Tuesday, March 28, 2006

'No' means no (and after a few martinis, 'yes' means no as well)

From the BBC:

Radio advertisements warning men that having sex without consent could lead to a prison sentence have been launched by the Home Office.

The campaign, which will also use magazine adverts and posters, aims to reduce the number of sex assaults that occur when a woman is very drunk.

It comes amid low conviction rates for rape cases in England and Wales.

The government may also change the law to allow juries to decide whether a woman was too drunk to give consent.

The £500,000 campaign will be followed on 20 March by adverts in men's magazines, stickers on condom machines and posters in pub toilets.

They will say that unless a woman actively says "yes" to sex then men must assume the answer is "no".


And from Microwave Man in the Times:

Caught short in a particularly unappealing city centre, I dodged into a nearby pub and finally came face to face with the most offensive advertising campaign I have ever seen.

Just across from the battered condom machine and above the urinal choked by fags was one of the posters at the heart of the Government’s new “hard-hitting campaign focusing on the issue of consent in rape cases”, the precise focus of which is men who take advantage of women who are drunk.

Scene: the inside of a prison cell, from the perspective of a man who has just walked in. On the top bunk, gazing at the camera with an expression of sexual menace, sits an old lag with rather more than porridge on his mind. Caption: “If you don’t get a ‘yes’ before sex, who’ll be your next sleeping partner?”

The message seems to be that there comes a point when a woman becomes so drunk that she is no longer responsible for her actions — an interesting, if patronising, position that implies a retrospective moral negation of her original decision to get drunk in the first place.


Whilst avoiding the temptation to fall into the ‘they’re all asking for it’ trap, three clear problems immediately arise with this well-intentioned but typically inane New Labour initiative.

Two are practical problems: Firstly, in a court of law it will be impossible to determine how drunk she was at the key moment when the ‘consent’ was given. Secondly, how is the man supposed to judge whether the woman is sufficiently drunk not to be able to give consent? No particular number of units of alcohol is given as a minimum, and even if it were given, should single men be carrying breathalysers to nightclubs with them, in case they get lucky?

Microwave Man hints at the third problem, which is one of principle: how come women are deemed to be incapable of responsibility for their drunken actions, but men can be prosecuted for theirs?

60 Comments:

Blogger Bret said...

It looks like the point is that men should never, ever have sex with women under any circumstances unless they're willing to risk going to prison. I suppose that even if you're married, your wife could claim she was drunk and didn't give consent as well. That'd be an easy way to get rid of a husband you didn't want any more.

March 28, 2006 7:44 AM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

Some years ago, Antioch College, which for you Englanders is sort of the testing ground for insane leftist ideas in America, imposed a rule on its students that when making out (not going all the way, just rounding the bases as we Yanks say), each step had to be negotiated and ratified.

I haven't heard anything about this since, but there was no question that the college administration was absolutely serious and thought highly of itself for this innovation.

Mencken was only half right. It isn't only Puritans who want to take all the fun out of sex.

March 28, 2006 7:55 AM  
Blogger Peter Burnet said...

Like with office sexual harassment codes, the problem here is that everything is based on the subjective mindset of the woman, which (booze or not) often proves to be very protean, rather than on objective standards of behaviour that can be understood by both and judged after the fact by third parties. That being said, it amazes me how so many modern men feel entitled to live out the timeless male fantasy of consequence-free casual sex. They go a-huntin' in the traditional, carefree way and everyone knows who is the hunter and who is the hunted, but when things go wrong they get on their "sauce for the goose/gander" high horses and pretend its all some androgynous game between interchangeable equals. Well, it ain't.

Yes, we all think we know self-sufficient women who like one night stands, but they are far from the norm and most of them will admit to longing for monogamy--if not they often become jaundiced manhaters. The fallout from the sexual revolution has landed on women (especially younger women)and it is ugly in many ways. This, gentlemen, is just a confused, incoherent reaction by women trying to claw back a little of the respect, deference and commitment they used to enjoy in the bad old days of the patriarchy. Bret's whine is silly and Harry's notion of sex as simply "fun" is not one most women share if he means a self-contained diversion with no emotional consequences. I suspect these women (many troubled)are experiencing rage and shame at being casually dismissed in the morning and are so hellbent on revenge that they sincerely re-write the history of the night before. It's all a mess with many women being positively schizophrenic about the tension between defiantly asserting their modern equality and their visceral aversion to emotionally empty sex. But just why are we feeling so sorry for men who have sex with drunk strangers or casual acquaintances and then expect to walk away with a Cheshire cat grin? Never was and never will be. If that's what you think you need, find a pro.

March 29, 2006 3:50 AM  
Blogger Brit said...

If the mating game were simple, there'd be virtually nothing in the fiction department of the bookshop, and precious few movies in the video store.

Peter eloquently illustrates the ugly side of the game, but that's just what it is: a side. For most people, men and women, 'one night stands' are very often: (a) fun; and/or (b) entered into in the hope of establishing a longer relationship.

And the single man's ability to successfully 'hunt' in today's jungle of bars and nightclubs is as overrated as Peter's image of women as the innocent 'hunted'.

But where Peter is certainly right is that women find it much more difficult than men to detach emotion from casual sexual encounters. Feelings of shame and guilt come more easily to women, leading to the history re-writing and probably accounting for most false rape claims.

Nonetheless, one thing New Labour's nannies will never achieve is the elimination of the most basic human instinct. Any laws which make it more likely that innocent men will be wrongfully convicted are to be avoided.

In this particular case, the campaign to prosecute drunken men for failing to ignore come-ons from drunken women is surely unjust.

Of course, gentlemen with any semblence of decency will know when a lady's had one too many and should draw a line.

But given that there are plenty enough jerks out there, and even healthy semblances of decency can disappear as the pints go down the hatch, a better campaign would be to encourage women to switch to water after the first six or seven bottles of Smirnoff Ice.

March 29, 2006 4:34 AM  
Blogger Peter Burnet said...

Well, Brit, your insistence that many men and women enjoy casual sex equally brings to mind the puzzled comment of a friend from university days who said: "I don't understand. If I were a woman, I'd be the easiest lay on campus."

Of course it is unjust, but in the absence of any objective conventions about relations between the sexes that transcend the immediate "wishes" of the parties, I'm afraid you are between a rock and a hard place. Drunken rape does occur and has to be dealt with by the law, so, given that eye-witnesses are a rarity, what are you left with except the competing stories of the parties? Surely you aren't going to argue that a drunken woman is fair game if she has lost the ability to fend off unwelcome advances or assaults. She may be a bloody fool, but she doesn't deserve that outrage by any standard. So it's her word against his in a total vacuum of objective standards. Caveat Emptor.

It is interesting how we tend to analyse this issue as if there were no lives surrounding the hormones of the moment. Are either of the parties married? Do they work together? Did he make promises of a trip to Greece he never had any intention of keeping? Does he know she is recovering from a depression or is in therapy? Does any of that matter? Should it?

Harry's recounting of the madness at Antioch is a riot, but that silliness came about for a reason. Up to thirty years ago, residences were segregated and closed and women were supervised. Students determined to have sex had to be fairly strategic and resolved. And if some silly girl lost it at a drunken frat party, everyone knew it wasn't right and there could be hell to pay from the college, father or even frat brothers. Expulsion wasn't out of the question for both parties even if rarely enforced. No more, so what is your solution that doesn't put all the burden on the women and leave the men scot-free? Antioch chose a parody of itself, but what would you suggest instead?

My favourite story about objective rules was an old Victorian Criminal Code offence that made it a crime for a ship's captain to seduce any woman not his wife no matter how willing or mature she was. Excessive and archaic as that seems, it did bespeak a better understanding of the power dynamic between men and women in personal relationships that modern thinking does. Maybe there should be a similar law for U.S. Presidents.

So, Brit, if we should encourage women to restrain their drinking, should we also develop a convention--enforced by the boys-- that men don't approach women after the third pint?

March 29, 2006 5:45 AM  
Blogger Peter Burnet said...

BTW, Brit, I said they were the hunted. I didn't say they were innocent, the scheming hussies. You guys have really got to stop this unfortunate habit of dismissing conservative arguments on morality by waving off your opponents as being in a time-warp.

March 29, 2006 6:09 AM  
Blogger Brit said...

As I said above, one thing the mating game ain't is simple.

In any human interaction the nuances (favourite word) are far too complex and often self-contradictory to be captured by general laws, and that goes tenfold for flirting.

But back to this particular case. This isn't about whether rape is a-ok if the woman is reeling half-blind drunk and the man is a cold-headed ruthless predator. It's about the Government telling men that not only does 'no' mean 'no', but watch out, because 'yes' means 'no' as well.

