Friday, December 14, 2012

We are the 95%.

TRIGGER WARNING FOR RAPE on all that follows, including all links.

[I wasn't going to write this post today. Believe it or not, I really don't like writing about rape so much. I want to write more about good happy kinky sex. But then all that stuff with the Good Men Project kinda blew up in my face, and this is the post you got.]

There's one big lie that rapists tell.  Most of the other lies are just part of it.  "Consent is complicated and confusing and there are a lot of gray areas."  "She dressed/acted/talked like she wanted it."  "She never said no; how was I supposed to know?"  "She just regrets having sex."  "We were both drunk and the alcohol muddied things."  "He sure seemed like he was enjoying it."  "I guess I just got caught up in the heat of the moment."  "People do this all the time and only paranoid feminists call it rape."

The one big lie at the center of all these little lies is: "If you were in my place, you could have done the same."

I mean, who among us has not been confused in the process of sexual communication?  Who has not thought someone was interested in them and then found out they read the signals wrong?  Who has not had a partner enjoy sex less than they'd hoped?  Who has not felt "swept away" at some point during sex?  Who has not done something stupid while drunk?  Who has not felt that the things their ex said after the breakup were awfully unfair? The rape-apologist narrative taps into some nearly universal experiences.

And then, in that one big lie, pretends that these everyday insecurities and disappointments could lead anyone to rape.  "It could have happened to anyone," say the rapists.  Especially to men.  And to themselves.

Here's the truth, though, from some pretty major studies:
Between 6% and 13% of men have attempted or completed rape.  4-8% of men are serial offenders, and responsible for the vast majority (90-95%) of all rapes.

I realize these numbers are still uncomfortably high, especially if you have twenty male friends.  But they also mean that 94-87% of men are not rapists.  Add in women (who do rape, but at a lower rate), put in some fuzzy math and broad guesses to get a good-enough ballpark, and roughly 95% of people never attempt or commit rape.

So when you hear all the totally plausible ways it could have been you, realize: nope, probably couldn't have been.  Most people don't struggle not to commit rape.  Most people don't have trouble understanding sexual refusal.  The vast majority of people go through drunken blunders and miscommunication and bad breakups without committing or being accused of rape, just as the vast majority of people don't have trouble restraining themselves from torture or murder.

And forget the numbers for a second.  If you, personally, make a commitment to never have sex without unambiguous consent, your odds of being a not-rapist are 100%.  It can't "happen to you" if you decide not to do it.

This is part of why I talk about consent so much.  It's not just to keep well-intentioned guys from accidentally raping.  Most well-intentioned guys don't really have that problem.  It's to help well-intentioned guys (and girls, and everyone else) see how vast the gulf is between them and rapists.

If affirmative, negotiated, freely given consent is the norm, then rapists lose the ability to say "I just didn't know."  They can no longer make anyone think "but regular sex looks practically the same."  If romance doesn't work a damn thing like rape, rapists can't hide behind "I was trying to be romantic."

Clear consent does make sex better, and it does prevent legitimate-yet-horrific misunderstandings. But that's not all of what it's for.  It's also so that rapists can't say--to us or to themselves--"I thought we were just having sex."

Only 5% of people commit it, but everyone lives with the effects of rape.  Because of this small minority of predators, everyone has to live in a world where they will have a sibling, spouse, child, parent, friend who's a survivor of sexual assault.  Everyone has to live in a world where women are told to live in fear of rape.  Everyone has to know a family, social group, school, political party that's been torn apart by bitter hostility between survivors and their supporters and predators and their defenders.

Because a lot more than 5% of people have been suckered in by the rapists' big lie.  A lot more than 5% of people talking about any case of rape in the media or their social circle start saying "sounds like a grey area to me," and "she really did send some mixed signals" and "do we have to be so hard on the guy?"  A lot more than 5% of people treat rapists with sympathy and survivors with skepticism, because they're thinking "shit, in a situation that confusing, it could have been any guy; it could have been me."

But 95% of the time, it couldn't have been.

We are the non-rapists, the people who will never commit rape and who suffer from the actions of those who do.  Imagine what we could get done if we presented a united front, and the rapists had no one but other rapists to defend and enable them.  We are the 95%.  Let's fuckin' act like it.


  1. Every single blog post of yours that I've read has educated me in some way. I'm what some people would call "vanilla" and not even all that sexually active, yet I still find the things you talk about extremely important and relevant. And this one was particularly eye-opening. I agree that it's important for that ~95% of us to KNOW damn well that no, we wouldn't ever do that, so we can KNOW even better that the rapists are lying.

  2. Woah, so GMP are basically saying that sufficient consumption of alcohol prevents you from being criminally responsible?

    Uh... that explains quite a bit, really.

  3. @fearnothing: And there are some Canadian courts who agree. It's HORRIBLE.

  4. @fearnothing published an essay from from a GMP contributor that basically said "yeah, guys rape, and a friend of mine did rape a woman, but he was at the mercy of culural forces," without acknowledging that people who rape bear the sole responsibility for committing a rape.

    1. The GMP also, shortly afterwards, published an essay from an anonymous serial rapist that basically said "yeah, I've raped at least one person and maybe five, but we were at drunken parties so it was all confusing and stuff. Anyway, I like partying a lot so I'm going to keep doing it."

      I'm not making this shit up.

      And even that post got lots of "yeah, alcohol does muddy things, and it's good that we know how confusing these situations can be" comments.

      (Also, there's the problem where the GMP knows the identity of an active serial rapist and is keeping him anonymous, but crap, I can only get so angry in one day.)

    2. Okay. Once, when I was twenty, I went home with this guy totally intending to have sex with him. But I was so drunk that after a bit of make-out I more or less passed out on his couch. And then I woke up the next day with a hang-over, we had breakfast and I went back to my place. End of story.

      I never thought anything of that at the time, more than "I really drank too much that night, well, shit happens" or something. Neither did I view this guy as some amazing paragon of virtue - he was just this regular guy who was always partying and hitting on everyone all the time. BUT in later years I've come to realise that in the minds of some people, a guy like this really is some amazing exception, because a regular drunken party boy would just go ahead and bang the girl who recently passed out on his sofa - at least if they'd been making out first and sex was in the air, because then he's ENTITLED.

    3. This is so true. I've been in similar situations in college and now think back to them and feel exactly like you do.

    4. @Dvärghundspossen I think the point of this post was that that *wasn't* the exception, but the norm. The vast majority of the time strangers won't hurt you. It's just we think this sort of behavior is rare and so we are surprised at the people who show basic human decency and expect the worst instead of the other way around.

    5. Antsy, yes, that was the point of Cliff's post. But she made that post in response to people who argue about rape as if it WERE the norm that guys sort of automatically rape someone who passes out on their sofa, because how is he to know?

    6. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. At first I thought, well I see why they published this, knowing what rapists think is more useful than blaming faceless criminals et cetera... then I read the editors comments and it all became surreal.
    I'm not a legal expert or anything but I'm pretty sure committing a crime while on illegal drugs isn't less serious because you don't know if you're committing a crime or not, it's committing two crimes.
    And maybe criminals really think "everybody does this", but it's still not a justification, it's a solid reason to make absolutely clear that "no they fucking don't!"

    1. It's not "what rapists think," anyway. It's how rapists justify themselves after the fact. Excuses (even excuses they may believe themselves) tell us nothing about real motivations.

    2. It's what they think about the efficiency of their own excuses, at any rate.

  6. You rock so hard. I've lurked on your blog for a while, and love it, but this whole gmp thing has gotten to me, and I so appreciate your engagement here and on tumblr with it. The gray-area rape culture narrative is crap no matter who you are in that 95%, but especially for survivors who hear their own rapist's voice in those lies and excuses and who are made to feel afraid of any sexual relationship because hey, it must have been my bad communication, my behavior, my drinking that made it complicated. These gray-area narratives are just the same old victim blaming masquerading as compassion and edge-y discussion of tough topics.

  7. This is such a well-written manifesto - like everything you write, really.

    Because I'm me, though, I have to express what I thought while reading it: that maybe separating out the Rapist category is what got us into this mess in the first place. I mean, a few decades ago all anyone thought when they heard "rapist" was "man in a trenchcoat jumping out of a bush in a dark alley". Now we think of suave businessmen, frat boys, pretty women; we think of date rape, marital rape, rape between previously consensual sexual partners - as a culture, I think, our understanding of the circumstances under which rape can happen has widened. And I know you'd agree that's a good thing.

    Isn't it possible, then, that some rapists have managed to self-justify their actions to the point where they don't know or understand what they've done? And isn't it then possible that perpetuating the idea of the 95% might discourage these offenders from introspection, convincing them that rapists are Trenchcoat Men and they couldn't possibly be members of that category?

    1. You definitely have a point.

      I guess my response is that the broadened understanding of who rapists are has also lead to a watering-down of how much we hate rape. In many ways, we've replaced "rapists are scary men in trenchoats" with "rapists are ordinary-seeming people; well, if people like that can do it, rape must be a big misunderstanding and not that bad."

      I'd really like to communicate the concept of "only 5% of people are rapists, and they're not 'just confused'--but those 5% can be ordinary-seeming people," but I'm not sure how to package that tidily.

      I think the missing link is the ability to understand that ordinary-seeming people can be really really bad and not 'confused', and shit, that's a hard one to get across.

    2. It's hard to get across about other Really Bad Things people do, too, not just rape.

      Think about all the shows about serial killers and the like. "He seemed like such a normal, good neighbor; he was always so quiet." As a species, we really do not want to believe that That Nice Person Over There is capable of doing things that aren't nice.

    3. Cliff, I disagree. We haven't "watered down" how we feel about rape. It's just that we now feel that some things that we once thought were Pretty Much Okay - forcing your spouse or partner to have sex, having sex with someone unconscious from alcohol - we now feel are Mostly Not Okay, but we still haven't gotten to the point of saying "yes, this is exactly like what Trenchcoat Man does."

  8. The GMP "mixed signals" thing drove me right up a wall. (Almost literally.) "Oh, she was acting like she liked him! She was totally indicating that she was interested in having sex with him! So of course he got *confused* when she was angry that he penetrated her in her sleep."
    Okay, yeah, here's the thing. If I tell someone, "You're cool, you should come over to my place and hang out sometime" nobody would claim that this was justification to break into my house when I'm not there even though I expressed interest in having them in my home. Once again the culture sees women's bodies as less sacrosanct than property. Ugh.

    1. Exactly! Even if you said, "You should come over tonight," if that person then came over that night and knocked on your door and you didn't answer, they still wouldn't then break into your house because they thought you really wanted them there.

      Or, if they did do that, everyone would understand that they had clearly violated the law and did not just misunderstand your locked door.

