Tuesday, 12 May 2009

It's not 'group sex' it's gang rape

*trigger alert*

Not so long ago I took Chris Trotter to task for his inappropriate use of the term gang rape and got chewed out by him.

Now I'm tasked with giving lazy sports reporters a boot up the arse for trivializing gang rape as group sex. The comments were made after the victim said she wanted the perpetrators dead on an Australian documentary called "Code of Silence" about players' attitudes towards women and a spate of off-field incidents (AKA rape and sexual assault) during the past several years.


The woman, who was referred to as Claire, was a 19-year-old student from Christchurch worked part-time as a waitress at the hotel where the team were staying, said she went to a room with two players.

She said more players began appearing in the room. She told the programme she eventually had sex with six players in a two-hour period, and up to 12 were in the room at one time.

"There were always hands on me. If one person would stop, someone was touching me doing something else. There was never a point where I was not being handled," she said.

"Every time I looked up there would be more and more people in the room, lots and lots of guys in the room watching, maybe two or three on the bed that were doing stuff to me."


Yup that sounds like consensual sex alright.

23 comments:

Julie said...

Thanks for writing about this e-e, I was just reading the article on Stuff and feeling very sick :-(

Principessa said...

Leighton Smith on this, this morning was incredibly sick indeed.

backin15 said...

The full Four Corners (Australian Broadcasting Commission) story is online here: http://www.abc.net.au/4corners/content/2009/s2565007.htm

It's unpleasant viewing.

Anita said...

This is a comment I'm going to write carefully, but I'll also ask for the benefit of the doubt in case I srcew it up.I have read the whole article, and I believe the sex was non-consensual. I think it should have been described as gang rape.

But…

The description you gave is one of group sex, it doesn't speak to consent. It is possible that someone could consent to exactly that sequence of events. I once knew well a woman who enjoyed sex a lot like that, and I probably know others who would (even if they don't do it) but have not talked to me about it.

I don't particularly want to revisit the whole issue of sex positive feminism, but I think we, as feminists, need to be careful to not implicitly judge other women's sexual choices and be part of their oppression. Just because "nice girls" wouldn't do it doesn't mean that strong women wouldn't consent to and enjoy it.

Again, in the context of the whole article I believe the woman was exploited by the men and that their actions were wholly wrong. But condemning those actions shouldn't imply criticism of women who choose the kinds of sex that the patriarchy tells us "nice girls" don't have.

Anita said...

Make that "the description you quote".

backin15 said...

Anita, I think you've been very cautious in your comment.

Like you and ex-expat, I suspect it was a gang rape but it wasn't bought before the courts (rape in this sense being a criminal offence). Passing judgment over other people's sexuality/sexual practice is something to be avoided, I agree, but I understand ex-expat's point that describing the situation as group sex doesn't do justice to the abuse this woman endured because it doesn't include the critical qualifier that the sex was not consensual.

Julie said...

I'm conflicted about whether it is good or bad that this is predominantly being reported in the Sports section. On the one hand it does probably mean that more people who should be reading this will be. On the other hand isn't crime usually News not Sports?

Anonymous said...

The description you gave is one of group sex, it doesn't speak to consent. It is possible that someone could consent to exactly that sequence of events.Agreed.

backin15 said...

Arggh, the free daily paper given out on Sydney public transport has the heading "Johns a little naughty, but still nice". FFS. You're just naughty to have sexually abused a women in this manner? No wonder the various victims were reluctant to lay complaints.

stargazer said...

from what i understand, this particular victim did lay a complaint, but police wouldn't prosecute. and they have said they won't reopen the case.

ms poinsettia said...

I'm not sure if it does read as consensual, when the description suggests that guys the women didn't know were coming into the room and watching or participating. Surely consent requires consent to exactly who you have sex with and in what situation.

I think that the recent prominence of gang rape allegations points to the complexity of consent in such scenarios. I think consent is rather fluid and even if 'group sex' is initially consented to, can end in rape because of the power imbalance.

Of course, that's not to say such scenarios can never be consensual but that they require a more nuanced understanding of consent, which the public reaction to accusations of gang rape as well as the reactions of the players involved suggests our society doesn't have.

backin15 said...

Though it in no way ameliorates the offensiveness of the abuse suffered by his victim, Matthew Johns has been "stood-down" from his various media and League responsibilities. I don't want to be too cynical, but this event occurred in 2002, was investigated and attracted publicity but only now Channel Nine are concerned?

Anonymous said...

