What is rape

Being the nosey kind when I got a pingback on a previous post which explored the constructs which support rape, I immediately took a shifty. At first I thought the blogger had just misunderstood the kind of assumptions that women live under compared with men, but once the comments started it became crystal clear that that she and clearly much of her readership had no idea what rape actually was.

And wow. Just wow.

Lets start with Scottish Law. Up until three years ago, rape in Scotland was only considered to have occurred through non-consensual penile-vaginal intercourse. Only men could rape, and only women could be raped. In In 2009 the law changed to acknowledge the existance of male rape. Rape is defined in Scots Law at present as

Rape

(1) If a person (“A”), with A’s penis—
(a) without another person (“B”) consenting, and
(b) without any reasonable belief that B consents,
penetrates to any extent, either intending to do so or reckless as to whether there is penetration, the vagina, anus or mouth of B then A commits an offence, to be known as the offence of rape.

I accept that this definition is still problematic – it does not take recognise rape with an implement and while the Opinion of the Lord Justice has acknowledged active consent as a basis of belief, the existence of the second clause provides a major loophole in the prosecution. But the act of penetration is prominent. The international definition of rape given by the World Health Organisation is much more inclusive.

physically forced or otherwise coerced penetration – even if slight – of the vulva or anus, using a penis, other body parts or an object

Note however that the penetration is still the critical marker of rape.Several commenters on the link appear to believe that penetration is not required for the act of rape. That envelopment, as they term it, where a someone forces the body part of another inside them is also rape.

I suspect the confusion has come from older laws, written by men from male perspectives, which talk of “cardinal knowledge” and “sexual intercourse” without consent. Written by men, to be read by men, this “cardinal knowledge” and “sexual intercourse” means penile-vaginal intercourse, and as such implicitly suggests penetration – as the conception of “sexual intercourse” is of something which is done to women by men. As feminism has readdressed that to acknowledge that “sexual intercourse” is mutual, rather than something one person does to another, the implied penetration has been made explicit. These older statutes however have been interpreted by mens rights activists and others to talk of “rape by envelopment”.

There is no such thing.

The suggestion that unwanted penetration and unwanted envelopement are in someway equivalent or just as serious as one another is a nonsense. Compare and contrast unwanted and non-consensual penetration with unwanted and non-consensual envelopement.

Unwanted Penetration

  • Involves invasion of body
  • Can lead to external injuries
  • Can lead to severe internal injuries
  • Can lead to unwanted pregancy
  • Can cause death

Unwanted Envelopement

  • Involves invasion of bodily space
  • Can lead to minor external injuries
  • Cannot lead to internal injuries
  • Cannot lead to unwanted pregnancy
  • Cannot cause death.

The concept promoted by Clarissa and other commentators that any unwanted sexual contact or intercourse is rape is ridiculous. Penetration is fundamentally different from envelopement, but there is an equivalency being promoted by Mens Rights Activists who regard those who are forced or coerced by a sexual partner to penetrate them as being rape victims. The whole idea is so bizarre it hardly bears thinking about.

I do accept that there are narratives which can support the sexual assault of men by women through envelopement – that a real man is always desirous of sex, that men are stronger than women and thus able to physically resist any such sexual assault and that men cannot penetrate unless desirous and hence consent is automatic, but the ridiculous notion promoted by the link above that these are in some way equivalent, and should be treated as such is contemptable.

The reason that there is a specific word for sexual assault which involves penetration is because this form of sexual assault is more invasive, more likely to lead to injury, may lead to unwanted pregancy and can cause death.

That word is rape.

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28 comments
LostToTheSilence
LostToTheSilence

I was raped by a woman. 


Let's go over all the reasons why it was rape.

[Cannot lead to unwanted pregnancy]

I didn't want her to get pregnant. My vote counts too. 

[Cannot lead to internal injuries]

Penile fracture has even occurred during consensual sex. Even if you can't be bothered to care about that risk, consider what would have happened if I had done everything in my power to fight her. My life would have been over if she had received any serious injuries.  

[Cannot lead to death.] 

Good thing I didn't kill myself, isn't it? 

Does this objection mean you feel it's not rape if a male rapist is careful to avoid injuring his victim? If he uses a knife and a threat, and is careful to create a sexual response in his victim's body? What if he had a vasectomy? 

Is it still rape then?

How committed are you to your justifications for denying that men can be raped? Why is this battle really so important to you?  


LostToTheSilence
LostToTheSilence

I was raped by a woman.  Let's go over all the reasons why it was rape. [Cannot lead to unwanted pregnancy] I didn't want her to get pregnant. My vote counts too.  [Cannot lead to internal injuries] Penile fracture has even occurred during consensual sex. Even if you can't be bothered to care about that risk, consider what would have happened if I had done everything in my power to fight her. My life would have been over if she had received any serious injuries.   [Cannot lead to death.]  Good thing I didn't kill myself, isn't it?  Does this objection mean you feel it's not rape if a male rapist is careful to avoid injuring his victim? If he uses a knife and a threat, and is careful to create a sexual response in his victim's body? What if he had a vasectomy?  Is it still rape then? How committed are you to your justifications for denying that men can be raped? Why is this battle really so important to you?

