On 'gray rape', Girls, and sex in a rape culture

About five years ago, I was out and about with some dude-friends. We went to a bunch of bars, danced, drank, etc. I was single and also, therefore, mingling. Flirting, they call it. Eventually when there was no more bar-hopping to be had, we went back to a friend’s house and laughed and talked and made jokes and took stupid photos. One of the men I’d been flirting with, let’s call him Brad*, gave me a ride home. We got to my house, made out, and I said something along the lines of “Alrighty then, see you later!” He said “No, I’m coming in.” I said “No, you’re not.” This charming back and forth went on for a little while until, eventually, he did come in.

So there was no force, no screaming, no violence. I didn’t feel afraid, per se. I “gave in”, I suppose you could call it. I imagine he thought he was being charming. This is likely a game he had played (and won at) dozens of times over. I, on the other hand, felt repulsed. I’d had sex with someone that, while yes, I was attracted to, was flirting with, and even kissed, did not plan on or want to have sex with. It wasn’t part of the plan. It become “part of the plan” because this man didn’t take my “No thanks!” seriously (and was clearly unconcerned with what I wanted) and because I eventually gave in. I didn’t know what to call it when I told friends about it. I think I went with “date rapey behaviour”.

Amanda Hess wrote about the most recent episode of Girls for Slate. In the article, entitled: “Was That a Rape Scene in Girls?” she describes how the Adam-Natalia sex scene wasn’t one that you might call the cops over; but it also wasn’t consensual in any true or ethical sense of the word. It wasn’t acceptable sexual behaviour by any means. But was it rape?

Hess writes:

What happened here? On the one hand, Adam has fulfilled Natalia’s initial requests—he is on top, comes outside of her, no soft touching. On the other hand, he is no longer being “really nice” or taking things “kind of slow.” This time, no one is laughing. What was abundantly “clear” the first time is now muddied. The first time, Natalia communicates with Adam to do just what she wants; the second time, Adam wields her words against her to do what he knows she really doesn’t. So when Natalia says, “No, I didn’t take a shower,” Adam says, “Relax, it’s fine.” When she says, “No, not on my dress,” he comes on her chest instead. “Everything is OK,” except when it’s not.

She goes on:

There is rape—a crime reported to the authorities, investigated by the police, and prosecuted in the courts. And then there is everything else that is not consensual, but not easily prosecutable, either: “gray rape,” “bad sex,” “they were both drunk,” the “feeling” of being “borderline assaulted.” It’s what happens when a person you want to have sex with “has sex with you” in a way that you do not want them to.

It’s muddy, yes. But we all know (or should know), that it isn’t ok. It’s what happens to women. It’s a run of the mill experience for many of us in this culture. It’s not something easily categorized as either “rape” or “consensual”. As many of us know all too well, there’s much more middle ground. And that “middle ground” is often disturbingly comparable to legal rape; but sometimes more difficult to talk about or sort out in one’s mind.

What happened between Adam and Natalia has happened to me before in one form or another. Once, when I was about 19 or 20, with a boyfriend who was angry and blacked out from drinking. I didn’t want to have sex, he did. We didn’t have sex. Instead, he masturbated over me.

Was it rape? Not technically, no. Was I going to call the cops and have him charged? No. Was it acceptable behaviour by any means? No. Was it a show of power? Yes. Did it make me feel sick and dirty and violated? Yes. Was it ‘consensual’? Hell no.

While “’no means no,'” Hess writes, “it is not the only measure of consent.”

After the incident with Brad — the “No, you’re not coming in”/”Yes, I am coming in” incident — I didn’t know quite what to call it. I told a couple of friends, one of them being one of the dude-friends I was out with that night, a friend of mine and of Brad’s. I said that, well, I suppose you would call it a kind of date rape. But no, it wasn’t “call the cops” date rape. It was, “Ok. I guess you’re coming in.” And “Ok, I guess we’re having sex that I didn’t really want to have.” My friend agreed that this was “date rapey behaviour.”

What happened was perhaps unclear in a legal context, but the way I felt about the situation was far from unclear. It wasn’t ok. Those I told about my experience knew it wasn’t ok.

On International Women’s Day, Toronto Mayor, Rob Ford, allegedly told transit advocate and publisher of the Women’s Post, Sarah Thomson that she “should have been with him because his wife wasn’t there.” And then, she says, he grabbed her ass.

Classy guy that Ford his, when Thomson went public about the alleged sexual harassment, he not only accused her of peddling “false allegations,” but he used feminism against her, saying: “What is more surprising is that a woman who has aspired to be a civic leader would cry wolf on a day where we should be celebrating women across the globe.”

A woman called a man out on sexual harassment and he actually had the nerve to use the woman’s movement against her.

I have a point. I’m getting to it.

Life happens in funny ways sometimes and five years later I was (briefly) dating a relative of Brad-the-sleazebag. Let’s call him Dave*. Needless to say, I didn’t tell Dave what had happened. I assumed it would come up at some point, but not on the first, or second, or third date. It became clear, eventually, that he what he knew was that we’d slept together about five years ago and that I had hated Brad ever since.

That relationship didn’t work out and, by coincidence, our mutual friend mentioned the whole “date rape” thing to Brad. He lost his shit and demanded I clear his name, to which I replied: “I don’t think I should have to say ‘no’ more than once. I’m not sure what you believe constitutes date rape, but if you want to avoid being accused of such things in the future, my recommendation would be to respect and hear ‘no’ the first time a woman says it.” He didn’t take that very well. He was enraged, in fact.

In some less-than-friendly parting emails between Dave and I, it became clear that, while I hadn’t told him exactly what had happened, Brad had told him about the “date rapey” descriptor. Via email, Dave accused me of somehow twisting the scenario around in my crazy, crazy head, in the process, “doing something” terribly cruel and unwarranted to poor, innocent Brad. Not only that, but, by describing my experience as one that was not consensual in any way I’d like to understand the word consensual (Let’s talk enthusiastic consent, hey? Not, I-wore-her-down-until-she-eventually-gave-in, consent) I was a bad feminist. Because, I suppose, what good feminists would do would be to pretend as though talking women into having sex with you even though they’ve said a number of times that they’d prefer not, is totally fine. His email was eerily Rob Ford-esque, saying: “given your role as a defender of women’s rights I find the hypocrisy staggering.”

Oh the hypocrisy.

Rather than simply take responsibility for his behaviour and admit that his behaviour was unacceptable, Brad’s primary concern was to defend his sleazebaggery and paint me as an evil liar, out to get him at any cost! He didn’t want to connect what he understood to be rape with his own behaviour and when men don’t want to understand or be accountable for their own behaviour, they accuse women of lying, of being crazy, or, apparently, of setting women’s rights back with their devious and delusional stories.

See, these men think they’re the “good guys”. The bad guys are in movies, climbing through windows or attacking women in parking lots. And those guys do exist, without a doubt, but if men are unwilling to acknowledge their own behaviour as part of a rape culture, women are going to continue to experience these traumatic “gray” areas and not feel able to call it out. If men are more interested in protecting their ingrained beliefs that they are right and good and entitled to behave in these ways, than treating women as more than sexual conquests, they aren’t likely to change.

The comment from Dave was so odd (and hurtful, as it always is when people victim-blame), partly because, as a feminist, what I’d always felt most guilty about was, first of all, that I hadn’t been “strong enough” to stop the sex I didn’t really want to happen from happening, and secondly, that when I described the experience to a few friends, I couldn’t be completely clear. “Date rapey,” I called it. “Not the kind of thing you press charges over but, you know, I said no, he said yes. And then we had sex anyway. I felt gross about the whole thing.” Shouldn’t I be able to name this incident in some kind of firm way? I felt I should know better on a number of levels. And here I was being accused of failing feminism for entirely opposite reasons.

I suppose you could call these “gray rapes”, as some people did with regard to the scene in Girls where Adam tells Natalia to crawl to the bedroom and then says to her: ““I want to fuck you from behind, hit the walls with you,” to which she does not say “no”, but is clearly not enthusiastically on board. He does fuck her from behind and then pulls out and masturbates over her. She says: “No, no, no, no, not on my dress!” Her face conveys how disturbed and unhappy she is with Adam’s behaviour. The lack of consent isn’t really confusing. He comes on her chest. “I don’t think I like that,” Natalia says. “I, like, really didn’t like that.”

Is she going to call the cops? No. Will she press charges? No. Will she even say that what happened was date rape? Probably not. Was she violated? Most definitely.

Hess writes:

… though terms like “gray rape” help some people talk about assault outside of the context of the legal system, they shouldn’t be used to excuse the aggressor—they should help raise the standard of what we all consider acceptable sexual behavior, whether or not the cops are called.

It’s scenarios like these that leave us without words to describe our experiences. They also leave us open to accusations of “crying wolf” or making “false accusations”.

But we know what our experiences are. We know when there is not consent and yet we can’t call it rape in a legal sense. These experiences leave us vulnerable to being silenced, blamed, and disbelieved. They leave us feeling unsure of ourselves. We ask ourselves what happened — Was it rape? Was it “borderline assault”? Was it just a bad experience that most women probably have? Should we have said “no” more clearly? Loudly? Firmly?

Certainly it’s something more than just a “bad experience” or “bad sex”. And yes, it’s muddy, but only because we live in a rape culture, where the line between consensual, nonconsensual, and legal rape are horribly blurred.

*Names have been changed
Meghan Murphy

Meghan Murphy

Meghan Murphy, founder and editor of Feminist Current, is a freelance writer and journalist. She completed a Masters degree in the department of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies at Simon Fraser University in 2012 and lives in Vancouver, B.C. with her dog. Follow her @meghanemurphy

  • Me

    You can’t call it rape in a legal sense only because the law is flawed (or designed) so there’s no legal penalty for this type of behavior.

    I suggest offer the good guys the opportunity to get a good, solid kick in the nuts from you and some other forms of redress you decide on, and for the ones who don’t go along with that there need to be legal remedies. “Now you had your sex, do you want me to kick you in the nuts?”, “Why, what the, No!”, “I’m going to anyway, just lay back and take it easy for a minute, okay, you’ll have time to think about it later on…”

    He pushed on because your no only meant to him you didn’t want it, which he didn’t care about in the first place. Unless you made your no threatening enough to snap him out of it out of self-interest, he would not have stopped. Because of the impotence of the legal system and the support he gets from others like him, by default he doesn’t risk any repercussions, which needs to change. Had he though he could get away with it, he would’ve escalated, he already did that. At what point would you have considered “consenting” because to not consent would’ve seemed too dangerous or rash to do? Could that have already happened to a degree? At what point would you have been unable to voice anything at all? His is rapist behavior.

