Bristol Palin and the challenge of calling rape, rape

“What you have just described is rape.”

Those were the words that the detective said to me as I sat in a Brooklyn precinct on a hot summer night four years ago. The sign outside read “Special Victims Unit” yet the set up looked nothing like the popular Law & Order television version and there was no Olivia Benson to greet me at the door.

It was the first time I had heard those words. Rape. Up to that point, as I went through the process of a rape kit in the hospital, and gave my initial statement to the uniformed officers, the word “rape” didn’t leave my lips. It was too ugly a word and nothing that could ever happen to me.

How would I ever be able to recover? Surely if I ever labeled what happened to me date rape I would be forever damaged. There is something about labeling an experience rape and self-identifying as a rape survivor that dims your inner light for a time. You work through the stages of grief as if you have lost a loved one, because in a way you have lost your spirit. By labeling it, you identify it properly and can then move on in the process of healing. In turn, by not wanting to label it, and at worst, to remain in denial, a survivor can prolong the pain.

It is under this framework that I understand why Bristol Palin, assuming everything she wrote in her new memoir is factual, may not want to identify her first sexual encounter with Levi as date rape. In her new memoir, “Not Afraid of Life,” Bristol describes losing her virginity in a drunken haze, with Levi supplying the constant flow of wine coolers while on a camping trip with friends. It wasn’t until the next morning that Bristol realized she had intercourse with Levi. Bristol then writes that despite being brought up in a Christian household determined to save herself until marriage, Bristol felt that her virginity had been “stolen.”

As I wrote last week in The Loop 21, what she describes sounds like rape under Alaska law. Jessica Valenti also thinks it sounds like rape. Despite this fact, in an interview with Good Morning America, Bristol clarified that she is not accusing Levi of “date rape,” but she did reiterate that she felt her “virginity” was stolen, leading many to ask well, “Who is the thief?” It is possible that Bristol is unable to identify “date rape” especially considering that drunken sex is such a common occurrence. Just like with any woman, it is Bristol’s right not to label what happened to her rape, however, there is a danger with Bristol’s story being so public that other women may not label their own experiences properly.

In the same way that I was unable or unwilling to identify it as such, those in the know whether they be Robin Roberts of Good Morning America or law enforcement officials in Alaska, have a responsibility to take Bristol’s statements seriously and call rape, rape. At the very least, Bristol’s story can be a catalyst for women to analyze their own sexual experiences and process any unresolved trauma they could never label until now.

Join the Conversation

  • unequivocal

    I’m not sure what to take out of this. On the one hand you are saying that it is Bristol Palin’s right to not call what happened to her rape, but on the other hand, you are saying that everyone else has a responsibility to call it rape. That pretty much seems to deny Palin the right to define her own experience (or rather relegates her perceived experience to the realm of, “well, she’s welcome to feel that way, as long as public discourse is clear that she’s wrong, and this was really rape.”)

    • http://feministing.com/members/only4rm/ Only4RM

      I see no inconsistency. I agree that it is Bristol’s personal right to contextualize her own experience. And that NO ONE has the right to demand/ tell her how she should label that experience or what steps she should be taking to process that experience.

      HOWEVER, as this conversation did not start with a private telling of her experience but as a result of a media tour and Bristol has placed herself in the public sphere and specifically presented herself as a role model (in this case an actor in a cautionary tale), responsible media, advocates and potentially even law enforcement have the RESPONSIBILITY to not simply gloss over what seem like serious allegations amounting to possible criminality in discussing this topic.

      Any discussion of Bristol’s account that does not address the fact that what she describes would constitute rape under applicable Alaska law is incomplete at best.

      Sensitivity to the person telling the story does NOT trump the necessity for absolute clarity in the public sphere on an issue that too often is relegated to the shadows (along w/ those dealing with it on a personal level) because the conversation is difficult.

