Yesterday, Libby Anne posted a piece about sex as marital duty. Go read it. Libby Anne is usually worth reading, and there’s a lot of food for thought and some really shocking quotes from a fundamentalist marriage guidance book (the worst being without doubt: “Don’t talk to me about how uncomfortable or painful it is for you. Do you think your body is special and has special needs? Do you know who created you, and do you know he is the same God who expects you to freely give sex to your husband? Stop the excuses!”).
Anyway, the main body of the post is about how Libby consented to and had sex with her husband when she didn’t really want to because she felt it was her duty, and in the comment section someone implied that this could be described as rape. I objected, other people chimed in, it went back and forth a little, and then I wrote this: “Rape is a word for when one party deliberately ignored their partners non-consent (given in words, screams, physical fighting, or whatever) [...]“
Take a good look at that. This, ladies and gentlemen, is rape culture. Right there out of my own fingertips.
Non-consent doesn’t start when you’re screaming. Non-consent is simply the absence of consent. When you’ve said “yes” (in words or deeds), you have consented. If you haven’t, you have not consented. Consent isn’t the default position. Assuming otherwise is rape culture, and frankly, I can’t believe it’s still so firmly rooted in my brain that I don’t even recognize it until it’s pointed out to me. (Which other commenters fortunately did.) It’s not as obvious as when this Arizona judge told a victim of sexual abuse that if she hadn’t been there that night, none of that would have happened to her, and that she had “learned a lesson about vulnerability”, but it’s still rape culture.
The difference between non-consent and consent isn’t the difference between silence and a no, it’s the difference between silence and a yes. (Not necessarily in verbal form.)
And this is important. Knowing it, remembering it, emphasizing it is important. I wasn’t sure I was going to write this post until I went to a news site and found this (article in German, quoted parts my own translation):
Controversial acquittal for rape in Germany
[...] A 31-year-old accused of rape was acquitted because his 15-year-old victim supposedly did not fight back enough.
The incident occurred in July of 2009 in the 31-year-old’s apartment [...]. After sending his life partner and a friend out of the flat, he allegedly forced the girl to have sex with him. The man reportedly was inebriated and addicted to alcohol and drugs at the time of the event. “No, I don’t want that”, the student allegedly said, but the man, who is considered to be extremely inclined to use violence, carried on. He is currently serving a three-year prison sentence for brutally beating a life partner, among other things. [...]
According to the judge, the girl could have run away or called for help. “If one doesn’t want something, one has to make it clearer. He didn’t know that she didn’t even want it”, she was quoted in the “Recklinghäuser Zeitung”. The prosecutor also pleaded not guilty on Monday.
The girl’s lawyer, Dirk Brockpähler, gave the following advice to all women according to the paper: “When in doubt, you have to scratch.”
(Wow do I ever suck at this translation thing.)
You know what sucks even more? The shit I translated. But it’s shit like this that needs to be seen and heard so we can recognize the importance of talking and thinking about rape culture and how its views influence our lives.
In case you’d like to know more about the topic, allow me to point you to this excellent website and leave you with this video of people portraying consent and non-consent (which for some reason always left me in a better mood when I watched it):