mhairimcalpine
mhairimcalpine

Submitted on 2012/02/23 at 8:22 pm by someoneyouknow  Hi Mhairi  We know each other, I am a woman you know. I’m not identifying myself to you because I want to protect my experiences and my identity. I am horrified by this. Utterly horrified. I was raped as a child by another female and It has stayed with me forever as a complete and utter violation of everything i am. At that point of human degradation, it would not have been made worse by penetration. I think your way of thinking excludes anyone who has suffered sexual degradation in ways such as oral rape – which IS RAPE. Anyone who has suffered it will agree that it is not about the “scale” which has been invented by human reasoning and norms, rather than based on any biological reasons. Basically what I’m saying is that what people find most invasive can vary from person to person. For rape cases, there is NO one-size fits all. It’s dependant on the emotional fallout. Physical injury is a horrific by product of sexual violence but it should NOT define what is and isn’t rape. If a woman considers what was done to her as rape, it is our duty as feminist sisters to defend and protect that. It is hateful of women to assume that people would “cry rape” or it “broadens the definition”. The definition of rape is changing to accommodate the actual real experiences of women and I support that. I think this facade of pretending to examine the linguistics of a word is insulting. It’s the kind of thing that men do to women all the time to silence them. Oh and need i remind you that set definitions of words is a seriously fucking bureaucratic. The people who make the rules to these words are either living in a different time period or men. Why is there any need to be pedantic when we’re dealing with a word that, as a feminist, i consider to be defined by the experiences of those who have suffered in this way. If you think calling a “grope” rape is trivialising rape then i put this to you: I think “sexual assault” trivialises these behaviours. In horrific attacks, when these awful sexual abusers are charged with “one aacount of rape and 3 accounts of sexual assault,” I think that the victim would consider every assault to be rape. Any other one-off groping of the secondary sexual organs i doubt most women would say it was rape over sexual assault, but if they consider it to be severe enough to be rape, then I’m going to take their experience for their definition. No matter what this article etc is dressed up to be, this is you telling a lot of rape victims: “You have not been raped. Your view of your experience is invalid,” and presenting some bullshit rules to back up your statement.   Submitted on 2012/02/24 at 2:15 am | By Admin in reply to Someone you know.   I’m sorry to hear of your experiences, it must be horrible to go through that. But I stand by my position that while sexual assault can be as traumatising as rape, there is a difference. The difference is that rape involves penetration; and that unwanted penetration is fundamentally more invasive that sexual assault which does not involve penetration. Once you get rid of that distinction, you effectively lose rape as a distinct crime – as is the case in Canada. By not distinguishing between sexual assault involving penetration and sexual assault without penetration, you deny the added risks of bodily injury and in the case of penile-vaginal rape, unwanted pregnancy as well as the additional violation of something breaching your bodily boundaries.  Submitted on 2012/02/26 at 4:25 pm by Sarah  I can’t believe you actually willingly crossed the boundary here from theoretical harm to real harm. This might be a game to you but it isn’t in the real world. Saying straight faced to a rape survivor that they haven’t been raped is absolutely disgusting. Survivors have to deal with enough people not believing them, out of ignorance and out of spite, and further triggering them, without it coming from so called feminists too. You revolt me. Never speak to me again, I’d appreciate it if you stopped inviting yourself to our parties too. Don’t care if you publish this or not, so long as you don’t contact me again.  Submitted on 2012/02/26 at 8:55 pm | by Admin In reply to Sarah.  Goodness. I would have spoken to you personally, given such a personalised posting, but I am quite happy to respect your wishes not to be contacted. I know of no country in the world which recognises non-penetrative sexual assault as rape, as such my view is entirely mainstream, and outwith men’s rights activists and some branches of queer theory, I am unaware of any analysis of gender politics which supports such a broadening of its definition. The point of making a distinction between rape and sexual assault is that it recognises the additional risks of penetration. Without that distinction, you are effectively relabelling all sexual assault as rape; you can do that of course, but what you will end up with is the Canadian system where there is no rape, just sexual assault, merely called rape. In my opinion that’s a very dangerous route to go down and is far more likely to lead to the additional harms of non-consensual penetration not being recognised or appreciated.  Submitted on 2012/02/27 at 10:47 am | By Someoneyouknow in reply to mhairi.  The case with Canada should be asessed, but it should be the government’s dealing with cases like this that should be asessed NOT diminish the trauma pf women who have suffered rape in this way. You can happily sit there and tell me I was never raped because it will never affect you. It HAS affected me. It has made me feel again like no one will ever believe me and I will always be doubted despite the fact that i know it happened. I hope that you’re happy that you’ve upset a lot of women over this. Congrats, your pedantry has won you the battle of being a bully and a definer of people’s experiences. If you fee that it’s okay for you to do that to other women then I don’t want any more contact with you. This is shocking and very upsetting.  Submitted on 2012/02/27 at 12:43 pm | By Admin In reply to Someone you know..  The prosecution of rape and sexual assault is a government responsibility, thus it is the government’s dealing with such matters which is under discussion. The argument of the MRA’s is to effectively get rid of the crime of rape, by amalgamating it with sexual assault, and calling it rape. I’m am disappointed you get the impression that I don’t believe your experiences, as I said above, I am sorry to hear of them, and appreciate that they must be traumatic – legally however they are not rape. If the perp was tried for rape they would get an instant not-guilty. This is not pedantry but legal fact. You clearly believe that legal fact should change to accommodate your experiences within the crime of rape. I believe such a change would be dangerous, as there are additional harms of penetration which would then not be legally recognised. I’m sorry you feel I have been bullying you. In order to find out what I may have done that could be construed as bullying, I took a careful look at both the post and the comments to see if there was anything which could be considered to be harassment, threatening behaviour or behaviour designed to embarrass or target someone. While I can identify these behaviours in some of the comments on this post, I cannot find them in what I have written.

