Defining Rape I: Definitions

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A picture of a dictionary viewed with a lens on top of it, at the word “Internet” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One of the basic lessons of philosophy dating back to at least Socrates is that terms need to be properly defined. Oversimplifying things a bit, a good definition needs to avoid being too narrow and also avoid being too broad. A definition that is too narrow leaves out things that the term should include. One that is too broad allows in too much. A handy analogy for this is the firewall that your computer should have: if it doing its job properly, it lets in what should be allowed into your computer while keeping attacks out. An example of a definition that is too narrow would be to define “art” as “any product of the visual arts, such as painting and sculpture.” This is too narrow because it leaves out what is manifestly art, such as movies and literature. As an example of a definition that is too broad, defining “art” as “that which creates an emotional effect” would be defective since it would consider such things as being punch in the face or winning the lottery as art. A perfect definition would thus be like perfect security: all that belongs is allowed in and all that does not is excluded.

While people have a general understanding of the meaning of “rape”, the usual view covers what my colleague Jean Kazez calls “classic” rape—an attack that involves the clear use of force, threat or coercion. As she notes, another sort of rape is what is called “date” rape—a form of assault that, on college campuses, often involves intoxication rather than overt violence.

In many cases the victims of sexual assault do not classify the assault as rape. According to Cathy Young, “three quarters of the female students who were classified as victims of sexual assault by incapacitation did not believe they had been raped; even when only incidents involving penetration were counted, nearly two-thirds did not call it rape. Two-thirds did not report the incident to the authorities because they didn’t think it was serious enough.”

In some cases, a victim does change her mind (sometimes after quite some time) and re-classify the incident as rape. For example, a woman who eventually reported being raped twice by a friend explained her delay on the grounds that it took her a while to “to identify what happened as an assault.”

The fact that a victim changed her mind does not, obviously, invalidate her claim that she was raped. However, there is the legitimate concern about what is and is not rape—that is, what is a good definition of an extremely vile thing. After all, when people claim there is an epidemic of campus rapes, they point to statistics claiming that 1 in 5 women will be sexually assaulted in college. This statistic is horrifying, but it is still reasonable to consider what it actually means. Jean Kazez has looked at the numbers in some detail here.

One obvious problem with inquiring into the statistics and examining the definition of “rape” is that the definition has become an ideological matter for some. For some on the left, “rape” is very broadly construed and to raise even rational concerns about the broadness of the definition is to invite accusations of ignorant insensitivity (at best) and charges of misogyny. For some on the right, “rape” is very narrowly defined (including the infamous notion of “legitimate” rape) and to consider expanding the definition is to invite accusations of being politically correct or, in the case of women, being a radical feminist or feminazi.

As the ideological territory is staked out and fortified, the potential for rational discussion is proportionally decreased. In fact, to even suggest that there is a matter to be rationally discussed (with the potential for dispute and disagreement) might be greeted with hostility by some. After all, when a view becomes part of a person’s ideological identity, the person tends to believe that there is nothing left to discuss and any attempt at criticism is both automatically in error and a personal attack.

However, the very fact that there are such distinct ideological fortresses indicates a clear need for rational discussion of this matter and I will endeavor to do so in the following essays.

 

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36 Comments.

  1. This is an important discussion but one that is almost impossible to have with feminists (whether male or female.)
    I look forward to your future essays.
    I am especially interested in the woman’s responcibility to protect herself.
    For instance, were I to stroll through Central Park at night holding fistfulls of hundred dollar bills it would be a crime to rob me but would I have been contributory to the crime?

    Likewise, when a woman accompanies Mike Tyson to his hotel room at 2:00 O’clock in the morning is she not also contributory?

    And why is the responcibility for the safekeeping of a woman in colege who drinks herself into oblivian left to the college student who is probably as drunk as she is?

    Are we considering going back to Puritan or Victorian vslues? Should men protect women as though they are defenseless flowers of virtue?