    • http://feministing.com/members/krystina/ krystina

      I think that this is one of those instances where it will always be grey because it’s so personal. If we take Bristol’s story for what it is, then she was raped according to the law. Whether or not she believes that, or admits it to herself is in a realm beyond the law — it is the personal side of the matter. I think it is an interesting dilemma, indeed.

      I also think that this is the time to educate people about the possible risks involved with having sex if you’re intoxicated, and even then, more than just, “Don’t forget the condom!” There are serious repercussions when memories are fuzzy, people aren’t positive about what happened, or if someone feels they made a bad decision. This can lead to a world of trouble, and I think we need to have more frank conversations about this kind of situation.

      In short, I agree with you and your confusion, because I feel similarly.

      • davenj

        “I also think that this is the time to educate people about the possible risks involved with having sex if you’re intoxicated, and even then, more than just, “Don’t forget the condom!” There are serious repercussions when memories are fuzzy, people aren’t positive about what happened, or if someone feels they made a bad decision. This can lead to a world of trouble, and I think we need to have more frank conversations about this kind of situation.”

        A most emphatic YES.

        The current level of conversation regarding sex while under the influence of alcohol just doesn’t cut it.

    • http://feministing.com/members/zerlina/ zerlina

      Thanks for commenting. My goal in posting and tying it my own experience is to get women thinking and talking about this. Bristol Palin’s account is in the public sphere and I think there is a danger in letting her own perception of what happened to her (whether you agree with her label or not) go unchallenged without pointing out the law. There is no correct and clear cut answer, I just wouldn’t want any woman out there to have a sexual experience similar to what Palin described and feel that there is no legal remedy. There are times where we simply regret a drunken sexual experience and there are times when the line is crossed and we enter the realm of sexual assault. I understand the confusion because in many ways that’s what this topic is all about in many respects, the uncertainty and still knowing deep down that something happened to you that you didn’t want to happen or consent to.

    • http://feministing.com/members/azure156/ Jenny Gonzalez-Blitz

      I read the excerpts in question in another article about this, and yes, it sounded like the definition of rape. The article I read(I’m sorry I don’t remember if the link came through HuffPo or NOW on Twitter) stated it met the requirements for rape in Alaska. That said, there may be a number of reasons Bristol Palin doesn’t wish to define it as such. She may have been raised to believe that she was to blame somehow, for drinking or whatever, or she may feel uncomfortable with feeling like a “victim” in the situation, or there may be some other reason, I really don’t know. We’ve discussed many times on this site that people cope with traumas in different ways. It sounds like a situation she was very frightened and unhappy with and I’d like to think that regardless of people’s thoughts on her mother’s politics the public reaction would be sympathy and understanding. Though given the reactions to stories of Lara Logan and other high profile rape situations I’m not optimistic :(

      Beyond that, I’m wondering though, when we say she can define this anyway she wants, do we run the risk of making it appear that rape is some nebulous thing that depends on whether or not a person defines it as such? We already have Boehner & the GOP seeking to confuse and redefine rape to push their anti-choice agenda. If we don’t acknowledge rape when we see it occur, are we further obfuscating the issue in a culture where it seems like we’re already struggling enough as it is to get it taken seriously?

      • honeybee

        But it does at least somewhat depend on whether the person defines it as such. We all have different boundaries and comfort zones and while many cases may be clearcut others may depend on the interpretations of the parties involved.

        • http://feministing.com/members/zerlina/ zerlina

          Thanks for your comments. When I was brainstorming this piece, I definitely was concerned with the idea that just because Bristol said it’s not rape, we are just supposed to accept her word for it and move on. Her story is so public. Literally, she said this on Good Morning America casually and there was on follow up discussion as to whether what she describes in the book met the legal standard in Alaska. That is very problematic to me not only for women and men who are victims or in the process of examing their own experiences but also for everyone else in the public who are so quick to question victims when they do come forward. For me as a survivor it was important to share from a place of understanding. Obviously, we can’t force Bristol to admit something when she doesn’t believe it happened to her but if another woman or man in Alaska or a state with a similar sexual assault statute, is taken advantage of when they are intoxicated they need to know they have a way to seek justice.

