The Sexist

Rapists Who Don’t Think They’re Rapists

You know the guy who "accidentally" rapes women? The acquaintance who "misreads" the situation and "goes too far"? The longtime friend who genuinely thought you had consented, and is shocked when you tell him that, no, it was rape? Well, we're not going to take that guy's bullshit anymore. Thomas MacAulay Millar over at the Yes Means Yes! blog has crunched the numbers on "undetected" acquaintance rapists to figure out who this "accidental rapist" actually is.

Thomas looks at a study of 1882 college students who were asked four questions to determine if they had ever raped (or attempted to rape) anyone:

1) Have you ever attempted unsuccessfully to have intercourse with an adult by force or threat of force?

2) Have you ever had sexual intercourse with someone who did not want you to because they were too intoxicated to resist?

3) Have you ever had intercourse with someone by force or threat of force?

4) Have you ever had oral intercourse with someone by force or threat of force?

Questions like these are bound to lead to underreporting—what guy is going to admit to forcing a girl to give him head? As it turns out, a lot of guys will admit to this, 120 to be exact: That's six percent of the survey's respondents who copped to either rape or attempted rape. Importantly, Thomas notes, the survey does not actually ask these guys if they've ever exactly "raped" anyone:

If a survey asks men, for example, if they ever “had sexual intercourse with someone, even though they did not want to, because they were too intoxicated (on alcohol or drugs) to resist your sexual advances,” some of them will say yes, as long as the questions don’t use the “R” word.

And they didn't just admit to raping—they admitted to raping repeatedly (as long as it's not really "rape," of course!) According to the study, a small percentage of men are responsible for committing a large portion of sexual assaults—that's a whole lot of "accidents," "misreadings," and "gray areas":

Of the 120 rapists in the sample, 44 reported only one assault. The remaining 76 were repeat offenders. These 76 men, 63% of the rapists, committed 439 rapes or attempted rapes, an average of 5.8 each (median of 3, so there were some super-repeat offenders in this group). Just 4% of the men surveyed committed over 400 attempted or completed rapes.

What does this mean about our "accidental" rapists?

a) The vast majority of acquaintance rapes are committed by the same people;

b) These people don't see themselves as "rapists";

c) They are, however, able recognize that they regularly threat, force, and intoxicate women in order to have sex with them.

Oops! There's no "accident" here—these guys just deny, evade punishment, and repeat.

So, what do we do to stop these guys? Well, here's a start: Let's call them rapists. It's not just rapists who fail to recognize these behaviors—threatening, forcing, incapacitating—as "real" rape. We all have to stop making excuses for calling a rapist a rapist—and doubting, minimizing, or lashing out against the people who do use that word. Women need to know that they can call their experiences "rape" and report them as crimes. They need to know that they can call their rapists "rapists," even if the rapist is also someone's "friend," "acquaintance," "co-worker," "fraternity brother," or "respected member of our community." As Thomas says:

The men in your lives will tell you what they do. As long as the R word doesn’t get attached, rapists do self-report. The guy who says he sees a woman too drunk to know where she is as an opportunity is not joking. He’s telling you how he sees it. The guy who says, “bros before hos”, is asking you to make a pact.

The Pact. The social structure that allows the predators to hide in plain sight, to sit at the bar at the same table with everyone, take a target home, rape her, and stay in the same social circle because she can’t or won’t tell anyone, or because nobody does anything if she does. The pact to make excuses, to look for mitigation, to patch things over—to believe that what happens to our friends—what our friends do to our friends—is not (using Whoopi Goldberg’s pathetic apologetics) “rape-rape.”

. . . The rapists can’t be your friends, and if you are loyal to them even when faced with the evidence of what they do, you are complicit.

That last point is an important one. People who excuse rapists usually see that equation from the other end: "He's my friend, so he can't be a rapist." We need to reverse that equation—"He's a rapist, so he can't be my friend." Perhaps them we could begin addressing why the dictionary definition of rape is overlooked—threatening, forcing, and incapacitating for sex—in our to avoid applying the word—"rapist"—to anyone we know.

  • http://disorderedcosmos.com Chanda

    I think this is such a fantastic point:
    That last point is an important one. People who excuse rapists usually see that equation from the other end: “He’s my friend, so he can’t be a rapist.” We need to reverse that equation—”He’s a rapist, so he can’t be my friend.” Perhaps them we could begin addressing why the dictionary definition of rape is overlooked—threatening, forcing, and incapacitating for sex—in our to avoid applying the word—”rapist”—to anyone we know.

    I really wish that people saw it the same way with domestic violence. People seem to think that there is more than one side to take in those situations, which makes me physically ill.

  • http://www.yesmeansyesblog.wordpress.com Thomas MacAulay Millar

    Thanks for picking this up, Amanda. I've known about Lisak's study for months but I wrote about in in large part in response to the conversation that you have going in this space over the last few weeks.

