Join us!
Posted in Columnists, Opinion

Sex and Society in 2500 Words

By
March 25, 2011

Trigger warning, for rape and sexual assault.

Based on the comments from last week’s columns, the advent of the Queer/Trans Conference, and the general fuckwittage that has been politics and women’s issues recently, I thought that it would be a good idea to write a basic column dissecting general cultural thinking about sex.

Obviously, summarizing societal ideas about sex is not really possible in the length of a Gazette column – if it were, many sociologists, psychologists, and columnists would be out of work. But I’ll try my darnedest to get as much good information as possible stuffed into this tiny literary sausage casing. I’ve put in as many citations as possible so y’all can read further, but I’ve been reading about this stuff for a few years, so I can’t find links for everything.

Many of the problems that we as a culture have surrounding sex and relationships stem from our ideas about gender. I won’t go into immense detail about this, but suffice it to say that though progress has definitely been made since the advent of feminism, gender roles are still rigidly defined. There are still prevalent essentialist arguments that women are more emotional and social, men more aggressive and directed. Some studies show these differences to be nominally true, but it is highly murky how much of this dichotomy is due to biology versus socialization. It’s documented that people treat male and female children differently starting from the second they are told the gender of the baby, emphasizing and encouraging different traits and behaviors between the sexes.

For women, much of this rhetoric has to do with appearance. While men have body pressures, they in no way compare to the barrage of physical requirements placed on women. Women are judged on our looks more than anything else. Read or watch any interview with a famous woman, from Hillary Clinton to Keira Knightley to Jane Goodall, and her appearance will be brought up at least once. Now read an interview with Ben Bernanke or John Boehner. Due to the amount of makeup/plastic surgery/exercise available, women who aren’t deemed attractive enough are seen as lazy (check out Naomi Wolf’s book The Beauty Myth).

And, of course, women’s appearances are seen as public property – able to be remarked on by anyone, at any time. A few weeks ago, I was having a pretty standard conversation with a friend about the pitfalls of bra shopping, and happened to mention my bra size. A stranger turned around from his own conversation and said, “Wow, congratulations.” When we looked at him blankly, he responded, “On your boobs. That’s a great size.” Is this a huge deal? Probably not, it could have been worse. But women hear comments like this (or the opposite) every day. This guy didn’t comment on my friend’s sewing accomplishments or my seminar reading, our other topics of conversation, but he felt it was perfectly acceptable to commend me for the fact that I have genes that gave me D cups.

Another area where these gender roles have been resistant to change is in family structure. Actual family planning decisions have continued to change and diversify over the years (which is a GOOD thing), yet it is still expected that heterosexual relationships will result in a nuclear family of marriage and children. Any desires that fall outside of this realm – from not wanting children to wanting children without having a partner – are judged continuously.

“Family values” relate to gay relationships and individuals in plenty of truly stupid ways, and things are even worse for transgendered or gender non-conforming individuals. There is a pervasive lack of understanding about what these terms actually mean, in theory and in practice, and like most things that the public doesn’t understand, they fear it and like to pretend that it just doesn’t exist until confronted with it directly. I went to a pretty progressive high school with very extensive and gay-positive sex education, and even there trans issues were never mentioned once. This needs to change immediately. As more individuals vocalize their feelings of alienation within the strict gender binary, it will become harder for the public to ignore, and without good education, it’s likely that tensions and violence will ensue. As is, 90% of transgender youth report feeling unsafe at school due to their gender expression, 74% are routinely sexually harassed, 55% have been physically attacked, and over 33% have attempted suicide. I’m not willing to let those statistics increase.

The gender binary plays out in sexual norms as well. I’m sure all of us have heard the bullshit pseudoscience biological imperative argument that men use sex to “spread seed everywhere” and impregnate as many females as possible, while women use sex for emotional connection to “try to convince their men to stay and help them raise the little ones.” This model is insulting to everyone, and it’s still widely used. I’ve actually heard it in Psych 1.

It shames women who enjoy sex on a physical level or with more than one partner. It degrades men who want relationships as “not manly” and gives male douchebags a built-in excuse to cheat (“It wasn’t me, baby! I couldn’t help it! It’s in my genes!). In a homosexual context, it has lead to the stereotypes that gay males again just want casual sex continuously, and those terrible jokes about the lesbian second date accessory being a moving van.

These issues are coming to the surface in politics now with the fight for Planned Parenthood funding and the right-wing war on reproductive rights. Depending on which study you read, the family planning, sex education, and birth control options that Planned Parenthood provides prevent 70 to 85 thousand additional abortions a year. Still, because they are one of the few organizations that dare to offer the service at all, we are threatening an institution that provides extensive medical services to underserved, primarily lower-class groups. Only about 3% of PP funding goes to abortions, and that percentage comes from private donations, not federal funding.

Much of the language of the anti-choice debate is based on the assumption that women are not aware of the weight of the decision that they are making. The rhetoric on both sides circles around, “It’s a baby!” “It’s not a baby!” “Other options!” “Our bodies, our choice!” This argument misses the point (besides the our bodies part). The fact of the matter is that abortion rates don’t actually change when abortion is made illegal, but desperate women instead seek unsanitary and unsafe ways to achieve it, resulting in approximately 70,000 women’s deaths a year (and 70,000 fetuses, if you’re looking at it that way).

We at Swarthmore like to think that we’re above and away from all of this, but we’re definitively not. On the abortion debate, the Phoenix published a truly spectacular piece of mansplaining last semester in which the columnist asserts that “Opposing abortion is the only real moral choice” and the only reason he gives, besides knowing what the procedure is… well, he doesn’t give one, except for when he believes life starts, which is scientifically murky at best.

On a more basic and less inflammatory level, the prude/slut dichotomy is alive and well on this campus. Once, I passed the same guy 4 or 5 times during the course of a Sharples meal, and every single time I passed him he was saying the word slut about one girl or another. Slut and prude are particularly gendered terms that apply only to women and equate a woman’s value to her sexual experience – or usually perceived sexual experience. While sometimes these terms can be attached to an instance where someone either accepted or turned down sexual advances, often they’re just based on value judgments of visual assessment.

These terms are used by men and women alike to create a power dynamic – anyone labeled a prude or slut is shamed and given less value than those around her, but the fact of the matter is it’s totally arbitrary. I’ve been called a prude, a slut, a scarlet woman, a goodie two-shoes, and pretty much anything else you can think of. It’s just a temporary bullying technique for the accuser to feel momentarily good about themselves by making someone else feel bad.

And of course, all of these factors come to a head in rape culture. I fell like the best way to explain rape culture, so you can really feel how much it pervades us, is to give a string of examples. Recently in Cleveland, Texas, an 11 year old girl was gang raped by eighteen men ranging in age from 27 to middle schoolers. The New York Times article covering the issue spoke about the tragic effects of this event on the town and on the poor boys who will have to live with their actions and rarely even mentions the victim except to insinuate that her assault was her fault because she dressed maturely and was not with her mother at the time of the rape. This article has not been taken down, and only a half-assed apology has been released, because this is the culture that we live in.

The education around rape is all focused on how women, as the most prevalent victims, can try to prevent being raped, but we never tell men (or anyone) not to rape. Any rape that actually occurs becomes a case of what the victim did that put them in the position to become a victim. Is he gay? Transgender? Has she had sex before? Was he drunk? Was she alone? If I get drunk and throw up on myself, that is my fault and I deal with the consequences. But if I get drunk and someone rapes me, that is the fault of the person who rapes me.

They also keep creating more qualifiers for rape – date rape, acquaintance rape, grey rape (when one or more persons involved was compromised and the situation is therefore ‘ambiguous’), spousal rape, and the new one that the Republican House is pushing for: forcible rape (using excessive violence and apparent damage to the victim’s body), creating a hierarchy of rape cases. This cannot be said enough: there is one thing that makes something rape. It is sexual activity without consent. It doesn’t matter whether the rapist is a stranger in an alley with a gun, or a significant other who isn’t taking no for an answer.

The statistics surrounding rape are even more alarming. In a study conducted by Margo Paine, Ph.D., 8% of college men have either attempted or successfully raped. 30% say that they would rape if they could get away with it and when the wording of the question was changed to “force a woman to have sex,” the percentage jumped to 58%. Additionally, almost 85% argued that “some women look like they are just asking to be raped.” In another disturbing study (also done on college men, though this one was not heteronormative), of the men who had committed acts that qualified as rape (see above), only 20% believed that they had raped someone. These studies become even more disturbing when we add in the fact that due to unreported rapes and the particular way the justice system handles rape cases, 15 out of 16 rapists walk free.

While women are most likely to be raped and rapists are most likely to be men, assaults that don’t fit this framework are far less likely to be reported. And those rapes that are reported are likely to go through a victim-blaming line of questioning that would be made ludicrous if attempted in the investigation of any other crime. It is ridiculous to imagine an officer asking, “Are you SURE that you didn’t give the alleged thief your purse and forget about it?” or “What were you wearing when your car was stolen?” or “Think of the impact that prosecution would have on your arsonist’s life.” Yet their equivalents are asked of rape victims every day. There are more disturbing statistics surrounding rapists, victims, ramifications and more on the RAINN website.

These studies are sickening, especially given how small a percentage of the population they include and given that it is not the profile of a “typical” rapist (the average age for a rapist is 31), but just as sickening is the casual way that society generally handles rape. Rape storylines are commonly used in TV shows to boost ratings during sweeps (I’m looking at you, Private Practice) or posed and than dismissed for not being “rapey” enough (Degrassi – in this example, the female victim was assaulted by a former partner, but eventually stopped saying no to his advances and remained silent).

On a more local level, when asked about one of his exams recently, a friend of mine said, “I raped it. Just bent it over the table and took it from behind,” finding humor and taking power in the rapist position. Study after study has shown that jokes like this are severely harmful because they desensitize us to the concept of rape and frame it as something casual and humorous. Considering that you can never know the experience of your audience, you could be traumatizing a survivor, and are likely pissing off someone who doesn’t admire your classless attempt at humor.

And, of course, we can always look at the handling of rape and public figures. My personal favorites are Roman Polanski and Ben Roethlisberger. Roman Polanski has admitted to raping a 13 year old, yet has thumbed his nose at the authorities by avoiding the grasp of the criminal justice system. His films have continued to make millions, and significant numbers still rally for his freedom for a variety of reasons from “He’s had a really hard life” to “He’s a grandfather. He can’t be a predator.” There is no valid excuse for sexually assaulting another human being. If he had committed murder instead of rape, this argument wouldn’t exist.

Ben Roethlisberger has not been convicted, but the evidence suggesting that he has assaulted at least three women is plentiful. Most of his supporters don’t even try to deny that he has committed these rapes, but instead usually argue that he’s a great football player. I don’t care if he can move the fucking ball with his mind. This is not an excuse to sexually assault another human being, especially in the blasé way that he has done so. In one of his cases, he brought his victim into a bathroom where his bodyguard prevented her friends from stopping the crime. This is even more damning when you compare his punishment with Michael Vick’s. While Vick’s crimes were reprehensible, he was suspended from the NFL, incarcerated, went through counseling, and publicly lost his sponsors. Roethlisberger was suspended for six games. Thanks, America, for showing all of us that you care more about dogs than rape victims. It’s truly heartwarming.

This all needs to stop yesterday. The only way that these sickening standards will change is if we all work against them on a personal level. We need to change the way that we as individuals think about and react with the ideas of gender, sex, and rape. And we have to educate those around us. It’s an exhausting process, but it needs to be done.

67 Responses to Sex and Society in 2500 Words

  1. Paul Cato

    March 25, 2011 at 6:56 am

    I agree completely with your disgust about these trends and the way society deals with these sorts of issues. Yet I feel as though we on the left spend a great deal of time expressing our outrage/disatisfaction (though justified) about these things in lieu of searching for a solution to the problems. I am a perfect example of someone who'd rather call out and argue rather than try to solve. And the reason for that is that these topics are so complex/upsetting.

