Advice Columnist Downplays Sexual Assault As 'Sleep Sex'

Illustration for article titled Advice Columnist Downplays Sexual Assault As Sleep Sex

If a husband penetrates his wife while she's sleeping, is that rape or simply "sleep sex?" That's the question raised by a recent advice-column letter-writer, and the columnist's questionable response.

Advertisement

"Curious," whose handle is something of an understatement, writes to the Toronto Star's Ellie,

My husband said that while I was fast asleep one night he had intercourse with me. He thinks it's acceptable since I'm his wife. I feel it's almost the same as rape. It's my right to go to sleep and know nothing will happen to me. I should be able to feel safe.

To do that without a person's consent while they are unaware surely can't be right. What do you think?

Advertisement

Ellie's answer: "If having 'sleep sex' with your husband feels so unsafe, you have bigger marital problems going on. This is what you should be dealing with, more than this one incident." However, according to the Criminal Code of Canada, "this one incident" was in fact a sexual assault. The code specifies that sex with someone when "the complainant is incapable of consenting to the activity" is a crime — being asleep certainly seems to fall into this category. The code also specifically states that being married to the victim is not a defense against a charge of sexual assault. Curious clearly feels violated, and there's no reason why being married means she should feel safe having her husband penetrate her when she's sleeping. In fact, for her feeling safe might well mean knowing her husband won't try to have sex with her while she's unconscious. Ellie's right that the incident may point to larger problems in Curious's marriage — but those stem from her husband's actions, not her feelings.

Ellie's Advice: Marriage Changes Our Views Of Many Things - Including Porn [Toronto Star]

Image via xNstAbLe/Shutterstock.com

Share This Story

Get our newsletter

DISCUSSION

undetroisoleil-old
undetroisoleil

I completely disagree with both of these people! They need to listen to Dan Savage's recent podcast advice to a caller who asked about sleep sex. In most relationships, after a certain amount of time, there exists what he calls a state of "implied consent." Although I have never told him so, I would be completely fine with my boyfriend doing this at any time, and he has told me this much too. There is no way I would ever define my boyfriend penetrating me while I am asleep as rape, and I did this often with an ex (me asleep or him asleep) without having had the thought of rape even come to mind.

That this lady did not comfortable does not mean that she is wrong or paranoid, or has "bigger marital problems." Nor does it mean that her husband necessarily had any unrealistic assumptions or is an inconsiderate rapist. Although it is always better to discuss than assume, there is a certain amount of assumptions that are made in a relationship. Though no one is entitled to another person's body, in many relationships it IS safe to assume that your partner may be ok with such a thing.

Not knowing the couple's specific situation or what they have previously discussed in the past, we have no way of defining whether or not it was rape. But there is a huge difference between springing sex onto an unconscious/ asleep person who you know little versus onto a partner who trusts you and is comfortable with you.

If she had told him previously told him she would not like it, or if she woke up and told him to stop and he continued, then it's definitely rape. But an alternative is that both had realistic but different expectations for what is ok in a trusting relationship. Nothing wrong with either of them, but it's not rape. Just a misunderstanding.