Rape, Date Rape, and Gray Rape: Is There a Difference?

To some, this may sound like a stupid question.

To many, it is a topic for debate.

But, should it be?

Nowadays, we have a term for everything. Milk can’t just be milk—additional explanation is needed to figure out exactly which milk it is.

Does the same should stand for rape?

Is it important if the person is sexually assaulted while stoned, drugged, or in any way incapable of addressing consent or dissent?

Is it mandatory to understand if it was attempted or completed rape to conclude whether it was rape at all?

One thing is sure—rape is a global problem. Estimations are that approximately 35% of women around the world have experienced sexual assault in some form.

Let’s clarify some things.

Rape 

Date Rape

You know what rape is—a heinous sexual act that leaves lifelong consequences on the victim. This last word is what matters because a person who is sexually assaulted is always that—a victim.

Yet what else isn’t acceptable aside from rape?

Every type of contact, violating personal boundaries, exposing nakedness, intimidation, or compulsion is the answer. The sad truth is that this still needs saying.

Take a look at these statistics:

Rape is not only that violent act performed by a hooded man in a narrow dark alley which first comes to our minds when we think of this term. 

It is more often than not a far subtle and complex act done by someone close to the victim:

  • About half of female rape victims said they were raped by an intimate partner, while 40.8 % said an acquaintance assaulted them.

You may wonder—how is it possible to be raped by a partner? Or—how someone gets into a situation of being raped by someone familiar if he already knows what that person is like?

Well, ladies and gents—it is possible, and only with such a mindset can we proceed and find an answer for the question from the title.

But, first, let’s see what are considered the remaining two ”types” of rape we mentioned. 

What is date rape?

Grey Rape

So, what is considered date rape?

Simply said: Date rape (a term coined by lawyer Ann Olivarius back in the 70s) is an act of sexual assault where the victim is in an existing (or potential) emotional or sexual relationship with the perpetrator. It is a subgroup of acquaintance rape, which stands for assault where victim and offender know each other.

This act is controversial and challenging to prove because the victim is in a particular relationship with a sexual abuser, which by default is considered consent to a sexual act. 

Another issue with date rape is that it does not always result in physical harm. Unfortunately, bodily injury is frequently the only measure used to determine if the act is nonconsensual.

Such statements about date rape are widespread:

“I always thought this was a common occurrence in relationships. The atmosphere in which I grew up was tailored to the desires of men. I was accustomed to living in an environment dominated by men, with quiet and servile women.”

Sexual offenders frequently deny guilt for the assault, stating that it was consensual or that they were powerless to stop it. Furthermore, date rape often occurs because some individuals are so desperate for sex that consent isn’t a concern.

Then, what is gray rape?

sexually assaulted

Well, things are just getting complicated here.

Gray rape is a debate-triggering topic, which divides people into two groups—those who think that this “subtype” of rape should not exist at all and others who believe that this is a valid “category.”

Gray rape is defined as intercourse between people who know each other, for which consent is ambiguous.

Until the dust settled around an article published in Cosmopolitan in 2007, this term was not debated at all. However, after many backlashes, after Laura Sessions Stepp’s article saw the light of day, it became apparent that things need to be clarified.

In the mentioned article, the writer stated that gray rape stands for:

”…sex that falls somewhere between consent and denial and is even more confusing than date rape because often both parties are unsure of who wanted what.”

To put it another way, if a person changes their mind and claims that they don’t want sexual intercourse anymore, but it happens anyway, it is considered gray rape. Rape, but with a question mark following it.

One would say that the most normal thing is that the withdrawal of consent during the intercourse effectively cancels any earlier consent—but things are not set up so clearly.

A scandal involving actor Aziz Ansari reverberated around the world in 2018, and it is an excellent example of gray rape.

A girl (under the pseudonym) Grace shared her story for one website regarding her unpleasant experience with the actor after one award ceremony. She claimed that she was not comfortable with him, but at the same time that she did not openly tell him that. She also said that her actions plainly demonstrated her refusal to have sex but that he ignored this. 

Aziz’s response to allegations made things even more unclear, stating that he thought that everything was completely fine and consensual. In addition, he said that he found out about her unpleasant feelings only when she texted him about it. 

That’s what makes everything grayish. 

The girl from the above article from Cosmo named Alicia states:

“Maybe I wasn’t forceful enough in saying I didn’t want it.”

