm

How could they be found not guilty!? He explicitly said that she didn’t give consent and as Jennifer Drew said, consent is a proviso of it NOT BEING RAPE. Effing appalling.

Naomi // Posted 26 April 2010 at 8:49 pm

Terrifying. The unchallenged rape culture in our society, which serves patriarchy, seems to be getting only worse.

polly // Posted 26 April 2010 at 8:53 pm

I think it’s worth pointing out that definition of rape in the sexual offences act is:

A person (A) commits an offence if— .

(a)

he intentionally penetrates the vagina, anus or mouth of another person (B) with his penis, .

(b)

B does not consent to the penetration, and .

(c)

A does not reasonably believe that B consents.

Whether a belief is reasonable is to be determined having regard to all the circumstances, INCLUDING ANY STEPS A has taken to ascertain whether B consents.”” (emphasis added).

That’s it, except to say I predicted a not guilty verdict in this case. Just call me mystic Meg.

Lucie // Posted 27 April 2010 at 1:23 am

This is all kinds of messed up. That is all I can muster.

KJB // Posted 27 April 2010 at 2:53 am

I think the press coverage (as Elmo mentions above) was instrumental to how this case was viewed publicly. Pretty much ALL media outlets did the classic thing of using one woman to invisibilise another.

Jack Tweed was repeatedly referred to as ‘Widower of Jade Goody’ and ‘Jade Goody’s widower.’ Even in pieces where this wasn’t in the headline, it was pointedly mentioned (such as in online BBC articles). The deeply misogynistic impact of this was to:

a) Play on people’s love for Jade to make Tweed look good

b) Imply that Tweed was somehow still ‘suffering’ after Jade’s death, so y’know, be well-disposed towards him and

c) Replace the unknown woman at the centre of this with Jade Goody, and the horror of rape with the sanctity of marriage. I thought it was telling how the coverage (especially in the headlines) wrote Tweed’s friend out altogether. They could have said ‘Tweed and friend’ but no, it was ‘Widower of Jade Goody’ all the way.

I’m really glad that the F-Word has highlighted this; I was going to send the link in but didn’t have the time.

sianmarie // Posted 27 April 2010 at 9:00 am

well said.

i wasn’t aware of this until reading this post – how on earth can they justify consent on the basis of saying nothing?

and i am sick sick sick of this idea that rape victims always behave the same way and because she wasn’t obviously ‘traumatised’. what does obviously traumatised even mean?

and i agree, we don’t need to know jack tweed is jade’s widower. we need to know he is a man who apparently thinks it is ok to take silence as consent, and has friends who think the same.

Amy Clare // Posted 27 April 2010 at 10:30 am

This is appalling. Why would a jury take into account the defendant’s assessment of whether or not his alleged victim was ‘traumatised’? Even if he wasn’t deliberately lying, surely he’s not the most reliable judge of that?

Seemingly, juries are only too happy to believe rape myths. What can be done about this? A public education campaign? Better jury training?

Cath Elliott // Posted 27 April 2010 at 11:02 am

Thanks for covering this Philippa. I was going to write something about it but to be honest, I couldn’t think of any way to word it that wouldn’t have had me done for libel or slander or whatever.

“Women cope in whatever way they can in order to survive.”

Exactly.

Kristin // Posted 27 April 2010 at 11:45 am

Philippa, thanks for posting about this. I have been worried and very angry at the way the press covered it, bringing out all the usual misogynistic rubbish. You just feel like nothing will ever change. I kept thinking that, given this particular rape allegation had got as far as a courtroom (which, as we know, most don’t), the prosecution must have been pretty sure they had a strong case. I just find it absolutely incredible that anyone can ever think silence automatically equals consent. I don’t believe they actually do think it. They just want it to be true because it suits them.

Carrie // Posted 27 April 2010 at 12:02 pm

Quite agree with the above.

The media coverage after the verdict has been appalling too – the Metro this morning said something about “the jury believed Tweed’s story”, and that’s not necessarily the case when the criminal courts don’t decide on a balance of probabilities; it means that the jury didn’t think her story was *proven* beyond reasonable doubt, which isn’t the same thing.

Amy Clare // Posted 27 April 2010 at 12:02 pm

Might we need another ‘hands up’ thread about this to raise awareness?

i.e. ‘hands up if you’ve ever been sexually assaulted and/or raped and not said anything during your assault’…?

pagar // Posted 27 April 2010 at 12:54 pm

how on earth can they justify consent on the basis of saying nothing?

Sorry to rain on the parade but you must accept that if every sexual act that was not preceded by the specific verbal consent of the participants was punished as if it were rape, the majority of the male population would be incarcerated.

April // Posted 27 April 2010 at 1:25 pm

What’s need to happen in the legal system, is that the man has to prove consent.

JenniferRuth // Posted 27 April 2010 at 1:25 pm

@ Amy Clare

Seemingly, juries are only too happy to believe rape myths. What can be done about this? A public education campaign? Better jury training?

Honestly, the only way I can see it changing is by changing the way the entire world views women. Women are presented as being in a state of constant sexual consent. Our consent is in what we wear, who we were talking to, who we have had sex with, what we have been drinking and a thousand other things. We can (theoretically) withdraw consent, but no-one expects us to give it. This view is reinforced by advertising, by tv, by lads mags, by the news, by pretty much everything.

I don’t know how we can change this other than challenging every instance we see of it.

And people wonder why feminists are so angry, eh? Because yeah, I’m fucking angry.

earwicga // Posted 27 April 2010 at 1:55 pm

Cath – that’s exactly why I can’t write anything about it!

Does anybody know how to get a transcript of the trial?

Elmo, you have written:

“This is what I imagine happens in many, many rape case-women simply cant believe whats happening to them (especially if they have been pedalled the myth of rape being a strictly back- ally- dark- stranger situation). Doubly so if it happens with someone they trust/have had a sexual realtionship with. ”

I know you don’t mean it this way, but this comment is extremely insulting. It isn’t a myth that a woman is raped by a stranger. I was raped by two strangers and reacted by by freezing up in exactly the same way as the alleged victim in this case describes. I don’t imagine I am the only one. I have also been raped within a relationship and tbh I found the first rape much more traumatising. That is my own personal reaction, but ‘doubly so’ in your comment is YOUR own reaction too and I would ask you to not write it as the truth – it negates a lot of women’s experiences.

KJB – do you think the jury was affected at all – negatively or positively – by Tweed’s public profile?

BellesDesigns // Posted 27 April 2010 at 2:55 pm

As anyone who has ever had sex can tell you, it is VERY easy to tell if someone does or does not want to have sex with you. There IS no ‘grey area’.

The only way a ‘grey area’ can exist is if we assume that womens’ bodies are available for penetration as a default, and that a woman NOT wanting to have sex is the norm.

Disgusting.

anon // Posted 27 April 2010 at 4:39 pm

i am 17 and last year my boyfriend at the time initiated haing sex with him, i didn’t really protest but i didn’t really want to, so i let him penetrate me. i am not sure if this is rape because i don’t feel like a victim but after reading this i am not sure. he has a gf now and me reporting him may seem like i am jealous, i have moved on now and until now i haven’t really thought about that night. plus i don’t have any evidence am i waisting my time.

frombosa // Posted 27 April 2010 at 4:46 pm

Gah!!words cannot even describe how ridiculously out of order this is!that poor woman,what a total letdown.people scoff when I say we still haven’t reached equality and I think this case demonstrates my point clearly.silence does not mean consent!!

Shea // Posted 27 April 2010 at 5:01 pm

I knew it would be a not guilty verdict. There had to be a play on celebrity of some sort. Predictably the MSN comments to this are already calling the unknown woman alleged victim in this a tramp and a liar. Because now a failure to prove your case makes you a liar in rape cases.

It is just too depressing for words.

Philippa Willitts // Posted 27 April 2010 at 6:18 pm

Hi Amy Clare, I think that’s a really good idea. Thanks.

Philippa Willitts // Posted 27 April 2010 at 6:30 pm

Hi anon,

If you are concerned about what happened to you, I would suggest perhaps talking to someone at Rape Crisis, you can find your local centre here: http://www.rapecrisis.org.uk/centres.php. They can help you work out your feelings about what happened. Or talk to someone you trust, if you feel that might help.

Good luck.

Elly quietriot_girl // Posted 27 April 2010 at 7:02 pm

Excellent article thank-you for writing it.

I share the sadness and anger of the other comments writers, at such an unfair judicial system regarding rape, and the culture where rape happens at all, and then seems to end up blaming the victim.

