The Sexist

The Year In Consent

Verdict: She had been drinking.

America keeps waiting for the acquaintance rape that is so horrific—its facts so irrefutable, its perpetrator so evil, its victim so innocent—that it shakes the gawking public into finally recognizing the problem of sexual assault. That rape never comes.

Last October, the inconceivable happened. A 15-year-old girl was brutally gang-raped just outside of her high school gym. According to media reports, as many as 20 students participated in—or watched—the two-hour assault before discarding the unconscious girl under a bench in an alley. No one on the scene alerted the police. For those who require a snapshot of the victim’s character before determining fault: She was a devout Christian dolled up in a sparkly purple dress for her school’s homecoming dance.

But then: Some media reports mentioned that the victim had been drinking prior to the assault. For some people, that turns this girl’s horrific rape into a valuable morality tale that will put the fear into our nation’s drunk girls. “People are saying it’s her fault because she got drunk,” Kami, a friend of the victim, told the Los Angeles Times.

On the Internet, that grand repository of higher thinking, commenters weighed in with such insights as “Perhaps the boys are not all to blame. The young lady had one too many,” and “Geeeeee, I got raped.…Duuhhhhh! These guys are low life scum bags, your 15 and you want to get drunk with them! YOU STUDPID IDIOT.” In the court of public opinion, the victim was also found guilty of knowing her attackers and wearing a dress. “im not sayin its her fault or she deserved this or anything but shes 15 and drinking outside on a bench by herself in a dress…what she was doin in the first place was asking for trouble.”

Blaming the Richmond gang rape on the alcohol allows armchair rape commentators to dispense with the difficult business of actually preventing rape, while excusing themselves from the list of potential future victims: “I won’t get raped, because I don’t get drunk/I don’t wear dresses/I don’t go outside after dark/I’m not stupid/I don’t know any rapists/I’m not a woman.”

: Victim v. Whore, Rape v. Sex

In September, a Hofstra University freshman who had accused a group of men of gang-raping her recanted her statement. The 18-year-old student, who had told police that the men had lured her into a dorm bathroom, tied her up with rope, and raped her, admitted to the Nassau County District Attorney’s office that the “incident” was, in fact, consensual. A video taken on one of the men’s cell phones revealed that there was, in fact, no rope.

After being released from jail, where they had been held for nearly 24 hours, the four men who were cleared of the rape charges posed in a series of celebratory photographs, smiling, raising their hands in the air, and offering thumbs-up signs to the press. Overnight, the men turned from accused rapists to…four guys who had had consensual sex with a woman together.

Imagine a young woman proudly mugging for news cameras after taking part in a consensual bathroom gang-bang. Not gonna happen. Admitting you’ve been raped by four men is noble. Admitting you had sex with them willingly? That’s vile. In the eyes of the public, you’re either a victim or a whore.

Once our Hofstra freshman admitted she had falsified the charges, she was quickly shunted into the “whore” category. The New York Post’s Andrea Peyser called the accuser a “venal vixen” and a “whore.” Men’s News Daily Editor Paul Elam wrote that the accuser “cheapened herself by taking on [a group of] men willingly on a men’s room floor and lied about it later out of what little capacity for shame she had.” On Urban Dictionary, “Hofstra” is now a synonym for “Someone who is infested with STD’s”; “A slut/someone who sleeps around”; and “The act of being slutty.”

As the New York Post points out, there is evidence to suggest that the accuser lied in order to avoid being called these names. She didn’t want to be labeled a “whore” or a “slut,” “cheap,” or “shameless,” because she chose to have sex with these men (though I’m betting she didn’t anticipate “venal vixen”). But the Hofstra rape case also relies on another false dichotomy of consent: Either the victim is tied down and subdued while her rapists have their way with her, or the whore is an entirely willing participant in the affair.

When four men are having sex in public with one drunk woman they’ve never met before, how likely is it that the woman provided full, enthusiastic, and un-coerced consent to each sex act? Once the victim had lied about the extent of the coercion in that dorm bathroom, media gawkers rejoiced in recasting her as a whore and her sex partners as heroes. Discarded in the middle was a sadder possibility: that a woman who felt she had been violated didn’t think anyone would believe her if she wasn’t tied down by a rope.

Verdict: Rape and pre-marital sex are both sins in the eyes of the lord.

