Features, Feminism, Sex
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Why I’m Uneasy With the #MeToo Movement

For many women, the breaking of the Weinstein scandal has been a moment of catharsis and deferred justice. In the wake of the appalling revelations of rape and abuse, women were invited to detail their own experiences of sexual assault on social media under the #MeToo hashtag, and the subsequent outpouring of testimony was held up by some campaigners as proof that America is indeed a culture in which women are routinely victimised, and men are routinely complicit. Celebrity journalists and Hollywood stars have been named and shamed; denunciations have proliferated and shamefaced apologies have been offered; unsubstantiated spreadsheets listing alleged offenders have been circulated and leaked; and glittering careers and reputations are being reduced to powder overnight.

But as someone who has experienced what many would perceive to be a sexual assault, the momentum of the #MeToo movement makes me uneasy. Before I explain why, I should tell my story and the lessons I learned along the way. Those lessons were painful and the price I paid was steep, but I emerged from the experience stronger and wiser than before.

*     *     *

I set off for college at eighteen, eager for new experiences. When I completed my undergraduate degree four years later, I felt I had reached a new level of personal maturity and autonomy. This sense of myself was further confirmed when I went on to pursue a post-graduate degree the following year. This complacency was forever shaken by the events of a single evening in my mid-twenties.

That evening, I had embarked on a night out with friends dressed in what might be described as a ‘racy’ or revealing outfit. After a long week of study, I wanted to unwind and have fun, and as we frolicked from one bar to the next, I drank, danced, and flirted without a care. By chance, I ran into an old friend from college and he and I spent the rest of the evening drinking together, reminiscing about old times on Greek Row, and exchanging stories of our adventures since.

As closing time approached, I invited him back to my house and he enthusiastically accepted. Upon arrival, I welcomed him with another generous round of drinks before inviting him to join me in my bedroom. Having spent the evening in crowded, noisy bars, we were now alone in my bed and, without further discussion, we shared a night of unspoken “mutual agreement.”

When I awoke the next morning, the previous evening’s excitement had been replaced by a brutal hangover and a pressing sense of regret. The dimly remembered decisions I had made the previous night while intoxicated no longer felt like my own. Struggling to recollect what had happened and sick from the hangover, I wondered if I might be coming down with the flu. Ashamed by the memory of my drunken stupor, I shuffled my companion out of the front door with no mention of the previous night’s events. As the day progressed, I grew more nauseous not less, and developed what felt like a fever. Supposing that it was either a case of alcohol poisoning or some garden variety illness or other, I tried not to think about it.

The next day I felt worse. And I had developed new symptoms. I vaguely recalled that our sex two nights previously had been unprotected. On the blithe assumption that my birth control would take care of any concerns, I had not insisted on it. But now I had a feeling that a visit to my gynecologist would be a prudent move.
 Upon arrival, I was handed paperwork to complete, which asked questions such as “Do you have any sexually transmitted diseases?” and “Are you pregnant?” I knew I could definitely check no for the latter. As for the former, my last visit to the gynecologist had resulted in a clean bill of health and I had not had intercourse since. So, I checked ‘no’ in response to that, too.

As I anxiously awaited the results of my tests, I went over my actions that night in an attempt to reorganise my fragmentary memories into a coherent series of events. At last, the doctor reappeared and proceeded with my diagnosis. Listening to her, I felt my stomach churn. She told me that I had contracted herpes simplex virus type 2 and that this was incurable. Distressed, I asked her to repeat the test. Only 15 percent of Americans between the ages of 14 and 49 are estimated to carry HSV-2. What were the chances? She asked whether or not I was aware of my partner’s condition and I said no. I did not recall noticing any symptoms on him, but it is not uncommon for people infected with genital herpes not to exhibit any.

Then she asked if the intercourse had been consensual. Had I verbally consented to sex, I wondered? The answer was a resounding no. Perhaps I had been too drunk to give meaningful consent, and what had seemed consensual at the time was in fact something more sinister – predatory opportunism or even assault. For a moment, I found myself tempted by an escape into victimhood. Certainly, the emotional burden would be easier to bear if the fault could be projected elsewhere.

But, try as I might, I could not persuade myself that this was a good faith account of what had actually happened. Self-examination forced me to acknowledge that both my partner and I shared responsibility for the events of that night, and that martyrdom would be a cowardly and dishonest excuse for my own poor judgment. And what if my revisionism were to be uncovered? The consequences didn’t bear thinking about. Not only personal disgrace, but justifiable accusations that I had appropriated and devalued the ordeals of those who had been drugged, overpowered, molested, or otherwise unambiguously sexually assaulted. I could not in good conscience adopt a narrative of convenience that might make it harder for authentic victims of sexual violence to be believed were my duplicity to be exposed.

And who was I to accuse someone of a crime when I knew perfectly well that it was partly my own recklessness that had placed me in jeopardy? I had willingly embraced a degree of risk in my pursuit of pleasure. I had drunk to excess, I had invited a man I had just met back to my home, and I had willingly engaged in unprotected sex. 8 or 9 times out of 10, the only consequences would have been fleeting regrets and a headache. But I was old enough to know that I might be unlucky. And so I was.

As I struggled to come to terms with my diagnosis and grieve for the loss of my health, I experienced a range of confused emotions – anger; denial; resentment; self-pity. For a while, I cultivated hatred towards men, and even hostility towards my parents, who I irrationally blamed for failing to do enough to warn and protect me. But in the end, such excuses were just an abdication of the autonomy in which I had previously taken such pride. And so I assumed responsibility for my choices that night and resolved not to blame others for my own mistakes.

*     *     *

My recovery was a long and painful process. However, it was not made any easier by what I read online. Feminist and activist sites set up to counsel and advise victims of sexual assault seemed perversely determined to convince me that I had in fact been assaulted, and sternly warned against any assumption of personal responsibility which they invariably describe as “victim-blaming.” Instead, they offered trite slogans such as “Drinking is not a crime – rape is” and “Don’t tell your daughter not to go out, tell your son to behave properly” and “Teach men to respect women.”

A representative example of this kind of advice can be found in the Myths and Facts section of Sexual Trauma Services (STSM) advocacy website, which informs browsers, inter alia:

Myth: A person can avoid being raped as long as he or she follows certain guidelines, such as acting or dressing conservatively, not going out at night alone, and refraining from drinking alcohol or doing drugs.

Fact: Rape can happen to anyone at any time, no matter how cautious they are. Advising people to follow “guidelines” to avoid being sexually assaulted puts the responsibility of the assault on the victim. Instead, it is the responsibility of the assailant to avoid sexually assaulting others, and as a community, it is our responsibility to understand and promote the fact that sexual assault is never trivial, excusable or deserved, and it is never the victim’s fault.

This is surely well intended and meant to reassure those seeking guidance that they will not be judged. But such absolutism is also unhelpful and, in its construction of a straw man, not a little dishonest. America is not theocratic Iran. Who in the modern West can be heard to claim that female modesty and temperance will eliminate rape entirely? More importantly, STSM’s advice struck me as inconsistent with normal human intuitions on the elementary point of personal accountability. Even an abnormally unreflective person will be able to come up with examples of occasions when their own foolish decisions have contributed to their misfortune. In a liberal society, we are free to make our own choices. But when those choices predictably increase personal vulnerability or risk, we are usually expected to take moral responsibility for shouldering the possible consequences of that risk.

