It’s A Human Problem

In discussions about sexuality, rape, violence, intimacy Julie Gillis knows one thing for certain: We have to talk about them differently.

Today on GMP, a writer, Girl Writes What has a piece up about the lines between sex and rape. It’s a contentious issues and the comments show a very interesting divide of views. Twitter is in on it, with many angry tweets about the piece and the site.

I myself have written several pieces for the GMP on the lines between sex and rape, sexual violence stats, and really communicating about sexuality. Really.

I want to state for the record, I am a feminist. I believe that the way most Americans are brought up to manage their sexual relationships is messed up. We have issues with sex in this country. I also believe that men can be and are assaulted and that the entire landscape around sex needs a major revamp.

Our attitudes about sex in this country are like oil and water — We love it! We use it for much of our advertising, PR and sales. We glorify sex, sexuality and hotness in our media, magazines, clothing lines and more. We have more online porn than one could ever watch! We want better sex in our marriages, we have scads of sex toys online stores! We teach men how to be better pick up artists!

We hate it! We teach abstinence only education in many states (states with extremely high rates of teen pregnancies!), we have wild political fights about contraception, religious freedoms and what women do or don’t have the right to with their bodies! We have bad sex, and no sex in our marriages! We cheat and feel guilty! We tell girls not to be sluts!

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Here’s the thing and I’ve said this before.  The stakes around sex are waaaaaay too high, and also? They aren’t high enough.

There are issues of entitlement, amazing justification for individuals getting what they want at the expense of others, massive need (apparently) for alcohol as a lubricant to get people doing what they supposedly want to be doing but can’t get to do with out some kind of intoxicant + social codes (I’ll buy you a drink = I want to have sex with you?) which can inevitably add up to sexual acts that one or more participants regret.

Intent is important and it isn’t always evident. Consent should be evident and there ain’t nothing wrong with continually learning how to ask, in sexy ways, if consent is still there.  Men and women both (and in all the combinations gay/straight/bi etc) should perhaps learn early in life that sex is wonderful, pleasurable and there is an ethic involved. That bodies are good things and saying no is OK. That saying yes is OK too, so long as everyone is on the same page.

Your pleasure doesn’t take precedence over my safety and vice versa. But also, if I have a bad night of sex? If I regret it? That’s on me, too, as an active agent in my own sexual life.

Why aren’t these things being taught? (rhetorical, of course)

Or things like this:  Be kind. Listen. When in doubt, slow the hell down. You can always have another orgasm, so ask if you aren’t sure your partner is into it.

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I don’t have the answers, but I do see a bigger problem than feminism or masculism, a bigger problem than “keep your legs closed” or “be a PUA,” a bigger problem than people drinking to loosen up and whose fault is it due to drink.

We’ve got real issues with sex and intimacy and violence in this country.

Can we have a conversation about it without it turning into blaming or shaming? Conservative viewpoints or liberal ones? Or are we gonna keep spinning our wheels, creating poles of victims and perps, not identifying ways to really eradicate rape and sexual assault for both men and women, and coming to a point where human beings recognize that perhaps the problem isn’t sex as an action.

It’s that human beings, all of us, have an unfortunate tendency to want things like connection and intimacy, but we often act in ways that are less than ethical and justify our behaviors in all sorts of ways to avoid ostracism, disconnection and more.

All this? It’s a human problem. And the only way to solve any of it is to treat each other better than human. And to stand down from our poles and try to focus on humane solutions to human problems.

We need to completely revamp our relationship with sexuality, with humanity, violence, intimacy and equity in this country and I’ll be damned if I know how to make that happen. But I’m surely going to try.

photo: artotemsco / flickr

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About Julie Gillis

Julie Gillis is a coach, writer, and producer focused on social justice, sex, and spirituality. She is dedicated to sexual freedom and education, equality for the LGBTQ community, and ending sexual violence. Julie intuitively helps people live their fullest lives, navigating terrain from relationships to sex education. She writes at The Austin Chronicle, Good Vibes Magazine, Flurtsite and JulieGillis.com. Connect with her on Facebook and Twitter@JulesAboutTown

Comments

  1. I love how your writing always has a smooth, calm zen in-the-zone feel.
    A fine read Julie

    • Julie Gillis says:

      Thanks James, I appreciate that. I really want all of us to be able to figure this stuff out. Together, hopefully

  2. Thank you for writing this piece, Julie…and acknowledging all the different viewpoints! It is such a difficult topic to discuss out in the open….Thank you for keeping this forum safe for everyone to speak out…

  3. Thanks for this article, and I agree whole heartedly. The emphasis should be on communication, caring and on stopping the mixed messages regarding sex that society tells people.

