The Sexist

Rape Analogy Redux: The “Stroll In The Jungle” Theory

It's about time that this blog begin to address all the incoherent rape analogies that are floating around out there. Previously, we heard from people who believe that rape is like a natural disaster. We'll call this the Hurricane Rape Model: "Under this model, rape is like a hurricane. Everyone agrees that hurricanes are devastating. Hurricanes cannot be prevented—they can only be predicted, planned for, and vigilantly avoided. Because no one can be blamed for causing a hurricane, the onus is on the victims to make sure they stay out of the disaster’s path."

Today, a commenter submitted another absurd model for thinking about rape: The Stroll In the Jungle Theory. The commenter postulates that by turning up in places where women sometimes report being raped—like frat parties—women are exercising horrible judgment, much like the explorer who walks into the jungle loaded with "terrible and deadly beasts." He writes:

Going to a rowdy frat party just might really be exercise of bad judgment. If somebody takes a stroll into the jungle with full knowledge that there are terrible and deadly beasts out there that are known for killing people, because the stroller through the jungle likes taking strolls in jungles—that just may be some pretty bad judgment. That is, unless getting eaten was the intention (I’m assuming it wasn’t). Likewise, petting a hungry bear isn’t a wise thing to do, either. Also likewise, going to a frat party knowing that there may be dangerous people present may not be the wisest of choices.

Let's see how this analogy bears out. Hah. Get it? Bears? Anyway. Ways in which rape is not like a stroll in the jungle:

(1) Men are not like hungry bears. Unlike hungry bears, men do not have an insatiable survival instinct that forces them to rape women. The vast majority of men are not rapists. As commenter K points out: "To say a rapist is equivalent to a hungry bear is to say that they can not be held accountable for their actions," she writes. "I’ve been drunk hundreds of times with men I knew well and men I hardly knew at all. And not one of them has ever raped me." I have gone even deeper into the heart of darkness: I have been co-habitating with a hungry bear for some time now, and despite having hundreds of opportunities to do so, he has never raped me. Even when I'm sound asleep! Men are not like hungry bears.

(2) Getting eaten by bears is not a major social problem. Wikipedia lists 29 deaths by bear in North America over the past decade. Meanwhile, someone is sexually assaulted in the U.S. every two minutes. (A person is eaten by a bear in North America once every 181,241 minutes).

(3) Nevertheless, people take murderous bears really fucking seriously. When a person gets eaten by a bear in the wild, some people will respond by saying, "What a fucking idiot to get eaten by that bear!" But that sentiment is, at least, almost always accompanied by this one: "Holy shit! Man-eating bear on the loose!"

What is the fate of the man-eating bear? Many of the past decade's person-eaters were either shot, killed in some other way, pepper-sprayed, lured out of the wilderness with elaborate traps, or quarantined in animal training. Sixty percent of rapes are not even reported to police, which seriously impedes the government's ability to trap rapists. Why aren't these women reporting their rapes? Oh, perhaps it has s0mething to do with jungle rape theorists who suggest that everyone who gets raped is a big 'ol dumbass.

(4) There is not much societal benefit to reducing the number of jungle deaths. How much effort ought society devote to reducing the danger of jungle-strolling, and how much effort ought it expend to address the problem of rape? In order to answer this question, we'll have to examine the societal benefits to people taking walks in the jungle, and to women being in situations where rape is possible.

There is no societal benefit to people walking in the jungle, a fact which the U.S. government recognizes by not encouraging its citizens to walk in the jungle. If you like to walk in the jungle, whatever—that's your thing.

What does the government encourage women to do? The government does encourage women to get married, even though marriage is dangerous—raping your spouse was relatively recently outlawed across the U.S. The government does encourage women to contribute in their communities, even though being acquainted with other people is dangerous—73 percent of rape victims know their attackers. The government does encourage women to attend college, even though attending school-sponsored functions (like frat parties) is dangerous—sometimes, women are raped there.

Since over half of our society is female, it makes sense that society would work to allow women to lead full lives. That means leaving the home, working, attending parties, getting an education, having relationships with women and men, and generally doing what humans do—without the constant fear of being raped. In order to (a) allow women to live their lives, and (b) prevent them from being raped, the only thing left to do is (c) not allow people to rape. That's it.

