Full story at io9 – beware some rape-culture apologism in the comments, too: Spider-Man’s Villains: Not Rapists, Says Creator.
Storyline summary: villain named Chameleon takes Peter Parker’s shape and has sex with his roommate Michelle Gonzalez, who thinks he is Parker. Subsequent events show that the incident is being played for laughs with the oh so hilarious misunderstandings afterwards between Parker and roommate as she morphs immediately into a super-possessive clingy and bossy girlfriend from Nightmareland.
Fan response: unsurprisingly, many people argued that this deception constituted rape, as Gonzalez would presumably not have consented to the sexual interaction if she realised that it was not actually Parker.
Writer response to fan challenges:
My understanding of the definition of rape is that it requires force or the threat of force, so no. Using deception to trick someone into granting consent isn’t quite the same thing.
Which is not to say it isn’t a horrible, evil, reprehensible thing that Chameleon did. He is a bad man.
He insults parapelegics[sic] and dips people in acid too.
* * * *
Readers here, I’m sure, do know that in many jurisdictions using deception to obtain consent when consent otherwise would have been withheld is indeed considered criminal sexual assault (e.g. fraudulent representations of I’m your husband, not his twin brother or I’m wearing a condom are actual prosecuted deceptions on record). These laws provide a distinction between fraud in the inducement (I’m rich and famous, I’ll respect you in the morning) and fraud in the factum (I’m this specific individual you know and trust, I have done this particular thing that I promised to you), so it’s not like someone can be arrested for saying that they are a millionaire to induce sexual consent when they are in fact unemployed – but more specific deceptions as to actual identity rather than characteristics fall under fraud in the factum.
There’s lots to unpack in the writer’s response (especially in regard to the hahaha stereotyped narrative consequences of Chameleon’s “horrible, evil, reprehensible” act), and many folks on io9 are doing a good job, but there’s one aspect I particularly would like to address, and it’s one that I’ve discussed before: the way that some people are so hung up on traditional folk definitions of rape rather than engaging with how modern legal statutes define degrees of sexual assault as a spectrum of non-consensual sexual contact. Getting hung up on whether an incident was “really rape” becomes just another way to perpetuate rape culture – “it has to be forcible” being the major culprit in this particular incident.
I generally prefer to use the term “sexual assault” purely in order to avoid people getting hung up on their emotional response to the word “rape”. But the word “rape” does have a rhetorical power that using “sexual assault” lacks precisely due to how the associated cultural baggage evokes a strong emotional response. Sometimes the rhetorical power of the word “rape” seems to be worth the emotional cloud that it produces, but often it just obscures the logical thrust of one’s arguments. Thoughts?