[The Sexuality Blog] Back to Basics: Has the concept of rape changed?

We at the Sexuality Blog are revisiting the basics, and as best we can, explaining the concepts of sex, consent and the different aspects of rape culture with analogies that are specific to Nigerians. We are also trying to answer a number of questions that revolve around rape culture and how our current beliefs and practices help to foster a culture where rapists are excused their bad behaviour, never punished for their actions and victims are blamed for rape.

Has the concept of rape changed?

Yes, yes it has.

While Nigeria still operates on a series of archaic pre-colonial laws regarding rape and sexual assault that were written to excuse colonalists of their excesses, the rest of the world has expanded their interpretations of rape beyond the common trope of a stranger forcing themselves violently on a defenseless woman.

So what then is Rape?

Rape is sexual contact achieved without consent, with the use of physical force, coercion, deception and/or threats. Rape is also penetration achieved when one party is incapacitated, physically or emotionally impaired, asleep or unconscious.

Before we continue, not all sexual assault is rape but all rape is sexual assault. This means not sexual act you perform on a woman without her consent is rape. Forcing a woman to kiss you is not rape, but it is sexual assault.

Now let’s break down the terms used in the definition; Consent, Physical force, Coercion, Deception, Threats.

For Consent, read here.

Physical Force. 

This is often a gray area for many men because we are socialized to believe that sexual partners like ‘rough sex’, and that it is more masculine to show ‘strength’ or ‘force’ as form of foreplay. Using force during sex is not entirely a bad thing and can actually be pleasurable for both partners provided express consent is given at the start of intercourse and during. However, if you have to restrain a woman in any way during sexual intercourse without her consent, odds are you are steering into rape territory.

TL:DR; Force without consent = Rape.

Coercion

Coercion during sex refers to the use of non-physical force to make a person engage in a sexual act. A good example of this is sex work. Many sex workers are trafficked from their home countries and tortured through starvation and sleep deprivation until they understand they must have sex with whoever is sent to them without hesitation. Therefore anyone who sleeps with a trafficked sex worker is committing rape, even if he has no idea about the circumstances that led to her entry into sex work.

The Rape and Beg phenomenon where women who have been raped are forced to enter a relationship with their rapists for fear of societal reprisals is another example of coercion. If a person cannot refuse you sex, then the odds are it is rape.

Deception

This is where things get a little tricky. Deception refers to the use of lies or misinformation to solicit sex. Again consent comes into play, because a person can only consent to sexual activity if they have been told the truth about the nature and extent of sexual activity that is about to occur. If a person tells their partner that they will engage in safe sex and then does not use protection, it falls under rape, because the partner did not consent to unprotected sex. If a partner promises not ejaculate inside their partner and does so, it falls under rape. Any wilful misinformation with the express purpose of soliciting sex that otherwise would not happen is rape.

TL:DR; if you have to tell a lie to get them to sleep with you, you are entering into rape territory.

Threats

Any threat of reprisal or physical violence or blackmail with the express intent of soliciting sex is rape. It is that simple, a person cannot consent to sex when you are endangering their lives/well being. Don’t do it.

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