Feminism Debates: Vox Day vs Louise Mensch on Marital Rape

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By Louise Mensch | 7:43 am, August 14, 2016
Louise Mensch: I am going to “defy social justice warrior science guy” and ignore the “Smearing Tim Hunt” SJW crowd’s Jesse Singal. He’s very upset with me that I’m even debating these topics with you, marital rape, whereas my point of view is that there’s nothing to be afraid of in debating an idea. What’s got Jesse so exercised in particular, is that he said, and I don’t know if it’s true, so I’m just assuming that it’s true, that you don’t believe in marital rape – and I said sounds like a good one for a debate and Jesse got extremely worked up because he doesn’t think we should even be debating it.

 

Lawyers on my feed reminded me at that stage that marital rape was legal in Britain and until as late as 1991. I was at university. It was still legal. Of course, it’s legal in many countries around the world that are so called allies of the United States, like Pakistan, et cetera. I don’t think that ignoring it does any good whatsoever.

Whereas Mr. Singal thinks that even debating this kind of thing gives credence to it, I don’t mind debating more or less anything. We’ve covered racism and whether or not women should vote, et cetera, because I think that “no platforming” an idea is a way to give it credence. If nothing else, Donald Trump got sympathy from rioting people trying to shout down his rallies. Those guys may as well be paid by the Clintons.

On that basis, I’m very happy to debate it. Is he right? Do you agree that there’s no such thing as rape within marriage?

Vox Day

Yeah, I think it’s quite obvious that it’s not even possible for there to be anything that we describe as rape within marriage. I find it remarkable that someone would try and claim that it is beyond debate when this new concept of marital rape is not only very, very new but is in fact not even applicable to most of the human race. It’s very clear, for example, in India it’s part of the written law that it’s not possible for, even if force is involved, there cannot be rape between a man and a woman. In China the law is the same.

LM:

Mm-hmm (affirmative) but there’s a difference between saying what the law is and saying what is morally right. You would agree that just because somebody says something is a law doesn’t make it so. Let’s just start with that basic principle.

Vox:

There’s huge difference between morality and legality. I’d be the first to agree with that. The fact of the matter is that the concept of marital rape hangs on consent and because marriage is and has always granted consent, the act of marriage is a granting of consent, therefore it’s not possible for the consent to be withdrawn and then for rape to happen.

In fact, the concept of marital rape is created by the cultural Marxists in an attempt to destroy the family and to destroy the institution of marriage.

LM

 I’m going to say that that’s patent nonsense. If you consent to something once it doesn’t mean that you’ve given a blanket consent to it forever. We agree on the definition of rape – that rape is when one party forces sex on the other without their consent?

Vox:

Yes.

LM:

Good. We go that far. Your argument then hinges on the statement that to get married is to give an all time consent forever to sex with your spouse?

Vox:

Exactly. It’s no different than when you join the army. You only have to join the army once. You don’t get the choice to consent to obey orders every single time an order is given. In certain arrangements, and marriage is one of them, the agreement is a lasting one and that’s why it’s something that should not be entered into lightly.

LM:

It shouldn’t be entered into lightly but where do you get the idea that the agreement to marry is an agreement to have sex at any time that one partner could wish it? I’ll go further with the supplementary. Sex between human beings is usually penetrative. A man has to penetrate the woman. If the woman wishes … The man can physically rape the woman. It is very difficult for a woman to rape a man because it’s hard for her to make him be erect if he doesn’t want to be. Therefore, how does a woman obtain sex from an unwilling male? By your rights, a spouse has no right to deny their partner sex at any time which strikes me as being … Even if there is a general agreement that a marriage should include sex and I agree that there is, I don’t see that it follows therefore that you consent to sex every single time. You may be feeling ill, for example, you may have a hangover, you may be newly given birth and be raw. You may have all kinds of reasons why you don’t wish to do it.

