Monday, January 5, 2009

On Seduction, Agency, and Entitlement

In my last post, I didn't really tackle the question of what seduction is, anyway, and how it differs from rape. I thought Natalia had addressed that very ably. In comments, though, and then in a post of his own, figleaf challenged me to think about how male socialization might blur that line for some men:
I think it's more complicated than that. Inside my theory of the "no-sex" class paradigm, where men are indoctrinated believe normal, compromised women never just *naturally* want sex and, therefore, that sex must be obtained through some sort of leverage, the difference between from rape to exploitation of economic disadvantage to aphrodisiacs to dinner with roses are only a matter of degree and legitimacy**. That's the way Hays appears to look at it: from inside that dominant paradigm.

(More from figleaf here.)
I think it's absolutely true that there's a continuum of coercion when it comes to sex. In fact, a dismaying amount of sex takes place between the polar extremes of rape and enthusiastic consent. I would have generally agreed with Maggie Hays' post that set off this discussion, had she simply categorized as "exploitative" or "coercive" many of the phenomena that she's decrying: For instance, "duty sex" and "sexual payments" (i.e., some men's expectation that if they pay for a date, the woman owes them sex) both involve an element of coercion.

She didn't do that. Coercion is ethically wrong. But I react allergically against such coercive situations being classified as rape, which is a crime, after all, and not just a breach of ethics. If a guy buys me dinner and I choose to end the evening with a handshake or less, he might call me a pricktease. That's not rape, that's mere assholery. If I drink so much that I can no longer say no, then it's rape, all right. Ditto for any situation where we start to make out and he then ignores a clear no.

I'm not arguing that force or violence is present in every rape. Not at all. I'm just saying that to call an act rape, there has to be a clear absence of consent, whether because one person has said or signaled no, or because they're incapable of consenting due to drunkenness or unconsciousness.

I'm troubled by this inflationary expansion of "rape" because Maggie Hays is not the only person who's trying to broaden the definition. I once heard something similar from a sexual assault educator. For instance, this educator said that if a woman has had anything to drink at all, she's presumptively incapable of consent. Moreover, she claimed something similar for women over age 55! Now, I haven't been able to confirm that anyone else is using this same criterion. I did press her on this point, and she clarified that she wasn't claiming that all sex with women over 55 is rape or abuse; rather, she was saying that mental competency has to be demonstrated rather than presumed.

Besides trivializing actual rape, the inflationary labeling of all coercion as "rape" drains women of agency. We remain free to say no - even when we're afraid of being called a prude or a tease, even when our partner is a manipulative bastard, even when a guy has footed the bill for haute cuisine and roses. As Natalia said, we are not children.

The losses are incalculable if we start presuming that women are incapable of saying no. In fact, that presumption plays right into male sexual entitlement. The notion that women lack agency is a precondition for masculine sexual entitlement. Those pickup artists and just regular Nice Guys(TM) that figleaf rightly criticizes for thinking they need to apply leverage? They're driven by entitlement. They're motivated by the notion that a woman's no only means that their leverage needs to be stronger, subtler, cleverer, more expensive - or just possibly, more forceful. Most such men won't actually rape a woman. But this mindset does make date rape more likely to occur.

What might masculine sexual entitlement look like in a less virulent - but still troubling - form? In a follow-up post, Maggie Hays describes her experiences with an ex-boyfriend that spurred her to regard seduction as a form of sexual exploitation (and/or rape - it's no longer quite so clear, in this post, whether she's continuing to conflate the two terms). I'm not going to quote from her description of that relationship because I don't want to oversimplify or take anything out of context; better to read it yourself. At one point, though, she adds some nuance to her original statement that seduction equals rape:
To elaborate, I meant seduction as: 'When a man persuades a woman to have sex with him, often subtly, through being kind, polite, chivalrous, while playing on her feelings, possible vulnerability, or sometimes getting her consent by deceiving her, distracting her, and sometimes intoxicating her (with alcohol or drugs) so that he can use her for his own sexual gratification and purpose.'
This is, of course, much more coercive than simply being kind or polite, as she suggested in her initial post. On top of that, it sounds like her ex was a liar. I do empathize; most of us who've lived for a while have experiences with exes where we felt lied-to and manipulated. I'm sorry she was treated like crap.

Based on how she describes her ex, my guess is she sums him up fairly when she calls him an "asshole." In fact, it's sort of libelous to the actual anatomical part to apply its name to truly vile human beings. This guy comes across as a major-league manipulator. But a rapist he's not.

