Rape and Human Rights

square243There’s a discussion going on over at Feministe on the issue of rape. I can’t believe that after many years of education on the matter that there are still men — and women — who feel that when a woman says “no” the guy can take it for a “yes” and get away with it. The ruckus started when Nick Kiddle posted her own account of being nearly raped by two of America’s Britain’s finest.

The gist of the story is this: Nick picked up a pair of paratroopers. They went off to have sex with the understanding that the fellow would use a condom. When he got started, no condom. So she left.

Nick wrote:

If he had persisted, if he had penetrated me despite my objections, that would have been rape. I had consented to sex, but I had made it clear that condoms were part of the deal. When the condom vanished, so did my consent.

Sounds fair to me. It’s in keeping with my view about the rape that ultimately led to the conviction of Greg Haidl here in Orange County where the jury upheld silence to mean “No”.

But out of the breeze blows liza who is mad that this Nick woman has equated an accident of promiscuity with what was done to women in Latin American prisons:

When did rape go from the use of sex as a weapon of physical and psychic destruction to being non-consensual sex?…I do think this whole debate, the way it is framed triviliazes rape.

But that is what rape is: it is sexual intercourse without consent. It is non-consensual and it is an act of physical and psychic destruction. Unelected and unaccountable in that moment of despotic orgy, the fellow has arrogated unto himself the power of dictatorship over a woman. The Rapist is the Secret Police, the Army, and the Executioner all rolled into one as long as he maintains his power. He rules by Terror.< /p>

Human rights are not about countries. They are about individuals. The UN holds this to be true and has encouraged legislatures to pass laws to protect women against rape, period. So liza, don’t give me that “this is so American how you see this”. First, our most respected international alliance holds the right of the woman to say no to be a right. Second, as this discussion shows, a vocal minority of Americans still attempts to deny that right by replacing it with a privilege.

That goes to show that the justification for this discussion comes not from cultural bias, but from a higher, more developed morality.

If the guy had wanted to continue, just how does liza expect that he do that without violence? Can liza envision a way — short of getting Nick to change her mind to a yes — that he can do this?

Does she mean that there can be instances of rape being used as weapons of physical and psychic destruction that are consensual? Liza’s full argument is full of dangerous holes. For example, would we let a man off for breaking his wife’s jaw because doing so trivializes the Holocaust? (Versions of this do happen — governments like to point to their body counts and say “See, it wasn’t that bad!”)

In conclusion, my view is nonconsensual sex is rape. No must mean no. The only point on which I count Nick wrong is this: even if the guy had had a condom, she could still end the agreement for whatever reason suited her. If the fellow had pressed on, it would have been rape.

The contract approach is inappropriate. What matters is respect for the right of individuals to make up and change their own minds.

No woman gives up that right, ever.


  1. Tiny nitpick: they weren’t “America’s finest” – I’m based in the UK and they were members of our armed forces. Not that it makes any difference, but I’m an accuracy nut ;)

  2. I will have to agree NO means NO. It’s nice to read from a man he understands what NO means. Rape is against someone’s will. Rape is being forced to have something done to them they don’t want to happen.
    I was date raped at 15 . Some people just don’t understand that. A date does not mean giving up a persons right to their own body. I was raped later in life so drunk I was unable to fight the person. Total scum life take advantage of a person while under the influence and can not defend themselves to their fullest.
    Rape does leave emotional and mental and physical scares. Rape is violence with violence is black eyes, knive wounds, wondering if you are going to die from being choked.
    I will not wear clothing too short, or too sexy, whithout my husband pressent. For all those bastards who believe in the concept she dressed sexy cause she really wants it
    For those who never been raped or not known a family member to go through the healing process I say this.
    Why is a punch in the face or being beat up called assault? Why is assault punishable in a court of law? Violence is violence .
    Personally I think it is my human right not to ever be forced into something I really don’t want to do. It makes me upset, the times I haven’t prosecuted to others it means it never happened. I had reasons.
    sorry joel, touchy subject. No worries I have long healed all the wounds.

  3. It’s that kind of attitude, that “He didn’t beat the sh*t out of her and f*ck her so it wasn’t rape” that really makes it an uphill battle for the rest of us. The attempt to trivialize the assertion of power of one person over another for ANY purpose is disturbing. When I first started addressing my abuse issues with my shrink he asked me to just talk about life with my father. I told him about the intimidation, wielding weapons in the house, the beatings, the molestation… And at the end of all of that I said “but he never really abused us. There are people who had it a whole lot worse than us.” And he just looked at me for a minute with a mildly stunned expression. Then he said “You have no idea what you just said do you?” And I didn’t. I really thought that what my father did was ok because he didn’t put us in the hospital or kill one of us. I felt grateful because I looked around and saw people who had broken bones or dead siblings, were put in foster homes things like that. And I said, I’m one of the lucky ones.

  4. I agree. You are both very brave indeed. Kudos to you Joel for understanding that the simple premise that so many others can’t seem to wrap their head around for some reason. No. means. no. period!

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