The leftward and other blatherings of Span (now with Snaps!)

Thursday, November 24, 2005

saying yes

Maia has two fantastic posts on rape and consent, which deserve the widest possible audience (especially amongst male readers).

No explores some recent research from the UK which shows some very disturbing views about rape, which basically show that a significant portion of those surveyed agreed that there were situations in which women ask for rape. It brought to mind for me the scrap between Cathy and Ruth over similar issues a while back, and I hope that Cathy will read Maia's post.

This Is Not What Yes Looks Like asks why we put the responsibility on the woman to say no rather than on the man to ask for a yes.

I wanted to draw attention to these posts but also add a few thoughts of my own. Sometimes women are their own worst enemies in these matters because we share some of the views of men - some of us think, deep down, that there are situations in which women as for rape, and that it is the woman's responsibility to make it clear that she doesn't want sex, and in holding these opinions we do ourselves no favours. I too have been guilty of less than sisterly thoughts in the past (probably back when I also thought that politics should stay out of sport and actually National would be the better party to have in power, ie a very long time ago) and it's through involvement with staunch and on to it women like Maia that I have come to realise my past error.

We need to take responsibility, that's true. But what we should take responsibility for is in fact each other. When we see someone else in a situation that we're not sure they want to be in, we need to just check-in with them, give them an out. When we are getting somewhat intimately acquainted with another person and we're not sure they are in to it we should ask - none of this crap about ruining the mood, if you're both into it a little checking isn't going to dampen things down (in fact it could serve as a prod to your partner to show you just how keen they are).

It seems to me that this inability to communicate with others about impending sex is part of a larger problem about sex still being viewed as dirty and taboo. You don't ask because sex is not something to be verbalised, just something to be experienced, preferably furtively, with the lights off, and as many clothes on as possible.

But that's a totally Victorian attitude that doesn't, and shouldn't, reflect reality. If we can change our attitude to sex I fervently hope that we can also change our attitude to rape - and ultimately see sex as something women can positively choose to take part in (or not), rather than passively put up with happening to them (or indeed not willingly consent to at all).


m@®©o said...

hey, we live in a society where a guy that goes with a lot of girls is a demigod men's man while a girl doing the same would be a slut...only when we will get rid of these mental deviations we would be able to get things right.

span said...

i agree - there seems to be this idea that the man is "conquering" the woman (and a stud is someone with many conquests), which again buys into this idea that it is men who have the power in terms of whether sex happens or not (and that that is the way it should be).

except of course if the woman is considerably older than the man - in that situation she has of course "seduced" him, ie got him to have sex with her even though he possibly didn't want to originally. i almost gagged when i saw the cover of a woman's mag today that had "Meg Ryan seduces Jack Osbourne" - aren't they both adults who can make decisions for themselves, including who they sleep with?

Make Tea Not War said...

I absolutely agree about the women looking out for each other thing. It's not something that comes up in my life anymore but I do worry, with having a young daughter how she will navigate the perils of young adulthood. One message I do plan to reinforce is look out for your friends. Never just abandon a friend who is out of control or has passed out alone in a public place, make sure everyone gets home safely,or if they go home with someone else that its actually what they want.

Apathy Jack said...

To MC's point: Most of the people I know don't draw that distinction - while, certainly, a woman who gives it up to all and sundry may be labelled with the "S" word, a man who does the same will be labelled with just as scarlett a letter.

To be fair, I do hang out with a lower class of shameless whores...

span said...

present company excluded? or do we not hang out enough? ;-)

actually that's a good point Jack - i've rarely heard women label men positively for sleeping with lots of people.

Make Tea Not War said...

>i've rarely heard women label men positively for sleeping with lots of people.

No, me neither. But actually in my boring social circles where nearly everybody is partnered or married adultery and infidelity is what is likely to be tut tutted at. Single people can do whatever they like as long as all parties are consenting and its not part of a messy downward spiral into self destruction and chaos which everybody is entitled to a period of when they are younger but, in your 30s & 40, no one wants to hear about it.

Cathy Odgers said...