    I actually review two papers: Lisak & Miller's survey of 1882 college students, and Stephanie McWhorter's survey of over 1000 U.S. Navy recruits. The important thing is that, using large samples of different populations over different periods, the found the same thing: and a single-digit percentage of men report that they rape repeatedly, have an average of six victims each, and primarily attack acquaintances using intoxication.

    There are lots of facets to sexual violence and lots of people that don't fit into the big part of that distribution, and I don't mean to ignore anyone's individual experience. But in talking about it, it helps to know what the relatively more and less common events and perpetrators are. And now we know. A smallish population of recidivists who use the tactics they use because they can get away with it. Knowing that allows us to contruct arguments and policies around how the actual world works, not how some people want to claim it works.

    I'm glad you're reading what I'm writing.

  • http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/blogs/sexist Amanda Hess

    Thanks, Thomas. Side-note: Everyone interested in what men can do to help prevent rape should read Thomas's full post, because it's really, really, good.

  • http://www.mountainofevidence.com Thomas Westgard

    There are two problematic blind spots discussed here. First is with the rapist, who commits the act but doesn't fully account for what he did by calling his rape by its proper name. Second are the people around the rapist whose moderate responses don't match the extreme violation of a person's physical safety. There is this conspiracy of silence by all involved that the correct name for the act won't be applied. When everyone is doing the same thing, even when it's a bad thing, it's hard to change a whole society all at once.

    What seems really hopeful about this study is that the researchers have found a way to get people to self-report something that is normally not self-reported. The opportunity here is to find out more about what happened from the perspective of the perpetrator. With more information about how the event came about, we could be in a position to catch more rapists who would otherwise get away, treat more victims who would otherwise suffer in silence, and best of all, prevent some rapes entirely.

  • http://www.yesmeansyesblog.wordpress.com Thomas MacAulay Millar

    Thomas, I'm not sure I agree. We all call rape what it is. The rapists won't do that. They are bad people. I don't think they will wake up one morning and see the error of their ways. They won't call it "rape" because they know they can't fight the social convention that "rape" is wrong, so they have to call what they do something else. See generally LaToya Peterson's The Not-Rape Epidemic, which I'm too pressed for time to find for you online.

    It's the rest of us that have to impose the term, by calling it what it is. We're not going to change their hearts and minds. But we can change their risks and rewards.

    As to the people around the rapist, that's the last third of my post.

  • http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/blogs/sexist Amanda Hess

    A small note on business: I've updated the post to include Thomas' full pen name. And sorry for the initial slight, Thomas.

  • http://abyss2hope.blogspot.com abyss2hope

    Thanks to ThomasMM and Amanda for highlighting these perpetration surveys. They are very important since too many people baselessly reject the validity of victimization surveys.

    I believe that the types of rapes different men commit most often relate to the types of rapes those in our society most often excuse. The problem for the excusers who feel safe because they "haven't brought rape on themselves" is that those who act on those excuses may not limit themselves to the socially accepted victims.

    Once rape becomes conditionally tolerable, the door has been opened to a rapist defining what is tolerable in ways that would make most excusers physically ill.

  • Richard

    First, I think the studies are really striking. The two studies discussed are really insightful and powerful among many of the studies that I have read on this subject.

    The one issue however that I take is the way Amanda actually frames these studies. She starts out with:

    "You know the guy who “accidentally” rapes women? The acquaintance who “misreads” the situation and “goes too far”? The longtime friend who genuinely thought you had consented, and is shocked when you tell him that, no, it was rape? Well we're not going to take this bullshit anymore"

    The studies were specifically about between the use or attempted use of force or specifically having sex with someone who was to intoxicated to resist.

    Although these issues are definitely connected, there is a distinction between people who use or attempt to use force and those who fit into the gray areas that Amanda uses this study to write off.

    A common gray area in college would be if both participants were to drunk to consent and the woman was actually happy with having sex afterward. In this case, the man (and the woman for that matter) committed rape, but certainly this rape exists in a real gray area. This really gets to the crux of the problem. Although rape is definitely defined by consent as it occurs, does there also have to be some sort of feeling of violation?

    I personally think that these are really hard questions to answer and are not just bullshit. I guess on the other hand though, taking a deeper nuanced position does not necessarily help the cause of fighting the reality that there is an epidemic of rape.

  • Frankie

    Thank you so much for this and the link to Thomas MM's article. Obviously the studies are limited and can't cover everything, but as it says in the caveat, having any data at all is useful and important.

    Something which I think it is important to state here is that whilst I am not sure what definition the study used, 'force' does not have to mean physical force alone, putting the pressure on until someone gives up saying no is using force too. It is NOT (as someone I know would insist) being 'persuasive' and thus OK to ignore what the other person wants until they stop stating what they want. This is one of the reasons 'yes means yes' is so important, because it's much harder to force someone to say 'yes' than it is to get them to stop saying 'no.' Though still not impossible, sadly.

