Let’s Talk About Feminism, Rape, and Personal Responsibility.

Dear Readers:

For those of you familiar with my Facebook page today’s blog may look like a re-run. It isn’t. 

Some content has been gently recycled but I added plenty of fresh, green, LEED-certified earth friendly material as well. I am approaching the subject again because of the enormous response it generated on Facebook. I hope to see a lively conversation here as well, so don’t disappoint me!  Ready?  Set?  Go!

FEMINISM.

What does that word mean to you?

I’m really curious because I see a lot of posts on FB and all around the Internet railing against “feminism” but when you dig deep past the hysteria, poor grammar and blatant misogyny of some of this shit, the issue being decried is that men and women are treated differently and men are often disadvantaged as a result.  

My work in divorce reform has shown me time and time again that this is absolutely true: men are at an extreme disadvantage when they are drawn into “family” court.  

Take alimony, for instance.  Men may have a leg up on us gals by making a few more cents on the dollar, but if the dollar and then some is all awarded to their ex-wife who refuses to work, who really cares?

As for child custody, it’s a no-brainer.  Men are rarely awarded equal parenting time, despite the fact that before the divorce was filed they may have been ideal parents.

And then there is the whole issue of sexual assault.  We are hearing a lot about this in the media these days, although the discussion seems narrowly limited to campus sexual assaults.  Apparently nobody really cares if someone barges uninvited into the vagina of a factory worker.

My interest in this area began many years ago.  I minored in Women’s Studies (Womyn’s for you hardcore feminazis) in college, partly because I was experiencing an awakening to the injustices of the world around me but mostly because there was no math requirement.

Because duh, girls can’t do math.

My education taught me a great deal about the history (herstory!) of women and the subjugation of my gender by men through denial of political, social, sexual and economic opportunities. 

There was much I learned that shocked me – so much so that I was left with a niggling suspicion that maybe some of it wasn’t true. The most blatant example was the much-ballyhooed statistic that 25% of college women will be sexually assaulted.

One in four? That can’t be right.

As it turns out, it’s not.

Christina Hoff Sommers of the American Enterprise Institute exploded this myth in her book Who Stole Feminism? Sommers looked closely at the 1982 survey of 3,000 college women which generated this notorious statistic and found that the questions asked were far more telling than the answers given, including the question:

“Have you had sexual intercourse when you didn’t want to because a man gave you alcohol or drugs?”

It’s the word “because” that troubles me.  

Does this sentence mean he forced her to drink or take drugs and rendered her incapacitated?  

Or does it mean he provided the alcohol or drugs and at a certain point she just put on her beer goggles and screwed the guy she thought she’d put firmly in the friend zone?

If you want to read more about Sommers’ examination of this false statistic, go here: 1 in 4 Rape Myth.

In September last year, California passed a law that should terrify all of us: the “Yes Means Yes” legislation that purports for the first time in national history to define sexual consent for college students, faculty or staff members. You can read it here: Yes Means Yes!

Again, this law does not apply to everyone, it is narrowly confined to college campuses because apparently nobody in our society needs extra protection more than those vulnerable and disadvantaged college kids.

The Yes Means Yes law requires “affirmative consent,” and such consent is impossible if someone is asleep (OK, that makes sense) or “incapacitated” by drugs or alcohol.  An “incapacitated” person is defined by the statute as one who “could not understand the fact, nature, or extent of the sexual activity.”

OK, but according to whom?  And what does that even mean? And if a woman is so incapacitated that she cannot consent to sex, how can she claim to remember her level of incapacitation after the alleged assault?

“Lack of protest or resistance does not mean consent, nor does silence mean consent. Affirmative consent must be ongoing throughout a sexual activity and can be revoked at any time.”

Now this is what really scares me.  Two kids can be perfectly sober, get it on, and afterward accuse each other of rape because they weren’t moaning “I consent to this sexual activity and am fully capable of doing so” from foreplay (for college kids foreplay is ripping their clothes off) to orgasm.  

Orgasm for him, anyway, because that’s unfortunately the point at which sex is usually over.

If a young woman is “incapacitated” during sex and the man has been drinking with her, who raped whom?  If both complete the act without a word, who raped whom?