The campaign can only fail on practical terms, since in court it will still be her word against his, and juries worried about convicting the innocent will still maintain a high acquittal rate.

But in terms of approach it is also misguided. The message is: women are excused responsibility for drunken stupidity, men are not.

March 29, 2006 6:29 AM  
Blogger Oroborous said...

You guys have really got to stop this unfortunate habit of dismissing conservative arguments on morality by waving off your opponents as being in a time-warp.

The thing is, Peter, you are in a time-warp.

While you are correct that things haven't changed completely from when your generation was young, you often fail to notice that they have changed somewhat.

That leads you to make arguments that are frankly patronizing to women, and which aren't far removed from Orrin's "no suffrage for females" stance.

For instance, if not they often become jaundiced manhaters and defiantly asserting their modern equality; references to "the sexual revolution"...
Those are phrases that are similar to ones that I've read in old magazines and fiction from the '70s, but they don't quite grasp the dynamic of GenX and Millenial gender relations.

Also, your insistence that many men and women enjoy casual sex equally, and other comments that you've made in past threads, lead me to believe that you don't believe that women enjoy sex.
Please correct me if I'm wrong, but if that's so, it would go a long way towards explaining your perspective.

Women, on the whole, like to have sex.
And a lot of it.

Women's magazines are filled with topics about sex: How to get it, how to make it better, how to make it safe.
And not just Cosmo and the like; it's also a favorite topic of Woman's Day, Fitness, Self, Redbook, et al.

Further, I think that your profession and field may color your thinking.
Like a garbage collector or a cop, after dealing with waste and senseless violence all day, it's easy to believe that the world is filled with trash and evil.

Well, it is, but that's not all that there is, nor even most of what is.

The fallout from the sexual revolution has landed on women (especially younger women)and it is ugly in many ways.

That is very true, and a lot of young women are ill-served in high school and college by the decrease in structured dating, and the rise in "hook-ups".
It's the ghetto culture being exported to the middle class.

However, the changes have also given more power to older women, which is, on the whole, a good thing.

Further, if the point of the UK campaign is to dissuade men from taking advantage of women drinking in pubs, we're mostly talking about grown women, with experience, not sheltered young girls.

If women are going to get hammered in public, without bringing along a wingwoman, then why should we treat them as being any less foolish than the guy who gets hopelessly drunk alone, and wakes up in an alley minus his wallet ?

They're all idiots.

March 29, 2006 7:06 AM  
Blogger Brit said...

Bit harsh Oroborous. There are many timeless truths.

But Forster also hit upon one in A Passage to India.

And again, gentlemanly codes of conduct vis a vis Victorian lady guests at the Captain's table are one thing.

Regulating the behavour of pissed-up, mini-skirted, bleach-blonde, bling-wearing, sexually-aggressive chav girls in Liverpool town centre on a Saturday night is quite another.

March 29, 2006 7:36 AM  
Blogger Bret said...

Peter Burnet wrote: "Surely you aren't going to argue that a drunken woman is fair game if she has lost the ability to fend off unwelcome advances or assaults. She may be a bloody fool, but she doesn't deserve that outrage by any standard."

Certainly she does. As Oroborous puts it, if women are going to get hammered in public, without bringing along a wingwoman, then the concept of putting somebody else in jail is ludicrous.

Note that I'm not saying she deserves her fate, that the guy who took advantage isn't an asshole, or anything like that. I'm saying that the punishment is way, way, way too harsh for the action (I don't think it's even a crime).

So someone had sex with her. Big deal.

March 29, 2006 8:06 AM  
Blogger Brit said...

Bret:

Of course it is a crime if the advances are unwelcome and she's unable to fend them off: it's rape.

It's also a crime to nick a man's wallet, even if he's drunk. It's theft.

But the case in point here is when she not only doesn't fend off the advances, but encourages them. Claiming that she regrets it in the morning and wouldn't have done it without the beer goggles is what is unfair on the man.

March 29, 2006 8:11 AM  
Blogger Bret said...

In the case of the drunk man minus the wallet, he's missing property. In the case of the drunk women, she's missing nothing. If she's trying to fend him off, it has nothing to do with being drunk or sober, yes, then it's rape, I agree. But if she's too drunk to fend him off, then tough.

March 29, 2006 8:32 AM  
Blogger Brit said...

I don't understand the difference between your last two sentences.

It's ok to do what you want to people who are unconscious?

Quite wrong. Not only can you not abuse unconscious people, you have a duty of care to prevent other people abusing them.

This is about drunk women giving consent, then regretting it when sober.

March 29, 2006 9:11 AM  
Blogger Bret said...

If she's unconscious, how does she know she's had sex?

March 29, 2006 9:21 AM  
Blogger Bret said...

Or at least how does she know who she's had sex with?

March 29, 2006 9:22 AM  
Blogger Peter Burnet said...

Oroborous:

Yes, you've told me several times before I'm blinded by my profession and experience, thus continuing the Daily Duck's tradition of psycho-analysing rather than debating. I assume you are confident you are more clear-sighted and quite able to transcend your particular experiences in order to generalize objectively and accurately.

I never know how to respond to sweeping statements like modern women like sex "and lots of it". Do I presume you believe they didn't used to until, as Larkin said, sex was invented in 1963 and everyone lived happily ever after? The statement strikes me as as facile as its opposite. I doubt very much either you or I "know" what "women" like generally with any more confidence than any man since the dawn of time.

You are asking the wrong question. It isn't about who likes what, but about how the sexes interrelate intimately and what the social and legal ground rules and expectations are. You will get no argument (and no interest) from me that most women "like sex", but to suggest there are no general differences in the emotional significance attached thereto, and that these have to be accounted for in social conventions is just fantasy and backdoor sexism. You obviously aren't paying that much attention to the popular culture you claim is passing me by. How many women do you know who fantasize about having impulsive sex in a freight elevator with a total stranger? How many men do you know who fantasize about sex in the throes of a committed, drawn-out romance on a beach at night? (I got that from Redbook and Cosmo) Maybe you would like to share your thoughts on why the sex trade is exploding in ugly ways, teenage girls' mental health is deteriorating, working class mothers are increasingly raising kids alone and lawyers and the caring professions are making such good livings out of sexual harassment and abuse.

As to the issue at hand, you and Bret would make great poster boys for the billboards. Your misogyny, hidden none-too-carefully under the banner of equality, is palpable.

March 29, 2006 9:57 AM  
Blogger Brit said...

Bret:

You've completely lost me now. What does that have to do with the moral position of the rapist?

Let's clarify this:

a) The woman denies consent
b) The woman is unable to give or deny consent
c) The woman gives consent but is drunk

If a man has sex with her, then he is a rapist in cases a or b. The case in question is c. Is he or isn't he morally guilty of rape?

Or are you saying that even in case b he is not a rapist so long as she can't remember his identity in the morning?

March 29, 2006 10:09 AM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

I am amused that somebody thinks of thee '70s as ancient history.

I remember the '50s, and jokes about men who got drunk on Saturday night and 'wound up married.'

I don't know how often that happened -- never in my experience -- but it was real enough to have become an American joke. And I don't recall anybody suggesting that government needed to step in and protect innocent American boys from predatory women seeking marriage.

Here's a true story. When I was an intern in Norfolk, Va., in the summer of 1966, I was put in the hand of an old-time police beat reporter named Jim Stiff (no kiddin').

On Monday morning, he showed me where to find the police reports filed over the weekend (since the paper didn't have a Sunday edition, no reporter looked at Saturday's crimes till Monday). As I went through, I was struck by how many rapes were reported that June weekend.

Mostly, sailors who had abducted teenage girls, taken them to the Outer Banks of North Carolina and had their way with them.

'This looks like a big story,' I told Stiff.

'Hold off for a while,' he advised.

Two hours later, I checked the reports again. All the rape reports had been pulled and replaced with misdemeanor reports of filing a false information.

Southern belles, overcome with yearning, were seduced into romantic weekends with sailor boyfriends, but when they came home, they had to tell Mamma something.

Every once in a while, some tougher-minded damosel would stick to her story and her boyfriend would end up getting 20 years.

I went back to college, married (so I have no idea what modern women want) and returned to Norfolk a few years later. There I had a secretary who was a young damosel. She was a virgin when we met, and she followed the well trod path to the Outer Banks, only her boyfriend was a cop not a sailor.

She was perfectly calculating about it and, since she kept me intimately informed about her love life and that of her circle of girlfriends, I knew he was going to get lucky even before he did.

Feminists want government out of their bedrooms, except when they want it in.

It's a practical issue, but -- contra Peter -- has no moral content any more.