Back in the spring of 2008, the Catholic University of America campus experienced an incident frighteningly similar to Hofstra’s: A group of students—four male, one female—engaged in drunken group sex of dubious consent in a Catholic U. freshman dorm. The female student later reported the incident as a sexual assault; a male participant, who was expelled, maintained that the incident was consensual.

At Catholic, the process of determining consent in the matter was complicated by the university’s strict no-sex policy, which outlawed both rape and consensual premarital sex in the same sentence: “physical conduct of a sexual nature that is unwanted by either party and/or that is disruptive to the university community, such as any sexual expression that is inconsistent with the teaching and moral values of the Catholic church.”

Catholic U.’s policy suffered from the opposite problem of most of these armchair critics: While the public can only recognize rape as the product of the vilest of monsters, Catholic University saw anyone who had sex as a sinner. Today, the university still bans premarital sex on campus, but it’s tougher on the non-consensual stuff: Last summer, the Catholic University of America revised its student rules to clarify that the school condemns sexual assault more strongly than it does sex.

Photo by Darrow Montgomery

  • Christina

    Ugh. Why does everybody think they have a right to pass judgement on a woman's body? That's what these rape cases and rape assesments come down to. People think they are entitled to a womans body, psychology, moral aptitude etc.

  • John Dias

    Today I prevented a murder. I refused to go to the most dangerous part of town and provoke those who would most likely commit such a crime. Good on me.

  • Parker Jones

    In reference to the Isaac Brock case, the woman involved changed her story several different times depending on who she was talking to, and eventually withdrew her complaint.
    I agree 100 percent that the idiot from Up Records who made the statement about him not having to make somebody have sex with him was utterly wrong.
    However that unsubstantiated complaint against Brock caused him quite a bit of backlash from the media and some fans. Even some of his closest friends refused to speak to him after the allegations.

  • Amanda Hess

    Parker: Thanks for commenting. I agree that it's important to remember that these douchebag defenses against rape charges should not work to either exonerate or condemn any suspect.

  • karinova

    The he-could-have-sex-with-any-woman-he-wanted defense is actually so much worse. I actually don't think it says/assumes anything about women's decision-making process when choosing partners (women think?! women choose??). It's not concerned with that. It's almost entirely the "and another thing" part: that men rape women only because they can’t get sex anywhere else.

    The deeper message there is that that popular and attractive men can't be rapists. If willing partners exist, then a man will never rape. There's a little warning in there too: if women don't keep men satisfied, it's to be expected when they do what they gotta do. And, it leads right into the notion that only women who are "wanted" (ie: considered attractive to men) can be raped. Average Jane cannot not possibly have been raped when there are all these babes around.

    All of which is bad enough, as far as ARA defenses go. But then there's the part that makes me near-insane with rage: HCHSWAWHW also somehow manages to imply that if a rape *did* occur— hypothetically speaking of course, except maybe kind of not, winkwink— then the complainant should be *flattered.* He could have chosen (to rape?) any of these women, but he chose you!

    Ugh. Ugghhh!!!

  • Constance

    I was attacked by a former friend of mine once. A guy that I had known for years, that I routinely hung out with. He didn’t actually rape me, but I definitely know it was only because I fought him like hell and I would like to think it was also because he really wasn’t a rapist. He stopped, I ran out and went home . . . and didn’t report it because of all the very reasons stated in your write-up. I knew the finger would be pointed at me and I would be blamed in some way. He was young, popular and attractive. I didn’t even tell those closest to me. I could only imagine the (then) girls I knew saying stupidly, “Wow and you didn’t let him?!?!?!?!?” I was 18.

    It’s not only men who vilify women who are victims of rape or what I call less than consensual sex, it’s women and it’s more hurtful coming from women. In the US, women are living in the most freeing times ever as far as their sexuality goes and yet, the old perceptions still exist. Women are usually quicker to point a wagging finger at other women than men are. I don’t know how we will ever convince men that we are sexually responsible and have the same sexual entitlements they do if we can’t even convince ourselves that we are.

