Attn: Sleeping Means No

A response by Amelia Harnish to a controversial post about rape.

Reprinted with permission from The Miniskirt

In case you missed it, a web-site-formerly-in-our-good-graces known as The Good Men Project published this piece called “Nice Guys Commit Rape, Too”, which also ran on XoJane.com, by Alyssa Royse.

Royse argues that rapists are rarely of the back-alley variety (Yup, good point!) and tells the story of how a male friend of hers, who’s a nice guy, really, penetrated a mutual female friend while she was sleeping and that this was without a doubt rape. (Yes, exactly!) But then it all falls apart when Royse contends this guy is only an accidental rapist, and that it’s not his fault but society’s fault that he didn’t know a sleeping woman, by definition, cannot consent to sex.

As many other high-profile bloggers and writers have already pointed out, this is an example of one of the most sinister rape myths, which is that rapists commit their crimes not because they’re truly predators but because they’re just confused about what consent means. In fact, research shows that rapists and abusers on the whole really do know what they’re doing, and they use rape culture—society’s willingness to blame the victim and believe that the rapist just thought she wanted it—to keep getting away with rape.

While I actually appreciate Royse’s commentary about the inexcusable messages we send about sex to young people—for example, that being aggressive is a justifiable way to go about getting sex and if a girl says no she really means yes—the rapist she’s trying to use as an example here is someone who started having sex with a sleeping person. Period.

This is why feminists say rape is about control. It’s not just about the violent, predatory need for control that we associate with back alley rapists, rape is also about the victim’s lack of control. And that’s the kind of thing we do need to talk about (even though feminists have been explaining this forever) because we need people to understand that rape is rape whether your rapist is a violent stranger or a seemingly “nice guy” who thinks acting upon you in your sleep is a-okay.

Royse’s attempt at analysis of this issue is this:

To a large degree, my friend thought he was doing what was expected. And while he was wrong, weeks of flirting, provocative dancing and intimate innuendo led him to believe that sex was the logical conclusion of their social intercourse. Many people watching it unfold would have thought that, too.

Of course they would all be wrong. But if something walks like a fuck and talks like fuck, at what point are we supposed to understand that it’s not a fuck? Our binary language of “yes means yes” and “no means no” doesn’t address the entire spectrum of both spoken language and body language, which mean different things to different people.

I would love for “no means no” to work, but it doesn’t.

I mean what in the actual f*ck, you guys. In what universe does sleeping count as body language at all, much less body language that says, “put your penis in my vagina”?

“No means No” and “Yes means Yes” does work, but only when the person saying “No” or “Yes” actually gets a chance to say it. Sex means there are two active, consenting participants. If I were a man, I would be disgusted and offended by the assertion that men aren’t smart enough to figure out that sleeping means at best, “maybe later, but definitely not right now.”

If Royse and The Good Men Project really wanted to encourage dialogue about why rape happens and actually do something about stopping it, if they really thought men were confused about this specific thing, they should have just posted a PSA on their site. Something like, in case you didn’t get the memo, Good Men out there: Sleeping means No. Sleeping means wake her up and ask. If she’s laying there with her eyes closed, that means tap her on the shoulder and ask, “Wanna have sex?” And if she says no, she means no. If she says yes, by all means, proceed. Instead, they chose to continue the pattern of dismissal, minimization and myth that allows rape to continue. Way to be good, GMP.

Ps–In case you need a reminder that FACT: Most men are not rapists, and many men do want to help us stop it, go check out Men Can Stop Rape.

 –
image by TobyOtter / Flickr

NOW TRENDING ON GMP TV

Super Villain or Not, Parenting Paranoia Ensues
The Garbage Man Explains Happiness
How To Not Suck At Dating

Premium Membership, The Good Men Project

About Amelia Harnish

Amelia Harnish is a writer and co-founder of The Miniskirt, a zine to empower survivors of rape and abuse. She lives in Brooklyn, NY. You can also find her on Twitter and read more of her thoughts at Ameelz.Wordpress.com

The Miniskirt: http://miniskirtcollective.tumblr.com/
On twitter: https://twitter.com/amelia_faith
And at wordpress: http://ameelz.wordpress.com/

Comments

  1. If Royse and The Good Men Project really wanted to encourage dialogue about why rape happens and actually do something about stopping it, if they really thought men were confused about this specific thing, they should have just posted a PSA on their site. Something like, in case you didn’t get the memo, Good Men out there: Sleeping means No. Sleeping means wake her up and ask. If she’s laying there with her eyes closed, that means tap her on the shoulder and ask, “Wanna have sex?” And if she says no, she means no. If she says yes, by all means, proceed. Instead, they chose to continue the pattern of dismissal, minimization and myth that allows rape to continue. Way to be good, GMP.
    So instead of having a discussion just throw out a statement and shut out any possibility of talking things out? Isn’t the tossing out of statements while stifling discussion a part of how we are in this mess now?

    • we don’t need to ruminate or “talk out” whether or not sleeping means no. Men are better than that. Good men already know if she’s sleeping, it means no. I know because I love and care about so many men, and I talk to them about this. I just mean if GMP REALLY felt like that was something that needed to be said, presenting it as a blurry line that can move depending on the situation is not the way to go about it. All it does is make it seem okay to rapists. In their minds, they read it as “SEE, what i did was okay because I was confused.” As I said, I appreciated Royse’s commentary about messages we send about sex to young people. But her example didn’t go with that commentary.

      • Let me say thanks for taking the time to disagree in some way other than just screaming across the net the GMP supports rape and hates women.

        Now I wonder.


        All it does is make it seem okay to rapists. In their minds, they read it as “SEE, what i did was okay because I was confused.”

        What makes you so sure that is how everyone read those posts?

        I appreciate you that you want to send a message but sounds like you are trying to speak for the way rapists are thinking and thus already know what they will and will not be responsive to.

        • honestly, you’re right i’m not sure how rapists think exactly, or why they do what they do. If I could sit down with my rapist without having an absolute freakout, i’d probably ask him. What i do know from my own experience and from conversations and friendships i have with survivors on a regular basis is that very often, way too often, rapists don’t get reprimanded at all. And I’m not just talking about the criminal justice system getting involved because that hardly ever happens. They don’t even feel the social stigma that should come along with doing something wrong. You know who feels that instead, who feels like they did something wrong? The victim. Is it because rapists really don’t know that it’s wrong? No, it’s not, or at least I have a very hard time believing that because I know so many men who DO KNOW that it’s wrong to penetrate a sleeping women. Also, it’s probably why my rapist told me not to tell anyone about it after he committed his crime. It’s because that’s how our culture works unfortunately. We blame the victim. And it’s wrong. And stopping it does not require a long conversation about when it is okay or when it isn’t okay to penetrate a sleeping woman. It requires standing up and saying, it is never okay to penetrate or otherwise molest a sleeping woman. Full stop. End of story.

          I don’t know if that will really get through to rapists for sure, but I wholeheartedly believe it is worth a try. The waffling and the muddying of messages is certainly not helping. That’s all I’m saying.


          • Is it because rapists really don’t know that it’s wrong? No, it’s not, or at least I have a very hard time believing that because I know so many men who DO KNOW that it’s wrong to penetrate a sleeping women.

            But does that mean that no rapist could possibly be redeemed? The fact that the committed such a crime cements them in that position for all eternity and that’s all they will ever be? They did something horrible so there is no chance they can see what they did was wrong?


