Monday, 16 July 2012

It is rapists who are responsible for rape

Trigger warnings for rape, substance abuse and addiction, general enragingness.  Also excessive use of CAPS LOCK.


I heard a little bit about Lindsay Mitchell's latest Truth column on Twitter on Friday, but no one could provide me an online copy.  Today someone rectified that in comments here (thank you, kind of).


Now Lindsay and I disagree on many things.  We often have those agreements online, through the medium of blogging, but normally we manage to be remarkably civil for two people who disagree so fundamentally.


I really struggle though finding civil responses to this incredibly harmful rape apologist Truth column from Mitchell.  


1.  It is not necessary to put rapes in scare-quotes, especially when you are already using alleged in front anyway.  Quote marks are for quotes, and here are some examples:  Calling rape a "sex 'accident'" is so incredibly awful that it should be erased from the english language and never ever used again except to point out how awful it is.  Ditto for "retrospectively unwanted sex".  


2.  If a friend came to me and told me she'd been raped while she was drunk (or a male friend for that matter) then my first response would not be to have questions, but to offer support and love and whatever else they needed BECAUSE THEY ARE MY FRIEND.  


3.  The legal standard may be guilt beyond reasonable doubt, but when I'm not a judge or a jury member I am quite at liberty to make up my own mind to believe the person who was raped, which is what I intend to do, especially if they are my friend, but also as a point of principle to somehow slightly re-balance the constant disbelief that rape victims face at every turn.  Hurtful, harmful, unnecessary disbelief that Lindsay is perpetuating with this column.


4.  No one asks for rape.  It is rapists who are responsible for rape.  Being incapable of giving consent means you have NOT GIVEN CONSENT.  Sex without consent is rape.  It's really quite simply.  I thought former ACT candidate's were generally big on people having free will and giving informed consent and all that jazz?  


5.  "I’d talk it out and insist she mentally take some responsibility for what happened, learn from it and move on. And I’d forgive her, so she could do the same. "  This HORRIFIES ME.  If anyone has had that conversation with anyone I know who has been raped you better not ever tell me because I will explode with anger.  All over you in a hideous mess of brain matter and internal organ-ness.  I am not entirely sure I am exaggerating.


6.  Suggesting that the best response is to totally sweep any such incidents away from any examination whatsoever is just so irresponsible that I cannot believe Truth even published it.


I'm going to stop at 6 points.  I have to because otherwise I could write and delete and write and delete and write all night and still not be any further on with saying what I want to than just saying this:

It is rapists who are responsible for rape; minimising, excusing or denying this is unacceptable to me.




42 comments:

LudditeJourno said...

Fucking hell. I just read that Truth column. Thank you Julie for dealing with it. Please, anyone who is thinking about talking to Lindsay Mitchell about being raped - talk to someone else.
Almost anyone else.

An ancient mariner said...

Where is this woman from?! Her comments are absurd! Gag, very angry right now.

Placebogirl said...

I just read that column. I would not have believed it was possible to pack so much fail into so few words had I not seen it with my (now throbbing) eyes.

The only accurate part of it is the fact that rape victims are often shamed by the justice system, but, um, that's a symptom of rape culture, not a necessity.

*headdesk*.

Hugh said...

"2. If a friend came to me and told me she'd been raped while she was drunk (or a male friend for that matter) then my first response would not be to have questions, but to offer support and love and whatever else they needed BECAUSE THEY ARE MY FRIEND. "

I'd go further If a stranger came to me and told me they'd been raped while drunk, my first response would be to offer support, because we should support victims. It's not even a matter of friendship.

mazzipan... said...

Have to say.....Mitchell's points are valid....being drunk is not a "get out of jail free of responsibility" card because one is a Woman...A drunk Woman ho gets in a car and drives is culpable before the law regardless of "feelings of regret" she has later......so what's the difference when she gets voluntarily boozed up and into bed with someone by choice?

Muerk said...

So let me get this straight, because honestly I'm struggling with this... If a woman chooses to get drunk, she has just also consented to have sex? Is she really saying that drunk women have no legal or moral right to say no to sex?

And also, if she is affronted after her rape (because this hypothetical woman has no shame apparently) then we should make her take responsibility for a man choosing to rape her and then we should forgive the affronted, raped woman?

Please, is that really, REALLY what Lindsey Mitchell is saying? Because I can't quite put this all together in my head.

I mean, did she really compare drunk driving to drunk lying there thus it's your fault a man came and put his penis in your vagina?

And if she has a male friend who has sex with a women who is unable to consent, then it's bad because it could ruin HIS life?

I, I, I honestly can't respond to this...

mazzipan said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Muerk said...

"...so what's the difference when she gets voluntarily boozed up and into bed with someone by choice?"

