Girls Gone Wild Teaches Us That Legally, “No” Doesn’t Mean Lack of Consent

Sexual assault: Any unwanted act of a sexual nature that is imposed on another person.Found a wonderful note in Facebook from 2010. To my knowledge, the legal decision referenced in this note is still in force today. It is a horrifying precedent. Used by permission of the writer.

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Oops, I Raped You — Sorry About That

Oops, I Raped You — Sorry About That, It Was An Accident, I Didn’t Notice You Were Frozen and Crying

Date rape is extremely common among types of rape. Date rape is also referred to as acquaintance rape, and it encompasses being raped by your official date for the evening, being raped by an acquaintance, being raped by the guy at the bar who chivalrously pulled your chair out for you and bought you a drink, and more.

Here, Here’s a Handy Excuse for Every Situation

By far the most common justification for this type of rape (as well as any other types of rape — it can work with anything!) goes like this: “She never said no.” Or words to that effect. It sets up the classic he said/she said situation in which it is almost impossible to prove rape no matter how much physical evidence may exist. Semen is explained away as the simple result of consensual sex; bruising and other marks are just “rough sex, because she wanted it.”

In the media, we rarely hear about ordinary date rape cases. For one thing, most of them are never reported to the police. Of rapes that are reported, most never make it to court — and by far the majority of cases we hear about in the media are the ones where the legal system and media declare them false or non-credible accusations. As long as this is true, we will continue to overestimate the number of false accusations and underestimate the incidence of date rape.

Be aware, at this point, that a significant number of cases that don’t make it to court end because the rape survivor ended them. The legal system records this as a false accusation or a non-substantiated accusation. That’s not accurate, but it’s the way things are done. The desire to not have your whole life, particularly your sex life, paraded before the country for everyone to see and brutally judge — as well as dread of having to face your attacker in court when you’re likely to lose anyway — these account for many rape cases that end because the survivor weighed her options and didn’t find any good ones.

Rape by Miscommunication

“Rape by miscommunication” is false.  Check out some articles here and here and here and here, and a study here (that several of the articles refer to), on subtlety vs. a plain No as it relates to sex. This article also hits on the subject. The study, and the articles, were done on men discussing getting consent from women.

I would be interested to find out about any similar studies done on women getting consent from men. I’m pretty certain there would be some major differences, and a study on that topic would be fascinating.

I’m Smart and Subtle, Till I’m Not

The bottom line is that men communicating with women understand subtle interpersonal messages from women, and indeed practice subtlety themselves — including not saying a direct “No” to sex. That’s right — men were subtle and indirect about saying No themselves. However, this skill in being subtle and in understanding subtlety only extended until a rapist wanted sex.

Suddenly, confusion entered the picture. Suddenly men in these studies (it wasn’t just rapists, but the men in general) began to talk about women failing to look them in the eye and say a direct No, even though the men themselves did not do that. Suddenly, they professed not to understand subtle messages anymore.

This is a loud, flashing red alarm in a country and culture where 1 in 5 – 1 in 3 women are sexually assaulted in some way during their lifetime (1 in 7 – 1 in 5 men are too, but that was not the subject of these particular studies).

So What Are We Supposed to Do About It?

The Affirmative Consent article referenced above suggested that education is key, suggesting that college students should be educated on the subject. The study I linked to earlier, here, says this:

“[I]n presenting this research, and its associated transcripts, to young men and women, we have found that by drawing attention to our shared commonsensical knowledge of how everyday refusals are normatively done, and then to how this knowledge is often then patently discounted in favour of the interpretative repertoire of miscommunication . . . young people become engaged in an active discussion of how it is that both sexual consent and sexual refusal are actually negotiated.”

I will add here that I would like to know more about female rape of males. I can make an educated guess about some of the differences between male-on-female rape vs. female-on-male rape, but I haven’t yet seen a study on it. The female-on-male rape rate is far lower than vice versa, but it’s good to recognize that male victims are just as traumatized as female victims. Probably different strategies of prevention would apply.