    I'd be interested to hear of any ideas people have as to how to solve/change these sorts of attitudes. All I can think of is safe honest discussion. I know having spent 9 years at an all boys school I entered Swarthmore with a lot of questions regarding gender issues and sexuality but felt uncomfortable showing my confusion/ibnorance lest I be called out for my misconceptions. Yet when one is unable to ask questions they're forced to find answers elsewhere, and that's where I believe people pick up these unfortunate attitudes. I struggled with this only after leaving my insulated high school, but as we shift into a more open world where people are more willing to make their gender/sexual identities known, I can only think of children and adolescents experiencing the same sort of confusion I did and being forced to find answers themselves. Dialogue needs to be started but it must be safe for all those involved in order for it to truly make a difference.

    As I said I'd like to hear any other ideas to bring about an end to what SM has described above (esp. about the attitudes on rape – my god)

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  2. X

    March 25, 2011 at 10:10 am

    I really appreciated this article. It verbalized a lot of things that I've felt for a long time, but I was originally turned off from reading it from your trigger warning, as someone who might actually be triggered. In an article that takes rape and sexual assault seriously, it seemed strangely insensitive to make light, putting them in a warning with stupidity and douchebaggery.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  3. Thanks!

    March 25, 2011 at 11:40 am

    What you've written here is both well said and in dire need of being said more often. However, I do think it's a little disingenuous to consider society, culture and sex without making a single reference to religion. I agree that "family values" are defined and enacted in "plenty of truly stupid ways", but there's so much more to it than just conservatives being dumb.

    I also appreciated that you brought the overtly political into it (current Congressional activities), but I would have liked to see that again in your last paragraph, your call to action. Some sort of consciousness-raising may well be the only viable long term solution, but there are so many other fronts to this fight, and one is going on right on in the House. No on HR 3!

    Michael Vick v. Roethlisberger is an interesting comparison, but not because America "care[s] more about dogs than rape victims." Establishing valid cultural trends and arguments based on a few hand-picked celebrities can be shaky ground, but let's not forget Kobe, and let's not forget that we are not living in post-racial age, not by any stretch of the imagination.

    I know I've been a bit snarky with the whole "this was good, but" pattern, so I want to say again that I think the points you raise are both important and well articulated. Sex columnists (or anyone, myself included) would do well to address real issues, catastrophic and convoluted though they may seem, with your unflinching boldness.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  4. The Serial Monogamist

    March 25, 2011 at 11:45 am

    X, I wrote the trigger warning most of the way through writing the rape section when it became all too clear that the article needed one. I was frustrated and angry and sick and tired of being frustrated and angry. In the light of publishing, it's glaringly obvious that it's the absolute wrong place to vent that and I have asked for Dougal to take it down.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  5. Books

    March 25, 2011 at 11:49 am

    Thank you for including non-gender-binary issues in this article. As someone who doesn't remotely fall into the binary, it's nice to see my identity represented, especially in such a respectful and well-presented way.

    =Books

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  6. zx

    March 25, 2011 at 1:55 pm

    While there's a lot of good in there, especially in terms of new information and perspectives for someone like me who is out of the loop when it comes to gender/sexuality theory and issues, I find just as much that is objectionable.

    "This model is insulting to everyone, and it’s still widely used. I’ve actually heard it in Psych 1."

    Whether you find the model insulting is irrelevant to whether it should be in psychology class. Is the model incorrect?

    "This cannot be said enough: there is one thing that makes something rape. It is sexual activity without consent."

    Am I missing something here? I find this absurd. Excuse the bluntness, but rape is a diverse crime. There are different kinds and degrees of rape, and they should be recognized and treated accordingly. It does matter if the rape was premeditated and violent vs. an alcohol-induced mistake on both sides. It matters if it's two teenagers in a relationship committing statutory rape; as opposed to that Roman Polanski stuff. What exactly is the problem with rape qualifiers? I hope there are more of those, not less. A "rape hierarchy" is necessary both legally and morally, because your sloppy definition of rape as "sex without consent" simply doesn't cut it.

    "“Think of the impact that prosecution would have on your arsonist’s life.” Yet their equivalents are asked of rape victims every day."

    I'm just curious, because I'm largely ignorant on this issue: What's the incidence of false rape accusations? Is it prevalent or basically not a problem? I ask because there seems to be ambiguity inherent in this crime that isn't there with the crimes that you compared it to.

    I've read of women who deliberately hurt men by threatening to call rape when no rape situation had occurred. Or perhaps something minor but prosecutable had occurred (intoxication), but the real motive is to exact revenge or blackmail. This would be a case of ruining a man's life, especially in situations that are morally ambiguous to begin with. Then again, maybe this is an internet rumor. Thoughts?

    "If he had committed murder instead of rape, this argument wouldn’t exist."

    I hope the equivalence being drawn here is … rhetorical? Actually, what were you thinking?

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  7. Danielle, '14

    March 25, 2011 at 2:00 pm

    This is a well-written article, but I worry that, in trying to offer an open-minded perspective, it lapses into the same old assumptions about power dynamics since the 1960's.

    Obviously sexual relationships MUST be consensual, but I'm anxious there is frequently an attitude that society ought to flash a green light for all "safe", consensual sex. There are numerous studies of college women that report girls often feel disappointed by the unrestrained hookups that are supposed to set us free. Maybe it's because the minions of our imperfect society have set us in front of Cinderella animations one too many times, or perhaps there really is a yearn for love and attachment. Let's not throw the baby out with the bath water. Allan Bloom has even argued that the Sexual Revolution had chauvinist undertones, since it made women susceptible to male sexual drive free of emotional commitment or the fear of pregnancy. I'm not sure how I feel about Bloom's posit here, but it's worth thinking about. I'm a fan of a world that can accept all human beings and their individual choices, no doubt. But in order to foster that world, I don't think we ought to automatically deconstruct everything in our path (i.e. romanticism, marriage, etc.)

    On that note, why are more traditional family structures (i.e. marriage with children) being placed on the same plane as "sickening" societal trends like rape? There are a lot of repressive, stereotypical forces out there, but marriage as an institution may not be the problem in of itself. I know of many excellent couples and families who live what might be smeared as a "traditionalized" lifestyle yet manage to carry on happy, accepting, and nurturing relationships quite well. I doubt this was what the article intended, but placing marriage and child-rearing in the same column in which you decry a deplorable crime like rape is unnerving.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  8. feeling unsafe

    March 25, 2011 at 2:50 pm

    One of the major implications of categorizing "types" of rape is victim blaming, which is both hurtful and illogical: the person guilty of the crime is the one who committed it.

    If I do not consent, nothing else matters.

    As a swattie, I find it distinctly unnerving to hear the very definition of rape being called into question.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  9. Alex '12

    March 25, 2011 at 2:51 pm

    zx, due to the trauma and public ridicule that rape victims tend to go through when they report, Rape is actually falsely reported LESS than most crimes, about 5% of the time. The "woman who cry rape" fallacy, much like the "woman who uses abortion as birth control at therefore has had 26 abortions" have been created as fear tactics to sway people against choice and contribute to the atmosphere of victim blaming.

    The rest of your ignorant post I'll leave for someone else to answer.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  10. Kat Clark '12

    March 25, 2011 at 2:57 pm

    zx's comment makes me feel way less safe on this campus. Could you be more flippant about something so violent? It's disturbing.

    Props to the writer of this article for tackling such a difficult topic.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  11. zx

    March 25, 2011 at 3:21 pm

    "One of the major implications of categorizing "types" of rape is victim blaming, which is both hurtful and illogical: the person guilty of the crime is the one who committed it."

    I still don't see it. How is it victim-blaming?

    "Rape is actually falsely reported LESS than most crimes, about 5% of the time."

    Got it.

    "zx's comment makes me feel way less safe on this campus. Could you be more flippant about something so violent? It's disturbing."

    Excuse me, what you are implying?

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  12. still feeling unsafe

    March 25, 2011 at 3:46 pm

    Describing "degrees of rape" implies a difference depending on the circumstances. While I agree that it can be difficult to pin down whether or not consent was given, if, for example, alcohol has led to faulty memories, once it has been established that there was no consent, if sex happens, that is rape. I contend that this leads to victim blaming because not holding the rapist to the full degree of the crime they have committed opens the doors to ideas like "Well, it's the victim's fault, they shouldn't have been drinking so much."

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  13. zx

    March 25, 2011 at 4:13 pm

    Again, am I missing something here? Why can't we accurately classify, and then hold the perpetrator accountable? I don't want to blame them for something they didn't do. Kat Clark, for example, seems comfortable using the terms "rape" and "something so violent" interchangeably. I contend that this is not fair. Charging someone with the general (and often most severe) version of a crime is not fair, and grossly so when you consider the range of this particular crime.

    To clarify, I am not disagreeing with the definition of rape. "Sex without consent" is a good definition. I'm saying the definition is too broad and needs supplementation.

    I admit I was glib speculating about false rape accusations instead of looking them up myself. Thank you Alex for sorting me out. I'm sorry if offended anyone.

    However, it's inexcusable to imply things like "feeling unsafe" because of my comments. Just come out and say it.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  14. Peter '11

    March 25, 2011 at 6:07 pm

    Obviously, false accusations of rape are by nature impossible to accurately measure but here are a wider range of (cited) estimates. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/False_accusation_of_rape

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  15. dcharet1@swarthmore.edu

    March 25, 2011 at 6:26 pm

    Can we please not demonize "ZX" here? It's clear he/she is not advocating on behalf of rape, but rather, asking us to consider definitions and attitudes. In fact, the point ZX raises about gradations of rape is a hot topic in the legal community and worth discussing. We might ultimately disagree that circumstances (i.e. relationship with the perpetrator, levels of intoxication, age of the woman) matter when the Court decides about rape, but we can at least entertain why some people feel these factors play a role. Ironically, these legal battles over differentiating rape have emerged in the past 50 years in which sexual leniency has become the status quo on campuses. I'm not looking to rewind to 1950's America, but I'd like to point out that with sexual liberation also comes sexual risk. NO ONE deserves to be raped, but hookup culture does blur the line for when consent is and is not present.

    Also, as I believe ZX was attempting to argue, the field of psychology DOES highlight an evolutionary sexual impulsivity in males. Just because something is "offensive" is not grounds for it to be removed from an academic curriculum. I'm unsure why the above post suggests Psych I ought to rethink what it teaches students. If we edited everything we found "offensive", no one would ever read Huck Finn, learn about the Holocaust or know the damages of the Atomic Bomb. Discomfort, I would argue, makes for broader understanding and reflection. No one likes being offended, but offensiveness by itself does not make for an argument. Alas, emotions and reason don't always play nicely.

    Jumping down ZX's throat and shouting that we feel "unsafe" by his/her comments is hyperbolic. There is real danger and abuse in this world (and perhaps on this campus), but let's not pretend that a Swattie who dares to question liberal orthodoxy on the Daily Gazette is looking to enslave women or vilify the human race. But maybe I'm getting hyperbolic now…

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  16. seriously?

    March 25, 2011 at 7:06 pm

    "…but hookup culture does blur the line for when consent is and is not present."

    I fail to see how that's the case. If two people decide to hook-up, there's consent. If one party is interested and has sex with the other party against their will, it's rape.

    Tell me why someone's participation in hook-up culture changes the issue of consent.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  17. Adriana Massi (oh yes, I'm back)

    March 25, 2011 at 8:00 pm

    1/2

    [TRIGGER WARNING (for discussion of rape, sexual assault and rape apologism) on this comment, just in case it’s not clear]

    I’m jumping in a little late; I think commenters like Unsafe and Alex have been saying really good things, so I apologize if I cover some of the same ground.

    To ZX,

    "Am I missing something here? I find this absurd. Excuse the bluntness, but rape is a diverse crime. There are different kinds and degrees of rape, and they should be recognized and treated accordingly. It does matter if the rape was premeditated and violent vs. an alcohol-induced mistake on both sides. It matters if it's two teenagers in a relationship committing statutory rape; as opposed to that Roman Polanski stuff. What exactly is the problem with rape qualifiers? I hope there are more of those, not less. A "rape hierarchy" is necessary both legally and morally, because your sloppy definition of rape as "sex without consent" simply doesn't cut it."