  2. Link to Jean Kazez’s website doesn’t show anything.

  3. Doris Wrench Eisler

    While it is true that both narrow and broad definitions can go wrong in different ways, there is a problem with definition of anything, and possibly rape more than most things. Most broadly, rape is harm of a sexual nature, but the whole idea of “harm” has changed over the centuries. Rape of a woman for instance in the Judeo-Christian bible was considered a harm to the “owner” of that woman, her father until she married and then her husband, and damages would go to them. Much later, when rape could be proven by witnesses or possibly pregnancy or admission of guilt, the man would be coerced into marrying the woman (or girl) so what was perceived as the greatest harm, shame to the woman, her family and society, was “handled”. The problem was at least partially one of an essential difference in the status between men and women.
    In many ways women are still not equal in status and there are therefore, problems in law and the court in recognizing “harm”.
    A famous case in these parts not long ago involved a judge who dismissed a case against a man who enticed a teen-aged woman into his trailer on the pretext of a job offer, then locked the trailer and made lewd advances, requested a neck massage with which she complied, then continued the sexually oriented behaviour which he tried to justify on the grounds of her previous cooperation. But the girl was terrified and her actions were of a placating nature. She had merely accompanied a friend who was answering to an ad when this man turned his attention towards her. The judge’s observation was that “she was not exactly dressed in a bonnet and crinolines”: it had been a very warm Summer day and she wore shorts and a halter. This man was accused and convicted in other cases of a sexual nature soon after this incident. But this young woman’s terror and humiliation was not addressed.
    There are clear-cut cases of sex with minors or statutory rape that have not lead to convictions.
    Rape cases involving incapacitation because of drug, alcohol use or mental disability are sometimes not clear-cut. It is even possible that rape is committed even when permission for sex is clear, if that sex is violent or purposely meant to degrade and humiliate, and permission in that respect was not given. But such cases never get to court. Not using contraceptives without explicit permission is considered rape in Sweden.
    The issue will not be simply resolved but the onus is now more on the male to disprove rape
    than it has ever been in all of history. Is that such a bad thing overall?
    Not long ago most women, perhaps the great majority, did not press charges because over and above the trauma of rape, they were re-traumatized in the courtroom with accusations of lying in which their previous sexual history was explored in detail and presented as evidence for the defence. In some jurisdictions this has improved but perhaps most women still do not report rape or press charges. It is not exactly a fun thing to do.
    The traditional male perception that women’s main value in society is sexual has not by any means disappeared and rape in its simplest definition, by a stranger and coerced, is still very prevalent. But rape often is far more complicated and perhaps the best approach is to concentrate on the broad rather than the narrow definition of sexual harm.
    Some men have spent many years in prison because of false accusations, and this is reprehensible. But false accusations and courtroom railroading is a different problem that occurs also in cases of murder. A better system and one not based on merit for convictions is needed, instead of sacrificing women for convenience in a system of male solidarity and privilege.

  4. I do not think it is possible to have a definition of rape which will legally cover every human being on this planet. This is due to differences of culture, nationality, law, religion, ignorance, erudition, and tradition which has no legal support. The only point in common seems to be that someone has, against their will, been subjected to a sexual encounter which includes an unwanted penetration of their body by an instrument or part of the assailant’s anatomy. The assault has to be shown at least to mimic or resemble the activity which can take place in the reproductive functions of humans.
    For all the above reasons, and there are many more, a thoroughgoing definition of rape, and that is presumably what we are trying to achieve here, is extremely difficult, if not impossible to reach. The circumstances of so-called rape often are somewhat ill fitting with what the law considers rape. For instance were both parties under the influence of alcohol or any other drug it may well be next to impossible to decide if the complainant agreed to sexual activity or not. All of what I’ve mentioned are well-known problems and it will be interesting to see if somebody can identify one solid fireproof definition of rape, which covers all circumstances.

  5. Dennis Sceviour

    It is important to have a definition of rape that may satisfy medical, philosophical and psychological interpretation. It appears Mike LaBossiere has tried to steer the inquiry in that direction. However, most commentators want to jump to a legal definition. A legal definition is untrustworthy. For one reason, legal definitions are complicated by de facto and de jure interpretations. Many non-legally trained people expect de facto interpretation. However, jurists in many places are deliberately required to interpret information de jure at the bar. If there is an offense, in either interpretation the victim will be raped twice.

  6. s. wallerstein

    As is so often the case, Don Bird is right: the concept of rape is a fluid one and depends on the culture and the era.

    When I was young, the concept of “date rape” did not exist, although I do recall that a boy who got a girl very drunk in order to get her to have sex with him would have been looked down upon by the other boys, at least among my friends.

    However, since the concept of “date rape” did not exist, it does not seem that those who committed what is now called
    “date rape” were “really” raping, even though they were unaware of it.