            And stopping it does not require a long conversation about when it is okay or when it isn’t okay to penetrate a sleeping woman. It requires standing up and saying, it is never okay to penetrate or otherwise molest a sleeping woman. Full stop. End of story.

            Not to sound to blunt but given that such crimes are still happening that doesn’t sound like the story has ended does it?


            I don’t know if that will really get through to rapists for sure, but I wholeheartedly believe it is worth a try. The waffling and the muddying of messages is certainly not helping. That’s all I’m saying.

            Then we’ll just have to disagree. It’s pretty clear that the hardline messages and “Full Stop” moments aren’t working. So I think other things must be tried as well.

            • do you disagree with the statement: “it is wrong to penetrate or molest a sleeping woman”? I think we can all agree that raping a sleeping woman is in fact wrong. even royse conceded that.

              The story “hasn’t ended” as you put it because we continue to tell men and women, subtly and not so subtly, that rape is okay sometimes in certain circumstances, like if you can get away with saying you were “confused”. rape is not okay, ever. full stop. the lack of the full stop is in fact part of the problem. if we adopted a zero-tolerance policy perhaps we could prevent men from becoming rapists. we haven’t tried that yet.

              Is there hope for redemption for rapists? I think that’s another essay, another conversation. I don’t know the answer to that.

            • I would say the story haven’t ended because the crime still happens and I think it’s going to take more than just shouting lingo and phrases and declaring full stop to actually stop it from happening.

              do you disagree with the statement: “it is wrong to penetrate or molest a sleeping woman”? I think we can all agree that raping a sleeping woman is in fact wrong. even royse conceded that.
              Between you, myself, and most people reading this yes. But apparently someone isn’t agreeing because this crime is still happening.

              ….like if you can get away with saying you were “confused”. rape is not okay, ever. full stop.
              Who said anything about letting them get away with it?

              if we adopted a zero-tolerance policy perhaps we could prevent men from becoming rapists. we haven’t tried that yet.
              Real quick, what do you mean by zero tolerance?

              Is there hope for redemption for rapists? I think that’s another essay, another conversation. I don’t know the answer to that.
              I don’t think it’s as distant as you may imply.

              If there are some rapists that can be redeemed it’s a question of what would it take to redeem them.

            • Sigh. So what else can we do then? What do you suggest? Continue to send mixed messages or speak clearly about what is and isn’t rape and what is and isn’t acceptable? I suggest the latter. I’m not spouting meaningless lingo. I’m not saying we shouldn’t talk about it. I’m saying we should be clear.

              Rapists get away with rape daily, if not hourly. Please educate yourself on the context of this issue. Please.

              By zero tolerance I mean communicating clearly what is acceptable and what isn’t (penetrating a sleeping woman=not acceptable; open, honest conversation and active consent=acceptable), and punishing the people who do not follow the rules. In this context I mean holding rapists accountable for their actions via the way we talk about rape. I am not talking specifically about criminal justice, i believe that is a much bigger issue, although it is related.

              Again, I refuse to talk to you about rapists’ redemption. It is a totally different question than the subject of my post, which is only a response to what Royse wrote from the perspective of a survivor.

            • The reason the crime is still happening (in the case in question, penetrating a sleeping person), it’s because the penetrator wants to penetrate and, where I differed from Alyssa, knew that what he was doing was taking something without explicit permission. I got in a huge argument with Marcus about it I think, about how if I didn’t know a person and they left their wallet on their chair and the check came and the person had offered to pay, that it would be a huge breach of boundaries for me to reach over, open their wallet and pay just because they’d offered. Even if I knew them well, it would be a huge breach unless they said, get my card out of my wallet.

              I’ll offer that there are dynamics of impulse control (but then the impulse is questionable), and the influence of alcohol or drugs in some cases, but sleeping/unconscious partners aren’t really responsive so the pleasure is clearly one way (about the penetrator/person doing the assault).

              Ultimately that’s what sticks it for me. Because if I’m interested in a mutual experience with you, I should probably wake you up so you can enjoy it. Just using you for my own release without your participation? It shows a callous erasure of the other person at best and yes, assault at the other end.

            • I can agree with that Julie. What I’m trying to get at is if the phrases and full stop declarations aren’t working then what is so wrong about trying to get some sort of conversation going, even if it doesn’t solve the crime once and for all?

            • I got in a huge argument with Marcus about it I think, about how if I didn’t know a person and they left their wallet on their chair and the check came and the person had offered to pay, that it would be a huge breach of boundaries for me to reach over, open their wallet and pay just because they’d offered.

              Yes, Julie, we disagreed about a wallet hypothetical I presented (after you had raised a wallet example), but your brief paraphrase here is a gross misrepresentation of my hypothetical and the position I took. I actually presented two scenarios, one in which a person had no good reason to think they were being treated to dinner and essentially stole the wallet of someone they didn’t know well, and a second in which a couple were no longer strangers, and after several dates and being on a date where one person said they were treating the other to dinner the whole time, then got their wallet out and went to the bathroom while waiting for the check, the other person went ahead and settled the check with it while they were gone. It’s long enough I won’t re-paste the whole thing, but for other readers, please read the original hypothetical and my commentary on it, to see if it sounds to you like what Julie and I disagreed about was me saying it was totally fine to just take the wallet of someone you don’t know.

              The point of the dual-scenario hypothetical was that while some degree of wrong was committed in both scenarios, I consider it absurd to assign the same level of violation and culpability to both cases, as if both scenarios constitute willful theft of property. As an analogy to rape, the point is that there *is* such a thing as thinking you have consent when you don’t, so you can sexually violate someone by accident, which I consider still bad, but a lesser offense and less damning to a person’s moral character than straight-out, know-what-you’re-doing rape. Feministe published an example of a woman doing that exact thing around the same time as the GMP article, and she mostly got defended or excused. It’s unclear – and always has been – whether the woman in that story resembled the guy in Royse’s story as far as what he knew and when, because Royse’s account only establishes that he didn’t later dispute that the woman had been sleeping (like the woman in the Feministe story), and leaves out the pertinent detail of whether he realized it at the time. In subsequent comments, she also said that a roomful of other (presumably also drunk and high) people saw it all happen, which suggests to me that either it’s possible the victim’s sleep state and lack of consent was not as unambiguous as it keeps being asserted, or a roomful of men *and women* had no problem letting a woman get raped in her sleep despite it being obvious to all that it was a rape in progress.

            • It requires standing up and saying, it is never okay to penetrate or otherwise molest a sleeping woman. Full stop. End of story.

              …unless the story includes explicit, unambiguous, not-just-guessing, ethusiastic consent beforehand, like a partner in a trusted relationship who says, “I’m okay with you initiating or even having sex with me while I’m asleep.” I don’t think it’s a common thing, but the problem with “full stop end of story” declarations is that they seem to exclude exceptions involving fully consenting adults. It’s like saying spanking is never okay. Full stop. End of story. Well, yeah, when what you’re picturing is spanking some stranger or even someone you know against their will, but for people who are into that and set safe, clear boundaries about how much is okay to engage in, I don’t think the absolutist shut-up-I-win position works.

              I haven’t seen anyone argue that it’s cool to penetrate a sleeping woman when it’s obvious she’s asleep, and there’s no consent whatsoever, just an inability to say no because she’s asleep. You don’t have to add full stops and end the story to win that argument, because everyone is already agreeing. However, Royse’s account lacks enough detail to determine whether that’s what happened, or if there really could have been some misunderstanding. Either way, a violation occurred that can’t be taken back, but when it comes to morally judging the guy, I think those details make a difference. In the least favorable interpretation, the guy committed whatever the rape equivalent of first degree murder would be. In the most favorable interpretation, it was more like the rape equivalent of manslaughter. The latter doesn’t exonerate him or remove responsibility, but I don’t think it’s the same. Unfortunately, the common refrain in some circles is that “rape is rape” and there are no distinctions between one kind and another. I think such rhetoric actually works *against* the cause of rape prevention, because when advocates get to the point of characterizing “whining until she says yes” as no different from raping a stranger at knife point, the people they’re trying to reach are prone to stop listening.

