Sunday, September 16, 2007

Is There Really a "New" Kind of Rape?

The September issue of Cosmopolitan magazine features a story on what they're calling a new form of date rape. "Gray" rape, according to Cosmo, takes place in today's party environment, where there's often lots of alcohol, drugs, flirting, and the idea that women can be as bold as men about sex. Maybe they go off somewhere and begin making out, she says no to sex but he doesn't hear or pay attention . . . is it rape? About half of women in that situation will not call it rape--but they'll still end up dealing with the emotional fallout (see my April article for that issue). Most of the rest will feel it was wrong, but put a lot of the blame on themselves.

Don't get me wrong, I think it's great that Cosmo is tackling the whole date rape issue--and calling it rape. This article's got some good advice for prevention and seeking help. There's even advice for guys on what consent is and is not, and mention that men too can be sexually exploited. Is this, however, a new type of rape? I don't think so.

Gray rape is still date rape, with some fresh window dressing. Cosmo attributes the "confusion" and women's self-blame to a new era of sexual freedom. In earlier generations, the excuses were that guys just couldn't control themselves, he'd have "blue balls," she led him on, she dressed "that" way, or (in the 1960s) "free love." Coerced sex, along with victim-blaming, is woven in our social fabric. Whatever the name, whatever the purported rationale, it's still rape and still not new. And still can be defended against.

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