Monday, February 22, 2010

"But why would a woman withdraw consent at the last minute?"

[Possible trigger warning]

I keep hearing it. Time and again, in the newspapers, on the television, over the radio. 'If a woman is in bed with a man and suddenly says no, that doesn't count as rape.' 'That's just provocative!' 'Unfair! Capricious! Conniving!' These people literally cannot understand why a woman would want to withdraw consent after she's started getting it on with a man. Obviously she just withdrew consent in her mind so she could then undergo months of humiliation in court with a slim possibility of getting him punished for rape! Yeah, that's gotta be it.

If you really, totally do not get it at all, here is but one scenario I can think of off the top of my head.

Say I was going out one night with a guy, and things were going well, and we decide, 'Hey, let's do it.' And it's all going well until we get down to the act of intercourse, and I notice he hasn't produced a condom. So I remind him to put one on, maybe offer him one thinking he doesn't have any, and he refuses because, I don't know, he doesn't like the way they feel. Or maybe - and this does happen - he starts off using a condom but then removes it halfway through before trying to continue.

That's a deal breaker, right there. We can continue doing other things which don't carry any health risks, but those genitals aren't going near mine without protection. Aside from increasing the risk of unplanned pregnancy, it's for the benefit of both partners' health - he can't be certain that I've been for a sexual health check-up and I am equally unclear as to what his status is. Unless I am absolutely 100% certain as to whether or not someone has a sexually transmittable disease I don't want to run the risk of contracting one. So at this point, whether or not I have already removed clothes, if he appears willing to run the risk of either contracting something or passing something on to me (neither's a good sign - even if I know I'm clean, if he's willing to run the risk of catching something then there's a fair chance he's run that risk countless times before with others) then I'm out. Consent withdrawn. No condom, no intercourse.

That's just ONE reason that a woman might back out at the last minute. It's not flighty or unpredictable, it's just plain common sense. There are many other reasons for such an action, say, not wanting to participate in a particular sexual act that he's suddenly insisting upon. Maybe it's HURTING and she wants to stop.

It is not a crime to say, 'Actually, no, I'd really rather not do that.' And it is REALLY, REALLY easy to respect such a request. All you have to do is STOP. That's it. Clean conscience, nothing against you, you are safe in the knowledge that you haven't forced someone to do something against their will.

Anyone who carries on when their partner has said no (or even, 'No, no, no, no, no... alright, yes, just so you'll let me go home') has committed rape, whether or not the woman admitted to enjoying it, whether or not charges were brought against them. Sex without consent is, by definition, rape. In fact, even if the woman later says 'Well, it wasn't all that bad' - wouldn't you rather not run the risk of doing something she DOESN'T enjoy by just leaving it 'til later? Stopping might make it more likely that there'll be a 'next time'. Continuing means that you're a self-centred prick.


  1. continuing means you are a rapist.

  2. I've battled this one for years and years because I asked him to stop and he didn't.

    The thing which gets me is the way in which the whole sexual act is suddenly viewed as one whole package, like a pre-packed sandwich. If you've chosen to buy it then you must be happy eating all of it. Well that's your choice, no-one is going to force you to eat it You make a choice with every mouthful, you eat it a bit at a time and you assess what you want as you go along. Sex is the same when it's consensual. Someone who thinks that you just hoist the flag at the beginning and then anything goes after that is already of a rapist mentality, they have already missed the point of what consensual means.

    I applaude you for writing about this and I'm glad you didn't just stick to the point about contraception. It's a convenient way to make your point that there are reasons, but if this is the lasting impression that men can rape willy-nilly with condoms on, then that's not right either.

  3. My husband has pressured me into sex after I've said no for over twenty years. He doesn't do it anymore, as he is so tired and not feeling too well, but every time I read something like this, it reminds me that, by this definition, I have been raped hundreds of times, maybe over a thousand times. I honestly believe it is part of my struggle with depression. And I can't get my head around the notion that I've been raped that many times. I keep trying to shove it down, pretend it isn't so.

    Thank you for writing this.