  • http://www.yesmeansyesblog.wordpress.com Thomas MacAulay Millar

    Richard, I think the point is that if 95% of the incidents where men say they had sex with a partner too drunk to resist are committed by a relatively small group of men who are doing it again and again, it's not mistake -- it's a method. Why focus a lot of energy on the other 5% of incidents at the expense of the 95%?

  • http://www.mountainofevidence.com Thomas Westgard

    Thomas MM said, "Thomas, I’m not sure I agree. We all call rape what it is."

    That doesn't square with everything that's written in the article above. The article is all about how people don't use the correct word - rape - to describe behavior that constitutes rape. I sincerely don't understand how you conclude that everybody uses the word appropriately, in light of two studies that show that people don't use the word "rape" to describe rape.

    The finding of the first study is that rapists make themselves feel better by avoiding the word "rape," although they are willing to describe their behavior using other words. I'm not sure who is included in your "we" who use the term correctly, but the study shows that there are rapists among us who do not call rape, rape.

    As for the rest of us, I am affirming what the article above says:

    We all have to stop making excuses for calling a rapist a rapist—and doubting, minimizing, or lashing out against the people who do use that word. Women need to know that they can call their experiences “rape” and report them as crimes.

    Somehow we are not understanding each other, and yet I think we agree. If you can clarify how this is happening, I would appreciate it.

  • http://www.mountainofevidence.com Thomas Westgard

    I think I get it now - you posit all rapists as The Other, and all the rest of us use the term "rape" correctly. So that does square with the studies showing how rapists avoid proper use of the term.

    I guess what I want to add is that all of us, including both rapists and non-rapists, exist in a social context that (your article notes) involves attitudes about how women end up in unsafe situations. We aren't thinking about the full impact when we're with a woman who drinks to intoxication, and we aren't seeing clearly the likelihood that leaving an intoxicated woman with someone we know is how thousands of women get raped.

    It seems like a very useful application of your study is to see the rapes coming much earlier. When we see a woman becoming intoxicated, it's naive to think it's "just a few too many." We should be aware that she's increasingly in danger of being raped and respond appropriately. And when we see an intoxicated woman being left in the care of one of our friends, we need to question whether he's someone who has an ulterior motive and may in fact have engineered the situation. In that sense, we can see the rape coming before it happens and be better able to prevent it.

  • http://abyss2hope.blogspot.com abyss2hope

    Richard, I disagree with your usage of gray rape and your claim that there is a genuine distinction between men who responded positively to the perpetration studies and men who claim that continuing without genuine consent was an accident.

    In the example you gave the man's claim would be that he had genuine consent not that he was an accidental rapist.

  • Richard

    I'll take on some of the points made about my comment.

    "Why focus a lot of energy on the other 5% of incidents at the expense of the 95%?"

    My point isn't to focus on the 5%. I am actually arguing that Amanda is mashing a different group of people that are not captured in the survey with those that are. Even if this was the case, writing off things that happen 5% is a pragmatic choice, not one that really accurately describes the situation.

    "‘force’ does not have to mean physical force alone, putting the pressure on until someone gives up saying no is using force too."

    That's fair enough. I guess it really comes down to what the individual men perceived as force. I think if I were taking the study, I would probably assume force meant physical. In any case, my point is that Amanda framing might include those who did not use even a broad definition of force. (See my example above)

    " I disagree with your usage of gray rape and your claim that there is a genuine distinction between men who responded positively to the perpetration studies and men who claim that continuing without genuine consent was an accident.

    In the example you gave the man’s claim would be that he had genuine consent not that he was an accidental rapist."

    Let me flesh out my example a little more than. Let's say that everything is the same, except that the next day the woman feels as though she has been violated and was to drunk to properly consent.

    From my understanding of what Amanda means by accidental rapist, she would would argue that the man in this case is a rapist, even if he argues that there was a mis-communication or that he thought consent was given.

    In fact she writes,

    "they are not “accidentally” raping someone. Rapes don’t come from miscommunication."

    I think there is a different between someone who admits they used force and take advantage of someone and the accidental rapist who is making a claim that there was miscommunication. The study is about people who directly admit that they knew that consent did not exist.

    I hope that fleshes out my comment a little more. I just took issue somewhat with Amanda conflation of two distinct definitions. The practical application of conflating all of these together might be to create a more unified stance against people who do commit rape and abuse these excuses, but I am not sure we should act like there are not distinctions.