  9. hmm. i see how "but anyone can be a rapist!" leads to "it could have been me" which leads to "women should be clearer," which is wrong and nonsensical and so much victim blaming. but i still find "yes, you too can be a rapist" useful. because the person who sexually assaulted me was a women's studies major and a self-described sex-positive, kink-positive feminist. and she told me it wasn't like she was a sociopath, because she rubbed my back when i was throwing up after (she'd gotten me really, really drunk). and it wasn't like she raped me (technically). and she just thought someone finally wanted her (i had said no to her increasingly creepy harassment for 2 years). etc.

    she couldn't be a predator. she was too enlightened for that.

    you know? 5% seems like such a small number, but it's still 1 in 20. so i want people to understand that no matter how educated you are, no matter how "nice," no matter how many prominent feminists you can quote, if you ignore someone's nonconsent or inability to consent in order to perform sexual acts on them? yes, you too can be a rapist.

    1. I know what you mean.

      Being a rapist is not common, but that people who are rapists are very, very good at self-deluding themselves into believing their own excuses.

  10. First of all: "Clear consent does make sex better"

    Hoo, boy, does it ever. Amen to that.

    Secondly: thanks for writing this. I actually ran across that self-same post on my feed (I think the day it was posted, or shortly after) and the scary thing is, by the time I got to the end I felt like I understood the guy. That, yeah, what he did was wrong... But gee, for someone who grows up steeped in messed-up cultural messages and who's never had to really think about these things before, at least it's good he realizes what's going on, right? And who am I to tell him to quit partying if he loves it so much?

    I still think the culture needs to change. If our culture was one of consent, his hard-partying lifestyle wouldn't carry nearly as much "acceptable risk" of rape. It'd be easier to see it and call it out for what it is.

    But you're right. That is an article devoted to self-justification - and I think it's not only justification of the rapes he's committed, but the lifestyle he lives that puts him in a position to rape in the first place. "It feels good and I have fun and I've met a lot of cool people this way, so it's ok if I'm a little irresponsible and end up hurting some people in the process. Corrupt businesses get away with it, why can't I? It's a a price I'm comfortable paying."

    Yes, but how comfortable are your victims with that "price of admission?"

    And oh, hey, thanks GMP for convincing a self-blaming victim to go through the self-blame cycle again. Stay klassy.

    1. The trap rape apologists and feminists alike tend to fall into is setting up a false dichotomy between being personally responsible and recognizing behavior is a product of culture. Committing murder isn't excused because a person is in a gang and thus it's the product of a murderous culture - the murderer is still at fault AND the gang is to blame for a culture that causes murder.

      Both need to be dealt with. Blaming one doesn't excuse the other.

    2. THIS. And it's the same dichotomy that blames poor people for being poor, because pointing out that there are systemic flaws in the economic system somehow translates into saying personal responsibility isn't important.

  11. Unfortunately this isn't true. If college men are to be taken as at all representative (and even if they're not, they're still representative of college men, which control the environment wrt rape on college campuses, and affect a sizable number of people), the statistics look more like

    -One in 12 college men admitted to committing acts that met the legal definition of rape. (keeping in mind that the legal definition is often quite narrow and does not cover all kinds of rape/sexual assault)
    -More than one in 5 men report "becoming so sexually aroused that they could not stop themselves from having sex," even though the woman did not consent.
    -35% of men report some likelihood that they would rape if they could be assured they wouldn't be caught or punished.

    So the whole "raping someone could happen to you/anyone" thing has quite a bit more truth to it than you're presenting, especially when paired with people making it clear that there are no/hardly any consequences to raping someone.

    The 95% number is WAY too high.

    (Statistics were found on the NYU student health website under "National Statistics about Sexual Violence on College Campuses", and a reference list can be found on that page.)

    1. Of course I think my sources are better, but honestly, I don't care that much about the specific number. I'm just trying to break through the myth that "it could happen to you! by accident! so confusing!" that makes non-rapists take rapists' side.

    2. Except raping someone is not something that "happens" to you. It's something you do.

    3. Anon - You're right. And I'm concerned I did buy into the language of "being a rapist is so unfortunate" here. I'm going to add a line to the post to reflect that.

      Because 100% of people who decide to never have sex without consent are not-rapists. It's not like this is a pure-odds game here.

  12. This post makes me remember a really, really horrible conversation I had with a guy on an internet board for people with alternative lifestyles.

    So. There had been this trial that gained lots of attention. A female sub had reported that she'd been raped by two doms that she'd had had consensual three-somes with before. But this time they raped her. The evidence was a) testimony from her best friend who had recieved a phone call right after the event where she was crying and yelling that the guys had raped her, b) various physical injuries c) text messages from the guys' cell phones next day, where they said stuff like "haha, she's totally our whore, we can do whatever we like with her". The guys claimed that it had all been consensual, and were acquitted. The woman appealed to a higher court, and they were convicted.

    So anyway, this guy, who apparently was a dom himself, went on about these poor guys because you know it can be SO DIFFICULT to know if someone really consents or not. And I was like WTF? Are you serious? Eventually I just cut off the conversation with something along the lines of "If you really think consent is complicated, you really ought to go celibate!".

    I didn't know shit about BDSM at the time, but after reading a lot on this blog I realised that it's perhaps even more fucked up that this shit came from a BDSM:er.

  13. No. Because you know what? It happened to me. By accident. By guys who didn't know better or were being stupid. We don't live in a consent culture. We should. But we don't. And until we do, we have to face the facts sometimes rape can be grey. Sometimes the girls could be clearer. I've had my consent violated 3 times (not all of them involved penis in any hole sex), in 3 different ways. 1 of which didn't even involve me saying no (or being drunk or passed out).

    As someone who has been raped, I get annoyed at all the "feminists" speaking for me and my kind of situations and being told I'm a victim and the guys are BAD. They're not. And I'm not a victim. Something just happened.

    1. I'm not sure I should post this comment or not, but...

      From your point of view, something just happened. OK. That doesn't mean the guys did nothing wrong.

    2. I agree with you completely. This has happened to me before too. I have had my consent violated horribly, which was cut and dry sexual assault, but I have also gone through circumstances that I cannot place the label 'rapist' on the person I was with, because passive acceptance (secretly coming from an unfounded feeling of coercion) can look similar to consent.

      I know that a lack of "no" does not mean "yes", but I (a female) have not asked for consent with most of my (male) sexual partners, and isn't that a double standard?

      Despite all of this I do love this article, I would just argue, from personal experience, that due to serious but abstract sexual pressure on a societal level, girls and women can unwillingly have sex without knowledge or intent on the part of the partner. A culture of consent would hugely help this - people who are too shy to verbalize "yes I want to have sex" should perhaps not be having sex.

    3. This tells me we need to, among other things, remove the stigma around the word "victim."

    4. B, you're entitled to call your experiences by whatever label you want. Where I'm getting lost is 'by accident' and 'just happened'. If you trip on the sidewalk and flail for balance and grab my ass, that was an accident; it just happened. If you grab my ass on purpose, that's not an accident and it didn't just happen. Maybe you were drunk, maybe you were being stupid, maybe you didn't understand how wrong it was to grab a stranger's ass, maybe I don't think it's that big a deal and I'm over it five minutes later. That doesn't mean "something just happened" and anyone who says "that guy was a jerk!" is imposing on me.

  14. It's funny how, if you exchange rape for robbery, the "grey areas" somehow miraculously become much clearer and all of those excuses sound that much more ridiculous.

    Well, she was talking to me all evening and said she was happy to lend friends money, so when she fell asleep, I went through her wallet. That's not theft - I'm sure she'd have been fine with it if she'd been awake, right?

    What did he expect? He was out in a designer shirt, flashing his Rolex and being really obvious about how financially attractive he was. He was ASKING for the guy to grab him in the street and take his phone.

    Oh come on, you'd never have invited me into your house if you didn't want me to help myself to your DVDs.

    Hey, we've been together for six months and she's paid for dinner twice a week the whole time. I've got every right to hold her down by the throat til she buys me a nice meal.

    1. "What did he expect? He was out in a designer shirt, flashing his Rolex and being really obvious about how financially attractive he was. He was ASKING for the guy to grab him in the street and take his phone."

      To be fair, this one is used at some points. Although there is added "in a poor/rough area of town, especially overseas." I think this comes from the general despising of the rich because the people immediately get in their head this image of this arrogant person flaunting their riches thinking they are invincible in a area where people struggle to get by.

      Which just shows how similar that thinking is to the hatred of women- "Well look at how attractive she was and so full of herself for it, and being around guys like that who are starved for sex! How despicable to flaunt those things like that in front of them." etc.

      Messed up yo.

    2. But what if you met some new people, had a great time, got really drunk and kept buying round after round of drinks for everyone. Whose fault is it if all your money is gone the next day (in particular if you can't remember spending it)?
      - Just following your example to it's extreme.

      I think that grey areas are not impossible (but definitely precluded by anyone being passed out like in all your examples) and happen far less often than rapists trying to convince everyone (including themselves) that that was the case.

    3. Gray areas aren't literally impossible, but they are a helluva lot rarer than given credit for.

      (and, wow GMP, those examples were NOT gray areas).

    4. I think oeople should be vary of saying that "having sex with someone drunk is rape", just because drunk people, even very drunk people, might be actively participating in sex, and then it's sort of analogous to the "buying drinks for everyone" example. We don't think the latter is robbery, so actively having sex while really drunk shouldn't count as being raped by that same logic (there may still be good reasons not to have sex while very drunk though). My two cents.

      But as long as we're talking about someone who's passive, lying there being humped by someone else, then there's NO gray area. And the examples at GMP didn't sound like gray area to me. He talked in the abstract of people who are really drunk but still come off as great dancers - okay, if you can "dance great" you can probably actively have sex as well. But when he talks about shoving a girl up against the wall and penetrating her by sheer force - no gray area. And that friend of his... that story just doesn't sound all that plausible. If she's so out there that she doesn't even remember the name of the guy, would she really SEEM just "party drunk" to him? I imagine a girl more or less FALLING on top of him, and he's telling himself "she's so horny", but when she starts mumbling the wrong name he can't keep up that illusion for himself any longer.

    5. Sorry to go OT but one comment above made me angry.

      @AnonymousDecember 14, 2012 5:20 PM
      Come on, you're comparing misogyny to hatred of rich guys? Really? You know, when people say : "Hah, he shouldn't have gone to that rough part of town with his rolex" it's just good old-fashioned classism. Because all poor people are thugs, right? And if people do rob him, it's STILL classism (and not reverse-classism or some nonsense like that) that's responsible for it. If our society weren't so ridiculously unequal, that kind of thing wouldn't happen.


