Question of the Day

Before I get to the question, a couple of thoughts on the Illinois rape case, which, as I mentioned below, has resulted in an aquittal, and the status of rape trials in general.

What I find particularly odious about this case is that it is indicative of a disturbing trend, in which the woman bears a greater burden to stop an unwanted sexual advance than does a man to not take advantage of a woman in a compromised position. There is seemingly very little empathy for a woman who is either partially or wholly incapacitated, or whose judgment is somehow impaired, and almost no respect for her right to be free from coercion under such circumstances—even if she is underage. The merest hint that she may have been remotely aware of what was happening to her is now construed as consent. If a woman doesn’t remember the attack, consent is all too often assumed, with very little reason to do so.

That's particularly problematic because coercive and opportunistic rape are extremely common (more common than stranger rape), and extremely difficult to prove, as they often result in a she-said/he-said scenario.

She said. He said.

That’s what it comes down to in a courtroom. But before it ever gets there, it’s the woman’s responsibility to avoid rape to the best of her ability. If she is not completely coherent, and her consent or dissent signals aren’t clear, that’s her fault—and the reason that belief is sustainable is because we don’t expect enough of the men in these situations; we don’t burden them with the same responsibility to not take advantage of a situation that we burden women with preventing in the first place. Her mixed signals, not his misinterpretation of them. That soft bigotry of low expectations strikes me as an insult to the men who would never take advantage of a vulnerable woman, as well as the women who are unlucky to find themselves in the presence of a man who would.

Now to the question: What have you been taught about rape, and where did you learn it? Who have you spoken to about rape? Have you ever attended or instructed a seminar on rape? Was it compulsory or voluntary?

And Shaker Men: Do men talk about rape amongst themselves? Have you known men who have taken advantage of a drunk or otherwise vulnerable woman and didn’t consider it rape? Do men who would never rape a woman feel like they have any responsibility in rape prevention, or do you consider simply not being a rapist sufficient? The truth is, I don't know much about what men are taught or what they think about rape, and I'd like to.

(And please—I’d like this to be a discussion about what we learn about rape in this society, as men and as women. This isn’t a thread for anecdotes about your brother-in-law who was falsely charged by his bitter ex-girlfriend; it’s not a thread to “take sides” or shout each other down. Let’s just talk about what we know, how we know it, who we talk to, etc.)

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