Just because it’s a … In general I agree that marriage constitutes an obligation for both parties to have sex with each other, that is absolutely clear, but what is not at all clear is that it constitutes … For example, I’m a Catholic. In the Catholic religion it is a mortal sin to … One of the lesser mortal sins but it is a mortal sin to deny your spouse sexual relief. That doesn’t mean it’s a mortal sin to deny your spouse every single time. It means that it’s a mortal sin regularly to deny your spouse the comfort of your body which you are pledged to do in your marriage vows.

Like I say, let’s say that if a woman wants to have sex with a man how can she get her half of the bargain where he fulfills his half when she can’t physically compel him in your world?

Vox:

Well, first of all, it’s very easy. The man can be incapacitated. Either by alcohol or by being asleep. Let me go back and answer your earlier question where you said where do you get that idea from and where the idea comes from is very simple. It comes in the first place from the Bible and it comes in the second place from the English common law.

LM

Where in the Bible? Just break that down if you don’t mind. We’ll take both your points.

Vox:

It’s the verse where it talks about the wife’s body belongs to the husband and the husband’s body belongs to the wife. It’s very clear …

LM:

That isn’t very clear. That’s a generality. It’s the same generality of marriage. It means in general that with my body I thee worship. Is it that that they belong to each other but that does not say … Where does that say and every time you want to have sex the other person must jump to it?

Vox:

It doesn’t say every single time but again the point is that the consent is … You’re talking about two different things. You’re talking about right and you’re talking about application. Now the fact that you have the right to do something does not mean that it is the ideal thing or even the correct thing for you to exercise those rights every time. For example, you have the perfect right to drive your car off the road and drive it off a cliff but that would probably be an unwise thing to do. I think it would be a very unwise thing for either the husband or a wife to attempt to exert their rights at a time when their spouse is not amenable. That doesn’t mean that the right does not exist.

Here is the problem when you try to bring consent into it is that it naturally converts most marital sex into rape. For example, it would be utterly impossible to have legal morning sex where one spouse wakes the other up through the act of having sex with them. If you were to do that then under the marital rape concept, under the every time consent concept, then you’ve just converted a significant percentage of married men and women in the world into rapists.

LM:

Well, not necessarily because I do think that if you are married and there’s a presumption of familiarity that doesn’t exist in other situations, okay, that the point about rape is that it is against the other person’s desires. The point there is, let’s say, you reach over to your spouse in the morning and you start fondling your spouse and your spouse … That’s not rape because you have a presumption that they’re going to enjoy it, that your marriage, et cetera. Your spouse wakes up and says, “Ugh, not today.” “Not tonight, Josephine”, to quote Napoleon Bonaparte. I have a hangover. I feel sick. Ugh, I have to go to work early. Not right now.

At that stage the spouse has said no. Not to sex ever but to sex in that situation. The spouse has said no. If I understand you correctly what you’re saying is the spouse can say, “No, I feel sick” and it does not constitute rape for, let’s say, the husband because that’s who it would need to be in a penetrative situation to climb on his wife who has said that she doesn’t want to have sex and that she feels ill, in that given situation, and force himself on her. That that is not rape. She has clearly withdrawn her consent. She’s done so verbally.

Vox:

The only way that you can withdraw consent from marriage is to divorce.

LM:

Who says?

Vox:

That that was even settled under the English common law that if you were to say no at any time that was effectively equivalent to a demand for a divorce.

LM:

Vox, if I may say, you’re very fond of citing laws that have been overturned. That was overturned. Admittedly, it was overturned in 1991 but it’s been overturned. It’s no longer the law.

Vox:

Well, of course it was overturned. So has the penetrative rape standard. That’s no longer applicable either.

Also, not only that but the idea that there can be anything without affirmative consent has already been overturned in numerous places.

