Thought Catalog – which seems to be rapidly becoming the go-to site for terrible antifeminist posts – is making a bit of a stir on Reddit with a post bearing the deliberately provocative title “Wait A Second, Did Amy Schumer Rape a Guy?” Spoiler Alert: The anonymous author concludes that yes, she did. The anonymous author is full of shit.
In the Thought Catalog piece, Anonymous takes a look at a speech that Schumer – a comedian with some subversive feminist leanings — recently gave at the Gloria Awards and Gala, hosted by the Ms. Foundation for Women. The centerpiece of Schumer’s speech, a bittersweet celebration of confidence regained, was a long and cringeworthy story about a regrettable sexual encounter she had in her Freshman year of college, when her self-esteem was at an all-time low.
The short version of the story: A guy named Matt, whom Schumer had a giant crush on, called her at 8 AM for a booty call, after he apparently had been turned down by every other woman in his little black book. Amy, thinking she was being invited for an all-day-date, only discovered his real intent when she got to his dorm room and he
romantically drunkenly pushed her onto the bed and started fingering her.
After several failed attempts at intercourse, and what she describes as an “ambitious” attempt to go down on her, he finally gave up and fell asleep on top of her. Lying there listening to Sam Cooke, she decided she didn’t want to be “this girl” any more, “waited until the last perfect note floated out, and escaped from under him and out the door.”
Looking back on the incident, she thanks her failed lover for introducing her “to my new self, a girl who got her value from within her.”
But Thought Catalog’s anonymous author, noting the extreme drunkenness of Schumer’s stumbling lover, concludes that “Amy’s actions may have constituted as rape in the eyes of her college, Towson University.” (Or at least according to the school’s current policies.)
Anonymous quotes Towson’s current policy on sexual harassment, which states:
In order to give effective Consent, one must not be mentally or physical incapacitated (e.g., by alcohol or drugs, unconsciousness, mental disability).
It’s hard to argue that Matt was not mentally incapacitated. In Amy’s words, he was “wasted.”
Actually, the fact that Matt wasn’t too intoxicated to initiate an assortment of sexual acts with her — or to get up and change the music at her request — suggests that he wasn’t “mentally incapacitated,” at least by the standards used by colleges when investigating alleged sexual assaults. The Association of Title IX Administrators’ Gender-Based and Sexual Misconduct Model Policy (which sets an unofficial standard for college administrators) defines incapacitation as “a state where someone cannot make rational, reasonable decisions because they lack the capacity to give knowing consent (e.g., to understand the ‘who, what, when, where, why or how’ of their sexual interaction).”
In any case, it’s not clear why Anonymous is looking at Towson’s sexual harassment policy, which is designed to deal with “non-consensual Sexual Contact, Sexual Exploitation, or requests for sexual favors that affect educational or employment decisions,” and which clearly doesn’t apply to Schumer’s story.
As for sexual assault, the school’s official web site states:
Sexual assault is defined by Towson University as forcible sexual intercourse, sexual penetration–however slight–of another person’s genital or anal opening with any object, sodomy, or any unwanted touching of an unwilling person’s intimate parts or forcing an unwilling person to touch another’s intimate parts. Under this definition, these acts must be committed either by force, threat, intimidation, or through the use of the victim’s mental or physical helplessness, of which the accuser was or should have been aware. This includes, but is not limited to, victim helplessness resulting from intoxication or from the taking of a so-called “date-rape drug.”
This definition is drawn from the University of Maryland System Policy on Sexual Assault, which classifies sexual assault involving penetration — the traditional definition of rape — as a more serious type of sexual assault (Sexual Assault I) than those forms of sexual assault involving touching (Sexual Assault II). By this standard, assuming we equate Sexual Assault I with rape, Schumer clearly did not rape him.
Anonymous then looks at Maryland’s state laws and concludes:
In the eyes of Maryland state law, things get a bit more complicated. Amy could be guilty of rape or sexual assault depending on whether or not penetration was achieved. According to the state law, a person may not engage in vaginal intercourse with another “if the victim is a mentally defective individual, a mentally incapacitated individual, or a physically helpless individual, and the person performing the act knows or reasonably should know that the victim is a mentally defective individual, a mentally incapacitated individual, or a physically helpless individual.” Legally, it’s hard to argue that it wasn’t rape, at least given the details in Amy’s speech.
