The myth of “gray rape”

I’ve heard that the latest issue of Cosmopolitan magazine has an article about “gray rape.” Which, let’s remember, is a total fucking myth.
And not-so-shockingly, the piece is written by Laura Sessions Stepp–not exactly a bastion of feminism.
I’ve gotten several emails from sexual assault and intimate partner violence activists who are incredibly upset about the article–not only because it gives credence to the idea that rape is somehow a “gray” area, but because of the media play the article (and idea) seems to be getting.
One activist even told me that she was asked to go on a morning show to discuss the article, and when she explained that there was no such thing as “gray rape” recognized in the field–they cut her from the segment.
More to come when I pick up the magazine, but in the meantime read these great pieces on sexual assault by Courtney Martin and Jaclyn Friedman to clear your mind of Stepp’s bullshit.

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45 Comments

  1. Ninapendamaishi
    Posted August 17, 2007 at 4:54 pm | Permalink

    I have never even heard the term “gray rape”. I do hate cosmo though (my sister is a bit more conservative, and she reads it). I’ll be curious to learn more about the article.

  2. thebewilderness
    Posted August 17, 2007 at 5:44 pm | Permalink

    I think grey rape falls into the same bullshit category as ‘a little bit pregnant’.
    I’m sure there are millions of men all over the world who tell themselves that if they didn’t beat their victim into submission, it wasn’t up to the criminal standard of rape. A “womens magazine” that would promote such utter crap is nothing more than a propaganda arm of the patriarchy.

  3. ponies and rainbows
    Posted August 17, 2007 at 6:15 pm | Permalink

    Is it just me, or in the last few years has Western society been coming closer and closer to legalizing rape?

  4. Faerylore
    Posted August 17, 2007 at 6:28 pm | Permalink

    What I don’t get, is all these parents who are so afraid of their little darlings being labeled a sex offender. It seems really simple to me, teach the kids to respect ALL people, and the liklieness of them being criminals goes down.
    Or *snark* if that’s too hard, we could always require permission slips. Though it doesn’t seem to hard to me to expect people to find out if the person they’re having sex with wants to be there. And obviously, if he or she cannot affirm that, you should find somebody else to have sex with.
    How is this hard?

  5. ouyangdan
    Posted August 17, 2007 at 6:36 pm | Permalink

    i knew that someone here would be on this…my friend from the mainland just called me, b/c she knows i hate cosmo, and until today couldn’t understand why. she read this very article, and parts of it to me, and i think she finally gets it. this article, and i haven’t read it all, basically says that women are to blame for blurring the lines of rape. b/c ‘back in the day’ only men initiated sex, so rape was clear cut, and i guess it goes on to say that b/c ‘modern’ women are so forward about sex that we have brought this on ourselves.
    holy shit, right? i mean, i haven’t read it, and i don’t want to give them my money to do so, but does anyone know if we can contact this monstrosity of a magazine and express our opinion on the bull shit they put out? i can’t believe that they can, in good conscience, put out something targeted at women and write such bull shit!
    i can’t wait for the update on this one…

  6. ponies and rainbows
    Posted August 17, 2007 at 6:49 pm | Permalink

    b/c ‘back in the day’ only men initiated sex, so rape was clear cut, and i guess it goes on to say that b/c ‘modern’ women are so forward about sex that we have brought this on ourselves.
    WTF? Wouldn’t women taking the initiative actually make it less likely that there’d be any doubt whether they wanted sex, and therefore less “misunderstanding” (yeah, right) about whether what had just happened was rape? Cosmo’s attitude also seems to imply that there was no rape back when men were expected to take the initiative. Of course, I’m sure their defense would be “but, there are more reports of rape nowadays!” Well, duh. That’s because rape wasn’t a crime in most situations back then, and even in places or situations where it was, women were much, much less likely to report it. I’m currently reading The Chalice and the Blade by Riane Eisler, and this type of thinking is so reflective of what she calls a dominator society as opposed to a partnership society. It’s so sad that Cosmo honestly cannot conceive of a world where men and women should have an equal say in sex, and even sadder that they can’t see what a wonderful world that would be.