    6. if you exchange robbery for rape, the advice from the police "keep your valuables out of sight" becomes sensible and well received. However as soon as you swap it back again, the police are suddenly accused "blaming" the wrong people, when they're actually just trying to reduce the number of people who are victims of crime, by any reasonable means possible.

    7. Anonymous: Okay, what counts as "valuables" that you should "keep out of sight" in order not to be raped? Women normally cover their genitals, you know. I guess you refer to dressing "slutty". One problem with telling women that they shouldn't dress "slutty" is that everyone has their own definition of what "slutty" means, where the threshold is. Besides, I doubt that clothes make any difference anyway. From my own and various friends' personal experiences, it's signs of vulnerability that makes you a creep magnet, not slutty clothes. Small girls get targeted more than tall girls, sad girls more than happy girls, girls who don't know their way and have to look at a map more than girls who know where they're going. If anyone wants to claim that dressing "modestly" reduces the risk of getting raped, please show some research. I'm all for abandoning tons of anecdotal evidence in the face of actual research saying otherwise, but not merely because people consider it "common sense" that things work this way.

      The "rich guy showing off his Rolex" is really disanalogous to "woman in slutty dress" for what should be an obvious reason: Not all people have valuable stuff for robbers. Therefore, you make yourself more of a target if you show that you're one of those who HAVE valuable stuff, and therefore is worth robbing. However, ALL women have a hole in which you can stick your dick. The fact that I have a hole in which a rapist might stick his dick isn't some unknown fact about me that I suddenly reveal to the world when putting on a short skirt.
      The idea that rapists target women in "slutty" clothes is rather based on the idea that it's not until they see someone "slutty" that their sexual urges become uncontrollable. Around "modest" women they're able to control themselves. This is bullshit.

    8. Oh wow, you guys COMPLETELY misinterpreted what I said. I was not looking for sympathy for "the poor white rich dude", but I was just musing about the similarities of trains of thought as the person brought up that EXACT phrase that I heard a million other times which made me rethink of how I used it.

      I am one of those people who gripe about rich people going into poor areas of town like that. When she said that stuff, I was like- "Oh man, shows I have a way to go. Rich people do not 'deserve' to beaten blue and bloody because they were 'stupid or ignorant'." Which are sometimes descriptions used for women who "place themselves in those situations" which is bullshit itself in that they probably didn't place themselves.

      FYI- I'm a queer woman who puts up with a lot of bullshit about how I dress and about how I travel by myself (and as a dirt poor traveler, I don't exactly stick to safe and cleaned up areas). I'm a traveler and so I was identifying to the gut-punch that I noticed that shows my own biases about people- that the rich person somehow deserves what he gets. I was not saying the women who gets rape was less that for that, nor was I saying that it was exactly the same. Just that it's interesting how things like classism influence our thinking in similar ways to sexism (although with the rich boy example it's more of a 'lashback' while with a women and rape it's more of a 'boiling over of ingrained misogeny'. I was not saying the two things were caused by the same shit, or anything like that.

      And actually, reading over my comment again- I kinda want to say fuck you guys because I said rich PEOPLE. I did not define gender in this area because I have heard the standard of both men and women in poor areas getting beaten or even killed when rich and acting like idiots of "oh they were so stupid, they shouldn't have been so stupid if they didn't want to be robbed/beaten/etc". You guys read male gender into my sentence when I purposefully chose a gender neutral address, although I should have been more clear because I was quoting something that said 'he' (even though as a traveler I have heard 'she' used just as much in this example). And I said both situations, which involve violence against a human being for doing nothing more than being in the "wrong" place in the "wrong" time dressed in the "wrong" way, were messed up. I did not say that one was less messed up then the other, or one was more so. If you want me to write a essay on it I would gladly point out how messed up it is that women have to fear violence against her all the time even among friends and family where it's more likely to happen.

      Sometimes, surprisingly! Not everyone is being a douche online or a male apologist. Please check all of your own biases where you read into things I did NOT say before going for the throat. (Gentle corrections, or 'can you clarify?' are appreciated so I *can* clarify, but all this instant to-the-jugular! Is rather ridiculous.)

      Oh, and I'm anonymous on here because I usually use my twitter account to post on other sites and since it was a quick musing I didn't want to have to figure out a whole other account. Anyway, I think I'll going back to reading just the Pervocracy posts. The comments are usually fun to read, but I hate having any musings about how generally sucky people are be jumped on as "NOT FEMINIST ENOUGH" just because I was painting with a broad brush for a quick note.

    9. Anonymous, while people may say "dude, you shouldn't have left your iPod on the dashboard," nobody will use that to excuse the thief. The police may tell you that was stupid, but they won't tell you that it wasn't theft theft and refuse to arrest the thief if she's caught. Other people won't tell you that the thief isn't really a thief after all because she really thought it was OK to smash car windshields and take people's things if they're out in plain sight, and anyway they, themselves, can totally put themselves in the shoes of a smash-and-grab thief.

      TL;DR: victim-blaming isn't limited to rape, but when it's directed at rape it's very different.

    10. I have some difficulty with using the theft analogy - partly because the dominant culture constructs sex as something that women possess that men need to purchase, and rape is a form of theft where standard purchasing protocols are unmet (for example, the man forgot to pay the woman's father the bride price for sexual access). The transaction analogy has never taught us how to negotiate consent and desire.
      Also, the analogy isn't exactly perfect. Rape isn't always like someone taking your cash when you're passed out, it could be like them looking through your wallet but putting it all back before you wake up. How do you feel about that? Or haven't you ever heard the phrase "what she doesn't know won't hurt her"? And the analogies presented are very... well... so no one here downloads illegal music and tv shows? You never call in sick to work when you're feeling fine? And if you find a quarter on the sidewalk you don't just pocket it? And you would never pick up a necklace left someplace? Or live on unceded First Nations territory? C'mon - theft is a better example of how society gives some not-okay actions the green light. It's full of 'grey areas' where we feel someone owes us something, and it's a ripoff what they expect you to pay, and it's not a big deal, and it was just lying there anyway and...
      So personally, I think we're mostly all thieves and rapists - except we don't actually steal or rape 95% of the time. And yes, we are in contrast to those who do rape and steal 95% of the time because it's a key part of their game plan.
      For the rest of us, we fail hardest - i.e. we commit rape - when we don't know any better, we haven't thought much about it, we got confused and/or we have some semi-plausible justification for doing what we wanted to do. It's a systems failure - what we've been taught about sex has not prepared us for consent, for confusion and for our desire. I'd agree that a minority of people account for the majority of prosecutable crimes, but there IS probably a bigger grey area out there where we simply screw up because we didn't take better precautions. Knowing that, acknowledging that, is how we can stop rape, help rape survivors and be better people. Cliff is very right in this regard - if we don't clear up that grey area then we end up making excuses for a whole lotta bad. This is why it's important to challenge rape culture and understand the ways that we have been conditioned to be rapists, to be raped, to contribute to our own rapey experiences (and before you jump all over me, I'm just saying a significant chunk of my training as a woman was to remove any consideration of my own desire from the sexual equation - if that wasn't a setup to get myself raped, groped and have horrible sex, I don't know what is. I acknowledge that I'm still consenting to these experiences, except for all those times when I thought you were just a slut if you weren't drunk when you had sex, so obviously I should begin this process by making sure I got trashed).
      Anyway, sorry for the rambling post. I just want to bring the 'but it IS confusing" people into the camp of "ok, so let's do something about this" rather than push them away. Let's all just agree to use our words and put our listening ears on and we can commit to a 100% we're-not-raping-anyone future.

    11. Can I also add that this line confuses me "We are the non-rapists, the people who will never commit rape and who suffer from the actions of those who do." I think my lifelong sexual experience and expectations makes me less likely to both seek and obtain consent when I have sex. I question myself on both ends of that equation. For me, at least, it's not that simple, and trying to view it that way stops me from really being honest with myself because I don't want to be cast out of the 95% and into the 5% rapist scumbag camp.

    12. I guess it's great that you're trying to win over the people who are "confused," but actually, there ARE people out there who do and would wait for a "yes," and won't ignore a "no." There are people who, when seeing an unconscious person, do not think "time to have sex."

      I'm really sorry if that fact hurts the feelings of people who are confused by consent. But honestly, if they are confused by consent and that likely to rape someone, they shouldn't be having sex.

      If every time you drink, you hit someone, that doesn't put the blame on the alcohol and take it off you. It's on you not to drink. And it also doesn't mean that everyone hits, or even that everyone hits when they drink, or that downloading music illegally or whatever analogy means it's just a matter of time before you hit.

      And it really sucks if you're one of those people who does hit when they drink, and maybe it's because of the culture that you hit, but either way: you're hitting people. You have to do whatever you can not to hit them, even if it means you never drink again.

  15. I hate the GMP. Hate. It. Everyone who writes for them gets a red flag in my book (looking at you, Marcotte). Hugo Schyzer went up in my esteem when he left them.

    1. Yeah, at one point they posted some of my writing and I asked them to take it down. Right now I'm not regretting that decision.

    2. To be fair to Amanda Marcotte, she stopped writing there pretty quickly after it became clear GMP was settling in the direction of hellhole.

      (that said, this should not be taken as a defense of Marcotte's writing, which I'm only vaguely familiar with).

    3. Most of the decent writers (including Marcotte) have fled GMP, many shortly after the founder went off on an abusive tirade against feminists. That's when I think people started to see that the site wasn't what they had thought it was going to be.

    4. Um, simply leaving the GMP does NOT negate the convergence of evidence that Hugo Schwyzer continues to write, speak, and do harmful shit. It goes much, much deeper than his prior involvement with GMP. In fact, HS himself has written posts that very closely mirror the "my best friend raped somebody" post.

  16. I was thinking about good analogies for this for a while, and I think I have a good one: People who rape are like people who beat others unconscious. They themselves might feel like they just slid into the situation, but that does not mean it's random bad chance.

  17. Apologies: completely unrelated to your post. Thoughts on the shooting given the legality of guns? I'd love to hear your thoughts on the topic and read your tumblr...

  18. Just wanted to say thank you for this Cliff. Have read (and written) so much about this already, but you've absolutely got to the heart of it. Cap doffed and all that.

  19. There are similar themes here -

  20. Wow, Cliff, you keep getting the weirdest salebots on your blog. *points above*

    And yeeeeaaaaah. My general opinion is a number of rapists just self-justify to the max and are masters of self-delusion. Hell, mine saw his rape of me as CORRECTIVE. (And this is why I froth with rage whenever I hear people claiming asexuals never have to deal with crap.)

    1. To use the robbery analogy above:

      Clearly you haven't given your money to the right person yet, otherwise you too would know the joy of Other People Having Your Stuff. Or something.

