Sunday, September 19, 2010

Lies, Damned Lies, and Rape Statistics

A thought on college surveys producing rape statistics -

I've encountered studies which suggest something like 80% of sexually active college age guys have been raped by girlfriends.

This might be underestimating the number.  It all depends on what questions you ask.

Wait, you say, GUYS?  Don't I mean women?  Well, no.

Every guy who has ever been woken up by a morning BJ has been raped.  (Equally, every girl who has ever been woken up with cunnilingus has been.)

Switching subjects to "normal" rape statistics, it's notable that a frequent comment made in rape studies is that men are frequently unaware that they are rapists.  I'd warrant most women who have woken their boyfriend in such a pleasant fashion aren't aware of their guilt, either.

Now, rape is a really gorram bad thing to do to somebody, almost as bad as stabbing them.  (It's only our fucked up sex culture which makes a rape seem worse than a stabbing.  Seriously, it's a hell of a lot more invasive to put something in somebody's kidney against their will.)  And waking somebody up with oral sex is NOT rape (except in the eyes of the law - please note that I am not a lawyer and my annoyed rant does not qualify as legal advice).  It CAN be, same as putting your penis in somebody's vagina can be rape, but it's dependent upon the context, and yes, implied consent can be a part of a healthy relationship.  [Edit:  Explicitly implied consent, by which I mean, agreeing that certain behaviors are acceptable.  Talk to your goddamn partner, people.]

I've seen the "X males have met the legal definition of rape" thing so many times in rape statistics it has ceased to have entertainment value for me; it's deliberately misleading.  I'm not a rape victim; I don't merely not define myself as a rape victim, I'm not a party to any act which I would define as rape.  But I meet the legal definition of a rape victim.

What does including me in rape statistics do except reduce the validity of rape statistics in discussing the social issues of rape?

What purpose does it serve to mention that some people - who nobody in the right mind would call a rapist - have met the legal definition of rape?  There are four reasonable possibilities to my mind: One, you have absolutely no idea what you're talking about/what the statistics actually mean.  This constitutes the majority of people citing rape statistics.  Two, you're deliberately trying to make an already bad problem seem worse than it already is; you're an ignorant idiot who runs the risk of being called on it and making yourself seem like the third possibility, a misandrist whose purpose is to attack men, rather than to meaningfully advance any sort of discussion.  Or, four, you're a troll deliberately using bad statistics in front of people like me who will call you on them to make anybody trying to have a meaningful discussion about rape look like the third sort.

Or, to put it another way - there is absolutely no intellectually honest reason to include this data in a meaningful discussion of rape as rape.  It's a very valid thing to bring up, discussing the legal ramifications of rape and its prosecution - but most people inclined to be having that discussion will regard statistics of secondary importance, seeing the law itself as being slightly more relevant.

[Edit] For #3 - I guess that would be misogynists, for the studies I mentioned in the opening of this post.  Actually, in both cases, I regard it as misanthropy, but that's another post.

There are a number of other ways one can meet the legal definition of rape without, well, actually raping somebody; a wide range of kinky activities (generally referred to as BDSM, although it's rather a misnomer, suggesting the activities are similar) frequently push legal boundaries where they don't outright break them (safewords as opposed to the use of the word "no" in particular; no means no in some municipalities, even when it is agreed to use another word instead), and they can also run into the opposite problem; activities which the BDSM community would define as rape which are fuzzy in the eyes of the law.  (Safewords in particular are, again, a legal problem; courts may only recognize the word "no," and saying the safeword may not qualify continuing actions as legal rape.)

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