Plenty of embittered men tell tales of lying, scheming, manipulative women, too. I've never heard a man complain that an ex lied to get him into bed. While I'm sure it happens, there aren't many men who'd admit it, since it goes against the assumption that men are horny little everready rabbits. Men do complain about women manipulating them for love and money, just for instance. Neither gender holds a monopoly on rotten manipulative behavior.

I absolutely do think it's fair to say that the kind of seduction Maggie Hays describes with her ex is unethical. That doesn't mean it ought to be illegal, but it ought to be socially sanctioned, not celebrated as studly.

Historically, Hays' definition of seduction was the most prevalent one. Seduction was often assumed to an expression of class privilege. In my research, I've come across innumerable tales of a servant girl seduced by older, richer men - often her employer or his son - then abandoned once they fell pregnant. Even back then, circa 1910, the German feminists I've studied were split on how to respond to these stories. Some publicized them in sensationalized form in order to gain public sympathy for the plight of unmarried mothers; portraying them as victims was one way to counter slut-shaming (which was pretty nasty back then, too). Other feminists objected to the distortion of truth and to the idea that women had no agency (though they would've used different terminology).

The raw data I've seen indicate pretty clearly that the rich man and poor servant girl narrative wasn't fictionalized; such cases occurred regularly in early twentieth-century Germany. The far more common scenario, though, for one servant to pair up with another. If pregnancy did occur, the two servants would often marry (this was less true in the countryside). Cross-class liaisons rarely resulted in marriage, and so they were more visible in both statistics and public perceptions.

No, sexual coercion hasn't disappeared from women's lives, but most American women are no longer as constrained as a poor servant girl a hundred years ago. It's time, as figleaf says, to redefine seduction:
[W]hereas for most anti-feminists, "Pick-up Artists" in the "seduction community," possibly Scott Adams, and a subset of feminists that include Hays' school of thought, seduction is a unilateral act undertaken by men to extract sex from women who would otherwise "know better," for people who *aren't* into that mindset seduction can be something entirely different. Like the persuasive interaction between individuals who are sexually interested but haven't finalized a decision... or who *have* decided and are mutually enjoying a form of extended arousal.
That second definition is what I've always considered seduction to be. Of course, that delicious sort of seduction relies on the knowledge that one can say no at any point - that both parties have agency, and that neither is entitled. It rests on the mutual recognition that enthusiastic consent is essential not just to law and ethics but to good sex.

I've always felt free to say no, even in situations where the guy acted entitled. Maybe that's because I called myself a feminist before I even hit puberty. Or maybe because I always balked at trading sex for prime rib - but then again, I only consider one of those things delicious. (Hint: I did try moose meat a couple years back, but I've been a near-vegetarian for decades.)

23 comments:

J.B. Kochanie said...

I'm troubled by this inflationary expansion of "rape" because Maggie Hays is not the only person who's trying to broaden the definition.

Like you, Sungold, I am troubled by this expansion of the term rape, a trend which I noted over twenty years ago during discussions with feminists in academia.

According to the Rape, Abuse,and Incest National Network(RAINN), sexual assault is the the all-encompassing term which includes rape, sexual harassment, stalking and other crimes.

While I am not trying to make this an exercise in legal terms, I believe it is important to note that rape and sexual assault are prosecuted in the criminal courts, while harassment is adjudicated in the civil courts. So there is a need to use these terms precisely.

While rape typically is a single event, what is called harassment occurs across a continuum. Harassment can escalate to rape or sexual assault, but physical contact is not required to prove a charge of harassment.

What Maggie Hays referred to as seduction may be a step within that continuum.

While I can argue for precision, I have to recognize that language is changing and evolving. When Susie Bright referred to Eartha Kitt as "seductive" in a recent post, the word was not used in a derogatory sense, even though the dictionary definitions give different shades of meaning.

Seduction may be manipulative and an exercise of class privilege, but it is not rape, and calling it such will only make the criminal prosecution more difficult. When the consequences of charging a person with the crime of rape or sexual assault can include conviction and imprisonment, we have a responsibility to use these terms precisely.

sabelson said...

Actually, Pick-Up Artistry is experienced by those who practice it as a radical reaction to absolute female agency, since about 25% of it is dealing with the fact that you are approaching someone for a conversation, and she is free to end the interaction on her terms at any time, for any reason, however arbitrary.