But I disagree with Belles Designs that there are ‘no grey areas’ in relation to consent and sex. The comment from anon is an example of the grey area, and we have to deal with this if we are to combat the ‘rape culture’. I like the slogan ‘Yes means Yes’ but also we have to be prepared to discuss situations where consent is not clear or not communicated effectively.

polly // Posted 27 April 2010 at 7:09 pm

I think it’s clear that the definition of consent in the sexual offences act needs revising. Although there was clearly an intention to imply from the wording I quoted above that a ‘reasonable belief’ in consent means taking steps to check someone consents, that just isn’t the way it’s been interpreted in many cases.

Remember the 2005 case where a security guard was cleared of rape after having sex with a student who was actuallly UNCONSCIOUS?

http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/news/article-23379673-men-face-jail-for-rape-if-women-are-too-drunk-to-consent-in-bed-to-boost-convictions.do

It would be difficult to word an amendment, which I think is partly why the law has been framed the way it has, but I think we need something along the lines of “if a victim is not capable of giving consent at the time they act, or does not positively indicate they consent, consent can not be assumed”

polly // Posted 27 April 2010 at 7:33 pm

Pagar said:

“”Sorry to rain on the parade but you must accept that if every sexual act that was not preceded by the specific verbal consent of the participants was punished as if it were rape, the majority of the male population would be incarcerated. “”

Isn’t this the problem though? No someone doesn’t have to SAY ‘yes, yes, yes’, but you can’t imply from that that someone who does nothing at all is “consenting”. There are plenty of non verbal ways to actively indicate desire, true. The current default assumption though is didn’t say no, didn’t do anything at all,( in the case I’ve quoted above was unconscious) = said yes.

(Can I just say as a side issue I don’t know how to use HTML tags on the F word. Any chance this info could be included on the comment form, so commenters could italicise quoted parts?)

A J // Posted 27 April 2010 at 7:33 pm

I must say I’m somewhat surprised at the decision in this case, but I don’t really feel qualified to say any more than that, not having studied the evidence presented to the court in any detail.

But I do have to agree with Elly quietriot_girl in disagreeing with the idea that consent is always simple. Consent is an complex area, and pretending otherwise doesn’t do anyone any favours. The notion of formal affirmative verbal consent is a good ideal, but I strongly suspect that in about 99% of consensual sexual contact, there is not formal verbal consent – that’s just not how things work in the real world a lot of the time. Analysis of consent is never really going to achieve much unless it considers situations which are rather less clear-cut, and rather more reflective of how things actually happen.

Philippa Willitts // Posted 27 April 2010 at 7:35 pm

Hi Polly, I’ll pass your suggestion about html tags onto the blogging team, thanks.

Jennifer Drew // Posted 27 April 2010 at 7:53 pm

Since the case of the male security guard charged with raping an unconscious female student has been raised, the prosecution counsel did not raise the issue of ‘abuse of trust.’ This male security guard was charged specifically with conducting a female student safely back to her room. But the male security guard clearly believed he had the right of sexual access to this young woman. Furthermore the young woman was unconscious when the male guard decided he had the right of sexual access to her body.

That tricky word ‘reasonable’ was inserted into the 2003 Sexual Offences for a reason and that is this allows defendants to claim ‘but I thought she consented because common sense informs me all women ‘consent’ unless they specifically say no. Likewise ‘reasonable’ also means the jury is expected to take all circumstances into account and this includes the character of the female rape survivor, her actions after the alleged rape, her medical and sexual history etc. No such circumstances apply to the male defendant. He is not subjected to having his character minutely examined for flaws, neither is his sexual and medical history examined.

Consent has not been defined within the 2003 Sexual Offences Act and instead we continue to have the presumption all women are in a constant state of ‘consent’ unless they can prove beyond a shadow of a doubt to a sceptical jury and society that no they did not consent to a male/males penetrating them. It is called male sex right to women and girls and this is the issue which is hotly contested. Because how dare any woman/girl claim she owns her body and sexuality, rather than it being men’s public property. Don’t believe me? The conviction rate for men accused of rape remains at the appalling rate of just 6% and the reasons are clear – rape is never rape unless it fits the narrow male-centered perameters.

There are no ‘grey areas’ concerning rape, rather this is yet another diversionary tactic designed to deflect attention away from male accountability and male responsibility.

The laws on rape were devised and written by men for men and this is why it is so difficult to change male-centered perceptions. It is all really very simple – men just ask the woman if she wishes to engage in any particular sexual act and if she refuses you accept her autonomous decision. But reality shows men do not because they believe it is their male right to have unlimited sexual access to women and girls.

Truth About Rape

DE // Posted 27 April 2010 at 8:11 pm

Here is the type of direction that the Judge gives to the Jury on the issue of consent in rape cases.

“The prosection also have to show that either the man did not believe that the woman was consenting, or that any belief on the man’s part that the woman was consenting was not a reasonable belief. However, If you decide that the man did believe or may have believed that the woman was consenting, and you are considering whether that belief was reasonable, you should take into account all the circumstances including any steps the man took to ascertain whether the woman consented”.

This test is an objective test and is the test of what a reasonable person might believe – not what that particular man might have himself believed. The Jury is being asked to find the facts on this one case alone and are told that they can only find the man guilty if they are sure beyond ‘reasonable’ doubt (that word ‘reasonable’ again !) and what a Jury brings with it, is its collective experiences of life – and the members are being asked to apply those experiences to the case in hand using the direction that the Judge gives. If the Judge does misdirect the Jury then that is grounds for appeal.

Whatever anyone may think about the verdict, they can not know how sound it was unless they were there to hear and see the evidence.

Philippa Willitts // Posted 27 April 2010 at 8:17 pm

DE, it is true that neither myself nor the commenters were there at the trial, so the discussion has been much more about the general issues of consent and response to sexual violence, than about this specific trial itself. I used the words from this trial to start a discussion about how consent should not be presumed from a woman’s silence, rather than to discuss this case itself.

A J // Posted 27 April 2010 at 8:20 pm

@ polly

“It would be difficult to word an amendment, which I think is partly why the law has been framed the way it has, but I think we need something along the lines of “if a victim is not capable of giving consent at the time they act, or does not positively indicate they consent, consent can not be assumed”

It’s already the law that a person cannot consent if they are incapable of giving consent. They can, though, consent in advance. I suspect that’s what was being argued in the case you linked to (though I don’t know for sure, so i could be wrong!)

A requirement of ‘positive indications of consent’ is problematic because most consensual sexual contacts don’t actually have continuous positive indications of consent at all times. All sexual encounters are essentially an infinte series of potential sexual assaults (by both parties, not just the man) avoided because of the presence of a belief in consent. If you require positive indications of consent to every sexual contact before it happens, and throughout it happening, it would make things essentially impossible for everyone on a practical level.

The law is as it is largely because its really hard to alter things in a way that doesn’t criminalise ordinary, consensual, sexual behaviour. I’m not sure if there’s actually a way round that – our definitions of consent are far from perfect, but the alternatives tend to be worse, unfortunately.

A J // Posted 27 April 2010 at 8:27 pm

@ Jennifer Drew

“That tricky word ‘reasonable’ was inserted into the 2003 Sexual Offences for a reason and that is this allows defendants to claim ‘but I thought she consented because common sense informs me all women ‘consent’ unless they specifically say no.

Sorry, but this really could not be further from the truth. The word ‘reasonable’ was inserted into the Sexual Offences Act 2003 because the courts had previously ruled that a belief that was “genuine” would be sufficient, even if that belief was not “reasonable”. It was specifically inserted to tighten up the law, and aid convictions, by adding an additional requirement before a belief in consent could prevent a guilty verdict.

DE // Posted 27 April 2010 at 8:53 pm

Phillipa, your article is based partly on a journalist cherry picking quotes from one of the defendant’s interview. You do not know what else he said in the Police interview – and maybe the quotes were taken out of context. for example after the quote “I just got closer and closer, she didn’t say anything” – (I’d submit it’s an odd thing to say on its own if you dening an offence ). He might have then followed with, “but she was looking at me and smiling “. As you say, you just do not know.

polly // Posted 27 April 2010 at 9:19 pm

AJ you are right in saying that the argument of ‘consent in advance’ was used in the case I quoted. What I’m saying though is that is inconsistent and illogical. The law says that if someone says ‘no’ at any point then from that point on the act is rape even if this is when penetration has already taken place consensually.

Now obviously someone who is unconscious cannot withdraw their consent at that point. So we should not assume consent by default, just because they consent earlier. Because they are no longer in a position to indicate withdrawal of consent.

polly // Posted 27 April 2010 at 9:31 pm

I also think your other point is midunderstanding what I said. I meant that some positive indication of consent (other than just doing nothing) needs to have been given at some point. Not that someone constantly needs to show consent.

BUT a defendant in a rape case who claims an alleged victim consents needs to be able to point to something OTHER than just a lack of protest as evidence of consent.

