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July 11, 2007

What's The Legal Definition of Rape?

I'm pretty wary of dipping a toe into these waters, but this survey Tia links to measuring what proportion of males have committed acts counting as rape has some stunning, and bizarre, findings. It discovered that "one in twelve male students surveyed had committed acts that met the legal definitions of rape or attempted rape." That said, "84 percent of those men who committed rape said that what they did was definitely not rape." And "Only 27 percent of those women whose sexual assault met the legal definition of rape thought of themselves as rape victims."

So what we're left with is eight percent of men have committed an act consonant with the legal definition of rape. But 84 percent of that eight percent either isn't aware of it, or is in denial, or is lying. And 73 percent of the women who were raped either don't believe that's what happened, or are in denial, or are lying. I couldn't find the "legal definition" of rape or attempted rape on the page explaining the study, and can't figure out if it's at variance with the study's definition, which defines rape as "being subjected to unwanted sexual intercourse, oral sex, anal sex, or other sexual contact through the use of force or threat of force."

That seems strange, though. Defining rape as unwanted sex compelled through the use of, or threat of, force, is not a weak or ambiguous definition. In order to clear that bar, there'd have to be actual force employed, or a distinct statement of intent. And if one of those conditions were met, I'd assume both parties would know, and if they were willing to admit to the incident, as they would have had to for this study, I've trouble believing they wouldn't call it rape. So what am I missing here?

July 11, 2007 | Permalink


I think what's missing is realizing that people put themselves into uncomfortable sexual situations - I'm talking about the "perceived victims" here - that they don't want to admit involved coercion or sex against one's will. Having been in one such situation, I have to say it was every bit as demeaning and depressing as it sounds, but it took me several weeks to end the relationship, and even then I felt terribly guilty and sure that I'd done something wrong. I've since discovered that I wasn't alone in this. This is a hard area, and it's tied up in a lot of uncomfortable issues about sex and sexuality (especially, I tend to think, in America, where we don't discuss these issues quite so openly) that are hard to unpack, about finding resistance sexy and alluring and some people - apparently quite a minority - seeing forced sex as just sex. I think this is yet another reason why sex education is so important, why both men and women need to understand boundaries and limits, how to set them and respect them. No one, really, should be put in a position of feeling compelled to have sex against their will.

Posted by: weboy | Jul 11, 2007 2:50:42 PM

The definition strikes me as too broad or vague, in that the term "sexual contact" is used. It might be a proper definition of sexual assault, which is often treated as a broader category. The definition offered at findlaw is:

The crime of rape (or "first-degree sexual assault" in some states) generally refers to non-consensual sexual intercourse that is committed by physical force, threat of injury, or other duress.

It may well be that the study cited (but not explained in detail) is correct in regard to sexual assault, which can include unwanted groping, for example.

Posted by: Sanpete | Jul 11, 2007 2:56:29 PM

This reminds me of the first time I understood what feminist were talking about when they talked about "the rape culture." I'd thought, well, it's not like people go around applauding rapists, so I don't see how that applies. But it's not about saying yay for rape, it's about setting up the cultural narrative about sex so that people who rape people don't recognize what they are doing as rape.

When you hear people talk about "date rape" the number one scenario is, boy, girl, drunk, girl "didn't really say no" or "said no but let him do it anyway" or "said no but didn't fight" or "said no then yes [then no again but who's couting]" and people don't stop to wonder why boys would want to have sex with girls who are saying anything but a really enthusiastic yes. Part of it is that some boys don't expect women to say yes enthusiastically, because they've been taught sex is something men want and women let men have, if men "get lucky."

Also, I think a lot of people still think "rape = a stranger in a dark alley with a knife at your back" so even if they have raped someone, or been raped, they may not recognize it as such because it doesn't fit their mental image of rape.