LM:

I agree with you on that one completely. I can honestly say that nothing would kill the mood more than if we all had to sign a form in triplicate saying, “Yes, I am well up for it” and maybe get it notarized before we have sex. But here, I am giving you a really quite common real world example. A husband has woken up feeling in the mood, he caresses his wife, his wife stirs in her sleep, and his wife wakes up and says, “Ugh, not right now, sweetie. I feel sick. I don’t want to feel sick.” He rolls over on top of her and he forces her to have sex. She’s said no and she’s given a good reason and she’s clearly withdrawn her consent in the moment, not to have sex ever, but to have sex in that moment because she doesn’t want to. She feels unwell.

This is a situation that absolutely loads of wives listening to this can see happening to them. Your idea is that he has not raped her but I say that she has clearly withdrawn her consent in terms and verbally and told him why not. I want you to tell me how that she hasn’t withdrawn her consent if she says such a thing?

Vox:

Because it’s not possible to withdraw the consent. There is no such thing as temporary consent. When a marriage vow is made it is made for life. Like I said, it is exactly the same as when you sign up for the military. You don’t have any responsibility to obey the military’s orders right up until the point that you sign up.

LM:

That’s different. The analogy is imperfect.

Vox:

You don’t get to withdraw your consent and say, “You know what, sergeant? I don’t feel like going out running today. I’m withdrawing my consent.”

LM:

The analogy is completely wrong. In the military there is no analogy because the military has a defined set of rules. When you join the military you sign the uniform code of conduct which includes an absolute obligation to, if it’s a legal order, to obey your commanding officers and within the United States military code of justice, if I’m giving here for the United States military, and other militaries have their own individual rules. You must always obey legal orders. It’s part of that.

There is no such condition that you must always have sex, no matter how you may feel about it, attached to marriage. Nowhere. Not in the traditional Christian vows. Not in the laws. Nowhere. Your analogy is wrong.

Vox:

No. There always has been in the law up until … Until recently and that standard still applies in other countries such as China and in India. The position that I am holding is the historical one and it is the one that has been departed from recently in a very dangerous way. In a way that fundamentally destroys the core concept of marriage because if the act of marriage does not convey any sexual rights or obligation then there’s no point in marrying in the first place.

LM:

It does convey both sexual rights and sexual obligation. It 100% does. I think you’re going from … Your problem here rhetorically if I may say, from my point of view, is that you’re trying to throw out the baby with the bathwater. You’re saying either there are no obligations and no rights conferred by the act of marriage or there is a total obligation and a right conferred in every single occasion within a marriage. Both those positions are untrue.

When you marry you promise your spouse, essentially, that you will regularly have sex with them if you are capable of doing so. There are many situations where that isn’t part of it. For example, where a disabled paratrooper who’s had his legs blown off marries. He’s not going to be able to have sex with his wife. The marriage is still valid. Let’s say that for 99.9% of couples, right, yes, you get married, you promise mutually to the one to have sex with the other. That is an obligation. What you are saying is that it is expected that you can [crosstalk 00:18:03]

Vox:

Where is the line drawn?

LM:

It’s simple. It’s quite simple. The line is drawn very, very simply. If the woman says no and means no and I’m going to infer the wrath of eleventy billion feminists by saying there is a problem and all women know it with the no means no standard because quite often you can laugh, you can giggle, you can say, “No, come on” and you don’t mean no and it’s quite obvious from your tone and demeanor.

I’m postulating where a woman has clearly said no, clearly meant it, she feels ill, has just had a huge fight with the man, and any number of such very obvious situations. The woman has said at that moment, even though they regularly have sex as a couple, she does not want to have sex and he forces himself upon her. That is clearly rape and it doesn’t take away from the fact that she has an obligation in general to have sex with him and he with her. When you extrapolate that from every single time he feels like it, I see no justification in your argument so far for that leap.

Vox:

Because there has to be a reliable standard. You’re going to have to draw a line at some point between it’s never okay and it’s always okay. There is no line and in fact the way that we know that marital rape is bad law is because virtually no one is ever prosecuted under it. It’s interesting.