It would be alot easier if women and men made it very clear in relation to sex.

Violent vicious rape with no warning of trouble ahead is horrid so put that to one side as there is no way that a woman could possibly be misunderstood that she did not want sex. She is usually crying or screaming to ward off an attacker. Men who do this are pigs.

However the grey area seems to be when men and women are in close contact and either out dating, generally on the pull, or in social settings where there is alcohol, food and friendly relaxation.

We should simply be very clear and I will give you an example.

Last night I took a client out for dinner. As what normally happens said client who is away from home and wife on business in Hong Kong, hits on me and makes subtle, yet obvious suggestions that we share a cab and that cab ride would lead to something else.

We are staying on opposite sides of HK. The moment I get into that cab I have not consented to sex, but I have consented to putting myself in the awkward position where I have to get out of the awkward position.

So instead of getting in that awkward position I simply tell him I am going home, point to a cab that he can take further down the street and I tell him I will be taking the other cab that was coming into view. This is I think a mature way to handle the situation so everyone can walk away feelings intact.

A more direct approach would be to tell him I am not going to have sex with him. I would normally say this to a stranger I meet in a bar, but you have to be polite to clients. This is a polite way of dealing with the situation - not creating a situation in the first place.

In America College campuses require students dating to have sex contracts. In other words students have to sign papers that they consent to sex.

This is of course the ultimate in consent but it is highly unromantic.

Another situation that you refer to, I have had men ask me whether I want to sleep with them. I have answered yes or no, depending on the male in question.

What men cannot stand is the woman who stands there like a mannequin and can't decide. Then he takes it maybe to mean, extra effort required to pull, that is when trouble starts. Movies have a bit to blame for this. The strong lead male captures the heart of the unsuspecting frail female lead, sweeps her off her feet and she remains completely unsure whether she wants to fuck him until he finally kisses her and runs his hands under her shirt. Notice how the female lead characters NEVER at this stage pull away?

If in a hormonally charged situation you cannot come out with a clear yes, then you should just answer no. Anything else is damn confusing.

Mellie said...

I agree with Cathy. I can't stand some movies now - they are so divorced with reality that some guy who the girl thinks is a total tosser ends up in the end liking and shagging him. That's always the way and we all know that it never happens like that in real life.

I think a lot of the problem lies in the pornification of women. Trashy icons like Britney Spears and Paris Hilton give young guys (and girls) the wrong message about sex and about relationships. Call me what you like, but I just don't get porn and guy magazines.

what is the point of jerking off about some girl on the page who a) you'll never fuck b) you'll never kiss c) you most likely will never meet? It's a cop out and it speaks volumes about a guy's sense of security and confidence in his ability to earn the desire of a real girl.

OK - so someone wants to 'celebrate their body'. More power to them. Are they aware what 'celebrating their body' actually means? Sure, they feel good being on the cover of a magazine, but is that not just exhibitionism? I doubt that they reconcile their actions with the formation of adverse attitudes towards girls.

The tone of my comment is not going the right way. No I don't think women are responsible for being raped. Interesting that in Brazil women are prohibited from nude sunbathing (urban legend?) on beaches and in some parts of America naked female mannequins must not be left on display, but perhaps that is indicative of a wider problem...

Unfortunately, some guys will think that because a woman dresses provocatively she wants sex from anyone. I hate to sound like a Puritan but a lot of the problems extend in my view out of mtv and movies - the way that some girls dance is just porn. Don't deny it.

I think the other side of it is that a guy will think he's in because a woman is moderately polite to him and, unlike the 50 others he hit on, show a moderate interest in him. Again, it must surely be how we condition our next generation...?

Maia said...

Hey Span - thanks for the link, and the discussion. I think that's a really important point, and one of the most important things

Cathy I really don't understand the point of your story. You seem to be saying that if a woman has previously had contact with a man then consent is a grey area. I have more respect for men than that, I believe they can figure out whether a woman actively wants to have sex or not, and it can be based on fact, not on taxis, or clothes, or anything else.

"In America College campuses require students dating to have sex contracts. In other words students have to sign papers that they consent to sex."