    With the advent of contemporary feminism (which begins in the late 60’s, a bit after the period I mention above), most of us males have become more aware of women’s subjectivity and that they should be treated as ends, not as means or instruments in sex and in other areas of life. However, that does not mean that previous codes of being a gentleman necessarily implied lack of consideration, lack of respect, brutality or sexual violence towards women.

  7. I saw that she took down the post:

    “I had to take down the recent post “Campus Rape Statistics” because certain links in it were creating strange problems in other posts–a sentence linking to another website kept floating on top of other posts. After an hour of trying to fix the problem I gave up! Sorry, especially to those who left comments.”

  8. MEK MEK,

    I have argued in other posts that people do have a moral obligation to take responsibility for their safety. So, someone who knowingly and needlessly puts himself in danger has failed in this regard. This can be countered by another principle I accept, that of the right of self-abuse: a person does have the right to engage in self-harming activity if he does so knowingly and willingly (such as smoking or drinking).

    The fact that a person makes it easier to commit a crime against her does not make her a contributor to the crime in the sense of reducing the culpability of the criminal. For example, I go about my day without carrying a gun or wearing a Kevlar “t-shirt.” This would make it easier for a shooter to kill me than if I was so protected. However, this would not make me a contributor to the crime. As another example, my house has glass windows that can be seen through and broken-but this does not make a contributor to a thief who breaks in to steal what he saw through the windows.

  9. Dennis Sceviour,

    True-I did try to steer towards a definition that is not merely a legal one. After all, the legal definition is (by definition) set by the lawmaking body and it could be nearly anything. For example, until fairly recently under some state laws even if a husband raped his wife it would not legally be rape.

  10. Defining rape is a very good discussion start. It will help us understand what is the history, the underlying psychology, the conditions for an action to be considered rape. I value Doris Wrench Eisler comments, thank you, and I agree with most of her points. As the nearly exclusive victim, women’s points of view are indispensable. In my opinion, rape is a sexually committed abuse of power that violates other person’s integrity and freedom. This is done only by 1 person; there is only one actor, not two. Failure to prevent harm to yourself is not a crime, not even unethical, and the victim bears no responsibility. I will strongly argue that any woman should be able to dress as she likes and behaves as she chooses, and in no circumstance rape can be justify- even though we can always find an explanation, no matter how despicable the action was.
    In the area I find difficulty is when intoxication is a component; if one or both were intoxicated how can we determine consent, violating others integrity and abuse of power? It is very difficult, at least for me. And there is where, perhaps, a better definition might help

  11. When it comes to definitions attempting to match usage in a language (and that’s leaving aside other languages), there is the issue that different people may use words differently, even if they are competent speakers, in addition to vagueness in each person’s usage.
    In fact, it may even be that there are considerable variations between different subgroups, or from person to person (e.g., “gods”, “supernatural”, etc.), but even when that does not happen, definitions will usually if not always leave some usages aside. It would happen to attempted definitions of “horse”, “dog”, “gas giant”, “car”, etc.
    Given all of the above (among other issues), trying to get necessary and sufficient conditions matching usage would be usually not doable in my view – let alone finding an analytic yet not trivial one.

    In any case, it seems to me that a related problem is the attempt by many people to try to ascertain how immoral a behavior was by means of trying to determine whether it was rape (or theft, etc.), even though we already have a more accurate description of the behavior in other terms. For example, if Joe is 50, and had consensual sex with Alice who is 15, how immoral his behavior was does not have anything to do with the semantics of the word “rape”: maybe some groups of people use “rape” in a way that his behavior is rape, and other groups use “rape” more narrowly, but that does not affect the moral issue of course. Even “consent” might be used by some differently enough so that on some usages, she did not consent due to being too young. But that does not affect the actual behavior, and the moral question at hand.

  12. Jim P Houston

    A cached version of Jean’s post is temporarily available here

    Here’s the text:

    Campus Rape Statistics

    Recently we took our nearly college-aged daughter to visit a university that boasts that its labs, art studios, cafes, etc., are open 24 hours a day. That sounds awesome …. until you starting thinking about your daughter walking around on campus in the middle of the night. I’ll be learning more about campus security at Night Owl University before ever letting my daughter enroll (if she winds up applying and being admitted). I’m also worried about fairness. Does a 24 hour campus wind up creating more opportunity for male students than female students?