  • http://www.yesmeansyesblog.wordpress.com Thomas MacAulay Millar

    To be fair to the authors, if folks are going to talk about the questions they should see the full text. I have updated the post to include them. The actual questions were:

    (1) Have you ever been in a situation where you tried, but for various reasons did not succeed, in having sexual intercourse with an adult by using or threatening to use physical force (twisting their arm, holding them down, etc.) if they did not cooperate?
    (2) Have you ever had sexual intercourse with someone, even though they did not want to, because they were too intoxicated (on alcohol or drugs) to resist your sexual advances (e.g., removing their clothes)?
    (3) Have you ever had sexual intercourse with an adult when they didn’t want to because you used or threatened to use physical force (twisting their arm; holding them down, etc.) if they didn’t cooperate?
    (4) Have you ever had oral sex with an adult when they didn’t want to because you used or threatened to use physical force (twisting their arm; holding them down, etc.) if they didn’t cooperate?

  • http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/blogs/sexist Amanda Hess

    Wow, Thomas. Those questions are even more explicit than I had thought. It's amazing to me that these rapists will admit to holding a person down, removing her clothes because she's too drunk to do it herself, and threatening physical violence. These men know what they're doing. They just refuse to recognize that it's wrong.

  • http://abyss2hope.blogspot.com abyss2hope

    Richard, the problem with your fleshed out version is that your original description makes an assumption ("the woman was actually happy with having sex afterward") which may not be true at all since you only describe what happened as "having sex" which might not involve the woman actually participating or communicating any positive indicators of consent. Even her happiness is left meaninglessly vague.

    You add: "Let’s say that everything is the same, except that the next day the woman feels as though she has been violated and was to drunk to properly consent."

    Your description of what happened is vague to the point of meaningless so the next day description is also meaningless.

  • Richard

    Sorry if my scenario's vagueness is tripping up my point. In the hypothetical the participated and communicated positive indicators of consent (but was extremely drunk thus unable to give consent). I hope that clears it up.

    My point however stands without this scenario that Amanda's "accidental rapists" who fit in a gray area are a different group than those who admit to threatening or using physical force in the studies. Unless her point is countering some sort notion that there are no rapists just accidental rapists, I don't really understand how this study justifies calling accidental rapists, even by her definition, bullshit. On this point, the study shows rapists don't like to be called rapists.

  • http://abyss2hope.blogspot.com abyss2hope

    Richard, your clarification still relies on summary rather than actual descriptions so it is still meaningless.

    It wasn't Amanda who first introduced the term accidental rapist at The Sexist, it was a commenter, Victor, who did so in response to a description of a situation where a man ignored a woman's clear lack of consent. There's no reason the man dubbed an accidental rapist wouldn't respond positively to Lisak's survey.

  • http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/blogs/sexist Amanda Hess

    I have yet to hear any compelling evidence that any rapes are "accidental"---that in some cases, there is a "gray area" of consent that is impossible to discern. Under the "accidental rape" model, the rapists says, "but I didn't KNOW it was rape." In this study, I see a lot of compelling evidence that the disconnect works differently. In the majority of acquaintance rapes, the rapists recognize that their victims are not consenting, and that they must use force and threats to get their way. But they don't recognize that these tactics are awful, horrible things worthy of that awful, horrible "R" word.

    I am still willing to talk about the possibility of true "gray rape," but where is the evidence, please?

  • http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/blogs/sexist Amanda Hess

    Richard,

    The legal standard for consent (in D.C. at least) depends upon whether consent was gained and whether force was used prior to and during the act. It has nothing to do with how "happy" or "unhappy" your sex partner---or rape victim---ends up afterward. That's like saying, "Well, I shot the guy in the head, but it turned out that he actually wanted to die. Who knew." How a victim reacts to her rape is none of your business, actually. The important thing, legally, is whether they consented prior to and throughout the acts, not whether they want to marry you or never see you again afterward.

    Now, if you do rape someone and they end up ambivalent about the experience (or just don't remember it clearly), then chances are she's not going to press charges. But that doesn't mean it's right.

  • Michelle

    Thank you so much for this incredibly important article. In the nearly 7 years since I was raped by my ex-boyfriend at a small liberal arts college, I have never read anything that so clearly captures the power that rapists have when they are protected by their social groups and the popular misconception that "rape" is a term reserved for a particular sort of person with a particular sort of motive. I hope that this is only the beginning of a movement towards a more realistic understanding of rape, how to prevent it, and how communities can provide support to victims so that they can have the safest and swiftest paths to healing.

    When victims are dealing with the aftermath with such trauma, which no one would wish for, the least we can give them is the ability to name what happened to them, without questioning, shaming, or silencing them -- let alone protecting the rapists. Unfortunately the latter group of behaviors is often the response of even good and well-meaning people.

  • Richard

    Just when I thought I was done debating this, there was more. I really did not mean to start any sort of big argument and I hope people take these discussions as constructive.

    Thanks for responding Amanda. It helped me understand your argument better and actually made it more clear where I disagree.

