Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Romancing A Rapist

The NY Times has a column written by Ashley Cross about dating a man (who from details of her story is Drew Douglas) who had been accused of rape before she met him and who pleaded guilty to criminal charges.

FOR nearly three years I dated a guy who had been dismissed from Harvard over accusations of raping another student. I lived with him during a summer of his house arrest for his conviction on sexual assault charges and traveled to be with him during the school year.

[...] "Did you rape her?” I asked. "We had sex," he said. "But I didn’t mean to hurt her, no."

This exchange is illuminating. Notice that he didn't answer the question she asked, but he did it so smoothly that she may still not recognize this fact. His no isn't to her question, but is attached to the fact that he didn't mean to hurt his victim. Just because someone doesn't mean to hurt someone else with their actions -- usually because that person doesn't matter at all -- doesn't mean they did not hurt that person and did not commit a serious crime.

Ashley is clearly under the spell of the monster myth which assumes all "real" rapists are complete monsters in all aspects of their lives and therefore you can determine guilt or innocence merely by hanging out with a man. If you admire anything about him, he can't be a real rapist.

These people fail to grasp that a real rapist is someone who has raped. Period.

But for me the experience had fundamentally altered my previously programmed reaction to stories of alcohol-fueled date rape on college campuses. No longer was my response autopilot compassion for the girl.

She's not alone judging by The Crimson coverage of the case against Drew Douglas:

During Tuesday's Faculty debate about punishment for D. Drew Douglas, Class of 2000, Faculty members said no one had any trouble calling it rape. What some did have trouble with, Faculty in attendance said, was determining degrees of consent and miscommunication between Douglas and the woman he assaulted last spring.

In particular, some still had questions about the force with which the woman refused Douglas' advances--whether she sent nonverbal signals which may have blurred any clear message about consent. But, according to court documents obtained yesterday by The Crimson, there seems to be little doubt about the events of last April 4. (emphasis mine.)

The question seemed to be how much Harvard would blame the victim for her own rape. Nice.

Ashley Cross goes on to lament that her boyfriend had to endure 18 months of house arrest (no prison time) where he was only allowed out to go to his job and allowed an additional 4 hours per week and had to go to sex offender education and evaluation programs.

These sessions, of which he spoke very little, clearly were intended to positively influence how he treated others. But the reality was somewhat more complicated. Already he felt the shame of the charge and conviction. With the sexual evaluations, he was forced to question the normalcy of his impulses. Now the rehabilitation extinguished the remaining spark he had left, the irreverence I’d originally fallen in love with, replacing it with a generic "respect" for others that in reality was a kind of bland and suffocating politeness.

Yet I stayed with him. I thought I could help reclaim the spirited guy I had met at camp. In between my visits, he would fall asleep cradling the phone to his ear as our nightly conversations met morning, and this told me everything I needed to know — I had become his lifeline.

But I could do little to stem the decline of our romantic life. From the beginning, sex was never the centerpiece of our connection. We became close friends and lovers through intimate conversations that made us both feel understood. But because we were young and healthy, I expected that we would have an unguarded sex life like normal 21-year-olds.

When we first met at camp, the physical attraction was palpable. His touch was impulsive and eager and certain. But as the effects of the case and its repercussions began to take their toll, I felt it was as if he was being reprogrammed to overrule his own impulses and passion.

She seems to assume that men who don't respect her boundaries and who won't take no for an answer are wonderfully irreverent. That might be great when she likes the man and wants what he wants, but I bet her response would be far different if she didn't want the man in question and had thought of him as nothing more than a safe, trustworthy friend.

Her opinion about this rape and the treatment of this rapist is all about her. The criminal justice system ruined her fun and she wants the world to know it.

Even so, he began asking, constantly, if I was O.K. But I didn’t want to be O.K. — I wanted to have bold, carefree, shameless sex with the man I wanted.
After reading this column, I feel pity for the man who pleaded guilty to rape, not because he wasn't a real rapist, but because he was with a woman who wanted him to behave like a rapist when he was trying to learn how to avoid being a rapist.

This sentence says it all:

In the end, I found it harder to love an emasculated boyfriend than one accused of rape.
How sad that she would label a man who wants to be sure she is enjoying everything he does as emasculated. The unintended message is that real man = man who takes what he wants without permission. She is contributing to beliefs which lead boys and men to commit rape while deluding themselves that they are simply being manly.