(5) Women can't escape the jungle. Women aren't raped because they attend frat parties, or get drunk, or walk alone at night—they're raped because they're women. One in six women will be raped sexually assaulted in their lifetimes, compared to one in 33 men. Are women far more likely than men to attend frat parties? No, "frat parties" don't rape people. Rapists do. It's easy to look at every rape victim and say, "that girl shouldn't have put herself in that situation." It's so, so lazy to say that. It's much harder to put the time and energy and work and funding into actually eliminating rape. But you know what? It's not difficult at all to admit that that's what needs to happen.

Photo via allspice1, Creative Commons Attribution License 2.0

  • Banyan

    I don't know. Let's take petting. One of the ways that men have traditionally attempted to seek consent is by gradually moving the hands from uncontroversial parts to controversial parts. This has been the status quo and has worked well in the overwhelming majority of cases. I agree that penetration is a much different case and mandates a different etiquette. Also considering the fact that most women are capably of delineating boundaries, requiring a universal standard, for the sake of the few, is a bit cumbersome. As for the visual cues that women display when they are doing something against their will, I agree that they are probably pretty clear. I say probably because I have never encountered such behavior.

    However, if I was a juror and the argument for rape was body language and the lack of verbal requests from the male I would have a hard time sending him to jail.

  • LeftSidePositive

    "Petting"?! Is this 1957??

    I'm sorry, but let's not get caught up in the "gatekeeper" stereotype, shall we? Women do not exist in a perpetual state of consent, so don't think that you have the prerogative to proceed as you like. It's fundamentally disrespectful, to put it mildly. Don't just keep going after her and expect her to have to police the encounter and her body--actually care about what SHE wants, because she's a human being and the point of this is to enjoy an encounter WITH, not on, at, or to, another person.

    And, it's not "for the sake of a few." It is for all woman, so that you don't assume that you know what we want and ignore what we really want (or don't want).

    In your rape scenario, how exactly did the male get consent? Did he? If not, he DOES NOT get to make his "best guess" and if he proceeds without consent he is liable for the consequences.

  • Banyan

    O.K. let's look at it differently. If rape is sex without verbal consent, then I have raped my girlfriends with whom I have had loving and caring relationships.
    Person B: No, rape is sex with verbal or non-verbal consent.
    Person A: How do you establish non-verbal consent?
    Person B: By observing body language
    Person A: But body language can be misleading and even if it is accurate 90 something percent of the time, drunkenness, social retardation, and the nuances and subjective nature of body language can make that difficult to gauge?
    Person B: That's why verbal consent is superior.
    Person A: Agreed, but considering the fact that verbal consent is unfortunately not the cultural norm, and the vagueness of body language rules out conviction for reasons of reasonable doubt: the woman or man must either verbally or physically protest in order for me to send them to jail where they will probably be raped as well.

    I am here having a philosophical argument about an issue that is very emotional in nature. I hate rape and rapists and have had a family member who is raped. Even though I know I will never commit rape, the notion that I could go to jail for misreading body language is incredibly frightening

  • Banyan

    Sorry for the grammar on that one. On the first person B I said with when I meant without.

  • LeftSidePositive

    That's why we are insisting that the "cultural norm" BE verbal consent. That is what the "Yes means Yes" campaign is all about.

    Don't you think it's MORE FRIGHTENING that someone could BE RAPED by some idiot who thinks they can read body language??

    In all of your calculations, are you only concerned with your own potential to go to prison? Doesn't it worry you that you might have caused another human being lasting trauma, pain, and psychological damage? Don't you feel a basic moral obligation not to take advantage of or violate your fellow human beings?

    Also, think about how many things women are told to do to prevent rape--don't wear this, don't drink that, don't go there, don't say that, don't do that, and on and on and ON. For all of that burden that gets placed on us...for your part, why can't you just ask?

    The vast majority of rape victims do protest to some degree, but many others are impaired in some way--taken by surprise, held down, intoxicated, threatened, etc. And, yet, whatever happens, people are always eager to declare they didn't protest "enough."