          • http://feministing.com/members/azure156/ Jenny Gonzalez-Blitz

            “That is very problematic to me not only for women and men who are victims or in the process of examing their own experiences but also for everyone else in the public who are so quick to question victims when they do come forward. For me as a survivor it was important to share from a place of understanding. ”

            THIS. Perfectly encapsulates my feelings as well.

  • http://feministing.com/members/chapman/ Ashley

    I thought this was an interesting article both recognizing the right that Bristol has to determine how she wants to describe what happened but also the complexity of what can come out of that choice. That is often times difficult for people, espcially when we disagree with someone. It does sound slike to me that Bristol experienced date rape, but it is absolutely her choice to define her experience. I thin that it is always refreshing when a writer can respond to and make sense of two different angles. Thank you for this thought provoking blog.

  • http://feministing.com/members/djh1/ D.J.

    I am somewhat disturbed by this slant.

    On the one hand, we have Ms. Palin herself stating quite clearly that she was not raped. She says that she and her boyfriend (who really does sound like a jerk) got wasted together. (I noticed how the locus of control is put entirely on Levi in this depiction — Bristol wasn’t getting wasted with her boyfriend, but rather, he was feeding her drinks.) She woke up not really knowing what happened. Do we really know enough to say that this musters the litmus test for the crime of rape, punishable by incarceration? And do we assume that, in the absence of any memory of what happened, it must have been he that initiated whatever sexual encounter they had?

    The assumptions not only smack of misandry, but the denial of Palin’s own agency smacks of an even worse misogyny.

    • http://feministing.com/members/only4rm/ Only4RM

      In the excerpts and commentary, Bristol does make it seem as if she is being fed drinks, with her empty bottles being switched out for full ones by Levi. There is no mention that he is also drinking heavily. And when she says her virginity was “stolen” do you really not think that SHE is placing the blame on him, even if she is simultaneously choosing not to label it as rape?

      • http://feministing.com/members/djh1/ D.J.

        I think she made it clear that she felt she had made a lapse in judgment, and she also made it clear that she did not believe this boy raped her. I took this to mean that she accepted her share of personal responsibility for an event that she regretted. What amazes me is that this somehow is leaving enough doubt about “what really happened” in so many minds, as to fill in the blanks with a predator scenario.

        • http://feministing.com/members/only4rm/ Only4RM

          I don’t think one needs to “fill in blanks” to raise a question about the criminality of what Bristol describes. Taking the description at face value, it constitutes rape according to applicable law.

          Bristol can label it or not label it at all but now that the situation is in the public domain, it is the responsible thing for those concerned about educating the public to point out that what is described would constitute a crime. Even if one takes responsibility for having taken the drinks. A passed out human being cannot consent to sex by AK law. Period.

          • http://feministing.com/members/djh1/ D.J.

            You are filling in the blank of “passed out.” I believes this suggests you are presuming what happened, in the absence of knowledge, based on your own prejudices.

            To relate an anecdote: my first live-in partner believed strongly in marriage before sex. One night, we were drinking. She came onto me quite strongly, and wanted sex. I had considerably less to drink (I really couldn’t handle liquor in those days), and kept defusing things until she fell asleep. The next morning, she had no memory of the previous night, which was quite a surprise to me, given how lucid (albeit silly-drunk) she was. She asked me what happened.

            Apparently, I am to understand that I came *this close* to being a rapist? All of the moral responsibility was on me — even the responsibility of reading her mind and knowing whether or not she would retain a memory the next day? She was a “virgin” too — would I have been guilty of stealing her virginity? (Is the fact that I was also a “virgin” at the time immaterial? Would mine have been stolen, too, if I had succumbed to her entreaties?)