mhairimcalpine
mhairimcalpine

Submitted on 2012/02/23 at 4:35 am by Liz Your assertions about bodily harm are incorrect. It is possible to seriously injure a woman via rape when something too large for her is forcibly inserted inside her. Sorry to get graphic, but it is also of course possible to seriously injure a male by forcing his genitalia into a hole that is too small. And perhaps he could die by hemorrhaging if the act was violent enough as it has to be for a woman to die from a rape. This of course would as well do internal damage to the male genitalia and urinary tract. I think your distinction of whether something is outside or inside the body as being the guide to being invaded or having its space invaded is fundamentally misguided as well. Is ‘envelopment’ wrong because it takes away the space around the penis? No. Of course not. Is traditional rape wrong because it invades her? No, I wouldn’t say so either. I would say it more has to do with using someone’s genitalia against their will, humiliating them, and taking control of them regardless of if this genitalia happens to be inside or outside of the victim’s body.  Submitted on 2012/02/23 at 5:05 am | by Admin In reply to liz.  The instances that I can think of where a vagina or anus may be too small to accomodate a penis are: 1. Babies and young children  2. Infibulated women  3. People with congenial dwarfism.  Of these, the first is statutory rape, so the male cannot be considered forced;the second causes high levels of pain to the woman, and is difficult to achieve envelopement, and the size and strength differential of the third makes it difficult to imagine. Can you think of a case where physical injury has been caused by non consentual envelopement?  Submitted on 2012/02/23 at 5:22 am | By Liz in reply to mhairi.  Rape can involve an object that is not a penis acting as the penetrator – dildo or whatever, why can’t envelopment involve an orifice that is not a vagina or anus? Besides if the man was unusually large, and the woman especially tiny i think forced penetration – especially of the anus could do sever bodily harm. I don’t care if this has actually happened, male rape is much less common than female rape , but we’re talking about definitions here. You claim envelopment shouldn’t be considered rape on the grounds that it cannot cause internal damage and severe bodily harm, but it certainly can, so your definition is faulty in this respect.  Submitted on 2012/02/23 at 6:18 am | by Admin in reply to liz.  An orifice such as…? Women regularly suffer serious intern injuries through rape. In the DRC a new word has been coined for women who are reraped after surgery.  Submitted on 2012/02/23 at 4:02 pm | by Liz in reply to mhairi.  Such as a hole in a wall, or a tube. Again, we are talking about definitions, not the distribution of what happens. Of course it’s more common for women to be injured by rape, because it’s more common for women to get raped in the first place. So what? That’s not a reason to alienate male rape victims, and diminish their experiences by a stubborn refusal to address their experience as *rape*. Again: ‘You claim envelopment shouldn’t be considered rape on the grounds that it cannot cause internal damage and severe bodily harm, but it certainly can, so your definition is faulty in this respect.’ I still feel the more important point is that it doesn’t matter whether some sort of assault occurs inside or outside of the body. What matters is the sensitivity/intimacy of the parts of the body that are assaulted. Your example of ‘well sticking my fingers in your mouth is worse than if I made you stick your fingers in my mouth’ is terribly faulty because it involves two entirely different body parts: fingers and mouth. Clearly the mouth is a more delicate/intimate area than the fingers. But I do not believe the vagina to be more intimate/delicate than a penis. I’d like to ask something though.If penetration is more *something* than envelopment, then is consensual intercourse more meaningful/powerful/intimate/intense etc. to women because being penetrated is fundamentally more intimate sacred thing than being enveloped? It seems like a necessary consequence, no? One that I would deny to the death, and I would hope you would too.  Submitted on 2012/02/23 at 4:12 pm by Admin in reply to Liz  Right. “Such as a hole in a wall, or a tube.” This is getting more and more and more convoluted to think up a senario in which forced envelopement could lead to injury. On the contrary forced penetration causes injuries requiring surgery daily.

Kirsty Kane
Kirsty Kane

In reference to the "Unwanted Envelopement Involves invasion of bodily space Can lead to minor external injuries Cannot lead to internal injuries Cannot lead to unwanted pregnancy Cannot cause death." I would like to point out that sexual assault can indeed lead to major internal and external injuries and can infact cause death. Have you considered that the weight of the person assaulting the victim could cause injury; being held down, strangled, suffocated are all things that can happen during a violent sexual attack. All forms of sexual violence cause severe mental and emotional issues which can lead to depression and often suicide. That is my personal experience, and my personal experience happened to me. Therefore I know what happened and nobody can try to argue or dissuade me to the contrary. As to other comments made, Sarah is my feminist sister and comrade. She took me in when I had nowhere else to go, she listened to me and did not judge, minimize or discredit anything that happened to me recently. Sexual violence is sexual violence that I know first hand.

admin
admin

I just feel that this is an MRA argument, and that its most likely use is that when a man is accused of rape - particularly in a domestic setting, they will make a counter allegation. This turns "You raped me" "No I didn't, I am innocent" Into "You raped me" "No I didnt, I am the victim". Given that women who are believed to have made false allegations are prosecuted at five times the rate that men are convicted of rape, what we might well see is rape victims being prosecuted for being rapists.

raddledoldtart
raddledoldtart

Seriously though, I watched and admired the tenacity with which Mhairi pursued that argument on Clarissa's blog, even while suspecting that there wasn't much chance of "winning hearts&minds" amongst those fawning acolytes. My first instinct was indeed that the Canadian law could be a step forward for increasing report rates of rapes and sexual assaults (maybe even conviction rates), and possibly a way to mainstream challenge "poor sexual etiquette". But, as I can't believe that trusting an existing judiciary to always take into account that vaginal rape with a penis carries with it the additional trauma of potential pregnancy risk and possible future infertility, is a good idea. And if a formal framework is set in place to recognise this (e.g. set sentencing rules or a distinct legal charge such as "aggravated sexual assault") then I would feel that the message being sent to potential rapists was that rape of an infertile (olde?r) woman or anal rape (my own observation has also been that anal sex has become more mainstream in the last decade) were the "cheaper" options. Neither of these possibilities look to me like a step up for womankind.

admin
admin

awww....thats nice of you! I love jelly, ice cream and bouncy castles!

raddledoldtart
raddledoldtart

Btw, Mhairi, you're welcome at any of my parties, as long as you like jelly, ice cream & bouncy castles...

Laura McKeon
Laura McKeon

What I can see coming through most strongly in this thread is people's outrage at having their experiences defined for them. If it is heartless and insensitive to ascribe to a specific definition of the word 'rape', because it downplays the severity of experiences not currently covered by the term, is it not also insensitive to insist to someone that they have been raped? I mean to assume that if a woman describes her experience as assault (or whatever word they use), rather than 'rape', that they don't understand what has happened to them. I wish that people would stop claiming a higher understanding of these issues based on personal experience. We are all equally vulnerable to these types of attack. Do not assume that other women have not experienced these crimes; they may simply not want to expose themselves to the kind of nit-picking and bullying that goes on, im sorry to say, as much in 'feminist' circles as anywhere else. Does no one else find it contradictory to complain of bullying and a lack of emotional insight, then to call someone revolting and ban them from social events, in the same thread (which parties are you laying claim to, by the way? so i know which ones to avoid). If something horrible happens to me, which of my 'comrades' should I turn to for support? The ones who have never shown any willingness to engage in civil discussions, the ones who constantly claim to speak for me but refuse to be questioned? The ones who *facepalm* and make cruel accusations (online, never in person)? Or will I turn to someone who is prepared to listen, and to treat me with decency and respect? I honestly couldn't care less what your definition of rape is: I care about whether you are ready to be kind to women, even the ones who disagree wth you. I would love to see women fighting together for concrete political gains, to actually address social roles instead of engaging in increasingly elitist and confusing discussions of constantly changing definitions. Are we aiming for inclusivity? Or do we want feminism to be a microcosm of the sectarian left? So we can all split off into minute cells, each claiming total purity of ideology, before even engaging as a movement in any real sense. I am a queer feminist, though I'm sure you'd disagree. All of these terms (in fact, words generally) exist to enable us to discuss things openly and constructively together, they do not belong to you. If you are not prepared to engage in a discussion, your definitions are completely irrelevant.

