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Old School

March 30, 2010

Sober, with the lights on, in the middle of the afternoon with kinksters and dykes and kinky dykes crowded into the room, on the bed and the borrowed mattress on the floor, because the roommate’s bed had to remain unmolested. Two-on-one wrestling/feeling up match in the floor lounge. Ropes slung over the structural steel with the ceiling tiles slid to one side and room enough to throw a flogger. These are my memories of college.

You’re a damned fool, Alex Knepper. Your belief that feminist sex is colorless and bland is just plain wrong. Your bald-faced argument that a woman consents to virtually whatever anyone wants to do to her as soon as she starts drinking is reprehensible.

You said that if a woman gets drunk at a fraternity party, she is consenting to sex with whoever she may find herself alone:

Let’s get this straight: any woman who heads to an EI party as an anonymous onlooker, drinks five cups of the jungle juice, and walks back to a boy’s room with him is indicating that she wants sex, OK? To cry “date rape” after you sober up the next morning and regret the incident is the equivalent of pulling a gun to someone’s head and then later claiming that you didn’t ever actually intend to pull the trigger.

This is about par for the course for college-columnist victim blaming, though more bare-knuckled and unapologetic in its rape apology than most, and I have little to say about it that I have not said before. But you, you pathetic specimen, have the temerity to characterize these views as “pro-sex.”

No, Mr. Knepper, you’re not. I’m pro sex. I want sex partners who consent, and don’t merely concede. You, Mr. Knepper, speak of “the inherently gendered thrills of fetishism, sadomasochism, kink or cross-dressing. ” I, Mr. Knepper, as a practicing sadomasochist. I wore my leather pride flag lapel pin through much of my time at college and in the years after, and I have forgotten more about the interplay of gender and kinky sex than you will ever know. This notion that feminists are neo-Victorians won’t wash with anyone who actually knows feminists. I’ve been flogged and fucked in the ass by feminists. In my not-very-limited experience, many of them know what they’re doing.

“[I]nherently gendered” could refer to anything, because as anyone with a minimal grounding in Butler knows, gender is performance. But you won’t learn that reading Paglia or Farrell. Paglia’s reductionist ideas don’t match the reality of the BDSM community, where gender performance and scene role have only a loose correllation. I’m a switchy cis het bottom, but in college and since I have played with tops, bottoms and switches whose gender presentation ranged from butch to femme to deliberately fucked, and whose orientations ranged from het to bi to pan, lesbian-who-only-does-BDSM-with-cis-men, and “hell if I know but I’m trying to figure it out.” None of this gave rise to awkward issuing of permission slips, because none of those folks had difficulty communicating what they did and didn’t want to try, or what they liked when they tried it. If saying what you want with a sex partner kills the mood, you’re doing it wrong or you need a different partner.

The problem seems to be, Mr. Knepper, that you can’t handle consent. You say as much yourself:

It’s not clear enough to merely speak of consent, because the lines of consent in sex — especially anonymous sex — can become very blurry. If that bothers you, then stick with Pat Robertson and his brigade of anti-sex cavemen! Don’t jump into the sexual arena if you can’t handle the volatility of its practice!

Consent is only blurry if you cannot or will not communicate openly about it. Surely you know that BDSMers navigate this all the time, setting up a safeword or a safe sign or negotiating particular limits, or all three of those things. [Edited, see comments] And people do not give up their right to communicate about consent the second they take a drink. Even when someone has had some alcohol, if they say “stick your cock in me” they are not really being ambiguous, unless you’re unclear on what hole is being indicated. If folks know where they are, and who they are with, and what they are doing, and can formulate a clear statement of what they want to do, then I think one can take them at their word. The situations that you think are ambiguous are not really ambiguous. The “ambiguous” situations are really the ones where one partner isn’t into it. Shock, confusion, bedspins and hoping it’s over quickly do not add up to consent. That’s not ambiguous, either.

This idea that college rape is all some sort of miscommunication is just not true. The Predator Theory research shows that the vast majority is serial rapists using this cultural mythology as cover for a series of assaults. You, Mr. Knepper, are actively aiding and abetting them.

You wonder why folks call you a rape apologist, but in comments your response to a comment about date rape drugs was that women should not go to frat parties:

What about them [date rape drugs]? Don’t go to EI parties, then. Women are not idiots, as you seem to think they are. You don’t have the mind of a ten-year-old in a twenty-year-old’s body. “My goodness! Whatever could be in this suspicious-looking drink! Perhaps I ought to swallow it and find out!,” Alice said to herself, giggling, as she innocently drank the jungle juice.

[Emphasis supplied.]