    Intention doesn’t matter, ZX. Whether Julie assaults John because she was “waiting in an alley” or because she got drunk and was unable to/didn’t care to ask about his limits and boundaries, Julie assaulted John, and John now must deal with the trauma and pain and disempowerment caused by this event. Julie will still need to take accountability and work through her behavior and whatever her behavior stems from. So, ultimately, NO, it does not matter why someone was raped or in what situation. The “why” and the “situation” have HISTORICALLY been used to silence rape victims/survivors. Just a few months ago, I believe an Alabama court let a rapist off because he had offered a woman a ride, she had accepted, and he had raped her. Because she had gotten in the car, was the argument, she “knew” what was going to happen.

    Sex without consent is rape. Sexual activity without consent is sexual assault (it’s the umbrella term). Consent is sober and active (ie, any amount of drugs in someone’s system means consent is compromised; ie, the absence of a “no” or silence is not a “Yes, please, and more!”). Creating some kind of hierarchy plays oppression olympics, which is bad, and also serves to, essentially, legitimate sexual assault. Date rape is already a cultural joke — “Just give her enough beer, and she’ll sleep with you!” We don’t need to perpetuate rape culture anymore than the patriarchy already is.

    "Again, am I missing something here? Why can't we accurately classify, and then hold the perpetrator accountable? I don't want to blame them for something they didn't do. Kat Clark, for example, seems comfortable using the terms "rape" and "something so violent" interchangeably. I contend that this is not fair. Charging someone with the general (and often most severe) version of a crime is not fair, and grossly so when you consider the range of this particular crime.”

    How on earth are we blaming Julie for something she didn’t do, when she assaulted John, when we say she sexually assaulted John? Rape is violence. Rape and sexual assault totally strip someone’s autonomy and disregards their personhood. Tell me how that’s not violent, please. It doesn’t need to come with a knife at the throat or bruises: the very act of degradation every victim/survivor has undergone is an act of violence.

    “To clarify, I am not disagreeing with the definition of rape. "Sex without consent" is a good definition. I'm saying the definition is too broad and needs supplementation."

    Um, so, you are disagreeing with the “sloppy” definition of rape. Please let’s not argue semantics. Usually when you need to add a “UNLESS” into something (“Rape is sex without consent UNLESS he has a lot of hook-ups!”) you are essentially tearing it down (“I think gays are fine UNLESS they’re really flamey!”). Sexual assault = sexual activity without consent, period. Full stop. We don’t need anymore “BUT”s or “UNLESS”es.

    "However, it's inexcusable to imply things like "feeling unsafe" because of my comments. Just come out and say it."

    As a person assigned female at birth but genderqueer/butch, your comments make me feel incredibly unsafe. I’ll come out and say it: you’re a rape apologist, and you’re perpetuating rape culture. You are perpetuating the culture that makes it possible to have a Skins episode FOCUSING ON how to get a girl “loose” enough that she’ll sleep with you. You perpetuate a culture that IGNORES the voices of victims/survivors because their experiences weren’t “really” rape. You perpetuate a culture that continues to oppress other people based on gender, sexuality, race, class and ability, as all of those factors ABSOLUTELY come into play around sexual assault. You are perpetuating rape culture. Discussing rape the way you have could have triggered survivors, frankly.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  18. Adriana Massi

    March 25, 2011 at 8:19 pm

    2/2

    [TRIGGER WARNING, again, for discussion of sexual assault, rape, rape apologism and misogynistic terms]

    To Danielle,

    “Obviously sexual relationships MUST be consensual, but I'm anxious there is frequently an attitude that society ought to flash a green light for all "safe", consensual sex. There are numerous studies of college women that report girls often feel disappointed by the unrestrained hookups that are supposed to set us free.”

    Society absolutely should flash the green light for all truly consensual sex. What two or more consenting humans do is none of my goddamn business. I would ask who determines that these “unrestrained hookups” are supposed to set us free? I have seen the hookup culture on this campus, and I have seen with my own eyes and heard stories of what people say to folks who don’t hook up: “Frigid,” “Slut,” “Bitch.” I have literally watched those things go down with my own eyes and shielded my own friends from people who were a leetle upset with getting turned down. There is sometimes a culture perpetuated that INSISTS women (just dealing with women right now, although this phenom happens across the board) have sex, otherwise they’re not quite right. Yet, when women have sex, they are shamed. It’s a tool of the patriarchy; it’s misogynistic as all hell. So, the pressure to have sex, to please men — who tells us that’s how it should be?

    “Maybe it's because the minions of our imperfect society have set us in front of Cinderella animations one too many times, or perhaps there really is a yearn for love and attachment. Let's not throw the baby out with the bath water. Allan Bloom has even argued that the Sexual Revolution had chauvinist undertones, since it made women susceptible to male sexual drive free of emotional commitment or the fear of pregnancy. I'm not sure how I feel about Bloom's posit here, but it's worth thinking about. I'm a fan of a world that can accept all human beings and their individual choices, no doubt. But in order to foster that world, I don't think we ought to automatically deconstruct everything in our path (i.e. romanticism, marriage, etc.)”

    I don’t think it’s a sex-positive society (which I understand you’re not referring to with Allan Bloom and probably parts of the Sexual Revolution. I mean, I’ll buy it as having problematic undertones, but the “undertones” you gave me sound like the usual conservative line about why society has fallen by the wayside, something I don’t buy). I think a sex-positive society says, DO WHAT MAKES YOU FEEL GOOD, DO WHAT MAKES YOUR PARTNER/S FEEL GOOD, DON’T FEEL BAD ABOUT WHAT MAKES YOU FEEL GOOD. So, if you really like having sex with three people in one night or being in a monogamous shindig with one other person — a sex-positive society is down for what YOU want for yourself.

    Also, it’s a postmodern world, bb. Why not attempt to deconstruct romanticism and marriage? The things that are most entrenched often need the most reworking, I find.

    "I'm not looking to rewind to 1950's America, but I'd like to point out that with sexual liberation also comes sexual risk. NO ONE deserves to be raped, but hookup culture does blur the line for when consent is and is not present."

    Okay, see, here’s a problem. “NO ONE DESERVES TO BE RAPED.” That clause would have been perfect without a conjunction — at least, without the infamous “BUT.” Hookup culture DOES NOT BLUR THE LINE FOR WHERE CONSENT IS. Let me help you out. Consent is a SOBER ACTIVE YES. You can hook up every Saturday night with eighteen different people a night and have TOTALLY CONSENSUAL SEX with each and every one of them. On the other hand, you can assault your partner of five years. Consent requires communication. By shifting blame onto people who participate in hookup culture, you are engaging in rape apologism. “Well, it’s harder for the rapist/s to know she/xe/he/they hasn’t/haven’t gotten a sober active yes if the victim/s/survivor/s have a lot of sex!” Wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong, and victim-blaming. Having a lot of sex DOES NOT MEAN you deserve/are asking to get raped. Period. It does not mean you have less consent. Consent is not inversely proportional to the amount of sex you have.

    "There is real danger and abuse in this world (and perhaps on this campus), but let's not pretend that a Swattie who dares to question liberal orthodoxy on the Daily Gazette is looking to enslave women or vilify the human race."

    I find your statement that rape apologism and the perpetuation of rape culture is not a “real danger” or real “abuse in this world” incredibly fucking offensive, straight up. For anyone who has read ZX’s comments or comments that mirror his line of thinking and were triggered, are triggered, suffer PTSD, shut down for a few days, engage in self-harm to take away the pain — IT IS A VERY REAL DANGER. When politicians want to redefine rape to “only non-consensual sex that involves a verbalized ‘no’ and violence” — IT IS A VERY REAL DANGER.

    We’re not talking in terms of left and right here, Danielle. We’re talking in basic human decency. We’re talking in terms of people’s bodily autonomy and learning how to respect it. We’re talking dismantling violent, oppressive cultures that hurt people. Please don’t drag Left v. Right shit into this discussion to DISMISS and ERASE the very real concerns people have about someone who says, “Rape is non-consensual sex, except for _______ and _______.” Rape is the rapist’s fault, and the rapist is a product of an oppressive, patriarchal society. Period.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  19. Phil Chodrow

    March 25, 2011 at 8:54 pm

    [TRIGGER WARNING on this comment for discussion of rape and rape apologism]

    First, I’d like to agree with Adriana and others on the thrust of their comments. ZX, I think that your intentions are good, but your obvious lack of insight on this thread has not served you well. Danielle, I guess I don’t think that you’re doing so well here either.

    I would, however, like to look for a bit of conciliation between ZX and Adriana and others on the issue of intention. ZX has apparently claimed that it should “matter,” while Adriana has said that it shouldn’t. If I have a single point, it’s that there’s SOMETHING ZX is right about, or should have been right about, in their statement.

    First things first: as Adriana and others have emphatically stated, intention does NOT matter for assessing whether or not Julie has raped John, what effect this has on John, and the weight of responsibility which falls on Julie for her actions. Suggesting that it does is, yes, rape apologism. Don’t do this.

    Second things second: ZX, I think you are right in the thought (if this was your thought) that the intention will, in general, matter for what, exactly, those responsibilities are.

    That thought wants some explanation. What’s not on the table is that Julie will have “less” responsibility to John if she were, e.g. drunk than if she were fully conscious. The thought is rather that what she’ll need to do to “work through her behavior and whatever her behavior stems from,” to use Adriana’s words, will differ from case to case. If Julie was drunk, then maybe all she needs to do to “work through her behavior” is to quite alcohol (NOTE: I am NOT asserting that her responsibilities stop here, just THIS aspect of her responsibilities). If Julie was fully conscious and aggressive…well, this is much more troubling.

    Intention matters here. Insofar as rape defiles the aggressor, and poses questions about how the aggressor can (re)learn to be a decent human being, this is an important concern. What we as a society do with rapists is (I hope) at least a little bit about how to make this re(learning) possible. Thus, we can and must be concerned with why rapists have committed their crimes, if our justice system is to be anything other than a vehicle of punishment. Intention matters, HERE, and emphatically NOT in figuring out whether or not rape happened, or “how bad it was,” or who’s to blame.

    ZX, I hope that this is what you meant, or something you can take as a friendly amendment to what you meant. Adriana, I hope that I have respected your position and those of survivors, and also lightened (slightly) the burden of excellent reasons to be angry at what ZX has wrote.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  20. Adriana Massi

    March 25, 2011 at 10:03 pm

    Hey, Phil,

    I think I agree with what you're saying — intention can't be used to excuse any of what happened, but the motivations and core issues of the person who committed assault are absolutely key in that person taking accountability and working through what they did. I appreciate how well you clarified your position.

    Just for the record, I don't think it's anyone's place to mollify people's anger at what ZX et al wrote. Survivors have an absolute right to their anger over what's been said in this thread, and I'm not interested in taking away allies' concern or worry either.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  21. Phil Chodrow

    March 26, 2011 at 12:02 am

    Hey Adriana,

    I think I agree with that final thought as well. I do, however, think that there's at least a little more to say there.

    First: yes, the comments of ZX and others are reasons for concern and for anger. It is far from my place, as it is far from anyone’s, to suppose that clarifying a minor point would diminish the legitimacy of this anger, and I am sorry if I have suggested such.

    On the other hand, these comments are also (opportunities for) teaching moments. We’ll pass these moments by if we are too quick to assume that we know what our interlocutors meant with their words, too quick to assume that what they are saying is completely contrary to the realities of the situation. Survivors have a right to their anger, but exercising that right won’t enlighten those who incite it unless accompanied by (an attempt at) understanding.

