31 October 2008

Whose fault is it?

There are two conflicting beliefs surrounding who is at fault when a woman is raped. And they don't always fight to exist to the exclusion of the other. In one camp, the rapist is always at fault; in the other, the victim/survivor is at fault for one or various reasons she could have controlled.

I submit for your evaluation: Don't blind-drunk women who cry rape bear any responsibility for what happens to them?

"Don't women who get plastered beyond control have any responsibility for what happens to them?

Many women insist they have the right to wear and do whatever they like.

They say rape is a man's problem - and that's an end to it.


In so many of today's cases, alcohol has become the element that literally blurs the evidence.

Last year, a Welsh university student said she was raped by a campus guard asked to escort her to her dormitory because she was too inebriated to get home safely.

Two days later, she reported he'd had sex with her in the corridor outside her door.

He said it was consensual.

She said it wasn't.

The police believed her, and so did the prosecutor. So they went to trial.

But when the defence barrister challenged her to be specific, she simply couldn't remember.

The judge ordered the jury to acquit the defendant.

One observer noted: 'Drunken consent is still consent.'"

Which is the opposite of what I have taught my own students. I'm not sure what the law is in Britain, but in Canada, we err on the side of caution -- drunken consent is not consent. And I'll tell you, it made quite a few 15 year-old boys nervous, because plying a woman with alcohol in order to "loosen her up" so she'll "put out" is a common practice.

Let me be clear, the woman does not bear responsibility for a man forcible putting his penis in any orifice on her body. If at any point she says no, or -- just as important -- fails to say yes, it's rape. And if you lack the control to spend more time with her without trying again and again to get her to change her mind, you risk an accusation. Or worse, if you lack the control to keep from making her, you deserve an accusation.

Let's be fair, women don't always make this easy. We dress in high skirts and low tops. We dance and have fun. And unless people are going to start saying that a male deserves to get the shit kicked out of him if he decides to go out and get plastered, then we have no right to say that a woman deserves any level of violence that might be inflicted on her if she chooses to do the same.

Maybe everyone needs to kick up their level of personal responsibility and rethink the idea that getting wasted beyond control is an awesome thing to do. Until that happens, we need to stop saying that a woman is to blame for any kind of sexual attack perpetrated against her. Women can and should do everything they can to protect themselves from any form of attack. Men should remember that having sex with someone is not some kind of inalienable right. Deciding to drink alcohol does not create open season into a woman's vagina. Women should remember to be clear about their intentions, sexual or otherwise.

This is something to think about for women who plan on dressing up like a sexy nurse or slutty vampiress and going out to a bar to get loaded or for guys who hope to reap the benefits of this auspicious night.

Happy Hallowe'en.

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