Because when you have sex with someone you bloody well make sure they actually want to have sex with you back.

Why is this concept so freaking difficult?!

Muerk said...

"...getting willingly drunk IS your own responsibility.....and the real possibility of memory loss/blackout is a known possible consequence of that action....no?"

Sex without consent is rape. A person can't consent if they are disabled by the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Suppose you were drunk, and a con artist came and convinced you to sign over your house to them - no judge is going to approve that contract. You were unable to give consent because of the influence of alcohol.

Psycho Milt said...

A person can't consent if they are disabled by the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Depends on what you mean by "disabled." If all you mean by it is "drunk enough to do stuff you'll regret," I've been 'raped' a bunch of times.

Simoon said...

"A drunk Woman ho gets in a car and drives is culpable before the law regardless of "feelings of regret" she has later......so what's the difference when she gets voluntarily boozed up and into bed with someone by choice?"

If you harm someone else, or put them at risk, you're normally held accountable for that harm. Drink drivers are held accountable for the risk they cause, and any harm they cause, even if they weren't intending any harm (and regretted it later.) Rapists should also be held accountable for the harm that they cause, even if the person they raped was drunk.

It's just too simplistic to say that if you get drunk you should be considered responsible for, or to have consented to, everything that happens to you afterwards. Getting drunk doesn't set in motion an inevitable series of events. Things that happen to you when you're drunk are affected by the choices other people make. Focusing only on the victim and erasing the fact that they were a victim because of the choices someone else (i.e. a rapist) made is one of the problems that this post addresses.

In some senses of the words "causation" or "responsibility", a rape victim is "responsible" for "causing" what happened - but only in the barest of senses, that they made some choices that led to what happened. No sophisticated system of laws or morals apportions legal or moral responsibility merely on that kind of "causation" or "responsibility". The victim of a drink driver isn't also held responsible because they chose to use the road that day, even though any road user knows that there might be drunk drivers. In any case, there's another person who is much more clearly actually responsible, in the sense that they should be held responsible morally and legally, and talking about the victim distracts attention from that person.

Simoon said...

@PsychoMilt
The language of the Crimes Act 1961, s 128A ("Allowing sexual activity does not amount to consent in some circumstances") includes:
"A person does not consent to sexual activity if the activity occurs while he or she is asleep or unconscious."
and
"A person does not consent to sexual activity if the activity occurs while he or she is so affected by alcohol or some other drug that he or she cannot consent or refuse to consent to the activity."

So legally the threshold is higher than "drunk enough to do stuff you'll regret".

It is arguable that someone who has sex with a person at the "drunk enough to do stuff you'll regret" stage of drunknenness is doing something morally questionable, even if it's not something against the law.

anarkaytie said...

Julie, I'm very grateful to you for responding to the shit that moron of a woman writes, so that I don't have to read it.

Now I'm off for a shower to help clean my eyes & brain of the implications of just how awful some people can be when they are hell-bent on punishing victims and creating apologies for powerful people who commit crimes.

Uergghh!

David S. said...

If someone gets so wasted that they pass out the only thing they deserve is a hangover.

Anonymous said...
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ChundaMars said...

Hmmm. The issue I have with consent with drunk is that it doesn't seem to apply very evenly in this sort of example. Take one of Muerk's lines for example:
"Because when you have sex with someone you bloody well make sure they actually want to have sex with you back."
Agree completely - but if the woman is so drunk she can't properly give consent (and likewise isn't capable of clearly saying no) then what happens if the man is ALSO very drunk, and is not then capable of properly OBTAINING consent. And whose word do you follow - if both parties are blind drunk, how do we know that the night before it wasn't the woman initiating and the man unable to say no?
More often than note, I would say a very drunk woman having sex is probably having it with a very drunk man, so if she deserves consideration for the alcohol impairing her abilities, so does he.
Stone cold sober person having sex with drunk person? Completely different...

Anonymous said...

ChundaMars - well if you're incredibly drunk and can't obtain consent it's probably not good to try and have sex with someone. The key part of this phrasing is who is the active initiating participant.

When you get drunk the only thing you consent to us maybe misplacing your lipstick and getting a horrendous headache the next day. Possibly also have a tearful heart to heart with your friend. You haven't consented to anything else. And unless explicitly stated, no one has the right (even if they are drunk) to interpret your behaviour as consent (unless it is).

Consent isn't a difficult or murky subject. Do both parties want to? No, then there's no consent and stop what you're doing. It's a simple yes or no. The only thing that makes these situations "ambiguous" or "murky" are rape myths and rape culture.

me.

ChundaMars said...