            So yes, when you fill in the absence of memory with a male-predator/innocent-female scenario, I will say that you are filling in the blanks.

            If the law considers this to be rape, in the absence of any memory of what happened, and even an absence of any feeling that a crime was committed — with a chauvinistic presumption of guilt that assumes boys are predators and girls are innocent victims — then THE LAW IS WRONG.

            Rape must be fought, opposed, and punished. Creating a few victims of wrongful incarceration along the way is not acceptable collateral damage in this fight.

    • http://feministing.com/members/madgastronomer/ MadGastronomer

      Ok, that right there is what’s known as “rape apology.” When you assume that a rape victim — including one who never uses the word rape — is lying, or start talking about her responsibility for what happened to her, you’re committing rape apology. Accusing people of misandry pretty much sucks, too.

      Having sex with someone too drunk to remember is having sex with someone who could not consent.

      • http://feministing.com/members/djh1/ D.J.

        I find it remarkable that you are suggesting I am the one making assumptions.

        First off, you are making assumptions that there is a rape victim in a case where the “victim” herself says there was no rape. Then, of course, you are making the standard assumption that if two underage kids get drunk and have sex together, that the male must be a predator and the female must be a victim. You are filling in the gaps — and even disregarding Palin’s own words, when necessary — in the most damning way.

        And then, you go one step farther, and accuse me of being a “rape apologist” for questioning your very speculative line of armchair judgments, which themselves have not a small amount of gender bias.

        In essence, you are placing all of the moral responsibility for drunken sex on the male, and reducing the female to a passive object. Was Levi also drunk? Was he drunk enough to provide sober consent to engaging in sexual activity, or will we just assume that he was a hormone-enraged male predator? Will we place the responsibility on him to know whether or not Palin was too drunk to retain a memory of what was happening?

        (And do you even care about the answers to any of those questions?)

        • http://feministing.com/members/madgastronomer/ MadGastronomer

          I am taking the word of the woman it happened to on what happened to her — the details. She might not be telling the truth, but that should never be our first assumption. Making the assumption, without evidence, that she is not telling the truth is rape apology. Advising others to make that assumption is rape apology.

          Many women are reluctant to label what happened to them rape, but if things happened as Palin said they did, then it was rape by the laws of Alaska, so there’s no assumption involved there.

          I’m not assuming Levi was aggressive, since that’s nowhere in Palin’s account. I am taking her at her word, that he provided her with a stream of alcohol, and that it was enough for her to not remember the event of the night, which means she was incapable of consent, again according to the laws of Alaska.

          Any time you say, “But we shouldn’t assume the woman is telling the truth! Accusation of rape is a terrible thing!” you are committing rape apology. That’s no assumption, it’s what you’re doing.

          RAPE is a terrible thing. Don’t make accusation of rape out to be worse than actual rape.

          • davenj

            “I am taking her at her word, that he provided her with a stream of alcohol, and that it was enough for her to not remember the event of the night, which means she was incapable of consent, again according to the laws of Alaska.”

            What if Levi was drunk and can’t remember the details, either?

      • honeybee

        I think the poster was simply saying that Bristol is the one who needs to clarify these questions not the general public who wasn’t there.

        Also if he was totally drunk as well, I’m unclear on how you can determine who, if anyone, was responsible.

        • http://feministing.com/members/madgastronomer/ MadGastronomer

          He was committing rape apology. Period.

          • unequivocal

            Ah. “Period.”

            The most excellent and valid rebuttal ever.

            Look, all that’s being said is that based purely on Bristol’s description of events, this may or may not meet the criteria of rape.

            If, in fact, Levi was just as drunk as she was (for example) – which is to say that they were both drunk enough to not have a clear memory of what transpired – then Bristol’s assessment that this wasn’t rape is probably valid.

            Making note of the fact that we don’t have enough information to make a completely valid and accurate assessment of what happened isn’t “rape apologism.”

            *ahem*

            Period.

