Wednesday, 3 September 2008

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

I'm not sure what to say about Helen Mirren's comments on date rape.

Let me state that I think that is good that rape victims speak out. Recent events have reminded me that sometimes people need senstive manner.

But as for the substance of Mirren's comments. There have been times when I think that the women's movement needs to take their fingers out of their ears and acknowledge that if a woman is going into a man's house or conversely that she invites him over to hers during the wee small hours of the morning then they need to think carefully about what signals their actions are giving to their partner. Because let's face it, for a lot of young New Zealanders a normal night out on the town consists of getting so hammered they can barely stand and then try to find someone to have sex with. If the couple like each other enough, they'll repeat the process and call it a relationship.

But then there are huge grey areas in this sort of thinking. What if she says beforehand, 'hey I don't want to sleep with you tonight' or what if he wants to do stuff that she isn't comfortable with, like anal sex for example. Does the fact she came into the house, car, went somewhere quiet for a snog mean she has given consent for all possible sex acts from the moment they left bar? In the cold hard light of day, my answer is of course not. But the rest of society doesn't seem to have sobered up enough to come to grips with the idea that gaining consent involves more than a drunken pash.*

* No you don't need to whip out a written letter every time you have sex. But perhaps you might want to try and engage in some talk about what you'd like to get up to in the sack. Some people call it foreplay, and from my experience chicks tend to dig it.


gg said...

Is there a difference or distinction between rape and unwanted sex? i.e Rape vs. At the time I was impaired and saying yes yes yes, but when I woke up in the morning I think omigod hell no, what did i just do? Is there a responsibility on the other person-or the guy to say- hey this chick's judgement is impaired perhaps I should assume no? It certainly is tricky... and I'm sure an experience shared by those of us who once engaged in university drinking binges.

The ex-expat said...

No there isn't a distinction between 'unwanted sex' and rape because rape is unwanted sex.

What you are talking about is regrettable sex. Ie. you've woken the next morning and gone 'oh god what was I thinking doing kevin from accounts.'

But I do think you raise a point that if one or both partners is really intoxicated you might want to leave fornication for another night.

gg said...

yeah- i guess i'm not talking about "oh god I did kevin from accounts." I think I was more leaning towards "did I say yes or didn't I" or "why didn't someone send me home." It's the politics of responsibility- if I get completely off my face and bad things happen then is that just my responsibility or everybody's responsibility to make sure people that we know are vulnerable are taken home and rescued from the party letch.

The ex-expat said...

Well if we want to talk about the politics of responsibility for rape really lies, the answer to that is simple. It lies with 'the party letch' who doesn't take no or doesn't stop to think 'hey this chick is really drunk maybe I shouldn't assume she's in a fit state to give consent to sex.'

gg said...

I absolutely agree with you that the letch is ultimately responsible. I would also like to promote some collective reponsibility on all of us to act against the party letch because all too often everyone just ignores what's going on. It's like knowing about the next door neighbour's family violence and not telling anybody.

Hugh said...

It's easy to caricature the guy in this situation as "the party letch" but what if he's just as drunk?

Carol said...

Helen Mirren's actual statement was that she was locked in a room a forced to have sex against her will. That doesn't sound to me a situation where she and/or the guy/s were just a little drunk and there were unclear messages about whether Mirren had consented.

Disappointing that she doesn't think it should be a criminal offence. Does that have something to do with women being socialised into feeling they shouldn't strongly criticise men or reject they have a personal relationship with?

Anonymous said...

When I was 14 I thought I was really mature and fancied this older guy (18). One evening I sneeked out and got drunk with him and his mates and my 14 year old friend. I was so wasted that I was in a semi conscious state and half woke up when he penetrated me (I was a virgin). I fell asleep and woke up sore and bleeding.

For years this wasn't considered rape by myself or my friends because I liked him and well that happened in the 70's. It wasn't until I was in my 20's that I realised that not only was it statutory rape, even if I had been 16 years old, it was rape.

When my daughter turned 14 years old, I really fell to pieces for a while as looking at her, I realised what a young kid I had been and the impact it had had on me.

This is the awful side of being raped by someone you know and even fancy, I question what did I do to make this happen? Was it rape or was I leading them on? I felt when I was 14 that it was wrong, despite being wasted at the time, but the group I was in legitimised it because i liked the guy. That was way back in the 1970's, but is it so different now?

Anna McM said...

This is a tricky one. I guess there are situations where both parties are drunk, she's keen (even though it's the alcohol talking), and he's also too drunk to make good decisions. This is rape in that it's not consensual in any meaningful sense. But it doesn't necessarily follow that the guy should be prosecuted for it. It's an incredibly regrettable situation, but one that is very complex and has to do with our cultural behaviour around drinking, our attitudes to sex and gender, the way we socialise, etc.

However, to say that a guy in this situation shouldn't be criminally culpable is NOT to say that this sort of thing is OK, or that it's the woman's fault (a la ALAC).

The Bewildering Case of Ms Enid Tak-Entity said...

what if he wants to do stuff that she isn't comfortable with, like anal sex for example.

The two time-honoured responses:
a) The gentle option. "You're too big to fit in there." (ref: the musical number from 'The Sweetest Thing')
b) The Dan Savage option. "Only if I get to peg you first."