LM:

That’s a problem with rape in general. It’s a problem with rape in general. By the way. Rape requires conviction beyond a reason … Any crime requires conviction beyond a reasonable doubt. When there’s a crime where consent is disputed and there are only two people there it’s very difficult to prove. Rape is serious.

Vox:

Right, but it’s even more difficult in the cases of married couples and furthermore there are still tens of thousands in the USA, if there are tens of thousands of rapes that are reported and that are investigated and convicted but there are virtually no marital rape convictions anywhere. There are very, very few arrests. They’re a tiny fraction of the total because it’s, A, I would argue because it’s not a crime at all, and, B, it is a crime that it almost impossible to prove or to convict on.

LM:

Yeah, but that’s different. All those points are true but again and I know that I can trust you to debate a principle rather than a practical note. They’re all true but they’re all points of practicality and I’m interested in the principle of the thing here. Of course it’s more difficult to prove because he’s going to say, “Oh, my wife always does it …” It’s very, very difficult to prove therefore convictions are very, very small and even if a man has raped a wife she may forgive him for many reasons. For the sake of their children, because she fundamentally loves him, because even though he did this thing to her she’s willing to forgive him, and she may not want to break up her marriage. Even if she does want to break up her marriage she may not wish to see the father of her children in jail or unable with a criminal conviction to provide for the family.

That’s always maybe. It’s got nothing to do with whether or not her consent to marriage which is a general consent to sexual relations which we both agree. You take it a step further though saying it’s not only a general consent, it is a total consent at all times. Even if she feels sick or if they’ve had a fight and he’s been really abusive, he has the right to force himself inside her body. That seems to me to be such patent and obvious nonsense. That contradicts it by the Bible, even.

Vox:

How can it be patent nonsense when it was the universal law of the entire human race until about 1930 and even now it is still the law for more than half the human population and more to the point doesn’t that trouble you at all that the concept has been championed by the very people who are openly out to destroy the family?

LM:

No, like you’ve said in other debates, Vox, I don’t care. I take ideas on their merit. I don’t care who champions them or doesn’t champion them. I’m an absolutist. That’s something that we’ve probably got in common. Otherwise, I don’t care if it’s a good idea supported by bad people. I don’t care. It doesn’t affect the idea. You were saying the other day on racism.

Vox:

I’m talking about what their purpose was for creating this relatively new idea in the first place. This was not an issue that was a problem for society. This is not a problem for society. If anything, we have a problem with too few people getting married.

LM:

I think it’s massively a problem for society. Perhaps not Western society who are the ones that recognized it as a crime. I think it’s more of a crime in other societies. No, I don’t care who advocated it or didn’t because that’s an entirely different argument. Promotion of the family is an entirely different argument. We’ve got to go back to this standard that you perceive of people using consent. You can say it wasn’t a problem up until recently, again, that is arguing the circumstances. Many things weren’t a problem up until relatively recently. People still thought that for most of the world’s history they worshiped the sun as a god. The Catholics burnt Galileo at the stake for saying that the Earth went round the sun. Until Charles Darwin we didn’t believe in evolution so no I don’t really care how new it is. If it’s obviously right.

I think there are equally valid new laws that I would put to you on the books that say, for example, that if a person has refused to give their spouse sex on a regular basis that that’s grounds for abandonment which is also equally fair. There’s nothing … You haven’t cited a single thing to me yet that makes a logical, as opposed to situational, argument as to why the granting of general consent to a sexual and really ongoing sexual relationship, which we both agree marriage constitutes, equals a consent at all times to sex.

Vox:

Well, I don’t know how to answer that other than to say that either you have the right or you don’t. If you do have the right then obviously the right applies at all times regardless …

LM:

Why? Why does the right obviously apply at all times? We’re talking about somebody’s body. Sometimes people don’t feel well. You have a desire to scratch an itch and I feel really sick. Why does your desire to scratch the itch come over me feeling like I want to throw up? I’m just using a very everyday situation here that couples go through.