admin
admin

Comments were lost on this blogpost in the transition from Random Musings to 2nd Council House of Virgo. I cant transfer them over without losing the new ones, but as a discussion on this issue has come up again, I am transferring them over manually. Sorry about the formatting.

admin
admin

Comments were lost on this blogpost in the transition from Random Musings to 2nd Council House of Virgo. I cant transfer them over without losing the new ones, but as a discussion on this issue has come up again, I am transferring them over manually. Sorry about the formatting. Submitted on 2012/02/23 at 4:35 am by Liz Your assertions about bodily harm are incorrect. It is possible to seriously injure a woman via rape when something too large for her is forcibly inserted inside her. Sorry to get graphic, but it is also of course possible to seriously injure a male by forcing his genitalia into a hole that is too small. And perhaps he could die by hemorrhaging if the act was violent enough as it has to be for a woman to die from a rape. This of course would as well do internal damage to the male genitalia and urinary tract. I think your distinction of whether something is outside or inside the body as being the guide to being invaded or having its space invaded is fundamentally misguided as well. Is ‘envelopment’ wrong because it takes away the space around the penis? No. Of course not. Is traditional rape wrong because it invades her? No, I wouldn’t say so either. I would say it more has to do with using someone’s genitalia against their will, humiliating them, and taking control of them regardless of if this genitalia happens to be inside or outside of the victim’s body. Submitted on 2012/02/23 at 5:05 am | by Admin In reply to liz. The instances that I can think of where a vagina or anus may be too small to accomodate a penis are: 1. Babies and young children 2. Infibulated women 3. People with congenial dwarfism. Of these, the first is statutory rape, so the male cannot be considered forced;the second causes high levels of pain to the woman, and is difficult to achieve envelopement, and the size and strength differential of the third makes it difficult to imagine. Can you think of a case where physical injury has been caused by non consentual envelopement? Submitted on 2012/02/23 at 5:22 am | By Liz in reply to mhairi. Rape can involve an object that is not a penis acting as the penetrator – dildo or whatever, why can’t envelopment involve an orifice that is not a vagina or anus? Besides if the man was unusually large, and the woman especially tiny i think forced penetration – especially of the anus could do sever bodily harm. I don’t care if this has actually happened, male rape is much less common than female rape , but we’re talking about definitions here. You claim envelopment shouldn’t be considered rape on the grounds that it cannot cause internal damage and severe bodily harm, but it certainly can, so your definition is faulty in this respect. Submitted on 2012/02/23 at 6:18 am | by Admin in reply to liz. An orifice such as…? Women regularly suffer serious intern injuries through rape. In the DRC a new word has been coined for women who are reraped after surgery. Submitted on 2012/02/23 at 4:02 pm | by Liz in reply to mhairi. Such as a hole in a wall, or a tube. Again, we are talking about definitions, not the distribution of what happens. Of course it’s more common for women to be injured by rape, because it’s more common for women to get raped in the first place. So what? That’s not a reason to alienate male rape victims, and diminish their experiences by a stubborn refusal to address their experience as *rape*. Again: ‘You claim envelopment shouldn’t be considered rape on the grounds that it cannot cause internal damage and severe bodily harm, but it certainly can, so your definition is faulty in this respect.’ I still feel the more important point is that it doesn’t matter whether some sort of assault occurs inside or outside of the body. What matters is the sensitivity/intimacy of the parts of the body that are assaulted. Your example of ‘well sticking my fingers in your mouth is worse than if I made you stick your fingers in my mouth’ is terribly faulty because it involves two entirely different body parts: fingers and mouth. Clearly the mouth is a more delicate/intimate area than the fingers. But I do not believe the vagina to be more intimate/delicate than a penis. I’d like to ask something though.If penetration is more *something* than envelopment, then is consensual intercourse more meaningful/powerful/intimate/intense etc. to women because being penetrated is fundamentally more intimate sacred thing than being enveloped? It seems like a necessary consequence, no? One that I would deny to the death, and I would hope you would too. Submitted on 2012/02/23 at 4:12 pm by Admin in reply to Liz Right. “Such as a hole in a wall, or a tube.” This is getting more and more and more convoluted to think up a senario in which forced envelopement could lead to injury. On the contrary forced penetration causes injuries requiring surgery daily. Submitted on 2012/02/23 at 8:22 pm by someoneyouknow Hi Mhairi We know each other, I am a woman you know. I’m not identifying myself to you because I want to protect my experiences and my identity. I am horrified by this. Utterly horrified. I was raped as a child by another female and It has stayed with me forever as a complete and utter violation of everything i am. At that point of human degradation, it would not have been made worse by penetration. I think your way of thinking excludes anyone who has suffered sexual degradation in ways such as oral rape – which IS RAPE. Anyone who has suffered it will agree that it is not about the “scale” which has been invented by human reasoning and norms, rather than based on any biological reasons. Basically what I’m saying is that what people find most invasive can vary from person to person. For rape cases, there is NO one-size fits all. It’s dependant on the emotional fallout. Physical injury is a horrific by product of sexual violence but it should NOT define what is and isn’t rape. If a woman considers what was done to her as rape, it is our duty as feminist sisters to defend and protect that. It is hateful of women to assume that people would “cry rape” or it “broadens the definition”. The definition of rape is changing to accommodate the actual real experiences of women and I support that. I think this facade of pretending to examine the linguistics of a word is insulting. It’s the kind of thing that men do to women all the time to silence them. Oh and need i remind you that set definitions of words is a seriously fucking bureaucratic. The people who make the rules to these words are either living in a different time period or men. Why is there any need to be pedantic when we’re dealing with a word that, as a feminist, i consider to be defined by the experiences of those who have suffered in this way. If you think calling a “grope” rape is trivialising rape then i put this to you: I think “sexual assault” trivialises these behaviours. In horrific attacks, when these awful sexual abusers are charged with “one aacount of rape and 3 accounts of sexual assault,” I think that the victim would consider every assault to be rape. Any other one-off groping of the secondary sexual organs i doubt most women would say it was rape over sexual assault, but if they consider it to be severe enough to be rape, then I’m going to take their experience for their definition. No matter what this article etc is dressed up to be, this is you telling a lot of rape victims: “You have not been raped. Your view of your experience is invalid,” and presenting some bullshit rules to back up your statement. Submitted on 2012/02/24 at 2:15 am | By Admin in reply to Someone you know. I’m sorry to hear of your experiences, it must be horrible to go through that. But I stand by my position that while sexual assault can be as traumatising as rape, there is a difference. The difference is that rape involves penetration; and that unwanted penetration is fundamentally more invasive that sexual assault which does not involve penetration. Once you get rid of that distinction, you effectively lose rape as a distinct crime – as is the case in Canada. By not distinguishing between sexual assault involving penetration and sexual assault without penetration, you deny the added risks of bodily injury and in the case of penile-vaginal rape, unwanted pregnancy as well as the additional violation of something breaching your bodily boundaries. Submitted on 2012/02/26 at 4:25 pm by Sarah I can’t believe you actually willingly crossed the boundary here from theoretical harm to real harm. This might be a game to you but it isn’t in the real world. Saying straight faced to a rape survivor that they haven’t been raped is absolutely disgusting. Survivors have to deal with enough people not believing them, out of ignorance and out of spite, and further triggering them, without it coming from so called feminists too. You revolt me. Never speak to me again, I’d appreciate it if you stopped inviting yourself to our parties too. Don’t care if you publish this or not, so long as you don’t contact me again. Submitted on 2012/02/26 at 8:55 pm | by Admin In reply to Sarah. Goodness. I would have spoken to you personally, given such a personalised posting, but I am quite happy to respect your wishes not to be contacted. I know of no country in the world which recognises non-penetrative sexual assault as rape, as such my view is entirely mainstream, and outwith men’s rights activists and some branches of queer theory, I am unaware of any analysis of gender politics which supports such a broadening of its definition. The point of making a distinction between rape and sexual assault is that it recognises the additional risks of penetration. Without that distinction, you are effectively relabelling all sexual assault as rape; you can do that of course, but what you will end up with is the Canadian system where there is no rape, just sexual assault, merely called rape. In my opinion that’s a very dangerous route to go down and is far more likely to lead to the additional harms of non-consensual penetration not being recognised or appreciated. Submitted on 2012/02/27 at 10:47 am | By Someoneyouknow in reply to mhairi. The case with Canada should be asessed, but it should be the government’s dealing with cases like this that should be asessed NOT diminish the trauma pf women who have suffered rape in this way. You can happily sit there and tell me I was never raped because it will never affect you. It HAS affected me. It has made me feel again like no one will ever believe me and I will always be doubted despite the fact that i know it happened. I hope that you’re happy that you’ve upset a lot of women over this. Congrats, your pedantry has won you the battle of being a bully and a definer of people’s experiences. If you fee that it’s okay for you to do that to other women then I don’t want any more contact with you. This is shocking and very upsetting. Submitted on 2012/02/27 at 12:43 pm | By Admin In reply to Someone you know.. The prosecution of rape and sexual assault is a government responsibility, thus it is the government’s dealing with such matters which is under discussion. The argument of the MRA’s is to effectively get rid of the crime of rape, by amalgamating it with sexual assault, and calling it rape. I’m am disappointed you get the impression that I don’t believe your experiences, as I said above, I am sorry to hear of them, and appreciate that they must be traumatic – legally however they are not rape. If the perp was tried for rape they would get an instant not-guilty. This is not pedantry but legal fact. You clearly believe that legal fact should change to accommodate your experiences within the crime of rape. I believe such a change would be dangerous, as there are additional harms of penetration which would then not be legally recognised. I’m sorry you feel I have been bullying you. In order to find out what I may have done that could be construed as bullying, I took a careful look at both the post and the comments to see if there was anything which could be considered to be harassment, threatening behaviour or behaviour designed to embarrass or target someone. While I can identify these behaviours in some of the comments on this post, I cannot find them in what I have written.