  • Hecuba

    Rape is deliberately defined very narrowly by men’s male supremacist legal system. Any time a male deliberately ignores a womans’/girls’ refusal to accede to his sexual demands he is enacting rape.

    ‘Consent’ means agreeing to the initiator’s demands – it does not mean free agreement. But ‘consent’ is used by male supremacist legal system to invisibilise/deny a male has committed sexual violence against a female. In other words women ‘consent’ or rather submit to male sexual demands and this is widely accepted as normal male sexual behaviour – or rather enactment of male sexual rights over women and girls. Female submission is not ‘consent’ it is submitting to male sexual demands wherein the male gets what he wants and rapes the woman. But Male Supremacist legal system says ‘no this isn’t rape because woman didn’t say “no” she didn’t hit male; she didn’t eject male from her home. This conveniently erases how male power operates because these men know their male supremacist legal system will not prosecute them so this gives them the green light to enact pseudo male sex right to female bodies.

    Furthermore because men have always defined rape very narrowly this means women who have been subjected to male sexual predators are very confused as to whether or not that nice male did rape them. Male supremacist system says ‘no’ and yet the woman feels she couldn’t do anything to stop him. Is she to blame? Yes according to men and their male supremacist system because men are never accountable or responsible for their sexual attitudes/behaviour. However, men do know when their bodily rights have been violated or when a male commits physical assault against them. Men know they will not be told ‘but you didn’t say no; you didn’t resist; you didn’t fight back – you submitted/consented so therefore you weren’t physically assaulted or you weren’t raped by another male. But we women are told and know we have no rights of sexual autonomy and we are also told what we experience and feel is not ‘rape’ but just normal male/female sexual interaction wherein male gets what he wants and we are told ‘it isn’t rape even though it might feel like it!’ But remember men know their bodily rights and men are not commonly told ‘you are responsible for allowing male to physically assault you/rob you of your money!’

    ‘Grey rape’ does not exist – rather what does exist as this article proves is mens’ pseudo sex right to female bodies is sacrosant and must not be criminalised or challenged.

    The most common scenario men enact is their refusal to listen to what the woman is saying or not saying. Instead men learn as boys their sexuality is naturally aggressive and dominating and it is a man’s role to ignore a woman’s ‘no’ or her unresponsiveness because all he can see is ‘his chance to sexually score and gain sexual pleasure’ by using the woman’s body as a masturbatory object. So what happens is the man ignores the woman’s verbal responses/her lack of enthusiasm and he justifies his actions in his mind by claiming ‘but she didn’t say no’ or ‘she didn’t hit me.’ Not that this would have made any difference because men collectively continue to enact the male mantra ‘women exist for me to sexually use and I’m not a rapist because real rapists are monsters with horns on their heads’ not me!’

    Innumerable men and teenage boys are enacting male sexual violence against women and girls and this is called ‘natural and normal male sexual behaviour’ – not pandemic male sexual violence against women and girls.

    Take note of what all these male rapists have in common and that is all of them were focused on their sexual demands and their sexual rights (sic). Brad committed rape because he ignored Meghan Murphy’s no to his demand to be let into her home. Brad knew exactly what he wanted and he engineered the situation to ensure he got what he wanted. Brad knew Murphy wouldn’t make a scene because women are taught as girls to always put mens’ feelings first and not to upset the male! Brad used to this to his advantage and he knew if Murphy did protest all he had to do was to use sufficient physical force and he would get what he wanted. But it wasn’t rape was it? Just as the ‘Natalie/Adam’ scene wasn’t rape was it? Adam ignored what Natalie wanted and like 99.9% all males, he got what he wanted. Natalie said ‘don’t penetrate me anally’ but Adam did – yet it wasn’t rape was it? Natalie didn’t want his fluids on her dress, so Adam ejaculated on her chest? Wasn’t male violation of woman’s right to refuse to be man’s ejaculatory dustbin was it? No just another man enacting his male pseudo sex right to female bodies.

    This is why men become very aggressive when they are challenged on their sexual violence to women because in 99.9% men’s minds ‘rape is rape when it is a (sex undefined of course) monster with horns on his head who rapes a virginal little girl.’ Not these respectable good guys who are merely enacting what male supremacist system has taught them. Men don’t want to be held accountable for their sexual predatory behaviour and neither do men want to be told ‘your sexual rights do not supercede women’s sexual right of ownership of their bodies.’ Men do not want to be told ‘you will be charged with rape if you override a woman’s decision not to engage in any sexual act you demand.’ Men do not want to be told ‘you will be charged with invasion of woman’s home if you override her decision not to let you in.’

    Not that any of the above happens under our Male Supremacist legal system. Instead these innumerable male rapists know they will never be charged for the crime of rape because the woman will be held responsible and blamed for not gatekeeping the mans’ natural (sic) sexually aggressive behaviour. See men can’t be held accountable for their decision to commit sexual violence against women because men are in thrall to their penises (sic); they don’t understand ‘female communication (sic). Mens’ excuses/justifications are numerous and not once do men say ‘I made the choice; I decided to override the woman’s ‘no’ lack of interest; I put my sexual demands first and I am a rapist.

    Rus Funk’s book Stopping Rape: A Challenge for Men provides succinct analysis of how and why social construction of male sexuality perpetuates male sexual violence against women. Funk does not exclude himself from enacting his male pseudo sex right to women’s bodies and he holds men accountable for refusing to accept accountability as regards their enactment of pseudo male sex right to female bodies.

    But central as to why male sexual violence against women exists and continues to be justified/denied by ‘those nice respectable good guys’ is that this pseudo male sex right must not be challenged or criminalised because men need regular sexual access to female bodies and men will spontaneously combust if they are denied this male (pseudo) right! Radical Feminists have analysed how male sexuality is cosntructed to justify and maintain male sexual domination/control over all women but this analysis is now invisible because male sex right to female bodies is sacrosanct! Catharine A. McKinnon says there is a very fine line between rape and normal male sexual behaviour and all too commonly this is merged into ‘just sex’ not rape/male sexual violence against women.

    • Meghan Murphy

      I totally agree, Hecuba. Especially with the fact that “girls [are taught] to always put mens’ feelings first and not to upset the male”. We want to be polite above all else, even if it means compromising on that which we should never have to compromise on.

      Considering the fact that we treat dominance as ‘sexy’ in this culture and sexualize inequity through porn and whatnot, it’s unsurprising that men learn this is perfectly normal ‘nice guy’ behaviour. I mean, I’m sure we could all tell dozens of other stories similar to this one.

      “Catharine A. McKinnon says there is a very fine line between rape and normal male sexual behaviour and all too commonly this is merged into ‘just sex’ not rape/male sexual violence against women.”

      Definitions of legal rape are useful in terms of prosecuting men who rape in very specific ways, but not so much in terms of talking about how sex and sexuality plays out in a rape culture and what men think is reasonable in terms of ‘getting women into bed’. I mean, even that approach, we can see, is rapey — the idea that men are supposed to try to ‘convince’ women to sleep with them. It’s all gross and dangerous.

    • Cissandra

      No, the definition is kept reasonably narrow because rape is specific type of violent behavior. I don’t understand this trope within certain strains of feminism that seeks to make “rape” any bad, awkward, or disappointing sex.

      Pestering someone to lend you money is unethical, but it’s not robbery. It only becomes robbery when you take the money by force. Not every unethical act can be criminalized. Choosing to give in and comply with requests for unwanted sex is just that, a choice. If you say “no” and someone pushes past it, then it becomes rape.

      But letting yourself get talked into unwanted acts is not, and should not be, a serious felony. What you’re advocating for would be a massive dilution of the very concept of rape.

      • Meghan Murphy

        Woah, woah, woah. Back up now. We aren’t talking criminalization. We’re talking rape culture. Read before commenting, please.

        P.S. I’m deleting your other comment because it is victim-blamey and creepy. I don’t think you’re getting the dynamics of hetero relations here…. Men shouldn’t be trying to coerce women into sex. Women shouldn’t have to say “no” over and over again.

        • Cissandra

          I think there needs to be a word for bad, potentially abusive, and violating sexual experiences that are still technically consensual. As in: “I didn’t want to do it, but I gave in because it just seemed easier and I didn’t want to make a fuss.”

          Surely every woman has experienced that kind of sexual encounter. I don’t endorse such behavior on the part of men, but I don’t think we should be seeking to expand the definition of rape to encompass every bad sexual experience. If a woman consenting to avoid a (non-violent) confrontation is legally considered rape, I think it would present some problems.

          I don’t think saying “I felt pressured” should be enough to put someone in prison for years or decades. It’s a slippery slope. What if he didn’t intend to pressure you? What if he was unaware that you felt pressured? What kind of pressure is sufficient to qualify as rape? Any pressure? What if he says he’s not happy with your sex life and wants to leave? If you have sex with him in an attempt to keep him in your relationship, has he raped you? If you have sex with him because you’re worried that he might stray if you don’t, has he raped you? What if you fear him for no good reason? What if you consent to sex because you irrationally fear that he might become violent if he doesn’t? Should he be punished for your inaccurate perceptions of him?

          It just creates too many issues. People would be terrified of sex because rape charges could appear out of nowhere, for almost any reason.

          • Meghan Murphy

            “I don’t think saying “I felt pressured” should be enough to put someone in prison for years or decades. It’s a slippery slope” — You’re doing it again (saying that people said things they didn’t say/trolling). No more commenting from you. Sorry.

          • Cissandra

            But you don’t understand. Rape is a crime.

            When you use that word, you are implicitly invoking the force of the criminal justice system.

          • Meghan Murphy

            I think what I’m talking about is the middle ground — i.e. not legal rape but also not consensual in any ethical use of the word — And what that middle ground is like in a rape culture. You got a pass on this comment, but you’re on thin ice. Tread carefully.

          • cinesimon

            Cissandra you don’t appear to have read the the article. You may want to think this “strain” of feminism wants to make all ‘bad sex’ rape(apparently all we’re talking about is ‘bad sex’, to those who couldn’t be bothered reading the article) – but that’s simply not the argument.
            What’s wrong with engaging in honest debate? I know it takes a little more effort, but merely setting up a straw man and knocking it down, is pointless.

          • Wednesday

            “People would be terrified of sex because rape charges could appear out of nowhere, for almost any reason.”

            I think some women are terrified of sex because of this type of behavior by men.

            And, I’m sorry, but being coerced to have sex does not qualify as “bad” sex, okay? Seriously! It’s not “bad” sex, it’s “forced” sex. Huge difference! HUGE!

          • Vicki

            For years or decades. You seem to think rape is much more heavily punished than it is. You also seem to think that women’s testimony is taken much more seriously than it is.

