HYPOAGENCY – Shifting the goalposts on rape to retain victim status

Female hypoagency, the notion that women have no agency and that their actions are somehow ineffectual compared to men’. Victimhood is the ultimate expression of hypoagency. As Typhonblue has pointed out repeatedly, victim cred is a strategic resource and it must be guarded.

Rape is a real deep kind of victimization. In the hands of feminists it became an important rhetorical weapon to redress some real serious problems, but then, having become so valuable, it could never be laid aside. It was their nuclear arsenal, their Doomsday weapon.

The problem with this weapon was that it had a flaw – their rhetoric, if taken to its logical conclusion, incriminated a lot of women. The metric of consent made women rapists if they had sex with drunken men or pushed sex on a reluctant man. It took the weapon out of the hands of feminists and democratized it.

Tamen and Cicero were discussing this, with a contribution from Political cynic.Tamen responding to Cicero:

“Cicero: My main concern has been that the definition of rape is equally applied to male and female victims and male and female perpetrators. You probably already know how Mary P Koss, the CDC, FBI (according to most interpretation of their definition of rape), UK law, several US state laws does not include PIV/PIM/PIA intercourse without consent as rape if the man penetrating was the one not consenting.

Several years ago I recall there were some discussion on blogs like IBTP, Feministe and Feministing over a suggestion (from Twisty Faster of IBTP I think) to make non-consent the default assumption thus removing the presumption of innocence and if a woman accused a man of rape he would have to prove himself not guilty – if he couldn’t then he would be guilty.

There was a lot of talk about this when the Yes Means Yes book by Jaclyn Friedman and Jessica Valenti came out (in 2008 I think). Now my impression is that although feminists still think enthusiastic consent is a valid ethical/moral concept which serves well as a personal guideline fewer and fewer consider it fit as a legal standard. One cited reason is how it applies for sex workers (a consideration for the sex-positive feminists, for the anti-sex work feminists not so much), but the cynic in me thinks that now when it’s becoming harder and harder to consider rape a gendered crime only affecting female victims, a lot of feminists won’t support enthusiastic consent as a legal standard because that could make them rapists. Example being the response from many feminists on the Feministing post about how a woman nagged her partner into having sex which he eventually grudgingly gave up saying no and later told her that he felt violated.

The term rape are used in more than one context. Legal is just one of them. For instance I’d say that something could be rape even though I don’t believe the perpetrator could nor should be prosecuted (a victim-centered definition of rape). If one is to discuss the definition of rape used by feminists it would strengthen the quality of the discussion if one explicitly clarified in which context the particular definitions are.”

Even attempts to look at rape in a gender-neutral way lead to discussions like this one on Feministe. Here the case is stated and restated in pretty straightforward terms – a woman forcing a man to have sex – and look at all the prevarication and victim-blaming and weasel wording to defend rape victim as female preserve.

The second to Last comment in that 263 comment thread by was summed up by kaninchenzero :

“Every thread here about women’s experiences with rape is moderated heavily to keep derailments about men’s experiences with rape out and rightly so. But this thread was supposed to be about those rapes that fall outside that cis-woman-centered experience. We’ve had a two-hundred-plus comment thread with so many of y’all complaining that this one didn’t center your experiences also. Those of us whose experiences didn’t fall into that cis-woman-centered frame got buried. Some of you acknowledged mine, eventually, because I stayed here and kept at this. At a fairly large emotional cost to me — trying to talk about this in the face of people who want to have a theoretical discussion about themselves is a bit taxing.”

In other words, when the conversation turns to male victims of females, females still either have to be the privileged victims and their experiences have to be centered, and if that won’t work, they have to be de-agentivized to the point that the rapes they commit aren’t you know “rape rape.”

And Sailorman sums up the real sticking point in the discussion there when he says:

“The reason that it sounds so weird to talk about women who are rapists is because women tend not to do “violent assault penetrative rape” which is what society reflects. And women, being less empowered and less physically strong generally, also do less “implied threat of violence of economic ruin-type rape.”

But when we are really out of that trend? If we start classifying “anything other than fully enthusiastic consent” as rape? Welcome, women, to the experience of being schrodinger’s rapist. It’s an odd feeling, isn’t it?

So this is an interesting test. It’s easy to say that we can wrap our heads around the concept that sexual assault is gender neutral. but it’s a bit trickier put into practice. And although I don’t agree with the hardliners here, I have to assume it’s the first time that some women here have been (indirectly or not) accused of being rapists and/or rape apologists, and I wonder how that will affect their future rape discussions.”