Well, actually, yes it is. And not just legally, but by any reasonable definition of the word “rape.”
Because Schumer, at least by her account, wasn’t “the person performing the act.” He was. She was lying there wondering what had gone wrong with her life.
If you read the speech in its entirety, instead of depending on the selective quotations in the Thought Catalog post, this is abundantly clear. As she describes it, he:
Pushes her down on the bed; as she writes, he does “that sexy maneuver where the guy pushes you on the bed, you know, like, ‘I’m taking the wheel on this one. Now I’m going to blow your mind. …’”
Penetrates her with his fingers; as she writes, “[h]is fingers poked inside me like they had lost their keys in there.”
Tries to have intercourse, though his penis is only half-willing; she describes him as “pushing aggressively into my thigh, and during this failed penetration, I looked around the room to try and distract myself or God willing, disassociate.” Even using the “made to penetrate” standard, she’s not raping him, because she’s not making him do anything; he’s the active one.
Goes down on her.
Attempts intercourse again; this time, “[o]n his fourth thrust, he gave up and fell asleep on my breast.”
At no point in Schumer’s story does she describe herself as initiating anything. Indeed, she spends much of the time thinking to herself how much she wants to leave.
He started to go down on me. That’s ambitious, I think. Is it still considered getting head if the guy falls asleep every three seconds and moves his tongue like an elderly person eating their last oatmeal? … Is it? Yes? It is. I want to scream for myself, “Get out of here, Amy. You are beautiful, you are smart, and worth more than this. This is not where you stay.”
If a woman initiates sex with a man who is too drunk to consent, that’s rape. But a woman lying motionless trying to dissociate while a man tries to penetrate her is not a rapist. Even if he is drunk.
And that’s the case no matter how you switch the genders up.
Of course that’s not how they see things on Reddit, where most of those who’ve commented on the story have been quick to agree with the Thought Catalog author that Schumer raped her partner. Ironically, it’s been those outside the Men’s Rights subreddit who have been the most outspoken on this point. In TwoXChromosomes, a subreddit ostensibly devoted to women but in fact overrun with MRAs and other antifeminists, someone calling herself Shield_Maiden831 has gotten more than 200 net upvotes for a comment concluding that “[i]f you really believe in equality, then it seems to be a clear cut case from her own admission.”
Not everyone agrees. Elsewhere in TwoX , one commenter by the name of critropolitan argues, I think quite cogently, that
Unless the full transcript reveals something that the quotes in the article don’t, it doesn’t seem like Schumer exploited this guys mental state to do something to him that violated his will.
He was the one who called her.
He was the one who acted every step of the way and she went along with it.
Assuming that a person who is drunk is, automatically, in virtue of being drunk, without agency, is a mistake. It is moreover a mistake only made with regard to sex – no one thinks the same with regard to bar fights or the choice to drive. Drunken sex might not be the platonic ideal of sex, but it is not automatically rape in every case regardless of the actual state of minds, wishes, and feelings of the participants. …
There is no suggestion that Amy engaged in any sexual contact with this guy while he was passed out, or that she did something he didn’t want to do but he simply lacked the capacity to effectively resist or communicate non consent. Instead he was drunk enough to show significant signs of drunkeness, but not so drunk that he couldn’t not only communicate effectively but take a sexual initiative.
Rapists can exploit the vulnerability of drunk people, but we must walk back from the bizarre and agency-denying position that all drunk sex is rape. Rape is far too serious a matter for this bullshit.
But of course the MRAs and antifeminists on Reddit now accusing Schumer of rape aren’t interested in taking rape seriously. Indeed, if we look back on how they regularly talk about rape and issues of consent, it’s clearly they’re interested in taking rape less seriously. Their main interest in this case is as a supposed “gotcha” of a prominent female comedian with feminist leanings. In the process they are slandering her, and trivializing the real issue of rape.