            I would also like to point out there are lots of other articles about other crimes that have yet to hear about all the possible ways people might simply be mistaken about something and end up in jail. For some reason people only want to do that when we talk about rape. As someone that matched the description of someone that stole a car, I’m a little hurt. Nobody ever derails threads discussing car theft to let everybody know that sometimes people are innocent.

    • Sinead

      I agree completely. Thank you for your detailed analysis. Very helpful :)

  • Morgan

    If men gave a shit at all about how women felt, about the consequences to women for “complying” with men’s sexual behaviours, this would never happen. (I really don’t know what verb to use that appropriately describes the experience, but it does feel like complying, in some senses, with a terrorist’s demands, when you know what possible outcomes for firm refusal could be, when you know you’ll be badgered (or worse) until you do give in anyway, when you’re tired and just want it to be over with, or whatever.)

    Men nag, men pester, and all with the threat of violence behind it. A woman is weighing all of these things – the consequences to her of going through with the sex, her real desire to avoid having sex, but also the consequences to her if she refuses too firmly – maybe not consciously but it’s going on, or it’s already been done and her gut instincts are based on this previous weighing. Women know no matter what – if sex takes place or doesn’t – we bear all the consequences in whatever form they may take. Pregnancy, an STD, injury, psychological trauma, physical trauma, verbal abuse, etc. etc. And we’ll also take the public-shaming, chastising, etc. if we dare to describe our experience of it. It’s never a man to blame, always the woman. No matter what, there’s some way to put it all back on her. If men truly got that, if they understood and cared, would they “have sex” with us when we weren’t interested??

    I’m sorry for your experience Meghan, and for the emotional abuse/manipulation that occurred after. We definitely need to be able to talk about this in a context where women’s perspective is the dominant perspective, where men’s voices aren’t there to try to absolve themselves. Imagine if laws were made from the perspective of women, imagine if courts took the woman’s view, imagine if we weren’t trying to do this “equality” crap that treats us all as if we were men, as if pregnancy wasn’t a concern, as if women weren’t more susceptible to STD infection via intercourse than men, as if women weren’t naturally these lust-inducing sex objects whose role is to be used by men.

  • http://smashesthep.wordpress.com smash

    Thanks for this discussion, Meghan. I am glad we are talking about this.

    Morgan, you are right on when you say, “If men gave a shit at all about how women felt, about the consequences to women for “complying” with men’s sexual behaviours, this would never happen.”

  • Ashley

    Thanks so much for writing this article. I had just such an experience many years ago, and have never really had a way to talk about it or put in context.

    Interestingly enough, my experience was with another woman. This type of behaviour is not just limited to men.

  • Cathy

    I’m uncomfortable with some of this discussion.
    I have successfully won a sexual assault (‘Rape’ doesn’t exist in Canada partially because that definition DIDNT cover it all) case in court and my abuser went to jail continuing to complain that the other victims and I “wanted it”. I also understand the “Gray” concept.
    I just wish all men weren’t being tarred with the same brush. Your Slimeball is likely a serial assaulter who continues to get away with this behavior. But most of the men in my world are decent humans who would not do what he did.
    I’ll continue to mull over this….

    • Meghan Murphy

      I’m not sure what it is you are uncomfortable with? My intention certainly wasn’t to ‘tar’ all men with the same brush. I agree with you that most men are decent humans. I have many male friends in my life who I love deeply and who are wonderful. When I shared this story with my male friends, even male friends who knew Brad, they agreed that his behaviour was unacceptable and date rapey (I’m sorry, I know the word ‘rapey’ is terrible and I’m cringing every time I write it…).

  • sporenda

    I don’t remember a rapey expereince like Megan’s; it might be due to the fact that I tend to be a contrarian: the more somebody puts pressure on me to do something, the more I want to do the opposite.
    But I understand perfectly what Megan says: that women are raised to be nice, to comply and to put men’s needs first.

    This other experience is a typical “unwanted sex” situation for lots of women: being in a marriage with a guy you still love (meaning feel affection for) but no longer feel like having sex with.
    You care about the guy, you enjoy his company, but the desire is dead, and sex with him is a chore. And he is your husband.
    Do you leave a decent guy that you still care about just because you lost interest in him sexually? Lots of people would say no.
    So despite the fact that sex bores you out of your mind, you still comply, because you feel you “owe” him: the husband and the wife having sex, is it not what marriage is about?
    This man did not put pressure on me, I DID, because of what society tells us about marriage: a good wife should attend to her husband’s needs, I didn’t think I could deny him his “right”.

    Eventually this marriage dissolved but for like 2 years, sex was strictly marital duty for me.
    That’s why I decided I would never marry again because I realized this “unwanted sex” situation is unavoidable in marriage, and I don’t want to put up with it.
    And that led me to my personal theory about female sexuality: females probably need to change partners more often than men to stay interested in sex (I do), but they can’t do that because if they do, they are called whores, they are stigmatized and persecuted by society, they might lose their income and family, and might even be beaten or killed by jealous husbands.
    In other words, women cannot afford to put their sexual needs first, ever, like so many men do; other considerations always must take precedence, like income, reputation, children etc.

    Female sexuality is still not free, the sexual liberation was only about giving more sexual access to men.

    • whatablast

      If you don’t want to have sex with your husband,but do, you aren’t doing any favors to him. If that’s the way you feel maybe you should talk to him about having an open relationship. Men sexuality is not free either.

    • MLM

      “Female sexuality is still not free, the sexual liberation was only about giving more sexual access to men”.

      So very true. I think this is at the core of the problem.

      I’d love to know what healthy, autonomous female sexuality might get to look like in a world where woman and girls (and boys and men) WEREN”T bombarded with phallocentric messages of what sex even is, which insist that female sexuality exists for men’s benefit (or even that a woman’s “value” is highly dependent on being able to please a man/men), and where any manifestation of a woman’s sexuality WASN’T something to be shamed for (or worse) from some angle (whore, prude, tease etc. etc.)

      In a world where women were fully perceived and treated as human beings, and their sexuality regarded as an intrinsic part of their humanity, which belonged entirely to them – not as something to commodify, consume or “score” on some level – ideas about “seduction” and creating a sexual charge might come to have a less to do with essentially being coercive and disrespecting sexual boundaries. And “gray rape” wouldn’t be so gray at all.

      “In other words, women cannot afford to put their sexual needs first, ever, like so many men do; other considerations always must take precedence, like income, reputation, children etc.”

      I also often wonder if women’s sexual boredom and loss of interest in long term heterosexual relationships doesn’t stem in part from the fact that their “role” in the sex, as culturally informed, is such a limited one which winds up being about (even more) “giving of themselves”, as opposed to something they can embrace to enhance their sense of self.

      • Grackle

        “I also often wonder if women’s sexual boredom and loss of interest in long term heterosexual relationships doesn’t stem in part from the fact that their “role” in the sex, as culturally informed, is such a limited one which winds up being about (even more) “giving of themselves”, as opposed to something they can embrace to enhance their sense of self.”

        Frankly, I have no doubt whatsoever that this is what’s going on, at least for the most part. Of course, men paint it as some sort of natural flaw in women–we just aren’t as interested in sex, right?

        Another issue is the cultural message that only sexy women “deserve” sexual pleasure. It’s pretty hard to enjoy yourself in the bedroom when all you can think about is how inadequate you may look.

        • MLM

          “Another issue is the cultural message that only sexy women “deserve” sexual pleasure. It’s pretty hard to enjoy yourself in the bedroom when all you can think about is how inadequate you may look”.

          Absolutely! And the demand for physical perfection and associated body image issues are only getting worse.

          It’s worth pointing out, too, how little questioning people often do of the idea that certain things are “natural”, like the idea that women “naturally” lose sexual interest or have less to start with.

          Men being “naturally” attracted to women with certain physical attributes is another one…

          http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/2009/06/19/why-do-we-rape-kill-and-sleep-around.html

          “Using their favorite guinea pigs—American college students—they found that men, shown pictures of different female body types, picked Ms. 36-25-36 as their sexual ideal. The studies, however, failed to rule out the possibility that the preference was not innate—human nature—but, rather, the product of exposure to mass culture and the messages it sends about what’s beautiful. Such basic flaws, notes Bingham, “led to complaints that many of these experiments seemed a little less than rigorous to be underpinning an entire new field.”

          Later studies, which got almost no attention, indeed found that in isolated populations in Peru and Tanzania, men consider hourglass women sickly looking. They prefer 0.9s—heavier women. And last December, anthropologist Elizabeth Cashdan of the University of Utah reported in the journal Current Anthropology that men now prefer this non-hourglass shape in countries where women tend to be economically independent (Britain and Denmark) and in some non-Western societies where women bear the responsibility for finding food. Only in countries where women are economically dependent on men (such as Japan, Greece and Portugal) do men have a strong preference for Barbie. (The United States is in the middle.) Cashdan puts it this way: which body type men prefer “should depend on [italics added] the degree to which they want their mates to be strong, tough, economically successful and politically competitive.”

        • Me

          Someone wrote about a poll that found one of the top sexual fantasies of women was to be found irresistible by someone. True or not, some fantasy.

  • http://bonerkilling.blogspot.ca BK

    Thank you for writing this. Extremely important that we start to talk about this…

    • Meghan Murphy

      Thanks BK. I’m pretty sure it’s something that impacts most, if not all women, in one way or another…

  • Sabrina L.

    It was really hard to call it rape. It still sounds strange when I say it out loud in therapy ten year after the fact and about a year since I admitted it to myself. The word rape-y is a little easier.

    But it was rape. Despite my firm denial, I had a bizarre number of responses that make a little more sense once you take into an account the concepts of trauma.

    It was rape. He knew what he was doing. He knew. He knew what he was doing to me. It was not grey to him, even as it was to me.

    He knew what he was doing.

    • Meghan Murphy

      So true. And saying ‘rapey’ is (slightly) less likely to cause a backlash from the person you are calling out on rape.

  • Missfit

    You should have keep saying a strong ‘no’ until he backtracked. You have agency! Don’t you know women have agency? Isn’t what feminism is all about?

    As if women’s agency was untainted, unfettered, under patriarchy… When men are taught to view sex as something they extract from women, that it is their job to ‘convince’ (coerced?) women to have sex, to put their wants first. When women are trying to figure out how to deal with their desire in a world where sexuality is defined on male terms, where they have absorb the message that men’s wants come before theirs, where they don’t feel fully entitled to express their own wants and dont’s.

