Tag Archives: sexuality

Male Consent, or Can Women Rape?

I don’t need to tell you about how much feminist activists have done to reveal the proportions of rape culture. How they have fought to make unconsensual sex within marriage a crime, created rape crisis centers and hotlines, and made SAFE kits, also known as rape kits, obligatory in the U.S…. All of these measures were taken in order to help women who become the victims of some men who rape. Unfortunately, that’s well-understood. But can women rape, too?

The short answer is yes. However, those cases are often hard to detect, because they are legally not defined as such. In England and New Zealand, for example, rape constitutes the forced penetration by a man’s penis, which would make it virtually impossible for a woman to rape in legal terms. In most nations, however, a woman having unconsensual sex with a man can be punished for committing sexual assault rather than rape.

Call it whatever you want, I’m sure we can all agree that forcing someone violently to have sex against their will is not right and should be punished, regardless of the victim’s or the perpetrator’s sex. But of course, life isn’t always black and white; there are these damn grey areas, for example when people seem incapable of clearly stating what they want and do not want. As feminists have pointed out over and over again, a sleeping or highly inebriated person cannot give consent. But what about that hot girl you meet at a party, who may have had a few drinks too many but is dying to go home with you? What about the shy one who is too nervous and embarrassed to speak up?

via le-anyblack

These are particular situations many of us will know all too well. In order not to end up in a dodgy situation, feminists have come up with the concept “Yes means Yes”, also known as enthusiastic consent. It takes the saying “No means No” one step further, where the only sure road to consensual sex is asking for it and being explicit about what you want, ideally by saying that you want it.

This concept is not one that everyone can easily agree on, it seems. Some argue that it may kill the mood or the mystery of a sexual situation. Others claim (mostly rape apologists) that it will ruin their chances at sex altogether, because women are socialized/”cunning enough” to say no, even though they mean yes. After all, most of the time the discussion revolves around the question of women’s consent. Apparently, she has to be the one to call the shots, she is the only one that needs to be asked, because men are implied to always want sex by default. This presumption is, of course, just as dangerous as the assumption that women are much less sexual than men. Both open doors to sexual violations, because the specific needs and desires of an individual are completely disregarded.

I am mentioning this, because for every temptation in the shape of a drunk party girl, there may be a drunk party boy; for every young woman too shy to voice her likes and dislikes, there may be a young man too inexperienced and insecure to say no to sexual advances he doesn’t welcome. Some of us women may have been in situations where we violated someone’s boundaries without even realizing it, because both men and women perpetuate the stereotype that men will never mean no, and they certainly will never say it.

As women who believe in enthusiastic consent, we need to make sure we don’t hold up double standards. Education about consent needs to be directed at everybody, regardless of gender. Just like women, men need to learn to speak up, but most importantly, women, too, need to learn to insist on consent and how to get it.

An erection does not equal consent. Agreeing to sex does not mean agreeing to unprotected sex, to sex with other people, or to rough sex. A man can be too drunk to fuck, but a man can also be too drunk to want to fuck. Of course, these guidelines require a certain level of maturity and responsibility from both partners. If this level is not a given, you should ask yourselves whether you should be having sex at all.

After all, who would want to have sex with someone who doesn’t enjoy it? Only rapists would.

If you’re interested in learning more about enthusiastic consent, go here! Already a pro? Here’s the advanced version.

Because of the particularity of man-woman relationships, I have focused on heterosexual relations, but fortunately enthusiastic consent is a concept that works for all sorts of constellations!

Troubled Genders and Double Standards – “What Makes a Body Obscene?”

Sociological Images has commented on the recent cover of a magazine called Dossier. The image referred to depicts the up-and-coming male model Andrej Peijic who is famous for his androgynous fashion spreads and walking in fashion shows for women’s clothing. The cover image for Dossier takes the same line, presenting Pejic in a feminine hairdo and submissive pose while removing his shirt, which clearly reveals the naked chest of a young man. Or does it?

I have to admit, I find this way steamier...

Apparently, the American book store Barnes & Noble wasn’t quite so sure, and “banned” the nudity from its customers’ eyes, meaning they [..] “bagged” the magazine, like they do pornographic ones, such that one can see the title of the magazine but the rest of the cover is hidden. Sociological Images points out that while nude chests of non-ambiguous cisgender men are completely acceptable on the magazine racks accessible to the general public, women’s naked breasts are considered pornographic and must be hidden, which induced the blog to ask: “What makes a body obscene?”