And that very statement depicts the whole problem—the victims are not aware that they were raped at all, and in the end, they even blame themselves because they did not “clearly and loudly” say “no.” And what’s worse, they manage to believe that what happened to them was an accidental rape.

That is why many people oppose the concept of gray rape, claiming that it fosters the misconception that rape can occur by accident. At the same time, those people firmly believe that it is undoubtedly an intentional violent act. They also state that term ”gray rape” supports the belief that there is a gray area where someone may partially consent to a certain degree.

Jessica Valenti, an American feminist writer states in her book that gray rape is nothing else than date rape:

”It’s an old enemy in a new short skirt.”

Furthermore, promoters of the opinion that the phrase is improper and only affects victims argue that the idea behind the term has frequently been used to diminish or trivialize violence and hence dodge responsibility by stating that sex is essentially a foggy, unreadable area.

Which is certainly not—unless the individual doesn’t have common sense at the moment of happening for some reason. And there are numerous causes for this: drunkenness, substance abuse, mental issues, anxiety, fear, and so on.

The aforementioned takes us to a crucial point in numerous rape cases: the date rape drug.

Date rape drug

Date rape drug

Substances that make it simpler for someone to rape or sexually abuse another person are date-rape drugs. Alcohol and other drugs are among them. In addition, the individual who has been assaulted may become disoriented, have difficulty defending themselves, or know what has happened.

According to the law, if a person is intoxicated or otherwise unable to make rational decisions, a person who knowingly has sex with her while she is in such a situation is guilty of rape. However, rape cases involving alcohol or drugs are difficult to prove in a court of law if the victim cannot recall whether she provided consent or if she blacked out and her partner declares she did.

And that is the biggest problem in these cases.

  • Alcohol is the most usually found in drug-assisted sexual abuse around the world.

Many drugs are often used among abusers to overpower victims, such as GHB (so-called ”easy lay”), Rohypnol (sometimes used as anesthesia before surgery), Ketamine (known as ”vitamin K”).

  • The Norwegian Institute of Public Health recently investigated a case of probable drug-assisted sexual assault with codeine and acetaminophen, perhaps combined in beer. A brief study was conducted to investigate the case. They concluded that most of the preparations were readily soluble in beer, obtaining large concentrations at the cost of a strong flavor and noticeable alterations in the beer.

Is there a difference between these three?

Rape, Date Rape, and Gray Rape: Is There a Difference?

No.

There is no difference because rape is—rape. 

No matter how people call these traumatic experiences people worldwide encounter, no matter if the abuser is well-known to the victim or is a stranger with a hood in a dark street, it’s not important if the victim was wasted—rape is rape.

Sexual assault has no excuse, and there is no such rape that is ”less bad” due to previously-mentioned factors. 

And while women around the world have been encouraged to use aids to prevent rapists from attacking them, the question is whether enough is being done to reduce the number of assailants and call things by their real names. This refers to the two mentioned subtypes of rape because it is questionable whether they should exist.

Does it matter whether the victim was in an emotional relationship with the rapist or whether the consent was explicitly emphasized? 

Media also play a huge role in satanizing but also glorifying various types of sexual assaults. These acts are even portrayed as amusing and acceptable in movies.

Do you recall the movie Ted? Well, I’m sorry you have to hear this—that cute little teddy bear was actually a sex offender. In one scene, he notices an attractive coworker and begins imitating a sexual activity in the office. It’s far from appropriate and pleasant behavior (his coworker’s face clearly shows how uncomfortable she feels at the moment).

Or remember Leonardo Di Caprio’s performance in The Wolf of Wall Street, in which he kisses and licks the faces of two cabin crew members unwillingly. But, again, they are not enjoying it.

Conclusion

What then? How to be secure when it seems like everyone can be a rapist?

Luckily, many things can be done to make our society a safer and better place. And everyone can start by keeping some things in mind:

  • To avoid sex-related “grey areas,” it is critical that people are schooled on what consensual sex entails and can engage in informed discussions about manipulation, body language, and abuse of power.
  • There is no such thing as ”she wanted it.” Maybe she did but changed her mind. 
  • It must be taught to tolerate “no,” including “not now” or “perhaps eventually” — as well as quietness. Silence may not always imply agreement.
  • Ambiguous sexual experiences do exist, but only because the things mentioned above are not widespread.
  • Rape victims are often physically harmed, but they are always traumatized.

And that’s why ”gray” has no place in this world.

 

Leave a Comment