    Generations before, I do not think the average 20-something guy felt entitled to anally penetrate a girl without much further notice as he knew he would expectedly receive back an incredulous ‘what the **** are you doing!?’. Nowadays, an average man could feel entitled to do so, as well as ejaculating wherever he wants. And the girl knows exactly what he’s doing. And might think he is actually entitled to do so. And I do not wonder where that comes from…

  • Rusty

    I went through an eerily similar scenario just a couple of months ago. Similar enough that I don’t need to say much more than: I did not want to have sex with him and he knew that from the very beginning, but he persisted and wore me down and walked me home and sat on my porch talking about us doing it, until it became clear that the easiest way out of the situation was to just fuck the guy and rid myself of him forever. There were moments of fear, as in “I’ve said no about a thousand times, the next level is a confrontation I’m not prepared to deal with right now.” I was scared of what would come next. I think sometimes we acquiesce to sex as a way of preventing rape. It’s almost like grey rape, as in not saying no loudly and with conviction, is one of the many ways we protect ourselves from being “actually” raped.

  • Lela

    Sad to hear about what’s happened to you, Meghan. I haven’t seen this episode of Girls that’s been referenced but this character’s situation sounds awful.

    Along a similar line, I’ve never had a male partner who hasn’t done something to me, in a completely nonchalant fashion and without asking first, clearly inspired by sexist porn. What happens is that the act occurs, without warning, and women are left to deal with the reality. By the time we allow ourselves to fully comprehend what is happening, the situation is over. There is such great difficulty involved in even verbalizing an argument against it, unless we have been informed by feminism. How are we to go about telling a man, point-blank, that these actions he considers to be his very sexuality, via porn that he takes for granted, are actually sexist and harmful? So we clam up about it, because the subject is simply too huge to approach, and we feel threatened, and we refuse honesty with ourselves as well. The situation is repeated, over and over.

    Callous pornographers are the only winners in all of this.

    • Meghan Murphy

      So true, re: porn. Not only does porn teach men that dominance is ‘sexy’ and what women want, but it provides them with a completely warped understanding of what sex is and what female pleasure is (because porn isn’t about female pleasure, it’s about male pleasure). It’s no surprise that men learn not to take into account what women want when it comes to sex — porn teaches men that women want whatever men want.

      • Lela

        Yes… and it’s pretty mind-boggling that they don’t see that, as they are the target consumer audience of an *industry,* the porn industry, that the product in question will be tailored to any whim or fancy they might possibly have, regardless of reality, in much the same way that any other industry primps up its product to an absurd extent to appease the entitled consumer. The product, in this case, is literally women, and so many of these women are being abused and gaslighted and generally robbed of their human rights. So women lose on all fronts. Men need to wake the hell up about this.

  • Valerie
  • sporenda

    “I also often wonder if women’s sexual boredom and loss of interest in long term heterosexual relationships doesn’t stem in part from the fact that their “role” in the sex, as culturally informed, is such a limited one which winds up being about (even more) “giving of themselves”, as opposed to something they can embrace to enhance their sense of self.”

    That’s what I think.
    The fact that women’s sex drive is considered weak compared to men’s is due to the fact that, for women, sex has always been catering to men’s “needs”.
    It’s like going to a restaurant where you never get to chose what you order: not very interesting.
    Unwanted sex is part and parcel of being a woman, and porn made it worse: unwanted sex used to boil down to penetration, now it’s a number of other sexual acts that men think they have the right to demand: anal sex, ejaculating on you, BDSM etc.
    So you may have agreed to intercourse, but when you are naked in bed with a man and he is trying to sneak anal sex on you, it’s a lot harder to say no than in a public place with your clothes on.

    • MLM

      “Unwanted sex is part and parcel of being a woman, and porn made it worse: unwanted sex used to boil down to penetration, now it’s a number of other sexual acts that men think they have the right to demand: anal sex, ejaculating on you, BDSM etc.
      So you may have agreed to intercourse, but when you are naked in bed with a man and he is trying to sneak anal sex on you, it’s a lot harder to say no than in a public place with your clothes on”.

      A friend of mine (who is just under 40) has been celibate for a little over a year now, for more or less the reasons you’ve outlined. She says she has not actually lost interest in sex at all, but she just got sick of the battle it required to try and have sex on her own terms. (And, unfortunately, in the last few years, she seems to have dealt with more than her share of porn hypnotised men. I don’t actually think meaningful discussions about rape culture and masculine sexual entitlement can ever really be separated too far from discussions about porn these days, given the symbiotic relationship between them).

      • Meghan Murphy

        Porn acts as sex education for boys (and for girls, but perhaps less so). I find it strange how committed some are to separating porn from rape culture. I mean porn ‘story lines’ are what teach men that women are always ‘up for it’, consent is not required beforehand or during (i.e. with regard to specific acts), and that women will enjoy whatever men enjoy (i.e. women are there to please). Sexuality has been shaped and defined from a male perspective. Porn exacerbates this.

        • MLM

          “I find it strange how committed some are to separating porn from rape culture’.

          It is strange. The argument that there’s a kind of neat little divide between the two things doesn’t stand up to any real scrutiny, given how obviously each informs the other, but it doesn’t stop people from trying to say that somehow there’s no connection. It still amazes me at times how precious people can be about defending porn and the level of denial they will engage in to do so.

          • cinesimon

            If you want to have an honest debate about this issue, maybe instead of pretending that your opinion is the whole truth, you look at the actual data regarding pornography, rape and attitudes to sex and sexuality.
            Righteousness and what sounds logical to you, is no different than anti-abortionists and their conviction – despite what reality tells us – that they are right regardless.
            And the patronizing, higher-than-thou perspective you clearly have, rather is the cherry on top.

          • stephen m

            @cinesimon, as requested an excerpt:

            “A meta-analysis was conducted to determine whether nonexperimental studies revealed an association between men’s pornography consumption and their attitudes supporting violence against women. The meta-analysis corrected problems with a previously
            published meta-analysis and added more recent findings. In contrast to the earlier meta-analysis, the current results showed an overall significant positive association between pornography use and attitudes supporting violence against women in
            nonexperimental studies. In addition, such attitudes were found to correlate significantly higher with the use of sexually violent pornography than with the use of nonviolent pornography, although the latter relationship was also found to be significant. The study resolves what appeared to be a troubling discordance in the literature on pornography and aggressive attitudes by showing
            that the conclusions from nonexperimental studies in the area are in fact fully consistent with those of their counterpart experimental studies. This finding has important implications for the overall literature on pornography and aggression.”

            AGGRESSIVE BEHAVIOR
            Volume 36, pages 14–20 (2010)
            Pornography and Attitudes Supporting Violence
            Against Women: Revisiting the Relationship
            in Nonexperimental Studies
            Gert Martin Hald1,2Ã, Neil M. Malamuth1, and Carlin Yuen3

          • MLM

            Sorry, stephen m, just to clarify – I was assuming that the Malamuth study I referenced was one of the “counterpart experimental studies” mentioned (given that Neil Malamuth was also involved in this more recent research as well), but apologies if that assumption was incorrect.

          • MLM

            @ cinesimon

            Actually, I have looked at quite a bit of “actual data regarding pornography, rape and attitudes about sex” and I’m very aware that there is a mixed set of conclusions. Mainly because there is an ethical impediment to directly studying the effects i.e. getting men to watch pornography and directly study how their attitudes are changed/reshaped in response to this.

            The Malamuth study, however, which stephen m mentions above (thanks btw, stephen), was one study which was conducted this way.

            http://www.apa.org/divisions/div46/articles/malamuth.pdf

            The study found:

            “First, exposure to messages in violent pornography suggesting that aggression against women has positive consequences, is justified or is erotic, may implant and/or strengthen these ideas in the audience as well as stimulate certain arousal processes that might “energize” aggressive responses. Second, behavioral tendencies to aggress may be increased only if effects are measured immediately following exposure or if retrieval cues reactivate violent pornography’s messages when a later opportunity to aggress exists. To properly address this possibility it would be necessary to include within the same experiment both immediate and delayed assessments following exposure to violent pornography rather than only the delayed assessment used in the present study”.

            I’ve also read a fair bit about the neuroplasticity of the human brain, which means our very neurology can reshape and change, with new neural pathways forming in response to a repeated stimulus, and I’m aware that the neurochemical reinforcement of orgasm is a very powerful one.

            Some researchers have also raised the possibility that our sexuality and sexual tastes may be more malleable and vulnerable to change than previously realised, as a response to this.

            http://www.yourbrainonporn.com/wiring-sexual-tastes-hairless-genitalsoops

            http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/cupids-poisoned-arrow/201110/can-you-trust-your-johnson

            On a far more basic level, I’m aware that many companies spend millions of dollars on market research and advertising campaigns to shape attitudes of consumers in order help sell more of their products.

            So, I don’t believe the human brain is impervious to media influence, and especially not that it is specifically impervious to the influence of pornography.

            I have actually engaged in “honest debate” on this issue on numerous occasions, often with people who want to try and make the simplistic argument that pornography and “rape culture” are totally disconnected. (And, for the reasons outlined, among others, I think this is a disingenuous argument). Pornography is largely shaped by the attitudes of rape culture, but it is also a powerful marketing tool for them. Will it affect every person who views it in exactly the same way? Of course not, but it doesn’t need to in order to have a significant impact on the culture.

            As for what you describe as my “patronizing, higher-than-thou perspective” , my reaction was the same to the tone of your comment. The hypocrisy of someone who bemoans my failure to engage in “honest debate”, then launches into an assumption loaded attack carrying on about “Righteousness and what sounds logical to you … despite what reality tells us… ” is pretty glaring.

            For what it’s worth, my comment was a specific response to Meghan’s comment. And I wasn’t trying to “pretend” that what I was expressing was more than the truth of my own opinion about and experience of engaging in such debates.

          • MLM

            Also (I really wanted to link to this document earlier but didn’t have time to properly look for and find it).

            http://www1.umn.edu/aurora/pdf/ResearchOnPornography.pdf

            It outlines the findings from 30 different studies on pornography and the ways it shape behaviour and attitudes.

            For example:

            “Several studies have shown that portrayals of women enjoying rape and other kinds of sexual violence can lead to increased acceptance of rape myths in both males and females. One group of college students were shown a pornographic depiction in which a woman was portrayed as sexually aroused by sexual violence, and a second group was exposed to control materials. Subsequently, all subjects were shown a second rape portrayal. The students who had been exposed to the pornographic depiction of rape were significantly more likely than the students in the control group (1) to perceive the second rape victim as suffering less trauma; (2) to believe that she actually enjoyed it; and (3) to believe that women in general enjoy rape and forced sexual acts.”

            Neil Malamuth and James Check. “The effects of aggressive pornography on beliefs in rape myths: Individual differences.” Journal of Research in Personality, 19 (1985), pp. 299-320.

