« Let's talk about rape culture | Main | Let's talk about consent »

April 22, 2013

Comments

Miriam Busch

Thank you. Beautifully said.

Tessa

Thank you, Shannon, for this and your earlier post about rape culture. I hadn't realized how much ignorance factored into rape culture, but explains a lot. Thanks for doing what you do!

Jenn

The most powerful thing I took away from this post is that "consent isn’t the absence of a “no;” consent is an unequivocal and enthusiastic YES." I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE that. Thank you for saying it. <3

Dan

I feel like it's fair to say that it would have been ethically wrong for the officer to label it as rape. If he had called it rape he would have been declaring guilt to an unconvicted defendant. Sex is merely an etymological evolution of the phrase 'sexual intercourse'. Animals can have sex, and the nature of consent between animals is of course very different between the nature of consent between people.

Please understand, I am in no way saying that rape and consensual sex have anything in common. They are profoundly different and should absolutely be understood as different. But words have fixed meanings. They can evolve into something different over time, but denotation is not the same as connotation. Sex, as a word, has neither a positive nor a negative denotation. It describes an act, not an emotion. As such, the use of the word by the officer was correct. He could have used a more clinical word, say 'intercourse', but using the word 'rape' in a public interview could have caused problems with the actual trial. It's the legal equivalent of going door to door with pamphlets declaring a certain person is guilty. Police can't do that.

Barker Jones

There's a TV ad that shows sporadically over here in Ireland, showing a girl and boy in a bedroom with a party in the background. The girl attempts to leave, but the boy overpowers her. At the same time, the same boy is watching from behind glass, where he tries to intervene but can't, and a voiceover says something along the lines of 'If you looked from a different angle, would you see rape?' There's a similar one about domestic abuse. They're very discomforting - which of course is part of the point - but part of what bothers me is that the girl doesn't scream or yell, despite the party going on in the next room; she accepts what's going on as though she deserves it. Very, very scary stuff.

Jenifer

Good points about rape being different than sex. I agree.

I have to say though, that there is also a difference between "sex" as you define it, or as it is intended to be, and masturbation, pornography and promiscuity. Doesn't pornography contribute to the mental shift- from loving, consensual partners to objectifying sexuality? Is rape completely different from consensual sex- as you suggest it is, or is rape the next step on a slippery slope of sexual perversion?

I tend to see rape as the horrible next step along a path that one may have entered into subtly and got caught in the grasp of an addiction that requires more and more to appease the sexual appetite. Did these boys rape because they were evil, self seeking woman haters? Or because they were caught in an addictive web just continuing their search for pleasure?

The difference between my view and yours is that you would teach the line being consent-- I would put the line much further back. I would teach my children that sexual perversion is a slippery, addictive slope- I would tell them to avoid pornography, masturbation and promiscuity. (I believe these socially acceptable perversions appeal to the same parts of the brain that leads to rape and other repulsive behavior.) I also imagine that alcohol and drugs blur ones ability to consent or use good judgement.

You can say there is a difference between a casual drinker and an alcoholic. But one does not become an alcoholic the day he kills someone driving drunk. Similarly, I doubt you can say rapists had healthy, consensual sex up until the night that they drugged and raped a girl. The trail of sexual perversion starts much sooner.

Just my two cents. Again, I'm not disagreeing, just probably bringing up a different point. I'm not sure you stop rape by defining the act- I imagine you stop it by avoiding the steps that lead good people towards evil things.
Interesting discussion...

Isaac

I agree with what Dan posted above. The officer has to report what happened with sheer facts and not sentence the individual with his words.
For example:
1. "I walked into the apartment and witnessed John stabbing Mary with a knife."
or 2. "I walked into the apartment and witnessed John murdering Mary with a knife."

The first statement tells the facts and allows a jury to decide the proper legal ramifications. The second statement passes a moral and legal judgment on the defendant, who hasn't even faced trial yet.

I agree with everything else that you said, I simply think that its unfair to condemn the officer for using the phrasing he did.

I also agree that our culture's widespread acceptance of pornography as "normal" or even "healthy" for adults and teens to view is ridiculous. It promotes sex as self-pleasure rather than consensual love.