              I’m not exagerrating about the whining is rape argument. I’ve seen it in GMP comments more than once, leading to ephiphanies of women “realizing” they were raped when until now, they thought their yes’s had meant yes, just like the men they said yes to. It reaches an absurd point where even “yes” means “no”, and it’s hard to think of any sex that doesn’t count as rape, since the criteria becomes not consent at the time, but how the woman feels and thinks about it forever after, possessing the ability to revoke consent retroactively (“hey, come to think of it, being asked repeatedly was annoying!”) and change consensual sex into rape. In that kind of “advocacy”, the criteria for rape becomes so broad and inclusive that truly, all men are rapists. (Women, too, but that part usually gets left out.)

            • “I’m not exagerrating about the whining is rape argument. I’ve seen it in GMP comments more than once, leading to ephiphanies of women “realizing” they were raped when until now, they thought their yes’s had meant yes, just like the men they said yes to. It reaches an absurd point where even “yes” means “no”, and it’s hard to think of any sex that doesn’t count as rape, since the criteria becomes not consent at the time, but how the woman feels and thinks about it forever after, possessing the ability to revoke consent retroactively (“hey, come to think of it, being asked repeatedly was annoying!”) and change consensual sex into rape. In that kind of “advocacy”, the criteria for rape becomes so broad and inclusive that truly, all men are rapists. (Women, too, but that part usually gets left out.)”

              Yeah that’s pretty bad when it gets that far. Nagging is rape?

            • No, Archy. Nagging isn’t rape, but I totally understand why women (or men in gay relationships, or women in lesbian relationships) would tire of being nagged for sex and view past sex, given after being nagged/whined/pushed for etc, as less than consensual.

              Not how a court of law would see it, but giving in to a chore or a demand, thus really spoiling the experience and the memory of past sex, given not with desire, but out of a sense of shutting the guy/girl up. Just as I’d see how a man in a relationship where the woman wanted to, I don’t know…cuddle all the time, or demands/presses for back rubs could feel really tired of being asked for something he doesn’t want to do.

              What I don’t understand is why anyone would accept sex that was nagged for (knowing the partner really wasn’t into it) or accept a cuddle or back rub from someone who really didn’t want to be doing it. That’s what seems exceptionally icky to me…I don’t want touch or emotional support that is begrudgingly given.

              I can easily imagine what it must feel like to offer my body over, meeting the law/definition of consent, and feeling if not violated, then used, just to get that person to be quiet and leave me alone. Like, what on earth could that person be getting out of the sex if we both aren’t present and into it? If that’s the place the relationship is in, that’s a huge red flag.

              I suspect that the dynamic Marcus is so exercised about is due to women hitting a point where that kind of exchange just is so extraordinarily unsatisfying (and they have more and more cultural power to say no) that the pendulum of “what consent is” has swung far. Makes me wonder how much sex in the past (men getting sex from women) was really consensual and desired between couples, and how much was the wifely duty, and really unwanted. And if the husbands cared much. Or if they talked about it at all. I imagine that ranges all over the map. I do remember my mother telling me that I’d be doing it a lot more than I wanted to though, that men liked it more, that there would be distasteful things they’d want me to do, etc…which makes me believe she saw it as a chore. And perhaps my father never even knew she felt that way? How very, very sad for both of them.

              I don’t believe many young modern women are willing to do that anymore, nor should their partners want them to. And if you wake up one day and realize that you had an entire relationship where you weren’t having sex because you really wanted to, but because your partner was nagging you (or being emotional weird with you about), I can understand why the sex in retrospect seems less than consensual. I imagine those women feel really sad and angry about a part of their relationship that didn’t seem even or fair. It’s possible that the men in those relationships feel bad about other dynamics as well.

              It isn’t rape, nagging, and if years have gone by of course nothing could go to trial anyway. A man getting angry and hitting things may well feel like coercion (and it may well BE coercion), or the woman might use sex to calm him down which would stop the nagging and anger, but that’s not her desiring him. That’s him having a tantrum like a child and using physical size to intimidate and then getting what he wants without her really being invested in the sex. That’s questionable in terms of consent, and certainly emotionally abusive.

              I suspect this happens in all combinations of genders.

              For me the real question is still, why would that person be satisfied with sex gotten through coercion, whining, nagging, pushing…why would a person be satisfied with physical or emotional exchange in which the other person really didn’t want it but was doing it to sate the other’s irritation.

            • “I don’t want touch or emotional support that is begrudgingly given.”
              No offense meant here but if you’re a woman, and following common stereotypes, a woman who has let’s say level 60 sex drive and a partner with level 80, would you’re sex drive be completely fulfilled? If it is then you may not understand the lack of fulfilment the level 80 feels if you only have sex at a level 65 level. Basically you’re getting more than you want, he’s not getting enough and so even begrudgingly given could be better than nothing. I commonly see desperation for sex more in men where they’d be happy with any consenting sex vs none, this disparity in sex drives may lead to more men nagging and women less likely to understand why.

              “I do remember my mother telling me that I’d be doing it a lot more than I wanted to though, that men liked it more, that there would be distasteful things they’d want me to do, etc…which makes me believe she saw it as a chore. And perhaps my father never even knew she felt that way? How very, very sad for both of them.”
              Sad indeed, mismatched sex drives are a big problem.

              “I can understand why the sex in retrospect seems less than consensual. I imagine those women feel really sad and angry about a part of their relationship that didn’t seem even or fair. It’s possible that the men in those relationships feel bad about other dynamics as well.”
              On the flipside the lack of intimacy for the man would also feel like she was withholding, maybe feel like she didn’t love him as much, basically both would suffer because he’s not getting enough intimacy for his needs and she’s gone past her needs and is now in the level where it’s too much to the point it’s also not what she wants, at best it’s a chore, at worst it’s violating. So the women can feel violated, the men also feel they’ve been sold a bad deal in marriage or relationships where they may feel she gets all the sex n intimacy she wants but he’s left starving. Her needs are met and surpassed, his are not.

              His options are to suffer without his needs fulfilled, try various ways to increase her sex drive via being more romantic maybe, discussing it with her, or even nagging her for sex and in extreme cases maybe rape, or the other options are prostitution, findign another partner or just having both (cheating), masturbation and probably porn.

              “why would a person be satisfied with physical or emotional exchange in which the other person really didn’t want it but was doing it to sate the other’s irritation.”
              Major starvation of a desire? It can probably make people extremely selfish and not even realize how bad it is for her (in this case). Some will feel it’s better to have some than none. I personally would rather just find someone else if I couldn’t make it work, and it’s one of the big fears I have of marriage in marrying someone who later withdraws the level of sex (though of course I understand when health, stress etc mess with things).

              All of this of course can happen to every type of relationship, both genders in both roles, gay, straight, etc. Mismatched libidos is a hugggeeee problem and is one of my biggest fears, just as mismatched romance? and other stuff where someone wants more than the other. I consider nagging for sex as harassment and bad, nagging itself is harassment and it pisses me off whatever they’re nagging for.