          • stephen m

            @MLM You are welcome. I really like the article that I sited because it is recent (2010) and CORRECTS a previous meta-analysis. Pro-porn advocates clung to the previous incorrect study trying desperately to show there is no link between pornography and violence against women.

            Thanks for your analysis, more relationships for me to read and think about.

          • MLM

            @ stephen m – yes, it’s great. And as much as I try and be up to date about the research I’d managed to miss that one. So a big thanks, again.

            And you are very welcome, too. One of the things I love most about this site is the share of information and ideas which can be so often absent from mainstream discussions on these subjects.

          • Missfit

            Was cinemon trying to make a point? Does he know of another reality we are not aware of?

            Classy response MLM. And instructive, as usual.

          • MLM

            Thank you, Missfit.

            Yeah, it’s sort of ironic to me when people will chastise with a phrase like “pretending that your opinion is the whole truth” in one moment, then use a phrase like “despite what reality tells us” the next.

  • missy

    this is a really important discussion. i have had the grey rape experience one time- twice (as in sex and then later a blowjob because he wanted it but i said no to sex). and i have always felt unsure about the date rape question. yes, i could have said no and gone home- but part of rape culture is that women who’ve said yes up to a point, feel they ought not say no. especially if he seems to have needs or some other bullshit. and then i felt we were supposed to be friends and thought i would someone jeopardize the social space…as if his insistence was someone normal ! (we were colleagues in theatre school. at the time, i was not confident enough to say no because i thought it would have some social repercussions…) so i said ok- but then obviously, the social dynamics changed afterwords because didn’t want to spend any time with him in groups- i realized he was a creepy, aggressive, exoticizing asshole (i’m asian and i’ve heard him talk about non-white people in a conquester kinda way… he’s white)

    So ya- i think there’s grey rape- and it is part of rape culture but maybe not the same as date rape. i think as women we should talk more about this- and the point should be that we have worth and value (and we ought to value our feelings about wanting or not wanting sex and also expect men to value these feelings). if a woman says no- the man should say ok. maybe go to the bathroom and calm himself down… i think there’s a major misconception in a party situation that certain acts/ways of being always lead to sex the way the man wants it. women ought to have the power to shape the destination of any encounter (whether that’s home without him, sleep, cuddling, oral, sex or whatever)… this should be the assumption rather than that a hot kiss equals pre-sex. ten years later, i’ve found that feminist men don’t expect women to please them/ satisfy their desires- they ask questions like ‘what do you want?’ and then they listen to the answer. they don’t assume that i want or want to give sex.

    • Valerie

      I think much of the issue comes from confusion over what exactly is meant by the word ‘consent.’ It’s basically just a synonym for agreement. “I consent to the terms of this mortgage.” It doesn’t imply or require that you deeply love whatever proposal you consent to. If someone consents to sex in order to appease a partner, or to avoid rejection, that consent is perfectly legitimate.

      Consent is only vitiated under duress. Where someone threatens you with some real harm that compels you to act against your will. There was no duress described in the encounter detailed in the blogpost that was linked. The encounter was completely consensual.

  • martine votvik

    That episode was awkward to watch, like, what about some character interaction that isn`t about sex…

    anyway. I think one of the main problems around physically and sexually unwanted situations is that both men and women are taught from early childhood that simply not wanting to be touched is not a real reason for protesting.

    Children are hugged, tickled, kissed and roughed about often while furiously protesting while adults are laughing and chastising them for being impolite. This happens to both girls and boys, but I think maybe boys are left alone at an earlier age, because they have some sort of perceived dignity that girls apparently don`t have.

    But most boys will have a bodily memory of what it feels like to be given unwanted physical attention and they also have an internalized idea that the parent or relative had a right to hug them or tickle them because they were bigger, stronger and higher on the social order. There is I think in many boys an idea that you are supposed to submit when somebody stronger insists. This can also be seen in groups of men, where some men who are higher in the hierarchy can do or say humiliating things to men below them and the men below them grin and take it in fear of loosing even more standing within the group.

    And I think a lot of girls behave similarly too.

    Which I think is one of the most important reasons why it doesn`t naturally occur to us that it`s okay to be upset when something made you feel bad. And why a lot of us and not just the men react very defensively when we are confronted with something we did which hurt somebody in an intimate situation. I think this is especially difficult for men though, because accepting a woman saying they felt violated might lead them down a difficult road of acknowledging all the harassment they put up with to be part of the group.

    • Morgan

      “Children are hugged, tickled, kissed and roughed about often while furiously protesting while adults are laughing and chastising them for being impolite.”

      This is such an important point to make, and I wish parents would treat their children with more physical autonomy (what is reasonable, of course). I know in my childhood I experienced a lot of this type of unwanted physical touching, all of it seemingly innocent to the adults I’m sure, but to me it was very disturbing. I’d often protest but get laughed at like it was “cute.” I don’t know why, but even now I still don’t want people touching me generally. Some people are just different about that.

      But to the more important point, is that I think girls experience this to a different degree than boys (as you pointed out Martine), not just in duration but possibly/probably in frequency and type. And a lot of girls get the message as children that their body is not theirs and they do not have the final say over what happens to it. I wanted to wear pants but my mother forced dresses on me, I wanted to cut my hair short but she wouldn’t allow it. I wanted to rough house but that was inappropriate. I wanted to sit in a chair comfortably but was constantly reminded to keep my legs closed (would I still have been told that if I was allowed to wear pants??). There’s so many ways in which a girl gets the message that everyone else has a right to her body and/or to tell her what to do with her body. I’m not that surprised that we don’t stand our ground as firmly as we should when objecting to another person’s use of our bodies later in life.

      It’s that whole dynamic of “you couldn’t have been raped, otherwise you would’ve fought him off/you’d have some physical sign that you struggled or fought back” – and yet, why would we ever think to fight back?? We learn that we don’t have a right to, or that we shouldn’t, that we should be polite, etc. etc. What would make a woman think she has a right to say no and to be firm about it when we’ve never had that right before?

  • Vouchsafer

    I have also had the grey rape experience a number of times, that’s what hook-up culture is all about.
    Just last night a friend of mine told me that her husband is always telling his single friends “Just go ahead and stick it in whichever hole you want and see if she tries to stop you.”
    He doesn’t do that to his own wife, because she’s made it clear that she doesn’t do anal.
    But he has no problem encouraging his single friends to treat women this way. He’s been ‘normalized’ by porn to think that it’s ok. my friend also told me that he’s ruined two computers already so now she makes him watch his porn on the playstation.
    It’s a dangerous world out there for women. That’s why we need to stick together, to stick up for each other, and not throw each other to the wolves.
    I have learned so much from the conversations on this site. It really is a port in the storm.

  • http://vistabul.wordpress.com/ Sharon

    Your post was very brave, accurate and שdmirabl.
    I am from Israel and just wrote a post about this episode and its amazing how our experiences as women are so much alike.
    Thank you for being so inspiring and brave!

  • dave

    meghan and commenters–

    thank you for reassuring other women that the “strategy” of wearing a woman (or, indeed any person) down into sex is something to be condemned and rejected. i, too lament the idea many young men have about “scoring,” or “getting some,” a disgusting game/process wherein they have to extract something from women. it is because of such formulations that these situations continue to pervade. even if/when one concedes that there is a measure of truth in dworkin’s radical assertion that there is, in a certain sense, an implicit (perhaps physiological/psychoanalytical) sort of violence in all penetration–i personally am comfortable saying that cultural historicity aside, anatomically women are unfortunately predisposed to the phenomenon of sexual assault–, it is still to be emphatically rejected, this idea that male sexuality seeks by definition to subordinate or to dominate a woman (and her sexuality). anyone seeking to gratify him/herself by reducing his/her partner to a masturbatory accessory is guilty of an act only to be described as despicable and inhumane, regardless of the criminality of the act. in any case, a societal paradigm shift is needed. yes, it may well be that translating this phenomenon into the current (judicial) language or sexual assault may be a precarious task. but i applaud the efforts of the author and readers of blog, irrespective of the murky terminology.

    it pains me to hear (and here, read) again and again the all-too-familiar story of a wearing down, of a spurning of a sexual advance that is ground down, so to speak, into a forced, would-be consent that leaves the victim of the ordeal ashamed and silenced. i look forward to the day when women are seen as HUMAN, i.e., they and their sexuality is equal in value to that of men, and such stories are not met, as can be seen in the comments section on the slate article, not with controversy and a defense of the violator, but rather with universal opprobrium.

    -dave

  • K

    I’ve had similar experiences – having sex with men who continued to pressure me until I gave in and agreed to it, even though I had said no and they knew I had said so. And like you, I have been conflicted about it. I went through a period of perceiving one of those experiences as rape, but now I’m older and more confident in myself, I don’t think it really was. I don’t think it would happen to me now – I’m much more able to say no and stick to it, and to remove myself or him from the situation. As I read the piece, part of me thinks “well why did you let him in? you could have said goodnight to him at the door and gone inside alone” – not in a victim-blamey way, although I appreciate it might sound like that. And of course he should have taken your no as no and gone home but what I see here is another example of women not feeling able to assert their wishes. Because that’s what we’re socialised into – we don’t make a fuss, we don’t say no, we put up with things we don’t like, we don’t want to make a noise, we put ourselves last.

    We have to teach women and girls that their wishes are valid and legitimate and that they should not repress their own wishes in favour of someone else’s when that someone else’s wishes are the opposite of what the woman wants. And we have to teach men and boys that their wishes should never overrule the autonomy of women and girls, that they do not have a right to impose their wishes on anyone else, and that when they get a knockback, they should say ok, and leave.

    • Meghan Murphy

      It’s true that there are a number of factors at play, including that women are socialized to be ‘polite’ and not hurt anyone’s feelings by asserting themselves. That said, of course, I wish women could just say ‘no’ once and have that be the end of it…

      • K

        Yes, absolutely. Men and boys need to learn that when a woman says yes or no to any question, her answer should be respected, even if it’s not what they wanted to hear. It’s on the same spectrum as the men who sit next to you on a train or at a bus stop or in a bar and talk at you even though you’re making it clear you don’t want to talk to them, or touch you or try to kiss you even though you’re making it clear you’re not interested. They have a belief that because they want to talk to you or to touch you or whatever, you have to give them what they want. And if you make a fuss, shout, call them out, push them away, draw attention to their bad behaviour, they’ll shout abuse, call you names and possibly threaten you. Because they should always get what they want.