Vox:

Because like I said, you’re still married … For example, you understand that you’re still married regardless of whether you feel married or not?

LM:

Yes.

Vox:

You have the obligation to have sex with your spouse whether you feel like it or not.

LM:

No. Yes, you have the obligation to have sex with your spouse. Yes, whether you feel like it or not if it’s a generality within a particular case. The idea that you can never, ever withhold consent is unsupported. If you go back to your Bible verse it doesn’t support it.

Vox:

Let’s apply it to a different aspect of marriage. Would you agree that I have no obligation to pay for my wife’s rent if I don’t feel like it?

Speaker 1:

I would agree that you have an obligation to support your wife in general but let’s say you lose your job and all of a sudden you cannot pay your wife’s rent and you try to get another job but you can’t.

No, let’s use a better analogy, in fact. Let’s say that you suddenly develop chronic clinical depression. Although physically capable of going out to earn a living you are psychologically incapable. You psychologically cannot for a period of time. Have you, in effect, divorced your wife? I say no you have not. Although the general obligation in which to support your family remains in place because at that moment you are not capable of it does not mean that you have immediately committed a sin gross enough to equate to divorce.

Vox:

Are you saying that a man has an equal right to decline to support his wife financially depending on how he feels about it?

LM:

Yes, he does. It’s the same as a wife’s right or a husband’s right to refuse sexual intercourse. You can refuse sexual intercourse in a particular case if you have a good and solid reason. But in general, you may not. If one spouse is in general denying the other spouse sex then they are breaching their marriage arrangement. That is clear. People go into marriage with the obligation to have sex with each other. We’re assuming in this conversation for the purposes of this conversation that everyone is whole and able bodied, et cetera, right?

That is absolutely, clearly a part of the responsibility of spouses toward each other. As is the general marital bargain, conversation, friendship, companionship, and support. With all my worldly goods, I thee endow.

However, on a given occasion someone might not be able to have sex. They may not feel up to it and a man may not be able to support his wife because of a good solid reason. It happens a lot. A lot of wives putting their husbands through medical school. A lot of wives supporting their husbands when their husbands are down on their luck or fired from their job. He can’t. Has he committed a marriage-ending sin at that moment? No. Of course, if he downs tools forever and he refuses to support her which is analogous to a woman saying, “I’m not going to have sex with you. I don’t like you anymore.” Both of them have betrayed their marriage.

Vox

I’m having trouble understanding the notion that one has a respite from one’s obligation temporarily on the basis of one’s feelings. I understand the concept of being unable or unwilling to meet an obligation for a period of time. My point is that the obligation remains. Whether I feel like living up to my obligations or not, the obligation still exists.

I’m also not advocating … I’m not saying that is a wise thing or a kind thing or a reasonable thing for one spouse to demand sex of their partner simply because they can. Again, I think it’s very important to be clear on the difference between you have a right and exercising that right.

LM:

Yeah, but it’s only in the exercise of it that it becomes rape. I want to stick to that, if you don’t mind, because otherwise we’re just … It’s so much guff.

Let me ask the example of a couple of concrete questions. If a woman demands of her husband she wants sex and he doesn’t feel like it and therefore he is incapable of sustaining an erection, is it his job to bring her to orgasm some other way? Orally or otherwise?

Vox:

I think it’s his obligation, yes.

LM:

She would be well within her rights to sit on his head, for example, until he were to orally satisfy her?

Vox:

I didn’t understand … Within her rights to do what?

LM:

To straddle him and sit on his head until he has to satisfy her because I’m trying to think of a way in which a man … Men have the advantage here as you’ll be well aware. One doesn’t wish to be indelicate. The biology of it makes it a lot easier for a man to rape a woman than a woman to rape a man.

Vox:

I think that she has that right, yes.

