"[My father] also told me one thing, 'If you do (have premarital sex), just remember, consensual sex can turn into rape in an awful hurry,' " Rivard said. "Because all of a sudden a young lady gets pregnant and the parents are madder than a wet hen and she's not going to say, 'Oh yeah I was part of the program.' All that she has to say or the parents have to say is it was rape because she's underage. And he just said, 'Remember, Roger, if you go down that road, some girls,' he said, 'they rape so easy.'"
I'm so sick of this conversation about women changing their minds about sex the next day, or down the road. Sex is consensual in the moment, then the woman changes her mind and calls it rape the next day, because she feels guilty, because she feels ashamed. I'm sure this has happened, but let's stop talking about it like this makes up the majority of rape accusations. There are several problems with this narrative.
1. This implies that women should, and do, feel guilty about sex. Of course women feel guilty about sex, especially young women, when their culture is constantly telling them to be sexy but don't have sex, to be desirable but not to feel desire. Women are more connected with the image they are putting out, with how they look, than how they feel. Peggy Orenstein, in her book Schoolgirls, spoke to one young girl who told her about a "hooking up" situation with a boy. When asked how it felt, the girl responded, "I felt like I looked good."
2. This narrative leaves every victim wide open to accusations of lying about a rape. This allows policemen, parents, bystanders to ask "Are you sure you didn't want it?" It allows people to call into question what the woman was wearing, if she was drunk, how she was behaving, if she agreed to some sexual encounter and then changed her mind. It calls into question every woman who is brave enough to report a rape.
3. This narrative also leaves out men in several ways. First, it doesn't allow for the possibility that a woman did feel ashamed, because she was coerced by another person. But this narrative paints the guy (or the woman if it's a man, but I'll get to that in a minute) as a victim. HE just had sex and then suddenly she's going back on everything that happened, she is lying, she is embarrassed and trying to cover her own ass. He is just an innocent bystander. Also, this narrative doesn't allow for a male victim, either as a victim of rape, or as someone who feels confused or ashamed about sex after the fact. Men have feelings too, people. I know men who have had sexual encounters that they regretted, or were confused about. I know a man who lost his virginity to a confident, aggressive older girl, a girl who didn't know he was a virgin and didn't ask if he wanted to have sex. And afterward, he was suddenly sad that he had lost his virginity in this quick way. Some people, especially if the genders in this scenario were reversed, would absolutely call this rape. He doesn't call it rape (and he doesn't have to). But my point is that he has never really been able to work through any regretful or confused feelings about his first sexual encounter because in our culture, he should be nothing but excited about having sex. And a girl initiated it? Awesome! He's a stud. End of story. It's just not fair.
4. In the same way that this narrative doesn't allow men to feel bad about sex, it doesn't allow women to feel good about it. It says that women should feel bad about sex. It says that if their parents find out they had sex, of course they are going to lie about it, because they should be ashamed and secretive about it. It doesn't allow for women to enjoy sex or for young women to admit that they are responsible and safe about sex.
We need to talk about sex, openly and honestly. We need to acknowledge that women feel desire the same as men, and that men feel confusion about sex the same as women. We need conversations that acknowledge sex as something good and pleasurable (and to be done safely and responsibly), instead of as something bad and shameful.