            • In the above I also included emotional support (intimacy outside sex). As in, my needs for processing and talk are an 80 and my mate’s is more like a 50 so I don’t make him listen to me when it’s clear he doesn’t want to participate. Because it would be rude to use him like that. So yeah, I do get it. Also I’ve been the one with higher libido in several relationships so I get that too. And whining and demanding was never the answer. His body was his body and I had no “right” to make him give me things.

              Nor would I want to engage in some kind of begrudged trade…you listen to me for 30 minutes and I’ll do you for 30 minutes. Ugh.

              I wouldn’t say my mother and father had mismatched sex drives, I have no idea if she even knew what desire was, the way she talked about it. What I was trying to express is that she held a cultural attitude that I, as a woman, was probably gonna have to do things I didn’t want to do because the man wanted it (he’s your husband! do your duty) and that’s how it was. Which is not an attitude women are accepting anymore. Nor should men be satisfied with sex that’s part of a duty…

            • For me the real question is still, why would that person be satisfied with sex gotten through coercion, whining, nagging, pushing…why would a person be satisfied with physical or emotional exchange in which the other person really didn’t want it but was doing it to sate the other’s irritation.
              Because they think that that is how sex is supposed to go (transactional model)?

              Because they think that such sex is the only sex that they are able to have (as in “I am so undesirable that this is my only option for sex.”)

            • That may be true. And I suspect there are more and more partners deciding that no, that isn’t the way it is supposed to go and saying no, thus the nagging. It’s a bad model.

          • John Anderson says:

            @ Amelia

            I’m sorry you had to go through what you went through. I disagree that rapists are not stigmatized. They are that’s why your rapist told you not to tell anyone. The reason you think they’re not stigmatized is because many times the victim is not believed. You don’t stigmatize someone you think is innocent and it could result in people actively defending them. That’s what you see.

            I think a large part of the “stigma” that rape victims feel is that the people don’t know how to act around them. People sometimes have that reaction to the disabled. Can I say this or can I even look at them. It doesn’t mean people don’t have empathy for the disabled. They actually sometimes just have unwarranted concern. People over compensate to not be assholes that it may come off as condescension.

          • John Anderson says:

            “but I wholeheartedly believe it is worth a try. The waffling and the muddying of messages is certainly not helping.”

            The ironic thing is that I believe that was one of the problems mentioned in the discussion some people didn’t want us to have. There are some women who feel they have to put up resistance to sex they want so they won’t be considered sluts. It confuses guys because they don’t know when no means no. We also discussed how the signals could mean maybe or maybe later, but men interpret them as yes.

            Doing away with slut shaming should help solve the first problem. I don’t know how to equitably solve the second. Women shouldn’t be rushed into making a decision and yet need to be clear on the fact that they’re still deciding, but that should be part of the conversation.

  2. In what world would you need to have a discussion about that particular situation she just described…?

    • In a world where people are still obviously getting it wrong.

    • John Anderson says:

      There wasn’t enough detail in the interaction. People were asking questions like where the couple already naked. How intoxicated was he. Could he recognize that she was asleep. If the answer to these questions are no, not very, and yes then it was no question rape because consent was not acquired. If the answers were yes, not very, and yes then the issue might be one of revocation of consent. I still think sleeping means automatic revocation of consent, but others may disagree and think that revocation requires action, that revocation of consent can’t be passive. If the answer is yes, very and no then many would question whether it was rape.

  3. I think it’s sort of ironic that all of these bloggers from around the blogosphere are saying “GMP is bad. They’re rape apologists. This is how rape actually happens. If the GMP wanted to start a conversation about how rape happens they should do X and Y.” The whole time, they fail to realize that they’re participating in a conversation about how rape happens.
    Sometimes, a conversation is started by presenting some reprehensible people and ideas.

    Well done, GMP. Glad to be a commenter/contributor/reader.

    • Thanks for pointing that out Christian.

      It seems like people are in such a mad rush to pass judgement that they don’t even notice that stuff. Makes me wonder if they are in it for change or for popularity points or something.

  4. Doing something wrong does not necessarily mean confusion about knowing whether or not the act is wrong. In fact the evidence is pretty clear on the fact that rape is a very deliberate act that one rarely trips onto. And explaining why something is wrong is a discussion in of itself. That’s a wrong thing to do, here’s why. Boom, there’s a discussion that enlightens.

    • Thank you Ed. I’ve been reading this website for a little while and am often appalled by some of the misogynist comments that are allowed. I don’t know how GMP actually defines what a good man is (I’m sure it is definitely not one who thinks it is okay to have sex with a sleeping woman) but I am very happy to have come across your logic and good sense as I was beginning to wonder if there actually were any good men ready this site.

    • John Anderson says:

      One problem with that thinking is that it assumes that everyone has the same level of education / baseline experiences and learns in the same way. I used to be surprised when I encountered someone in their 20s who couldn’t write a letter. Then we hear about the number of people who drop out of school. I went on a support call once to find out why a user couldn’t log in. I got to her desk and she tells me I keep clicking and all it says is what’s this. I told her to use the left mouse button. She asked how was I supposed to know that. That happened about 7 years ago in an office environment.

      It’s dangerous to assume that everyone has basic skills. It borders on elitism and is sometimes condescending, which doesn’t really motivate people to learn.

      • Mostly_123 says:

        @ John Anderson

        “One problem with that thinking is that it assumes that everyone has the same level of education / baseline experiences and learns in the same way…”

        A very important point here, (not just for this discussion, but for life) often overlooked, seldom articulated. Thanks.

  5. You’re being too kind in your assessment of Royse’s commentary. He’s using bullshit to control the discussion, a kind of passive-aggressive “discourse rape”, if you will. It doesn’t matter if it’s having sex or drawing a mustache with a sharpie, or going through their emails or computer files or any number of things. what sort of person doesn’t understand, that it’s not acceptable to do anything to, or with, a sleeping person? Other than tuck them in and make sure they’re in a safe place or circumstance? The only people that might get a pass at not understanding this could be the legitimately developmentally disabled or the clinically insane, There’s no defense for Royse’s defense of the actions of a presumably sane man of normal intelligence and basic cognitive skills.

    • It’s about respecting that person as a person so you don’t mess with them or allow them to be messed with.

    • Royse is a female? Unless I am missing something?

    • “You’re being too kind in your assessment of Royse’s commentary. He’s”

      Royse is female. Why assume otherwise, I wonder?

      “using bullshit to control the discussion, a kind of passive-aggressive “discourse rape”, if you will. It doesn’t matter if it’s having sex or drawing a mustache with a sharpie, or going through their emails or computer files or any number of things. what sort of person doesn’t understand, that it’s not acceptable to do anything to, or with, a sleeping person? Other than tuck them in and make sure they’re in a safe place or circumstance? The only people that might get a pass at not understanding this could be the legitimately developmentally disabled or the clinically insane, There’s no defense for Royse’s defense of the actions of a presumably sane man of normal intelligence and basic cognitive skills.”

      Funny – I know plenty of people who think drawing on people while asleep or rifling through their things is acceptable – and I don’t think they’re developmentally disabled or mad. And yet this can be admitted without accusations of victim blaming or needlessly blurring the lines, so why not with this topic?

      I get that it’s an emotive subject, but not responding to a topic in precisely the same way as a group of people say is required does not mean that the respondent is Part Of The Problem.

      • Sorry for the nest of comments, mods – to clarify, I don’t think boundary violations of the kind mentioned above are acceptable – my point was to show that confusion on those boundaries exist too. Not being able to personally comprehend that doesn’t mean you get to accuse people who can of being an obstacle to progress in dealing with those boundary issues.

