Rape, Rape-Rape, and What Sex Is

06/16/2011 11:08 AM |

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  • Ms. Magazine

Whoopi Goldberg famously made herself look like a giant asshole on The View a few years ago for trying to defend Roman Polanski’s child rape by saying it wasn’t “rape rape.” Her comments rightfully touched off a firestorm of anger among people who aren’t giant assholes, but as it turns out, the FBI agrees there is a difference between “rape” and “rape rape.” According to Ms. Magazine:

At least 1 in 6 women in the U.S. will be raped in their lifetime. An estimated 1 in 10 rape victims are male, and studies have suggested that 1 in 2 transgender people will be sexually assaulted. But unless a rape fits the FBI’s 82-year-old definition, “The carnal knowledge of a female forcibly and against her will,” it will never be counted in the FBI’s annual Uniform Crime Report (UCR). That includes rapes of men and transgender people, as well as those involving forced anal sex, oral sex, vaginal or anal fisting, rape with a finger or an object (even if serious injuries result), and other injurious and degrading sexual assaults.

Wow, how incredibly fucked up! Right? There’s a petition to sign. Hopefully we can get the FBI to change it’s definition, because

This results in the underestimation of the scope of the problem and inadequate funding for law enforcement to solve and prevent these crimes.

It seems completely obvious now that there are a huge range of things that are rape that aren’t a man forcing his penis into a woman’s vulva. And yet, this 82-year-old law goes to show how hugely our understanding of what sex is has changed in the last hundred, fifty, or even ten years. So what is sex? The answer is not so simple.

Some of you Olds might remember the whole Clinton is oral sex sex debate. Straight people who grew up hewing to the “base” system (and despite regional differences about where exactly third is) are often befuddled by how gay people decide when to “count” something as sex. And now the Weiner kerfluffle has stirred up the questions about whether online sex is “really” sex. Tech and sex writer Violet Blue had a super interesting interview with Dr. Keely Kolmes about whether cyber sex can be real sex. An excerpt:

We are dealing with the intersection of fantasy and the mingling of psyches. I would say that whether or not it is “real” sex depends upon how the interaction is experienced by the participants. It may even feel “real” for one person in the encounter, and not for the other person with whom they are having cybersex! On the other hand, you may have two people having cybersex where neither of them considers it “real,” despite arousal, a feeling of intimacy, and even mutual orgasm—and yet their real-life partners may beg to differ. It depends upon your definitions of sex and whether sharing or co-creating fantasies (or building arousal) is in and of itself a real enough sexual experience for you. But it’s fascinating that two people can be having an experience and one person may compartmentalize it in a way that feels “not real,” while the other person is feeling much more integrated about it.

Go read the rest of it! It’s a very thought-provoking discussion. It’s both exciting and kind of overwhelming to realize that as we become more aware of the fluidity of gender, sexuality, and identity, particularly as it pertains to our online selves, we must renegotiate a lot of assumptions about what is and is not sex, rape, consent, and monogamy.