      Man, I feel dirty even typing the analogy.

    2. I get really mad about that too. One of my best friends is demisexual, and one of his former partners repeatedly coerced him into sex he wasn't really in the mood for, and forced him into sex acts that he didn't want, allegedly to "help him learn to enjoy sex more." The same guy repeatedly insisted that my friend "couldn't possibly be ace, because he talks about sex so much."

      How many asexuals have to get raped before people admit that they really are a persecuted and oppressed minority?

  21. "This is part of why I talk about consent so much. It's not just to keep well-intentioned guys from accidentally raping. Most well-intentioned guys don't really have that problem. It's to help well-intentioned guys (and girls, and everyone else) see how vast the gulf is between them and rapists."

    This is utterly brilliant. The thing I hated most about the whole GMP thing is the super sanctimonious "oh we are the ones trying to have an educational conversation and you are being horrible femi-fascists for trying to shut us down with your WELL RESEARCHED STATISTICS" defense that they pulled out after the original article. If you're going to insist on having these debates whilst completely ignoring everything that's come before, the BEST case scenario is that you eventually end up at the same point everyone else was at before you started discussing it. Worst case scenario is that you end up somewhere completely wrong, in this case normalising behaviour and thought processes of attackers by inventing grey areas to have debates in, and with a website as (depressingly) popular as GMP that's a really damaging and irresponsible way to go about things.

    (I wrote about this myself here at but I feel like a bit of a sell-out doing self promotion as a first time commenter. Anyway, fact of the matter is that you are totally awesome and my life has been much better since discovering your blog, so thank you!)

    1. The "YOU ARE JUST TRYING TO SHUT DOWN DIALOGUE" stuff really, really bothers me.

      Because the thing is, the dialogues really are out there. There really are people having nuanced discussions about consent and rape culture and what that means for men and women and non-binary folks. Even in some of the comment threads surrounding GMP's Facepalm (not AT GMP, mind you), there were really great discussion of consent and rape and how it all works in the real world. And 99% of the time those nuanced discussions avoided god damn victim-blaming and made-up gray areas.

      So not only did they ignore the empirical research, they ignored all the conversations. And they were SO proud of themselves, because they thought they were the only ones that thought to talk about why rapists rape.

  22. My complicated feelings about this involve the situations that, well, maybe aren't rape but aren't right either, and I worry about the message "no, you know damn well if you're a rapist" interfering with the recognition of mistakes.
    By which I mean:
    When I was 15, and my girlfriend was 15 (I'm a woman too, if that matters), and we were just moving from friends to girlfriends, I probably pushed too hard for our first time. I was 15, I was terribly excited about the entire concept of sex, and my communication about EVERYTHING wasn't great much less about sex.
    And then the next day she told me she was upset, and I felt terrible, and we made up and it was ok - but I still think about it 15 years later. And I still feel like it wasn't rape, but it wasn't great consent either, but it *was* from not knowing to look for yes instead of a lack of no.
    Where do things like that fall into this whole discussion? How can we address those issues, the "oh shit learning to do things right is HARD" sort of things.
    Because I'm afraid a "it's that damn 5% message" might make people who actually do make mistakes less likely to admit they made one - because it's suddenly a dichotomy of "non-rapists" vs "rapists" and we all know which one we'd rather be.

    1. My first sexual experience was just as bad. I'd gotten a LOT of "women don't want sex," to the point that I had all kinds of fucked-up mental processes. I'm not sure to this day if I really wanted the sex itself, or if I just thought he wanted it, or if I was just tired of having the "virgin" label at age 20 and wanted to get it over with. I don't even know if he wanted it or not, because neither of us had any communication skills worth a damn. Sure, I'd been taught manners and tact, but those aren't communication skills so much as they are How Not To Offend Random People With Whom You Come Into Contact.

      I'd decided the reason I was sexually attracted to this particular individual was because it meant that we were In Love and he was The One and we were supposed to get married, because nobody had ever talked to me about how to have good relationships, or what a Good Relationship even looked like. It had all been about abstaining from SEX, and about Bad Things Men Say To Trap You Into Sex. Nothing about dealing with your own lust when you're not ready to have sex yet. Nothing about knowing if you're compatible with the people you date or not. Nothing about how to set boundaries, or kinks, or anything that would have been even remotely useful to me that night.

      I knew a bit about contraceptives, but since I'd decided long ago that I was going to go to my eventual grave having had exactly ONE sexual partner ever, I figured the knowledge was entirely academic. (Thank you, Catholic Guilt. Thank you so fucking much. The pregnancy scare and the nervous waiting for the STD test results was just soooooo worth it.)

      Did I rape him? Did he rape me? Did we both rape each other at once? I don't know. I just know it was the worst sex I've ever had in my life, because we weren't communicating even the most basic message of "Yes, I really do want this and am not just saying what I think you want to hear."

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  24. It's weird, I was reading this and it made me uncomfortable.

    I realized that two guys I dated in college had questionable sexual encounters. One of my ex boyfriends actually told me a story of him being drunk and hooking up with a drunk girl and that both of them had way too much to drink. The only reason why I really remembered was he had to qualified it with "But it wasn't really rape or like that". Another ex-boyfriend, shortly after we broke up, my ex had sex with one of my friends and when she told me about it, she said she had been drinking a lot. That ex had gastric bipass and processed alcohol quicker than most. We're talking stupid drunk to fully coherent in less than an hour. Plus from my own experience with dating him, I knew he didn't exactly ask first as so much as wait to be stopped.

    Oh then there was the fun conversation with one of my friend's friends (who was purposely trying to make me feel uncomfortable) telling the story of how he convinced this drunk girl to have unprotected sex because the blowjob wasn't "working". Great guy, by the way. He was later pissed off at my friend because she wouldn't have sex with him after she told him she wasn't going to multiple times, lied about being on her period to disgust him, and then had me present to further make it obvious that she wasn't going to have sex with him. Yeah, she's not friends with him anymore.I am 90% certain that he has raped someone else.

    Every college should make a sex-ed/consent class mandatory. It's amazingly depressing how many conversations I've had with people where consent is really not understood.

  25. I'm struggling with a couple of things. One: a few years ago, I was fooling around with a guy. He was lying on his back, I put a condom on him, and interpreted the fact that he let me as him consenting to have sex with me, and I had sex with him. I realise now that this was very wrong, and I regret it. Thing is, the guy is still in my life, he's still my friend. I don't think he was traumatised by the incident. We had sex again, just oral and manual this time, at his instigation, a few years later. (That time, he choked me too hard. He knew that I liked a hand on my neck, but didn't realise that cutting off my air supply entirely was going too far. That should have been horrific, but I know him so well that I really wan't bothered - I knew I was safe with him. I just waited for him to let go, then said "Not that hard!") But back on topic, does what I did make me a rapist?

    My current partner and I have, on several occasions, gone seamlessly from "asleep" to "fucking." We sleep naked, and cuddled up to each other, and we get horny. We've discussed it after the fact, and found that we both find it warm and loving and delightful. But neither of us asked the other one for consent first. I can't believe there's anything wrong with that one.

    1. Consent is about whether everyone wants to have sex not whether the right words were spoken (for example: coerced consent doesn't count). I'd say most people have sex at least sometimes without getting verbal consent (which I think is what you are worried about) because you can give non-verbal consent. I wasn't there but from your description it sounds like there was non-verbal consent (he watched you take out a condom and put it on him). Was it ideal? No. But it doesn't sound like rape. Similarly you can have an established relationship with someone where you are comfortable not asking for consent or even having sleep sex and that is okay as long as everyone is happy with that arrangement.

    2. To the first situation: It depends on whether or not he was consenting. If he considered it consensual, despite not actively reciprocating, it wasn't rape, but you were certainly in danger of raping him. There is a high potential that what you were doing was rape. Maybe others disagree, but I'd say that you were doing something that had a high likely hood of leading you to raping someone, but whether or not it was rape depends on whether or not he was thinking "ooh, this is nice, I hope she keeps going" or "uhh, I don't know that I'm so into this..."

      If that was the way you conducted all of your sexual interactions, I'd say you've probably raped some people. But I don't think it is, and whether or not this one instance is rape depends on whether or not he felt it was consensual.

      I dunno, maybe I'm totally off base with this - thoughts, others?

    3. To the first situation: I think you're not a rapist. I'm a heterosexual woman and was much hornier as a teenager/in my early twenties, with lots of drinking around sex back in the day. I can recall similar cases from my history, when I was the one more into the guy. Our interactions, though, were as equals, without incapacitated drunkedness on either one's part. You didn't even mention anyone being impaired, so I think it's more likely that he was thinking "oooh, this is nice, I hope she keeps going".

      Like the laPlaceDemon says, if that was the way you conducted all of your sexual interactions, I'd feel differently. I think the fact that you are here thoughtfully examining your own sexual history and this particular incident that stands out, makes it more likely that you're not a rapist.

      As for the second situation: there's absolutely nothing wrong. It sounds like you're loving sexual partners who are comfortable with and trust each other. What's even more important is the fact that you've discussed it afterwards. This reminds me of learning the saying "the smarter a person is the more they realize they don't know" as a child, or my father telling me "it's the smarter person's fault". The desired result is for people to examine their own behavior to see how consistent it is with their beliefs, which is exactly what you're doing.

    4. theLaplaceDemon - I'm not familiar with the US statue on this, but the UK law says that sex is rape if
      (a)a person (A) intentionally penetrates (B) with his penis,
      (b)(B) does not consent, AND
      (c)(A) does not 'reasonably believe' that (B) consents.
      The maximum punishment is life imprisonment.

      Therefore under UK law, a woman cannot rape a man. There is an offence of "assault by penetration" which involves the use of an object, and carries the same maximum sentence. However, this does not cover a woman using a man's erection against his consent, even to penetrate herself; this would fall under 'sexual assault' which carries a maximum penalty of 10 years.

      The same definition of consent is required, so the question of whether or not she committed a crime under UK law would depend entirely on whether or not her partner consented - i.e. clause (b). We must assume that she didn't have reasonable grounds that he consented, but if someone consents without external indication, it's still not rape. I think the purpose of this clause is to prevent a third party observing the act from saying "that's rape!" and having person (A) prosecuted - because (B) can then say "no it's fine, I consented, I just didn't show it".

      I think that Cliff has mentioned this potential scenario before and said this is still a pretty shitty situation because of exactly what Crystal has described - (A) can't definitively KNOW that he or she isn't committing a crime.

      How to be sure you're not being a criminal in future? Get your partner to say yes. Then fuck like bunnies!