Ms Poinsetta, without getting into gory details, any substantial change to the sex that's being had requires re-affirmation of consent by the man (or in this case, men). So each guy who entered the room should have checked with the girl that it was OK, and if they decided to go from watching to participating, they should have checked again.

I guess what backin15 is saying is that nowhere in her description does she mention that any of this happened. What he doesn't realise is that if it is not 100% clear that consent is given, we have to assume consent was not given. So the very fact that she doesn't mention giving consent makes it clear that this was rape.

Julie said...

Snap, back

ms poinsettia said...

"So the very fact that she doesn't mention giving consent makes it clear that this was rape."

Just reread my comment and realised I made it sound like I wasn't sure it was rape:(
I definitely think it was.

I was also trying to respond to Anita's comment. While I have read some of Claire's comments that attempted to pre-emptively defend herself from those old stereotypes that only slutty girls would participate in group sex, I didn't see that in E-E's post. I think its right to characterise this particular incident as gang rape without fear of being seen as sex-negative because the media coverage shows that people are all too keen to believe that a gang rape described in a way that clearly shows a lack of consent and power imbalance is 'group sex'.

Getting this notion of enthusiastic consent out there - and loudly critiquing cultural narratives that just ignore the complexities of consent - is more important than being concerned with whether feminism is coming across as sex-negative. Anyway, advocating enthusiastic consent is the polar opposite of sex negativity!

Anonymous said...

I think we need to see this incident as gang rape because the victim has said she was raped. Disbelieving her would be blaming the victim, sexist and cruel.

ross said...

But if you were traumatised by what allegedly happened, would you brag about it? According to her workmate, that's what she did.

We don’t know anything about Clare. She may have suffered other events in her life to bring about her feelings of trauma. She may have been in therapy about an unrelated matter and was asked about her sexual experiences. It may have been then that she disclosed her participation in group sex.

Research has found that we can “remember” traumatic events that never happened. Recalling an event is not proof of its existence. We may be convinced - because the alleged victim is convinced - that she was raped. But the truth may be somewhat different. We also know that some women, for whatever reason, choose to make false allegations of rape. That is sad but it’s a reality. It’s worth noting that in Clare’s case, the police didn’t lay charges.

The previous poster says that to disbelieve the "victim" would be sexist and cruel. What about where guys have been falsely accused of rape? They are clearly the victims - do you disbelieve them or don't they matter? What does that say about you? Cruetly doen't even describe it.

stargazer said...

ross, all those points you make about what we "remember" would apply equally to the workmate, no? so it seems odd that you accept the workmate's statement as fact.

in terms of the police not pressing charging, it was her word against the word of 12 rugby players. they may not have pursued it because of a lack of evidence that could be used in court under our current laws, not because they thought consent had been given. if we had a law where the players had to prove they had obtained consent, the outcome could well have been different.

and ross, we also know that by far the majority of women never lay a complaint. that's sad, but it shouldn't be the reality.

Anonymous said...

if we had a law where the players had to prove they had obtained consent, the outcome could well have been different.Exactly stargazer.

This 'innocent until proven' guilty stuff is really a big problem for women trying to bring their abusers to justice.

stargazer said...

anon at 1.22: the whole system as it currently stands is problematic, particularly if it leads to low reporting rates and even lower conviction rates.

your simplistic line really isn't helpful (and i suspect that you aren't trying to be helpful). a look at our submission to the inquiry on sexual violence will give a good understanding of the complexity of the issues involved.

what i actually said was that a different framing would have lead to a different result, and we have to take that framing into account before implying the idea that "the police didn't lay charges" means anything more than the fact that there was insufficient evidence to win a court case under current laws.

Anita said...

One of the things my friend who enjoyed male dominant group sex used to talk about occasionally was whether she had a responsibility to make sure the men she was having sex with were actually checking for consent. She felt confident in saying "no" if she wanted to withhold consent, but believed they should have been checking for a "yes".

She worried that she shouldn't let her sexual partners get away with not actively seeking consent (although she would have given it) partly because she didn't want to have sex with unsafe people, and partly because she didn't want them to misunderstand and not seek consent from another woman on another day.

Those conversations have stuck with me because they speak of such a strong sense of responsibility for other women.

Anonymous said...

It's really annoying me how people keep saying 'the police didn't lay charges' so therefore it didn't happen. That's rubbish. Police not laying charges doesn't mean anything.

I would think most of the time police don't lay charges. Hence the reason why it's barely even worth telling them if you are raped. You'll just get treated like shit and they'll ask you what you were wearing etc.

Violet said...

It's a bit of a worry if gang rape is reported as group sex, as though they were the same thing. That's my less-than 2cents worth.