It's true that women's "tests", like an insincere "I Have a Boyfriend" when she's been visibly flirting with other men before your approach are scorned, but PUAs are not responsible for the indirect communication of the patriarchy-compliant, who cannot actually say "Yes I do, but not WITH YOU" for various reasons, not the least of which is fear of male violence.

As usual, no one on the radfem side can address this as anything other than "entitlement", while "Yes" is so scarce that pick-up artists learn to shrug and walk away at any of a multitude of "Nos".

jfpbookworm said...

and she is free to end the interaction on her terms at any time, for any reason, however arbitrary.

Quelle horreur!

sabelson said...

Bookworm: N'en déplaise. Try hearing "I have to floss my cat" in response to your request for a date and if you can keep your grin going, you truly honor ALL kinds of female agency.

figleaf said...

I'm actually going to go with Sableson here and say that from *men's* perspective what appears as entitlement to women often appears as despair and "last resort" measures to men.

This isn't anything like an excuse -- a rat who feels cornered is still a rat -- but in my opinion I don't think one can fully understand "entitlement" if you don't understand the self-perception of "underdog."

This isn't anything like a minor point either -- what I keep learning over and over again from, social theory, psychology, history, and personal employment history (I once worked for Microsoft) is a good shorthand for "evil" is "that which arises when the powerful act out of a self-perception of powerlessness."

---

On the other hand, reading how Hays feels so betrayed by her a-hole ex's repeated seductions of her I'm stuck wondering what the heck *she* thought she was agreeing to each time. And I don't mean that in any kind of snarky or belittling sense. Just that it makes sense that after getting screwed for holding up what her anti-feminist indoctrination said was her end of the bargain, it makes sense that not just feminism but radical feminism would appeal to her.

figleaf

Sungold said...

Kochanie: I'm glad you bring up the fact that RAINN lumps sexual harassment in with sexual assault. It's on a continuum, all right, but harassment is different than rape, and insofar as assault is supposed to be a criminal offence, harassment shouldn't even be classified as assault. My sense is that activists and community educators are more likely to use these terms imprecisely than we academics are, but I think there's quite a lot of slippage across the board.

You mention how unfair such imprecision can be to those who are potentially accused, and I agree, but this slippage can be harmful to victims, too. For instance, the sexual harassment charges brought against the aides to former Ohio AG Marc Dann were appropriate in that these aides created a hostile work environment *and* were responsible for quid pro quo harassment. In my opinion, however, those charges didn't go far enough, because one aide touched one of the women sexually while she was passed out. That's assault, as far as I understand the definition.

Sungold said...

jfp bookworm: It's great to hear from you. I really like your post on this (I just saw it) and I'll try to stop by later to comment.

Sungold said...

Sabelson: First off, I'm not sure "radical feminist" quite applies to me. I'm definitely a feminist, and I'm often fairly radical, but I'm too much of a pointy-headed poststructuralist - and too sympathetic to most of what "sex positive" feminists promote - to feel truly cozy with the self-identified radical feminists.

I do agree with you that the sort of indirect communication you describe is bullshit. Like nearly all women, I've engaged in it, too, but *never* fear of violence. It's part of female socialization to be "nice," instead of being blunt and simply telling a guy we're not interested. In a better world, women would gracefully tell men "no thanks, that's very kind. I wish you luck."

I'm curious how men would take a rejection in this form, if delivered in a kind voice with a friendly but not flirty smile. I'm not snarking or asking a mere rhetorical question. I'd sincerely like to know.

I am very troubled by the idea that absolute female agency is a problem. I mean, I assume absolute agency on the part of the men I deal with - romantically, sexually, or otherwise - and that's how it should be. I wouldn't *want* to be with someone unless the desire was fully mutual. Relationships that are lopsided - where only one partner is really interested - can be very painful.

It's not that I'm diminishing the sting of rejection, but it's something grownups need to cope with. We don't get everything we want. That goes for us women, too. Please don't assume that all women can have any man they want. *No one* is entitled to that. And chemistry and attraction will always play a crucial role.

I speak as a woman who has taken the initiative more often than most women, and I know what it feels like to be rejected. In a better world, we women would also have to bear more of the risk and burden of initiating!