    "In the majority of acquaintance rapes, the rapists recognize that their victims are not consenting, and that they must use force and threats to get their way."

    I mean this statement really cuts to the core of my/your argument. First, I would be hard pressed to believe that most of the cases non-consent is extremely clear. You don't really provide evidence either way on this because the study examines only those who use force rather than the whole population of people committing acts constituting rape. One piece of evidence that I would point to is the foundational Koss study, which established the popularly used 1 in 4 number. Interestingly, although 1 in 4 women participated in an incident that would constitute rape or attempted rape, 73% of these women explicitly did not believe this was the case. I would argue that although a substantial portion of these women did not because of miseducation and other patriarchal systems, I think it really does show that the way people and even women perceive consent is highly individualized and therefore does not fit into a cookie cutter definition.

    Even if you are right,that in the majority of the time non-consent or lack of consent is clear, there is still probably a substantial minority that should not be written off.

    "The legal standard for consent (in D.C. at least) depends upon whether consent was gained and whether force was used prior to and during the act. It has nothing to do with how “happy” or “unhappy” your sex partner—or rape victim—ends up afterward."

    This is not necessarily argument that I meant to get into, it was beside my main point. In any case, my argument is that consent on some level can function in a way that is proactive or retroactive. For example, (sorry if this example seem ridiculous but it really shows what I am saying) if a long time couple both get so drunk that they are pass the ability to consent, but have sex anyway, is it rape? Absolutely within the legal definition. Is this incident something substantially different than the rape we are trying to combat, I would say yes. The point is that the couple mutually know that the other one preemptively approves and will retroactively approve of what occurred, even if at the time it occurs they are both unable to consent.

    Also, in no uncertain terms am I saying that its right in the case where any violation is felt or that in cases where the person does not clearly consent but does not feel violated is not still a risky and negative behavior.

  • Comrade Al Gonzales

    All men are rapists & should be killed. Valerie Solanis, The SCUM Manifesto.

  • http://abyss2hope.blogspot.com abyss2hope

    Richard, the problem with your analysis is that not putting the label "rape" on what someone did to you does not in any way imply ambiguity about the reality of what was done. Women who responded positively to Koss's survey needed to have clarity about being forced or having their lack of consent ignored in order to give positive answers.

    When you wrote: "although 1 in 4 women participated in an incident that would constitute rape or attempted rape, 73% of these women explicitly did not believe this was the case" you mischaracterize the findings of that survey. Not answering yes to questions about a label doesn't mean the women expressly believed they weren't raped or subject to a rape attempt.

    Too many of us who are raped and call what happened to us rape are told that what was done against our will doesn't count as rape for some reason. The reason can be as flimsy as the fact that the rapist wasn't a stranger. It can be the false idea that if a girl or woman doesn't scream and fight to the point of injuring the other person then it couldn't be rape.

    If a man doesn't know for certain he has freely given consent from the other person then continuing means doing so in the absence of consent. There's nothing confusing or gray about this concept.

  • http://abyss2hope.blogspot.com abyss2hope

    Richard, in the example you give if they both truly approve while drunk (and not just 1 partner assuming the other approves because of their consensual history) there is no rape since they both know the other person is freely consenting.

  • Richard

    "Not answering yes to questions about a label doesn’t mean the women expressly believed they weren’t raped or subject to a rape attempt."

    I am sorry if my phrasing was unclear. The 73% who did not believe they had been raped were specially among those who had answered YES to a series of questions describing rape or rape attempts with attention to the specific legal definition. In other words, there were the questions about if you had experienced an incident and then there were questions asking the women to say if it was rape or not.

    "Richard, in the example you give if they both truly approve while drunk (and not just 1 partner assuming the other approves because of their consensual history) there is no rape since they both know the other person is freely consenting."

    But they are to drunk to consent? This is my point entirely because if they are to drunk to consent by the legal definition of rape, then both have committed rape. If however as I contend, consent functions in a rather unclear way since it can be proactive and retroactive, then back to the grayness we go.

  • http://abyss2hope.blogspot.com abyss2hope

    Richard,

    I understood who you were refering to in Koss's study, it was the meaning you were putting on that data that I disagreed with. There is an important difference between not believing you were raped and not putting the label rape or attempted rape on what was done to you.

    You seemed to believe that not using the label rape meant that the experiences weren't as clearcut or as traumatic as the experiences of those who put the label rape on what was done to them. This is incorrect.

    The only unclearness about consent is in the way people evaluate consent not the actual existance of consent. If a couple is having truly mutual sex while drunk there is no rape and their consent is proactive not retroactive.

    Likewise if one person is passed out (or semiconscious or out of it) and the other person disregards the present inability of the other person to give meaningful consent, lack of consent is proactive. What happens is rape by intoxication whether or not the victim later realizes what happened or correctly labels what happened as rape.