Murdo Ritchie
Murdo Ritchie

I'd need to delve into case law, but I'm sure that off the top of my head, I can remember there being two convictions of women for rape when they assisted men during rapes over the last thirty years.

Murdo Ritchie
Murdo Ritchie

I don’t know what is the current law on rape. It has changed a lot over the years. How much it’s stayed the same is unknown to me. From memory, I remember being taught that penetration in itself did not constitute rape, but that it also required the victim to be injured or in distress as well. Again, from memory, I’m sure there were a few scandals regarding cases being dismissed for this reason. It has always been the case that a woman can be convicted of rape if she assists a man in carrying one. There have been quite a few convictions for this. This was a law in desperate need of changes, I hope it’s better than I remember.

admin
admin

In Scotland,women cannot be arrested, tried or convicted of rape. Personally I think that is wrong, I think women *can* rape through impliment, because I see the key act of rape as being unwanted penetration. I dont agree that the key act is sexual activity - many unwanted penetrations take place outwith a sexual context state torture, warzones - even in the classic stranger rape, although sexual gratification may be the motive, the act is generally unsexualised. If you define rape in the way that you have done above, you effectively include all sexual assault within the definition of rape. You say that its not up to me to decide whether or not someone has been raped. You're right, its for the law to decide and if I was called as a jury member my finding would be based on the law that I was expected to be judging on. Which is why the legal definition is so critical. We currently have a conviction rate of rape of less than 5%, with between 70%-90% of rapes (under the current definition of rape as penetration by penis) going unreported. This is the primary issue with rape - that it happens, it is commonplace and it is both not-reported and has no consequence.

B.
B.

I agree that women are raped more often than men, but you can't then deny the minority of men who have been raped by women or women who have been raped by women, the right to call what happened to them rape. To do so would be outrageous - but it seems you're fine with that. Rape = your body has been violated sexually without your consent. To take sex out of the equation, would surely just make it violence. If it's got nothing to do with sexual activity, as you're suggesting, then surely no one gets raped. Which is again, ridiculous. It is not up to you to decide whether someone has or has not been raped, understand this please.

B.
B.

*Facepalm* I think this post is rather dissmissive of something quite important. Feelings. We're human beings and we all have them. If a person FEELS they have been raped, then they have been invaded. Full stop. There is no need for this post, and dismissal of entire groups of people. For instance: those raped by women. You'll see I've used the word raped, because, if that's what the VICTIM feels happened to them, that is what happened. Also, 'Unwanted Envelopement' as you like to call it, could result in death. How you think otherwise is beyond me. I think you're looking at this from a very closed minded perspective and it's made me think of you, and your blog in a completely different, quite dim light. I hope you re-think your opinions on this one, because they're wrong.

mhairimcalpine
mhairimcalpine moderator

@LostToTheSilence 

I'm sorry to hear of your experience.  Reading between the lines, I am assuming that you are referring to a situation where a woman  forced you to penetrate her against your wishes.  I don't consider that rape as you were not penetrated.  