Because it isn’t evidence of consent – as several people on this thread have said, when they were raped they froze and were incapable of resisting. It’s a very common reaction. When much more minor things than that have happened to me, I’ve know I’ve gone into shock. For instance when I came home and realised I’d been burgled (the burglars were long gone) I couldn’t even work out how to phone the police. If there’d still been an intruder in my home I would have been completely defenceless.

The point is that a lot of ordinary everyday sexual encounters ARE rape. Rape is a very common thing. And most of it is committed by either partners or ex partners of the victims.

We need to move away from a situation where lack of protest is seen as a green light to do what you want. Most of us can tell when someone we’re talking to do doesn’t like us in an ordinary social situation, let’s face it, so you don’t have to be telepathic to work out that if someone’s ignoring you and saying nothing, they’re probably not interested.

Here’s a piece from way back on the F word which illustrates the problem perfectly.

/features/2001/07/why_irma_kurtz_is_wrong_about_rape

Elmo // Posted 27 April 2010 at 9:49 pm

earwicga, Im sorry you found my comment insulting, but I think you may have misread it- I stated that it is a myth that rape *only* occurs with strangers.

“especially if they have been pedalled the myth of rape being a *strictly* back- ally- dark- stranger situation”.

“Strictly”

In your quoted part of my comment, i was refering to women who are attacked by people they know, and why *they* freeze up. I was not at that point referring to women who are raped by strangers.

I was suggesting the reason why women raped by people they know often have reactions similar to the woman in this case.

I didnt say women who are raped by strangers dont freeze up. Nor did I ever say or imply that rape by an aquaintence is worse than rape by a stranger.

I dont know if your somehow suggesting that I am suggesting that women who are raped by people they know are somehow “better victims”.

Im not.

Im sorry i caused upset, but I feel my comment was clear.

westlant // Posted 27 April 2010 at 10:59 pm

In many cases, no matter how the law is framed, proving rape will be extremely difficult. Physical evidence can only prove so much and it will mostly come down to who the jury believes after both parties have given evidence. The victims exposure on the witness stand must be v. traumatic but there is no way round it and that is not likely to change.

earwicga // Posted 27 April 2010 at 11:40 pm

“it will mostly come down to who the jury believes after both parties have given evidence. The victims exposure on the witness stand must be v. traumatic but there is no way round it and that is not likely to change.”

But there is way round it. Exposing and stopping the a rape culture we live in where rapists rape with impunity. This would reduce cases of rape and juries would be able to understand clear evidence.

Rose // Posted 27 April 2010 at 11:45 pm

Rape myths do my head in.

I’d just like to comment that not all ‘failure to scream and shout’ comes from shock, sometimes it’s just simply common sense.

To illustrate, 6 months ago I was travelling alone in Varanasi, India, and in the middle of the night the guy from the room next door broke in through a connecter-door. I woke up to the noise, confused, but before I knew what was going on, he leaped onto my bed (beaking my mosqueitoe net), and started pinning me down.

There was no question as to his intention, so I restrained him, (I have a history of self-defence/kickboxing), and tried to reason with him. I was naked inside a tight sleeping-bag – the odds were in his favour, and there was no way I could have just thrown him out of the room.

Unfortunately, he was growing on the idea that he should kill me, so that I didn’t cause him any trouble.

But I did reason with him, using philiosophy and knowledge of his spirituality, and an hour and a half later we made a deal and he left the room.

The next day, I told a very sweet guy from across the courtyard what happened. He gave me a big hug, and had alot of time for listening. But he just couldn’t understand why I didn’t scream/shout for him to come help me.

I was face to face with my attacker, using my intellect to calm the situation, lessen the violence of the event. It would have taken the nice guy 5 mins to get woken up, to my room and kick the door down. If I had alarmed my attacker, thats time I simply wouldn’t have had.

Oh, and to top off the experience, the first friend from back home I told e-mailed back telling me that he’d had an ever worse time – he’d had to work a really really long shift.

As far as basic human compassion goes, that’s a fail.

Rape is always a unique experience. Judges need to apply the ‘golden rule’ instead of the ‘literal rule’, (enact the intention behind the law), if theres going to be any real progress made.

(Saying that, the Judge that said ‘… but she was a sexually appealing 12 year old…’, will never give rape an honest trial).

Rebecca // Posted 28 April 2010 at 2:02 am

“Sorry to rain on the parade but you must accept that if every sexual act that was not preceded by the specific verbal consent of the participants was punished as if it were rape, the majority of the male population would be incarcerated.”

If the majority of the male population is raping women, they need to be incarcerated. Fortunately, that isn’t the case (see Lisak’s studies).

April // Posted 28 April 2010 at 2:18 am

Jennifer not only what you said but if these men ask for consent first, they know the answer would probably be no….so they don’t ask.

Maeve // Posted 28 April 2010 at 10:08 am

I think the great Harriet Jacobs expresses it perfectly on her Fugitivus blog:

‘People wonder why women don’t “fight back”, but they don’t wonder about it when women back down in arguments, are interrupted, purposefully lower their voices to express less emotion, make obvious signals that they are uninterested in conversation or closer physical proximity and are ignored. They don’t wonder about all those daily social interactions in which women are quieter, ignored or invisible, because those social interactions seem normal…and then, all of a sudden, when women are raped, all these natural and invisible social interactions become evidence that she wasn’t truly raped…she didn’t fight back, yell, run, stopped saying no…” etc.

EXACTLY.

Philippa Willitts // Posted 28 April 2010 at 10:11 am

Thanks Maeve, that’s really true!

Feminist Avatar // Posted 28 April 2010 at 10:32 am

The New 2009 Scottish Sexual Offences Act defines consent. Consent is defined as ‘free agreement’, and cannot take place if you are incapable due to drink or any other substance; you submit due to threats of violence against your or any other person; when you are unlawfully detained; when you are deceived to the purpose of the conduct; when the rapist impersonates somebody you know; when the only expression or indication of consent is from someone other than you. You specifically cannot consent when you are asleep or unconscious.

Consent to one act does not apply to any other act and can be withdrawn at any time.

It’s interesting that they define consent negatively (ie what isn’t consent)- but not positively (ie what is).

The ‘rapist’ has to have reasonable belief that consent existed and in a very slightly different wording to what Polly quotes- it says regard must be had to whether the person tooks steps to ensure consent and what they are.

They went with a different wording to try and put the onus on the rapist to show consent, rather than on the victim to say no.

I am not sure whether it would have got a different outcome at trial in this case though.

Elmo // Posted 28 April 2010 at 10:51 am

och, Jan Moir’s waded into the debate, if anyone feels like throwing up their breakfast

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-1269335/JAN-MOIR-What-kind-sick-society-Jack-Tweed-pin–kind-girl-wants-sleep-him.html

Kit // Posted 28 April 2010 at 2:41 pm

Thank bob for this blog tbh, you folks are awesome for sensible and non-rage inducing discussions. This topic came up where I work (most days, like the time it came up, I’m the only woman here). It started with one guy reading a news story about the Jack Tweed case and saying he wouldn’t believe any “celebrity rape” case. There’s a load of “you’re doing well ignoring all this” at me then the best line (read: worst) was another saying it wasn’t rape if the victim doesn’t fight back (in all seriousness). I dropped a load of f-bombs on him at that point. It concerns me a little how often the topic of rape comes up there tbh…

I’d say “How the f- can anyone think silence or not fighting back or whatever is consent?” but I remember this entry at Tigerbeatdown: http://tigerbeatdown.com/2009/12/04/sexist-beatdown-tiger-and-cheetah-edition/ ; and it’s just frustrating there’s this key thing missing from their understanding, recognising that it happens to them too.

Totally reckon Amy Clare’s suggestion of another “Hands up…” thread is a good one, but I’d be interested to see how many men will say they’ve “had sex” they’ve not actually consented to having too. I think this is one of those situations where alienating men and painting them as the only type of person to commit this crime really doesn’t help our case (even if it mostly is them idk). People who “don’t get it” can’t relate and think “I’d just say no,” or “I’d fight back.”

Elly quietriot_girl // Posted 28 April 2010 at 3:48 pm

Polly said:

‘The point is that a lot of ordinary everyday sexual encounters ARE rape. Rape is a very common thing. And most of it is committed by either partners or ex partners of the victims.’

I agree with this in the literal sense. e.g.Rape in marriage was not considered to exist traditionally, and it was only in 1990(?) that rape in marriage was acknowledged by Law in the UK. It is common for sex to occur when the woman doesn’t want it.

But on a more discursive level, if ‘rape’ is so common, we have to think very carefully about how we talk about it and what we are going to do about it. As others have said, it is not accurate or helpful to think of the majority of hetero men as ‘rapists’ or to try and prosecute them. They aren’t ‘rapists’. Maybe we have to think about the terminology we use. I find the term ‘rapist’ doesn’t help.