    5. I am intentionally ignoring legal definitions of rape, because they vary (not just between countries, but between individual states in the US), and because I think the penis-centric definitions are absolute bullshit.

      The idea that a woman forcing someone of any gender to have sex is automatically a "lesser degree" of assault than a man forcing someone of any gender to have sex is ridiculous and offensive.

      I think it is best to intentionally reject definitions of rapist that cannot by definition apply to people without penises. I believe this is also the norm in the sex-positive feminist Internet World, though I could be mistaken. Rape is sex without consent. What counts as "sex" might be a somewhat controversial topic, but I think we should be able to agree that the law shouldn't say only one gender can rape.

    6. I agree with you, and I remember hearing something to the effect of our law being changed to reflect that, but I can't find any confirmation right now. The important part for me was the consent bit though - with that we can make the distinction between legally wrong and morally questionable.

    7. Bearing in mind, of course, that actively doing Sex Things is a form of consent - a no-words-involved "person gets out condom and puts it on other person, who then turns over and starts vigorously fucking person who put condom on" quite clearly has both people consenting.

      I realise this isn't quite the OP's situation, just thought it worth mentioning.

    8. The problem with the way rape laws are currently framed, besides being penis-in-vagina oriented, is that they put forth the idea that women are in a default state of consent unless they unambiguously say no. How would the laws look if they said you can only have sex with someone who unambiguously said yes?

    9. If I'm not mistaken, the UK has a so-called "consent law" regarding rape - it's rape if the victim didn't do anything to imply that zie consented.

      In Sweden we have the regular kind of rape law where it's only rape if the victim gave enough resistance, and that's so weird when you think about it. Imagine such laws in other areas... Like, I go up to a guy, yanks his Rolex off and then run away with it, and he's so shocked by my audacity that he doesn't react until I'm already out of earshot. Imagine the law treating this as a "gift" just because he didn't resist...

      However, a few years ago there was a big discussion in Sweden on whether we should change our rape laws in the UK direction, and loads of people went "NOOOOO! Then we won't be able to have spontaneous sex any longer, and one couldn't have sex without signing a physical and legally binding contract (nobody had, of course, suggested this, but it became a commonly invoked straw man), and besides it's almost IMPOSSIBLE to know if someone consents or not so the only thing one could be realistically expected to go on if the other person physically tries to fight you off or not". Yeah. That's seriously what the debate quickly degenerated to, and that was REEEEEALLY scary...

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  27. I agree with your overall message, but I'm not at all comfortable with how you used those statistics. I think there's a very good chance that guys who say "It could have happened to you" would also answer no to the rape survey and thus be counted in your 95%. Three out of four questions explicitly refer to actual or threatened force. And even on the intoxication one, I'd say it's 50/50 at best that someone claiming to be simply confused about consent would answer yes to that wording.

    Of course they may be more honest when filling out such a survey than talking about it online, but you can only rely on this if you take for granted that they are lying rather than truly confused. And then you try to use the numbers to show that they're lying. Clearly that doesn't fly as an argument, even though it may in fact be true.

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  29. "And forget the numbers for a second. If you, personally, make a commitment to never have sex without unambiguous consent, your odds of being a not-rapist are 100%. It can't "happen to you" if you decide not to do it."

    I had slightly drunken sex with a woman who repeatedly, enthusiastically, verbally and very unambiguously consented to it. She was moderately tipsy, I was even more tipsy, she took me back to her room and essentially pounced on me. I explicitly asked her if she was sure this was what she wanted, or if she wouldn't prefer to just talk and cuddle or something, and she gave clear affirmative answers.

    She only decided to tell me after we'd slept together that two days ago she'd tried to kill herself, they'd massively increased the levels of medication she was on, so although she could still have normal conversations with people, her thinking and decision making abilities were pretty frazzled, she was deeply unhappy, confused, often found it difficult to work out what was going on, had occasional hallucinations (at one point during that night she'd become convinced I was her boyfriend- yet another thing she didn't tell me til afterwards.)

    You don't have to be a genius to work out she clearly wasn't in any position to consent to anything, let alone sex. No, she didn't accuse me of sexually assaulting afterwards, but this doesn't have any relevance to the question of whether it was sexual assault or not, and I still (a year later) feel incredibly guilty about the whole thing. Was there anything I could have done to prevent it? Perhaps, but I basically think the only way to avoid unintentionally sexually assaulting someone is to never have sex again. Perhaps that's a commitment worth making, and I'm certainly never sleeping with someone again who I don't know pretty damn well. However, her boyfriend at the time also didn't know she had mental health issues, and was on loads of medication for them (she told him the drugs she took were for Acne), so its clear that being entirely sure about consent is a horrendously difficult issue even at the best of times.

    This does not mean you can't tell when someone *isn't* consenting. That's pretty damn easy, and clearly "I didn't realise" isn't an excuse which can be used in the vast majority of cases- however, it simply isn't as clear cut an issue as rape is always intentional.

    1. I'm thinking if things happened as you say they happened that would not be rape. To rape someone you must know or suspect that they don't want to have sex with you. If you had known she was on a shitloads of drugs you would not have done what you did. You made a decision based on the facts you had then. That it wasn't the right decision based on all the facts is sad, but in this case I wouldn't say it was completely your fault.

      We focus a lot on communication. This is because we DON'T expect people to be mind readers. If I was to maybe have sex with someone who could read my thoughts there would be no need for communication from my side. They'd not only know if I wanted to have sex with them but HOW.

    2. This scenario frankly terrifies me.
      I don't really know what you could have possibly done besides gotten to know her well enough to decide that if she was having any psychosomatic symptoms she would have told you. This troubles me deeply.
      Indeed so does any scenario where yes might not actually mean yes.
      It is basically why I've pretty much decided to prohibit myself from any sexual activity if I've had more than one drink; I don't want to risk misjudging if someone is in a proper mental state to give consent and don't trust a tipsy version myself to pick up on subtle behavioral cues that someone might be drunk or high or sleep-depped ... at least not until I get some actual formal medical training on that or something.

      I have this suspicion that there is something problematic about even that and yet I've not yet been able to determine what.

    3. Yes, it terrifies me as well. The thing is, I do still think it was rape. (Well, not legally rape, because I'm female, but the point still stands.)

      Someone still had sex with her, which she did not in any way consent to. The fact that I would have given almost anything not to have had sex with her had I known all the facts doesn't change that. To say to her, "Oh, you weren't raped, because the perpetrator didn't mean to" is absolutely horrendous.

      I guess I have a view of ethics where one can do morally bad things unknowingly and unavoidably. (Like hitting someone in your car whilst driving sober, and under the limit.) I think the pull against this view is particular strong in feminist circles, which leads to loads of probablematic stuff regarding rape- either it was 100% intentional, or it wasn't rape. I did rape her, it was an awful thing to do, and there would be something seriously wrong with me if I didn't feel guilty for a very long time about it.

      And armorsmith42. Yes, I'm now the same. This is one point of sympathy I had with the goodmen article, horrific as the rest of it was(and which I think some people missed out on.) The drinking didn't lead to rape solely because it caused the person to care less about other people/their consent. Rather, having a drink makes it incredbily hard to judge when someone is actually coming on to you (something hard enough whilst sober) as opposed to just being completely wasted, with no idea about what is actually going on.

      I've had situations where I've really offended someone, because I've told them they were too wasted to consent to having sex with me (when it turns out they're not wasted at all, but just a weird person.) However the alternative is infinitely worse.


    I'm out of town with one bar of cell signal and can't moderate like I'd like, but some of the threads going on here are NOT OKAY. We are not going to have any "rape is sex without consent... present company excepted, of course!" going on here. Cause you know what? Some of the people posting here ARE rapists, becaus they just confessed to rape. Being apologetic and polite and asking for input (and having a voice here while their survivors don't) does not mean someone can't be a rapist.

    Remember that whole discussion we all agreed to, about how rapists aren't just bad men in the bushes, they can be friendly and clean-cut and talk a good game about consent? THEY CAN ALSO POST ON FEMINIST BLOGS.

    For now... Please do not post any more "am I a rapist for XYZ?" threads, and do not comment on any of the currently existing ones. We just aren't going to have that kind of discussion right now.

    I'm not saying everyone who asks that is a rapist, but some of them ARE, and I won't have any "there there, you were just confused" fuckery happening on my nice clean blog.

    So let's just step the hell off that kind of thread for now.

    1. If this was in part a response to the above comment, I apologise. I most certainly wasn't looking for a "there there, you were just confused" response. I more wanted to highlight the massive dangers in certain sorts of sexual behaviour, which (even if consent is explicitly and verbally given) can still sometimes be rape.

      As I said above, I know it was rape (or sexual assault, given my gender), and I don;t want anyone to try and stop me feeling guilty about it (Because I definitely should feel guilty for doing that to someone.) The point was, it most certainly was not intentional, and I had previosuly made a huge commitment to be sure about consent, hence the fact I repeatedly asked her if this was what she wanted, and wouldn't have proceeded without enthusiastic answers.

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  32. Regretful in MontrealDecember 15, 2012 at 3:49 PM

    Can we please stop using the "We are the N%" slogan? It's a wrecking ball for empathy and responsibility. It exists to make it easier for the audience to hate a group of people, by putting that group inside a fence and the audience outside. It's frustratingly difficult to build a consent culture, but hatred born of
    us-and-them alienation is a cheap substitute for condemnation of unacceptable behavior.

    I've had sex, while drunk, with a partner who was also drunk. That was unacceptable. I'm not asking about this: we're just gonna say that was rape. I had not been brought up to date on progressive sexual ethics, but that doesn't make it okay. It's a coherent position to assert that I was just confused, but nobody should "there, there" me. In my place, someone else might do the same - not because it's okay, but because consent culture needs to be spread further.

    The critical, empathic step is that by seeing their humanity in me, someone else can see the potential to err as grievously as I did in themselves. That connection should not absolve me, but should unsettle them. I believe that saying that I did it because I'm A Rapist, and they can condemn me because they are Not A Rapist, dilutes both my responsibility for my actions and their responsibility to conscientiously avoid the same.

    1. Part of this actually is something I want to explore in a further post, because I agree that making "rapist" into an identity rather than a description of someone'a actions is extremely counterproductive and poorly handled in a lot of feminist discussion.

      But part of me is also going come ON, you don't get to say "I raped someone but I don't identify as a rapist."

    2. Forgive me, I do. Obviously, I intend never to rape someone again. My issue was with the implicit attribution of the act to the identity (I raped because I am a rapist) rather than the other way around (I am a rapist because I raped someone).

    3. I disagree with your characterization of that slogan, and I think it was put to excellent use here.

    4. Excellent post. One question for anyone out there: if both partners are drunk beyond the point where they could plausibly said to be consenting, does this mean they sexually assaulted/raped each other?

