Monday, January 30, 2012

Rape is Not That Hard to Define

My heart is heavy today.

Someone close to me, someone I love, was violated. I call it rape. Other people do not, and their refusal to name it for what it is frustrates me. In fact, it angers me. 

Here--with permission--is the story:
A woman enters a new relationship with a man that she likes, a lot. They hang out, and talk, and laugh, and get to know one another. They have sex. They have fun and enjoy each other's company. The woman tells the man that they can only have sex if they use condoms. She is on birth control, but she is being smart. The man tries to get her to stop using condoms, but she insists that they are a necessity. He complains, but concedes. Then, sometimes, he does not concede. Sometimes, he takes the condom off after sex has begun. When she tells him no, not like this, he is charming and reassuring. "It will be fine." She is frustrated and tired of arguing. She does not continue to fight.  
Weeks later. She gets sick. Her fever is high enough to cause hallucinations. She thinks it is the flu. She takes ibuprofen and tries to sleep. She gets worse. Finally, with a fever over 104 degrees, she heads to the emergency room. There she is given antibiotics and a diagnosis: STDs, potentially incurable ones. Hopefully not life-threatening ones.  
She confronts the man, and he immediately apologizes. He does not deflect, he does not get defensive. He apologizes and says he didn't know. He says he loves her. He says he's sorry. So, so, sorry. 
 But is he apologizing for rape? Because that's what he did. He raped her. She said no, and he kept going.

Some people have already started shaming her. Some people have told her she "put herself in this situation." These are people who are supposed to care about, love her. Other people feel sorry for her, but do not call this crime what it is. It is "unfortunate." Yes, perhaps. But it is also rape.

It doesn't matter if she said yes in the first place; that "yes" had conditions that were no longer met when he took off the condom. That "yes" was void.

And it wouldn't matter if she said "yes" and then decided "no." When one person says no, it is the other person's responsibility to stop.

She does not deserve to be shamed over wanting to have a healthy, adult, sexual relationship. That is her right. She has the right to want pleasure. She has the right to want love. She has the right to have sex.

She also has the right to say no, and that right was violated.

I am so, so angry at the man who did this. I am also angry at those who refuse to acknowledge it.

We live in a culture that excuses and sometimes (like in the video below) glorifies rape and sexual predation.

People say that it's too difficult to call this type of situation "rape" because it's too hard to determine consent. Too hard? As blue milk excellently explains, it doesn't have to be difficult at all, and it can be damn sexy:
I don’t know why the idea has persisted that asking for consent is necessarily a clinical business – what is stilted about – more? do you want to? do you like? Because “mood-killer”? Are you kidding me? That moment when they close the space between you both and ask you to put your cards on the table – is this on or not, can I do this with you – is one of the most heart-flippingly exciting moments in all of existence. Eat those moments up because they are the episodes of your life that you will daydream about when you’re ninety years old.
Do you know what's not sexy? Harboring a potentially lifelong disease because someone could not take "no" for an answer. That? That is rape. 

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