The blog post Talking Past Each Other asks why, when it’s such a small percentage of the male population that commits the vast majority of rapes, do other men defend them and make excuses for them? If that stopped happening, if men who would never ever commit rape stopped covering for rapists in any way, I’ll bet that  — not just education — would have a major impact.

I’m Having Sex For a While, Without Ever Noticing My Partner is Terrified and Not Into It

I have wondered myself why a rapist thinks it’s a good excuse to say, “Well, she didn’t say no, and she didn’t push me away, so I thought she wanted it.” That small subset of men — rapists — sincerely don’t care one way or the other.

When a normal man (that is, a non-rapist) has sex, he notices if his partner is silent, stiff, unresponsive, crying, frozen in fear, pushing him away — he notices a negative response. A guy looking for “Oh yeah!” is going to instantly notice “I just want to go home. Can I go home now?”  or anything said with fear. A normal guy would be very unlikely to even reach that point, because he cares what his partner is feeling. Most men would be horrified to literally push themselves on a partner that so obviously didn’t want to have sex with them.

A rapist can read a woman’s signals just as well as a normal man; the difference is that he doesn’t care.

I’ve thought about how long it takes to rape someone. It’s not an instantaneous act. How is this guy, in the middle of raping a clearly miserable, distressed, terrified partner, overlooking her fear and misery? How is it possible that he can’t see what’s in front of him? The real answer is that he can see. He has simply decided that his desire for sex outweighs her humanity, and he knows that his chances of being sent to prison are ridiculously slim. All he has to do is say he thought it was consensual, and he’ll be off the hook. Based on actual records of rapists, they are able to do this time and again, usually dozens of times, before anything ever sticks legally.

What person is willing to push someone into sex under circumstances that he himself says were ambiguous? If there’s any room for misunderstanding, then don’t have sex. This is not complicated.

Some say, “Well, but women might act one way and mean another thing, and they might be saying no but then all flirting with you…” I have no sympathy for these excuses. If a woman is giving a man mixed signals, or negative signals, or if there’s any doubt at all, then don’t have sex with her. If she wants him, believe me, she will figure out how to be clear. But he already knew that. He just didn’t want to hear the word No. Not verbally, and not nonverbally.

So if you’re a normal guy who has ever spent a moment worrying about false accusations of rape, here’s a tip:

Don’t have sex with anyone who doesn’t give you enthusiastic consent. There you go. The end of all possible misunderstandings.

Rather than setting the bar as low as possible for consent (“Well, she didn’t fight me off, right?”), set it high. If someone is sending you mixed messages, don’t have sex. If she’s saying No, but obviously trying to bait you into making a move, don’t have sex. Set the bar high: Do things like ask her outright and see if she responds enthusiastically. Or flirt with her and see if she makes the first move — and then check with her verbally to be sure. I advise women to do the same thing with men — it eliminates excuses and can help eliminate game-players, always a good thing.

So this whole line of thinking, “She didn’t say no, I mean she said no but then looked away in that flirty way girls do, or she pushed me away but you know how girls are, they want to just act reluctant…” is bogus. If you’re not a rapist, no amount of fudge factor will turn you into one.

It’s impossible to not notice a woman’s lack of enthusiastic consent while she’s being raped. And beforehand. So put away your excuses. We know who you are and we know what you are doing. And today, more and more often, people of goodwill of both sexes are willing to call you out for it. Don’t rape people. Don’t support people who joke about it. Just don’t.

Republicans Retreat on Domestic Violence –

Republicans Retreat on Domestic Violence –

If you are a Republican, or live in an area where your political representatives have opposed the Violence Against Women Act, I would encourage you to contact your senator and congressman/woman to urge them to vote for VAWA. Find your House and Senate representatives (check your state for your local Congress members).

This bill is S. 1925 To Reauthorize VAWA. It has passed in its committee by a narrow margin (10 to 8) and now has to go through the House and Senate. If current voting patterns don’t change, it will not pass. Senator Chuck Grassley is proposing a different form to replace VAWA — one which weakens its power, lowers its funding significantly, and significantly leaves out certain groups of women.

