“A kind of rape society doesn’t talk about is the type where ‘consent’ is given through coercion or wearing-down.”

This is a comment by Davey on the post “Nice Guys Commit Rape Too“.

Davey said:

This is a powerful, well-written article that strikes a little too close to home for me, and I’d like to actually add a different type of rape that we don’t talk about at all in society, either: the type where “consent” is given through coercion or wearing-down.

I know only too well how insidious this is, because it happened to me. Or rather, because I was the one who did it.

I was dating a woman in a long-distance relationship, and we saw each other in person for the first time in over half a year. Naturally, I had come to expect that the first night we’d have a wild night of passion liked we did every other time we saw each other. She, however, told me she didn’t want to, because she was tired from travel. And I promptly threw one hell of a temper tantrum, whining, pleading, and eventually expressing genuine anger like a child before turning over in a petulant huff and giving passive-aggressive sighs. At which point she said that okay, we could.

It wasn’t until later that she told me how betrayed and violated she felt. That I’d ignored her “no” to wear her down with repeated whining and pressure. That she’d felt scared by my anger, and worried I’d hurt her if she didn’t say yes. (The fact that I never would have is irrelevant, as it was what she perceived that led to her decision). The fact that I thought entitled to her body because we were dating and because we’d slept together before, and she agreed, which led to her feeling like she’d compromised herself. And eventually, she said the word that neither of us wanted to bring up: she felt like she’d been raped.

I always considered myself a good guy. I’ve always tried to fight for equality and for the rights of those who are marginalized. But this was years ago and I’m still not sure how to process it or how to deal with it as a man who identifies as feminist, or how to use it to maybe find a silver lining of purpose or redemption.

Yes, she said yes. On the surface, consent was given. But it was consent given after pestering and, from her perspective, threats. So she has every right to feel how she did. And at the time I had no clue I’d even done anything wrong.

Like the article discusses, we need as a society to talk about and be more aware of how (particularly) men wrongly interpret signals that (particularly) women send out. But we also need (particularly) boys to learn that a consent won through pestering isn’t much of a consent at all. I wish I’d learned that lesson before I had to. 

More Comments of the Day

Read our commenting policy.

Photo credit: Flickr / albertoabouganem

About the Editors

We're all in this together.


  1. It’s about The Bed.

    In our collective unconscious, The Bed has come to symbolize safety. Safety to let our boundaries go for the night. To join a loved one in their boundary, and vice versa.

    If the author had had this event while standing in the hallway, I believe that that location would change everyone’s reaction to it. Dramatically.

    The Bed. Lessened boundaries. Heightened vulnerabilities. We need, all of us, to work at communicating better about the time we spend in bed together. Less assumptions, more talking, more loving.

  2. Another thing bothers me: A rape society isn’t a rape society if it considers “Rape through wearing down” to be a thing. It’s a stupid society. If the girl says yes unless forced to do so (And no, asking 300 times is not forcing them) then it’s NOT RAPE. Just imagine a girl asking a guy for fifty bucks. He refuses for the first thirty times she asks, then finally agrees. She didn’t steal his money! This article raises all sorts of anger in me.

    • I agree. I think the “wearing down” argument completely undermines prevention efforts for rape by force, overt threatened violence, or coercion (threat of loss of job/bad grade in class, etc.) It makes rape prevention workers look pretty bananas, frankly.

      Playing devil’s advocate, regarding the 50 bucks example, what if it’s a much larger and stronger guy with a threatening appearance and stance asking many times for the money in a private location? That gets a lot iffier. I guess I’d still say the guy with the money needs to ask if the other guy plans to hurt him or make a small move toward the door to gauge reaction to get a better sense of whether force is likely to ensure before I’d call handing over the money theft, though.

      • oops, in that last sentence it should be “ensue” rather than “ensure”

      • Anat, you make such a good point about the fifty bucks.
        I used to live in NYC. On a subway, a really big guy came over and stepped on my boyfriend’s foot. That’s all he did. He kept his foot pressed on my bf’s. It was late at night, no one was around. We both froze. He didn’t ask for anything, but danger was in the air. If he had asked for fifty bucks, we would’ve given it to him. Lucky for us, a few people got on at the next stop and we hurried off.
        My point is that circumstance, isolation, who’s doing what, who’s saying what and in what tone of voice -these things are all very important to consider. Even if this huge guy had just stood there looming over my bf, that probably would’ve been enough for us to hand over money. And he’d be able to say, Hey, I didn’t use a weapon, I didn’t say a word, I didn’t touch them.

        • In that situation, do you think the large man’s intentions are relevant? If he wasn’t intending to look threatening, he didn’t say anything, and you handed him the money in your wallet and left, should he be considered a thief? Or would you think a person in that situation would need to (1) wait until he asked for money (2) wait until the situation escalated further before handing over money (until, for instance, the man held out his hand palm up and gestured toward a wallet,, or the victim asked the man “please get off my foot” and the man started to be even more threatening instead of complying).

          • Anat, yes his intentions are relevant. It was obvious to us that his intention was to scare us, but we probably could never have proved that. And I select #2 for my answer. The subway car was empty, his towered over us, he continued to press down on my bf’s foot, the expression on his face was menacing. If he had put his hand out as if to receive money, we would have given it to him and we would have felt like he robbed us.

            • Putting your foot on someone and standing WELL within the personal boundary of a person is threatening, because the foot part is already assault and getting that close is threatening. Yelling n punching a pillow away from someone though may be done to be threatening or done simply because the person is having a tantrum. It doesn’t necessarily mean he’s trying to threaten her. Yelling itself can be threatening, but it can also be because of the person’s way they handle emotions and part of an outburst aimed at no one. Having sex with someone after that though I don’t consider rape unless they’re punching you, or directly threatening you vs having a silly tantrum. The actions are ambiguous and can’t simply be only a threat against her, it could very well be just a tantrum. It’s not good or healthy but I wouldn’t call it coercion or rape by itself, it’d be nagging which is bad in itself.

              If you feel he is dangerous and have sex with him to avoid being beaten up, it relies upon your judgment of his behaviour. Saying he will hurt you, directly hurting you, saying he’ll beat you up unless you have sex is coercion. Punching a pillow n having a tantrum though doesn’t necessarily mean he’s threatening you, and choosing to have sex with him after that I can’t see where it’d be rape. Are you unable to leave? Unable to say no? Are you accurately judging his aggressive behaviour? I fully understand someone would feel violated if they chose to have sex thinking it will save them from being beaten up but how far does that judgment of aggression n threatening behaviour go? If he yelled? If he looked at you funny? Or only if he hits a pillow? I believe that type of behaviour though might be covered under abuse, might be psychological abuse but that might be related more to objects you own being broken vs a physical outburst of aggression towards a pillow.

              Not legal advice however, and of course his other actions, his body language, etc all matter, proximity to her, what he is saying when he’s hitting the pillow, etc all matter and can affect this. It could very well be sexual abuse, I don’t think it’s healthy or good at all either way but I don’t think it would be considered rape, MAYBE coercion but that may depend on if the threatening behaviour was against her vs being a tantrum.

              • My last comment was directed toward Anat… Now to you, Archy,

                Just realized something. You mentioned that standing within the boundary of a person is threatening, yes? (the guy standing on my bf’s foot) I think this is part of what I’ve been trying to say about being in bed together. When you’re in bed with another person your boundaries are lowered, lessened. Both the man’s and the woman’s.

                So there he is inside her usual boundary and he starts acting up. It’s the being in bed part that makes a difference. If they were standing in the hall or the dining room or wherever, having that long interaction of whining and pleading and yelling and hitting a pillow on a chair, I would have a very different opinion. And she would have been much much much more likely to just leave. But it’s the BED.

                Being in bed together. It is unlike any other location. It’s where we feel safe enough to sleep and cozy up and relax and snore and do whatever else we might do while we sleep. The bed is a symbol of, maybe, “no boundaries.”

            • Well, hold on now. Hmm.
              In Michigan, if a man hits a woman by mistake – for example, even if she were trying to calm him down and he accidentally struck her outstretched hand, that is considered domestic violence and the state of Michigan slaps a restraining order on both of them, without consent by either party. I assume same goes for a woman hit by a man. Don’t really know.

              So, maybe my answer to you is No. Intention does not matter. At least according to the law in my state.

              What if that subway guy was just huge and had a very low IQ and was half blind and couldn’t see that he was standing on anybody’s toe? Eh, my mind is swimming with what-ifs. You got anything?

  3. Are you kidding me?

    If she said yes, she changed her mind. Then, afterwards, she changed her mind again. That’s all there is to it. You didn’t ACTUALLY threaten her or Coerce her; you just begged, pleaded, and otherwise showed yourself to be desperate. She then agreed because she valued the relationship more than she minded having sex. I don’t understand why you’re blaming yourself, you did nothing wrong.
    You’ve convinced yourself that someone is incapable of changing their mind. She clearly did that, twice.

    • Stefan, I’m going to say something rather radical, here. I stated it to some extent much earlier in this discussion.

      1. I think that, because of the nature of intercourse, women are more vulnerable than men. Women open themselves, men push in.
      2. Once a woman is in bed with a man, her degree of vulnerability increases. No, we are not helpless creatures, and we are of course physically able to get out of bed and go out the door and hail a taxi. I get that. Still, once the nightgown is on, and we are both under the blankets, a woman generally longs for a sense of safety and love, and that makes her a little more vulnerable than the man who always feel safe.
      3. A man who pesters and pleads and doesn’t give up his quest for sex despite her repeated “no’s” and even hits the bed next to where she’s lying is alarming and scary. At this point he becomes threatening.
      4. So here is this woman, vulnerable to being opened up in sex, vulnerable because she’s already in bed with the man and she has let down her guard. (Yes, women keep up a guard most of the day. When we get into bed, we let it down a little. It’s the nature of being female. Not a good or bad thing, just a difference compared with men.) And then he starts ranting and raving and smacking the bed.

      She wants to please him because her feelings for him have started to run deep, but his persistence and violence is increasing her sense of guardedness. She wishes she hadn’t gotten into bed with him. She wishes he would just stop yelling or go masturbate in the bathroom. She says no so many times she can’t even count them. Then she gives in. She opens to him physically and by then he doesn’t give a sh*t about her beautiful opening up, he just goes for it and gets the job done. And by the time she has opened up to him, just to get him to shut up, she has put herself into a state of depersonalization or dissociation. This is exactly the emotional states rape victims experience. “I’m not really here.” “This isn’t me.” “This isn’t really happening.” “I’ll just let him screw me and then I can be myself again, then I can feel safe again.”

      Yes, she changed her mind. Yes, twice. But she was scared, suffering, longing for love, and she was depersonalizing or dissociating.

      My two cents’

      • Thanks for a calm reply to my heated comment.