  • Banyan

    I am worried about rape and to a lesser extent I am worried about people going to jail for a rape they did not commit as well as all rapes being considered equal. Having sex in a haze of drunkenness, in my view, is not nearly as severe as expressly refusing consent and getting raped.

    I could get on board with a verbal consent protocol as long as it was made clear that this proposal has a few drawbacks.
    1) It's really awkward. It's kind of rape prevention planning and it isn't the way a lot of healthy and sane people have sex. I say it's rape prevention planning because in a perfect world it wouldn't be necessary. It's like a pre-nuptual agreement. It probably should become the standard, but it's not nearly as smooth as the alternative.

  • LeftSidePositive's AWKWARD????

    You poor thing!!! How could you possibly be asked to face AWKWARDNESS (gasp!) when the other party is only facing pain, violation, helplessness, and lasting psychological trauma?

    It's not just "prevention planning." It's giving a damn about the other person's thoughts and feelings. It's recognizing that they own their own body, you don't!

    You need to ask someone for permission to use their credit card, don't you? It's not "prevention planning" just in case you get accused of theft. It is quite simply that using someone's credit card without permission IS BY DEFINITION theft.

    And, have you HEARD about the experiences of rape survivors who were raped while drunk?? I assure you, they're VERY traumatizing. How extraordinarily insensitive of you to think otherwise.

    If you need a primer, read Wren at #445. Then tell me all about how women need to be "educated" to respond and how alcohol involvement in rape somehow makes it less traumatic.

  • Melissa

    Banyan, from what little I've seen of you in these two comment threads, you seem like a good person and not a rapist or rape apologist. So far. Really, if you're worried about this, I can't stress enough how much reading this entire thread will help you. But if you don't do that, here are the basics.

    1. Sex without consent IS rape. Period. (We're defining "consent" as one party not being true, genuine participant in the sex act. Non-consent can take many forms--from screaming and fighting to dissociating completely and lying motionless.)
    2. It is fairly safe to say that anyone who initiates a sex act who is not deeply mentally ill can tell when their partner (male or female) is non-consenting from these verbal or non-verbal cues.
    3. It is usually safer to specifically ask for explicit verbal consent. This removes all your worries about accidentally ending up in jail for raping someone. It only takes a moment to check.
    4. Yes, verbally asking for consent isn't the most common protocol, but it is far from unheard of. It does not ruin the moment, it only makes it hotter. And if you're worried that it's us make it more common. Rape is scary. Mutual respect and consent is sexy. But we live in a backwards world that leads us to believe rape is sexy and consent is a pain. (Read this

    You seem like a well-meaning person, but don't kid yourself into thinking that what a rapist does could be anything but his own fault. There are many times when the victim even DOES verbally say no and the rapist STILL tries to make a case that he could tell she really wanted it. And a lot of times, they get away with it. You say that you have a family member who was raped. Wouldn't you want to protect other people from the pain he/she went through? Wouldn't you want to make 100% sure that you're not causing someone that pain? That's all asking for consent is. Making 100% sure. When you consider the consequences, it's not much to ask.

  • Melissa

    Oh, and by the way, asking for verbal consent isn't awkward at all. Try it sometime. Trust me, people are turned on by the idea that their partner respects them enough to care whether or not they actually want them.
    Your partner only wanting to "get his" while not caring whether or not you even want him? Not sexy at all.
    If he goes so far as to make it clear that he is ASKING for your consent, and actually seems to care about the answer? That's a huge turn-on for the vast majority of people.

  • Melissa

    ...not to mention, you'll probably feel like a stud when you ask if she's sure she wants to and she says "hell yeah." Sorry 'bout the multiple posts, I keep thinking of more things.