  • honeybee

    I’m extremely uncomfortable with labelling an event, which one was not present at, as something other then what the people involved call it.

    I.e., If Bristol does not consider it rape then neither should we.

    Co-opting people in an effort to sway public opinion is unethical and dangerous IMO though I understand the intent here. So while I think it’s great and important to point out that circumstances like she described COULD be rape, we shouldn’t label her specific instance as such if she does not.

    Besides completely taking away her agency, we don’t know what happened exactly, only her and he does (or maybe neither if they were both drunk). For all we know she’s just saying this to score points with conservatives who are anti-sex before marriage. The point is we don’t know and it’s not our place to say. Only hers and hers alone. Survivors need their only agency in these matters.

    • http://feministing.com/members/only4rm/ Only4RM

      What Bristol describes whether true or not and independent of what she chooses to call it depicts a situation that constitutes rape by applicable Alaska law.

      Bristol’s right of contextualizing her own experience does not give her free license to misinform from her self-appointed bully pulpit.

      Bristol can call what happened to her whatever she likes but people who can read and understand applicable law and apply it the circumstances she described — not privately but in her book and on her media tour — have the right and I daresay the responsibility to INFORM the public about what is and isn’t lawful.

      • http://feministing.com/members/djh1/ D.J.

        Are you saying that it is unlawful to get drunk and have sex? In order to state that this scenario musters the definition of date rape, you need to project details that aren’t in the story. If Palin felt she had been raped, that would be one matter. However, she has stated clearly that she was not raped. She has also expressed regret about having sex that night, and losing her “virginity” in this manner. Please tell me that regret is not the component that makes this rape?

      • honeybee

        It depends how you look at it I guess.

        From a purely theoretical view you are perhaps correct.

        But from a legal / in-practice point of view you are not. If you look at other crimes, say theft, theft is not considered a crime unless the victim defines it as such. If my Dad comes over to my house and borrows some DVDs from me without asking – is it theft? In the eyes of the law it is theft if I say it is, and not theft if I say it isn’t. The victim gets define it for themselves since they are one who is impacted by the situation. It’s the same here.

        And this doesn’t even get into practicality and ethics. Which from my point of view, ethically it would be wrong to label something other then what the victim does. Even others believe this person is misinforming people, that is still their right as the party involved I believe.

    • http://feministing.com/members/azure156/ Jenny Gonzalez-Blitz

      Things don’t stop being what they are based on what we choose to call them “A rose by any other name” and all that. Subjective reality paradigms are interesting philosophically, but when we speak of corporeal world actions, actions that can have lasting effect on those involved and others, this has to be taken into consideration as well. Feminists say repeatedly that the defining factor of rape is a lack of consent. What was described in this account was a lack of consent.

      • honeybee

        But that only makes sense with concrete and quantitative realities, which is true when we’re talking about say inanimate objects, but can’t be applied equally to complex scenarios which don’t fit into neat little boxes such as this one.

        The world is not black and white, despite what conservatives argue. As feminists we are usually the first to recognize that life is complex and many factors are involved in determining real-world experiences. So you can’t just say a rose is a rose because in fact it isn’t. Not all roses are created equal.

        • http://feministing.com/members/azure156/ Jenny Gonzalez-Blitz

          Even if all roses aren’t equal, they are all roses, however. The world may not be black & white in all matters, but in the idea that someone who was unconscious and unable to say yes to sex, and who furthermore, by her account, had told her boyfriend she did not wish to have sex as she wanted to save herself for marriage, things are what they are. That isn’t consent. In fact, he even went against the wishes she had expressed in the past to him, to wait until she was married to have sex.

          Has anyone asked Levi point blank “Hey, given that she had told you she wanted to stay a virgin already, do you think she would have been ok with this had she been sentient?”

          And no one can make me say what they want me to just by implying I’m “conservative”.

