“There are no ‘blurred lines’ or grey areas.”: or why attending a White Ribbon March doesn’t make you a good guy.
We've had some interesting comments submitted to the site recently which we've chosen to publish anonymously as posts to make it clear what rape culture entails. Frequently these comments are written by men who claim to be "sympathetic" to our cause but then go on to demonstrate that they just don't get what we do or why we do it.
This is the comment in full. Our responses are in purple.
“There are no ‘blurred lines’ or grey areas.”
I can’t quite see how this is logical. Lets see, suppose we have two people, Jane and Joe, who are equally intoxicated, say to the point where they are having a bit of difficulty standing up, but are capable of sex, so neither are capable of giving informed consent.
There really are no grey areas in rape. It really isn't that difficult to understand the difference between consent and non-consent. Anyone who suggests it is difficult should consult the sexual offences act of 2003 which is quite clear on the legal definitions of rape and sexual assault. There is an excellent post on Herbs and Hags which explains why there is no such thing as a grey area or "blurred lines".
1. If Joe initiates penetration of Jane then it’s rape, no matter if Jane actively says yes or not (because she can’t give informed consent)?
A woman who cannot consent because of intoxication, coercion, threats, or because they are unconscious has not "actively said yes". The only people who think this might be confusing are rapists and not because they are confused. Because they want an excuse for their choice to commit rape and sexual assault.
2. If Jane stimulates Joe so he gets an erection (men get erections while asleep and in situations where they don’t want to – as many men who’ve had prostate exams will tell you), then inserts his penis into herself then this is also rape? Although Jane has raped Joe in this case presumably?
The sexual offences act of 2003 is very clear that the act of rape requires the insertion of a penis without consent. Women cannot perpetrate rape. They can commit the crime of sexual assault which carries the same tariff as rape. Again, a quick perusal of the Sexual Offences Act of 2003 makes this clear. Statistically, women are very unlikely to commit sexual assault and when they do it is frequently with a controlling male partner. The vast majority of rapes and other sexual offences are perpetrated by men against women, children and other men. Male victims of rape are almost always raped by a male perpetrator.
The following three questions clearly demonstrate a refusal to understand rape and are attempts at derailing.
3. If both of them, despite being so intoxicated they cannot give informed consent, actively initiate sex, but Jane regrets it in the morning, but Joe doesn’t, then this is rape?
4. If both of them, despite being so intoxicated they cannot give informed consent, actively initiate sex, but Joe regrets it in the morning, but Jane doesn’t, then this is rape?
5. Finally, if both of them, despite being so intoxicated they cannot give informed consent, actively initiate sex, but neither regrets it in the morning – and indeed thinks they had a great time, then this is rape? Who raped who? Did they both rape each other, or does it depend who grabbed the other’s genitals first?
Regret isn't rape. Conflating regret with rape is a tool that rapists use in order to deny culpability for the perpetration of rape. The fact that a man is asking these questions suggests that they have either contemplated or perpetrated rape. It is a huge red flag to recognise a man who is not safe to be around.
Now to me it seems that having grey areas is quite useful, because while 1 and 2 are obviously rape, and I want to say 3 and 4 are rape also, but it seems then if you don’t have any grey areas you have to say 5 is rape also, which sounds extremely problematic to me. There indeed must be thousands of happy couples across the UK who’s first sexual encounter was mutual rape. Which I think demeans what rape is and is harmful to people who have suffered trauma from rape.
And here we have the favourite go-to-quote from men seeking to minimise rape whilst feigning concern for the trauma of "real" rape victims. Demeaning rape occurs when people pretend that rape has "grey areas" or that it's about regret or an inability to understand consent. Holding men accountable for committing rape is not "demeaning". This statement is yet another red flag.
This is a serious question – and please don’t sidestep it, particularly with regard to 5. As a guy who’s walked on more than a few White Ribbon marches I’m sympathetic to you, but I find the rigid doctrinal attitude positively potentially harmful, as opposed to taking a pragmatic approach.
And now we have the "I'm a nice guy" defence. Let us be perfectly clear here: attending a white ribbon march does not make you an ally to victims of rape. As many rape victims will explain, it is the men who claim to be "nice guys" who commit the vast majority of rapes. These men show up on white ribbon marches or tell you they hate rapists and claim to support victims of rape. They are lying: pretending consent is a confusing issue only helps rapists. The only "pragmatic" approach to rape is for men to stop raping. Creating a hierarchy of rapes due to "pragmatism" is how rapists get away with committing rape over and over and over again.
Rape is a crime and we have a rigid doctrinal attitude because they ONLY PERSON who can prevent rape is the rapist. The above is the same victim-blaming, perpetrator minimising crap women are told every single day by the men who rape them: their friends, brothers, fathers, cousins, uncles, bosses, neighbours.
Women don;t want "sympathy". We want men to stop raping and we want other men to stop making excuses for rapists.