  7. ouyangdan
    Posted August 17, 2007 at 7:41 pm | Permalink

    like i said…i didn’t read it, and had some of it read to me on the phone. i have been trying to find it online so i don’t have to give them my five dollars…w/ no luck…
    i think it’s called ‘a new kind of date rape you don’t know about’…and it’s a cover story of the september issue…
    grr…

  8. kissmypineapple
    Posted August 17, 2007 at 9:18 pm | Permalink

    Jessica, I went to the link you provided, to read your entry about “grey rape,” and thought your article was fantastic. I read the comments and nearly threw my computer against a wall. There is a man concerned about his son’s possible future as a sex offender, all over what he terms “a slight difference in opinion.” I really thought (so naive and hopeful!! Ugh!) that people understood what rape is. If I had a son, who raped a woman, I wouldn’t want to protect him from what he is. And damn it, if I have a son, I will be drilling the facts about what rape, and domestic violence, and bodily integrity, and human rights are into his head from the moment he leaves my body.
    My sister asked me today why I’m so “angry all the time?” Because, fuck, there are so many people who aren’t.

  9. Posted August 17, 2007 at 9:38 pm | Permalink

    For a variety of reasons, rape LAW is unlikely to ever be an exact match for rape EXPERIENCE. (that legal/moral problem again.)
    As a result there will always be a “gray area” of rape which represents the incomplete overlap: the woman experiences being raped but the man’s actions don’t meet the legal definition of rape. I’ve blogged on it a few times but other than “gray area” I don’t know what to call it. I realize “gray rape” is offensive; is “gray area” equally so? What term is OK, if so?

  10. Mina
    Posted August 17, 2007 at 9:58 pm | Permalink

    BTW, did anyone else see the headline and think “Myth of “gray rape’? Is that the myth that rapists don’t attack wrinkled elderly women too?” before reading the rest of the entry?
    “As a result there will always be a ‘gray area’ of rape which represents the incomplete overlap: the woman experiences being raped but the man’s actions don’t meet the legal definition of rape. I’ve blogged on it a few times but other than ‘gray area’ I don’t know what to call it. I realize ‘gray rape’ is offensive; is ‘gray area’ equally so? What term is OK, if so?”
    Wouldn’t calling it legal rape be more accurate than calling it “gray rape” or “a gray area”?
    I mean, having sex with someone against her or his will is still raping her or him even if some legal loophole excuses the attack.

  11. dmcgirl
    Posted August 17, 2007 at 10:03 pm | Permalink

    Go to a library. I work at an academic one and they have a subscription to that horrible magazine. I would think public ones do too.

  12. Posted August 17, 2007 at 10:33 pm | Permalink

    I read this Cosmo article today, and it literally made me feel sick. I’m always the one who brings in magazines to the office where I work, and I’m also the one who writes in the margins for the entertainment of others. I doubt my margin-comments on this will be ‘entertaining’ so much as further angering.
    Honestly, this article has just sent me over the edge–I have decided against ever buying this dreck magazine again. I want to write a letter to the editor but currently I don’t know what I’d say–I’m just too angry and I usually want my letters to sound SMART-angry rather than just over-the-top incensed.
    But here’s my take on it:
    http://journals.aol.com/redwall33/TheMindofGenevieve/entries/2007/08/17/feeling-sick/2494

  13. avtorres
    Posted August 17, 2007 at 10:51 pm | Permalink

    “The woman experiences being raped, but the mans actions dont meet the legal definition of rape”
    I don’t think the answer to this problem is to minimize victims experiences by calling it “gray rape.” I think what we have to do is change the legal definitions of rape in this country so that the laws reflect victims valid experiences of sexual violence. The problem is not in the experiences of acquaintance rape, (which very often are these “gray area” situations with alcohol involved) but in the laws that are supposedly supposed to protect our rights. Most of our rape laws are so archaic…based in patriarchy and are not victim centered at all. I work at a rape crisis center in GA and the rape laws here state that rape is “carnal knowledge of a female forcibly and against her will!” I cringe every time I hear it. Based on this legal definition, of course it doesnt match victims experiences and certainly doesn’t lead to very many convictions.

  14. xxhelenaxx
    Posted August 18, 2007 at 12:11 am | Permalink

    Cosmo is repugnant, but I haven’t read the article (though I read the “f*cking myth” link). I’m new to Feministing.
    Two things:
    1) How should we define “rape”? Would a girl who indeed gets drunk at a party, has sex with a guy, then regrets it the next day be a legitimate “rape victim?”
    Granted–there are plenty of women who are legitimately “raped” even when they’re intoxicated and their judgement is blurred. The moment they get into a bedroom, a guy’s dorm, etc. she may decide “no” (and be ignored). Or else force is involved (her attacker covers her mouth or pins her down, etc.)
    As for women not wanting to feel powerless…I’m in college and surprised how many of my sexually active friends have admitted how stupid they feel, how many “pregnancy scares” they’ve had b/c they’ve gotten drunk and “hooked up” with people they barely knew, without using birth control. Is that what the article refers to?
    If a girl is drunk, stoned, or incapacitated in any other way, that doesn’t entitle someone to have sex with her unless she consents…but how do we define “consent” (or recognition of that consent.lack thereof) when the judgement of one or both people is incapacitated?
    P.S. I’m aware of all the “I was drunk/high” excuses used by @ssholes for sexual assault…I don’t want to give them leverage, but maybe thats inescapable?