I might refuse to wear a seatbelt on the basis that I am particularly fastidious about road safety. But if another less cautious driver were to drive his vehicle into mine, most reasonable people would accept that I bear responsibility for any injuries I would not have sustained had I taken the sensible precaution of wearing a safety belt.

Alternatively, I may decide to leave my child unattended while I run to the shop, calculating that the risk of her being snatched is vanishingly small. But if my child is then abducted or injures herself in my absence, most reasonable people would not hesitate to describe my negligence as blameworthy.

In neither circumstance does “Don’t tell me to wear a safety belt, tell others to drive carefully” or “Don’t tell children not to talk to strangers, tell strangers not to abduct children” sound remotely like sensible or wise advice. We recognise that, as adults and moral agents, we have a duty to look after own well-being and the well-being of dependents who cannot look out for themselves.

Why should sex be any different? And is it fair to say that things like environment, dress, and alcohol consumption increase personal vulnerability and risk? Or is this simply, as the websites I encountered insisted, just a misogynistic myth intended to restrict female freedom?

In the modern day West, we rightly accept that men and women ought to be able to dress as they please without being subject to moral opprobrium. But that doesn’t alter the fact that revealing attire will attract the attention of the opposite sex, and that it is designed and (usually) worn for precisely this purpose. Because this effect is indiscriminate, a foreseeable consequence is that it will attract both wanted and unwanted attention.

Copious research has been undertaken into the psychology of dress and its effect on both genders. Investigations into the “red dress effect”1 and innumerable other studies on the effects of suggestive attire are well documented in the psychological literature. From flowers to various species of birds and mammals, the effect of physical appearance on sexual attraction has been firmly established.2

But when it comes to humans, we are asked simply to disregard elemental forces of sexual selection. Cultural and ideological narratives are used to disfigure biological truths, rendering them as “sexist”, “predatory,” or “misogynistic.” Forgoing analysis of sexual selection does our understanding of human behaviour an injustice. Without taking into account the complexity of our species – part rational and deliberative, part imperfectly evolved mammal – we misunderstand the various ways in which physical appearance plays a role in sexual motivation and behavior.

The various ways in which alcohol can increase personal vulnerability and risk ought to be familiar enough to most people that they require no appeal to the equally abundant academic literature on the topic. Alcohol consumption reliably compromises threat perception, awareness of surroundings, reaction time, impulse control, and sexual inhibitions. In other words, it compromises the ability of both sexes to make sound and informed judgments. It ought to be no surprise to discover that most sexual assaults occur when the victim and/or the perpetrator are under its influence.

A paper by Abbey et al. posted on the website of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism confirms that:

Laboratory research that examines the processes through which alcohol exacerbates miscommunication between women and men and influences the cognitive and affective responses of women and men to sexual disagreements can help guide prevention programs.3

Bars, meanwhile, exist to fulfil one function: to provide alcohol to their patrons. And while people may enjoy the bar scene for any number of reasons, studies have consistently found socializing and sex to be among the most popular. A research study by Reingle et al. (2009) unsurprisingly concluded that:

From a developmental perspective, nightclubbing appears to assist young adults with establishing and maintaining social networks, romantic and sexual relationships, and collegiate acculturation.4

Anyone who has stepped into a bar is surely aware of these motivational factors, even if they are not one’s own. And while it is true that women have lower sex drives than men on average, since men and women share the same hormones (albeit in different levels), alcohol has much the same effect on the inhibitions and sex drive of both. As a 1986 study by Harvey and Beckman concluded:

61.2% of the women reported that they desire sexual activity most when drinking as compared to not drinking, but more women related increased sexual desire to drinking a little (44.8%) than to drinking a lot (16.4%). 64.2% indicated that alcohol did not make a difference in the frequency of sexual activity, but more women stated that they were more likely to engage in sexual activity with alcohol (22.4%) than without alcohol (13.4%).5

The observations about dress, environment, and alcohol discussed above should not be construed as an attempt to pass moral judgment of any kind, still less as an attempt to absolve rapists of responsibility for their crimes. Men and women should of course be at liberty to drink what they like, wear what they like, and frequent whichever drinking establishments they like in the hope of finding a partner or a bit of consequence-free sex, if that is to their taste.

To notice that certain behaviors predictably increase a person’s vulnerability is so obvious as to be banal. But any attempt to ask women to acknowledge the associated risks is routinely described as ‘rape apologism.’ If identifying and acknowledging such behaviors is to become taboo, then how are people supposed to mitigate the risks associated them, or to make informed judgments about whether a particular risk is worth the benefits it affords?

*     *     *

The mistake that campaigners make is to assume that moral responsibility is a zero-sum game. The motorist who collides with my car is just as culpable for his recklessness whether or not I am wearing a seatbelt. But it is precisely because the behaviour of others lies beyond my control that I must remain responsible for taking precautions in the interest of self-protection. To insist that women rely entirely upon the goodwill of others for their own safety is not only fantastically irresponsible, it borders on the reprehensible.

Days after my diagnosis, I called my partner from that fateful night to tell him the news and to ask if he had known that he was infected when we slept together. His curt response was to tell me it was nothing to do with him. Was he lying? In denial? Only he knows for sure. I never spoke to him again. Even if he was unaware, that does not absolve him of moral responsibility for his behaviour since, having exposed himself to the possibility of infection on some previous occasion, he had not been screened before having unprotected intercourse with me.

But his failure of personal responsibility does nothing to diminish my own. The painful truth is that what happened to me that night was avoidable. Had I not drunk as much as I did, I would not have invited him home. And had I insisted on protected sex, I would not be living with an HSV-2 infection today.

It is not possible to avoid risk altogether. Teetotal women who dress conservatively and scrupulously avoid bars may still be sexually assaulted and raped. And opportunistic, predatory sociopaths will continue to search for vulnerable women, just as a lion stalks weak antelope. But advising people to take sensible precautions to mitigate risk should be no reason for outrage. On the contrary, an assumption of personal responsibility is the sine qua non of independence and autonomy in a free society.

Feminism is supposed to be a movement committed to female liberation and empowerment, and over the years it has done much to advance those goals. Today, Western women are as free as women have ever been at any time in world history. We are free to choose our educational institutions, we are free to pursue a career path of our liking, we are free to marry and love who we want, sleep with whomever we like, and say and think whatever we wish.

But by demanding that women renounce personal responsibility, contemporary feminists and sexual assault activists reduce adults capable of agency and choice to children capable of neither. This is a disempowerment trap, and it was only once I was able to accept responsibility for my own actions that I was able to reclaim my sense of autonomy, repair my shattered self-esteem, and move forward with my life. Instead of embracing a distorted view of the opposite sex, or blaming my upbringing, or surrendering to the passivity of inert victimhood, I emerged from the experience stronger and freer, with a greater sense of self-worth, and a more realistic understanding of the world.

This perspective has not received a hearing in the wake of the Weinstein revelations. Any rational discussion of moral responsibility has been drowned out by the deafening hue and cry about institutional misogyny and structural male oppression and rape culture from those unwilling to admit any ethical distinction between systematic sexual predation and traumatic experiences not unlike my own, in which poor personal choices have contributed to personal sorrow. Instead, everything has been indiscriminately slung together under the #MeToo hashtag’s furious outcry of indignation.

Those who stretch the definition of sexual assault to absolve themselves of responsibility for their own choices, or who wilfully ignore the self-evident facts of human nature whenever they conflict with the false rhetoric of their political doctrines, are doing the cause of women’s safety no favors at all. Chastened and humbled by the life lessons I learned too late, I want no part in it.