It functions a bit like ‘psycho’ or ‘pedo’ to create monsters out of men/people.

BareNakedLady // Posted 28 April 2010 at 5:43 pm

Cases like this make me think that the ‘No means No’ slogan didn’t do women any favours. No does mean no, but a whole lot of other things do too, and a lot of them are difficult to define. I can express a ‘no’ by turning my head to the side, or dropping my eyelids; nothing more than that, but my partner will know what I mean. It’s become an arguable case that if someone didn’t say no, then they didn’t mean no, which we all know isn’t true. But to argue the converse, that if someone doesn’t say yes, they don’t mean yes, is unrealistic because that’s not true either.

Things aren’t going to change until everyone is taught to be more sensitive to what the other person is expressing, whether verbally or non-verbally, and to know when they *need* to ask for specific clarification on what the other person is feeling.

And that won’t happen until sex education gets a major revamp, but OMG nono the children must not be taught about sex, .

Sigh.

BellesDesigns // Posted 28 April 2010 at 6:15 pm

Having thought about it, I’m beginning to believe that there are grey areas (at least in the legal sense). My initial comment was said in anger and frustration – I simply find it very hard to believe (legal issues aside) that there are so many men out there who are really so stupid as to not realise when someone is not interested in having sex with them/is not enjoying it. Of course, we all know the above ISN’T the case, most of the time – it’s simply an excuse for doing whatever the hell you like and penetrating whoever the hell you like, regardless of their wishes.

As someone who has recently graduated from university I can tell you that this kind of behaviour is endemic in certain male circles. I was witness to the preamble of what was very likely one such instance, in which the girl was so drunk she probably didn’t remember the next day. Being young and stupid, I thought this was the norm. It makes me sick to think about it now, and furious with myself for not doing anything at the time.

How can we stop boys and young men from growing up to believe that our bodies belong to them when everytime we go to a newsagent, turn on the tv or open a magazine we are shown that women are there to be bought for male pleasure? How can we teach young men to respect women when so many of them barely even consider us human? How can we fight against a world where mainstream porn celebrates the degrading and hurting of women?

I am sick of explaining to aquaintances (male and female, but mostly male) why this is wrong. I am sick of having to point out to otherwise pleasant men why rape jokes aren’t funny. The saddest thing about all this is that the men who laugh at rape jokes, belittle women’s choices and views, think I don’t like porn cos I’m a prude/jealous/not getting enough, rate co-workers out of ten and, yes, commit date rape are by and large NOT monsters. They are otherwise normal people who probably never think of themselves as hating women. It’s not just a few very unpleasant characters who do these things, and that just goes to show how inherently misogynist our world is. As I have tried so desperately to explain to my ‘but I DON’T hate women!’ male friends and my ‘but we don’t need feminism anymore’ female friends, misogyny is the norm, respecting women is the wacko’s viewpoint.

Rant over.

Elly quietriot_girl // Posted 28 April 2010 at 7:33 pm

@BellesDesigns But when I say ‘grey areas’ what I mean is that sometimes women and men do not communicate effectively about sex/consent/desire and women (and men too sometimes) end up having sex when they don’t want to, not because the man is ‘stupid’ or ‘misogynist’ but just because they both are not being clear about what they want/need. This is not ‘rape’ .

Also, I think feminism has to discuss women’s pleasure/desire more. We are sexual agents as well as men not just victims of ‘patriarchy’!

Rose // Posted 28 April 2010 at 10:48 pm

I agree that porn is a big problem, and not just for the general disrespect to women, but the very idea that you can have sexuality with someones image, without their personality being involved.

The consent is assumed, theres no emotion, no interection, the picture feels no pain.

If a woman is something you buy, put on the table and sexually enjoy as you please – well, what do you care of her desires?

Sex ed has a long way to go, but so long as these images and legal rulings abound in society, what difference does it really make?

The changes required are huge and fundamental – but stating the obvious gets you called a ‘radical feminist wako thats gone way too far in man-hating’.

The satistics are real, but people don’t believe them. Call me depressive, but I can’t see things changing anytime soon, (saying that, anybody for a riot? lol).

Lauren // Posted 29 April 2010 at 1:35 am

Yeah rose I think the sexism is only getting worse in the UK – it will come down to women just rioting independently to combat the obvious hate you get called a nutter for calling out.

Rioting here, or moving to Sweden!

Politicalguineapig // Posted 29 April 2010 at 6:09 am

Y’know, I’m beginning to think that women should just start beating up men on the street. If men lived in fear of women, they’d stop raping.

masculinist // Posted 29 April 2010 at 9:42 am

absolutely …silence does not mean yes …… If I dont say yes, then a woman cant have sex with me ….an erection does not mean consent ……

nick // Posted 29 April 2010 at 10:38 am

politicalguineapig …….

that would mean there would have to be an International Mens Day to raise awareness, to stop womens violence against men and support male victims of female violence and also Million Men Rise marches ……

would feminsts support such things ???

Elmo // Posted 29 April 2010 at 10:53 am

I think politicalguineapig was just venting frustration….

Kit // Posted 29 April 2010 at 11:04 am

@nick – I don’t think politicalguineapig was seriously suggesting that happens. Fact is a lot of the arguments made against dealing with rape cases properly (and the accusations of people making false claims etc.) come from a lack of understanding and empathy. It’s hard trying to get some people to relate when they have no experiences to draw on and sometimes it feels like the only way they’d ever see was if they were in that position too.

gadgetgal // Posted 29 April 2010 at 11:28 am

@Kit and Nick – and that’s true whether the people who don’t understand are male OR female – there are many women who also show a distinct lack of understanding and sympathy when it comes to dealing with rape cases, it’s a big problem with a lot of people who have never experienced it.

April // Posted 29 April 2010 at 11:43 am

Politicalguineapig : I agree with you in that unfortunately until men experience the same thing treatment, nothing ever changes.

Kit // Posted 29 April 2010 at 1:42 pm

@gadgetgal – I complete agree, I tried to reflect that in what I’ve said (“people” etc. rather than “men”), but I guess it was still ambiguous, sorry :S

@April – some men (maybe a lot?) definitely experience at least some of the kind of treatment a lot of women experience. They just don’t recognise it for what it is, or if they do, no one else will.

If we have the idea that women are supposed to be always in a state of consent (like JenniferRuth says above), then men are supposed to always be in a state of wanting (I’m sure we’ve all heard things to that line anyway). I guess the wording of each sort of implies that they’re slightly different perhaps wrt power or something, but both ideas/attitudes pretty much say “everyone is up for sex, for whatever reason, at any time.”

A J // Posted 29 April 2010 at 2:56 pm

@ Elly quietriot_girl – I think it’s true that more focus needs to be given to encouraging and enabling both parties in a relationship to communicate more effectively and extensively with each other about consent issues, and to put forward positive ideas of how that can be achieved (on both sides). While that’s not going to stop rapists and sexual abusers (who are, by their very definition not interested in consent), there’s a lot that could still be done to minimise the occurrence of those relatively common, and unfortunate situations where women and men unintentionally end up in sexual situations beyond that which they truly want to be.

While rape is obviously an extremely important issue, it shouldn’t be the be-all and end-all of discussions of sex and relationships (and neither should we end up inadvertently promoting the, frankly misogynistic, view that sex is simply something ‘done by men to women’, rather than a mutual act by two (or more, if that’s your thing) individuals. Despite the terrible problems that occur when it is ignored, consent should primarily be thought of in a positive manner – as an opportunity for participants in sexual conduct to decide together what they want to do.

@ April @ Politicalguineapig – Sorry, but those sorts of comments are really quite disturbing, even if intended in ‘jest’. Nobody should ever suffer violence because of their gender. That applies just as much to men as to women.

Mel // Posted 29 April 2010 at 3:05 pm

I’m shocked and disappointed that Politicalguineapig’s comment was approved by the moderator(s).

Comments inciting women to commit wanton violence against men should have no place on a feminist website.

Philippa Willitts // Posted 29 April 2010 at 4:39 pm

Thanks Mel, I’m sorry that comment upset you. I decided to approve it because it seemed more of a hypothetical ‘what if’ comment than an incitement.

Moderating comments can be surprisingly tricky at times, and there is rarely a clear line between acceptable and unacceptable ones.

angercanbepower // Posted 29 April 2010 at 6:10 pm

When we’re talking about trans issues, everyone is always like, “yay, someone has legally been recognised as genderless,” or whatever. But as soon as we’re not these comments pages just read men/women/men/women/men.

I feel left out.

Elly quietriot_girl // Posted 29 April 2010 at 7:36 pm

@AJ I agree with most of what you say, except I don’t think there is a category of person called ‘a rapist’ . Like I said, talking about ‘rapists’ helps create monsters, the way we talk about ‘psychos’ and ‘paedos’.