  • Banyan

    @ LSP O.K. fine I will ask for verbal consent next time. But it is important to make the distinction between the goodness of asking for verbal consent and the absurdity of saying that men who don't ask for verbal consent are rapists. That would create far too many rapists and far too many confused rape victims. LSP is wrong in comparing those who don't request permission to use another persons credit card to those who don't seek verbal consent. Our culture doesn't view sex as transactional, rather we view sex as relational.
    I've used this argument before and I'll do it again. Sex is like sharing food with your roommates. You don't always clearly delineate what your roommate can and cannot eat but you expect them to proceed with caution and they expect you to make your boundaries clear. You could of course make a chart that would make the boundaries fucking crystal clear, but people just don't want to do that. By the way isn't this really an empirical argument, I mean isn't it important what women want their lovers to do. If women prefer men to not ask and just proceed with caution and be empathic shouldn't we respect that?

  • LeftSidePositive

    Banyan, I never said that all men who don't ask for verbal consent are rapists. All men who have sex with a woman AGAINST HER WILL are rapists. If you don't ask, you're not sure.

    Never, ever, use that leftover food argument again. It's extremely insulting. If you think someone's sexuality is no more important than a tupperware full of linguine in the fridge, you need to start respecting your partners more.

    For instance, do you think this is acceptable?

    How on earth do you know "if women prefer men not to ask"?? The only way you know is if you ask THAT PARTICULAR PERSON what THEY want. Now, if you two have a clear and explicit agreement as to what consent means between the two of you, go for it. Tell your partner, "Honey, if this, this, and this is going it okay if I go right ahead and have sex with you?" Lots of people act out fantasies, and that's totally okay, as long as people CLEARLY communicate beforehand and know their "safe phrases" and "signals" are. In all seriousness, you might want to do some research in the BDSM community (or read Savage Love) and see that there are very clear rules for how you set boundaries and establish consent...

    Also, did you read Wren's account of her rape above? What do you have to say about it? Have you learned anything about how hard it can be to say no?

  • Banyan

    Well, until you provide, some empirical data which supports the claim that women prefer giving verbal consent over non-verbal consent, I must remain agnostic. I'm inclined to believe that the right thing to do is to not seek verbal consent for foreplay and to seek verbal consent for intercourse in my own personal sex life. The women that I have been with would be weirded out if I asked permission to go down on them. I trust that I will be able to discern whether she is feeling what I'm doing and that she will communicate either verbally or non-verbally her wishes. I think this is the way men who don't have any desire to rape women have had sex with women for a long time, and I reject any one-size-fits-all top-down approach to relating to women in the bedroom.

  • LeftSidePositive

    @Banyan--it's really not about what people "prefer" per is what is about safe and respectful.

    Chances are, non-verbal for foreplay and verbal for sex is *probably* fine... I emphasize probably, because everyone is different. It also depends on how heavy the foreplay is. I have definitely had encounters where the guy's idea of "foreplay" is to try to push as many boundaries as he can, and it's not fun...I want to enjoy the experience, and if he's trying to "steal a base," I have to be on my guard instead of getting lost in the moment. (Needless to say, those encounters didn't go anywhere!)

    Really??? Women would be "weirded out" if you asked to have oral sex on them? Honestly, I'm surprised...oral sex is sex to a lot of people, so that's probably one where you should ask, because someone really could be upset about that if they weren't prepared for it.

    And, of course if you're in a relationship with someone, you can discuss what you like in the bedroom. If, between the two of you, oral sex is always open-season, that's fine if you both communicate that you're okay with that.

  • Chris

    I know that I'm coming late to this thread, but I read a comment by JD that really struck me:

    "If it’s not such a traumatic experience that you would be affected by it"

    If an experience is traumatic enough, someone may not realize it immediately. I have not been raped, but I am dealing with PTSD following my service in Iraq. When I returned home, I felt fine, and I seemed like a normal 22 year old guy. A year later, I began having nightmares and recalling repressed memories. I began abusing drugs and alcohol, and watched my life fall apart around me for the next four years, the entire time denying that I was affected by my experiences.

    It wasn't until someone very close to me, herself a victim of "traditional rape," sat me down, and shared with me the exact same feelings that I was having that I realized that I had PTSD. The thing is, her experiences seem so much more traumatizing than mine.

    My point is that you cannot begin to imagine how something that might not appear traumatizing to you can be traumatizing. I hope that you never have to experience something that is so horrible, but don't minimize something that happens based on how someone perceives it or appears to perceive it in the immediate aftermath.