Is it Consent or is it Rape?

If someone asked you to define rape, how would you? Take a moment to think about the components of your definition. 

Does it include verbiage like, forced or aggressive?

 What about, 'no' or 'non-consent'?

 According to your definition, is it rape, only, when someone is explicitly violent or aggressive?

What about a situation where someone felt pressure to continue or cooperate, but didn't want to go through with it, and didn't explicitly say no? Is that rape? What about a situation where someone is unaware of what's happening to them in cases of being unconscious due to drugs or alcohol, or unconscious from a medical procedure. Is that rape?

Consider your definition and then consider that…

…"'in practice the standard for what constitutes rape is set not at the level of women's experience of violation but just about the level of coercion acceptable to men.' The result is a definition of rape so restricted that under it, few women can claim with complete credibility that they have been raped." (Zuckerberg, 2018)

I am not here to provide you with guidelines, standards, or a code of conduct to ensure that you will never rape someone, just posing the idea that while a situation may appear consensual to one person it doesn't mean it was consensual for all. Your intention in the situation is very different from the resulting impact.

Have you ever wondered how someone can become physiologically aroused when they are being raped or sexually abused?

To understand this concept, we must understand 'arousal non-concordance', or 'unwanted arousal' as Emily Nagoski calls it in an article on Medium. She discusses how something can be sexually relevant and at the same time, not sexually appealing

So what does this mean?

Consider this example, an individual walks in on a rape, is disgusted and horrified by what they've seen and simultaneously get's an erection. Why? Because it's sexually relevant. Your body is having a physiological response to stimuli that your brain is processing in your environment.

It simply means your brain works and that sex is complex. It doesn't mean you necessarily find sexual violence appealing, it just means it's sexually relevant.

Are there people who find rape sexually appealing? Yes, but that's not what we're discussing here. We're talking about how our perception in a situation can't always be trusted, nor can our bodies physiological responses.

Are you open to the idea that someone's body may have a genital response that you perceive as them consenting, or wanting to have sex with you, but they actually don’t, or may even feel sexually violated? Are you willing to acknowledge that individuals could have very different thoughts and perceptions of a sexual interaction, with some feeling violated or raped?

Again this isn't about providing a code of conduct, or guidelines that state, 'under this condition and when you have this response it means this and not that'. No, it's about being skeptical and vulnerable enough to own your perception of a situation and recognize and acknowledge when there may have been impact that you didn't intend. It's about being accountable not only of your intention but also your impact.

Remember, consent is a dialogue.


Nagoski, E. (2014). unwanted arousal: it happens. Retrieved from:

 Zuckerberg, D. (2018). Not all dead white men: Classics and misogyny in the digital age.