The concept of ‘the rapist’ enables most people to distance themselves from it. However horrible it feels I think we have to engage with the problem and not pathologise it.

@angercanbepower

I’m sorry if the style of my comments has not included trans people. I find it difficult to talk about gender violence without saying ‘men’ and ‘women’ but I know that is simplistic.

Lauren // Posted 29 April 2010 at 10:57 pm

I disagree Mel – women need a place to express anger about the sexist society they live in. This place doesn’t even exist in te virtual world where ive noticed the radical feminists here are sorta singled out and feminists given free reign to debate with trolls to the tone of ‘forgetting the issue’. Sounds cliched but as feminists we are continually silenced. I’m guessing myself, rose and political guinee pig get tired of our response to these articles having to be subdued and upset, as opposed to angry and irritated – always having someone lecturing us about the cons of being a little bit too feminist. If we got payed for commenting we’d happily take on responsible feminist mode- as it is we’re just angry and need a place to vent without the further irritation of ‘lipstick’ feminists constantly stepping up to tell us we’re scaring people off.

polly // Posted 29 April 2010 at 10:59 pm

“”But on a more discursive level, if ‘rape’ is so common, we have to think very carefully about how we talk about it and what we are going to do about it. As others have said, it is not accurate or helpful to think of the majority of hetero men as ‘rapists’ or to try and prosecute them. They aren’t ‘rapists’. Maybe we have to think about the terminology we use. I find the term ‘rapist’ doesn’t help.

It functions a bit like ‘psycho’ or ‘pedo’ to create monsters out of men/people.””

So is what you’re saying Elly that we should just ignore men who rape because there are so many of them?

Seriously? If they’ve committed rape, they’re rapists, pure and simple.

So should we ignore domestic violence then because that’s so common? Or child abuse?

By the way I’m basing my assertion about partner rape on the british crime survey’s statistics from 2002. This gives the majority of rapists as current partners (45%) and 11% as ex partners.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/2146077.stm

I don’t know if there’s a more up to date set of statistics than this without massive googling I’m not up to this late at night.

polly // Posted 29 April 2010 at 11:09 pm

Thanks for the information about the new Scottish law Feminist Avatar. I think the sexual offences act 2003, with its reference to steps taken was clearly intended to imply that the onus was on the defendant to check, rather than just assume consent from a lack of dissent, but juries just don’t interpret it that way because it’s assumed that a woman who doesn’t say no means yes.

As Rose points out, there can be a lot of reasons why a woman doesn’t ‘fight back’ and one of them can just be simple self preservation. But women are expected to “fight for their honour” even risking death – I actually saw a plaque a bit ago to a woman who was murdered in the 19th century “defending her chastity” ( even more peculiarly it’s in the middle of the Lancaster University campus. )

polly // Posted 29 April 2010 at 11:21 pm

You’re absolutely right masculinist, an erection does not mean consent. Males who are raped are often afraid to report because they experienced reflex sexual arousal, and can experience guilt and fear they won’t be believed, just like women. And just because someone is sexually aroused and attracted to a person that doesn’t equal consent either.

However I’d say if one person actively penetrates another person’s mouth vagina or anus with their penis – without some external threat or coercion being applied, which would be different- consent could be assumed because it’s quite difficult to do accidentally.

I’m assuming you’re being somewhat ironic in your comment, but there was a fairly famous case where a woman was accused of indecently assaulting a man by forcing him to have sex with her -that of Joyce McKinney. (google it) However perhaps we shouldn’t get too much off the subject of this blog post.

Nick – since the most likely victim of street violence is a male aged 16-25, if you’re going to march against anything, perhaps you should start with men beating up other men.

Politicalguineapig // Posted 30 April 2010 at 12:59 am

Lauren: For the record, I do like a bit of lipstick. But I also get quite growly at the world sometimes and this is one of the times.

I think the main problem is that men aren’t allowed to feel empathy, but it’s hard to tell whether that’s a glitch in the “software” or culturization. Until we can tell, the safest thing might be to restrict men’s freedom until they stop raping.

DE // Posted 30 April 2010 at 8:36 am

@Politicalguineapig – I suspect your last sentence refers to men in general rather than those convicted of Rape – the same goes for your hopes for women to assault men on the street ( can’t help but thinking that more often than not the women would come off worse ).

Anyway I stray from my point….

As has been noted above, there tends to be a lot of violence in the life of males aged 16-25. I did not escape such experiences – and so I recall that one of the typical pre-contact taunts of the time was “yea, you and whose army ?”.

Your last post made me think of that as it somewhat begs the question.

Kit // Posted 30 April 2010 at 10:09 am

@polly – I guess how Elly’s comment reads depends on how you feel about rape that is, instead of thinking there are degrees to it (what I’m reading into it, and my kinda feeling on it anyway fwiw), that any sex without consent for whatever reason is equally wrong and deserves the same punishment.

Generally, I think when people hear/see the word “rape” they think at least “act committed against a person knowingly without their consent” to only “act committed against a person by physical force, potentially involving violence”. They obviously don’t consider any cases outside of that as being rape, and you’ll even hear “Oh, it’s definitely wrong/a scummy thing to do, but it’s not rape.” I think Elly’s just saying that it’s not helpful to put everyone in the one group when we’re trying to get the majority of them (at least) to think about what they’re doing and change their behaviour/attitude, and that group has a different (perhaps far more negative?) definition to the one we’re using. Gah, sorry I don’t I’m making much sense here :S

@angercanbepower – I’m sorry you feel left out :(

Hmm, I’m not sure if it’s 100% the right way to word things, but I try and use gender neutral terms like “they”,”their”, “them” (take that, grammar fans) when talking about a someone (well someone I don’t know personally, anyway), or “people”,”person” when “men & women” or “man or woman” would otherwise be said. It just seems sometimes in certain situations it would come across as deliberately not acknowledging the gender of a person despite them identifying as that gender, when it’s not my intention at all. IDK :S

polly // Posted 30 April 2010 at 11:01 am

But that’s the EXACT problem Kit. People don’t view partner rape as ‘real rape’. People don’t view it as rape if a woman goes back to a house with a man she just met in a club who then has intercourse without her consent(“what did she expect?”).People don’t view it as rape if someone wants to have sex and then changes their mind (“she’s just a pricktease). But all these things ARE rape.

Just going along with that and calling it ‘not rape’, DOESN’T encourage anyone to view their actions differently. It allows them to keep on excusing themselves and everyone else is complicit.

We’ve moved on from the point where beating your partner was dismissed as ‘just a domestic’, so I find it quite extraordinary that people who consider themselves feminists (some of those above may do not identify as feminist of course) are even willing to indulge in talk of “grey areas”. An act is either rape or it isn’t. Proving it legally is a different matter of course, but sex without consent is rape, full stop.

Elly quietriot_girl // Posted 30 April 2010 at 11:35 am

Hi all who responded to my comments on terminology.

I am not disputing any rape/sexual assault statistics. I am saying I disagree with the label of ‘rapists’ in general discussions about rape and sexual assault. It relates to my research from a social constructionist and discourse analytic perspective, about use of language and labels of ‘types’ of people.

I will go away and see if I can come up with a clearer argument, or give some references to writing on this subject.

nick // Posted 30 April 2010 at 1:43 pm

politicalguineapig –

your last comment saying may have to restrict mens freedom to stop rape…..

are you saying that all men are rapists ?

Am I a rapist because I am male ?

What restrictions would you force on me ???? not going out at night ???????

Kit // Posted 30 April 2010 at 1:57 pm

@polly – I see what you mean about people saying it’s all “not rape”, and I’m certainly not calling for everything that doesn’t fit the strict & obvious definition of rape, to be called “not rape”.

I just think it all comes undone a bit when we use rape to cover any time someone has non-consenting sex with another person, regardless of whether they know that person isn’t consenting or not, and everyone else is still thinking “it’s only rape if you know the other person didn’t want it,” or even more restrictive definitions. Because if it’s going to be said “rapists are monsters” and then the definition of what rape is and who is a potential rapist covers everyone, it doesn’t really go down well when trying to get people to talk about the subject of actually properly convicting people for rape.

Sorry if I’m not really explaining myself well, I may be talking around a thing that doesn’t even exist at this moment tbh.

tl;dr: I fully agree non-consenting sex is rape. It’s what happens after that, what it means for the people involved etc. I think we need to be much clearer on.

