Friday, September 17, 2010

On why I have my doubts about the acquaintence rape panic...

Two young men getting ready to take advantage of each other while drunk.

In a word, I have my doubts about the date rape panic because many of the people who are beating this particular drum seem to support a dual sexual morality.

This dual morality says that men and boys are absolutely, one hundred percent responsible for their sexuality, even when shit-faced drunk, but that women and girls are not. It claims that any story of sex and rape, when told by a woman, must ipso-facto be true while men's testimony is entirely composed of self-serving lies.

Now, before someone splits a seam out there and demands that I turn in my feminist secret decoder ring, let me salient, underline, MAKE PERFECTLY FUCKING CLEAR that I am not defending date rape, nor am I saying that people who get out-of-control drunk deserve to be raped.

OK? Got it? Are we on the same page now?

What I am saying is that a sex-gender system which presumes that women should be chaste or assexual until marriage/love occurs and castigates and stigmatizes women who aren't, while not teaching its young women how to be responsible sexual beings, is going to generate a lot of sexual repression, guilt and false morality. Faced with this, a certain number of women are going to use booze as an excuse to have sex and then attempt to not face the consequences of their acts the next day by claiming that they were taken advantage of.

Is this the majority of women? Probably not. Is it even the majority of women who report date rate? Almost certainly not.

But in spite of the heart-felt claims of my sisters-in-struggle that women do not lie about date rape, I must insist that at least some of them do. I know this, because I have seen it with my own eyes on at least three seperate occasions.

Let me relate the last time I saw this occur, because I find it to be the most shocking...

A few years ago we had a young, self-declared lesbian woman who was here in Rio learning Portuguese in a gringo class at a local school. This young woman, Clarissa, was quite the LGBT activist and most in-class reports by her, as well as most of her critiques of Brazilian culture, were manifestos against androcentrism and homophobia. In spite of her at times shrill politics, we became fairly good friends.

One night, while we were out drinking, Clarissa told me a horrible story about how she had recently suffered a date rape in her home town. According to her, she went out to a bar and some guy slipped roofies in her drink. When she woke up at home the next day, she couldn't remember a thing about what happened after midnight. Her vagina was sore and puffy and her girlfriend immediately deduced that she had been date-raped. They thus went down to the hospital and took samples and evidence, then went to the cops. No suspects were arrested and according to this young lady, that was a clear indication of the kind of crap-sack, misogynist world in which we live.

Fast forward to Clarissa's last night in Brazil. She insisted that we all go drinking at a gay club, even though she's the only homosexual in the group. No problem: the bar she wanst to go to is a fun bar, so great! We go. While there, she proceeded to get drunk - so drunk, in fact, that she starts hitting on the gay men at the bar. My roomate at the time, Jorge (who's gay) met us at the club, saw what was happening and told me "Thad, you better get your gringa friend out of her before she causes a fight".

We thus all troop out to a taxi and move the party over to Emporium. In the taxi, out drunken lesbian friend starts feeling up one of the guys in the group ("John", a colleague from her Portuguese course) and by the time we reach our destination, Clarissa's swarming all over him. The public make-out session goes on for over two hours until the bar closes. On the way out Zeke, a mutual friend asks me to keep an eye on Clarissa because of her earlier experience. The happy couple and I thus go off to yet another bar, where we have water and diet coke and chat for an hour. Clarissa is completely lucid and what I would describe as "tipsy": certainly not "out-of-control, falling-down drunk". I offer to walk her home. She says "No, John's going to do that!" and laughs.

When John goes off to the bathroom I say "Listen, I'm worried. You guys have been making out for hours and he's obviously expecting sex. Seriously. You know this right? He's going to want to have sex with you if he walks you home and will probably try to push things, at least a bit, given all the tonsil-wrestling you two have been doing."

"No, duh!" responds my supposedly lesbian friend.

"So I just want to make sure," I push on. "You're cool with me leaving you with John, even though you guys are almost certainly going to wind up having sex?"

"Of course!" Clarissa replies. "I'm not a kid. I know what I'm doing."

I raise my hands. "OK, then. Have fun."

And I split for home.

The next day, I call Zeke and tell him what happened. It turns out that Zeke has been asked over to our Clarissa's house to help with her packing. He gets there and finds her neck is covered in hickies. Our lesbian friend says she can't remember what happened the night before and that she thinks she must have eaten something odd because look at how she's broken out in a rash. Zeke sits her down and says "Clarissa, those  those are hickies and what you were doing last night was making out with John. We all saw it and Thad walked you guys halfway home and gave you every opportunity in the world to back out graciously. He says you looked pretty damned in control of yourself and you told him you were up for sex with John, which is what you apparently went off and had."