The California bill was introduced by Sen. Kevin de Leon, D-Los Angeles who said, “Every student deserves a learning environment that is safe and healthy.”

True.  Every student should be safe.  Even the ones with penises.  

Should my son go to college in California against my strenuous admonitions to avoid that state like Hilary avoids the .gov email system, he will go armed with a breathalyzer kit and a consent form, and I still don’t think he will be adequately covered to avoid allegations from a girl who may have changed her mind or become angry with him post-coitus.

I predict thousands of young men will be falsely accused of sexual assault under this new law within the Alice-in-Wonderland quasi-judicial college system that assumes guilt before innocence, has no constitutional protections, no real rules of evidence and which can expel the accused even when no basis is found for the allegations and even when the police investigate and determine there is no “there” there.

And that takes me back to my original question: what does the word “feminism” mean to you?

Perhaps I am naive, but I define feminism as believing men and women should have equal rights and opportunities in all areas of life (except making babies in our tummies – sorry, guys!), but I further believe those rights and opportunities come with equal obligations, expectations, and personal accountability for our actions.

And here’s the part I wasn’t going to write because it’s so difficult but I think I must.  Here comes what some may refer to as T.M.I.:

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I was raped when I was 17.  That’s how I lost my virginity.  Isn’t that special?

I attended a party my senior year out in the country.  Hundreds of kids were running amok, drinking beer and dabbling in LSD and other fun drugs.  Fun for them, I should say.  Not for me.

At some point I got sick as we so often did back then, and after vomiting several times I crawled into a loft and passed out. I don’t know how long I was out when my sleep was interrupted by one of the kids I came to the party with.

He climbed on top of me.  He did what he did.  I think I remember saying no and pushing him away, but honestly I didn’t even know what was happening until the pain hit me and I realized I was no longer a virgin.

He knew exactly what he was doing and years later I found out I was one in a long line of other women he assaulted over the years.

That’s rape.  One could certainly argue that I shouldn’t have put myself in that position, but I believe what happened to me that night meets the legal definition of rape.

You know what isn’t rape?  Many of the other sexual experiences I had in my life: hazy nights of drinking and dancing and fun capped off with an clumsy, unsatisfying fumbling in the dark and awkward goodbyes in the morning.

Every young woman should be taught to respect herself and her body and to cherish her sexual freedom.  We don’t need to be protected by outrageous laws like the “Yes Means Yes” law.  We need to be educated from a young age that we are just as responsible for our sexual experiences as are the men we couple with.  This is part of how I define feminism.  Perhaps a better word is “humanism,” because I truly believe in equality between the sexes.

What do you think?  Please sound off in the comments below.

 

This Post Has 5 Comments

  1. Tamsen

    Yep, absolutely agree Robin. In days long gone, after too much drinking and what not, sometimes sex happened. That wasn’t his fault, or frankly my fault, that it perhaps shouldn’t have happened; we were equally drunk or whatever, and frankly despite occasional awkward mornings, I never had any real regrets; it was all part of growing up. What happened to you was very different, and I’m afraid it is exactly that type of scenario, or the media-covered football team who gang rapes the intoxicated/half unconscious girl, that has resulted in the ridiculous California law. And yes, that law is ridiculous; two drunk college kids have sex…..wow, who knew there would be such depravity amongst college kids…..and it’s now “rape” when the girl later regrets it.

  2. CL

    Robin Robin Robin. I realize you tried to link other things in this blog post about feminism, alimony reform, statistics about rape- and perhaps something else-… but all my mind registered when reading this was rape. I was raped. I can not and never will forget it. I will always blame myself for drinking- trusting another person- never knowing if I was drugged or not- blah blah blah blah blah. For every one person that speaks out about their rape there are countless others that don’t. That’s why I think the statistics are bullshit. And let’s face it- rape is hard to prove- because the other party will often say it was consensual. There are often no witnesses- or cell phone videos- imagine that. But the person that was raped, knows they were raped. Or maybe if they’re fortunate enough they don’t?? I don’t know. In my case I briefly regained consciousness in the middle of it. Many people live with the shame of being raped forever. And very few of these women (and some men) never even report it. Oh yeah, I think I said that already. And seriously- how many women would really go to the extent of reporting something like that?? If you truly have been raped, it is not something you want to proclaim to the rest of the world. I personally wanted to crawl into a hole and die- and although it’s gotten a lot better throughout the years- that feeling has never truly escaped me. Reporting it to the authorities was one of the hardest things I have ever done in my life. It was countless hours of interviews, invasive physical examinations, loss of my job, my identity, loss of friends and family (not everyone knows how to deal with that kind of news), and temporary loss of my sanity. My life changed forever. Counseling and time has helped, but I will forever remain angry, sad, and feel some sense of loss. Perhaps you didn’t receive more of a response to this post because let’s face it… people know rape exists, but no one is willing to have a real conversation about it.