Sungold said...

figleaf: As always, I appreciate your perspective on this. I think it's still important to insist that the *net effect* of such resentment is still behavior *as if* men were entitled. The end result appears identical, and at least potentially has identical effects on women. And honestly - as I'm pretty sure you agree, and contrary to what I think Sabelson is implying - a man is not entitled to a woman's conversation (never mind sex with her!) any more than I'm entitled to converse with you! Once we realize that, we can more fully appreciate and enjoy the conversations we *do* have. I guess that's partly also a long-winded way of saying thanks for your comment. :-)

I agree that explaining something doesn't necessarily excuse it. And really, if we want to change things for the better, we have to understand why certain behaviors occurred. We have to get at people's motives, including resentments both rational and irrational. And this holds true at every level, from dysfunctional marriages up to the origins of WWII (which could hardly have occurred if Germans hadn't felt deeply victimized by Versailles, hyperinflation, and even loose sexual mores).

As for Maggie Hays: Who among us hasn't stayed in dysfunctional relationships longer than made sense? Lots of us play games with our own minds. We convince ourselves that "this time it'll be different." I've got some of that in my own history, though I never had a relationship quite as messed up as Maggie Hays describes. I honestly don't know if women are more prone to this sort of rationalization than men are.

However. The question is what we then make of those messy relationships. Do we assume that they reveal some essential truth about an entire gender? Or do we try to understand what in our own psyche or personal history kept us from breaking out of a bad relationship? Gender socialization is only *one* of the elements that shapes and sometimes distorts our relationships. Overgeneralize, and you end up with "Men Are from Mars" or its radical feminist equivalent.

figleaf said...

"I think it's still important to insist that the *net effect* of such resentment is still behavior *as if* men were entitled."

Oh yeah. I'm totally with you that the the net result looks exactly like empowerment to the recipients. I'm just saying looking at it my way explains why people like Sableson and other MRA-types go around accusing you of "radical" feminism for proposing that women should have more power in gendered relationships. Not that it's a *good* thing and really quite the opposite. And not that the answer they think is needed -- *less* power for women -- isn't the *opposite* of what I think would work better. For all of us, not just men, not just women.

(One of my big breakthroughs came from something Twisty Faster -- a realy radfem if ever there was one -- said a year or so ago: "what makes you think equality with men is as good as it gets?" The answer I realized, once my head stopped spinning, was that we could all be better off. The point of stopping fighting in the mud isn't just that everyone stops fighting, it's that everyone also gets to *get out of the mud!*)

figleaf

hesperia said...

I'm playing catch-up with this dialogue - please forgive if my questions, comments don't fit.

Really interesting discussion - "interesting" doesn't quite do it justice really. First thing I think re: seduction, rape and consent though is the issue of the woman's ability to make a choice. If seduction involves outright lying and deception, how does that effect consent? If a married man tells me he is unmarried and my decision to consent to sex with him is based on that - if I would not have given consent otherwise - how does that effect my agency?

The fact that we tend to see the consent as valid even when the ability to choose is compromised troubles me and I wonder if that doesn't have something to do with Maggie Hays' tendency to equate seduction and rape in her own circumstances. Though I don't know how we would sort this out, I still think it's highly problemmatic and I'm not sure why that kind of behaviour shouldn't be criminal, though I suppose it's a bit pointless, since we'd never get convictions. At the very least, this is seriously f'ed up. And I guess it does work both ways too, just to complicate it further.

Sungold said...

figleaf - I was pretty sure that we were on the same page regarding the net effects, and that I was just expanding on your point. You do mean entitlement, though, and not empowerment? Because entitlement in this context is always at someone else's expense, whereas empowerment - contrary to what MRAs seems to believe - doesn't have to be a zero-sum game.

Really, in an ideal world the default would be *mutual* respect and regard, which allows for *mutual* seduction as you've described it. Power doesn't wither away in that scenario, but (again in my ideal world) it would be something people could consciously play with, rather than a force that distorts relationships and makes people miserable. I'm thinking that we mostly-vanilla types can learn something from BDSM practitioners in this regard: Power can be a source of pleasure, ritual, and play, but only if you start from a level playing field that presupposes enthusiastic consent.

So, as I said at jfpbookworm's place, I don't think mutuality means that seduction would always be perfectly reciprocal. One person might *want* to be convinced. The other person might *want* to lead. Both parties might get a real erotic charge out of that asymmetry. But the key is that both would be not just willing but enthusiastic participants, and that each of them respects, appreciates, and even enjoys the other person's agency. The dance metaphor you've sometimes used works well to describe this, I think.

Sungold said...