 

The author is a therapist residing in the mountains of East Tennessee. She can be found on twitter here. Lexa Frankl is a pseudonym.

 


References:

1 Pazda, Adam D.; Elliot, Andrew J.; Greitemeyer, Tobias (2011). “Sexy red: Perceived sexual receptivity mediates the red-attraction relation in men viewing woman”. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology. 48 (3): 787. doi:10.1016/j.jesp.2011.12.009.

2 Guéguen N (2011). “The Effect of Women’s Suggestive Clothing on Men’s Behavior and Judgment: A Field Study” Psychological Reports, Oct;109(2):635-8.

3 Antonia Abbey, Ph.D., Tina Zawacki, M.A., Philip O. Buck, M.A., A. Monique Clinton, M.A., and Pam McAuslan, Ph.D. “Alcohol and Sexual Assault” National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism

4 Reingle, J.; Thomas, D. L.; Weiler, R.M.; Dodd, V.J.; O’Mara, R.; & Pokorny, S.B. (2009). “An Exploratory Study of Bar and Nightclub Expectancies”  Journal of American College Health, 57, 629-637. 

5 Harvey, S. M.; Becvkman, L. J. (1986) “Alcohol Consumption, Female Sexual Behavior and Contraceptive Use.” Journal of Studies on Alcohol. 1986 Jul;47(4):327-32.

81 Comments

  1. Mike C says

    This right here:

    >> To notice that certain behaviors predictably increase a person’s vulnerability is so obvious as to be banal. But any attempt to ask women to acknowledge the associated risks is routinely described as ‘rape apologism.’ If identifying and acknowledging such behaviors is to become taboo, then how are people supposed to mitigate the risks associated them, or to make informed judgments about whether a particular risk is worth the benefits it affords? <<

    Is why women today we have "toxic masculinity" and "mgtow." Women blame the idea of men and men blame the reality of women. I will not date, have sex, or marry ay Americanized woman today, 18+. MGTOW for life.

  2. Pamela Myers-Lewis says

    This is it! Something has been niggling at me about this whole #MeToo movement. It’s been like something I could see out of the corner of my eye, but I couldn’t quite frame it.
    My discomfort lies in “hotel rooms” and “settlements.” Women should be smarter, we should listen to our gut. We should have enough self-respect to dress and behave appropriately.
    I’m sorry for the price this author paid for her indiscretion; I applaud her for her accountability and for learning and growing from the experience.

    • Robert Paulson says

      You seem to be in a minority though. I have met women that categorically reject the idea that they need take proactive measures, even in more mild situations where telling a guy off would suffice. They usually say things like “I shouldn’t have to do anything, men need to change etc.” This attitude is not confined to the sexual harassment/assault issue either. I work in tech and there is a discursive deluge of women complaining about male work styles and that tech is “male dominated” and how the men should “move aside” to make the women more comfortable at work. I was raised to believe that the world was an indifferent place and that expecting others to change for you was naive and narcissistic, do you have any insights into why many women seem to believe the opposite?

      • Women and men are taught from the daycare onto university that women are a privileged class of citizens – because vagina. So naturally, they are bewildered as to why a workplace dominated by men – because choices – is so out of norm according to their own twisted sense of reality that a woman must dominate men – because vagina!

  3. I’m not sure I follow ….you had a fun night; danced, got drunk, ran into a friend, went home with him and drank some more, had sexy-fun times, then fell asleep to awake in the morning with a headache and a ‘pressing sense of regret’. So …why the regret? Why not “Hey this was great! I had a fun time with you old friend, but I’ve got a headache and want to be alone now. Thanks for the good times!” Isn’t that how most fun-times would end ….on a fun note?

    I suspect the regret was because it wasn’t sexy-fun times. I suspect the regret was because you have the vague notion that something wrong happened. Wrong …in that it was the opposite of sexy-fun times.

    Your calling him up to reveal your STD and him being curt and then never speaking to you again was, yes, dickish. And it was dickish because he knew what he did was wrong ….I mean, if he was the old friend you said he was then why not “OMG ….I’m so sorry, I told you all about it don’t you remember!?” Or maybe “OMG, I didn’t know …I’m going to get myself checked out and will let you know how it goes!” But you got none of those, and you got none of those because he was a dick. And he knows that he got one over on you. And now he just wants to be free of the experience and never speak to you again. Maybe move on to his next conquest. Some old friend.

    You spout all the excuses men use to justify having their way with women; sexy outfit, drunk, willing, inviting …shit happens. You victim-blame yourself, just look at that seatbelt analogy …heck, you could argue that as a pedestrian hit by a car it’d be your fault for wanting to cross the street.

    No, I don’t buy it, sorry. And I don’t buy the idea that women have renounced personal responsibility for their actions. They instead have called BS on the rules of the game; and men, who made up the rules, will have to suffer the consequences while remaking the game to be more fair for the future.

    And if they’re smart, they’ll let women in on the redesign.

    • Epson Maverick says

      “No, I don’t buy it, sorry. And I don’t buy the idea that women have renounced personal responsibility for their actions. They instead have called BS on the rules of the game; and men, who made up the rules, will have to suffer the consequences while remaking the game to be more fair for the future.”

      What “rules of the game”? You mean the rules of dating and sex?

      Since when did men “make up the rules”?

      Women are the choosier sex. That means women are more SELECTIVE than men about who they f*ck. So logically, that means THEY make the rules.

      So what the f*ck are you talking about?

    • Arthur says

      I certainly have some reservations about the tone of #MeToo, and this article touches on them, but I have to agree with Troy here that the angle this article takes is very suspect. Specifically a “old friend” cutting someone out of their life immediately after having sex with them. And stressing insignificant details like wearing a “racy” outfit.

      I won’t go as far as Troy did and suggest the girl was played in some pick-up game, the author is certainly culpable for some of what happened, but the first few paragraphs villainize anyone who says they were a victim and that doesn’t sit well with me.

    • Nuveau Sapiens says

      Your textbook definition of a straw man is: “…you could argue that as a pedestrian hit by a car it’d be your fault for WANTING to cross the street.” (emphasis added)

      • ‘On average’ is the key word. I’m I guy and I’m repulsed by the idea of casual sex. Apparently I’m the anomaly. But I can accept that, and so perhaps it’s not hard to as well accept that the preponderance of women finding strength in the #metoo movement are not like Lexa or yourself.

    • prinzler says

      I advise any pedestrian to look both ways before crossing the street even if they are crossing with the light, within the crosswalk, etc. If an accident happens, it’s not the pedestrian’s fault, but those precautions are still prudent.

      • Why? Have pedestrians never walked or ran under and into cars? Why assume it is a drivers fault? I find this argument invalid and would suggest that it is in fact a responsibility of drivers and pedestrians or either depending on circumstances.
        I can’t believe this has to be explained…

      • There’s is nothing wrong with taking precautions, there is however, everything wrong with blaming someone for not having taken these precautions.

      • geegee says

        Exactly. But at the moment when both your legs are broken (let’s say), no one should feel justified ONLY by the court sentence to the driver… they hopefully decide to look left and right in the future.

        Also, I would really like troy to teach her/his kids: “You don’t need to look at left/right when crossing the street, drivers should learn not to drive so fast they cant avoid hitting you! Especially on zebra crossings, and green light, just go ahead, pay no attention to what is happening around you. And if/when you do get hit and/or killed, I will go on social media campaign of #themToo, which will prove that you were not to blame, but especially that I was not to blame for not teaching you that in a world where millions of things happen every second you do not have to rely only on others to keep you safe.”

