Thoughts on rape

by Roger Bourke White Jr., copyright January 2015


Rape gets a lot of attention these days in both college and social media circles. Way too much, given the medical technology we have which can control reproduction, and the tolerant thinking we have about sexual mores in modern Western society.

In this modern environment rape should be considered just another form of assault -- nothing special beyond that. Making it special brings surprise twists to the way people act and think, and they aren't of the good sort.

Thoughtful scenario

Think about this scenario as this discussion evolves:

You are a college freshman coed fresh out of high school. You have been attending a get acquainted mixer at one of the respectable fraternities. You turned eighteen three months ago and eighteen is the legal age for drinking in this community. You've indulged enough that you are experiencing being drunk.

Time to leave. You walk out alone and head for your dorm. As you do Morpheus from the movie The Matrix comes out the shadows and shows you his hand. In it are a red pill and a blue pill.

He says, "I'm unhappy to report that the next part of this evening is going to be unpleasant for you. But you have a choice.

Take the red pill and just down the way a stranger will jump out and punch you in the face, then walk away. You will suffer a bruised face, lose a tooth and gain a black eye. In the following days you will make trips to the doctor and dentist to help these heal.

Take the blue pill and the stranger will put his finger in your vagina for thirty seconds, pull out, then walk away. Healing from this, in the physical sense, will take no action on your part."

"Which will it be?" He raises his hand to you so you can pick a pill.

Think about this a moment, then make a choice: which pill would you take?

o Red Pill (punch in the face)

o Blue Pill (a finger rape)

Why not special

Rape is not special because the damage caused by it is no longer special. Yes, it is scary to the victim, but so are other forms of assault. Being scary is not special. And as with other forms of assault, in the aftermath a raped woman can still fall in love, still get married, still have children, still get divorced... still do all of these with the same excitement and distress that the non-raped woman can. So... what difference does rape cause in a woman's life that other forms of assault don't cause?

In places and cultures where virginity is important, and a whole family plans on benefiting from a woman marrying the right partner, the stakes surrounding a rape are dramatically different. A rape in such an environment can ruin a woman's future and her whole family's future. In this kind of environment it is special. But these kinds of stakes are not the case in modern Western cultures.

Likewise, the physical damage done by a rape is minimal. A woman getting slapped around and ending up with a bruised face and lost tooth in the process has suffered more physical damage. A woman who gets a tattoo has suffered more pain and experienced more visible change than a rape causes.

In sum, these days the cultural and physical damage done by a rape is... nothing special. Rape is just another form of assault.

Hard to draw the line

Another issue: What is a rape? When rape is treated as something special, drawing the line between what is and isn't rape is quite important. And the choice of where to draw that line can have surprising consequences.

For example: Is "remorse rape" rape?

Remorse rape happens when a woman consents to intercourse at the time it happens, but changes her mind after the fact. One example of this is a woman who gets drunk at a party, happily does it with a guy, and the next morning declares, "I was drunk at the time. I was not in a state of mind to make a proper choice. Now I feel I was raped."

OK... but the twist on this is: Does this mean a woman who has had a drink can't ever really consent to sex... because she can always change her mind later? How about... she hasn't had a drink but she is "intoxicated with the moment" -- she is really getting into the dance scene she is at -- can she meaningfully consent to sex?

Take remorse rape to its extreme and a women can never meaningfully say "yes". Which means she is not in charge of her own destiny. Ouch!

This is an example of how hard it is to draw the line when rape is considered something special.

The problems caused by being special

Making rape special changes a lot of social relationships.

One change is pushing men away from women. When rape is something special, the power a woman has to cause a man damage is enormous. Any man aware of this, and rational, is going to be much more cautious than when rape is not special. This means women can expect only reckless men will approach them and get close to them. Is this what the women of our culture want? (Hmm... maybe they do. This is the "women are attracted to bad boys" truism.)

Closely related is the issue of, "When is a woman saying 'yes'?". There is a lot of social media and protesting chatter about when is a woman not saying yes -- often accompanied by a provocative photo -- but the converse is almost never mentioned. The converse being: When is a woman saying yes? How is a man supposed to know? Once again, when rape is special, this "yes line" needs to be drawn clearly, or rational men will not get close.

This pushing away gets more important as prosperity grows because lots more distractions become available -- why mess around with a woman who can get you into a lot of trouble when there is an enticing computer game waiting to be enjoyed? According to this 20 Jan 15 Daily Mail article, Nearly half of Japanese adults are not having sex: Fatigue and lack of interest blamed as birth rate continues to slide by Sara Malm, this pushing apart is already happening in a big way in Japan and virtual relationships are providing an attractive alternative.


Today, this rape awareness issue is the burqa of US college cultures. It pushes men away from women and divides the culture into separate male and female groups. We need to ask ourselves: Is this separation really what we want in our gender relations?

If we don't, then treat rape as just another form of assault, nothing special, nothing more.

Further Reading

This 10 Apr 15 WSJ article, In Campus Rape Tribunals, Some Men See Injustice Colleges land in legal minefields as they balance rights of accuser and accused. by Valerie Bauerlein discusses the current state of men's rights on college campuses on this issue.

From the article, "His case is part of a broad and rapid change in how U.S. colleges and universities deal with sexual-assault allegations. Campuses have rewritten policies to lower the burden of proof for finding a student culpable of assault, increasing penalties—sometimes recommending expulsion. In the process, schools find themselves in legal minefields as they try to balance the rights of accuser and accused."

This 14 Apr 15 article, Now That Jackie’s Story Is False, Can We Be Honest About Rape and Alcohol? In the wake of the Rolling Stone debacle, two experts examine the link between the drinking age, alcohol abuse, and campus violence. by Robby Soave, which talks about how the 2010's version of Prohibition -- no drinking until 21 -- contributes to what I call remorse rape in this essay.

From the article, "Nowadays, teens have to go looking for older students to supply them illicit alcohol. They have to beg a friend's acquaintance, or check out a sketchy house party, or ask someone at a fraternity house to get them a drink, or take a swig from a mysterious trough of blended booze—even though they're not sure exactly what's in it. They can't drink out in the open, or during the day, and they down their red solo cups as fast as possible so they don't get caught by campus cops.

The inevitable result is more teens getting drunk more rapidly and in riskier environments, according to Seaman."

June 2016: The huge social media shaming storm swirling around the Brock Turner rape case is another example of instinctive thinking-inspired excess producing some seriously irrational and tragic results. This is a case of two people getting "plowed out of their minds" drunk at a frat party, going outside to go to the boy's room, but before they get there the girl passes out in the ally behind the frat house. The boy puts a finger in her, that's it, and for that he has been convicted of rape, and the social media gossips are now bitterly complaining that he didn't get punished harshly enough. Whoa! This punishment is for fingering an unconscious girl -- one who can't even feel what is happening? How is she supposed to be irretrievably damaged by something she can't even feel? This is treating rape as something magical, like wizards, elves and hobbits.

Strange... most strange... Even stranger, the father and the judge have been swept up in this social media shaming. Very sadly, this is a good example of letting the emotional thinking surrounding rape cause a lot of unnecessary heartbreak among a wide circle of people. If these two had just walked away from this incident, who would have been hurt?

This ferocious social media shaming feels like a hark-back to the power of gossip in the first half of the 20th century. A song from 1961, Town Without Pity by Gene Pitney, comes to mind.



--The End--