What is rape?

Maybe it isn't fair, but I always thought he was a bit creepy.

Now I thought, and I am sure a lot of you did to, that this was pretty straight forward.  However the recent discussion of Assange’s rape and molestation charges have made me start to wonder.  Do people really think understand all the things that are rape?

The dictionary definition of rape is any act of sexual intercourse that is forced upon a person.  That seems pretty straight forward, right?  The individual does not want it so it is wrong.  Where the “problem” (heavy derision here) is coming up in the Assange situation is that it had been fine earlier in the night.  They had had consensual sex and then she had fallen asleep and he had done it again (without protection or her waking up).

I don’t want to discuss whether he did or did not do these things.  The thing that I am astounded at is that some people truly believe that once permission is given it is blanket permission for the evening.  She already said yes, so why would she not say yes now that she is asleep or drunk?  Is it really rape if she gave consent a few hours ago for the same thing?


I wish that was all I had to say and people would just get it straight.  I am going to put it bluntly for all the idiots out there.  YOU MUST GET CONSENT FOR EACH SEX ACT!  If there is ANY doubt, ANY at all, you have to stop and ASK.  If she or he does not give enthusiastic consent get the hell off of them. Some people think it ruins the moment to ask.  That it halts the mood.  Apparently you don’t know what you are doing then. It can be extremely erotic to ask your partner if they are enjoying something.  If they want to do something.  What an easy way to insert some dirty talk!  The point is you could be with a person for years and you could STILL not get real consent one night*.  And you could have done that sexual act a hundred times before.

Just because you’ve humped them once does not mean you get to do it again.

Also, just because they do not say no does not mean all is good.  Here comes the idea of enthusiastic conesent.  A person could be in a really bad place of some sort and they might just not have the confidence or whatever to say “no”.  In my mind, that it still rape.  Not violent rape, true, but rape none the less.  The burden of consent should be on the instigator/aggressor/dominant party (pick a term or supply your own).   Moans do not count.  They are easily misinterpreted.  Especially when you are horny.  You will hear what you want to hear.

To get a really good introduction to the idea of enthusiastic consent I recommend Yes Means Yes.  It is an excellent compilation of essays that gives a great number ofperspectives on the issue.  Including first hand experiences and more academic observations.  Even the introduction, by Margaret Cho, gives important insight.




*Spousal abuse is a real and serious thing.  It took a long time for it to be recognized legally and that is a struggle I respect immensely.



About Tori

I am a graduate student working on my masters in Women and Gender studies. My masters thesis is on the gender nonconformity and ambiguity in modern film.
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2 Responses to What is rape?

  1. Ben Miller says:

    I recently had to explain to someone that the word “yes” from a woman who is scared for her physical well-being is not real consent. I don’t think they ever did really grasp such a simple concept.

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