  6. Tom Matlack says:

    Thank you for engaging Amelia. And thank you to Christian for seeing the point of what we are doing.

  7. I am going to ask this question yet again because NO ONE has answered it. Did the rapist actually know she was asleep??? The story said she was asleep, but didn’t say if he knew she was at the time of penetration. There was heavy use of alcohol n drugs, and a mention of falling asleep naked together. It’s rape either way but there is the chance he was under the impression she was awake, which makes the entire issue quite different from a predator to someone who has done a terrible thing without intending to.

    I’ve seen many many people simply assume he knew she was asleep and write big long comments on how entitled he felt to taking her, where are they reading he knew she was asleep? Are we meant to guess he knew she was asleep because atm there are 2 possibilities at play here, one is a predator, the other is someone who’s fucked up real bad but I wouldn’t call a predator. To me a predator would have to know she was asleep before engaging in the penetration. I am angry that the situation happened, I feel terrible for the victim, but I am still curious as to whether he actually knew. I hate what he did either way, it’s wrong, horrible, but I’ll be more sickened if he knew she was asleep. The only way to misunderstand consent that I can see would be her state of consciousness being misunderstood. There’s the chance that he didn’t realize having sex with unconscious people was bad, but is anyone really that clueless these days? I doubt it.

  8. As many other high-profile bloggers and writers have already pointed out, this is an example of one of the most sinister rape myths, which is that rapists commit their crimes not because they’re truly predators but because they’re just confused about what consent means. In fact, research shows that rapists and abusers on the whole really do know what they’re doing, and they use rape culture—society’s willingness to blame the victim and believe that the rapist just thought she wanted it—to keep getting away with rape.”

    Does this mean some are actually clueless or unaware what they are doing is rape? If so then what exactly is the myth? That it’s common to misunderstand consent? If more than 1 person has mistaken consent then the myth cannot be that rapists never mistake consent.

    “This is why feminists say rape is about control. It’s not just about the violent, predatory need for control that we associate with back alley rapists, rape is also about the victim’s lack of control. And that’s the kind of thing we do need to talk about (even though feminists have been explaining this forever) because we need people to understand that rape is rape whether your rapist is a violent stranger or a seemingly “nice guy” who thinks acting upon you in your sleep is a-okay.”
    I coulda swore I saw feminists saying a woman wasn’t a rapist because she believed her partner who was asleep, was actually consenting. Are all feminists talking about this?

    The only confusions I could ever see happening for consent would be someone sleep-walking/sleep-acting? and someone thinking it was a sign they are conscious and they start sex, this is still rape. The other would probably be someone blackout drunk who isn’t visibly more drunk than the other person so they appear to both be consenting to the same level, not sure though if this is considered rape. If you know they are unconscious then I can’t see how anyone can mistake consent then.

    As a side note (probably unrelated to the story but hopefully experts in the field are reading this this) I am still asking this question to get more responses:
    If 2 people are equally drunk, stumbling drunk, are they able to legally consent to have sex with each other if they both are initiating sex?

    “Ps–In case you need a reminder that FACT: Most men are not rapists, and many men do want to help us stop it, go check out Men Can Stop Rape.”
    It’s been 1 or 2 years since stats proved women were perpetrating a shitload of rape against men, yet I haven’t seen the women can stop rape campaign, or any campaign started by women telling other women to stop raping men (or other women). Are women as a collective just lazy or something or do they really not give a shit about abusing the other gender? I see plenty of men pledging against violence against women yet pretty much zero of that type of pledging n campaigning in reverse even though there is significant levels of abuse in both directions. What gives? One could argue women as a whole are contributing to rape culture by the sheer lack of willingness to talk about a hidden epidemic of abuse? I see a supermegaultra disproportionate discussion of rape framed as female victim, male perp, yet very little of the reverse. Why is that?

    • John Anderson says:

      @ Archy

      “Does this mean some are actually clueless or unaware what they are doing is rape?”

      My position has always been that there could be a rape without a rapist. In which case, something like this is possible. The more popular perception is that there has to be a rapist if there is a rape. Unfortunately that eliminates grey area so either she’s lying or he’s lying. If a person had no criminal intent, which includes the negligent standard, then under that standard there was no rape. In other words if everything is black and white, he was either a rapist and knew or should have known or he wasn’t and didn’t know.

  9. wellokaythen says:

    Unless, in some rare cases, the woman has explicitly (explicitly!) communicated beforehand that it is okay while she is sleeping. No, I’ve never encountered that before, but it’s theoretically possible. It wouldn’t be rape in that particular case, but otherwise treat sleep as an inability to express consent one way or another. Someone who physically can’t say no cannot consent to saying yes.

  10. wellokaythen says:

    Put it a different way: this is fucking someone who’s unconscious. Why is fucking someone who’s sleeping any different from doing it to someone who’s passed out or in a coma or dead?

    • I can’t quite put my finger on it, but I’m guessing whatever that difference is, it’s also why we don’t put people in a hospital or coffin every time they fall asleep.

      More seriously, though, I think consciousness is a spectrum where the boundaries aren’t always as clear as those between full awake and dead. In the Royse story, much of the commentary has likened sleep to being in a coma, leaving out more ambiguous states like sleep-walkers, sleep-talkers, or blacked out, which has the appearance of being conscious, but the lack of memory afterward makes it seem as though it was as unconscious as being asleep. Since “black-out drunk” is something you only know you were after the fact, I’d say failure to recognize someone is black-out drunk when they say yes is rather different from failing to recognize they’re dead. I’m not saying that’s what happened in Royse’s account, but there’s a lot of ambiguity (as written) about where on the spectrum of consciousness the victim was, and where her assailant believed her to be at the time.

      • Are there challenges you can give a person when drunk to ensure they are coherent and aren’t blackout? Eg would blackout mean they won’t remember something you say 30 seconds before? So a challenge could be to rattle off a few words or a maths problem and then get the answer a minute later to ensure they are actively storing memories? The idea of blackout drunk sounds pretty scary if it’s hard to notice, how can someone be sure their partner isn’t black-out drunk?

      • Mostly_123 says:

        It comes down to the fact that consent can’t really be granted ex post facto. All the talk about ‘signals’ in Alyssa’s original article seems like blue smoke and mirrors- she wrote: “My friend and this woman fell asleep together. And by all accounts, when she woke up, he was penetrating her.” Not a lot of grey area there: that sounds like a very clear cut example of a rape. So it seems almost absurd or patronizing that in the same article the writer should say “A rapist is just a person who may genuinely not realize that what he’s doing is rape.” There seems to be an incongruity in context here – Is it suggesting men, as a gender, are so clueless? There were no missed signals or verbal miscommunications there – indeed, there was no communication at all: He penetrated an unconscious person. This was not a question of ‘crossed signals’ or gender roles, or power in a relationship – this was an issue of not exercising any due diligence, when exercising due diligence was a moral imperative. Consent is required, it’s not asked as a favor. And it protects the person seeking consent, as well as the person granting consent. The point has probably been made before, and in fewer words, but I just wanted to throw in my take.

        • …she wrote: “My friend and this woman fell asleep together. And by all accounts, when she woke up, he was penetrating her.” Not a lot of grey area there: that sounds like a very clear cut example of a rape

          Thank you for quoting the part that leads you to believe Alyssa’s friend knew she was asleep when he penetrated her, because that is exactly the gray area I have raised several times now, without any of the “He knew!” crowd addressing it head on. If the guy knew she was asleep, then I agree, there’s no gray about whether it was intentional rape. What I’m disputing is that “By all accounts…” or any other part of Alyssa’s story is sufficient basis to conclude he knew, and I don’t have to resort to fanciful hypotheticals to explain why.