Hesperia - Thanks for you remarks, which point to a real gap in my post, and that's the problem of deception. (I was aware I hadn't dealt with it, but just ran out of time and steam!) One of the reasons I thought Maggie Hays' ex sounds like a real jerk is that he apparently lied to her in order to get her to sleep with him. That is a very clear, serious breach of ethics.

Lying about being married strikes me as worse in one respect - maybe because it's objectively verifiable or falsifiable. Emotions, on the other hand, are slipperier. I think it's pretty common for people to rewrite their emotional history during breakups, for instance - to decide that since they're now so disillusioned with their (ex-)partner, they must not have ever really loved them.

On yet another hand ... if someone consciously and deliberately lies about love from the get-go, that seems even more manipulative than lying about being married. If love is the bait, then the manipulator is trying to elicit not just sex but intimacy and love, which puts their unsuspecting partner in an even more vulnerable spot.

Either way, the liar is acting like a world-class asshole. Lies definitely impair the other person's ability to give full consent. But I still don't think that rises to the standard of criminal conduct. Maybe someone else has some thoughts on this? Because there *is* a real problem for consent in such cases.

sabelson said...

At the risk of re-hashing stuff I've already gone over at fl's place, I think we can safely say that female empowerment in the West is a done deal, and most men within the SC want women healthy and happy. Certainly the modern American middle-class male's experience of sex (because the SC is largely frustrated middle-class males) reflects advances in birth control, health care, etc. The thing is, most men who *aren't* overwhelmingly naturally attractive to women NOTICE that the higher-ups in the kyriarchy do better because it seems that women (in the aggregate) choose men on the basis of looks and social status. And all men, especially those underneath, know that they live in a kyriarchy. And, very often, they all want to be with that culture's "best" (which means, as evo-psychologists tell us) young, fertile, beautiful women.

Someone on the "Yes Means Yes" blog mentioned that "for young, insecure men, female sexual agency means 'No', repeated again and again and again" but the flip-side of this is that North American Anglo culture does a particularly poor job of getting men to recognize Indicators of Interest from women, when they *are* in fact present.

It's not "cornered rat" so much as "when all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail." So of course men are going to invest in any cultural system that enhances the chances of getting to "Yes."

Eurosabra

Sungold said...

Well, this is an interesting comment because it suggest a pretty strong parallelism between men and women. Okay - so if even low-status men want high status women, and all women want high-status men, doesn't that mean that men and women are pretty similarly screwed up? I'm not being facetious about this.

And wouldn't they all be happier - men and women alike - if they relaxed their expectations and looked for some non-superficial qualities. Like, oh, a similar worldview and sense of humor (just to name a couple)? As I said before, chemistry will always matter, but I don't think either men or women have to be sheep and base their notion of "chemistry" on what the media says is beautiful.

Also, I'm intrigued by your point that men aren't very well clued in to the signals of women's genuine interest. That sounds like a promising place for improvement.

sabelson said...

It means that the tendency towards female hypergamy leaves the average woman with a much greater selection of potential partners than the average man. People at the bottom of whatever scale, socioeconomic or looks, do not pair up one-to-one, but rather women have a higher "market value" outside situations of outright pimping or trafficking.

Sungold said...

Eurosabra, I've seen you make this argument plenty of times at figleaf's, and frankly I have never understood the math. Women actually *outnumber* men in society. So I do not see how low-status women can consistently expect to marry up ... unless a substantial number of those high-status women are going without mates ... thus giving the low-status men a pool of unpaired women as potential partners. Or are you saying that this is the case, and those many unpartnered high-status women just prefer to remain single at all costs?

sabelson said...

The dynamic tends to be that unpartnered high-status women pursue single motherhood if they do want kids, proving that they don't "need" a man for economic support and parenting. The number of never-married women according to the US Census Bureau is now higher than the number of never-married men, which would tend to bear out that conclusion. Women outnumber men, AND refuse to settle.

Reg said...

I've come late to this kind of discussion, having lived out my adult life simply taking "no" for an answer. In fact, I've always been mildly surprised if a woman to whom I was attracted found me attractive, which was at least a good preparation for rejection if it came.
Human motivation is always mixed, but buying dinner for someone CAN mean that you value their company and find them attractive. If a woman feels pressure from well-intentioned activity as well as from leverage-driven activity, she must take some responsibility for feeling that pressure. I've always had a problem with the association between sex and power. I understand that we might learn from the voluntary activities of the BDSM community, but mutual pleasure is about as far as I get. I may be missing out, but we all have our limitations.
If you are lucky enough to be loved by someone, you have power over them. If you truly love someone, you will never use that power.