    But just how concerned should I be? When we got home from this visit, the new issue of The Nation was waiting for us. Cover headline: “1 in 5 Women is Sexually Assaulted in College.” With rape statistics like that, the 24 hour campus sounds like the worst possible idea. But then, what exactly is being included in that statistic? The article, written by Michelle Goldberg, starts with a woman who says she was raped twice at Occidental College, which later expelled the accused She says she considered this person a friend, and on both occasions she was drunk. She admits it took her some time “to identify what happened as an assault” which perhaps explains why she was still consorting with the guy after the first assault.

    If there’s a ton of date rape at Night Owl University, my response will be one kind of concern and planning. But if there’s a lot of classic rape, I’ll need need to know how students get to their dorms in the middle of the night. The amount matters, because more campus police and escorts are needed, the more there is. So what are the facts? Cathy Young says that in the 1 in 5 statistic “the vast majority” of cases involve “incapacitation” by alcohol. And of those,Three quarters of the female students who were classified as victims of sexual assault by incapacitation did not believe they had been raped; even when only incidents involving penetration were counted, nearly two-thirds did not call it rape. Two-thirds did not report the incident to the authorities because they didn’t think it was serious enough.

    As it turns out, the Occidental student was not atypical in thinking initially that she hadn’t been raped. What was atypical is the fact that she changed her mind. But all that’s irrelevant to my concern about a 24 hour campus. What I need to know, to assess security at Night Owl University, is the incidence of “classic” rape–the sort of thing that happens more at night and when nobody’s around. Wouldn’t it be great to have some numbers on that? Here’s Cathy Young again:

    …. the government’s numbers are wildly at odd with actual crime records. Several years ago, Carnegie Mellon business professor Chad Hermann analyzed the number of sexual assault reported at Pittsburgh’s three major campuses (the University of Pittsburgh, Carnegie Mellon, and Duquesne) and concluded that even if 90 percent of such assaults go unreported, a woman’s annual risk of sexual assault at these schools ranges from 1 in 3,700 to 1 in 650. Spread out over four or five years of college attendance, that still adds up to somewhere between 1 in 130 and 1 in in 925.

    So which numbers should I assume as background–1 in 5 or 1 in 130 or 1 in 925? Being a very protective mother and also very concerned with gender equity and fairness, even if it’s 1 in 925, I still want to know if female students are safe walking to their dorms at 4:00 in the morning, and I still wonder if a 24-hour campus gives more opportunities to male than to female students. But I would like to know the real number. 1 in 5? I’d be threatening to “home-college” my daughter if that represented the real risk…and she wouldn’t like that one bit.


    Here are the links she used:

    Michelle Goldberg:

    http://www.thenation.com/article/180114/why-campus-rape-crisis-confounds-colleges

    Cathy Young (now offline but available in wayback machine) here.

    Chad Herman: http://communityvoices.post-gazette.com/opinion/the-radical-middle/27667–one-in-one-thousand-eight-hundred-seventy-seven

  13. Re John M 25 June

    “In my opinion, rape is a sexually committed abuse of power that violates other person’s integrity and freedom. This is done only by 1 person; there is only one actor, not two.“

    Surely a person can be raped by more than one person in a single attack. Vile and loathsome be thought, but the female has more than one orifice thus permitting a simultaneity of sexual activity by more than one person. It is not unusual to hear of a female being raped by several males taking turns in a single attack.

  14. Don;

    I agree with your reply. The intent of the argument was to stress that the victims are not responsible in any way for the other person/group behavior. thank you for the clarification

  15. Re:-Jim P Houston June 26, 2014 at 6:37 am

    One does not wish to make a decision without knowing all the facts but the “open all hours” factor concerning the Night Owl University sets alarm bells ringing furiously. A University is a large complex organisation. If such an organisation is to run successfully it needs a core of discipline to which university employees and students should conform. The idea that people can do as they wish when they wish can only lead to disaster. Large organisations work well when they are carefully controlled in everything. Can you imagine running an Army, or an Army College where there was no lights out; drunkenness and tiredness etc would rapidly become the case, and the main function of this body of people severely diminished. It will be interesting to see if this laxity in control and discipline is manifested in other aspects of the particular university I suspect this may well be the case, and possible rape, being not the only factor for concern.