          If you haven’t already, please take a look at the Feministe story, published around the same time as Alyssa’s piece at GMP, called Is it rape if you don’t mean for it to be rape? In that story, there’s no drinking or drugging, and the people involved were a couple, but\ what happened was a woman thought her boyfriend was signaling for sex (using gestures he’d used before) so she began to have sex with him, only to find out he had been sleeping because he woke up, pushed her off, and felt violated. She did not dispute whether he was really sleeping as he said. So, by the account of the person who did the violating, the victim had been asleep at the time of the violation. And yet, that admission and acknowledgement after it happened did not mean that she knew it at the time she violated him.

          That’s why there’s gray area. Not because a person can knowingly penetrate a sleeping person and maybe it’s not rape, but because a person can be mistaken about whether the person is conscious enough to consent at the time, and later on, when it’s too late to undo the mistake, still be someone who acknowledges the victim’s sleep state, and therefore has an account that agrees with that fact.

          Furthermore, the violated person in the Feministe story, though asleep, was an example of how some people are not motionless, comatose lumps while they sleep, so while they may not send intentional signals, they’re capable of moving or vocalizing (even talking) in ways that others could mistake for conscious communication, even to the extent of thinking it’s consent or an invitation to sex. Anyone who bases their argument about this case on an assertion that sleeping people can’t send any “signals” at all faces a difficult task of first demonstrating that sleep-talking, sleep-walking, and blackout behavior (doing/saying things that are forgotten after sobering up) are all just urban legend, because all are examples of sleeping or less-than-fully-conscious people who can deliver “crossed signals” that a comatose or dead person can’t.

          Please, don’t mistake this point as an argument that Alyssa’s friend didn’t know, or probably didn’t know what he was doing when he did it. Instead, see it for what it is, which is saying that Alyssa’s account did not contain enough detail to conclude one way or the other. I don’t think this detail was a malicious omission, and I don’t even think she necessarily knew or considered it relevant, but there weren’t many people who had a hard time believing the woman in the Feministe story that she sincerely (and reasonably) mistook a sleeping person for an awake, consenting person, but there seem to be an awful lot of people ruling out that possibility for Alyssa’s friend, and the only reason I can see that makes him so different is he was a man, so people assume the worst.

          I don’t know if you’re quoting or paraphrasing about Alyssa saying, “A rapist is just a person who may genuinely not realize what he’s doing is rape,” but I don’t think that was her message. If she wrote those exact words, then I think it was poor phrasing, and at odds with the rest of her piece. I think a better summation would be, “A person can rape someone without genuinely realizing what they’re doing.” The differences are subtle, but important, IMO. First, it allows that rape can happen without being intentional. As impossible as that seems to be for some to believe, it seems blatantly obvious to me, just as I believe that someone can *kill* someone without it being intentional. We don’t have words for degrees of rape like we do for degrees of murder and manslaughter, but rape is not a magical crime in which every time there’s a victim, there must have been a perpetrator who committed the act with full intention and premeditation. The second difference in my phrasing is that the person doing the violating doesn’t get a gendered pronoun. The Feministe woman appears to be a perfect real-world example, while Alyssa’s friend may or may not fit the description, but we don’t have enough detail to know.

          The point of splitting these hairs isn’t to excuse or defend rapists, it’s to raise the alarm for all those “good” people out there reading this, who are so sure and feel safe that they would never rape because they know rape is wrong, that — Holy Shit! Even people like that can end up raping! It’s a message that refuses the easy way out of othering rapists by making them obvious monsters, that we all know we aren’t like. It’s saying it’s great to know and believe with all your heart that rape is wrong, but maybe you need even clearer signs and should check in for consent more than you ever thought you needed to, just to be safe. Maybe some guy who read it will some day find himself waking up spooning with some girl he was making out with before they “fell asleep” (i.e., passed out), and instead of thinking that her snuggling closer with a contented sigh is a green light to penetrate, he’ll have enough presence of mind to think, “Man, I’d sure hate to rape her by accident,” and instead of penetrating, give her a nice tap on the shoulder and ask, “Hey, you awake?” and seek consent before making his next move.

          • Mostly_123 says:

            “I don’t know if you’re quoting or paraphrasing about Alyssa saying, “A rapist is just a person who may genuinely not realize what he’s doing is rape,” but I don’t think that was her message.” – -that was a shortened paraphrase of the longer quote, but it should have had as you pointed out – the ‘the’ not an ‘a’ and yes, it loses something without the longer context.

          • Mostly_123 says:

            “The point of splitting these hairs isn’t to excuse or defend rapists, it’s to raise the alarm for all those “good” people out there reading this, who are so sure and feel safe that they would never rape because they know rape is wrong, that — Holy Shit! Even people like that can end up raping! It’s a message that refuses the easy way out of othering rapists by making them obvious monsters, that we all know we aren’t like. It’s saying it’s great to know and believe with all your heart that rape is wrong, but maybe you need even clearer signs and should check in for consent more than you ever thought you needed to, just to be safe.”

            This is a very valid point, about ‘othering’ people to separate them from ourselves, but I would also be concerned with ‘saming’ people too much as potential rapists; the idea that we’re all just one beer and one missed signal away from being this type of criminal, so watch out next time you see someone with a beer at a party. If one can justify a fear of something, one can justify a hatred of something – and broader, generalized fears and hatreds of races, classes and genders, historically, have caused more problems than they have circumvented. That’s getting a bit off topic – forgive me if I am too being to presumptive or if I am in error here; I believe your point was that individuals should be more internally reflective on their actions (and their potential impact on others) and not externally fearful.

            • Yes to the internally reflective part. Regarding the fear, I’m not sure I understand what you think “saming” leads to, but I don’t see how it follows that if you’re on guard about yourself, it makes you more fearful of others. It seems to me that the “othering” approach already makes one more suspicious of others, as famously described in “Schrodinger’s Rapist”. As for fears of races, classes, genders, etc., those also tend to be “othering” types of fears of people who are unlike you in any of those categories, as opposed to, “I am a white, middle-class man, therefore I should be most afraid of other white, middle-class men.” I would think of inward-facing “saming” as prudence (meaning to be extra careful with decisions and actions), while the outward-facing variety is empathy.

              Thanks for coming back to engage my replies.

            • Mostly_123 says:

              Trying to wrap my head around many ideas- This is a quote from one of the comments from another article discussing the GMP rape controversy  ( http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/political-animal-a/2012_12/news_flash_good_men_do_not_com041961.php ) that probably better illustrates my concerns about too much ‘sameness': “…asserting that only evil people rape, that otherwise normal well-intentioned men don’t rape, is unfortunately contributing to the problem, not the solution. Rapists are not, for the most part, exotic. They’re people we all know. Every one of us knows, and likely is related to, a rapist. That’s the reality. If you find it more comfortable to imagine that all rapists are people you’d never imagine as a good person, then you’re deluding yourself.” — this was a quote from Ellis, but it illustrates an attitude that gives me pause – one of the consequences of this logic (IMHO) is that, taken to its conclusion, it implies that it’s alright to discriminate and fear in a wholesale manner, because, chances are, the ‘good’ people (or especially the ‘good people’) are the rapists: even the ‘normal well-intentioned men’ are still bound to rape too. This type of reductionist thinking leads to broader justifications: The idea that in the end, there are no good people, no ‘good men’ or if there are, they are so few and far between that one can certainly be excused for lumping them in with all the other bad ones, because there are so, so many of those. That’s what I have trouble with. It’s hard for me to articulate it, but in my thinking, the (abhorrent) actions of a subset cannot be substituted as the normative actions of the broader whole: they’re just not interchangeable. I am always wary of rhetorical catch-alls and easy shortcuts to a path of discrimination. And I (speaking from an urban 21st century North American perspective) do not accept that most men are rapists, or even  potential rapists. But no, those particular concerns I’ve mentioned don’t detract from the validity of the original point of being more internally reflective, more cautious of one’s own actions, because, yes, even good people do bad things. And one can’t automatically assume that we ourselves, as individuals, have some special inborn immunity to fallibility or abhorrent behavior- beyond the guidance of our own conscience and intellect.       