Back to the thread where Tamen, Cicero and Gwallan are discussing this -Gwallan develops this further here:

“I will continue to position coercion as the primary basis for rape. Consent can be forced. There are manifold ways of coercing others to do your bidding.

The interesting thing is if you take a long, hard look at what is being said about oral sex-starting from the post here and moving out-what you discover is that, in reality, many of the feminists who “presume guilt” for men are the ones who also support coercing men into consenting to oral sex-which in my book arguably makes them supporters of a form of “rape culture” in which raping men becomes acceptable behavior that is encouraged.”

Feminists who support coercing men into sex? Whatever could Gwallan be talking about? He is talking about Jill Filipovic saying that it’s fine to pressure a man who objects to cunnilingus into doing it with accusations of misogyny.

31 thoughts on “HYPOAGENCY – Shifting the goalposts on rape to retain victim status

  1. I think you have a misattribution here:

    Political Cynic develops this further here:

    “I will continue to position coercion as the primary basis for rape. Consent can be forced. There are manifold ways of coercing others to do your bidding.”

    I am pretty sure that it was gwallan who wrote than.

  2. I’d like to borrow a bit of what you quote from Sailorman for a moment.

    “The reason that it sounds so weird to talk about women who are rapists is because women tend not to do “violent assault penetrative rape” which is what society reflects. And women, being less empowered and less physically strong generally, also do less “implied threat of violence of economic ruin-type rape.”
    If the reflection is “violent assault penetrative rape” and we are taking women being less powered into account then why is there so much focus on the use of alcohol and other substances as date rape drugs?

    If it’s the overtly violent assaults that matter then I don’t think we’d be seeing quite so much attention brought to date rape drugs since they can (and often are) used as an equalizer to incapacitate their victim. And as history can show us (wasn’t poison once considered the woman’s weapon of choice?) women are just as capable of employing drugs and sedatives as any man is.

    I think the reason it sounds so weird to talk about women as rapists is because women have been (and still are) held up on a pedestal of “Women don’t do stuff like that.” Overtly violent or covertly invasive, rape is a crime and thus is off limits when it comes to it being something that women do.

  3. Alright – everyone on this side of the gendersphere is constantly dumping on feminists for denying female-on-male rape. The Feministe post is an example of a major, fairly mainstream feminist website that doesn’t do that. Heck, they take a more extreme stance than even I would. Can we give them some credit? Atleast acknowledge that they’re doing the right thing? Say something nice?

  4. no, because their response is just not good enough. even when they acknowledge male rape victims they still have to make the topic about themselves. I’m sorry, but I’m not going to praise somebody for *not* denying rape victims. that in itself is not a great or noble thing to be proud of, it is something that people should be doing in the first place.

  5. Gingko: Ok, it seems like I was (somewhat) mistaken.

    Gwallan said:

    I will continue to position coercion as the primary basis for rape. Consent can be forced. There are manifold ways of coercing others to do your bidding.

    Political Cynic quoted that comment by Gwallan and added

    The interesting thing is if you take a long, hard look at what is being said about oral sex-starting from the post here and moving out-what you discover is that, in reality, many of the feminists who “presume guilt” for men are the ones who also support coercing men into consenting to oral sex-which in my book arguably makes them supporters of a form of “rape culture” in which raping men becomes acceptable behavior that is encouraged.”

    I was fooled by your blockquoting and assumed that the first paragraph was attributed to Political Cynic and that the rest was written by you. Sorry for the hastily infused confusion.

  6. Navin,
    “Can we give them some credit?”

    http://www.genderratic.com/p/1764/misandry-encouraging-sign-noted-feminist-demolishes-pro-circumcision-arguments/

    “Atleast acknowledge that they’re doing the right thing?”

    Yes they can, but they have to make soem real growth and give up some cherished beliefs:
    http://www.genderratic.com/p/2473/tales-of-the-red-pill-feminist-allies-of-mras/
    “Say something nice?”

    They are big Strong Independent Women. They don’t need us to say anything nice and besides they would probably just call it a creepy come-on line.

    Just kidding, sort of.

    No problem, Tamen – neither of them will complain over the misattribution, I hope.

  7. “The term rape are used in more than one context. Legal is just one of them. For instance I’d say that something could be rape even though I don’t believe the perpetrator could nor should be prosecuted (a victim-centered definition of rape).”

