This is Dark Cloud on Wednesday, August 04, 1999.
The Colorado Department of Public Health and the Colorado Coalition Against Sexual Assault have just completed a state wide survey of 1802 Colorado citizens. Ninety-six percent of these people answered the sexual assault questions, which dropped the participating number to 1730. Of those who answered, one in four women say they have been raped or almost raped. Six percent of the men claimed they had been raped or had escaped an attempted one. Sexual assault was defined as any form of nonconsensual penetration, either attempted or completed.
I am not one to challenge any assertion that women are raped or sexually assaulted with nauseating frequency. When I was in jail, the only truly shocking thing to me was how many of my compatriots in there would brag about how they hit women, slap them around, make the women or girls satisfy them, and rape them. Yes Virginia, some men brag about being rapists. Even doing the usual mathematical reality check in jail discussions, which is to divide by ten all numerical claims of numbers, frequencies, ratings, the hatred and fear these guys felt towards women staggered me and was the only really scary revelation of that experience. And even the division produced a quotient of activity way too high to remain the province of feminists and the loony left. Too many men treat women like crap. Period. Given. Check please and lock the freakers up. I agree, calling people freakers sounds stupid, and is stupid. But you know what I freakin mean since I canít use the freakiní right word.
But shadows fall across this recent survey and all like it because the wording is malleable and awful. Penetration is apparently just of the body, not the aura or psyche, which is fine, although rape should not be limited to structural integrity. For example, an unwilling passive recipient of oral sex has not, if male, been penetrated, and would not be considered a victim of sexual assault by the standards of this test. A woman forced to use her hands on a man doesnít meet the level of this survey for sexual assault. But a man who wakes up and mounts his wife in a fit of lust but is told Ďno, not tonightí before the act is consummated is guilty of attempted non-consensual penetration even if he immediately stops and mumbles back to his side of the bed. Granted, he may try to talk her into it. He may try again, being an optimistic sort. He is guilty again of attempted, nonconsensual penetration. But was there a rape or assault or an activity of healthy interest to anyone but the couple in question? The snoring wife isnít upset, but if she is honest and partakes of a survey the next day when this otherwise common forgettable incident is fresh in her mind, who knows what she might put down. This is not to make light of rape. Wives can be and are raped, and so can prostitutes. Itís a simple criteria: the recipient must not be prevented from voicing or clearly indicating approval or disapproval at any time and that decision and opinion is final. Even if a woman leads you on, entices you, teases you, and then says no when the man is in full lather, thatís the breaks son. You need better taste in women. Deal with it. Period. My objection is that the surveys on this subject do not emerge from coldly objective sources doing pure science. They are political screeds. Today, another survey shows that child abuse is under-reported. Agreed, but the same problems of terminology and political intent flaw it.
ĎNon-consensualí is an iffy term. It implies that before all sexual acts, there must be verbal agreement with a clear question and a clear answer. It also means that a negative must be proved, hitherto a legal morass. A man must prove that he did not attempt to assault or rape if charged. That is not currently the law, but clearly, that is the way the underwriters of this survey think it should read.
Beware any survey whose results closely match the desired results of the party paying for it, and the Colorado Rape Coalition would not have accepted a poll that showed say, a four percent penetration index. Sexual assault is not logically defined, and certainly not consistently defined state to state, survey to survey. As the headline in the Daily Camera says, ďColorado rape statistics confirm local agencyís fears...Ē Of course. Thatís why they helped pay for one. Surveys are paid for, generally by organizations with a presumptive interest in a certain result. Iíve worked the phones for organizations that do these surveys and believe me, the questions are clearly designed to incite certain answers.
In short, I do not contest the survey, although I think the time has come for rape, sexual assault, and mere boorish behavior to be sorted out and given accurate legal meanings consistent at the Federal level, where live all civil rights laws. And I remain leery of those who make their reputations as heroic defenders of those who are statistics, because they now have a professional and financial stake in maintaining the status quo.
And really, arenít we doing something very wrong when we raise generation after generation of people who have to deal with this basic problem over and over again, seemingly with no forward progress made? I can understand difference of opinion, but far too many men and women continue to play sex by different rules and criteria to the abuse and pain of the latter and the incarceration and alienation of the former and the waste of both. Iíd rather we stopped stapling our wrists to forehead and bemoaning the humanity and start teaching our children about sex, impulse and reality and how to handle the emotions and urges of puberty and adulthood - that are, oh, three million years old - in a civil manner and provide accurate info on the penalties for not obeying them and the reasons why. Difficult and somewhat embarrassing, sure, but really, it isnít that difficult. And take it from someone who knows. You can live with embarrassment.