Monday, September 28, 2009

Rape: Not Synonymous with Sex

So I read a headline this morning, and I didn't even have to look at the article to be 100% convinced that the headline was wrong. Right there in my morning paper. The headline was this:

Polanski Arrested in Sex Case

No he wasn't. SEX is not illegal. One does not get arrested in for committing sex. Polanski was arrested in a RAPE case. because he allegedly committed RAPE.

"Director Roman Polanski was arrested by Swiss police as he flew in for the Zurich Film Festival and faces possible extradition to the United States for having sex with a 13-year-old-girl in 1977, authorities said Sunday."

True, his actual guilty plea was for "unlawful sexual intercourse" with the underage girl, but even if you somehow accept the notion that a 13 year old girl can give valid consent to sex with a middle aged man, it still qualifies as, at the least, statutory rape. In any case, it's not sex.

The bright and vigilant feminist blogosphere has done a very good job pointing out the media's rape-apologist presentations of rape as sex, and the ways in which it diminishes the seriousness and consequences of rape.

I think this sort of presentation does damage to "sex" as well. It sort of feeds into this idea that sex is something that's dirty and scary and sordid. I mean, sheesh, it's something you can get arrested for. And I don't like that. Sex can be great. Sex happens between consenting adults and can bond relationships or provide pleasure, and myriad other positive things. Of course, it can also suck, just like other nice things can suck, depending on the circumstances. And yes, there are risks and possible consequences that absolutely need to be addressed in smart, comprehensive sex ed.

But sex and rape are not the same thing. They're not even particularly similar. And we do a disservice to both terms and, especially, to rape survivors, when we conflate the two.


  1. Seriously, get it together Washington Post Express.

  2. This is everywhere! The story is being reported everywhere as if he had consensual sex with a minor, when actually the girl testified that Polanski gave her champagne and quaaludes, and then had oral, vaginal, and anal sex with her as she resisted. There's a word for that, and it's definitely not sex.