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(just stuff I happen to be thinking about)

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Thank You Shauna Prewitt

In an open letter about the stupid comments of Rep. Akin, Shauna Prewitt draws attention to a serious problem: men who rape women still have parental rights in 31 states. It is facts like this that make me very frustrated with legislators. I understand why they cannot get a budget passed or agree on tax rates. I wish they could, but there are multiple sides. How is it that they have not gotten a rapists-have-no-rights law passed yet? I understand that there are some points to work out. Rapists still should be forced to pay child support, but have no visitation, no custody, no anything over the child. It could only apply to convicted rapists. Still, such a law should practically write itself. Hopefully, now that Shauna has raised the issue, laws will be passed in every state without them.

The only problem, if there is one, is defining rape. On the one hand, everyone is opposed to rape, but on the other it is difficult to define rape in a culture where meaningless drunken hookups are commonplace. Clearly some acts are rape, but it is difficult to write a definition that does not include acts which our culture claims are perfectly acceptable. This is why people try to talk about "legitimate rape" and "forcible rape" and sound stupid. Then the other side acts as if no man has ever been falsely accused of rape or sent to prison for doing what would never be called rape if a woman did it.

The New Testament does not talk about rape. In the Old Testament, rape meant having intercourse with a married woman who screamed for help or with a virgin without her father's permission. This is another example of God meeting people halfway. That definition might have been an improvement over what existed before but is pretty horrible now. The Catechism has a definition that is true as far as it goes, but is too vague for law: "Rape is the forcible violation of the sexual intimacy of another person." If the woman is silent and does not fight back, was that implicit permission or fear? If the woman is drunk or on drugs that she took herself, is that rape? What if the man is also drunk? All of this leaves aside any question of proof.

The most reasonable definition beyond clear cases of violence would be that anytime a person is able to prove they had intercourse with someone else and reports that they were raped, they were raped. This is problematic because the logical response to any accusation of rape would be a counter-accusation. Then both people would go to prison. Every instance of sex would be a potential case of rape; it would just be a question of whether or not the people decide to press charges.

It is almost as if we should have a procedure whereby two people stand up in public and announce that they give each other permission to have sex. Then there would be no question. There could be a whole ceremony: fancy dress, dinner, a cake, the promise of lifelong commitment that the sexual act implies. Thousands of years of civilization is not always completely wrong.

Our culture wants to treat sex as no more serious than playing a game of cards, but still knows (RIGHTLY) that the violation of sexual intimacy is far more serious than other violations. Rape can only be as serious as we know it is if sex is equally serious.

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