ASK A QUESTION

RECENT RESPONSES

CONCEPT CLOUD






  • Panelist Login

If a man woke up next to a woman and could not remember having sexual intercourse with her we might surmise that he was so so drunk that he was not in a frame of mind to consent to sexual activity. Indeed, in a recent court ruling from a case I was researching, a judge determined that from the mere fact that the particular woman in the case did not remember having sex established a prima facie case that she was not conscious. While I think that court rulings such as that illustrate pervasive problematic beliefs that prevent men from getting fair treatment during rape trials I think that another question which ultimately ideologically underpins his disparate treatment in the hands of the legal system is simply not being asked. It's highly doubtful that the man in the situation I described could ever make a successful case that he was raped even in the rarest of circumstances or even if there was case to be made that she had a "guilty consciousness" because she lied to the police about whether or not she had sex with the man when DNA evidence proved otherwise, which actually formed the bulk of the case against the man in the court case I was researching. We would likely sympathize with her terror at being accused of a sexual assault, and her desire to clear her name even by a foolish means, especially if she felt that the very act of sex incriminated her without knowing that the case against her was of having sex when he was asleep as opposed to a heavily intoxicated state that the prosecutor she felt the prosecutor would argue impaired his ability to be conscious of the nature of sexual activity. Yet we never ask why a man is responsible for knowing when his sexual actions will lead to a regretful state of mind in a woman. It is doubtful that (with some exceptions) the man in the situation I described would think of himself as taken advantage of unless he had some very clear reasons to think he was asleep when sexual activity occurred in which case he wouldn't have been "taken advantage of", he would have raped without any question of whether he was too drunk to make an intelligent choice. He wouldn't because men are not taught to see there sexual choices as a source of regret. (Not in a way that is analogous to women, to be more precise to people who would contest that assertion) They are also taught that they are in control of their impulses. Aren't we teaching women that sex is something that women should regret and by doing so aren't we unconsciously reifying gender roles in a way that falsely creates a vulnerability in women that would not exist without those questionable discourses? I doubt we live in a culture that permits a non anonymous forum of philosophers to answer that question with freedom to express dissenting opinions from a dangerously entrenched orthodoxy but I want to put this question out there because so few people are asking these kinds of vexed questions.

February 13, 2014

Response from Daniel Koltonski on February 21, 2014
It seems to me that you are running together two very different claims about the effects of alcohol on persons' abilities to make decisions: (1) that alcohol can lead you to make choices that you would not have otherwise made (and so to consent to things you otherwise wouldn't have consented to); and (2) that alcohol can impair your ability to make genuine choices altogether (and so can make it that you are incapable of consent). The question of rape concerns whether or not the other person has consented to sex, not whether or not the other person will regret later consenting to sex. And so, a man is not "responsible for knowing when his sexual actions will lead to a regretful state of mind in a woman." He, like everyone else, is responsible for knowing that the recipient of his sexual advances has consented to them.

I'm not sure that the "dangerously entrenched orthodoxy" you mention is actually as entrenched as you think. The view implicit here seems to me to be just as popular in our culture and so seems just as good a candidate for an orthodox position, and one that strikes me as dangerous. For the view seems to be one that adopts a stance of skepticism about any accusation of rape against a man, one that thinks it likely that the woman did consent and is only now claiming it was rape because she now regrets consenting to sex. I see no reason for thinking that the real problem is not that many women, at some point in their lives, will be victims of sexual assault and rape but rather that many men, at some point in their lives, will be falsely accused of rape by women who regret having consensual sex with them.

Also, it doesn't seem to me that men, in particular, are "taught that they are in control of their impulses." Rather, much of the culture seems to think that men are not quite in control of their sexual impulses, that men can be provoked into raping by the way a woman is dressed, etc. (since what else could it mean to point out, about a rape victim, that she was "dressed provocatively"). Indeed, the observation that "boys will be boys", when used to excuse sexual harassment, sexual assault and even rape, seems quite clearly to claim that men are not entirely in control of their sexual impulses and so we ought not hold them to a consent requirement that assumes such control.


Print PRINT Send2friends E-MAIL
E-MAIL THIS ENTRY

Recipient's e-address: required
(separate multiple e-addresses with commas)
Your name: required
Your e-address: required

Track TRACK

TRACK THIS ENTRY

If you provide your e-mail address, you will be automatically notified whenever this question receives a response. Your e-mail address will not be used for any other purpose, and it will not be given or sold to anyone.

E-mail:

SHARE
SHARE THIS ENTRY

del.icio.us
Digg! Digg
Facebook
Twitter
reddit
StumbleUpon