What happened to yesterday’s post? It was an elegant elucidation of the manner in which the point of view, language, and tone of tabloid reportage supports rape culture. My glittering example of the sanitizing powers of the English language was an article in the Daily Mail reporting on the trial of 39-year-old flight instructor Paul Nicholls, who is accused of “sexual activity” with teenage female students; one of the girls, 13-year-old Cherrell Evans, hung herself last year after Nicholls tried to talk her into a three-way with her 15-year-old friend. Nice.
Unfortunately, as will befall the sluggish Internet Feminist who takes too many coffee breaks, between my having written my essay and publishing it, the tabloid article in question disappeared into the aether. In its place materialized a different article on the same subject, completely rewritten such that my post didn’t make any sense anymore. So I had to junk it. A pity. It was a real beaut. Fortunately, my argument remains unassailable, so you are stuck with the awkward re-write. You’ll just have to take my word for the erstwhile existence of the non-existent version.
The first article was pretty much an advertisement for the remarkable idea that pedophilia can be consensual. The gist of my original post was the startling paucity of the word “rape” in an article purporting to report on a middle-aged predator exploiting the power differential in his “father-figure” relationship with a 13-year-old student. “Rape” was used only twice and in such a manner as to suggest that the kid was just making it up. In its place were a string of euphemisms, incidences of which broke down thusly:
Secret affair 1
Wanted them sexually 1
Have sex 2
Slept with 2
Sexual activity 2
Sexual relationship 6
The new improved article is a bit harder on Nicholls, depicting him as a predator and a “horrible person,” but the second piece retains the original lurid headline and opener:
Schoolgirl air cadet killed herself after being ‘raped’ by instructor
A schoolgirl who killed herself after having sex with her 39-year-old flying instructor saw the encounter as rape, a court heard.
It wasn’t a rape, it was a ‘rape’. No wait, it was an “encounter,” editorially downgraded to “having sex,” because one mustn’t discount the likelihood that the kid made up the rape part just before offing herself because she was a tarty bitch and all sexy little girls are lying suicidal sluts.
With your keen eye you will perceive that the sentence in the second quotation is structured to ascribe the agency to young Cherrell; the 39-year-old rapist is just her sex partner, a passive bystander.
Both versions of the article undeniably use the trial as an excuse to pander to reader prurience with a lurid teen sex scandal and its sensationally tragic consequences. It’s not just the Daily Mail, either. WalesOnline is happy to accommodate Dude Nation by consulting Cherrell’s 18-year-old ex-boyfriend (one begins to grasp that this poor kid never had a chance), who also romanticizes the rape as an “an affair.” The boyfriend (who wasn’t there, but he’s a dude, so he’s completely authorized to make this call) also refers to it “sexual intercourse” and “a fling.”
Tell me. How the hell can a 13-year-old kid have an affair? If there exists a more disenfranchised group of human beings than teenage girls I’d like to know about it.
The absurd and dangerous conflation of rape and sex and children and affairs reflected by these news stories would all be completely unnecessary if female persons enjoyed anything remotely resembling the agency men wield all day long.
Fortunately I have the solution.
As longtime readers know, the Twist-Solution proposes the unthinkable: the legalization of women’s humanity, otherwise known as my Wacky Consent Scheme. Because I love this scheme, I’ll haul it out of mothballs and give it an airing:
The Problem with consent
Although this condition does not obtain with regard to any other crime you can think of, when it comes to rape, women are currently considered to exist in a state of perpetual “yes!”. This is because “yes!” is consistent with global accords governing fair use of women. Victims of robbery or attempted murder don’t have to prove that they said no to being robbed or murdered; the presumption is that not even women would consent to being killed. But because penetration by males is what women are for, if we are raped we have to prove not just that we didn’t say yes, which is impossible to prove, but that we specifically and emphatically said no, which is also impossible to prove.
There are rules about what sort of woman can even attempt to make the “I said no” argument in court. Women who typically are not eligible to opt out of consent include: women who drink in bars, women who walk alone, women who walk at night, women who use drugs, women belonging to certain castes, women who dress a certain way, women who don’t dress a certain way, women who are married to men, women who have had multiple sex partners, women who may have said yes last month, women who may have said yes at the beginning but who, three minutes in, found it disagreeable and changed to “no,” women who didn’t fight back hard enough, women who didn’t tell anyone or report it right away, women whose physical similarity to pornulated women aroused the defendant, women whose behavior at the party aroused the defendant, teens with a “reputation,” and prostituted women.
Prostituted women are indistinguishable from sex itself. This is true to varying degrees of all women, but prostituted women particularly are imagined to manifest so cavalier an attitude toward being used at any and all times by any and all comers that it is considered impossible to rape them. Prostituted women can never say no to sex because they are sex.
My wacky consent scheme flips it around. According to my scheme, women would abide in a persistent legal condition of not having given consent to sex. Conversely, men, who after all are constantly declaiming that their lack of impulse control is a product of evolution and there’s not a thing they can do about it, would abide in a persistent legal state of pre-rape.
Women can still have all the sex they want; if they adjudge that their dude hasn’t raped them, all they have to do is not call the cops.
But if, at any time during the course of the proceedings, up to and including the storied infinitesimal microsecond preceding the sacred spilling of dudely seed, the woman elects to biff off to the nearest taco stand; and if her egress from the sweaty tableau is in any way impeded by the pronger (such an impediment would include everything from “traditional” brute force, to that insistently whispered declamation “just a couple more minutes, I’m almost there” the dread seriousness of which the fervid oaf dramatizes by that ever-so-slight tightening of his grip on her wrist); or if, in three hours or three days or, perhaps in the case of childhood abuse, in 13 years it begins to dawn on her that she has been badly used by an opportunistic predator, she has simply to make a call.
Presto! The dude is already a rapist, because, legally, consent never existed.
The cessation of rape would be immediate. Men would begin aligning their boinking protocols along non-barbaric lines in a hurry. It would suddenly be in their best interest to make damn sure that nothing in their behavior, either prior or subsequent to hiding the salami, would cause their partner to believe she has been abused.
I have an idea for a great new product, too. SmartCervix. An undetectable microchip records pertinent information regarding any “encounter” — DNA typing, location via GPS, audio, video, date, time, etc — and sends it (encrypted, of course) to a remote third-party database where it can be retrieved by the client (you) whenever some dickwad goes all 2009 on your ass.
I revisit my wacky consent scheme annually whether it needs it or not.
[Thanks, Cindy B, for sending the original link]