Also, I'd guess that a good portion of the rapists-who-say-they-didn't-rape, as it were, were raping under the legal definition of having sex with someone unable to give consent, either because they were too young or too drunk. Which, okay, I am not going to call a 17-year-old and a 19-year-old who've been together for a year having sex rape (especially since 17 IS the age of consent in some states). And the drunk thing is where you run into a lot of trouble because, well, some women say yes when they are too drunk to consent and wake up feeling used and abused, and some women say yes when they are too drunk to consent and regret drinking so much that they let this happen again, and some women say yes when they are too drunk to consent and only wish they could remember if the sex was good or not. So you get a lot of "well how could I have KNOWN she was too drunk to give consent" which is... a question I have more patience for than a lot of feminists but one that still pisses me off, because really, "nailing drunk chicks" should not be higher on your priorities list than "NOT FREAKING RAPING PEOPLE." Seriously, you do not need sex that badly. I can understand that you might be unsure. I accept that. But if you are unsure, DON'T HAVE SEX.

Posted by: Isabel | Jul 11, 2007 2:59:31 PM

I didn't read everything at the link, but I get the impression that the study basically worked by asking both pre-selected questions and asking for details. Or maybe the other way around, but it seems that participants were asked general yes/no questions like "have you ever been raped," and were also asked open-ended questions about the details of their worst sexual experience, or their first or their most recent or whatever. If so, they could be marked down as having been raped, even if they did not say (willingly to a stranger with a clipboard) that they felt like they had been raped.

Defining rape as unwanted sex compelled through the use of, or threat of, force, is not a weak or ambiguous definition. In order to clear that bar, there'd have to be actual force employed, or a distinct statement of intent.

Just because one side says — after the fact, in an interview on their own terms, etc. — that they did not use force, or they did something kind of threat-like but it was just a joke, does not mean that the other side remembers it the same way.

And if one of those conditions were met, I'd assume both parties would know, and if they were willing to admit to the incident, as they would have had to for this study, I've trouble believing they wouldn't call it rape.

Scenario: the guy does something which he would describe as being pushy, maybe even "assertive" or "playful," but the girl would describe as rape.
Scenario: the guy describes rape in detail, but doesn't see it as rape because, if you pardon the cliches, she was "asking for it" or was "playing hard to get" or something equally idiotic.
Scenario: he's drunk and doesn't remember the details, or claims not to, or remembers but gives himself the benefit of the doubt.
In addition, I think the legal definition of rape may include sex with a partner who can't give consent because they are intoxicated. (Not nearly as unreasonable as it sounds, especially if the two people are not equally intoxicated.) I can very easily believe that some combination of those would account for the apparently strange survey responses.

Well, to summarize my response to this post: I'm confused by the confusion.

Posted by: Cyrus | Jul 11, 2007 3:00:37 PM

So what am I missing here?

An entire culture built around the notion that men are "owed" sex in certain situations and that women are the primary gatekeepers of rape prevention.

It's not too hard to imagine why a woman might not want to admit she'd been raped when she's been told her entire life that it's up to her to be careful of what you wear, how you wear it, how you carry yourself, where you walk, when you walk there, with whom you walk, whom you trust, what you do, where you do it, with whom you do it, what you drink, how much you drink, whether you make eye contact, if you’re alone, if you’re with a stranger, if you’re in a group, if you’re in a group of strangers, if it’s dark, if the area is unfamiliar, if you’re carrying something, how you carry it, what kind of shoes you’re wearing in case you have to run, what kind of purse you carry, what jewelry you wear, what time it is, what street it is, what environment it is, how many guys you sleep with, what kind of guys you sleep with, who your friends are, to whom you give your number, who’s around when the delivery guy comes, to get an apartment where you can see who’s at the door before they can see you, to check before you open the door to the delivery guy, to own a dog or a dog-sound-making machine, to get a roommate, to take self-defense, to always be alert always pay attention always watch your back always be aware of your surroundings and never let your guard down for a moment lest you be raped; to admit to having been raped is to admit to failure, to having let yourself down.

