Re: [LCA2011-Chat] Some Anti-Harassment Policies considered harmful

From: Theodore Tso <tytso_at_MIT.EDU>
Date: Wed, 2 Feb 2011 21:31:56 -0500

On Feb 2, 2011, at 6:41 PM, Jason White wrote:

> None of which does anything to challenge the finding that the reported incidents
> were not consensual, and hence amount to rape, whether the victims so
> classify it or not. In fact, I have heard it reported that occurrences in
> which victims are plied with alcohol are, as suggested above, not uncommon,
> and that this is used as a strategy to weaken their resistance to what is
> subsequently perpetrated. They do not, in these circusmtances, give free and
> voluntary consent; and the absence of consent is the essence of the crime.

OK, let's do a thought experiment, shall we? Suppose Alice and Bob have sex, and
Bob is drunk. Did Alice rape Bob? He was drunk, and someone who is drunk
presumably can't give consent. Is that rape? Does the gender of the two people

Suppose Bob was partially inebriated, and said he wasn't sure if he wanted to have sex,
but Alice wheedled him and kept on asking until he said yes. No force was involved,
but he could be "psychologically coerced"? Would that be an indication that she raped him?
Suppose Bob drank the alcohol himself, willingly. And if he was still raped, does he
bear any responsibility for put himself into a situation where Alice could ask and ask him
until he said yes?

Now suppose Alice is also drunk. Now did she rape Bob? Or did Bob rape Alice now?
Or did Alice and Bob rape each other? Let's throw them both in jail!

Now, actually, the way the law works is that not only does the being raped be not able to give
consent, but that the rapist has to know that the the other person was not able to give
legal consent. So if both Alice and Bob were drunk, there's no rape that has taken place,
in either direction. Whew!

So one of the problems with the Koss study is the women in question was only asked, did
sex take place, and were you drunk and not able to give consent. She did not ask the
question, did the other person legally know that the women was drunk. And given that
the survey was asking undergraduates, and apparently on a campus where there was a
lot of drinking and socializing going on, do you think that perhaps the numbers might
be skewed by cases where both parties were drunk (and thus not legally able to
know whether someone was legally able to give consent)? How many cases that might
be, we won't know for sure, but it's certainly enough to call that survey flawed.

All aside from the legal question, there's also the question, in the Alice and Bob thought
experiment, regardless of whether Alice is guilty of raping Bob (assume that Bob was
inebriated and couldn't give consent, and she knew that Bob was drunk), should Bob
be faulted for putting him into a situation where he was so drunk that he couldn't take
responsibility for himself? What if it was pretty clear that he regularly did this *because*
he could lose control and not take responsibility for what he did? Suppose he hadn't yet
had sex without giving consent? Would, should he, face opprobrium for his actions?
If yes, does that magically go away once he is raped, and is now a victim, since that would
now be blaming the victim?

My personal opinion is that things aren't black and white, and even if Alice is guilty of
raping him, Bob should also be faulted for his contribution towards the incident, and should
take at least some responsibility for avoiding being put in similar situations in the future.

Now, people might complain that I'm playing games by switching the genders around. But,
should the gender of the parties make a difference? Be careful, lest you start arguing that
the female sex is the weaker sex, and should be coddled because they can't take responsibility
for their own actions when both parties are totally or partially inebriated. At least some people,
such as Ms. Koss, has in fact been guilty of making that argument.

Personally, it's not an issue for me because I strongly don't believe in going to parties where
a lot of one-night stands are negotiated, nor do I like situations where a lot of alcohol is
consumed. So I'm also predisposed to not have a lot of sympathy for both parties --- male
or female, attacker or victim --- who put themselves in such situations.

And how would you feel if someone generated a study where a bunch of males were asked
whether they had sex while inebriated, and then announced some statistic indicating that
(surprise!) a huge number of undergraduate males are raped, and that statistic was being
blindly repeated without anyone asking whether that statistic was valid, and in fact, accused
anyone who questioned said survey has proof positive that the questioner was insensitive
to the needs of males?

-- Ted

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Received on Wed Feb 02 2011 - 21:31:56 GMT

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