  • Fuchsia

    “But they are to drunk to consent? This is my point entirely because if they are to drunk to consent by the legal definition of rape, then both have committed rape.”

    Other commentators may please correct me if I’m wrong, but I honestly don’t see how the scenario you are positing here is even possible. The way I understand it, too drunk to consent would basically mean too drunk to actively take part in the act of sex at all. So if either party is unconscious, semiconscious or so out of it they clearly have no idea what is going on then consent is not possible. I’d refer you for an excellent example to the rape, oops, sorry, sex scene in Observe and Report: Anna Faris is clearly out of it (she has to be dragged up the pathway to the door, there’s vomit on the bed, and she lies there with her head lolling over the pillow during the act itself). In other words, the dilemma you pose exists only if we accept that during intercourse women are completely passive and inactive, meaning that distinguishing between situations where the individual is capable of consent and those where he or she is not is not possible. If, on the other hand, the two partners are clearly tipsy, giggling, too drunk to drive, stumbling as they walk, but still conscious and basically capable of getting themselves home, getting their own (or each other’s) clothes off, enjoying the act, expressing that enjoyment and claiming it, then it’s probably not rape.

    And, I would like to point out, once you’ve understood this, it is clear that no, consent can certainly not function in a retroactive manner (this wording btw is dangerously close the idea that women trap men by appearing to consent to sex and then claiming that they didn’t…)

  • Richard

    I guess it was me that misunderstood you and thought you misunderstood me.

    "The only unclearness about consent is in the way people evaluate consent not the actual existance of consent. If a couple is having truly mutual sex while drunk there is no rape and their consent is proactive not retroactive."

    It seems to me that you are implying that consent exists independently of how it is evaluated. Consent is precisely how both parties perceive it and nothing else. That being said, there are obviously clear and rightly accepted ways to establish consent just as there are a few less clear ways.

    On your broader point, I think it still is somewhat retroactive because either party could decide after that what occurred was rape if they also decide they were to drunk to consent properly or change their perception of their consent. (more below)

    "distinguishing between situations where the individual is capable of consent and those where he or she is not is not possible."

    My argument is that its not clear, not that its not possible. I guess the difference I have is that I thought the line of what constitutes to drunk to consent was different and actually involves a person being less drunk than where you might draw the line.

    "consent can certainly not function in a retroactive manner (this wording btw is dangerously close the idea that women trap men by appearing to consent to sex and then claiming that they didn’t…)"

    I am not saying that women go around trapping men. What I am saying is that how a woman or man feels about their initial consenting can change.

  • Richard

    I want to flesh out the point about the Koss study a tiny bit more. Breaking down the 73%, 49 percent said it was "miscommunication," 14 percent said it was a "crime but not rape," and 11 percent said they "don't feel victimized."

    Even if you say a huge portion of the miscommunication is due to lack of education, patriarchal norms, victim blaming, I am arguing that some of the miscommunication is due to miscommunication. Also, I am arguing that the women who don't feel victimized do not feel victimized.

  • http://abyss2hope.blogspot.com abyss2hope

    Richard, the data you cited from Koss doesn't indicate that any of those women consented retroactively therefore nullifying the legal significance of proceeding without another person's consent which seems to be your overall premise.

    Research done by Dan Kahan has shown a pattern in who views someone's repeated no's as proof of rape and who sees this as not enough evidence in non-stranger rape cases. Those who believe in hierarchical gender norms were unlikely to view undisputed repeated no's as proof that the allegation of rape was true while those who believe in gender equality believed that rape had been proven.

    When people buy into the idea that people can proceed when another person's freely given consent is not assured or believe that at some point consent cannot be revoked that's a choice not an accident.

  • pg

    Thomas MM said "it’s not mistake — it’s a method"
    Amanda said "These men know what they’re doing. They just refuse to recognize that it’s wrong."

    It is definitely a method. And I think they know that it's wrong but they don't care.
    I went to a presentation by an FBI agent recently and she explained that criminals have specific things they look for in victims. Opportunistic "acquaintance-rapists" do things like hover around bars at closing time, or parties late-night, and watch for women that are really drunk and alone or look to be easily separated from friends.
    The Schrödinger’s Rapist still holds - one out of 10 of the men you meet has probably raped someone. I don't believe they can be educated out of it, and I don't think they are "confused" or engaging in any kind of "grey rape". Educating women (and bar staff) on the methods these rapists use would be more helpful than the worse-than-useless 'stranger-rape' tips women are all too familiar with, as would social pressure for the majority men and women, who are NOT rapists, to stop covering for them, excusing them, and blaming the victims.

  • SJL

    Richard, consent is not merely the absence of a "no" it is the presence of a fully expressed (or enthusiastic) yes. In your drunken couple example, consent doesn't exist simply because both of them are too drunk to protest eachother's actions.