  • sporenda

    About the statement above, that all consent not given under duress (that is, real and present danger)is perfectly legitimate and valid.
    Maybe the law says so, but by definition feminists cannot accept legal standards as carved in stone, as we all know they are based on male standards.
    When consent is extracted by wearing you down, intimidating you, BS.. tting you, manipulating you, is it perfectly legitimate and valid?
    From a feminist point of view, no.
    In some countries, the law even recognizes that you can be verbally pressured into consent, as it gives you the right, if a salesman talks you into ordering something you don’t want, to cancel your order within one week.
    Consent should not be a “feminist validated” notion;
    what feminism is about is questioning accepted patriarchal norms, to reveal their inbuilt gender bias and double standard, and act to change them so that conventions and laws that were at one time considered perfectly ok–like marital rape– are seen as biased and unfair.
    In other words, it’s about unveiling the socially acceptable as morally unacceptable.
    And there is a fine line between clear and present danger and veiled threats.
    One of my boyfriends was never physically violent with me, he never slapped or pushed me around when we were having an argument, but he nevertheless unleashed violence: he slammed doors, smashed things, shouted, took a lot of space.
    There was never any real violence, but there was always the possibility of violence. What is the value of a consent given in such a context?

    – “anatomically , women are predisposed to sexual assault”.
    Men are also anatomically predisposed to sexual assault: they have an anus and a mouth.
    But they don’t want it to be known.

    • http://www.freesoil.org Aletha

      Consent is such a can of worms. It has been twisted into the great enabler of male entitlement to sex. If sex required mutual desire, it would be impossible to justify male entitlement to sex in any of its forms, wifely duty, prostitution, pornography, or wearing down a woman until she “consents.” Men know that mutual desire is a high bar, meaning they would have to earn the privilege of sex, since mutual desire does not arise from money, intimidation, or any sense of duty or obligation. For obvious reasons, many if not most men prefer the lower bar they call consent.

  • IcyShanae

    I’ve heard some feminists argue that any and all pressure for sex is rape, but I think it’s more complicated than that. Some amount of pressure is inevitable, and I don’t think it necessarily deprives you of a free choice. If a free choice is a choice without pressure, or a choice without consequences, then a free choice does not exist.

    None of us want to hurt or disappoint the people we love, for instance. None of us want to be thought badly of or abandoned by our friends, either. So if someone we care about asks us to do something for them, there will be some inevitable pressure to comply with their request. We don’t want our friends to think that we’re selfish jerks, after all.

    Yet, another person can decide that they don’t like us anymore for any reason, or no reason. These purely social consequences are a constant risk in any human interaction, and I don’t think they infringe upon our rights or deprive us of free choice in our interactions.

    We have a right not to killed, beaten, kidnapped, or stolen from. But we don’t have an unconditional right to another person’s company or affection. If someone makes it clear that they will only continue to like us if we do X, Y, Z, then I think we are free to take it or leave it. Personally, I wouldn’t care too much about what a jerk like that thinks of me, anyway.

  • Sinead

    This is a fantastic article. Great job. As a young woman, thank you. I know that countless other young women would benefit from reading about your experience.

  • cinesimon

    This argument that if it’s not illegal then it’s OK, seems very bizarre. Surely if thought through, only a sociopath could make such an argument.
    Consider someone actively telling someone who is depressed to kill themselves. Over and over. Not illegal. Protected speech. But ‘OK’?
    The analogy can be replaced with any number of behaviors. It’s just a bad argument.

    • sporenda

      “. Some amount of pressure is inevitable, and I don’t think it necessarily deprives you of a free choice”

      Are you saying it’s ok for men to put pressure on women to have sex with them?
      To me, that soounds pretty much like “boys will be boys”.

  • Mark

    I love this article, but I have to remind all y’all that the gender roles can be reversed, and it can happen in same sex relationships, as well. Women can be the agressors, and can pressure men into having sex. Also, men in same-sex relationships can pressure other men into having sex. As a pansexual male, I’ve been pressured into having sex with women and with men that I didn’t really want to have sex with, but felt that my no’s were being ignored, and I gave in just to get it over with. I had the same feelings that all of you express. It sucks no matter what gender you are. Yes, rape culture is more often against women, but men are also on the receiving end of these unwanted advances, too. It is a shitty feeling to realize that sometimes we don’t feel like we own our own bodies. I don’t wish that on anyone.

    • joy

      Gee, dude, we had no idea!

      Because no one who reads or comments on this website is a lesbians, gay man, or bisexual.

      If you hadn’t come here to shed (a totally irrelevant-to-the-conversation) light on the topic, we would have never known! Thank you so much for enlightening our narrow lady minds with your manly manly wisdom.

      • Mark

        Wow, you actually called my wisdom “manly manly”… That is the first time I’ve ever heard those words associated with anything doing with me. *giggle* I love that all you can come back with an irrelevancy trying to degrade me as having male genitalia… FYI, I’m one of the most feminine humans with male genitalia that you’ll ever come across. And, no, I do not want to become female. Why? Not because I think being male is better than female. But, because they haven’t perfected the surgery to add parts to me. I feel both completely female and completely male, so I want to add female parts to allow me to feel that my body and mind are in sync. But, since that can’t really be done, I’ll stick with being male.

        My own situation aside, I agree that our western society has a very high patriarchal spin which degrades everyone. It tells males that they have a natural inclination to “rape”, and tells women that they are the ones that can prevent males from raping them. That’s pretty fucked up on all sides.

        The way to correct this? Not with hate and snarky comments. The way to correct it is with love and understanding. There are two ways to mold a society. One is with control, hate and fear. This way separates humanity into an us-vs-them model. The patriarchal society does really well with this, and your comment is going down this same path, as well.

        The other way is with love, education and free will. This way finds ways to unite us together, celebrates that we are all more similar than different. And, then celebrates our individual differences that make us unique and able to contribute something special to the whole of humanity. Step in each of our shoes, and really get where we are all coming from. Not to degrade them; not to attack them; but to get inside their head and approach the solution from a position they will understand. But, in order to do this, get rid of the attitude of us-vs-them, and come at this from understanding.

        That’s what my initial comment was doing. I was empathizing with the article’s author and the commenters, that, as a biological male, I understand what you, as women go through because I’ve gone through many of the same issues and many of the same abuses as you have. Not exactly the same, as we all walk our own individual paths, but similar enough to “get” the emotions you feel.

        • Meghan Murphy

          The way to correct misogyny is with “love and understanding”?? Please. That is so incredibly insulting. I suppose you think if women who raped and assaulted and abused and murdered by men were simply more “loving and understanding” everything would be fine?? I’m sorry, I just can’t do this new age shit. Movements are, and need to be, about more than “love and understanding”.

        • Me

          Understanding men is already one starting point for the article and this discussion, and for the whole blog and feminism really. When men rape there are also the rapists and their masculinity to address.

          Stepping in Brad’s shoes above, the only solution he seemed to understand was based on power and coercion. His problem was that she said no. He had already decided he didn’t want a mutual relationship. That wasn’t a problem for him. It was for her, for one because it meant he wouldn’t hear her no. How, then, do men and women agree on solutions if they don’t agree on what the problems are?

          Women have tried and tried to understand why men abuse them, often tried until they died. When women in abusive situations forget about us-vs-them, the only result is they forget life could be any different and that there is a someone hurting them that they could get away from. When those who should support abused women forget about the us-vs-them, they lose sight of how abuse works and end up setting the women up for further abuse and risk through battery “reconciliation”, not taking the need to get away seriously and the like.

          If I care about an abusive man and his healing, the first thing on that healing path is to stop him from abusing anymore, because it will only cauterize him further and reinforce the masculinity that is the problem. If men would agree to that, I would agree to listening to their side of it any day. But if I disregard how he benefits at the cost of others, I disregard the only way I can get a grip on what motivates him to do what he does and how that behavior is rewarded and reinforced.

  • sporenda

    “the gender roles can be reversed,”

    Not really.
    I’ll have to state the obvious, as it’s clear that, like most men, you are in denial when it comes to the extent and one sided nature of male abuses on women.
    So here we go again:
    men can’t be raped by women, men are not forced into prostitution by women, men can’t be killed by women serial killers, men are not harassed in the street by women, men are not beaten to death by women, men are not sexually harassed by women at work, men are not defiled and brutalized by women in pornography, men are not raped by women during wars, men are not forced to wear burqas, etc etc.
    If men can be victims of some of these abuses, it’s at the hands of other men.

    And since the abuses and violences of men on women are systemic, it’s beyond the individual agency of women to reverse them.
    When a man exploits or abuses a woman, he has the whole society –in fact centuries of universal male domination–behind him to back him up.
    Saying that gender roles can be reversed is as absurd as to say that racial roles could be reversed by Jews in Nazi Germany.
    Or that poor people can reverse roles with the 1%: people on top seldom want to switch place with bottom people.
    Gender roles are the consequences of gross, ingrained inbalances of power between the sexes; they are not reversible at will.

    • joy

      Precisely!

      As a woman who dates other women, I can testify firsthand that yes, abuse does happen even in same-sex couples. But it is not socially sanctioned like male abuse of women is; for one thing, you don’t see lesbian or gay violence portrayed in mainstream media, wherever you look, 24 hours a day and 7 days a week, as if it’s perfectly acceptable and even desirable. So mentioning it in relationship to this article is a form of strawmanning.

      Also, judging by both firsthand and observed experience, women who abuse other women have likely been abused first themselves — typically by men (most commonly their own fathers or other male family members), starting from the time they were children, so they don’t know any other way of being and think that abuse is simply the way people interact. At the same time, many gays and lesbians have additionally internalized gender roles which dictate that even same-sex couples must consist of “a woman” (passive victim/domestic servant) and “a man” (dominating abuser/’breadwinner’).

      But as mentioned, that’s beside the point, because ultimately this article is not about abuse within same-sex couples — and frankly I am glad of that, because 1. Meghan Murphy is a heterosexual woman with experience in heterosexual relationships and does not attempt to speak for gays, lesbians, or bisexuals who are currently in same-sex relationships, 2. the situation depicted in the relevant episode of ‘Girls’ revolves around rape in a heterosexual sex encounter, and 3. regardless of any strawmanning about abuse within same-sex couples, heterosexual rape (including situations in which men “correctively” rape lesbians) is a far more common phenomenon because it is socially and institutionally supported and even openly encouraged.

      Oh, and female rape of males in heterosexual situations is incredibly rare, because women are not raised with the pervading sense of sexual entitlement that males are and female violence is typically not condoned from childhood forward the way male violence is.