SarahJ

Thank you, thank you, thank you. There are great resources out there for parents. One of my favorites is "How to Talk to Your Child about Sex," by the Eyres.

shannon hale

Dan and Isaac, I have to disagree with you. The officer could have defined what happened without using either "rape" or "sex." By using the word rape, as you pointed out, he'd be making a judgment about what occurred before it was proven. But by using the word "sex" he erred on the other side of the same continuum. He could have used the words I used. He didn't have to say "sex." By calling what happened sex, he was adding to the voices of confusion about what sex is. And that confusion is helping to cement a rape culture. Call it what it was without making a legal accession: Forceful penetration. It's gross to say, but let's not dance around the issue. By using the word "sex" his statement was entirely inaccurate.

Juliana Montgomery

After reading this post, I'm even more excited to see you on Saturday. Well spoken and insightful.

Rebekah

Very well written; clear enough to use to explain to young people.

Linda W

Another excellent post and a much needed discussion.

Hellmut

I wish this were true. However, the reality is that sex often involves physical and emotional abuse. It is important that we confront that openly and bravely so that we can deal with abuse.

Any essential aspect of our life can be abused. That is also true of sex. Denial and redefinition will not improve life. Courage, preparation, and empathy will.

Lily

I think that so many of our books and movies now encourage males to convince, pester, and basically wear down a woman. It is seen as sexy or romantic when the hunky guy refuses to let the woman escape him. He "shows her how to let go" of her stodgy ways. He overcomes her reserve by "wearing her down." It looks nice in the movies, but it is damaging in real life. If this is what our boys are being taught, how can we expect them to respect "no"?

Lizzie

Thank you, Shannon, for your thoughts. They are expanding my own on a subject I hadn't given careful thought to. On the core level I agree with you. Everything that isn't an emphatic "yes" shouldn't be considered as consent and is totally wrong. I have to admit though, I still feel uncomfortable lumping together everything on the spectrum of consent. I agree with Lily. Isn't it possible that a man, hearing a woman say, "No, I'd rather not," thinks, "Oh, she just needs a little encouragement, a little persuasion." If she doesn't do or say anything else, how is he to know that she's actually not giving consent instead of just maybe feeling lukewarm about it? I have a hard time lumping that together as one with a forcible rape. Or, if the girl is passed out--she's obviously not giving consent and it is OBVIOUSLY wrong, but couldn't he just be thinking "Oh, she won't mind! She would say yes if she were awake." I agree--I DO think that is rape, but is that really on the same level as if she were awake and rejecting him? Couldn't he just have assumed (wrongly) that's what she came to the party FOR?

Chrystle

@ Lizzy

You said "If she doesn't do or say anything else, how is he to know that she's actually not giving consent. . ." Because she already said no. That's actually a part of rape culture - the attitude that if she isn't fighting and screaming, then it isn't rape. She already said no, and any man or boy worth his salt would accept that, and anyone who continues to push is suspect.

I think the difference you are articulating is that the examples you gave don't have the component of physical assault. They are examples of rape, but the perpetrator didn't physically assault them at the same time. It makes it no less rape, though.

ESB

Thank you so, so much. Thank you for continuing this difficult but worthwhile conversation. Thank you for recognizing that rape isn't about promiscuity, but is a violent crime that happens to use the same body parts. Thank you for encouraging parents not to hide behind their own embarrassment and instead talk to their kids about sex, rape, and all that goes along with them. Too often I think parents are afraid that to breathe the word "sex" invites unwanted behavior, but as you said, kids will learn from somewhere if we don't teach them. Better from loving parents in a safe location than after unspeakable damage has been done.