Nor is it too hard to imagine why a man might not think he'd raped someone when he knows as well as any woman does that she's responsible and, hey, even if something did happen, it's probably her fault, anyway.

Posted by: Melissa McEwan | Jul 11, 2007 3:00:42 PM

The study says "rape or attempted rape". 'The legal definition' is a little tricky in terms of a state-law crime for which there are going to be 50 slightly differing definitions, but say a definition for 'attempted rape' is something like "used force or threat of force in an attempt to make a woman have sex with you." Something that meets the legal definition of attempted rape could be pretty far from anything that sounds as if it would be prosecutable -- it sounds like a million unpleasant stories I heard in college about having to wrestle oneself away from an asshole at a party.

Posted by: LizardBreath | Jul 11, 2007 3:04:12 PM

The general acceptability of men using force or coercion or trickery to get sex out of unwilling partners means that what is actually rape is often not considered rape. For instance, this article I linked yesterday had a scene of a number of men bragging about raping women anally:

“For most of my friends, it’s sort of a domination thing,” says John (not his real name), 30, a writer in New York. “[It’s] basically getting someone in a position where they’re most vulnerable. My friends enjoy that and they tell their friends they did it. But it’s not like girls are ready for it—it’s something they do when they’re really drunk.”

I'm fairly certain that after they forced their cocks up some woman's ass against her will, both these assailants and their victims probably didn't consider it rape, because it doesn't fit the standard boogeyman of a guy leaping out and jumping you in the bushes. But forcing sex on someone against their will did in fact happen. It was in fact rape, if it happened the way implied in this story.

The blogger Happy Feminist used to be a prosecutor and she dealt with rape victims who didn't realize that what had happened to them was actually rape. For instance, she had a victim who was held at gunpoint for a week by her ex-boyfriend, who forced sex on her during the kidnapping. When Happy was putting together charges, she included rape, and the victim was like, "Well, it wasn't rape." She thought it wasn't rape because she "consented" under the threat of being killed. In her mind, rape is when you go down fighting to the last breath. But in reality, if a man holds a gun to your head and says sex or death, that's rape.

When I pressed charges after being raped, I was surprised when the charge the prosecutors came up with was rape. And I was a big feminist! But the idea that rapists are strangers, that bloody violence is involved, etc. is drilled into your brain and it's hard to realize that sneaking up on someone asleep and pushing yourself on them without consent is also rape.

When feminists talk about the "rape culture", this is *exactly* what we mean. Our culture has normalized the idea that it's acceptable for men to try to get sex by breaking resistance through bullying, trickery, etc. All sex is essentially non-consensual in the normal view of gender relations, in that women supposedly dole it out for other reasons (money, fear, love) and men are supposed to "get" it from women. Rape then is considered those actions when men cross some sort of hard-to-define line when coercing sex out of women. Under that model, it's pretty easy to see how someone can feel justified in using some force, so long as he draws the line somewhere. Maybe like hold her down isn't rape, but breaking her nose is.

Posted by: Amanda Marcotte | Jul 11, 2007 3:10:12 PM

To make it clear, since my enemies try to distort everything I say, I don't think most sex is actually forced or coerced. I think women are obviously plenty capable of seeking sex, wanting sex, and participating in it equally. I'm just saying that the model where women are selling and men are buying makes it very easy for rape to happen and have both assailant and victim feel it was just "bad sex".

Posted by: Amanda Marcotte | Jul 11, 2007 3:12:19 PM

"So what am I missing here?"

Women do not necessarily want to talk about rape.

My own sister didn't tell me she had been raped until more than three years after the fact.

Posted by: Sprezzatura | Jul 11, 2007 3:13:16 PM

Further to my point about attempted rape: what you may be having trouble with is a distinction in most people's heads, but not in the law, between force and 'serious' force. A man forces himself on an acquaintance or a girlfriend, and she struggles some but then gives up for whatever reason (fear, shame), they're both likely to come out of that thinking of it as something more like 'coerced consent' rather than rape, as in Amanda's example about the woman who'd had a gun held to her head. Legally, that's rape, but a lot of people, including those directly involved, wouldn't recognize it as such.

