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15 January 2018 @ 08:08 am
Err on the side of caution.  
Autism and sexual aggression

Thanx to [personal profile] andrewducker
Elenbarathi: Abandon hopeelenbarathi on January 15th, 2018 04:25 pm (UTC)
Mph. I'm an autistic woman who's experienced a shit-ton of sexual aggression - starting at age 11 - and I estimate that PRECISELY ZERO of it came from men with 'difficulty reading body language'.

Actually, men on the spectrum are usually so worried about making a mistake and accidentally giving offense that one practically has to signal 'enthusiastic consent' with fireworks and sky-writing before they get the message. And then one has to determine whether they are enthusiastically consenting, or just going along because they don't know how to say they don't really want to.

It's neurotypical assholes who rape and harass. Those bastards have NO problem reading body language that says "I don't want to, but I don't know how to stop you."
eub on January 17th, 2018 09:29 am (UTC)
The signature of an "just can't help it accidental aggressor" guy should be that he's just as liable to aggress against a woman in a position of high power as one in a position of low power. This is rare. More often they display the ability to turn it off when that matters to them.

Hm, not sure if the article has thought through what it's going for. Saying everybody can read body language is incorrect, yes, and people shouldn't. But the reason they shouldn't is not because it might lead to: "the rapist might have the honest belief that he could read body language". That's just never going to happen, that hearing this is going to convince an autistic guy that he can read body language after all. He knows his life. I know the author disclaimed with "in a small way" but it's less than small. This scenario is a fantasy of ungrounded logical ideas.

Whereas hearing people say "oh but what if he's socially awkward and didn't realize" is quite common, even when it's completely speculative with zero knowledge about neuroatypicality. Consider, is it worth contributing to a problem that does happen, in order to get out the warning against a scenario that won't?
Elenbarathi: Abandon hopeelenbarathi on January 18th, 2018 02:24 am (UTC)
You're so right. Now, as a matter of fact I do know someone who's both autistic and developmentally delayed, who doesn't have any clue that it scares the pretty young ladies when he tries to pet them. He reminds me a little of poor Lenny in Of Mice And Men, because he's a big strong man whose self-image seems to be that of a pre-schooler, more or less. But he will never be out in the world interacting with women on his own, because he's not just 'socially awkward', he's cognitively disabled.

Autistic guys of average or better intelligence who have trouble reading body language generally realize it all too clearly. This isn't to say that mistakes can't be made, especially if alcohol is involved, and even more so if both parties have trouble reading body language and setting boundaries - lots of people have sex that isn't exactly non-consensual, but which falls short of enthusiastic consent (possibly on both sides,) and I don't think it's fair to categorize that as 'rape'.

The author of the piece is correct in saying that if there were 'mixed signals', some of those signals were saying NO, and that if any signals are saying NO, it's necessary to stop and find out what's going on. It's also necessary to be clear about one's own signals, and not assume that the other party can figure them out without any actual words - whether the words are "I don't want to do this" or "take me right now". Verbal speech is a wonderful device for communicating, whether or not one is good at deciphering the non-verbal stuff.

All that is neither here nor there, because rapists ignore verbal NO just the same as non-verbal NO when - and only when - they think they can get away with it. It's certainly a good policy for anyone uncertain of their skill at reading body-language to be especially clear about enthusiastic consent, but that isn't going to prevent any rapes, because rapists don't give a shit about consent.

Rape is not really about sex. Rape is about using sex as power to dominate and degrade another person. Those who do it know damn well that's what they're doing, regardless of how they may try to deny it.

Edited at 2018-01-18 02:25 am (UTC)
eub on January 18th, 2018 10:34 am (UTC)
I hadn't thought about it quite this way: we all should distinguish between "enthusiastic consent" and "meh, will go along with it", but that's just not relevant to rapists.