    1. LT

      Kudos to you, CL. I was raped too, as was….hmmm…about 25 percent of women I knew in college. Far worse than a boy feeling like he has to carry a consent form is a woman who said no, or couldn’t say no because she was out of it. Personal responsibility? How about men taking “no”, or the inability to say “no,” and refraining from pushing further. If the new law makes one man stop in the a sense of affirmative consent, it’s worth it. I have never, ever, met a woman who cried rape, and pressed charges, when what they were feeling was regret for consenting. Who the hell would ever put themselves through a charge? No, it’s far more common these days for a women to cop to having a bad drunken lay, then going through the fire and brimstone of making a charge. As others have said, way too many more women don’t report a rape than falsely report one. I never reported mine, CL didn’t report hers, and you Robin did not report yours. WOW! That’s three out of four.

  3. Pingback: Why Did You Do That, Robin? – Robin Descamp

  4. Dannyman

    That is rape, there doesn’t need to be a “no” for it to be rape as long as you never said “yes”. And it’s very important that we have that rule because if we didn’t, sleeping with an unconscious person would be legal, sleeping with people in comas would be legal.

    “OK, but according to whom? And what does that even mean? And if a woman is so incapacitated that she cannot consent to sex, how can she claim to remember her level of incapacitation after the alleged assault?”

    Many rapists are repeat offenders, they even communicate with each other and trade tips. They know how to raise reasonable doubt, so cases like these are hard to prosecute. But you don’t have to say no, in a case like that it’s clearly rape, but if you are going into false rape accusations, where a women came back and accused someone of rape and verbal consent wasn’t given but other cues were. These go to Jury, and are handled case by case.

    “Now this is what really scares me. Two kids can be perfectly sober, get it on, and afterward accuse each other of rape because they weren’t moaning “I consent to this sexual activity and am fully capable of doing so” from foreplay (for college kids foreplay is ripping their clothes off) to orgasm. ”

    It’s ridiculous that would be possible at all, but not as bad as you would think it would be. First of all, a case like that would definitely have reasonable doubt, and imagine you are a Jury and someone’s accusation is “I revoked consent by not moaning” would you convict the defendant of rape with an accusation like that? I would be surprised if anybody did. But a lot of the time the law is clear on what revoking consent would be, like saying no or stop. But that’s the law with most of the US. What you’re talking about, the California law, is stupid, and whoever passed it has probably never slept with someone in their life. If that becomes the standard, I will leave the country.

    “We need to be educated from a young age that we are just as responsible for our sexual experiences as are the men we couple with.”

    So this confused me. In your case where you were assaulted, you may have drank and been reckless by your own choice, but for any crime, it is always the one who committed it who is 100% at fault, and I think telling a rape victim they share part of the blame is the wrong message to send. They shouldn’t be given part of the blame, but I think it’s important that people are aware and careful in these situations. People who say that telling someone to be cautious is “victim blaming” are morons, am I not going to tell my daughter how to be cautious of her surroundings and just expect her not to be raped? It’s a ridiculous argument feminists make on this.

    But when it comes to these stories, and rape on and off campuses, the main thing that should probably be addressed in finding a solution is “why do people rape”? And it’s the same answer for that, as it is for every other crime, because they don’t think they will get caught, and with rape, that is often true. Majority of rapes are committed by repeat offenders, it’s a sick craft that they work on and find ways to avoid convictions. Which is why the “teach men not to rape” thing is basically condemning people to get raped because rapists know rape is wrong, they don’t just know it’s wrong they learn to work the system in their favor.

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