    • Henry Tysor says

      I think you are asking for the impossible. We do have laws to protect women. You and others want to go beyond the laws to change hearts which can never happen through a law or mandate..I am a black man and I know many people are bias or racist. Nothing can be done about that. No one can force another to do the right thing. If you and others have been harrassed, molested or raped there are remedies. If you attempt to go further than reasonable, rational and moral “laws” the only thing waiting is going to be an eventual push back. And you will shortly see what I mean.

      • I suppose there’s no point in trying to change anything then.
        *retires back to cave…*

    • Timmy says

      Sometimes when people drink, they decide to do something they wouldn’t have done sober. So when they are sober, they sometimes regret those drunk decisions. Are you calling the author a liar because she acknowledges alcohol clouds judgement?

      Also, about your pedestrian comment. If you were about to drive through a green light and I jumped in front of your car, you wouldn’t tell the cop “he jumped out of nowhere!”?

  4. Bravo! for you and all you wrote, Ms. Frankl. I am deeply sorry that you will pay for it most of your life unless some cure is created thru our medical research. That’s a heavy hit, for sure. Decisions, decisions, always decisions.

    What wasn’t touched on was the loss of ‘innocent until proven guilty’ in the #MeToo rush to judgment. How many men’s lives are going to be destroyed by either false accusations or women who failed their own selves and cannot stand that burden and therefore must project it onto the man? I suspect there is more than just a little bit of that going on. But I also know that most men are still strongly attracted to women. If they weren’t, the human race would have vanished a long time ago. So, I don’t think this issue will be easily resolved until we have an increase in Self Consciousness with accompanying responsibility for ALL our actions. We are far from that.

    If I were single and in today’s society, I think I would take a monastic vow so as to not be falsely accused and destroyed by lies. Or, get married and be monogamous, for sure. I’m an 80-year-old man who has been married for 56 years and counting. We had our troubles but have worked thru them. I am thankful not to have to deal with the hyper-sexuality of today’s society. Frankly, it is sick.

    • Vanessa says

      Yes, let’s worry about how many men’s lives will be ruined by this movement rather than applaud how it is making space for a women who have been harassed and assaulted to feel safe enough to speak up. Yes, this movement could lead to what you are saying but you are neglecting to acknowledge that there is Avery real problem here and has been for a very long time.

  5. Charlie Bulbeck says

    As she says “The mistake that campaigners make is to assume that moral responsibility is a zero-sum game”. If I have not actually ‘raped’ a woman, I have tried damn hard to on some shameful occasions.

  6. Sam Butler says

    I’m grateful for this article. One of the things it illustrates, I think, is that men and women share responsibility for sexual acts, even if they’re not entered into ‘explicitly’ (i.e. with one person saying ‘I agree to have sex now’). It looks like, at any point, the author could have simply signaled to her friend that she didn’t want to go further, had she not wanted to. The fact that she didn’t (and that she wasn’t gagged or threatened in any way) amounts to consent. To imagine otherwise would be to put all the pressure of communicating on the man. But if we expect men to strike up the courage to ask for consent (which can be awkward at the least, and could nowadays be construed as harassment) – if we expect men to do that much, why can’t we ask women to signal clearly whether they want to go further or not? That would be an equal situation, which is presumably what we want (and what feminists say they want). Of course it’s unacceptable for someone to keep going once the other person has clearly signaled they don’t want to, but a lot of the cases that are in the press at the moment (e.g. Michael Fallon’s knee-touching) look like perfectly reasonable first moves that happen before the other person makes clear what they want. (And indeed, in the Fallon case it looks like he backed off as soon as he was made aware his advances weren’t welcome.)

  7. There is a difference between moral and causal responsebility. Wearing a skimpy dress might be causaly responsible for a higher chance of rape but the woman bears no moral responability for that.

    • Yes. Causal responsibility pertains to wisdom vs. folly. Moral responsibility pertains to justice vs. injustice. I think it is a bit more complicated than this, but it is a good place to start.

  8. Eline says

    So sorry for you that this happened. But I have to say I don’t understand this story, you say there was a night of unspoken “mutual agreement”, weren’t you just having drunk sex? You actually invited him to your house and to your bedroom. I don’t see why anyone sees this as sexual harassment, but maybe I didn’t read your story right. This story doesn’t seem to have anything to do with the reports of the #metoo movement… To me it just sounds like another female who wants to get victims credibility down, just to get recognition from men (and it’s working, regarding the reactions here). But perhaps I’m wrong, then sorry. #metoo is for women who can finally speak up about their trauma. They mostly have no choice and now they can finally breathe. Of course there are a couple of people among them who just have done something they regret (which can be traumatizing as well) and for some reason feel like their story belongs in the #metoo topic, but that’s just a very tiny, minor proportion of the great amounts of people who have been sexual harassed or raped and just need to share their story.

  9. I agree with everything in this article. I would just like to point out that condoms wouldn’t protect you against HSV either.

  10. Margaret Fern says

    For me, your article is all over the place. One of the first things you mention is your outfit … how does that matter? Then you say you ran into an old friend from college and then said, “I had invited a man I had just met back to my home, and I had willingly engaged in unprotected sex.” He had herpes and didn’t tell you – he also re-infected himself that night – it was his responsibility to tell you he had herpes, not yours to ask him if he did. For you to compare this experience to #metoo movement doesn’t make sense to me. The same thing happened to me 40 years ago, but in the 70s STDs weren’t well known. Not many people knew about herpes and AIDS. It’s not my fault that a stranger grabbed my genitals in a movie theater on a Saturday afternoon because I was there or wearing a dress when I was a young girl. Not my fault that a man I just met and gave a ride home to from the hospital after visiting his girlfriend who just had a miscarriage and raped me in my car then forced me to drive him the rest of the way home. Am I at fault that a man on our first date had the intention of getting me so drunk (date rape) that I couldn’t make a rational decision and say no? I was naive and that’s all. I learned from the experience and moved on. We are all responsible for our own actions and decisions, but the sexual abuses of both men and women are coming to light and this is a good thing. Women have been dealing with predatory behavior for centuries and this movement, and people coming forward now is a very powerful thing. I say, leave your night of fun far away from this movement … it was a shitty thing to have happened to you and make sure you tell your partners going forward and drop the guilt and blame game.

    • Henry Tysor says

      Again, you cannot stop inappropriate male conduct no more than stop selling drugs on local corners. You can go no further than the laws inacted. Most places of employement have policies now in place to deal with this kind of thing – file a grievance, call you lawyer or law enforcement when it happens. But to come back 20 years later in most cases simply will not do.

    • “in the 70s STDs weren’t well known” except, it seems, in my state junior school in NE England where me and my friends knew about VD, at least.

      Also, choice of outfit for both sexes sends a message. To claim otherwise is absurd.

  11. Dan Vesty says

    “But by demanding that women renounce personal responsibility, contemporary feminists and sexual assault activists reduce adults capable of agency and choice to children capable of neither.” – Right, and that’s essentially the dynamic that lies at the heart of a lot of the more extreme forms of ‘social justice activism’ – the pathological need to divide the world into either vulnerable children or predatory psychopaths. I blame Walt Disney.

  12. Michelle says

    “But it is precisely because the behaviour of others lies beyond my control that I must remain responsible for taking precautions in the interest of self-protection.”

