Monday, April 4, 2016

Quoted: Carol Tavris on the problem of defining rape

It’s the “subtleties,” however, in the gray zone of human interaction, that cause such controversy over what can be done. The vast majority of all reports of rape—about 85%—occur between people who know each other. Some of these encounters are unambiguously coerced, but many are not. And while the goal of getting expressed consent is admirable, it’s not entirely realistic—partly because people often don’t know what they want. Sex researchers repeatedly find that people rarely say directly what they mean at the start of a sexual encounter, and they often don’t mean what they say. They find it difficult to say what they dislike because they don’t want to hurt the other person’s feelings. They may think they want intercourse and then change their minds. They may think they don’t want intercourse and change their minds. They are, in short, engaging in what social psychologist Deborah Davis calls a “dance of ambiguity.” It occurs because the intersection between consensual and nonconsensual sex is often not marked with flashing lights and traffic signals that say Slow! Stop! Yield! This is the territory of “he said/she said” and the polarized interpretations that cause such heated debate. -- Carol Tavris in Skeptic Magazine
These are dangerous waters in which to wade given the religiosity over campus rape, but I'm glad to see her go there.