    I'm also not sure that the presence of consent is determined only by the involved parties' perception of consent. That turns many rape cases into a "he said, she said" scenario, which is in no way accurate. there may not be a completely objective foundation for consent, but it is not entirely subjective either.

    And finally, we really need to get rid of the idea that if a woman has sex that she later regrets, she will accuse her partner of rape. Just because the sex a woman consents to turns out to be unsatisfying for any number of reasons, doesn't mean she will redefine it as rape. With all the blame and vilification that rape victims get in our culture, blame that prevents women from reporting even the violent stranger rapes (the "rape-rapes"), do you expect anyone to give credence to an example in which a woman defines sex as rape simply because it was unsatisfying?

  • Richard

    This article is pretty far down now, but I'll add a brief answer still.

    "Richard, consent is not merely the absence of a “no” it is the presence of a fully expressed (or enthusiastic) yes. In your drunken couple example, consent doesn’t exist simply because both of them are too drunk to protest eachother’s actions."

    Actually I feel like I'm not making an argument on the yes or no nature of consent at all. It does not matter if they are to drunk to say no or to drunk to make a yes valid because either way they can't consent in the moment.

    "I’m also not sure that the presence of consent is determined only by the involved parties’ perception of consent. That turns many rape cases into a “he said, she said” scenario, which is in no way accurate. there may not be a completely objective foundation for consent, but it is not entirely subjective either."

    I think we're actually agreeing here. Frankly, even clear rape scenarios inherently invite a disagreement between parties, unless of course a rapist is readily willing to admit what they did, which is rarely the case. The question is simply how valid or invalid what each side says is. (I think you are saying this in different words as well.)

    "we really need to get rid of the idea that if a woman has sex that she later regrets, she will accuse her partner of rape."

    I agree. The extent of this regret is overplayed and use against women who are trying to report real rapes. My only point is that in many cases the way people perceive their consent afterward does matter. Looking back at the various scenarios I talked about involving alcohol, the perception of how drunk a person believes they were when consenting positively can change. Also, in the drunk couple scenario, the reason that people can do this in many cases without concerns that its rape is because of the ability of people to consent in a way that is proactive or retroactive.

    I think my various comments have together laid out my position (which is arguing not for absolute subjectivity or objectivity on any side) at this point.

  • angry!

    I have been trying to read through the responses to this fabulous article. I cannot even stomach it to get through all of what was written...

    I must respond to Richard's comments. When I first read this article, it was such a relief for me, firstly because it reflects my own experience - when I talk to people about my rape, many people are uncomfortable if I use that word, and get upset when I use it, even if they agree that lack of consent means rape. That is probably the most difficult part of dealing with the rape, for me..just the way some people suddenly don't give you credibility anymore.
    Secondly, it was a relief, because those studies show that these men know what they are doing, they are often repeat offenders...

    On the matter of "we were both drunk, was there consent?"
    - if a man is so drunk that he blacks out, it is unlikely he will be capable of getting an erection, or co-ordinating himself to have sex.
    - if a woman is so drunk that she blacks out, she becomes vulnerable to rape.
    Consent should be clear and enthusiastic. "Yes!" should be clear. If a woman is too drunk to form a sentence, she is too drunk to give consent. Richard, I think you need to take a step back for a second, and consider it from a woman's perspective. All the responsibility is placed on the woman to make sure she is clear about consent. What about the man's responsibility? Before having sex, the man should think to himself, "Is this woman capable of giving consent right now?" I think the line between just drunk and too drunk to have sex is actually obvious, even to a drunk man.
    Ask yourself these questions before sex:
    - Can she form a sentence? Can she carry on a conversation?
    - Can she stand up? Walk?
    - Did she puke recently?

    Also, in your impersonal responses to this article, please keep in mind that many women responding here are survivors of rape, and are extremely invested in the seriousness of these issues. It is maddening to me for someone to say "in this hypothetical situation..." in some casual, debate-team way when we are responding with "in this real life situation, I have experienced the pain and trauma of rape, and I am choosing to share this knowledge with others in order that change might be made". Comments based on knowledge and real life experiences are more useful than theoretical what-if's.

  • Richard

    I would not be here talking about this subject if I did not think it was dead serious. Sorry if posing my
    points as hypotheticals instead of relating them as what they are, real experiences in my life, detracted from other peoples sharing.

    My original concern was again not the studies are not true or enlightening. I have spent a lot of time looking at these sorts of studies and found this one to be extremely useful. My concern was Amanda portraying this study as an argument that almost all rapists admit they know exactly what they were doing. What the study explicitly says is that among those who use physical force in rape this is true. In a lot of cases physical force is not used and those rapists who do not use physical force could very well have a different set of characteristics than those who do.

    "All the responsibility is placed on the woman to make sure she is clear about consent. What about the man’s responsibility?"