        However, the fact remains that he didn’t threaten her. Pounding the bed in frustration should not equal threatening. If she felt threatened, she should have told him so. I understand her justification for giving into the pressure, but she needs to realize that she did give in, he did not force her to do anything, and that she needs to cope with the consequences of that decision instead of blaming him for it. She made the judgement that her relationship wasn’t worth withholding sex. She could have done a dozen other things, but she didn’t. If I had any respect for myself and I got in that situation, I would have said “Shut up, or I’m putting on my clothes, calling a taxi, and leaving.” It takes bravery, but if someone puts you in that situation than he’s clearly not what you thought he was.

        Look at it the other way around. If she said “yes, yes, yes,” and then changed it to a “No” then the no stands. So by the same logic, “no, no no” and then “yes” is perfectly legitimate. It doesn’t matter why unless he actually threatened her or harmed her into agreeing. That’s it.

        • Stefan,

          Maybe. Maybe you have stated some good points.

          But It just seems like something is missing here. We are so determined to be a modern society that we forget that women’s way of being in the world might, yes, might actually be different from men’s. That vulnerability factor. There’s something there that I haven’t quite been able to put in words that are effective. Working on it though.

          And your comment didn’t seem heated. I’ve been in and out of this dialogue here for a while now. It’s raising everybody’s hackles.


          • I understand that there is an emotional level to this. But that’s not fair. It must be nailed down in an objective way, and that is it. She said yes, without being forced to do so. I understand how scary it was, but the anger wasn’t directed at her and she could have voiced her concern over it.

            He clearly even feels bad! If he wasn’t needy, desperate for sex, and then felt bad for no reason, I’d imagine he’d be the perfect dude.

        • Yes. And….it’s often hard to do the things you know you should do when you are frightened, and in the light of day and not being in the situation it’s easy to say…you should have done this. Esp if someone you thought you trusted is hitting things (wow, you might be next), and women are socialized to be pleasing so…

          And if you were a 5’1″ 110 pound woman dating a 6’2″ 225 man, yeah, pounding on a bed and loud voices most certainly seems threatening.

          No No No he hits things and then yes? Why on earth would he want to have sex like that? It may be legitimate to have sex with her yes, but that’s really all he was having sex with, or should I say “on” cause she was only doing it to feel safe. And that is not a mutually pleasurable consensual experience.

          Rape? Probably not. Gross user-ish non mutual sex? Yeah. Not cool.

          • I concur with the arguments made by you. He needs to learn to control his anger, not be desperate for sex, and above all WAIT. Just sleep the night and have sex in the frickin morning, geze.

            and yet he is not a rapist, as she said yes. If you get in a situation like that, tell him to stop hitting things, ’cause it’s scaring you. Or walk away.

        • Re: “She made the judgement that her relationship wasn’t worth withholding sex”:
          I’m not sure this is the case. The judgement she made was very likely along the lines of whether the risk of being beaten up was at too high a level to be worth withholding sex.

          It sounds like he was behaving in a way that appeared crazy (repeated extremely intense anger/begging/whining) and was accompanied by what many women see as a sign of violence likely to be directed at them next (bed-pounding). What in his mind simply seemed like childish behavior plus hitting what he’s supposed to (bed) when he’s out of control (thus thinking he was signaling that he _didn’t_ intend to hit _her_) probably seemed to her like something where she didn’t have a good way of determining whether she was likely to end up in the hospital if she tried to leave.

          So then, he turns over–a bit of a de-escalation. What’s her choice? She could leave, which can be highly provoking to someone angry–she’s not too sure whether she can get out safely–or she could take this moment where he’s calmed down a bit (and the sex seems less likely to be violent) to get it over with and ensure her safety. Or she could try to get to sleep, not knowing whether he’s going to start up again acting out-of-control sometime later in the night. It’s a really crappy choice.

          I still don’t think it’s quite rape of the sort that requires jail time–that deserves the full label “rape.” I think the perpertrator’s force or threat or coercion (threat of job loss/class failure/etc.) needs to be something he’s aware of doing. This man did _not_ know how frightening he appeared.

          However, what he did was still really serious, and many more people who engage in that sort of behavior need to learn what a big deal it is. If he’d known he’d thrown her into a state of mind where she didn’t know if she might end up in the hospital with torn insides (that’s where _my_ mind has gone when I’ve thought I was in imminent danger of being raped, anyway, and I don’t think it’s unusual), I’m quite sure he would not have acted that way. In addition, what if we started getting across the idea to people in _her_situation that there are things you can ask or say that could help a lot more than freezing or giving in? She and I (I’ve been in situation that had similar aspects) would perhaps both have been better off if we’d been prepped with the idea prior that we could, for instance, quietly ask “are you going to hurt me if I keep saying no?” or “you’re scaring me a lot.” It is REALLY instinctive to freeze and stay silent in these situations for women.

          So, what I’d really like is for men and women to be able to talk about exactly these sorts of situations without so much vitriol. How can a man (or other person in the author’s position) who don’t know how terrifying this can be start to understand it if they can’t talk about it without being instantly demonized? If I know if I’m instantly accused with vitriol about something I’m going to have a knee-jerk reaction of not wanting to listen. If we can use a less loaded term than “rape” for similar situations, I think it will be much more persuasive in getting your average person-who-is-larger-and-stronger-than-their-partner to listen to what the problem really is.

          • I just want to say, when I read that and had the image of a woman quietly asking, “Are you going to hurt me if I keep saying no?”, it hit me a lot more powerfully than any amount of yelling. I imagine that if I was in Davey’s position, that would have snapped me right back to reality.

          • My only problem with women learning to quietly ask “are you going to hurt me” to de-escalate the moment = women taking responsibility for men’s actions.

            Why not ask men to learn to say, quietly, something like, “I’m sad that you don’t want to have sex with me” – ? And why not teach men to go to the couch or the guest room with his sadness?

            • “My only problem with women learning to quietly ask “are you going to hurt me” to de-escalate the moment = women taking responsibility for men’s actions.”
              What appears threatening to a woman may not appear threatening to a man though, so he may not have realized his actions caused fear. She needs to tell him that, it’s also possible she misread his actions and was feeling threatened when she shouldn’t have, asking can clarify that.

              Teach both, women (and men) to ask or say the behaviour is threatening, and for men (and women) to learn better ways to handle their emotions.

      • As a man, sometimes you just have to do what you have to do to avoid a fight or three hours of explaining that yes, you’re still sexy and wonderful but I’m tired as shit and your whining isn’t attractive, and I’m going to want to sleep with you less tomorrow because I’ll remember this and on and on. I love women and sex and lots of both, but not always. And sometimes, like most men, I do what I have to do to avoid a fight. And trust me, maintaining a less-than-enthusiastic erection is much more difficult than laying there. 🙂

        • This is absolutely another possible explanation for her actions. *Which she (or a guy in her situation) has a _right to do_ without the partner being accused of rape.* Is the partner being really icky? Yes. Is it possible the person who’s not into having sex at that time it is doing it out of fear, making it closer to a rape situation, but not quite there? Yes. Like I said before, we need to be able to talk about these situations–the folks insisting on calling them rape are _not_ helping folks improve their ability to engage in preventative communication in borderline situations.

          Bottom line for me? think I have the right to be thought to make a capable and rational decision to engage in sex when I’m not, actually, feeling super enthusiastic about it. I really resent being thought a victim when I’ve made _my own decision_.

      • “Still, once the nightgown is on, and we are both under the blankets, a woman generally longs for a sense of safety and love, and that makes her a little more vulnerable than the man who always feel safe.”

        Oh please, what men do you know that feel 100% safe in bed? I was shitting bricks nervous last time I was getting laid, I felt vulnerable, I worried about how sexy I was, worried about my performance, about her teeth on my penis, the fear of false rape accusations also in the back of the mind (no matter how rare they are, I also avoid standing out in lightning too which is probably rarer), AND the threat of rape too. What makes you think men feel invincible in the bedroom? Nor desire safety??

        This whole women are more vulnerable every-time trope needs to die out already. Women are not fragile lil porcelain dolls and men are not solid adamantium with force field shielding.

        Guess what, I am 6’6 and large bodied, I guarantee I was more nervous than the woman I was with (who was about 5’5 and prob half my size), she was far more confident than I was in bed whilst I was fighting off my anxiety trying to enjoy the experience and not be so frickin nervous. Sure if I wanted to I could probably overpower her physically, and if she wanted to she could say fuck me or I’ll claim you raped me and I’d be up shits creek unable to do a thing knowing if I fight back I’ll get into the shit since I’m 2x bigger, and there’s far more chance she’ll be believed with a false claim which even if it doesn’t hit trial could fuck my reputation up let alone open me up to the risk of white knights beating shit out of me. Someone on this site has already told of their story where they were raped by a woman doing this, I think another also mentioned being orally raped with the threat of her bf being a huge bastard who’d beat em up. There are many reasons people of both genders can be nervous in sex, hell having external genitals is risky as hell, it’s pretty damn easy to injure the testicles and penis!

        • Archy, now my blood is boiling! As Stefan writes, this article raises all kinds of anger (and other emotions) in – all of us.

          Okay, I get it that you are not emotionally safe in bed. I get the ways that you feel vulnerable. I hear you. But does it ever occur to you, when you go to bed with a woman, that she might physically hurt you? Does it ever occur to you that she might end up punching you in the face? I honestly don’t know, only you can answer. My guess is “no.”

          And yeah, yes, definitely, women are more vulnerable. Do you really want equality of the sexes? Really? In my opinion we should celebrate our differences; we are different but have equal rights in the pursuit of happiness and all that. I understand that what I say is outdated and sounds ridiculous, but there is a very precious part inside of each woman that, if appreciated and nurtured and desired, would make our whole society, a rape-society of not, richer and better.

          And that I say that women are vulnerable does not make them li’l porcelain dolls. If you really let yourself consider deeply what the difference is between men and women, you might surprise yourself with your honest answer. But if you are hanging around with nasty arrogant ball-breaking women, then I’d say that they are not in touch with their own magical vulnerability – they are just trying to act like men, which will not work in the long run, and you should run away as fast as all hell.

          • “But does it ever occur to you, when you go to bed with a woman, that she might physically hurt you? Does it ever occur to you that she might end up punching you in the face? I honestly don’t know, only you can answer. My guess is “no.””
            Yes, it does. I know full well that in relationships women are plenty capable of being violent.

            What you’re advocating is women are more vulnerable than men in the bedroom, and you’re playing down the risks men face. You assume I don’t fear violence from women but I’ve had women punch me, slap me, etc, even in public with no one stopping them. I’ve been in bed and been slapped for making a joke, I mean seriously wtf, the joke wasn’t about her nor offensive enough to warrant a slap.

            “But if you are hanging around with nasty arrogant ball-breaking women, then I’d say that they are not in touch with their own magical vulnerability – they are just trying to act like men, which will not work in the long run, and you should run away as fast as all hell.”
            Listen to how you speak, it’s misandrist. You’re pretty much saying men are nasty, arrogant and ball-breaking, that women have this magical vulnerability that men do not. Do you seriously not understand that women can be violent?