  16. Even “moral” is used differently by different individuals within a group, and is certainly used differently by different groups.
    I used to believe that morals were static, never changing, but that laws could change.
    But slavery was lawful and considered by many to be moral. Today almost all of us see it as immoral as well as unlawful within the Western code.
    Moral, for us, has changed.
    To a lesser extent homosexualty has become moral and also legal. Thought about it is in a state of change.

    The law regarding rape has certainly changed, and common usuage has broadened widely, but the idea of the morality of rape hasn’t changed a drop. We know it’s wrong–we just don’t agree on what it is.

  17. Doris Wrench Eisler,

    “A famous case in these parts not long ago involved a judge who dismissed a case against a man who enticed a teen-aged woman into his trailer on the pretext of a job offer, then locked the trailer and made lewd advances, requested a neck massage with which she complied, then continued the sexually oriented behaviour which he tried to justify on the grounds of her previous cooperation”

    Okay, this is actually a classic form of rape. I’d say the most common form.

    But first to explain something. When facing a threat people consider the fight/flight response – either fight or fly. There is a third response; and that is ‘play dead’. A woman locked in a trailer, cannot fly, and the option of fighting someone with twice their strength is not a good option. In ‘playing dead’ they may fully cooperate in the rape. But, their cooperation will be just as traumatic as if they physically resist. Something very interesting happens here – ‘playing dead’ in a traumatic situation is very high stress; cognitive function goes out the window; there is no straight thinking, the formation of memories is also effected. A rape victim in this situation may go days, months or even years before recollecting they were raped. (And these memories often come back in the form of PTSD – which is actually something very severe and life destroying.)

    Is the man innocent if he creates a stressful situation, and then the woman complies with his sexual demands. Of course he’s not – he may have a definition of rape that assuages his conscience; like it’s not rape if the woman doesn’t bite and scratch and attempt to escape. He’s guilty and he has consciously engineered the situation.

    The Pick Up Artist culture (the PUA coaches who took Elliot Rogers money and made him even crazier.). The ‘techniques’ they teach, are not how to charm a young woman, to the point she consents to a mutually enjoyable sexual experience. What they teach, is how to pick a rape victim.

    Revictimization is a phenomenon where a victim of sexual or violent assaults in the past, is assaulted again in the future. A rapist does not want to select a victim who will bite and scratch or run screaming. They want someone who will play dead – play so dead they will not even report the rape. A victim of prolonged childhood sexual, or, and, physical abuse will have learned that fighting is no good, and there’s no one to run screaming to. A rapist/bully will look for signs, and even probe, for reactions, to see if they have a possum (this is what the PUA teach – they even teach mild trauma bonding techniques)

    I’ll just jump to school bullying and how, and why the bullies select their victims, and what happens. If a child is being physically abused in the home, (or constant invalidation is just as good as physical abuse – and usually it comes with an implicit threat of violence, if challenged – though some parents would call this ‘firm discipline’), the child is much less likely to either fight back or fly in a school situation. They freeze, in a high stress situation – it’s this painful state gives the bullies the most pleasure. The child’s cognitive function (concentration, etc) will be impaired. They will have difficulties with their school work, and the teacher may even join in the bullying. The cost for this child can social and economic exclusion, substance abuse issues, of course revictimization, death and maybe prison.

    A societal problem, that varies with location, is how people see and treat victims. In cold examination it seems morally repugnant to blame the victim for their abuse. But people do; they see the victim as a lesser person, and they admire and defend the abuser. This world view is the rapists friend – it actively facilitates them.

    Simple as this; a university should not facilitate rape. It requires specific policy and education; to make the potential victims safer and improve their quality of life. And the rapists should be left in no doubt they are not in friendly territory. Those four Vanderbilt foot ball players raped that girl, I belief, because, even by their own omission, they thought they had a green light.

    One of the players is attempting to use as a defence that the girl was a drinker, and she was known to be promiscuous. For all we could know, this means the girl was not teetotal, and had had sexual encounters in her life with people she was not married to.

  18. Dennis Sceviour

    Will Don Quixote save the virtue of Dulcinea? Mek Mek wants to know whether men should protect women as though they are defenseless flowers. Some, both men and women, pursue the struggle, the tearing of clothes, and “no, no, no” as stimuli. As far as they are concerned, their sexual preferences are none of your business. Consensual rape confuses permission – one of the cornerstones of morality. If rigid moralists believe the law should interfere, they may be surprised to find these decadent members of the Hellfire club also have legal power. A hopeless confrontation in values would be inevitable. The devil pays again.

