Tuesday, August 25, 2009

It’s Not Sex It’s Rape

Imagine that you were having sex with your boyfriend, only to discover that it was his twin brother.  It sounds right out of a daytime soap opera but that is exactly what happened in Milford, Connecticut.

NBC -- A police officer in Connecticut is charged with first degree sexual assault and criminal impersonation after police say he posed as his twin brother to have sex with a woman.

Telegraph.co.uk - Jared Rohrig, 25, pretended to be his brother Joe to trick the woman into bed.

Did you catch what happened there?  Two different news stories reported on a rape as just a case of trickery, involving sex.   If  a man is disguising his identity, in an attempt to fool someone into sexual intercourse, it is rape.   So often, we avoid the word rape and substitute  it with the word sex, as though a depraved violation had not occurred.    If we cannot correctly name the violation for what it is, how can we possibly find a way to deal with its heinous nature?

From the very moment he initiated contact with her, he had the responsibility to tell her that he was not his twin brother, Joe Rohrig.  Instead, he chose to take on his brother persona and persisted in violating her, after she realized that she was indeed being raped.  Unlike his brother Joe, Jared did not have a cowboy tattoo and it is this that made his identity obvious to the victim.

We don’t like to use the word rape because it specifically implies that a person should have autonomy over their bodies, whereas; sex leads one to believe in the implicit right of the rapist to access the body of another.  By refusing to use the word rape, we are once again empowering the rapist at the cost of the victims dignity and humanity.  Sex must be consented to between two equal partners for the exchange to be valid.

Though we claim to understand rape as an act that is located in the rapists desire to have power over another, we often fail to completely comprehend how this effects consent.   The victim in this case could not consent because she was not aware of whom she was interacting with. Consent can be removed from the victim in many ways: adult/child relationships, violence, threat of violence, deception, and power imbalance.  Though we know that rape can occur in many circumstances, we continue to cling to the notion that it involves some stranger jumping out of the bushes and attacking.  A large percentage of rapes occur between intimates, making the violation that much more startling and unexpected. 

Most will  read the story of the alleged attack and not give a moments pause as to what language was used because we have so readily internalized the idea that rape occurs within a certain framework.  Though feminists/womanists, have spent much time talking about rape and power, it has yet to become part of our normalized discourse; in fact, victim blaming and denial is far more prevalent.  We are far more likely to offer some excuse for the rapist, than to support the victim in hir time of need.