On reading Grace’s article over at Heroine Content concerning 300 and the opposition she has faced regarding her opinions on Gorgo’s rape by Theron, I was shocked too by the idea that there are still people who cling, at least morally, to notions of rape based in the fight or flight, in overt force. A lack of understanding about the subtle violences of coercion in relation to sex is always an alarming wake up call for me about just how people are kidding themselves in their emotional lives, and the arguments levelled at Grace’ definition expose to me this huge area of grey that still seems to need ironing out. I fully agree with Grace’s definitions of rape, and here’s why.
When I was back in school, a sociology teacher asked all of the class a series of questions to be answered only in our heads. She asked if we'd ever had sex to keep someone happy. If we'd had sex to keep someone with us. If we'd had sex because we didn't want to make someone mad, or because we feared the consequences if we didn’t do it. If we’d had sex not really knowing what we were about to do. If we’d changed our minds about wanting to have sex during the act, but carried on because we thought we had no option. If we’d had sex when we simply weren’t in the mood for it, but our partner was. And most importantly, she asked, in any of those instances, if our partner’s had suggested even a modicum of pressure, of persuasion against our unwillingness, had made us feel a negative consequence might arise from our non-conformity.
Then she asked us whether we could really justify those occasions as being consensual acts of sex, in the full meaning of consent; in the notion that both partners were willing, ready, fully informed and wanting to. We all went a little bit quiet at the indication she was making, at the idea that these cases, in what we viewed as inconsequential moments, rape, in a moral sense, was subtly present.
Its easy to hide behind the notion of rape as a) being a dramatically big event based in overt violence committed by a stranger and b) more likely male on female, in order to protect oneself from the grey areas of our own sex lives, where we may have been victims, or where we may have been perpetrators in the pressures we may exert. A more comprehensive, yet simple understanding of rape in relation to consent forces us to examine ourselves more closely, and perhaps the opposition that Grace’s opinions may get is rooted in personal discomfort. Yet I for one am not ungrateful for the personal discomfort exploring these issues evokes. If we aren’t prepared to examine the psychological violences of coercion in relation to sex, we render ourselves open to becoming victims, and more importantly perpetrators of a form, however small, of sexual violence. To underestimate the importance of fully informed consent in sex is to undermine the act itself, as well as the basic freedom of our sexual partners to make an informed and willing decision.