  15. EinGrundZurPanik
    Posted August 18, 2007 at 12:24 am | Permalink

    If you want to let Cosmo what you think about printing Stepp’s article, you can e-mail them here:
    http://www.cosmopolitan.com/contribute/magazine/appear-in/this-months-issue

  16. Jeremy F.
    Posted August 18, 2007 at 12:58 am | Permalink

    ‘Gray rape’ sounds like blame the victim bullshit.
    “I’m aware of all the “I was drunk/high” excuses used by @ssholes for sexual assault…I don’t want to give them leverage, but maybe thats inescapable?”
    You bring up an interesting point that I would like to see explored a bit more by some of the other commentors here.
    “Her solution is for women to exit the bar scene altogether, go home, and attract a loving boyfriend by honing their baking skills. “Guys will do anything for homemade baked goods,â€? she chirps.”
    Reading this made me think I went back through time and ended up in the 1950′s.

  17. dhsredhead
    Posted August 18, 2007 at 1:19 am | Permalink

    I think society generally is seeing a gray area that legally doesn’t exist where rape is concerned. Date rape situations where a woman is intoxicated while she is raped are definitely rape. Just because someone has a foggy memory of the events doesn’t mean that they didn’t happen. The same goes for statutory rape. I actually had ‘someone’ tell me that even though when they had sex with me when I was under the age of consent, that even though they were fully aware of the law and my age, even though their actions were altogether pretty questionable, what they did wasn’t “rape” by any definition because I had been sexually active previous to that experience. Basically that response, which happened years after the actual experience (via the internet, I may have killed him had he said that in person)confirmed my worst fears. Talk about adding insult to injury. Even worse, maybe in my head I would have been able to convince myself that what happened wasn’t actually a rape situation, that statutory rape laws were completely stupid, a way of parents trying to protect their innocent daughters if he had not said that and if only stories never came out in the media about 30 year old females being put in jail for having sex with underage teenage boys. Noone checked into these boys backgrounds to see what their level of sexual experience was at the time of their rape, no one questioned their innocence or purity. A few people may have suggested these young men were living out everyone’s fantasy, but at the end of the day, their rapist were convicted.
    Certainly all sexual assaults are the same or cause the same level of damage. But just because a rapist used some other advantage besides a physical one, doesn’t make the rape in a legal or moral sense any less of a rape.

  18. Posted August 18, 2007 at 1:51 am | Permalink

    “1) How should we define “rape”? Would a girl who indeed gets drunk at a party, has sex with a guy, then regrets it the next day be a legitimate “rape victim?”"
    It depends. Did she give clear verbal consent to the sex at the time which it occured? Was she clearly conscious, and not blacked out? If the answer to both of these questions is yes, then I would say that it’s not rape, BUT I also want to point out that this sex, then regret=rape is far less common then some people (Cosmo included)would have you believe.
    “they’ve had b/c they’ve gotten drunk and “hooked up” with people they barely knew, without using birth control. Is that what the article refers to?”
    Nope! There’s no real mention in that article of any sex which could be, in my mind, construed as consensual in any way. I’ve had friends who have had drunk sex and pregnancy scares, but they clearly consented. Once again–I’d guess that the number of girls who will falsely accuse a man of rape because of a pregnancy scare is few to none.
    “but how do we define “consent” (or recognition of that consent.lack thereof) when the judgement of one or both people is incapacitated?”
    The first weekend of my freshman year of college (one year ago, actually), every freshman had to go to a presentation about drunk sex, date rape, consent laws, and all related things. THAT is the sort of program we need to have across the nation, and we need to have it at the high school rather than the college level, in order to reach more people at a younger age. The attorney who gave this presentation passed out cards about alcohol digestion, spoke to the men and the women in the audience with equal amounts of respect–THAT is what we need. But one of the main things that MEN need to know is to pay attention. If they have even the slightest suspicion that the woman doesn’t know what’s going on, then they can’t have sex with her. They need to know that no means no, even if she’s saying it quietly or drunkenly. In fact, they should probably learn that having sex with drunk girls they just met is probably a bad idea–they wouldn’t know the girl’s tolerance for alcohol or anything about her. I like the idea of men and women both being able to go to bars, meet people, enjoy themselves, I like the idea of women and men both having sexual autonomy, what I don’t like is men feeling that they can take advantage of a woman’s drunkeness. So men should be taught NOT to do this, women should be taught that if a man does it then it IS rape.
    “I’m aware of all the “I was drunk/high” excuses used by @ssholes for sexual assault…I don’t want to give them leverage, but maybe thats inescapable?”
    As long as assholes continue to sexually assault women, then yes it is inescapable. They don’t want to go to jail for it. They’ll use any excuse they think might work.

