Although we are biased, you should still read the following.
Our senior culture reporter Rachel Thompson wrote an entire book about the subject while covering sex for Mashable.
Square Peg and Vintage are now publishing Rough. This is Thompson’s debut book. It examines a significant, interrelated issue: How sexual violence got into the bedroom and how we can stop it. We have an excerpt from her interview with Mashable.
Rough features over 50 compelling testimonies by women and other non-binary individuals. It goes beyond stats which only offer one aspect of the larger picture to include the unacknowledged sexual assaults and rapes and those experiences that, while not clearly defined, still cause harm.
If you didn’t know who this book is for, it’s everyone — like, everyone should read it (men, you need to be part of the conversation). Thompson states it as follows in the first chapter Rough: It’s meant for those who don’t know how to express their experiences.
It was written for all women, men, and non-binary people who have ever had to describe something. For people who have experienced something that they would rather forget. Who believed that the events they were subject to didn’t correspond to their consent. People who felt that their experiences were not fair or just bad sex.
Credit: VINTAGE/SQUARE PEG/MASHABLE COMPOSITE
Some difficult topics are not well-covered. Rough discusses consent (yes it is ongoing, you can withdraw your consent at anytime), acts of violence including theft (non-consensual Condom Removal), non-consensual choking, while keeping kink positive and disputing misconceptions about BDSM), and the complex nature of strategic consent, unwanted sex and attachment theory. He also addresses those who have had sex in extreme pain.
Right from the start, Thompson examines why language is incredibly important in this area for reasons of inclusivity and intersectionality, and also promotes language for the sensitive protection of survivors instead of social padding for perpetrators.
Thompson questions who is telling the story in stories of survivors of sexual violence. He traces assaults, microaggressions and fetishism back to white supremacist misogynist historical roots. Rough discusses the racism that Black men and women of color experience in their bedroom. It also addresses sexual violence suffered by LGBTQ+ persons (while transgender and non-binary individuals are often excluded from discussions about sexual violence). Thompson investigates fatphobia and objectification, and calls for attitudes around disability, sex, and conversations about sexual violence to change drastically.
Rough looks at digital sexual crimes, including image-based abuses such as upskirting and cyberflashing. It also examines the role of tech companies in making this possible. It also examines the shifting representations of sexual violence and sex onscreen from I May Destroy You to Sex Education and Normal People.
Thompson examines #MeToo movements, #PrataOmDet activists and the growing use of “rough sex” defense by perpetrators and killers. She points out that focusing solely on the “carceral solution to gendered violent” is not a good idea and urges people to consider the implications of this. She also argues that more inclusive, interconnected sex education is essential in ending sexual violence.
We’re done. This extract comes from Thompson’s chapter about theft (non-consensual Condom Removal). Rough investigates this as one of these “grey area” experiences, or “experiences that are non-criminal, but that leave us feeling harmed and violated.”
ROUGH by Rachel Thompson
Chapter 2: Stealth
What does it mean to have a ‘grey zone experience?
The ‘grey’ refers, as we have discussed previously to the obscure middle ground of consensual sexual sex. It is rarely talked about. These experiences fall into this gray area. They are not criminal, but they leave us feeling violated and harmed. It is experiences that fall at the “muddled interface of consent or coercion”, as Lena Gunnarsson, a Swedish academic defines them in an article.
Here is where things can get complicated. Two things are likely to be happening in this gray area. This is a category that includes sexual experiences not covered by the law. However, they can still feel traumatic, violent, or degrading. Psychologists refer to the second as unacknowledged or implicit rape. This is when an individual experiences the same characteristics of assault and rape but not be labeled so. Instead, terms such as misunderstanding, a hookup gone wrong, and grey area are used.
Daisy may not have been a gray area to you, but it is possible that you read her account. Many will see her story as proof of rape. Her consent was not given to sexual activity without the use of a condom. However, cultural attitudes toward acts such as theft aren’t as blatant as they ought to be. End Violence Against Women Coalition surveyed 40 percent of respondents in 2018. They said that it is not common to rape a woman for removing a condom. It amounts to 19% of those who think stealthing would never be rape and 21% who believe it wouldn’t.
Alexandra Brodsky conducted a 2017 study that found theft was rampant and highlighted the negative effects it has on women’s lives. Brodsky interviewed Rebecca, a student at a US university who was working for the local hotline dealing with rape. Students at the college would call Rebecca. Brodsky wrote that a large number of these students would call Rebecca to report on upsetting sexual encounters they are unable to identify. Their partners may have removed their condoms during sex without them knowing. They often begin their stories in the same manner: “I don’t know if this is rape but… . “‘This harm, which students didn’t know the names of, was something Rebecca experienced as a result of her boyfriend’s actions during her first year of undergraduate studies.
Brodsky started researching the phenomena of theft when she began law school in 2013. She realized that many of her female friends were suffering from mistreatment by their sexual partners. However, this was despite the fact that the US legal system is silent in light of such widespread acts of violence.
Condoms that are not removed by consent can put victims at high risk for pregnancy or STIs. Brodsky’s research has also shown that this practice can cause other harm to its victims. Non-consensual condom disposal was described by survivors as a ‘threat to their bodily autonomy’ as well as as a ‘dignitary injury’. According to one survivor, the harm was mainly due to trust. The risk was zero to him and he didn’t care about what it would be for me. Stealing can also have devastating consequences for women. They may feel that they don’t have control over their bodies.
During an interview that I did while investigating this violation, the lack of acknowledgment of risks to the other person was brought up. Anna was visiting a man with whom she had been in holiday love. He removed her condom during sex without her permission. She says that she only realized it after he had left. They were likely changing their positions at the time.
At 21 she was the age of her mother. “It was a fun time and I was only young so it didn’t bother me too much. The thing is, I didn’t think I was actually taking the pill. At the time, I felt a little like “Oh, it will be okay.” Then I realized that it wasn’t fine. It’s just not okay.”
They went on a day trip to the beach together the next day. She turned to him, and said that she had been considering it, and in fact, it was safer to go to the pharmacy.
“Yeah. You’re absolutely right. He replied, “I’ll take your,”
“He was super kind about all things. She said that he never made me feel bad. The morning-after pill was given to her. However, that wasn’t all. She later discovered that she had contracted Chlamydia. Although antibiotics worked in the short-term, Anna didn’t trust them as much.
Some stealthing criminals are known to boast about their online practice. “I devised my own tricks and methods to achieve my main goal ANYTIME I had sex. Making sure that I shot my loads deep into the girls unassisted one perpetrator wrote. “I repeated this with many girls that I can’t count.”
Brodsky suggests a possible motive behind theft: “One can notice that proponents for “stealthing” root their support in an ideologie of male supremacy, in which violence and man are a man’s natural right.
Although rape campaigners agree that theft constitutes sexual assault in general, only a few countries are beginning to witness a small amount of convictions for stealthy.
Excerpted from “Rough” by Rachel Thompson. Available now via Square Peg
Publiated at Thu 26 August 2021, 10:12:43 +0000