1. You state that you "didn't want her to get pregnant and "your vote counts too", only women who are penetrated by males don't have that "vote". Unwanted vaginal penetration of a fertile female by a male can lead to pregnancy, regardless of whether or not they want to get pregnant.

2. Yes, penile fracture can occur.  I cant say I know much about it but from my quick reading on the subject, it seems to be an injury which can occur during sexual activity, but not as a result of penetrating, so being forced to penetrate is not a risk factor for penile fracture.

3. You state that your life would have been over had she received serious injuries, I cannot see how her being injured would have caused you harm, unless you are suggesting that she would physically retaliate, which is not the same as an injury being caused *by* a rape, but a seperate attack.

4.  If you kill yourself, you yourself are causing your own death.  Many people (both men and women) have died as a direct consequence of being unwantedly penetrated.  The most recent high profile case was in India, where a woman penetrated by an iron bar died as a result of the consequent internal injuries.

5. No, I think that all cases of unconsensual penetration is rape, the additional risks involved mean that we need a distinction between rape (unwanted penetration) and other forms of sexual assault which do not involve penetration.

I accept that men can be and are raped, if they are unconsensually penetrated.

mhairimcalpine
mhairimcalpine

@LostToTheSilence  I'm sorry to hear of your experience.  Reading between the lines, I am assuming that you are referring to a situation where a woman  forced you to penetrate her against your wishes.  I don't consider that rape as you were not penetrated.   1. You state that you "didn't want her to get pregnant and "your vote counts too", only women who are penetrated by males don't have that "vote". Unwanted vaginal penetration of a fertile female by a male can lead to pregnancy, regardless of whether or not they want to get pregnant. 2. Yes, penile fracture can occur.  I cant say I know much about it but from my quick reading on the subject, it seems to be an injury which can occur during sexual activity, but not as a result of penetrating, so being forced to penetrate is not a risk factor for penile fracture. 3. You state that your life would have been over had she received serious injuries, I cannot see how her being injured would have caused you harm, unless you are suggesting that she would physically retaliate, which is not the same as an injury being caused *by* a rape, but a seperate attack. 4.  If you kill yourself, you yourself are causing your own death.  Many people (both men and women) have died as a direct consequence of being unwantedly penetrated.  The most recent high profile case was in India, where a woman penetrated by an iron bar died as a result of the consequent internal injuries. 5. No, I think that all cases of unconsensual penetration is rape, the additional risks involved mean that we need a distinction between rape (unwanted penetration) and other forms of sexual assault which do not involve penetration. I accept that men can be and are raped, if they are unconsensually penetrated.

admin
admin

Yes, being suffocated, strangled and being held down can all lead to injuries with or without an accompanying sexual assault. The distinction that I am making is between envelopment and penetration. All forms of sexual violence cause mental and emotional issues, but these are not necessarily all severe. depending on the incident, the vulnerability of the victim, the relationship between the victim and predator, the wider social context and the country's laws the impact on the victim will vary. For example, it is unlikely that a healthy adult living in a Western society with a good social support network would be severely affected by a stranger running their hand along their thigh on public transport - its horrible, and would make them feel icky, but the emotional impact would usually be overcome within a day or two. Sexual assault can lead to depression and suicide with or with without penetration, but as above it depends on a number of factors. Of course your personal experience happened to you - that is the nature of personal experience, and as I have said before, sexual assault can be as traumatising as rape, however, a penetrative sexual assault is a specific form sexual violence and as such it requires a distinct term to describe it. The question then becomes if we remove the requirement for penetration from the definition of rape, what then is the legal definition of rape? So far, the only two defintions which have been offered (but more are welcomed and I would be interested to read material from queer feminists who disagree with my definition of penetration being a necessary component of rape) are: 1. Rape is unconsensual physical contact where the victim feels that the act has had significant enough impact to be considered rape. 2. Rape is enforced sexual activity where the victim is in fear of their predicament. The first definition is problematic as it is defined by victim impact. That would make rape a unique crime in that it was not the act done which determines the crime, but the impact on the victim. Although victim impact is used in sentencing, I cannot think of any other crime where victim impact is used as a judge of whether someone is guilty of a crime or not. You could argue that it is victim impact which defines the crime of murder however there is also an objective event (victim death) which is used in the definition. I also think it would have a disasterous effect on already ridiculously low conviction rates, as women are very reluctant to describe unconsensual penetration, particularly outwith the classic stranger in the bushes scenario, as rape. The second definition is problematic as it situates the crime of rape within a narrative of sexual activity, however as I have previously pointed out, not all rape occurs within that context, and indeed some of the worst instances of widespread rape - Nanking for example - have no sexual context. I am glad that you have a feminist sister and comrade that you value and who shows solidarity when it is required. I am unclear which comment you are referring to other than my statement that I would respect her wishes not to be contacted directly which would have been my natural instinct given the very personalised comment that she left above on the 26th February.