Which college campuses? Do you have a link? It sounds far more romantic, to me, than being raped, or even having sex with someone who didn't want to have sex.

Mellie I think you're looking in the wrong place - you are holding the women who pose for magazines responsible for the existance of the magazine, not the men who make them or those who buy them (much like AJ Chesswass believes that prostitutes are bigger sinners than those who use them). I also don't understand what people dressing like porn on MTV has to do with some guys believing that a woman who dresses 'provocatively' (a word which in itself implies that women are responsibile for men's sexual response) wants sex.

To me all of this is a bit irrelevant, what matters, is that everytime people have sex they make it their responsibility to find out that it is something that their sexual partner actually wants to do.

stef said...

I often reminded of quote from Sienfield on this matter:

"Men don't need a reaon to have sex, they just need a place.'

Guys have learned that if they say 'hey baby, lets shag' is often unappealing so instead tries to have another slightly more 'wholesome' activity in order to get girls up to their room, without experience a big slap down. For the girl to go up there knowing full well she doesn't want to shag is stupidty to the extreme.

For example, One of male friends late one night asking me to come around. Now because this guy likes to think of himself as a bit of a gentlemen asked me around for 'drinks.' Anyone with half a brain quickly figures at that this is in fact a booty call.

So why would anyone put themselves in a dumb fucking situation by going over if they didn't want to shag him. Does she deserved to get raped? Well no.

But much like the idiot who waves the bush=devil placard right outside a major watering hole for the american military there are sometimes that women should think about their actions and the consquences.

Guys aren't going to do the right thing, because they want to shag. As it is women that are often the reluctant partner it's up to them to be a lot more agressive and aware of situtations in order to protect themselves.

Esther said...


Just adding to Maia's response to Mellie re dressing provocatively: it's also possible that a women might dress 'provocatively' and want sex - but again that doesn't give any man who sees her the right to have sex with her. Women have the right to actively want sex but decide when and who they have sex with.

Also dancing does not = porn. Dancing sexily does not = porn. Because dancing sexily is not just about visual/physical consumption by men. Dancing sexily can feel sexy and feeling sexy feels... good. Expressing that in dance does not communicate anything about who you will have sex with (or if you intend to have sex).

Maia said...

Stef you are blaming women for being raped. The least you could do is be honest with yourself about what you are saying.

As I said to Cathy I really believe the 'boys will be boys' attitude is far more misandrist than anything the feminist movement came up with.

Cathy Odgers said...

Oh for goodness sake Maia.

Quit the hysterionics and read what we are actually saying.

The reason we cannot debate these issues and that ultimately men cannot be educated on these issues is that immediately people like yourself and (previously Ruth) put 2 and 2 together and get 7 when another woman tries to put a point of view across that does not mirror image her own black and white view.

Give us some benefit of the doubt that we are not and never will say that woman deserve to be raped - because that is just stupid.

We are talking about risk minimilisation and not putting yourself at unnecessary risk of being raped by the odd male character out there who is too fucked in the head to ever understand that no means no.

Mellie said...

It was a little off the point but I still think the 'artists' are largely responsible for the kind of attitudes that children grow up with. Not all dancing is porn but some of it is damn close. Yes sexy dancing makes you feel good but isn't that just like anything else that makes you feel good? What I mean is that just because it feels good doesn't make it good for everyone else - there can be negative side effects. Kind of a warped hedonistic utilitarianism.

But don't compare me to AJ please - prostitution is perpetuated by pimps who degrade them and withhold safe conditions of work - modelling is hardly on the same scale. There is a lot more choice there - but perhaps modelling is easier than using your brain for a living. I wouldn't know. My stubble gives me rash.

No- a woman dancing sexily in a club does not deserve to get raped. The problem is that guys who are also in the club with her have only ever seen other women dancing in videos or films or brothels and that type of dancing has only ever said one thing: 'Sex'. Tarzan see, tarzan do.

pink panda said...

when does sex become rape? what if a chic doesnt want to fuck the guy, but doesnt actually say it, even though both parties know the chic doesnt want it, the act goes ahead.

is this rape or sex?

stef said...

