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The great rape ape

I just started watching the show Lie to Me on Hulu and it's been pretty spiffy so far. I caught a promo advertisement for it on tv a while back and had always meant to check it out, but it slipped my mind until now. The basic premise of the show is that the main character studies facial and body response, using that information to determine whether a person is lying or telling the truth. In the second episode the problem to be unraveled involves a rape, and it got me thinking. The scenario in the show reminds me a lot of a similar circumstance that I debated about once and I thought I'd pitch it to all of you out there and see what you think.

I'm going to describe a series of events and I'd like to know whether you think what I'm describing qualifies as rape or not.

Two people work at an office and over time get to know each other pretty well. The male employee is the female employee's boss. One day, after the office christmas party or some other get together, they end up splitting a cab to go home. The man invites her into his apartment for a nightcap and she agrees, thinking that they'll just have some coffee and talk. Once inside the apartment, he propositions her. She thinks about how if she says no, he could go apeshit and fire her or otherwise try to ruin her career so she says yes and they knock boots.

Was she raped?


What sort of disturbs me about this situation is that if you think it's a rape, it's based entirely what's in her head. If you buy into her thought process, whether or not it's justified, then the guy seems like a predator. If I had told you instead that she said yes because she thought he was hot, then the specter's gone. Nothing in the situation has changed other than what's knocking around inside her head. That seems to be a pretty horrible way to determine whether a crime has occurred.

In the episode, the situation was pretty much as described and the investigators are dead set on classifying it as rape even before finding out what was in the guy's head. The woman claimed she was in fear for her life if she didn't consent and because of that there was no point at which she said no. In the end, it almost doesn't matter whether the guy had a nefarious intent or not since it's all about her perception. Of course, because it's a tv show, the guy had to be shown to have known that he was coercing her, but what if he wasn't? What if he truly believed that they were having a great consensual relationship? Is he still a rapist simply because that's how she views it in her head?

Here's a curveball of sorts. If you do think that this is horribly inappropriate sexual contact, or even rape for a person with power over another to ask/initiate a sexual relationship...do you then also believe that Bill Clinton, in effect, raped Monica Lewinski? Why not? If she had perceived it as a power issue...would it then have been rape even if his actions were exactly the same in both situations?


( 16 comments — Leave a comment )
Feb. 7th, 2009 05:42 pm (UTC)
my take
the woman is fully capable of not sharing the cab, not going into the apartment, and saying no to the unwanted proposition without any perceived threats from the man? it's not rape. it is sexual harrassment if the attention. the boss is in a position of authority and, in your country, can fire the woman with two weeks notice; he should know better than to pursue an office hullabaloo.

the bill clinton/monica lewinsky case is a different kettle of fish, as she made the first move to let mr president know that she was interested.

Feb. 8th, 2009 04:46 am (UTC)
Re: my take
If you look at dank's comment below, it pretty much does sum up the point of view of many feminists in the US. If it hadn't been Bill Clinton, one of their own, they would have called his relationship rape, even if she instigated it. For them, the unequal power means that consent is impossible.
Feb. 7th, 2009 06:09 pm (UTC)
If it's rape, then that means we need a whole entire new breed of criminal enforcement: thought police.

And that scares the bejesus out of me.
Feb. 8th, 2009 04:48 am (UTC)
We're not necessarily all that far off. Look at hate crime legislation for instance. As if any violent crime weren't committed due to hate. The action is the same and the only difference is what is believed to be in the person's mind.
Feb. 7th, 2009 06:53 pm (UTC)
Is it rape?
Of course, it depends on ones perspective. If you are coming out of a campus radical feminist ideology then it is definitely rape since their mantra is differential power precludes consent. In this framework, it doesn't matter what is in the head the woman or what the woman states- yes means no and no means as well. The woman is reduced to a cypher; it doesn't matter what she thinks since being in a subordinate position means one is mentally incapacited as to giving informed consent. Such is the rationale that is often given to ban student professor relationships; the student is always a victim; such would also apply to Monica re Bill, no matter that she initiated, interns cannot give consent when it comes to supervisors. Of course, this is all poppycock, but poppycock that has been ideologized and used to justify actions that could only occur in a Big Brother or Sister state.

In any case, the example given is a poor one, since an outside observer never really knows what is inside
the head of the other person. This applies to all of social life. In the present example, the narrator tells us what the hypothetical woman is thinking. In the real world, one does not know.

If readers are interested in these sorts of issues,
check out my blog- http://dankprofessor.wordpress.com
Feb. 8th, 2009 04:20 pm (UTC)
Re: Is it rape?
Interesting take on it. I appreciate the input.

From my point of view, I was just a bit disturbed that as far as the show was concerned, everything depended on state of mind as to whether or not a crime occurred. It balanced everything on a razor's edge since we can never really know for sure what a person is or isn't thinking. I can't help but feel that whenever we move away from the bright lines of action/no action, it makes it easier for the law to be corrupted and used as an ideological tool.

At least if the feminists got their way and all those relationships were banned, it would at least be a clear line.
Feb. 8th, 2009 04:02 pm (UTC)
This is why they have laws about sexual harrassment in work and other places. You HAVE to define it as rape BECAUSE you can never know what is in the woman or man's head. Therefore, make it a law that its illegal between a person of power and a peon and make sure everyone knows the loaw. No matter what happens or why, it becomes sexual harrassement and the person in power (male OR female) looses their position.
Feb. 8th, 2009 04:11 pm (UTC)
So lets say that one isn't in control of the other at work. Lets say it's two co-workers. One propositions the other who doesn't feel that they have the ability to refuse because then they'll get badmouthed at the office or otherwise face problems. If that also no good?