Posted by: LizardBreath | Jul 11, 2007 3:26:48 PM

to admit to having been raped is to admit to failure, to having let yourself down.

Nor is it too hard to imagine why a man might not think he'd raped someone when he knows as well as any woman does that she's responsible and, hey, even if something did happen, it's probably her fault, anyway.

Melissa underscores the reasons I didn't even bother trying to report being gang-raped by four of UF's cherished idols favorite sons invincible Gator lineup football scholarship recipients back in 1979. Also, I knew, based on the prevailing notion that rape-prevention was women's work and wealthy alumni don't buy new Corvettes for linebackers only to see them jailed, that reporting the crime would accomplish absolutely nothing beyond setting myself up for a monstrous smear campaign.

I'd been out drinking with my then-boyfriend, roommate of one of the perpetrators. I was barely 19 and appropriately naive, but I knew, nonetheless, exactly what would happen if I went to the police.

You'd think I'd have been able to put that behind me, but no--I blamed myself (exactly the way the whole setup is designed) and then I beat myself up for NOT reporting it, thinking (correctly) that those assholes would go on and do it again to other young women.

So yeah, it's exceedingly difficult to talk about it, and that can last, oh, as long as twenty years or more. Then you hear or read comments by men that "it's all so confusing" and "she was looking so sexy, what was I supposed to assume?" and "everyone was drinking, so it was probably just morning-after regret", and your head explodes and you realize it's time to talk about it.

So here, for what it's worth, is one bit of wisdom for those of you who are hazy or confused: if a person is crying and saying NO over and over, and you have to have your friends hold her down, she hasn't consented to having sex with you, sport.

Posted by: litbrit | Jul 11, 2007 3:52:21 PM

Good points all. I would add one thing:

It's important to remember the erotic obsession our culture has with "aggressive" men and "submissive" women. For as long as I can remember I've been receiving messages from the culture and individuals therein that the only way a woman will want me is if I can be "forceful" with her. These messages doubtless read to women as suggestions that they should allow men to be forceful with them, and in any case they have successfully been encoded as sexual neuroticism in men and women across the country. Sex need not be violence, but it has been encoded as such -- with the result of the understanding of the penis as a weapon, the vulva as a target, and so on. This is a feature of even nominally liberal discourse on sex. I remember a while ago when I was talking about sex on an Internet forum populated by several varieties of Marxists and all manner of overtly feminist gay and straight people of both gender, I was actually taken to task because I said I refused to do anything sexual with another person without explicit consent. They said I was being ridiculous and that I was killing the romance in my relationships. I was forced to ask, what's romantic about risking sexual violence against another person?

But of course, we all know what's romantic about violence -- because we almost universally think, when it gets right down to it, of sex in those terms. Even the feminist movement will periodically cast sex as necessarily a form of violence.

I want to scream it every day: my penis is not a weapon. My penis is not a weapon! And neither is yours.

Posted by: Mike Meginnis | Jul 11, 2007 3:55:05 PM

"So what am I missing here?"

I can't see how they got their numbers, but it I've read about studies where they got similar results by asking a set of questions like:
Did you have sex because you partner did X, Y or Z?
Did your partner ever attempt to use X, Y or Z to get you to have sex?

There is a disconnect between saying yes to some of these questions and thinking you were raped. I suspect once you see the questions you will have a general idea why there is a disconnect.

The disconnect might be for the reasons listed above. Alcohol related questions are also considered to be an issue.

Christina Hoff Summers does have a chapter in one books on these types of studies. ( I'm completely aware she's awful)

Posted by: ChrisB | Jul 11, 2007 3:57:54 PM

This is an important thread, and I want to make one thing clear: I'm confused by the response rates in the study, which seem odd coming from a single, coherent methodology. I'm not confused over whether date rape, or gang rape, or coercive intercourse in any form is abhorrent.