mhairimcalpine
mhairimcalpine moderator

Submitted on 2012/02/23 at 8:22 pm by someoneyouknow 

Hi Mhairi 

We know each other, I am a woman you know. I’m not identifying myself to you because I want to protect my experiences and my identity. I am horrified by this. Utterly horrified. I was raped as a child by another female and It has stayed with me forever as a complete and utter violation of everything i am. At that point of human degradation, it would not have been made worse by penetration. I think your way of thinking excludes anyone who has suffered sexual degradation in ways such as oral rape – which IS RAPE. Anyone who has suffered it will agree that it is not about the “scale” which has been invented by human reasoning and norms, rather than based on any biological reasons. Basically what I’m saying is that what people find most invasive can vary from person to person. For rape cases, there is NO one-size fits all. It’s dependant on the emotional fallout. Physical injury is a horrific by product of sexual violence but it should NOT define what is and isn’t rape. If a woman considers what was done to her as rape, it is our duty as feminist sisters to defend and protect that. It is hateful of women to assume that people would “cry rape” or it “broadens the definition”. The definition of rape is changing to accommodate the actual real experiences of women and I support that. I think this facade of pretending to examine the linguistics of a word is insulting. It’s the kind of thing that men do to women all the time to silence them. Oh and need i remind you that set definitions of words is a seriously fucking bureaucratic. The people who make the rules to these words are either living in a different time period or men. Why is there any need to be pedantic when we’re dealing with a word that, as a feminist, i consider to be defined by the experiences of those who have suffered in this way. If you think calling a “grope” rape is trivialising rape then i put this to you: I think “sexual assault” trivialises these behaviours. In horrific attacks, when these awful sexual abusers are charged with “one aacount of rape and 3 accounts of sexual assault,” I think that the victim would consider every assault to be rape. Any other one-off groping of the secondary sexual organs i doubt most women would say it was rape over sexual assault, but if they consider it to be severe enough to be rape, then I’m going to take their experience for their definition. No matter what this article etc is dressed up to be, this is you telling a lot of rape victims: “You have not been raped. Your view of your experience is invalid,” and presenting some bullshit rules to back up your statement. 

 Submitted on 2012/02/24 at 2:15 am | By Admin in reply to Someone you know. 

 I’m sorry to hear of your experiences, it must be horrible to go through that. But I stand by my position that while sexual assault can be as traumatising as rape, there is a difference. The difference is that rape involves penetration; and that unwanted penetration is fundamentally more invasive that sexual assault which does not involve penetration. Once you get rid of that distinction, you effectively lose rape as a distinct crime – as is the case in Canada. By not distinguishing between sexual assault involving penetration and sexual assault without penetration, you deny the added risks of bodily injury and in the case of penile-vaginal rape, unwanted pregnancy as well as the additional violation of something breaching your bodily boundaries. 

Submitted on 2012/02/26 at 4:25 pm by Sarah 

I can’t believe you actually willingly crossed the boundary here from theoretical harm to real harm. This might be a game to you but it isn’t in the real world. Saying straight faced to a rape survivor that they haven’t been raped is absolutely disgusting. Survivors have to deal with enough people not believing them, out of ignorance and out of spite, and further triggering them, without it coming from so called feminists too. You revolt me. Never speak to me again, I’d appreciate it if you stopped inviting yourself to our parties too. Don’t care if you publish this or not, so long as you don’t contact me again. 

Submitted on 2012/02/26 at 8:55 pm | by Admin In reply to Sarah. 

Goodness. I would have spoken to you personally, given such a personalised posting, but I am quite happy to respect your wishes not to be contacted. I know of no country in the world which recognises non-penetrative sexual assault as rape, as such my view is entirely mainstream, and outwith men’s rights activists and some branches of queer theory, I am unaware of any analysis of gender politics which supports such a broadening of its definition. The point of making a distinction between rape and sexual assault is that it recognises the additional risks of penetration. Without that distinction, you are effectively relabelling all sexual assault as rape; you can do that of course, but what you will end up with is the Canadian system where there is no rape, just sexual assault, merely called rape. In my opinion that’s a very dangerous route to go down and is far more likely to lead to the additional harms of non-consensual penetration not being recognised or appreciated. 

Submitted on 2012/02/27 at 10:47 am | By Someoneyouknow in reply to mhairi. 

The case with Canada should be asessed, but it should be the government’s dealing with cases like this that should be asessed NOT diminish the trauma pf women who have suffered rape in this way. You can happily sit there and tell me I was never raped because it will never affect you. It HAS affected me. It has made me feel again like no one will ever believe me and I will always be doubted despite the fact that i know it happened. I hope that you’re happy that you’ve upset a lot of women over this. Congrats, your pedantry has won you the battle of being a bully and a definer of people’s experiences. If you fee that it’s okay for you to do that to other women then I don’t want any more contact with you. This is shocking and very upsetting. 

Submitted on 2012/02/27 at 12:43 pm | By Admin In reply to Someone you know.. 

The prosecution of rape and sexual assault is a government responsibility, thus it is the government’s dealing with such matters which is under discussion. The argument of the MRA’s is to effectively get rid of the crime of rape, by amalgamating it with sexual assault, and calling it rape. I’m am disappointed you get the impression that I don’t believe your experiences, as I said above, I am sorry to hear of them, and appreciate that they must be traumatic – legally however they are not rape. If the perp was tried for rape they would get an instant not-guilty. This is not pedantry but legal fact. You clearly believe that legal fact should change to accommodate your experiences within the crime of rape. I believe such a change would be dangerous, as there are additional harms of penetration which would then not be legally recognised. I’m sorry you feel I have been bullying you. In order to find out what I may have done that could be construed as bullying, I took a careful look at both the post and the comments to see if there was anything which could be considered to be harassment, threatening behaviour or behaviour designed to embarrass or target someone. While I can identify these behaviours in some of the comments on this post, I cannot find them in what I have written.

mhairimcalpine
mhairimcalpine moderator

Submitted on 2012/02/23 at 4:35 am by Liz

Your assertions about bodily harm are incorrect. It is possible to seriously injure a woman via rape when something too large for her is forcibly inserted inside her. Sorry to get graphic, but it is also of course possible to seriously injure a male by forcing his genitalia into a hole that is too small. And perhaps he could die by hemorrhaging if the act was violent enough as it has to be for a woman to die from a rape. This of course would as well do internal damage to the male genitalia and urinary tract. I think your distinction of whether something is outside or inside the body as being the guide to being invaded or having its space invaded is fundamentally misguided as well. Is ‘envelopment’ wrong because it takes away the space around the penis? No. Of course not. Is traditional rape wrong because it invades her? No, I wouldn’t say so either. I would say it more has to do with using someone’s genitalia against their will, humiliating them, and taking control of them regardless of if this genitalia happens to be inside or outside of the victim’s body. 

Submitted on 2012/02/23 at 5:05 am | by Admin In reply to liz. 

The instances that I can think of where a vagina or anus may be too small to accomodate a penis are:

1. Babies and young children 

2. Infibulated women 

3. People with congenial dwarfism. 

Of these, the first is statutory rape, so the male cannot be considered forced;the second causes high levels of pain to the woman, and is difficult to achieve envelopement, and the size and strength differential of the third makes it difficult to imagine. Can you think of a case where physical injury has been caused by non consentual envelopement? 

Submitted on 2012/02/23 at 5:22 am | By Liz in reply to mhairi. 

