Saturday, August 16, 2008

Does A Man Have ANY Responsibility For His Words Or Actions?

Roger Graef in a Daily Mail article: Don't blind-drunk women who cry rape bear any responsibility for what happens to them? asks: "Don't women who get plastered beyond control have any responsibility for what happens to them?"

This question is in response to the story I blogged about earlier about a reduction of victim compensation for women in the UK who were raped after they consumed alcohol.

The core problems with this question are twofold.

1) It ignores men, as perpetrators, bystanders and as crime victims. I don't agree that men who are raped while unconscious bear any responsibility for being raped or should be treated as disrespectfully as women rape victims are routinely treated. But men who are perpetrators and men who do nothing to stop those around them from raping do have a responsibility.

Men who make excuses for those who rape those who have been drinking or who minimize the reality of rape when the victim has consumed alcohol should have personal responsibility for their words and their actions.

2) It falsely summarizes a whole group of sexual assaults and it directly slanders the woman who fought the reduced compensation after having her criminal case bungled by the police.

On August 20 2004, Helen, a beauty therapist who has not worked since, had been out shopping with a friend. They had dinner, accompanied by some drinks, and followed it up with a few more in Soho. At around 4.30am Helen found herself outside a bar, with no memory of the previous few hours apart from being chased down a street by a man, and without her handbag and mobile phone.

She went to a friend's house and awoke the next morning to realise her underwear was on inside out and she was covered in bruises and blood, including around her groin.

What we have is a robbery and a violent rape. Whether the memory loss was because of drink spiking or the trauma of the sexual assault is unknown. But that memory loss is all the evidence many people need in order to demand responsibility from a rape victim who had previously consumed alcohol.

So why all the moaning about women's responsibility when someone else -- usually a man -- makes the decision to break the law and commit a sex crime?

If that rapist hadn't caught Helen, he would have kept looking for his next victim until he found another one. Since this rapist benefited from the police's slow response and loss of evidence, he has likely found more victims -- because his crime was about his behavior and his thinking, not the behavior of all of his potential victims.

Every time someone demands personal responsibility from rape victim, a rapist smiles.

This victim-centric demand for responsibility goes back to the mythology that most of those accused of rape were only reacting to bad decisions on the part of their victims.

Pavlov's rapists who wouldn't rape if women would just stop ringing their bells.

Graef points out that one of his documentaries highlighted abusive police interviews with women who reported rape, but his article supports the reason that:

Police in those days [1982] were taught that '60 per cent of all rape claims are false', and trained to give women the kind of hard time they could expect in court.

Since 60% of rape claims are not false, what those police responded to were the 60% of the rape claims where police assumed that the alleged rapist did nothing worth calling "real rape." The hostile interrogations were then designed primarily to weed out the rape victims who didn't deserve to be treated like real crime victims. The harm done to the 40% of rape victims who they accepted as real rape victims was simply collateral damage.

This has changed, but not enough.

If this risk from women's decision to consume alcohol -- as illustrated by photos of women passed out on a sidewalk -- matched the reality of rape then most rapists of those who have consumed alcohol would be strangers. Yet the example Graef uses doesn't match this image.

Last year, a Welsh university student said she was raped by a campus guard asked to escort her to her dormitory because she was too inebriated to get home safely.
Two days later, she reported he'd had sex with her in the corridor outside her door.
He said it was consensual.
She said it wasn't.
The police believed her, and so did the prosecutor. So they went to trial.
But when the defence barrister challenged her to be specific, she simply couldn't remember.
The judge ordered the jury to acquit the defendant.
One observer noted: 'Drunken consent is still consent.'
But how do you decide what is consent?

This question is one that makes me sit back in shock even though I should be used to this nonsense. The case referred to by Graef is in no way confusing. This judge wasn't responding to confusion, but to certainty which justifies the rape of the drunk and the unconscious and which opposes the conviction of those who commit these rapes in this way.

