How Not to Hook Up When You’re an Anti-rape Activist

Speaking as someone who qualifies as an “anti-rape activist,” I cannot begin to fathom what problems would necessitate an article about dating. My activism is not something that typically comes up when I first meet someone. Indeed, it rarely comes up at all. I find it best to keep the two separate because one is about preventing sexual violence and the other is about finding a partner.

However, I have a small character flaw: I do not form my entire perception of the world around my activism. If it were to do so, if I were to make my concern for preventing sexual violence the focus of my existence, then it is very possible that I might find it difficult to date.

Such is the case for several women interviewed by The Cut:

There several ways an undergraduate suitor can react when his anti-rape-activist date explains what she does. One of the most common is a sort of primal response — an instinctual, indignant protest: Not ALL men!

And, according to a number of women who have become campus leaders in the growing conversation around consent, that’s hardly the worst-case scenario.

These women have had their stories and their mission written up in student papers and in national ones; they’ve had bylines and quotes in the New York Times, interviews in the Huffington Post and on Dateline. They become poster children for sexual politics. And with their crusade often comes a weird social life: They’re out there fighting the good fight, but do they also get to hook up like normal college students?

In fairness, no. Once you decide to make your public image one of considering all men on college campuses potential rapists, it is not likely that most college men will want to have anything to do with you. You do not get to label men in such a negative way and then assume that you can gallivant around like the average college girl. You set the precedent and the rules and now you must abide by them. Granted, that can be unpleasant:

Meghan Warner, a senior at UC Berkeley, serves as the director of the university’s sexual-assault commission and is part of a federal complaint against the school for its mishandling of assault cases. She’s appeared in a Glamour issue honoring college women who are about to change the world. And she says there were men who wouldn’t approach her or date her after recognizing her, or learning of her work.

And why would they assume that? Could it be that Warner expressed views like:

Despite the success of the Clothesline Project, Warner still has many ideas and programs to implement. Her goal is to make consent education mandatory, and levy sanctions against students who do not attend.

She continued:

“Nobody ever explicitly said, ‘Oh you’re a survivor, we can’t date,’” she told me. “But they’d assume that I was just doing this for attention, or more frequently they didn’t want to deal with it. It was too much. They assumed I’d have a lot of needs.”

That is not without reason either. Again from the above link:

Warner is herself a sexual assault survivor. She says she was sexually assaulted and raped by two men in a fraternity house during her freshman year after her sorority sisters left her in the house.

“I got a lot of blame from members of my sorority,” she explained. “After it happened, they called me in and said, ‘If you were raped, we’d lose the house,’ implying heavily that it would disappoint my chapter. I was so confused and betrayed. It was full of misinformation, it was full of victim-blaming, and it made me feel terrible.”

They claimed that if she were to report the rape, the sorority would lose its house and the chapter would be shut down. Warner’s trauma and further degradation by her sorority sisters sent her into denial. She finally read a book about sexual violence, and ran across a story identical to hers; it was then that she was pulled out of her denial.

This is not to say that Warner is damaged goods. However, she was clearly affected enough by their experiences that it motivated her into action. There are not many people who want to deal with the above. Normal interactions — dealing with friends and family, dating availability, mobility, etc. — are difficult enough. Adding on someone coping with sexual violence is something most people are not prepared to do, particularly when it comes with activism that frames all men as rapists.

Then there were those who were a little too eager to make it know that they would never, ever assault a woman. “Their first response is ‘I’m not one of those guys, I would never do that,’” she said. “I mean, what, should I be carrying gold stars now?”

The irony is that this is precisely the response Warner wants. She wants men to affirm they would never commit rape. She wants men to affirm that they will always ask for consent. Yet when presented with men who do that, she balks.

Warner is not the only one who misses the irony of her own behavior:

Chrissy Keenan, a UCLA senior, is the president of Bruin Consent Coalition, a campus group that works to raise awareness regarding sexual assault on campus. “When people know of me but they don’t really know the work, they hear the term ‘feminist’ or ‘sexual-violence prevention,’ they think, ‘super-extreme, bra-burning feminism,’” she explains, which often puts people on the defensive.

Keenan herself, though, sometimes finds it hard not to go on the offensive. She’s so used to laying down the nitty-gritty details of consent that she’s been known to open romantic interactions with a spiel that feels straight out of a student handbook.