Posted by: Ezra | Jul 11, 2007 4:01:43 PM

closing a tag.

Posted by: Ezra | Jul 11, 2007 4:02:15 PM

I love the idea that "explicit consent" or what I like to call "enthusiasm" is considered unromantic. You've put your finger on it, Mike. Every time I get in one of those threads where guys ask a bunch of questions about how much they get to force before it counts, all I can think/say is, "Man, how hard up are you?" And they're asking about the legal definition. My attitude is that you shouldn't rape, even if you suspect you'll escape legal punishment. It's wrong and evil.

I mean, what's so wrong with only having sex with people who want it? What's so wrong about going for the ones who say, "Yes, please," instead of just the ones who say, "I'd rather not, but if I have to."

Posted by: Amanda Marcotte | Jul 11, 2007 4:05:33 PM

Here's the Illinois statute:

(720 ILCS 5/12‑13) (from Ch. 38, par. 12‑13)
Sec. 12‑13. Criminal Sexual Assault.
(a) The accused commits criminal sexual assault if he or she:
(1) commits an act of sexual penetration by the use of force or threat of force; or
(2) commits an act of sexual penetration and the accused knew that the victim was unable to understand the nature of the act or was unable to give knowing consent; or
(3) commits an act of sexual penetration with a victim who was under 18 years of age when the act was committed and the accused was a family member; or
(4) commits an act of sexual penetration with a victim who was at least 13 years of age but under 18 years of age when the act was committed and the accused was 17 years of age or over and held a position of trust, authority or supervision in relation to the victim.

Posted by: Stuart Eugene Thiel | Jul 11, 2007 4:05:48 PM

I just wanted to highlight something Amanda said, since it's spot on:

"I'm just saying that the model where women are selling and men are buying makes it very easy for rape to happen and have both assailant and victim feel it was just 'bad sex'."

There's a societal problem where guys are expected (or think they're expected) to be the agressors in a sexual encounter. And if they don't "put the moves on" and initiate a sexual encounter at every opportunity they're weak and cowardly. Add to that the prevailing "women are the ones who stop rape" attitude mentioned above and there's a recipe for trouble.

Posted by: g-rant | Jul 11, 2007 4:07:45 PM

I'm confused by the response rates in the study, which seem odd coming from a single, coherent methodology.

Well, I think it shows how pervasive the acceptance of coercion is. It's well-believed in our society that men have a certain right to fight a woman about sex until she gives in. Thus, we basically have a culture where some kinds of raping is "not rape" and some is. Thus, people get confused and tend to avoid the taboo word "rape" when describing rapes they've committed or suffered.

Posted by: Amanda Marcotte | Jul 11, 2007 4:08:18 PM

For as long as I can remember I've been receiving messages from the culture and individuals therein that the only way a woman will want me is if I can be "forceful" with her.

Which is the inevitable result of a culture that regards rape as a compliment.

Posted by: Melissa McEwan | Jul 11, 2007 4:09:56 PM

The link is based on a biased and largely debunked study.

I am glad you are wading into the waters, but before you do, ask yourself if you are committed to intellectual honesty or not. Because there are people, some appearing on this very page, that will declare you a misogynist rapist godbag pedofile wifebeater and her own personal stalker enemy if you say the wrong thing. And then instead of taking responsibility for their statements they'll say they were joking and being sarcastic.

So ask yourself if you are committed to intellectual honesty, and require good data, or if you would prefer to live your life as a good guy because you link to the politically correct sites. (Scott Lemiux and most of LGM, for example, have a great gig going as echo-feminists.)

If it's intellectual honesty you're after, try googling Mary Koss and seeing what comes up. If you get a study from Christina Hoff Sommers, don't just click away. She has a Ph.D. She considers herself a feminist. Same with many other women that have looked at the issues.