@me: "well if you're incredibly drunk and can't obtain consent it's probably not good to try and have sex with someone". Of course, I agree completely - but we're talking about a very drunk person here, and as I'm sure you'll agree, very drunk people often don't know good ideas from bad ones.

Note also that I am NOT suggesting that being drunk implies consent, or that someone who is very drunk is "asking for it" etc. etc. I'm just pointing out that often I find discussions around this sort of thing tend to assume that the OTHER person (most often the man, of course) is in full control of their faculties, which I doubt is the case.

Sorry, but I disagree with you on the consent thing - consent CAN be a difficult or murky subject. When my wife or I initiate sex there is rarely a completely objective, cut-and-dried, obvious agreement on consent - and likewise, when one partner stops enjoying what is happening then it often isn't a completely objective, cut-and-dried, obvious withdrawal of consent either.

Anonymous said...

@ChundaMArs - it's interesting you say that because there are actually universal body language things which convey when people aren't interested or don't want to be doing something. The funny thing is that in any other social context (i.e. you're inviting your friend to dinner and they don't want to come) people seem able to pick up on the subtle clues telling them the person isn't interested and doesn't want to. When sex is thrown into the mix people suddenly stop listening to those signals. Largely because of rape myths, i.e. "women don't really know what they want", "you just need to convince them", etc.

If you find consent murky then you haven't got clear consent and shouldn't proceed. I don't understand what's so tricky about drawing the line.

me.

mazzipan... said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Hugh said...

"but if the woman is so drunk she can't properly give consent (and likewise isn't capable of clearly saying no) then what happens if the man is ALSO very drunk, and is not then capable of properly OBTAINING consent."

As far as I can tell, under a strict, formal reading of the law quoted above, they both raped each other.

I doubt any court would deliver such a finding, though. Not under a non-inquisitorial system, anyway.

ChundaMars said...

Thanks Hugh - that's exactly what I'm getting at.

Hugh said...

@me:

"it's interesting you say that because there are actually universal body language things which convey when people aren't interested or don't want to be doing something. "

Universal body language? Really?

I think you are massively overestimating the human race's collective ability to pick up on body language. If body language really was that universal and unambiguous, we wouldn't have developed spoke or written language.

If nothing else surely you have to accept that people with various autism spectrum conditions will have difficulty picking up on this supposedly universal body language?

McFlock said...

I don't get the problem.

Firstly, let's assume that both parties are in exactly the same level of intoxication.


Let's also assume that both parties are so drunk as to be unable to make an unimpaired choice about whether they want to have sex or not.

Then let's assume that even though they are both that drunk, there is no physical sexual dysfunction.

And that the next morning both parties regret what happened to the same extent (i.e. their judgement was equally impaired about what they wanted to do), and charge the other with sexual assault.

In that case I think they would both reciprocally withdraw their respective complaints.

But really, this entire scenario is a fool's errand. It's deliberately trying to muddy the waters by finding one or two theoretically possible but massively improbable situations where issues of consent vs a rapist's responsibility for their actions might indeed by slightly unclear.

It's not about "don't touch a woman if she's had a single sip of wine". It's about "if a woman is off her face or otherwise impaired, it's your responsibility not to rape her, even if you're a little bit drunk yourself. And you know what, if you're completely blasted off your nut and by some miracle your penis is still in operational condition, don't use it. You can't pick social cues any more effectively than you can keep your car in the correct lane."

ChundaMars said...

@Hugh: I'll second that. Universal body language? Where do I get the manual?!

@McFlock: I was with you until you waved that off as "deliberately muddying the waters". Unless a great deal has changed since I was last in a bar on a Saturday night, I don't think a very drunk man and a very drunk woman getting themselves into those circumstances is a "massively improbable situation" at all.

See, I think some of the problem stems from the assumption within our culture that sex is something women HAVE DONE TO THEM by men, and something men DO TO women. This assumption is responsible for a great deal of harm to both sexes, and here it is used as a reason why the man must be a rapist, but not the woman. Why can we not turn it on it's head and say to the woman, that man was drunk, why did you rape him? Because we assume that when they had sex HE DID IT TO HER, rather than they did it together.

Anonymous said...

Yes there is universal body language: pulling away from someone, sneering, smiling, all of those instinctual expressions we make. And we aren't talking about autistics not understanding it, we're talking about allistic rapists refusing to read body language in certain contexts.

And the existance of body language doesn't negate the need for speech wtf are you even saying? I'm not saying all words or thoughts can be expressed through body language but core ones (like "NO") definitely can and are. But they get ignored.

me.

Hugh said...

"allistic"?

Hugh said...

"And that the next morning both parties regret what happened to the same extent (i.e. their judgement was equally impaired about what they wanted to do), and charge the other with sexual assault."