Cathy Lane

Add to this discussion the situation where a girl (and sometimes boy) is too young to give consent, even if she is emphatically saying "yes". I knew a barely 13 year old who was pregnant by a 21 year old man. She was part of my daughter's church group and in later years my daughter said that this child/girl had been very open about being sexually active and had tormented my daughter on the subject. Even as an adult, my daughter doesn't like to hear the other girl described as being a victim of statutory rape. She still can't see that a girl of that very young age was clearly being used as a sexual object by the older man who should have known better. Her parents were incompetent (Mom) and mostly absent (Dad). Other caring adults were not successful in helping with the home situation. She didn't have the ability and maturity to know enough to consent and everyone in her life had failed to protect her against the adult predator and protect her from herself. Add to the problem that our society pushes dating on very young people. I find a 10 year old "going on a date" to be abhorrent, not cute. Our media floods children with sexual images and stimulus. Is it any wonder our young people get it wrong.

Sarah P

Shannon, just wanted to say thank you so much for adding your voice to this conversation. I love your analogies about actions that use the same body parts but are unequivocally not the same thing. If we can distinguish caressing someone's cheek and a slap to the face, we should be able to distinguish sex and rape. I've done sexual assault awareness work before, and often when you talk to young men about consent, some of them are thrown into confusion by the idea that consent should be affirmative and freely given - not just the absence of a "no" or even "She lets me do what I want even after she said no, so she must have really wanted it." These young men are like "But how will I know if she really wanted it?" or as a commenter above said, "Can't I just assume she wanted it?" I always tell them that if you're paying attention to the other person, you can tell if they're interested and enjoying it or not, and that it's laughable, really, that you wouldn't be able to tell (and if you really can't tell - stop). A colleague of mine gave a talk to college freshmen about consent and one of them raised his hands and said "Wait - you mean I can't have sex with someone when they're passed out?" I thought about that immediately when I heard about Steubenville.

When you phrase it the way you have, I makes me rethink now the reasons for this confusion...I think that part of the reason is that some men worry about giving up a privileged position in a sexual hierarchy that says that men are the active ones and women are the passive ones/men are sexual actors and women are sexual objects, but this conflation of rape and sex in people's minds also contributes to it. We really do need to disentangle these concepts, and I think as you do that it needs to start with young people hearing these messages and parents talking to their kids about it, starting as young as possible in an age-appropriate way.

It makes me so happy that you are so brave in speaking out about these issues!

Maggie

Shannon, this post is awesome. Thanks for bringing this topic up in a very open and safe part of the Internet (thanks to all the great people who read this blog too!).

This entire discussion makes me very greatful for my education regarding rape culture. Being able to talk about this topic is super important, so I so glad you brought it up!

Kate

Thank you so much for these posts. I too hope for change and the end of rape culture.

Hillary

I saw a post on facebook this morning that listed all the things that are not contributors to rape, and one of the factors listed was alcohol. I don't think it helps rape awareness to ignore one of the major contributors. That is just putting out more bad information. I think in the Steubenville case, the lack of consent is outrageously obvious. But what about the situations where both minors are drunk but still fully conscious and engaged in the act? If the next morning, the girl awakes and is mortified by what happened, is the male more guilty in this case than the female? It seems many women feel this way. But why is he supposed to be thinking more clearly than her? I'm absolutely not saying that any girl who drinks gives up her natural right not to be raped. But I do think it's dangerous to not teach girls that they have a responsibility to safeguard their ability to think clearly and make make wise choices by staying sober.

Myself

Shannon: I respect you a lot. I specifically respect your eagerness to improve the culture, to root out rape culture where it grows. You're definitely right when you say that it's important that we discuss sex and consent with our children.

But the word "sex" as commonly used in English does not necessarily imply consent. Dictionary.com defines "sex" as "coitus" or "sexual intercourse" and "rape" as "nonconsensual sexual intercourse." Rape is nonconsensual sex. That's what most English speakers mean by those words, so it's what those words mean. To use your analogy, the word "sex" is more analogous to "words" than it is to "conversation."

It may well improve the culture to change the way we use the word "sex" so that it *only* means consensual sexual intercourse. We already have some words that require consent (lovemaking, hooking up). But saying so doesn't make it so.

