Is There A Difference Between Rape And Unwanted Sex?

Let’s say a girlfriend puts a finger inside of me against my will.

Was I raped? I say no. I say it was unwanted sex.

Let’s say a man has had two helpings already. He comes back to his girlfriend for more and she says, “No! Get away from me with that thing!”

But he persists with his attention. He’s kissing her and hugging her and teasing her and she’s saying no, no, no, but submits anyway without any physical resistance but keeps saying no the whole time. No. Stop. Don’t.

Was that rape or was it unwanted sex? Is there a difference between rape and unwanted sex?

I’ve often heard it said that words are only seven percent of communication. If that is true, then is “no” only seven percent of communication in such an intimate area?

I do think there is all the difference in the world between rape and unwanted sex. In all the examples above, I think it is unwanted sex, not rape.

Forcing your partner into unwanted sex is bad. It’s wrong. It’s damaging to the relationship. I don’t think it is rape unless physical force is used.

If a man ever did that to my daughter or sister or friend, I’d tell her to leave him. I don’t think I’d advise her to press charges.

What if a woman says no but puts up no physical resistance? Well, I think a gentleman must always accept that no means no.

I have a friend who’s been repeatedly raped.

She likes to get naked with guys she’s seeing and get into bed with them and is then horrified when they persist with intercourse against her consent, particularly when they used an unusual aperture.

She had a boss who repeatedly pushed her to do things for her orally in his smelly old station wagon.

My friend’s naive and she’s been shredded by guys.

One time she went over to her boyfriend’s place to break up. She said their hug felt nice and healing. And then he raped her and it hurt because he was big.

So my friend keeps putting herself in to situations where men she knows, men she’s slept with, rape her.

Is it fair and accurate to call this unwanted sex rape? I’m not sure.

Living a religious life helps one avoid these situations. Sex with a spouse is an entirely different affair from sex with people you don’t know too well. You’re much less likely to have these conflicts and misunderstandings and brutalities.

Here’s PhD thesis on this topic:

A review of recent psychology and medical literature reveals that the term ‘unwanted sex’ has become commonly used in journals. Despite this, no universally held definition for the term could be found. Uses ranged from consensual, yet undesirable sexual intercourse, to rape. It
was hypothesized that the term ‘unwanted sex’ may have different connotations than the word rape and impact perceptions of what occurred. It was also hypothesized that using the term ‘unwanted sex’ instead of rape would result in perceptions that a crime did not occur, and punishment for and reporting of the assault would not be warranted. It was further hypothesized that using ‘unwanted sex’ may increase victim blame.

Here’s a related blog post:

Many bloggers have commented on the Time magazine article about the fact that some states recognize that consent is something that can be withdrawn while other states don’t.

Maryland is one state with a recent appeals court ruling which says that once sex starts that consent can’t be withdrawn.

Many people view this ruling from the perspective of a nice man stuck with an illogical woman. The assumption is that for no good reason the woman yanks consent from under the man and if he doesn’t stop in milliseconds, he is likely to be charged with rape.

Jeralyn at Talk Left demonstrates this view perfectly.

If it starts to hurt, or there’s no protection, and he doesn’t pull out, it may be unwanted sex at that point but it’s not rape. Let’s not trivialize real rape to accomodate definitions of consensual sex gone awry.
[…] Only if the demand for withdrawal was clearly and unequivocally communicated to the partner, who then forcibly continued, should it be construed to be forced or unwanted sex.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been followed by the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
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