Semi-Open Thread: Rapist or Not?

Here is  a story recently posted on The Good Men Project under the title “Accidental Rapist“:

“I don’t want to hurt your feelings,” she said, “but sometimes I really don’t want to have sex. Sometimes I do, but not as often as you want it. And sometimes I want to tell you ‘no,’ but I can’t bring myself to do it. So I try and send you signals, hoping you can just tell how I’m feeling. But that doesn’t work, so it’s… it’s just easier to say ‘yes’ or just say nothing at all.”

My face flushed. I felt nauseated. I thought instantly of the previous night, where we’d grabbed what I thought was a hot half-hour when my roommates were both gone. Katie had seemed so passionate when we’d been making out, but then gotten very quiet once all our clothes were off. I’d told myself she wanted to have one ear cocked for the sound of a key in the door. I hadn’t considered—or hadn’t wanted to consider—the more obvious possibility: she was trying to tell me that she didn’t want to have sex.

I looked out the window. I couldn’t meet Katie’s eyes. My gaze fixed in the distance, my voice trembling, I asked what seemed the only possible question: “Are you trying to tell me I raped you?”

So what say you, dear readers? Is the narrator of the story a rapist or not?

And if you followed the link and read the entire post, what is your reaction to it?

16 thoughts on “Semi-Open Thread: Rapist or Not?

  1. I read that article yesterday.

    It is difficult to say if it was rape or not because Mr Schwyzer, and by extend his then-girlfriend, offers no reason why she said yes when she meant no.

    I mean did she have a reason to assume saying no would have dangerous or abuse consequences ? In that case yes. Rape. Was she merely afraid that he would go and look for sex elsewhere or that he would hurt her feelings ? If yes, then no, is wasn’t rape.

    Just because you are not enthusiastic about the sex you had, does not mean that you were raped. If you consciously decide to have sex with your partner because otherwise s/he might leave for a partner with a more compatible libido and you will be alone again, you are not raped, but in a shitty relationship that is bound to fail sooner or later.

    Everything else would shift the responsibility too heavily on one side. I mean when/if she said ‘Yes’, and by ‘Yes’ I don’t mean ‘Uuh, okay’, what was he realistically supposed to do ?

    Doubt the word of an adult human ? Because you know so much better what someone else really wants ? How about bringing a lie detector, make her sign a waiver or ask her to pee on a drug test to make sure she is not under influence ?


  2. I do not feel it was a rape either. And not merely because there are no indications that she said “no” at any point, or that she believed Hugo (by the way, Clarissa, you seem to be so… ehm… focused on Hugo lately:) ) may become violent if she voiced her “no”. But from general philosophical standpoint.
    I do not feel invoking “rape” in this situation is useful. I agree with Hugo concerning the ideal. Of course, the ideal is when everybody participates in sex consciously and enthusiastically. But like any other ideal, it is something/somewhere where individuals or couples or the whole cultures arrive via learning process. Learning via experience. Sometimes less than perfect experience. In a given situation I would suggest taking this as a learning experience would be much healthier attitude than to panic about rape. By the way, the girl seems to be much more willing and able to take the experience this way. So for her the lesson could be being more clear about her desires, both with her partner(s) and with herself. For him the lesson will be to be more attuned to his partner(s) in the process. It does not mean mind-reading, but really, we who are older than 19 know that it is entirely possible to feel partner’s enthusiasm in sex or lack thereof.
    And, apart from any ideological issues, Hugo could ask himself – what makes me still eager to have sex with a partner who is less than enthusiastic (even only because she indeed is tuned into the sounds behind the door instead of into sex), even though it is obviously less pleasurable for me than it could be if enthusiasm were present? Am I really connected to my partner? Am I willing to be? Or am I just looking for sex for the sake of my physical pleasure + ego boost? Etc.

    Note that contemplating these issues is not equivalent to beating oneself on the head with a big stick with “rape” written on it. Or with another stick “I am not developed enough, oh horror”. (Of course you were not developed enough at 19, Hugo. You are not some sort of a feminist superman.) This exploration can be done in a spirit of learning, not judging.


    1. I want to let people speak before I offer my perspective but I just wanted to address the reason why so many links to Hugo’s posts keep appearing. When I scroll down my very long blogroll, whenever I see anything extremely interesting or truly egregious, I just click on it and see how I can use it in a post. The egregious articles often happen to be written by Hugo, as I keep discovering. I don’t sift through his site specifically for things to be upset about. They just pop up in the blogroll very regularly.


  3. Heh, Clarissa, I find myself having the same reaction to much of Hugo’s work–it’s often interesting, often spot-on, and sometimes one big WTF, as with this piece. I think that it’s important that men understand that a hard “no” isn’t the only way of saying no. But the absence of a hard “no” (and given that she was unimpaired) and then bringing rape into it seems like bait. There’s enough of a problem already with people recognizing that a man not taking “no” for an answer through coercion and wheedling and wearing down and implied threats can be rape–this only confuses the issue, I think. I wish the piece had run without a connection to rape, or at least a minimal one. I DO think some rapes happen “accidentally” in the sense that the rapist genuinely doesn’t know that he’s raping someone (as with Eric Angell, who I believe you wrote about on here–the guy who told the story at a comedy gig about essentially raping someone). But this situation is not one of those times.


  4. Another way to look at it: Actually, the woman tricked the narrator into having sex the narrator wouldn’t have wanted if he knew about her lack of lust. As she was the less honest one in this situation, doesn’t that make her more of a rapist than him?


  5. No, she wasn’t trying to say he raped her, or that she felt she had to have sex to “keep” him, she was saying she was worn down. People will wear you down to get sex the way students will beg for more points on tests, etc. I’ve been known to be tired and give in and then later say look, please don’t try that again. I don’t see why it’s not OK to say that.


  6. And this is where a grown-up person with a functional brain steps in to say, “No, darling. Sex doesn’t come in extreme varieties of flushed-with-eager-passion and scrambling-away-like-mad. Now go to bed and don’t bait traffic with tired old hooks”.

    Or, of course, Katie was probably the rapist. We just never know with points of view these days, do we? It’s a veritable goldmine, some people’s brains.


  7. In school we went through a whole “consent” versus “enthusiastic consent” presentation. It might not be rape, but it’s not entirely consensual.


  8. I would say that if he physically noticed that Katie looked uncomfortable and didn’t stop to ask if she was Ok, then he was very irresponsible and needs to ask himself why he didn’t just stop and ask “Are you ok?”, or words to that effect.
    It would have taken him two seconds to stop and ask, and his failure to do so caused all that misery between himself and Katie.

    I couldn’t ever apply the label of rapist though. Short sighted and irresponsible in the heat of the moment? Yes. A rapist? No.

    On the other hand though, while I can totally understand why Katie might not have wanted to say no, I still find it hard to see how one can get themselves in a situation where they can’t say no to their own boyfriend. Maybe I’m contradicting myself there a little, but mainly because I’m not entirely sure what to think myself

    Ultimately though, he could have simply asked her if she was ok with what they were doing. I can understand how he could get caught up in his own testosterone fuelled passion, but bottom line is that one can’t excuse him for his failure to double check.


  9. Sort of in response to Pen and Vertigo…

    I find myself wondering, and I don’t think I like the question because it opens all kinds of potentially scary doors: Is there a continuum, or a spectrum, with varying degrees of consent/non-consent, and where does the line between “rape” and “something that’s not rape” fall?


  10. this is clearly not rape. to even suggest it is at once absurd and detrimental to the cause of dealing with real incidences of rape. hugo uses the word – even with a qualifier – because he knows it is inflammatory. he is a master showman.


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