Myself

As far as improving rape culture goes--I believe that popular conception of sex as "scoring," particularly for men, dehumanizes women. Probably very few parents sit their sons down and explain clearly that women aren't scores or prizes or something to be "landed," but people with hearts and choices. This could be done through a modern egalitarian approach--"Son, girls are like you. They have the same kind of minds as you. They feel pain like you do. They feel rejected like you do." This could also be supplemented by a more old-fashioned approach stressing *chivalry,* the idea that *all* women (regardless of family background, profession, or the way they dress) deserve special respect, and that in fact men have a duty to help them.

shannon hale

Myself, I'm confused by your confusion. Your definition supports mine. Consent is implicit in the meaning of "sex." There is no meaning to "sex" unless it's consensual. The moment it's not, according that dictionary, it becomes rape. The two cannot coexist. If consent is absent, the physical action is not sex but rape. Consent is so fundamental to what sex is, there's a separate definition for what it becomes if consent is absent: rape.

Justin B.

This is truly fantastic!! It audaciously lays out the differences between the words "rape," and "sex," in terms of their implications on their usage and understanding in our society. If it absent of love and consent, sex devolves into rape and assault. That is how we should define them, in order to subvert the dangerous connotations that have deluded people into believing to question the clear immorality of rape, assault, and sexual abuse.

You are truly one of my literary heroes, Shannon Hale!! These posts are just so succinct, so clear, and so thought-provoking. Having read all your recent posts about the apprehension and reticence from male readers about your books, I am always humbled by these posts that challenge so many obvious problems in our society. If I were an educator, I'd be getting all my students to read "Princess Academy;" the perfect gateway book for discussion about the continuing problem of sexism and education within the world (particularly countries like Afghanistan).

Kelly Reed

Myself is correct, and the dictionary definition doesn't support the one that you have used here. The dictionary does not say that "sex" is consensual or nonconsensual. Consent is not part of the definition. "Rape" is a specifically nonconsensual version of sex. I doubt "making love" is in the dictionary, but that would be a good example of a specifically consensual version of sex. According to the dictionary, sex is a category under which rape falls; they are not organizationally equal. Sex or "sexual intercourse," according to the dictionary, is a penis going into a vagina. That is coitus. The intentions or feelings of the people involved are not predefined by the term "sex."

Now, this is simply a discussion of what the dictionary definition IS. If you want to talk about subjective, connotative interpretations of what people mean when they say "sex," that's a different can of worms entirely. Maybe you would prefer to change people's perceptions of what "sex" means; that's fine. However, you're not talking about the objective definition when you do this.

I liked this article and agree with every important aspect thereof, wholeheartedly. I'm just an English teacher and a linguist and value clarity when the topic of word definitions comes up. :)

Jennifer

Well said Shannon. Educating, and talking with our kids is so important. How many issues could we solve by having conversations with our kids. Many people think that it is a parent's job to educate their kids on matters of sex, and I agree. The problem is that so many, many parents don't care enough to teach their kids shapes and colors when they are toddlers and preschoolers, let alone anything harder.

Chuck

I agree wholeheartedly with the spirit and the vast majority of your post. One small but important quibble. If the definition of rape is the absence of consent (which I certainly agree it is), it is critical to define accurately what consent is. Consent must be unequivocal it does NOT need enthusiastic. Oh certainly true consent can't be coerced, forced, or given through intimidation but it doesn't need to be enthusiastic. Think about what saying it does implies. If a wife is tired and would rather sleep but willing (note the world willingly) but unenthusiastically gives it up to her husband that's not rape. You can certainly be willingly and unenthusiastic at the same time. I willingly and unenthusiastically went to the dentist last week. You can argue that that's not the ideal, and that a man should be able to read between the lines and refrain, and that sex should never be done out of a sense of obligation, but you can't argue that there was no consent. If she implicitly and explicitly makes clear that she's willing to have sex it's not rape no matter how unenthusiastic she may be.

Cait

UGH YES this is so important. I've written numerous times on my own blog about honest sex education, rape culture and feminism, and the invisibility of rape culture to most people. These are conversations we absolutely need to keep having, so thank you for contributing so well.

Rape and sex are different. Rape is not aggressive sexuality, it is sexualized aggression. Sex is okay. Rape is not.

Mandy

Well said Shannon!