    For the record, I don’t believe less than consensual sex is the same as rape. I know some will argue that it is, but I don’t think it is. Rape is a violent act based on a need for dominance and control. Less than consensual sex is what I call a crime of opportunity - but anyone commiting this is wrong and should be punished. I believe you must take responsibility for your actions. That’s not to say that you deserve to be sexually assaulted because you were intoxicated, only that yes, you were sexually assaulted because you were too drunk to give informed consent and you were unlucky enough to be in the company of an a-hole who took advantage of that fact, but at the same time, you have got to look at your actions and be smarter about protecting yourself. I know that sounds like I’m blaming the woman, but I’m not.

    It’s kind of difficult for me to explain. I know what I think, but I don’t know exactly how to convey it in words. I’m not going to do something that will certainly put me at risk. Yeah, it’s a double standard, drunk men don’t have to worry about being raped. The reality is that drunk women do and right or wrong, we all know it. It’s like why would I walk down a dark alleyway littered with vagrants? I wouldn’t because I know the chances that I’ll be assaulted in some way are very high. Why would I leave my purse unattended in a crowded room full of people that I don’t know? I wouldn’t because I know the chances I would be robbed are high. If I was assaulted or robbed, I have to look at what I did that made it easier for someone to assault/rob me and I have to take actions to protect myself. Yes, no one should rob, rape or sexually assault, but the reality is they do and we all know they do and there are things we can do to make it harder for them to do it to us and we should do those things. In no way are we at fault when we are the victims of a crime, regardless of what we do, but for our own sakes, that doesn’t mean we should go about in the world as if these things don’t happen. I think I still did a poor job of explaining that.

    I never spoke to or acknowledged the guy mentioned above again, but I never said a word to anyone about it either.

  • Comrade Al Gonzales

    Constance, you need counseling ASAP. You were almost raped, but you blame yourself & other women - not the would-be rapist. You even defend the rapist!

    You are a mess. Get help soon.

    You didn't do a "poor job" of explaining - you did a great job of showing how twisted a woman's mind can get in confronting this issue. The "poor job" is going on inside your mind - you blame other women for your own failings.

    You are a mess. Get help soon.

  • Emily

    Wow. Thanks "Comrade". "you blame other women for YOUR OWN FAILINGS".

    We now return to your regularly scheduled victim-blaming session...

  • Angry Al Gonzales

    Emily, you dumb cunt, did you even read what Constance wrote? She's blaming herself & other women - not the rapist. Constance's "failings" were failing to report the attempted rape to the police, failing to report the rapist to other women so that they could defend themselves against a likely serial rapist, etc.

    How a dumb cunt like you lives long enough to write is a mystery. I know DC is full of dumbass cunts like you, but still, how do you remember to breathe? Seems like you're

  • Amy

    @John Dias:

    Today I prevented a murder too...

    by not murdering anybody. That's really the only surefire way to prevent murders, you know.

  • Comrade Al Gonzales

    "Emily" - you need remedial reading lessons. I "blamed" Constance for not reporting the attempted rape, not for being almost raped. By not reporting the attempted rape, she enabled the rapist to continue his ways.

    Constance's fear about telling other women about the attempted rape is bizarre. If she had told other women, it most likely would have resulted in the other women saying, yes, he tried to rape Susan, he did rape Mary, etc etc. & maybe the rapist could have been stopped. As it is, all Constance did was to blame other women for her own cowardice & by so doing, enabled the rapist to continue his path.

    "Emily" - your reading comprehension is almost nonexistent. What was your SAT score? 220?

    Take some remedial reading lessons. You might be able to comprehend the written word in a few years.

  • karinova

    For the record, less-than-consensual sex (ie: sexual assault) is rarely a crime of opportunity. Studies have been done. When male students were asked if they'd ever raped/assaulted someone, they said no. But when they were asked about certain behaviors without labeling them "rape/assault" (have you ever gone forward with sex when the partner was resistant or unwilling?) they did admit it. And the numbers are very very high— as in, 2/3 or so. Furthermore, these "not rapists" explain that they choose their victims very carefully and consciously, just like the stereotypical drag-you-into-the-bushes stranger rapists. They specifically choose women who they think are vulnerable and unlikely to report, and they choose situations that are supposedly "hazy" (eg: the victim has been drinking, or they've consensually made out before). They rarely just "end up" assaulting someone.

  • Mary

    Wow Gonzalez (are there multiple people using the name?), you do a good job of showing how quickly violence (even verbal/written violence) against women can escalate. How dare you use that foul language to talk to a woman who disagrees with you or questions your argument? And further insulting her by questioning her intelligence? How about you take a good look at how you confront people, especially those you do not know, and learn how to respond to other people (even people who offer criticism) in a respectful way instead of flying off the handle.