If a woman is so impaired that she cannot get home without assistance she is unquestionably incapable of giving legal consent. Period.

Someone who uses their position of trust to exploit a person they have been assigned to protect has knowingly chosen to cross a moral and legal boundary with the expectation that this rape will go unpunished.

In most cases, unfortunately, this expectation of rape without conviction of the rapist is fulfilled. When it's not then there is often a great amount of whining from the rapist and those who sympathise with this type of rapist.

What this cited case shows is that women's impairment or unconsciousness becomes something which allows rapists to rape with little fear of conviction. Not because of a lack of evidence as is frequently claimed, but despite the presence of evidence that legal consent was impossible or not present.

If these rapists are prosecuted they claim to be falsely accused and have many people believing their lies because it fits into those people beliefs.

When I was a young man, flirtatious women often said no, while sending strong physical signals to the contrary.
It was very confusing even when sober.
One had to tread very carefully to be certain what was going on.

If you cannot decide whether something is consent then that something is unequivocally not consent. There is no such thing as assumed consent. Mixed signals means no consent.

As ladette culture has spread across UK towns and cities and abroad, more and more women have gone out on the town - drinking to excess and behaving ever more raucously, sending blunt signals to young men also on the prowl.

Raucous behavior on the part of women means no consent. Equating the raucous behavior of women with consent means directing men to not bother getting and confirming genuine and legal consent to specific acts with a specific person.

Graef brings up analysis of drug tests done on rape victims and repeats faulty conclusions about what it means when no date rape drugs are found or when a rape victim's level of intoxication is greater than expected.

Having a drink with someone means no consent. That Graef brings up a defense attorney who used surveillance video of a rape victim drinking with her rapist as evidence of consent only shows what that rapist used as a substitute for genuine consent. Instead of supporting the defense's claim of consent this evidence supports the prosecution's claim of rape.

What is scary is how many people refuse to see this. To them girls and women are reduced to traffic lights. If girls and women aren't sending out obvious and constant stop signals then men can't be blamed when they decide to rape those girls and women.

And we know what many drivers do when the power goes out on a traffic light and it seems like there are no witnesses and no consequences.

This desire for a generic form of consent is dehumanizing. There is no, "we decided to have sex," only, "I want sex and I want to know when I can stop worrying about what that other person wants or doesn't want or hasn't agreed to."

If a man buys a woman a drink all that means is that a man bought a woman a drink. If a girl or woman drank alcohol all that means is that a girl or woman drank alcohol. If a girl or woman who has been drinking flirts all that means is that a girl or woman is flirting. If it's the third date all that means is it's the third date. If a girl or woman consented to kissing all that means is she consented to kissing. If a girl or woman goes to a guy's place all that means is she went to his place.

When any of these items are used as proof of consent that only shows how a rapist rationalized rape. And when any of these items are accepted as proof of consent that only show how so many rapists get away with rape and where they get support for their dangerous rationalizations.

It is these pervasive rationalizations which pose the greatest danger not women drinking.

It's simple. What's complicated is keeping up with all the ways rapists are excused or encouraged.

Finding excuses to proceed without genuine and legal consent is nothing new and neither is blaming women for the actions of rapists.

This gives us rapists who say, "It's not like you're a virgin."

This is what gave those investigators from 1982 the belief that 60% of rape claims were false. If an investigator holds the beliefs Graef expresses, we could get an exchange like this:

Rape victim: I want to report being raped as I left a party at a local bar celebrating a friend's birthday.
Cop: Ma'am, did you consume alcohol and were you raucous during this celebration?
Rape victim: Yes. But what--
Cop: You do know that filing a false police report is a crime, don't you ma'am?

When someone says, "drunken consent is still consent," the reality behind that statement is, "drunkenness is a valid substitute for genuine consent."


Bookmark and Share
posted by Marcella Chester @ 7:17 AM   5 comments links to this post


At August 16, 2008 4:15 PM, Blogger JENNIFER DREW said...

