For some time now, it's been well and rightly concluded that Laura Sessions Stepp is a writer of silly, stupid things. Her take on contemporary sexuality is so out of step with just about everyone currently participating in it that it's hard to imagine that she exists in the same time-space continuum as the rest of us. And what she sees horrifies her on some level, but she's thus far failed to grasp is that it's not us, it's her. Her confusion is what causes her horror. Of course, her confusion only excuses her so far--she's resolutely concerned with the way other people perceive her: she's so desperate to prove she's hip and not a scold bent on raining on the whole sexual liberation parade, that her message gets royally fubared every time she tries to translate it.
But, while it's a given that Stepp is a writer of silly, stupid things, we now have to face up to the fact that she's a downright dangerous writer as well. In the recent Cosmopolitan, she cements this by advocating for the existence of something called "gray rape." And in so doing, her writerly output has veered terrifyingly close to outright delinquency.
What's ridiculous about the whole concept of "gray rape" is the fact that rape is perhaps one of the least "gray" crimes imaginable. It's less "gray" than even murder. There's no "manslaughter" equivalent of rape. There's no such thing as "rape by misadventure," or "criminally negligent rape." I can't think of any situation in which one might commit rape in self-defense or rape someone because one thought one was in imminent harm.
No, there's really nothing "gray" about rape at all--and that's the only perfectly sensible stance to have on the matter--after all, the gold standard for proper, legal sexual behavior is well known: "between consenting adults." There's really not much wiggle room there. "Adults" eliminates children, and by any standard of reasonableness it also explicitly means "adult human beings." And there's very little gray area when it comes to consent--either there is consent, or there isn't. And anything that stops short of consent is, well, the absence of consent.
I am willing, up to a point, to entertain the notion that maybe, maybe, the issue of what consent means has been obscured by the popular "No means no" rhetorical flourish. It would be better, perhaps, if the bumper sticker statement was something more like, "Only yes means yes." That way, nobody would be able to wriggle out of taking responsibility for their criminal behavior by saying things like, "She may not have said yes, but she didn't say no." But, remember, I'll only entertain that up to a point--once you find yourself in the act of "wriggling out"--parsing the middle distance between explicit consent and everything that falls short of explicit dissent, you basically need to face the fact that you are in the act of attempting to get away with something you know full well you shouldn't have done.
But, from what I gather, this isn't even the defining circumstance of what constitutes "gray rape" for Stepp. This is:
Oh, the gray area -- that insidious "if I hadn't gone to that party" place, that "if I had only stopped after one beer" place, that "if I hadn't worn such a revealing top and come on to that hot guy" place where young women go when someone they probably know lays siege to their most private parts and everyone assumes it was at least partly their fault. More than half the time, they're drunk and can't remember details, and most of the time they don't press charges. ...some defense lawyers and even some students have taken to calling such episodes "gray rape" out of a mistaken belief that when both parties have been drinking heavily, responsibility for what happened falls into a gray area.Ack! So much poor reasoning! Nuts to circumstances that could lead to "everyone assum[ing] it was at least partly their fault!" "Everyone's assumption" has exactly zero bearing on whether the crime of rape was committed! "Everyone's assumption" isn't worth a hill of beans. And the "mistaken belief" is in the existence of a "gray area" in the first place. If one party sticks their body part inside another person's body without their consent, it's pretty effing clear who was responsible! Think about it: if you awoke tomorrow morning to find that your roommate had shoved a garden rake inside your rectum, would you allow your roommate to reason that his action was permissible because you never said it wouldn't be okay? Of course not!
For the stupid and soft-headed, maybe this gets confusing because of all the bullshit you've heard about relationships and flirtation and biological imperatives, but it really boils down to this: I will direct you, specifically, where and when you are allowed to place objects inside my body. You, in turn, will wait for my specific direction. And that's the end of the conversation.
And by the way, I've got no pity, no sympathy, no fellow-feeling for anyone who would shove their dick into the Great Unknown. If you find yourself thinking that it's a good idea to stick your dick into an unconscious body, then, Christ, you need to get your fucking head examined. You should respect your cock enough to know that if you cannot ask your would be sexual partner, "By the way, that bottle of Valtrex is your roommate's, right?" and get a cogent answer, then you ought not to be waving your junk around. Your dick is not indestructible. If it was, most guys would dispense with the agonies of courtship altogether, find themselves a sturdy board with a serviceable knothole, and go to town.
In fact, if Laura Sessions Stepp wanted to dispense some actual good advice on sexual gray areas, she'd restrict herself to simply saying: "You see that gray area? DON'T PUT YOUR COCK IN IT." If you are going to have good sex, the sort that neither subjects your would-be lay to harm nor places your own interests or well-being at risk, you'll eschew anything even remotely resembling a "gray" area. Instead, you'll wait for the green light, and then everything will be black and white (but, you know...pink where it counts).