It could have done, but that would have first required a stance on principle, and no sign of that in this campaign, is theree?

March 29, 2006 10:59 AM  
Blogger Peter Burnet said...

Gee, Harry, I got a little excited there when you started in about how you "had a secretary" after you were married. Then I re-read it. Talk about lunchbag letdown!

Actually, I think you have put your finger on the real problem. I've no time for the exculpatory whines of seducers of drunks, but I don't see how women can square their insistence on complete sexual freedom and equality with the gravity of the offence. It made sense in the era of bastardy, prized virginity, marital fidelity, pre-abortion/birth control, etc., but today it's hard to justify rationally distinguishing non-injurious date-rape from common assault. We've all read those testimonials from sexual assault victims about the searing emotional damage, years of therapy, no ability to form attachments, etc.,and I believe them, but all that says to me is many women are completely at sea about what they think they want and what they can actually handle emotionally. Which is why the dissolution of objective conventions has caused so many conundrums. How about we stop bowing down so slavishly to subjective states of mind and start using experience and human nature to ground a few rules?

March 29, 2006 11:22 AM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

When my elder daughter became nubile, we had a talk. I told her that in every sexual relationship, there was an exploiter and an exploited and advised her to decide which she would be.

With the younger daughter, by the time I was ready for the father/daughter talk, she'd already had a play she wrote produced about that, so we never had the talk.

Damfino what's going on.

March 29, 2006 11:53 AM  
Blogger Bret said...

Brit wrote: "The case in question is c. Is he or isn't he morally guilty of rape?

Or are you saying that even in case b he is not a rapist so long as she can't remember his identity in the morning?
"

I'm really not interested in the moral aspect. Everybody has a different moral perspective and that's okay, in my opinion. The legal aspect is what interests me.

Perhaps I'm just not following what we're talking about. It sounds to me like an example would be the following: at some point persons A and B are in a public place, for example, a pub; some time later persons A and B willingly consent to transport together and are now behind closed doors in a private place; there are no witness to what happened behind those closed doors; there's no evidence that sexual intercourse or other sexual acts occurred (either because it didn't occur, a condom was used and disposed of, etc.); and there is a difference of opinion to what happened behind those closed doors.

My opinion is that there is a presumption of innocence almost no matter what the difference of opinion is. It starts with the case where one of the parties claims intercourse occurred and the other claims it didn't. No witnesses, no proof, so I think that innocence needs to be assumed, especially since both parties were alone together of their own accord, which to me is a proxy for consent. Once I've reached this conclusion, the rest follows, since one of the parties then simply needs to deny that intercourse occurred, which if they do, I've concluded innocence should be assumed.

The matter of consent I consider to be a proxy consent as soon as they go somewhere private together. Certainly consent can be withdrawn, just as you can withdraw your proxy at a shareholders meeting, but it needs to be explicit and clear and can't be done after the fact.

So to explicitly answer your question, he may morally be a rapist in b and c, but I don't think he should be legally prosecuted, without any witnesses or proof of intercourse.

March 29, 2006 1:12 PM  
Blogger Oroborous said...

Peter:

I do believe that you've distilled your position down to its essence: "Equality = misogyny"

You're willing to claim that Bret and I hate women, because we treat them as equals, responsible for the consequences of their own conduct.

Your characterization of women boils down to "silly girls."

As for subjecting you to The Daily Duck Psycho-analyzation Experience™, my apologies.
I was only trying to give you several outs for your position.

March 29, 2006 1:49 PM  
Blogger Peter Burnet said...

I do believe that you've distilled your position down to its essence: "Equality = misogyny"

Hmm. Maybe you can tell us whether you think the crime of rape should exist at all, and, if so, why? It strikes me that your idea of equality is that men and women should think and be treated the same way in sexual relations--like men.

March 29, 2006 2:15 PM  
Blogger joe shropshire said...

Nice blog you have here, guys. It's especially entertaining to hear a bunch of pocket-protector types squabbling over how much sex women want. How would with you? in your dreams do for an all-purpose answer?

March 29, 2006 4:53 PM  
Blogger Oroborous said...

Peter:

Why wouldn't rape be a crime ?
It's a form of assault, after all.

Perhaps you mean "date rape", which is more or less what the UK campaign is aiming to prevent.

I think that Bret covered that quite well.

As you wrote, "drunken rape does occur and has to be dealt with by the law, so, given that eye-witnesses are a rarity, what are you left with except the competing stories of the parties?"

If there's no evidence of vaginal tearing or a struggle beforehand, what else are we to conclude but that it was consensual at one point ?

Which is where your list of possible modifiers comes in, and yes, they should matter.
They help establish intent.

It strikes me that your idea of equality is that men and women should think and be treated the same way in sexual relations--like men.

The short answer is yes.

Otherwise, the "protean thinking" of women allows men to be prosecuted for acts that, at the time, were permitted and even encouraged, as Harry's North Carolina anecdote ably illustrates.

Or, as Brit says, "regulating the behavour of pissed-up, mini-skirted, bleach-blonde, bling-wearing, sexually-aggressive chav girls in Liverpool town centre on a Saturday night" is difficult, and as you point out, men are programmed to hunt.
They aren't going to resist hunting when every signal that they're getting is that the women want to be hunted.

If a woman isn't interested in being hunted, then what are the odds that she's going to end up in a date-rape situation, drunk or not ?

The quite verbose and somewhat disjointed long answer is "maybe not", as follows.

In the first place, what would an equality based on men and women being treated the same way in sexual relations, like women, look like ?
That's not a rhetorical question, it's curiousness.

Would it include women being charged with rape by men whose "beer goggles" had worn off ?

I don't think that people should get drunk, except possibly at home, and I don't think that people should have sex without going on at least ten dates first, or having known each other for at least a few months in some other context - work, school, or other activities.
I am a Mormon, after all, and we tend to get engaged before having sex, or at least, before fully-penetrative intercourse.

I also think that there is no chance whatsoever that most people, especially young people, will follow those guidelines.

Women and men don't think in the same way. We can approximate other-gender thinking, like running a Microsoft Windows simulator on an Apple, and some are quite good at it, but brain scans reveal that men and women are hard-wired to think differently.

As you say, women generally have a much more complex relationship with, and reaction to, sexual activity - which is as it ought to be, since they're the ones who get pregnant.

But you also write that "many modern men feel entitled to live out the timeless male fantasy of consequence-free casual sex", and "why are we feeling so sorry for men who have sex with drunk strangers or casual acquaintances and then expect to walk away with a Cheshire cat grin?"

As Bret touched upon, what exactly are these consequences that should prevent men from walking away grinning ?
If no diseases are passed, and no pregnancy results, then all we're left with as damages is a woman's "visceral aversion to emotionally empty sex."

But why should we use the law to punish men for the hurt feelings of women ?
And once we start doing that, then where does it end? Will we be able to sue amusement parks or cruise lines if we don't enjoy the experience as much as we think that we should ?

Why are such women even out on the prowl ?
Yes, as you say, "many women are completely at sea about what they think they want, and what they can actually handle emotionally."
But why does that become someone else's problem when they get in over their heads ?
And, like college romances, isn't that really just part of gaining experience and learning about life ?

Also, assuming that it happens more than once to the same woman, why don't we hold her accountable for her failure to learn from the first mistake ?
Brit covered that when he wrote that "the message is: women are excused responsibility for drunken stupidity, men are not."
Should women be allowed to go out, get drunk, get seduced, and then feel bad about it over and over again, gaining our pity every time ?
Are they not adults, responsible for their actions and reactions ?

I wouldn't mind living in a society where we did have a convention -- enforced by the boys -- that men don't approach women after the third pint. I just don't want to see such legally codified.

Equal-but-different has a really poor track record of becoming separate-and-not-equal, as we saw in race relations.
For instance, up to thirty years ago, residences were segregated and closed and women were supervised.
Why weren't the men supervised, and the women free to roam ?

Oh yes, 'cause men hunt and women get hunted: an old Victorian Criminal Code offence made it a crime for a ship's captain to seduce any woman, no matter how willing or mature she was. Excessive and archaic as that seems, it did bespeak a better understanding of the power dynamic between men and women in personal relationships than modern thinking does.

Men still hold all the cards in personal relationships, as if they were a supreme authority ?
Women are basically helpless and passive ?

I guess that's the core of our disagreement.
I think that women should be treated as adults, which is apparently what you believe concerning sexual harassment and feminist rhetoric, but in the sexual arena you apparently believe that they ought to be given allowances for their less hard-edged approach to sex, and their flights of fancy.