  • Constance

    @Karinova – thanks for the information. Could you please let me know where I can read those studies? I wasn’t implying that sexual assaulters didn’t choose their victims, just the planning part, which I now see may be completely off. As I said before, I know I did a very poor job of explaining myself. It’s frightening that it appears that many men in the study didn’t even believe they were sexual assaulters when there was no question they were.

    Any person that gets drunk/high in public is putting themselves at risk – more likely to be robbed, raped, assaulted, swindled, groped, injured, etc. - that is not to blame them at all, only to say we have to take some responsibility for our own behavior. Guys get drunk in public and get beat up and robbed because someone saw they were vulnerable. Females have the additional danger of being sexually assaulted while drunk because someone saw that they were vulnerable – on top of the fact that the vast majority of us are always vulnerable to men because they are physically stronger than us. Again, not the fault of the drunk person - not the fault of the woman, clearly the assaulter is an a-hole, like I said before. People who commit crimes choose their victims and it helps to do everything you can to not appear to be an easy mark to them. In an ideal world, we wouldn’t have to worry about such things, but that’s just not the case.

  • Angry Al Gonzales

    Fucking idiots are fucking idiots be they man, woman, or beast. Constance, you need help.

    Women who do not report rape & attempted rape are as bad as the rapists. It's still not too late to report it, Constance, & if you're a person not a worm you will.

    Stupid people like Mary & Emily are even worse. Stupid people are the cause of all of the world's problem. Please do everyone a favor & crawl back under the rocks whence you came.

  • John Dias

    Replying to my original comment, Amy wrote:

    @John Dias:

    Today I prevented a murder too…

    by not murdering anybody. That’s really the only surefire way to prevent murders, you know.

    You can only do what's in your control. A reliable way for someone to avoid being raped is to exercise prudence and discretion. But if it's more important to go out and jeopardize yourself so that you can claim the moral high ground after your victimization, have at it.

  • Comrade Al Gonzales

    & if you get raped, or almost raped, report it. Don't be a coward like Constance & blame other women for not reporting an attempted rape.

    Mr. Dias is right on one count for certain: The dumb women who post here - e.g., Emily, Mary, Constance - don't care about safety or justice, they just want to claim victimization so they can piss & moan about it with other dumb women.

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  • Luey

    "Comrade", it is unnecessary and childish to brutally attack people who disagree with you. People who believe that they are always right and that everyone else is a stupid cunt definitely need to assess their need to be always right.

    And you can call me any all the silly names you want, they just reinforce the fact that you are mind-numbingly insecure.

  • Paul Elam

    I don't see why being shunted into the "whore" category is unreasonable. The Hofstra accuser had sex with a group of men and they all ended up paying for it.

  • karinova

    The researcher was a Dr. David Lisak, and the talk was called "Unmasking the Undetected Rapist." He cites a whole bunch of studies. There was a video of of it online ages ago, but I can't seem to find a working link. Here's a link to a paper that refers to the relevant parts of the data: [MSWord]

    I should clarify that these guys aren't twisting their mustaches meticulously planning out assaults. In saying they don't just "end up" assaulting people, I mean that they don't just happen to find themselves getting hot n' heavy and misinterpret the signals in the heat of the moment or whatever. They choose who to apply themselves to, and in what situation, so that they'll be free (in their minds) to do... whatever. And they do it again and again: "One sample of 122 undetected rapists admitted to 386 rapes, 20 other acts of sexual assault, and 264 acts of battery against intimate partners."

    And there's often an element of self-deception (which is why they'll admitting to incriminating behavior, I guess.) They think "things just got a little wild!" Not "I'm an undetected rapist, mwahahaha!"

  • Comrade Al Gonzales

    Well put, Karinova. The case in a nutshell: Constance allowed a serial rapist to go his merry way, and she was too cowardly to discuss the attempted rape with other women because she feared their reaction!

    Then we have Amanda Knox, who believes no one can consent - "full, enthusiastic, and un-coerced consent" - to group sex. Once the subject gets away from Amanda's limited experience, her naïveté & backward backwoods prejudices are both glaringly obvious & pathetic. Violet Blue she is not.