    Turning situations like this one into an opportunity for growth is not the uniduty of a survivor or an ally, but it is in their unique power. These groups are the ones who have it in their power to understand, to teach, and to generate real sympathy, in the best sense of the word. Yes, survivors have earned the right to stop at anger. But maybe, just maybe, they can do much more.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  22. Peter '11

    March 26, 2011 at 12:13 am

    There's a trigger warning at the top of this page so, while other criticisms of ZX stand, I don't think it's fair to blame ZX for triggering or necessary to put trigger warnings at the top of every comment. I say this as someone who thinks people have a right to know what content they'll encounter but that a place for uncensored, adult discourse needs to exist.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  23. ____

    March 26, 2011 at 12:26 am

    I don't think ZX was trying to add qualifiers to rape. None of this "rape UNLESS." ZX was trying to state that there are different TYPES of rape–but they're all still rape. There are different types of murder, but they're all still murder. You don't hear a ton of arguing that there's no difference between a premeditated murder and spontaneous manslaughter. They're both murder, both horrifying, but still very different crimes. ZX is saying the same idea here. There are different categories of rape–not a hierarchy, just different subtypes. All of them are horrifying.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  24. Adriana Massi

    March 26, 2011 at 12:35 am

    I'm running out of energy on this one, folks, so forgive the abbreviated responses.

    Peter,

    I'm adding extra trigger warnings just to be cautious; also, this article did not warn for triggers around rape apologism, probably because the author didn't think they were going to encounter it in their comments. ZX introduced a different trigger into the issue. Uncensored adult discourse is great, but you gotta recognize that an uncensored discourse on sexual assault is extremely painful for some people. Warning for triggers doesn't take more than three seconds, and it doesn't really fetter the discussion.

    –_____,

    "A "rape hierarchy" is necessary both legally and morally, because your sloppy definition of rape as "sex without consent" simply doesn't cut it." –ZX

    So, uh, yeah, he was trying to qualify rape.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  25. Adriana Massi

    March 26, 2011 at 12:40 am

    *he/she/xe/they

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  26. Happy Girl From Mean Girls

    March 26, 2011 at 1:16 am

    "I wish we could all get along like we used to in middle school… I wish I could bake a cake filled with rainbows and smiles and everyone would eat and be happy…"

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  27. Just weighing in...

    March 26, 2011 at 2:24 am

    To _______

    As far as comparing levels of rape with levels of murder, there is one important difference. You can accidentally kill someone–if I'm driving drunk, or driving recklessly for some other reason, and hit someone with my car and kill them, that's manslaughter. That is very different, morally, from a premeditated murder in cold blood (murder). That's why we have different legal levels. You can accidentally kill someone, but you CANNOT accidentally rape someone.
    When discussions of rape come up, a lot of people worry that "active consent" is hard to understand or come by. In a society SO steeped in rape culture and sex negativity, I can understand why this idea is radical. But, the fact of the matter is, you KNOW when your partner wants "it" (whatever "it" may be). You know because of verbal and nonverbal clues, and, in the event that you're not sure, you have the tools to get that "yes" or "no". Rape is not a matter of regret or misunderstanding. Rape is a matter of a lack of consent, and a matter of deliberately disregarding that lack of consent, either by refusing to obtain active consent or by ignoring a verbal or non-verbal "no". I fail to see the difference between a "premeditated, back-alley rape" and a drunken attack on a girlfriend or boyfriend. Both cases–and all those in between–involve a lack of consent and a sexual act.
    This is interesting and important stuff–there's a great article here for you Swatties who like to read research: http://yesmeansyesblog.wordpress.com/2011/03/21/mythcommunication-its-not-that-they-dont-understand-they-just-dont-like-the-answer/

    Also: Why was Danielle's comment censored? I didn't agree with it, but I think it's entirely unfair that it was removed from the discourse–she said some controversial things, certainly, but nothing deliberately disrespectful or hateful. Please let's not censor the opinions of those we disagree with!

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  28. More (better) dialogues, please!

    March 26, 2011 at 2:50 am

    Just a memo to all… (and a salute to that weird girl from mean girls who didn't even go to Cady Heron's school)

    I really agree with Paul Cato that dialogues should be started and should be open.

    The discussion of rape specifically is a touchy and possibly traumatic one (as are discussions of race, religion, abortion, etc. etc. etc.), and it's easy to feel as though ignorance is coming from a place of hate, simply because there is a lot of hate and anger surrounding this topic.

    However, it would be great if we could give each other the benefit of the doubt. One example is ZX's self-stated ignorance about false reports of rape. For blatant ignorance like that and for more subtle forms of ignorance–for statements that reflect a lack of education on the subject–PLEASE, can we try to be a little bit more tolerant? No one knows everything about every sensitive subject and the person who has spent their life dissecting racial politics might be clueless when it comes to trans issues. They might ask questions that seem obvious or offensive. They might use vocabulary that isn't as neutral, PC, or articulate as the terms used and decided upon by people who are more knowledgeable about the topic.

    This is not to say that we cannot feel offended or unsafe when someone offends us (even accidentally). This is not to say that no one at Swarthmore could POSSIBLY be a rape apologist (believe you me, I have met many). But, I would be very interested in starting safe dialogues around this topic that allow for the various backgrounds of our study body to be heard.

    Also, to the Serial Monogamist: "mansplaining" ?? Really? Not cool–a sexist term that excludes menfolks from the conversation. Otherwise, great article.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  29. Hermione

    March 26, 2011 at 4:03 am

    There are so many (more important) issues being raised in this thread, but I wanted to revisit one of the minor things that got lost: that evolutionary psychology thing.

    Danielle and ZX, you jumped on SM's use of the word "offensive," but I think you missed the point of why she used it. I really don't think that SM is saying that something shouldn't be discussed because it's offensive. I don't want to put words in her mouth, but to me, the reason that the Evolutionary Psychology Model of Gender, Sex, and Everything Else is offensive is BECAUSE there is so little empirical support for it. It's offensive to me that such bad science is taught as though it's good science (or as good as you can get). Really, it's just a crazy, not-at-all-predictable coincidence that the bad science also happens to uphold a status quo that limits/injures pretty much everyone alive (straight women do this and straight men do that, and anyone who doesn't fit into those rigid categories just…has to endure their biology-defying deviance, I guess).

    I want to say right now that I don't think all evolutionary psychology is wrong, or that it's all bad science. I do think that what generally gets TAUGHT as evolutionary psychology, and what we as a culture UNDERSTAND it to be, is based on wild extrapolations from inconclusive data. There's no way I can prove this claim right now, and I'm not asking you to take my word for it, but that's the position I'm coming from (and maybe SM too?) when I say that if evo-psych is taught to students/anyone, it should come with a big blinking sign that says "Psychology does not approve this message." It's not like this is gravity, or even real evolution. It's controversial just on its merits, let alone on its ideological implications.

    But putting aside the "bad science" part, the purely societal issue isn't irrelevant either. I certainly don't think we should ignore theories just because they're unpopular, but this theory has the potential to be actually harmful. Using biological determinism as a justification has historically meant bad things. Racist/sexist phrenologists had "scientific evidence," too. Is that really any different from saying that women wearing certain colors, or women wearing their hair in a certain style, or men with money, all signal sexual desirability because of evolution? Maybe we should give cultural explanations a fair shot. Even if we're wrong about them, I'm going to guess that it'll be less harmful in the long run. And doesn't it kind of make the evo-psych theory harder to support when we start building it into our cultural narrative of what sex and gender mean, because it then becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy?

    But really, I'd feel a lot more sympathy for evolutionary psychology if most of its academic papers didn't read like they were co-authored by Professor Trelawney.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  30. zx

    March 26, 2011 at 12:05 pm

    ==Trigger warning: rape, rape apologism.==

    Could someone explain how the word "qualifier" should be used? Maybe I used it wrong. I was using it as a synonym for "descriptor," as in there are different types of this crime that merit description beyond the generic term. This is according to the definition of "qualifier" found in the Merriam Webster dictionary: "a word (as an adjective) or word group that limits or *modifies* the meaning of another word (as a noun) or word group." In any case, to clarify, I didn't mean to define new categories that are NOT rape. I meant to define new categories OF rape. See the difference? Okay. What I also wanted to say is that I think a hierarchy should apply to those categories, just as there is a hierarchy in homicides, say, where cases of the first-degree are the most severe in moral and legal infringement, and deserve the harshest punishment. Within the general term, rape, there is a great diversity. I've mentioned a few categories such as statutory rape and date rape. Also some dimensions along which the act can be measured such as premeditation and degree of violence. Again, I'm no expert in the subject, which I've said from the beginning, so I don't mean to be presumptuous and say that I have all the answers, but this is my overall feeling, and I'm sure the fact that I'm not an expert also means I'm missing a lot of examples that would further my case. I'm guessing there are some people in this thread who have studied this subject for a long long time, but I haven't heard an argument to convince me that angry boyfriend rape is necessarily or likely to be the same as a stranger raping someone at gunpoint in an alleyway. Or that 40 year old incest child-rape is the same as two teenagers having sex in a relationship. Or that violently assaulting a person is the same as taking advantage after having consumed alcohol. I don't mean to condone any of the situations described above. I just want to point out that there are different degrees of bad. Anyway, the bottom line is this. I posted because I got the feeling that the author of this article wants to collapse all types of rape into a singular, all-consuming term so as better to stigmatize rapists (see: Kat Clark's comment and the sentiment that drives it), possibly in order to remedy the perceived current level of under-stigmatization. That's fine. I just don't want the practice to get out of hand — in particular, anywhere NEAR the legal system — and to that end I want the motivations to be presented readily and honestly.

    Phil says: "as Adriana and others have emphatically stated, intention does NOT matter for assessing whether or not Julie has raped John, what effect this has on John, and the weight of responsibility which falls on Julie for her actions."

    Phil, I hope you are being philosophical or something. Otherwise I am very confused, and a little disturbed. I'll just say this nice and simply. I believe that the full range of circumstances influence the effect that rape will have on the victim, so that not all rape victims are affected the same way or to the same degree, and these differences can be meaningfully categorized by terms such as "date rape," " premeditated violent rape," "statutory rape," etc. etc. Furthermore, I believe that the circumstances influence the weight of responsibility that falls on the perpetrator, both morally and legally. "Date rape" and "statutory rape" are seen as different both by me and by the law, and they should be. Note that when I say "circumstances," I'm talking more broadly than just the perpetrator's intentions. You keep on using the word "intentions," whereas I mean a multitude of things, so I grant there may be some miscommunication here. Otherwise, we plainly and simply disagree. The only part of your sentence that I agree with is that in all cases, rape is rape, and the perpetrator is now a rapist. Yet, because the definition of rape is so broad, it becomes open-ended as a practical matter. I do not want to live in a society that regards a violent rapist the same as the 17 year old boy in Georgia who was sentenced to 10 years for having "consensual" oral sex with his 15 year old girlfriend. I will not tolerate if someone insinuates, by mere default of the term, that a man having sex with his sleeping wife is committing the same act as that which could be called "something so violent." If all of this makes me a rape apologist, as you claim it does, then I don't know what to say. I am not apologizing for anyone except insofar as they are being treated unfairly by an overly broad categorization. This is not the kind of apologism that you seem to mean, as you seem to mean it pejoratively. Therefore you are tossing labels at me, but I have no idea why they should stick.

    Just weighing in… says: "As far as comparing levels of rape with levels of murder, there is one important difference. You can accidentally kill someone–if I'm driving drunk, or driving recklessly for some other reason, and hit someone with my car and kill them, that's manslaughter. That is very different, morally, from a premeditated murder in cold blood (murder). That's why we have different legal levels. You can accidentally kill someone, but you CANNOT accidentally rape someone."

    Then explain the different degrees of homicide, all of which are intentional and all of which leave the victim absolutely and irreversibly DEAD, but for which apparently there are different degrees of culpability, both morally and legally . And while you're at it, consider and refute the more proper comparison of rape with physical assault. Surely you can't assault someone accidentally, so why is it acceptable that the legal system recognizes nuanced and systematic gradations with this very heinous and brutal crime?

