It starts, in part, inspired by a...thread, here-ish. (and assorted satellites/spinoffs/related).
In the general context of sexual encounters that won't later be interpreted as "rape" or "assault," and whether or not it's reasonable to expect verbal consent for every little thing:
...verbal signs, which have agreed meanings, are so important.
For a number of reasons.
Let's start with the basics:
Generally speaking, the feminist response is to at -least- give very serious attention to the woman who claims that she was attacked/harassed/molested/raped, because traditionally, OVERWHELMINGLY, the default is to believe
1) she was asking for it
2) ____ women, or women in ____ situation (drunk, stripper, wife of the rapist, wearing xyz article of clothing, in that setting, of that age, of this culture, etc. etc. etc.) can’t *really* be raped
3) and anyway who cares if she was. No big deal. “Just lie back and enjoy it.”
Rape is, in the (yeah i’m gonna use it, because in this case it’s appropriate) patriarchal model, only taken seriously when it is a violation of another man’s property. As in, that is what you find in that classic patriarchal Ur-Text, the Bible. Because, that’s what patriarchy -is-. “Rule of the fathers.” If you rape someone else’s wife or daughter or “good” woman, (or son, for that matter) you’ve potentially ruined another man’s line, and you’ve defiled something that has value (i.e. a previously “virgin” woman). You are STEALING from him. It’s a MATERIAL thing. And, later, a -status- thing, which is the material made slightly more abstract. Rape another man in this particular context and well. You're also taking away his manhood. Anyway.
What the woman (or man) thinks or wants or feels traditionally doesn’t much come into it, because, among other things, they -generally- weren’t real big on subjective truths 2000+ years ago, particularly when making Rules For Living, least of all people who by and large weren’t supposed to be subjects. There are some exceptions. But you note that traditionally a lot of people never really quite knew what to do with, say, “Song of Solomon.”
15] And Moses said unto them, Have ye saved all the women alive?
 Behold, these caused the children of Israel, through the counsel of Balaam, to commit trespass against the LORD in the matter of Peor, and there was a plague among the congregation of the LORD.
 Now therefore kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman that hath known man by lying with him.
 But all the women children, that have not known a man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves.
 If any man take a wife, and go in unto her, and hate her,
 And give occasions of speech against her, and bring up an evil name upon her, and say, I took this woman, and when I came to her, I found her not a maid:
 Then shall the father of the damsel, and her mother, take and bring forth the tokens of the damsel's virginity unto the elders of the city in the gate:
 And the damsel's father shall say unto the elders, I gave my daughter unto this man to wife, and he hateth her;
 And, lo, he hath given occasions of speech against her, saying, I found not thy daughter a maid; and yet these are the tokens of my daughter's virginity. And they shall spread the cloth before the elders of the city.
 And the elders of that city shall take that man and chastise him;
 And they shall amerce him in an hundred shekels of silver, and give them unto the father of the damsel, because he hath brought up an evil name upon a virgin of Israel: and she shall be his wife; he may not put her away all his days.
 But if this thing be true, and the tokens of virginity be not found for the damsel:
 Then they shall bring out the damsel to the door of her father's house, and the men of her city shall stone her with stones that she die: because she hath wrought folly in Israel, to play the whore in her father's house: so shalt thou put evil away from among you.
 If a man be found lying with a woman married to an husband, then they shall both of them die, both the man that lay with the woman, and the woman: so shalt thou put away evil from Israel.
 If a damsel that is a virgin be betrothed unto an husband, and a man find her in the city, and lie with her;
 Then ye shall bring them both out unto the gate of that city, and ye shall stone them with stones that they die; the damsel, because she cried not, being in the city; and the man, because he hath humbled his neighbour's wife: so thou shalt put away evil from among you.
 But if a man find a betrothed damsel in the field, and the man force her, and lie with her: then the man only that lay with her shall die:
 But unto the damsel thou shalt do nothing; there is in the damsel no sin worthy of death: for as when a man riseth against his neighbour, and slayeth him, even so is this matter:
 For he found her in the field, and the betrothed damsel cried, and there was none to save her.
