BBC3 : Sex On Trial, Is This Rape?

I realise that this is a very sensitive topic, so I’m going to try to word this post as best I can. For anybody out there who may have negative opinions to post, please just bear in mind how you say things, because as I said, this is a very sensitive topic and rude comments may upset some readers. I’m happy for people to post opinions and share experiences but anything malicious will be deleted.

If anybody follows my twitter, then you’ll notice last night I did a lot of tweeting and re-tweeting on the BBC3 programme I just watched called Sex On Trial : Is This Rape? If you haven’t seen it already I urge you to watch it, it’s a very insightful, thought provoking documentary which reveals quite a lot about young peoples attitudes to consent and the term rape. You can click here to catch up 

It might be easier to watch the programme first then read this blog as I’m not going to go into too much detail on what everybody said and their opinions. So this programme shows a group of teenagers, male and female watch three video clips. One of a house party, the guy (Tom) and the girl (Gemma) staying over. Tom invites himself into Gemmas bed, then performs a sex act on her. She doesn’t say no, but she doesn’t say yes either. The group are then asked whether or not Gemma has consented. The second clip shows a courtroom and Tom’s defence questioning both Gemma and Tom. The group then have to answer the question “Did Tom believe he had consent” The final clip shows the prosecution questioning Gemma and Tom and the group has to answer the question “Is this rape” At the end of the programme a lawyer analyses the case and makes it very clear that as Gemma did not consent, this is and would be charged as rape. A point she made very clear is that just because she didn’t say no, it does not mean she gave consent. Not saying no is not a yes.

What I found astounding in this is how many grey areas the group seemed to think there was. They questioned a lot whether what he had done was “real rape”, whether it was as bad as pre meditated rape or other cases, was it ok because they used to go out, she didn’t say no or push him away. There was so many things they thought of that seemed to make it “not as bad” in their eyes, and they didn’t seem to be as shocked at the video as I thought they would be which makes me wonder how much this kind of behaviour has been normalised. One guy even accused her of “leading him on” because she didn’t push him away. Another one even tried to put into percentages how much of it was rape and how much wasn’t (80-20 what the fuck is that?) and that the girl wasn’t completely innocent. It wasn’t just the boys who spoke about these points, the girls views were just as mixed. One girl said Gemma was experiencing one of those “can’t be arsed moments where you let them do it because you can’t be bothered with the trouble of saying no, which every girl has been in” . This was so shocking, but I get where she’s coming from I’m sure a lot of girls (and boy’s) have been in the position where somebody is putting pressure on them to have sex or sexual contact and they don’t want the trouble of saying no. But that doesn’t make it right at all. A lot of excuses were being made for Tom from both male and female groups while Gemma didn’t get a lot of sympathy. Some even questioned whether or not Tom actually knew what he was doing was rape which is a scary thought.  Another thing that the teenagers seemed to focus more on in this programme was the gender stereotypes and constantly referred to victims as women, I think there should have been more focus on how both genders can suffer from this, and how attackers aren’t necessarily always men.

As soon as I saw the clip what went through my mind was rape. For me personally I didn’t see any grey area at all. But what shocked me with this is how applicable this situation is to real life. I know people who have been in Gemma’s situation before and never considered it rape until I watched the programme. Those same excuses were made, we were in a relationship, it wasn’t that bad, it wasn’t proper rape, he apologised etc. But looking at it now, it was rape. When somebody specifically said that they did not want to do a particular thing (said awake and sober), the person waited until they were asleep and did it anyway.

Having spoken to friends, it’s upsetting how common this is and how normalised this kind of behaviour is. People only tend to use the word rape when its a violent premeditated attack, but in reality its not like that. If you say no, (or don’t say yes in Gemmas case) the its rape. There shouldn’t be excuses made, or grey areas to consider.

If you watched this programme and have an opinion to share please comment. I’d really like to hear what other people think. If you have any experiences to share too, feel free to post anonymously. Or if you just want to chat feel free to message/tweet me at https://twitter.com/misslaurameow

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