There are at least two major issues with the treatment of this image. First of all it raises the question of what is considered an unambiguous and therefore non-pornographic male body. Apparently, Pejic’s features are too close to the feminine ideal of beauty in order for him to be considered ‘genuinely’ male. When in doubt, go for the safe option, Barnes & Noble must have thought. There is no room for ambiguity in a context of labelling. Or could it also be that gender ambiguity is considered obscene by default? The latter suggestion fits in with our heteronormative, two-sexed society that has trouble accepting other genders, sexualities and bodies that don’t conform to the standard and are considered deviant and/or unacceptable in opposition to normal and acceptable.

...than this. Yuck!

The other point is just as problematic. If a nude body has to be censored, because the body is considered feminine, it begs the question: Why are women’s naked chests considered pornographic, and not men’s? Is it because we’re afraid of women’s bodies, as the author of the Sociological Images post suggests?

A reader commenting the article writes: “Well, it could also be that “we”re turned on by naked women and naked femininity and while not afraid of it, want it segregated to places where it is appropriate. If I’m in a bookstore looking for news magazine, I’m not looking for a boner.”

The comment is harshly criticized, and rightly so, but he may be on to something. When he uses the word “we”, he is clearly referring to heterosexual men, and there’s nothing wrong with suggesting that heterosexual men don’t necessarily want to get sexually aroused while shopping for certain magazines, and that Barnes & Noble may just be trying to accommodate them. The problem is, and it’s the same mistake the commentator makes, that B&N only tries to accommodate heterosexual males. Women’s sexuality doesn’t even factor into the equation, unless, of course, magazine stores would censor all naked chests. Are women’s nipples (and it is primarily women’s nipples that are considered scandalous) more erotic than men’s? You tell me! Clearly, this is a question of preference, which has somehow evolved into an entirely random social standard. Or not so random after all, since patriarchy doesn’t concern itself with female desire: While men’s heterosexual longing is considered inevitable, uncontrollable and needs to be policed, women’s sexuality is quasi non-existent because it doesn’t matter. This ambiguous magazine cover is just the tip of the iceberg, but at least it has started a conversation. Because in your every-day life, do you ever question the requirement for bras and bikini tops, the perfectly acceptable habit of men going shirtless in summer, and, more importantly, the double standard regarding male and female bodies and sexuality, hetero- and homosexual desire, and everything in between…?

News- and Blogwatch

France’s Burqa Ban
Yesterday, France’s so-called burqa ban went into effect. The decision was made last summer but from now on women wearing the burqa or the niqab in public can actually be fined, can be forced to attend civilization courses and be taken into custody if they refuse to remove their veils. Two women have already been arrested who protested the burqa ban in Paris. I have stated my position on this subject last year here and here. By now it has become fairly obvious that Sarkozy is only trying to gather votes from the right. His policies on immigration and the Roma have made clear that the only women he cares about, if at all, are white and born in France.
You can blame Feminism for everything
Every now and then scientists come up with these new theories regarding the differences between the sexes, that are somehow considered valuable for society because, duh, they’re scientists, so they must be true. Like this one: Why feminism is the anti-viagra. Neuroscientist Ogi Ogas claims that “gender equality inhibits arousal” because women are hard-wired to be submissive and cannot negotiate this natural urge with their strife towards equality, which therefore limits their libido. Now, I don’t quite understand what one’s personal sexual urges have to do with leading an emancipated life and enjoying equality in one’s relationship. After all, someone with a golden shower fetish is not likely to be urinating on people at work or his or her partner outside of “the bedroom”. But I was interested to find out what this scientist bases his theory on. He references research done on Norwegian rats. Enough said.
Needless to say, homosexual relationships don’t seem to exist in this guy’s universe. According to his theory, homosexuals would have a hard time finding a partner because the men would always want to be dominant and the women always submissive. Unless, of course, this theory doesn’t apply to them because homos are weird anyway, right?
Future Stalkers of America
When I first read about this video, I thought it had to be a joke, possibly even a trolling stunt by men’s rights activists themselves, who enjoy posing as “feminists” in order to ridicule the movement, even though their views of feminism are completely misguided and far from reality. But no, these guys are for real: a couple of new age gurus (they still exist?) thinking they are doing the world a favor by apologizing to women on behalf of all men who have done harm to women throughout centuries of masculine rule. The concept is already flawed in itself, but the execution really takes the cake. While I do agree with perhaps a couple of statements, the overall creepiness and obsolescence of the whole thing is just unbearable. The heyday of ecofeminism was nothing in comparison. If you cannot finish watching the video, for which I don’t blame you, but you still in need of a good critique, David Futrelle over at Manboobz has a great summary:
[…] no matter how earnest all the men in the video are trying to sound, none of them (except perhaps the two ringleaders) seem to really believe the ridiculous things they’re saying. Instead, they seem to be, with varying degrees of insincerity, mouthing a series of essentially meaningless New Age platitudes – in short, simply saying what they think women want to hear.

No one is buying this bullshit, guys. Give it up.