 If a man find a damsel that is a virgin, which is not betrothed, and lay hold on her, and lie with her, and they be found;
 Then the man that lay with her shall give unto the damsel's father fifty shekels of silver, and she shall be his wife; because he hath humbled her, he may not put her away all his days.
More recently, our own laws, as well as a lot of current -ideas- about what is, or isn't, "real" rape, are based on medieval English common law:
During the 12th and 13th centuries, an elaborate system of law based on judicial decisions, known as the common law, developed in England. The common law made rape a crime and provided for punishment of the rapist (but not of the victim). Rape was defined as sexual penetration of a woman forcibly and against her will. However, because the common law treated wives as the property of their husbands, a woman’s husband could not be found guilty of raping her, regardless of whether he used force against her to obtain sex. As a result of the wedding contract, wives could not legally refuse to have sex. Therefore, the law considered marital rape an impossibility.
In addition to creating complete immunity for husbands, English law also contained a number of legal and procedural requirements that made the prosecution of rape difficult. Under the utmost resistance doctrine, a man could be found guilty of rape only if his victim could demonstrate that she had physically attempted to fight off the rape but had been overpowered. A woman who was not physically bruised had little hope of proving a case of rape. If a woman did not promptly complain of a rape, under the fresh complaint rule her case could not be heard. The fresh complaint rule was based on the theory that a delayed report of rape was more likely to be fabricated.
Both the utmost resistance doctrine and the fresh complaint rule were based on assumptions that reflected the status of women in society. These doctrines were explicitly designed to protect men from false accusations of rape, indicating that English society placed more value on preventing false accusations than on protecting women from actual rapes. Legal decisions applying these doctrines assumed that women were likely to fabricate rape accusations, either because they were ashamed at having consented to sexual intercourse, because they had been rejected by their lover and wanted revenge, or because they had fantasized the rape.
Under English common law, certain rules of evidence also helped men defend themselves against charges of rape. Evidentiary rules governed what information was available to the jury during a trial, as well as the weight the jury should assign to the information. Special rules made it difficult to achieve convictions and made the trial an ordeal for the victim. Under these rules, a woman who reported a rape could expect to be questioned in great detail about her sex life. For example, the victim could be extensively cross-examined by the accused rapist’s attorney to show that (1) she had consented to sexual intercourse with the defendant (accused rapist) on that or another occasion, (2) she had consented to sexual intercourse with another man or men, or (3) she did not have a good reputation for chastity.
Although it was difficult to obtain a conviction under the common law, the punishment for rape was severe when prosecution was successful. During most eras, English law treated rape as a capital offense—that is, a crime punishable by death.
Note that -any- reforms or modifications on this basic set-up starts in the 1960's or later, and not just in the U.S.:
In the 1970s most states began to change their laws concerning rape. Many states redefined rape and eliminated some of the common law doctrines and their biases against victims. Beginning with Massachusetts in 1968 and Tennessee in 1971, most states have ended the requirement—usually extremely difficult to meet—that a complainant, or alleged rape victim, produce corroborating evidence to the crime. Some states have passed laws enabling males to press charges of sexual assault.
...Like the United States, Canada modeled its criminal law on English common law. Consequently, Canadian rape laws primarily attempted to protect men accused of rape. Prior to legal reforms in the 1980s, husbands were immune from prosecution for raping their wives. Canada also supplemented the English common law safeguards for men accused of rape. A fresh complaint rule was imposed, prosecutors were permitted to introduce evidence of the victim’s past sexual history to attack her credibility, and judges instructed juries about the dangers of convicting a suspect on the uncorroborated evidence of the complainant.
In the late 1970s and early 1980s the Canadian Parliament reformed these traditional rape laws and doctrines, adopting a new statutory scheme governing sexual assault. Under the current criminal code, both men and women may be found guilty of criminal sexual assault, and marital immunity has been repealed. Furthermore, lawmakers have eliminated many of the evidentiary rules intended to make rape prosecutions more difficult, including the fresh complaint rule and the requirement for corroboration.
