More for the “sex workers can’t be raped” file

Cara blogs on the acquittal in Sydney of a US Marine sailor charged with rape even though he admitted using physical force against a woman to coerce sexual intercourse:

Trigger Warning for rape apologism and graphic descriptions of sexual violence

So, she told him to stop. And even only as far as he admits, instead of stopping as he was told, he pinned her to the bed and told her he was going to continue anyway. I repeat: against her wishes. After she told him to stop.

Which means that as far as any reasonable definition goes — hell, even working off an antiquated and misogynistic definition of rape that requires physical violence to be present — he confessed to raping her.

And yet, despite his clear admission of rape, he simultaneously claimed that it wasn’t rape — as we know, men will frequently admit to behavior that classifies as rape so long as the word rape is not actually used. The fact that he would do so in a court of law, though, is particularly shocking, exposes some extremely concerning cognitive dissonance, and most appalling of all, displays a clear belief by his defense attorney that such a tactic would succeed, and that the jury would accept that cognitive dissonance right along with him.

That belief was, of course, ultimately validated by the jury. But why? Because the victim was a sex worker, and many people believe that sex workers have no right to bodily autonomy, and therefore cannot be raped? Because she had consented to the sex up to that point, and many people believe that women who have consented to sex generally have no right to bodily autonomy, and therefore cannot revoke or renegotiate consent once it is given? Because the rape may have “only” lasted a few moments, and how could a rape — of a sex worker! who had previously consented! — possibly “count” as real rape? Because Davis is a member of the U.S. military, and therefore he doesn’t look how most people expect a rapist to look?

My best guess is that all of these forms of misogynistic prejudice played a role, most likely in the order I’ve listed them. Yet again, even a blatant confession in a court of law is not enough to earn a conviction from a jury pulled from a culture that thinks men are never to blame, and women always are.

That passage, and Cara’s whole post, have lots of links to other relevant articles which I haven’t included because you should head on over to The Curvature to read the whole thing.

Addit (link via orlando): over at the Yes Means Yes blog: Sex Work Is Not An Invitation to Rape

And this is not an enforcement problem. The police made an arrest and the prosecutors brought the case. The judge didn’t throw it out. The case went all the way to a jury.

This is a cultural problem. He admitted he pinned her down, he admitted he covered her mouth, he admitted that he put his penis inside her with no condom … and a jury of ordinary citizens acquitted him anyway. I can’t see any way that happens unless they simply decided that they are so biased against sex workers that they think sex workers deserve to be raped when doing their job.

Shouldn’t it be so obvious as to be unnecessary to say this? Sex workers do not deserve to be raped — while doing their jobs, or at any other time, ever. It’s a basic syllogism, really. Major premise: No human deserves to be raped. Minor premise: Sex workers are human. Conclusion: No sex worker deserves to be raped. The operation of the syllogism is Logic 101. The truth of the premises is Humanity 101. Disagree with one of those premises? Fail the course, repeat Humanity 101.



Categories: gender & feminism, law & order, violence

Tags: ,

11 replies

  1. A minor quibble: The rapist is a U.S. Sailor, and not a U.S. Marine.
    Cara wrapped it up perfectly. It is a combination of all of the above: the woman was a sex worker, the man is a servicemember so he must be beyond reproach, etc. etc. is probably why he was able to get away with rape. I didn’t notice if the military put him to a court martial over this, since he broke about a nonillion UCMJ articles during this whole thing as well, which in the very least should cost him his job and minor confinement or fines. Not that that is enough for what he did, not in the least, but he shouldn’t be walking around a free man with what he admitted to.

    • Thanks for the quibble, OuyangDan. Fixed.
      orlando, I can’t get my head around the jury’s thinking either.
      Mindy, I too would be angry and frightened yet unsurprised.

  2. I’m still struggling with how it is someone can confess to a crime and yet be acquitted of that crime.

  3. I think it all comes back to Tigtog’s headline – if she had been a “normal” woman then it would have been a crime, but since she’s a sex worker, well somehow that means that she doesn’t deserve the same consideration as other human beings. I think a lot of workers in this industry will be very angry and quite possibly frightened by this. Probably also not surprised unfortunately.

  4. Gggrrrarrrr this is SO infuriating. He actually bloody well said ”If my father were here to hear the behaviour that I did – paying money for a sex worker – he would have been totally displeased with my behaviour”. But your father wouldn’t worry that you held a sex worker down and raped her? GGrraarrr.