Rape can involve an object that is not a penis acting as the penetrator – dildo or whatever, why can’t envelopment involve an orifice that is not a vagina or anus? Besides if the man was unusually large, and the woman especially tiny i think forced penetration – especially of the anus could do sever bodily harm. I don’t care if this has actually happened, male rape is much less common than female rape , but we’re talking about definitions here. You claim envelopment shouldn’t be considered rape on the grounds that it cannot cause internal damage and severe bodily harm, but it certainly can, so your definition is faulty in this respect. 

Submitted on 2012/02/23 at 6:18 am | by Admin in reply to liz. 

An orifice such as…? Women regularly suffer serious intern injuries through rape. In the DRC a new word has been coined for women who are reraped after surgery. 

Submitted on 2012/02/23 at 4:02 pm | by Liz in reply to mhairi. 

Such as a hole in a wall, or a tube. Again, we are talking about definitions, not the distribution of what happens. Of course it’s more common for women to be injured by rape, because it’s more common for women to get raped in the first place. So what? That’s not a reason to alienate male rape victims, and diminish their experiences by a stubborn refusal to address their experience as *rape*. Again: ‘You claim envelopment shouldn’t be considered rape on the grounds that it cannot cause internal damage and severe bodily harm, but it certainly can, so your definition is faulty in this respect.’ I still feel the more important point is that it doesn’t matter whether some sort of assault occurs inside or outside of the body. What matters is the sensitivity/intimacy of the parts of the body that are assaulted. Your example of ‘well sticking my fingers in your mouth is worse than if I made you stick your fingers in my mouth’ is terribly faulty because it involves two entirely different body parts: fingers and mouth. Clearly the mouth is a more delicate/intimate area than the fingers. But I do not believe the vagina to be more intimate/delicate than a penis. I’d like to ask something though.If penetration is more *something* than envelopment, then is consensual intercourse more meaningful/powerful/intimate/intense etc. to women because being penetrated is fundamentally more intimate sacred thing than being enveloped? It seems like a necessary consequence, no? One that I would deny to the death, and I would hope you would too. 

Submitted on 2012/02/23 at 4:12 pm by Admin in reply to Liz 

Right. “Such as a hole in a wall, or a tube.” This is getting more and more and more convoluted to think up a senario in which forced envelopement could lead to injury. On the contrary forced penetration causes injuries requiring surgery daily. 


admin
admin

You are right, it did used to require force (injury and visible distress being seen as signs of this). I dont see how under Scottish Law a wo\man could be convicted of an offence that s/he assisted in regardless of what the offense was.

admin
admin

You are right, it did used to require force (injury and visible distress being seen as signs of this). I dont see how under Scottish Law a woman could be convicted of an offence that s/he assisted in regardless of what the offense was.

admin
admin

This is ultimately a legal question. Do you have a distinct crime of rape - or do you have a generalised crime of sexual violence (as they do in Canada) whether you call it sexual assault or rape. And if you are going to distinguish between sexual assault and rape, on what basis do you do so. Doing so on the basis of people's feelings about the act is unproductive - as crimes are set by actions not by effects which are taken into account in sentancing. So one person may be more affected by a sexual assault which does not involve penetration than someone else by a sexual assault which does, just as someone may be more affected by a general assault than someone else who has suffered grevious bodily harm, based on their resiliance and circumstances. Making no distinction between the two means that they are legally equivalent, which does not take into account the additional risks associated with sexual assault by penetration. I really struggle to find any circumstances in which unwanted envelopement could result in death, but people can and do die through unwanted penetration horrifically frequently particularly in warzones.

B.
B.

How could you stand in front of a rape victim and tell them that what THEY WENT THROUGH wasn't rape at all? You'd have to be completely heartless.

B.
B.

I see there is no making you see sense, so maybe I shouldn't even try, but the law is fucking useless for many things - and it's understanding of rape/ prosecuting techniques for rapists are some of these things. I do not think it's your place to be telling victims of rape/sexual assault what did or did not happen to them. Do you not think these victims have enough on their plate without having to deal with ignorant people like you telling them what they experienced was not in fact rape (even though you were not involved in the slightest in their ordeal?) The law often leaves people distraught when it refuses to see something that was a terrifying ordeal as rape. Whether you’re male or female, if your body has been invaded sexually in any way, without your consent, this is rape. Instead of spending your time telling victims of these horrific crimes that what happened to THEM was not actually what they KNOW it to be, maybe you could spend your time HELPING them get back on track. Telling someone they were not raped doesn't benefit anyone. So what's your fucking point?

admin
admin

Internationally there are three ways in which rape is treated - Scots Law - penetration by penis - WHO definition - penetration - Canada - no distinct crime of rape, amalgamated with sexual assault. I think that scots law is inadequate, and that it should be brought into line with the majority of other countries in recognising rape by impliment. Mens Rights Activists are currently pushing for a Canadian approach, based on non-consensual sexual activity to be classified as rape. I'll repeat the link in the blog here. http://www.avoiceformen.com/mens-rights/false-rape-culture/manufacturing-female-victimhood-marginalizing-vulnerable-men/ They allege that the requirement for penetration victimises men, who they claim should rape be redefined as non-consensual sexual activity and quote stats based on those reporting non-consensual sexual activity, which are: 1% - female perp, female victim 49% - male perp, female victim 10% - male perp, male victim 40% - female perp, male victim breakdown of victims 50% male; 50% female breakdown of perps 40% female; 60% male Go down this road, and you are basically stating that men are raped at an equal rate to women, and that the perpetrators of their rapes are four times more likely to be a woman than a man. I'm not doubting that there is unwanted sexual activity perpetrated by women, what I am doubting is that men and women are raped in equal numbers and that rapists are (almost) gender balanced, which would be the case should rape be redefined to get rid of the requirement of penetration. Moreover by changing rape from unwanted penetration to unwanted sexual activity you would be eliminating much of the worst forms of rape, perpetrated as part of warzones and state institution, which are not part of sexual activity, but systematic torture. Rape is a crime of violence with a theme of power, not a theme of sexual activity. The violence associated with unwanted envelopment is not the same as unwanted penetration, while it is sexual assault, it is not rape as it does not carry the same level of violence or risk as unwanted penetration. International definitions of rape recognise this and so distinguish between sexual violence involving penetration and sexual violence not involving penetration. Getting rid of that distinction is a dangerous route to go down.

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