I don’t want to talk about the Assange rape charges. There are more than enough people doing that already. But I would like to talk about something that Jaclyn Friedman said during her debate with Naomi Wolf on Democracy Now. Friedman essentially said that a sleeping/unconscious person cannot consent to sex and therefore it is rape. Always.
I paused the video. The bfriend and I looked at each other and said, huh? He’s woken me up like that before. I’ve woken him up like that before. We never discussed doing it. Does that make me a rape victim? Does it make me a rapist?
Blanket statements, the kind where people give no gray area whatsoever, usually bother me, because few things in life are that clear. And this was a blanket statement that made me into a rapist. At first, I must admit, I was inclined to roll my eyes and dismiss her.
But I just kept thinking about it.
I do not believe that consenting to one thing means consenting to everything else. I don’t believe in implied consent. That’s like those asshats who think marital rape is impossible. It’s possible and all too frequent.
Now, I could say that I just knew it would be o.k. The bfriend and I have been together for more than 14 years. There are some things that we don’t really have to talk about anymore.
But that would be a bullshit answer. It’s a bullshit answer because there were other times before the bfriend, where I wouldn’t be able to say that. It’s a bullshit answer because it brings us back to the marital rape issue. And it’s a bullshit answer because, if I have learned anything over the years, it is that false assumptions often precede relationship misery.
Besides, how can we really be sure that our assumptions are based on knowledge of the individual and not some social norm or gender essentialism? It must be o.k. Guys always want to have sex, right? I mean when a woman decides not to have sex because she doesn’t want to risk pregnancy or STDs or just doesn’t think she is ready, that’s expected. But a guy who turns it down, he must be some kind of freak. So I can just assume, right?
The truth is that we should have talked about it. We should have talked about a lot of things, right from the beginning, that we didn’t.
Last month, I came across a couple checklists of sexual activities – one on Scarleteen and one on the Beautiful Kind. Even just going through the Scarleteen one, you know the one meant for teens, the bfriend and I ended up talking about things that had never come up in fourteen years. And that is just sad.
Most of us have this Hollywoodized idea of sex. It is always heterosexual. All sexual activities end with male to female penetration. The hottest sex is spontaneous. When it is right, the other person is just going to know (magically) what you want. There is no need to talk about it. Just kiss, blow, fuck, done.
That is why you get guys who think that there is some point of no return where a woman cannot say no anymore. That is why you have scenarios like this.
Her account to police, which Assange disputes, stated that he began stroking her leg as they drank tea, before he pulled off her clothes and snapped a necklace that she was wearing. According to her statement she “tried to put on some articles of clothing as it was going too quickly and uncomfortably but Assange ripped them off again”. Miss A told police that she didn’t want to go any further “but that it was too late to stop Assange as she had gone along with it so far”, and so she allowed him to undress her.
Really? He undressed you and therefore it was too late to stop? You had to go to the end? Where is the end exactly? Does he now have carte blanche to hog tie you, ball gag you, and whip you until you bleed? Cause, for some people, that is where that undressing is going.
For responsible people in the BDSM community, it is a no-brainer to discuss what is o.k. and not o.k. beforehand. There are parameters set. There are safe words decided upon. But for most people, it is all based on assumptions. And those assumptions lead not just to rape, but to really bad sex.
I so wish that I had those checklists twenty-two years ago when I started having sex. That is not because I was doing things I didn’t want to do, but because I would have done a lot more shit a lot sooner. And I could have avoided a lot of mediocre sex.
People make fun of the idea that you should get an o.k. every step of the way. Can I touch you here? How about there? This o.k.? Let’s draw up a contract and have it notarized. But it seems ridiculous mostly because we are so horrible at talking about sex and because we make so many assumptions about it. We should talk to our partners, future partners, and our kids about sex. And we should talk about the entire pantheon of activities, not just assume that everyone is a vanilla, heterosexual couple.
That said, even though I’m not rolling my eyes at Friedman’s statement anymore, am I a rapist? I understand that hard and fast rules make it easier to prosecute crimes. Even though I would like to see prisons go the way of the rack, I realize that we cannot just let people get away with committing that kind of violence. But consistency is not justice. In fact, it can often be the opposite of justice.
When I was sixteen, my boyfriend was twenty-two. By Florida law, that was rape. But I was a willing participant. I was not victimized by my boyfriend. Do you know what would have made me feel victimized? It would have made me feel victimized if somebody had prosecuted my boyfriend for rape.
And it happens. Because well intentioned people want to keep grown-ups from having sex with seven year olds, some poor seventeen year old kid in Georgia got a ten year prison sentence for getting a blow job at a party. There are people who are permanently on sexual predator lists for statutory rape. And let’s not even get into the general disaster that is mandatory minimum sentencing. Consistency is not always a good thing.
We are all suffering from some serious societal sexual dysfunction. And we should be calling it out. But, as unpleasant as it may be, we still need to leave some room for ambiguities. Because by Friedman’s definition, I’m a rapist. But the bfriend has now given me explicit permission to view his morning wood as an open invitation. And I don’t think the state should be able to prosecute me for that.