Do you understand the meaning of consensual sex?
Rape within a marriage or relationship is still rape
If your internet connection is patchy in that cave you’ve been living in, here’s what you need to know: Sonam Kapoor just confessed during a chat show that she’d suffered sexual abuse as a kid. “I have been molested when I was younger and it’s traumatizing,” she revealed, when broaching the subject of consensual sex and abuse, even as Anushka Sharma chimed in that her mother would question her younger self if she had ever been touched inappropriately. While she wasn’t old enough to understand the significance of the questions, the fact remains that it is never too early to educate women.
And they aren’t the only ones: Westworld star Evan Rachel Wood has gone public with her experience of being raped, releasing a poignant confession on Twitter. Ahead of her interview with Rolling Stone, the actor chose to share the letter she had written to the magazine about the assault she faced in her early years.
— #EvanRachelWould (@evanrachelwood) November 28, 2016
If rape itself is still considered a taboo subject, the issue of sexual assault within a relationship — whether marriage or casual dating — is even more maligned and misunderstood. Actor and comedian Amy Schumer has gone on record to admit that she lost her virginity at the age of 17 to her boyfriend without her consent. And that it happened again with another partner who refused to stop when she said no. “My first sexual experience was not a good one. I didn’t think about it until I started reading my journal again. When it happened, I wrote about it almost like a throwaway: I looked down and realized he was inside me. He was saying, ‘I’m so sorry’ and ‘I can’t believe I did this’” she revealed in an interview with Marie Claire.
While Schumer doesn’t identify herself as a rape victim, her story speaks to the need of an informed understanding of consent. We’ll admit, it’s not just men who find the “no means no” rule confusing. You won’t have to look hard to find women within your social circle who think that dressing provocatively, getting drunk or flirting with men equals an invitation for sex.
To put it plainly, American athlete and human rights activist Deandre Levy wrote this easy-to-digest guide in an open letter for The Players’ Tribune earlier this year. We suggest you share this with as many men and women you know. Information is the first step to education.
How to tell the difference between consensual sex and rape
“What if a woman says yes to letting a handful of strangers engage sexually with her while she’s under the influence of alcohol?
That’s called a gang rape.
What if everyone else was also drunk?
Still a gang rape.
What if everyone was sober, but she said yes — a response that was likely prompted by her fear of the many men in the room?
Yes, still rape.
What if she initially said no, but after persistent pushing, she eventually says yes?
This is sexual coercion and still qualifies as rape.
Now let’s discuss some of the common ignorant statements and questions that some men use to justify this behavior:
Why would she get so drunk?
Is she not allowed to partake in the same activities that men may deem to be fun? A night of drinking with her friends doesn’t give a man clearance to make assumptions about what a woman wants.
Look at what she’s wearing. She wants someone to get at her.
A woman’s choice of clothing isn’t an open invitation to sex.
But she’s a slut. Just look at how many men she’s slept with?
This is irrelevant. A person’s sexual history is in no way related to their right to consent. Look at how many women you’ve slept with. Do you think that should negatively affect the perception others have of you? I doubt it.
Well, if what she said really happened, why wouldn’t she tell someone?
According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), seven out of 10 sexual assaults are never reported. When they are reported, almost 98% of assailants will never spend more than a day in jail. It’s also worth noting that four out of five assaults are committed by someone known to the victim. Imagine the horror of having something like this done to you by someone you know — a person you once trusted or even loved. The embarrassment, guilt, blame and potential shaming that can come about from reporting one of these crimes is a big part of what enables this culture.”
In a culture that is happy to pass judgment onto the victim, Levy’s words bear a chilling truth. He further adds, “My understanding is that most women have heard the talk about how to avoid becoming a victim, but growing up, I was never involved in a conversation about what consent is. I was never even flat-out told not to rape or sexually assault anyone.”
The problem doesn’t lie with the victim, and it doesn’t lie with all men either. Maybe the problem lies with our reluctance to begin the conversation on what consent actually means. On how to know when things cross the line, even if it’s with your partner or husband.