  19. Mina
    Posted August 18, 2007 at 6:45 am | Permalink

    “But one of the main things that MEN need to know is to pay attention. If they have even the slightest suspicion that the woman doesn’t know what’s going on, then they can’t have sex with her.”
    Exactly. People also need to learn how to pay attention, instead of dismissing that skill as too neurotypical or whatever.

  20. Colleen
    Posted August 18, 2007 at 9:30 am | Permalink

    Was anyone else amused that Ms. Recreational-sex-is-bad-for-women, Laura Sessions Stepp has an article in Cosmo? I mean, seriously, do you think she’s ever read one? Or looked at the cover? Cause it’s basically all about hooking up…although it’s hooking up with the intention of tricking some poor shlub into marriage.
    Not that I took her seriously before, but I take her less seriously now.

  21. secondhandsally
    Posted August 18, 2007 at 11:10 am | Permalink

    I didn’t read the cosmo article, so I don’t know exactly what it’s saying about the term “gray rape.” And I don’t think we need a new term really to separate prosecutable rape to “experience” rape as Sailorman puts it.
    However, I really like Courtney Martin’s point about the lack of comprehensive sex education (including giving people the tools with which to seek and receive consent). I think this point of view recognizes and explains that some people’s experiences with sexual assault does not fit neatly into categories.
    I really hope I’m not offending anyone, but some of the talk here seems to ignore that some survivors of sexual assault do not identify as such though they still feel that something horrible happened to them (still feel vicitimized?). In that way I think this discussion is a little reductive.
    I do not think we should create new categories for rape that allow people to excuse their behavior or see certain scenarios as less damaging/having less impact on the victim. But I do think we need to make room in our discussion for people who have been assault, but who do not identify as survivors. I hope that this discussion will lead to a look at the sex education in this country, as Martin suggests, and how we could be doing so much more.
    Sorry this was long.

  22. UCLAbodyimage
    Posted August 18, 2007 at 11:40 am | Permalink

    Would this be gray rape?
    Two people are drunk. They have sex. Who raped who?

  23. SarahMC
    Posted August 18, 2007 at 12:01 pm | Permalink

    UCLA, that question is SO old and is always posed as a means to distract from the very real fact that some men DO prey on women.
    Yes, drunk people have sex sometimes. And in the vast majority of those cases, neither party brings rape charges against the other because no coersion or pressure was involved and both realize they got drunk and hooked up so big deal.
    Other times, a man will take advantage of a woman he KNOWS is out of it. She’s an easy hole for him. It happens, and it’s wrong.

  24. Mina
    Posted August 18, 2007 at 12:37 pm | Permalink

    BTW, did the reviews of Superbad remind anyone else of this thread?

  25. Pup, MD
    Posted August 18, 2007 at 2:25 pm | Permalink

    In college, I remember a drunk girl kissing me while I was sober, hanging out in her room. I lead her back to her bed, tucked her in, and left. And I gained lots of points as the “guy who didn’t take advantage of the drunk girl” when she told folks about it the next day.
    Hell, if I have the willpower to turn down a girl coming on to me, then I don’t see what anybody else’s excuse could possibly be.

  26. UCLAbodyimage
    Posted August 18, 2007 at 2:42 pm | Permalink

    “UCLA, that question is SO old ”
    Apparently I’m not up to speed on gray rape then! I was asking if that what defines it.
    “and is always posed as a means to distract from the very real fact that some men DO prey on women.”
    Oh, I have absolutely no doubt about that. That seems like a clear case of rape. No gray. Just black and white.
    But the question is whether or not gray rape exists.
    Two drunk people having sex seems like a possibility. Neither seems able to consent. I realize the danger here (the guy could just be like, der, I was drunk so I’m not at fault) but then you are in the difficult position of having a different law for men vs. women.

  27. Persephone
    Posted August 18, 2007 at 3:27 pm | Permalink

    Fortunately I was in the library as I was reading this blog entry, so I had easy access to the latest issue of Cosmo. Three words: So, fucked, up. Gray area my ass. Most of the cases the article sited sounded like a very clear and definate cases of rape. When a woman is intoxicated, even if she says yes to sex, it is rape. Hell, in one of the cases the woman even said no and they were talking about whether or not it was rape.
    I can understand their hesitation in reporting cases like this, but there is definately no grey area. I had a boyfriend in high school who told me once to “just try to enjoy myself” even after I told him I didn’t want to be fondled. I never reported it either (but I did break up with the asshole).