    Adriana says: The “why” and the “situation” have HISTORICALLY been used to silence rape victims/survivors. Just a few months ago, I believe an Alabama court let a rapist off because he had offered a woman a ride, she had accepted, and he had raped her. Because she had gotten in the car, was the argument, she “knew” what was going to happen. "

    Hello? You could have said this from the very beginning. Seriously, from the very beginning. You could have said what you meant. Instead, you decide to be rude and offensive. Well let me respond now and say that I deny any association with anyone who has HISTORICALLY used rape categories to silence victims. I've said repeatedly that I'm out of the loop when it comes to these topics, but you've repeatedly decided to attack me. I don't just mean you, but also the other posters who kind of reflexively post that they feel unsafe due to my comments, which I (as ignorant person in this thread) took to mean that they thought my words indicated that I would physically harm them. Did it ever occur to you that maybe the reason I didn't display a "rape apologism" trigger tag is because I had no idea I was expressing ideas related (historically or otherwise) to the term? You know nothing about me but feel comfortable spouting… oh never mind, I won't go into it. Don't bother replying to this message, as I certainly won't reply to any more of yours.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  31. Don't blame the science

    March 26, 2011 at 1:11 pm

    On the topic of evolutionary psych, I just want to say that there is a lot of great data out there describing factors that influence mate choice in plants and animals, including humans. But I place the blame on the media's sound bite culture for perverting it into grandiose statements of human nature and society. People have a right to criticize bias and other flaws in methodology, but I think these studies can be really useful if understood within their own (if currently pretty limited) contexts.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  32. Max Chomet

    March 26, 2011 at 1:28 pm

    Nice column, SM.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  33. Alex '12

    March 26, 2011 at 1:47 pm

    [trigger for rape/apologism]
    zx, I think that Kat and others feel "unsafe" not because they feel that you are going to attack them, but because you remind us there there are people who are totally ignorant of these issues or worse within our community. I don't think that you commented maliciously, but you do seem to be continuing not to really listen to those of us who have more knowledge than you. I have been studying this for years, SM states that she has done the same, and I think Adriana has as well. She is angry, and I'm sure that makes her posts harder to read, but there are a lot of facts and truths in her posts.

    As for these qualifications that you keep bringing up and don't seem to be listening about, I am lucky enough not to personally be a survivor, but I have many friends who are and I can guaranty that it does not make an ounce of difference to their trauma the circumstances that their rapists acted in. And yes, there is a full range, as you call it, from attacked on the street by a stranger to pushed further by someone she was already making out with. What you don't seem to understand is that intention makes a difference to the rapist but not the victim. A rapist who pre-meditatively goes out to assault someone has to live with that, but a person who rapes someone because he/she/ze/etc. does not know what consent is has to live with the fact that they have traumatized someone and permanently altered their life out of ignorance or lack of caring. But the victim is hurt just as much, if not more by the second situation. And I certainly don't see that one is "better" than the other. I am trying, as Paul, Phil etc. have said, to use this as a teaching moment, but in order for that to happen, you need to listen.

    Btw, the two teenagers having sex who straddle the age of consent is seen as rape by the law, but not by SM's and the rest of our definition of rape as lack of consent.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  34. Kat Clark '12

    March 26, 2011 at 2:03 pm

    "I think that Kat and others feel 'unsafe' not because they feel that you are going to attack them, but because you remind us there there are people who are totally ignorant of these issues or worse within our community."

    Word.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  35. Adriana Massi

    March 26, 2011 at 2:18 pm

    [TRIGGER WARNINGS for discussion of rape, sexual assault, rape apologism]

    To ZX,

    You will probably not believe me when I say this, but I’m not usually someone who needs to have the last internet-word. Most of the time, when someone’s done engaging with me on the worldwide web, I drop it. However, your final post is derailing and, uh, untrue on some points. I don’t expect you to reply (as you didn’t address 98% of my comment in your latest one).

    “ What I also wanted to say is that I think a hierarchy should apply to those categories, just as there is a hierarchy in homicides, say, where cases of the first-degree are the most severe in moral and legal infringement, and deserve the harshest punishment.”

    and

    “I just want to point out that there are different degrees of bad.”

    I will say it again: you are engaging in a kind of ‘oppression olympics.’ Human pain is not quantifiable. What hurts me may be something that wouldn’t even affect you, but it still hurts me, and I need to deal with it and take care of myself. You can’t order or prioritize the “different kinds” of pain (which I’m not sure what that even means, since everyone feels very subjectively anyway, so even a break-up varies widely person to person).

    By placing rape into a hierarchy, you MORE legitimate some kinds of rape. If you say, violently assaulting someone is worse than taking advantage of them with alcohol (deserves a longer/harsher punishment), you are furthering the stereotype that rape must be violent, that a violent rape impacts the victim/survivor more than date rape, that “taking advantage” of someone maybe can start to slide into a grey area in terms of acceptability. And who are you, or even the legal system, to decide what rape is “worse?” Like I said, human pain isn’t quantifiable. And because of that point, intentionality is bullshit, in terms of it “changing” how we should perceive the rape and deal with the rape. Ultimately, I’m advocating for a simple-in-summary, tough-in-doing process of accountability (which may mean not going into the same spaces, moving your housing) and self-work for the person who committed assault. What happened for them in those moments is obviously important, but it does not affect the kind of steps they hopefully undertake and what was done. Intentionality does not negate what was done. Intentionality does not make what was done better. Intentionality does not make what they did “less bad” on this hierarchy you keep proposing for experiences that aren’t really hierarchical.

    As a note, I’m not sure how two teenagers having sex is non-consensual.

    “ Anyway, the bottom line is this. I posted because I got the feeling that the author of this article wants to collapse all types of rape into a singular, all-consuming term so as better to stigmatize rapists (see: Kat Clark's comment and the sentiment that drives it), possibly in order to remedy the perceived current level of under-stigmatization.”

    I don’t know about the author, but my intention is not to stigmatize people who commit assault. If you read some of what I wrote, I chose at points to say just that (“people who … ”), rather than “rapist.” I believe people can change. I also know that practical measures have to be undertaken while they do, which could include the community knowing what’s up. But, yeah, someone who commits assault is still human, and — as I said multiple times — needs to take accountability but is a cultural product of some really fucked up systems.

    “ Yet, because the definition of rape is so broad, it becomes open-ended as a practical matter. I do not want to live in a society that regards a violent rapist the same as the 17 year old boy in Georgia who was sentenced to 10 years for having "consensual" oral sex with his 15 year old girlfriend. I will not tolerate if someone insinuates, by mere default of the term, that a man having sex with his sleeping wife is committing the same act as that which could be called "something so violent."”

    Yes, there are aspects to sexual assault that are open-ended. In the ASAP workshops I’ve run, I ALWAYS get flustered, defensive questions about PA’s zero-tolerance-alcohol law. Basically, if someone has consumed even sip of alcohol, PA says they are unable to consent (because everyone is affected by drugs differently). Immediately, someone asks, “Well, wait, what if BOTH people consumed alcohol? Why does only one of them commit assault?”

    It’s a hard question. The reason the legal system often balks at and resists a true implementation of “rape is non-consent” (ie, in the historic precedent of, “But that woman was wearing a mini-skirt, so she wasn’t raped”) is because there is some grey area. There is some subjectivity. Obviously people hook up every weekend at Paces drunk, and they feel pretty okay about it afterwards. But sometimes people don’t. You ultimately have to listen to the experience of the person who feels violated, who feels as though they didn’t really choose or have any control over what happened to them. Maybe it was as simple as a miscommunication, but — again — intentionality doesn’t matter. Damage is done, and then it’s time to work through it, for the survivor and for the person who committed assault.

    I will reiterate, because I find your last sentence I quoted somewhat disturbing, that non-consent is in itself violent. You don’t need to add physical violence to make it violent. I already made this argument, and you didn’t engage with it — but non-consensual sex is violence. So, yes, the husband is not magically less at fault because he didn’t beat his sleeping wife. Hierarchies don’t work here, not in that way.

    “ And while you're at it, consider and refute the more proper comparison of rape with physical assault. Surely you can't assault someone accidentally, so why is it acceptable that the legal system recognizes nuanced and systematic gradations with this very heinous and brutal crime?”

    The legal system frankly is usually behind the times. Some of us don’t even want a legal system nor think it is effective. I don’t think we can compare the experience of rape to any other experience; I think it may be somewhat trivializing rape to do so. Furthermore, we should be listening to the survivors first, not what Lawyer McLawyerpants has to say about rape.

    “ Hello? You could have said this from the very beginning. Seriously, from the very beginning. You could have said what you meant. Instead, you decide to be rude and offensive.”

    I did, actually. I used that example five lines into my first post. In fact, rereading my post for tone, I don’t think I was offensive at all. I pointed out that you are writing rape apologism. You are writing rape apologism, which means you are currently a rape apologist. Writing that we should hierarchize rape is rape apologism. I also said that you make me feel unsafe. You do make me feel unsafe.

    PS: If you make someone feel unsafe, the appropriate response is not to turn the situation around and insinuate that many people have attacked you and dismiss that person’s feelings. The proper response would be to check yourself, reread your posts and at the very least acknowledge their response. In other words, you are derailing and erasing people’s experiences.

    In this post — I’m not even going to quote, it happens so many times — you claim you are ignorant. You claim you have said many times you don’t really know what’s up with these issues and haven’t really researched them and can’t speak as an authority. We’ll ignore when you take up an authoritative tone, since I could be reading that where it isn’t.

    So, there’s this thing that exists:

    http://www.google.com

    And it’s a wonderful thing because you could, maybe, read a really well researched article on rape and say, “Huh, this whole non-consent thing being a big category — maybe that’s scary or boggling or weird or foreign to me. I don’t know much about survivor issues.” You could, of course, then post a lot of comments about how there needs to be a hierarchy of rape on the issue and get deeply offended when people say that frightens them OR!

    You can use that little thing and type, “survivor issues” or “non-consent” or “being an ally to survivors” or “information about sexual assault.”

    What will happen is THOUSANDS of search results will ping up, and you will have many resources! Some better than others, of course, but you will get THOUSANDS of hits that will provide you with information on survivor issues et al. In fact, you don’t even need to use that little thing — you could ask the author, “Hey, this is really new to me and a little scary; do you know any resources I could look at to get a better understanding of these issues [before I make proscriptive and/or hurtful statements on this thread?]” I bet she/he/xe/they would have replied with some links.

    You may not know much going in. This is the kind of stuff the privileged sweep under the rug. But you have a whole internet out there (and a SMART team and a dean of gender), so you don’t really have an excuse, when confronted with it, to make hurtful statements and then back away, hands in the hair, yelling, “I don’t know anything!” You COULD easily access this information. The burden is not on survivors to educate you.

    You’re right: I don’t know you, I only know what you’ve said. But I can read what you’ve written. I can also see, even in this conversation, you have changed a little bit — you added trigger warnings to your post, and that’s really cool, and I’m being genuine right there. So I’m acknowledging you are learning, but I also believe in accountability for what you’ve said.

    Pax.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  36. Adriana Massi

    March 26, 2011 at 2:19 pm

    Also, Alex managed to say what took me a page in a paragraph. Props.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  37. zx

    March 26, 2011 at 4:13 pm

    Alex: I am listening, I just don't agree. There's a difference, and you should understand that. See my response to Adriana, below, for fuller explanation.

    Adriana: I appreciate the tactful and very extensive message. I really do. I know I'm going to look like a jerk for writing a paragraph response to your gargantuan post, but I hope you understand. I don't quote and try to tackle every major point you bring up, but this is not because I'm ignoring you. I simply don't think it will do much good. I've realized we disagree fundamentally, and further communication will only lead to frustration and/or talking over each other's heads. For example, I think we get into too abstract territory when you refuse to use the legal system even as a guide. We lose what little could have been common ground. I think how punishment should be decided is a very relevant and important issue. In fact, the author of the article advocates removal of these qualifiers in a legal context. But you're not interested. Anyways, the main point is that I don't think alcohol induced lack of consent is the same on the victim as the physical trauma kind with a weapon. Apparently you do. Or, rather, you think there is the potential for that to be so. I would somewhat agree but still think circumstances matter. You would reply that it's all up to the victim. I would say society's view on the topic should be mediated by society's standards of morality etc. You would say that society has no right to do this. And on and on and on. Do you see what I mean? Okay then, I merely hope I've made myself clear and that there are no egregious loose ends. However, I will definitely take you up on the offer and google the other side of the story.

