Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Treating "Yes" The Same As "No"

There is an incredibly harmful narrative that's wormed its way into the mainstream discussion about sexual consent.  The idea that we should ignore "yes" and "no" when it comes to sexual consent.

What's that?  That isn't mainstream, you say?  That's rapist talk?  Why yes, that is rapist talk, but that doesn't mean it isn't mainstream. 

I am, of course, talking about those underage individuals who desire and pursue sexual relationships with older individuals.  The very fact that the age of consent exists as a law is proof of the existence of such individuals, since you don't make laws against things that never happen.

The politically driven policy is to treat the kids who said "yes" exactly the same as the ones who said "no".  I'm not talking about the adult not having sex with the kid, for those of you still unsure where I stand on that.  I'm talking about how society is to treat those kids who did end up having sex with someone in violation of the age of consent. 

What happens when you treat someone like a rape victim?  They start acting the part.  So much of the trauma that comes from rape stems not from the mere act of forced sex, but from the societal reaction.  To take one example, the feelings of bodily impurity that may come about naturally when someone is forced into sex are added to by a cultural narrative that says that a person who has been raped will never be the same again.  If the person didn't feel violated or sullied before, the cultural narrative can do the job of making them feel violated retroactively all on its own. 

By treating "yes" the same as "no", we make damn sure that everyone who said "yes" and meant it ends up exactly as traumatized as the ones who said "no" and meant that. The pattern is so consistent, an alien observer would be forced to conclude that was the point. 

The virgin/whore false dichotomy is at the root of a lot of harmful ideas the mainstream of society has about sexuality, and here we have yet another example.  The people pushing the agenda of treating those young people who honestly and enthusiastically said "yes" precisely the same way we treat those who've been the victims of force or coersion aren't doing so because it's healthy for those kids. They're pushing that agenda because in their narrow minds the only other option is to call the kid a slut and move on with their day. 

There is no inherent need to make such a child devalue his/her own choices and judgements.  There is no value in making that child feel vulnerable and exploited. If we were actually concerned with the health and sanity of those kids, we would be looking for any way to make them feel safe and empowered, rather than deliberately imposing a victim narrative on those who haven't reached that point naturally. 
The crime of rape is the crime of ignoring another person's explicit consent.  Whether they said "yes" or "no", the rapist does what he/she was going to do anyway.  Consent is all about the importance of that distinction.  By ignoring that "yes", we're making sure that whether they said "yes" or "no", someone is going to ignore their opinion on the subject and mistreat them accordingly.  


  1. An interesting point. I wouldn't be surprised if some rape victims are negatively affected by the reactions of society. However, I think you might be just slightly trivialising the extent of trauma caused by the actual rape itself. I don't think there are any rape victims who aren't negatively affected by it to a massive extent, it's more about whether or not they try to internalise the psychological damage. I don't think the reactions of society can even compare to the damage caused by the attack.

    1. I'm not denying that bodily assault is a big deal, but how we define rape is a bit tricky.

      It's tricky because how we define sex is tricky. What sorts of touch are sex acts and what sorts of touch are non-sexual varies depending on the society around a person. Sure, some are pretty much universal like vaginal penetration by a penis, but whether something is a rape or a "mere" assault is otherwise dictated by social norms.

      And it's the power that dictates what is an intimate sexual act and what isn't that changes what is a "mere" assault otherwise into a rape, with all the violation that is involved in that.

      Of course, that's just handling the forcible bodily assault flavor of rape, which is what I assume you're referring to when you say you doubt anyone isn't negatively effected by the attack itself.

      If you want to see what a difference social expectations make, consider the different reactions society has to a regretted drunken hookup. One party is blackout drunk, and has sex without remembering it, and wakes up not believing they would have ever found the person in bed with them attractive. If the blackout drunk was a man, it's socially treated as an embarrassment. If the blackout drunk was a woman, it's socially treated as a violation.

      Now, admittedly, one might argue that this is a situation that should be treated as a violation in both cases, and that treating the man's case as no big deal, or a minor embarrassment at worst, we're compounding his trauma by delegitimizing his genuine feelings of violation and forcing him to suppress it rather than deal with it. But that argument would again point to a social reaction being at the root of much of the negative outcomes that result from the act.

      Humans are social creatures, and because we are hardwired to build our identities in relation to the society we live in, we are incredibly vulnerable to psychological trauma resulting soely from the narratives society tells us about ourselves. That's why gays who are in the closet and thus not actually experiencing physical violence still experience severe negative psychological effects from living in a society that doesn't accept homosexuality.

      Ultimately it isn't my intention to say to anyone, "your pain isn't real" when I say that a portion of that trauma has its origin in the way the person is treated by society after the fact. I've always considered my own physical pain less important than my own social pain, so it never occurred to me that calling it social in origin might be seen as trivializing, and that was absolutely not my intention.

      All I'm trying to say is that we shouldn't be invested in making sure everyone who gets raped conforms to our traumatized victim paradigm. That we should count our blessings when a person gets through that without a scratch rather than trying to force them to "confront" a pain that wasn't there until we put it there.

      A lot of writers on the subject of rape culture talk about the problem of the "perfect victim", the idea that only people who conform to a very narrow set of behaviors and attitudes are worthy of sympathy and compassion after they've been raped. I'm coming at that same problem from a slightly different angle.

    2. Pedophiles love to deny rape and the harm from it. As someone who worked with rape victims their pain isn't from society but from being raped repeatedly by a trusted person. The pain of bleeding from your anus or vagina. The fear of it happening again. Being beaten tomthe point of going to the hospital. This is disgusting but clearly shows how pedophiles want to remove the idea of rape. They play the "society tells you rape is bad". Why are you trying to tell victims/survivors how to feel? Then again pedos are psychopathic sickos who are trying to get society to allow brutal rape of kids. First step deny rape is ever bad or say rape is rare.

    3. You're the one telling them how to feel, Angelo. You're the one who's ignoring every form of rape except the brutal, violent forms that already get the most media attention, thus trivializing everyone who was not physically injured. Do you not see that someone who was drugged unconsious and violated is every bit as much a victim as someone who was held down forcably? Do you not grasp that the core element of rape is not the bruising and bleeding afterwards, but rather the lack of consent to sexual activity?

      Yes, when you add physical assault on top of sexual assault, it's worse, not to mention easier to prove, but you're just ignoring whole categories.

      Whether someone said "yes" or "no", is the core question to ask when determining if someone was raped. This blog post was about trivializing away even that detail, and here you are, still seemingly unable to grasp the difference.

  2. You pathetic excuse a human. You praise the sexual abuse of children and you watch it. Call me a liar but you will be caught. You truly are scum.