The problem is that if we treat women as less than adults in a legal context, we undermine the ability of women to be treated as adults in other contexts, such as business.
They have to take their lumps like the rest of us. It's not like men don't get taken advantage of, or get in over their heads due to foolish fantasies.
Look at all the time men waste, and the opportunity costs they bear, thinking that they could become pro athletes, spurred on by all of those who profit from the delusion. The ongoing NCAA basketball tourney is a paean to that fantasy.

How many of those kids would be better served by cracking more books, and handling fewer balls ?
How many actually graduate ?
How many can't even read?!?
(OK, that's not common, but it happens occasionally. A bigger problem is that in many elite sports programmes, a quarter to half of the athletes don't gain a degree, even in something useless).

The best approach is education, as Harry did.
Teach young girls not just the mechanics of sex, but also about the emotional and psychological dynamics of interpersonal relationships, so that they don't go out drinking, thinking that they'll meet the mounted knight of their dreams while three sheets to the wind.

Then, they'll know when or if to bed someone, and what to expect from doing so.

On a personal note, it's a bit amusing that you think of me as some kind of uber-masculine member of the girl-haters' club, since in real life some of my attitudes and interests are so feminine that many people, including my mother, have thought that I was gay, and my lesbian best friend thinks that I may have a female soul.

Such is the filter of the written word, I guess.

March 29, 2006 5:25 PM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...

Peter:

Criminy -- you don't call you don't write. I nearly lost the will to live.

On the whole, I think you have the upper hand in this discussion. I read an interesting book on evolution a few years back, "Mother Nature." For those who think belief in evolution is tantamount to anything goes, this book is an excellent corrective.

What Feminists demand, and what women want (going way out on a limb here), can only be congruent if one believes that evolution has left absolutely no mark on the human mind. Oddly, it is the left who take evolution for granted, yet utterly disregard its implications.

Among which are:

- When it comes to sex, women act tactically, and think strategically
- Men trade affection to get sex, and women sex to get affection
- The old saying "he chased her until she caught him" says a lot in a few words

On the whole, people would probably be happier if we all agreed that women are vulnerable, and need men to protect them (mostly, think of a self-licking ice cream cone here, from other men and heavy lifting). But that goes against Fundamentalist Feminism.

But [the] government may also change the law to allow juries to decide whether a woman was too drunk to give consent. raises a whole host of legal knock-on effects. I'm rather surprised you didn't jump on them.

For instance. If a woman was too drunk to provide informed consent for sex, then, should she be pulled over for DWI following, she can't be held responsible for that, either. And then there is the little problem of credibility. If she was too drunk to give informed consent, what credibility does she have -- due to the inebriation in question -- in maintaining that position?

Or let's turn the tables. Presuming that is allowed, of course. Let's say the woman gets a guy drunk, while remaining sober, has sex with him, and gets pregnant. Is he on the hook for child support? Unless guys have super consent powers while drunk, it is hard to see how her consent is rescindable, but his is not.

While slightly OT, this reminds me of a court case here in Michigan from last year. A guy decided, base on his teenage daughter not resembling him in any way, to take a paternity test. She was not his, as it turned out. And, further, it turned out that mom knowing this all along, deceived him into thinking her daughter was his.

The court case was to absolve him of child support. As if. The court decided that since he had acted as her father, never mind the deceit, he had assumed the obligation of her actual father. Best interests of the child.

Hard to argue with that. And equally hard to argue against the conclusion that women can lie in ways men cannot.

My daughter will turn 13 this weekend. While we haven't talked about this subject directly (and I'm far more concerned about the proper decisions than the mechanics), she has approached it glancingly. I hope to convince her that, unavoidably, she will be thinking "father of my children." And if she doesn't think he is looking at her as "mother of my children," then she had best give it a pass.


Joe:

Now that was just harsh.

Reminds me of a response I got once: "Yeah, I'll go out to lunch. But not with you."

March 29, 2006 5:59 PM  
Blogger Oroborous said...

joe:

Which is why it's so critical that it remain legal to get 'em drunk first.

March 29, 2006 8:13 PM  
Blogger Peter Burnet said...

Bret:

The matter of consent I consider to be a proxy consent as soon as they go somewhere private together.

Ho, ho, ho. This is like reaching an age where you hang on to your wide ties because you know they will come back some day. Remember all those parents from the fifties who told their daughters "nice" girls didn't go anywhere alone with boys or drink with them or wear suggestive clothing for fear the hormonally-driven apes will get the wrong idea. Remember how the early feminists scorned them? Seems they were right all along. Bret, you are going to single-handedly bring back chaperoned dating.

Obo:

Mom always said I was slow to see the feminine side in others. I guess what threw me was your suggestion that non-consensual, impersonal sex is no big deal absent physical injury and that the woman hasn't "lost" anything for it. That really doesn't jibe with everything I've ever heard or read in thousands of articles and novels, and I can't ever remember hearing any woman express that viewpoint, give or take the occasional Camilia Paglia. Somehow, most women just don't take to the libertine approach, despite all the promise of fun and good times. I wonder why.

Placing this debate in the context of equality/civil rights etc. always seems to lead straight to men sniffing about why women don't put out more or whine about what a big thing it is when they do. It's fine for public life--in the workplace, etc--but it is a poor basis for this topic. Blacks and whites, gays and heteros, etc. don't pair off in intimate relations or raise families or seek some mystical personal and emotional satisfaction from each other. Surely you can see the suspicious conflict of interest in arguing that your principled respect for them as equal adults gets you laid more easily and frequently. I think they can to.

BTW, the issue in this article from the BBC isn't really about the philosophical definition of rape, it's about the evidentiary problem of securing convictions in the face of the presumption of innocence and the respective weight given to conflicting testimony. Women have been fighting this battle for years on such questions as the relevance of the complainant's sexual history. Given the current ethos of sexual freedom and our modern refusal to draw evidentiary conclusions from surrounding circumstances, you are going to have serious injustices either way, and the only solution I can see is to substantially lessen the severity of the crime so that the risk of a wrongful conviction isn't so dramatically life-destroying that guys are continually getting off when they shouldn't. But if you want perfect justice, keep your daughters away from strangers.

March 30, 2006 2:52 AM  
Blogger Peter Burnet said...

Skipper:

Driving while drunk is a strict liability offence--mental state and intent are irrelevant. Rape and sexual assault are offences where not only are they relevant, they actually define the crime and make all the difference between one of the most serious offences in the criminal code and a perfectly lawful act. Apples and oranges.

What specifically do you think would be wrong with a law that says a drunken woman is incapable of giving consent? Sure, we'd have endless arguments about how "drunk" is defined, but that's just an ordinary day in the life of the law. Just what great injustice or denial of fundamental rights do you see in that principle?

March 30, 2006 3:55 AM  
Blogger Brit said...

Peter does have the best of the argument to a large extent.

And it's true that the campaign is an attempt to confront a very real problem: given the extraordinarily low conviction rates, it is pretty obvious that a lot of rapists are being wrongly acquitted.

But it's a half-arsed money-wasting attempt which misses a big point - a point that you also miss, Peter.

There are lots of universal and timeless truths about human nature, and everyone above has observed some beauties.

But today's British saturday night town-centre drinking class - at whose male population these pub and club toilet posters are aimed - really does bear no resemblance to the Victorian ladies at the Captain's table.

There's a class of teenage/early 20s women - occasionally referred to as 'ladettes' - who take the worst excesses of drunken, sexually-aggressive male group misbehaviour, and multiply it tenfold. Seriously, 'predator' doesn't cover it.

The difference is that the women can pay a much higher cost for casual sex.

The Fat Slags was a funny comic strip because it was true.

March 30, 2006 4:01 AM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...

Peter:

I must admit my comment about DWI was slightly tongue in cheek.

But perhaps less so in terms of witness credibility -- it seems a classic case of Catch-22: too drunk to give informed consent, but also too drunk to provide credible testimony as to her drunkenness impeding her ability to give informed consent.

What specifically do you think would be wrong with a law that says a drunken woman is incapable of giving consent?

A whole host of things.

First, and I would have thought this would jump right out at a conservative, it vitiates personal responsibility. Per my DWI example, if I am drunk, I, by definition, have diminished capacity to decide whether I should drive. Regardless, it was my decision, while sober, to drink too much in the first place. Similarly, she must be responsible for making the decision to drink excessively.

Second -- do men get the same break? If not, why not?

Third -- must we now breathalyze women before every action requiring informed consent? Can women renege on a business contract by claiming after the fact that alcohol made them do it?

Fourth -- this provides another means for vindictive women to retaliate. The US history of "recovered memory" and child abuse charges in the realm of custody battles should be very cautionary.