LM:

Because obviously I can’t see any logical way. I’m puzzled as to what you think Biblically or otherwise or biologically suggests that a general obligation to sex constitutes an obligation at each particular time and a consent at each particular time. That’s where we differ. Have you read The Merchant of Venice by Shakespeare?

Vox:

Yes.

LM:

You know at the end the pound of flesh that was exacted? The wise sentence of the Duke in that play was that he could have his pound of flesh but if he spilled a single drop of blood he was going to be heinously punished. I can’t quite remember how at the moment. Therefore, no pound of flesh was extracted. Even if you think there is some sort of metaphysical obligation to consent at all times to sex the act of rape of a woman by a man will involve force that constitutes assault. Aside from the act of sex he will have to forcibly restrain her, to hold her down, to physically assault her in order to get his way with her.

Here’s my question for you logically, is it your position then, it must be really if you think about it, your position is that a woman has consented to physical assault on her person by getting married?

Vox:

No, actually, I think that if you’re talking about a situation where that level of force is involved then assault and battery charges would absolutely be appropriate. The fact that you might have an obligation to have sex does not mean that you have an obligation to have the crap beaten out of you.

LM:

Right. If she puts up a resistance, right … This is interesting because the only way I could see it would be rape, in this instance, unless if the woman says no, they’ve had a huge fight, and he is furious with her and he tries to rape her, which in a situation if they were not married you would also consider to be rape. Drags her across the kitchen table, thrusts up her skirt, she’s saying, “No, no, no, no” and he forces himself upon her. In any such situation violence is going to be involved and forcing the woman into it. That is your position, perhaps slightly more nuanced, when they get down to it in that you think that although he has the obligation to have sex with her he does not have the authority to be violent with her at any point.

Vox:

No, of course not.

LM:

Right. Now I’m starting to imagine what would constitute forced sex without violence?

Vox:

I’m sorry, what?

LM:

For it to be rape, for her to not to be able to consent, right, he has to be able to force himself on her otherwise we are arguing in circles and maybe we are actually closer to agreeing than it first seemed. I thought this might be the argument that would get you over the hump. No pun intended.

I’m trying to think of a situation where the wife is being raped but the man is not being violent towards her. I can’t immediately think of one.

Vox:

Well, I think if you’re talking about a woman being inebriated or asleep you could imagine those situations where you would view it as rape and I would not.

LM:

I wouldn’t. I wouldn’t view either one of those situations as rape if the couple were married and I’ll tell you why. Because while I don’t believe, and you appear to, that marriage constitutes a blanket consent to have sex with your spouse I do believe that it constitutes a general consent to have sex with your spouse, right? Therefore, they’re not in the same position as two people that date, that are dating, or you’ve just met the girl, one night stand, you’ve got no right whatsoever to think that because she’s drunk she won’t mind having sex with you. If, however, she has married you you’re within your rights to expect that and if she is married to you you’re equally within your rights to assume that if she’s asleep she won’t mind. She’d have to say, “No” and not just in a sleepy way. She’d have to genuinely say, “I really, really don’t want you to do this.” In my opinion. If you woke her up for it to be rape. That is different between a spouse and a stranger or somebody that you just met or you’re dating or whatever. Then you do have to get affirmative consent.

In other words I guess where we’re at here is I would agree that once you get married you don’t require affirmative consent. Affirmative consent is presumed. I’m postulating a situation where it’s not a question of affirmative consent but of a definitive and strong no that is voiced and is clearly meant. I give situations where the woman is feeling very ill, the woman has just had a huge fight with the husband, she says no, she clearly means no, and she says no very clearly. I agree with you that there’s a presumption of consent and I don’t think spouses need affirmative consent so perhaps you and I are at the same place but arguing about definitions. Is that possible?

Vox:

I actually think that on the practical side we are much closer to each other than we might look if we’re simply describing it from the theoretical side because in the end both of us are married, we’re both parents, and so we both have a nuanced perspective of the reality of relationships that are necessarily there.

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