This Daily Male article clearly demonstrates that women cannot 'consent' because consent is always presumed unless a woman is able to provide cast iron evidence she did not consent. There is no such thing as 'drunken consent' but there certainly is a male presumption that unless he is prepared to actually listen and respect a woman's sexual wishes then a man is entitled to use coercion, pressure or threats in order to achieve his sexual goal. Which is why as in the case given in the Daily Mail's misogynstic article, the woman was presumed to have 'consented' because she was drunk at the time and was not able to verbally voice her dissent. Women who are drunk are presumed to have 'consented' but this is male-centered and neatly exonerates a man from actually having to seek free and mutual consent. It is not surprising then that female survivors of rape who had apparently been drinking prior to a man/men raping them, were held partially responsible by the Criminal Compensation Board.

On no account must male rapists be held accountable for their actions instead we have innumerable excuses and male-centered logic all of which renders women's right of sexual autonomy irrelevant. Obviously once a woman as much as 'smiles' at a man she is supposedly informing him she wants him to commit any sexual act he wishes upon her body. Ridiculous? No because this is how rape myths operate by excusing and justifying rapists' criminal acts.

Likewise once a woman is drunk she is presumed to 'consent' to any man raping her because she was not able to clearly and categorically say she did not consent. Logical? Of course not but our patriarchal society is not interested in logic only in maintaining men's presumed right of sexual access to any woman or girl.

At August 17, 2008 12:39 AM, Blogger NOLA radfem said...

It goes to the larger cultural assumption that 1) men just can't help themselves and @) it's up to women to be the gatekeepers of when sex does or doesn't happen.

In countries in which women wear the hijab or are not allowed to be on the streets without male protection, the idea is that a man who sees a woman just can't be responsible for his actions. The woman is, therefore, responsible for remaining unseen.

And if she IS seen? In countries under sharia law, the woman is often held responsible for having been raped. She may be stoned. In a case in Saudi last year, a woman got 200 lashes for being gang raped. Women are blamed for ending up in a situation where the rape could happen - being around men who were not relatives.

Here in the West, Victorian morality definitely required women to be the gatekeepers to morality and sex.

And today, that hasn't really changed. The assumption is still that (as you point out with your traffic light analogy) the light is always green, a man is always ready to go and that this is only to be expected, and that if the woman fails to stop it, then that's HER problem - not his.

So, with drunkenness here, like with women in some Islamic countries being seen without the hijab or ending up alone with males who are not relatives, the woman is at fault - because SHE LET HERSELF BE WHERE A MAN COULD GET TO HER. And, from there, a man isn't supposed to have to / be able to stop himself, right?


I'll be back. Going to get some Tylenol...

(By the way, I lived in England for four years, and ya'll have WAY better over-the-counter headache meds than we do. In England, you can get headache meds with more codeine than we are allowed here. Geez, I miss that! lOL)

At August 17, 2008 12:55 PM, OpenID lightcastle said...

I basically agree with you, but I am not sure if I would sign on to "drunken consent is not consent". I think there are cases where someone is drunk, drunk enough to not remember what happened, and consenting. Not in the "She didn't say no" way (which, I agree, is complete bullshit) but in the "she clearly asked me to have sex with her" way.

I think that's still probably not legal consent, but I do think it is a different scenario than the "I am using drunkenness as a valid substitute for consent because it means the traffic signals are off" scenario.

At August 17, 2008 8:21 PM, Blogger Marcella Chester said...


It is the overall reaction to reports of rape by those who have been drinking which turns turns drunkness into a valid substitute for consent.

At August 17, 2008 10:25 PM, OpenID lightcastle said...



Absolutely. It was more a thought that struck me from rolling the phrase in my head. What I am bringing up isn't the problem, of course. As you say, it is the way "Oh, she was drinking" is used as some sort of escape clause.


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home