To Clarissa's credit, she believed us and was very shaken, even rethinking her earlier experience of supposed "date rape". Talking to her over the following months, Zeke found out that she had been sexually abused as a kid and that her first stable loving relationship was with her current girlfriend. She just assumed then, that she must be a lesbian. And because her girlfriend's social circle despised bisexuals and so-called "daddy's money lesbians", Clarissa heavily repressed any heterosexual feelings she had. Drinking and acting out on those, and then lying to herself the next day about what occurred, was her way of dealing with this situation.

So this is one of THREE similar experiences that I have had, as opposed to four experiences where I'm damned certain a person I know went through acquaintence rape. I've heard many accusations from both sides - people (generally women) demanding that all claims of date rape MUST be treated as true and other folks (generally men) insisting that date rape is complete and utter bullshit. But for the seven cases in which I personally have been involved and got to see the evidence in some detail, three weigh out with the accused being innocent and four point to their guilt.

That's about a 43% innocence rate.

This is why I will not join the "all date rape claims are true" bandwagon. Women, like men, fool themselves, lie to themselves and lie to others. There is absolutely no convincing evidence that I've seen, to date, that women or men always tell the truth about ANYTHING. In a falsely moral, intensely hypocritical society such as the United States, which has a very deep fear of human sexuality in general and female sexuality in  particular, it is no wonder that many people are going to be screwed up when it comes to sex. Date rape absolutists, on both sides of the issue, want to restrict this problem to the "other" gender - whichever that is.

Unfortunately for them, both genders lie.


  1. This was okay till you used 7 cases anecdotal evidence as a proof.

    But in any case, it's not that the article doesn't make sense.

    I am not sure if women are seen as people who don't have any control of their sexuality... I thought those were men! ;)

    The main problem is double standard. There are many people who still believe female sexuality doesn't exist outside serious romantic relationships, and that women can't desire sex without experiencing love. So women themselves are often made to believe there was either something wrong with THEM or the CIRCUMSTANCES in which a "wild" (non-acceptable) sex occurred.

    Furthermore, society makes them believe there is something wrong about "non-acceptable" sex, so many women have a choice between seeing themselves as problematic and accepting the role of a local slut, OR telling themselves a man took advantage of them.

    In this sense, women who lie about being raped often say what they convinced themselves to be the truth- a man took advantage of them. It's difficult not to believe this scenario if said man told all of his friends about having sex with you, if the whole campus is talking about you, and if suddenly random men start calling you and asking you for sex. Societal pressure is strong and you are ostracized for a drunken night out. So of course you feel betrayed and of course you think a guy took advantage of you. Plus, the sex itself was not the best, as far as you remember, and he never particularly cared about your needs and he left right after the act. You feel ashamed and society makes it clear what happened is not acceptable. So of course you feel he took advantage of you.

    In short, I think those women who lie about acquaintance rape often do that because society rapes them (so to speak) and not a man in question. But you can't send society in jail.

    It's quite the opposite with men. Society makes them believe they can't be raped, and that they should be happy about every single drunken sex with a random female, even if said female is having sex with them to gain something, even if said female is somebody who has power over them (a teacher, a boss). After all, he had an erection so it can't be rape, right?

    PS-As for two drunken people having sex with each other... I agree it's not possible to give consent in these circumstances, but who says it's possible to think straight about what you're doing anyway? In other words, if a woman is unable to give consent when drunk, how is possible for a drunken man to rape her if he can't ask for a consent?


    PPS- Do we need to post comments here as anonymous?

  2. Hey, I admit it's annecdotal. But then again, most of the people that I've been hearing from since my original comments on the Huff Post are also giving annecdotal evidence and demanding that I respect that.

    The original argument showed how scientific data regarding this phenomena was exagerated. People then began to chime in saying basically "So fucking what? MY friend was once date raped and I know so many people who were so yadayadayada".

    Well, if annecdotal evidence is going to be our guide, then why should I ignore mine?

    Women aren't seen as not in control of their sexuailty, Mira: they are seen as NOT HAVING a sexuality. So any sex that occurs to them outside the bonds of duty (i.e. marriage) must be due to a perverse nature. See Figleaf's blog, linked to the right.