Fifth -- it infantilizes women. I happen to think that women are vulnerable: physically, emotionally, and materially. Personally acknowledging that vulnerability is by far preferable to petitioning the nanny-state for protection when buyer's remorse sets in.

You can have personal responsibility, or the nanny state.

Can't have both.

March 30, 2006 4:49 AM  
Blogger Oroborous said...

Surely you can see the suspicious conflict of interest in arguing that your principled respect for them as equal adults gets you laid more easily and frequently.

Where did I say that ?

Or perhaps I should say, from what did you infer such ?

I guess what threw me was your suggestion that non-consensual, impersonal sex is no big deal absent physical injury and that the woman hasn't "lost" anything for it.

Since you have the wisdom of a thousand novels to draw from, perhaps you could enlighten me as to what, exactly, is lost ?

Or are we back to using the coercive power of the state to assuage hurt feelings ?

Remember all those parents from the fifties who told their daughters [etc.]
Remember how the early feminists scorned them?


Perhaps you've forgotten that what the feminists were scorning was the idea that women could only be sluts or virgins, not just women who had sex.

Placing this debate in the context of equality/civil rights etc. always seems to lead straight to men sniffing about why women don't put out more or whine about what a big thing it is when they do.

Well, I have noted that EVERY TIME we talk about gender relations, no matter what the starting point, the above comment is where you end up.

Amusingly enough, we both feel that the subtext of the other's position is contempt for women, although you apparently also feel that I'm a dangerous predator with a slick rap about "respect".

March 30, 2006 5:10 AM  
Blogger Peter Burnet said...

Brit:

Your getting into Dalrymple territory there. I have no pat answers, except that changing the legal definition of rape isn't going to change much. It's not easy to decide who to root for in that crowd.

But, sure, I know what the concern is. I used to frequent another blog that featured a -ahem- "spunky" woman who loved to talk about her wild life trolling for abs and pecs and matching the good old boys beer for beer in the bars, and sneer at any objectors as hopeless Victorian prudes (she seemed to share Obo's notion of a feminine side). Then one day the subject of sexual assault came up and she went all "you can't possibly understand the horror", " No man should have anything to say about this", "I can think of nothing more horrible" "No woman would ever make a false accusation", etc, etc. My objections were dismissed summarily as misogynist ravings and I left. What do you want me to say--that she couldn't be assaulted and she was asking for it if she was?

Obo:

No, I don't think you hate women at all. I think you see them through a philosophical paradigm of abstract equality (by which you mean interchangeability) and that, knowing they will cheer you on for that on many issues, you conclude that any woman (or man)who sees natural or instinctive differences with consequent different rules in the area of sexual relations has something wrong with her or is at least stuck in the past and is awaiting enlightenment. I think it's going to be a long wait.

I also think that you peg anyone who disagees with you as a hopeless dinosaur who think women are delicate flowers who hate sex and who need constant surveillance to protect them from dirty-minded men. Not even serious Victorian scholars think most Victorians thought that way. How about a little sublety here?

Skipper:

Your analogies are all wild, but they boil down to the notion that you think casual sexual relations are the healthy norm and that the onus is on any woman who doesn't want them (or doesn't know what the heck she wants or is too drunk or drugged to keep her wits about her)to make any objections loud and crystal clear. Otherwise, the man is perfectly entitled to just do what comes naturally and then walk away. No?

do men get the same break? No, Skipper, they don't. Because it isn't a "break".

March 30, 2006 6:07 AM  
Blogger Brit said...

Peter:

I suppose the bottom line for me is that if a woman says yes while drunk, then the man is not a gentleman, but neither does he deserve to be prosecuted by the state for rape.

I've not read Dalrymple's book, so stand to be corrected in my opinions of him, but I've read plenty enough of his articles to imagine the gist.

In some ways, Dalrymple's pessimistic views are correct. The kids are badly behaved and seemingly getting more so. But they're correct in the way that say, left-wing political satire is often correct - it's a very narrow view of the picture, without context or perspective, or any affection for human nature. He's also so determinedly pessimistic that it gets quite funny (this is, after all, a man who has emigrated to France in preference to staying in the UK).

This is a whole enormous topic that could fill a hundred blog comments, but here are some unordered thoughts on the youth weekend drinking culture which I call 'townie' culture, and which Dalrymple sees as marking the end of British civilisation:

1) Even though there are thousands of hard-drinking, kebab-eating, taxi-queue fighting 'townies' across Britain, they are a minority even of youths, and even within that minority, most are basically harmless, nice kids who just have a strange, almost desperately warped idea of what it means to have fun.

2) They nearly all grow out of it when they get to their mid to late 20s/have kids/get a mortgage. It's a herd/gang mentality that lasts no longer than it takes for the majority of the gang to get hitched.

3) England is the land of Chaucer as well as Austen. Victorian morality is the aberration in British history, not the norm. London in the 19th Century was swimming in gin. If he'd have visited Portsmouth during the Napleonic Wars, Dalrymple would have seen the women that 'entertained' the shore-leave sailors behaving in ways that would make today's ladettes blush.

4) In the end, what are the real problems? They have good jobs and tons of disposable income. If the worst problem the young face is a killer hangover every Sunday, well, we've had tougher times.

5) Dalrymple is a misanthrope several generations removed from the kind of irresponsible freedom that the young so fleetingly enjoy. Yes, they are crude, noisy and undignified. But they're still people. Dalrymple really hates people.

March 30, 2006 6:43 AM  
Blogger Duck said...

Wow! I stay away for a week, and a major debate ensues. Nice post, Brit! The only way to get Peter to comment is to post about sex or religion, it seems.

I tend to agree with Brit and Peter, mainly on the point that sexual relations are a much deeper and complex issue than can be fit into the modern notion of equality. Lets take this matter stated by Bret:

In the case of the drunk women, she's missing nothing.

Lets turn the table for a moment and imagine that the rapist couldn't find an unconscious woman, and so he anally rapes the unconscious man instead. Has the man lost anything more than his wallet? What would most men feel about this situation happening to them?

What is lost is something men used to apply the archaic word "honor" to. The more approximate modern term is dignity, or the state of being recognized as a human person and not an object to be used for another's gratification.

The male sexual psyche, in its most basic, uncivilized form, treats sex as conquest, as an act of predation involving the male as predator and the female, or other male, as prey. It is not about equality, the predator owns the prey. Thus male honor codes recognized women as the property of the husband. You despoil a man's honor by despoiling his property. Or by despoiling him by treating him as a woman. Not to sound too feminist, but sexual relations really are about power relations.

We've grafted the theory of equality onto this archaic psyche by applying the concept of consent to sexual relations. A woman's consent is worth something, if only we are to apply a purely monetary value to it. A man is willing to pay for such consent with a prostitute, so from that perspective a man who gains access to a woman's body without her consent is akin to robbery. Even when women give their consent without requiring monetary compensation, she does so in exchange for something she values, such as the emotional gratification she gains from her own experence of pleasure and the psychic rewards of choosing the man to whom she gives consent.


So if we are to maintain this modern state of sexual relations, it is absolutely imperative that we defend the legal imperative of consent. Bret, without consent the whole modern sexual ethos crumbles. Although it is highly flawed, I prefer it to its more traditional alternatives bound up in patriarchal honor codes. Would this be preferable?

Deuteronomy 22:
23 If a man happens to meet in a town a virgin pledged to be married and he sleeps with her, 24 you shall take both of them to the gate of that town and stone them to death—the girl because she was in a town and did not scream for help, and the man because he violated another man's wife. You must purge the evil from among you.

25 But if out in the country a man happens to meet a girl pledged to be married and rapes her, only the man who has done this shall die. 26 Do nothing to the girl; she has committed no sin deserving death. This case is like that of someone who attacks and murders his neighbor, 27 for the man found the girl out in the country, and though the betrothed girl screamed, there was no one to rescue her.
28 If a man happens to meet a virgin who is not pledged to be married and rapes her and they are discovered, 29 he shall pay the girl's father fifty shekels of silver. [c] He must marry the girl, for he has violated her. He can never divorce her as long as he lives.

March 30, 2006 8:41 AM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

Hmmmm.

Stepping back a bit from the cosmic question of male/female differences, if being raped (whatever that means) is so life-destroying, then doesn't it follow that securing convictions after the rape of the drunken woman occurred is a very poor second to avoiding the rape in the first place, and that if you're going to spend money effectively, it would be rather to advise the poor dears not to get pissed to the point of incapability in the first place?

After all, we place warning signs on cliffside lookouts at the top, not the bottom.

++++

I love the concept of the self-licking ice cream cone.