I was fascinated by the discussion on agency. I think it demeans women to suggest that, unless threats or physical/chemical coercion are involved, there is any reason why a woman should consent to do anything which some man (or some woman) wants her to do if she doesn't want to do it. I assume the same ethical considerations apply to homosexual sex.

However, I'm new to this stuff, so be merciful.


Reg

Sungold said...

Eurosabra/Sabelson: But are the numbers of high-status single women who pursue motherhood on their own really high enough to skew the ratio? And how many of them are high-status in the sense of conventionally beautiful (thus attractive to high-status men), vs. high-status in terms of educational attainment and professional accomplishment?

I don't have any figures, myself, but I'm betting their numbers are much, much lower than the vast majority of single mothers who aren't high-status by any measure.

I will grant you that some of us women are picky (heck, I'm picky myself), but are we more so than the men who gravitate toward the seduction community because they believe they deserve better women than they've attracted so far? And are we always so fixated on the conventionally high-status (i.e., wealthy) man? Myself, I'll take smart, interesting/interested, funny, and quirky over a Wall Street banker, any day.

Sungold said...

Reg - I'm glad that you're good at hearing "no." Lots of men need to learn that, still. And we women might do well to learn it too; part of the problem with the current regime is the expectation that men initiate. Mix that up a bit, and both parties might take less for granted when it comes to sexual interactions - which would leave less room for misunderstanding, and make it easier to hold people accountable. In other words, the idea that men always press for more and women are the "gatekeepers" is one element that supports a rape culture.

I think both men and women must take responsibility for their actions in a romantic/dating situation, but they should not be held individually responsible for feeling some pressure to behave in particular ways. Those pressures are cultural, and while individuals have to be involved in ameliorating them, I don't want engage in victim-blaming.

There *are* other forms of coercion that can come into play besides violence and mind-altering substances. Some of them should be criminalized; others, like simply being nice and polite, should not be criminal offenses, no matter how much they're a false front.

Reg said...

"I think both men and women must take responsibility for their actions in a romantic/dating
situation, but they should not be held individually responsible for feeling some
pressure to behave in particular ways. Those pressures are cultural, and while individuals
have to be involved in ameliorating them, I don't want engage in victim-blaming."

Good point. It might help if we could all stop dealing with people by category, and started holding ourselves accountable simply as individuals. Not that there aren't obvious gender-based pressures that might urge us to act in certain ways, but that human beings are just too good at hiding behind those when trying to justify their actions or responses.
We can't be responsible for our impulses, but there's nobody else around to take responsibility for what we do about them.

OK, in trying to make a general point at this insomniacally early hour here in the UK, I may have qualified myself for some "vague statement of the week" award".

I assume you're thinking about bigamy and other forms of criminal deception when extending potentially coercive behaviour beyond drugs and violence.
Beyond that, if someone consents to sex with someone else purely on grounds of wealth or status, and subsequently regrets having done so, I think that serves them right, whether the person is lying about their wealth/status or not..
Of course, someone trying to escape from extreme poverty might not take very kindly to being so archly dismissed as superficial. Just exploring the minefield.


Reg

Sungold said...

Hi again, Reg. I can't speak for the UK, but we here in the U.S. tend to take "the individual" to an absurd extreme. The spirit of rugged individualism lives on, much to the detriment of *collective* responsibility (e.g., for the poor among us) and structural analysis of social problems.

It's possible insist that individuals - men and women - need to take responsibility for their actions (assuming they're adults of normal IQ without substantial mental health issues) *and* maintain that categories such as gender matter crucially. For instance, both men and women can commit sexual assault. Without at all excusing those women who do so, I think it's still fair to say that the scope of man-on-woman assault is much greater, *and* that aspects of masculine socialization (not just biology or anatomy) contribute greatly to this.

For instance, too many men still believe that if a woman says "no," she really means "yes" but doesn't want to appear easy, and so he just needs to keep convincing her. This is basically the point that figleaf made early in this thread, and I agree with him completely that this isn't just a problem, it's a *crucial* problem. Because when one person ignores the other's "no," that's where the encounter crosses the line to sexual assault, most likely what's called "sexual imposition" in my jurisdiction. And so the socialization of men to believe "no" is just a pesky little challenge contributes greatly to rape culture (that is, an environment in which rape is likely to occur frequently).