Other people you may wish to google for their take:

Cathy Young,
Wendy McElroy,
Glenn Sacks.

I'm just saying that the model where women are selling and men are buying makes it very easy for rape to happen and have both assailant and victim feel it was just "bad sex".

But Amanda knows better! When both assailant and victim believe it to just be bad sex, we know it's rape! Well so did Mary Koss.

Here's a good checklist: the Biting Beaver rape checklist:


Some things to remember...

1. You are a rapist if you get a girl drunk and have sex with her.

2. You are a rapist if you find a drunk girl and have sex with her.

3. You are a rapist if you get yourself drunk and have sex with her. Your drunkeness is no excuse.

4. If you are BOTH drunk you may still be a rapist.

6. If she's sleeping and you have sex with her you're a rapist.

8. If she's taking sleeping pills and doesn’t wake up when you have sex with her then you’re a rapist.

9. If she is incapacitated in any way and unable to say 'Yes' then you're a rapist.

13. You are a rapist if you 'nag' her for sex. Because you manage to ply an eventual 'yes' from a weary victim doesn't mean it's not rape. You are a rapist.

14. You are a rapist if you try to circumvent her "No" by talking her into it. She's not playing hard to get, and, even if she IS it's not YOUR responsibility to 'get' her. You're still a rapist.

15. You are a rapist if you manipulate her into sex when she doesn't otherwise want it. If you say, "If you loved me you’d do X" then you're a rapist. If you say, "All the other kids are doing it!" then you're a rapist.

17. You are a rapist if you don't immediately get your hands off of her when she says 'no'. You are a rapist if you take your hands off of her and then put them back ON her after 10 minutes and she eventually 'gives in' to this tactic.

18. You are a rapist if you won't let her sleep peacefully without waking her every 15 minutes asking her for sex. Sleep depravation is a form of torture and YOU are a rapist.

20. If you're engaged in intercourse and she says 'No' at ANY point and you don't immediately stop then you're a rapist.

21. If she said "Yes" to sex with a condom and that condom breaks and you proceed anyway then you're a rapist.

22. If she picked you up at a bar looking for sex and then decides that she doesn't WANT sex and you continue then you're a rapist.

23. If she changes her mind at ANY point for ANY reason and you don't immediately back off or you try to talk her into it and get sex anyway then you're a rapist.

Note for Amanda, etc.: don't get me wrong, I am not saying the included points above are not rape. I am noting these are awfully black and white statements to be stated in a rape checklist as "you are a rapist."

Now read the case of Nick Kiddle over at amptoons, and read what some people have said about that.

Nick Kiddle went to a bar one night looking for sex. She was sober and stayed sober. She found three drunk paratroopers. The first was so drunk that he turned down her offer of oral sex because he knew he couldn't function. The other two she took back to their tent (or somewhere, never quite sure.) At least one of the other two was so drunk that Nick Kiddle said he was "so drunk as to be deaf to reason" and she knew that beforehand.

They started to have sex. Somewhere along the way the condom disappeared and Nick Kiddle reasonably wanted to stop having sex. The paratrooper wasn't so sure and he was aroused and "negotiated" as people will do for the activities to continue. Kiddle kept her ground and placed a hand over her vagina. The two paratroopers went home (or left.) Nick then found a third paratrooper and took her to her father's home (where she lived and had sex with him.)

The next day at her live journal, Nick Kiddle described the affair of the night before as fun.

A day or two later her dad kicked her out of her home because he felt he had shamed the family.

A month later, Kiddle writes at amptoons about her near rape experience. Lots of people tell her that she was an idiot and she had some responsibility but she stood her ground. She had no responsibility.

So Ez, and Amanda, And Melissa, according to the Biting Beaver, is Nick Kiddle a rapist?

Or was it the paratrooper as Nick Kiddle, Barry Deutsch, and Amanda insist?