How about this then. Girl goes out and drinks some. Meets up with a guy later and they engage in intercourse. She claims she was legally intoxicated at the time and thus even though she consented, couldn't legally consent due to the intoxication. Is that rape? Does it matter whether her partner knew whether or not she was drunk? Does it matter whether or not he was drunk?
Feb. 8th, 2009 11:08 pm (UTC)
I like that show Lie to Me. It shows that every situation has to be judged on it's own merits. It also shows that the real situation isn't always black and white and even the truth isn't always the whole story. Sex while feeling imminent danger is not consensual, but whether or not the woman actually felt threatened physically or if he would fire her or not would be up to a psychologist and if they really existed a lie-detecting scientist to determine. Still, as many others point out, if the woman had no interest in the boss, she should have simply declined the nightcap altogether and never left the party with her boss, because that is setting herself up for failure. I once had a boss hint around in such a manner - I didn't even respond, I just gave him an icey stare that shut him up so fast you could hear a pin drop. If you play the game, expect to have to play until the end of the scenario or like me, don't play at all.
Feb. 9th, 2009 12:06 pm (UTC)
I tried reading your comment a couple of times and I'm still not sure what point you're trying to convey. What you're saying doesn't seem to jive with how you voted, so I'm not sure what's up exactly.

Do you think rape can/should be determined totally on the state of mind of one individual? That's the basic idea. With most crimes, it's the action that determines whether or not a crime has occurred. State of mind, when it is taken into consideration like in the case of determining intent, is usually based on the alleged perpetrator, not the alleged victim.

Here's an example. I ask you to loan me $5. You think that the very fact that I have asked you for the money means I'm demanding it and when you hand over the $5, you feel you've just been robbed. Am I now guilty of having mugged you?
Feb. 9th, 2009 02:14 pm (UTC)
I voted based only on the info given - if we can't attain further info and the decision rested solely on the info you provided - the only reason the woman slept with the man was based on perceived power, influence, imminent danger of violence, or threat of being fired, then by today's standards, yes, that is rape. The reason I like the tv show is because there is often a lot more to the story than just the bald truth seen in statements that are taken out of context. Additionally, there are often multiple reasons that people choose certain actions over others, so the case you have made is hard to judge without more info. I'm not ready to jump on the morally-superior high horse and say it's all the woman's fault, because that is so mid-century and antiquated, but I wouldn't have made the same choices she did. And yes, rape vs consensual sex is based on a person's state of mind - that's why we have date-rape, just because a person starts an evening thinking they might have sex doesn't mean they should be forced to have it if they later change their mind. And rape is based on both the perpetrateor and victim's state of mind. The money example is completely different - I won't have to go to a hospital or visit a psychologist because I gave you $5, however both or either may occur post-rape. Not to mention, if you didn't pay me back, I'd kick your ass, lol.

Edited at 2009-02-09 02:15 pm (UTC)
Feb. 9th, 2009 02:23 pm (UTC)
What the....

So it's rape simply because she thinks it's rape? I'm sorry but that's not how the law is structured right now. According to your point of view, it would also be rape if a woman simply believed that any man who asked to have sex with her were a homicidal maniac and would kill her if she said no. Don't you think the reasonableness of the belief has any weight upon the situation?

I also don't really get the whole psychologist issue. So it wouldn't be mugging if it were $5 and you didn't have to visit a shrink afterwards, but if it were $1000 with a shrink visit, it would be?
Feb. 9th, 2009 03:29 pm (UTC)
Rape is defined as vaginal penetration that they did not agree to (a) because they were incapable of giving consent due to intoxication or (b) because the other person used force or
made them afraid to say no. In your example, the woman was afraid to say no. In today's society, that is considered rape.
Feb. 9th, 2009 03:37 pm (UTC)
I dunno where you got that definition from, but it's incredibly inaccurate. What's important however is that even your definition in effect proves my point. 'because the other person....made them afraid to say no'. It's not simply whether some cuckoo felt afraid for no reasonable reason. There has to be action and/or intent to show rape. If a woman was simply a spazzcase and thought all men were violent rapists and the next time some guy tried to pick her up in a bar, she said yes and they had sex, it wouldn't be rape even if in her crazy head she felt she couldn't say no because he was a man and all men are violent rapists. There would have had to have been some action or intent on his part in order to meet the charge.
Feb. 9th, 2009 03:47 pm (UTC)
That definition is pulled from a professional psych journal called "Sex Roles," the article was titled, "Was It Rape? The Function of Women’s Rape Myth Acceptance and Definitions of Sex in Labeling Their Own Experiences" - it discusses the myths and misunderstandings of what rape really is and why so many women don't claim they were raped due to popular myths about what rape is or isn't. I will leave it at that - we agree to disagree. I understand what you are saying, but disagree - the example you just gave would define the woman as mentally incompetant and if that were so, then she could be said to be unable to give consent anyway, so it could be considered rape. Anyway, end of my line. I don't enjoy batting about such a higly volatile topic.
Feb. 9th, 2009 03:50 pm (UTC)
That's a pretty poor journal if they're suggesting that only someone with a vagina can be raped. Then again, the literature is crowded with crap. It's one reason that where you publish is more important than how much you publish. I knew profs who were able to make their bones on a single article in science or nature.
( 16 comments — Leave a comment )


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