Feminists recently got upset by a very sensible Sussex Police poster advising young women to stick together on their night out. What I would suggest really sparked feminist anxiety was a non-overtly feminist organisation participating in any way on the discourse around rape.
Rape is to feminists what exploitation is to the communists. It provides concrete evidence that their ideology is needed, and it enshrines it in the heart of our legal system. It is their most holy sacred cow.
In their version of events, the low conviction rate of reported rapes is a product of society’s confusion, our prejudices and bias. Our young people are about to have an educational programme about consent inflicted on them to disabuse them of their ignorance, correct their attitudes and make sure that they all start explicitly giving consent.
The feminists are wrong. It is the rate of reporting which is a product of ideology and the rate of conviction which represents the triumph of common sense.
The primary issue is whether a woman actually consented. Long gone are the days when rape was unambiguous here. Context is vitally important in the toolkit which feminists have provided because this can help determine if there were underlying differences in power constraining the complainant’s capacity to say no. Imbalances of power in our contemporary feminist society are ubiquitous and always favour the man. Apart from leaving men more vulnerable to accusation, the focus on context distracts from the role of female agency. This is derided as being part of “female precipitation beliefs” – and there was I thinking it only rained men.
While a vital task on the feminist agenda has been to discredit ideas about “female precipitation”, evidence suggests that jury and judges are harder to convince. Thus where the complainant was intoxicated at the time of the alleged rape, defendants are much less likely to be charged.
This I would suggest may not simply be because the complainant’s version of events was unreliable. It might also be because the jury appreciate that there is a level of individual agency which underlies the decision, or series of decisions to enter into an intoxicated state. After all the vast majority of us know (or at least should reasonably know) that when we consume large amounts of alcohol we are likely to become less reserved, lose our inhibitions, become more flirtatious, possibly promiscuous and invariably do things which we will subsequently regret. If we choose to enter into this intoxicated state we should accept (and I believe most women do), the consequences of our actions, even if this includes sexual intercourse to which we do not entirely remember giving consent. We do after all always have a safe alternative and that is to avoid getting drunk.
Further, most women, I suspect have a strong sense of their own agency in obtaining sexual intercourse. They don’t necessarily expect to be asked permission, nor feel that they have to give consent. While in feminist sex, women it seems say yes and continue to give their consent all through the sexual activity (aah that’s what Sally was doing) – actually this is not how we carry on in our everyday lives.
Let’s see what we can find from research. Monica Moore and Diana Butler documented fifty two “non-verbal solicitation behaviours” that women used and concluded that in 90 per cent of these cases an observer could predict from the woman’s non-verbal behaviour whether she would be approached by a man. Further, those who did exhibit these behaviours were very much more likely to be approached than those who did not.
Women know very well how to pull the strings.
Timothy Perper and David Weis found that 87 per cent of women were able to identify specific behaviours which they engaged in designed to elicit an offer to have sex from a particular man. Of course inviting a man to a private place or listening to music or offering a man a drink do not mean that women are asking men to have sex with them. But it does mean that women have ways of getting what they want (which feminists seem intent on interfering with).
Furthermore, these strategies do not necessarily involve the use of explicit consent. The Perper and Weis study found that less than 1Ž4 of the women would ask a man to engage in sex. Sandra Byers and Kim Lewis concluded that “women most commonly use non-verbal methods to give consent to sexual intercourse”. Most damming of all a study found that 39 per cent of Texas female college undergraduates reported that they had said no when they wanted to have sex. And 61 per cent of the sexually experienced women in this study stated they had said “no” when they had intended to have sex.
Whilst all this research is old it still suggests that there could be a great deal of scope in our commonly accepted social conventions for men to think that women are willing to have sex with them without gaining Alison Saunders explicit and ongoing consent. In all this we must remember that it is the behaviour of the promiscuous minority who choose to have a larger number of sexual partners who will be far more influential, than those of us who are more inhibited, on the social conventions surrounding sex.
If a particular series of behaviours can in one sexual encounter lead to entirely consensual sex, it is not fair of us to allow a man who might experience exactly the same series of behaviours to then be accused of rape.
A glaring omission from feminist rape discourse is any discussion of the differing sexual responses of women and men. According to the law, that consent can be withdrawn at any point during sexual activity . This does not appear to take any account of the physiology of men and if applied literally would be very open to abuse.
The average man wants sex more than the average woman. This is a good thing. Without it we would never have evolved as human beings and our sex lives would be a lot more dull. And far from making men predatory, I suspect it actually makes men far more practised in self-restraint.
However, it also means a man, given the opportunity, is more likely to have sex with a woman for whom he has no other real interest. This can easily occur when a woman is fully consenting and we cannot protect ourselves from this by elaborating ever more complex laws on rape.
We used to have very good mechanisms for protecting women from the downside of the male sex drive. We used to practice chastity and self- restraint, or test their level of commitment – would they be prepared to marry us, provide for us. In tribal societies men are set some challenges to see how far they would be prepared to go.
Every single social convention which used to protect women has been systematically dismantled. Sexual experience is valued over virginity. In terms of sexual promiscuity we are encouraged to compete with men. We are encouraged to flaunt and expose our bodies. And we have removed every incentive for men wanting to marry us.
It is not the phantom “rape culture” which renders us vulnerable. It is the culture of promiscuity, sexual exploration and sexual fulfilment that leaves us unprotected. And for this we have our feminist liberators to thank.