Friday, August 24, 2012

was I raped twice?

George Galloway said about the charges against Assange, "Even taken at its worst, if the allegations made by these two women were true, 100 per cent true, and even if a camera in the room captured them, they don't constitute rape. Not everybody needs to be asked prior to each insertion. Some people believe that when you go to bed with somebody, take off your clothes, and have sex with them and then fall asleep, you're already in the sex game with them. It might be really bad manners not to have tapped her on the shoulder and said, "do you mind if I do it again?". It might be really sordid and bad sexual etiquette, but whatever else it is, it is not rape."

Apologies to two groups before I continue:

1. Some of you will consider this Too Much Sharing. I am a private person by nature; I don't think my blog has ever before had anything about my sex life.

2. Some of you will think I am making light of rape when I criticize the way it is handled by a subset of people who look to the law to solve all problems. Saying I'm making light of rape here would be like saying I make light of murder when I criticize the death penalty.

When I was in college, a girlfriend woke me with a blowjob. It was initially more odd than erotic, a bit disorienting, but when I realized what was happening, to paraphrase the transcript of one charge against Assange, I let her continue. By the standards of those who say consent must be obtained before each act of sex, I was raped.

A few years later, I got drunk at a party and had sex with a woman who was hitting on me. I wouldn't have let her have her way with me if I hadn't been too drunk to consider the consequences.

The Center for Disease Control's The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS) claims,
Nearly 1 in 5 women (18.3%) and 1 in 71 men (1.4%) in the United States have been raped at some time in their lives, including completed forced penetration, attempted forced penetration, or alcohol/drug facilitated completed penetration.
Does "alcohol/drug faciliated completed penetration" mean that people who are high cannot consent? Or is it only referring to people who are unable to consent because they're unconscious or unable to indicate consent in a meaningful way?

And is it useful to call an attempted rape a rape? Is an attempted murder a murder? This isn't to say that attempting rape or murder aren't also horrible, but justice systems separate uncompleted murder from murder when compiling murder statistics. For most crimes, degree and intent matter, as categories like manslaughter, battery, and assault indicate.

Perhaps the greatest flaw in the CDC survey is that it excludes prisons. From n+1: Raise the Crime Rate: "prison rape accounted for the majority of all rapes committed in the US in 2008, likely making the United States the first country in the history of the world to count more rapes for men than for women."

But when you read the report with its limitations in mind, it's fascinating. For example:
More than 1 in 3 women (35.6%) and more than 1 in 4 men (28.5%) in the United States have experienced rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime.
Conservatives argue that the CDC's methodology is seriously flawed. See Researching the "Rape Culture" of America by Dr. Christina Hoff Sommers  and Re: Sexual Assault and College - By Robert VerBruggen. They prefer the Bureau of Justice Statistics for Rape And Sexual Assault.

Whatever you think of their politics, remember that conservatives are not arguing for lighter standards or punishment for rape—VerBruggen thinks it should be a capital offense. They're only arguing for accuracy.

Mind you, the inaccuracy is very useful for deflecting the argument from "Should Assange risk being deported to the US?" to "Is Assange a rapist?"

ETA: What Counts As Rape in the CDC's Survey? - Hit & Run : "The relevant question asked: ""When you were drunk, high, drugged, or passed out and unable to consent, how many people ever" "had vaginal sex with you," "made you receive anal sex," or "made you perform oral sex." Eight percent of women reported at least one such incident. Some of these cases—e.g., when a man has sex with a woman who is unconscious—clearly do amount to rape, but others are much more ambiguous. People frequently have sex after drinking or consuming other drugs. Does that automatically mean they are "unable to consent," even when they seem willing? Only sometimes? How do you know when? Can the determination be made at the time of the encounter, or only in restrospect?"

ETA 2: A useful reminder of what happened from Britain’s Socialist Workers Party and Socialist Party back extradition of Assange:
The police statements made by the women make no reference to a stated lack of consent or threat of force and refer to a split condom, rather than a failure to use one. The testimony regarding Miss W (plaintiff two) being asleep is contradicted by her own tweets—referring as they do to being only “half-asleep.” Plaintiff one had thrown a party for Assange after the alleged incident of sexual assault against her and invited Assange to stay in her room afterwards.

The women had initially gone to the police after conferring with one another, but then only to insist that Assange take an HIV test, which, in an extraordinary breach of standard procedure, the police did. The women did not allege rape.

That is why the initial investigation of August 20, 2010 was dropped and an arrest warrant against Assange cancelled the next day by one of Stockholm’s chief prosecutors, Eva Finne, who said in a statement to the press: “I don’t think there is reason to suspect that he has committed rape.”

The reissue of the warrant took place only after the intervention of Swedish Chief Prosecutor Marianne Ny on September 1, 2010.

Under normal circumstances, such flimsy and unsubstantiated allegations would not be considered the basis for criminal charges, especially after the two women were allowed to confer and give evidence together by the police. But these are not normal circumstances.


  1. ~Does that automatically mean they are "unable to consent," even when they seem willing? Only sometimes? How do you know when? Can the determination be made at the time of the encounter, or only in restrospect?"~

    I was young once, in the early days of date rape awareness (as opposed to be old and married in the sort of relationship where these aren't applicable questions). And there were several times when I found myself under the influence and denied the intercourse I offered because the other person wasn't an asshole. This leads me to answer that no, it's not only in retrospect. One can have the good sense to assume that the other is indeed unable to consent in the moment. Maybe you're wrong and they're perfectly aware of what they want. But isn't it better to be wrong in that way than the other and end up with a rape charge?

    1. Agreed on the general policy. My own past has always been, "when in doubt, assume no". It's served me well.

      But that would seem to suggest that in my second example, I was raped.