      Additionally, although this may be a point of contention: male rape of gay and/or gender-role-nonconforming males is not a feminist issue. Not to say that it doesn’t happen or that it isn’t important, but feminism is called “feminism” because it’s about the systemic oppression of *females.*

    • Candy

      “men can’t be raped by women,”

      What the hell, is this serious? Discounting the sexual abuse of little boys by women, sometimes mothers, men can absolutely be raped by women. Gender roles can be reversed in that these things CAN and DO happen to men, by women. Just because it’s less of a norm or less prevalent doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.

      “men are not beaten to death by women,”
      This is just ludicrous. There are many instances of just that.

      You can acknowledge the injustices toward women without denying that injustices do happen to men by women as well.

      • No thank you.

        I really didnt think I would see this comment as I scrolled the list. Thank you for that. Be prepared though, great opposition waits round the corner.

        • joy

          I think you guys are looking for an MRA forum and came to the wrong place.

    • Mark

      Sporenda, in your post, you are perpetuating the same exact myths that you are supposedly wanting to destroy.

      Men can’t be raped by women. Yes, they can, and I’ve been raped by a woman. Waking up to sex when you haven’t negotiated that ahead of time = nonconsensual sex = rape. Just because I had a morning erection does not mean I consent to sex. That’s like me saying, well she was wet, so she wanted it. Humans can rape each other.

      Men aren’t forced into prostitution by women… Do you have any data either way to back up this nice generalization? This perpetuates the myth that men are always stronger than women.

      Men can’t be killed by women serial killers… This sounds like you are perpetuating the myth that women are weaker and therefore can never be blamed for violent behavior.

      Men aren’t harassed in the street by women. Yes we are. I routinely wear clothes that are not “normal” by society, and get comments, like “nice ass” or cat calls from both men and women all the time. You are perpetuating the myth that women cannot be the aggressors.

      Men aren’t beaten to death by women… Well, I haven’t been beat to death, but I have been on the receiving end of domestic violence. Men are beaten by women, we just can’t be open about it because of the stereotypes that say we must be stronger. You are perpetuating the myth that women cannot be the aggressors.

      Instead of going through the rest of your points, let me summarize:
      You are perpetuating the same myths that you are attempting to destroy. Women are not the weaker sex. Women can be the aggressors. Women can rape men. Women can kill men and other women.

      In other words, we, as humans, can rape each other, kill each other, harass each other; we, as humans, are equally destructive to each other.

      This will only change when we approach each other with love and understanding, instead of attacking one another.

      • Meghan Murphy

        The exception doesn’t make the rule, Mark.

    • Mark

      sporenda: “Gender roles are the consequences of gross, ingrained inbalances of power between the sexes; they are not reversible at will.”

      And, then you have humans like me, who do not fit into the binary male/female model. Guess what? We are marginalized just as much as females are. We experience the same power imbalances that females do. I do not fit the standard “male” model, other than I happen to have a penis. I do not dress “male” nor “female”. I have my own style of dress which screws with societal norms – half male/half female. I’ll wear skirts, high heels, and a button down male shirt. I shave my head and have a beard. I have a male name, so by name alone on the internet, it seems I’m just a typical guy trying to bash his way into a feminist discussion. But, I’m not. My mind is half female and half male, and I want a body to match that, but medical science cannot create a hermaphrodite, so I’m stuck with a male body.

      I experience cat calls from both women and men. I get stared at. I get told that I am asking to be raped because of what I wear. I’m not that outrageous, but I do love to show off my legs with short skirts and high heels. I wear what I wear because I feel comfortable in it – it allows me to feel both male and female at the same time. I’m extremely effeminate, and I’m ok with it.

      I love who I am, and I don’t apologize for it. I’m not asking to be raped because I don’t conform to norms, but being raped has happened to me. There is more to being a girl or a guy than what’s between our legs. Having a mind that is half male and half female, and completely me, has given me a unique perspective on the male/female debate. Males and females are so incredibly similar, that we should celebrate those similarities. And, we should celebrate how we are each different from each other. Because if we were all the same, that would be one boring reality. We are each valuable, and we are each worthy of love and respect.

      • Meghan Murphy

        Can you explain or clarify what you mean when you say “My mind is half female and half male”?

      • Lela

        “I have a male name, so by name alone on the internet, it seems I’m just a typical guy trying to bash his way into a feminist discussion.”

        I don’t mean to discount your experiences, but I am curious, why then are you derailing a feminist discussion about violence against women, to talk about yourself? Would you like to talk about the issue at hand, i.e., a long-ingrained rape culture that posits men as consumers and women as the consumed?

        “We, as humans, are equally destructive to each other.” Go and look at some crime statistics, Mark. This seems like some bizarre twisting of the concept of equality; women are now “equal” to men therefore we are “equally” abusive.

        Power imbalances aren’t magically dissolved simply because we are wishing and hoping for an egalitarian society and imagine it is already present; you personally feeling that you are “half male” and “half female” doesn’t do anything on its own to challenge the systemic oppression of women.

        • Meghan Murphy

          “Power imbalances aren’t magically dissolved simply because we are wishing and hoping for an egalitarian society and imagine it is already present; you personally feeling that you are “half male” and “half female” doesn’t do anything on its own to challenge the systemic oppression of women.”

          Yes to this whole comment. Thanks Lela.

          • Lela

            This reminds me of a recent situation where I called out a man I know on sexism, and his response was, “But I don’t identify as male, I identify as Human!” What does that even mean? It’s a pretty creative way to dodge issues, I must admit, and it does seem to create a moment of confusion where it’s very tempting to drop the issue altogether.

            Clearly Mark has been raped by a woman. This is utterly reprehensible and he has every right to seek punishment by law. I think it’s just so important for EVERYONE to understand that having sex with another person while they are *sleeping* is totally unacceptable and yes, rape. (See also: Julian Assange.) This doesn’t resolve or detract from the larger issue we are discussing which is patriarchal rape culture, and it doesn’t justify obscuring the material reality of women’s subjugation.

          • Meghan Murphy

            That’s a classic move. The “I don’t see gender, I see ‘humans'” and YOU’RE the sexist one for seeing the world in binaries (or, “I don’t see colour, YOU’RE THE RACIST”). Sigh.

    • Lela

      I think one of the things our opposition loves to trumpet (see: Candy and “No thank you”) is this idea that feminists deny the existence of abusive women. Such women do exist, and men can and do suffer harm at the hands of women, which of course is indefensible. However, as you point out Sporenda, violence against women (and men) by men is systemic and far more prevalent. The subject of discussion here is the existence of a rape culture, which positions men as entitled to sex from women. Let’s not give the anti-feminists any fuel for their “what about the men” derails.

      • Candy

        Whoa whoa, I’m not the “opposition” and I’m hardly anti-feminist. I was merely responding to a post that seemed to deny (with generalized statements) that women don’t do any violent acts against men. I agree that it’s less systematic and I acknowledged it is less prevalent, the comment was just worded in a way that seemed too definite to me.

        • Lela

          I’m not sure that you are, personally, part of the “opposition,” my point was more that “but women are violent toward men, too!” is a well-worn derail in discussions of this nature.
          I agree that Sporenda was too “definite” with her wording in that post, which doesn’t accurately represent her opinion (see her post, below.)

        • Me

          When women force the focus on the humanity of women, that doesn’t cost men their humanity. It only threatens to cost men their entitlement. Women rarely forget the humanity men, even when they’re abusive men.

          When men get their “what about us” foot in the door, that usually excludes some part of women’s humanity and women’s reality. I don’t think I’ve ever seen it not to. Mark’s comments above show this shift from mutual concern to the exclusion of women’s reality very well.

    • LunaMinor

      I find the statement that men cannot be raped by women incredibly problematic, not necessarily in a “what about the men”-way (although, I have to say, denying the fact that abuse happens to people (yes, even men) is pretty reprehensible), but also from a feminist perspective.
      What I want to ask is this: why do we, as feminists/women/humans find rape to be such a grave violation?

      One part of the answer might be because of the health risks (pregnancy, std), but leaving that aside for right now, it is mostly about the dehumanisation. The violation of personal space. The awfulness of someone treating another person’s body as a toy, or as an object. The complete lack of consideration for the person who owns that body; a person that has wishes and ideas and a life of their own.

      At least in my opinion; that is why rape becomes such a core issue. Because it is fucking excruciatingly painful for survivors to deal with the experience of being reduced down to a “thing” for someone else to use. Because it proves just how little some people care about your humanity.

      Returning to the question on female-on-male rape; I see no reason why men cannot experience the same reactions, the same pain as a woman. Women raping men is rare, yes. But that does not give us the right to completely deny that it happens, or that the victims will most likely experience a lot of the same feelings and suffer, as anyone who is treated like that would.

      What I am trying to say is this; if we treat female-on-male rape as laughable, impossible and not-serious, we are also doing a grave disservice to women rape survivors, because we are refusing to acknowledge WHY rape is so painful in the first place.

      • Lela

        It always gets me that people so lacking in human empathy that we have to constantly *explain* why rape is bad. Does nobody understand any damn thing about the female reproductive system? That isn’t particularly suprising. I feel as though I’m repeating myself for the millionth time but: the vagina is not a hole. It is a complex organ that is not in any way receptive to penetration when we are not aroused. Rape is bad because it hurts us, LunaMinor, because having an unwelcome penis roughly forced into our bodies tears our genitals to shreds in addition to facilitating STI’s and pregnancy and the dehumanization you mention.

        Ffs, nobody is “laughing off” the concept of a man being raped by a woman or insinuating that it is “not-serious.” That’s totally disingenuous.

        Incidentally, for all the trolls on this thread who might benefit from this information, this phrase comes from the Statscan crime statistics for 2011 report, which is the most recent one I could find it seems:
        “Sexual offences showed the highest representation of males [to be the accused]: 98% of all persons charged with sexual assault level 1, child pornography and sexual violations against children in 2011 were male.”
        98%. That’s a pretty high number, don’t you think? Clearly 2% were women, and those women should be held just as accountable. But we have to be willfully ignorant not to notice such a difference, and speculate on why that might be.

        You can see the full report here:
        http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/85-002-x/2012001/article/11692-eng.pdf

        • LunaMinor

          I apologize, I seem to have been unable to explain what I meant. I don’t mean to downplay the awful physical effects that sexual violence can have.

          I think what I meant to say is more along the lines of this: that when I was raped, I was semi-unconscious (drugs&alchol) and on the pill. I didn’t have any physical injuries, but I was a mess (still am to a certain extent) for years. Feminism helped me realize that I wasn’t crazy for reacting so strongly, that it wasn’t, at it’s core, about JUST the violence; it was also about a whole host of other feelings and realizations about how much people can not-care about you as a person and a human.

          I guess my worry is that if we don’t extend our empathy to male victims because they cannot get pregnant or (necessarily) be penetrated by female perpetrators, we are also implicitly creating a grading system where only specific types of rapes are considered “the reason why rape is bad”.

