OK, this should be a challenge. Delusional as I may be, even I don’t expect we’re going to get to the bottom of this today. All journeys begin with a single step, though, so off we go!
Just as I don’t really know why I have to be one of those whiney, high-maintenance, gluten-free types other than that it keeps me from consuming Chips Ahoy cookies by the package, taking on this challenge should keep me safe from ever imagining that I might do something crazy like running for public office. This will certainly contain material that with the simplest of spin or the slightest will to misinterpret will insure that. I mean, along with my usual legal and medical incompetence, of course.
Waivers: I am no sort of lawyer, doctor or psychologist. I think of myself as a sort of generalist, plus also, I think the experts don’t seem to be solving the rape issues, maybe they know too much. It is too often the accumulation of details that protect the status quo, that somehow override the principles we are trying to keep to, or trying to create. What I bring to the table, I think, is exactly a positive non-expertise. I like to think of my musings as somewhere between childish fumbling and moral philosophy. So to it, then.
I’ll Pick up where Part #1 leaves off, but first, disdaining the status quo as to how to write well (as well as of most other things), I’ll give up the best part right off the bat.
- “The victim liked it.”
I hope someone will correct me if I’m setting up a strawman here, but it would seem that rape is difficult to find sympathy for and difficult to prosecute if we think the victim liked it. Is that fair to say?
Injury, that is evidence of a beating or tearing of the muscles and tissues of the vagina and or rectum, this is the most persuasive evidence we see, I think. With that sort of evidence, a victim can reasonably hope for at least an attempt at prosecution, and these cases probably produce the greatest number of convictions. Sadly, the absence of this trauma can make rape invisible to some people, in some ways; the lubrication that makes sex possible without injury hurts the victims’ case. Cultural attitudes play their part, of course. Apparently lubrication still carries a stigma of sin, despite many factors, such as:
- lubrication and arousal are physical responses, and as such should not be considered to supersede conscious choice or consent; if the lubrication was the result of consensual play, same answer: not an override for non-consent of anything that follows.
- lubrication and arousal are physical responses, and as such may very well occur without any consensual play whatsoever. It is my possibly unpopular contention that sex is sexy, that even unwanted sex, even forced sex can produce the physical responses. (Men, remember the early puberty erections in school? Were those convenient, were they wanted? Would they excuse someone raping you?) That the physical responses imply consent is rubbish, something only rapists and their enablers should be advocating. Same for orgasms: even the world’s greatest orgasm means nothing as regards consent. If we could get that straight, all this confusion might be over already.
- While I’m at it, while we’re all trying to look at the uncomfortable physical details of rape, we might as well get the worst of it out of the way. I’ll say it, if no-one else will: rape victims probably mostly do become aroused and lubricate – I don’t know how calloused your penis is, gentlemen, but for me, and I imagine for most of us, moisture is sort of mandatory for sex to be pleasurable instead of painful (I can’t speak for the uncircumcised. Perhaps that’s somewhat different?). I expect that when the tearing and injuries occur, that the rapist must be very drunk, that he too probably sustains some injury that he wasn’t able to feel at the time. It seems to me, if a rape victim didn’t lubricate, there would be very few sober serial rapists (of course, many of these rapists would probably simply dish out beatings instead of rapes. It really isn’t most often primarily about sex). Logical? Gross and uncomfortable yes, I’m sorry – but logical, right? Something we should probably face if we’re serious about dealing with this thing?
I should note, that the preceding ideas are surely known to doctors, lawyers, and other professionals who have the sad duty to deal with rape and its victims, plus, of course, to rapists and their victims. I don’t think little ol’ me is going to teach any of the pros anything; this is just for the average person, the voter, who perhaps knows little enough about these issues and may end up electing the wrong people because of it (such as some of the American politicians who have famously tried to weigh in on the subject in recent years, armed with only puritanical ignorance and little else).
But that’s not all there is either. That argument still leaves us at the status quo, because those points are already being made. Let’s take one more, tiny step.
So what if the victim liked it? Seriously: so what?
The argument that the victim enjoyed it only works for sex crimes, because of the aforementioned cultural baggage; for understanding, perhaps we should slide the argument over into some less confusing and emotionally loaded areas. What if it was about food, for instance?