  • http://feministing.com/members/tetercreek/ Jay

    I think the bigger issue is that Sara Palin knows that her daughter was raped, really, legally, and yet she went on with the charade of bringing this boy into her family and parading him around on her campaign. Maybe the daughter had not told her the whole story then, but she knows now.

    • http://feministing.com/members/zerlina/ zerlina

      Jay yes this is a very disturbing part of the story and one that I mentioned in my piece on The Loop 21 last week (linked at the end of my piece above). The timing of the revelation creates a space where people are asking very uncomfortable questions. I think it’s important for us to ask the questions though because a conversation in the public space on this issue must be candid.

    • http://feministing.com/members/toongrrl/ Jessica “Jess” Victoria Carillo

      Oh My God…..he date-raped her?????????????? Her Mom insisted on her marrying him???????????????

  • sex-toy-james

    I’m going to go out on a limb here just because I think that the idea needs to be floated. What if it was the way she said it and it was intentional? How do you resolve the conflict between teenage hormones and conservative values that forbid sex before marriage? She’s a victim of wicked male sex drive and alcohol, problem solved. What if not being in a capacity to give consent was the societally preferable option for her? It allows her to advocate one thing while having done another. Alcohol is also the kind of accomplice you go to when you want to do something, but you don’t want to take responsibility for it.
    I know that I’d be singing a different tune if she’d called it date rape, but she didn’t, so I’m kicking this idea out there for discussion.

  • http://feministing.com/members/drusilla/ Drusilla Roessle

    It’s certainly true that none of us wants to speak for Bristol Palin; we can understand her experience as deeply personal and as such, complicated. I think that when she describes her experience of sex in a memoir she offers it to public consideration. That she is grappling with what it means to her that her virginity was “stolen” while in a drunken haze is her own process of understanding. If the details of what she has offered in her memoir as actually-occurring-events (if she does attest to this particular account as true), however, signify what survivors, feminists, and law have defined as rape, then it necessitates attention, conversation, and accountability. It is crucial that we remain steadfast in the way that we articulate, define, and handle rape, and all shades of sexual assault, so that young women and men can recognize injustice when it happens and can empower themselves to rise above it and educate others. The only way to dismantle a rape culture is to question and challenge and hold accountable assumptions and exceptions that we make. Although it is Bristol Palin’s experience to understand and define for herself, what she has offered to the public must be handled according to the same standards as any other case put forward–if only to make visible and put at the forefront conversations about consent, about sexual assault, about rape, and about calling out injustice.

  • http://feministing.com/members/clone/ Matt

    Ah subjective reality, fun times. Bristol experienced date rape. If she says her virginity was stolen, using the passive voice, that means that someone had to act, in this case Levi, and do the stealing.

    She was a virgin(whatever that even means these days.)
    She had sex with Levi.
    She was no longer a virgin, in her mind.
    Ergo, she lost her virginity to Levi.
    Her virginity was stolen.
    Stolen means taken against her will.
    She lost her virginity against her will.
    You have to have penetrative sex to lose your virginity.
    She had penetrative sex against her will.
    That is the definition of rape.
    She was raped.

    Either she gave away her virginity to Levi, or Levi raped her. You have a right to define your own experience in a logically consistent manner. She cannot both have had her virginity stolen, by Levi, and not been raped by Levi.

    • unequivocal

      To be frank, this strikes me as ridiculously oversimplified.

      If she says her virginity was stolen, using the passive voice, that means that someone had to act, in this case Levi, and do the stealing.

      No it doesn’t. People use this phrase or framework all the time without pointing to a particular, single person as being blameworthy. If I say that I feel me childhood was stolen from me because I was forced to care for my cancer-ridden grandmother, that isn’t the same as saying Grandma stole my childhood.

      Stolen means taken against her will.

      No, it emphatically doesn’t. It certainly could, but not by necessity. Third definition from dictionary.com: “to take, get, or win insidiously, surreptitiously, subtly, or by chance.”