      I have huge sympathy with calling it that, but wanted to see what other people thought.

    5. If they are both drunk beyond the point where they could consent, no sex could possibly have happened. Either one of them is a rapist or neither is.

      Consent isn't some mystical floating attribute out there; consent of at least one person is a necessity for sex to happen.

    6. Doesn't follow. If both parties would have said "Hey, this is a totally dumb idea" if they'd been sober, and only said, "Okay, let's go for it" because they were too drunk to know better, then they were not truly able to consent. Same reason when you write your will you have to say that you're of sound mind, etc., and then if lawyers can prove you weren't of sound mind, the will doesn't stand up. It doesn't mean you didn't write the will at all, and lack of MEANINGFUL consent when knee-walking drunk doesn't mean that no one said any consent-shaped words or performed any consent-implying actions.

  33. Cliff - I totally agree with the post! Here's the question I have -

    Who benefits from having a culture that condones and accepts this level of rape?

    Rape is used to keep women down. What other forces are trying to keep women down? Often, fundamentalist religious types. The American religious right with their anti-abortion, anti-contraception, slut-shaming. There's an anti-women mentality that runs through military and police as well. Institutions that are all or largely male - men's clubs, Wall Street CEOs, the American political system (still, although things are better.) Sports.

    I guess I'm just trying to re-invent 'the patriarchy' maybe. A system of male privilege.

    The question then is - if you're trying to undo this rape culture - is how you target and choose to interact with that patriarchal system? How can you start cutting the social supports for that kind of stuff? Because without going to the root, we get the same pressures happening.

  34. There's no gray areas. Even if you're drunk it's not that hard not to rape someone. I mean, I've been drunk at parties many times, and I'd walk home (40 minutes!) very drunk. I was still able to think "Huh, I'm not walking straight, my balance is all out of whack, maybe I should be extra careful when crossing a street." And I always remembered to look both ways before crossing a street. If that's possible, then not raping someone while drunk is REALLY EASY. No cookies for that.

    And if you're SO DRUNK you can't even control your actions, my guess is that you're about to pass out. It happened to me, I just mumbled some non-sensical things ("we must go from Finland to the Black Sea"-don't ask) then crashed on a couch a few minutes later. No rape possible in THAT kind of situation.

    So, if you DO rape someone while drunk, it reveals more about YOU than about alcohol.

    1. I agree. A friend of mine once said "Drunk persons actions, sober persons thoughts."

      There are certain things I do drunk that I don't do sober. Things I wish I could do sober, but am too shy for. Those things include dancing on tables and kissing friends in the presence of other friends. It does not include raping people or stealing things.

    2. Reminds me of the libel lawsuit filed by the "frat boys on the bus" against Sasha Baron Cohen, for getting them drunk and filming them expressing some rather extreme racist and sexist thoughts.

      It was dismissed as not libelous, because while they wouldn't have *said* those things out loud when sober, or if they knew they were being filmed, it was still an accurate portrayal of their beliefs. Most people you could get absolutely shit-faced drunk, and they still wouldn't talk about wanting to enslave women - because they don't, fundamentally, think that way. Alcohol removes inhibitions, but it doesn't change your character.

    3. The point about the character is probably true.

      "And if you're SO DRUNK you can't even control your actions, my guess is that you're about to pass out."

      is not true for heavy regular drinkers.

    4. Anon:

      I am a regular heavy drinker. I can put away a liter of hard liquor by myself and still be standing and reasonably coherent. I have never in my life been so drunk that I wasn't able to prevent myself from attacking someone, though.

      'Too drunk to control himself' is a bullshit excuse. In the unlikely event that it is true of a particular person, that person has an obligation to refrain from drinking. Being drunk does not remove responsibility.

  35. Because of this small minority of predators, everyone has to live in a world where they will have a sibling, spouse, child, parent, friend who's a survivor of sexual assault.

    Are there any women who have never been sexually assaulted? I mean, if we count things like "unwanted groping" (and I think we should)... I'm not sure I know any women who haven't had something like that or worse happen at least once.

    Am I wrong? Is this sampling bias? (Do I know more women that have been sexually assaulted than the average person does? Do I know more women who are willing to admit to having been sexually assaulted than the average person does? Etc.)

    1. I don't think I've ever been sexually assaulted (yet). Not saying it doesn't happen a lot and isn't a problem, but saying "it's happened to every woman on the planet" might be going a bit far, just in terms of actual facts.

    2. I've never been sexually assaulted, even counting unwanted groping.

    3. Anonymous: no, sorry, I wasn't saying it definitely had happened to every woman on the planet, just, when thinking about it, I wasn't sure I could come up with any women I knew in more than passing that hadn't told a story of being assaulted at least once.

    4. I'll remain anonymous because these are not my stories to tell...

      My best friend was inappropriately touched by her father but doesn't remember clearly...
      Her first boyfriend raped her...
      One of her boyfriends was violent and she agreed to sex to appease him...
      My mother recently admitted to me that my father raped her at some point when they were together...
      One of my female cousins passed out drunk at a party at her uncle's, was left alone in a room and was found by another female cousin, naked, still unconscious and being groped by a man. They told very few people and never reported it...
      Another very well-loved friend was molested by a neighbor when she was a kid...
      My current boyfriend's first girlfriend was raped and beaten to death...
      My ex-boyfriend once admitted that he had had sex he didn't want with an ex-girlfriend...
      Anecdotally, I know that another ex-boyfriend of this girl has expressed worry, fear and uncertainty regarding how she reacted to sex she was "unsatisfied" with. I don't know how far that went...
      Another male friend who I no longer speak to told me he had also had sex he didn't want once. He went on to date someone who was verbally abusive to him and coerced him into having a baby with her...

      I'd say of myself that I've never considered that anything "awful" has happened to me. I believe I have had a relatively violence-free life. I've been privileged, moneyed, well-educated, don't drink and have never suffered anything as horrible as what I describe above...
      But twice I was actually fingered by a stranger in my city's subway. I had two strangers stick their finger in my vulva, through my skirt. I didn't know how to react...
      I had male friends at a young age who played sex games with me that I was not comfortable with. I do not speak to them anymore...
      When I was 8, an aunt climbed into bed with me while naked and told me she wished "to show me what a woman was". Nothing else happened that I remember. I was scared and uncomfortable...

      That's all I can think of in my life. Those are all the people I KNOW trust me enough to tell me about these things. I have many other friends who have never said anything but... how can I assume nothing has ever happened to them? Cannot I assume that they do not trust me enough to tell me or do not feel comfortable enough to even think about it?

      I don't know if truly all women have experienced or will experience sexual violence at some point. But I think a lot more of them do indeed experience it and do not talk about it. Two boys I've known have experienced it too.

      I don't think this is anything new to this blog. I guess in a feminist setting we can all acknowledge and accept that sexual violence towards women is epidemic and that sexual violence towards men is depressingly under-reported even anecdotally.

      But in relationship to the figures that Cliff just mentioned... maybe it would be a good idea to go through a mental catalog of the violence we DO know about and how much of it we have "downplayed" or considered "not that bad". When I was writing this post I kept forgetting people. I kept having to go back and add them. I nearly didn't write down my own experience.

      I don't know if we can say that every woman has been or will be assaulted in one way or another. But we can say that EVERYONE knows someone, female or male who has been, even if they hadn't told you. If we could ALWAYS keep that in mind when talking about "murky" consent, about "gray areas", and this possible 5% of the population being responsible for the suffering of all these people we know...

      I'm not telling you to discount your experience if you have never been assaulted... but consider that you might be closer to assault than you believe to be... because someone might not have yet told you about theirs... someone you truly care about.

    5. This is an interesting question. I've heard stories from many other women of a variety of assaults, from full rape to fairly minor public groping.

      I have never been sexually assaulted.

      But I think I should clarify that: I've never been what I would consider being sexually assaulted.

      I've had a few people make seriously inappropriate, clearly unwelcome remarks to me. The worst physical instance involved a guy on a bus who kept touching my hair. After three warnings in which I told him quite clearly that his behavior was unwanted and unacceptable and what, exactly, I would do if he didn't stop, I broke two of his fingers (the cops asked me not to do that again, but one also said "good for you, I'd want any female relative of mine to do the same thing").

      I don't know what the hair-touching guy was thinking. Whatever was going on in his mind may have constituted sexual assault, but in my mind, I didn't construe anything sexual in it. Which is why I don't consider it a sexual assault.

      But certainly the extraordinary pervasiveness and frequency with which the vast majority of women seem to be able to relate at least one personal anecdote which is or can be construed as sexual assault is deeply disturbing.

    6. I have never been physically/sexually assaulted. Until very recently, I'd never had anyone even make untoward remarks on the street to me. It actually took a long time to realize that this is not the norm for many (most?) women.

  36. The great thing to come out of all this crap is some important writing on consent from people of all genders - and this is the very best.

    It matters because the subject is so very important, but it also matters because it's so personally upsetting, and I'm sure I'm not the only person who feels much better for having read this. If someone has committed rape and feels remorseful, an absolute basic measure of decency would be to keep their story far far away from people who have experienced rape. In this case, there wasn't even remorse.

    A friend of mine was disappointed that Royse's original post didn't start a conversation about the cultural messages folk use to justify their rapes, so I had a go here.

  37. The robbery analogy posted above is interesting, although frankly I don't think it really simplifies all the possible gray areas, and there are definitely gray areas. Nothing - absolutely nothing - is entirely black-and-white.

    There are things people can do to minimize their risks of being assaulted in the kind of "gray area" situations the guy in the GMP post talks about. Please note I say "minimize" and not prevent, because there's no such thing as being able to completely prevent the possibility of being assaulted. But I can do things like being aware of my surroundings and the people around me. Things like not putting myself in the position of being so drunk or high that I am unable to give informed consent.

    I know that some people will see this idea as victim blaming. But there's a difference between assuming that I can trust that everyone around me is going to behave the way they should, and KNOWING that I CAN'T depend on everyone around me to do the right thing.

    That doesn't mean I'll never be assaulted. It won't even make it feel better if I am assaulted. It certainly doesn't mean that if I am assaulted while I am unable to give informed consent, that it's my fault that it happened to me. The responsibility and blame for that is entirely on the assaulter. But it does take away the gray area in which I may give consent while under the influence of mind-altering substances or in which I may not even be aware that I've been raped or robbed until later.

    I firmly believe that there's a point at which I have to take full responsibility for my own actions, and that I have to understand that I can put myself in a position in which an unscrupulous person will find it easier to take advantage of or assault me, or in which I may do something that I would not consent to while sober; or in which I could take advantage of or assault someone else because I was not sober enough to identify their inability to give informed consent.

