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» Scarleteen Boards: 2000 - 2014 (Archive) » SCARLETEEN CENTRAL » Sexual Ethics and Politics » What is rape?

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Author Topic: What is rape?
Dzuunmod
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We've had plenty of discussions here that have touched on this before, but we've never hit it head-on, as far as I can recall.

The recent thread in which Mehitabelle spoke about the rape rules at her college, coupled with Dan Savage's take on the subject made me think that maybe we should take it up here.

Obviously, this is one of the most heated and difficult issues of our time, certainly in terms of sex-related stuff. The discussion here has the potential - as many discussions in this forum do - to get ugly. Let's all work to avoid that, shall we?

As a mod, I'll be keeping a close watch on this thread, and I'll be quicker, probably, to close it than I would with others. But at ST, we usually do pretty well with controversy, so I'm thinking that it won't come to that.

So, Dan had to deal with it, because in a previous column he mentioned that he thought that having sex with someone who's under the influence of alcohol isn't rape. He got a lot of emails disagreeing with him, and I think that's as good a place as any to start (though if you want to go in another direction, feel free).

Is sex with someone who is intoxicated in some way, rape?

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...and we raise the white flag, so they can paint it red and blue!
-Joel Plaskett, True Patriot Love

[This message has been edited by Dzuunmod (edited 06-05-2003).]


Posts: 1515 | From: Montreal, Quebec, Canada | Registered: Jun 2000  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Confused boy
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I would say no since it would set up some awful legal precedents. The question is how exactly alcohol is meant to make apparently consensual sex*, unconsensual. The answer would probably have to be that drunk people are unable to give consent, like minors. Thus they can claim rape on grounds that they were unable to give consent.

Now if consumption of alcohol, all of a sudden, becomes grounds for diminished responsibility then who can be held culpable for their actions while drunk? Vandalism, theft, arson could not be charged if the participants were drunk at the time of doing the crimes.

It could even act as a legal loophole. Someone could carry out a crime deliberately with alcohol in their veins and then claim momentary insanity or diminished responsibility.

Then what happens when a couple has sex in which both parties were intoxicated? Do the two cancel each other out? Can both parties claim a case of rape against the other! Or if it were a heterosexual coupling, would a sexist attitude be taken which would assume the man must have initiated sex under these conditions?

*Edit: Please note I am dealing exclusively with cases where the victim of the supposed rape is conscious and apparently gives consent at the time. Cases where the victim has fallen unconcious is, of course, a completely different matter and where I think rape would be the correct description.

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'An Anarchist is a Liberal with a bomb' Trotsky

[This message has been edited by Confused boy (edited 06-05-2003).]


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logic_grrl
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I'd define rape as sex without someone's consent, or when they're not in a position to give meaningful consent (e.g. if they're unconscious, or too young to fully understand).

If someone gives consent - even if it's because they're drunk and choose to do something which they wouldn't necessarily do when sober - it isn't rape.

On the other hand, if someone is so drunk they can't give meaningful consent - e.g. if they clearly have no idea what's going on around them, or if they're semi-conscious or unconscious - then it does make sense to call it rape.


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Agent_Smith
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What aobut getting someone purposefully drunk to make it easier to have sex with them? moraly would that be rape? it would at least be moraly wrong
Posts: 11 | From: S/w England | Registered: May 2003  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
logic_grrl
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It would certainly be morally wrong and extremely exploitative and unfair, but (assuming that the person was still in a condition to give meaningful consent to sex, and did so), it's not rape, IMHO.

And bear in mind that unless someone is somehow tricked into consuming alcohol without knowing it, they get to choose how much they drink. If they choose to get drunk to the point where they make bad decisions, then they are responsible for that choice.


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Laura
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I hope you don't mind if I approach this question from a slightly different angle and ask, what about "lesser sexual activities" (for lack of a better term) in which not all parties are willing participants?

I was in a relationship, a long time ago, where I endured a lot of things like that. My then-boyfriend would hold me down and refuse to let me up until I kissed him, and he would repeatedly grope my breasts in public after I'd repeatedly told him not to, etc.

I know that's not rape, and I don't want to insult any real rape survivors by saying it is. But I think it goes a step or two beyond "being a jerk" as well. And since I occasionally have to discuss this with people (since I still have flashbacks sometimes), it would be nice to have a name for this sort of thing.

I know that the last letter in Dan Savage's column was supposed to be humorous, but it makes a very good point: it's hard when we have such a limited vocabulary to use to talk about a whole continuum of sexual boundary-crossings.


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logic_grrl
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quote:
But I think it goes a step or two beyond "being a jerk" as well.

Absolutely. By the way, for people who haven't read the column, "being a jerk" is Dan's useful classification for people who attempt to emotionally pressure others into consenting to sex.

But this is in another category altogether, since you weren't consenting, full stop.

It's certainly bullying and harrassment, and under some laws (such as UK law), something like grabbing someone's breasts when they've made it clear they don't want it could qualify as "indecent assault".


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BruinDan
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quote:
Originally posted by Laura:
My then-boyfriend would hold me down and refuse to let me up until I kissed him, and he would repeatedly grope my breasts in public after I'd repeatedly told him not to, etc...it would be nice to have a name for this sort of thing.

If he was doing things of that nature against your will and after you'd made it clear that you didn't want any of it, that would fit the legal elements of "sexual battery." Not as handy a term, but at least you'd have a name for it.

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BruinDan, "Number Three," FHOM

Beware the naked man who offereth you his pants.


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