Wah! How am I supposed to know if someone consents to sex?, by @Herbeatittude

Cross-posted from: Herbs & Hags
Originally published: 25.01.15

A flurry of internet indignation from rapey types has greeted the announcement of new guidelines for dealing with rape. New Guidelines

The guidelines advise that rape suspects who claim that the sex they had with a woman alleging rape was consensual, should be asked questions about how they ensured that the person alleging rape was actually consenting to that sex.  Just as a man accused of burglary who said “no, guv, I didn’t do it” would be asked further questions to find out if he might be lying, a man accused of rape will be treated in exactly the same way.

This is considered extremely unfair by some sections of the internet, who appear to believe that rape suspects should be treated differently from any other crime suspect.  “Off you go then mate” is apparently the correct response, followed by a no-crime report. By and large that’s exactly how it’s always been done and is one of the reasons our rape conviction rate has stood at round about 6-7% for the last few years: because police don’t bother to ask further questions in the way they do of other crime suspects. Now the DPP have issued guidelines to ensure that the police at least go through the basics of crime investigation when an allegation of rape is made, you would think that it means the presumption of innocence has been dumped.  

“I’m going to have to get my wife to sign a contract before every session” wail the rapey twitterati.

“How are you supposed to prove you had consent?” ask the rapey CiFers.

Here’s the thing.  During normal non-coerced sex, whatever the sex of the people doing it, they care about the other person’s responses and behaviour.  They look at each other, smile, laugh, cry out, scream, giggle, shout, make eye-contact – whatever floats your boat , but most importantly, they are engaging with each other, feeling each other’s reactions, stopping if something seems wrong, asking “OK?” if there’s any doubt, reassuring each other it’s OK to go on, or move position, go on to something else, whatever.  Not doing so, is pretty sociopathic behaviour (with the usual caveats about consensual role-play, pre-agreed kink etc).  So for people on the internet to be wailing about how unfair it is that people accused of rape will be asked a few basic questions about what steps they took to ensure consent, shows just how deeply embedded our notion of sex is, as something men do to women rather than something people do together, you know, with each other.

The “should I get her to sign a contract” idea, is born of the notion that sex is not a two-way street, where you respond to your partner’s actions and reactions, but a sort of glorified wank, in which you have this living, breathing sex toy that you can use however you want as long as she lets you and doesn’t complain. She doesn’t have to enjoy it however, because that’s not the point of sex. Apparently. Men who make this argument seem utterly oblivious of the fact that they’re very clearly announcing not only that they hold views indistinguishable from rapists, but also that they’re really crap in bed.

Hopefully the effect of the new guidelines will ensure that more rapes get properly investigated and long term, that there is a cultural shift to an assumption that everyone involved in a sexual act, should be a willing, uncoerced participant.  You never know, we might even get to the point where heterosexual sex is something women who engage in it, actually enjoy most of the time.  We might catch sight of that sexual revolution we keep hearing has happened.


HerbsandHags: Meanderings of a HagI have no fixed subject matter for my blog, it tends to be whatever grabs me, but for some reason lots that has grabbed me has been about rape or other male violence. It’s all with a feminist slant though. Twitter @Herbeatittude