Thursday, August 2, 2012

Rape Is Complicated

Now that I have your attention, allow me to explain the title of this post. I am sure that many of you read that title and say, possibly out loud, "No! It's not. It's simple. No means no!" Of course it does, and when there is a clear "no" and one continues the activity, rape clearly occurs. That is 100% clear, unquestionably.

What if the penetration is with a finger rather than a penis? Still pretty clearly rape.

What if, instead of a clear "no", it's more of a "well, I don't know if I want to?" Many would still see this as an unambiguous rape situation, if he continues, but what if he does not understand that her uncertain protests are the strongest protests she can muster and misunderstands them. Those who are well immersed in the world of Kink or sexual education have learned the importance of negotiation and clear consent, because they are in a culture where such things are discussed openly and honestly. But for the 19 year old vanilla guy having one of his first encounters, who taught him how to read the signals? Clearly he does wrong if he continues, but is it worthy of 10-15 years and a felony conviction?

Now let's go into even greyer area. A female bottom and male top negotiate a scene in which she will be bound and gagged. They agree that he should beat and humiliate her but no sex. All consensual and good. During the course of the scene there is penetration, perhaps with a finger or other non-penis object. To her definition, "sex" is any form of penetration. To his, "sex" involves genital to genital contact. The different definition was not made clear.

Is this rape? Is this assault? Is this miscommunication? Is this an innocent error?
Does this man deserve years in prison and a felony conviction? Does he deserve to be ostracized from the community? Should he feel bad about what he did?

Many accusations of rape are the clear situations where she says "no" and he keeps going. They are unambiguous, monstrous acts of selfishness and cruelty. Many others are more complicated. I do not make this post to attempt to define where the lines lie, but simply to suggest that the lines may not be as bright as some people like to think.