Monday, 16 November 2015

and then he came on her back: defining sexual assault

Trigger warning! Rapey bad shit warning!

So a dude and a lady are making out. Sexy times, presumably including ye olde P-in-V, are afoot. But no! The lady's dad comes home! He doesn't come into her room, but knowing he's in the house makes her uncomfortable proceeding with The Sex, so they agree to go to sleep. She does so.

The dude, however, miffed that his testes are brim-full of ejaculate that has been robbed of the chance to fulfil its destiny, has a wank and comes on her back.


A friend told me that story in the middle of a light-hearted loltastic chat about, I don't even remember, sex and some Ricky Gervais sketch and teenagerdom, I think. He told me that story as if it was part of the same world, as if it wouldn't bring the whole conversation screeching to a halt, as if it wasn't a story that hit a fun day on the head with a hammer.

"And then he came on her back! Haha!"

Just a punchline. Not, you know, an assault.

"But she didn't mind!", he said, when I expressed mild discomfort (I was a lot less confident/willing to ruin someone's day by shouting WHAT THE ACTUAL RAPEY FUCK DID YOU JUST SAY back then). "She thought it was funny!"

Oh cool, so sexual contact with unconscious people is fine as long as they can laugh about it afterwards? Good to know. Lucky that he was able to see into the future and divine that this would be her reaction, because otherwise, spunking on someone's unconscious body would kind of suggest you don't really care what their feelings are on the matter.


Because this has happened to me, too: I was doing the walk of shame home from some godforsaken suburb of south east London, ran my fingers through my hair, and thought, what? I'm pretty sure I haven't used hair gel since, like, 2002. Huh.

I sleep the sleep of the heavily-medicated dead, so, though I'm apparently quite chatty while unconscious, I have no memories of anything that happens during snooze-time; it was only a few weeks later that the chap in question mentioned off-hand that he had in fact jizzed on my face while I was sleeping.

And no, I'm not that fussed, I didn't find it traumatic. (Which isn't to say someone else in the same situation would react the same way.) But it's still sexual assault. Because of that whole unconscious-people-can't-give-consent-to-sexual-contact thing.


Some people get awfully nervous when you describe transgressions like that as "sexual assault", despite the fact that the events meet the dictionary definition. The argument is that if you include "lesser", "less traumatic", "less extreme" acts within that category, people will take the category as a whole less seriously because it's been diluted by these things that "aren't really a big deal".*

This seems precisely backwards to me. If we don't include all acts that involve sexual contact without consent in the category, it's easy to forget that this is what matters, that this is the violation. That rape isn't only bad if your rapist also beats you. That it still counts as sexual assault whether or not you run away from the experience screaming hysterically. That the methods the assailant uses to avoid or overpower your autonomy - force, alcohol, unconsciousness - are tools to achieve their goal; their presence or absence don't affect whether or not we categorise what happened as a sexual assault.

If one person spunks on another without their enthusiastic consent, that's assault, regardless of how they circumvented the lack of consent.

If the person who was spunked on freaks the fuck out when they learn what happened, or shrugs, washes their hair and puts the kettle on, it's still sexual assault.

The reaction of the victim isn't a factor in the definition. The method used isn't a factor in the definition. An inclusive definition of sexual assault reminds everyone that the only factor relevant to the definition is consent.


Apparently it is easier to accept this argument if you explain it via the medium of tea.

* Quote marks because I'm really uncomfortable with the idea of a universally applicable hierarchy of bad things / badder things / The Worst thing. 

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