  28. Interrobang
    Posted August 18, 2007 at 3:33 pm | Permalink

    Slightly OT: Does anyone out there have a copy of the latest Writer’s Market? I suspect the reason Sessions-Stepp agreed to be in Cosmo in the first place is because they contacted her and offered her some womdigious amount of money. As I recall, they’re one of the top-paying magazine markets for articles. As Deep Throat said, “Follow the money.” There’s always a lot of money to be made off of misogyny.
    After all, imagine how much it would (monetarily) cost the patriarchy if we actually had equality in society… Making women simultaneously terrified of rape and too afraid to report it (because what if it’s “grey rape”? what if nobody believes me? etc) is great for business. Sessions-Stepp is just another pig with her snout in the money-trough.

  29. UCLAbodyimage
    Posted August 18, 2007 at 3:37 pm | Permalink

    “When a woman is intoxicated, even if she says yes to sex, it is rape.”
    That sounds like a pretty clear case of rape to me. I’m not sure how Cosmo could argue that this not rape?
    Perhaps the gray rape part lies in the man’s ability to detect intoxication on the part of the women.
    A) How much does a woman/man need to drink before she is deemed unable to consent?
    B) How is one individual able to detect whether or not he/she is past that limit?
    Some cases would be painfully obvious. If one person is staggering drunk and the other isn’t, then of course it is rape.
    If a person is buzzed, is that rape? If a person has had one drink, is that rape?
    I suppose you could have some rule like: If two people have never made an agreement while sober that they can have sex when one person has been drinking, then no sex should occur regardless of how much or how little alcohol has been consumed.
    So no glasses of champagne on a first date followed by any sexual contact of any kind, people.

  30. secretmojo
    Posted August 18, 2007 at 3:41 pm | Permalink

    If y’all are wondering whether gray rape actually exists, or that it may be different from real rape, try this mental exercise:
    1) Use “rape”, the verb, in a simple sentence.
    2) Use “gray rape”, the verb, in a simple sentence.
    Go ahead. Try it. I dare you. ;-)

  31. Maggie
    Posted August 18, 2007 at 3:53 pm | Permalink

    “Two people are drunk. They have sex. Who raped who?”
    That’s actually a really interesting question, UCLA. One of the things I HATED about “feminism” in college was the tendency to vilify men. The vast majority of rape victims are absolutely women, but *news flash* men can be victimized, too.
    For the record, and I don’t know how this works in other states, in California a state of intoxication automatically precludes consent. If you have sex with someone who is drunk or high or whatever, the law says you’re a rapist. Now, obviously that’s not always the case, or my husband would be serving so many prison sentences right now. But discussion of the law is generally framed in terms of women=victims and men=horrible abusers. Statistics support this, but I personally hate being looked at as a victim, someone who needs to be protected, just because I have a vag. Is it because men actually have to get it up to have sex, therefore there must be agency? Any 13-year-old boy will tell you that’s a lie.
    The concept of “gray rape” is abhorrent. It seems like the best solution is education and respect for everyone. Because if you’re respected, you’re less likely to a.) become a victim, or b.) victimize someone else.

  32. SarahMC
    Posted August 18, 2007 at 4:24 pm | Permalink

    *news flash* men can be victimized, too.
    And, *news flash*, they’re usually victimized by other men.
    Geez, you’d swear every woman who’d ever hooked up while drunk brought rape charges the next morning.
    Gee, I wonder why so many people honestly believe most allegations of rape are either malicious lies or the result of morning-after regret.

  33. Maggie
    Posted August 18, 2007 at 4:32 pm | Permalink

    Sarah- I didn’t say a word about who the men were being victimized by. Damn right men can be victimized by other men, but they can also be victimized by women. I’m not saying that any woman who brings rape charges is lying. I’m not even saying a significant minority of them do. But we live in a culture where men are considered aggressors and instigators, and women the passive subjects of events. If we didn’t have those predjudices to begin with, how many men would bring date-rape charges against women? I don’t know. Maybe the stereotypes are right – maybe men are the only people who ever take advantage of anyone.

