Echidne and Shakes led me to a post from Cosmopolitan, entitled "Shade of Gray Rape." First of all, the very notion of "gray" rape makes no sense (which Echidne points out). It is either rape or it isn't--there are no shades of gray on this one. Here is the text of this column:
True story that I wrote in three minutes because that's exactly how much time I felt like dwelling on it: this one time about nine years ago I got locked out of my house and went home with some vaguely smarmy hair-product using type from my ex-boyfriend's frat. I had slept with maybe two or three guys prior to that -- it was the summer between sophomore and junior year of college -- so when he, after about a half hour of fooling around, put on a condom I was like, "Whooooah, what are you doing?" But I'd had two forties and I kept drifting in and out of consciousness -- my tolerance, obviously, wasn't what it is today -- and I woke up to find him sticking it in. I'd said 'no' a bunch of times and when I came to I just froze, stopped, turned over and slept. In the morning I chewed him out (by informing him I wasn't putting him on "my list" -- oh no she didn't!) and after that he kissed my ass so liberally I thought he might have learned from it.
But then in Israel I saw this other girl who used to hook up with him and she assured me he remains a douchebag, only now one that practices medicine in New York. Anyway, I sure hope he saves some lives, and I remember that sexual experience a little more vividly than most of the consensual sexual experiences I've undergone in a similar state of intoxication, but neither sentiment makes it RAPE, does it? It's something, "date rape" I guess, but it's not rape unless I say it was, right?
All of which is a poignant, personal way of alerting you to the fact that Cosmo has come up with a new name for this kind of nonviolent collegiate date-rape sort of happening: gray rape.
And some feminists are angry, and they've launched a letter-writing campaign about it, though if you're reading Cosmo for purposes other than to revel in its unique special brand of inanity you have bigger issues with your sexual identity than what to call that time you fucked that guy you didn't really want to fuck. I'm not sure what to think about any of this, because while Laura Session Stepp (the writer of the Cosmo story) is a tool, reading the individual stories of "gray rape" victims that so closely mirrored my own -- they got too drunk! they said no, but then they passed out! when they realized they were having sex, they stopped! -- I felt absolutely nothing. It was one drunken regrettable night. One of so, so many more to come. And I have found that when a guy demeans you in a drunken state, it is more likely to stick with you and haunt you if you give anything resembling a shit about his opinion.
And come to think about it, how gross do you have to be to fuck someone when it's, like, three Goldschlager body shots away from being necrophilia?
Shakespeare's Sis tackles how messed up this. Here is her response to the piece:
1. Waking up "to find him sticking it in" after having said no "a bunch of times" is rape. It is not "fuck[ing] that guy you didn't really want to fuck." It is not "gray rape." It is rape, which is defined by a lack of consent.
2. It doesn't matter if the situation wherein a dude "sticks it in" without consent is "nonviolent" and/or "collegiate." Rape is not determined by the existence of force, but the nonexistence of consent.
3. "I remember that sexual experience a little more vividly than most of the consensual sexual experiences I've undergone in a similar state of intoxication, but neither sentiment makes it RAPE, does it?"—No, your lack of consent makes it rape.
4. "It's something, 'date rape' I guess, but it's not rape unless I say it was, right?"—Wrong. If you didn't give your consent, and especially if you said no "a bunch of times" and then fell asleep, then it was rape. And it really, really doesn't matter if you inform your rapist that you're not putting him on 'your list,' or if he kisses your ass the next day, or if you've "found that when a guy demeans you in a drunken state, it is more likely to stick with you and haunt you if you give anything resembling a shit about his opinion." You were still raped.
5. "And come to think about it, how gross do you have to be to fuck someone when it's, like, three Goldschlager body shots away from being necrophilia?"—Someone who does that isn't gross; someone who does that is a rapist.
All right. I'm done. I can't say anything I haven't said before about a thousand times, most relevantly here.
Except maybe this: I'm pissed that the woman who wrote the Jezebel piece has decided to go after feminists who are angry about the original "gray rape" piece in Cosmo, sniffing: "[I]f you're reading Cosmo for purposes other than to revel in its unique special brand of inanity you have bigger issues with your sexual identity than what to call that time you fucked that guy you didn't really want to fuck."
But I also feel profoundly sorry for her, because I've rarely seen an example of a woman so desperate to dissociate herself from the stigma of rape, so willing to engage in such pitiable semantic gymnastics to redefine a rape as something else, so clearly resolved to the notion that to admit victimization is to admit weakness.
And that's why this silly, contemptible feminist spends so much of her time blogging about sexual assault, saying over and over that to be a survivor of rape does not have to mean shame and brokenness and guilt, that it is brave, not weak, to say, plainly: "I was raped."
While I think Shakes has said all there really is to say on this post, I wanted to put it up here because I know that students read my blog and I also know that many of my female students read Cosmo. I am hoping that those who read Cosmo find this to be an unfortunate concept--gray rape--especially since many women have agitated for a long time on campus to deal better with date rape. The most troubling part of this post is that it starts to create a narrative that young women can adopt that "it isn't rape unless I say it is rape."
The attraction of this narrative for the Cosmo reader, I guess, is that no one will call you a femi-nazi and you can stay popular with the frat guy scene. It is true that if you call a rape what it is then you will suffer; it is certainly fucked up that you will suffer. If it is a fraternity rape, you will see fraternity brothers circling the wagon and challenging your story. You will see your reputation be shattered and you might even lose some of your female friends who side with the men. It is always amazing to me how much fraternity men have power on my campus. They aren't necessarily the brightest and most promising students, but they own the houses where partying occurs and this puts them at the top of the social hierarchy on campus. If you don't want to be socially ostracized, then, well you better not be accusing them of rape.
As Shakes says, saying you were raped is brave.