Suppose I loved ice cream and all things sweet (hypothetically!) but that I was for any number of reasons trying to avoid it, reasons of health, weight, reasons of Calvinist self-denial, whatever. Now suppose you offer me a hot fudge sundae (I hear people like those) and I decline your offer. Now suppose you force me to eat it, whether you simply threaten me, or whether you hold me down, pry my mouth open and force it down my throat. Perhaps everybody knows I love hot fudge. Maybe I’ve kept my diet for weeks or months and I can’t deny the pure, childlike pleasure it gives me to eat it. Here’s the point: is one private citizen assaulting and force feeding another not a crime? Hold on, that analogy was a little too good, it still looks like a possible grey area! What about this:
Suppose, for whatever reason I enjoy pain, or maybe I get some mental or emotional payoff from being hurt and victimized. Now suppose that uninvited, you beat the living shit out of me.
See it now? Suppose I think I’m in too high a tax bracket, I need a loss to balance things out, and you rob my store? (What about selling drugs? When my dealer got busted, no-one opted not to prosecute her on the theory that her customers liked it.) You know what? Just in case I’m leaving too much unsaid, just on the off chance that someone might rat me out to Pinker, I’ll spell it out.
Assault, battery, and armed robbery (as well as drug trafficking) are still crimes, despite that the victim might have a complex, real-life reason to enjoy it. Why wouldn’t that be true for rape?
Rhetorical, of course: it is.
- Complex, Real-life Reasons
I won’t be the first one ever to say that sex and power are tangled together in the human psyche – but maybe those of us who would like to change that are in the minority. Feminists, those that are talking about rape culture – certainly many of those folks don’t think that men, nearly half of the population, are serious about wanting to separate the two things. Plus, there are certainly plenty of women who wouldn’t wish the power dynamics of sex away completely. The positions the original two genders hold in the power dynamic are a big part of how we identify each other as potential or actual sex partners, and the cliché and therefore likely the majority opinion has been vulnerability is sexy in women and not so much in men, and the other side, strength is associated with maleness – and “genderness” as such is what we have mostly found to be sexy. Manly men, womanly women, this is what most folks have been finding attractive; womanly men and manly women, these have been the minority attractions for much of our history. This is not news to anyone I’m sure, these ideas are definitive, aren’t they?
(BTW, this is the obvious reason why paedophilia and homosexuality have nothing to do with each other in most cases. If a man is homosexual, that probably means he likes men – manly men, like straight women have mostly liked: big, strong, aggressive, hairy men. The specific suite of what the paedophile imagines to be sexual markers in children have traditionally been some of the womanly ones, namely small, weak, and hairless. Right?)
So we wouldn’t expect a real majority of the male gender to wish away the sexual aspects of power or the power aspects of sex, because mostly, men have been enjoying the upper hand there, and I think many women like most things about the current state of affairs also, although definitely not everything. So for the good, normal and repressed people of the world, the power dynamics of gender and sex are just a part of the fun, the dark side of which – rape – seems to be regarded as an unrelated phenomenon. Vive la difference! Then there’s the BDSM community, for whom the normal dynamics of gender and power are only a stepping off point.
All of this is to say, mostly, we like it this way, and very likely there is a huge evolutionary component to the way things are. Certainly wife-stealing and wartime rapes have been known to broaden the gene pool in some small groups. For many creatures, rape is pretty much all there is, and if only the males of a species ever wanted sex, that species may get on just fine and rape for that creature would be critical for the survival of them all. But comparing us to other animals, while instructive, is always fraught with error.
When we look at other species, or when we try to look into H. G. Wells’ ‘deep well’ of our own pre-historic past, we are simply making empirical observations without any chance or thought as to what they were thinking when they engaged in the observed behaviour. In this way, making human/animal comparisons can become only a way for us to deny the responsibility for our choices in life. Of course, just as our ability to continue as a species isn’t threatened by a small portion of homosexuality, neither would it be threatened by us more effectively cutting back on rape. This leads me to a point, eventually: sex and our conscious, rational, civilized life have always inhabited divergent worlds.
