There are plenty of men who think they are Good Men and who think this word does not apply to them.
They are wrong.
I love love love Jane Casey‘s writing. She incorporates feminist themes into her books so well.
(And it goes without saying that her plots and character development are excellent.)
In The Last Girl, she writes about rape – or how rape is defined and viewed. Kit is a man telling the story to Maeve. Kenneford is a senior lawyer. Jodie was a young lawyer at the time, I think. (I am not clear on how the English legal education system works.)
“Kenneford slept with [Jodie] when she was a pupil at Three Unicorn, about fifteen years ago. She was young, straight out of college, and no money whatsoever- she’s from the arse end of Cornwall and got where she is on scholarships. Kenneford wanted her as soon as he saw her and spent a fortune on persuading her to sleep with him. He bombarded her with presents and kept taking her out to dinner until she felt obliged to give something back. That was how he described it to me, by the way- he wasn’t under any illusions about how she felt about him. It gave him a thrill to coax her into bed when she had turned him down so many times. He’s that sort of person- can’t resist a challenge. And Jodie was a challenge, because even though she was young and impoverished, she was still a feisty one. If you ask me, the whole thing was a power struggle and Kenneford declared himself the winner once he’d slept with her, more or less against her will.”
“Hold on, he didn’t rape her, did he?”
“Good Lord, no. Nothing like that.” Kit looked shocked at the very idea. “He put her under so much pressure she didn’t feel she could say no, but he didn’t force her. It was still her choice to do it, but she made it clear it was a one-off.”The Last Girl, Jane Casey
Let’s examine this, shall we?
First, Kenneford was in a position of power over Jodie. That by itself is enough to call her consent into question.
Second, she “felt obliged to give something back.” Thanks, society, for teaching women that men are owed something if they spend enough money on us.
Third, Kit thinks there is a clear distinction between rape and putting a woman under “so much pressure she didn’t feel she could say no.” I would argue that there is not.
Fourth, of course she felt like she chose it. Because we don’t want to admit the truth, even to ourselves. We want autonomy and control.
But if a man pushes and pushes and pushes despite the “no,” then I tell you without a shadow of a doubt, that is rape.
When you push to bend someone to your will, someone who has said “no” even once, then you are a rapist.
When I was in my 20s, there was this guy. Let’s call him Bob, as Bob is an inoffensive, common name that should lull you into a sense of safety.
Bob was the boss of two of my college friends. He was (is) seven years older than me, I think. Which – when you are 25, a man who is 32 seems Old and Distinguished and Mature.
I met Bob at a few happy hours with my friends. Then he quit his job and moved out of town to attend grad school. That spring, he returned to Austin for spring break and I saw him again at an event with my friends.
He flirted with me, which was heady and exciting because he was Old and Distinguished and Mature and, I remember, very sexy. He was very very smart and he was good looking and he was interesting and he was interested in me.
He walked with me to my car and we kissed for a little while and it was very nice.
He was leaving that night to drive to Houston to see his sister and I thought that was the end of it.
The next day, he called me from his sister’s house and asked if he could take me out if he returned to Austin.
Sure, I said.
This was flattering! A man who wanted to drive four hours just to see me?
He picked me up and we went out to eat and then he took me back to my place and we kissed for a while and then I was ready for him to leave and I asked him where he was staying and he said he thought he was staying with me and I wondered where he had ever gotten that idea because I had never offered housing. I had agreed to dinner, not to an overnight. I had agreed to a date, not to hotel service and/or sex.
I should have shrugged and told him, Sorry dude this is not my problem we never discussed your staying with me in my dwelling. I should have said, Surely after attending college here and living here for years, you have plenty of friends who would let you sleep on the sofa.
I should have.
And if it were to happen today, I would.
I was 25.
I was an idiot.
I finally said he could sleep on the sofa.
And then he started advocating for moving to the bed.
I WAS SUCH AN IDIOT.
He. Would. Not. Shut. Up.
His words were not mean. His words were not threatening. His words were not scary.
His words were seductive, even.
But he would not take “no” for an answer.
And I finally gave in, just to get him to shut up. Just because I didn’t want to argue anymore.
After he left the next day, of course I did the rational thing and never let him in my apartment again.
No, I let him visit me AGAIN!
Because – well, because I WAS CHOOSING THIS. I had chosen it.
I had not been forced into sex against my will.
I mean, how could it be involuntary sex aka rape if I was seeing him again?
Today, Bob is very influential in Good Causes in Austin. He is seen, I am sure, as A Very Good Liberal Person Who Cares.
I did not want. I did not want to sleep with him.
I am still angry.