A New Insight into Date Rape

I used to have a difficult time understanding how a situation would occur where the woman felt she had been raped and the man felt that the sex had been consensual. (I am excluding situations in which one person is lying. I am addressing here those situations where both parties are acting as honest brokers and somehow, the woman felt that she was raped and the man is astounded because he believed the encounter to be consensual.) After all, it seems pretty black and white, doesn’t it? However, over the years and after speaking to women (and men) I’ve started to “get it” a bit more. I think the writer of this piece does an amazing job of painting the picture of what a real life scenario of exactly that situation looks like.  It’s really worth reading:

What has become increasingly clear to me is that the problem goes so much deeper than just the communication at the time of the sexual activity itself. It reflects problems in the way both women and men express themselves, the difficulty women have asserting what they want – sometimes even understanding what they really want and the fact that men have been raised to believe that what woman say they want and what they really want are not always the same thing. To be fair that really often is the case in other areas of our life, so why not here as well. When we say “Oh, I look awful” and we really mean “I think I look pretty damn nice today, but I really would like you to comment on that” we are just adding to that perspective.

To add to that difficulty sometimes women don’t express themselves clearly because they are a bit conflicted. I don’t want to have sex with this man but I am attracted to him… so does that mean I don’t want to have sex with him? Women, when they are feeling even a bit conflicted can have a difficult time saying what they mean. Men, on the other hand, rather than waiting for clear, unambiguous signals that their advances are wanted, tend to rely on mixed signals as a way to press ahead. Even small negative signals don’t seem to register. I loved the end of the piece, where she says “Look. You’re bigger and stronger than I am, and you could probably have sex with me tonight, but I just want you to know that if you do, you’ll be raping me.” And then he stops dead in his tracks. Suddenly he understands. And then he stops. Despite what it might look like, he wasn’t trying to “rape” her. He was “y ’know, just going with the flow.”

So here’s what we need to learn. Men need to stop looking at ambiguity or slight resistance as a green light. Women have to start saying what they mean, explicitly. And lord knows, after I read this article I went home and said to my daughter, “If you are ever in a similar situation, look him straight in the eyes and use the R word. ‘You are raping me.’”  To hell with ambiguity.