    Finally, to Kat Clark and others whom I have made to feel unsafe: I am sorry as that was not my intention.

    Well this thread is over and done for me. I hope discussion can continue on the article. Have a good day y'all.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  38. zx

    March 26, 2011 at 4:17 pm

    *sigh* I forgot the trigger tag. Sorry, that was not intentional.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  39. Meg Long '12

    March 26, 2011 at 4:34 pm

    It's likely too late for me to say this, and I hope that what I have to say is basic enough that it seems obvious to most people reading. From the discussion herein, however, I'm not so sure.

    This forum isn't an academic vacuum, and the situations being described aren't hypotheticals. This is a public thread in the middle of a community daily newspaper. These are people you know, and people who have probably been reading this discussion (trigger tags don't mean that if you might be triggered you won't read – they mean that you are probably going to read with the knowledge that the following information will be triggering), who have possibly, from some of these comments, felt marginalized or felt like their experiences have been called into question.

    And I think that the discussion is shifting in a direction that is starting to recognize this, but I think that maybe if we all kept in mind that the words here are reaching maybe the person who sits next to you in class, or your friend who feels too ashamed to tell you there might be a little more sensitivity.

    It seems unfathomable to me to compare peoples experiences on some kind of detached scale; as with any trauma, how "bad" it is is an entirely personal thing, a combination of emotional and physical, that can never really be understood by someone outside of it.

    I really do hope this is old new to everyone by now. M

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  40. Danielle, '14

    March 27, 2011 at 12:00 am

    Calling someone a "rape apologist" is a very serious accusation. Can we please save that type of language for those in this world who are actually condoning the magnitude of rape, and not hurl it around at each other, in an attempt to establish some sort of rhetorical upper hand?

    Also, unless someone actually writes something blatantly callous (which I don't think has been the case in this thread), can we as Swarthmore students enter the discussion with the mindset that we all agree on basic principles (i.e. rape and rape apology are terrible, terrible things). Just because people may express their understanding of this weighty subject differently does not mean they suddenly morph into felons. For all our talk about seeking life's "grey areas", we seem to be digging awfully deep gullies in the sand…

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  41. you are totally missing the point

    March 27, 2011 at 12:39 am

    Danielle-

    If you think that a "rape apologist" is defined strictly as someone who "condones the magnitude of rape" and is the equivalent of a "felon", you're mistaken. A rape apologist is someone who participates in victim-blaming, consciously or unconsciously, by believing that certain kinds of rape are more acceptable than others.

    ZX established him/herself as a rape apologist when he/she stated that rape was more okay or less okay in certain situations because of something the victim had done (ex: if the victim is on a date with a person and is drunk, it is not as bad for he/she to be raped; if the victim is married to the person, it is not as bad for he/she to be raped).

    Whether or not ZX consciously intended to perpetuate this kind of victim-blaming hierarchy has nothing to do with whether or not ZX spoke like a rape apologist.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  42. The Serial Monogamist

    March 27, 2011 at 12:53 am

    [most of what's brought up is not rape/assault related, but it is mentioned in the @zx section and a few other tiny places]
    Others are covering most of the big pieces of discussion pretty well, so I’m just going to address the little things that have come up and mostly remained unaddressed. If I missed any, I’m sorry. There are a lot of comments to sift through here.

    Btw, I have admitted to being female, so y'all can definitely use female pronouns to describe me.

    @Meg, That is a good thing to keep in mind, especially on a topic as sensitive as rape, which most of this comment section has become about. I just hope you aren’t implying (as I don’t think you are) that the potential for triggering means the conversation shouldn’t take place, because I think that it’s a very important conversation to have, conducted with as much awareness as possible.

    @Thanks, the section on family values was originally longer, but was cut down for space because it was deemed a bit elementary for college students. Religion does interact with values and ideas about gender and sex in plenty of ways, but they’re highly complicated and vary wildly from group to group. This article is far from all-inclusive, as I’ve said before that would be impossible, and this is an additional factor that we have to consider.
    As for the Vick/Roethlisberger question (jeez, that’s an impossible last name), race is a definite factor, but it is not the only one. In the Kobe situation, his public reputation took a major hit, but according to Wikipedia his only actual punishment was losing endorsement contracts and a settlement with the victim – the NBA did not punish him at all and he was not convicted.

    @zx, I’m leaving the rest of your comment alone because at this point there really isn’t anything more to be said and if you have not been convinced yet, it’s not worth trying. But in regards to the last comment of your original post
    “"If he had committed murder instead of rape, this argument wouldn’t exist." I hope the equivalence being drawn here is … rhetorical? Actually, what were you thinking?”
    If Polanski had committed murder, bank robbery or any other severe crime besides rape/child molestation, he would not have supporters arguing that he isn’t guilty because he’s a grandfather or he has had a hard life or any similar bullshit rape apologist excuses. I don’t see what wrong with this statement, but perhaps you can enlighten me.

    @Danielle, I’m not attacking traditional family structures. This article contains a variety of issues, some more disturbing than others, from rape and assault to transphobia to standards of beauty to jokes. They’re all included because I believe that they are all interconnected. I think that marriage and nuclear families are great if that is what the parties involved want, just as desiring monogamous sex or sex only within the context of marriage is great if that’s what the people involved want. I am not criticizing these things as an option, I am criticizing that they are options valued over all other options. This might surprise you, but my personal sexual values are fairly traditional. I just don’t think that my choices are more valid than anyone else’s.

    On the evolutionary psych issue, brought up by Danielle and others: The view described in the article is not a historical event or a creative work, so it’s weird to compare it to Huck Finn or the Holocaust. It would be more akin to compare it to something like the idea that the sun revolved around the earth or that a vagina is actually an inverted penis – scientific ideas that we used to believe but now know are untrue. @Don’t Blame, I’m sure that the research itself is more complicated and gets explained in greater detail in higher psychology courses, but the version told in the Psych 1 course I took was much like a sound-bite culture explanation and given as if it were absolute fact. As Psych 1 is a very popular course, but relatively few people take higher psych courses, I find that problematic.

    @ More (better) dialogues, the definition of ‘mansplaining’ that I was working with was ‘explaining in a condescending manner, certain that he is right because he is male,” which I felt applied to the article. I had never heard of this term being problematic (bizarrely, the internet isn’t telling me either), which is not of course to say that it isn’t, and if others pipe us saying that it is indeed sexist, I will avoid using it in the future. I certainly don’t believe that the term applies to most or all males. Phil, Paul, and I’m sure at least a few of the anonymous commenters have been male, but have not used that position to assert dominance and have made excellent and thought provoking contributions to the conversation.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  43. zx

    March 27, 2011 at 2:58 am

    [Trigger warning: rape, rape apologism, graphic scenario?]

    I don't know why I'm allowing myself to get dragged back into this. I'm afraid if I don't say it, no one will.

    "A rape apologist is someone who participates in victim-blaming, consciously or unconsciously, by believing that certain kinds of rape are more acceptable than others."

    No, I believe that certain kinds of rape are worse or at the very least different from others. This is not victim-blaming, because I am not blaming the victim for what occurs. In all rape situations, the perpetrator is responsible for doing what he did. This does not change the nature of the situation, and I don't want the situation to be obscured simply because you think rape is infinitely bad and therefore beyond description. I want the perpetrator to be held accountable for what occurred, not what you and others want to associate with what occurred based only on the overly broad definition of a single general term.

    "ZX established him/herself as a rape apologist when he/she stated that rape was more okay or less okay in certain situations"

    No, rape is not more or less okay. Rather, it is more or less bad. It's logically equivalent, just a way of looking at things. But your way of seeing it is, I suggest, disingenuous to a casual or biased reader, given the connotations of using "okay" and "rape" in the same sentence. Let me ask you something. Would I be justified to call you a crime apologist because you believe that there is a certain kind of crime called rape, and that it should be recognized and treated differently from other crimes? Aren't you legitimating certain violent actions by claiming it as part of rape or not part of rape? Aren't you saying certain crimes are more or less acceptable, when in fact ALL victims of crime have been violated in a deep way through ignorance or lack of caring? No, I assume you would probably say that despite all crime being bad, there are important differences and severities that need to be acknowledged. Well this is exactly what I'm saying too. I just can't believe you don't see any similarities.

    "because of something the victim had done"

    Not just that, but also what the perpetrator had done, and other circumstantial facts too. Are you really saying that incest child-rape over the span of years is the same as alcohol-induced rape after a party? This is a serious question. I'm not goading or ridiculing you, I just want to make sure I understand you correctly.

    "Whether or not ZX consciously intended to perpetuate this kind of victim-blaming hierarchy has nothing to do with whether or not ZX spoke like a rape apologist."

    I'm curious. Would you have all rapists receive the same punishment in jail? Or would it still be highly differentiated but depend entirely on the professed and personal experiences of the victim? Then there's no official hierarchy, but still an informal "oppression olympics."

    According to your definition of a rape apologist, probably over 99% of society is one, as long as they perpetuate or accept the current legal code regarding the crime. Would you go to your local courthouse and accuse everyone inside of being rape apologists? Does it bother you that people wouldn't take you seriously? Of course majority rule shouldn't dictate what is right or wrong. But at the very least, it seems that continually calling someone like me a rape apologist is diluting the term when there are lots of people who not only condone but encourage some forms of date rape and statutory rape — as in they are actively promoting and excusing it. You can call me it, but I wanted to defend myself explicitly. I don't consider myself a rape apologist, for the reasons stated in this post. You can call this playing with semantics, whatever. I use the rape apologism trigger warning because I'm aware that my sentiments are historically associated with rape apologists. However, I don't think conceptually that I fit the term.

    Honestly, this interaction has been little else but alienating. I can't seem to find common ground, and some of the ideas posted are flat-out offensive to me. This is just my experience. I know, I know. I just need to read about survivor issues. Maybe that will help, but this has been discouraging.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  44. The Serial Monogamist

    March 27, 2011 at 11:11 am

    [trigger warning for discussion of rape and victim blaming]
    zx, I know that I said that I wasn't going to engage, but this is a slightly different point. I'm sorry that this discussion has been alienating for you, but there seems to be more at stake than you realize. All rape is violent, because by its definition of non-consent, the perpetrator is psychologically damaging another person. Like a few commenters have said, that does not change based on the situation – date rape, spousal rape, acquaintance rape, etc. but the legal system still sees a difference in these situations. The categories that have been defined have nothing to do with the amount of additional physical violence involved, they are defined by the victim's existing relationship with their attacker, and yes, I have an enormous problem with that because it has nothing to do with the crime and I hope you can see how such a system blames the victim for the existence of that relationship.
    While all rapes have equal potential for psychological damage, yes, there can be differences in physical damage. That is why a person can be charged with multiple crimes. Going back to the old example, If Julie beats up John in the act of rape, she should be charged with rape (for her psychological violence) and physical assault (for her physical violence).
    So yes, I think that rape should be one charge, probably with child molestation separate, because that's additional psychological damage. That doesn't mean that all rapists would be treated equally.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  45. zx

    March 27, 2011 at 12:29 pm

    [Trigger warning: rape and blaming the victim]

    Thanks for the response, Serial Monogamist. That was very helpful, and I'm beginning to see your point.

    I'm confused why you think my last post conveyed a slightly different position. I think I've been consistent.

    I agree with you that categories like spousal, date, and acquaintance rape make no essential difference. These relationships don't have inherent impact on the harm to the victim, so sorting them out sounds like a veiled attempt to blame the victim. If ever I implied that sorting these relationships is why I think there should be categorization, then I have to apologize and clarify that that was not my intended meaning. I think this might be the source of misunderstanding between you and me. I understand that promoting THESE categories is hurtful and imply rape apologism. However, that wasn't my goal at all.

    I've tried to focus on the cases where categories actually make sense, i.e., when the circumstances do impact the degree of harm, either physical or psychological or both. Just because there are useless categories doesn't mean there aren't any useful ones. Some of these include the age of the victim and the degree of violence involved. Whenever I referred to date or spousal rape, it was to contrast them with these more extreme cases. While spousal/date/acquaintance rape are not meaningfully different among themselves, I do think they are different from these cases. I think we agree here. You just want the child molestation and physical assault to count as separate crimes. I don't know if this is the right thing to do, as I can't imagine how a violent rape can be understood as violence AND rape, separately, but at least I see where you're coming from.