  19. “Some, both men and women, pursue the struggle, the tearing of clothes, and “no, no, no” as stimuli. As far as they are concerned, their sexual preferences are none of your business. Consensual rape confuses permission”

    Dennis;
    Do these women claim rape after the fact? Many human beings like it rough but they do not claim rape. What is consensual rape? The two words are in strong contradiction to me. Do you mean that some women actually desire to be raped? If that is your position, what is the evidence supporting that statement beyond explanatory speculations? For example: are there studies linking certain psychological behaviors or characteristics with higher rape incidence? Is rape incidence associated with certain psychological traits?
    Please help me understand your position

  20. Dennis Sceviour

    John M,
    From your comments you may be a very young and inexperienced person. If you cannot find the information in the current links then I suggest to Google the questions yourself.

  21. Kevin Henderson

    Worthy discussion but very complicated. Case dependent solutions are likely the only outcome.

    You will have to also address statutory rape. Why 18 years old? Why not 17 years old? Maybe it should be 20 years old?

    What about voyeurism? Invasion of privacy? Consent but not consent to be filmed? The mental anguish could be as sharp as a physical violation.

    What about the stigma of rape? When someone who is raped admits being raped or sexually abused, the admission can be as painful, if not more, than the physical violence. This certainly qualifies are part of what some may consider as a ‘broad’ definition of rape.

  22. s. wallerstein

    Dennis Sceviour,

    I have no idea what John M.’s age is, but I’m not so young (age 68) and well, I have over 50 years of sexual experience, perhaps not as varied or exotic as yours.

    Still, like John M., I wonder what “consensual rape” is.

  23. Dennis Sceviour

    s. wallerstein,
    Here is one definition. There must be others:
    http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=consensual%20rape

  24. s. wallerstein

    Dennis,

    Ok. Thanks.

  25. Don Bird,

    “Surely a person can be raped by more than one person in a single attack. Vile and loathsome be thought, but the female has more than one orifice thus permitting a simultaneity of sexual activity by more than one person. It is not unusual to hear of a female being raped by several males taking turns in a single attack.”

    For…The…Love…of….God

    Don, there is such a thing as gratuitous punctiliousness. Some things, implicitly, go without saying….And do not need to be said.

  26. Jim P Houston,

    Thanks.

  27. John M,

    I have a forthcoming post on intoxication.

  28. Kevin Henderson,

    Setting age boundaries is certainly a challenge. One would hope that some thought went into it and it is based on a principle of some sort. For 18 being the age of consent, I’d guess it might be connected to when a person is supposed to finish high school. In the US, 18 is the age of legal adulthood for most things (except drinking)-so it is probably linked to that notion. Adults can give consent, children cannot.

  29. John M,
    From your comments you may be a very young and inexperienced person. If you cannot find the information in the current links then I suggest to Google the questions yourself.

    Dennis;
    I forgot my age I need to ask my mom.
    Some years ago i visited this site more often, I had great discussions with mike, s.wallerstein, Jim.P.Houston and Don Bird. I change my pseudonymous since them. When I was in college, date-rape was not an issue. I went to college in Argentina when there was a military dictatorship. People I knew, I talk with, went missing. On top of that most of us were not very rich; money was not sufficient for all our needs. Sex was part of life, and we were more worried about other things.
    By training I am a scientists, and I, perhaps, wrongly expect a discussion were we share ideas and learn from each other. I had very good experiences with the people mentioned before. I am used to distinguish between speculation, ideas and actual hypothesis supported by evidence. You see I expect that people will support their statements by reason. Having said that, it is very easy for me right now to find out when people have no idea what they are talking about. They do not answer direct questions, they do not advance propositions they can simple explain without expecting people to read 100-200 pages that may mean nothing, and they use unnecessary attacks to not deal with a meaningful discussion.
    There have been different psychological interpretations on the nature of rape and relationships, hard to know which is correct. Transactional psychology has not been one of my favorites; this might be, perhaps, because I do not like games, at least certain kind of games. It also appears to me a straw-man for human relationships, which are certainly more complicated and with more depth.
    It would have been great if you explained some of your very controversial statements, many of them cited in previous comments. I took in good faith you were advancing serious propositions
    By the way, have you tried transactional analysis, did it work for you. Perhaps you really need it

