This has been all over the news. So I won’t go in to the logistics of it, nor will I barrage the internet with another lament about how “forcible rape” is not a term that makes any sense legally and how it’s this giant step back in the fight to end date rape, spousal rape etc.
Right now we need to worry about the victims of sexual violence and coercion. It’s hard enough admitting to yourself what happened, let alone admitting and attempting to get the support of other people when deciding how to handle a sexual encounter that lies in the gray areas of consent. This new legislation would make it even harder for victims of non-violent rapes to find the bravery to seek counseling or even tell their best friend what happened. If the law doesn’t believe that what happened to you was a crime, why should anyone else? The legislation does not decriminalize non-violent rape, but it does classify it as much less traumatic and as a much less important event. Get pregnant because someone held you down with a knife in an alley? We’ll give you an abortion. Get pregnant because a friend of yours had sex with you when you were unconscious? Sorry, you gotta pay for it yourself or keep the kid. And what other health care will be denied to victims of this crime? Is the next step rape care in general?
We have a tool, though, that is under used. We are a culture of social networks, both electronic and human. When you know something happened, when you know someone who committed one of these grayish area attacks on someone, the biggest show of support and belief in the victim is social isolation of the perpetrator. It’s one click. Unfriend. If we each take it on ourselves to show across the board disapproval socially of these acts then we take away the safety net of people who don’t understand that a drunk yes is a no. We have that power, we have those networks. Why not use them for good? It’s a simple statement, a powerful one, and it’s not up to lawmakers to change the culture. We have to stand up against people who take advantage of ourselves and our friends and our peers.
Sex is a tricky subject. Consent is not.