You seem to acknowledge that there is such a think as rape, yet it is abundantly clear that you would never apply that term to anything that happened to a woman if she had been drinking, or if she was inside a fraternity house, or for that matter, probably under ninety nine percent of other circumstances.

You’re seriously proposing that a woman agrees to be drugged and raped just by walking through the door! No wonder you think consent is ambiguous. You’re actually trying to eradicate the concept, in favor of a right to rape. That’s where your ideas end up.

I glean from the comments that you’re some sort of gay Republican. That explains a great deal, actually. It is clear that there is no room for you in your own party, yet you write as a “classical liberal” — which is code for that species of free-marketer who doesn’t want the stink of Glenn Beck on him — and try to suck up to a party that is very far down the Palin/Limbaugh road. They’ll never accept you, no matter how forcefully you argue in favor of raping drunk women. Why don’t you realize what David Brock did long ago, that there is no home for you over there; drop your party affiliation and stop self-hating? You may find the world is a brighter place. And you may stop being such a damned fool. However, I suspect this editorial of yours will follow you. It’s a bit late to take that back, or to undo the damage it causes to the culture.

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19 Comments leave one →
  1. Ruthie G permalink
    March 30, 2010 1:35 pm

    When he says ” “Date rape” is an incoherent concept. There’s rape and there’s not-rape, and we need a line of demarcation. ” I can’t help but think of the whole Roman Polanski and “it wasn’t rape-rape”.

    Looking through his other articles though, I can’t take this guy seriously. Not after having just read “one would have to say that lightning is sexist because men are struck by it five more times than women are” while talking about the pay gap.

  2. March 30, 2010 3:05 pm

    I have to say, I’m loving this trend of insane rape apologist articles in college newspapers…simply because after graduation these young onions will soon discover that future employers undoubtedly find their neanderthalian, rape-defending insights far less endearing than their “free exchange of ideas”-encouraging college professors did.

    God I almost feel sorry for them. If my former sophomoric insights on the way the world works were forever emblazoned on the interwebs, I’d be pretty screwed.

    (Except I would never say anything nearly as vile as this bottom-feeder did, even at my most ignorant. So suck my Google, Alex Knepper.)

  3. March 30, 2010 3:30 pm

    Also, is it just me, or is the term “jungle juice” rather racist?

    • April 2, 2010 10:13 am

      The few explanations offered for the name of that particular beverage don’t have much to do with race. The one that I hear most often is that military personnel stationed in the jungle improvised drinks by combining whatever alcohol they had available and referred to it as jungle juice.

  4. March 30, 2010 9:28 pm

    So, I wonder if Knepper feels the same way about guys, as well? I mean, if a dude gets drunk at a frat party and goes to a private place with another guy, is that a sexual invitation, as well? Or do the rules somehow change then?

    And for fuck’s sake, it’s not that women are going “gosh, I bet there’s something suspicious in this drink! I’d better taste it and see!” it’s that they’re drinking something that was handed to them by someone they trusted.

    “the lines of consent in sex — especially anonymous sex — can become very blurry. ” Oh, totally. Because as everyone knows, “anonymous sex” means dead silence with no talking allowed. No, not even to ask “is this okay?” every now and then.

    Jeez, even if consent weren’t an issue at all, if I were naked with some guy for first time and he never once asked “do you like this” or “is there anything you’d like me to do” I’d be pissed. That’s just bad sexmanship right there. I’ve been with my bf for a few months now and I still ask for feedback and direction during sex, simply because what felt good to him last time might not be what he craves today. He’s just as communicative with me. Apparently, though, sex is supposed to be a glorious, terrifying mystery and all our talking is wrecking it.

  5. March 30, 2010 9:41 pm

    Yeah, okay, one more rant: this idea that “consent is blurry” pisses me off because (to me, anyway) the implication is “women are so darned complicated that there’s no way to know if they want sex. Ever.”

    Now, I do believe that consent should be verbally established ahead of time. But FYI, a woman who’s enjoying what you’re doing with her (and therefore possibly open to moving things further) is probably going to do at least two of the following things:

    -moan, or at least breathe a little heavier than normal
    -kiss you back
    -have her eyes closed or be looking at you with a fond or passionate expression (i.e. NOT a deer-in-headlights stare and NOT staring at the ceiling with tears streaming silently down her face)
    -get wet

    …And that’s the bare minimum – the kind of thing you’d expect from someone super-passive. Why, I hear some women will even do things like:

    -remove their clothes
    -remove your clothes
    -get a condom and put it on you
    -guide your hand, mouth, or penis to her genitals

    So when guys act like it’s impossible to tell if a chick wants to have sex, I have to wonder if they’re completely inexperience, have never had a willing partner, or are just being wilfully obtuse.

