Rape is not sex

Rape is not sex.

It’s such a simple statement and yet it’s a concept that appears to be eluding conservatives of late.

Sex requires consent. Said another way, consent is necessary for sex to not be rape.

The way we talk about rape is important and we must always make sure to not conflate rape with consensual sex particularly when we are talking about things like pregnancy, abortion, and child support.  You don’t have rape with someone.

When Todd Akin says, women can’t get pregnant from rape we all do a collective #headdesk, but part of the reason he’s even forced to explain why he thinks rape victims should be forced to give birth to their rapists babies is because he isn’t drawing a bright line between rape and sex.

As Atrios succinctly put it yesterday with regards to conservatives and rape:

I decided there are basically three issues. First, they can never really seem to grasp the concept of ‘consent.’ Second, they tend to lump rape together with having unapproved sex generally. Third, for reasons which escape me, a lot of them seem to really really fear having someone “falsely” accuse them of rape.

Rape is not sex.

Rape is a crime for which too few are actually prosecuted and held accountable.

When a rape victim becomes pregnant as a result of her attack, that is not in any way similar to having a baby out-of-wedlock, like GOP Senate candidate Tom Smith said yesterday.

When a rape victim gets pregnant as a result of her attack, that rape is not a method of conception, like GOP vice presidential nominee Rep. Paul Ryan said last week.

So let’s fire off a list of things and words that rape should never ever associated with:

Feel free to add more in the comments.  I think my brain has had more than enough rape talk for one day.

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7 Comments

  1. Posted August 28, 2012 at 3:43 pm | Permalink

    I appreciate the point being made here, but I take exception for one reason: I don’t think it’s my place or anyone else’s to tell survivors of rape what rape is and is not. It’s certain that some of them have perceived their nonconsensual sexual experiences as sex nonetheless — my greatest fear would be the unintended assertion that if what you’ve had is sex, it can’t possibly have been rape as well (that is, causing survivors who felt they had been raped to doubt it because they also felt they were having sex.) Respectfully, you even seem to contradict yourself here (or maybe I’m not reading it right): “Sex requires consent. Said another way, consent is necessary for sex to not be rape.” Doesn’t the second part of that indicate that sex can be rape? If rape is never sex then why is anything necessary for sex to not be rape? Also, out of curiosity, do you take issue with the phrase “sexual assault” if you believe that assault of this nature is not sexual?

  2. Posted August 28, 2012 at 4:13 pm | Permalink

    Libby Anne at Love, Joy Feminism helpfully illustrated the difference between conservative and progressive understandings of sexual acts. It doesn’t excuse but certainly helps make clear Akin, Ryan, and Smith’s comments.

    If you don’t want to follow the hyperlink where Libby Anne had made a nice chart:

    …conservatives divide sexual acts into “wrong” or “okay” based on what God thinks of them, and progressives divide sexual acts into “wrong” and “okay” based on whether or not they are consensual.

    In the Progressive “Wrong” box are listed “pedophilia, bestiality, rape” and in the “Right” box are listed “marital sex, gay sex, premarital sex, polyamory”.

    In the Conservative “wrong” box are listed “gay sex, pedophilia, polyamory, and bestiality”, in the “right” box is listed “marital sex”. Rape is not included in either box because

    …rape is grouped under either “premarital sex” or “marital sex.” It’s not treated separately.

  3. Posted August 28, 2012 at 4:13 pm | Permalink

    Rape is not sex in the same sense that:
    - vehicular homicide is not driving
    - assault is not fighting
    - robbery is not theft
    - peanuts are not nuts
    - pluto is not a planet
    - showers are not rain, flurries are not snow

    To people who take pride in the quality of their education in the fields of equality politics and social activism, someone who confuses “racism” and “national and ethnic chauvinism” is a bloody idiot who needs to be made an example of.

    But to tell an average person that rape is not sex is likely to get you some funny looks at best, and ignored at worst. To most, rape is sex — violative, non-consensual sex, but still sex. You’re welcome to take people to class to enlighten them on your definitions, but please don’t assume everyone’s words mean the same things as yours do. Not a cromulent assumption.

    • Posted August 31, 2012 at 2:17 pm | Permalink

      Wow strongly worded but I actually quite agree.

  4. Posted August 28, 2012 at 7:08 pm | Permalink

    This never made any sense to me. Rape is inherently sexual, and its sexual nature is part of what makes it as powerful and traumatic as it is. The word sex just refers to a physical act, an act that happens during rape. Sex need not be value laden, we need not expect that sex will always be a good thing (for all that it ideally would be).

    Also on the “method of conception” thing: I disagree with Ryan, I promise, but it was a valid argument and I don’t think, in context, he was trivializing rape. Because, if a woman does get pregnant by rape, then rape *was* the method of conception. That doesn’t mean she shouldn’t be able to abort the fetus. I’m just saying the language is fine.

  5. Posted August 29, 2012 at 10:28 am | Permalink

    Just as you say, the conservatives, and anti-women people more generally, typically have a what I call a “property model” of rape.

    Since these folks do not see women as people, but instead as the property of particular men, the WOMAN’s consent is irrelevant. “Rape” is a label they put on sex that is not approved of by the man presumed to control the woman in question’s sexuality. Hence, in this way fo thinking, there is no thing as marital rape, because the husband is the person who consents or not to his wife engaging in sexual behavior. On the other hand, in this way of thinking, female sex workers or other women who have taken subversive actions that make them unworthy of protection by any man (wearing a short skirt, getting a job traditionally held by men, having opinions on political or social issues, all that bad, bad unladylike stuff) cannot be raped, since no man controls them. This helps me to make sense of the conservative’s seemingly inhoherent views — they all make sense, when you realize they don’t think we are full human citizens.

  6. Posted August 29, 2012 at 2:58 pm | Permalink

    I think most people would define rape as “sex without consent” if asked, which would make rape a kind of sex. However, while not actually true, the phrase “Rape is not sex” points towards an important distinction between consensual sex (normal sex) and non-consensual sex (rape). Certainly from the viewpoint of a victim there would be a valley between even the most regrettable sex and sex they didn’t have any choice with.

    However there are MANY walks of life in America where the people don’t consider consent very relevant to sex. The social conservatives that took over the republican party are the most prominent and powerful group by far. For them there is another set of criteria for separating good sex from bad sex, including marriage and love. They would agree that a man shouldn’t force a woman, but they also believe that women who want sex outside of a committed relationship are troubled in some way.

    I think there are also other people who de-emphasize consent. Certainly the Pick-Up-Artist community often ignores what the woman really wants. They kinda assume that all women are going to want a sufficiently high-status man as soon as they meet him. A lot of women subscribe to a form of romance where sex is something that just happens during some magical moment. A weird mix of those ideas dominate many pick-up scenes.

    Also, there are the common stereotype that men are super-horny and are compelled by their penis to pursue sex whenever available. This implies that men rarely “choose” to have sex, rather they simply give in to the power of their own dicks. Women then in turn give in to men with sufficiently big dicks/high status, or men who’ve “done right by them” with romance and commitment. A proper couple resists the power of the penis until their wedding night.

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