November 29, 2008
Drunken sex, and imbalanced power imbalances
In light of yesterday's post about drunken sex being treated as rape, I guess I shouldn't be surprised to see that the woman charged with having sex in a Minnesota men's room is now turning up the volume on the victim claim:
MINNEAPOLIS - While police say a high-profile indecent conduct case in the Minneapolis Metrodome Saturday is closed, a Carroll woman involved in it told the Daily Times Herald she believes she was a victim of foul play rather than a willing collaborator.A lot of people go to church every Sunday, but they still commit sins. (Even preachers have been known to sin.) Not to knock religion, but I don't see what church attendance has to do with this analysis.
Information obtained in police reports and during an interview with University of Minnesota Police Chief Greg Hestness revealed no suggestion or evidence that the incident was anything but consensual on the part of both Walsh and Feldman.I think they may be trying to get the DA to file a rape charge, as the woman is now suggesting she is a victim of crime:
The Daily Times Herald sought to contact Walsh, but there is no phone listing with the address he gave police. An Avalon Security officer, Craig Andrashko, who was listed in the police report as the first witness to the incident, did not return a phone call.I'm glad to see an official treat "lack of consent due to intoxication" in a non-sexist manner, because many people -- and many government organizations -- don't. Suppose the man had claimed he went to church, and said this was something he'd never otherwise do. Would anyone care? The usual rule is that if a man gets drunk to the point where he is unable to say no to his normal inhibitions, he's considered doubly guilty, and blamed not only for his conduct, but for the intoxication which led up to it. He's not seen as a victim of his intoxication, but as a perpetrator of it. The idea of "consent to sex" is seen as laughable in a man. (Even a gay man taking the passive role would have a tough time claiming the next day that because he was drunk, he did not consent.) As to being drugged, I think most men would have a tougher time making that claim than women would. Again, because of sexist assumptions. The idea of a man becoming intoxicated against his will is considered so unusual that it is traditionally the stuff of Alfred Hitchcock films. (And of course, in North by Northwest, Cary Grant's claim that this happened to him was laughed at.)
Once again, I think the idea that women are less capable of consent than men is irredeemably sexist -- and degrading to women.
Philosophically, there are serious problems with the idea that one sex is more capable of saying no than the other. And saying no to what? One's own impulses? One's natural inhibitions? The other person's entreaties and advances? The effects of alcohol?
I'm just thinking out loud here, and since this might as well be satire, let me ask... Why is no one speaking up on behalf of this man as a victim of intoxication or as a possible rape victim? I notice that the woman at 38 is twelve years older than the man, who was only 26. Doesn't this indicate what is often called a "power imbalance"? (Anyone remember Mrs. Robinson? How about Dean Wormer's wife?)
But suppose the man had been 38 and the woman 26. Would the situation be viewed differently? I think it would. Why?
In terms of power imbalances, is there a difference between an older man with a younger woman, and an older woman with a younger man?
If there is, can someone please offer a non-sexist explanation?
I'm concerned that there might be an imbalance of power imbalances, and that would be unfair.
MORE: If alcohol lowers inhibitions, and if inhibitions are what normally prevent us from giving way to our sexual urges, then it would seem to follow that the presence of alcohol intoxication would make consent to sex (and therefore sexual intercourse) more likely. Yet these laws are saying that alcohol intoxication renders consent to sex legally impossible, and thus intoxicated sex equals rape. But if consent derives from lowered inhibitions, and inhibitions are lowered in both sexes, I am unable to understand -- either from a legal or scientific perspective -- how alcohol would eliminate the ability to consent in women but not men.
The rule has to stem from some strange (and IMO sexist) presupposition that men are deemed incapable of consenting to sex in the first place. Whether a man consents to sex is seen as superfluous, because he is seen as always "in charge" of the act. By committing the physical act of penetration, he is seen as inherently having consented to doing it. And alcohol, far from diminishing his ability to consent, is seen as increasing it. Under this sexist view, the drunken penetrator is analogous to a drunk driver, who cannot be heard to complain that alcohol made him unable to "consent" to drive. The woman is not seen as a participant in the driving, but as a passive victim along for the "ride."
Therefore, drunk or not, sex is always the man's "fault."
posted by Eric on 11.29.08 at 02:30 PM
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