No Such Thing as Date Rape

A student at American University in Washington, DC has written in his school newspaper that in his opinion, women who have been victims of date rape “asked for it.” Twenty years old and generously sharing his insight on the subjects of women in society, sexuality, and interpersonal communication, Alex Knepper writes:

“Let’s get this straight: any woman who heads to an EI [fraternity] party as an anonymous onlooker, drinks five cups of the jungle juice, and walks back to a boy’s room with him is indicating that she wants sex, OK?”

This presents an interesting interpretation of events. While on-campus socializing may be fine, he seems to think that going to a party at a frat house is engaging in foreplay. And drinking alcohol–a perfectly legal activity for anyone in this country over the age of 21–further “lubricates” the process, shall we say?

Then there’s the clincher: walking back to a boy’s room. This signals a woman’s desire for sex… how? Has the boy (we would hope for a man, but Knepper must know of what he speaks) become a mind-reader during the stroll through campus? Can he tell by looking that she is thinking, “I want to have sex with this guy as soon as we get to his room” ? Is there no other reason why she choose to spend time with him? I imagine that, if Knepper had asked some women what reasons they’ve had for going to a man’s room, he would have learned several.

If the confused young man in the above example wants to know what the enigmatic female is thinking, he should ask her. If he wants to know how the rest of the evening will proceed, he should ask her about that, too. He needs to hear her speak the words, “Yes, I want to have sex with you,” or “No, I don’t want to have sex with you.” Trying to guess her thoughts or interpret her actions leaves him open to gross misunderstanding–and to jail time. Rape is a crime, no matter how horny he may be.

As Katherine Hull, spokesperson for the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN) explains, the issue at the center of rape is consent: “Even if you drink and wear short skirts — that is not consent. Even if a woman gave consent previously, it does not mean consent for right now.” Further, she clarifies that consent can be compromised due to excessive alcohol or drug consumption. What this means for those who adhere to Mr. Knepper’s reasoning is, “If someone doesn’t have the capacity to consent, they can’t.” Therefore, the inability to say “no” should not be taken as “yes.” Rape is not excused when it is a crime of opportunity.

Knepper disagrees. He writes that women give “implied consent” by putting themselves in the “sexual arena” at a party where there are expectations of drinking and sex. He states, “In that situation, men can only know the information that is given to them.” My question is, why do these men have an expectation of sex? A party is just that–a party, a social event. It’s taking place in a frat house, not a brothel. If the entire evening is a set-up for having sex, why not just skip the small talk and the accoutrements, and cut right to the chase? Stand on the front porch and call out to all who pass by, “Hey! Wanna get laid? Come on in!” That way, the intent is clear, and no one can accuse anyone else of misunderstanding. Or, maybe the problem is with the expectations of these men who equate a woman’s presence at their little soiree as desire on her part to mate with them.

During training to be a RAD Women’s Self-Defense Instructor, my fellow candidates and I were presented with two scenarios. In the first, a man and a woman go out for dinner, then to a movie. Afterward, she walks with him to his apartment. Once inside, he rapes her. We were asked, “What’s this called?” Date rape?

In the second scenario, a man and a woman go out for dinner, then to a movie. Afterward, she walks with him to his apartment. Once inside, he murders her. We were asked, “What’s this called?” Date murder?? No. Murder is murder, regardless of the circumstances surrounding it. The same holds true for rape. “Sexual intercourse without clear consent” is rape–regardless of the circumstances surrounding it. Tacking on the word “date” does not lessen the violation, shock, fear, and betrayal of trust that a woman suffers at the hands of the rapist. Whether he jumped out at her from a dark alley or forced her onto the mattress in his dorm room, there is no such thing as “date” rape; there is only rape.

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5 Responses to “No Such Thing as Date Rape”

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