++++

I expect joe doesn't get out much. Even I, notoriously a married guy in a small community (notoriously so because I write about being married in my newspaper column) and no matinee idol, get unsolicited offers.

Some may be lonely women looking to trade sex for affection, but some just like to ball. Or so they tell me.

March 30, 2006 8:56 AM  
Blogger Peter Burnet said...

The only way to get Peter to comment is to post about sex or religion, it seems.

Yeah, I really do wish I were as fulfilled and well-adjusted as you guys so I could get a real life and get high on Oroborous' lengthy projections of alternative energy developments over the next hundred years.

Brit, you should buy the book because Dalrymple addresses that very question in the introduction--i.e. why he dwells in society's sewer and doen't listen more to his mother and get out and have some fun. He doesn't hate people at all, otherwise he wouldn't care about any of it. He just has a curmudgeonly low opinion of their potential. That's what curmudgeons do. Do you think Oprah should have the final word?

Look, you are there and we are not and we'll have to take your word it is all manageable. But it is astounding how many alarmist reports of serious increases in social pathologies of all kinds we've seen out of Britain in the past few years, and how they seem to pre-occupy your national politics.

One thing I've noticed about arguing with you libertarians is how quickly you will assure us emerging social problems are no big deal or tightly contained or still better than long ago in the past. So what, exactly? It is true London was awash in gin in the early 19th century, but they did something about it, didn't they? They didn't just shrug their shoulders and say: "No problem. We were all sloshed on wine in the 14th century and we got through somehow, so drink up." Either these are growing and serious problems or not, but it doesn't seem to me to be much of an answer to say that, yes, they are, but they really only affect the lower orders and it was all worse two hundred years ago, so nothing need be done.

Harry:

...but some just like to ball. Or so they tell me.

That's before. Ask them after.

March 30, 2006 9:48 AM  
Blogger Brit said...

Harry:

Yes, that was my suggestion too: the best advice you can give to women worried about balling while pissed is: don't get pissed.

Nonetheless, there's a danger here of pretending that the psychological pain caused to women who've been violated is somehow not real. It is real enough. It might be hard for us to imagine, but a few minutes pondering Duck's anal rape image makes it somewhat easier.

And there's nothing wrong with Joe that meeting a nice woman wouldn't fix...I know some lovely single Muslim girls. He's keen on them....


Peter:

Yeah I love hearing about how Britain is going to hell in a handbasket. There's always some reason and indeed it has been there a few times - most recently in the late 70s. Usually it muddles through though.

Dalrymple's Bane is a national in-joke as well as a preoccupation.

The hugely popular comedy show 'Little Britain' has a character representing the archetypal townie or 'chav', Vicky Pollard. (Especially amusing for me as she has a very broad Bristolian accent (west country - think pirates), and frequently namechecks areas of the city).

The weird thing is, everyone loves her as well as groaning at her outrageousness (memorably, she swaps one of her babies for a Boy Band CD in one episode).

It's hard to convey it to non-Britons, but there's a mixture of contempt and affection towards these characters. Dalrymple is unrepresentative because he lacks the affection.

Shamefully, like so much in Britain even now, it's a class thing - another thing impossible to to get unless you live here. All Britons unconsciously classify each other within an instance of meeting each other.

In essence, chavs are working class; those who laugh at them, or despair of them, are middle-class.

Except that those class divides no longer exist in financial terms: ie. the chavs are loaded, and they like to spend their sterling on getting as rat-arsed as their mining, docking and labouring forefathers did, only more spectacularly and more loudly.

Bizarrely, townies are, more than anyone else, the children of Maggie Thatcher. Tell that one to Orrin.

March 30, 2006 10:30 AM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

I didn't say I was taking up their offers, so I wouldn't know beyond what they tell me.

March 30, 2006 10:33 AM  
Blogger joe shropshire said...

She Who Must Be Obeyed might not think too highly of that. Thanks anyway, Brit.

March 30, 2006 10:41 AM  
Blogger Brit said...

Oh, I'll believe you Joe (thousands wouldn't...).

March 30, 2006 10:48 AM  
Blogger Duck said...

Peter,
Well adjusted? Who are you talking to? Well adjusted people don't blog.

March 30, 2006 2:25 PM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...

Peter:

Your analogies are all wild, but they boil down to the notion that you think casual sexual relations are the healthy norm ... Otherwise, the man is perfectly entitled to just do what comes naturally and then walk away. No?

Apologies, but I don't recognize anything I wrote in your response, particularly since most of what I wrote was assertions, not analogies. And in second particular, if your translating hope to convince her that, unavoidably, she will be thinking "father of my children." into "casual sexual relations are the healthy norm" seems a bit of a stretch. Kind of like Monty Python's Bulgarian-English phrase dictionary.

Stripped of all the overburden, what is really at stake here is consent. Sex is the realm within which the consent takes place. So I'll repeat my specific objections:

The law vitiates personal responsibility.

It devalues all instances of female consent in any setting.

If women get to ex post facto rescind consent due to diminished capacity, why not men? Why should a women get to claim drunken consent the next day, whilst her drunken consort is prohibited from claiming diminished ability to comprehend diminished capacity?

Because this is a crime whose only evidence is assertions, women will use the legal system to exact revenge.

It infantalizes women.

As one of the resident libertarians here, I firmly believe that the best way to a morally healthy society is relying on personal responsibility, not the nanny state. The best response in this case is for the justice system to collectively say: "If you don't want to agree to something drunk that you will regret sober, then don't get drunk, and don't expect us to fix your mistakes."

Although Harry said the same sooner & better:

if being raped (whatever that means) is so life-destroying, then doesn't it follow that securing convictions after the rape of the drunken woman occurred is a very poor second to avoiding the rape in the first place, and that if you're going to spend money effectively, it would be rather to advise the poor dears not to get pissed to the point of incapability in the first place?

After all, we place warning signs on cliffside lookouts at the top, not the bottom.

March 30, 2006 5:57 PM  
Blogger Bret said...

Duck wrote: "Lets turn the table for a moment and imagine that the rapist couldn't find an unconscious woman, and so he anally rapes the unconscious man instead. Has the man lost anything more than his wallet? ... What is lost is something men used to apply the archaic word "honor""

If I'm so drunk as to be passed out and unconscious, I'd claim that my "honor" and "dignity" were pretty much already gone at that point. Do you really think that passing out drunk is an honorable and dignified thing to do even if there's no sex involved? I can't answer for "most men," but if I was incapacitated and/or passed out drunk and someone had anal sex with me, yes I'd be annoyed (if I somehow noticed), but relative to the shame, dishonor, etc. that I'd feel from getting so out of control in the first place, the annoyance wouldn't necessarily be all that great. And it would certainly help me learn not to do it again. Again, you want to be honorable and dignified? Don't get so drunk. What did I really lose? Certainly nothing tangible and the intangible honor had been lost before the sex act.

Second, there are lots of ways to humiliate people besides sex. Are you arguing that it should be a crime to insult someone if it humiliates them?

"A woman's consent is worth something, if only we are to apply a purely monetary value to it."

Perhaps, but I don't find this convincing. For sure, the sex itself has value, or obviously the partner would not have sought it in the first place. Yet the general idea is that humans enjoy interacting with each other, including sex, conversation, sex, affection, sex, even blogging, (did I mention sex). Both parties were apparently, and not implausibly, finding value in interacting. The consent was part of that complex interaction and had no value by itself. And again, the woman (or gay man) was no poorer after the sex than when she started. Lastly, a prostitute does more than give consent, she provides a service and does not probably have much expectation of enjoying the sex, conversation or other interactions, so it's not directly comparable.

"... without consent the whole modern sexual ethos crumbles."

I agree. Where we apparently disagree is when consent should be presumed to be given and whether or not said consent (or alleged lack thereof) is the basis for a crime (as opposed to immoral and reprehensible behavior).

Let me try one more time to explain why I think that the laws Brit posted about are unworkable. I'm going to do this with a series of examples:

0) Two persons go behind closed doors. The first is drunk to the point of being incapacitated, prior to getting drunk made it clear that he/she wasn't interested in sex, and the second has sex with the first anyway, but denies doing so.

In this baseline case, where we KNOW what ACTUALLY happened, I believe that everyone commenting on this post, including me, believes that a serious rape has occurred and should be punished.

1) Two persons go behind closed doors. The first CLAIMS that he/she was drunk to the point of being incapacitated, CLAIMS that prior to getting drunk made it clear that he/she wasn't interested in sex, and CLAIMS that the second had sex with her/him anyway. The second denies that sex occurred and there is no evidence that sex happened. In this case, we don't know what ACTUALLY happened.