            • I either disagree, or don’t understand, because it seems to me like you take a more black/white position about people being either good or bad, and argue that such a position is less reductionist and less likely to lead to discrimination based on the normative actions of a subset of people. I think the reverse is true, that such black/white thinking makes us *more* likely to discriminate (from labeling people one or the other), and more likely to engage in abhorrent behavior due to overconfidence that we don’t have to monitor our own behavior because we’re already in the “good” column.

        • I looked up the quote in question in Royse’s original piece. In the portion you misquoted, she wrote:

          …More often than not, rape happens amongst people who know each other, and the rapist is not someone carrying a villainous cloak and look of ill intent. The rapist is just a person who may genuinely not realize that what he’s doing is rape.

          My friend, for instance, was genuinely unsure, which was why he called me…

          So, first of all, you changed the article from definite to indefinite – “the” to “a”. Second you removed the context that showed it flowing from the previous statement, which means the quoted sentence is meant to apply to rape between people who know each other when the offender does not intend to rape, and then to a statement about her friend, of whom she believed it to be true. Several people, including you, I’m guessing, don’t accept that such a thing is possible – accidental rape – but even if you don’t, you changed the quote just enough to make it sound like Royce was saying something about all rapists, when her original wording and context make clear she wasn’t.

          About one of your other points…I agree consent can’t be granted after the fact if it wasn’t there to begin with. Do you agree consent can’t be rescinded after the fact, either? (I don’t mean a change of mind while it’s going on, which still must be respected; I’m talking about consent that was freely given from beginning to end of a sex act, but later regretted.)

          • Mostly_123 says:

            “About one of your other points…I agree consent can’t be granted after the fact if it wasn’t there to begin with. Do you agree consent can’t be rescinded after the fact, either? (I don’t mean a change of mind while it’s going on, which still must be respected; I’m talking about consent that was freely given from beginning to end of a sex act, but later regretted.)”
            My initial instinct would be that ‘no, consent cannot be rescinded after the fact’ (I assume, of course, this is based on consent that was given by a person of sound mind and body, in a situation devoid of forceable mental or physical coercion, etc). I’m sure that I’m missing something, but my gut instinct is that a case of morning-after regrets cannot entitle a person to rescind consent ex post facto. I’m no lawyer, and I’m not too imaginative right now, but I have a hard time thinking of other civil circumstances where one party simply has power to rescind consent at will. Moral and ethical concerns aside, in the broader societal sense, if contracts and consent are not binding at some point, how can law arbitrate?

            • My initial instinct would be that ‘no, consent cannot be rescinded after the fact’ (I assume, of course, this is based on consent that was given by a person of sound mind and body, in a situation devoid of forceable mental or physical coercion, etc)

              I’m assuming the same thing, which is why I added “freely given” just to be clear. Coerced consent wouldn’t be real consent, just like “agreeing” to hand over your wallet at gunpoint is not a donation.

              It looks like we agree that after the fact, consent can neither be added when it wasn’t there at the time, nor rescinded when it was. Quite often, there’s no ambiguity about whether that consent existed and when, but as much as I’d like it to always be unambiguous, I don’t think it is, and that’s where we have gray areas. One common point of contention, for example, is how intoxicated can a person be before they’re incapable of consent? There’s not much disagreement about being passed out drunk being consent (it’s not), but I’ve seen people argue that *any* alcohol makes real consent impossible, as though the only time women consome any alcohol and end up having sex is when a rapist plied her with alcohol to make her more vulnerable. (Men’s culpability only seems to increase with their level of intoxication, however.) I find gray area, then, in when it’s okay to believe a consenting person – man or woman – after they’ve consumed alcohol. If they’re at half the legal limit (for driving) or less, is it still okay? I think so. What if they hold their alcohol so well you can’t tell they’re more than buzzed? “Blackout drunk” doesn’t mean passed out, so what do we make of people who appear to be making decisions freely, but later can’t remember them? Should every person be regarded as a blackout drunk after the first drink, since it’s hard to know if they might have that tendency? If a man and woman are equally impaired, past the point where you think any consent is valid, then is the penetrator automatically more responsible for what happens than the enveloper? If a drunk driver later regrets having gotten behind the wheel, they still drove, right? Why is drunk consent different, and for bonus points, why is it only different for women?

              The answers to these questions are hotly disputed in the gender blogosphere (and in “meatspace”), but you can see, I hope, why differing answers will cast different lights on the common ground we share about ex post facto consent. If you take the position (I’m saying “if”, not asserting) that the slightest amount of intoxication renders consent impossible and/or void even if it appears to be freely given, then you’ll probably feel like sex under such circumstances was not consensual, so nothing after the fact can change that. On the other side, I take the position that impaired judgment is still judgment, and while it may be regretted later, an impaired person can freely and without coercion consent to sex, which later regret can’t or shouldn’t turn into rape. I do not count passed out drunk as one of those states where it might just be impaired judgment, so if anyone wants to erect that particular strawman, it’s already been torched. I’m talking about the everyday experience of not being able to tell how drunk someone else is, especially when also drinking ourselves, and taking people at their word, even people who hold their liquor so well you had no idea they were blackout drunk at the time.

              The more I read about Rape Culture, and how normalized and condoned rape is, the more I believe it’s because the criteria for rape have been relaxed so much by those railing against it that way too much sex is counted as rape. Broadening the criteria dilutes the real thing, to the point that when would-be allies realize what you’re really arguing against is a lot of everyday, *consensual* sex, of course they’re going to push back like it’s normal and not something they regret…because they don’t think it’s rape. It would be like anorexics leading a “Bad Nutrition Kills” movement that doesn’t just combat obesity – which many people would be onboard with – but instead describes anyone who isn’t skin and bones as “morbidly obese”, and if a healthy person by any non-anorexic standards protested, trying to shame them as obesity apologists. They might have some of their facts right about good food vs. junk food, the importance of exercise, health risks of being overweight, etc., but they could still be deluded about healthy diets and body types, even while railing against the Obesity Culture apologists.