    Just some loose ends: We are using different definitions of the word 'violent.' I get your point about all rape being violent, but I think it's still useful to have the word mean blunt physical trauma. If a man has sex with his sleeping wife, and she doesn't wake up, the "violence" seems different from the assault kind, and I want our language to reflect that fact.

    Okay I'm happy with your answer. I regret the miscommunication.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  46. Danielle, '14

    March 27, 2011 at 12:52 pm

    I'm happy to see ZX has been brave enough and open-minded enough to participate in this discussion. Hats off.

    The tag-lines at the beginning of the posts warning of sensitive subject matter are noble. At the same time, I wonder why, in the spirit of civility, no one shrugged when I was smeared as "f–ing offensive." Using a curse that by its very crass definition refers to sexual domination seems an odd (and entirely IRONICALLY inappropriate method) for expressing disagreement with me on this topic. Nothing I've said on this thread warrants that language or disrespect. In fact, I know we agree on the basics. Rape and rape apology are wicked, wicked things. I resent that I've been somehow put in the category of an apologist. That type of accusation lacks logic and appears to be a method for dismissing people. It's a poor rhetorical skill. Berating anyone who seeks a different angle for combating this very serious issue is divisive and, well, tinged with hypocrisy.

    Let's go out into the world and deal with this issue. Bombastic comments on the DG promote little.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  47. The Serial Monogamist

    March 27, 2011 at 2:10 pm

    [trigger warning for discussion of rape, though mostly very abstract]

    ZX,
    Sorry. I realize the first statement of my last post was grammatically ambiguous. I meant that I had come up with a different point to argue with you, not that you were saying something different.
    I think it is effectively impossible to categorize degrees of psychological harm, and I think that if rape and physical harm are put into the same category as a single crime, it is unlikely that an accurate and fair "hierarchy" would form because of the cultural assumptions and demands that have been discussed all the way through this thread. Within the legal justice system, I think the best bet for accurate and fair prosecution is in separating the crime into multiple elements. This is a common practice in other crimes. If someone breaks into a house and steals a tv, it's one crime, but it's split into breaking and entering and theft. Same with assaulting someone in order to steal from them, or gun running across country borders without a permit. I see physically violent rape as two separate crimes occurring at the same time: a sexual violation causing psychological damage and a physical assault to the rest of the body.
    For what it's worth, I'm glad that you've mostly come around and understood what we've all been trying to get at, and I'm thankful that you've kept listening.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  48. Paul Cato

    March 27, 2011 at 4:43 pm

    This is the sort of dialogue I was hoping for – I've learned a lot reading through this thread but I feel I must reiterate some of what Danielle and ZX have said regarding the attacks on their character and such.

    Listening and respect are the keys to progress and I think we need to address Danielle's most recent post wherein she expresses her disatisfaction with being attacked.

    We talked of safety earlier – explaining the ways in which some poster's comments made others feel uncomfortable. And while those who said they felt "unsafe" when it came to the ways in which certain people's attitudes made them feel. Now though these feelings were called out by one or two people, for the most part this discomfort was respected given merit by mos on the thread. Unfortunately feelings of non all feelings of "unsafety" (made up word) were respected. Those who felt unsafe expressing their opinions (Danielle and ZX both expressed this sentiment) did not receive even close to the same levels of respect and support and I find it amazing and very admirable that the two have continued on this thread even despite the attacks that have been thrown at them. While I may not agree with their opinions in full, one cannot have dialogue without differing opinions and the two of them have provided this.

    When we push for the respect of our own feelings/the feelings of those who agree with us while overlooking/contributing to the disregard of our interlocutors' feelings we promote hypocrisy and double standards. Such behavior makes our interlocutors feel "unsafe" in the discussion. This *CANNOT* happen.

    Dialogue requires a safe place for all contributing and if we promote situations in which the dissenters feel unable to speak up, people like me – "privileged"/ignorant kids like me, from single sex high school's – reach the point in which they are too fearful to ask questions.

    I don't mean to say that offensive comments need to be tolerated, I'm just pushing the fact that everyone in these heavy discussions needs to feel "safe"

    Though I did not attack Danielle or ZX directly, I showed cowardice and indifference by not speaking up when I saw their character being attacked, lest I begin receiving insults as well. Though I cannot apologize for the comments others made I apologize for my unwillingness to come to your defense.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  49. Paul Cato

    March 27, 2011 at 5:06 pm

    I 'm sorry I should've proofread my post :/

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  50. Will Hopkins '11

    March 27, 2011 at 7:32 pm

    Ditto what Adriana said about SMART: Please, use us! We welcome questions about anything and everything concerning sexual misconduct. Dean Henry is also available, and we will all try to be as helpful as possible. You can even contact us anonymously by email (search for "throwaway email) or phone (our numbers are on the SMART posters). We'll share as much information as we have as non-judgmentally as we can.

    Also, your friendly neighborhood RAs and ASAP facilitators are available to you to discuss anything mentioned here.

    —W (whopkin1/510.972.4841)

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  51. Adriana Massi (is a raptor)

    March 27, 2011 at 8:17 pm

    [TRIGGER WARNING, for discussion of rape, rape apologism]

    To Paul (and everyone in this conversation and any conversation that revolves around issues of a marginalized group/s),

    I hate to derail the dialogues happening here further, but I think a serious distinction needs to be introduced into this conversation.

    In most communities, larger society being one of these, there is the idea that everyone should be “civil” and “polite.” What goes into civility can range from soft voices to vomiting after meals. An important component in US society — and especially chunks of Swat — is that no one’s feelings get hurt. We like our public discourse safe; everyone should not have to experience insults or attacks. I do appreciate civil discourse: abusive language/behavior is a big no-no for me, and so I generally approach conversations with ears open and conscious efforts to check my temper and speak clearly and honestly. I fail sometimes, folks. I fail a lot, but I try to fail in new ways and not old ones.

    The problem with civil discourse is that it is often used by the privileged (in whatever situation) to silence those who already lack a voice. In a safe discourse, no one experiences insults or attacks OR self-realizations OR unpleasant truths about their behaviors or words.

    What I’m driving at is that there’s a difference between attacking someone and calling them out/critiquing what they’ve said done.

    I don’t think expressing a feeling is attacking someone. Feeling Unsafe’s post used I-language, centering his/her/their/hir feelings in their own experience. A couple of other folks (Kat Clark and I, among them) said, “This comment makes me feel unsafe,” which is not saying, “YOU make me feel unsafe” or implying anything. “This comment makes me feel unsafe” means just that — the words you’ve committed to, written down, put your name on (or not) have upset, worried or frightened someone. That statement does not carry any suggestion that’s not projected into it by another reader. People should be allowed to respond to their own emotions and share them honestly in a dialogue. In fact, I think that’s the best way I learn how not to hurt people: someone says, “That comment is really damaging to me,” and suddenly I am forced to rethink something that seemed so common sense (to my privileged self) a second ago. I think if we have a commitment to honest dialogue, the person who was hurt needs to have room to express it, as squirmy or unpleasant or unflattering it might be for the person who caused the hurt.

    On a related note, I don’t think anger needs to be erased out of conversations like these. My tone in my first two comments was undoubtedly angry. I am furious when I think about rape culture and sexual assault and how they’ve affected me and the people I love and PEOPLE. I was/am genuinely angry that rape apologism was happening on the DG, at Swat, at my home, where I generally feel safe. Marginalized groups (and to some extent, their allies) should not have to smile and take the beating — anger is as legitimate as fear, as sadness, as concern, as joy.

    Calling someone out for painful or oppressive words or actions is not an attack. An attack would be launching an insult against their character or slamming an identity someone holds or their ability.

    There have been NO ATTACKS made on this thread by people arguing against rape apologism. IT IS NOT AN ATTACK to call someone out for writing rape apologism. It’s a critique of the words they’ve put down on paper and sent out into the world or a behavior they acted out. It is a serious charge, and it should be received not with kneejerk indignation but a re-evaluation of what’s been said before. Maybe the critique is invalid, but people don’t usually jump to accuse others of rape apologism for no reason, in my experience. To say, “You are a rape apologist,” simply means that someone is writing/performing rape apologism. (The neat thing about grammar is that the tense is in the verb, yes? So “are” means that the person is CURRENTLY a rape apologist, not that they were, are and always will be — the present tense allows room for change).

    If someone has actually made an attack, including me, please let me know — I was surprised at how many folks were able to keep it neutral, and it helped me check my own tone as I was writing.

    So, basically — the call-out/critique and the reception of that critique, hopefully accompanied by self-work/growth, are super-important to dialogue. Attacks should not be tolerated.

    Everything above leads into my next point.

    Sometimes, in the middle of hard conversations, the people who are doing the hurting (usually the ones with privilege but absolutely not always!) don’t want to talk about the real issues anymore. I was a shit as a freshman and sophomore and am still a shit at times, although I’m doing my best to be less shitty. I can now look back and remember what it felt like to be called out on my own racism/ableism/classism for the first times. And I, as is being done now, derailed the conversation. I sidetracked from the real issues. This site (http://www.derailingfordummies.com/) is a great resource for understanding how derailing works.

    Right now, I’m seeing derailing happen. Very real and productive dialogues have happened on this page. Look at the interactions between Unsafe and ZX (which threw some issues out into hte open), between ZX and I — I don’t think I strongly enough expressed the respect I felt for you, ZX, coming out of that conversation: thank you for listening, and thank you for continuing to engage. Even putting those trigger warnings up top and saying you WOULD research totally drained a great deal of the anger I was feeling and restored my faith in people to something a little shinier. Accountability still matters, but I am impressed — between Phil and I, between ZX and the author … the list goes on.

    A dialogue requires two people, though. If you decide not to respond to the majority of someone’s comments, to not respond to their comments at all, to respond with irrelevant comments, you’re pretty much just performing a soliloquy. I mean, go for it, but we’re not doing Shakespeare right now. We’re talking about the trauma that’s happened to people.

    In that line, trying to repeatedly claim this space isn’t “real” is derailing because you’re trivializing these dialogues. Multiple survivors have been triggered by some of the things said on this thread. This space is REAL for people; if it’s not for you, it’s because you’re occupying a place of privilege.

    Focusing the conversation on your hurt at being “personally attacked” is absolutely derailing, particularly when there has not been one personal attack made on you. As I debunked above, being called a rape apologist isn’t an attack; it’s me and others (actually) reading what you wrote and calling it out because silence would be condoning hurtful, damaging remarks.

    ***(I would say something that comes closer to a personal attack would be assuming someone’s level of involvement with survivor issues and then dismissing them as not really an ally, particularly when you don’t know if you’re talking to a survivor.)***

    I’m not going to carry this conversation further. I said what I needed to say: there’s a distinct difference between abusive language and critiques; there’s derailing happening on this thread, and it needs to stop. I won’t engage with someone who won’t engage with my arguments or listen, and I wouldn’t have made this post if Paul hadn’t made his (it’s a response/clarification, really). We all only have a limited amount of energy, and I’d rather spend it on people who are listening and talking and growing along with me.

    For the record, I considered what you, Danielle, had to say about the use of the word “fucking.” You’re right in that I could have picked a better word to describe the depth of my ethical repulsion and frustration at the statements you made. I will argue that it was totally desexualized in that context. But let me amend:

    I find your statement that rape apologism and the perpetuation of rape culture is not a “real danger” or real “abuse in this world” INCREDIBLY, DEEPLY, REPEATEDLY, PAINFULLY offensive, straight up. I find your desire to continue the rape apologism and your willingness to derail the conversations here REALLY, REALLY FRUSTRATING. I would love to know what your investment is in arguing the “flip-side,” always. Devil’s Advocate isn’t cute when it’s around people’s pain. It’s not helpful. What would be helpful is if you engaged in a dialogue with ANYONE ELSE here. Sniping at one word out of what is now ten pages is not productive or constructive. It’s also a really weak rhetorical tactic. ;D

    As painful and exhausting as this thread has been at points, I think it’s generating a lot of awareness around the subtler points of rape culture, and that’s at least one good thing to come out of all this. So, thanks to everyone I’ve talked with and to the author for writing a kickass article.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  52. Max Chomet

    March 27, 2011 at 10:16 pm

    "Devil’s Advocate isn’t cute when it’s around people’s pain."
    - New motto for DG threads, please?