SE

“Spoken words involve the mouth, tongue, and larynx, yet we know the difference between friendly conversation and a tirade of insults.”

This is a fantastic point. It is so important to understand that rape is not a sexual act--it is a violent act. As someone living in Steubenville (and boy, have we gotten some media time lately!) it is sickening to see the support these boys have gotten locally. They were plainly popular guys.

I think the tragedy of rape is that men have the ability and the duty to protect and cherish women, and rapists, plainly, don't do that.

john doe

Oh I will be crucified for this comment.

First, there is a lot of good take aways from this article. I agree with the article... mostly. Rape is a violent act and sex is a tender loving act. That is true. And is missing the subtleties of human interactions. What if the two parties disagree on what it was? What if the girl retroactively decides the guy was forcing himself on her? Between "unequivocal and enthusiastic YES" and "passed out drunk" there is a huge minefield of "maybe", implied consent and the like and once you are labelled sexual offender, you are done for life and so you are making the life of teenagers even harder -- do you need to get consent in writing now? I am serious -- if we say that if "unequivocal and enthusiastic YES" is missing it's rape then you better do.

Erin

There are so many facets to this issue, and I don't feel like we're looking at the full spectrum. Rape culture does not start and stop at one (or two or more) teenage boys. For one thing, I don't think that every case like this, involving underage boys in a drunken/party type situation, is the same as a full grown man. When a grown man rapes someone, the "reason" or root can usually be attributed to one of several things: anger, control, revenge, or perversion. But I think in teens, the roots are often quite different, and usually stem from a combination of opportunity; peer pressure; hormones; immaturity; alcohol; excessive exposure to sexual and violent images and attitudes from a very young age; an attitude of selfishness; a pervasive cultural acceptance of immodesty, pornography, and promiscuity; and the general devaluation of other people, respect, responsibility and consequences, and the intimacy and meaning of sex. So a lot of education needs to happen for any of that to change.

And also, if we are going to talk about education and change, we cannot simply dismiss everyone's own personal responsibility for their own choices in putting themselves into dangerous situations. While no one could EVER do ANYTHING that would make them "deserve" to be raped, they can do dangerous and irresponsible things that put themselves at unnecessary risk. While we are doing all this discussion and education, we must talk to teens about the gamble they are taking when they choose to drink (especially if they choose to do it irresponsibly/excessively), and about making wise choices about the situations they put themselves into. In an ideal world, anyone could make mistakes without the outcome so grossly outweighing the mistake. But this is not an ideal world, and everyone has to be wise about going into dangerous or stupid situations. I know it's not PC to ever consider that the perpetrator might have some problems going on in his life that have led him to make these terrible decisions, or to realize that the victim might have to look back and say, “Yes, I made some stupid decisions and I put myself in a dangerous situation that I shouldn't have been in.” But truly, sometimes those things really are factors.

Some responsibility also lies with the other teens who are promoting this behavior by passing around pictures and stories, by calling the victims names, and by shielding the perpetrators. The teenage culture that would allow and perpetuate rape as entertainment has to be addressed.

Finally, we have to be doing some changing as parents. As mentioned in other comments above, parents have to take the responsibility for educating their kids, about both appropriate sexual situations and inappropriate ones. We have to be more careful about exposing them wantonly to excessive amounts of sex and violence in the media, and in their homes. We have to be more wise and more watchful about allowing them unlimited access to any and all technology at early ages. And we have to actually make them accept responsibility when they do things wrong, so that it will never come to a point of them expecting to have no consequences if they should choose to assault someone!

Rape is ALWAYS the rapist's fault and choice. But there is a long road for someone to travel down to get to the point where they would choose that, and we have to address all the problems along that road, not just the end result.

Myself

Shannon:

No. That doesn't make sense. Sex is "sexual intercourse." Rape is "nonconsensual sexual intercourse." It's like saying, "A Canadian is someone from Canada. An Ontarioan is someone from Ontario, in Canada." Ontarioans are Canadians, and rape is sex.

That is both the dictionary definition and what most English speakers mean by those words. Therefore that is what those words mean. You can try to change the meaning of the word "sex," but you can't declare it to already mean something different.