” so I find it quite extraordinary that people who consider themselves feminists (some of those above may do not identify as feminist of course) are even willing to indulge in talk of “grey areas”. ” – I see what you did there.

masculinst // Posted 30 April 2010 at 2:08 pm

Polly —

just to clarify your comment to me ,

your saying I dont have to give consent for a woman to ‘use’ me to penetrate herself ….her on top say ……I’ve got an erection but I’ve stayed silent and not said yes she can get on top of me ………..

now this may be an unusual scenario…

but saying Yes applies to women and men ….doesnt it ?????

as the main headline says Silence does not Equal consent ……

Elly // Posted 30 April 2010 at 2:21 pm

Polly, I am a feminist. I think the comparison you draw with attitudes to domestic violence is helpful in this debate.

Changes to attitudes to domestic violence have been really positive. ONE of those changes has been a change in how we talk about and to men who are violent to their partners. I think the same changes need to occur in how we talk about and to men who rape and sexually assault women. This means treating men as people who are capable of change. If they are not capable of change then we are pretty f***ed.

angercanbepower // Posted 30 April 2010 at 3:00 pm

What Elly is saying (I think – I don’t know Elly, so please correct me if I’m wrong), is that terminology like “rapist” pathologises the people to whom it refers, but in fact the statistics demonstrate that rape is not pathological, but systemic. Rather than continuing to pretend that rape is an aberration, we need to examine what it is about gendered relationships which leads to coerced sex happening so frequently.

Also, I’m not sure if Elly is saying this or not, but I think the word “rape” confuses because it suggests a parity between everything that’s rape, which may not exist. Are there salient psychological similarities between a middle-aged man who sexually assaults a stranger in an alley and a teenage gang member who enacts sexual humiliation as a form of revenge, or a boyfriend who refuses to hear the word no?

That question is quite difficult to answer, but possibly not. It is only when we understand sexual violence in the context of the circumstances in which the acts were undertaken that we will be able to move towards supporting the offenders to live a crime-free life.

coldharbour // Posted 30 April 2010 at 3:28 pm

“Y’know, I’m beginning to think that women should just start beating up men on the street. If men lived in fear of women, they’d stop raping.”

One of my male friends in Glasgow had a glass bottle broken over his head at a bus stop by two teenage girls. He now suffers from acute post-traumatic stress disorder and is very close to being institutionalized on a permanent basis. He was a very caring bright young man and I miss him very much. Violence of every kind makes me very sad indeed.

Politicalguineapig // Posted 30 April 2010 at 4:58 pm

Nick: I and many other women would feel a lot safer if men were restricted from moving about at night. It’d cut down on crime, that’s for sure.

As for your second point: not all men are rapists, but since a rapist isn’t identifiable from the normal population, it’s safer to keep one’s distance from strange men. (And even keep a level of healthy distance from one’s nearest and dearest men.)

Coldharbour: I agree that violence is bad, and carries a lot of consequences. But at this point, I feel that every non-violent way to address this issue has been exhausted.

Rose // Posted 30 April 2010 at 5:06 pm

I find talk of not calling all forms of ‘sex without constent’ rape quite uncomfortable.

I had an ex who was off course ‘anti -rape’, but that didn’t stop him from doing things like initiating sex while I was asleep, (thereby obviously not consenting), as thats ‘different’.

The guy that attacked me in Varanasi told me that his behaviour was fine, he had done that kinda thing to loads of western women – they didn’t complain. The next morning an Isreali woman in the same hostel told me he’d already attacked her – but she had been too embaressed to tell anybody, (ie, she’d made no public complaint about his actions).

Sure, their actions were very different – what they have in common though, is that they both thought that their behaviour was a normal, natural, healthy expression of their sexuality.

Both would have been shocked for it to be described as rape – but what else is it? Will behaviour ever change if women (or men) don’t stand up and name it for what it is – letting them know that their behaviour is a long way from okay.

Sure, so some rape is more endangering than others, but we have terms like violent rape, sadistic rape, rape as a means of torture to describe them.

We can’t react to the number of rapes happening in society by setting the bar higher for what ‘counts’.

Philippa Willitts // Posted 30 April 2010 at 5:08 pm

We can’t react to the number of rapes happening in society by setting the bar higher for what ‘counts’.

So, so true.

Elly quietriot_girl // Posted 30 April 2010 at 6:33 pm

angercanbepower summed up my perspective pretty damn accurately thanks!

I have written a blogpost to clarify my position.

I welcome the chance to discuss this difficult issue with other feminists, thanks, F-word.

http://quietriotgirlelly.blogspot.com/

Lauren // Posted 30 April 2010 at 9:06 pm

I totally see where Elly_quietriot girl is coming from – but I think it’s a great thing we have a scaremongering term like ‘rapist’ for men who don’t ask for consent.

Philosophically your points make sense, but a world where rapists are allowed to be every day people is a world women wouldn’t have chances in.

In a way, despite rape being common, there is more than ever a need for the ‘stigma’ surrounding a man who has sex non-consensually. Otherwise laws follow suit to fit the definition of rape as normal. Before you know it, it’s the 1950s again and rape is seen as something women all want, and men can’t help. Women have been there. Rape was before and remains in many cultures ‘just a man losing control’ with no legal consequences.He wasn’t called a rapist, and he was allowed to take his hatred out on whoever he wanted. Thus there needs to be a stigma and alienation of rapists. It’s social engineering in a way – but it’s protecting a lot of women in the process.

delphyne // Posted 30 April 2010 at 9:10 pm

I think that’s got to be one of the most bizarre comments I’ve ever seen on a feminist blog – that feminists shouldn’t call men who commit rape, rapists.

It’s like claiming we shouldn’t call people who shoplift, burgle or mug people, thieves, because somehow that would be “demonising” them.

One of the things that helps rapists get away with what they do is social approval for their actions. People almost automatically side with the rapist and against the victim and try to pretend they didn’t do what they actually did. The idea that we should take away from victims the right to name what was done to them and the crime committed against them is astonishing.

The Jack Tweed verdict was a disgrace.

Laurel Dearing // Posted 1 May 2010 at 1:23 am

i think the thing is that many women we would say were raped, dont necessarily feel raped, and in order for them to feel comfortable addressing this, they may not wish to see their partners as rapists for saying “oh go onnn…… i really want you. pleeeaaase?” they might want to address it, but they likely wont want to call it rape.

polly // Posted 1 May 2010 at 8:22 am

I don’t disagree with you at all masculinist. You are completely correct that in that situation a sexual partner (not necessarily a woman) should make sure the other person consents. If this is done and someone doesn’t consent it wouldn’t be rape (because the definition of that requires active penetration) but it would be indecent assault under the definition in the sexual offences act. Under the previous law, a woman (Joyce McKinney) was indeed convicted of indecent assault in just such circumstances. EVERYONE has a responsbility to make sure their partner consents to sex.

The simple fact is a lot of sexual assault/abuse of males DOES involve them being sexually aroused as a reflex (it’s usually by other males rather than women though). It’s still sexual assault/abuse though, even if the man/boy being assaulted experiences arousal.

Polly // Posted 1 May 2010 at 8:25 am

What I actually said though masculinist was:

22However I’d say if one person actively penetrates another person’s mouth vagina or anus with their penis – without some external threat or coercion being applied, which would be different- consent could be assumed because it’s quite difficult to do accidentally.22

The situation you describe is not ACTIVE penetration.

So I didn’t say you didn’t have to give consent in that situation at all. Please read more carefully in future.

polly // Posted 1 May 2010 at 8:31 am

Anyone who wants to know more about male sexual assault by the way may find the following link useful, particularly the definition.

http://www.survivorsuk.org/find_out_more/about_male_rape_and_sexual_abuse.php

“”Male sexual assault is when you have been forced to take part in any sexual act with another man or woman which you did not willingly consent to. Even if you did not resist or fight back at the time of the attack, it is still assault.””

polly // Posted 1 May 2010 at 8:40 am

Sorry to keep prolonging this Phillipa (you must be sick of moderating by now) but I’m really concerned by the idea that partner rape is not *violent*, it’s just someone who ‘refuses to hear the word no’.

Apart from the fact that even without an other accompanying physical violence, all rape and sexual assault IS an act of physical violence, and also psychological violence, partner rape is often phsyically violent and causes injuries. It also has long term psychological effects for many.

http://www.aphroditewounded.org/effects.html

Elly quietriot_girl // Posted 1 May 2010 at 10:56 am

HI delphyne I actually don’t call people who shoplift ‘thieves’ but that’s by the by.

I have had some more comments on my position on my blog and on twitter, and I am reflecting on what I said, particularly in relation to how survivors are able to verbalise their experience of being raped.

I would never advocating silencing people who go through this ordeal. I am really grateful for all the comments. Thanks.

As for being the most bizarre comment on a feminist blog, the pervert in me takes that as a compliment, though I am sure there have been many comments much more bizarre than mine, on feminist blogs around the blogosphere!

angercanbepower // Posted 1 May 2010 at 12:45 pm

Polly: who said partner rape is not violent?