            You may not realize this but physical size isn’t the only indicator of vulnerability. I am a big person, but it doesn’t mean I’ll automatically defend myself and not be scared. Punches hurt, a punch to the nuts hurts really really really bad and can cause permanent injury. Women are well within the strength capability to inflict seriously damage. I hate having to defend myself, I am both scared of being injured but also due to my strength I am scared of inflicting too much injury, I am also scared of narrowminded bigoted fools who will think because I am big that I am automatically a tank vs a woman. I have female cousins who’ve KNOCKED GUYS OUT with 1 hit, I don’t think of women as weak. Defending against a male attacker is one thing, defending against a woman is even more scary because you have a decent chance as a man of NOT being seen as a victim but the aggressor.

            How am I supposed to defend myself against a woman who hits me? I can try leave, but I can’t bruise her (which would happen in trying to escape) otherwise it may lead to me being seen as the aggressor? Definitely can’t hit back, even at half the force she uses.

            • Yikes. You are right, I was totally misandrist. You have opened my eyes about that.

              I do understand that women can be violent.

              All I want to add is that if you’ve been slapped for making a joke, and hit several or a few or many or whatever times for who-knows-what reasons, then I suggest you take a look at yourself. wtf? Something ain’t right somewhere.

              • Not sure if you’ve noticed or if it’s the same there but it’s quite common for young women to slap men, in highschool especially. There is this entitlement or overlooked behaviour where they feel completely fine hitting men. I’ve been punched by one for laughing at someone else’s joke, that had nothing to do with her but she thought I was laughing at her. These are jokes that guys don’t hit each other over, they’re made simply for a laugh and not to actually hurt anyone. Example if someone messes up their cooking and you laugh at it, usually you laugh with them over it especially if they have gotten cranky about it. I don’t go hitting people who laugh when that happens, I LAUGH or if it annoys me I’ll brush it off and if bad enough I’ll tell them it’s not ok.

                “All I want to add is that if you’ve been slapped for making a joke, and hit several or a few or many or whatever times for who-knows-what reasons, then I suggest you take a look at yourself. wtf? Something ain’t right somewhere.”
                Would you say this to a woman hit by men in a relationship or by friends? Let’s say I slapped my gf (I wouldn’t but for arguments sake), she’s been slapped by other guys too, would you suggest she takes a look at herself and say something ain’t right somewhere? Or do you think it’s fine for women to slap men if they feel offended by them? Could I then slap women that offend me?

                • Archy,

                  No, I would not say it to a woman hit by a man in a relationship or by friends. I can see that this sounds unfair.

                  Listen. There’s _something_ different about women, yes? Women and men are not equal, right? They are equally important, but not equal. There are simply differences. That I can’t define them easily doesn’t make it less true.

                  Yes, women slug men in the arm when they are playfully (or playfully seriously) (or just seriously) mad. I don’t have an answer for you about why that is okay. It’s been happening for just about forever, I guess. I don’t think it’s just American. Things like women slapping men’s faces and men just shaking it off. It just is. It’s kind of like that old saying about porn: “I can’t define it but I know it when I see it,” which is a weird comparison considering this discussion.

                  Let me ask you this. What is the essential difference between women and men? You know, aside from physical obvious differences, what makes a woman a woman? Can you define it?

                  One more thought: Men go around saying that the sweet smell of their woman’s hair has lingered long after they parted. Can’t tell you how many men have said that to me. And I don’t use any special shampoo!!! And I am certain countless women have heard the same thing. So what’s that all about? You guys want us to be sweet, so sweet that our sweetness lingers, and yet you want us to be as tough as you guys, too. You can’t have it both ways.

                  • “Listen. There’s _something_ different about women, yes? Women and men are not equal, right? They are equally important, but not equal. There are simply differences. That I can’t define them easily doesn’t make it less true.”

                    You mean like men should be paid more because they’re better workers? That women should shutup and accept a man’s rule because men are the head of the household, they’re dominant? No I don’t believe this, just pointing out where the men and women are different statements are often used to justify sexism.

                    “No, I would not say it to a woman hit by a man in a relationship or by friends. I can see that this sounds unfair.”
                    Why? Don’t those women deserve it too? Or are we only assigning responsibility for men and excusing women’s actions?

                    • Saying that women are different from men justifies sexism? Not to me. Different but treated with the same level of integrity.

                      And yes we are excusing some of the actions of women. Women still can’t compete with men athletically. Men are stronger – a generalization I know, but still. So, yes. Men are responsible because they are stronger. They have more muscle and can handle a punch in the arm. Ahh, I can’t keep defending myself on this! Think what you wish! Good luck and farewell, I’ve gotta get to bed, by myself, within my own boundaries! This is a vital discussion and I’m still appreciating it as it goes along…

  4. I’d agree there should be more asking and communication on the part of both parties. But still, for it to be rape of the type that deserves jail time, if the victim has the capacity (not asleep or significantly intoxicated) and the opportunity to object and is without reasonable fear of violence or other serious reprisal, then that person does need to clearly communicate what they are and are not ok with. There are a LOT of different levels of progression in a sexual encounter–continually needing to ask each other about every move of a hand or other body part to another body part, really, how would you police that? “No” only needs to be said once–unless consent is given subsequently, the attempted activity is prohibited.

    • mary macgowan says:

      yeah, i know. the logistics and rating systems would be ridiculously complex. i still like the way Gowan wrote it, and it swayed me in that direction. I’m a sway-er, I guess. I found this of interest from a website about rape:
      Gray Rape
      Young readers might think that “gray rape” has something to do with a certain popular BDSM bestseller, but it’s a term that’s officially been around since the ’90s. Most people think that Cosmopolitan invented the term “gray rape” in 2007, when Laura Session Stepp defined it as “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 Katie Roiphe infamously claimed “There is a gray area in which one person’s rape may be another’s bad night” in her 1994 book The Morning After: Fear, Sex and Feminism.

      When the Cosmo article prompted a panel on the dangers of “grey rape,” Linda Fairstein, the former chief of the sex crimes unit at the Manhattan district attorney’s office, told the New York Times that the concept had been around long before Cosmo decided it was trendy. “Certainly, in the criminal justice system there’s no such thing as gray rape,” she said. “Gray rape is not a new term and not a new experience. For journalists, it may be, but for those of us who had worked in advocacy or law enforcement, this description of something being in a gray area has been around all the time. It’s always been my job in law enforcement to separate out the facts.”

      Just sayin’

    • Is your point that we live in a society that too-readily uses jail time as a punishment? If so, I’d be willing to talk that out a bit. Jail sentences are incredibly destructive and our country has a particularly draconian prison system. But as long as it’s illegal to sell heroin and cocaine, HELL YES this deserves punishment.

      • The point is, the more broadly you define “rape”, the easier it is to say “I guess Rape isn’t always a big deal, after all.”

        If I believed everything I read in this thread, I would be forced to conclude that it’s impossible to know for sure whether any sex is rape before you do it. And if *that* were true (it’s not), then Rape couldn’t be a matter for the criminal courts at all.

  5. mary macgowan says:

    love this: “the person asking is not interested in real consent; just in the “yes” that will make it not-rape.”

    thank you for making it so clear.

  6. Why do many of you all keep saying “It is not rape if he pestered her until she said “yes””?

    If someone says “no” to sex, it is obvious that the person asked does not want sex. Asking again and again, throwing a tantrum and so on, shows that the person asking is not interested in real consent; just in the “yes” that will make it not-rape.

    Someone who does not want non-consensual sex (i.e. does not want to rape someone) would accept a “no”, since, obviously, real consent cannot be obtained at that moment. (nor three seconds or minutes or even hours later, in most cases)

  7. mary macgowan says:

    Let me emphasize something here. I know I already wrote it, but to keep it clear:

    The consensus here seems to be that the woman should say No if she means No. That sounds sensible at first. But the more deeply I consider it, the more I see it as a 2 way street. The guy should ask; that is part of his responsibility. If he doesn’t ask, not even once, then why should his woman be expected to keep saying No? And why isn’t he curious about her feelings and thoughts?

    Also, for a lot of people, sex is silent; no speaking, or very little speaking. Anybody want to confirm or disagree? So there we are, two of us, starting to have silent sex. Nobody’s asking or saying anything. So much silence! How hard it is to speak up and say No in the midst of such silence!

  8. mary macgowan says:

    Collin, do you always have to ask your woman if she had an orgasm? Do you always have to ask your woman if she’s happy or sad or tired or whatever? We all know body language, we all know, ideally, our partners quite well. I’m not talking about reading minds. I’m talking about knowing your woman. If you know her and if you know her over time, and if you know her way of being in the world, and if you know her way of thinking and if you really really know her, then do you need her to say Yes or No every time?

    • I’ve gotten body language wrong when thinking someone is happy when they aren’t. If a woman isn’t mature enough to communicate her consent properly and relies solely on the guys interpretation of her body language then you’re going to run into issues, boundaries will be crossed because not everyone is an expert at reading body language. Know how people say they read the signs wrong? She smiles at you, you’re dating her, you kiss her and she pushes you off because she’s got a headache yet didn’t tell you anything except a smile that everytime before meant she wanted sex. She’s at fault for being a poor communicator and he’s at fault for not gettign specific verbal consent.

      You’re talking about knowing your woman, which is exactly reading her mind. You think over time a person will be able to read her mind and know what she wants? It might work most of the time but what happens if they get it wrong? Should that be justification to excuse them for rape because they read her wrong or are women capable of being mature adults who actually communicate their desire instead of letting men take the risk of initiation where they can fail miserably and get done for sexual assault if they get it wrong. They’re mind games, women expecting men to magically know their body language. Well if you want us to read your body language are you going to give us a 1chance out if we fuck it up? If we start something and you don’t want it, are you going to let it slide after telling us no because we read you wrong or are we going to be liable for sexual assault? Quite frankly it’s immature and potentially abusive to sit there expecting him to read your body language perfectly then cry foul when he gets it wrong. Body language is one of the worst forms of communication in regards to accuracy, different cultures read it differently, some people have disabilities that make it difficult to read, it’s far easier to say yes or no.

      “We all know body language, we all know, ideally, our partners quite well.”
      No, we don’t all know, and some people are unable to read it fullstop which makes socializing very hard for them. What you think is showing you’re not in the mood might read as “she wants it” to another person, so will you fault them if they try something because they read you wrong? All you’re promoting is mind-reading with the EXPECTATION that everyone thinks like you do, sends the same body language as you do, and communicates the same as you do.

      • I think a LOT of people don’t realize body language is not obvious to others. I do agree it’s very important to verbalize. Folks are pretty used to _not_ verbalizing when giving sexual signals, so it’s going to be a long haul getting people to talk more about it when they’re in the moment. I _do_ think it’s important to say “no” when you don’t want to do something!

        • mary macgowan says:

          Anat, of course you are right that we need to learn to say “no” when we don’t want to do something. And as you can see from my response to Archy, I think ASKING is very important too.

          What woman wants to keep TELLING when the guy isn’t ASKING?