    The problem is that calling something someone has done rape IS a punishment all on its own in our society. They become a Rapist, a social outcast.

    So saying that you think there should be definitions of rape that don’t warrant a punishment enacted by society (unlike legal rape) is contradictory, in my opinion.

  8. You should all read this one:

    http://www.avoiceformen.com/men/boys/misandry-in-psychology-teen-violence/

    25% of those reporting physically forcing their partners into having sexual intercourse were girls. – Table 15 page 82 full report

    Over 1/3 of those reporting being pressured into kissing, touching or something else were boys.

    What they don’t mention is that the same table in the full report that showed that 5.8% of girls were raped also showed that 3.3% of the boys were also raped

    31% of girls experienced sexual partner violence
    16% of boys experienced sexual partner violence
    BOYS WERE 34% of the victims of sexual partner violence in teen relationships.

    These findings are further elaborated on in the interview data where girls consistently described the harmful impact that the violence had on their welfare, often long term, while boy victims routinely stated they were unaffected or, at the very worst, annoyed. These results provide the wider context in which teenage partner violence needs to be viewed.

    The report goes on to minimize boys victimization to a staggering degree.

  9. Thanks, Cicero.

    “The problem is that calling something someone has done rape IS a punishment all on its own in our society. They become a Rapist, a social outcast”

    Adaibat, this is a point, with a lot of docuemented violence around it to back you up, that false rape accusation apologists either elide or simply deny.

  10. Navin Kumar:

    From that post on Feministe (my emphasis):

    Now, I know at least one woman who has physically forced sex upon a man who had repeatedly told her he didn’t want to have sex with her and was pretty pissed off with her afterwards – rape in no uncertain terms, if the genders were reversed. But the situation Pluralist talks about is a little less obvious than that. It’s unethical, certainly, and inconsiderate, and you shouldn’t do it, but I’d argue it’s technically not classified as sexual assault (if you disagree, please debate it in the comments).

    From another Feministe post by Filipovic:

    I’m not sure it even matters if we call it “rape” or not (and it doesn’t sound like the boyfriend does call it that). He was sexually violated; whether she intended to or not, that’s the fact of what happened. Or it’s possible that Dan is right and the dude is being a manipulative jackass. But I think that probably dude was asleep and woke up to his girlfriend having sex with him and freaked out. And… that’s a fair reaction. It doesn’t make her a bad person or a rapist (she was awake and reasonably believed he was awake and consenting)

    Apparently it doesn’t matter if something is called rape or not (it’s rape by the law where I live to have intercourse with someone who is asleep). Yeah, we all know what happens with the visibility and awareness of male victims when we don’t classify their rape as rape (news stories and blogposts about the NISVS 2010 findings are an example).

    Yet:

    What if we understood consent not as an absence of no, but as a clear and freely-offered “yes”? What if those ideals were represented in the law?


    Too many of us are willing to accept that acquaintance rape is a misunderstanding;

    …if the victim’s a man it seems.

    Do you see many feminists sites posting articles about how some male-on-female situation isn’t technically rape?

  11. Adibat: That is a problem. I wish I could fix it. Yet; there is a difference between “I have been raped” and “Y raped me” which was what I was going for.

    False accusations of rape made outside the court have a real impact and I don’t like how that is always overlooked when people cite false allegation statistics derived from police records. An unknown percentage of allegations made to other than the police are also false and the repercussions for the falsely accused can be very dire. The reverse is also true, the repercussions for the accuser can be dire if the allegation is true and people believe they are false.

  12. Tamen: Yes, but one of the first questions after “I have been raped” will be “by who?”. In the abstract I agree with you but I don’t think it is something that should be applied to society unless the (and I don’t know if this is desirable at all) unless the automatic taboo over the word ‘rape’ is removed.

    And my hunch is that the majority of false rape accusations are not made to the police and don’t go through the legal system. I also think this is so obvious that I see feminists quoting police figures as an intentional attempt to minimise the issue.

  13. Adibat: Perhaps this story will illustrate my earlier statement more clearly. When I was an 19 year old virgin a woman I met at a party that day decided to have intercourse with me while I was asleep – despite us agreeing while we were fooling around earlier that intercourse was off the table. I don’t believe she maliciously set out to rape me, but rather that she in her misguided ignorant way thought she was doing me a favor. Her intent was to have sex with me, not to harm me. She likely didn’t even consider the possibility that I didn’t want to have intercourse with her – and certainly that I wouldn’t when I was asleep. She likely was unaware of the fact that when I awoke to find her on top of me fucking me I just froze and after what felt like a long time the only thing I could think of that would end this was to fake an orgasm. The notion that I could throw her off me didn’t occur to me at the time. But even if I had done so the fact that she fucked me while I was asleep without my consent still remains.