    This line sums it up for me. We teach our kids “stranger danger” not because we will blame them if a stranger abudcts them, but because we want to reduce the risk of that happening. We lock our doors and buy security systems not because burglars are blameless in their crime but because we want to reduce the chance of this happening.

    Of course we can never eliminate risk in any situation, but to advise against reasonable precautions is folly. Of course what is a “reasonable precaution” is open to debate and this is where the debate should be, but to tell women they cannot take steps for risk reduction, that their fate is entirely in the hands of waiting attackers, is clearly counter-productive if the goal is to empower women.

    • nicky says

      Another reasonable precaution not yet mentioned is: “Don’t hitchhike!” (and vice versa: “Don’t give hitchhikers a lift”). I’m pleased to say that the (feminist) ‘Black Sash’ organisation in the RSA (the ‘rape capital’ of the world) actually gives that advice. And stronger, it puts it up as the No 1 advice and in bold.

  13. Congratulations on making the Weinstein scandal all about you. Those women weren’t drunkenly stupor. They were shepherded by his accomplices under the guise of career opportunity and he forced himself on them.
    The author wrote about experiences in college and grad school and I thought it was going to be a story about power imbalance in academia but I fail to see why a night of consensual drunken sex with someone who sounds nice enough would lead author to regret… Maybe I’m missing something. Oh yeah the herpes. So if it weren’t the herpes, she would not have regretted it possibly?

    • Kat, what your missing is the mainstream feminist movement for “enthusiastic consent” which states women who are drunk cannot consent (through, oddly, drunk men can!)

    • Henry Tysor says

      You know Hollywood is a very sleezy place behind the scenes. Right? Sure it’s wrong. But you cannot expect otherwise in dark places. To express outrage at what goes on there is to bascially shovel sand against an incoming dark tide.

  14. Carl Sageman says

    What a wonderful article. I’m amazed at the amount of hostility toward the author who should be commended for a superbly crafted narrative. This style of narrative is, in my view, essential today as it represents a divergent view from almost all other media outlets. In a world where we should be (and aren’t) seeing a spectrum of insightful views, we desperately need Quillette. Quillette stands head and shoulders above all other sites as far as I’m concerned.

    The author is not victim blaming. She doesn’t have a victim mentality. She’s not judging others. She’s not justifying rape. She is being responsible, ensuring she is truly empowered, identifying how others have tried to take away her power, how her perspective of reality was being distorted by well-meaning groups. Who else expresses this voice? I completely agree with her and very few people are willing to say what she does. As far as I’m concerned, this woman is the sort of role model I want for the girls and women in my life. I’ll take this woman over the modern Wonder Woman any day! This is my brand of hero and they’re almost non-existent.

    There are a few other thoughts worth raising. The issue in the article is almost certainly compounded by sex-focused charities. In the wake of the Weinstein scandal, many high profile celebrities said they’d give past donations from Weinstein to “female only” charities. Based on my research, far more money and effort goes into female only charities compared to male only charities. While I can’t quantify this, I’d guesstimate this to be about 95% female to about 5% male (eg. Think of general cancer donations vs breast cancer vs prostate cancer – search for these terms and see where most of the emphasis and fund raising goes). What do you do when you’re flushed with cash? You look for causes to champion. When there’s too much competition, you push boundaries. In doing so, these charities can easily turn women into victims, even with the best of intentions. They also drive conflict between the sexes and are praised without consideration to the consequences. If you look around you and wonder why so much emphasis is placed on female only, it’s linked to organisations who are disproportionately funded my female-only donations. Domestic violence reporting is particularly dishonest and very destructive, especially as some organisations (eg. 1800 respect) focused the blame on children, with a catch-phrase of “it’s a boy thing”. To this day, they ignore the significant number of male victims of domestic violence. It’s staggering to know we think this way today more than ever.

    The #MeToo campaign was kicked off because of the Weinstein scandal. This scandal has glossed over the paedophilia claims. It has ignored the women who wanted to sleep their way to the top for convenience. It blurred the lines between serious offences and kneegate. The majority of reporting has largely ignored male victims (assuming thinks like the Kevin Spacey allegations are true) and glossed over female perpetrators (eg. Jennifer Lawrence reported what was done to her by a female producer). Innocence until proven guilty has been largely ignored and reputations destroyed without even a trial, except in a trial by media. This incident is reminiscent of Title IX which has since been repealed. Female power brokers in Hollywood have already positioned themselves to take charge because men (collectively) can’t be trusted. This will almost certainly end very badly for Hollywood.

    This article was excellent. It offered an informed and enlightened perspective. I was thoroughly impressed at how well fleshed out the discussion was and how well the author stayed on a solid path. Our society needs heroes like this author … and Quillette.

    • Carl,

      You wrote so eloquently what I would have butchered. The only thing missing in your response that I would have added and that I believe the author skipped is this blanket equating of everything = rape. Look at the self described case where she describes regret which would be coerced into the modern feminist definition of rape (for any # of reasons like the regret, or the fact she was intoxicated, or the fact that she didn’t give verbal consent every 2 minutes). It is this area’s equivalent to someone saying “Hitler!”

    • Correction: it’s not Title IX that’s been repealed, only the Department of Education’s unconstitutional “Dear Colleague letter” which created special, biased rules for campus sexual assault allegations. under Title IX.

    • Henry Tysor says

      Correct. But people don’t want to deal with all the facts. Women are respobsible too. Besides there are laws now not only to deal with sexual harrassment but other maltreatments in society. Women will get their just due in many cases but you have to call law enforcement, file a grievance or call a lawyer.

  15. Jason says

    Why does a therapist residing in the mountains of Tennessee use British spellings? Why does the link to her twitter go to another psydonym account that has tweeted nothing? I fully support the personal responsibility perspective of life. The victim mentality is not something I reccomend even for actual victims. However, the execution of this piece and the fact that there is no real identity attached to it whatsoever makes me suspicious about the entire thing. If the author is a fabrication, why would I believe the narrative?

    • prinzler says

      I applaud your skepticism, Jason, thank you. Ultimately, though, the factual truth of the narrative is not so important. The point the story makes doesn’t depend on whether it happened in that place at that time with those people, because we surely can guess that such a thing has happened at many places, at many times, with many people.

      • Arundo Donax says

        Prinzler, you are wrong. The factual truth of the narrative is utterly important. Otherwise the author could have claimed that she was raped in a fraternity house at the University of Virginia by a man who wasn’t there, and we might have believed her. You aren’t allowed to “surely guess” what’s true and what’s not based only on your imagination.

    • “Why does a therapist residing in the mountains of Tennessee use British spellings?”

      The article was copy-edited by me in London. Our only house style stipulation is that spelling be internally consistent within an article. English spellings make typos easier to identify in my UK copy of Word. Had I foreseen that this anomaly would be used to cast aspersions on the authenticity of the author’s story, I’d have taken care to retain her original US spellings. The author approved the final copy prior to publication.

      “Why does the link to her twitter go to another psydonym account that has tweeted nothing?”

      The author said she wanted to include a twitter link in her profile so people could tweet/tag her if they wanted. We asked her to set up a virgin account with a completely new email address specifically for this purpose in the interests of protecting her anonymity. She did so and sent us the handle for inclusion in her profile.

      Your skepticism is healthy but is not, in this case, grounds for suspicion. 🙂

      Jamie (assistant editor)

      • Arundo Donax says

        Thanks for the perfectly transparent reply, and for protecting the writer. Well done.