          If he doesn’t “see” your yawn and continues moving toward sex without asking if you’re tired, you have to tell him. If he can’t “see” that you turning away from him is possibly a signal that you don’t want sex, and if he doesn’t ASK “Do you want to mess around?” well then what have we got? A lot of ridiculous attempts at sexual relations! Just how many times are women supposed to verbalize her feelings??? Every 3 minutes? The whole concept gets absurd. Men say “Just tell us.” Ha. I say “Just ask us.”

          I’m on a roll with this asking thing.

          But I will end with: I just don’t know. Humans are complicated creatures.

      • mary macgowan says:

        Hmm. Well, let me try again. I am not talking about body language. I don’t know — there I am again with those 3 words, I don’t know — I guess here I am again, like Anat pointed out, thinking in terms of a long term relationship. For a short term one, or a one nighter, well, yes, we do rely on some limited amount of body language. But I would never expect a guy to read my mind. But I also do not think every single thought gets said out loud. Some are understood. Some are misunderstood.

        Let me ask this. If a guy has sex with a woman for the first time, do he know if she did or didn’t have an orgasm? Does he ask? Does he know if she’s warm enough in the room? Does he ask? Does she tell him? Can he tell if she’s tired? Is one yawn enough body language to get that point across? Or does she need to yawn 10 times?

        Do you see my point? There’s body language being read all the time, or mis-read. But I hate to hear that men don’t ASK. Just ASK. Women will tell you. If you don’t know what they want or what they like, ASK THEM.

        Archy, you wrote this: All you’re promoting is mind-reading with the EXPECTATION that everyone thinks like you do, sends the same body language as you do, and communicates the same as you do.

        My response to that statement: Most men EXPECT and ASSUME that women want what the man wants, sexually speaking. So, okay, fine, men are not good at reading our minds. But maybe they just don’t care because they are already on some *page* the woman-in-the-moment doesn’t even know about. The page where the guy has a powerful vision for the impending sexual interaction and assumes the woman wants the same thing.

        I mean, isn’t this what has helped the human race grow and grow to the overpopulation explosion we are now experiencing? The vast majority of the time, the guy is the “leader” in sex. Most guys like to be the leader. Most women like to respond to that. (ohh, I can just imagine the follow up comments coming my way soon) Isn’t it our biological design? Yay for us – seriously – that we are now learning how to have consensual, thoughtful, loving, well-intentioned shared sexual experiences. This dialogue belongs to that process.

        And if a guy is Asperger-ish, and has true difficulties reading any kind of body language and/or reading signs like yawns, or facial expressions like fear or disgust or surprise or whatever, then that guy better get really really good at asking over and over again “Is this ok? Do you like this?” etc etc. Otherwise, he should keep his thing in his pants.

        • Obviously it is better if there is clearer communication. But in these grey areas, does one or both people really deserve to go to jail? I think that to most people, “rape” means that the perpetrator should go to prison. Does Davey really deserve to be jailed if he wasn’t physically violent (did not physically hurt _her_ and didn’t realize punching a pillow appeared threatening to her?) I’ll just reiterate that I think he was acting pretty jerky but that she _did_ have a reasonable option to continue to refuse.

          I really don’t think anyone deserves jail time unless they were violent to the other person; threatened the other person with violence, blackmail, loss of job, a failing grade, etc. (I imagine the latter 3 and similar items are what is legally meant by coercion, though I could be wrong); or if the other person was unable to legally consent due to significant intoxication, being passed out or asleep, or the like. Legally, I’m pretty sure that repeated asking does not count as coercion resulting in rape. And I don’t think someone like Davey should be labeled a rapist–he does NOT fall into the same category as someone who used violence, threat of violence, or threat of job loss, etc., or had sex with someone who was passed out. There is a WORLD of difference between those things and being a whiny jerk about sex when you’re so young you haven’t had much chance to learn better yet or to develop good communication skills around sex. Yeah, he was really rude. And he _did_ suffer consequences (sounds like she broke up with him). He did _not_ deserve jail time or to be considered by others to be the same sort of person as a rapist who _does_ deserve jail time. So I think it’s grossly unfair to say he raped his girlfriend.

  9. mary macgowan says:

    Overall, here’s what I’m asking everybody.

    Are we really embracing this idea? That a man cannot tell if a woman really wants sex unless she says Yes? Or, conversely, that a man cannot tell if a woman really does NOT want sex unless she says No?

    If you guys are that blind to your woman’s emotions, then that is just too sad.

    • Reading someone’s mind is not part of our job description, sorry. There’s this wonderful thing that we humans have called verbal communication. We use these things called “words” that have “meanings” and when you say words it is assumed that you mean what you say — barring instances of humor. I tend to believe what people say, and I don’t make a habit of building multi-level mind games out of everything. Maybe you have such a low opinion of women that you don’t think they mean what they say and have a pathological problem with telling the truth, but I like to believe that when they say something they mean it.

      Women aren’t children. You all are more than capable of speaking your mind instead of playing silly little mind games. You should try it some time!

    • I know a _lot_ of guys who have a ton of trouble reading body language. Verbalizing helps a lot. On the other hand, when you are frozen in fear it’s hard to verbalize. If your partner’s just pestering you should say something. BUT, if the pestering is so intense it seems crazy, and he’s also bed-pounding, and you don’t know whether the bed-pounding means he’s trying not to hit you or that it’s indicative of escalating violence, you should do whatever you think’s going to keep you safest, I’d say. It’s so hard to tell when you’re not right there. Yet, if you don’t say “no” and the threat isn’t verbalized either, it’s going to be hard to prove a rape, and in fact may or may not actually be rape depending on what the threat level appears to be. VERY grey area. Definitely everyone should try to talk and ask more often.

  10. This is a tricky one. I’ve been in both situations where exs have woken me up because they were in the mood and I wasn’t (and vice versa) and I’ve complied not because I wanted to have sex but because I wanted to make my girlfriend happy. So this is now rape??

    Of course, sex should only be consensual. But part of being in a healthy relationship is wanting to please the other person.

    • Mr Supertypo says:

      Yes Roy M. same thing happen to me, both X’es and gf. And if I dont find myself in the mood or if I have to get early up in the morning (sleep is important to me) they can get so pissy over my lack of willingness. And sometimes it even exploded in arguing and fight, uintill I either consent or go to sleep at the sofa.

      • I think most men have been in that situation, that’s where the giving in after pestering = Rape issue falls apart. I’ve given in when I didn’t want to, even when my very nasty heart condition made it risky, Did that mean my wife Raped me? If that’s going to be the new standard for sexual relationships expect one heck of a lot of women to be charged with rape. An Erection does not equal consent .

    • I’d say agreeing even though you don’t really feel like it but do want to make the other person happy is fine. I think individual situations of getting pissy or pestering or arguing isn’t rape but deserves condemnation. Especially with the heart condition issue–I don’t think I’d tolerate a partner who pestered me for sex where it presented a life-threatening issue! I’d probably not call it rape, but certainly rational grounds for a break-up. Anyway, with pestering I don’t think it’s ok regardless of gender, but I don’t think it’s rape.

  11. But she didn’t say he raped her–Davey wrote that she said “she _felt like_ she’d been raped.” I think saying that she _felt like_ she’d been raped is reasonable to say, since his behavior was such (pounding on bed with fists, anger, tantrum) that she wasn’t sure she could leave without getting hurt. There’s a pretty big difference between saying “I feel like I’ve been raped” and “you raped me.” The former means “I feel _as though_ I’ve been raped [although I was not in fact raped].” If he had known his behavior was having this effect, then engaging in sex would have been morally wrong on his behalf–he shouldn’t have sex with someone who’s doing it solely because she’s afraid of him. He didn’t realize his behavior was having that effect, so he’s mostly off the hook, assuming he realizes his temper and physical displays might make a woman afraid to say no in the future, and that he knows to avoid doing something similar again.

    I think many men do not realize how frightening or threatening they can appear, and that’s a message that we should be getting across without trying to make people feel bad about it with regard to past acts of this sort, but at the same time making them aware that it’s not ok in the future. If you’re bigger and stronger than the other person and your behavior is overly angry or bizarre combined with a sexual request, the other person is likely to be afraid for their safety and to do things out of self-preservation. Is it rape if the angry person doesn’t know the other person fears for their own safety, and they do nothing to get their concern across? Probably not, but that doesn’t mean what the angry person is doing is completely morally ok, either.

    On women’s side, maybe some more info/understanding of the whole fist-pounding thing would be helpful. Still, it’s really hard to know when fist-pounding a bed is going to get redirected; I guess I’d rather err on the side of self-preservation when faced with that kind of display by either high-tailing it out of there or having sex even though I didn’t want to.

    I do wish there was a better vocabulary for these situations, though. “Felt like I’d been raped” is awfully easy to see as a real rape accusation.

  12. Davey, thank you for writing this. You show great bravery for thinking about it and writing it. These responses are mostly maddening, in my opinion. Of course it was rape, and it shows you are a good person because you are willing to write about it and to process it internally. A verbal “yes” is not necessarily a true “yes.” A verbal “yes” can be a true “no.” I am a feminist, but that does not mean that I think women are always strong. Women are vulnerable beings, especially once in bed, undressed, ready for sleep. We are vulnerable in that space, vulnerability is part of our package, it is part of what we offer to men. Sex is a gift women give to men, like a flower opening to the sun. Yes, we enjoy opening! But it has to be seen as a gift given willingly, from the heart. Anyway, once we are in that vulnerable position, it becomes harder and harder to stay with the “No.” If our man pesters and pesters, we feel small, scared, confused, verbally attacked, beaten down. So we say Yes when we want to say No. And, sorry to say guys, yes, that is Rape.

    • I can’t tell if you’re serious, or if I’m being Poed. If serious, then besides presenting one of the most chauvenistic descriptions of women and sex I’ve ever seen, you’ve also described consent such that it’s impossible for anyone to ever know when yes is a yes, so all sex is rape. I’m glad to say, I think very few people would agree, even feminists.

      • mary macgowan says:

        Gosh, Marcus, you’re a real charmer.
        My post was and is serious.

        You think it impossible to tell when a woman really wants to say No but gives in and says Yes instead? Then you, Mr. Williams, are not taking the time to really get to know your woman.

        Women as weak flowers, yes, once we’re in bed we become smaller and much more vulnerable. It’s the way life is for human beings. It takes a brave feminist to say this out loud, to write it. And that brave feminist is me, at least in this discussion.

        And in case anyone is interested here, “battered women” are not tattered and torn, though they might be. They are not necessarily beat up, although they might be. They are women whose men have “a pattern of intimidation” in the relationship. What exactly do you think “a pattern of intimidation” is? Merely punching walls? Yelling? No, it includes game-playing, mind-messing and, as many of you have called it, merely “cajoling” or “pestering.” Good job pestering-type guys on battering your women.

        • Sorry, I am not a weak flower. You do not speak for me or for all women.

