Friday, November 15, 2013

Lucia On keeping your legs closed and Christian morality in NZ society

I have been doing a lot of listening lately, and yesterday I listened to Tim Fookes' NewsTalkZB Morning programme as people phoned in to give their opinion of that infamous remark made by a defense lawyer on the lines of, if she didn't want sex, she should have kept her legs closed.

Tim Fookes was one of those who was incredibly offended by the inference that this is all women have to do to prevent getting raped, and even apologised on behalf of all men. Good on him, I thought. A number of men phoned in and agreed that the sentiment was disgusting and offensive.

Then the lawyer in question (Keith Jefferies) phoned in and explained the statement was in his closing arguments and that he didn't believe his client had actually raped the woman, and that the sex was consensual, therefore to prevent consensual sex, all she had to do is keep her legs closed. Dear Tim just didn't get it.

Another lawyer phoned in and explained it in more detail to Tim and he still didn't get it.

At this point my mind started to process this apparent obtuseness on Tim's part, and it occurred to me that conservatism runs deep in many NZ males, a conservatism that has it's roots in Christian morality and patriarchy, no matter how liberal these men might be in other areas that have been worked on more in popular culture. I find this really fascinating.

Christian morality basically says that men have no business having sex with women that they are not married to. Marriage is the price of sex - no marriage, no sex. So, if a woman says she did not consent and the man is not married to her, then it is automatically assumed by some (who don't even believe that they subscribe to Christian morality at all) that the man must be a rapist.

Liberals go on an on and on about consent, but consent is one of those airy fairy things that could be assumed by no resistance. Except, that's not what feminists want. Here's an example from Clementine Ford from her opinion piece on the keeping your legs closed comment from the defence lawyer:

Sexual consent does not begin and end with securing a 'yes', but is an ongoing negotiation that must involve respect between all parties regardless of how that sex looks on the surface. Bodily integrity is paramount; it isn't something whose limits can be determined by a collection of individuals still grappling with confusion over their own relationships to sexuality. If we want to change the way sex is used to control and undermine other people, we have to first understand how we use it to control and undermine ourselves.

Clementine wants "an ongoing negotiation" before consent is assumed. Isn't that what engagements are for?

It seems to me that many people in New Zealand are operating from a Christian moral started point, but then messing it up along the way. If women can have sex outside of marriage where-ever and when-ever they want, then as the lawyer says, if they don't want sex they should keep their legs closed, or not put themselves in situations where consent is assumed and the negotiation associated with marriage is not entered into. However, if women want the negotiation and everything that comes with it, then they need to let go of the idea of sex when ever they feel like it with whomever, because such a scenario assumes consent if they put themselves in a situation where sex is likely, and leads to statements such as, she should have kept her legs closed.

This is of course very different from Islamic societies where leading men is astray is always the woman's fault. It's like men in those societies are assumed to have no self control and are never at fault if a woman happens to inspire them to have sex with her, whether she intends to or not. At least the Tim Fookes' position and all of those who agree with him believe that men should be far more responsible with women that they have sex with.

So, while I can see where the lawyers were coming from in regards to their defence of the unfortunate statement made by Keith Jefferies on closed legs, I am heartened by the underlying conservatism that exists in many New Zealand men as typified by Tim Fookes, who would most likely be surprised that I considered him to be conservative and have an underlying Christian morality.

13 comment(s):

Psycho Milt said...

Clementine wants "an ongoing negotiation" before consent is assumed. Isn't that what engagements are for?

You're doing exactly what she said don't do - thinking consent stops at yes. The term "ongoing negotiation" here means "don't keep doing stuff to someone who's not liking what you're doing and really wants you to stop doing it." It's pointing out the you'd-think-would-be-obvious-but-apparently-isn't-to-some-idiots that sex involves two people, and that by agreeing to it a woman hasn't given you carte blanche to do what you want until you're finished, and that you therefore might usefully pay attention to the question of whether she's actually liking what you're doing or really wants you to stop doing it. Paying attention to such things really can help limit the number of times you find yourself telling cops that the slut must have just 'regretted' the sex later.

...they put themselves in a situation where sex is likely...

You wrote 'sex' there where you must have intended to write 'rape,' because the only situation in which 'sex' is likely is one in which you're agreeing to what's happening, which was apparently not the case here.

ZenTiger said...

Re your first point - I disagree PM. Lucia was using the statement to introduce the idea of time. Moving away from an "ongoing process of consent" lasting 5 minutes to one of courtship, lasting weeks and months.