  30. Dennis Sceviour

    John M,
    Thank you for your response. Forgive my caution but this is a public blog and not a college debate or a local pub. Rape is obviously a sensitive topic and there is a limited amount of material that can be submitted. Minors might have access to this material. As JMRC stated above, some things “do not need to be said.” Those who inquire for more graphic descriptions are suspect. My comments on Don Quixote were intended to be for poetic imagination rather than scientific inquiry, but I suppose I am a lousy poet.
    On your comment “Transactional psychology has not been one of my favorites; this might be, perhaps, because I do not like games.” That is the point of TA. You are not supposed to like transactional games as an adult character. Eric Berne produced a book that tries to give causal explanations for human motivations.
    Please continue to inquire from mike, s.wallerstein, Jim.P.Houston and Don Bird. They are excellent writers who can produce rigorous and prolific answers.

  31. Re:-JMRC June 26, 2014

    I sincerely regret that you found my comments offensive, this was certainly not my intention. I think when we are discussing a serious matter such as rape we are really do have to lay it on the line and understand, and say, exactly what happens, and what can happen. If we do not do this, our discussion and any conclusions reached may well be defective. “Some things go without saying” is I would say, not a good rule where philosophical discussion is concerned, exactitude is a necessity. This is in sharp contrast to bad or foul language and trying to find humour in a state of affairs which is deplorable.
    You will note that what I said was in reply to Re John M 25 June, who subsequently agreed I was correct i.e. more than one person can be involved in the same single rape. I was somewhat puzzled that you have, seen fit to reproduce what I said in your own communication in the event that you found it offensive.
    This blog is strictly censored by Jeremy Stangroom who meticulously warns and or excludes any communicant if they are going beyond the bounds of decency, or relevancy etc. In that connection I have so far never elicited any objection from him, about anything I have written.
    Once again I apologise for the discomfiture my comments obviously caused you; however I have to say I do not intend altering my style of writing in the future.

  32. Don Bird,


    I sincerely regret that you found my comments offensive, this was certainly not my intention. I think when we are discussing a serious matter such as rape we are really do have to lay it on the line and understand, and say, exactly what happens, and what can happen.

    I wasn’t offended. I just thought the specific response excessively gratuitous – and I was in the processes of eating food, when I saw it. The entire thread should probably have a “trigger” warning; may cause nausea, dizziness and vomiting.

    But you are correct about the seriousness of the detail. In another sense, it’s not. Or it is a mistake to get lost in the physical detail.

    What is, specifically, the injury in sexual assault. For a person who will voluntarily engage in sexual acts, what is the trauma when the acts are involuntary.

    Trigger Warning; the following paragraphs contain elements which some readers may find disturbing. If you do chose to read on, I really hope you’re not eating; you may experience nausea, dizziness and vomiting. If symptoms persist, please consult your GP or medical care provider.

    May as well use Don in a hypothetical situation. Don, gets a letter calling him to a doctors appointment at his local hospital. He goes along, and takes a seat in the waiting room. After a time, a door opens, and I appear; dressed in a white coat, a stereoscope around my neck; I look every inch the doctor. I beckon Don to join me in my office;”Step this way, Mr.Bird”. I do a little perfunctory examining; get Don to say ‘Aah’ and all that – and then; a sharp doctorly intake of breath, and I ask; Don, I’m going to need you to remove your trousers, lean forward and place your hands on the edge of my desk, spread your legs a little; I’m about to perform a proctological exam; I say all this while snapping on a glove, and applying lubricant to a finger. Don’t worry, it’s not going to hurt all and it will be all over in a minute. I digitally penetrate Don, and wiggle my digitus medius manus. It’s uncomfortable, but at least I’ve gone to the trouble of warming my hands first.

    It’s not a pleasant experience, but it’s not particularly traumatising. Don can leave the hospital feeling a little queasy but there will be no lasting injury. It will all be forgotten soon.

    However, I change one detail. While giving Don the examine I say, “Don, I’m not really a doctor…And am in fact, an escaped Dutch sex criminal…and there is no medical value in this procedure, it is purely for my own personal gratification.”

    Now…I believe we have placed Don in a traumatising situation; he may fight, or he may fly….Or he might just freeze. It will not be an experience he will soon forget. The experience may even haunt him for the rest of his life. He may find himself spending years, in group therapy sessions, describing the incident over and over again in a effort to lessen the trauma and reregularise his psyche.