  34. Charity
    Posted August 18, 2007 at 6:25 pm | Permalink

    Yeah, Maggie, my heart really bleeds for men for their unremitting oppression under the law and in the court of public opinion. Oh wait, that’s right, we actually have a culture in which it is *very freaking difficult* for women to be believed, press charges, or actually obtain a conviction after being raped or sexually assaulted.
    When it comes to rape, women are victimized by men in the vast majority of cases. Period. To say they are “victimized” does not mean *all women are automatically victims* or *women are weak and incapable*. This has been taken on before, on this site and many others. Shockingly to no one but you, apparently, the word “victim” can be *appropriate* when someone is brutalized, attacked, or violated. To say otherwise detracts from the brutality of the act and the fact that responsibility lies squarely on ONE party, the perpetrator. Period. A crime has a perpetrator and a victim. We have no problem with this dichotomy when it comes to murder, robbery, assault. “Survivor” is perhaps more empowering, but in my mind anyway, people are usually said to “survive” things like natural disasters or disease processes. Not a violent crime intentionally inflicted by another human being. My bottom line is, if you’ve been raped, of course, you are more than entitled to choose your own language around it. But making “victim” a bad word on a cultural level when it comes to rape, abuse, or harassment serves the interests of perpetrators and their apologists. I mean, if no one wants to be a “victim,” people are less likely to report a crime, right? Women are less likely to complain about harassment or abuse because that would be admitting some weakness, some “victimhood” or being the “passive subject” of something…not having been able to prevent or avoid something, needing help handling something, right? No one wants that. If no one wants to be a victim, but then they are victimized anyway, they will find a way to believe it is their fault. Because no one wants to be, or admit they were, helpless, or a victim. But in the case of an atrocity, which is what rape is, one person WAS rendered helpless, and the other person was in control. A very difficult reality.
    The whole “acknowledging female rape victims equals painting women as victims” theory is 100% patriarchy-approved. I abhor as much as the next person the (false) idea that women have NO agency, of course, and I also recognize that there are plenty of other cultural practices and phenomena that indicate women are viewed, inaccurately and unjustly, as passive subjects (like what girls and boys learn about dating and consensual sex, for example, or the whole Purity Ball / protecting women’s chastity nonsense). But when one party in an aggressive or exploitative equation has more power than the other, whether that be physical strength, credibility, economic means, or social and political standing, there really ARE times when the disempowered party is a victim, or a passive subject of events, and there really are times when their otherwise very real and very present agency and self-determination AREN’T ENOUGH to protect them(economically, politically, physically) from oppression, violence, or injustice. To say otherwise is to imply that somehow all power discrepancies in this world, including those between men and women, have been leveled. That’s a nice theory, but again, it’s one that is 100% patriarchy-approved.
    Reality is difficult, but we can’t ignore it so that men won’t get their feelings hurt. Men aren’t a heterogeneous category; we get that, don’t worry. Neither are women. Men aren’t the only people who “ever take advantage of anyone,” as you so baitingly say. Yet, the sophisticated mind can appreciate there are some crimes and injustices suffered disproportionately by women, and perpetrated disproportionately by men. If rape or sexual assault hasn’t happened to you, it simply means you’re fortunate. Doesn’t mean it’s because you’ve been being *strong* or *not acting like a victim* or *doing all the right things.* Just means you’ve been in the right places at the right times.
    So in short, you couldn’t be making less sense if your ass was doing the typing. You had us all at “One of the things I HATED about “feminism” in college was the tendency to vilify men.”
    If you can handle it:
    http://pandagon.blogsome.com/2007/08/17/the-crime-victim-double-standard/
    If you can’t: Google Dr. Helen, I’m sure you’ll find some true friends there.

  35. shartheheretic
    Posted August 18, 2007 at 7:27 pm | Permalink

    I was in a 3 day argument on a message board (provided it was on MSN) re: a girl asking if she had lost her virginity. To make a long story short, she had been drinking, she was making out with a guy she liked but had “tried to talk him out of sex” and “finally reluctantly gave in”. The guy had apparently broken her hymen (there was blood), but had not finished the deed. I was horribly disturbed with the number of WOMEN on the board who did not recognize this as a rape because she “consented”. I kept trying to explain that “reluctantly agreeing” after the guy would not take no for an answer when she was drunk was not really consenting and that in many states, she could not legally consent when drunk. Not one person would agree with me. I still feel sick when I think about it. They even took to insulting me (saying things like “maybe you should tell your brother to leave you alone” and calling me a “whiner”) when I wouldn’t give in to their ganging up on me. It was extremely enlightening in a very distressing way.