And clearly the fault lies with the man. After all, who would not want to engage in raucous, enthusiastic, affirmative verbal consent-lead sex with someone who began the interaction with:

  • Consent must be ongoing throughout a sexual encounter and can be revoked at any time;

  • Consent can be communicated verbally or by action(s). In whatever way consent is communicated, it must be mutually understandable. Although consent does not need to be verbal, verbal communication is the most reliable form of asking for and gauging consent, and you are thus urged to seek consent in verbal form. Talking with sexual partners about desires and limits may seem awkward, but serves as the basis for positive sexual experiences shaped by mutual willingness and respect;

  • Consent to some sexual acts does not imply consent to others, nor does past consent to a given act imply present or future consent;

  • Silence alone (absent a non-verbal action clearly demonstrating consent) is not considered consent. Consent cannot be inferred from the absence of a “no”; a clear “yes,” verbal or otherwise, is necessary;

  • Affirmative consent can never be given by minors, mentally disabled individuals, or incapacitated persons. A person may be incapacitated as a result of alcohol or other drug use. Engaging in sexual activity with a person whom you know or reasonably should know to be incapacitated constitutes sexual assault;

  • Consent can only be accurately gauged through direct communication about the decision to engage in sexual activity. Presumptions based upon contextual factors (such as clothing, alcohol consumption, or dancing) are unwarranted, and should not be considered as evidence for consent.

Granted, one would never expect to see this applied to the feminist spouting it. One rarely sees any of the “affirmative consent” activists mentioning male victims, let alone suggesting that women have the same obligation to ask for permission. Sure, when asked they will (ironically) enthusiastically agree that of course women must get consent. Yet it is never present in their literature or activism. They will make the language gender neutral, but the activism is all about women.

Nevertheless, one can see why the above spiel would be a turn-off. Unfortunately, Keenan missed this obvious fact, leading a rather hilarious interaction:

She animatedly tells a story about a recent Tinder rendezvous: “One time, I agreed to meet with this guy at 8 or 9 at night. Before we met, I said to him, ‘This is the work I do, I know the chief of police … so, don’t try and get creepy; I know all my rights.’ And five minutes later, he was like, ‘Actually, I’m really not OK with how you just assume I’m a bad guy. And I get very bad vibes from that, so we shouldn’t hang out anymore.’”

“I was in a rage. He was a total fuckboy about consent,” she said.

“Fuckboy” is the more modern word for “pussy.” So in context, Keenan wanted to date a man. She proceeds to tell him not to try to rape her because she knows the chief of police. The man then decides that it is best for him not to date, remain friends with, or even interact with Keenan. And therefore Keenan’s response was to insult the man for saying “no” to sex with her.

Is that not a violation of the “affirmative consent” position? True, she did not force the man into a sexual encounter, but clearly she did not respect his refusal.

Another young woman offered her experiences:

“Honestly, even if they’re supportive, even if they say all the right things, and really want to discuss my job, it makes me feel weird about hooking up with them,” says Sofie Karasek, a recent UC Berkeley graduate and co-founder of End Rape on Campus. (She’s also involved with the UC Berkeley lawsuit and has a large part in the campus rape-culture documentary The Hunting Ground.) “It’s like, ‘Oh, we were just talking about rape, and now we’re going to hook up.’ It’s just weird.”

It is weird. You do not know this person, you know nothing about their past experiences, and you know nothing about their concerns. The thing to do is not to scare them off with your extreme feminist views but to show them you are a person worthy of their attraction, compassion, and affection. Accusing them of being a rapist is not the way to do this.

That should be obvious, yet we have three examples of feminists failing to understand this. They likely are not the only ones. Articles like the one featured on The Cut abound. Feminists seem to ask these questions all too frequently, as if they do not understand why men would avoid dating people who appears to consider all males a potential threat.

Being confused about this is akin to men who constantly trash women wondering why no women want to date them. The shy guy sitting in the corner playing his 3DS has a better chance that than man mouthing off about women because he does not come across as a jerk.

Likewise, women who explicitly state that they think men need to be taught not to rape and begin potential sexual interactions warning their partners that they know the police chief will get less play than the most arrogant women because they come across as jerks.

Your bad experiences are not an excuse to treat everyone you meet as suspect. They certainly are no excuse to accuse people of being threats because of their sex. You cannot do that and then wonder why people do not want to date you. Who would want to date someone who has so little regard for them?

Of course, that never occurs to Warner or Keenan. They end the article stating:

Maybe most insidious is an expectation that their advocacy — and their own experiences — put them somehow outside the realm of a normal social life.

“Just because someone wants to socialize and date doesn’t mean we’re bad victims or that our experiences haven’t been that bad,” Warner says. “When we talk about sexual assault or prevention, there tends to be the perception of ‘oh, you’ve ruined someone’s life.’ My life was not ruined.” Warner says. “People heal at different rates. Some people can’t date and they aren’t ready and they might never be ready. But we’re not broken. What happened to me had a lasting impact on my life, but I still enjoy my life.”

Yet no one said that to her. She has presented no example of this at all. What she did present was an example of her brushing off men who tried to be compassionate and understanding. That is not their fault.

Still, Keenan can attest that sometimes — when she’s lucky — her advocacy and her dating life are perfectly compatible.