    I think the description you gave is precisely why so many women reported that they were "penetrated against their will" and yet will not say they were raped. They realize that something nasty happened, but that perhaps the guy in question isn't really the problem here.

    I think that's at least a hypothesis that should be investigated, rather than rejected out of hand.

    I think we can post normally now. No idea what happened before.


  3. Hmmm. My named post still didn't work. Sigh...


  4. Hey, I admit it's annecdotal. ... Well, if annecdotal evidence is going to be our guide, then why should I ignore mine?

    ... Because you're a PhD professor who knows a lot about using scientific method and the ways we can and the ways we can't get the accurate data?

    Women aren't seen as not in control of their sexuailty, Mira: they are seen as NOT HAVING a sexuality.

    True, but you could say that not having a sexuality and being able to make love only (and only within marriage/loving relationship) is a form of sexuality. If nothing else, that's what many people (of both genders) often believe female sexuality is.

    See Figleaf's blog, linked to the right.

    I did, but I didn't notice anything of the sorts (though I admit I didn't search too much). Any particular posts?

    They realize that something nasty happened, but that perhaps the guy in question isn't really the problem here.

    Like I said, the society is the problem. If a woman is free to do whatever drunken mistake she wants without being molested by society or treated as less than human (a slut), then she doesn't have a reason to believe she was raped (if all that happened was a bad sex with a random guy).


  5. I've dealt with the data in my post below, Mira. The data says this problem isn't as endemic as some folks would have you believe.

    However, bring up that data - as I did - and you'll soon hear "Well, MY experience is bleah, bleah, bleah, so SCREW you and your data!"

    I just wanted to highlight that if we're supposed to look at annecdotal experience for our guide, I have plenty of that, as well.

    RE: Figleaf, the blog itself is called "The No-Sex Class" and Fig repeatedly talks about how he thinks that women are supposedly sexless creatures. Plenty of posts on there where he brings that point up.


  6. Hey Thad, I've been reading your various debates with the Abagond crowd. I know this isn't related to this topic, but I can't help but ask.

    You seem like a treasure trove of information, and yet I know that you didn't just pull this out of thin air.

    You mentioned your thesis on white-Indian relations, you've discussed the history of African and Islamic slavery, you've refuted certain dogmas regarding racial history, etc.

    I'm just wondering if you could link me to the sources from which you've acquired this information? If it's not too much trouble on your part, is it possible to provide a link to your thesis on white-Indian relations or an article/book that deals with African and Islamic slavery?

    If just seems that you have this wealth of information and I feel left out! ;-)

    -Random Guy

  7. The double standard you mentioned, Thad, is inaccurate. Most of American society blame females for rape. There has never been any evidence that they think females are innocent when they get raped after passing out. The reaction is usually that she deserves it. And that it's her fault.

  8. Dear Random Guy,

    ALL of it? My thesis is in Portuguese, though I do have an english copy of it in PDF format. Send me an e-mail and I'll be happy to shoot you a copy:

  9. Dear Mel,

    While it's true that U.S. society has little patience for drunk freshmen females who pass out and are sexually assaulted, it has even less love for male rape victims, period.

    I mean think about it: jail rape is a topic for COMEDY in the U.S. Can you conceive of violent rape being used for comedic effect in the States if it's a woman who's the victim? Aside from a handful of shock comics, I can't think of anyone who'd do that.

    And yet male-on-male prison rape is routinely mentioned for yucks on prime-time T.V. in the U.S.

    So yeah, double standard.

    It's such a deeply enscribed double standard, in fact, that on many occasions, I've had feminist anti-rape activists tell me to my face that male-on-male rape simply doesn't happen or hapens only very rarely. In fact, 10% of rapes happen to men and that's just the ones that are reported. And the consensus is that practically no male-on-male rape gets reported, so...

    Double standard, yep.

  10. "And yet male-on-male prison rape is routinely mentioned for yucks on prime-time T.V. in the U.S."

    Ever hear of 'Moose" and not dropping the soap in the shower? Males being raped is treated along these lines. Why do you think those victims of sexual abuse within the church took so long to report it? Because they were ashamed of the fact that this happened to them and society's view of male rape. You don't see many anti-rape literature, media etc(besides the church scandals) in regards to men. There are too many taboos to overcome for male victims.

  11. Right, Herneith. So yeah, it's bad for women when they're rape victims, but at least rape is recognized as something that can happen to them and it's recognized as wrong. When it happens to men, it either didn't happen or it's funny.

  12. Probably no one is still folowing this, but here's an excellent article on the stats behind date rape...