Rape is a strong word.
The general consensus is that it should be saved for specific situations, and that it should be followed by a series of questions – “What were you wearing?” “Were you drinking?” or maybe “Wait, but aren”t you two dating?”
Rape might be a strong word, but it can be defined simply. Rape is sexual conduct without consent. No matter how the situation is dissected and scrutinized, rape is rape, regardless of the actions that led up to the assault. Despite a short skirt or a flirty disposition, neither of these constitutes an invitation.
Rape is still rape when it occurs within an established relationship.
It is often misinterpreted that accepting the label “boyfriend and girlfriend” or “husband and wife” means that rape can no longer take place between the couple, which is entirely untrue. No one in a relationship is entitled to sex with their established partner – consent is always required.
To consent is to actively agree. With sex, this should involve enthusiastic engagement, both physical and verbal. It doesn”t matter if a couple has been together for a month or for years. It doesn”t matter if they share a bed or a bank account. Sex without active consent is abuse of a high account. In other terms, it”s rape.
But the lines blur in long-established relationships – especially in relationships that last a year or more. The level of comfort is high, and sex drives naturally fluctuate between partners. It is important to establish boundaries in which “no” means “no,” not “maybe, if you feel me up.”
Shouldn”t sex with a significant other remain an activity of affection, not guilt? Over time, with the persistent pushing of one partner or another, sex could become less and less an act of passion and rather one with undertones of payment, where one partner “owes” something to the other for even partaking in the partnership, as if commitment is a constant sexual invitation. This is where the blurred lines ultimately result in sex without enthusiastic consent, and while rape may not feel like the correct term, it is not as far-fetched as some may assume.
Though rape is often talked about within the context of blacked-out college girls and underage assault victims, rape may be closer to home than most think. Rape is possible in all forms of relationships, and despite blurred lines it”s easy to determine by asking one simple question. Was there consent?
While my intent isn”t to make every instance when “Honey, I want a back rub,” turns into sex sound like a form of sexual assault, it is important to realize that rape is a reality, even when the labels “boyfriend and girlfriend” and “husband and wife” are in use.
Drawing boundaries and understanding our comfort levels, along with our partner”s willingness to accept “no” as an answer, can help eliminate the rhetoric of rape in established relationships.