UPDATE (June 20): This piece will appear online tonight in the Alaska Dispatch and in print tomorrow.
I submitted this for publication in the Alaska Dispatch. In case they don't publish it (or even if they do) here it is in full:
The commentary by John Havelock in a recent Voices feature is premised on outdated and discredited myths about gender, rape, and consent.
They demand response and a counterpoint.
The first is the idea that sexual consent is "murky" or somehow "contextual." It is not. Sexual consent could not be more black and white. As a popular internet meme goes, if someone is not in a sufficiently lucid physical or mental state to consent to drink a cup of tea, they are not in a position to consent to sex. Anyone who has sex with a person in such a condition is by definition doing so without their consent. There is nothing subtle, murky, or contextual about it. The perpetrator is not entitled to a presumption of consent. That's backwards. The victim is entitled to a presumption of not being sexually violated.
The second is the idea that gender equality is somehow to blame for "confusion" and "ambiguity" in male and female relationships, with the suggestion being that this justifies or excuses rape. If someone commits murder, it's not "ambiguous" or "confusing." Likewise, there is nothing confusing or ambiguous about rape. Rape is a felony, sure as murder, burglary, or robbery. Alcohol should not mitigate rape any more than it does these other felonies, for the perpetrator or for the victim. Having sex with someone without their consent is rape. Period.
The third is the misconception that there are "degrees" or "types" of rape. That "fraternity rape" is somehow less "rapey" than "stranger with a gun rape." Again, this false categorization of the uniform reflects the myth that all rapists must fit a certain profile: they must be strangers with guns or knives; the way a cartoon thief might wear a striped jumper, an eye mask, and carry a sack of gold coins over his shoulder. But we all know criminals can take many forms, and we must overcome our own prejudicial biases and admit that to ourselves.
The fourth is the idea that women are disinterested in sex, or much less interested in it than men. If the sale of vibrators is any indication, that couldn't be further from the truth. The fact is that society shames women for wanting sex and trying to be on equal sexual footing with men. The notion that women and men have disproportionate "biological urges" for sex is both scientifically disproven and rooted in patriarchal, repressive myths about female sexuality.
The fifth is the idea that what women choose to wear should always be viewed in relation to a man's potential or actual response. Women dress for themselves. They should not (and indeed do not) dress simply to accommodate men. Rather, would-be rapists should be forced to accommodate a basic premise of the social contract: don't rape someone, no matter what she's wearing. And if you do, suffer real consequences as you would for committing any other felony. Not to mention, the whole "she was asking for it in a miniskirt" myth is utterly belied by the fact that many, many rape victims are raped while wearing baggy jeans and a sweatshirt, or, yes, even a "Hillary suit."
I agree with Mr. Havelock on one point: education is sorely needed in this area. That's abundantly clear, since an unconscious woman was raped behind a dumpster by an "all American golden boy," interrupted by two good Samaritans mid-attack, and yet the rapist received a six (actually likely three) month jail sentence that much of society still considers too harsh.
If an interrupted, unconscious dumpster rape is still not "rape" in the minds of individuals and in the collective mind of our judiciary, we all have a lot to learn.