        • Mr Supertypo says:

          well generally women have the ability to verbal communication, if a woman say no, then its no period. If she say yes then its yes (unless somebody is holding a gun on her). And no I disagree that sex is a gift women give to me. LoL sex is something we do together its not a concession somebody does to another. If she wants my body, I can say no…if im not in the right mood, or yes if I am 🙂

          For the rest, if you consider yourself a fragile weak flower, maybe you are? who knows…. 🙂

          • mary macgowan says:

            Mr. Supertypo, of course we make love together. But don’t you see any credibility at all in what I am saying? Women open themselves up, quite literally, and invite men to enter.

            I’m pretty sure I never wrote the word “weak.” I wrote “vulnerable.” Opening one’s self up to being entered is a vulnerable position and invitation. Nuff said.

    • In my opinion, saying women aren’t capable of saying “no” to pestering, absent a real threat, robs of us a huge amount of power/agency/self-determination. I’m not willing to say women are so lacking in ability we don’t even have the ability to say no in the face of mere pestering. I just think you’re wrong.

    • Thank you for your comments, Mary, and I appreciate your words. I’d like to think that there’s at least some bravery involved in this, sure. I’d like to think that my willingness to try and self-examine and confront this in my own mind is some kind of boon; some kind of plus in the grand cosmic columns. I also think that it’s literally the least I can do if I want my interest in feminism and equality and good, non-harmful masculinity to actually mean anything other than to be band-aids I toss on my psyche to make me feel better about things.

      It’s not easy to look at actions that can never be undone and to realize you’re a bad guy. It’s not much easier to try to be a good one again afterwards.

      There are ambiguities and shades of gray in that night many years ago that I still haven’t processed. Thoughts that if I’d been more observant or sensitive to how I was coming off things would have gone differently. Knowing that I’d cooled off, disengaged, and eventually taken “no” for an answer… after I’d done all the damage I’d needed to do, and wishing I’d done it sooner. But while I sort that stuff out, I can’t ignore the reality of her situation (which I think Anat13 is doing a decent job of expressing in other comments here)… she felt scared and threatened and acted thusly. It’s hard for me to see how anyone would argue that what she experienced was not a rape from her point of view.

      These things are tough for people to talk about. I’m glad to have a place where we can start. Again, thank you for your comments.

  13. Davey,

    We’ve all pounded the bed in frustration at some point. It’s a hell of a lot safer than putting a fist through a wall. You are being way too hard on yourself, my friend. You validate all of your girlfriend’s post-coital rebukes while lashing yourself with contemptuous words. She said yes. Petulant huffs and passive-aggressive sighs do not equal reasonable physical threats. Did you physically prevent her from leaving the house? Did you force her to take off her clothes? Was she intoxicated past the point of consent?

    As a writer and teacher and single dad who often stays up much later than women I’ve dated in order to get stuff done, I’ve been pestered and guilt-ed and dragged by my various physical parts into having sex when I’d rather be grading or otherwise doing the work that pays the bills more times than I can count. Sometimes, 3:00AM rolls around and the pile of student essays has not yet been killed because of the time spent performing seemingly obligatory sex. But here is the deal: I am perfectly able to resist the pestering and whining and musings about clitoral needs, and so is your ex. She said yes. She might not have been happy with that choice, but that is not your fault. Yes means yes. No means no. Period.

    So: “Yes, she said yes. On the surface, consent was given.” That’s all you need to know. There is not a special clause in any law delegitimizing “consent given after pestering.” You are right that “she has every right to feel how she did.” She does not have the right to make you feel as though you have done anything shameful or wrong. To invoke the word “rape” is much like invoking the word “Holocaust”–irresponsible and dangerous without reasons far more compelling than any I see in this story.

    • Huh. I will think about your comment next time I consider initiating sex with my boyfriend. Maybe it is better not to. No way do I want him to reluctantly satisfy my clitoral needs with obligatory sex.

  14. I was with a man sexually who was in a privately open relationship (those people who needed to know did but he didn’t advertise the fact nor did his wife). We had a long history of sexual encounters at the point this incident took place. It was new years eve. He was drinking with some girlfriend of his. I was at home an in the midst of some family health crises and my own cancer scare. It had all come to a head over a period of a week. I am bisexual and this man thusly thought that bisexual equates to a threesome and he was of the belief that by virtue of existing in the world I owed it to him to have sex with any woman he deemed appropriate with me having absolutely no say in the matter.

    He showed up to my house late that night dragging this drunken hot mess of a woman behind him. She was so incredibly drunk she could barely stand up. She couldn’t hold a conversation and frankly she was a mess. She was not someone who I would normally have sex with as a woman as I expect a certain level hygiene etc. Her intoxication level was as such that I questioned her ability to consent to his plans.

    He proceeded to literally stand and scream at me. Vicious threatening things that after some discussion afterwards with the police fell into a grey area in the realm of threats. He threw things in general. But what I remember most is the screaming. The veiled threats. And the berating. I didn’t go through with his fantasy as I was not going to let him make me into a rapist of that woman who was toddling around.

    After that night the veiled threats of blackmail, break ins, bodily harm etc did not stop. The screaming didn’t stop. Months later I finally screamed back at him one night to call her and have her come over and I’ll just do anything to make it stop and make it so he didn’t follow through on any of those threats. He then proceeded to scream at me that he wants me to look like I enjoy it. Needless to say it never happened. But I can see how someone would just give into him with how scary he was. And I did pursue it with police but he had learned how threaten over the years after numerous run ins with the police and he did it in a way that really only got him a visit and no consequences. We’re years out with the sexual relationship over that new years even and I ran into him a couple months ago and he made a point to tell me he finally got a conceal and carry permit and carries a pretty serious hand gun loaded on him at all times. I could see how a woman knowing a man has a gun on him may just give in to stop the escalation.

    I was at a point in my life that new years eve that I literally didn’t care if he killed me. If I had a shred of self preservation that night I would have given in and did it thinking he was going to hurt me. Coercive sex doesn’t always have to just be about whining and foot stomping. It can be a whole other monster. It can be consent under duress. It can be sex for self preservation. So if we want to go by technicalities. Technically consent may be given but does it make it right? Same goes for men I know more than one mistress who has threatened to socially ruin a married man if he doesn’t continue to have sex with him or has threatened him in the moment to call his wife or whatever. He probably wouldn’t have consented either if he wasn’t dealing with that.

    It’s like a mugging where an imaginary gun or knife held up to the victim and she’s told to hand over her purse. Just because she hands it over doesn’t mean she gave the a guy a gift and it ceases to be wrong.

    • Kat, as you say your experience is a whole other monster.

      If he verbally threatened you (and you had gone through with it) then that WOULD have been rape.

      But just wheedling and cajoling is more about making the other person feel guilty and/or wear them down.
      That is not rape, but it is unethical, rude and bullying behavior.

  15. wellokaythen says:

    Pestering someone into consenting to have sex is not rape. It’s petty and intrusive and really bad personal boundaries and feels shitty to the person who consents, but it’s not rape. You can rightly consider it a bad way to treat someone else, but that’s not the same as rape. I’m afraid that if we stretch the definition of rape too broadly, it will become meaningless.

    For example, I remember as an undergrad attending a speak out against rape and violence against women. (At the time, only women were allowed to speak at the microphone.) One young woman said that she had sex with a man she really liked, she had enthusiastically consented, and it was wonderful and mutual, but in the morning he was really cold to her and acted like nothing happened, and for her that was like being raped. That was her rape story. I have no doubt that was painful and humiliating, but a case of rape? I don’t think so.

    It is fair to say that maybe we’re missing some language. Here’s a category that’s been falling through the cracks, because it’s not rape and it’s not exactly unencumbered consent, either. Our lack of an intermediary category may be a grievous oversight. Maybe we need some new wrods for this?

    Bear in mind that in many cases the consent to have sex is happening after lots of other decisions that let the pestering happen. If you continue to make time to listen to his whining and pestering, that is consent to listen to him whine and pester you.

    It’s more like: consent to let him pressure you, consent to let him pressure you, consent to let him pressure you, okay, fine, consent to have sex.

    By pestering you until you say yes, he’s being a jerk and possibly on his way to a life of abusive behavior, but the person who consents also has to take responsibility for making a decision. On some level, we have to let women make bad decisions in bad situations, or else consent is a meaningless idea.

  16. Two things:
    1. I don’t think that simply whining and pestering until one person “gives in” counts as rape. Stressful and sometimes legitimately traumatic, yes, but not something that deserves legal consequences. I’d say it deserves some type of censure, though–the person who “gives in” certainly is justified in saying the other’s behavior was not ok or was morally bad and should be changed in the future, or in breaking up with the other person.
    2. I’m guessing this is a highly unconventional opinion, but I think there are some situations where one person is experiencing rape or something very akin to it, but the other person is not, in fact, committing rape, and this might be an example of that. He didn’t realize that his anger and other behavior appeared as threatening as it was. She agreed to have sex because she felt threatened, as though she might be attacked if she turned him down. If one person thinks they are very likely to be hurt if they don’t comply, I think what they are experiencing a rape. On the other hand, if the other person *truly* does not realize their behavior is frightening and appears threatening, they’re not committing a rape (in the sense that it should be legally prosecuted), though what they are doing I would say is very much not ok. (Of course, this is my personal opinion, not anything definitive.) Another example: there was one point a long time ago when I was profoundly intoxicated but apparently didn’t appear to be as intoxicated as I was. I ended up in bed with the guy who previously was the one who would walk me to my room safely at the end of these sorts of events and then leave. He wasn’t someone I’d ever intended to sleep with. He was only a little intoxicated, and didn’t realize I wasn’t entirely conscious the whole time (I was fading in and out). He was nowhere near as educated regarding sexual assault as I was. I didn’t give any “no” signals and was seeming to participate voluntarily. This is not someone I would have slept with sober or after I’d only had a few drinks (he had a girlfriend and there were some other things that made it a bad idea as well). A guy who knew more about sexual assault would have known it’s not ok to sleep with someone who is extremely drunk. Anyway, while my own experience of the situation was that of having sex while not legally able to give consent (therefore rape), I don’t think the guy should have been held legally culpable either (and he was not–I didn’t report). I guess I wish that it was more widely recognized that there can be some very grey area–times when the act is borderline and/or experienced differently by the two parties where it was traumatic to one but the other was not really committing a completely reprehensible act oh the part of the other–situations where a person definitely should have had different behavior but should not deserve jail time, etc. Mind you, I think in most situations where someone is fading in and out of consciousness the other person _should_ be culpable for rape–I just think my own experience had a lot of connected circumstances that need to be taken into account. Maybe you have to draw the legal line where it is in order to catch the more usual situations, but if that’s the case I certainly hope the legal system is flexible enough to handle the situation I described appropriately.

    • That’s a very mature and well thought out narrative.

    • Legally, consent in cases of alleged sexual assault is judged by an “objective standard” which means the jury is told to consider how “reasonable people” would have acted. So if one person gives objective indications of consent, their subjective feelings aren’t relevant if not communicated. Similarly, the jury must decide whether the alleged perpetrator’s conduct would have overcome the resistance of a reasonable person. If someone is charged with raping an intoxicated person, the jury must decide if the victim was too intoxicated to consent and whether the perpetrator knew or reasonably should have known that.