Maia I actually said that no, a women doesn't deserve to be raped. Just that women need to be more aware of situations.

Rather than just sticking my fingers in my ear to ignore the real world and live in my own fantasy of how things *should* be, I prefer to work in the current world so that women can outsmart the odd asshole that is willing to take advantage of an ackward situation by avoiding it in the first place rather than handwrining about the injustice of it later.

Nixie! said...

What's truly sad is just how strongly NZ society still considers women to be responsible for being raped. I knew a large number of girls at high school and afterwards who had been raped or sexually abused, and seen the impact of it on their lives. Unfortunately, I also knew, later, people who had grown up without any contact with someone who had been raped or abused and thus had the most stupid fucked up notions.

I knew the most lovely girl who was raped as a child and her parents decided to cover it up. Years later her mother would scream at her that she was a 'whore' and a 'slut' when she was angry with her and that she could never call herself a virgin. It took her a long time to have the confidence to enter a relationship or to have any kind of confidence in her own self worth.

I knew a young woman who was raped and when she went to the polive late at night the misogynistic male cop took her into a room by herself, threw out the female police officer, and started yelling at her that she was trying to ruin the guy's life and that saying 'no' wasn't enough, it didn't count as rape unless somebody heard her scream. it broke her and it was over a year before she tried returning to the police again for help over the same guy.

I know men who told female friends who were victims that a man was allowed to do what he wanted in his own home and that you couldn't say 'no' to someone that you were dating.

Even worse, I knew women who said that it was always the woman's fault or that a woman shamed herself by speaking out about sexual assault.

It's not just Britain that's got fucked up ideas about rape.

Psycho Milt said...

Once again I turn up a day late. Span, I'd be interested to hear your take on Cathy's comment - to me, it was an excellent laying out of how to act based on how things are rather than how we feel they ought to be or would like them to be. The world and the people in it will simply fail to conform to our desires about what they ought to be like, so Cathy's approach seems to me to be eminently sensible.

Panda: when sex becomes rape is a question I don't know the answer to either. I've had sex when I didn't really feel like it (an admittedly rare occurrence), because the other person did feel like it and I didn't want to disappoint them, but it's hard to imagine anyone calling that rape. Of course, for a guy that doesn't usually involve anything more intrusive than a tongue or a finger getting put inside you so it's easier for us to be sanguine about it.

Maia, when you reject the idea that women are "responsible" for men's sexual response, are you maybe defining "responsible" differently to me? Women are definitely responsible for my sexual response, in that I don't feel any sexual response for men, children, other animals, inanimate objects - just women. They do it to me every time. So in that sense I don't have any problem with the implication that women are responsible for heterosexual men's sexual response. If you mean not "responsible" in the sense of "just cos you got wood doesn't mean I gots to do something about it", OK we're on the same page.

span said...

it seems to me that underlying a lot of this discussion is still the wrong assumption that most rapes are stranger rapes. We know that in fact most women (and no doubt men) who are raped are attacked by people they know, and often by people they are in a relationship with. (as an aside, this is one of the reasons I got so angry with AJ - he doesn't seem to recognise that rape can occur within a marriage and i thought that was the ultimate proof of his deeply rooted sexism, but maybe i misunderstood him).

when i was at university i went through a phase when i thought stuff this, i am not moderating my behaviour to avoid getting attacked. i would walk through Albert Park at night when i was going home late from uni, although i would be scared the whole time, and would have my cellphone in my hand ready. (i too was buying into the stranger rape thing, however given that a member of my family was genuinely stranger raped walking through a park i don't think that was that unreasonable).

i wouldn't do that anymore, unless i really needed to. i enormously resent that i need to change my behaviour though - when i'm driving home at night and i see men going for a jog i feel angry that women feel they can't do that after dark.

but when it comes to picking up danger signals on a date i am probably one of the least likely people to notice. i have never been very good at picking up on flirting, or when a guy is interested in me. they virtually do have to hit me on the head with a club and say "you jane, me tarzan". has my ignorance put me in dangerous situations in the past? i don't know.

