Defining Rape and Disparaging Women

January 25, 2018 | By | Reply More

With the #MeToo movement in full bloom, it is apparent that the discussion we are now having about consent and the contentiousness of this discussion have not moved much since 1993, when Katie Roiphe wrote “Date Rape’s Other Victim” in the NYT.  I am in general agreement with Roiphe’s analysis.

Like many important issues today, we have divided into tribes and locked horns. Regarding this particular issue of consent, it is apparently impossible for many people to see that expanding the notion of rape beyond physical threats and physical coercion can only be done at the risk of denying that women have commensurate intelligence, communication skills and autonomy as men.  Here is an excerpt from Roiphe’s 1993 article:

This apparently practical, apparently clinical proscription cloaks retrograde assumptions about the way men and women experience sex. The idea that only an explicit yes means yes proposes that, like children, women have trouble communicating what they want. Beyond its dubious premise about the limits of female communication, the idea of active consent bolsters stereotypes of men just out to “get some” and women who don’t really want any.

Rape-crisis feminists express nostalgia for the days of greater social control, when the university acted in loco parentis and women were protected from the insatiable force of male desire. The rhetoric of feminists and conservatives blurs and overlaps in this desire to keep our youth safe and pure.

By viewing rape as encompassing more than the use or threat of physical violence to coerce someone into sex, rape-crisis feminists reinforce traditional views about the fragility of the female body and will. According to common definitions of date rape, even “verbal coercion” or “manipulation” constitute rape. Verbal coercion is defined as “a woman’s consenting to unwanted sexual activity because of a man’s verbal arguments not including verbal threats of force.” The belief that “verbal coercion” is rape pervades workshops, counseling sessions and student opinion pieces. The suggestion lurking beneath this definition of rape is that men are not just physically but also intellectually and emotionally more powerful than women.


Category: Communication, Sex

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

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