Science fiction writer Vox Day and feminist Louise Mensch took to Heat Street recently to debate whether marital rape is an actual thing. It’s an interesting read, but the tl;dr is that Day thinks marriage includes consent to sex which can only be withdrawn by divorce, and Mensch thinks that if you consent to sex one time, it does NOT mean you have given blanket consent for all future sex.
Mensch is pretty reasonable feminist, acknowledging that women often say no when they mean yes, but insisting that if a woman is angry and genuinely means she does not want to have sex, her husband will have raped her if he forces her to have sex she doesn’t want.
I’m postulating where a woman has clearly said no, clearly meant it, she feels ill, has just had a huge fight with the man, and any number of such very obvious situations. The woman has said at that moment, even though they regularly have sex as a couple, she does not want to have sex and he forces himself upon her. That is clearly rape and it doesn’t take away from the fact that she has an obligation in general to have sex with him and he with her. When you extrapolate that from every single time he feels like it, I see no justification in your argument so far for that leap.
Here is where Mensch’s feminist credentials are most obvious: look at the assumptions that drive that last sentence. He feels like having sex, his wife is ill or angry, and Mensch works on the assumption that he will force her to have sex anyways. As always, in feminist land, men are monsters.
I think we have to clearly distinguish between having a right and exercising that right. Under the Second Amendment of the US Constitution, every American has the right to keep and bear arms. Lots of Americans choose not to exercise that right. They still have the right, whether they use it or not. The question under consideration in this particular debate is whether marriage confers consent to sex that cannot be withdrawn except by the dissolution of the marriage.
If you had asked me a few weeks ago, I would have sided with Mensch. If I say no to my husband, I expect him to respect that, although if I’m being honest, I would be very insulted and sulky if he rejected my advances. In the 18 years we’ve been together, I do not recall him ever rejecting me, and I can count the number of times I’ve absolutely refused to have sex with him on one hand. Pondering the idea more carefully, I have now come to the conclusion that Day is correct – rape cannot exist within a marriage. If marital rape is a thing, then 100% of the sex I have ever had with my husband has been rape.
I have never obtained his consent and he has never obtained mine.
Consent is assumed as a basic function of marriage. Consent to sex is part of what marriage is. Mensch acknowledges the general obligation spouses have to one another to have sex, but refuses blanket consent. I think the most interesting part of the discussion surrounds the use of force and violence. Marriage confers the right to have sex with your spouse, but it does not confer any right to assault your spouse. By what means could a spouse force sex that was not wanted without the use of force? Mensch is fairly adamant that most marital rape will be husbands raping wives, because she has a hard time imagining under what circumstances a woman could force a man into penetrative sex. I clearly have a more vivid imagination than Mensch, but for the sake of argument, let’s say she is correct.
So I refuse to have sex with my husband, and he is going to make me have sex, against my will.
How can he do that without using force or violence?
He has no way of enforcing his right. That doesn’t mean the right doesn’t exist. Feminists will often ballyhoo about marital rape being legal until the 1990s in most US states, but perhaps there is a reason for that: laws against assault were perfectly effective in making sure men couldn’t exercise their rights without a woman’s consent.
So what is the point of marital rape laws? According to Day:
…the concept of marital rape is created by the cultural Marxists in an attempt to destroy the family and to destroy the institution of marriage….
Essentially, marital rape laws give women a loaded gun. Theoretically, men have the same gun, but in practice, as Mensch notes, most marital rape will be husbands as aggressors and wives as victims. Any and all sex can be defined as rape, depending on the whim of the woman involved. How can a man prove consent for each and every occurrence? He can’t. Neither can the wife, either, but how many women are likely to be facing this accusation? I can’t find a single example.
The most insidious consequence of the entire idea of marital rape is that it reinforces the men as monsters narrative. Sex is laced with danger, and not in a titillating way. At any moment, the man you love, respect, admire, desire – at any moment, he could fling you across the room and rape you. I think Day had the better argument for why consent to sex is an essential part of marriage, but I wish Mensch and Day would have discussed scenarios in more detail. At one point, Mensch asks if it would be acceptable for a women to sit on her husband’s head until he satisfied her orally, and Day agrees that yes, she has that right.
But who would do that? And what kind of relationship would you expect to nurture with that kind of behaviour? It’s gross and bullying and selfish and unkind and quite frankly, any woman who would do this is just being a giant jerk. But here’s the thing: so is any man. What is left out of this whole conversation is the automatic assumption that men will rape their wives if there is no specific law prohibiting it.
If I am feeling ill or I’m exhausted or just in a bad mood for whatever reason, my husband isn’t going to be pressing me for sex. Just as I would never demand sex from him when I can see he’s tired or not feeling well. A backrub and an early bedtime is a more likely reaction, because I’m not an asshole and neither is he.
Morally, marital rape isn’t possible. Legally, it most certainly is. The main function of these laws is to demonize men and weaponize women’s sexuality, so it can be used to punish men who are no longer useful to women. Sounds like a whole ideology, doesn’t it? It is now no longer a mystery to me why feminists love marital rape so much. It’s the entire philosophy, summed up in one neat meme.
Men are rapists.
Women are victims.
And feminism is cancer.
Lots of love,