Jean

I'll go a step further-I think we need a new, short, catchy, and easy to remember word for consensual intercourse. Then new word = consensual sexual intercourse, sex = sexual intercourse, and rape = non-consensual sexual intercourse.

I think in today's cultures (both in America and abroad) women (and sometimes men) desperately need to learn the meaning of consent. I'm including the link to Diane E Anderson's post on Consent which you quoted in this post: "consent is an unequivocal and enthusiastic YES" http://diannaeanderson.net/blog/2064

Jean

(Thanks to Andrew Clements and his book Frindle for the idea behind a new word.)

Claire

Beautifully written and thought provoking. Thank you Shannon much !!

Becky

Having read through many of these posts I think many are missing what this blogg entry is trying to communicate. To me it isn't trying to encompass the whole huge grand scale of every possibility that is or could lead to rape, but rather it's suggesting a starting point, some place where we can being to change the rape culture. Yes, technically rape is a form of sex, but when we leave the definition there should we be surprised that there is confusion? Where is it written that as a culture we can't change the definition of a word? Go ahead and tell me what a "thong" is? Growing up it was what we now call flip flops. Now the word "thong" is a form of underwear. Why can't the word sex mean what has been suggested in this blog? I think the bottom line is we have a responsibility to draw a hard line on the definition of what rape is, to teach our young people how it differs from what sex should mean and to help them develop the courage to stand up and speak out when they see it happening. The time to start is now, the place to start is here, and we are the people that can make it happen.

Netsey

I would say that rape is sexual, in that it is related to sex, but it is not sex; It is counterfeit. For those of you who are members of the LDS church, I would say that it is equivalent to Communism versus the United Order. They are obviously related, but agency is lacking in Communism, just like rape. Rape is not sex. My definition of rape is forced sexual intercourse. However, I mean this differently than most people. To repeat myself, the word sexual here means related to sex (in an extremely twisted way), but not the equivalent. I think it is a tough subject, and for that reason, people have a hard time drawing a line of where sex is and where rape is. It isn't that difficult, it's the rape culture that makes it seem otherwise. People need to respect others. The end.

Megan Whalen Turner

Shannon, thank you for starting this conversation. It is painful to talk about, and I think most of us would like to avoid talking about it, but if we don't talk, as we have seen, nothing changes.

You said in your earlier post, and maybe this comment should be there, that people commit crimes because they think they can get away with them. I wanted to add that they commit crimes because they don't think they are *really* wrong. File sharing is a good example. People who would never, NEVER, steal a book out of a bookstore will steal an electronic copy with only a moment's hesitation and a little defensive rationalization. They don't really think it's wrong, just maybe a little illegal, but not for a good reason, therefore, it's actually okay.

This is what rape culture tells rapists-- it's not *really* wrong.

Sure, there are the rapists who jump out of bushes and violently assault women. Then there are the boys at Steubenville who talked about the rape, took pictures of the rape, joked about the rape and then were visibly stunned to be convicted of, you know, RAPE.

It makes sense to be careful. It makes sense to teach our children to be careful to avoid being a victim of *any* crime. But I believe, really, really believe, that every time we publicly suggest how a woman or a girl can avoid getting raped what we do is reinforce the idea that if they *don't* do these things then it is not *really* wrong to rape them.

I am sick of every single variation of "Yes, but that girl shouldn't have . . ."

I understand people's good intentions when they say that women should take self-defense classes and that girls shouldn't get drunk at parties and that we shouldn't walk in the dark alone. But the road to hell is paved with good intentions. If you tell girls and women that this is "just the way it is," it means that you are making sure this is the way it will *always* be.

It's time we made an effort to change our focus in these conversations. I think we need to make a deliberate effort to stop talking publicly about how women can avoid rape and start talking publicly about how men can stop being rapists. After all, we have already heard for several thousand years how women can avoid rape. I'm not worried about women not getting the message.

Liss

I ran across this a few days before I read your post here.....

http://www.askmoxie.org/2013/03/a-letter-to-my-sons-about-stopping-rape.html

Lizzie

Chuck expressed well the discomfort I feel about the definition of rape being anything where the consent isn't enthusiastic and verbally explicit.

