When Feminists Make It Harder to ‘Believe Women’

How can we be sure she was raped if she doesn’t understand the difference between ‘consent’ and ‘rape’?


Victim feminists. They’re so cute when they play at being grownups, less so when they’re infantilizing women. CC0 image from Pxhere



Have you seen the movie where George Clooney’s character gets raped by a woman?


Up In The Air (2009) is the story of a corporate ‘downsizer’ (Clooney) hired to fire people by companies too wussy to do it themselves. His character begins an affair with a fellow uber-traveler and later learns she’s married. She rejects him, calling what they had merely ‘an escape’.


Some feminist intellectuals now argue that if a man lies to a woman to get sex, he’s committing ‘sexual fraud’ and that it may constitute rape; can she truly consent if he lies to her?


Well…


That means Clooney’s character, and his real-world counterparts, were raped, since women also lie about marital status and other ‘sexual fraud’ details to get what they want out of men. Do we agree these women are, therefore, rapists?

How badly do we want these ‘rapists’ punished?


“It’s not really rape!”

I read an article here by a woman considering the opinions of these feminist intellectuals, musing that perhaps she’d been ‘raped’ by a guy who lied about not having a girlfriend. She gave sexual consent believing he was fully single. She fell for him, and got hurt.


In the olden days we recognized you had to be careful because sometimes men lie to get laid. In certain legal eagle minds, I guess, it now constitutes ‘rape’.


To be fair, the writer wrote from the perspective of not having made up her mind, and she considered alternative views offered in some of the comments she received. I was gratified to see a woman willing to consider challenges to her opinion without getting defensive, by agreeing that this or that response was food for thought. Yay for rational feminism!


But the idea that ‘rape by deception’ (a genuine legal issue) can now include minor lies is troubling. The justice system handles ‘rape by deception’ where real lasting damage occurs — an STD, an unwanted pregnancy, or what happened to a very close friend of mine — death by AIDS, when his partner ‘stealthed’ him by removing the condom.


But ‘rape by deception’ because s/he lied about their singlehood status? I find it deeply troubling. The damage was she got hurt. Not her fault but part of growing up romantically and equal risk for all.


I thought, “Every incel, MRA, Trumper, and sexual predator can point to this and say, “See? Women don’t even know the difference between consent and rape! How many women are calling what’s nothing more than a bad sexual experience rape?”


That’s exactly how it looks. To me, too.


Why it’s still so hard to ‘believe the woman’

I must wonder where all those high ‘rape statistics’ come from. I’m serious. This is how feminist intellectual abrogation of female responsibility casts doubt on rape claims.


We make almost glacial progress attempting to treat rape and sexual assault as seriously as they merit, and certain feminists aren’t helping. In fact, they’re hurting the effort. Holding it back.


Historically, women subjected to rape or sexual assault haven’t been believed, or worse, blamed. Twentieth-century feminism challenged this, beginning with Susan Brownmiller’s seminal work Against Our Will, which dragged rape out of the back alley and into our dinner party conversations.


At some point in the late ’80s and early ’90s, overeager feminists, working to remove the ‘blame the victim’ stigma, began treating women as though they had little agency and were never responsible for their decisions.


Some explicitly said activist efforts needed to keep the focus completely on men, the gender overwhelmingly responsible for rape. The unfortunate consequence has been to ignore the woman’s role, assuming near-helplessness, and work toward a feminist fantasy utopia where somehow, magically, men stop raping.


Some good came out of it: We debate consent, and how it’s given, and whether it’s given. An unconscious woman didn’t consent just because she didn’t struggle or say no. Even if fully conscious, she didn’t necessarily consent if a man was pushing himself on her, and she feared what would happen if she did say no (‘grey rape’). Consent debate resulted in a more fine-tuned legal environment and clearer restrictions for loophole-seeking sexual predators.


Women’s perceived helplessness accelerated when some suggested there should be regular ‘check-ins’ even throughout whatever act participants engage in. Although the conversation regularly framed around ‘partners’, without specifying who should be asking who, one wonders for whom these sexual Best Practices were for. It’s hard to imagine they were meant for men who might change their mind in the middle of a blowjob, afraid to tell the woman to stop.


It suggested women were so prone to changing their mind, so easily intimidated while a man is pumping above them in an originally 100% consensual act, that she can’t speak up and say stop if she’s really feeling uncomfortable.


Which kind of makes you wonder whether a man can suddenly turn into a ‘rapist’ because the woman changed her mind and didn’t say so. Or explicitly.


That said, men have abused the consent concept, without question. A friend once told me his brother bragged he’d anally raped two separate women and gotten away with it. It started out with consensual vaginal sex and turned into something else. He did it knowing how it would sound in court.


Arguing a new level of consent, where the woman can claim she was ‘raped’ because the guy lied about something, may discourage women from becoming sexually responsible adults. If women have ‘agency’, they also have responsibility, including being quite clear before the clothes come off what they want, who they want, when they want, and how they want it.


Denying this infantilizes women and their choices far more effectively than any ‘patriarchy’.

Muddying the consent waters with frivolous ever-broadened rape definitions make it more difficult to ‘believe women’ when they ‘tell their truths’.