Why Some Think There's A Grey Area Surrounding Rape

“We’ve all been in a situation with a boy trying to force himself on us and in the end you just think ok fine, whatever.”

 

When a teenage girl said this, last night, on BBC Three I felt myself clenching my fists and swallowing hard. Is that the sad state of sexual education and understanding for my generation?

But then I remembered. I remembered being afraid of being called frigid.

<Frid-Id!>

That double-ended spikey word, that stuck straight into your ribs, as it was spat from the bully’s mouth. I just wanted to fit in. I just wanted him to like me. I just wanted to be a grown-up.

 

“It was a semi-rape” one girl said during the study.  

What does that mean? I thought. 

“You were raped but not enough to call it rape?” one teenage boy asked the room in what I thankfully understood to be a questioning tone. 

The BBC Three show ‘Is This Rape? – Sex On Trial’ made for uncomfortable viewing, and it wasn’t just the unconsented to sexual act, depicted within the drama (directed by John O’Kane). But the response from the teen audience was what really made me shudder. 

The drama itself followed friends Gemma and Tom at a party, getting drunk, flirting and then somehow ending up sharing a sofa-bed. We’ve all been there, the never-ending house party, where you end up staying over. Sleeping in your shoes, passed out in a lounge, in which, you’d previously made polite conversation with someone else’s parents. But now it’s so cold you don’t mind so much sharing the blanket with a not-quite- boyfriend, mate- kind-of- guy. But thankfully the part where he climbs on top of you and forces you to perform oral sex doesn’t usually happen. 

When I was at school sex education was pretty no-existant and I don’t remember the term ‘consent’ ever being scrawled on white board or uttered in a single classroom. But I was under the impression that we’d moved forward (in the UK at least) in the 10 years since I left compulsory education. 

I would also have hoped we were over those games of ‘nervous’ and dares, which always ended with someone’s unwanted hand in a crotch. Or a sloppy washing-machine-tongue tracing your throat. The world of sex, liberation and porn has reached new heights and it’s thanks to technology. A new ‘taboo’ is now just a click away and a sexual experiment or quick release is activated in one lucky swipe. 

But we’re the generation who were given the tools but not the intelligence. 

 

Search porn online and you need not go far in order to stumble upon the disgusting oxymoron ‘Rape Fantasy’. Ever sent nudes to an ex and you’ll know it’s no secret, that the ‘cloud’ has your details and, the world could know your cup size at any moment.

It’s technology like this, which takes away our choices. Forgets to enforce the word ‘no’ where we would sometimes like it to be. It’s this easy anything goes culture which is teaching young girls especially to submit. That their bodies are not valuable or personal and that ‘likes’ on social media make it worth breathing in when it comes to your holiday snaps. And if he does share your nudes, well, it was your fault for taking them. 

Easy and anything goes is fine when we’re all saying yes.

 

“But she didn’t say no! She could have laughed it off and told him to stop.” Argued one teenage girl.

 

“I just froze.” Said the character Gemma. 

 

There can seem like there are grey areas around the word rape. Did it not take place down an alley in the rain with a stranger? Was it just a friend who you’d already flirted with at a party? You can almost see the confusion the teens in the studies faced. Almost. 

Your perception of rape may be a grey area, but the concept of consent is crystal clear, and only ever has two answers. 

Twitter was obviously enraged by this, just as it is when One Direction does… well, anything. Or a Kardashian takes a no make-up selfie. But this time, I was shaking my virtual fists along with the other twitterers, all in a flap. 



 

Consider this. 

You don’t have to pre-empt a sexual attack to be a rapist. You could believe you were given consent when you just plain weren’t, in order to commit rape. Many people, boys and girls, still haven’t understood that if you don’t hear and definite ‘yes’ then you can’t assume you have a green light. And just because you heard a yes before, doesn’t mean the answer is still the same. 

So when many have asked for sexual consent to form part of the curiculumn, I have to agree. Because you don’t have to understand a crime in order to commit it. 

 

As one brave contributor to the show put it. “Rape is torture. You are torturing someone else’s body when you rape them.” 

Invading someone else’s body, taking away their free will and right to choose and leaving behind emotional scars and self-doubt. Making a victim wonder, Did I ask for that? (Another argument all together) But even if the rapist doesn’t understand consent, he is still a rapist. The way forward is education. 

Not only do we need to teach children, teenagers and even adults about consent we also need to educate that it is ok to say no. That boy, those bullies, the reputation as a prude do not matter. What does matter is being true to what you want, who you want and what is ok when it comes to your body and well being. That’s being a grown-up. 

 

And there’s no such thing as 'semi-rape'… in case you were still wondering. 

 

If you need to explain sex and consent to a five-year-old this animation all about tea should do the trick! 

If you've been effected by rape and would like to seek help please visit Rape Crisis by clicking here.