I can't believe I didn't write about this article before.
From Cosmopolitan: A New Kind of Date Rape
Executive summary: rape is only rape if a total stranger jumps out of the bushes at you with a knife. If someone only forces you to have sex against your will, that's sort of a gray area and who can really judge?
After the dance, they went to Kevin’s room and, eventually, started making out. She told him flat out that she didn’t want it to proceed to sex, and he said okay. But in a few minutes, he had pushed her down on the couch and positioned himself on top of her.
“No. Stop,” she said softly — too softly, she later told herself. When he ignored her and entered her anyway, she tensed up and tried to go numb until it was over. He fell asleep afterward, and she left for her dorm, “having this dirty feeling of not knowing what to do or who to tell or whether it was my fault.” While it felt like rape to her — she had not wanted to have sex with Kevin — she was not sure if that’s what anyone else would call it.
[...]Alicia’s “gray area” experience is something that is becoming so common, it has earned its own moniker: gray rape. It refers to sex that falls somewhere between consent and denial and is even more confusing than date rape because often both parties are unsure of who wanted what.
But he wasn't unsure. "She told him flat out that she didn't want it to proceed to sex, and he said okay." And then she said "no." And then she was tensed and frozen the entire time it was going on. Does failure to hire a fucking marching band to create and perform an original composition entitled "NO I DO NOT WANT SEX" constitute consent?
This isn't even about the (extremely reasonable, thank you) belief that sex should be a matter of "yes" rather than "not no." She said no multiple times and he acknowledged understanding. Don't give me this "unsure." If he was unsure, he was ignoring so many signals that I don't even care. And that makes this not gray-rape, but your plain garden variety rape-rape.
And it’s a surprisingly common occurrence. The U.S. Department of Justice estimates that 1 in 5 college women will be raped at some point during a five-year college career; that about 9 out of 10 times, the victim will know her assailant; and that half of all victims will not call what happened rape. Sixty-two percent of female rape victims in general say they were assaulted by someone they knew, which includes dates, acquaintances, and random hookups.
Fun fact: most non-sexual physical assaults are between people who know each other. Does that make it a "gray beating"?
And as for not calling what happened "rape," well, you're really helping that situation, Cosmo. But even without articles like this, there are reasons someone wouldn't want to use that word. Labeling yourself "a rape victim" can feel sullying and disempowering, especially if you didn't report it, or if it didn't involve physical brutality, or if you're a man, or if you're gay, or if you think you somehow deserved or encouraged it. The fact that the label is uncomfortable does not necessarily mean it doesn't fit.
Many experts feel that gray rape is in fact often a consequence of today’s hookup culture: lots of partying and flirting, plenty of alcohol, and ironically, the idea that women can be just as bold and adventurous about sex as men are. How can something so potentially empowering become so damaging? Cosmo investigates.
Many experts feel that no, you're a poopyhead. These many experts are so accommodating.
Other than the obvious fact that sluts must be punished for their filthy ways, you'd think that women being more sexually aggressive would make "innocent misunderstanding" rape less common. If you expect women to be demure, then maybe you're expecting a consent that sounds like "no no no okay maybe." But if you're used to women being aggressive, then you're used to consent being more like "I want to fuck you now." In an atmosphere where women ask for what they want, it ought to be a lot easier to tell when they're not asking for it.
A generation ago, it was easier for men and women to understand what constituted rape because the social rules were clearer. Men were supposed to be the ones coming on to women, and women were said to be looking for relationships, not casual sex.
If the social rules are that women mustn't go looking for sex, then this blurs the line between "she's saying no because that's what women do, so they won't seem slutty" and "she's saying no because really, no."
Shari Rosen, a media recruiter in New York City, found that out on a business trip to Los Angeles. She and a coworker met a man in the bar of the hotel where they were staying. They ended up going with the man to a party, and then he and Shari returned to the hotel. On the way in, he kissed her deeply. They had a few more drinks at the hotel bar, and then he asked if she wanted to go to his hotel room to see some family photos.
She went to his room but after a few minutes said she needed to go. He pinned her on the bed and, according to Shari, sexually assaulted her. She struggled with him and managed to escape. Shari reported the incident to police but didn’t press charges.
How the hell is this gray? He pinned her down! Dear readers: if you have to physically restrain a struggling person to do something to them, and they have not very specifically arranged this in advance, they are probably not consenting to it.
I guess the "gray" comes from going up to his room. But I'm pretty sure this doesn't constitute consent to sex. More likely it comes from not having a polite way to say no to "come on, it's just some photos, how paranoid are you that you won't even look at some goddamn photos."
Anthony Moniello, 24, a radio personality for ESPN, says, “I’ve had girls tell me ‘I don’t have sex on the first night.’ And I say, ‘That’s fine, I respect that. Mind if I play with you a little bit?’ A girl will say no, she doesn’t mind, then she’ll get so hot, she’ll say, ‘Let’s do it.’ That’s the scariest part. Is it then my responsibility to say no?”
That's actually a fair question, and I'd say no (unless she's very drunk or high). It might be nice to remind her "you said you don't do this; are you going to regret it?", or even to just say you don't want to, but it's not rape if you don't. People can change their minds, and as long as that's communicated by saying "let's do it" rather than by not refusing as loudly, that's okay.
The psychological effects of what a victim did or didn’t do can last for years.
Oh those wacky victims, always victimizing themselves with nobody else in the room.
Sarah Belanger, 28, a communications specialist who works in Boston, has been trying to find a middle ground in her own life. “If you make the choice to leave the bar with the guy, then you are also creating the opportunity for something to go wrong,” she says. “I think that is the point that needs to be driven home to everyone who participates in the hookup culture. Yes, you can practice safe sex. Yes, you can have casual sex without strings. But this behavior carries a risk.”
I think what she's saying is that you shouldn't leave the bar with someone unless you're sure you want to fuck them, because like it or not that's what's coming.
I just have one question about this attitude: does this include anal? Apparently it's established that agreeing to "can I walk you home?" or "want to come up and see my albums?" is exactly the same thing as agreeing to oral, manual, and vaginal sex. But I'm just not that into anal, even with people I'm into. How do I communicate this in "you have to expect him to be a rapist"-Land?
Or what about lying on my arm? Sometimes people lie on my arm funny and it gets all numb and I have to ask them to move. Does going home with a guy constitute consent for him to lie on my arm? I'm not just being offensively facetious here. I'm trying to demonstrate how even the most trivial interactions require continuous and explicit communication. If getting close to a guy meant giving blanket consent to anything he could possibly think of, I'd never get close to a guy at all, because my fingers might drop off.
The article closes with some decent advice--don't try to compromise on "okay, just a little sex" with a guy who's pressuring you, know your rights under the law, communicate clearly. And some not-decent advice--don't get drunk, ever, because it's just not safe for a little lady.
But ultimately I'm just amazed someone could write an article about "gray rape" and not realize that was a, er, fully-saturated bad idea. There may exist situations where a person doesn't want sex but their partner has no way to know that, where for some reason "yes" really meant "no," but I don't see any of that in this article. All I see is situations where "no" should have meant "no," and there's nothing "gray" about it.