Polly // Posted 1 May 2010 at 5:17 pm

Anger can be power – you said

“”Also, I’m not sure if Elly is saying this or not, but I think the word “rape” confuses because it suggests a parity between everything that’s rape, which may not exist. Are there salient psychological similarities between a middle-aged man who sexually assaults a stranger in an alley and a teenage gang member who enacts sexual humiliation as a form of revenge, or a boyfriend who refuses to hear the word no?””

You describe two (physically/psychologically) violent assaults (non partner) and then a ‘boyfriend who refuses to hear the word no’, and ask if there is parity between them ‘which may not exist’. I’ll leave it up to others to decide what you were implying.

Elly quietriot_girl // Posted 1 May 2010 at 9:03 pm

Hi Polly

I don’t want mine and ‘Anger can be power”s points to get treated as the same as we have never spoken and probably have differing perspectives. But I do agree with the comment from Anger Can Be Power that:

‘the statistics demonstrate that rape is not pathological, but systemic. Rather than continuing to pretend that rape is an aberration, we need to examine what it is about gendered relationships which leads to coerced sex happening so frequently. ‘

For me, this is the crucial thing. Gendered power moves through the whole of society and we need to try and understand how it works, and why it so often results in gendered violence.

There are some great articles on discourses around rape here:

http://www.womankind.org.uk/publications.html

monty // Posted 1 May 2010 at 9:18 pm

Politicalguineapig said:

‘Y’know, I’m beginning to think that women should just start beating up men on the street. If men lived in fear of women, they’d stop raping.’

no, if men lived in fear there would be more rapists, fear is the root of all evil.

Politicalguineapig // Posted 1 May 2010 at 11:49 pm

Yeah, but if it’s a choice between not-raping and living, I suspect most men would choose living. The point is that women have to be okay with using force, and possibly killing someone.

Joan Kelly // Posted 2 May 2010 at 7:42 am

Some of us DO understand the ways male supremacy (not “gendered power”) works and why it so often results in males being violent towards females. We don’t need people who haven’t been raped telling us that calling rapists “rapists” is an impediment to understanding or change. It’s not. Males’ continuing investment in, and perpetration of, violence towards female people is what stands in the way of change.

And incidentally, the pervert in me does not appreciate the pervert in you getting a kick out of any of us finding your remarks bizarre. Never mind completely unhelpful.

Elly quietriot_girl // Posted 2 May 2010 at 10:00 am

Hi Joan.

Thanks for your comments. I was honest about not having been raped but I think my blog makes it clear I have suffered domestic violence. I have also been attacked by someone who would have raped me if I had not have been lucky enough to escape. But I think everyone has the right to discuss this issue, whatever their gender, whatever their experience.

Best wishes

Anon // Posted 2 May 2010 at 12:47 pm

People really need to move away from the idea that partner rape isn’t violent. I do some work in the field and the accounts that women have shared of partner rape are truly horrendous. We’re talking acts akin to extreme tortue porn. We all know the physical abuse women can suffer in domestic violence so please do not assume that sexual violence is somehow benign.

Troon // Posted 2 May 2010 at 1:27 pm

I’ve been following this thread for sometime, very unsure whether to comment, but decided to because I am still unclear what is being argued for and the implications of this. Please correct me if anything I write below does not represent people’s views, I’m simply trying to understand better. There are also some further points and the reasons for them. Again, please help since I’m so unsure what is being said.

As far as I understand it Elly and angercanbepower were not at any point explicitly suggesting certain forms of non-consensual sex were intrinsically ‘less traumatic’ or ‘less violent’ than others. Neither did they seem to be arguing that Tweed had not committed rape, or that the law should treat certain forms of rape differently. What, to me, they seemed to be highlighting was a disjuncture between the way ‘rape’ and ‘rapist’ was used in a legal context, and the way it was understood more generally. Their alarm seemed to be motivated by the fact that the broader image of a ‘rapist’ hid the prevalence of men who force women to have sex with them (and made convictions harder since it set an image to juries which did not fit the actual law?). This seemed quite valid to me-think about loathsome defences of Polanski or the way ‘statutory rape’ is used. I can absolutely see why survivors reject this-surely, after all, the academic crime of reductionism inherent in ‘turning the verb into a noun’ is acceptable when that verb now absolutely defines the person to you? What I found more problematic was the suggestion that the term ‘rapist’ needs to be maintained because it stigmatises men like Tweed. Some are arguing that the term needs applying consistently to make them and others recognise the parallels, but what I felt in response to Elly’s argument (although I think this was in addition to what she was saying) was that use of the word ‘rapist’ to describe them may not be the best way of forcing them and society to empathise with the horrors of being forced to have sex, which might be better achieved by focussing on the victim’s feelings not by labelling an act with a term that had sufficiently large number of meanings for them to shrug off their actions as not ‘really rape’ or themselves as people who had committed rape but were not ‘really rapists’. Am I even close to getting the point here?

If so, I have to say that Elly’s argument rings true for me more generally. For all that everyone on this site is aware of the prevalence of objectification and rape culture, the fact that rape is a criminal offence has driven action to deal with it into a series of hugely important battles over definition. Yet behind all this lurks the fact that much that men (and women) are encouraged to see as normative male sexuality is deeply woman-effacing and objectivising, even when clearly consensual. And whereas I can see absolutely why legally and from the victim’s point of view exercising the choice to have sex with someone who treats you simply as a body for their pleasure is entirely different form having that choice taken from you, the other effect of using ‘rapist’ is to hide this continuum, so that even if a battle were to be won and all those who forced others into non-consensual sex were rightly considered as monstrously as ‘rapists’ are, that battle would be distinct from the one to be fought over getting men (predominantly) to recognise women as people when having sex with them which, if won, would be a far more significant way of combating rape. I’m not sure if I’m going to far here but isn’t another advantage of what Elly is proposing that it allows a language of protest to be found which unites criticism of certain male sexualities, both consensually and non-consensually expressed, but which stops short of the easily resisted ‘all men are rapists’?

PS: I think I can understand politicalguineapig’s point, but most young men already live in fear of getting the kicking that won’t stop. They don’t live in fear of being raped. Beating them up won’t make them experience the second.

angercanbepower // Posted 2 May 2010 at 3:06 pm

This is really irritating me. These remarks about partner rape and violence directed at me. They seem to be – yet I never said partner rape isn’t violent. Of course it is.

Harry // Posted 2 May 2010 at 4:24 pm

People really need to move away from the idea that partner rape isn’t violent.

I agree. In fact partner rape is the most violent form of rape in that it is MORE likely to leave physical injuroes than rapes committed by others.

Jeff // Posted 2 May 2010 at 6:10 pm

@ Politicalguineapig,

I’m assuming that your statement that;

“The point is that women have to be okay with using force, and possibly killing someone. ”

Is not meant to imply that women should just roam the streets using force against and possibly killing men, as your previous statement (which I took to be jocular) did?

“Y’know, I’m beginning to think that women should just start beating up men on the street. If men lived in fear of women, they’d stop raping

Jeff // Posted 2 May 2010 at 6:23 pm

Sorry for double posting but I wanted to emphasise how strongly I disagree with the notion that non-consenting sex should not be called rape. That’s quite literally the very definition of rape, sexual intercourse without the consent of one party. Any other details (I.E. the use of violence/coercion etc) are vitally important, but secondary. It’s the act of sex without consent that’s rape, not the use of violence to facilitate it.

Jeff // Posted 2 May 2010 at 11:05 pm

“Until we can tell, the safest thing might be to restrict men’s freedom until they stop raping.”

This, incidentally, is one of the most flawed and fascist arguments ever spouted by mankind. The simple fact is, there are no external indicators of criminality. Not all people with a six finger are theives, not all people with blonde hair are murderers, and not all men are rapists. By that rather crappy logic, we should just all segregate ourselves from each other, since we’re all obviously untrustworthy and potentially dangerous criminals at heart.

Besides which, you really think that would happen? I wouldn’t accept having my freedoms restricted any more than you would yours.

lou // Posted 3 May 2010 at 12:39 am

Hi

I hope I am not speaking out of turn when I say I think there are gradations of rape…

NOT from the perpective of the person being raped, as this is ALWAYS a violation of their human rights,

but from the perspective of the rapist’s motivation.

Isn’t it possible for an ignorant man to rape a woman (most likely a partner/wife) who is not “saying no” or acting in a sterotypical-rape-victim way because he does not understand that this is always a violation? Because he holds views about the way women behave during sex that he has had reinforced by porn/media. Is it possible that this type of man can educated?

A man who hears a woman explicitly saying “no” and screaming and shouting and crying, however is likely not to care at all about violating another person -it is surely clearer here to men brought up with a sense of entitlement that this is beyond acceptable…even in this society that we live in and possibly shows that this type of rapist is “more criminal” for want of a better description…it would be impossible to rehabilitate such a person.

