"'Date Rape' Is An Incoherent Concept": Blaming The Victim, American U. Edition

Illustration for article titled Date Rape Is An Incoherent Concept: Blaming The Victim, American U. Edition

The latest evidence that today's college kids are getting a lesson in victim-blaming: an American University sophomore's claim that girls who go to frat parties are asking for it, and consent is basically bullshit anyway.

AU student Alex Knepper's screed springs, in time-honored college fashion, from a Facebook note by another AU student. This note apparently drew fire for assertions like "now we have women with surgically implanted penises/ As well as those who have been born with both genitals/ NO! These Weaklings are not what I define as a ‘man.'" Unsurprisingly, these words angered both queer students and feminists, whom Knepper calls "a sniveling bunch of emotional cripples." And furthermore:

Like the other great religions of the world, though, the goal of contemporary feminism and Gay Party activism is not to explain sex, but to abolish its passion. The yin and yang of masculinity and femininity is what makes sexual exploration exciting. Sex isn't about contract-signing. It's about spontaneity, raw energy and control (or its counterpart, surrender). Feminism envisions a bedroom scene in which two amorphous, gender-neutral blobs ask each other "Is this OK with you?" before daring to move their lips any lower on the other's body. Worse yet: a gender-neutral sexuality can have no conception of the inherently gendered thrills of fetishism, sadomasochism, kink or cross-dressing. How blasé!

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Leaving aside Knepper's blinkered idea of "sexual exploration" (the only thing interesting about sex is gender play? How blasé!), let's see what he thinks about date rape:

Let's get this straight: any woman who heads to an EI [an unrecognized fraternity at American University] party as an anonymous onlooker, drinks five cups of the jungle juice, and walks back to a boy's room with him is indicating that she wants sex, OK? To cry "date rape" after you sober up the next morning and regret the incident is the equivalent of pulling a gun to someone's head and then later claiming that you didn't ever actually intend to pull the trigger.

"Date rape" is an incoherent concept. There's rape and there's not-rape, and we need a line of demarcation. It's not clear enough to merely speak of consent, because the lines of consent in sex - especially anonymous sex - can become very blurry. If that bothers you, then stick with Pat Robertson and his brigade of anti-sex cavemen! Don't jump into the sexual arena if you can't handle the volatility of its practice!

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We've all heard this kind of victim-blaming crap before (though the mention of Pat Robertson is an interesting touch), and it's perhaps no surprise that a college sophomore has some ill-thought-out and offensive ideas. So why are we even talking about this? Two reasons:

— College campuses seem to be emerging as major centers of victim-blaming.

To a certain extent, this has always been the case, but in the past few months an alarming number of jerks have come out of the woodwork to claim that attending a frat party is equivalent to consenting to any and all forms of sex. This claim is especially damaging because assault is so disturbingly common on college campuses, because it frequently goes unpunished, and because college students are young and especially vulnerable to bullshit rhetoric.

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— Alex Knepper is not special.

Knepper says, "For my pro-sex views, I am variously called a misogynist, a rape apologist and - my personal favorite - a 'pro-date rape protofascist.'" Victim-blamers often claim to be iconoclasts, saying what no one else is willing to say. But blaming women for rape is at least as old as the Bible, and actually has a lot in common with the anti-sex views of some Christian fundamentalists (cf. a recent religious pamphlet that read, "some rape victims would not have been raped if they had dressed properly"). While Knepper may think he's being risky and cool by telling women they shouldn't party unless they want to get fucked, he is in fact echoing the joyless, restrictive, and anti-woman language that still permeates much of American society. Knepper writes, "I have never encountered a more insular, solipsistic view of human sexuality than at this college." Oh Alex, just wait.

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Dealing With AU's Anti-Sex Brigade [The Eagle]

Earlier: "You Make Men Want To Be Sinful:" Blaming The Victim, Religious Pamphlet Edition
How Colleges Fail Assault Victims - And How Students Can Help
"She Knew What Would Happen If She Started Drinking:" Blaming The Victim, Princeton Edition

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DISCUSSION

I'm amazed at what I see here. I was coming to Jezebel expecting high-quality discussion about the implications of Knepper's compliments on his generations attitudes toward women. Instead I find insults about his sexual prowess and a veritable circle-jerk (pardon the phrasing) of "No means no!"

I don't agree with Knepper's views, but insulting his person isn't going to do much for equality. Instead, we should address the reasons for his viewpoint and attack his arguments.

What is consent? We've come to a consensus on what it's NOT (no means no!), but what IS it? If a woman doesn't say no, then does that imply consent? Or does there have to be some positive affirmation? Is there such a thing as "partial" consent? What about if both participants are drunk? A man and a woman have sex while both are drunk. Consent could not be given since they are not in a mental capacity to do so. So did the man rape the woman? Or in fact, did they actually rape each other?

The fear that many men including me share is that we could have willing sex with someone and later be accused of rape because our partner later regretted her actions and we have technically raped them, even if willingly. What if I was sober and she was drunk, but she was making advances on me? She could be the one initiating sex and yet I am now a rapist. While obtaining consent doesn't have to dampen a sexual encounter, having to sign a legal contract anytime relations get frisky is anything but sexy, and the future certainly points to this eventual conclusion.([www.comedycentral.com])

The number of false allegations of rape is even more mysterious than the number of rapes that occur, and depending on your sources and criteria can range anywhere from .5% to 90%. Am I trying to diminish the existing cases of rape by implying that they may be false? Not at all. However common it is, just like rape is a fear many woman share false rape allegations are a fear many men share. The fact that there are organizations that exist for false rape allegations is putting some truth to the paranoia and is very disturbing. ([falserapesociety.blogspot.com])

Of course no means No. A person having sex with someone else who is passed-out drunk is rape. Two partners willingly in a sober state of mind having sex is not rape. What about all the things in between? Must we always banish one of them to the Netherworld of society and comfort the other?