  36. xxhelenaxx
    Posted August 18, 2007 at 9:18 pm | Permalink

    Wait a second.
    Before I ask my question, let me clarify something–
    I agree that NOTHING entitles someone to extract sex from another person; “no” means “no”, even if someone’s attempts to shove the aggressor off are relatively half-hearted. But here are my questions:
    1) If a (woman) is drunk and consents to sex–albeit, while drunk–that’s rape? I guess at least 95% of my friends have been raped by their boyfriends and male “friends with benefits” and impulsive hook-ups.
    2)Unfortunately, for all the women/children whose abuse goes undetected and unresolved, sometimes people actually DO make false rape charges. I might be alone, but without witness testimony, DNA, or some other external evidence–evidence to a pattern of the defendant’s behavior, background of the victim/alleged attacker’s relationship (if any), the victim’s word” against his (without other testimony; evidence of a pattern of behavior; witness/character testimony regarding the rapist/victim relationship, if any, a trial simply based on he said/she said may legitimately leave room for doubt.
    2)Again–if a woman gets drunk/high, we can agree it may affect her judgment. How do we distinguish between the women who were legitimately coerced/taken advantage of by another person, and between women who have morning-after regrets?

  37. UCLAbodyimage
    Posted August 18, 2007 at 10:05 pm | Permalink

    “Gee, I wonder why so many people honestly believe most allegations of rape are either malicious lies or the result of morning-after regret.”
    SarahMC, I think there is alot we can agree on:
    A) The vast majority of rape allegations by women against men are true.
    B) Men are by far the perpetrators of rape.
    C) It is critical to punish rape (and street harrasment, for that matter) and to prevent situations where men can get off scot free very easlly (e.g., sexsomnia defense, the “I was drinking too” defense).
    D) The treatment of women as sexual objects who exist for men’s pleasure plays a serious role in the sexual victimization of women.
    I think most people on the board would agree with all that, including me. What I’m trying to point out is that, contrary to the original post, that there are cases where it is ambiguous as to whether assault occurred, and if so, who should be held responsible.
    For example, if two men get drunk and have sex, who committed rape? If two women get drunk and have sex, who committed rape? If we agree that it doesn’t make sense in that case, how should that influence how we treat cases where both the man and woman have drinking? Should we require some evidence of force? If we don’t, how do we claim one person is responsible for their actions when drunk while simultaneously saying that the other person was unable to consent when drunk?
    “Geez, you’d swear every woman who’d ever hooked up while drunk brought rape charges the next morning.”
    I don’t think frequency is really the issue. The issue is whether it is right to have a different set of laws according to gender and sexual orientation – weighing the balance between treating everyone the same vs. weighting laws according to what’s most common even if that disadvantages some individuals unfairly in a minority of cases.

  38. Ronfar
    Posted August 19, 2007 at 12:46 am | Permalink

    This might not serve as a definition that could be part of a law, but it seems to me that a reasonable definition of rape, at least on the level of hypothetical situations, could be “a sex act that can be reasonably expected to cause suffering.” (By suffering, I generally mean mental distress, as opposed to the experience of physical pain. The two often go together but are not exactly the same thing.) It’s hard to measure suffering in a court of law, but it seems to get to the heart of the matter.
    To a first approximation, much of morality reduces to “That which can be reasonably expected to cause suffering is wrong.” Sex without consent is wrong because it consistently causes suffering, and reasonable people know this. Some kinds of rape only cause suffering some time after the act itself; an unconscious person does not have the capacity to suffer while unconscious, but once that person is no longer unconscious, that person can experience distress that was caused by events during that period of unconsciousness. (If your arm is cut off for no good reason while you are fully aware, you begin to suffer immediately; if your arm is cut off for no good reason while you are under anesthesia, you begin to suffer when you wake up and realize that you are missing an arm.)
    This suggests a standard for when sex with an intoxicated person who appears to be consenting becomes rape: if it is likely that the intoxicated person is going to be upset after becoming sober, it’s rape.

  39. Andreas Schou
    Posted August 19, 2007 at 1:31 am | Permalink

    Two people are drunk. They have sex. Who raped who?
    (1) Assuming that both were sober enough to recognize that they were going to have sex and the consequences of doing so, neither.
    (2) If neither were sober enough to consent to sex, how did sex occur?
    – ACS

  40. SarahMC
    Posted August 19, 2007 at 10:11 am | Permalink

    xxhelenaxx:
    What makes you think women who regret drunken sex bring rape charges?
    I know plenty of women who regret having sex with guys but not one of them ever thought, “Hmmm, I think I’ll bring attention to this and dwell on it further by bringing rape charges.” The assumption that this actually occurs is bizarre.
    It’s more like – women wake up in the morning with no recollection of having sex, meeting guy X, etc. but know they did have sex (were raped) for whatever reason.
    Rape is a difficult crime to prosecute and get a conviction. That the conviction rate is so low does NOT mean that the “unwinnable” cases were just lies. It simply there is not enough evidence to conclusively prove a rape occurred. That doesn’t mean a rape didn’t occur.