Salon has had some interesting discussion of this the past few days wrt to the question of whether Katie Roiphe is a feminist or not when she says that sometimes bad sex is bad sex and not rape and that modern adult women are rational, effective agents and can be held responsible for the bad decisions they make.







Nick Kiddle's original posts about this at live journal:


More background information as you wade into these waters in search of intellectual honesty:


Dr. Christina Hoff Sommers:

Glenn Sacks:

Other people you may wish to research include:
Daphne Patai, Phd Professor
Erin Pizzey (founder of first women's domestic violence shelter)
Karen DeCrow (former head of NOW)
Christine Stolba, PhD Professor
Noretta Koertge, Phd Professor
Wendy Kaminer, ACLU Lawyer
Nadine Strosser, Head of the ACLU
Sally Satel, MD
Virginia Postrel, Blogger

Some folks will dismiss some of these women as anti-feminists, just as we netroots people dismiss DLCers as anti-democrats, and the DLCers dismiss us as anti-democrats, and just as we dismiss republicans as anti-Americans, and just as reform Jews dismiss orthodox jews as anti-Jews and orthodox jews dismiss reform jews as anti-jews. Just as orthodox economists dismiss heterodox economists as anti-economists and vice-versa. Except none of these groups dismiss other people within that group that have different perspectives as anti-, except for feminists.

But you can ask yourself, are all of these women that have various critiques of feminism in issues of rape, false allegations, domestic violence, child custody, free speech, political correctness, from the head of the ACLU to former leaders at NOW, to Ph.D professors that say they are feminists, are all of these women anti-feminists?

Calling women that disagree with them anti-feminists demeans the entire, very rich, history of the feminist movement, which comes today from the contributions of many many different women and men with differing views.

And yes, I am a feminist, and have been one since the early 70s, thanks to a wonderful 8th grade teacher.

Posted by: anon | Jul 11, 2007 4:12:51 PM

Amanda: Yep.

Just to clarify, the people I was discussing this with weren't arguing from the "how much can I get away with" perspective, they were saying that if you want some particular sexual act, you should be able to read your partner's mind and do it if you telepathically know they want you to.

As someone who has been on the receiving end of downright tortuous treatment on the assumption I would be cool with it, I know how wrong this can go.

Posted by: Mike Meginnis | Jul 11, 2007 4:13:49 PM

Well, I think it shows how pervasive the acceptance of coercion is.

Or it may also show the definition used was too broad, as appears to be the case. I agree with all the points made here, but I don't trust the numbers cited from that source.

Posted by: Sanpete | Jul 11, 2007 4:23:06 PM

In order to clear that bar, there'd have to be actual force employed, or a distinct statement of intent.

Eh, not necessarily, since the threat of force can be implied. A woman can be raped even if the rapist doesn't use force, doesn't say "do this or else," doesn't brandish a weapon.

Posted by: Jason G. | Jul 11, 2007 4:24:11 PM

In a patriarchal society, men are expected to be sexual aggressors and "conquer" women, and women are expected to repress their sexual desires and say "no" even when they mean "yes". Men then assume that women who say "no" really mean "yes" and press forward. And sometimes, women do change their mind, either because the guy is wearing them down and they don't want to fight anymore or because they are trying to conform to socially acceptable conceptions of female sexuality by never being the initiator or wanting sex for themselves. This then reinforces the conduct of men, because they find that when there is no consent and they press the issue, they can sometimes obtain consent.

The problem is, a sexist society messes up our ability to negotiate sexual consent. It's very hard to regulate this, because so much sexual activity is spontaneous and without explicit verbal consents so we have to look to objective signs of a refusal to consent. But that privileges guys who develop the skill of successfully overbearing women's will. And all those books telling women to be "hard to get" and "don't give the milk away for free or he won't buy the cow" aren't helping any either.

Posted by: Dilan Esper | Jul 11, 2007 4:26:03 PM

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