  2. The first one was rape from a legal standpoint. Unconscious people cannot consent to anything. Sleeping people are unconscious. Prior consent to sex doesn't mean that you're consenting in perpetuity and implied consent is really shaky ground. It would be hard to prove, of course, and if you didn't personally view it as rape, there wouldn't be any point in attempting to do so.

    The second one probably wasn't rape unless you were drunk to the point of unconsciousness or the woman in question deliberately spiked your drink to make you more compliant. (This is not all that different from contracts where sometimes they may be considered legally void if you were involuntarily drunk when you signed or if the other party knew you were drunk and deliberately took advantage of that fact.) It doesn't sound like either of those was the case based on your description of the events.

    "And is it useful to call an attempted rape a rape? Is an attempted murder a murder?"

    Depends on what you consider the damage to be from rape and what you think the purpose of keeping statistics like that is.

    Presumably the damage from murder is the fact of somebody being dead. Attempted murder doesn't leave anyone dead. On the other hand, if you just want to have an idea of how often people get to the point of making some meaningful step toward leaving others dead, clumping murder and attempted murder might make sense.

    If the presumed damage from rape is the purely physical side of things (potential transmission of disease, injuries incurred during the rape, unwanted pregnancies), then it wouldn't make sense to put it in the same category as attempted rape (although there might still be some physical injuries depending on what happened). If the presumed damage is non-physical (psychological trauma), then it would make sense to clump them. If the intent of keeping statistics is to have some idea of how often people get to the point of trying to force other people into non-consensual sex, it would also make sense to clump them.

    *shrug* That's my two cents, anyway.

    1. Sleeping people are unconscious, agreed, but when morning sex follows evening sex and no one's changed beds, is that new sex that requires new consent or is that continued sex?

      As for that girlfriend, I wouldn't charge her 'cause she meant well. Unless I had a political agenda, of course.

      But in the second example, I don't remember consenting. It wasn't quite passing out and waking up in bed with the woman, but it was mighty close. The morning after was what the kids call Walk of Shame time.

      I should add that I don't blame her. It was a party, everyone was having fun, and she decided I would be her fun. She misjudged the situation, perhaps because she was also drunk.

      Excellent point that rape isn't analogous to murder. I think I would compare it to torture instead, but questions of degree and intent still apply.

    2. If you don't remember consenting, then it's quite possible you didn't consent and you were raped. That's actually rather different from consenting and later regretting it, though. It seems to me that you were trying to present it as a non-rape in your original description. The phrase "let her have her way with me" suggests that you were aware of what was happening, believed yourself to have a choice in the matter, and simply decided to go with the flow.

    3. (edited version of comment)

      I used "let her have her way with me" because I don't know if I consented verbally or nonverbally. I was too drunk to consent in a meaningful way, but that's just an example of how sometimes, it's hard to say anything other than that when you get fucked up, you should expect to get into fucked up situations.

    4. Hello, I've lurked around a bit but never commented.

      I was intrigued by this statement:

      'when morning sex follows evening sex and no one's changed beds, is that new sex that requires new consent or is that continued sex?'

      I would definitely say that's new sex, because they were asleep in between, but I'd like to pose another scenario that happened to a friend of mine.

      She met a hot guy in a club, went home with him for a one-night stand. Midway through sex, without asking, he rolled her over and had anal sex with her. She found the experience very painful and traumatic and never had another one-night stand. Does that count as 'new sex' or as 'continued sex'?

      For myself, I hate being woken up, as a general rule, and if I woke up to find someone else's penis in me I would probably freak the fuck out!

      Overall, I would say that you simply don't know what someone will enjoy or hate or want or not want. If you're sleeping with someone you've just met then you should ask every time you try something new. But if you and your girlfriend have a long standing agreement to wake each other up with oral then that's fine for you.

    5. I would say your friend's one-night stand guy was definitely an insult-of-your-choice, because when something is potentially painful, you at least get nonverbal consent, as in, you proceed slowly enough that someone can say no or redirect the action. I don't think that falls under "new sex"; it falls under "sex gone wrong".

      When I discussed this somewhere before, a woman was extremely skeptical about he possibility of not waking up until after the penis was inside, but everyone's different.

      In my case, the girlfriend thought it would be a pleasant surprise. While I'm of the opinion that Assange is at least a cad, I can't say his assumption was any different than my girlfriend's.

  3. The "1 in 71 men have been raped" stat from the CDC survey doesn’t tell the whole story. It defines "rape" as the attacker penetrating the victim, which excludes women who use their vagina to rape a man (rape by envelopment) which is counted as “made to penetrate”. The very same survey says “1 in 21 men (4.8%) reported that they were made to penetrate someone else,” which is far more than 1 in 71. Also, the study says that 79.2% of male victims of “made to penetrate” reported only female perpetrators, meaning they were raped by a woman.

    The above, lifetime stats do show a lower percentage of male victims (up to 1.4% rape by penetration + 4.8% made to penetrate = 6.2%) than female victims (18.3%) although it is far more than the 1 in 71 you stated. However, if you look at the report’s stats for the past 12 months, just as many number of men have been “forced to penetrate” as women were raped, meaning that if you properly define “made to penetrate” as rape, men were raped as often as women.

  4. I haven't really kept up with this whole palaver but there is another point, I thought?

    It wasn't just that she was asleep, but also that he didn't use a condom which they had previously agreed on? If someones agreed to 'sex with protection' and then without their consent you have 'sex without protection' isn't that a kind of sex that they specifically did not consent to?

    1. I can't compare anything that I've experienced with the condom incident, so I won't go into that, but from what I've read, the woman who experienced that did not think he had committed a crime; she simply wanted him tested. There's a lot of information, including translations of the transcripts, here:

      I really wish the Swedish government would guarantee Assange would not be extradited to the US so questions like that could be addressed.