    I understand what the guy in the GMP post is saying. I understand why he feels that it's possible that he could have raped someone without even realizing it.

    But I also feel that he has put himself in this position, and what makes him a rapist is not even whether or not any of his experiences really were rape, but the fact that, having realized that his actions put himself in a position where this is possible, he is going to continue with those actions. A responsible and "non-rapist" reaction would be to say "I'm not going to put myself in this position anymore. I'm not going to get so drunk or high that my ability to detect and ascertain informed consent is impaired." There's absolutely no reason that having a good time has to involve being that high or drunk.

    I find it sad that he hasn't realized that he is also putting himself in the position of being the person who hasn't given informed consent.

    1. There are such things as gray areas. For example, having sex with someone who says "yes" and participates, and later finding out that they had done so because of psychological problems or drug use. Or having sex with someone who's under the age of consent in your area but enthusiastically consents. (Which I really, really don't approve of, but I don't think that every seventeen-year-old is always unable to give real consent.)

      Having sex with someone who's unconscious or obviously drunk is not gray. Shoving someone up the wall and assaulting them because they kissed you is not gray. These are not "ambiguous consent," these are zero consent whatsoever.

      Just like it isn't "gray robbery" if someone steals a wallet while the owner is passed out, it isn't "gray rape" just because the victim wasn't sober enough to defend herself.

    2. The crime is still a crime. If I leave my door unlocked, the person who walks into my house and steals my stuff is still a thief. But that doesn't mean I'm going to leave my door unlocked and depend on other people not to be thieves.

      And if I'm not sober enough to defend myself, or give informed consent, or I'm passed out, the person who rapes me is still a rapist. But I'd rather not be in the position of being not sober enough or conscious enough to defend myself or give informed, and having to trust that no one around me is a rapist.

      The problem with this, and the problem with the rape culture we unfortunately live in, is the common fallacy that if I'm raped while unable to give consent, or robbed after leaving my door unlocked, it makes it my fault, and that IS a fallacy.

    3. Yeah... "Don't get too drunk" is actually sensible advice if you want to avoid all KINDS of things. Getting raped, having your pockets picked, getting into a traffic accident (even as a pedestrian), etc. The problem is when this advice is a) directed almost exclusively at women, and only mentioning the rape part, and b) (which sort of is connected to a) more or less implies that this makes the incident less of a crime if you ARE raped.

    4. I think one reason we're finding it so difficult to talk about all of the complexity of human experiences is because of the language and the legal framework. A rape is a crime that one can be prosecuted for, but a brutal physical or psychological attack that misses just one element of the legal definition of rape is something you walk away from. It's something aspiring PUAs will latch onto in their forums and perpetrate on women until either a) the laws are amended and it starts to be prosecuted or b) our rape culture changes enough to stop facilitating exploitation of people.

      I ended up reading this article recently, I think it contributes to the discussion: I can't believe police refused to prosecute this. It is so obviously a crime that could be prosecuted under several definitions.

      On drinking: I've done all varieties of stupid shit when drunk, including pursuing and giving enthusiastic consent to sexual acts in situations and to people I would know better than to sober, so I've stopped doing that. I also just grew up. Giving advice not to drink is usually pointless because young women hear it so much already and get blamed for being raped if they were intoxicated. And it's not like it worked on me back when I was a teenager and wanted to get drunk.

    5. Wormy Apricot, I was a pretty heavy drinker when I was young as well, and yeah, it's not like intellectually knowing that drinking a lot can be dangerous for a variety of reasons had any impact on my behaviour. Still, if "don't get too drunk because criminals may target you or you may simply end up having an accident" were a piece of advice that was thrown at men and women alike, and phrased that way, not focusing exclusively on rape, it might still be INEFFECTUAL advice to young people who like drinking, but it wouldn't be offensive the way "don't drink or MEN WILL RAPE YOU" is.

      And in my youth I've also had enthusiastic sex when really drunk with people I wouldn't have slept with sober. As I argued elsewhere in the thread, I don't think this is a good idea, but there's still an important difference between "willingly and actively doing stupid things when drunk" and "being the victim of a crime when too drunk to resist".

    6. Shit, just read your link. And WTF? She DID NOT CONSENT TO BE BRUTALISED THAT WAY! She consented to have SEX, not to be nearly murdered! That is a horrible, horrible story that I could hardly read through because it made me feel so ill - but it is NOT a counter example to the importance of consent.

    7. Sorry. I should have added a disclaimer that the story is traumatic.

      I absolutely agree that it's not a counter example to the importance of consent. I was wrong; it doesn't really add anything to the discussion. What the author describes was rape, because she didn't consent to that, and should have been prosecuted as rape. When I said "several definitions", I meant rape or assault.

      It's difficult to discuss all the varieties of human experience, because a rape apologist will latch onto anything they can to try excuse rapists. Describing any unusual situations or the multitude of factors that influence people's behavior gives them more weapons to use.

    8. Wormy, I didn't mean to shout AT YOU, and the story has trigger warnings in the beginning... Still, I was really shocked. Yeah it was rape and whatever the English legal term is for causing someone serious bodily damage at that. He was hurting her terribly while she was more or less phased out by sheer shock, as she describes it...

    9. Although I don't think it's wrong per se to discuss unusual situations or factors that influence people's behaviour. I did discuss unusual situations myself in a post further down the thread.

    10. Still, if "don't get too drunk because criminals may target you or you may simply end up having an accident" were a piece of advice that was thrown at men and women alike, and phrased that way, not focusing exclusively on rape, it might still be INEFFECTUAL advice to young people who like drinking, but it wouldn't be offensive the way "don't drink or MEN WILL RAPE YOU" is.

      This. Educating people to be alert for their surroundings and to know that being drunk/high makes you vulnerable? Common sense, because rapists are not the only predators (and women are not the only victims). But funny, this always turns into You Might Get Raped.

  38. Thank you for this, Cliff. I have read a lot about rape culture, it's a subject that stays with me wherever I go, even though, thankfully, I've never experienced any sexual violence myself. I am grateful for all your posts about consent culture, I used to be so dismissive of the idea and you really made me see its importance and its impact. And its beauty too.

  39. I work at a summer camp and it makes me really nervous to see my kids reading crap like Cosmo magazine and I worry about what seriously harmful nonsense it's filling their brains with. But then they post things like this on facebook and I feel a lot better.

  40. Just realized that I'd read over 25 comments and it was still civil and constructive. Definitely one of the things I love about this blog.

  41. Cliff, I thought you lived in Massachusetts. I'm virtually certain the relevant age of consent is 16.

    1. Why is the age of consent in Cliff's area relevant to anything (especially since she said "in YOUR area")? She's of age herself and not interested in anyone who's not well past the age of consent, AFAIK. The point is that the age of consent varies, and a 17-year-old may well be "legal" in some areas but not others. A specific occasion of a 17-year-old giving enthusiastic consent to an age peer or an older person may in reality (not just under law) be perfectly okay, and another may not. For instance, I think I personally was probably too immature at 17 to really realize what I would have been getting into, especially if it had been with someone much older.

  42. I realise I'm pretty fond of the robbery analogy, because I think it's easier to think clearly about robbery than rape, since less emotions are involved.

    So - taking someone's money when they're too drunk to fully realise that you're taking their money is robbery. No gray area. Doesn't matter if the person said earlier in the evening that zie would like to buy you drinks, or is generally known as a generous person or whatever.

    Accepting drinks that a really, really drunk person offers to buy to everyone: Not robbery, but still morally wrong to take advantage of this person's drunkenness in that way.

    Accepting expensive drinks or other stuff from a person who seems like zie can totally afford it, and who give every impression of genuinely wanting to give you these things, no problem - that's neither robbery nor morally wrong in any way. And if it later turns out that the person buying you drinks actually had terrible self esteem, thought nobody would like zir unless zie kept buying things for people, and actually wrecked zir economy by continuously buying drinks and paying for dinner etc - you still did nothing wrong by accepting the drinks or whatever from this person, if you had no way of knowing this.
    And the sex analogy is obviously that there's nothing morally wrong with sleeping with someone who puts on a convincing display of enthusiastic consent, even if zie secretely has some self-destructive reasons for doing this and hates both zirself and you after the sex for being part of zir self-destructive behaviour.

    I think that's a pretty important point to make as well. I've seen some radfem bloggers who argued that yes DOESN'T mean yes, rather yes means "maybe", men should never take a woman's word for it if she claims to and seems like she wants sex, because it might be the case that she doesn't really want it deep down inside and if the man then has sex with her he's a rapist. And that line of reasoning totally implies that yeah, anyone could rape someone totally by accident, the only way to avoid this for sure is to develop telepathic abilities or go celibate. But that just leads us right back to the problem Cliff points to in her original post; that rape is gonna be seen as less bad if people walk around believing that it's something you can do by accident.

  43. Thank you for this post at this time. Was involved with someone for one week who feels like one of the 5 % and seems to be proud of it. Good I'm old enough now to stop my program (oh, someone is interested in me, hugs me, never mind he is verbally assaulting me half of the time) befor his program is really getting started and can bring me in agony. What for is there so much trashy prgramming in my head?

    1. In the following days I rememberred Cliff's other post about the game with some guys in chat. You tell them to stop contacting you and amuse yourself while whatching how long it will take for them to respect your will. Since I told him I won't continue dating him and that I will feel relieved not to have contact with him anymore I got 3 messages, none of them did I reply. "What exactly have I done wrong?" "Hello? What kind of mistake did I make?" "Hey, are you ok? Did you spent a nice Christmas? Wish you some quiet days at the end of the year."
      I wonder what it is that he wants: 1. He wants me to tell him what kind of asshole he is (whatever satisfaction he gets from that). 2. He wants to adjust his behaviour according to the "mistakes" he did make in order to be more successful with his next prey. 3. He wants me to change my mind.
      I swear I'm not going to reply any of his messages by myself. If it gets annoying I will directly go to the police station and ask them to call him and tell him to stop.

    2. Made up my mind and wrote something like that:

      Ok, I cannot let it be yet. What have you done that was wrong? You treated me like an object not only ready to be taken over but also ready to be degraded. I find you dangerous not only to me but also to other women and even worse to girls, because you are manipulative and seizing the opportunity without truely respecting me as equal. I must admit me, too, disregarded you and myself but that doesn't make it better what you are doing.

      Didn't hear anything from him since and don't exspect him to bother me again. Thank you, Cliff Pervocracy, to encourage me with your writing, to make my own point and not feeling silly about it.

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  45. "If you, personally, make a commitment to never have sex without unambiguous consent, your odds of being a not-rapist are 100%."
    I'm sorry, but that's just false. Because life is not always programmable. Bad things happen, even to good people.