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  53. Alex '12

    March 27, 2011 at 11:05 pm

    Dear Max Chomet,
    I love you.
    This is a legitimate emotion.
    Alex Younger

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  54. a GSST person.

    March 27, 2011 at 11:25 pm

    While I do think you have some good points, I do think you yourself reinforce the gender binary to some extent by stating there's "men" and "women". What about those who identify as something in between? Or neither? Or both?

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  55. Phil Chodrow

    March 27, 2011 at 11:26 pm

    Adriana, I just want to offer you a big chunk of gratitude for your presence on this thread. I'm not sure I've always been comfortable with the tone of some of your comments, but your obvious insight into the issues at hand has enriched the discussion, A LOT. Your comments indicate that this was not necessarily a fun or painless engagement, and I deeply appreciate your contribution. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  56. Adriana Massi

    March 28, 2011 at 1:59 am

    I appreciate the kind words, Phil, but I genuinely regard piping up on this kind of stuff basic decency.

    So, redirect that "thank you" and get involved with the Clothesline Project, ASAP, the SMART team, a crisis hotline, any other awesome organization that advocates for survivors — or just learn how to support a survivor so they can have a safe space when they need it.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  57. zx

    March 28, 2011 at 2:02 am

    [Trigger: rape and rape apology in the abstract]

    I just want to say a few things about the meta-discussion that has unfolded. This is mainly to Adriana.

    I agree that in an honest discussion, not everyone can be made to feel safe or comfortable. In fact sometimes it is good for one or more parties to feel uncomfortable, so they can learn or change. There's also a responsibility to understand and acknowledge and address the feelings of the other parties. People should be able to state their feelings.

    However, the comments of "unsafety" that occurred in the beginning of this thread were attacks and not critiques. I want to make this clear. Accusations of rape apology are often critiques, but not always. Just like accusations of using invalid arguments are often critiques, but not always. Any accusation, delivered the wrong way, runs the risk of attacking someone's character. When the attack is short and inflammatory, this can be in lieu of critiquing the substance of that person's thoughts. I think this is the line that Danielle and Paul were trying to draw.

    Many people have called me a rape apologist in this discussion. On the whole, I don't perceive them as attacks. I've tried not to take offense except insofar as I believe they misconstrue my view or are abusing the term. You can see my post to "you're still not getting…" and I'm not angry at them. When you accused me of 20 different things in your first post, Adriana, I tried to take the relevant ones (from my perspective) in stride. I didn't fully engage them, sure, but that's because I felt a lack of common ground. The parts to which I did take offense were (1) implying that I knowingly triggered victims, (2) gratuitously unloading a whole lot of "isms" to go along with the rape culture aspect. Now I realize you weren't really implying that I did (1) knowingly, and also that (2) perhaps wasn't gratuitous. That was just my feeling at the time. Therefore, I no longer take offense.

    I hope you can see the difference when someone pops in ONLY to say that I make them feel unsafe. And this was at a point in the discussion when I wasn't aware that "safe" is meant as synonymous with "uncomfortable." At the time, my thoughts went like this: unsafe –> physical threat –> in the context of rape discussion –> implying that I am a ___ or will do ___. My opinion is that in context and on this discussion board, such blunt remarks were meant to attack, and not to inform or critique. I am not denying or "erasing" their experiences, but I am questioning why and how they chose to express them. There were times during this discussion when I would read a post, scratch my head, and think "well this sounds really ___." If I had posted all of my feelings and experiences, and in a terse and unfiltered way, then this discussion would not have continued for long, and people would rightfully have felt attacked. So, I don't think it's as simple as accepting everyone's expressions of their feelings at face value. I think we are more nuanced users and receivers of language than that. And please, for the future, please don't nitpick grammar as a means to justify potentially offensive remarks.

    For what it's worth, I understand that in most of society, my position is privileged. It is, after all, the status quo. I can understand, then, why people would more readily believe that I am the silencer, or the oppressor. In this discussion, however, that has not been my experience, at all. When someone like Paul Cato says that he is reaching a point where he finds himself fearful to ask questions, then I suggest something is wrong. (Thank you Paul, by the way, for speaking up. I hope I'm not taking your words out of context. Correct me if I am.)

    Adriana, this is written with good intentions and well wishes.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  58. Adriana Massi

    March 28, 2011 at 9:56 am

    Zx, I would love to continue this dialogue with you. Can you hit me up at amassi1@swa … etc? You can totally use a basically anonymous email — everyone has that middle school address that's like, "devilponi666" or whatever. If you just ping me, so I know your address, I'll chat witchu.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  59. Sara Blanco

    March 28, 2011 at 2:54 pm

    [references to rape and rape apologism]

    "I hope you can see the difference when someone pops in ONLY to say that I make them feel unsafe. And this was at a point in the discussion when I wasn't aware that "safe" is meant as synonymous with "uncomfortable." At the time, my thoughts went like this: unsafe –> physical threat –> in the context of rape discussion –> implying that I am a ___ or will do ___. My opinion is that in context and on this discussion board, such blunt remarks were meant to attack, and not to inform or critique."

    I'm gonna come forward and say that I am the author of both of the "unsafe" posts, as well as the "seriously?" post.

    And I would like to explain what I meant.

    I absolutely did not mean "unsafe" as in "uncomfortable". I did, in fact, mean "unsafe" as in my personal well-being feels threatened. However, I definitely did not ever mean to imply that any of the commenters would ever enact violence against me, or anyone else.

    My concerns lay more in the following:

    1) Many before this post have argued, I think successfully, that rape apologism has real effects on survivors. Now, I am not a survivor, but especially given those frankly terrifying studies SM discussed, the thought of how the issue would be treated both by the community and by the law should anything ever happen makes me feel unsafe.

    2) Other commentors have also argued, again, I think sucessfully, that rape apologism perpetuates rape culture as a whole, which I find threatening.

    I hope that clears up what I meant, and again, this is about my response to the comment, not an attack on the character of the commenter.

    For a really good explanation of this point, check out Adriana's comment, number 51, because I feel that the explanation of the comments regarding people feeling unsafe definitely applies to what I said.

    I hope I've made myself clearer.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  60. Paul Cato

    March 28, 2011 at 9:04 pm

    ZX,

    You summed up what I meant/explained it well – I just couldn't speak on your/Danielle's behalf and I hadn't been called out directly. I agree that terse statements are not the same as critiques. I still don't see what was wrong with my post but oh, I stand by it.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  61. Penguin

    March 28, 2011 at 11:01 pm

    #17: "Sex without consent is rape. Sexual activity without consent is sexual assault (it’s the umbrella term). Consent is sober and active (ie, any amount of drugs in someone’s system means consent is compromised; ie, the absence of a “no” or silence is not a “Yes, please, and more!”)."
    #18: "Hookup culture DOES NOT BLUR THE LINE FOR WHERE CONSENT IS. Let me help you out. Consent is a SOBER ACTIVE YES."

    I'm still a bit unclear on what all of this implies, so please let me know if I've misread you. If it is indeed the case that consent requires sobriety, and given that a large proportion of hookups at Swat take place between two inebriated participants (I think this is a fair assumption), then does it not logically follow that all of these incidents are sexual assault or rape?

    I don't think I agree that a hookup should automatically be considered assault/rape if the participants have been drinking. It seems like the introduction of alcohol and other drugs DOES blur the line: at what point does an individual lose the ability to consent? Is it acceptable if the participants are in a serious relationship and happen to be drunk? I can't help but think that there IS a difference between a typical Swat drunken hookup and a violent attack. Am I wrong? I very well could be (and please correct me if I am), but I don't think this is quite as cut and dry as some people have made it out to be.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  62. Adriana Massi

    March 29, 2011 at 12:06 am

    Hey, Penguin,

    I'm going to quote something I said later than that post, since it's relevant to your question:

    "Yes, there are aspects to sexual assault that are open-ended. In the ASAP workshops I’ve run, I ALWAYS get flustered, defensive questions about PA’s zero-tolerance-alcohol law. Basically, if someone has consumed even sip of alcohol, PA says they are unable to consent (because everyone is affected by drugs differently). Immediately, someone asks, “Well, wait, what if BOTH people consumed alcohol? Why does only one of them commit assault?”

    It’s a hard question. The reason the legal system often balks at and resists a true implementation of “rape is non-consent” (ie, in the historic precedent of, “But that woman was wearing a mini-skirt, so she wasn’t raped”) is because there is some grey area. There is some subjectivity. Obviously people hook up every weekend at Paces drunk, and they feel pretty okay about it afterwards. But sometimes people don’t. You ultimately have to listen to the experience of the person who feels violated, who feels as though they didn’t really choose or have any control over what happened to them. Maybe it was as simple as a miscommunication, but — again — intentionality doesn’t matter. Damage is done, and then it’s time to work through it, for the survivor and for the person who committed assault."

    I wouldn't agree, either, that a drunk hook-up is automatically sexual assault. However, it immediately has the potential to be, by the virtue of the "drunken" element.

    In regards to the law, the capacity to consent varies greatly from individual to individual, re: drugs — I get buzzed off of a glass of wine (and my inhibitions are noticeably lower), while some of my friends can tank down five shots and still make decisions they're okay with later. PA state law is so harsh because that threshold is so individual; they're essentially protecting the most people possible.

    That's the legal system.

    Like I said above, there's a grey area in actual human interactions. When I am confronted with this question in ASAP workshops ("Okay, we get the law, scary upperclassman, BUT WHAT ABOUT PACES?!?!11"), I respond somewhere along the lines of, "If two people wake up in the morning, Steve and Fred, and Fred feels he didn't consent last night, that he was too drunk to make choices, that he was assaulted, Steve and Fred's support systems and possibly the larger community (if Fred gives the green light on the information being out there / is using a more public forum for his healing/safety, like the courts) NEED TO LISTEN to Fred. No one should tell anyone else, 'Well, you were ____ and didn't _____, and so you must have consented.' Non-consent can look like any variety of words and actions, and ultimately only YOU (ie, Fred) know what you're experiencing.

    That's why asking for consent at every stage during sex reduces the chance that there's going to be a painful miscommunication or non-consensual act taking place. The most communication possible — knowing what the other person/people are working through as best possible — cuts down on the chance that you're doing something they don't want.

    (I'm using the "you" here generally, not pointing to anyone in particular.)

    This link has both a lot of pink and a good, sex-positive discussion of your question.

    http://www.hercampus.com/school/bc/sex-files-2-consent-sexy

    I can't speak to the rest of this site, but I think that article is great. I also hope I helped to answer your question. :D

    PS: A really sexy story I heard once was that two folks had been drinking but wanted to hook up. They went back to Barney's room, and Barney put on an hour of The Office so they both had time to sober up a little and reflect on what/if they wanted. Big Bird, as Big Bird told it, POUNCED (consensually) after that hour.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  63. Barney

    March 29, 2011 at 10:35 am

    OMG, Adriana, did a CLP compatriot/alum tell you that story? In which case, aww I think I'm Barney! And that WAS very sexy.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  64. Peter '11

    March 29, 2011 at 3:26 pm

    Haha, cute. You'd think they'd at least watch something sexy like True Blood…

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  65. Adriana Massi

    March 29, 2011 at 5:13 pm

    They did! HI, BARNEY!

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  66. confused

    March 30, 2011 at 7:24 am

    this has been an interesting discussion. I have a question though: not sure if it's been answered somewhere in the last 20+ pages of text.

    Is it always inadvisable to have sex with someone who is not sober? Is this person incapable of credibly conveying their consent?

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  67. Adriana Massi

    March 30, 2011 at 12:22 pm

    Check out #62, Confused.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0