      Actually, “date rape” cases and other he said-she said cases are very hard to prove and DA’s will often refuse to file charges because they can’t prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt. Although there are cases where the DA oversteps his/her bounds (like the Duke Univ. case), there are many, many cases we don’t hear about where charges are never filed. There was a notorious case a few years ago in my area (San Jose) where an intoxicated 17 year old got gang raped, or had group sex, at a college party and the DA’s office ultimately did not prosecute. The girl couldn’t remember enough to say she’d been raped and there was too much conflicting evidence about whether the men involved thought she was consenting. Apparently she’d been offering blow jobs and such earlier in the evening, she had brought a bunch of alcohol to the party, everyone was drunk out of their minds and no one really knew what happened. She later sued several of the men involved and the jury in the civil case found in favor of the defendants.

      Again this all gets back to judging the case on objective vs. subjective standards. If someone objectively consents to sex, without force or violence or threats involved, legally it is not rape.

      • Ok, that fits in with how I was hoping the legal system would have worked in the incident where I was heavily intoxicated. I remember enough of what happened to be comfortable saying I was giving the impression of willing participation. So having sex with someone who is heavily intoxicated isn’t illegal if s/he is appearing to participate willingly or verbally consents and does not withdraw consent? That’s not what I’ve heard before and it makes me uneasy on behalf of other people. I’d like to hold myself to that standard, though, in the same way I’d hold myself to be responsible for _my_ actions if I were driving drunk. (If heavily intoxicated person isn’t actively giving indication of consent, I don’t think s/he is responsible for what _other_ people do to her/him.)

        • Legally the question is whether the person is too intoxicated to consent. There’s no bright line definition of where that point is. It depends on the facts. An intoxicated person can be capable of consent. Cal Penal Code 261(a)(2) says its rape if the person is “prevented from resisting” due to intoxication.

          Discussions on this topic get confusing because what people mean by “rape” is often not consistent with the legal definitions, which are very specific.

  17. Not rape. Absolutely, positively, under-no-circumstances rape. Consent was given. Period. Having sex with someone in order to get him to shut up and stop whining is a choice, just as buying a toy for a nagging child is a choice. Your only crime was whining and begging for affection from an unenthusiastic woman–a crime every heterosexual man has committed. Certainly not your proudest moment, in fact, even pathetic, but we’ve all been there at least once. I’m sure the sex was less than fulfilling–for you and for her no doubt–but I’m just as sure that you have done nothing wrong. Please, please, please promise you won’t let anyone shame you into believing you have.

    • I’m not understanding why the guys are focusing on the whining instead of the fact that she was afraid he was going to hurt her because he was acting so angry. We can’t know how angry or threatening he appeared to be. She was afraid he would hurt her if he refused, and that to me makes the situation very borderline. I doubt it was prosecutable (or should have been), but at the same time it sounds like _her_ experience was that she did not really have a reasonable choice–she felt she was risking being physically hurt if she didn’t acquiesce. He didn’t know that was the impression he was giving, so I wouldn’t call it rape either, but it’s more than just a matter of her having given in to whining.

      • An earlier comment said “He punched the bed. That’s threatening.” My first reaction was “No, that’s whining.”

        Guys are focusing on the whining because they don’t really *see* the threat. We know that we at least stand a chance in a fight with another unarmed man, and potential attackers know it too. Our experience tells us that he won’t *actually* attack unless he’s drunk or at least a little crazy.

        Punching the bed means he can’t control his emotions, and he doesn’t want to attack you. That might actually seem *weak*. Davey described it as a childish “temper tantrum”.

        • Yeah, I’ve started figuring this out now! Until I read all of this I would likely have considered punching a bed to be very frightening and threatening. (And the intense whining to be pretty crazy, depending on how insistent/intense it was.) I get a pretty intense fear response any time a guy starts yelling; my instinct is to do whatever it takes to calm him down. Not sure how it is for most women, but I’d imagine most of us assume we’re going to lose a physical confrontation with a guy. So any show of anger that involves physicality is going to be pretty threatening. Helping men and women know how that can appear and what it probably really means in most cases would be a very good thing, I’d say.

  18. Sorry, but I don’t agree that this can be called rape. If you are in a relationship with someone and she agreed to have sex with you even though she was tired or whatever other reason, then it is consensual.

    Women have to take responsibility for their actions and stop playing the victim all the time. Take control of your life and stop being swayed into doing things you don’t want to.

    Have some backbone. If you don’t want to have sex with someone then just say no. Don’t go along with it and then the next day tell the guy you feel violated and he raped you. That’s just unfair to everyone involved.

    Threatening someone for sex is different, of course, but whiny or obnoxious behaviour is not the same as threatening behaviour. Maybe this seems insensitive but I’m tired of constantly seeing women being portrayed as weak, helpless beings who can’t control their circumstances.

    • I know right (to the last sentence)?
      What happened to “I am women hear me roar”?

    • “whiny or obnoxious behaviour is not the same as threatening behaviour. Maybe this seems insensitive but I’m tired of constantly seeing women being portrayed as weak, helpless beings who can’t control their circumstances.”
      I agree. I don’t feel like “wearing-down” is something women are helpless against. I certainly wouldn’t consider myself raped just because I acquiesced to whining.

      • To clarify, I’m saying this with regard to a one-time event. Not with regard to long-term psychological abuse.

    • “Maybe this seems insensitive but I’m tired of constantly seeing women being portrayed as weak, helpless beings who can’t control their circumstances.”
      Yes! Since reading this article I’ve started reading more and I’m getting really shocked at some folks who are calling “rape” things like repeated requests for sex (followed by the other person saying “yes”) or mutual fondling leading to mutually engaged-in sex after an initial “no.” If my “yes” isn’t due to physical threat or other serious threat (being fired, etc.), I expect to be taken at my word–women are perfectly capable of standing up to simple pestering. And if I’ve changed my mind about having sex and am clearly and consistently indicating that enthusiastically but non-verbally, I don’t want to be thought incapable of rationally changing my mind from that earlier “no.” And I’m perfectly capable of refraining from continued fondling and capable of saying “no” again if I’m not interested in sex. Or of leaving or asking the guy to leave if the guy keeps trying to be touchy when I’m not interested and have already said “no.” If he’s not being threatening or using force, I would like to be to be assumed capable of making my own decisions, and deciding to have sex even though the guy is being irritating about it or deciding to have sex when I initially didn’t feel like it are legitimate decisions on my part (assuming the other party still wants sex as well).

      • mary macgowan says:

        Hi again Anat,
        Yeah I get that. I’d like to be considered capable of making my own decisions. Sex is….such a big frikking deal isn’t it? My ex used to say “Men step on the gas, women step on the brakes, and that’s just the way it is.” I wish it were that simple!

  19. QuantumInc says:

    Many sex positive feminists expound the importance of enthusiastic consent. Often they defend it by noting that the enthusiasm doesn’t have to be about the sex itself, but something associated with it. However if the enthusiasm she feels in for him to stop whining and STFU that doesn’t sound so great to me. So I agree with the notion that it isn’t rape, it isn’t a crime, but it is still a very bad thing for a relationship. It’s natural for a guy to get upset, but it the only mature thing to do is masturbation. I have heard of this before in relationships, it can be pretty common, which is unfortunate. In extreme cases almost every sexual encounter is like that, causing the woman (or possibly the guy if it’s reversed, though it seems to always be the guy who complains and pressures) to see sex as a dreary, impersonal, obligation. Rape itself has a similar effect.

  20. this happened when i was a virgin. it was with a guy who i considered one of my best friends. when i actually gave in, in the moment, i don’t think considering how i fell about it even came into play. i didn’t know how to deal with it, and he hadn’t listened to all the other ‘no’s. the one thing that would get him off of the subjection, and stop whining and begging, and let me move on with my day, just happened to involve giving him whatever he wanted. he was sixteen, so was i, and he didn’t want to give up on what he wanted. he couldn’t take hearing the word ‘no’ yet. when i expressed to a friend to mine that i did feel raped, she told me i was, basically, full of shit. in this society, consent when given once is always consent. even if the consent was only to lay in a bed together– not get naked in that bed and have sex. we always assume one NO should be enough, but it isn’t. there’s a Family Guy joke that says, “Fifty ‘no’s and a ‘yes’ means yes.” because, yes, some women are afraid, or you threaten, but no one realizes that after an HOUR of begging, you get worn down. it doesn’t make ANY woman feel less raped, or less taken advantage of. i do admit that coercion is no where near as violent or painful or traumatizing as a violent sexual assault. but i felt betrayed, untrusting, sad, humiliated, disgusted, angry, worthless, pointless. if someone i had truly considered a best friend could beg and beg and never let it go and not respect what i wanted allowed happen to my own body, then what was i truly worth? this shaped me in a lot of ways. it is a form of rape, and i do not think that there should be any distinction between the types– coercion, molestation, rape. semantics doesn’t change perspective, or the emotions someone feels.

  21. Pretty much exactly this happened to me once with an ex boyfriend. The details are different, of course, but the basics were the same. He wanted to have sex, I didn’t. He went on and on and on about it (although he didn’t threaten me) until eventually I gave in and said yes…even though I still didn’t want to.

    While we were having sex I was asking myself if it was rape. Afterwards I told a friend about it and she didn’t think it was a big deal, so I thought maybe I was wrong. I didn’t feel great about it but figured I had given consent so it wasn’t rape. Reading this, and the original article, I realise that it was. I didn’t know how to feel about it at the time (this was only a few months ago) and I still don’t now. I also don’t know whether I should do something about it. Although I have no idea what that ‘something’ would be.

    • It’s not rape.

    • It’s not rape. It’s bullying and manipulation yes. But, stating it was rape reduces your agency in deciding (DECIDING) to have sex.

      Real rape victims do not get to make a decision. I agree it’s unfair and unethical and rude, but it’s definitely not rape.

      I have seen this being a prominent theme from many feminists (not that you’re making this point), that ANY coercion or “uninvited touching” to try and rev her engine should be legally considered sex assault.

      If that’s the case then my wife has sexually assaulted me several times fondling me without invitation.

      Adult functional women are not children who cannot make their will known. If you feel bad, it’s probably because you acquiesced to bullying, not because you have been raped.

      Being an adult means saying no to bullshit.

    • I agree its not rape and if it were rape you wouldn’t be confused about how to feel about it.

    • Not rape. No way, no how. Consent can’t be retroactively revoked, or almost everybody with an ex who ever consented to sex would turn into a rapist.

      This comment/post muddied the already murky waters by combining coercion and wearing down as if they’re the same thing. “Coercion” can include circumstances that would pretty indisputably be rape, like if someone threatens violence to get consent – with or without a weapon – that’s not really consent, it’s coercion. “Wearing down”, along the lines of begging, pleading, whining, persuading, etc. is not that kind of coercion. All those things can feel shitty, betray trust, be reasons not to stay in a relationship with someone, and so on, but in my opinion, they absolutely, positively, are *not* rape. Rape is more than just a word to absolve yourself of any accountability for sex you wish you hadn’t agreed to.