Yeah, like I say, it is extremely unlikely that any court would really return a finding of mutual rape, or whatever you call it. It's simply that the fact that the way the law is currently written makes this technically possible is revealing that there may need to be more to be considered than 'Any sex with somebody who's drunk to consent = rape'

mazzipan said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

allistic = not autistic.

me.

Julie said...

There's a whole lot of rape apologist crap in this thread which really isn't where I wanted this to head. Thank you to those who have been calling it and trying to redirect in my absence.

This thread is going to be more tightly moderated from henceforth, and not always by me, so take care as a deletion may offend.

LudditeJourno said...

Ok, I have just trawled through this and deleted several comments by mazzipan and one by an anonymous. Reasons being - the setting up of hypothetical situations where people are drunk when they are sexual, and then decide to call it rape the next day is just offensive tosh. We know rape is under-reported, we know it's difficult to talk about because it is traumatic, it's not something malicious people (read women) make up for fun.
Secondly, research with sexual offenders tells us that people who use alcohol to facilitate rape do it because:
1. It makes the person they are raping easier to manipulate
2. It means the person they are raping is likely to have less recall the next day - they are more likely to get away with it
3. Using alcohol themselves reduces internal barriers to offending - they don't have to call what they did rape.

So actually this idea that people get drunk and "rape one another" is nonsense. Drunken mistakes are one thing, someone deliberately using alcohol to make rape easier to commit quite another.

I'm using gender neutral language here because all of these situations could have any gender perpetrating and any gender being victimised. BUT research in NZ says that 99% of reported sexual violence against adults is perpetrated by men, 95% of it perpetrated against women. The fact is, traditional gender rules around sex position men and women very differently, and this has profound impacts on consent.

I have had enough of THM being used for rape apologist comments. Any further will be deleted. This doesn't mean we don't want debate, it means this debate needs to be respectful of the real harm sexual violence does, and needs to avoid misogynist crap.
Thanks, LJ

Hugh said...

@me: Thanks for that, it was not a term I was familiar with. Most of the autistics I know use the word "neurotypical" but it seems like it's a synonym.

@LJ: Thanks for not deleting my posts, I imagine you considered it.

ChundaMars said...

@LJ: What Hugh said :-)

anthea said...

Re: allistic/neurotypical - they are slightly different. Allistic means specifically 'non-autistic', whilst NT can be synonymous but also, depending on context, can be used as opposed to neuroatypical, which includes autistic people but can also include (for example) people with ADHD, dyspraxia, dyslexia and sometimes those who experience mental illness etc...

Simoon said...

I think the morality of getting drunk and having sex with drunk people deserves a bit more discussion.

Alcohol is a disinhibitor, which can affect impulsiveness, risk assessment and regard for social conventions. Alcohol also affects perception, which can make a person less able to properly comprehend verbal and nonverbal communication, less able to make an assessment of whether the other person really consented to what is going on.

What this means is getting drunk can result in having sex with someone who doesn't really want to have sex with you. What might seem like drunken sex at the time to one party might feel like sex without real consent to the other. Just because both parties were drunk doesn't mean no one did anything morally questionable.

Drink driving used to be much more socially acceptable. A society that was more concerned with positive consent for sex might take a different view on having sex while drunk.

LudditeJourno said...

Simoon - last comment - yep, completely agree, except I'd call it ethics of being sexual with very drunk people when I'm very drunk, rather than morality.
If I'm not sure if I'm going to pick up on someone else's enthusiasm levels - because for me sex is about enthusiastic mutual consent - then it's not going to happen that night. I might tell the other person how sexy I think they are, and that I'd like to follow that up another time, but sex where I might misread the other person because I'm out of it? No thanks - I don't want to perpetrate harm.

ChundaMars said...

If only all drunk people carried your sense of ethics LJ! (And if that comes across like I'm poking fun at you, I'm not, I'm serious)

Simoon - I think this isn't just about our societies view on sex but on drinking in general. Put it down to just another negative effect of our drinking culture!

Hugh said...

@Anthea: So if I'm understanding you correctly, all neurotypicals are allistic, but not all allistics are neurotypical?

Well I've definitely learned something, even if it was anciliary to the OP's point...

Anonymous said...

@Hugh - yes you understand correct. Neurotypical just means your brain is wired how it "should" be. Outside of autism, any neurological condition falls under that category: Tourettes, OCD, ADHD, Parkinsons, various phasias and praxias...and I'm sure you get the picture :)

So you could be neuroatypical and also allistic.

me.

mazzipan said...

My comments deleted...how pathetic. Hear no evil see no evil on the feminist left again....ugggh!

LudditeJourno said...

Mazzipan - heard it, saw it, read it, deleted it.
The Feminist Left