  16. Dr.Marty Shoemaker says

    Lexa. Unfortunately the victimization movement makes it very difficult for you to use your actual name as your opinion, well researched, aware of the moral conundrum of “shared responsibility” for most acts, and how important it is for those leveraging external blame choose this belief to deal with their own guilt is the most insightful paper I have ever read on this murky topic. First I want to sincerely thank you for stepping up and writing your carefully thought out response to “me too#” movement. The fact that you are a women who personally went through most of the internal machinations and can write with such clarity, evidence, and persuasion is remarkable. Second, Lexa, as I am part of the target group of most of these victim narratives, I have tried to understand how important what you have concluded is so key to healing of sexual pain particularly when the dynamics and facts are not purely predatory and violent. As a therapist myself for over 40 years, I have seen the final piece of healing for those who entered as victims leave as enlightened clients who accepted their part of the deed without letting the other party off the hook. Your analogy of the seat belt and the dangerous driver is outstanding and one that evokes less political bias. Thanks so much for sharing this. I know that most rights and humanitarian movement are overstatements when they start to make the moral issues at stake change. But we need to also move past black and white causality thinking to your analysis or a huge problem that needs fixing but also a mature view of human choice and responsibility. Cudos to you. Hope to see your real name one day.

  17. “Teach men to respect women.” Indeed. And infantilizing women is certainly *not* respecting them. Furthermore, in the long run it’s bound to restrict women’s sexual freedom in practice, as increasingly men become unwilling to take chances with the potential for morning-after regrets — or, more precisely and worse, only the most reckless and sociopathic men remain willing to take those chances.

    • Arundo Donax says

      You might be interested in what Dr. Helen Smith has to say about American males “going on strike” against traditional gender expectations. Sad, because marriage is a good thing for men.
      https://pjmedia.com/drhelen/.

    • Vanessa says

      Do you take issue with the idea that men should respect women? In addition to the author’s suggestion that her “racy” clothes might be to blame, I also have a problem with her using that line. The reason we are swinging toward what might be an extreme response is that for far too long, women were supposed to bear the brunt of this. Grin and bear the harassment, assaults, lewd and unwanted behaviors. But really? Is it too much to ask men to control themselves? I have a son and will absolutely do that.

  18. Excellent article. I read this as a call to respecting women. A call saying we are not infants incapable of making powerful and responsible decisions. Saying a woman is capable is indeed not ‘victim blaming’. It is giving women pointers on how to stay safe. Being a stand for women to be as safe as possible is respecting women as being capable of making adult decisions. Not a call to perfectionism nor absolutism, rather a reality check that we are capable and powerful adults. Brava!

  19. Bravo! Thank you for succinctly articulating what’s been my position on the matter for a long time. I’m a male and think of myself as a gentleman who would never harm anyone, much less any females. At the same time, feminists can’t have it both ways.If both partners are intoxicated, have intercourse, and then one of them regrets it, why is it the male that is the aggressor? Can we even call it aggression? Why? Both people just acted on their natural impulses at the moment without any coercion or use of force. How can such behavior be lumped into the same category as real rape where violence and force are the primary offensive characteristics – where the physically stronger partner forces his/her will on the weaker.

    Feminists must recognize that with equality of opportunity and choice come equality of responsibility.

  20. Sam Butler says

    For people doubting the relevance of this article to the #metoo movement, it’s important to realize that many people are now effectively treating consent as retrospective. In other words, even I went along with it – even actively encouraged and participated in it – at the time, the fact that I later felt uncomfortable with it constitutes assault. There’s also the idea that even if you don’t make any effort to express discomfort or unwillingness (which is pretty easy to do) a man can still be guilty of assault or worse if he carries on (again, even if any reasonable observer would say that you were eagerly participating in a sexual act).This line of thinking can be seen here, for example: https://thespinoff.co.nz/society/18-10-2017/rape-culture-lives-in-everyone-not-just-hollywood-bogeymen/ The Quillette article above shows a woman on the verge of this kind of thinking: I feel bad about what happened, so I can blame a man. Given how easy it is to do this nowadays, the fact that the author stepepd back from it actually counts as a kind of moral courage (though not accusing people of crimes they haven’t committed used to be seen as basic ethics). Of course not everyone in the #metoo movement are making spurious claims of this sort; some of them have no doubt experienced actual sexual assault. But those people won’t be helped by others complaining about acts they themselves participated in and then changed their minds about later.

  21. I am not sure to understand what a night of drunken sex has to do with the metoo hashtag.

    The author here makes some good points. Of course women should also take responsibility for their actions, and unfounded rape accusations are vile.

    But the goal of the metoo hashtag is not to unfairly accuse all men of rape and abuse. It denounces situations in which men used their power and influence to coerce women into sex. It denounces situations in which men crossed the line of consent.

    I don’t see that in this story. Unfortunately, by conflating of a drunken sex experience to a criticism of metoo, women who have been really abused and had to stay quiet are silenced and ridiculed once again.

  22. Great article as far as the absolving self of responsibility bit, but I was left bewildered as to the author’s personal story. I have doubts that the Old Friend is actually responsible for several reasons:

    1. Author never mentioned if she had prior partners, and something tells me she wasn’t a virgin. Which means she may have been infected before the incident.
    2. Author omits a crucial detail as to the last partner she had and how long before the incident.
    3. Author never mentions that the Old Friend was infected prior to the intercourse. He actually did say that it had nothing to do with him.

    All of that does suggest a possibility that the Old Friend may have been a victim here. The Old Friend may have nothing whatsoever to do with STD and may have actually himself was infected by the Author.

    One other possibility is that he had genuinely not know about the STD – if he in fact was the carrier and was honest when spoke last to Author.
    #NotHim

  23. augustine says

    There is an important generational factor involved here. I know older women, women who actually remember the 1960s, who believe that nothing good ever existed in Western societies before 1960, especially as far as women are concerned. Literally. Only after the modern voice of feminism started resonating was it possible to convince society at large that men have always been despicable and menacing. From what I can gather this viewpoint is based on a combination of the rebellious spirit of the age and degrading personal experiences with men. It is also connected to modern liberalism and the common view among its older adherents that nothing has turned out well (in progressive terms) *since* 1960.

    Every generation deserves a chance to hit the cultural reset button but a more dominant and entrenched older generation can poison the waters and prevent healing and even reasoning. I don’t believe the most vitriolic bitterness around this issue is coming from younger women today. They have been caught up in a victimhood narrative by an older, seasoned sisterhood of social activists. Very little positive progress will come from such anger-filled movements and they are damaging to an earlier and understandable feminist tradition.

    Excellent article, thank you.

  24. nicky says

    A word of advice for younger would be Hollywood stars was given by an established star (forgot who) : “If Harvey Weinstein invites you to “The Four Seasons”, don’t go!”.
    Now, I do not know how widely known this advice was, but it shows that his behaviour was not completely unknown.

    “Lexa”, I want to compliment you on a balanced article. Particularly that being sensible and taking some precautions is not unwise, and does not amount to ‘victim blaming’.
    When you leave your laptop in the seat of an unlocked car, and it gets stolen, the blame for the theft is still on the thief, but it is somehow unwise to do that.
    You also described the temptation to absolve oneself from any responsibility for unfortunate decisions quite well. It is a difficult question, a tight rope so to say, since we do not want victims to blame themselves unduly either.