    It wasn’t then, but since that particular act (having sex with someone who is asleep or otherwise unconscious without prior consent) is legally labelled rape. I however think my case probably couldn’t and shouldn’t be prosecuted, but I still call what happened to me for rape.

  14. Tamen: I wish I had a solution. It definitely was rape, legally. Or at least it should be for those places where it is not.

    She is a rapist. That is not is dispute or affected by what I said upthread. The only issue is that you do not think she should be punished for it. Legally we can have systems where victims can appeal for acquitals or reduced sentances, some places have that I believe.

    I have no idea how to deal with the social punishment she will/should get for being a rapist. The only thing I can think of is getting rape to the point of sexual harrassment where people’s initial response nowadays is “Well, what did he actually do?” before they pass judgement. This has been acheived by expanding the definition so much that it doesn’t actually tell you if the perpetrator did anything morally wrong. Though I don’t think this is a desirable situation for the term ‘rape’.

  15. On the feministe discussion thread (which I read maybe 1/8th the way through) there was some discussion of whether persistent nagging is or is not sexual assault.

    I would say it is *not* sexual assault, but I would call it sexual predation or sexual manipulation. While not necessarily a form of assault, I do think it is emotionally abusive as a stand alone act, or as a behavior if done consistently.

    When threats (or challenges to orientation) of violence or threats of ANY TYPE OF repercussion/consequence of the victims refusal is laid down I do believe it becomes assault.

  16. “I however think my case probably couldn’t and shouldn’t be prosecuted, but I still call what happened to me for rape.”

    Why? I think it is a clear example of sleep rape untill you woke up. I can see that you view her differently from the average rapists because she likely did not udnerstand she did something wrong and the cultural messages she has gotten made it difficult for her to think otherwise but it is still rape. I am generally in favour of a conservative definition of rape and to leave the zone outside of that to ethics as I think anything else is hopelessly unmanageable, will lead ridicuolous amounts of people in jail and is out of tune with how people want to and will lead their sexlives. But, I think sleep rape is sleep rape, despite mitigating circumstances.

  17. John,
    “I would say it is *not* sexual assault, but I would call it sexual predation or sexual manipulation. While not necessarily a form of assault, I do think it is emotionally abusive as a stand alone act, or as a behavior if done consistently.”

    I really like this way of phrasing it. It is abusive but not really assaultive. For me the line is laying hands on someone, awake or asleep.

  18. “I would say it is *not* sexual assault, but I would call it sexual predation or sexual manipulation. While not necessarily a form of assault, I do think it is emotionally abusive as a stand alone act, or as a behavior if done consistently.

    When threats (or challenges to orientation) of violence or threats of ANY TYPE OF repercussion/consequence of the victims refusal is laid down I do believe it becomes assault.”

    What about when people express anger because they are hurt and frustrated at getting turned down for sex consistently by their partner? What about when a relationship has become sexless or almost sexless and one partner says that if the relationship remains sexless or almost sexless he or she will leave? What if the partner that threatens to leave several times in the comming weaks or months says this again because the partner that does not want sex does not take seriously the fact that their partner says they will leave if something does not change? Where exactly is the line drawn between rasing the issue of a lack of sex life, the hurt from rejection and the fact that almost all people will eventually leave an otherwise good relationship that is sexless and make very clear in a myriad ways just why that is, and sexual predation/abuse/emotional abuse or assault?

  19. Adibat: Oh, I think she deserves some punishment and be taught to respect consent. But I can’t see how a set of people outside her and I (who are the only one who know what happens) can convict her beyond reasonable doubts.

  20. Ginkgo: “I really like this way of phrasing it. It is abusive but not really assaultive.”

    Does this mean that when salespeople use high pressure sales tactics on us to buy something that is abusive? I’d argue that if someone can’t resist such tactics by the time they reach adulthood then they need to have a good look at themselves rather than blaming the salesman.

    And if someone thinks they’re old enough to have sex yet consents just because they were nagged (obviously this is without any coercion), well sorry if I fail to get morally outraged.

    (Not that nagging is a nice thing to do, just that adults should be able to resist it and can’t claim hypoagency just because they were nagged. And like I said if it turns into coercion then I will be sympathetic.)