    • I experienced that kind of intense whining/pestering for sex from boyfriends a few times in my early 20’s. Sometimes I gave in, feeling very irritated, but I would not call it rape. I could have said no, I never felt threatened, it just became such an issue at that particular moment that I finally said “ok let’s just get this over with.”

      I have never encountered that kind of behavior from a man after my early-mid 20’s. Maybe I’ve just been fortunate but I think it was immature behavior caused by my boyfriends’ youth, lack of frustration tolerance, and overwhelming sex drive. I am sure that they did not want to hurt me or cause me any discomfort. I acted in very immature ways at times at that age too.

      Threatening someone with physical harm to get sex can definitely be rape if the person consents because they are afraid. In fact “forcible rape” is generlly defined legally as overcoming resistance through force OR fear. But I’m not talking abt those kind of threats. Whining/pestering/being angry is a kind of emotional coercion, but I don’t think it qualifies as rape, IMO.

    • mary macgowan says:

      Tori, I’m sorry you are being bullied here.
      Believe what your heart is telling you.

      • Seriously? She didn’t have the ability to say no just because he was asking a bunch of times? I don’t think women are even close to being that weak. And I don’t think it does us any favors to say we are. It felt traumatic and super crappy to her, absolutely. Her experience was bad. She is entitled to feel it was traumatic. She is entitled to call the guy a big jerk. But pestering is not rape. And as an incest survivor, yes, I think to say so massively trivializes actual rape and sexual assault. The pestering case needs a different word and certainly no legal repercussions. Acceding to pestering is NOT the same thing as lack of consent, as being forced, as being threatened.

        • mary macgowan says:

          Hi Anat, again you have a good point. I think I’m going to do some research about the definition of rape. Maybe we could call it molestation? I think it’s like manslaughter, accidentally killing someone. Davey was driving the car, he didn’t “see” her saying no, and he ran over here.

          I’m an incest survivor too. More vague than most. A brother 9 yrs older than me who took me on a motorcycle ride, I was 13 and he was 22. We went into some stores and pretended to be married, kissed and made out. Ewww, when I think it about it now, super icky. And when I was about 16, he and his wife shared a hotel room with me. We each had our own beds. They turned on soft porn, and then said good night and they had sex in the bed next to mine. Again – awful, but what would you call it? So much gray area.

          • Thanks, Mary. It does sound like there are pretty different definitions of rape going on. A comparison to manslaughter (accidental) makes sense. I don’t think a bed-puncher should be legally culpable without a past history, but I definitely think the woman in the girlfriend’s situation should be believed to have gone through a serious trauma, and the bed-puncher educated about how threatening his behavior appeared. Really, I think so much depends on exactly how frightening he appeared, how crazy he seemed to be with the intense whining, whether she was cornered or had easy access to an exit and safe location and time to get there before he could catch up to her, and especially how much he appeared to be calming down prior to her consent. Would a reasonable person have thought that making a step or two toward the door, or saying that he was making them fear for their safety, would bring on an attack, or would they feel they could test that safely? In my case with the athlete, I just don’t think he knew how frightening he was or how scared I was. And I didn’t verbalize it; I was too scared to think it through and just went by instinct. We need a new word for that situation for sure! And EDUCATION. And I wouldn’t be opposed to some sort of punishment for people who did it more than once after learning what effect it has. (Though I’m not sure how possible it is to define it adequately enough for legislation.) I think most guys just don’t understand how intimidating they can be simply by virtue of their size & strength when they are acting intense or angry. But we need to learn how it all works for them, too, and learn to verbalize that they are making us afraid they are going to hurt us if we don’t comply in these situations.

            As for the situation you described with your brother, I’d call that incest, no question. It’s incredibly traumatic having a sibling do something sexual with you, and at 22 he most CERTAINLY knew it wasn’t ok. I’d think both cases should be illegal, if they’re not already.

            My stepbrother was actually my age, which is still embarrassing for me. I was around 13 too, maybe 14. He’d molest me while I was sleeping, and I’d wake up so humiliated I couldn’t even face letting _him_ knew I knew what was going on. I’d pretend I was asleep the whole time, and didn’t tell anyone. So here’s another reason it’s incredibly important to educate kids about sexual assault: it didn’t even occur to me that he might go after my sisters, too, since they were too young to have started to develop. Of course he did.

            • mary macgowan says:

              Hi, I got nervous reading your post, just thinking about being in the position of wondering if I could tiptoe out and make it to the door, those kinds of things. Eww. And yes, education – a big sigh. I’m in an “I don’t know” stage on this whole thing!

              I’m so sorry about your repeated molestations from your brother. And isn’t it amazing how our instincts often involve protecting the molester? I mean, there you were, so humiliated that you couldn’t let your molester know that you knew. Hoo, we humans can be a sad bunch.

              • Yeah, I’m on the fence about that. I think I was meaning more something along the lines of taking a couple of steps and seeing if he’s going to stay where he is or act more threatening. But does a person really have the presence of mind to test that sort of thing if they’re feeling threatened? So much grey area.

                Well, I think anyone who’s been in these kinds of positions certainly deserves to think what they want about it! “I don’t know” is pretty freakin rational!

  22. Did you actually threaten her or just whine?

    • mary macgowan says:

      He punched the bed. That is threatening her.

      • He punched the bed and then started calming down. He didn’t punch the bed and then go after her.

        • mary macgowan says:

          Sigh. This morning I just don’t know. I truly believe that once a guy punches a bed or a wall or a whatever, then that threatening behavior isn’t invalid just because he stops that behavior.

          I know a therapist who wrote a book about relationships, and she says that each partner gets ONE punch or push or slap or whatever. One. And, this is super important, they must afterwards be contrite, seek therapy, be willing to discuss it as long as it takes for the hurt person to feel safe again, deeply safe. Interesting, yes?

          • I punch punching bags when angry, but have zero interest in hitting someone. The act itself of punching something releases a bit of anger and doesn’t have anything to do with wanting to be violent to someone. Sometimes people just lash out with frustration, could be that men are more prone to this whilst women lash out with words more? I treat someone punching a pillow as less threatening as someone directly yelling at me as to me punching a pillow is just frustration and I’d rather them take it out on a pillow vs me.

            • Sounds like this is something that would be _really_ helpful for men and women to be more knowledgeable about. I’d guess most women would see someone who was angry at them and punching a bed as being frightening and threatening–“he’s punching stuff, is he going to punch ME next?” But sounds like a lot of men grow up being advised to punch a pillow when they are mad, specifically so they _won’t_ punch a person. If more women had that dynamic in mind they would interpret the threat level differently, and if more men know how threatening it looks when a grown man does it, they could either not do it or, if they can’t stop themselves from doing it anyway, at least verbalize that they aren’t planning to punch the woman (not sure that’s a great option but better than nothing), or catch themselves and leave the area until they cool down.

              • Yep. It’s like a steam valve, think of it as going pashooooooooo and releasing pressure vs a gun being loaded.

          • Mary, I agree that it is threatening behavior. Just that if he’s punching a bed and then stops and starts sighing, it’s not imminent enough to mean the subsequent sex qualifies as rape. Additional violence seems _possible_ but without a past history, perhaps not probable. But this depends on past behavior–if bed-punching by the person in question is sometimes followed by people-punching, that’s a different matter entirely. I do agree that either way, what the guy is doing is NOT OK. I just don’t think it’s rape in the first case.

            • Mr Supertypo says:

              true Anat, I agree depends of the story of the person. But usually when people punch a pillow or wall is because they dont want to hurt other people.

              But the angry punching is not the real issue, IMO, the real issue is why he got so mad. whats the matter its just sex. It isnt like he lost 10.000 bucks. She just wasn’t in the mood because she was tired. Same thing Kan happen to me. I can also be tired, and actually it happen a few times. One night my x-x gf got all offended and went to sleep on the couch. But excuse me I had a crappy day, I am tired and broken, and I have also to get up very early in the morning, and she expect hard core sex from me? Be real lady.
              So he wasn’t getting laid that night, but maybe the day after, or maybe not all. But who cares. I know im not the smartest guy in the world, but becoming the incredible Hulk, just because a girl say no, to me its just crazy. But its good that he at last figure it out.

  23. Did you apologize and did relationship survive?

    This is a first. The issue comes between marrieds consistently, and can undermine trust. If sex cannot be discussed, and resolved, it should not happen. Some folks never understand.

    Count yourself blessed.

  24. Chris Anthony says:

    As f’d up the circumstance may be we should not consider this “rape” it’s coersion and it’s giving in to pressure and it’s got something to do with less willpower and a keep trying attitude but rape is taking it forcefully. Rape is even that last stroke after they say stop but this isn’t rape. Also insinuating that it IS rape is an extremist point of view. You MAY (as in maybe but not definitely) be a scumbag, but a rapist you are not (as in DEFINITELY not). However you can choose to define yourself however you please. But don’t try and lump everyone who’s been persistent or tried really hard to get sex in the right way by convincing another person through physically non-violent means as a rapist. There are other more accurate words to describe this without using the shock value and pain and suffering associated with ACTUAL rape. SMH good sir(or maybe good maa’m posting as a good sir).

    • I’d say the real issue is that she was afraid he was going to hurt her if she refused: “she’d felt scared by my anger, and worried I’d hurt her if she didn’t say yes.” The “wearing down” is beside the point. We can’t know how angry or threatening he appeared to be. She was afraid he would hurt her if he refused, and that to me makes the situation very borderline.

    • I’d say the real issue is that she was afraid he was going to hurt her if she refused: “she’d felt scared by my anger, and worried I’d hurt her if she didn’t say yes.” The “wearing down” is beside the point. We can’t know how angry or threatening he appeared to be. She was afraid he would hurt her if he refused, and that to me makes the situation very borderline. I doubt it was prosecutable (or should have been), but at the same time it sounds like _her_ experience was that she did not really have a reasonable option to say no.

      • Hi Anat,

        I may have never touched her, but I did pound the bed between us in frustration a few times. Again, pretty much like a petulant child throwing a temper tantrum might. I… can’t say that I would have found it threatening myself, but I also recognize that that’s coming from a place of A.) male privilege and B.) I’m a big, muscular guy. She wasn’t. The dynamics are completely different.

        I wrestle with some of the memories to this day and it’s been five years. But my own personal doubts aren’t enough to deligitimize how she feels. She felt threatened and acted thusly, and has every right to feel how she does and did.

        • My personal opinion is that if you weren’t intending to be physically intimidating, and weren’t aware that you were appearing to be physically intimidating, then your level of culpability was pretty low, even though she may have experienced it as something traumatic and/or where she didn’t have a lot of choice because she wasn’t sure she could safely leave the apartment. (We need better language for this sort of situation!) Your behavior sounds like could have seemed bizarre to her, and coupled with the fist-pounding I’m sure I would have felt concerned for my safety if I were in her shoes.

