I don’t want anyone to feel picked on, but a Basketcase gave me the perfect opportunity to talk about this issue. (Said Basketcase immediately retracted and corrected this misstatement, so I hope you don’t mind me taking this example and running with it.)
I thought Joan’s fiance was a real jerk. I don’t think he had any right to practically raping her.
“Practically” rape. Yep, it’s 2008, and we’ve “come so far,” supposedly, and we still talk about “practically” raping someone.
In 1962, no one would have used the “R” word. Joan does not believe she was raped, and Greg does not believe he is a rapist. But Joan’s suffering is real. And Joan said no. Over and over, Joan said no. But in 1962, there is no word for what happened. Without “rape,” we’re stuck with “practically” raped, or an unpleasant moment in an otherwise “wonderful” relationship.
Greg is not Joan’s husband, but socially, he is beginning to be treated as such. As her fiance, he expects to be deferred to and regarded much as a husband. In 1962, there was no such thing as spousal rape:
Originally, all 50 states legally defined rape as sexual intercourse with a female, not a spouse, forcibly and against her will (Russell 1990). It was not until late in the 1970s, during the second women’s rights movement, that state courts and legislatures began abolishing the marital rape exemptions (Bergen 1996). As of 2002, however, only 24 states and the District of Columbia had abolished completely their marital rape exemptions.
Let’s not all pat ourselves on the back for being so enlightened. Phyllis Schlafly created controversy only two years ago by calling marital rape “sex with your wife” and bitterly denouncing the conviction of a man who raped his wife. Meanwhile, Cosmo is trying to define “gray rape” as a meaningful term, and it’s been picked up by more respectable media sources (gray rape from the Gray Lady).
Joan said no. Greg is her fiance, and the law would certainly not prosecute him. If Joan told her friends, they might be unsympathetic. Even if they understood, they’d advise her to forget it. It’s the compromise you make to be with a man. It’s his right (coldly) or it’s how men are (more kindly) or “marriage is full of compromises” (as if all compromises are equal). And Joan is telling herself those things right now. She is telling herself those things, and by the time 1976 rolls around and Carol takes her hand and says “Joanie, you were raped,” Joan is going to say “Don’t be ridiculous.”
Was she raped?
1. the unlawful compelling of a woman through physical force or duress to have sexual intercourse.
2. any act of sexual intercourse that is forced upon a person.
(“Duress” is compulsion by threat or force; coercion; constraint. )
Joan was compelled through both physical force and duress. She was pinned down. She said no.
She was not “practically” raped. She was raped.