If the first person is a woman and the second a man, I think everyone on this blog, including me, would agree that the woman would be telling the truth in at least 90% of the cases, and the man telling the truth in less than 10% of the cases. Peter would tell us it's 99.999% or greater that the woman is telling the truth, but I simply disagree that it's that high. Thus, if it were a betting game, I'd bet on the woman, but in court I would have reasonable doubt, so I'd vote for innocence for the man. But let's say for a moment, that we decide that it's so important to prevent sex without consent that we don't mind sending the 10% (or 3% or .0001% or whatever you think) innocent men to jail. Let's say it's a cost to society worth bearing. Then how about the following case:

2) Two persons are competing for a promotion at work. First invites second to her house. They hang for a while, no alcohol is consumed. Nothing happens. Man leaves. The rest is identical to (1).

In this case, not only is the man put in jail, but the woman is rewarded with a promotion at work as a result of her evil behavior. Would this happen often? Of course not. But I'm certain things like this would happen and they'd happen more if the laws were written to eliminate the concept of reasonable doubt.

3) Same as (2), except the man doesn't even go over to the woman's house. No reason for it if he doesn't have an alibi. The outcome is the same.

So this vector from baseline gets pretty ugly and that's why I don't think case (1) can be prosecuted. No evidence, no witnesses, one claims sex happened and the other denies it. Thus, I would conclude that no crime was committed.

Now, let's consider the opposite direction.

1i) Two persons go behind closed doors. The first CLAIMS that he/she was drunk to the point of being incapacitated, CLAIMS that consent wasn't given, and CLAIMS that the second had sex with her/him anyway. The second agrees that sex occurred but CLAIMS that consent WAS given. There is no evidence that sex happened. Again, we don't know what ACTUALLY happened.

The only real difference between (1) and (1i) is that in (1) the disagreement was about whether or not sex happened and in (1i), the disagreement is about whether consent was given. Because I think there is no prosecutable crime in (1), I have to conclude the same for (1i). That's because if the man lies and says that no sex happened (one of the possibilities in (1)) he doesn't go to jail. If the only thing that's different is that he instead tells the truth and says there was sex but consent was given (assuming that's true), then he goes to jail (because he admitted that sex happened). It seems unreasonable that by telling the truth one would be in far worse shape than by lying.

2i) Same as (1i) except that the woman wasn't incapacitated, just "judgment impaired," and admits giving consent but once sober realized it was a terrible mistake.

Using my logic for (1i), it doesn't matter whether or not she was drunk, and how drunk. All the guy had to do was lie, so I don't think potential honesty (yes to sex but with consent) should be punished.

3i) Same as (1) except the woman wasn't drinking at all and claims not to have given consent.

No witnesses, no evidence, I'm not sure I can see prosecuting it. Yet, this is getting very close to classic rape if it actually happened. Since she's sober, and sex did actually happen, she must have been (or at least felt) threatened, otherwise she would simply get up and walk away if not interested, no? So I don't know, but I would feel reasonable doubt.

4i) Like (1i), but woman is sober.

I would analyze it like (3i).

I conclude that not only "the whole modern sexual ethos crumbles" more readily by overzealous prosecution of no evidence, no witness, potential sex encounters, but that (due to (2) and (3)) the rule of law is also endangered. I don't think the proposed laws will be good for society.

March 30, 2006 11:27 PM  
Blogger Brit said...

Bret:

You're absolutely correct that the law would fail in practical terms, because juries would still acquit men where the only evidence is one word against another.

We disagreed with your comments above because they seemed to be wandering into an argument that said: if you can get away with doing x, then there's nothing wrong with doing x.

Which is a bit like "if I can't see you, you're not there."

March 31, 2006 12:32 AM  
Blogger Peter Burnet said...

Well, what do you all make of this?

I just love it when science is on my side.

March 31, 2006 2:46 AM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...

Peter:

I, for one, have always taken that for granted.

One could hardly find naturalistic evolution to be a persuasive explanation and think otherwise.

March 31, 2006 4:14 AM  
Blogger Oroborous said...

"Science", eh ?
I see that you've been assimilated, and are now an enthusiastic supporter of the Daily Duck's tradition of psycho-analyzing.

There are two aspects to this study, process and results.

Beginning with process: This study only tells us something about the attitudes of women who vote, and who are from the Sheffield area, and even there, there are some problems with the study.

First, personal interviews. Unless we delve into the methodology of the study, we cannot know what, if anything, the researchers did about social-expectation bias. Anonymous questionnaires are the best way to explore sensitive subjects like this; otherwise, some people will give answers that reflect idealized social norms, rather than their own true thoughts and experiences, so that they will be seen in the most positive light.
There are ways to counteract that bias, when doing personal interviews, but were these researchers careful to do so ?

Second, interviews with only 46 women ?
All from the same geographic area, and all drawn from a pool of self-selected women, a pool well-known not to accurately reflect the socioeconomic characteristics of the population as a whole ?
From this tiny, non-random sample we're supposed to accurately generalize about the entire gender ?

Third, although some older and younger women were interviewed, this is largely a study about Boomer women's attitudes towards sex, not all women's.
Since the researchers were purporting to explore to what extent the sexual revolution of the '60s and '70s has changed modern attitudes and behaviors, it would have been more interesting, and far more informational, if they had interviewed the generations that grew up after the revolution, not the revolutionaries themselves.

One result of the study that stands out is that the older the women were, presumably with more sexual experience, the more likely they were to say that casual sex is no big deal.

Further, I infer that the study's definition of "committed relationship" includes boyfriend/girlfriend, which I would define as "casual sex".

Overall, I don't see anything surprising here.
What would have been surprising is if there were a large number of women saying that they now realized that one should be married before engaging in sexual acts.

March 31, 2006 5:46 AM  
Blogger Duck said...

Bret,
I would agree with you that the British law is a bad solution to the problem and will potentially result in many unjust convictions of men. My main disagreement with you is in regards to what is lost in the case of an unconscious person being raped, which by definition is without consent.

In regard to the hypothetical anal rape scenario, I find your stated hypothetical reaction to it rather improbable. Rape carries an intensely emotional impact that cannot adequately be analyzed by a comparison to a monetary exchange. The raped person loses not only in his/her own esteem, but in the esteem of friends, relatives and the public. Even in these "enlightened" times, a raped person is treated as "damaged goods". It affects all of a person's present and future relationships. Husbands and boyfriends of raped women often cannot deal with what happened, and end up leaving the victim.

Although getting blotto and passing out in public is an undignified act, it hardly plumbs the ultimate depths of degradation, and being raped in such an instance definitely adds significant additional degradation. Please don't take offense at this, but your analysis of the scenario sounds like the kind of self-serving rationalization that the rapist would use in his own defense. A person's own irresponsible behavior in getting drunk does not excuse the illegal and immoral acts that others may choose to perpetrate agaist that person.

To use another monetary analogy, lets say you are a person who is very foolish with his money. Every payday you cash your check and head straight for the casino, where you blow the majority of your money at the Blackjack table. Now suppose I know of your behavior and decide to cut myself in on the action. I manage to pick your pocket on the way to the casino and make off with your week's wages. In defense I could say that since you were going to blow it all at the casino, I haven't really robbed you of anything. Do you think a jury would buy it?

March 31, 2006 7:35 AM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

I think the discussion, while well argued, has gotten away from the original problem. Part of which was, as Skipper says, infantilizing grown women.

In civilized (that is, non-Moslem) countries, there is an age below which a child is legally incapable of consenting to sex, no matter how much of a Lolita she thinks she is.

In my state it's 14. There was a move to make it 16, but it was left alone in deference to the Catholic Filipinos, who cannot bear to think of a 15-year-old virgin.

Where I grew up, it was 12, though in practice marriage below age 13 was socially disdained.

What this UK law does is declare that a grown woman is like a child, in that she CANNOT give consent.

As I understand it, the issue is not whether she is passed out unconscious, but that she was an participant but in law is judged to have been incompetent.

Old enough to decide to get sloshed but too young to comprehend the consequences.

Who would hire such a person?

++++

It is, in American law, rape to have sexual congress with an unconscious person, although perhaps not if consent was given before the congresswoman passed out.

I am aware of occasional successful prosecutions.

++++

It is easy to conceive that adult women, raised in a society that is, to say the least of it, ambivalent about the social status of relaxed sex, would want to have relaxed sex and at the same time want to have a socially viable way of denying that that's what they want.

Perhaps the chavs want wild, anonymous sex but are, in the end, not quite ready to be seen to do so.

I would have to examine a lot of these 'failed' prosecutions to get a sense of that.

However, there are some things we know. One is that rape fantasies are extremely common among, at least, American women.