Christian it must be in origin, but I, for one, have personally never been able to reconcile the rational, moral life we lead when we have our clothes and the lights on with the irrational, animal world of sex. I literally need some fifteen minutes to move away from the repressed rational life I have with reading and my attempts at writing before I can switch gears and make love to my wife. How younger, more sexually driven people have any competence in their modern jobs while always living in the sexual animal mind is beyond me. That some exceptional people actually integrate the two sides of life – well, I don’t really believe it. When I hear of some brilliant artist’s life of sexual exploitation, I assume he has a split personality – again, Christian sexual repression to be sure, but as I write this, my self-esteem isn’t at its lowest and I’m not assuming that I’m the only one with problems. Repressed I may be, but a lifelong obsession with sex isn’t necessarily proof of an absence of neuroses either. Having said that . . .
If my life were all about sex, I mean if sex was the most important thing in my life – I’d probably be a bisexual bottom. I have masturbatory fantasies that range from consensual straight sex through cheating scenarios, to forced sex with big, fat women and beyond, all the way to me being the unwilling Chinese finger-trap for a pair of rough, scary men in a prison shower. I have these fantasies, and I never know from day to day which fantasy is going to be the one to work, but these are fantasies. This is not an invitation to anyone out there, and it is not – I want to make this perfectly clear – not consent. I am a happily married man, and I want to keep it that way. At the end of my life I will be happy to have missed out on some life experiences and also to have avoided their consequences. This is a conscious decision for me, and if I don’t get too drunk in scary places, I expect I’ll stick to it. I ain’t all that young and pretty, and that should help limit my opportunities to make a liar of myself in that way: no-one’s asking me. Ha.
I say “bottom” – check the Urban Dictionary if you don’t know that one yet – because I don’t have “top” fantasies, I don’t dream of dominating anyone or anything. With my wife, I have raised two girls to adulthood and near-adulthood from birth with no punishment whatsoever. I have never owned a dog, because I would want a big one, and I don’t want to have to dominate it. Repression again, sure, but I have lived my life in terror of any personal power I might have; I’m prone to guilt and I don’t want the responsibility of hurting anyone. I think there have been times when my sanctimonious judgment has hurt someone’s feelings, and besides feeling awful about it, it gave me an exaggerated sense of my own power. Again, it’s exaggerated, neurotic, and arrogant: fine for you to stomp around hurting people, but not me.
Perhaps some time embracing some personal power and pushing someone around would be good for me, liberating. I wonder how many rapes happen that way, some overly passive person trying it, ‘just this once?’ I don’t expect I could get it up – but there’s a pill for that, isn’t there? What a horrible line of thought! Maybe those sorts of experimental rapes are on the increase these days . . . crimes of self-discovery. I’m sorry. That was a depressing digression. Where were we? Oh yes, fantasies of having sex forced on us.
I have them, and I don’t imagine I’m the only one. I expect, if I were raped, by an intimidating man, a big, strong woman, or a diabolical smaller woman with some handcuffs and the element of surprise – that I would respond physically, arousal and orgasm, and maybe a really great orgasm. But rape is rape, because crime is crime. If I wanted that, my wife would be right to divorce me, and things in my life would be considerably worsened – so I don’t want it. Not sarcastic. No wink, no fingers crossed. That’s what fantasies are for, we get a sense of the nasty experience with none of the real-life downside. Many are the ways in which what is good for our libido is bad for our lives.
This is the false choice we hear around the water cooler, and God forbid some of our co-workers having these conversations wind up doing jury duty: ‘she was raped,’ or ‘she liked it.’ The complex, real-life fact is, sex is sex, and we all like it, and we like it even more for its power imbalances, but there are still problems with it. There are still STIs, unwanted pregnancies and unwanted abortions, and there is still shame and regret. Of course there is still violence, fear, and rape. Most of these musings are true just for the sex in rape. Of course, the violence in it only makes all of this even clearer.
Robbery, violence, rape, these are crimes. It doesn’t detract from it that these things can be fun and exciting. The crime is in the force, in the psychopathic disdain for another human being’s freedom to choose what happens in their life.
Anyone who knows me, any of the tiny handful of people who’ve read me, you know that I also consider punishments to be crimes. Although prosecuting and punishing rapists today would indeed be an increase in fairness for victims of rape, as well as for rapists, who possibly have an unfair chance of never paying for their crimes, compared to the perpetrators of non-sexual crimes, that really isn’t my endgame. I have a particularly expansive delusion: I want us all to behave better voluntarily. So here’s what we need to do.
