Sunday, January 8, 2012

Bringing Sex Into Focus

I saw this article over at Psychology Today and thought I would share. Rape and sexual abuse are a huge problem, not only for those with Borderline Personality Disorder, but for everyone, everywhere.

Bringing Sex Into Focus
The quest for sexual integrity.
by Caroline J. Simon Ph.D.

Rape Redefined for the 21st Century

Justice Department catches up with the complexities of rape.
Published on January 7, 2012 by Caroline J. Simon, Ph.D. in Bringing Sex Into Focus

Rape is wrong. Uncontroversial. But what is rape? The U.S. Department of Justice has finally made a giant step toward catching up with the 21st century complexities of this issue.

On Friday, January 6, 2012, Attorney General Eric Holder announced changes to the Uniform Crime Report's definition of rape. Since 1927 the federal definition of rape has been "the carnal knowledge of a female, forcibly and against her will." The revised definition includes "any gender of victim or perpetrator, and includes instances in which the victim is incapable of giving consent because of temporary or permanent mental or physical incapacity, including due to the influence of drugs or alcohol or because of age" ("Department of Expands Justice Definition of Rape."). Commentating on this move in an NPR interview, victims' advocate Scott Berkowitz praised the new definition because it "comes much closer to reflecting the reality of the crime. It happens to men and women, young and old, but in every case, it's an incredibly violent crime and we owe it to victims to acknowledge and count every one."

As an ethicist, I hope that this legal move will renew widespread public discussion of the important moral issues surrounding sexual consent.Make sure that there is consent is a vital rule. Easily said, but not simple to do. Especially after a casual sexual encounter, someone might say, "What do you mean you didn't want to have sex? Why'd you invite me up to your room then?" If one person but not the other assumes that not saying "no" is the same thing as consenting to an escalated level of sexual intimacy, harmful misunderstanding--even rape--can be a consequence.

Consent is an act rather than a state of mind. If consent is an act, it needs to be given; it should not simply be assumed in the absence of any sign to the contrary. Lack of a "No" is not equivalent to a "Yes." This means that it is a mistake to infer consent to sexual activities from the absence of an explicit "No."

As most state laws, and now the federal government, acknowledge, consent is also complicated by such factors as age-differences and the murky role of alcohol and drugs in sexual encounters. Mere verbal agreement is not valid consent. A child cannot validly consent to sex. Fraud and coercion are other conditions that invalidate consent. So does intoxication.

Ogden Nash became well known in the twentieth century for writing catchy and humorous short poems. Nash said, "Candy is dandy, but liquor is quicker." Nash's poem makes the cynical point that wooing a woman by sending her small presents like candy might eventually lead to sexual intimacy, but if you want to speed things along, get her drunk.

Before the term "date-rape" was invented, this poem counted as funny.


  1. I am officially caught up on every single one of your posts! woo *wipes forehead*. Now I can post opinions in real time. I love this blog Haven, I am not going anywhere, so I hope you are alright with that :)

  2. Yay mosaic =) I am very alright with that!

    You're quite welcome Nellie.

  3. this is always one of those issues where those who have not lived it get to decide for those who have. I truly think the only real way to get any real understanding and laws changed is to have more people involved who have experienced rape in all its varieties from stranger rape to date rape to getting slipped a drug in your drink and not knowing it. Unfortunately as with most things old men with little clue as to what life is truly like make decisions. I am glad however to see that at least some effort has been made and hope these changes are actually enforced and people aren't allowed to escape through the loopholes of justice.

    1. Oh Dafeenah I've been missing you. You do not post as much these days.

      I definitely agree that laws for this kind of thing need to have more experienced influence. Especially coming from those with a conservative stance, there's little chance that the true impact of actions like this will be made clear.

  4. fraud invalidates consent? so if a guy lies to a girl to make her more likely to sleep with him and she does then that is rape? lock up every guy then... how much alcohol? drink drive limit? still wooly definitions.
    glad you're still going :) are you working towards being a psychotherapist or has that been put on the back-burner?

    1. Res! Where have you been man! Missed you =)

      I agree it's still a pretty vague definition but I'm glad they changed the definition to include men at least. It's some kind of progress.

      Psych degree is on the back burner at the moment. Turns out my current job has been picking up a lot and I'm actually kind of digging it! Who'd have guessed. What have you been up to?

  5. been v busy with work (e.g. designing a new product, a few of which we'll sell to your workplace i'm sure!) and with new house and with gf...
    glad you're enjoying work. some people say "i work to live, not live to work" but you spend a massive proportion of your waking life at work so while you don't have to 'live to work' it sure helps if you don't hate it!

  6. Here's something else to be added into the mix. I've come to the belief that the vast majority of adults (I'd say around 95%) are actually children walking around in adult bodies. (There are many philosophical reasons I believe this) I don't have casual sex with strangers for this very reason. I wouldn't know what the maturity of the neural network is of the person I'm having sex with. I wouldn't have sex with someone who is physically a child. Is it ethically ok to sleep with one which is just in an adult body? For the sake of the survival of the species, I guess so. But that's not my style.


Leave me a comment! It makes me feel good and less paranoid about talking to myself =)

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