Rape fantasy books are, by far, the best selling books in America. One in five books sold in No. America is a rape fantasy directed at women. (Much, much smaller numbers of rape fantasies aimed at men.)

It is true that, as someone here stated, the typical rape fantasy does not involve being mauled by a smelly derelict in an elevator.

We cannot assume, I think, that chavs' rape fantasies do not involve yobs in downtown pubs. Women as well as men fish where the fish are.

March 31, 2006 9:18 AM  
Blogger Bret said...

Duck wrote: "We disagreed with your comments above because they seemed to be wandering into an argument that said: if you can get away with doing x, then there's nothing wrong with doing x."

I was tired and rushed when I wrote my earlier comments in this thread and can see why you thought I said that. No, I don't think there is nothing wrong with having sex with someone without their consent.

Though a grey area is still what it means to give consent. To go to a meat market and then leave with someone to go some place private may create a reasonable expectation of implied consent. Even here I'd agree that it's morally wrong (e.g. I'd never do it) to expect the implied consent to hold if the person is passed out or mostly incapacitated from drinking too much.

April 01, 2006 10:53 AM  
Blogger Bret said...

Harry Eagar wrote: "One in five books sold in No. America is a rape fantasy directed at women."

Fantasy is fantasy and doesn't have any link to what someone might want to have happen in reality. For example, I might fantasize about having sex with someone, but I wouldn't actually want to do it in reality. In fantasy the costs are nil, in reality they're much higher.

April 01, 2006 10:57 AM  
Blogger Oroborous said...

I wouldn't go so far as to say that fantasy has no link to what people might do, or want to have happen, in reality.

For instance, men often fantasize about threesomes with two women; how many guys decide not to participate, if ever given the opportunity ?
The number, whatever it is, is more than zero, but far less than all.
Some women are exhibitionists, and many of them do indeed arrange to be seen, or "flash" people.


"Rape fantasy" is the commonly-used term for a category into which a lot of desires fit.
The books about which Harry wrote are mostly specifically dominance fantasies, and we know that above even good looks or humor, women are attracted to confidence.
That's the primary component in the appeal of "bad boys", and we also know how much women swoon over them, especially younger women.

April 01, 2006 11:47 AM  
Blogger Bret said...

Duck wrote: "Rape carries an intensely emotional impact ... The raped person loses not only in his/her own esteem, but in the esteem of friends, relatives and the public ... Husbands and boyfriends of raped women often cannot deal with what happened, and end up leaving the victim."

I've been contemplating this for a couple of days now, and just don't share this outlook. First some questions, then an example.

If someone you knew (friend or family member) was raped, would you hold them in "lower esteem?" If your wife was raped, would you hold her in lower esteem? Would you leave her?

I certainly would not hold anyone I know in lower esteem if they were raped, including my wife, and I certainly would not leave her and I can say that with 100% confidence. I highly suspect you can say the same.

So given that at least some people like me and perhaps you wouldn't hold the person who was raped in lower esteem, it illustrates that at least a significant part of the loss is strictly subjective and completely intangible and difficult or impossible to measure. In my opinion, society cannot be burdened with having to rectify subjective losses.

Let's say there was some religious sect where being touched by any stranger caused the touchee to be dirty and unworthy of God and therefore both dishonored and barred from Heaven (there are sects that are uncomfortably similar to this). And let's say one of the members of the sect is riding the subway, the train lurches violently, perhaps because of an accident, and someone else's flailing hand accidentally manages to find its way inside the sect member's head to toe covering and flesh contacts flesh.

Subjectively, this person has just suffered the ultimate loss. He/she can no longer go to heaven where he/she would otherwise have ultimately spent eternity with his/her family.

Would you feel sorry for such a person? I wouldn't - at least not much. Their loss is very real, and even horrifying to them, but it's not an objective loss. They can believe what they like, but I can't see basing my morality or our laws on those beliefs.

The primary difference between this example and date/drunken rape is that these hypothetical believers are in the minority whereas your description of views regarding rape are held by a far larger group of people.

And that makes a difference. The majority gets to decide what's right and what's wrong and if it's wrong, just how bad is it. But if we hold subjective losses that the majority believe as important and/or sacred, while ignoring out of hand the subjective losses of minorities, then we've entered the realm of tyranny of the majority.

And it also gets us into the realm of Osama bin Laden. We've apparently continuously humiliated his followers for centuries and since we didn't take that humiliation seriously enough and stop it, and there was no legal recourse, they decided to start killing us. And sure enough, we (at least the people of the Left) feel bad about it, even as these people are trying to kill us.

So I think we have to be careful when we start to worry about subjective losses.

The other argument that you might put forward is that the reaction to rape you describe is part of our nature - in other words, it's in our genes. I don't believe that either.

First, none of the other primates are monogamous. Chimps are into group sex, gorilla alpha males get the babes, and orangutans mate with a different member each time. So our closest relatives don't view sex like we do.

Second, males in our species are bigger than females, and in most other mammals that indicates the gorilla style of mating behavior.

Third, we seem to have such a hard time with monogamy. Lots of divorces, lots of cheating, it doesn't seem at all natural to me.

Thus, I conclude that attitudes towards mating and sex are primarily a cultural adaptation and probably not much of a genetic one.

In summary, I believe the subjective losses probably are felt intensely, but it may be time for our culture to evolve a little further and get over it already.

April 01, 2006 9:17 PM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

I don't think that analogy is really parallel.

First, personal integrity is really what modernism is all about. When we dumped the idea of aristocracy and monarchy and adopted the principle of equality before the law, what we were doing was first, dropping the idea that some pigs is more equal than other pigs.

The, probably unrealized at the time, corollary to that was personal integrity (in practice not absolute, as parents still control children and society does not allow them to vote, although I am old enough to recall that leftists in the '60s wanted to allow voting by everyone, in the name of 'equality.' Which, by the way, is why I don't pay much attention when homosexual marriage proponents claim to be after 'equality.')

Personal integrity based on principles of modernity may look like but is entirely different from (and usually antagonistic to) ideas of ritual uncleanness.

Second, the rejection of rapees is external and beyond her (or his) control. You cannot say, 'I don't feel your pain, therefore, you have no pain.'

April 02, 2006 10:32 AM  
Blogger Duck said...

Bret,
I find your distinction between subjective and objective loss rather bizarre. What would be an example of an objective loss? All things that are valued, whether they are external objects or internal experiences, are valued on subjective criteria. Values are necessarily subjective, even including the value we place on life. There is no objective reason to value one's own life. You either value your life because you subjectively want to live, or you don't. Objectivity has nothing to do with it.

I personally know women who were raped. The lasting trauma that these women suffer is undeniable. It isn't something that you can just "get over". These women have to get on with their lives as best they can, but there is no getting over it. I'm sure that you are able to imagine traumatic experiences that you would intensely fear ever happening to yourself, if not actual experiences thet have occured to you. Traumas become hard-wired into our neural pathways, it is how our biology works. Our conscious minds have little control over the process. For whatever survival value it imparted, evolution has doomed us to relive our most traumatic experiences over and over again.

April 02, 2006 1:49 PM  
Blogger Duck said...

Here are links that describe the social rejection suffered by rape victims:

http://psychologytoday.psychtests.com/articles/mentalhealth/rapedev.html

http://www.plusnews.org/AIDSreport.asp?ReportID=5150&SelectRegion=Great_Lakes&SelectCountry=CENTRAL_AFRICAN_REPUBLIC

April 02, 2006 2:15 PM  
Blogger Oroborous said...

I think that what Bret is saying is that different people feel more or less strongly about the same types of trauma, and that it's bad public policy to craft our social response around the reaction by the most sensitive among us.

For instance, most people would agree that being groped at work is sexual harassment, but if a woman wears tight, revealing clothing, and men leer at her, is that harassment ?

Some say that it is, but we'd have to have segregated workplaces if society at large agreed.

Some people, men and women, never get over being raped; a small percentage of others can shrug it off.

April 02, 2006 6:23 PM  
Blogger Bret said...

Duck wrote: "I personally know women who were raped."

Oops. In that case, I think I'll just back off right here. Sorry for anything I wrote that you found offensive or upsetting.

April 02, 2006 6:33 PM  
Blogger Duck said...

Bret,

I guess we'll just have to agree to disagree. We just have different visceral emotional responses to this situation. I think, though, that your opinion of the matter is in opposition to the great majority of human opinion.

You are right to point out that the majority opinion on such subjective moral judgments are not always the most enlightened or humane. But I think that the near universal revulsion of rape, though not always motivated by altruistic intentions, is the morally correct opinion.

April 02, 2006 7:50 PM  

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