Richard Dawkins took to Twitter once again to share his views on rape, seemingly in an attempt to out-sexist himself:
Raping a drunk woman is appalling. So is jailing a man when the sole prosecution evidence is "I was too drunk to remember what happened."
— Richard Dawkins (@RichardDawkins) September 13, 2014
Raping a drunk woman is appalling. So is jailing a man when the sole prosecution evidence is “I was too drunk to remember what happened.”
If he would have stopped with the first sentence, this post would not be happening. Nor would this snarky, yet scathing post over at Perry Street Palace.
is the problem are the problems with the Tweet, you may ask?
Dawkins appears to think that men are jailed based on the testimony of women who say “I was too drunk to remember”. Is this the case?
First off, no man is thrown in jail simply because a woman has accused him of rape. That’s not how the criminal justice system works in the US, nor in the UK. You actually have to have this little thing called A TRIAL. Dawkins might have heard about those.
Second, rapists don’t often see the inside of a jail cell.
Dawkins’ Tweet rests upon a LOT of assumptions:
- That the victim of a rape will report their assault to the police
- That the police will arrest the rapist
- That the arrest will lead to a prosecution
- That the prosecution will lead to a felony conviction
That’s a lot of assumptions. Strange, for someone who seemingly values evidence based opinions, Dawkins doesn’t seem to be basing his opinions on actual evidence.
Secondly, the “too drunk to remember” line is rape culture enabling bullshit. If the man had sex with her while she was drunk that was rape. Why?
“But…but…but” you might say (if you’re a misogynistic scumbag who doesn’t value bodily autonomy) “how do you know there wasn’t consent?”
Well you ignorant fuck, that’s because you cannot give consent if you’re intoxicated.
- Inability to consent due to intoxication means “no.” When a person is the recipient of sexual advances but is highly intoxicated, he or she may be unable to consent to any sexual conduct. In the words of the Review Board, “sexual interactions with another party who has been drinking heavily should . . . be undertaken . . . at one’s own risk.” A panel of the Hearing Board has also noted, “No member of the community should be at risk of a sexual assault merely because [he or she] consumes too much alcohol at a party. Cornell aspires to be a community in which students come to the aid of others who find themselves in such a state [rather than seeing them] as someone [to] exploit.”
Dawkins’ Tweet fails to acknowledge this reality. If a victim says “I was too drunk to remember”, they were too drunk to give consent. And we all know what sex without consent is, right?
It’s rape. I shouldn’t need to spell this out, but there are a lot, I mean A LOT, of people who actively deny that sex without consent is rape.
Another problem with Dawkins’ Tweet is that he’s influential. He has a public platform and is adored by many people. In some areas, like evolutionary biology, he is an authority. His words should carry weight there. In other areas, like atheism and religion, he’s well educated and informed. He knows his shit. When it comes to social justice issues such as feminism though? Dawkins is just another asshole with a podium. He doesn’t know what he’s talking about, yet many people still listen to his words and believe what he says because he’s an authority on evolutionary biology or because he’s a leading voice in the atheist movement. Despite how wrong he is, people listen to him. People believe him. When he takes to Twitter, people listen. He’s not using his power and influence responsibly. He’s contributing to a culture of minimization of sexual assault and rape. He’s helping perpetuate Rape Culture. That is abominable coming from the average person on the street. It’s 50 shades of shitty when it comes from a public figure with a huge audience like Richard Dawkins. He has a lot of power and he is increasingly using it irresponsibly.
- Consent is required for all sexual contact. As the Review Board has articulated, “the central element of the offense of sexual assault is lack of consent, whether procured by force, simply withheld, or by a person incapable of consent by reason of some incapacity.” While some cases that have come before the campus disciplinary system have involved force, the more common scenario is where consent is withheld or the recipient of the sexual advances does not have the capacity to consent because of intoxication.
- Consent may be withheld in a number of ways. The recipient of the advances may use words, such as saying “no” or “let’s just cuddle” or giving an excuse to stop an activity like “I am dating someone” or “I want to go to sleep.” Or, the actions of the recipient may demonstrate lack of consent, such as turning away, moving the other person’s hands or stopping any participation in the activity. Indeed, silence may indicate non-consent by, for example, not responding positively to a question about a sexual act. Stating “no” sets the barrier to the activity and is not an invitation to keep trying. But the absence of “no” should not be interpreted as “yes.”
- Consent may never be presumed. Students come to Cornell with a range of experiences and expectations. For some, engaging in sexual activities has been routine for years; for others, exploring their sexuality is something that will wait for several years; others are somewhere in between. If a person in one of these categories “hooks up” with a person in another category, there can be misunderstandings. Communication is key to learning whether all parties to a sexual encounter are in agreement; it is not enough to act based on circumstances. The bottom line? If there is ambiguity—that is, if you are not sure what the other person is thinking—ASK! Review Board precedent requires that ambiguities be resolved in favor of the complaining student and against the sexual initiator.
- Consent for one activity does not mean consent for all activities. Consent must be ongoing throughout a sexual encounter. Agreeing to go to someone’s room does not mean there is consent for sexual activity. Consent to kiss does not mean consent for other sexual activities. Consent to “petting” does not mean consent to intercourse. Consent to vaginal intercourse does not mean consent to anal intercourse. This goes back to communication: Ask if you and the other person are on the same page rather than making assumptions based on circumstances. The Review Board, in explaining that each sexual act is different and needs consent, wrote, “the burden of making sure that [the complainant] consented to proceeding from the first [sexual act] to the second rested upon the defendant. In short, consent may never be presumed.”
- The responsibility for misinterpretation when either party has been drinking falls on the initiator of further sexual activity. If the person seeking sex is intoxicated, he or she has a decreased ability to discern the capacity of the other party to give consent. Under Cornell’s rules, the inability to perceive capacity does not excuse the behavior of the person who begins the sexual interaction or tries to take it to another level. The Review Board has held that “intoxication is neither a defense to sexual assault nor an exonerating circumstance, with the result that sexual interactions after periods of heavy drinking should be undertaken with caution” and, in another case, “failure to recognize that the victim was too drunk to consent is no defense to a charge of sexual assault as defined by the Cornell Code . . . The responsibility for ascertaining [complainant’s] mental state rested upon [accused student], as did the risk of failing to do so.”