Rapists know that their targets don't actively want to have sex. Do they know how much the target doesn't want to? It actually wouldn't surprise me if they were no good at reading that (and good at self-delusion about it), because it's not relevant. What they're good at is reading "can I get away with this".
Elenbarathi: Abandon hopeelenbarathi on January 20th, 2018 10:18 am (UTC)
I just recently ran into this article about why consensual sex can still be bad:
“A lot of sex feels like this... Sex where we don’t say no, because we don’t want to say no, sex where we say yes even, when we’re even into it, but where we fear … that if we did say no, or if we don’t like the pressure on our necks or the way they touch us, it wouldn’t matter. It wouldn’t count, because we don’t count.”
eub on January 21st, 2018 09:32 am (UTC)
That quote has a lot to think about, even to try to know what I think, where is the line between "consensual" and "non-consensual".

1) The hypothetical aspect, in a case where positive consent was given, but the guy wouldn't have stopped if it hadn't been... I can't see how to call that non-consensual sex, but it's accidental non-rape.

2) The positive - went along - refused spectrum, there's certainly territory that isn't non-consensual per se but is bad sex. "Seriously, God help us if the best we can say about the sex we have is that it was consensual."

3) But then combining these with systematic male sexual privilege, creating pressure to go along because non-consent has had disincentives applied.

3 + 1) And then putting these back together, the idea that even positively consented sex has a varying degree of male privilege surrounding it... you know what, this is the first time I've ever felt I had any handle on "all sex is rape".

So that was an interesting forward.
Elenbarathielenbarathi on January 23rd, 2018 02:07 am (UTC)
Glad you found it so! Here's another viewpoint to add to the mix: In The Midst Of #MeToo, What Type Of Man Do You Want To Be? Which also brings up the essential point of Yes All Men: what type of men should we assume them to be?

I don't believe that all sex is rape (heh, unless 'mutual rape' is a thing, right?) nor that all men are either rapists or rape-enablers. I do believe that one has to act as if that were true, at least to a certain extent. Our grandmas and great-grandmas knew the rules: you stay in public, you stay sober, you don't tease, you make him keep his hands to himself. Drinking and making out in private with a man is generally considered by men to be 'consent', and maybe there is some justification to that. The time to say "No" is when he goes to buy another round, or starts getting handsy or talking dirty, or tries to get you to go somewhere private - if you can't say it then and make it stick, how are you going to say it when you're alone and drunk in his arms?

Rape is entirely the fault of the rapist, not the victim. However, knowing that will not un-rape one after the fact, so it's best to take precautions to avoid making oneself an easy target. It's funny how little discussion we see, of the role that alcohol plays in rape and dubiously-consensual sex, and the need for girls to say NO to behavior that puts them at risk. Just because he keeps buying beers doesn't mean one has to keep drinking them.
eub on January 24th, 2018 10:21 am (UTC)
Reminding me of this thread:
the suffering that comes along with knowing that a man wanted to harm you is rarely given the weight it merits. but it's real. in the same way that it's one kind of trauma if a stranger hurts you and another kind if your husband hurts you, it's one kind if either man hurts you by accident and another, much worse kind if he does it on purpose. if you say an obviously coerced Yes when you mean No, or say nothing at all when you are afraid to say No, you don't have to know he would have done it on purpose. You can pretend he was confused. You can even pretend that if he knew now how you felt about it, he'd feel even worse about it than you do. It's pathetically obvious how not true this all is, but you can choose to believe it.

so like everything else that women do that's treated as inexplicable or nonsensical or a pure conditioned reflex: sometimes it is, but often it isn't. I think it is a very bad idea to notionally preserve a man's ignorance of your consent status just so that you don't have to know the worst about him, but I understand it perfectly.

Elenbarathielenbarathi on January 24th, 2018 07:47 pm (UTC)
"but for all the times when that's not the explanation, the reason we react this way is because; you know that a bad thing is going to happen whether you say No or you say Yes or you say nothing. You know, but want to preserve the illusion you might be mistaken: to preserve the moment of indecisiveness, where it could go either way -- IF you said No THEN he would stop -- forever."