    • April 1, 2010 1:30 am

      I totally agree that there are lots of ways to communicate consent (and a resounding YAY for it!) However, I don’t necessarily agree with the “get wet” part of it. Whether or not a woman is emotionally or mentally willing to consent she may get wet because of how our bodies react when we’re put in “sexual” (especially sensory stimulating) situations. So you can get what might be perceived as physically “turned-on” when you’re absolutely not into it.

      And good comment regarding that YES, women want sex! I know I do, and pretending like women *don’t* want sex, allows rape apologists to further claim “blurry-ing” of the lines.

      • April 6, 2010 9:20 pm

        Actually, yeah…I’ve been in situations where my body was responding automatically to stimulation even though my brain was saying DO NOT WANT.

        But you get the gist of what I’m saying. :)

      • April 6, 2010 11:08 pm

        I absolutely do–consent can be a lot of things, but it ALWAYS should be enthusiastically communicated :)

  6. March 31, 2010 9:41 am

    Well put. (Though I suspect the last paragraph makes it even easier for those inclined to disagree to ignore the whole thing.) I had a conversation once with someone who was–rather disturbingly–skeptical of BDSM *precisely because of the consent*; this person wasn’t sure the thrill they’d experienced from being a masochist in a not-at-all talked-over, or safeword-protected, relationship-with-pleasurable-violence (YES I’m aware that this is awkward phrasing; it’s hard to try to describe the situation without extremely loaded words) would transfer over to a typical BDSM one. This is a fantastic answer to that kind of worry (and better than my overly glib response of the time, ‘consensual tears still taste sweet’).

  7. Theresa permalink
    March 31, 2010 4:54 pm

    Thank. You.

  8. alicepaul permalink
    March 31, 2010 5:53 pm

    “Even people who are fairly drunk can communicate consent just fine. A bleary-eyed and slurred “stick your cock in me” is not really ambiguous, unless you’re unclear on what hole is being indicated.”

    Wait, what? I hope I misunderstood this, but it seems like you are saying that drunk, bleary-eyed, slurring people can consent to sex. Which, no, Holy shit, no!

    Apologies if I read it wrong.

    • March 31, 2010 8:13 pm

      Alicepaul, the apology is mine. I reread that and was surprised that I wrote it, because it isn’t what I meant. I’ve edited the post. People who are clearly shitfaced and impaired are not giving meaningful consent. Folks who have had some alcohol but know where they are and who they are with and what they are doing and can make an unambiguous statement of what they want, I think, can be taken at their word.

      I reject Roiphe’s notion that rape is a problem of women getting a bit drunk and rethinking what they said yes to; I embrace Lisak’s research that rapists use alcohol deliberately or pick intoxicated targets on purpose. In the past, I’ve admitted that as a teetotaler myself and one who has rarely had a partner on any alcohol, I don’t know where to draw lines in marginal cases but I’ve waved off partners who I knew were very interested where I thought their decision making was impaired. But a lot of my feminist friends have very conscious and deliberate sex after some alcohol consumption, and I just don’t think absolute bar on sex after drinking is going to fly with most of the feminists I know.

      • alicepaul permalink
        April 1, 2010 3:37 am

        Yes, a bar on sex after drinking is different from a bar on sex after one is drunk. And of course each individual has his or her own tolerance for alcohol so this can’t really be standardized.

        Where did you edit the post? The paragraph I was talking about looks the same, stating that one who is “fairly drunk,” slurring, etc, can give consent.

      • April 1, 2010 6:31 am

        I was trying to shut down for the night and I must have failed to save my own changes. They should be in this time. Again, my mistake.

  9. PrettyAmiable permalink
    April 1, 2010 12:40 am

    “They’ll never accept you, no matter how forcefully you argue in favor of raping drunk women.”

    Ha, love this. So true.

  10. Dawn. permalink
    April 1, 2010 3:46 pm

    Knepper is clearly a combative, unoriginal, self-indulgent misogynist who cleaves to a regressive political party that hates who he is, no matter what he does. His depiction of feminists as anti-sex is totally delusional, which is just icing on his batshit crazy cake. Thank you for the smack-down, Thomas.

  11. April 4, 2010 2:23 pm

    Thank you.

    I think part of the issue is a false sense of entitlement though… basically, “If I get you alone in my room, I deserve to fuck you,” i.e., someone is entitles to have sex if for no other reason than being slick enough to get someone alone in a room with them.

    I wrote about it on my blog in more detail, though: http://ambiqueerious.wordpress.com/2010/04/04/sex-and-entitlement/

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