In my mind, he was not seeking to humiliate and subjugate a woman on that night many years ago. I believe he was a boy who endeavored for hours in the dark to express his drunken, fumbling desire in a way that, fair or not, ended up unraveling his life.

She may not realize it, but this description, particularly "endeavored for hours" again supports the rightness of the very charge she says shouldn't have been made. Not every girl or woman wants to be the object of a man's unrelenting drunken, fumbling desire, but she doesn't care about them. Only about herself.

For a very different perspective read this article, which includes this quote from Drew Douglas's victim:

I was given three reasons why they did not expel him. Reason number one, there was no precedent for the expulsion of a rapist. We don’t want that in the books, that’s not possible. Reason number two, it wasn’t really a "violent" rape. "We really have to maintain a spectrum of the kind of rape that happens here." Reason number three, he’s a self-admitted rapist, so he’s well on the way to recovery.

Reason number two makes me wonder about a place that welcomes only the nicest sort of rapists.

For more reactions to Ashley Cross's column, check out:
Moderate Left: Excusing Rape

Gawker: 'Times' Rapists aren't that great in bed

The News Blog: Hey it just happened Note: several male commenters seem as delusional as Ashley but go even further. A few of them say that since the man accepted a plea deal he must still be considered innocent since he wasn't proven guilty in a jury trial. By this standard, a man who admitted killing 4 women must be considered innocent. Also since the boyfriend pleaded guilty to a lesser sex crime, he can't be considered a rapist even if he is guilty. But the men who say this still claim they aren't rape apologists.

Gadfly: Unbelievable Worth noting is the description of the rape prevention education given to incoming males students which IMO reinforces the myth that most reports of rape by female students are lies.

Pandagon: Hating on a rape victim for throwing cold water on your love life

Shakespeares Sister: You know what the worst thing about rape victims is?

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 12:14 AM   4 comments links to this post


At January 16, 2007 12:49 PM, Anonymous space ramblings said...

I've also written about the case here


At January 16, 2007 5:30 PM, Blogger Cassandra Says said...

I read about this case initially on Pandagon. I'm not sure which is more infuriating, Cross' stupid article or the responses from supposed leftists like the ones at DKos trotting out the same old tired "it's not really rape because" script. The "we only want the better class of rapist here and by the way all your female classmates are liars" speech given to incoming students at Harvard is pretty pathetic, too. I wonder what they tell the female students?

At January 18, 2007 7:21 AM, Anonymous joe said...

I've had a chance to read about the Harvard rape in some other places and to more detail. There doesn't appear to be a lot of question that force was used. So this would be a good example of forcible rape.

I can understand debate and doubt where the defendant claims that sexual contact didn’t happen. I can understand debate where the defendant claims that there was consent. (but I typically don’t believe the defendant for a lot of pretty good reasons.)
I can understand that confusion and debate about some hypothetical case that’s on the margin. An illustration case where the consent/lack of consent is not obviously defined or where the force/pressure is of questionable threat etc. etc.

But in this case if the defendant had done all of the things that he did to the victim EXCEPT sexual contact it would STILL be assault.

It seems pretty clear to me that if you can take the sex out of the case and still have a criminal action than you’re dealing with a violent sexual predator. (fair trial etc. applies.)

At January 22, 2007 1:51 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is exactly why I think Domestic Violence must be viewed as a gender inclusive issue for the human family to move our interpersonal dance to a more enlightened level.

Meaning, men and women are responsible for the violent attitudes where they exist and cause violence to other men and women.... JUST AS men and woman do so much for removing violent attitudes that exist.

What went on in the Harvard rapist's girlfriend head is NO DIFFERENT than the rationale women in poor Arab countries use to protect their men who rape and kill girls outside the home.

So, there a general observation worldwide, is that when someone is raped, male or female, by e.g., a male, you BET YOUR BOTTOM DOLLAR the rapist has somewhere in his circle, one or more females who protect him emotionally for their own benefit. And vice versa.

Take this to the issue of Violence in the human family on this planet and the obvious being stated in abyss2hope becomes even more obvious.


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