The Awesomeness of Sex Is Consent (A Date Rape Story)

Date rape is rape.  And rape is wrong.  End of story.

Except that isn’t how things play out in the real world, where guys have somehow come to think of date rape as something wrong but fun — a bit like smoking marijuana.

This kind of thinking has created a date rape epidemic.  Officially, one out of six women in the United States reports being a victim of rape or attempted rape.  And as experts continually remind us, the vast majority of rapes go unreported.  Most of these rapes are committed by acquaintances, or even boyfriends.  According to the Department of Justice, roughly three-quarters of sexual assaults are committed by non-strangers. And roughly half of rapes occur among high school- and college-age youth.

Because even though rape is wrong (wrong as wrong can be), rape is also just horribly lame.

So what does this mean? It means that as you kneel at your locker talking to a friend, or as you chat over lunch at the dining hall, or even as you look at yourself shaving in the mirror, you may be locking eyes with a rapist.

Here’s what disturbs me: you probably already know that.  Because even though it may not have seemed like rape at the time — after all, the assailant wasn’t wearing a mask or holding a knife — you know what sexual coercion looks like.  Alcohol was most likely involved. Both parties claimed the next day to remember very little. The victim may have even claimed that it was consensual, as a means of warding off disgrace. But whatever the circumstances, you know what you saw. And you know what you did or didn’t do.

Why are so many men cool with this?  That’s the question I keep rolling around in my head — the question that I’ve been unable to answer since I first witnessed an attempted rape over a decade ago.

I think the answer is that we, as men, have failed to adequately frame date rape as a shameful act. Because even though rape is wrong (wrong as wrong can be), rape is also just horribly lame.

Consider: why engage in date rape?  Because you can’t get the job done any other way.  Gaining false consent through pressure, alcohol, threats, or other forms of manipulation simply doesn’t change the fact that the answer was “no,” or at least not an unequivocal “yes!”  You wanted to have sex and the answer was no. OK, not tonight. Strike three, buddy. More at bats next Friday night.

But date rape is like striking out and then still taking a home run trot around the bases. Which, if you know anything about baseball, is so lame that it’s laughable. It is embarrassingly uncool.

Again, there are other ways of talking about rape: as a crime, as a moral violation, as an act of violence.  And we should keep having those conversations. But guys inclined toward date rape are generally unmoved by such arguments.  Lots of things they do are illegal, immoral, and violent.  I was no exception.  If I thought something was going to be fun, and perceived the odds of being caught as low, I was willing to chance it — especially if it brought me credibility among my peers.

But date rape is like striking out and then still taking a home run trot around the bases. Which, if you know anything about baseball, is so lame that it’s laughable.

We have a date rape epidemic because guys seem to see it as a cross between sex and pranking, which makes the act seem both awesome and hilarious.  And we are to blame for this, not girls and women.

Our first problem is that we have failed to talk about the awesomeness of consent with each other.  At the most basic level, the difference between rape and sex is consent.  Date rapists skip the consent part, believing that all intercourse is sex, and that sex is awesome.  But not all intercourse is sex.  Sex involves consent.  And that’s why sex is awesome.  Because someone spent some time with you and decided that you were cool enough to get naked with. That should be something that we high-five each other about.

The flip-side of our failure to talk about the awesomeness of consent is our failure — as men — to talk about just how unmanly it is to act without consent.

The flip-side of our failure to talk about the awesomeness of consent is our failure — as men — to talk about just how unmanly it is to act without consent.  And as a result, we have allowed a culture to bloom in which there is no shame associated with date rape.  Not for the perpetrators, at least, who gleefully post photos of themselves on the internet.  And that’s our fault.  Because instead of us men shaming date rapists and treating them as pathetic half-men, we have shamed women — for what they were wearing, for being flirtatious, or for having had too much to drink.

I broke up a rape in progress my sophomore year in college.  But all I did was pummel the guy. And I realize now that once his wounds healed, he was the same person he had been before. Where did he go after that?  What did he do? I can hardly stand to wonder.  But my guess is that he was unfazed by the beating.  In fact, he probably thought that if anyone in that room was uncool it was me.

Date rape is a crime.  Date rape is an immoral act.  Date rape is an act of violence.  You’ve heard all that before.  So now consider this: date rape is pathetic.  It is for half-men who want to pretend that they are the equals of those who get consent.

You claim she would have said yes if she had been conscious?  Then why didn’t you wait?

About Jack Schneider

Jack is an Assistant Professor of Education at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts, and a graduate of Stanford University and Haverford College. He is a former college baseball player and is an "avid outdoorsman" (which does not mean he uses guns to hunt things).

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Katie HodgesPeter and Caiti Recent comment authors
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Peter and Caiti
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Peter and Caiti

Interesting article. Not so sure that date rape is necessarily seen as awesome, although I would agree that it certainly isn’t chastised among most men. Your point about women being blamed for date rape is definitely true – I can’t count the amount of times I’ve heard someone say that a girl "was asking for it" or that "she got what she wanted" just because she was dressed provocatively. -Caiti This article was very interesting, and brought up many valid points. First things first, I would like to think that my peers don’t feel as though date rape is as… Read more »

Katie Hodges
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Katie Hodges

Hi, this is Katie and Jenelle from Dave’s Men and Masculinities class. We really enjoyed this article and the candid nature of the subject you’re approaching. We appreciated the emphasis on the fact that date-rape is pathetic, rather than just merely saying it’s a crime. Further, we appreciate you arguing that the men who commit date-rape are to blame for this rather than the women. Also, you managed to throw some humor into the mix which made it much easier to get through since the subject itself is very heavy and frightening. Thanks!

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