            • Mostly_123 says:

              I think we’re on the same wavelength here- and you’ve explored in detail the implications of the logic, and the questions raised, particularly where alcohol is concerned: The point is very well taken about keeping in mind the significant difference between judgment that may be impaired, and being impaired to the point of not being able to make a judgement. For my thinking (this is less of an answer to your questions, than walking myself through my own logic here) if could use the example of drinking and driving – For drinking and driving, from a legal standpoint (as I understand it) a person is either considered to be impaired to drive or not impaired to drive (by scientific measurement of a prescribed blood-alcohol threshold). But even with a blood alcohol level over the legal limit to drive, that would not preclude this very same person from making binding decisions that have legal (and social and moral and ethical) ramifications: A person who may register under a blood or breath test to be too drunk to legally drive a car (as mandated by uniform blood alcohol criteria) nevertheless can, and may, BUY a car (among other things). Again, I’m not a lawyer, and I haven’t thought out all the endpoints, but I would be inclined to believe that any contracts I sign while I’m drinking are still legally binding upon me after I’m fully sober. And I can’t call ‘do-over’ the next day when/if I vote impaired. Another consequence of this is that it means a person cannot use the “I-raped-the-other-person-when-I-was-drunk-so-I-am-not-responsible” defense; judgement may have been impaired from its optimum level, but regardless, the rapist would still be liable for their own impaired action. That doesn’t really address the questions you raised about the apportioning of consent/impairment when both parties are equally drunk though. There are still plenty of important questions you’ve raised; You have explored the dangers, limitations and implications of talking in absolutes, as well as the danger of watering down criteria, and addressing these is a positive thing for everyone.                     

  11. I mean what in the actual f*ck, you guys. In what universe does sleeping count as body language at all, much less body language that says, “put your penis in my vagina”?

    Oh, I don’t know – one where the sleeping person moves their arm in a “let’s have sex”-way in their sleep? Then all bets are off and according to a handful of feminist commenters over at Feministe then the person waking up to their partner having sex with them is an asshole for being upset. At least that’s the case when the victim (or rather the gas-lighting abuser according to Amanda Marcotte) is male.

    The number of feminist who talks in black and white about male perpetrators and in grey-scales about female perpetrators both online and in academia do go a long way in discrediting that movement for me as a male victim.

    See Just Sex?: The Cultural Scaffolding Of Rape(2004) by Nicola Gavey for an example of a feminist who is unable to imagine and therefore accept that heterosexual aggression could be the same for women and men and for that reasons don’t think there should be a gender-neutral analysis of rape (p194). On page 201 she basically argues that it’s not the same (and hence it is not rape) if a woman performs oral sex on a sleeping man compared to when a man performs oral sex on a sleeping woman. If people sound like rape-apologists when they try to argue that the man who was sleeping wasn’t raped it’s just because the poor people don’t have another way of saying “it’s different”.

    • The number of feminist who talks in black and white about male perpetrators and in grey-scales about female perpetrators both online and in academia do go a long way in discrediting that movement for me as a male victim.
      That’s a good summation of what happens when talking about victims of different genders. Mind you it’s not just feminists that do this.

      For some reason we are supposed to take rape and violence against women very seriously while at the same time still believing that rape and violence against men is “different”.

      I’ll tell you what I think it is. It’s the result of trying to base human rights on history.

      When talking about such crimes there is no shortage of “compared to men, women have been victimized on a much greater scale” type commentary. As a result we now have a world where “against women” actually elevates the severity of a crime. And not just in the discourse either. It’s in the law books as well (for example assault against a woman is literally a harsher charge than assault against a man here in NC). It’s in the way media covers it.

      I don’t think you can on one hand say that all people should be treated fairly but then turn around and say that abusing a woman is worse than abusing a man.

  12. “But then it all falls apart when Royse contends this guy is only an accidental rapist, and that it’s not his fault but society’s fault that he didn’t know a sleeping woman, by definition, cannot consent to sex.”

    She said this where, exactly, in the article?

  13. I follow so many of these conversations, and the biggest elephant in the room continues to be the concept of mens rea. Royce’s article, I believe unintentionally, brought forth a focus on the “guilty mind” (or, better yet the “guilty intent”) which seems to have been exorcised from the discourse, of late.

    Sometimes I feel like I’m the only person who sees a very important distinction between engaging in potentially non-consensual sexual behavior with an intent to fraud or “obtain” sex and encounters which were simply deficient in consent overall.

    We don’t know what actually happened in the case brought forth by Royce, but the intent (as I read it) was to explore a case of rape (and she dies no word on that one) where the perpetrator lacked the intent to rape. In all honesty, it was probably one of the most honest and realistic examples (from a hybrid female/male point of view) of this really problematic concept I have come across yet.

    We’re presented by the activists a model of rape which is:
    1) Just-short-of murder as the worst thing to befall an individual
    2) A crisis in our culture
    3) Where the perpetrator is seen as inherently damaged

    We’re given a model where a “rapist” is beyond any redemption, and is, at the same time, too often existent within a paradigm of human activity where they are simply doing as they have been “taught” by society (patriarchy! oppression!).

    But at no point do we make any sort of allowances for mens rea. There are few things more inherently dangerous than an individual who engages in interactions with the intent of sexually assaulting another person. But the vast majority of time we’re not talking about that individual.

    And so we’re forced into this awful context of seeing a monster where there was no intent to be a monster. Aren’t these individuals, in the activists own context, just as much a “victim of the patriarchy” as the rest of us?

    So, to make the political personal, I’ll readily admit that I ended up in a lot of drunken, “ambiguous consent”-type situations when I was younger and in various sorts of school. It almost always followed the same script (to a general point): 1) Everyone drinks; 2) People flirt; 3) Eventually, two people end up in “bed” with very string sexual-emotional desires; 4) You wake up in the morning with a fuzzy head and a whole bag full of questions, concerns and regrets.

    And, in many ways, we’re engaging in the same sort of narrow-viewed, essentialist activities that got us into this mess in the first place.

    What is happening is twofold: first, we have a shitty, not-good social pattern of behavior where individuals simply do any myriad range of things to hurt other people unintentionally. They let their desire get the best of them; they allow themselves to become intoxicated to a point where judgement is impaired; they act on things that, if one-reason-or-another, they wouldn’t do otherwise.

    I mean, I’m sure I’m not the only person in the room who has done things (of all sorts and legalities) when intoxicated that I’d never, ever do when in my right mind. That goes from having certain conversations with friends about their life choices to deciding that it’s the right time to confront my landlord over ridiculous rent increases to, yes, engaging in sexual activity that the other partner may not be 100% on board with.

    But none of that means that I’m a monster. And I see no evidence in the hearsay that is Royce’s article that the subject intended to harm another.

    You give me a society where people don’t unintentionally harm each other and I’ll eat my hat.

    There exists this real and very dangerous assumption that acts=intent, and that’s a cornerstone of the current activism. Going after the individuals who are dangerous is far more difficult than attacking the people who, for any reason, didn’t mean harm but did anyway, which is HUMAN.

    Beyond all of this, we need to have conversations that hoist individual responsibility and understanding of the really complicated and confusing sexual politics between social interactions. Currently, we’re not allowed to do so.

    We need to do the really difficult part of divorcing our ideals of “rape” from a discourse that is about individuals being able to honestly and openly communicate with each other concerning their desires and limits. If we want to talk about “consent culture” we need to realize that everyone contributes, and that it is the very sort of situation as is found is Royce’s article which exemplifies that fact that communication is absolutely necessary and that we need to ensure that we address such things as coherent adults. To declare “full stops” and be concerned about who is “winning” harms us all.

    You want to get us on board? drop the political angle and engage with us as human beings. If there are deficiencies in communication (which there are) we need to address them in an objective, collaborative way without the zero-sum statements and motivation of rage and hatred. Let’s foster good-will and love instead of searching for the next monster to slay.

  14. FlyingKal says:

    In this mess, what stands out the most to me is the detailed description about what happened during the weeks leading up to the “event”, and in contrast the total lack of information about what happened that night just prior to her/them undressing/going to bed/falling asleep.

Speak Your Mind

*