  • karinova

    For the record, I have nothing to do with this Gonzales.

    What I am saying is that these guys, who we have erroneously been trained to think of as vaguely accidental "date rapists," are actually predators. They are the ones who are at fault, not their victims. What they rely on is not the reluctance of individual women to report assaults; they rely on the entire dysfunctional web/system— from social attitudes right up to sentencing— that has devoted itself to, among other things, discouraging victims from coming forward by immediately dumping a whole bunch of consequences and assholery on them instead of focusing its resources on the problem, which is the men who rape.

  • Comrade Al Gonzales

    The posters here would be at home in the 15th century burning witches. Never have I seen a collection of so many ignorant, unevolved Neanderthals in one place.

    People tie themselves in knots trying to parse some logic that is simple. Rapists & acquaintance rapists are the first people at fault. People who do not report rape or attempted rape are the second people at fault. The society built by capitalism & religion is the third group at fault.

    To excuse any of the above bad actors is a mistake. Unfortunately, you all fail, because, for various reasons, you want to excuse one group while heaping all blame on the other.

    When I read studies about how stupid Americans have become, I think of these blog postings & shake my head. It's a shame the baby boomers built prisons instead of schools, because now we have a generation of nitwits around us. Good luck - you'll need it.

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  • Mel

    As a victim of recent sexual assault, I want to thank you for writing this article. It was hard for me to come forward for fear of being labeled as any of the stereotypes mentioned above. But I did-- and you know what? No one took me seriously. This guy was a Community Advisor at a college campus, and he still has that job even with at least one assault on record. (I don't believe I'm the first.)

    So between the fear of reporting crimes like this, the fear of the ridicule of being labeled as "whore" or "liar", and the fact that the man responsible for doing something so heinous to me gets to go home scot-free (and I'm sure he's not the first assailant to be wrongfully cleared of charges)...I fear that this "rape culture" will never, ever go away.

  • A Rapist

    RAPE IS NOT A SACRED WOMAN's issue. It's a crime like any other that deserves to be analyzed like any other crime. If a super rich man was accused of stealing, would it be wrong to "armchair analyze" his motivations?

    And Yes, I rape because I can't get any action from any other woman. That is EXACTLY the reason why I rape. Who the fuck are you to armchair analyze my sexuality? Or the sexuality of all men? It's a bit presumptuous of you, no? We know our motivations, trust us. I want to rape because I'm horny as shit. Some cunt is gonna tell me it's not about sex, it's about power. HA! Well if you are ugly, then maybe it is about power. If you are hot, then trust me, I am doing this to you because I really, really felt like fucking you.

    If I were a celebrity and women were throwing themselves at me, letting me do whatever I wanted I would not have to rape. If I wanted, I could role play bondage with a willing woman. I role played rape with my girlfriend all the time when I was dating. (But then she got fat)

    Get over yourself's bitches it's the 2010s. NO! You do NOT get to have sacred "womyn's" issues that are untouchable. Fuck you in your tight little rape inviting assholes.

  • Maximus

    I agree with the author in everything stated except the Hofstra university case. Just because she was drunk does not mean she was NOT willing, I understand that a person under that condition probably is not in the right mind to make the decision, but she did make a decision to have sex with four men and then when she felt guilty about it accuse them of rape. If the consent came of a result of 4 guys going like hey want to come back to my room and do this? If she said yes, then she is just as culpable as she was a willing participant in her own actions......this is a very different situation than the girl who was drinking outside her prom, even though she was drunk, she never consented to sex, had to be held down by multiple students and was definitely a victim....If we are going to say women dont know what they are doing when they are drunk then we should allow drinking altogether for women or perhaps a law should be passed that any time a guy has sex with a drunk woman he is liable for rape as the woman is not able to consent.

  • Charles

    comrade, you're no comrade. you're a pc twit who thinks anyone who doesn't buy into your particular psychobabble simply must be "twisted." that a young woman didn't choose to jump on this particular bandwagon means only what she chooses it to mean, your insights and indictments be damned. while your intents are to regale the world with your urbane wisdom, you've unwittingly exposed yourself as among the most narrow-minded of commentators on this post. good luck with that whole open-minded thing.

  • Härj

    re Polanski, a guilty plea doesn't mean shit in the American court system it's joke