[Physically] Unscathed: Sexual Assault Without Blunt Force
There was a dude on my Facebook newsfeed that was talking about what constitutes rape. Don’t ask me why – he just does that kind of thing on a regular basis.
I try to avoid entering into those kinds of ‘edgy’ debate-baits but in this case, I had to. He almost exclusively defined rape as something that requires physical force from the rapist and very clear signs of non-consent from the victim, i.e a ‘no’ and some kicking and screaming.
Which is completely incorrect. I don’t know if he is one in a million, but I get a distinct feeling that these views are widespread.
I am not a rape expert, I’m an untrained journalist with an internet connection. I think it sucks that I have to be all proactive; having to google “grey areas of rape” in order to reveal how fucked up statements ensuing the above Facebook claim really are. No doubt my search history’s not going to look too good in the hands of the cyber police.
Hate to pull the ‘boys are stupid’ card but man, sometimes they really are. In general I feel like a lot of guys don’t “get” the concept of rape – another difficult topic for my “SOMETHING WE UNFORTUNATELY NEED TO TEACH YOUNG CHILDREN” list. A lot of people don’t know the fidelities of consent. And we should.
Wikipedia taught me a lot about ‘duress’. I feel it’s one of those words we know from TV shows but don’t know outside of law jargon. We really should.
Duress is when you can’t fight back or say no, or are afraid or unable to give signs of displeasure. It could be imminent threat, fraud or blackmail. It’s forcing yourself upon someone who lacks the ability to push back. And because of this lack of verbal or physical conflict, a few people I know seem to think there was no conflict at all. The victim doesn’t fit the role of the bruised and battered husk – the exterior is fine, so it’s presumedly all good. It’s not, people shouldn’t think it is, and writing this feels weird. But sometimes it’s just got to be spelt out.
Completely simplified, a raw example of duress is simple intimidation. When a stronger person corners you and tells you what to do, most people will say ‘ok’ and just hope they don’t get hit too much. And just because they say ‘ok’, doesn’t make it okay. Harold and Kumar come to mind – that scene when they’re in Guantanamo Bay, about to give head to Big Bob. They just submit; there’s nothing else to do. It’s a movie, I know, it’s supposed to be funny, whatever. But they shrug it off and move to the next skit, unscathed and dick-free. If a real-world person went through with it, you can guess the comments. “You should’ve defended yourself!”, “Just bite the dick!”, I don’t know. It’s one of those walk a mile in their shoes deals – you don’t get it ’til it happens.
If someone abuses their position of power to get sex, it’s rape. Blackmailing people for sex, even if they say yes and willingly go through with it, is rape. It’s coercing someone into sex. Taxi drivers requesting a lost tourist gives them sex as payment, or police officers offering arrestees an incarceration ultimatum. The iconic scenario is the teacher telling the student to trade sex for a pass. This is one of those classic porn tropes that is repeated to the point of it being some kind of cultural cornerstone. Ignoring the fact that sex with students is double illegal, just pressuring someone into sex is illegal by itself. Outside of the fantastical universe that pornos inhabit, the threat of failure is very real, and so is student anxiety; real-world shit like this happens, and we can’t stop seeing it through our Ron Jeremy tinted glasses.
A lot of content is just as problematic regarding consent. I feel like pop culture’s biggest trope when it comes to duress is straight up fraud. It’s a TV classic; characters pretending to be gay (Kickass) or dressing like a chick’s boyfriend (Revenge of the Nerds) to get them into the sack. Lying about who you are in order to get laid is straight up rape by deception – it doesn’t matter if it’s for love, or for a bet, or for the fun of it. Again, the chicks end up being complacent after the big reveal, but in real life it doesn’t end up that way. The most accurate reaction to rape by deception was in American Horror Story: Murder House, wherein a woman is coerced into sex with a teen ghost masquerading as her husband in a gimp suit, impregnating her and producing the Antichrist in her womb. The fact that it takes that kind of bombshell to spawn some kind of genuine human grief from a victim on television is messed up. Realistically the same would be felt by any other person, Antichrist ghost-spawn or not.
I am not a lawyer; I’m an employee with a word limit. It isn’t my job to make a rape compendium – it’s your job not to rape. If you have to manipulate someone to get what you want, then what you’re doing is wrong. This is a difficult, multifaceted issue that takes a lot more words than I can type to do justice. I’m just trying to give some douchebags an example of how they need to check themselves. I don’t know if this is all obvious or not. I feel like I was raised in a pretty ‘anti-rape’ environment. But I was the kinda kid that cried when you stepped on an ant, so I feel like I wasn’t quite the ‘boys will be boys’ archetype that would play into all this kind of stuff.
And I really hope I haven’t belittled any experience by drawing references from movies and TV shows – I don’t want it to be heavy, and to be frank, it makes it a lot easier for me to write about it. It lessens the blow. And I hope it shows how fucked we see it all. Everything I’ve mentioned all have heaps of real-world cases attached to them, of course. Cases are happening right now; cases are still being re-fought and overhauled because people have to fight hard in order to have their non-violent rapes be seen as rape in the eyes of the law. How’s that for a cruel irony.