Is this maybe what people are getting at by saying there are differences? That is not to say that partners never commit violent rape, just to point out the difference in motivations between some rapes (partner or stranger).

I hope I haven’t offended anyone and that I have expressed myself as clearly as I can-I have suffered a violent stranger rape and a much more subtle date rape, and I sympathise with anyone who has experienced any kind of sexual violence…I don’t wish to downplay anyone’s experiences at all….

delphyne // Posted 3 May 2010 at 1:06 am

“As for being the most bizarre comment on a feminist blog, the pervert in me takes that as a compliment,”

The feminist in you shouldn’t however Ely. Which is what is important.

We’re talking about politics and women’s liberation here, not whether your perverted self is feeling flattered. Telling women not to call our rapists, rapists is completely out of order. As you haven’t had the experience of being raped, perhaps you might consider listening a bit more rather than making unhelpful pronouncements about the subject for the time being.

“I never called it rape” by Robin Warshaw might be a helpful place to start your journey to understanding.

Elly quietriot_girl // Posted 3 May 2010 at 9:54 am

Thanks Phillippa for continuing to moderate this discussion! The F-word is a unique forum in the Uk to my knowledge.

Thanks Delphyne for the reference I will definitely read that piece. I will never stop educating myself on this issue.

I am sorry I made a flippant remark, it was in response to feeling dismissed by some of the commentators on here, my feminism in particular being put into question.

I think there is a difference between reflection that involves reading (and in my case writing a blog) and making ‘pronouncements’. I always reflect and listen to other feminists on this subject.

@Angercanbepower – people are making assumptions that somebody said ‘partner violence is not rape’ and/or ‘partner rape is not violent’ but I am pretty sure nobody has said that, definitely not you or me!

CMK // Posted 3 May 2010 at 10:44 am

I agree that it might not always be constructive on a personal level for people to use the term ‘rape’ when discussing their partners behaviour due to the ‘place’ they might be in. When you are trying to understand what has happened to you the term might be too much for you to deal with in the short term, ‘if they are a rapist then I have been raped’. This is not to say people shouldn’t get there in the end but in the short term I am comfortable with individuals classifying what happened to them in a way that suits them.

Legally it should always be rape, not sexual assault or any variant. Sex without consent of one party is rape and it should be recognised as such. How we then deal with the rapist might vary on the *type* of rape, Joseph Fritzal who spent a great deal of time planning what he did should be dealt with differently from someone who had their drink spiked and then went on to rape someone.

I find the range of comments/suggestions interesting but perhaps we could have a heavier emphasis on ‘6. Be nice’….

Elly quietriot_girl // Posted 3 May 2010 at 11:36 am

Hi lou

I prefer to think that rehabilitation is possible in most criminal cases. I don’t think it is achieved the vast majority of times though. Like I said in my blog, this I think is partly because of deep-seated attitudes in society and the legal system that it is ‘impossible’ to rehabilitate a ‘rapist’ .

I can see why comments writers such as CMK say rape needs to remain as a legal concept that shouldn’t be altered, e.g. by using terms such as ‘sexual assault’ in some cases. I am not sure how I feel about this. I would like to read/hear more from legal professionals who work rape cases.

Also Troon thanks for taking up and developing some of my arguments. It is a complex issue. I will see if I can find any more research on language and discourse of rape.

Elly quietriot_girl // Posted 3 May 2010 at 4:07 pm

Just found this blog carnival against sexual violence: a collection of blogs about rape/sexual violence including survivors’ accounts:

http://abyss2hope.blogspot.com/2010/05/carnival-against-sexual-violence-93.html

Rose // Posted 3 May 2010 at 5:34 pm

Jeff – Firstly, would you just like to check your use of the term ‘mankind’, as the people who hold that opinion are mainly women, part of womenkind, more generally part of humankind – but categorically not part of ‘mankind’.

This is a space that I like in part because of the freedom I find here from being cast as the second, other, aspect of ‘man’.

Secondly, I really enjoy ‘women only spaces’, I feel safer there, because, frankly, I am safer there. To have a place just for women, men need to be restricted from it.

I have been hospitalised twice by having drinks spiked by guys that were after my ‘meat’, I can’t tell you who did it, I don’t know, but I’ve never spent time with/drunk with any guy that was out on those occasions since. I don’t know which ones are safe, and which ones aren’t, but I do know that with them I am in danger – so I avoid the lot.

I actually have a recurring dream where a very rich woman buys a huge island, to create a female-only community, in the style of Christine de Pizan’s ‘The City of Ladies’, a primary goal of which is to escape the glass ceiling imposed on women by men in all aspects of life. I would go there in an instant.

You talk of men having their freedom reduced by women being granted freedom to pass safely through the streets at night. You end talking about how it would make you angry to be restricted like that. I think you will find that one of the resons that this blog exists is womens anger at our current restriction.

Sure, at the end of the day, we want the offending men to restrict their behaviour – but I personally consider there to be a huge lack of peer pressure from other guys to encourage them to change, and a failure to name the actual prepetrators.

I assume you’re not asking women to trust blindly, and not verbally express their fustrations, as to make you feel better/keep mens ‘freedoms over women’ unchecked?

Politicalguineapig // Posted 3 May 2010 at 5:43 pm

Jeff: I meant that if the rapist is killed either in self-defense or after the event, I would view that as acceptable. The legal system is entirely useless, so justice has to be meted out some way.

Also, many women have to avoid going out at night alone because of men.So their freedom of movement is already restricted, and turnabout wouldn’t be such a bad thing.

Jeff // Posted 3 May 2010 at 6:55 pm

Politicalguineapig;

“I meant that if the rapist is killed either in self-defense or after the event, I would view that as acceptable.”

I misunderstood completely! I agree with you wholeheartedly there.

“Also, many women have to avoid going out at night alone because of men.So their freedom of movement is already restricted, and turnabout wouldn’t be such a bad thing.”

I think there’s a clear difference between self imposed restrictions through fear of being the victims of crime (which many men do too) and societally imposed restrictions for fear of being perpertrators of crime.

And I apologise to Rose and everybody else for my use of “man-” rather than “human-“. Sorry!

As to your points, I have no issue at all with women only spaces, assuming they are not of the transphobic kind, but I think that’s a little different from locking men up at night.

And no, I’m not remotely asking women to be trusting, or to shut up, to make me “feel better” I’m saying that attempting to effectively put a curfew on men’s freedoms would not only not work in reducing rape, it would be utterly innaproriate and wrong.

delphyne // Posted 3 May 2010 at 9:57 pm

“I am sorry I made a flippant remark, it was in response to feeling dismissed by some of the commentators on here, my feminism in particular being put into question.”

Ely, instead of taking it personally and imagining there was some slight on your feminism, why don’t you think about the effect your proclamations about not calling rapists, rapists had on rape victims? I remarked on your comment not on your feminism. You seem to be making this about you when it really isn’t.

Rape victims *consistently* have our experiences minimised or denied. Your argument that people shouldn’t call rapists rapists is another part of that marginalisation of victims and our experiences. It was a seriously offensive thing to say. Perhaps if rape was actually taken seriously in our society, your point might be worth giving some consideration to, but we currently have a conviction rate of 6% of reported rapes, and most rapes aren’t even reported. Almost no rapists are called rapists in the UK except by a handful of victims and their supporters. Why you would want to undermine that to an even greater extent is beyond me.

Lauren // Posted 3 May 2010 at 10:00 pm

Rose said.. “I actually have a recurring dream where a very rich woman buys a huge island, to create a female-only community, in the style of Christine de Pizan’s ‘The City of Ladies’, a primary goal of which is to escape the glass ceiling imposed on women by men in all aspects of life. I would go there in an instant.”

That’s my fantasy.. wish I had dreams like that. But men just couldn’t leave any female-only group alone. That’s why I think restricting male freedom is probably a good idea. Living with male violence is an entirely inevitable situation. I agree with Troon, we need to understand the male view a woman is just meat as something that permeates through every male as part of culture. We need something short of ‘every man is a rapist’ to freely discuss that.

@Troon, I sort of disagree with your idea about not stigmatising rapists. 99% of men would take cultural sexism to a new level. Non- consensual sex without the stigma would just be an acceptable ‘high-5’ form of violence to use against women. Women would become an in-doors species again. The ‘moster’ stigma needs to be there as much as the law – we need every social norm possible to defend against the effort to control women. So sticking with ‘rapist’ as a plausible term makes sense.

Philippa Willitts // Posted 3 May 2010 at 10:07 pm

There’s been a really interesting discussion in these comments, but we’ve got to the point now where it’s all going round in circles.

I’m now closing the comments. Thanks all for contributions!

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