Monday, October 02, 2006

Is Being An Ass A Valid Rape Defense?

Judging by the many defenders of boys and men who manipulate situations and keep pushing for sex after they get a clear no (often more than once), you'd think the answer would be yes.

Wouldn't that defense be something to see if a case of date rape went to trial.

Defense attorney's opening statement: "Your honor and members of the jury. My client is not a rapist. He is not a monster. ... He is an asshole."

Defense attorney's question to every witness: "Do you believe my client is an asshole for what he did to the alleged victim?"

Witness after witness: "Yes, he was being an asshole."

Defense attorney's closing statement: "As I've shown throughout this trial, my client is an asshole. And we all know rapists are monsters. The prosecution has not proven beyond a reasonable doubt that my client is a monster. Therefore you must find my client not guilty."
This defense by asshole-ness cropped up in the comments over at Alas, a blog regarding the rape/consent spectrum which included part of the following scenario from the Biting Beaver:



In the next scenario let's take a young girl. She's 15 and she's out on a date, her boyfriend's parents are out of town and so he takes her to his place. She's excited at the opportunity to spend time with him so she tells her parents that she's staying at a girlfriend’s house. They arrive at the boyfriends house and the evening starts well, however, as the night progresses he becomes more and more pushy for sex. She feels trapped, she loves her boyfriend and she likes the way he touches her or kisses her but she's uncomfortable with him pushing her harder. She tells him as much and he grows sullen for a time, withdrawing all affection from her. Soon, however, he apologizes and they kiss again, she likes his kiss, she likes the way he smells, she likes the way he feels, she doesn't like the way his hand is trying to unzip her pants.

[beginning of quote on Alas post] She says "No" again; he withdraws ALL affection, maybe even scooting to the end of the couch. He seems sullen and frustrated. He may even argue with her, "What’s the big deal?" he asks, "Why are you being a tease?" he says accusatorily. She begins to doubt herself and feels guilt about her actions. She apologizes to him, he kisses her again and soon he's at her zipper once more. She flinches and sighs heavily, "I don't know if I’m ready" she says plaintively, "What?" he asks her; "Don’t you love me?"

The girl bites her bottom lip, in a flash of anger and frustration she stands up to leave. He grabs her arm, "Oh baby, I’m sorry, I didn't mean to make you mad" he says. She looks at him again and quickly it goes through her mind that she doesn't really know where she’d go anyway. She lied to her parents; they think she’s over at a friend's house. She has no car, how is she going to
get anywhere? She can't tell her parents and she doesn't want to try to call her girlfriend who may or may not have a car. She knows that she'll just make her boyfriend angry at her even if she DID do that. What if he kicks her out? She lied to be there and if she goes back home she'll get in trouble for lying. In a flash she decides to sit back down.

An hour later, after more approach and retreat and more pushing his hand away, she gives in.

She goes home the next day, troubled, depressed, and unable to concentrate. She has been raped and her emotions and reactions are the same as any other rape victim, but she has no recourse.

(emphasis mine)

What I find fascinating is how the action I've put in bold negates all possibility -- for some people -- that what happened after that could be rape no matter what happens next.

"She could have gone home to Mommy, but she stayed for sex instead."

Bull.

Not leaving does not equal staying for sex. To attempt to make those two equivalent is to reinforce a very dangerous rape myth.

It says that if a boy or man tricks a girl into staying after she says "no" by doing something to convince her she's in no danger, then he can take whatever he wants whether it is offered freely or not.

If we look at the full scenario what we have here is a boy, or man if he's 18 or older, who has decided that ethics don't apply to this situation.

In the beginning of this scenario she is involved in a sexualized relationship, but once she says no to his ultimate goal that relationship element is abandoned. What she wants and what she enjoys does NOT matter anymore except to help him get what he wants from her.

Does that make him an asshole who is helplessly at the mercy of his asshole-ness?

I don't believe so. Through various ways he's learned that this is behavior he can get away with. He may have been coached by other boys and men on how to be "successful" with girls and what he needs to do in order to protect himself from rape allegations when she gets over her shock that the boyfriend she trusted betrayed that trust and doesn't have the least bit of remorse for doing so.

For this analogy to be a valid defense, the asshole-ness couldn't involve decisions or control. If he can choose different actions but simply doesn't see a reason to do so, the responsibility for his actions must be his.

To shift the responsibility anywhere else is to reward those who act like assholes toward women. It demands that all women have ESP so they will know the instant when they should run even at the risk of physical injury. If they don't run soon enough or fast enough from men they know, what happens is their fault.

What happens is the responsiblity of the person who takes the action not the person who hasn't successfully avoided someone else's actions.

For more on this topic, check out my next post Is Consent Your Default Condition With Your Boyfriend

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 11:06 AM   5 comments links to this post

5 Comments:

At October 03, 2006 1:24 AM, Anonymous Lara said...