          If that makes sense?

          But I do appreciate the point that it is a very small group we are talking about here, and it is extremely grating to have to have the same conversation again and again because people always wants to talk about men, even when the discussion is explicitly about women.

          So sorry.

          • Lela

            Thanks, LunaMinor. So sorry to hear you’ve been a victim, and I apologize for mistaking you for a troll. Yes, rape is far from being a uniform experience, and we’re in agreement about dehumanization being a major aspect, and about the need to extend empathy to male victims.

  • sporenda

    “What the hell, is this serious? Discounting the sexual abuse of little boys by women, sometimes mothers, men can absolutely be raped by women. Gender roles can be reversed in that these things CAN and DO happen to men, by women. Just because it’s less of a norm or less prevalent doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.”

    You know the definition of rape? Penetration by a penis or any other “instrument ” of penetration. You want us to believe that mothers typically put sticks inside a little boy’s anus? Come on!
    You want us to believe that women beat men to death? Women kill men–at a much smaller rate that the reverse. Women can be violent with men–at a much smaller rate than the reverse. But due to the difference in physical force, it’s very difficult for women to kill men just by using their hands. So very few women, unless their are professional boxers, can beat up men to death.

    The question is not that women do (rarely) some of those acts–we all know it happens–but that it’s men who commit them systematically and systemically; the word “systemic” meaning that it’s a norm, it’s frequent and condoned/tolerated by society.
    Women are not supposed to be violent, violence and agressivity are discouraged in women and encouraged in men– to the point of being the main defining charasteristic of manhood.

    It’s really brainlesse–or twisted–this argument: “oh, but women do that do”. Sure , in history of mankind, there are women serial killers,–like 3 or 4, (Eileen Wormos being one)–whereas male serial killers are countless (curiously not only all males but also all whites).

    If you don’t see the difference, conceptually, between an individual exception and a social norm–like rape and forced sex by men on women–, you are arguing in a vacuum with no connection to reality.

    • joy

      ^^ Yes.

      Also, it is definitely worth noting that Aileen Wuornos killed men who physically attacked her. In a way, her serial killing was a response to this kind of systemic male violence against women we (feminists) are talking about. She experienced so much violence in her life that felt she had to kill those men — who were johns, by the way, and there are many articles on this very blog about the way johns treat the women they purchase — before they killed her, and in at least several cases this was objectively true.

      That is not equivalent to most male serial killers, whose crimes are usually fetishistic and typically incorporate or even spring from a sense of sexual gratification (even for men who have serially murdered other men/boys exclusively or as part of their sex-indiscriminate killing sprees).

      • sporenda

        Exactly, joy.
        About 60% of women who murder men kill in self defense: they do so after years of abuse, or only when confronted to a particularly dangerous attack.
        This was the case with Wormos: she was a prostitute and she suffered tremendous abuse at the hands of johns.
        Most of the time, the courts ignore this self defense element and these women receive stiff sentences.
        About the intervention of Mark above: it’s amazing how, when (most) men intervene on a feminist forum, it’s always along the line of: “what about me”–what about the menz.
        Always derailing any debate centered on women’s problems to re-center it on men’s problems.
        And always doing so presenting exceptions as norms.

    • Candy

      “You know the definition of rape? Penetration by a penis or any other “instrument ” of penetration. ”

      You’re forgetting statutory rape, and if that was the strict definition, then it would be impossible for a man or little boy to ever get raped by a woman under the law unless an implement was used.

      And the women who force penetration on children are mainly pedophiles , so no, I don’t think it’s a typical occurrence.

      • Me

        Why are you doing this? What are you doing?

  • Pingback: Rape is Rape, There are no Grey Areas | Gender Focus – A Canadian Feminist Blog()

  • marv

    Those who see with feminist light have 20/20 vision because they perceive the world for what it has become under structural injustice. Those who see with patriarchal sight are asleep (like Mark) because the light is not in them. Inequality exposed by the light becomes visible, and what becomes visible can be transformed by the light. Awaken sleepers! Raise your consciousness from the dead and the light will shine in you!

  • Lotti

    I’m so glad to read this article. I’ve read a lot about rape and rape culture recently but felt so guilty about wanting to speak about my own experience when I knew that it wasn’t rape despite feeling very uncomfortable and disgusted by what happened and it comforts me that the grey area is also being discussed.

  • http://tycio.livejournal.com tyciol

    “It’s what happens to women”

    Oh boy, don’t I feel lucky to be a man! Because as we know, women never have sex with men in grey ways that men do not desire, right?

    That or… y’know… it’s so common that a whole INDUSTRY (child support) has built up around how women have sex with men in ways men don’t consent to.

    No… that couldn’t be it. It’s not as if society would engage in victim-blaming and FINE victims of sexual assault and REWARD sexual assaulters. That’d be reprehensible, right?

    Throw some egalitarian consideration in the wind and win more allies. Keep it all about women’s problems, watch the co-operation vanish from lack of empathy.

    We acknowledge your problems, acknowledge ours.

    • Meghan Murphy

      APRIL FOOLS!

  • Laur

    Don’t ya know?! There is no such thing as “grey rape” cuz the woman ALWAYS wants it. If she looks disgusted, that’s a sign of enjoyment. If she says, “no stop,” it’s because she’s afraid to give up control to the man…there’s nothing a woman doesn’t like, so there’s no such thing as “grey rape.”

    (This was all factitious, if you didn’t catch on).

  • http://twitter.com/CoreyLeeWrenn Corey Lee Wrenn (@CoreyLeeWrenn)

    Thank you so much for sharing your story…this has been my experience over and over and over…from a teenager all the way up to a late 20s gender professor. It leaves you feeling disgusted, powerless, hurt, and truly infuriated at how we’ve internalized patriarchy.

  • Pingback: The tyranny of consent | Feminist Current()

  • noshoes

    Humor me for a second here: imagine, if you will, a show as hip and popular as “Girls” that has a large, physically strong woman character. She’s just started dating a man who is smaller and not as physically strong as she is. Now imagine she tells him she has a big dildo and she would like nothing better than to fuck him up the ass with it. He says no, he’s not comfortable with that. She says yes, you’ll like it, pins him down and does it. Who in their right mind would NOT call this rape? Why does it become “grey” when it’s a male character doing it to a female character?

    • Tommy Hedges

      Who in their right mind would NOT call this rape?

      Uh, well, you know, people on this site, for one.

      • Candy

        Excuse me? That’s a clear instance of rape with an evident power differential.

    • Lela

      The term “grey rape” includes the word “rape.” Also, you’re missing the context here, which is that men are socialized into sexually coercive behaviours via pornography and masculine culture, and women are socialized to be receptive to this (although cognitive dissonance abounds) under threat of the “prude” label or some offence against “men’s sexuality.” Looking with a clear eye at the situation, yes, we can drop the “grey” part.

      Also, for Tommy H., your reading comprehension is lacking. Yes, the example given fits the definition of rape.

  • http://molvray.com/acidtest/ quixote

    A great post and comment thread. I think Rusty raises one of the most important points. Women sometimes consent because they want to feel they had a choice, even when they really didn’t, so it doesn’t feel like consent, but officially it was consent, so it’s all her fault and why did she consent. I’d say that muddle is the grayest part of the whole gray area.

    I also wanted to comment on the business of men getting totally bent out of shape when they’re told what they’ve done. Lisak & Miller, 2002 (abstract, paywall) did an interesting study in which they questioned men about coercive sex without using the term “rape.” About 5% of the men were not at all ashamed to report repeated serious crimes … so long as they weren’t called that. They weren’t rapists in their own heads. Just manlier men. Or something.

    I’m not sure what bothers me more. The criminality or the fact that they don’t even see it.

  • niki

    I have no idea why ANYONE would think that fucking a guy to stop him from pestering you about fucking you is logical and productive.

    I’m not saying he’s right – he’s likely a huge douche – but I have never made out with a boy who didn’t try to sex me. It’s kind of what happens after the boners arrive. I have a hard time seeing men begging for sex as abnormal.

    It’s still up to them to back off when we put our foot down, but this also means you not fucking him. ‘Giving in’ is a counterproductive, powerless and confusing to both parties stance to take. It’s horrible for the woman and insulting for the man. Men aren’t always geniuses, they can’t know when you say ‘Ok then, you can fuck me’ that you mean ‘Dude I hate this and want you to stop’, even if you said no a million times. If no is going to mean no for all of us, it can’t mean ‘I’ll give in if you ask _____ number of times’. Resoluteness is important!

  • Rye

    I was wondering if anyone was willing to share their opinion on what justice a woman should receive from a man who rapes her, when it’s not a “call the cops” rape?

    Since the state isn’t involved, lets assume that the man is genuinely sorry about his actions and desires to make satisfactory amends.

    • Me

      Sounds to me the man isn’t genuinely sorry having raped if calling the cops and being jailed isn’t an option. Presumably that’s the man’s precondition for submitting to do justice and make amends, not the woman’s. The man should accept the woman’s decision on punishment, justice and making amends, which are not to be qualified with words such as ‘satisfactory’ imo. The woman should have plenty of support from other women to discuss and decide the best way forward for her.

  • Ana Fury

    I recently had a similar experience a few days ago and am thankful for this article. The whole time I felt emotionless and kept my eyes closed. He would tell me to relax; he said I looked like a robot, like a dead person, that I was thinking too much. I didn’t want to hurt his feelings because I thought he was my friend (he was the first guy that I’ve ever had any common interests and good conversation with and I was honestly surprised that I would ever have a male friend). I let him kiss me and touch me (second base), but I said no multiple times when he tried to get in my pants. I feel like I should have stopped him when he first started kissing me. I don’t know why, it’s illogical, but I was kind of hoping he’d just stop when he noticed I wasn’t into it. I had told him before that I thought straight sex was gross and that I hadn’t felt attraction for anyone in years. He thought it was cute. I knew he liked me, but when I went to his place I was not at all expecting him to try to have sex with me. It almost seems like he planned the whole thing; he drove me there so I couldn’t just leave. The next day he texted me saying he wanted to be with me. I wrote back that I like him, but can’t have sex with him since I am a lesbian. He is very angry with me. I don’t feel anything at all, not even guilt really. I just wish things could go back to the way they were. Maybe he wasn’t a friend to begin with. Sorry for rambling.

    • stephen m

      He has now become the total loser. He has sacrificed a rewarding and potentially long term friendship with you for a sexual encounter that you clearly did not want.

      You say he is now “very angry” with you when in reality he should only be upset with his own behaviour, beware he could be a very controlling bastard with serious anger problems.

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