Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Rape is Rape is Rape

Earlier in the week this shocking notion was given a credible face in the UK. For those of you who don't want to visit the link, according to the Daily Mail, John Redwood (a former Tory cabinet minister and currently a senior Tory adviser) has stated in response to the UK's recent conversations on strengthening rape laws:
None of us want men to rape women, but there is a difference between a man using unreasonable force to assault a woman on the street, and a disagreement between two lovers over whether there was consent on one particular occasion.
(emphasis added)

This comes just a few weeks after Tory leader David Cameron said this at the Conservative Women's Organisation:
We have a situation where rapists think they can get away with it, while victims fear not being believed and wonder what's the point of pursuing the criminal process. How can any civilised country, that sees the sanctity of consent to sex as a vital right for every woman, accept these facts?
Good question Mr. Cameron, too bad it is in contrast with the views of one of your top advisors. Redwood has declined to retract his statement and is adamant that anything he said falls in line with Cameron's views.

At least it appears the person in charge of overseeing rape policy (Home Office Minister Vernon Coaker) has it right.
I have made it clear that rape is rape, wherever it happens. It does not matter who commits it or what the circumstances are.

In fact, almost 90 per cent of rapes are committed by men who know their victims, so this type of rape is the biggest problem we have to deal with - not something to be dismissed as a lesser crime.
From the available data it is 73% in the United States .

There is a lot of discussion in the United States concerning the degrees of rape and the rapability of the victim. The attitudes of Redwood have surfaced here in the form of so-called "gray rape", which was popularized by Laura Sessions Stepp in Cosmopolitan magazine and is slowly but surely gaining ground in mainstream culture.The general consensus between Stepp and John Redwood seems to be that if you know him, and dare to be alone with him, he gets to rape you. Stepp casts "gray rape" as something different from date rape, but the scenario she describes is in fact the most typical known version of rape. In the story, she allegedly (her research methods have been found to be quite faulty/disingenuous) interviews a recent college graduate who tells the following story:

Alicia had asked another student, Kevin, to be her “platonic date” at a college sorority formal. The two of them went out for dinner first with friends and then to the dance. She remembers that they got drunk but not what she would call sloppy wasted.

After the dance, they went to Kevin’s room and, eventually, started making out. She told him flat out that she didn’t want it to proceed to sex, and he said okay. But in a few minutes, he had pushed her down on the couch and positioned himself on top of her.

“No. Stop,” she said softly — too softly, she later told herself. When he ignored her and entered her anyway, she tensed up and tried to go numb until it was over. He fell asleep afterward, and she left for her dorm, “having this dirty feeling of not knowing what to do or who to tell or whether it was my fault.” While it felt like rape to her — she had not wanted to have sex with Kevin — she was not sure if that’s what anyone else would call it.

“It fell into a gray area,” she said recently. “Maybe I wasn’t forceful enough in saying I didn’t want it.” Even today, she is reluctant to call it rape because she thinks of herself as a strong and sexually independent woman, not a victim.
Let us be clear, if the situation went down as described here, it. was. rape. End of story. If someone says no, and the other person proceeds anyway, it is rape. The only "gray area" is the artificial one created by rape apologists like Redwood and Stepp. Our popular culture and discourse surrounding women, men, femininity and masculinity already fosters a rape culture. We can't let this type of idiocy become public policy in the United States or abroad.

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