Thankyou very much for discussing this issue. You have no clue how much it tears me up inside to see people make excuses for boys or men who could commit such a horrible and cruel act. This idea that "boys will be boys" is terrible, it's one of the reasons I'm scared of having a son if I ever have kids.

 
At October 05, 2006 7:01 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

That's quite a second-by-second description, and it helps me understand -- well outside the comfort zone -- what it's like on the other side of the gender line.

In my life I'm blessed or cursed with the ability to seemingly switch points of view, so what you say is utterly credible. I've sat on that couch, had my hand pushed away, and backed off.

Often, as I recall it, and memory is notoriously biased in this respect, I lost the relationship from the time I backed off, only to see the girl I wanted (I won't say loved, as 'how well could we have known each other?') go on to make love with another man or boy who was more traditionally aggressive.

It was damned discouraging.

It seemed to me that it was either be an asshole or be without love, affection and sex.

However, as I grew older and the people I wanted to be with became more personally and sexually experienced, the balance shifted. A little more conversation, a lot less hand pushing of all kinds. Not a lot more, but enough to shift the balance.

Do you remember the 'Oberlin rules'? They were made shameless fun of ... a boy or man would be obliged to say :

"May I touch your breast?" and so on.

It was, in my view, a real cultural loss when we decided as a culture to deride that sort of thing and turn to more unconscious courting rules. Because the teens are where communication between the genders are formed, and can start, or as is more usually the case, stop.

Yes, it gets better, but I still have this unfulfilled vision of teens communicating with each other successfully over issues of sex and sensuality. Way too late for me, not terribly likely for my own kids, who have reached the point where anything I think or say is, by definition, stupid and wrong -- but maybe someday ...

 
At October 05, 2006 8:45 AM, Blogger Marcella Chester said...

Lara, you are welcome. I believe that by talking about it those of us who care can be less scared.

Anonymous, thank you for your comment. We need to change perceptions so that those boys and men who do the right thing and stop when they should aren't seen as less successful with girls and women than those who who have no sexual ethics.

By giving manipulative rapists the proper label fewer of them will be seen by other boys and men as sexual role models.

 
At April 15, 2009 9:47 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

i'm so confused. it's been a year since my "relationship". the scenario u described just brought me back to that time. i'm crying uncontrollably.. i've been in therapy for... things that have come from it- depression, eating disorder... suicide. i just recently told my therapist what happened.

i feel so .... weak. i left school... b/c i tried to kill myself.

it's weird i don't want to bring the guy to justice. i feel so lost, b/c .... i feel like... if i tell pple i was raped... they won't believe me. it took me a year to even consider it.. i've been living thinking it was all my fault- if i wasn't depressed, if i had said no louder.. if i didn't get drunk that night... if i hadn't gone out to that party...

this relationship lasted a year. i was so lost... i thought my feelings weren't rational- he was so nice... he tutored me once during the day. he went to church.

i feel like i'm being too sensitive. i don't know how to get over it. my therapist said my emotions are flooding back, b/c i never really patched my wound.. but how do u do that?? the more i think of it, the more i cry , and the more helpless i feel... and the more i talk about it... i feel the same way..

i've been on anti-depressant medicine for almost a year now... and i'm crying so much... i feel so... sad. but i don't know whyy..... it's been over. for a while. i don't know what to do... my bf knows ... but i think he wishes i could get over it- "accept it and try to move on". i try but it comes back..

and what's weird... i had a dream taht i had to choose between that guy and my bf... and i chose my bf. but i was crying... reachign out for my bf... but i stayed w/ the guy.

i remember the first time i slept with my bf now.. i loved him. but i cried. so much when i got home.

what do i do? i remembmer after we broke up, the guy asked me if i thought he raped me... i iddn't think so ,b/c if i didn't want to do it, i could've stopped it. no? but why am i feeling like this??

 
At April 15, 2009 11:46 PM, Blogger Marcella Chester said...

Anonymous,

First, my heart goes out to you. The feelings you've been having are familiar ones.

I believe you.

Your belief that you could have stopped your rapist goes back I believe to the way memories of events prior to rape are altered by the knowledge of what was done to you later. Until it was too late you didn't know you were dealing with a rapist and you acted in good faith.

He did not act in good faith. No doesn't have to be loud for it to be understood by someone who wants to understand. Those who don't want to be accountable can blame their temporary loss of hearing, but it's a lie. He didn't want to hear your no.

If any of the people around you don't believe you please know that the problem is with them and their issues not with you. This is true even if those other people seem to have it all together.

You are not being too sensitive considering what you have been through. A few people may get over rape, but most people get through it and the aftermath.

When our rapes are widely denied because of all the reasons certain rapes aren't "real" rapes, our emotional wounds can fester. You are in the process of letting those wounds drain of their poison.

That hurts.

Considering how traumatized you are right now I agree with your decision to not report. You may eventually get to a place where reporting is a choice you will make, but you don't have to concern yourself right now with anything but self care.

There is so much else I wish I could find the words to express.

 

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