Thursday, April 7, 2011

Is the way she dressed pertinent in a rape case?

Wearing high heels and fishnet stockings and brandishing signs with slogans like “down with rape culture,” "slut walk" demonstrators took to the streets in Toronto last week to protest a Toronto police officer’s comment that women could avoid rape if they didn’t dress like “sluts.” See here.

Let's state the obvious: no woman "asks" to be raped because of the way she dresses, and no rapist should ever be excused because he raped a woman who looked like the proverbial "slut."  And guess what?  Aside from the occasional inane comment like the one that gave the chronically offended gender police an excuse to protest in Toronto, hardly anyone even believes that, much less says it.  Usually the only people repeating the silly mantra that people think women ask to be raped because of the way they dress are angry feminists who insist this is how people really think. It is a straw man trotted out to affirm victimhood.

By the same token, to pretend that the way a woman dresses has no bearing whatsoever on issues related to sexual assault is a puerile absurdity. Men and women do not exchange written consent forms before proceeding with intercourse. A woman's secret, undisclosed intentions, whims, and desires have no bearing on the question of whether there was consent. The only thing that matters is her outward manifestations of assent, which may be expressed in an infinite variety of ways, both verbally and non-verbally, and which must be viewed in the context of all the surrounding circumstances.

In a dispute over an allegation of sexual assault where the woman claims there was no consent and the man claims there was, all manner of evidence is pertinent to helping the trier of fact figure out if there was consent. For example, did the woman invite a man to her apartment when she knew nobody else would be there?  Did she serve him wine?  Did she light candles and put on background music?  Before heading to her apartment, did they stop at the store to pick up some condoms? Did she unbutton his shirt and remove it for him? Was she wearing clothing that revealed ample portions of her breasts? 

None of these factors are alone dispositive of the question of whether or not there was actually consent at the moment of penetration. But to varying degrees, they are consistent with conduct a reasonable person associates with a romantic tryst that often leads to consensual sex. And, yes, that includes the way she dressed.

Put it this way, if a nun were raped and the issue in dispute was consent, would any feminist object to evidence that she was wearing the habit of her religious order at the time?

Some radical feminists would like to exclude from trial any evidence tending to prove consent except the accuser's verbal and enthusiastic "yes!"  Of course, that's not the law anywhere because that's not how real people have consensual sex.  Consensual sex is often conducted in a murky land of glances, caresses, heavy breathing, and incomprehensible half-sentences. Asking a jury to figure out what happened after-the-fact is generally asking a jury to perform an impossibility. Jurors can only go on what they know, which often isn't much.

We have reached the stage where even the legitimate consideration of surrounding circumstances in a consent case leads to charges of "victim blaming," another handy feminist discussion closer that is intended to brand the alleged "victim blamer" as morally inferior.  The problem with people who are wont to cry "victim blaming" is that, to them, every woman who cries "rape" is automatically the "victim."  That pretty much tells you all you need to know about them.