The story of Daniel Kopin and Lena Sclove, both students at Brown University when the latter accused the former of rape, is rife with issues for discussion. But I would like to focus on this vignette:
The woman also wrote that she voluntarily took off most of her clothes and that, while she almost immediately began to regret the encounter, she never told Kopin she wanted to stop. Her grievance against him boiled down to the claim that he “moved [her] body around into whatever positions he felt best in” and seemed interested only in his own pleasure, and that he pushed her head down too forcefully while she was giving him oral sex, causing her to stop and tell him that “that was rude.”
Any crime has an objective element to it: we do not throw people in jail (or, in the instant case, throw them out of school) for not being mind readers or for relying on objective signals of acquiescence. Imagine with theft: “May I have a dollar?” “Okay….” Ten minutes later: “He stole my dollar! Charge him with theft!” Certainly, there are issues with this as the repeated asking, combined with other signals, approaches coercion, but receiving a “yes” in response to a question is an objectively reasonable standard of consent.
I loathe being in the position of defending cads, but the particular cad in question should be defended against charges of rape. Her problem with the encounter is that a man barely out of his teens was screwing her for his own pleasure and not her empowerment – so she accused him of rape.
At this point, I feel the need to channel my inner acerbic, chain-smoking aunt: Honey, of course he had sex with you for his own gratification. He’s a healthy young man. If you wanted a man to make love to you instead of fucking you, then don’t have sex with a man who isn’t in love with you.
As a raging conservative, I can explain to Lena Sclove why she felt so crummy after that encounter and everything that is wrong with it, starting with the premise that it’s a good idea to be sexually intimate with a man who doesn’t put your best interests first. (Here’s a hint: if he doesn’t do that outside of the bedroom, it won’t happen in the bedroom.) But I wonder if she can cogently explain the problems with it and why she was so upset after what was apparently a consensual sexual encounter. I wonder if she – or anyone on the Brown disciplinary panel – can explain the difference between being a selfish cad and a rapist.
I suspect that until our society can explain to young women that “consent” is a necessarily, but certainly not sufficient, condition for a sexual encounter that will not make them feel crappy, we can only expect more of this – more men thrown out of school, more heartbroken women who can’t understand their pain.