      She lost her virginity against her will.

      Or she could have said “my virginity was stolen from me” and meant “unplanned actions resulted in me losing my virginity.” Please note that I’m not saying that’s what happened, merely that it is a possible interpretation. The fact that she doesn’t view this as rape lends credence to this possibility.

      You have to have penetrative sex to lose your virginity.

      What? Awesome, glad to have that cleared up.

      She had penetrative sex against her will. That is the definition of rape.

      Oh. Never mind. It appears we have a fundamental disagreement on what words mean.

  • http://feministing.com/members/ejoyce/ E_Joyce

    Good article. If one was to look at this logically. Parents OK’d underage daughter going on camping trip unchaperoned, right? Then Bristol made the decision to consume alcohol. Continually. Levi allegedly takes advantage. Does remorse, for behavior that goes against everything one stands for, rewrite history?

    The only ones who know the truth are Levi and Bristol. What bothers me about this revelation is that they have been engaged twice. Levi has always said — even posted on his website pre-engagement that he didn’t want children. So was this a matter of two intoxicated people having unprotected sex? If her friend was also there, does she say that Bristol was with Levi unwillingly or willingly? I am of the belief that the upcoming Levi book will be the counter to this one.

    My concern is that Bristol may have rearranged the truth in her own mind, in order to remove the sting of choices she made. In her mind this may truly be what the truth looks like. But there are too many women who are actually date raped and never reported to focus on what may be conscientious justification of acts that go against one’s morals.

    One more thing, and this may be unpopular thinking: Nowadays, it seems one must have something controversial, and sexual, included in order to sell books. So the possibility that this is contrived, with Levi’s book as the sequel, is not an unrealistic and likely successful strategy being played out on the backs of real victims.

  • http://feministing.com/members/robin4020/ Robin

    I have been waiting for someone to deal with the nuance in this situation but have not seen it yet. Assuming Bristol’s statement is 100% correct, she has still said that she remembers none of the details. So, all of the 5 scenarios below could also be true; all of them are consistent with the known facts that she was drinking and had sex; they just fill in different possibilities missing from her narrative.

    Scenario 1 is rape and scenario 2 could be, but scenarios 3 and 4 could also be consistent with Palin’s narrative since she doesn’t remember details and I would have a hard time describing them as rape. I just don’t see how we can accuse Johnston of rape without knowing any of the details. Or, I could see how we could accuse both of them of rape since it is highly conceivable that Palin took advantage of Johnston’s inebriated state, just as much as he took advantage of hers.

    Let me know what you think. Would you consider all 5 scenarios rape on the part of Johnston. Would scenario 3 imply she raped him since she initiated contact toward a person incapable of consent due to his inebriation, or would scenario 4 implied she raped him since she both initiated contact and shamed him for his initial denial of consent to the point that he gave it grudgingly, under duress, while inebriated?

    From Levi’s perspective

    Scenario 1
    (1) I fed her alcohol
    (2) I initiated sexual contact
    (3) She said no or was unresponsive
    (4) I talked her into changing her mind because she was drunk or I just went ahead and did it.

    Scenario 2
    (1) I fed her alcohol
    (2) I initiated sexual contact
    (3) She responded positively and was positively engaged during the act

    Scenario 3
    (1) We were both drinking
    (2) We went into the tent
    (3) She initiated sexual contact
    (4) I responded positively but she was in the dominant position the entire time

    Scenario 4
    (1) We were both drinking
    (2) We went into the tent
    (3) She initiated sexual contact
    (4) I told her I didn’t want to, I tried to go to sleep, but she was persistent, kept nagging me, and eventually I changed my mind just to make her quit

    Scenario 5
    (1) We were both drinking
    (2) I woke up next to her naked and wasn’t sure what happened
    (3) My friends told me we definitely had sex

    • http://feministing.com/members/djh1/ D.J.

      Thank you. This is a refreshingly honest analysis.