  5. Here’s a disturbing bit about some recent legal decisions in Italy :
    the Court of Appeals of Rome issued a sentence declaring that the rape of a sex worker is less punishable than the rape of a woman that does not choose to be a prostitute.
    an Italian man of 31 years old kidnapped, robbed and raped a Romanian prostitute. … charged with kidnapping, sexual violence and robbery, and was condemned to seven years imprisonment. the Court of Appeals of Rome on October 18th reduced his jail time from seven to three years and four months.
    The main idea behind this decision was that sex workers by choosing to “work on the street,renounce their physical and moral integrity.” The physical, moral and legal offences to a prostitute cannot be considered equal to that of woman who is “not a prostitute” and, therefore, the crime in question should be judged in light of these attenuating circumstances.
    It is clear from this perspective adopted by the Court that women must conform to the attitudes/behaviours that are morally accepted by society. Failing to do so, they run the risk of being punished (by being raped). This means that men can feel empowered to violate women’s autonomy and not respect the rights of sex-workers because sex workers have neither social nor legal legitimacy. This sentence, thus, implies different punishments for two kinds of rape. There are rapes of “series A” which have to be strongly punished, and then there are those of “series B” which require less punishment because the victim’s moral transgression or behavior encourages sexual violence.

    I took note of that when I read it – not only because it totally sucks, but because I also read this post , published around the same time, also about Italy, also about sex workers, also purporting to “care” about women. Pretty obvious to me which of those two people actually cares about the lives of women.

  6. if she had been a “normal” woman then it would have been a crime
    I’m not sure that’s true. Several times while reading this story (and links), I was struck by how easily “sex worker” could be replaced with “woman”. There’s a myth of male sexuality as an unstoppable force at play here (not to mention the expectation for women to be accommodating). My guess is that a “normal” woman who invited a man up to her room for sex but decided that she was done before he was and was then coerced until he decided he was finished would not be looked at much better than this sex worker was.

    • @CST – that is a depressingly perspicacious point. Juries don’t seem to grok the concept that consent can be withdrawn.

  7. Yes, this case, and the issues CST raised about the need to *finish*/the notion of men’s sexuality as an ‘unstoppable force’ prompted a discussion between myself and my partner a few days ago…that there *is* a real feeling that men feel *entitled* to ‘finish’…and that it’s a pressure I’ve felt and heard verbalised at me with intimidation tactics in my past. I found myself articulating how safe I felt and how lovely it is that I feel safe that he will stop when I need him to *no matter what* – that I can know I have control, that he will not simply *finish* while ignoring my mood/noises/words/actions/body language…and then found myself agog at the fact that I felt *grateful* for that basic modicum of respect towards women and sex.
    On the whole I have found it difficult to comment on this matter as I find it so deeply upsetting. I think that CST’s take on the conception of male sexuality is correct, however I do think that the notion that a sex worker ‘can’t be raped’ is at play here, and it is disturbing and upsetting in the extreme.
    Just a gentle word as well: I’m fairly sure you didn’t mean it like this CST, however, I’m not sure why it should be *striking* that “sex worker” could be replaced with “woman”. I think you meant it in terms of the commentary being delivered, and the attitudes of misogyny behind them meaning that the misogyny would be there regardless of whether the story was about a sex worker or not, it’s just that I found myself kind of blanching at that sentence since there’s often, elsewhere an implication that a female sex worker is not a ‘normal woman’.

  8. I’m not sure why it should be *striking* that “sex worker” could be replaced with “woman”. I think you meant it in terms of the commentary being delivered, and the attitudes of misogyny behind them meaning that the misogyny would be there regardless of whether the story was about a sex worker or not, it’s just that I found myself kind of blanching at that sentence since there’s often, elsewhere an implication that a female sex worker is not a ‘normal woman’.
    Sorry about that, and thanks for understanding what I meant despite my phrasing it badly. As I was reading this, it brought up a lot of memories of things that have happened to me and to other women I know, and it was the sheer number of memories that was “striking” to me. I mentioned it only for the purpose of discussing the bit I quoted about how this case would be viewed if the woman had not been engaged in sex work at the time, but I do see how I could have been clearer. I did not mean to imply that sex workers are a separate class from women nor was I trying to suggest that disparaging attitudes toward sex workers had no bearing on this case.

  9. I think that CST’s take on the conception of male sexuality is correct, however I do think that the notion that a sex worker ‘can’t be raped’ is at play here, and it is disturbing and upsetting in the extreme.
    I agree that CST is on target, but I certainly believe the victim’s occupation was part of why the jury felt free to ignore the fact that the rapist testified to committing the crime when they decided to acquit him.
    [Acknowledging what CST just said; so I know that this isn’t disagreement with them]
    In Cara’s original post, I characterised the jury as accomplices. And in a case like this, where the man testified to committing the crime (of course without actually using the r-word, which for some reason makes it ok, wtf?), I can’t think of any other way to see them for acquitting him. I view them in the same light as those who spectated at the rape in Richmond.

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