There was one time, one guy, knowing what I did and what I talked about, he made consent part of foreplay,” she reacalls. “You know, very intentionally asking, ‘Is this okay? Is this okay?’ It was cute. It was great.”

In context, assuming Keenan told this man the same thing she told the other, this man asked those questions because Keenan threatened to call the police chief if the man got “creepy.” He is not being cute or great; he is covering his ass.

Is that really the kind of sexual relationship you want?

Advertisements

23 thoughts on “How Not to Hook Up When You’re an Anti-rape Activist

  1. “My activism is not something that typically comes up when I first meet someone”

    But we live in a rape culture, that encourages people to rape, so that rape is something normal people do! etc.

  2. “One time, one guy… It was cute”.

    Girls don’t describe a hot sexual encounter as “cute”. “Cute” in bed means she liked him, but not that way.

    That’d be why it only happened *one time* with that one guy.

  3. Once I know a woman considers all men rapists, and that men– which I am one– have to be taught not to rape— that makes me want nothing further to do with that woman. Why take the risk? I can all but guarantee that before long I’ll be charged with something— if not rape, then harassment, if not that then something else–.

    Note that I do not trust the consent nonsense that’s floating around. All that “yes, yes, yes” means nothing the next morning when she has regrets and decides that you did, indeed, rape her. If a person’s word is worthless, what makes anybody think that “Yes means yes” is going to change that? Her word is still worthless.

  4. Her goal is to make consent education mandatory, and levy sanctions against students who do not attend.

    *Totally* sounds like someone who isn’t pessimistic about the opposite sex and definitely doesn’t let their worldview color all interactions with them, or thinks the majority don’t already understand basic sexual consent…/sarcasm

    It is weird. You do not know this person, you know nothing about their past experiences, and you know nothing about their concerns. The thing to do is not to scare them off with your extreme feminist views but to show them you are a person worthy of their attraction, compassion, and affection. Accusing them of being a rapist is not the way to do this.

    Not only that, but I can easily imagine that this could actually hurt a man, or make his own healing more difficult if he’s a sexual abuse/assault survivor too. Like you said…she doesn’t know very much about these guys at all. It is quite frankly disturbing and twisted for her to assume she’s the only person with scars that need consideration. Oh, but then her script gets torn, doesn’t it?

    Your bad experiences are not an excuse to treat everyone you meet as suspect. They certainly are no excuse to accuse people of being threats because of their sex. You cannot do that and then wonder why people do not want to date you. Who would want to date someone who has so little regard for them?

    Everybody in the online world at large could benefit from this advice.

    Is that not a violation of the “affirmative consent” position? True, she did not force the man into a sexual encounter, but clearly she did not respect his refusal.

    The only way it can be altered to make *some* semblance of sense is if these women think of their side of the sexual experience as necessarily being passive. As a man, he is only the asker. As a woman, she only grants his request. Since it sounds like she was very willing to grant his hypothetical request (aka she wanted sex with him but didn’t want to initiate/flip her role), she got quite pissed when he decided it was in his best interest to not ask at all.

    He is NOT a “fuckboy” or “pussy” or anything else other than a guy who weighed his options and found that not having sex with the woman who just made him sound like a potential rapist was preferable to taking any chances. Were I in his position, I’d have done the exact same thing.

  5. Everything ok, TS?
    It told me comment moderation was back on.

    Everything is fine. The moderation is set to catch all swear words.

    Not only that, but I can easily imagine that this could actually hurt a man, or make his own healing more difficult if he’s a sexual abuse/assault survivor too.

    Curious how that consideration never seems to come up in their discussions.

    The only way it can be altered to make *some* semblance of sense is if these women think of their side of the sexual experience as necessarily being passive. As a man, he is only the asker. As a woman, she only grants his request.

    That seems to be their default position. I do not think it helps them because if it is, then men would already know that the woman’s consent is not a given.

  6. Wow. To everyone who is young in this day and age, I express my deepest sympathy and condolences. When I read things like this I thank god I came of age in the 70’s. Couples were still encouraged to be couples and get to know one another before becoming intimate. (Holy cow, how have we ended up in a place where anti-rape activists are on Tinder late at night looking to ‘hook up’ with strangers????? You want to prevent rape – that would be a good place to start.)

    And when you did get together, sex was fun. Thrilling. Exhilarating. Life Affirming. Nostrils-flaring, skin tingling, passionate fun. Even if you were an assault survivor (as so many were), if you were with a loving, caring partner the assault history could be minimized, and sometimes even partially over-written with positive experiences. With a loving, caring, compassionate partner all kinds of healing is possible. Without it, not much is.

    That’s never going to happen with anonymous, sterile, Tinder hookups, no matter how many assertions of consent you get.