    There is actually a very serious point here. The injury is not in the detail of the action, but why and who is performing the action. It is the distinction between what is torture, and the equivalent physical suffering experienced through accidental physical trauma. It seems very obvious, but it isn’t – and the confusion adds to the trauma of the experience, and makes it more difficult to treat.

    And, I would say, definitely, the most egregious infliction of sexual violence, is a wound that may never heal, that may become disabling; that really not much is known about in terms of treatment. These are very real injuries. But, they’re injuries where the meaning of the event is more crucial than anything else. Maybe philosophy does have a use in the real world.

    *Don, gratuitous would be, if I had my fake doctor add; “And Don… that’s not my finger”.

  33. JMRC June 29, 2014 at 1:05 pm

    I am trying to think how I would respond to the scenario which you have constructed. I think my first thought would be for my own health and what immediate action should be taken, after all I am in a hospital and may have possibly been recently infected by shall we say, a sexual maniac. My second thought would be the capture and restraint of this offending person. That done and learning that my bodily health has not been injured in any way I tend to think that mentally I could probably deal with it. I’m not a young man and have seen and experienced much in my life and if that is the worst that is going to happen to me so what? There may be a problem in the future in telling friends and acquaintances of my experience as they would most probably not believe me. Not sure it’s a suitable subject for an after-dinner speech, I am making myself laugh writing this. I don’t think it would be the worst thing that ever happened to me.
    However, how I think I would behave, may not be identical with reality, had I actually experienced what you have proposed.

  34. Don Bird,

    “However, how I think I would behave, may not be identical with reality, had I actually experienced what you have proposed.”

    You don’t know. But this is also the thing. And the scenario is not as wild as it seems; you could find yourself in bad care home in your dotage; if you’re unfortunate enough. Though it sounds unfathomable; elder abuse, even sexual abuse of elders does occur.

    Not much is known as to what way you would react – or how the experience would effect you. In the hypothetical scenario, you might leave the hospital, completely unconscious of the fact you had been assaulted. Like people who are in car crashes, can’t remember the event. You may or may not be traumatised.

    PTSD, is the psychiatric disorder that occurs from exposure to traumatic events. Not much is known about it, in the sense; there aren’t treatments that can just ‘fix it’. The term was first used to describe a condition soldiers returning from Vietnam were suffering; but around 1980; as if can take years for the symptoms to develop. Researchers into child abuse noticed there were similarities between their children and the traumatised soldiers – it is far more severe, the younger the child is, when the abuse occurs (children who were sexually abused as babies have peculiar symptoms; like covering themselves and their living spaces in excrement when they’re older). The phenomena of revictimisation, is known, but again it’s not understood; and there are no readily available therapeutic remedies.

    There’s defining rape, and then there’s defining the injury. Which is more complicated. I believe the biblical law determined rape to be a violation of property (the husband or father’s).

  35. A few days ago,a very drunk, naked woman left her hotel room at 3:00 AM, in Miami, and took the elevator to the hotel roof. A maintenance man was cleaning the roof. She asked him to use his key to the elevator,so that she could return to her floor. He did as requested and assisted her into the elevator.

    She reported him to the hotel for “inappropriately touching.”

    He denies it. He says he called for the elevator and helped her to get on. She says that he inappropriately touched her.

    He was arrested. No matter what happens in court, this man is going to be marked as a sex offender, no maintenance firm working in hotels or apartments will dare to hire him. He has a wife and two children.

    What recourse does he have? More important to this post: what responsibility does the naked, drunken woman have?

  36. I am not an expert at law, but if the worker is found innocent, then he would not be marked as a sex-offender. At least legally.

    Well, she should have the responsibility to tell the truth-if she did, then she acted responsibly in that regard. But, she should not be drunk and naked in the public areas of the hotel. This would not justify someone touching her, but is certainly irresponsible behavior.

    While I do not know the full details of the case, I would be inclined to regard someone who is so drunk that she is taking an elevator to the roof while naked as a witness of dubious credibility. If there is no supporting evidence for her claim, then I would have reasonable doubt-she might think he touched her inappropriately even when he did not. After all, she seemed to think that going to the roof while drunk and naked was a good idea. I would not disbelieve her-but a criminal conviction requires proof beyond a reasonable doubt and the testimony of someone that impaired would not provide proof beyond reasonable doubt by itself.

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