  4. I agree with everything you’ve said here.

  5. Amen to that. Communication is a necessity in life, similar to air.

  6. Ma’am, I think you are the wisest writer on this site. Keep it up.

  7. Julie Gillis says:

    Thanks all, don’t know how wise I am, but I do appreciate the kind words. ;)

  8. I have very very serious concerns about the post you mentioned. I can’t even bring myself to comment on it. Or read it all the way through.

    Yes – we need new dialogue. We need to change our landscape around sex. In so many ways.

    One significant issue is this: we like to pretend rape and sexual violence happens in one of two ways: 1) stranger danger and 2) whoops we got to drunk and now I feel bad about it.

    Rape, overwhelmingly, for both women AND men, does not happen like that. Yes, those thing happen, absolutely, but they do not define how rape and sexual violence is experienced. They don’t explain the MAJORITY of rape and sexual violence. Full stop.

    When we simplify them to these two types, we cause massive problems and do a shitton of victim blaming (e.g. for #1: don’t wear this/go there/do that or you’re asking for it – ladies only of course, and for #2, as the GirlsWrites does so nicely, why didn’t you speak up, why can’t you watch your drinking and know what you want you silly girl (because, again, girls only) you’re just asking for it).

    We have the WRONG conversations around rape when we pretend these are the MAIN ways in which it occurs. First, we just re-instate rape as something that men do to women only. Second, we grossly ignore psychological responses to rape and sexual violence – and we pretend we live in a society that isn’t this one. Third, again – the victim blaming, and placing all impetus on *women* to avoid doing something they shouldn’t – things that men can still do no prob (because, again men raping women thing also). But, most importantly, we pretend rape is either a dude in the bushes and a chick walking home in a short skirt at 1am, or the *slutty* sorority girl that drinks too much and has next-day regret. And it, overwhelmingly, does not occur in those situations. It doesn’t. Ask some rape victims you know (and you know more than you think you do). Ignoring the real ways rape and sexual assault happens puts us backwards in solving anything. Period. And then all the other things, too.

    Ugh.

    • Oh, and ps I don’t understand when people get irritated with wanting enthusiastic consent. What’s wrong with encouraging all people to actually ask for and get a “YES!!!” response to sex? Why is that a problem, exactly?

      Again – another area that we need to re-evaluate and change: making communication and honesty something integral to sexual relationships, not something we avoid.

      • John Sctoll says:

        I will tell you why I have a problem with so called enthusiastic consent , this one word

        “LAW”

        The law says that someone is innocent until proven guilty, if we make enthusiastic consent the basis for sexual assault/rape laws, then we throw out innocent until proven guilty. The burden of proof now is on the accused to prove he had enthusiastic consent. IMHO, this is wrong.

        • Why don’t we just put more emphasis on EVERYONE getting enthusiastic consent? I mean, as a general rule of thumb for having sex?

          Yes – dream world, whatever, I know. But Miss GirlWrites is living in a dreamworld on her post too. And, pretending that MOST rape, or rapists who are *actually* prosecuted just didn’t get consent is ridic. It’s a straw man to avoid talking about how real rape happens.

          And, again – it’s right along that gender binary of “man has sex w/woman who didn’t really want it”. If you want to talk about men and women and sexual violence and how it all actually goes down, this explanation needs to hang out on a back burner somewhere. And no, doing that won’t *actually* result in more men being falsely accused. NO.

  9. PursuitAce says:

    So you’re talking about the rapist you know. Which is supposed to be roughly 1 in 16 males. So what do we do about those guys?
    I had a better post, but it got blown up. Sorry for the violent language.

  10. “massive need (apparently) for alcohol as a lubricant to get people doing what they supposedly want to be doing but can’t get to do with out some kind of intoxicant + social codes”
    Please don’t shame people (women or men) for having trouble with socializing. Getting someone drunk so that they will have sex with you is absolutely not okay, and unless the person who was drunk still feels okay about it when they become sober, IT IS RAPE, but the problem is not that some people have trouble finding sex partners, it’s that they then decide that the solution to their problem is to force or coerce someone into having sex with them.