    Tamen: Okay, yeah I agree that something is rape even without a conviction, due to lack of evidence. I thought you were arguing something else.

  21. “And if someone thinks they’re old enough to have sex yet consents just because they were nagged (obviously this is without any coercion), well sorry if I fail to get morally outraged.”

    Re-reading that it could be taken the wrong way. I’m referring to people above the age of consent who “thinks they’re old enough to have sex yet consents just because they were nagged”. Obviously if they are under they cannot consent anyway, by definition.

  22. “I will continue to position coercion as the primary basis for rape. Consent can be forced. There are manifold ways of coercing others to do your bidding.”

    Sounds like me. Did I post that on Feministe? Something must have pissed me off that day for me to be in that place.

  23. Thanks Tamen. I don’t spend as much time on the internet nowadays and lose track too easily.

  24. Adiabat,

    “Does this mean that when salespeople use high pressure sales tactics on us to buy something that is abusive?”

    This is a hard call for me becuase for me, basically I find any contact with sales people defiling and having to interact with them an ordeal. Ferengi gonna fereng. That kind of thing.

    “I’d argue that if someone can’t resist such tactics by the time they reach adulthood then they need to have a good look at themselves rather than blaming the salesman.”

    This varies. In the main I agree but when you are dealing with sales people and their tactics there is always the issue of fraud and deceit, and fraud in the service of manipulation. I’d take each case on a case by case basis.

  25. Hey Cicero:
    I would preface my below response with this.
    In a loving monogamous relationship each partner does have an obligation to be intimate with their partner every so often.
    The two S.O.’s don’t have to be on the same page, but they should be in the same neighborhood.
    Now, stating a partner has an obligation might seem contradictory, but it’s not–as long as the feeling of “obligation” is internal.

    I think it’s okay to ask a couple of times & maybe even do some light groping (in a long term relationship not early in the relationship) to gauge the persons reaction.

    There are also instances (again I am talking about gr8 levels of familiarity here) in which subtle verbal indicators during a response like “but, I’m tired” there are clues shouldn’t be taken at face value–the person wants to be wooed or pursued or convinced or something.

    When we talk about sex deprivation, let’s just set aside the instance where 1 person has a serious ailment of some kind & talk about when it seems to be deliberate.
    Let’s also set aside cases in which there are extreme differentials (like 1 peep doesn’t work & other works 80hour weeks).

    One person is putting their entitlement (either lack of sexual interest or whatever) over the other persons very real need to be intimate.
    That is itself a form of abuse or dysfunction. Now, people don’t always respond in an IDEAL fashion to dysfunctional environments.

    There is the sense of lowered culpability if the deprived person reacts with anger or manipulation–but it’s still not right.
    The sex deprived person should have a discussion w/the other & if no solution is forth-coming think about terminating the relationship.

  26. I still haven’t had a chance to read the entire feministe thread, but I have to say in the first 1/8th to 1/5th I read, I read a lot of positive comments about women going through the journey of thinking of men as walking erections to treating them as human.

    I know I haven’t read a lot of the thread, but I was pleasantly surprised.

    Maybe we will see men’s full human rights be honored in my lifetime after all.

  27. There was an article on the curvature concerning male rape victims of female perpetrators in juvenile detention. The article itself was quite even-handed or as even-handed as one could hope. The big question in my mind was whether Cara would have suggested an end to cross gender access in juvenile detention if 95% of those raped were girls raped by men instead of boys raped by women or would she have called for an end to men supervising girls in juvenile detention with 5% of victims being acceptable to ensuring women’s employment.

    The big thing to note is the single comment on the post. It is dripping with rape apology. The person making it had noted her own victimization in previous threads and is no rape apologist at least when the perpetrator is a man. Many people on that forum have identified as victims. Yet the comment was met with silence.

    “those boys feel like that HAVE to have sex with any female who appears willing [and many of them feel like they *have* to force [rape] any “hot” woman who doesn’t appear willing”

    In her mind even when boys are raped they have actually raped the woman.

    http://thecurvature.com/2010/10/29/justice-department-repot-on-sexual-assault-in-juvenile-detention-minimizes-violence/

    It becomes a bit more insidious when a feminist victim of rape engages in this than a feminist who hasn’t been raped. That just illustrates that it isn’t the opposition to rape that is important to feminists.

  28. John, I thought Cara covered that pretty well and that the comment form denelian was vomit-inducing. Probably why comments were closed.

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