That said, I am starting to revise the former opinion I expressed. I just read a post from a friend. I'll quote what she said: "I happened to walk past a porch of a fraternity house at UPenn packed with 30 or so drunken men chanting loudly in unison about raping women as several coeds watched casually from the sides. Seeing that this is coming from an Ivy League institution that should be recruiting among the brightest and best..." Wow! Scary! I am starting to think this is a more perfidious and pandemic problem than I realized.

Lizzie

Referring to my earlier comment, I guess I still just don't quite understand. Maybe someone could (nicely) explain it to me.

If a woman says, "I'd rather not" but then willing accepts the advances of a man, albeit lukewarmly, is that really rape? Doesn't her acceptance imply "Oh, okay, I changed my mind." (And as Chuck pointed out, you CAN be willing and unenthusiastic at the same time)

I've never been in this type of situation, and I don't know what it's like. In trying to imagine it, I suppose that maybe I could be so shocked and confused at being in a situation where a man was making advances that maybe I would freeze up and not know what to do. Is that the kind of thing that is going on? I'm really not sure I'm understanding.

Megan Whalen Turner

Lizzie, that's a really complicated question. I am afraid that I am not knowledgable or articulate enough to give you the answer you deserve. Is it legally rape? Morally rape? I don't know exactly where the line is, but I think it's what my kids would call, "sketchy." If someone says no, I think they should be taken at their word no matter what other "signals" they are sending. If they say "yes," and don't seem to mean it, though, I think a wise person will proceed very carefully. Sometimes love *is* putting other people desires ahead of your own. But the person on the receiving end of that gift needs to be certain that it is freely given.

Lizzie

Thank you for the thoughtful response, Megan Whalen Turner. (Don't think I didn't notice who had made the comment :D) I agree with what you said. I guess it's sad that this even has to be a question.

I'm going to throw a ludicrous idea out there. It's kind of seems like we're pointing to the idea of, well, "getting it in writing." The teacher in the article Shannon linked to basically said as much. Have them sign it on napkin. At first that sounds ridiculous. But maybe it's not such a bad idea. If it were understood that both partners needed to sign that consent was freely given (on both sides), and that without this there was the chance that one of them could be accused of rape, it might cause a lot of people to think twice about what they were doing--which would be a really great thing on a whole lot of fronts, if you ask me. It would impose a level of seriousness to sex that we have largely done away with in our society. You couldn't help but ask the question, "Wow--do I really want this in writing?"

Megan Whalen Turner

Oh, dear, now I am going to be not thoughtful at all. I've heard this question raised before-- but how will guys know if a women is consenting? Every time I think of this joke:

Bill: Hey, what's the difference between an elephant and an egg?
Will: I don't know, what IS the difference between an elephant and an egg?
Bill: Well, if you don't know, I'm sure not sending you out for eggs!

I don't really think it's unclear. I think we've all just been in the habit of making excuses for rape.

Lizzie

Ha ha :)

I think there is a lot I don't understand about these situations. I've never been there before, never even personally talked to anyone that has. It still seems to me like there could be some real ambiguity when it comes to consent, (though I don't really see much of that ambiguity in the cases that have made a buzz in the news). But I guess I do truly hope that if I ever saw or heard about something that looked sketchy, I would be able to tell the difference between an egg and an elephant.

By the way, Megan, not to destroy the pleasant anonymity here, but I've met you before. :D My friend and I lured you once to a bookstore with the promise of cookies and coffee and made you sign our books. Thank you so much for humoring a big fan! That was a highlight of my time in Ohio. Now I just need to move to Utah so I can meet Shannon Hale. I don't think coffee would work on her, though. Anyone got insider information on what she can be lured with? :D

Megan Whalen Turner

Hi Lizzie! It's nice to bump into you again. Come lure me out for coffee anytime! "Will sign books for a latte" is pretty much my motto.

Bekah

Wow. I never thought of it that way. I never ever had a confusion about what is rape, but I guess I never thought of the importance/meaning of the words so much. Well spoken. You inspire me.

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