Why zipppa’s post is totally wrong

Hey, have you noticed we have a new contributor to the blog? I want to welcome him by writing about how I think his post directly below this one is really bad.

I confess to not knowing about the Minnesota case until zipppa asked if he could write a blog post about it (zipppa: you don’t have to ask permission, btw, write whenever you want). All I know about it now is what I read in his summary, so I may be wrong in what I think happened. But here is how I would resummarize it:

  • A woman named RS met two men at a frat party type thing and had sex with them
  • RS was drunk at the time
  • At some point, more people joined in
  • Some of this is on videotape for some reason
  • RS didn’t remember much of what happened
  • The next day, she felt “conflicted” about the situation and didn’t want to press charges
  • RS’s mom pressed charges. RS reports not saying “no” during sex because she was in shock
  • She generally “didn’t act like a victim”
  • Based on this, the men who were part of this incident were suspended from their football team

zipppa interprets this as a story of how men are always assumed to be inherently guilty and that basically consensual sex is now illegal. But it seems to me that in this case that argument is totally bullshit:

First off the “acting like a victim” bit is sketchy. If you look at how true, verifiable victims of rape/sexual assault/other types of assault act, you can draw up some statistics. And “not acting indignant immediately” is pretty fucking common. Fuck, even dissociation is a thing. I don’t have to tell you this. Before proclaiming expertise on how victims are “supposed to act”… like at least do the minimal thing of figuring out whether your idea is anywhere close to right.

Second off, if RS was drunk enough to “not remember much of what happened” that suggests she was pretty incapacitated.

Third off, even consenting to sex with two people doesn’t somehow imply you consent to a bunch of other people joining in, or the thing being on videotaped. Like, I think that’s relatively obvious?

There’s not enough evidence to convict them  of rape. So they have not been convicted of rape! zipppa uses this as evidence that they’re actually innocent, but it’s not. It just shows that the system works in a sense. I would be against these men being convicted of rape – but they haven’t been!

In fact, they haven’t been convicted of anything in terms of criminal law – they’ve been suspended by the University. This is where the idea of “sexual assault” – which as zipppa correctly says is annoyingly nebulous – seems to be useful. This wasn’t provably rape, and so you can’t say that it was. And yet you want to prevent incidents like this from happening in the future and get through to people that it’s not OK. So “sexual assault” is a useful thing here.

I think the way universities adjudicate sexual assault has a bunch of problems (I like this article about it which brings up a lot of where I see the problems). But it really seems like this situation isn’t an example of that.


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2 Responses to Why zipppa’s post is totally wrong

  1. zipppa says:

    Why Zoltan’s post about my post being totally wrong is totally wrong:

    First, “acting like a victim” is bad wording on the part of the report writer. What he/she is actually talking about is “acting in a manner that would suggest to the other participants that she was not consenting”. Sketchy this may be, however, unlike with other crimes (no one cares how you act when your car is stolen for instance), with rape it is of crucial importance. It is in fact the difference between rape and consensual sex. I am certainly no expert on how rape victims act, but I would say that it’s unreasonable to demand that anyone have expertise in this area. The students in this incident weren’t research psychologists (or whoever would be an expert on this) and nor should you be one as a prerequisite for the sex act you engaged in to have been consensual.

    Second. What???? Not having a good memory of an event does not imply having been incapacitated at the time. I don’t want to find proof of this, but I think it is pretty obvious. Else the question “what happened last night?” would always be moot, because the answer would always have to be, “oh you don’t remember, means you were passed out”. I believe there’s a movie franchise based on this concept…

    Third. Yes, having sex with one person, and then not consenting to having sex with another person, is entirely possible in general. However, it is highly unlikely that this is what occurred in this case. There isn’t a point in either report at which RS stops consenting, but there are multiple indications of her acting like a willing participant throughout. Her claims that she was scared, pressured and coerced from the beginning (in the second report) which are verifiably false, make her claims about not consenting later on much less credible.

    The last point, I believe we’re on the same page as to the concept, but differ on the interpretation. I have not seen “Sexual Assault”, to be defined as “rape when there’s no evidence to prove it”. I dislike the term precisely because it is being used as such. I believe it is morally wrong to have repercussions for crimes which are not proved. If someone got suspended from university for “stealing a car without good evidence of this”, it wouldn’t be as bad as going to jail for the same thing, but to me at least still completely wrong. I don’t believe it could be justified by saying that it discouraged car theft. And keep in mind that rape, is much worse than car theft. In fact, maybe second only to murder. A university proclaiming that you’re are a rapist or (sexual assault violator which is basically the same thing), is not like getting a parking ticket.

    The fact that this incident seemed distasteful to many is precisely why it deserves attention. Presently there exists a general acceptance of the concept that all consensual activity between adults is legal, and it is improper for any authorities to get involved, but this was not the case historically. It took a long time for this to be achieved, with some developments being quite recent (this for instance). It would suck for this trend to start heading back in the opposite direction.

    • zolltan says:

      I don’t think sexual assault is “rape but we can’t prove it” — it’s a lesser sexual crime of some kind. In the same sense that neither “assault” nor “involuntary manslaughter” is usually “actually murder but we can’t prove it”. Like you say, rape is a very serious crime. And to me that makes the existence of “lesser” sexual crimes sensible — it’s “this wasn’t rape, but we want to punish this behaviour”. I really dislike the way people equate sexual assault with rape, actually. That’s not what I meant to do at all. So if I did that, then I’m sorry. But I also don’t buy “rape is bad, but everything short of rape is absolutely fine”. Like if you’re fucking an unconscious girl behind a dumpster like Brock Turner, that’s clearly rape, but there are non-rape situations which I think should be prosecuted. Do you disagree?

      As to mental states, you’re right: I’m not qualified to assess RS’s mental state. But this is also why I find this second guessing of how she *should* have acted so as to prove that she was a worthy victim so fucking distasteful. But the problem, like you say, is that RS’s mental state is actually pretty important in terms of determining whether what happened was wrong or not. My preferred solution to this problem is a system that helps the people who come forward as victims without having punishment as its aim. That way, there is less scrutiny necessary for the motives of the people who come forward, which is something that people who come forward complain about a lot. There is also less of a reason to come forward with revenge as the sole aim, which is something that the accused complain about a lot. I think that would be better. The situation as is has problems in that it is shitty both for the people who come forward to accuse and for the accused. What I want to point out is, if the stats you cite on sexual assaults in your post are at all true, they can’t be met with just a shrug and a “guess we can’t do anything about that”.

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