It was requested of me, quite some time ago, that I write a post on partner rape. It’s taken me far too long to do so, and the reason why is actually fairly telling: because partner rape is still rape. I don’t classify it differently, in a way. Because while our lovely society try to call that “gray rape” or “almost rape” or “taking advantage” or whatever, I call it rape. It was hard for me to think of a distinct and self-contained post on the subject for exactly this reason: it’s rape, and it’s rape like a lot of the other rape situations I talk about.
What’s different, however, is how the rest of the world might tell you to feel about it.
Because apparently, once you’ve started dating somebody, they suddenly have the unequivocal right to have sex with you wherever, whenever, and in whatever way they so choose. Because, apparently, agreeing to a relationship is equivalent to giving blanket consent for everything. Ever.
Okay, so, it’s generally known (on this blog, at least) that I do not like using metaphors in talking about rape. I think that just about any comparison that could be used is just so unbelievably different from a sexual assault experience, it negates any light the simile could shed.
But, hey, first time for everything.
Imagine that a person A and hir friend person B have decided to buddy up and take martial arts classes together. They have mutually agreed to do a certain thing, in a certain way, at a certain time. I know that’s not exactly like a romantic relationship, but you see my point. It’s an agreement that covers a certain set of reasonable behaviors in reasonable ways, and generally both involved parties enjoy and benefit from it.
Now imagine that, one day, person A and person B are sitting around when person B says ze wants to practice some martial arts. Person A declines, for any conceivable reason – maybe ze is sick, maybe ze has a lot on her mind, maybe ze just doesn’t feel like it. Any of these is a valid and acceptable reason. But person B decides that they are going to practice anyway, and attacks and injures person A.
If it goes to court as a battery case, was “but we agreed to take a martial arts class together!” going to hold up as a legitimate defense?
No, I didn’t think so.
Because their agreement only covered a certain set of behaviors, and there was still a major, major role to play in terms of respect, continued communication and agreement, and consent. There is nothing wrong with doing martial arts. In fact, the exercise and stress relief is extremely healthy. It’s the sort of outlet people need. But, but, but, there is something Very Very Wrong with doing martial arts if one person is doing the martial arts while the other person is having the martial arts done to them. If both partners have not agreed to practice – or if they did initially agree to it, but either participant became uncomfortable with what followed and withdrew agreement, only to have the other continue – then it is no longer practicing martial arts, it is assault/battery.
Just like how, if both/all involved partners have not actively consented to sexual activity, or consent has been withdrawn, it is no longer sex. It is rape.
Rape is rape if someone you don’t know breaks into your home and has sexual contact with you without your consent.
Rape is rape if you are drunk at a party and an acquaintance has sexual contact with you without your consent.
Rape is rape if your best friend gets you alone in your room has sexual contact with you without your consent.
Rape is rape if your girlfriend rolls over in the middle of the night and has sexual contact with you without your consent.
Rape is rape if your husband of twenty-five years decides he wants to try anal and has sexual contact with you without your consent.
It’s all rape. It’s not “sort of rape” or “almost rape” or “gray rape” or “like rape” or any other cushy euphemism the world can come up with. Just because you are with someone, that does not excuse sexual misconduct in any way. Ever.
And it’s heartbreaking how few people realize that. How many people I know who have felt forced into sexual contact by their significant other at one point or another, and still blame themselves, or believe that it’s Not Really Rape because of the preexisting relationship.
And, more than that, it makes me sick that society insists on affirming that notion every. Damn. Time.