The idea that people should be having sex only because they DESIRE one another is relatively very new, at least in “our” (I am coming from a U.S. “Judeo-Christian”-based yadda yadda) culture, and frankly it’s still jostling against a lot of those older ideas. That’s true for women, and it’s true for men as well. Besides feminism, there was the Sexual Revolution; there was also the mainstreaming of psychology, so that now, for instance, you get the concept of post-traumatic stress syndrome:
The identification of rape trauma syndrome also affected attitudes and laws concerning rape. Rape trauma syndrome, a form of post-traumatic stress disorder, is a psychological reaction to rape involving feelings of shock and shame. Victims who experience this syndrome are often reluctant to report a rape. Discovery of rape trauma syndrome undermined the fresh complaint rule, which was based on the assumption that delayed complaints of rape were less reliable.
What's different about -this- is, yeah, it's based on a medical model and there are specific material symptoms one can look for when arguing a legal case; but primarily, unlike so much of what we've been talking about thus far, it's largely defined by the victim's -internal state.- *Feelings.* Apparently, they matter. But...we're all not really caught up to that concept, actually.
So! But never mind the law; now consider the act itself. Now you get to things like -body language- and -missed communication- and boy O boy no one knows what to do, because -now- people aren’t just supposed to be attuned to their -own- feelings, their -own- internal thermostat, which is tricky enough, but -now- they’re supposed to be attuned to what’s going on with the -other- person as well. “Empathy,” what kind of feminizing hippie bullshit is that? And it’s CONFUSING, and what do they WANT from us, and why O why can’t we go back to the way things were I mean a new paradigm mumble something, which either way looks suspiciously like TRYING to fall back on old reliable rules:
-If the setting was xyz, if this mark was or wasn’t present, if that act did or did not occur, if she belongs to such and such a category, if he bought her x amount of flowers-
-Material- shit. THAT’S what people want. Suddenly, everyone’s a lawyer. Something -concrete,- because my god, how how HOW are we supposed to know how other people FEEL, huh?
Well. One way is, you -ask.- (And then pay attention to the answer).
No, it ain’t perfect. No, a lot of people don’t do it so well, particularly whilst simultaneously trying to Preserve The Mood, you know, -desire-, -feeling.-
But dammit, it's an improvement over the shit that came before. And you know what: it's a skill that is honed over time, both on the individual and collective level.
It just hasn't been in vogue for very long. Like a number of other things.
See, value placed on directly expressing one's feelings, however clumsily, -talking, rapping,- "communication skills," well, that's another of those little things that came from the last great Flowering Of Social Consciousness or however you want to define it. The 60's et seq, more or less, yes. Consciousness Raising. I'm Okay You're Okay. Workshops, processing. All that happy crappy.
It is also one of those things that, by and large, goes against the traditional masculine Code. Which, it seems to me, if one were truly invested in trying not just to blame feminism/feminists/women for all its/their shortcomings but also examine what, as a straight man, one needs to do to -liberate himself,-
...then pitching the "strong silent stoic" crap overboard ought to be a priority. Along with the whole, "oh it's not SEXY anymore if you -talk- about it. Or god forbid -ask- for something which -real men- are supposed to just -take-...or at least understand the womens' unspoken signals (because Real Women Don't Ask For What They Want, either) and suavely move in for the kill."
And you know what: Antioch be damned, the very real possibility that some women won't get it be damned (hey, we -all- deal with shit when we try new stuff, we -all- make mistakes or strike out, how the hell do you think it is for gay people coming out and trying to start dating post-adolescence?)I’ve not got much sympathy for people who won’t at least consider -trying.- Particularly if they’re so worried about being misunderstood, lord, they’re just a soul whose intentions are good, -I don’t wanna go to the Big House Maw!-
Okay. So: open up your yap and -talk.-
-Communicate.- If you’re not sure how to read any other sort of language. Actually, even if you -think- you -are- sure.
Because, generally speaking? that is a useful skill. Direct, verbal communication. Comes in handy in a -lot- of situations. Really. I recommend it. You’ll (that is a "general" you, Virginia) get the hang of it. -Practice.-
And finally, yeah, sex-positive (gar) me, I gotta say this:
There are worse things in this world than not getting any.
