Sunday, April 27, 2008

A Matter of Definitions: Cara and the Definition of Rape

Every so often you find a thought-provoking paragraph lodged in the middle of a post about something else. That's sort of the case here. At The Curvature, Cara has a post covering her problems with a new study about sexual miscommunication between men and women (she's also concerned with the coverage of the controversy). Hidden away in there is a paragraph in which she provides a definition of rape that I want to be sure my son understands as he grows up:

But rape (of a woman by a man; switch identifiers for other types) is not necessarily a situation where a man hears and understands “no” but ignores it. Rape is when the man has sex with a woman who has not consented. If she says “no” but he genuinely thinks that means “keep going” for some dumbass reason, it’s still rape. If she gives more subtle resistance like “it’s getting late” and he keeps going without her willful participation, it’s rape. I know that our laws don’t reflect this. I know that few people seem to get that consent means saying “yes” as opposed to not saying “no”. And I know that many people assume that rape can only happen due to pure malice on the part of the rapist, rather than apathy so consequential that it might as well be malice. But guess what. Still rape.

Here's where Cara's feminist view again coincides with libertarianism: rape is about aggression when a power imbalance exists, and one party possesses the strength to force its will on the other party. Libertarians don't believe in aggression (although they tend to see the greatest potential for aggression in the State and not in individuals), which they see as the primary societal ill.

A Libertarian would argue (at least this one would) that until we create a society in which State and Corporate power is not founded on aggressive coercion, we shouldn't be surprised that rape remains a problem.

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