You can click on your representative’s name in this list, go to the bottom of the page under “External Links,” and find the official’s own web page. That’s where information should be posted on how this official has voted on VAWA, in the past and in the present.

Here is more information about individuals voting for/against VAWA:

Supporters and opponents

VAWA update (as of February 2, 2011)

Congress is comprised of the House + the Senate. So your state should have one or more members of the Senate, and one or more members of the House. These are the people to contact — your representatives who vote for/against VAWA.

Read the VAWA link I posted above; it will bullet-list many of the specific goals that VAWA has accomplished in the lives of victims of violence of both sexes.

It has passed overwhelmingly in 2000 and 2005 in Congress, and it should have passed easily again this year. We can only speculate as to why these leaders have changed their minds on an act that has done so much good for so many.

VAWA has accomplished what it was passed to do, and that is not something you can say about every act of Congress. We must keep it going to support victims of sexual violence, domestic violence, stalking, and other crimes.

Thanks for contacting your local Congressional representative to support VAWA.  I am thanking you personally and on behalf of others I know who are grateful for VAWA and the difference it has made in their lives. VAWA is a lifeline, and it works.

New “Ebony” Article: Stop Telling Women How to Not Get Raped

We’re going back to our roots with several posts here; this blog originally launched as a resource for female rape survivors. We’ll continue to offer that and much more.

It is so refreshing to see this article title! Granted, we don’t even reach five comments before someone starts trolling, but people were able to keep the comments focused for that first page. I didn’t read comments beyond that.

If you are a male rape survivor reading this, you are not alone and not left out. Read this past blog post specifically for you (and there are others).

Quick Links for Stalking, Self-Defense, and Female Victims of Violence

These links don’t go together logically, but they’re not individually enough to knit a full post together out of — but they’re good enough I still want to post them.

Nuts and Sluts: The Ways We Dismiss Rape

Dismissing Female Rape Victims

Nuts: Women are crazy. They lie for fun. They lie just to destroy men. They lie for money. They lie for no reason at all. They’re emotional. They’re irrational. They’re unpredictable. They don’t even know what they think. They change their minds all the time. They change their minds in the middle of sex. They’re nuts.

Sluts: Women are insatiable. Oh they want it, but society doesn’t let them be sexually aggressive, so they expect men to be aggressive and come after them, and then they blame men for raping them. Virgins really want it bad. Lesbians really want to have sex with men. Lesbians just need a good **** to cure them. Women just need a good **** to cure them. She had it coming. She wanted it. She asked for it. She smiled at him — she was obviously looking for it. She wore that outfit — she was obviously looking for it. She flirted — she was obviously looking for it. She went home with him — she was obviously looking for it. She let him buy her a drink, dinner, a present — she was obviously looking for it. I bet she feels lucky just to get some. I bet that’s the only way she can get any. You know that one — she’ll spread her legs for anybody. She’s been with every guy in school. At the bar. At church. At work. You know how she got that promotion, right? They’ll all give it up for money. They’re sluts.

Dismissing Male Rape Victims

He’s a homo now. He was a homo before anyway. Men always want sex. What’s the matter with you? You some kind of girly-man? Don’t you want sex? He must not be getting laid — good thing she stepped in. What did she do, beat him up? Overpower him? He’s a weakling. He’s a pussy. It’s just sex.

Men Can Be Raped Too (Now That The FBI Says It’s So)

We’ve gone from this

…to this.

Progress is being made. It’s about time!

To not count male rape in rape statistics is ludicrous. It reflects a willful prejudiced ignorance whose results have been evil in the lives of thousands upon thousands of innocent men.

I am also incredibly pleased by the widening of the definition of rape to include, oh, all kinds of rape. (Who’da thunk it?) No longer will the numbers say that only some rape survivors were raped. Only now can we begin to get a more accurate sense of the rape rate in this country.

Shame on the FBI for taking so long to fix this, but kudos to today’s FBI for fixing it. Keep it up.