Look, "critique" feminism and its relations, dudes, for where it falls down, and there are plenty places. by all means.
But, when y'all start saying, more or less, (variously), that feminism is the CAUSE of all your woes: please note:
Traditional rape laws were gender specific, providing that only women could be victims of rape and only men could be rapists. In recent years an increasing number of states have rewritten their rape laws to be gender neutral. In these states it is possible, although unlikely, for a woman to be charged with raping a man. In Canada, statutes prohibiting sexual assault apply to both male and female perpetrators and victims.
Homosexual rape, when it is not covered by a state’s general rape statute, may be covered by statutes that prohibit anal or oral sex between members of the same sex, a type of sodomy. Although some statutes do not distinguish between forcible and consensual acts, forcible sodomy is generally subject to more severe punishments. Homosexual rape is a notorious problem in prisons. However, in society as a whole, rape of men—whether by women or other men—is not a highly visible issue.
So, here's the deal as I understand it. Yep, that last bit is a real problem:
However, in society as a whole, rape of men—whether by women or other men—is not a highly visible issue.
and, yep, indeed, I, too, have encountered various feminist-identified (and otherwise) women who share this rather -reactionary- view. Along with other such -unexamined- views (i.e. sexual organs are for reproduction, men are men and women are women and that's the way it is, prison rape is funny and anyway penetration is a punishment, on and friggin' on). Such is life. I'm not even gonna say they aren't "real" feminists, or "we're not all like that." Because, dammit, I shouldn't have to.
Traditional rape laws were gender specific, providing that only women could be victims of rape and only men could be rapists.
Yeah? TRADITIONAL. Feminism is not the -cause- of that mindset. Feminism is not even a -friend- to that mindset. Feminism is not a perfect antidote to that mindset -all by itself-, no, that's quite right. Because feminism, by and large, has focused -primarily- on the womens' side of the equation. Sort of in the same way that queer rights, by and large, focus through a queer lens, and disability rights' groups focus on the DB perspective, and First Nations/NDN groups focus on...you get the idea. But they are all part of the same general trend. New mindset. New paradigm. New-ish, okay. The one that's led to a -slight- change in how we look at abuse of men, as well as expectations on men (must wear suits and ties, be Providers, not cry, not be gay or effeminate, be aggressive, be an "alpha" dog, etc).
You want to argue that there's a hell of a lot more work to be done in that regard, I won't argue with you.
But, here's the deal, okay:
1) You gotta do the bulk of the legwork yourselves. And, you have to speak -for- yourselves. Feminists of the traditional sort might support you; they might have ideas that you can build on and draw from (shit, you're doing it already); but, they're not gonna do it for you. It's just not gonna happen that way. If most feminists' priorities are not your priorities, it isn't because feminism is a "failure;" it's because -we have different priorities.- Apparently. This is not the same thing as saying that our goals are not compatible. In fact, in at least some of y'all's cases, I suspect we -do- have very compatible goals in a number of respects. However.
2) What -isn't- compatible is the mindset of the MRA's--"alpha and beta males," silly-ass armchair ev-psych, this rule, that rule, women are this, men are that, and feminism ruined everything--and a genuinely progressive, "gender equity" or whatever you want to call it, movement.
Because, it's not just that so many of the MRA's are ill-tempered assholes. It's not even the spew factor. It's that they are deeply -reactionary.-
It's one thing to say you'd like there to be more attention paid to the sexual abuse of men, or the fact that traditional male gender roles are constricting in xyz ways. Or that war is bad for Men and Other Living Things (so let's stop it, hey hey!)
Rants about how women -really want- alpha blahblah and aren't those rape laws awfully hard on the poor guys who might be unjustly accused...that's something else again. That's not -new.- That's not progressive. That's very, very old.
"One of these things is not like the other."
You can't put the genie back in the bottle. So, if you want more sympathy from feminists and other progressives, how about putting more distance between yourselves and the people who talk like they think it'd be a good idea?