I don't really grok this; it sounds like a neurotypical thing, and/or an artifact of childhood sexual abuse: children have to preserve the illusion that their caregivers care for them, because they're completely dependent and without other options. But as an adult, if you're saying Yes or saying nothing to avoid a fight or to get him to act nicer, how do you double-think yourself into not knowing that's what you're doing?

I don't know if it's still a thing now, but back in the day, there was a lot of marital advice for women that said we ought to 'go along for the ride' when our husbands wanted sex, even if we weren't in the mood at the start. The corollary advice for husbands was to be patient and romantic in getting us into the mood, but the expectation was that sex would be happening, whether we were enthusiastic or 'meh' about it. It kind of led to a 'performance art' mentality about sex: "the show must go on!" - probably a lot of men would have felt bad if they'd realized how their wives really felt about it, but what would they have done about those feelings?
eub on January 25th, 2018 09:17 am (UTC)
how do you double-think yourself into not knowing that's what you're doing?

I don't know how to unpack the how, past "like a lot of other doublethink." Cognitive dissonance where what you can't do (or assume you can't) motivates what you avoid thinking.
Elenbarathi: Abandon hopeelenbarathi on January 26th, 2018 04:10 am (UTC)
My mentor used to say "Confusion is what you do when you're trying not to know what you know." But the point of cognitive dissonance that you really do know, because if you didn't, you'd have no need to try to obscure it.

For sure, denial is a strong factor, and insurmountable for some people: 'Don't Even Notice I Am Lying'. Humans are very good at rationalizing irrational things and pretending 2+2=5 when the truth is disadvantageous. But underneath the denial, down inside themselves where nobody else can see, do they truly not know?

I doubt that that is so, but there is no way to check, and if it is so, I find it somewhat unfathomable - except, as I said, as an artifact of childhood abuse, which it may be, but there is no way to check that either.

eub on January 24th, 2018 11:20 am (UTC)
(How little discussion of the role of alcohol? I actually see a quite a lot of alcohol in the safety guidance people offer, like in health class curricula, and also in discussions most of the time that non-stranger rape is the topic.)

But what stood out to me, I'm not looking to be accusatory, but "generally considered by men to be 'consent', and maybe there is some justification to that" -- really some justification? For men thinking it means consent to sex?

Like on the theory that because if you knew men will take that meaning, and you still choose to do it, you're halfway intending that communication, and if they know that, then they're halfway-right to take it that way?

Halfway-meaning consent doesn't serve as consent, and even full consent now doesn't mean consent to the next actions. I'm confident we agree on that. I'd go with it as a matter of statistics, that the man may justifiably be surprised that did certain Thing X and Thing Y but didn't want sex. But so what, in terms of consent.

Larger scale, I'm surprised you've got "generally considered by men" into discussing rape. "Generally considered by men" relates to men who generally aren't rapists, who might mistake non-explicit non-consent for non-explicit consent. The rapists, as you said, don't give a shit about consent, they only care what they can get away with.

I do get that the majority of what you wrote is about shutting down that "what they can get away with". That's one thing. "Generally considered by men" is another thing, and how did it get in?
Elenbarathielenbarathi on January 24th, 2018 05:39 pm (UTC)
"Like on the theory that because if you knew men will take that meaning, and you still choose to do it, you're halfway intending that communication, and if they know that, then they're halfway-right to take it that way?"

No indeed. Like on the theory that if you don't know - or refuse to believe - that men will take that meaning, you're at risk, and need to get a clue. "Don't drink and make out with a man you don't intend to fuck" is a simple safety precaution. But surely what the men think is of relevance, and it's not fair to just label them all rapists for thinking it. If the lady is not willing to be seduced, why did she invite him up? why is she kissing him on the couch? Even the most woke gentleman who stops on a dime has to feel "No" at that point as a personal rejection. Men have feelings too; rape-avoidance is not the only reason not to arouse them and then refuse.

"Generally considered by men" relates to men who generally aren't rapists, who might mistake non-explicit non-consent for non-explicit consent. The rapists, as you said, don't give a shit about consent, they only care what they can get away with."