    To make things clear (since rape makes people emotional and fuzzy), let's talk about car accidents; let's say just 5% of people caused a car accident (like the 5% of rapers you quoted above).
    Does this mean that the remaining 95% will NEVER EVER cause an accident?
    Of course it doesn't. Even if they commit to not have an accident (hey, who wants an accident by purpose?!?), someone WILL do.
    Because people are humans, they make mistakes, and sometimes the context will help (like fog, alcohol, misunderstandings...)

    "It can't "happen to you" if you decide not to do it."
    Sure. How many people decide to not mess up things, and they do it anyway?
    Do you think you have total control over yourself, and over your life?
    Just think about the unconscious part of your mind...

    Of course, I'm not excusing rape. It's a horrible crime.
    But I understand my fellow human beings, and I know everybody make mistakes - even with the best intentions.
    Thus I don't buy into the idealistic, theoretical claims that "We can be perfect if we just want it".

    Shit happens. People mess up. There are no certainty, no 100% safety, ever.
    Deal with it.

    1. Cool story, bro.

      Shit happens. People mess up. That's why I accidentally stole my friend's stereo. I mean... there's no 100% safety, ever. They just had to deal with it.

    2. The problem is that you are equating rape with car accidents.

      I know I've never accidentally driven my penis into anyone's vagina without their consent, because THAT NEVER HAPPENS. There's no such thing as "accidental rape"; if you think you raped someone "by accident" you were playing too close to the edge the entire time.

      And remember, the legal definition of rape usually encompasses rape by recklessness, so you're even LEGALLY culpable for information you could've gotten but didn't ask for "by mistake", because the law expects you not to play games with fucking sexual assault.

    3. How many people decide to not mess up things, and they do it anyway?
      Do you think you have total control over yourself, and over your life?

      You're acting as though a person could just trip and fall into someone's vagina (or on someone's penis) by total accident. What the sane people are saying is: if you do not, under any circumstances, have sex with someone unless you know they welcome it, you will never commit rape. It's practically tautological.

      So, going back to your car accident metaphor, what I said above is tantamount to saying "if you never crash your car into something, you will never have been in a car accident" - which is totally true. The only difference is that you can't decide that your car's brakes will always function perfectly, or decide that a deer won't run into the road, but you can decide not to fuck someone.

      Shit happens. People mess up. There are no certainty, no 100% safety, ever.
      Deal with it.

      This sounds, in a fantastically creepy way, like you've resigned yourself to possibly raping someone at some point because mistakes are just inevitable. Like you're not even going to try to be a good person. Yikes.

    4. That depends on which definition of rape we're using. If we define it in terms whether the potential rapist knew there was no consent (i.e. we require mens rea) then car accidents are a horrible analogy.

      But if we define it in terms of whether the potential victim actually gave consent—which seems to the preferred definition here—there will always be at least some small possibility of a tragic, but genuine miscommunication.

      And then if we allow for situations where the victim actually did give consent (enthusiastically, even) but based on some criteria such as age or intoxication it was not valid, that adds even more ways a truly accidental rape could occur.

      That said, car accidents still aren't a good analogy, but he does have a point.

    5. As I said above, I really don't think one should call it "rape" if someone has sex with someone else who's drunk but happily participating. Even if the drunk person regrets the act next day. We've all done stupid things when drunk that we regretted the next day, but this doesn't automatically mean that we were victims of a crime. Having sex with someone who's too drunk to really know what's going on and just let things happen to zir on the other hand - one can totally decide not to do that.

      Theft/robbery analogies are WAY preferable to car accident analogies due to the fact that you don't just suddenly lose control of your body the way you can suddenly lose control of a car. Stealing someone's stereo IS something that could happen due to honest miscommunication (perhaps due to alcohol being involved). I can't be bothered to come up with a plausible scenario right now, but use your imagination and you'd be able to think of something. However, everyone recognises that this possibility is a pretty remote one, so people don't feel the need to go around saying stuff like "anyone could accidentily become a thief, particularly if alcohol is involved". And I think the same goes for rape. At least if we discount statutory rape in places with a comparably high age of consent (say, seventeen-year-old sneaked into a pub with fake ID and enthusiastically hooked up with someone who thought zie was well above eighteen in an area where eighteen is the age of consent). I guess that happens now and then. But situations where one honestly mistakes non-consent for consent - yeah, you can come up with plausible scenarios where this would happen, but still, it's really not that likely. I think in the VAST majority of cases where A have sex with B against B:s will despite A not thinking of what zie did as "rape", B did NOT in fact seem enthusiastically into it, but didn't protest a lot either and A just chose to charge ahead. And you can totally decide not to do that.

      I do think the most common reason people go around saying things like "I might do X one day, you never know, anyone could happen to X" is that they're not that strongly committed to never X:ing.

  46. I had an insight, for me anyway, that I've been thinking about rape as a lack of wanting to have sex, rather than a lack of consent to it. Some of the examples cited above, like the deeply messed up person who consented to have sex for many bad reasons, are not rape. That person gave consent, even if they really wanted something else and not sex, but they consented. On the other hand, having sex when you're so drunk that your judgement is impaired is rape. Maybe you were horny and wanted sex, but you were unable to truly give consent in that situation. Similar to horny, underage teenagers, the issue is not desire, it's your capacity and expression to consent. And to the person who wondered if it was possible for two drunk people to rape each other - well, yes. Even if you both wanted to have sex. So in terms of stopping rape, focus on actively engaging in consent practices and not mind-reading or on-the-spot psychiatric assessment to change your sex practices. For the 'accidents happen' person above me, think of it as risk-reduction and due diligence, if that helps. If not, tell me how giving and obtaining active consent between sober adults can ever result in an 'accidental' rape?

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  48. The studies asked people about their (rape) behavior. For instance:
    "1) Have you ever attempted unsuccessfully to have intercourse with an adult by force or threat of force?
    2) Have you ever had sexual intercourse with someone who did not want you to because they were too intoxicated to resist?
    3) Have you ever had intercourse with someone by force or threat of force?
    4) Have you ever had oral intercourse with someone by force or threat of force?"
    That leaves a lot of room for sex without meaningful consent to have been initiated by the respondent and, even if the respondent is being 100% honest with themself, to answer no to all of those questions. They would then be counted in that 95% non-rapist group. But that doesn't mean that there might not be a sexual partner of theirs who thinks of what occurred between them as rape. In order to count the percentage of the population who are rapists (according to their sexual partners), you would have to ask people about whether they'd been raped, not about whether they had committed rape. That would be really hard - maybe it could work on a college campus.

    1. No, that won't work either, because then you don't know how many rapes are the work of repeat offenders. Even if you asked respondents to name names, they they wouldn't always be willing or able to do so.

    2. I've been sexually assaulted four times, and none of those times involved "intercourse" or "oral sex." No-one who sexually assaulted me would have answered "Yes" to any of these questions. Even the legal definition of rape is not limited to sexual intercourse or oral sex.

      My experience shows me something very different from what this article says. I believe many people are capable of rape and have committed some form of sexual assault. I don't think there's a gulf between rapists and non-rapists. Rape culture doesn't just make non-rapists sound rapey and therefore shields their wonderfulness from others while allowing rapists to skate by unapprehended in the background. Rape culture means that a great many people cannot identify rape. The questions cited in the survey (Using the terms 'intercourse' [technically a heterosexual cisgender term only] and 'oral sex') show that even the survey's creators could not adequately identify sexual assault.

  49. Sorry to beat a dead horse. I've been guilty before of focusing too much on what I thought were nuanced situations and trying too hard to understand things from the (heterosexual) guys' point of view, which I've realized leads to emphasizing with rapists and enabling rape apologists. This Guardian article does a much better job of making this point.

  50. I suffer the aftermath of several rapes in many different ways. I did not do -anything- that could be 'questionable' (if that is even a term in rape)

    Thank you for posting, and continuing to ignore the neckbeards.

  51. Anon for this one:

    God, I don't know. Obviously I never want to rape anyone, that's not what I don't know. I just mean, there should obviously be a line where someone is too intoxicated to obviously consent, and you should never have sex with someone who is that intoxicated. You should always check in and make sure that your partner is okay, and you should interpret the signs conservatively, and you should not have sex when you're too intoxicated to know your own consent, and all of that. But... I guess the only way to never ever ever have sex with someone who is too intoxicated to consent or while you're too intoxicated to know about consent is to never have sex when you're under the effects of anything? Never have sex while drunk or while drinking, and never have sex on medication you're unfamiliar with, or even a lot of medication you could be familiar with?

    And I'm not, honestly not, trying to strawman here, I'm not trying to back anyone into the corner of "Well OBVIOUSLY nobody ever said you should NEVER have sex with anyone who's TIPSY," but... I mean, there might just be no actual way to tell if the person you're going to have sex with is tipsy/knows their own limits or if they're drunker than they look. And you never want that to happen, but what do you do when it does?

    I mean, you can say, as long as the person is using complete sentences and not stumbling and checking in with you about your consent, and enthusiastically agreeing to specific sex acts and calling you by the correct name and everything, they're probably not too drunk? Except that apparently that was the state I was in about six months ago when I had sex with two people I didn't remember sleeping with. And I never want that to happen again, but I was consenting in the moment, and in this case I know the people and I have previously consented to sex with them, and probably will in the future. So my specific case, I just don't want them to know. I want to believe that in the moment I would have not consented to things I didn't want, but I don't know that. I don't have any memory of the situation. (I managed to use some roundabout questions and some eyewitnesses to make sure that everyone ELSE consented, which was my biggest concern.)

    Ugh. Maybe you can train your drunk instincts to make consent issues forefront of your mind even when you're impaired. Maybe we can make consent culture so natural and automatic that even blackout drunk we stop when told to stop and ask when we want something. I don't know. Maybe the rule has to be that good people never have sex while drunk, just like good people never do BDSM play while drunk.

    tl;dr a blackout drunk person can never commit to sex except I did, I'm not saying it was good, but I'm saying that maybe we're expecting too much of people to tell when someone isn't too drunk.

  52. I'm vocal and active in some local communities where sexual assault is problematic and people are addressing it. This leads to me being the first/only confidante for some victims. Every 20 or 30 stories, I hear something that leaves me thinking "I can't tell what they (the accused) did wrong". And then there are the growing minority of people who share the opinion that rape is not an act but an outcome. They tell us that it's rape if the victim feels violated, regardless of what actions or communication took place. These stories and opinions are what run through my head and lead to my worry about accidentally raping someone.

    I'm trying to convince myself that those people are wrong, but it's really difficult when they are quickly becoming some of the most vocal and outspoken people on the subject.