Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Gray Mugging

Is there a gray area in muggings, an area where a mugging isn't really a mugging? Perhaps someone offered to lend you that diamond ring but then withdrew the offer so you took it anyway, using your fists in the process? Or perhaps the victim went out decked with stuff like a Christmas tree. Mugging someone like that is almost understandable. Let's just call it gray mugging.

This is all in relation to a recent Cosmopolitan magazine article about something called gray rape. Or rather, in relation to a post about the article. Some snippets from that post:

True story that I wrote in three minutes because that's exactly how much time I felt like dwelling on it: this one time about nine years ago I got locked out of my house and went home with some vaguely smarmy hair-product using type from my ex-boyfriend's frat. I had slept with maybe two or three guys prior to that -- it was the summer between sophomore and junior year of college -- so when he, after about a half hour of fooling around, put on a condom I was like, "Whooooah, what are you doing?" But I'd had two forties and I kept drifting in and out of consciousness -- my tolerance, obviously, wasn't what it is today -- and I woke up to find him sticking it in. I'd said 'no' a bunch of times and when I came to I just froze, stopped, turned over and slept. In the morning I chewed him out (by informing him I wasn't putting him on "my list" -- oh no she didn't!) and after that he kissed my ass so liberally I thought he might have learned from it.

But then in Israel I saw this other girl who used to hook up with him and she assured me he remains a douchebag, only now one that practices medicine in New York. Anyway, I sure hope he saves some lives, and I remember that sexual experience a little more vividly than most of the consensual sexual experiences I've undergone in a similar state of intoxication, but neither sentiment makes it RAPE, does it? It's something, "date rape" I guess, but it's not rape unless I say it was, right?

I feel terrible about discussing this, to be quite honest, because I think the post reveals something quite private. But it is the part about the man "remaining a douchebag" which made me decide to address the "gray rape" issue (also discussed very well by Shakes and by Ann at feministing.com). Because my interpretation of that sentence is that this man has continued raping women ever afterwards. Except that what he does is not seen as rape, as long as the victim is just too drunk to resist. Just douchebaggery.

There is no such thing as "gray rape". There are aggravating and extenuating circumstances to crimes, sure, and some rapes are more heinous than others. Some people who are raped are not as damaged by the rape as others are, also true. But rape, by definition, is nonconsensual sex of the penetrating kind. And someone unconscious or asleep cannot consent. It doesn't matter if the rapist is known to you. It doesn't matter that you don't feel harmed by the rape. It's still rape.

This whole discussion about "gray rape" sounds to me like an attempt to return to the era where a woman had to be pretty much killed to prove that she had been raped. Judges used to argue that the rapist's body must show violent marks from the raped person's resistance, for example. Otherwise it was just "bad sex". Of course fighting back may not be such a good idea when someone holds a knife on your throat, say.

Do we really want to go back to those times?