Right, exactly. As I see it, the whole point of 'Yes All Men' isn't that all men are rapists, but that any man could be one, and the only way to know for sure is when one rapes you, which is too late. All men are not rapists, but all men are still men, and once the 'little head' is talking, the big head may have trouble telling the difference between 'seduction' and 'coercion'. Especially if the woman's body is also having trouble telling the difference.

There's a factor I don't see mentioned too much: the fact that one's head can be saying "stop, this is a bad idea" even while one's body is saying "but it feels so good" - especially if one is drunk. A lot of women seem to think that foreplay can just go on forever without leading to actual sex, and that's just not how the biology works. Teasing men that way is cruel to the ones who will stop for non-consent, and dangerous with the ones who won't, and there's just no way to tell them apart before the fact.

Edited at 2018-01-24 07:53 pm (UTC)
eub on January 25th, 2018 09:45 am (UTC)
What I'm commenting on is you're stirring "at elevated risk for rape" and "morally responsible for the hurting of someone's feelings" into the same scenario. Which is logically valid, those are both things you can talk about, but crossover between them is not logically valid.

So who are the men it's not fair to label as rapists? The ones who think "my expectations have been betrayed!", leave, and say what they like to their friends? Agreed, but I'm not observing anyone labeling that as rape. Or the men who go somewhere further along the spectrum -- to ask "huh, what, you don't want to?", or to say "oh please baby you can't leave me like this, you have to give me just a quickie baby", or to go to "you bitch"? (If somewhere of the latter, approximately how far along that spectrum is it not-fair to label it as rape if it ends with non-consented sex?)
Elenbarathielenbarathi on January 26th, 2018 03:27 am (UTC)
All fair questions. Interestingly, just yesterday I ran across this article, by a young man who basically labels himself as an 'accidental non-rapist', and honorably admits that what he did was violation even so. But he didn't intend it to be; he did stop when he finally got the not-very-explicit message of non-consent, and he didn't even realize, for years, why what he did was wrong.

I read his account, and the thought that immediately occurs to me is: what's up with the girl's mother, that she never taught her daughter No Boys In The Bedroom? (One of my old friends also failed to teach her daughters this, which resulted in an abortion at age 13.) Apparently no one ever told the lady that one can't just invite a man into one's bed like he was a girlfriend on a sleep-over, and expect him not to take it as a direct invitation to sex. Apparently she made no verbal objection until he was already performing oral sex on her, but courteously stopped because she didn't seem to be enjoying it. When she did finally voice a verbal objection late in the game, it was a passive and tentative objection, and not accompanied by any physical action (such as getting up to go to the bathroom and never coming back.)

She was totally at elevated risk for rape, and the only reason she didn't get raped was because the guy was really not a rapist: he did genuinely care about her consent, and stopped when he finally grokked that she really wasn't consenting. And she did hurt his feelings - both at the time, when he didn't understand why she wasn't his friend any more, and now in later years, when he feels bad for having violated her, with no way to make amends.

Note, I'm not saying she was at fault. But I don't think the guy is at fault there either. They both seem to be about equally innocent/ignorant of how to interact with one another; with the best of intentions they both messed up and were mutually hurt and disappointed; they both lost a friend; they probably both blame themselves. It all could have been avoided if they'd had the "Do you mean to say... sex?" conversation before getting into bed together, but they didn't know to do that.

Guys on the autism spectrum (which was how this discussion started) seem to live in particular terror of exactly this sort of scenario: where they get the signals wrong and end up accused of rape and/or coercion when that was never their intention. The author of the original post appears to be a prime example of this fear. He's not wrong; if a person is bad at reading body language, it is necessary to insist on specific verbal clarification, for his own protection as much as for his partner's - and maybe nobody is so great at reading body language that they don't need to do that. But no, I don't think it's fair to label a man as a rapist when he honestly believes his partner is freely (if perhaps unenthusiastically) consenting, and he would stop if he realized she isn't.

Of course, there's no way to know if he would stop unless he does stop. But the author of this piece did - rather late, but he did - and so would a lot of men who truly have no wish to rape.