  25. So you acknowledge that women can never fully eliminate the risk of sexual assault, but you suggest that they have a responsibility to reduce their vulnerability and avoid dangerous situations. Given that assault occurs in the workplace, at church, at restaurants, in the wilderness, and at home, can you suggest exactly how much of the responsibility women bear for their own assault in those locations? How about varying levels of responsibility depending on sleeve and skirt length? How would you assign responsibility (or more accurately, blame) for minor girls who do not know what sex is? These are not rhetorical questions. Women are assaulted everywhere in the world, at all times of day, at all ages, in burkas or bikinis, and for one reason – a man made the willful decision to assault them. There is no way to attribute responsibility to girls and women because there are no behaviors that can prevent male actions.

    • Zachary Reichert says

      Not being able to fully eliminate the risk of something occurring does not give you carte blanche to ignore risks. Nor would ignoring those risks eliminate the moral responsibility of the other party for their actions. Everyone is responsible for every choice they make, always. That’s what having moral agency means.

      The author reasonably articulates all of this in the article, which makes me think that you either did not thoroughly read it, or you’re misunderstanding it.

      • Women bear no responsibility for the choices men make. If you disagree, then please answer the questions I posed to the author. Can you provide some specific suggestions for how a 14-year-old girl can avoid sexual assault? Can you provide a metric or an algorithm for determining how much of the responsibility she bears if a man does assault her? Can you provide a list of “safe men” for her to be around and guarantee that none of them will ever commit violence against her? Can you provide one example of a location where a woman of any age can go with zero risk of sexual assault?

        • Yup. Interestingly, people never try to pin the blame on prepubescent victims. They only victim-blame adults or sometimes teenagers.

  26. Good article with lots of good points however, the #metoo movement is not about shifting the blame for women’s irresponsible actions onto men. It is about acknowledging the pervasiveness of the rape culture.

  27. Michael says

    The reason people that this line about rape is because it’s so often held against the victim if they were dressed attractively, drunk, out alone, and so on. “Held against” as in they brought this on themselves, often to the point of the perpetrator not getting punished (which is hard enough). Yes, people should exercise some caution and common sense, not only about this but everything. The onus, however, should not be on the victim in these cases. So bringing this up distracts from the rape (often deliberately, I think). Don’t get me wrong, I know what the author is saying. In her case however, it was different. Assuming that the man in this story had raped her, none of the things which happened would excuse it. Nor do I think bringing those up would be helpful.

    • Zachary Reichert says

      Of course, that would be an entirely different situation and would warrant entirely different actions. Apples, meet oranges.

  28. Pingback: Interesting Things 13/11/2017 – David Hadley

  29. Sam Butler says

    I’m grateful to Quillette for allowing comments to be posted, apparently unmoderated. I just had a comment rejected from the Sydney Morning Herald website. What I tried to say there (relevant to this Quillette article) is that if we treat people equally regardless of gender, men and women must bear equal responsibility for their actions. Men who are found, after a trial or investigation, to have performed sexual acts, should take responsibility for their actions (and in the case of criminal acts, they should be punished by the state). Equally, women who have been found, after trial or investigation, to have falsely accused men of serious acts (as the author of this article refused to do, laudably), should take responsibility for those actions, which can have very serious consequences on people’s lives. We can’t continue to have this situation where if a woman makes an allegation she’s sure to destroy a man’s reputation, and she won’t lose anything if it’s found to be false. With that kind of incentive structure, you’d expect to have a lot of spurious accusations. To be sure, some of them are probably true, and serious sexual assaults do occur – but false allegations also occur, and are also serious injustices. We need to be fair-minded, look at each case on its own merits, and treat men and women equally.

    • We do have that system, it’s called “the criminal law”. This is why women who lied they were raped got sent to prison for years. Lying about any crime is a criminal offence; it can be charged as wasting police time or as making a false report (if serious). The Daily Mail recently reported on a woman who lied she was groped (a minor crime of indecent assault for which the guy wouldn’t have gone to prison). She was sentenced to 1 and a half years, even though if her lie had succeeded, he wouldn’t have gone to prison. And quite right, she deserves it. Btw it’s not “laudable” not to destroy someone’s life by framing them for rape. It’s common human decency. It’s being normal. The fact the author considered lying about rape proves she is a dangerous person. A normal human wouldn’t even consider it.

  30. So many basic errors that it’s too many to list. I’ll plump for one, and after that, an observation.

    Error: The author assumes that rape is motivated by sexual desire, and concludes that wearing a short skirt etc is dangerous because it increases risk of rape (by men against women). However, sex offences are motivated by a need for power so one’s attire will not affect it. This is why a gay man can sexually assault women, and a lesbian woman can assault men and boys. Sexuality is nothing to do with sexual (or physical or verbal) assault. Definitions of ‘revealing’ dress are also not universal; showing ankle or neck- or even one’s face- is considered disgusting in some cultures. Even if a shorter skirt would cause rape while a skirt 2 inches longer would prevent it, it is ridiculous to expect women or men to give up their freedom to dress how they wish out of fear. What if you’re never raped but waste many opportunities in your life and live in fear until you die? Is such a life really living, and is such a fate actually better than just being raped once, instead of being controlled by rape- through fear of it- for nearly 9 decades? The author also has not provided any guidelines for dressing eg that a collar 3 inches bellow your neck will cause rape but 2.78 inches is safe. So there’s no way to implement it because we don’t know how rapists think.

    Observation: This article rather offensively conflates getting an STD with rape. The fact that the author had such a ridiculously overdramatic reaction to contracting an STD, even seriously considering lying she was raped, blaming her parents, feeling traumatised, having to “recover” (mentally), etc, gives a lot of insight into her state of mind. Perhaps because her character is like this, she believes other women would like to lie they were raped if they get an STD. That’s not logical. Most women and men- even young teens- are not as immature and unable to cope with life as this author presents herself to be.

    • Sam Butler says

      Sexual assault is about sex. It’s coerced sex. If somebody holds me down and paints my face, that’s not rape. If they hold me down and have sex with me, it is. Rape carries heavier penalties than non-sexual acts of coercion precisely because sexual coercion is peculiarly horrible.

      Rape is motivated by sexual desire. If people just wanted to display their dominance, they would pin others down and face-paint them, or punch them, or whatever. If they were just raping to feel the rush of power, or to oppress women, they would assault and rape women randomly, without regard to age or attractiveness. Instead (as a recent Quillette article showed), sexual assault shows a clear statistical pattern, with the vast majority of victims being of the age that men find most attractive (early 20s). There’s also evidence that areas with easy access to pornography and prostitution (i.e. where men can satisfy their sexual desire) have lower rates of rape.

      • It may be about sex for some perps, but not for most. This was known since the 1980s and 1990s. Interviews with rapists and serial rapists revealed motives of power. This includes filmed interviews I have seen, where the rapists described power motives for both rape and murder, often raping women who represented something or someone they hated. Rape can also be used as a war tactic against communities perceived not to be able to cope with it due to their culture eg by Italy against the Libyan people, then by Gaddafi against his citizens (of both sexes including mature men and women), and against Muslims in Eastern Europe and now Myanmar.

        If sex was the goal then in today’s society there would be no rape as casual sex and paid-for sex are very easy to acquire. Yet, even people surrounded by opportunities for sex, such as attractive young students, people in bars or parties surrounded by other people who might want sex, etc, still commit rape. There was no rationale for Brock Turner and other young people to commit rape, especially students. Also, the elderly and children are raped. If rape was about sex then people would rape those they liked and were attracted to, however this isn’t the motive in most cases. The same holds true of those who target children- though paedophilia (sexual attraction to prepubescent children) and ephebophilia (sexual attraction to adolescents who have reached puberty, usually counted as up to age 19 though obv that doesn’t contradict the majority of AoC laws in the world), many child abusers don’t fit the description. Instead, they’re motivated by lust for control instead of towards the actual children- it’s just that children are easier to abuse. Hence, disabled children and adults are more at risk of abuse (not just sexual) than non-disabled peers.