    • John Sctoll says:

      @Anon: Your post is kinda confusing to me. Are you saying that if a person is drunk and has sex and doesn’t feel bad about it the next day, it wasn’t rape, but if they do feel bad about it then it is rape.

      Is that what you are saying.

      • PursuitAce says:

        I think that’s how it works. My question would be if the woman was on top during the sex, and regretted the next day, would that count as rape?

        • Julie Gillis says:

          See, I am not trying to discount your comment but that seems silly to me. Filing rape charges and setting into motion legal issues, dynamics etc is really hard work, uncomfortable, expensive, time consuming and not fun. It’s like saying that having an abortion is good birth control.

          Most women, and I understand that I’m generalizing here, don’t want to experience rape, press rape charges, be seen as a rape victim any more than they wake up, take a pregnancy test and say “Oh goody! I get to have my uterus scraped out!!!”

          I acknowledge the existence of sociopathic/BPD human beings who enjoy narcissistic attentions and making life miserable for people. I believe they are rare, though powerful in their impact.

          I’ve had a few xperiences in my life where I woke up and went…oh bloody hell, that was dumb, what was I thinking! And I regretted the night, but it was clearly me setting myself up, not someone setting me up for a bad time.

          Much like we don’t want people considering all men potential rapists, I don’t think all women are potential accusers.

          I do think we’d cut down on bad sex, regretted sex, and really unfortunate sex if we taught people that sex is perfectly good (non shamed) and increased our ability to communicate about it. I think we’d cut down on rape if both men and women were taught to look out for themselves and each other.

          If a person was set up (manipulated, forced, roofied, etc etc and so forth and so on in a manner that was focused on taking something from that unwilling person? They should absolutely press charges.

          Feeling bad about sex (or drinking) doesn’t mean a crime was committed or pretty much 95% of young Americans would be guilty, instead of the smaller amount who truly act as predators.

          In the case that a person had sex, felt such shame about it that they had to turn it into an assault scenario to take the cognitive dissonance off themselves (guilt due to parental pressure, peer pressure, religious pressure)…well, that’s some shit right there. The shit is that that person felt so fucked up about fucking, they had to create a fantasy to protect themselves from mental anguish and I hate the system that did that to them.

          And it would be DAMN unfair and cruel of them to blame a consensual partner. I believe that’s rare, but that doesn’t mean I think it should happen.

          Things are messed up. You’ll get no argument from me. What you won’t get though is snarky (assuming it’s snark, anyway) comments like your’s PA, because I don’t think that actually solves anything.

  11. John Sctoll says:

    @Julie:

    “I acknowledge the existence of sociopathic/BPD human beings who enjoy narcissistic attentions and making life miserable for people. I believe they are rare, though powerful in their impact”

    Actually according to the most female friendly stats, they aren’t ‘rare’ at all.

    The most female friendly stats that I have seen indicate a false report (not mistaken id, or a mistake but a deliberate lie) are between 8 – 10% and I am sorry to say but 8 – 10% of something is not rare by any stretch of the imagination.

    • Julie Gillis says:

      8 percent of all reported rape cases? Do you have a link immediately available? If not, I’ll look, but if you have it I’d appreciate seeing it.

      • JustAMan says:

        Julie, I see that you didn’t receive an answer to your question. It is a good question and deserves a response.

        There are two reputable studies that both came to the 8% conclusion. U.S. FBI study published in 1998 and a U.K. Home Office (equivalent of the U.S. DOJ) study published in 2007. Note that both of these studies were done under female-friendly governments (Clinton Administration and Labor Govt. respectively).

        Dr. David Lisak at UMass Boston, one of the leading authorities on acquaintance rape, and one of the few studying the perpetrators, believes the FBI and UK Home Office statistics may be slightly overstated and has been quoted (most recently in a lengthy AP article that appeared in the Boston Globe, among other papers in the spring of 2012) as believing the most accurate false-rape-allegation number to be about 6%.

        Hope this helps.

  12. Amen, Julie! I agree…people of all genders and orientations and cultural backgrounds need to talk with each other and figure out how we can improve the situation for everyone. I also agree 100% that the US has a very love/hate/pathological view of sex and it is poison for both men and women. One of the most interesting things for me about living and working in various cultures is that it has opened my eyes to the stark fact that “it does NOT have to be this way!”. People and cultures can and do have a more healthy view and practice of sexuality that nurtures instead of fractures. The good news is that we can change the conversation and hopefully the larger culture, but it will take a lot of people coming together rather than factions splitting apart.

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