          Hmm. I imagine quite a number of us, both male and female, have engaged in sexual acts that were borderline here, and maybe we should just acknowledge that it wasn’t a good thing and decide not to repeat the behavior, but not be completely wracked with guilt about it. I slept with a guy for the first time once when he was rather intoxicated and I wasn’t. Very long time ago and I didn’t know at the time that could qualify as rape. (I’m not too versed on how degrees of intoxication factor in here.) I think he’d be justified in thinking what I did was not ok. Another example–early my first year of college and I was really phenomenally inexperienced, things got a lot further with an extremely large and muscular athlete than I had expected, and I was pinned, unable to move, with him asking over and over to have sex even though neither of us had any sort of birth control with us. I felt very threatened and did stuff I wouldn’t have otherwise (and hadn’t done before) simply to get out of there without being hurt. But I have no idea whether he would actually have hurt me, and didn’t and don’t consider him to have raped me even though the whole thing was pretty traumatic on my end.

          Anyway, yeah, I think these sorts of situations need some new ways of thinking that acknowledge the problem experienced by the one person while not demonizing the other, and at the same time pointing out what that the problematic behavior was and noting why it can be seen as threatening or otherwise highly problematic and what effect it can have in a sexual context.

          • I should maybe also point out that in the situation with the athlete, although it was difficult, I don’t really feel victimized, either–in a way, I felt brave that I got myself out of there without getting physically hurt or having unprotected intercourse. Mentally I’ve tended to resist the feeling of being victimized–I’m not a fan of the trains of thought that seem to me to add more ideas of victimization than need to be there. The word people are using is agency, I think–in that situation and the one I describe below where I was heavily intoxicated, holding onto my own sense of agency in the situation is highly valuable to me and not something I’m willing to relinquish.

          • mary macgowan says:

            Anat, I can’t even read beyond your first sentence. Are you really saying that abuse only happens when the man is intentionally abusive?
            Did you know that if a man is angry and waves his arms around in the air – and if the woman tries to shush him and he accidentally hits her while her hands is reached out – did you know that is considered domestic abuse? It is, in Michigan.
            And do you think that every man who punches a woman in the face plans it ahead of time? They all say that it wasn’t intentional, they didn’t mean to hurt her, she made him mad and the next thing he knew he was punching her.
            If Davey punched the bed – wow – seriously, that is not violence?

            • Punching someone isn’t legal regardless of intent, yes. It actually causes bodily harm regardless.
              Making someone afraid that bodily harm might occur? I think intent matters there. It sounds like he’d calmed down a bit before she said yes, wasn’t still punching the bed. Doesn’t threat usually need to be imminent? I think the guy deserves censure, but not being labeled a rapist. I don’t think the situation meets the standard of of an imminent threat. OTOH, I think the gal reasonably felt as if she’d been raped. It’s hard to say for sure since I don’t know to what extent she was cornered or how much time had passed between the bed-punching and the subsequent passive-aggressive huffs and sighs. If they both were in the bedroom and he was between her and the exit, and he wasn’t seeming to have calmed down, it’s back to being borderline in my mind. Still, it’s hard to know whether the average reasonable person in her situation would have thought they could ask or attempt to leave without probability of harm. He had repeatedly refrained from touching her when she said no, showing at least some indication that he wasn’t going to without her consent. (Iffy, I agree.) I guess I just don’t think it rises above him being a huge jerk and her acting out of self-preservation instinct when she didn’t know whether he was intending to hurt her if she continued to refuse or left. He had not made a verbal threat. He was abiding by her “no” other than to keep asking. He was scary, true. But he wasn’t planning to hurt or force her or explicitly threaten her. And he didn’t hurt or force or explicitly threaten her.

              • mary macgowan says:

                Anat, you have some good points. I’m sorry I was so impatient with you previously. It’s such a complex issue, isn’t it? No easy answers. I still think there’s a degree of vulnerability for women that happens when they are in pj’s or a nightgown, under the covers and suddenly being harassed. Does that vulnerability allow her to call it rape? I don’t know.

                Someone in my life once convinced me to go to a hotel room with him, he convinced me to say okay to having hookers come to the hotel room to have girl-on-girl sex. The agreement was that we would just watch, not touch. This guy, who never drinks, plied me with alcohol, and then when the hookers arrived, one of them whispered in his ear “Do you want us to engage her?” and he said yes. (I found this part out later) So I did so much crap with these hookers I just hated it, and I kept saying No in my head but it felt unreal, surreal, and it was 3 against 1 and I felt powerless and drunk. As soon as the hookers left, this guy kept saying, all night, I’m sorry, I’m so sorry, I’m sorry. I cried and cried. What can I say? In my mind I was saying No, but I was not physically or vocally refusing to do it in the moment. So was that rape? I say it was. I still wish I had charged him with rape. But it would have been so embarrassing in court, so I didn’t.

                • mary macgowan says:

                  I want to follow up my last comment with this information. The guy and I were in a long term relationship and there was a high level of trust assumed after years being together. He worked on me for at least a year to even say Yes to the whole hooker thing. I’m a strong woman. I should have kept saying No. I should have left the relationship. So many “shoulds.”

                  • Also, I really have _no words_ for that man you were with. Well, I do but I can’t even begin to say them here!!! I am so incredibly sorry you had to go through that. That man deserves to rot.

                  • And in that situation _your_ ability to say no or leave was highly compromised. He’d engaged in some horrid long-term manipulation.

                    • mary macgowan says:

                      Hi, thanks. I can’t believe I even wrote about it, and I thank you very much for your empathetic response. Makes me feel like crying, as if I haven’t cried enough about it over the years. Yes to the long-term manipulation, a sad case in a relationship that I shoulda gotten out of years earlier.

                • I think part of the reason you and I have had a difference of opinion here hinges on the difference between a first-time incident and one where there’s been long-term manipulation or mental or physical abuse prior. I was assuming the former in all my comments, and I think your basis was the latter; there’s a huge difference there, I would say, and I’d lean _much_ more toward your interpretation in a number cases given a prior abusive history in the relationship. If Davey had physically abused his girlfriend before the point he describes, I’d be far more likely to label the incident as rape, because she would have had VERY good reason to think she wouldn’t get out of there otherwise without being hurt, and he would have been aware of that as well.

                  With the guy you are talking about–he knew you didn’t want to do it and he made sure you got trashed so you wouldn’t object. You’d specifically talked about what you’d do and wouldn’t do. I’d label that rape for sure. Wearing you down about just watching the hookers was mentally abusive, for sure. I don’t know a ton about long-term mental and physical abuse, but I know its awful and it adds a very interpretation about whether the victim is able to make a real choice in sexual situations.

                  In my own alcohol-related incident, the guy in question probably didn’t have a good sense beforehand that I didn’t intend to sleep with him ever, so that makes a difference to me in my interpretation of my own case. The backstory (parts I haven’t detailed) is pretty complicated and affects my interpretation as well. I don’t want to give the impression that I think that in most cases where someone sleeps with someone who is super drunk that it’s not rape. If you’re drunk to the point of incapacitation and the other person isn’t, and there isn’t enough of a prior understanding that you think it’s ok for the person to have sex with you, I think it’s usually rape. Not in my particular case, though I think it skates close to it, and I have both male and female friends who think I should consider it rape.

                  Anyway, “pestering” in a longer-term mentally or physically abusive relationship throws a lot of new angles into the situation that make a big difference for interpretation.

                  • mary macgowan says:

                    Anat, yes, I agree. I’m really glad we are more in alignment. What a relief!

                    However, for Davey’s case, it seems like his relationship with the female “victim” was not new, right? We are all getting so far onto other tracks, I might need to go re-read Davey’s original post! At any rate, it seems to me that the 2 of them had established a certain level of trust. So, yeah, there is a huge difference between a first-time sex experience, or a one-night stand. In Davey’s case, it was a fairly long term relationship. On the other hand, he had not worn her down or pestered her for months – all that awful stuff I allowed to happen to me. So I don’t know, that’s where I am right now, I just don’t know.

                    I still think that women find themselves in a vulnerable position when they take of their everyday clothes and put on a nightie and get under the covers. In a different way than men do. It seems like a ridiculously sexist thing to say – at first glance. But what if it is true? If I am right, which who knows maybe I am, if I am right, then how do we be strong woman roaring away when we are tucked into bed with someone we love?

                    A lot of “if’s” in my comment!

                    Cheers, Anat – Mary

                    • I’m relieved too. It’s _great_ to talk it out and understand where we’re coming from and how that’s influencing our assumptions better! Thank you so much.

                      I’m guessing that she was afraid, but that instinctively (not consciously) she was weighing potential risk of refusing against “well, I’ve slept with him a number of times before and doing it again even though I don’t feel like it isn’t dangerous.” When you’re afraid you probably just do what seems safest without having time to think it through carefully.

                      It sounds like long-term manipulation/mental abuse can just happen so slowly and incrementally that you don’t have a way of understanding what’s happening to you until there’s a real crisis or intervention or something else huge that helps you understand what’s really going on and realize you do have the ability to change it.

                      I agree we can be quite vulnerable in bed! Well, any partner who is smaller or less physically strong than the other, not necessarily a woman. (I’d pictured the girlfriend clothed, standing, and not in bed. If they were already in bed, yeah, that ratchets up the threat level considerably. Either way I still probably wouldn’t call it rape, but it would be a more serious situation than I’d already thought it was.) I don’t think the larger/stronger partner usually even remotely understands how intimidating their size and strength can be if they’re acting angry or irrational. And I think that, unlike the vehicular manslaughter analogy, they may not have had any chance to learn that their behavior can lead to us doing things out of fear that we wouldn’t have otherwise, that it can make us too afraid, in the moment, to even verbalize it. Whereas people know if they are reckless with their car, bad things can result. So anyway, the larger partner needs to be educated about that effect, and the smaller needs to be educated that you really need to SAY that they are scaring us. So that they at least have that chance to understand the effect of their actions is making us act out of fear rather than choice. Once they realize that, it’s pretty clear what’s ok and what’s not.

  25. I’ve dated a few women who I know have rape fantasies and like the Louis CK joke I never “went for it”. Pressuring a women into sex? Maybe your girl just isn’t very attracted to you or her sex drive is null. I can see how this is an issue with people but so is the flip side of the coin were the access to sex is used as coercion in very painful and unhealthy relationships. People are a mess.

    • I can help thinking this ban on speaking freely of dark and natural sexual urges is a uniquely American trait, much like our insane preoccupation with secondhand smoke–no, you won’t get cancer from the guy puffing his Camel 50 yards away–and our inability to enjoy food without feeling shame. RE the rape fantasy: a Colombian friend sees them as perfectly normal and frequent among her friends and wonders why we can’t just accept them as part and parcel of the human experience. Uptight Americans we are.

  26. Richard Aubrey says:

    Don’t excuse yourself by using “we”. As in “we” need to know better.
    “We” already do.

Speak Your Mind