The Rape Double-Standard, Ctd

Several readers take issue with the reader in this post update:

While it seems clearly wrong to state that you’re an “unbelievable pussy” and it’s not technically “rape” if a woman forces you as a man to have sex without putting a gun to your head, there is a middle ground here.  It’s that while it may have been “against his will” in a technical sense for the story writer to say he was forced to have sex, he ultimately could have avoided it and chose not to.  So was he “forced” to have sex?  Clearly he thought he had to, but again he could have pushed her off and walked away and he ultimately chose not to.  It was not the perpetrator who controlled whether or not the victim was going to have sex.  This seems critically important.  So while the technical non-consent of “forced” rape is there, the complete helplessness and the extreme violation seems likely not.  Which is probably why he stated/questioned that he was “technically raped”? But not traumatized.  It seems to me that whatever the technical legal definition, it’s the helplessness and trauma that are the horrendous and lasting parts of it.

Another is much more critical:

OMG! Is this person in your update serious? Or is your reader Todd Akin? He (assuming this is a man writing) never had an erection when looking at an attractive woman even when he didn’t want to? Sometimes women have physiological responses to rape that are associated with sexual arousal (wetness, orgasm). This does not mean she hasn’t been raped. Ditto a man. Your reader needs to do some research. Here’s an easy-to-read start.

That linked-to article triggered a short thread this summer called “When Rape Triggers An Orgasm”. Another reader on this thread:

If your “update” reader knew anything about rape of any kind – including the most conventional male-against-female rape – he’d know that conflicted feelings about what’s going on are at the heart of any rape. Talking to my female friends who’ve been raped (I’m male, for what it’s worth), one of the worst things about rape is that because of the basics of physiology, there is some pleasure involved. If your girlfriend is stroking you in the middle of the night when you’re half-asleep, you’re going to get hard. That doesn’t mean you want to have sex with her.

Which leads us to the next point.

Rape can be most traumatizing when the perpetrator effectively forces the victim’s own body to respond sexually when the rational and emotional mind are not in agreement. You know how many raped women experience self-loathing and turn to self-harm? Think it might have something to do with feeling betrayed by their own bodies?

To get back to the discussion that doesn’t involve troglodytic assholes, I am extremely glad this discussion is happening. We have made sexual assault and sexual abuse far too tidy when it only consists of a big bad man forcibly holding down a helpless woman and penetrating her. By anything close to conventional definition, I have neither been raped nor raped anyone, but I have been sexually manipulated to the point of causing me a moderate amount of emotional trauma, and I have in the past cajoled someone beyond their comfort level in sexual activity to the point that it destroyed our relationship and leaves me with guilt to this day. In the current context, it’s nearly impossible to talk about either of these things without hanging the “rapist” or “rape victim” sign over my head where it doesn’t really fit with anyones concept of those things, but they clearly belongs in the same larger conversation.

I discussed this extensively with a friend of mine who does extensive work with a rape crisis center. She of course can’t tell me more, but she said the number of men who’ve come to her saying, “this wasn’t really rape, but something happened years ago that I can’t get past” is far higher than anyone would believe.

Another something that happened years ago:

The reader who wrote to call a possible rape victim “simply an unbelievable pussy” is a pretty abhorrent specimen, but his anger seems to be directed at the victim’s claim of being “forced” by a mere girl. Well, let me throw the following story into the mix …

I was in a relationship of three years and it had hit a rough patch. I went out with a female friend for drinks and ended up back at her place. In my innocence, I had foreseen light snogging and then driving home – but she became surprisingly ambitious. Within minutes I was on my back, my pants were down, and (sorry to be so porny) fellatio was underway.

However, as I neared the finish, I was struck by sudden regret. I should not be here, I thought; this is wrong. I’m in a committed relationship and I should either work that out or end it honestly. So, summoning all the willpower I had, I told my friend to stop, it was a mistake, and I tried to lift her away. I was urgent and clear.

At this point, she locked her arms firmly around me and doubled down. (I’m being oblique – I’m sure you can picture what I mean.) Obviously, at some point you don’t stand a chance physiologically, and that point had been just seconds away when I said stop. So the choice I had made quickly became irrelevant. I finished, involuntarily. And then she let me go.

Now, when I attended college in the 1990s, we were taught in no uncertain terms that if the girl says “no” at any point – even if you are already in the midst of sex that she initially consented to – that’s it. She changed her mind. Show’s over. Past the point of “no”, a sex act becomes rape, end of story.

So was it rape in my case or not?

And your angry reader should keep in mind there was literally no way I could have fought my way out, not without punching my friend as hard as I could in the side of her head – and look where her teeth were. Would that really have been smart?

For the record, I was deeply annoyed at my friend, but probably not traumatized. I broke up with the girlfriend a few weeks later and ended up dating the friend for a year. It was the year of dating (with an incredible sex life, btw) that destroyed our friendship, not that night. And I’m not mad at her for that night; I’m mad at myself for staying with the girlfriend too long, for taking our monogamy so seriously when it had clearly become pointless, and at “society” for not having a realistic way to discuss these things.

I dunno, we’re people, and it’s all gray in ways the law and social justice have a hard time with.