        • And if rape was about sex then why do people- both men and women- take the huge and pointless risk of committing rape against people who may or would have consented? Eg rape of partners, spouses and lovers, where consent would certainly, or almost certainly, be given, or given later. Assaulting friends without first asking them for sex is also a hugely pointless risk as they maybe would have consented.

          • Sam Butler says

            The interviews you cite are interesting, but one or two cases where men self-describe as having done it for power are not much compared to the overall statistical pattern, as described in this article: http://quillette.com/2016/01/02/to-rape-is-to-want-sex-not-power/ The point is not that men don’t occasionally rape older women, but that the overwhelming trend is to assault women of the age that men find the most attractive. If they were motivated for lust for control, why only target the young? Surely it would make more a point – from the perspective of ‘patriarchal oppression’ – to target older, successful women. Also, frail old ladies would be easier to target than young women, who are usually stronger.
            Now, it’s true that rape has sometimes been used as a tool of power by invading armies, but that looks like the exception, not the rule. And in many cases it’s a result not of conscious policy on the part of generals but of the way that men will rape women at higher rates if they know they won’t get in trouble if they do. Unfortunately it’s a common thing in human history for armies to rape lots of women after they’ve conquered another state. When the power of the state is established and men know they’re going to get in trouble, the rape rates go down.
            You ask why men nowadays still rape. It seems true, as I said, that if men have access to porn and prostitution, the rape rate goes down. But they’d still prefer to have sex with an actual woman, and preferably an attractive one. You also have to bear in mind that men are designed to try to have sex with attractive women in their vicinity, should the opportunity arise, which explains why there’s still a problem with women that they know, or women they happen to be with at a party or whatever. Finally, there’s the problem that sexual arousal further increases men’s desire for sex and decreases their self-control (see Dan Arielly’s book on irrationality), which is why men will sometimes try to force things in situations where they should rationally just think ‘Why don’t I try someone else? Or just go home and masturbate?’
            None of this, of course, justifies or excuses sexual assault in the slightest. Men shouldn’t sexual assault women, and they should be punished if they do, severely. But it doesn’t help to us to understand and stop sexual assault if we insist it’s all cultural. (if it was, presumably there’d be cultures where it was totally absent, which there aren’t.) There’s also the point that the current scandal is being seen by many radical feminists as a plot by men to oppress women (the patriarchy idea). But men don’t occasionally assault women these days because they’e trying to humiliate women (most men, anyway). They do it, in the rare cases they do, because they’ve not managed to control the desires designed into them. That’s culpable, and should always be punished – but it’s not a plot to oppress women, any more than women’s predilection for trapping men into pregnancy situations is a sign that they’re trying to destroy men, rather than a result of their biological tendency to be keen on having babies with certain men.

  31. Sam Rosa says

    I am a heterosexual male and have experienced both male and female sexual harassment. I have also been witnesses to that behavior towards my mother my younger sisters and some friends. And I’m afraid this #metoo movement is going to get way out of hand. The claims of sexual harassment are going to be flying all over the world, may the accusations be true, fabricated, baseless, imagined etc. a lawyer’s dream nevertheless.

    About three years ago I was having a late lunch by myself at our local pizzeria. When I was almost done a mature lady came in with her 10 year old son to have lunch and they sat at the booth next to mine. She looked very atractive, conservatively dressed and had a very healthy look. As I got up to leave her son left the table to go to the restroom and I stopped and told her respectfully ” you look very beautifull. Whatever it is you do to keep in shape and with that beautifull look don’t change it ” . Before I took my next step she was complaining to the owner’s wife, he came out of the kitchen called the police and as I apologized to the lady for whatever made her upset and before I knew it two police cruisers showed up. One officer requested I step outside with him the other stayed inside to get the facts from the accusers. When the senior officer came out and asked me for my version of the facts. I told them both exactly what I did. When i was done, the senior officer recommended I refrain from telling women how lovely they look. At that moment I felt I had discovered the Miami apex point of the Bermuda Triangle. The officer told me that I could leave and as I was leaving the owner of the local pizzeria first banned me for life then he retracted and made it for year. So, if this happened three years ago before the #metoo frenzy today I would probably be looking for a lawyer. And let’s wait for the true female on male, male on male, female on female #metoo claims avalanche and the all of the imagined, fabricated, revenge, false accusations coming up.

    I’m in the Autum of my life and genetically half european and half hot blooded Latin American. So before they build the wall, I may move south where telling a woman she looks ‘ mavelous ‘ is welcomed.

  32. Debbie says

    Perhaps a better analogy that being hit by a careless driver would be swimming with sharks. They want to bite you. You know they do. And yet you get in the water.

  33. As a sex educator, I have to point out that having used a condom would not have saved you from being infected with HSV-2. People usually have it anywhere in their urogenital/anal area and beyond, not just their penis or vagina.

    This is an unusual essay.

    You say you feel uneasy about the #metoo movement because you make the false assumption that the women taking part are stretching the definition of sexual assault to include times when reckless decisions result in tragic consequences- which is what you admit to doing upon first having discovered your diagnosis.

    It’s great that you are mature enough to have eventually taken accountability for having contracted an std, and your right that it sounds like you had a night of implied consensual, if drunken on both ends, sex. Not rape, not assault. Sexual activity.

    But why should you assume that is what these women are talking about? If you are truly in tune with statistics, why would you?

    Why mention what you were wearing if you claim you don’t feel the least bit victimised by a sexual partner’s behavior- including their failing to disclose their std status? And really why mention what you were wearing either way since unwanted sexual attention that ends in violence has nothing to do with clothes as I will go into detail about further below.

    As a woman who has had numerous drunken sexual encounters, some grey area sexual assault experiences that did not involve alcohol, and full blown unquestionable sexual assault- I can tell you that for me the differences in all these scenarios are clear, and yet I would never include a story like yours in any of them.

    You aren’t talking about sexual assault when you talk about your sexual experience, unless you want to include the guy’s lack of disclosure (assuming you would not have consented directly or implied had you known he was infected) and you could rightfully do so, but choose not to and I respect that.

    So either you were sexually assaulted for that reason or you weren’t. And if you weren’t, if yours is a story of young and dumb drunk post collegiate consensual sex that ends with a lifetime oops- why should your experience have any relevance whatsoever with a campaign about sexual violence?

    Why conflate sex with violence at all? Something you don’t mention is that women who are sexually assaulted by strangers are usually assaulted early in the morning- when they are jogging. Most victims of sexual assault are the elderly, children, & imprisoned men. This is a statistical fact. I don’t know about you, but I don’t find any of these demographics or what they usually wear to be particularly sexy. Unless I missed the memo, neither does our society. Sort of blows your misleading stastical references and conflation of sexual violence and heterosexual mating games out of the water.

    If #metoo makes you uncomfortable, like every other thing that makes people “uncomfortable” you need to ask yourself whose voice has priority and who should shut up and listen. The people directly involved? Or the onlookers?

    Because if you weren’t sexually assaulted, and this article self asserts that you weren’t, then you don’t need to be the one talking right now. And as a therapist, I would hope you’d know that.

    Good luck to your practice and the patients who may not be getting the proper audience to their need to be heard.

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