Well, it’s been quite the month in terms of the issues of consent, rape, how we view consent, and how our changing view of consent changes the way we view rape.
Let’s start with the huge elephant in the room…Bill Cosby. This month damning evidence came to light about his sexual activities with one woman, and this evidence gives credence to the accusations of countless others. There’s a lot of fallout from this, but one of the pieces of fallout I want to address here is that a lot of guys who didn’t want to believe that Cosby had done anything wrong unless they had video footage of it…and they were operating the camera at the time…now have to face up to the fact that these accusations are probably credible.
Why did it take them so long to believe the accusations? It wasn’t that they were insensitive, misogynistic pigs. It was fear, pure and simple. It was the fear of a false accusation against them. It only takes a moment for a false accusation to ruin a reputation, and years to gain it back…even after it’s been proven that the accusations were spurious. It’s not that these guys didn’t feel for any woman who had gone through what these women claimed to have, it’s that without any solid proof, they didn’t want to condemn the man, because they were afraid of someone doing that to them…and they all seemed to know someone who knew someone that that had happened to.
They didn’t understand why the women would keep quiet for so long…and yet many of these guys who gave Cosby the benefit of the doubt were the first to jump all over the Catholic Church for the actions of a few priests (and the resulting cover up) and the actions of Jerry Sandusky at Penn State, even though the victims in these two cases came forth with their accusations years, and even decades later.
The Cosby case is a part of our recent redefining of what rape is by making it an issue of consent and not necessarily violence. It’s no longer a matter of having a knife to your throat or a gun to your head, if you did not consent…or were not in a position or condition to consent…it’s rape. Period.
And based on this new and improved definition, Bill Cosby could very easily be charged with rape if any of the incidents happened before the statute of limitations expired.
Based on this new and improved definition, many things that we previously considered simply “not cricket”, not quite right, not the way a gentleman would behave, but not wrong, now are; and now count as rape. What was once seen as simply unethical is now illegal. And this is as it should be. Any use of alcohol or drugs to get the other person into a condition where they’re incapable of saying “no”, isn’t just “taking advantage of them”, it’s rape. Of course, there is a difference between intentionally getting someone stinking drunk so that they can’t say “no” and everyone having a drink or two so that they’re more comfortable saying “yes.” At least there is to me…and Jimmy Buffett.
Next week I’ll talk about how New York’s new “Yes Means Yes” law fits into this.