why should women's actions be restricted because there are men who don't accept no (or don't check that the woman is saying yes)? i'm not saying that you shouldn't take care, but ultimately i would love it if my daughters could grow up in a world where they don't have to worry about carrying mace on a date, or not dancing as they want to, or not sharing a cab ride home for fear that a man will assume they are giving them some coded "yes i want to have sex with you" signals. how about rather than relying on coded signals we just ask each other?????

why should we assume that a woman is a prostitute unless she is obviously part of that trade (ie we see her soliciting men or she tells us herself that that's her job)? and why should we assume that a prostitute is up for sex with anyone anyway?

ok just a few more thoughts to add to the discussion. thank you Nixie for sharing some real stories too.

Maia said...

Cathy what you and Stef seem to be saying is that women should never go anywhere alone with a man who may want to have sex with them, and to do so is stupid. Now I'll give you credit, because at least your risk minimisation strategy reflects the reality that most women are raped by men they know. But I won't operate my life as if every man I know might be a rapist, I won't avoid any guy who might want to sleep with me. Men can make a choice only to have sex with someone who wants to have sex with them, to suggest otherwise is insulting

If you don't want to get in the taxi, or go visit the guy, then don't get in the taxi, or go visit the guy. But don't call women who do stupid.

Mellie I don't get what the fuck sexy dancing has to do with rape, and I'm kind of terrified that you introduced it into a discussion. Rape predates MTV by quite a long way.

Mellie said...

It's a lot harder to dance around a point online than in person.

1: Prevailing images in today's media (especially youth media) of women are that sexy dancing equals sexual desire for the tv viewer/dancing partner
2: Young guys grow up with exposure to this media and we see the influence on their behaviour (FOR EXAMPLE Polynesian youths waving around Southern Confederacy flags) and their formation of how to deal with women (especially attractive women) is warped to fuck because they are led to believe women who are good looking and shake their booty are only interested in sex. This is because SOME artists do not display sass or intellect or otherwise indicative signs of intelligence, only nice butts or breasts.
3: Some guys therefore become socially retarded and unable to deal with rejection in person from a good looking woman in a club. Follows her outside, you get the idea.

It's not about what came first. My point is that modern media has contributed. I didn't realise my train of thought was that badly expressed.

Girls can dance how they want to in a club - there's no issue. The problem is that music videos are (in my experience) so divorced from reality that guys think girls will fall over the next guy who can dance like or lip sync the latest usher (who can dance, incidentally).

Why do I get the feeling I'm digging a hole?

Psycho Milt said...

Mellie: my problem with it is maybe different to Span's or Maia's. I myself was at one time a yoof, and I don't recall ever being under the impression that what girls did in music videos for fantastically wealthy and successful rock stars was likely to be replicated in what they were willing to do for me, some broke and unknown bozo they just met. On a similar basis, it didn't take a whole lot of sexual contact with live, actual female humans to realise that things didn't really go down as described at great length in Penthouse Forum. I don't doubt there are some simpletons out there unable to get to grips with this concept, but surely they have to be in the minority, or the human race would be in even worse shape than it is.

Mellie said...

I'm probably a lot more cynical in my view. If not a direct result in violence against women, certainly a direct influence in the lack of respect for women and a resulting influence.


span said...

but which came first? a low opinion of women and labelling them as sex objects or MTV?

(anyone who mentions chickens and eggs will be soundly slapped)

Mellie said...

I'm feeling less and less inclined to comment any more on this topic but since you asked - of course mtv came later. Low opinion of women? How far back really depends - each to her (his?) own - but certainly I think the low opinion has been around a long time. Certainly before television.

The media 'perpetuates'... is my opinion.

A. J. Chesswas said...

Just discovered I was misrepresented on this post by Maia, who said:

"AJ Chesswass...believes that prostitutes are bigger sinners than those who use them"

I have never believed or said such a heresy. What I have said is that prostitutes are as bad as the people that use them - they are equally responsible. Maia often gives the impression of a radical feminist who believes that everything is the fault of men, and that women are intrinsically holy and without sin.