    I completely agree that the man has as much or considering inequality even more responsibility to gain clear consent. I do not say anything to the contrary.

    "I think the line between just drunk and too drunk to have sex is actually obvious, even to a drunk man."

    I talked about this earlier, I feel like I would probably actually draw the line earlier than just "not puking" or capable of having an erection as where consent is possible.

    Just to be clear again, I agree and fight against the idea that women are to blame for rape. This and many other rape myths need to be stomped out.

    My concern is that in working on this mission we do not lose sight of the fact that there are issues, even if on the margin, that not as not as clear cut as we wish they were.

  • Richard

    If I am trolling as the weekend post might imply (assuming its me and not Comrade Al Gonzales) , sorry. If I am being inflammatory this certainly was not my goal. My goal was to discuss Amanda framing of the study.

  • http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/blogs/sexist Amanda Hess

    Richard! I actually was not referring to you. I was referring to the commenters who inspired the "accidental rape" discussion to begin with. I think you've added a lot of insight into this discussion, truth be told.

  • Richard

    O ok. I thought you meant trolls in the computer blog sense. Thanks I hope so.

  • Joe

    I think this article is sexist. Not only can "men" be rapists, but it is proven that women can be guilty of these crimes as well. Intoxicating a man in order for him to sleep with her, forcing herself on him, etc. I think a study should not single out a specific sex unless it only applies to that specific gender. This topic; however, does not! Women and men, rape. It is fact. Men are not the only rapists. This article fails to acknowledge that fact.

  • Kly

    What I find especially interesting in these statistics is that they loosely line up with estimates on the percentage of psychopaths in the population (lower estimate is 4%, higher estimate nearly 10%, which I find too creepy to believe ..). 4-8% of men are the repeat offenders committing most of the rapes in these studies, for whom alcohol is not an 'accident' but a method (a very clear way of putting it.) These are, as ThomasMM remarks, bad people. If there were a way of identifying them and isolating them the world would become a better place not only for their potential victims, but for all the men who aren't rapists. it's reassuring, in a way: it's actually true that not very many men are rapists. But the ones that are, do a disproportionate and huge amount of damage. Again, were there a way to identify those ones, and surely there must be, so much damage could be prevented.

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  • Anonymous

    *sigh* Feminist are so dumb...

  • http://demosthenesxxi.wordpress.com/ Demosthenes XXI

    First off, I have a logical problem with this statement:

    "I think I get it now – you posit all rapists as The Other, and all the rest of us use the term “rape” correctly."

    The fact here is that the act of rape is an act of a deviant and disturbed mind. The concept mentioned above is disingenuous as it asks us to look at rape as a circumstantial act, not an aberrant one. I hold that thinking like this is endemic of the trend that is leading people to the idea that "rape is something that is inherent to being male, rather than the act of a disturbed personality."

    It did not help that somebody brought up that "Schrodinger's Rapist" article. I believe that PG mentioned it: "...one out of 10 of the men you meet has probably raped someone..." Well, one out of ten people you meet has probably have robbed or otherwise stolen something, or have assaulted somebody. The point I'm making is that why are we separating rape from other crimes? Psychologists classify rape as deviant behavior along with other criminal activity.

    If anything, this study disproves that mode of thinking. There are disturbed people who suffer from a degree of empathic separation in that they are either enjoying forcing sex onto people or rationalizing the fact that they are purposely targeting women who drink too much as sexual prey. These are broken people; no doubt about it, these men are not all men and that is why I have problems with discussions that go in this direction.

    Finally, the whole "most rapists know their victim" factoid is a problem because when it is brought up, the users oftentimes casually and disingenuously (or ignorantly) do not go into the details behind it. Police studies have shown that the "rapist you know," is often a casual or "one-off" acquaintance the victim met at a bar or another social environment and they encountered the rapist more than once. Nobody ever mentions the fact that most serial rapists "groom" their victims. They are not the "jump on a girl out of a dark alley type," that everyone typifies as being a rapist.

    A number of the other cases are "date/gray rape" situations that usually happen during bar/party hookups/pickups.

    I agree that rape is a horrific crime, but we need to look at it as a crime that is the product of a disturbed personality, not something that is part of male society.

  • BlackHumor

    The line for drunk sex is actually pretty clear with a little common sense. Follow this chart:

    1)Could both of you perceive that you were having sex (at the time; afterward doesn't matter)?
    a)If no, whoever couldn't was raped.
    b)If yes, go on to 2

    2)Did both of you indicate that you wanted this sex in some way?
    a)If no, whoever didn't was raped.
    b)If yes, no rape occurred.

    Notice that for both the "nos" on this chart, if both participants answered "no", there wouldn't have been any sex in the first place.

    The only possible gray area would happen if one participant thought the other meant to consent when they really didn't which, given that sex usually lasts for half an hour to an hour, should be about as rare as somebody accidentally buying a car.

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