  41. tankerton
    Posted August 19, 2007 at 12:03 pm | Permalink

    I’m a mother of two boys. One of my priorities in raising my boys is to help them cultivate a degree of empathy with other people and respect for the autonomy and rights of others, while also standing up for themselves. When my boys are ready to learn more details about sex and dating they will absolutley learn about consent and rape. They will be told in no uncertain terms that, as much as they may desire it, there is no real consent unless their partner agrees with enthusiasm and that ideally, they should already have discussed their relationship with clear heads. They will learn that it is never ok to pressure someone into sex (or anything else). They will learn that one can not consent while they are under the influence of drugs/alcohol/sleep. They will also learn that in a court of law any sex with a minor (consent or no) is considored to be rape. My boys will also be told to allow no one, male or female, to pressure or force them to have sex. They will learn that men can be raped, though its not as common, and that they should inform someone if this occurs. In short, I’ll tell them exactly what I would tell a daughter, and then some.
    I was raped as a teen. Once forcefully by a stranger and multiple times by an abusive boyfriend. I would have no tolerance for my sons if they did such a thing. And as I mentioned earlier, I expect my sons to be respectful of others in all aspects of their lives.
    I’m also a mother who needs to protect her sons. Yes, it is very rare for a woman to accuse a man of rape when the sex that occured was actually regretted, not forced. But i don’t want my boys in that situation, so they will learn that it is a possibility. Its also fairly rare for 17 or 18 year olds to prosecuted for having sex with their 15 or 16 year old girlfriends, but I also want my sons to know that it can happen, even if the girl is mature and happily consenting.
    It angers me beyond words that so few parents have these discussions with their sons. I wish these talks would be a part of sex ed. in schools. Learning about respect, consent, and the law are just as important as learning about body functions and birth control. And everyone should learn that “gray sex” is the same thing as rape.

  42. Posted August 19, 2007 at 3:22 pm | Permalink

    Tankerton–
    You are an awesome mother. Just felt like saying that. Good luck with raising those sons.

  43. katiemarie
    Posted August 20, 2007 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

    thank you for writing about this. i read this article in a friend’s cosmo. and was outraged. i sat down and wrote the longest letter to the editor. but who knows what will happen with that..

  44. LindsayJ
    Posted September 4, 2007 at 5:36 pm | Permalink

    I just recieved this cut and paste response from Cosmo…
    Dear Reader,
    We received your letter of concern regarding our September story “A New Kind of Date Rape� and want to address what seems to be a misunderstanding. Cosmopolitan did not invent the term gray rape. The phrase emerged when the author of our article, Laura Sessions Stepp, was researching a book on today’s hookup culture.
    In fact, the words were used by women who were left confused after a sexual encounter they were not one hundred percent sure they had consented to and by women who had known friends who were similarly confused. The confusion, many of these women admitted, was the result of having been under the influence of alcohol at the time of the encounter. Our article endeavored to help victims in these situations make sense of their ordeal, explain their avenues of recourse, and offer advice on how women can prevent so-called gray rapes from happening.
    Cosmopolitan has a long history of covering the topic of sexual assault and, more important, of being an advocate for victims. Linda Fairstein, a former Manhattan sex-crimes prosecutor of 25 years, is a regular contributor to our pages. She and other rape experts applaud Cosmopolitan’s efforts to keep our readers educated about such difficult issues as sexual assault.
    Sincerely,
    The Editors of Cosmopolitan
    - I responded of course; Rape is Rape!

  45. LindsayJ
    Posted September 4, 2007 at 5:38 pm | Permalink

    I just recieved this cut and paste response from Cosmo…
    Dear Reader,
    We received your letter of concern regarding our September story “A New Kind of Date Rape� and want to address what seems to be a misunderstanding. Cosmopolitan did not invent the term gray rape. The phrase emerged when the author of our article, Laura Sessions Stepp, was researching a book on today’s hookup culture.
    In fact, the words were used by women who were left confused after a sexual encounter they were not one hundred percent sure they had consented to and by women who had known friends who were similarly confused. The confusion, many of these women admitted, was the result of having been under the influence of alcohol at the time of the encounter. Our article endeavored to help victims in these situations make sense of their ordeal, explain their avenues of recourse, and offer advice on how women can prevent so-called gray rapes from happening.
    Cosmopolitan has a long history of covering the topic of sexual assault and, more important, of being an advocate for victims. Linda Fairstein, a former Manhattan sex-crimes prosecutor of 25 years, is a regular contributor to our pages. She and other rape experts applaud Cosmopolitan’s efforts to keep our readers educated about such difficult issues as sexual assault.
    Sincerely,
    The Editors of Cosmopolitan
    - I responded of course; Rape is Rape!

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