Rape is NOT black and white
22 August 2012
I have a number of feminist followers on Twitter, and they'll all unfollow me if they read this article, but I bit my tongue all yesterday and feel really crap about it today.
Todd Akin and George Galloway's recent comments have been combined with anti-Assange feeling to create a national, collective loss of sense over the subject of rape. My timeline is full of tweets from people I like and respect, along the lines of
No, no, NO! That's a slogan, it's not the basis for a justice system. Of course there can be mitigating circumstances - why is rape any different to any other crime in that respect?
Conviction figures for rape are pitiful, desperate, dire, but that's not a reason to suspend our normal standards of justice. Someone wrongly convicted of rape is in just as bad a situation as someone wrongly convicted of any other major crime.
Take any of the following scenarios:-
- During sex I withdraw to change position - do I need to ask for consent before continuing?
- During sex the my partner breaks off to go to the loo - do I need to ask for consent before continuing?
- During sex the phone goes, my partner answers it then hangs up - do I need to ask for consent before continuing?
- After sex we both fall asleep, with my penis still inserted - if we wake up 30 mins later do I need to ask for consent before recommencing?
- After sex we both fall asleep, but apart - if we wake up 30 mins later do I need to ask for consent before recommencing?
The answer to every one of these questions is resoundingly, 'Maybe, it depends on the circumstances'. Take the 'phone call scenario - was it 15 seconds from a double glazing salesman, or was 15 minutes with her mother, telling her her favourite aunt had just died?
There is no definitive line you mustn't cross - there is a blurred line, between the borders of which we need to do our best to ensure we're taking our partners wishes and circumstances into account as much as we possibly can.
I abhor what Todd Akin said and despite his apologies, think he deserves all the criticism he's getting.
I find a great deal of what George Galloway said wrong, but think that he's mostly being attacked by people who believe the 'rape is rape' slogan and place it above justice.
I believe Julian Assange should return to Sweden and face the case against him, but those who call him a 'rapist' now despite him not being convicted, are the same people who brand someone a 'victim of rape' even if she says she isn't - they are misrepresenting people just to promote their cause.