Give up the fun. Learn to live without the excitement. If, in some level of maturity and self-knowledge, you want the power or the vulnerability and the excitement those things bring – then sign a waiver or something. Establish parameters of consent. Maybe we all need something like a flight recorder – if what you’re doing is within your rights, why not? Men, get consent, written consent, secure video-recording, something to protect you from false charges. Ladies, get and give some form of provable consent, protect yourself from the present day difficulties of getting the protections that are theoretically provided by law. Again, unless you’re a rapist, or a willing victim, why not?
My advice: let’s make our lives more conscious, let’s drag sex out into the light. Maybe we lose some of the excitement, some of the mystery, but maybe we also lose some of the rape.
I’m that way about everything. I’d lose the ‘magic’ of Santa Claus in favour of not telling mind-destroying lies to our children too. Mystery and magic are overrated; consciousness is the way forward. Most of this magic and mystery in sex is a man-made pile of confusion and lies anyway. At its core, sex is procreation, it’s how species are continued, and every ‘beast that crawleth upon the earth’ understands enough about it to continue down through the ages. Much of the mystery and gaming we associate with sex is the product of the fact that humans are on a divergent path from the rest of life on Earth and we have over-complicated it. If we could enjoy the simple payoff of sex, of succumbing to the procreative urge, if we could enjoy it in its simple, pure forms, we could be as happy as well fed, well fucked rabbits. That, plus a life lived consciously can be a great source of satisfaction and joy as well. Don’t knock it ‘till you’ve tried it.
- The absence of injury or proof of arousal and orgasm should have no bearing on the question of consent, they are completely separate issues. A helpful memory aid might be this: consent requires conscious personhood, and genitals are not people.
- Crimes are crimes despite that their victims may have a reason to like them. Crimes are crimes because society is victimized; otherwise, they’re just personal disputes.
- Rape exists at one end of a continuum that has a reasonable division of traits and or duties between the genders at one end and a lot of “normal” sex role expectations in the middle. Therefore support for the principle – distinct gender roles and power sharing – also (inadvertently for most of us) supports the rape culture.
- (Male paedophiles are nearly the opposite of gay, the disorder and the orientation are unrelated.)
- Sex lives in a different compartment of our lives than rationality and consciousness, and this may be a reason why rape’s status as a crime is confusing and therefore difficult to prosecute.
- Many people may enjoy fantasies of being dominated or even raped, but fantasies are fantasies and many consciously prefer to live without the realities and their consequences.
- Suggesting that the idea that humans have always raped or that some species routinely rape is a fallacious argument as regards present day humans and effectively condones male domination and rape as natural and inevitable. It’s an argument that ignores the most important premise of law and civilization: consciousness.
- Consciousness is the way forward. If we can learn to deal with sex in our lives consciously and honestly, rape will have fewer places to hide.
Now, I usually like to wrap my posts up with a pithy ending. That seems to be automatic, my particular, manipulative talent, and it embarrasses me sometimes, but I have no such summary for this one (if we don’t count that I sort of did that already, before the ‘Conclusions’ section). I’m just groping here, spitballing. I honestly don’t know why I think I have anything more to say on this subject than anyone else; I just hope that I’ve had something to say to some few of you . . . if you made it this far, I thank you. Any sort of comment would be very much appreciated. I expect this won’t be the last time I try to wrap my head around this very difficult topic.
Bravo for a such a bold and brave departure from the norm by tackling such a disturbing topic head-on yet written so deftly it’s utterly rivetting to read. Point 8 nails it.
“Consciousness is the way forward. If we can learn to deal with sex in our lives consciously and honestly, rape will have fewer places to hide.”
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thank you so much!
You’re very welcome – the trauma and emotional scars caused by rape, though largely ignored and invisible especially after any court cases end, often run much deeper than many people may think. Muchos gracias for dealing with this taboo subject with such frankness and clarity.
it was a tough slog to write it, and in the end it’s about 2% of what can be said about it. All I’ve addressed is the attitude of a lot of people who’ve never thought about it. But that’s a huge problem with psychology and social science, it’s like the pros are keeping the info to themselves, charging high hourly rates for it, when everyone needs to know this kind of stuff if we’re going to improve things.
You must be a pro writer, huh? You seem to have time to write more stuff than I can find time to only read.
(Someone) pointed out on Thoughts that vaginas aren’t bone dry when their owners aren’t turned on, that when they are, just walking around is very uncomfortable, so I’m an ignoramus there – but it doesn’t refute the larger point, that wetness is no indication of consent.