    We seem to have drifted into a world where people who basically hate sex and relationships are setting the terms for everyone. Sheesh. Whatever that is, being negotiated in that article, it surely doesn’t sound like any kind of sex I had when I was young. Thank god.

    I urge all of you young healthy people to start a ‘Take back the bedroom’ movement. And make sure that bonding, love, passion, and intimate human connection are included.

  7. Let’s bring back “going round the bases.” But then we’d have to bring romance back too. I’m sure feminists would label it some kind of coersive patriarchal plot.

  8. I met a couple of these sort of activists many years ago in the 70s when a youth group I was in held an information night on rape crisis centres. I found them frighteningly paranoid and so did the rest of the group. I would go as far as to say that they had a mental disorder. Whether this was caused by their activism or something else I don’t know. The only reason I can imagine that any man would want to become emotionally entangled with such a person is that they have become far more common place these days and don’t stand out like they used to, thereby giving a false sense of legitimacy.

  9. Holy sh*t, she starts off a Tinder interaction with a threat and then insults the guy when he backs out?

    Sometimes I think that there’s a little bit of autism or some other social interaction disorder tied up in the behaviour of these consent educators, because they seem to be staggeringly incapable of modelling normal social interaction, requiring direct and explicit verbal communication in situations where that tends to be uncomfortable, and then totally failing to understand how or why their “all men are potential rapists who need to be taught rape is wrong” messages are offensive. Or, in this case, outright threatening.

    Would you like to come over to my house for lunch? Don’t try to steal anything though, I have a gun and I know my rights.

  10. Sometimes I think that there’s a little bit of autism or some other social interaction disorder tied up in the behaviour of these consent educators

    This has nothing to do with autism. Some people with autism have difficulty understanding social interactions, but nowhere near to the extent that would cause them to think every member of the opposite sex is a threat.

    I am someone who was very paranoid about interacting with people following my experiences of abuse. I understand that feeling. I lived it for years. It is still very much a part of me. However, I am aware of how unreasonable that feeling is and I make an effort to curb it so it does not affect my social interactions.

    These women, however, are surrounded by people who encourage those feelings.They are surrounded by people who tell them that men do not understand the difference between sex and rape. They are surrounded by people who tell them our social condones and encourages rape. No one tells them this is wrong. Instead, they hear that everyone who challenges those views are rape apologists and in denial. When they are confronted with the hurt of being accused of such a horrible thing, their reaction is nothing but contempt. Again, this is because they never have to deal with counter arguments.

    This is what happens when ideology takes over and mixes in with wounded feelings.

  11. It appears that the definition of fuckboy is somewhat more complex than just “pussy”. Apparently it originally was black slang meaning “pussy”, but has since become appropriated by white people bemoaning their hookups in Tinder (According to this Jezebel article scolding white people of appriating black slang):

    A “fuckboy” is a young man who sleeps with women without any intention of having a relationship with them or perhaps even walking them to the door post-sex. He’s a womanizer, an especially callous one, as well as kind of a loser. The word has been around for at least a decade with different meanings; it’s only in about the last year that it has become so frequently used by women and girls to refer to their hookups.

  12. These women I’m in two minds about. On the one hand – as a survivor myself – my heart goes out to them. On the other, they’re not handling it properly. I mean, that fear that they have is understandable because when you suffer sexual assault from the opposite sex (male or female) you might be attracted to them and simultaneously repulsed by them, sometimes at a subconscious level (drawing on my own experiences here). Unfortunately these activists are blinded by feminist assumptions (because let’s face it, we’re all ignorant in society about sexual violence in some way) and it’s consumed them so much that they lash out at any opportunity like in the first and third quotes.

    They don’t need activism, they need help.

  13. And also if their accused happens to be a survivor themselves then these activists have upheld the damaging myth that ‘vampire syndrome’ is real.

    Some activists.

  14. “Her goal is to make consent education mandatory, and levy sanctions against students who do not attend.”

    And then, no doubt, to charge money for attendance.

  15. Pingback: What is the deal with male feminists? | Toy Soldiers

  16. Actually the definition of Fuckboy is even more insidious than what Tamen states. It’s *also* (or possibly, originally) used as a prison slang term for someone who gets “passed around.”

    So, assuming that’s true (and I have no reason to doubt it) it’s a rape joke.

  17. “A “fuckboy” is a young man who sleeps with women without any intention of having a relationship with them or perhaps even walking them to the door post-sex. He’s a womanizer, an especially callous one, as well as kind of a loser. The word has been around for at least a
    decade with different meanings; it’s only in about the last year that it has become so frequently used by women and girls to refer to their HOOKUPS”

    Just wondering if I read that right? A woman is ‘hooking up’ with a dude as opposed to possibly vetting him to see if he is relationship material and then getting pissed off when he turns on to be looking for…Mrs. Right now? The hypocrisy here is awe inspiring.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s