I'm going to go out on a limb here and suggest something I can only guess at: The real issue with the 5 minute consent process, is that the ongoing consent process continues in the mind of the women for days after, and as they process the event it becomes clear they never consented, and any passivity was more from shock, surprise or confusion rather than of acquiescence the male has assumed.

Obviously, I'm talking about the more subtle cases - not those of clear rape. However, this is still rape, because acquiescence is NOT consent. Thus Lucia's point about extending the thinking back to one of extended time.

For the hard core liberals out there that still don't get this point (not speaking about you PM) I'd suggest the mantra of "on the first encounter, ask for a date, not a bonk"

Lucia Maria said...


Thanks for explaining that consent is an on-going process rather than a one time gate opener. That means that if a woman thinks back on her sexual encounters and believes that wasn't really happy with any aspect of them that she can decide that she was raped at that point.

I'm pretty certain the current legal system hasn't quite caught up to the subtlety of that point of view yet, nor will it ever, because of the implications. It will be far easier to go back to the old morality where consent is given through marriage and any men having sex with women they are not married are automatically put up on rape charges if the woman complains.

You wrote 'sex' there where you must have intended to write 'rape,' because the only situation in which 'sex' is likely is one in which you're agreeing to what's happening, which was apparently not the case here.

Er, no, I didn't, and no it's no clear.

Psycho Milt said...

For the hard core liberals out there that still don't get this point (not speaking about you PM) I'd suggest the mantra of "on the first encounter, ask for a date, not a bonk"

Yes, on this we're both "conservative." It seems to me that Mr Pule and his lawyer are operating on the basis that it's reasonable to assume a drunk woman who's accepted your offer of help won't mind if you drag her into the nearest alley and give her one up against the wall. I contend that it's not only Christian morality that says their view is blatantly, obviously wrong. So obviously wrong, in fact, that there was a very strong onus on Mr Pule to start from a default position that she would actually mind very much and he'd better not shift from that default unless given very clear evidence for doing so. That's not Christian morality, that's plain old recognising that other people have a say in what happens to them. It annoys the hell out of me when lawyers try to weasel around this.

I can see the point about an engagement and eventual marriage as an "ongoing negotiation" of consent, but Clementine's point remains: even within marriage, every sex act involves negotiated consent throughout whatever acts are involved. We had to bring marriage within the rape laws for exactly that reason.

Psycho Milt said...

Lucia: sorry, didn't see your comment before writing mine above.

Here's the thing: consent isn't given through marriage, as recognised by the fact that we criminalised rape within marriage. Certainly it used to be that the legal system regarded consent as being given through marriage, but once people started thinking of morality in terms of how we should treat other people, rather than in terms of what some ancient barbarians wrote in a book sometime, we rejected marriage=consent as the endorsement of rape that it is.

ZenTiger said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
ZenTiger said...

Some fair points PM. I think there is overlap here, although coming at it from different directions perhaps.

You said: "That's not Christian morality, that's plain old recognising that other people have a say in what happens to them."

Which is plain old Christian morality. (Not a claim of exclusivity of a moral principle though)

Continuing along the lines of consent being an ongoing negotiation - I think that process continues beyond the act, which is the issue I alluded to earlier. Moving away from the clearer cases of rape, to the more blurred lines where a male figures if a girl is apparently willing (both being far too intoxicated to make good decisions) then it is all on, and changing ones mind a week later doesn't make it rape.

Except that without true consent, it is still rape, so men better start acting like gentlemen or suffer the consequences (which are often trivial, but that may change.)

In other areas of life, people over 18 can buy something, with fully informed consent and yet are protected by a cool down (cooling-off) period to then reverse the transaction (like when buying life insurance or a fridge). There is recognition that consent may have been given without space to think things through.

It's an interesting idea to apply to this notion of consent being something that is not definitive. Both positive and negative ramifications abound.

Muerk said...

Lucia - Consent is definitely not just given through marriage, even though general consent is implied. In a sacramental marriage the couple has to be open to life, but that doesn't mean one spouse can just take the other at will. There are times when either spouse does not want to have sex and if the other forces sex upon them then it is absolutely rape.

Consent is negotiated in an on-going process as PM says because life itself is an on-going process. All relationships are in an on-going process of love, respect, and negotiation. If I am going to consent to sex, then I will only consent to my husband, but my husband just can't assume we're going to have sex just because we are married (and I likewise). Each time of intimacy is respectful to our needs and wants at that time.

I'm not sure, maybe I misread what you are trying to say here.

Lucia Maria said...


I agree.

My post really isn't about the finer details of consent in a marital relationship, it's about unmarried hookups whereby that ongoing process is not at play, and it's about people wanting the same consideration given to someone that you just bang for the night (or for 5 minutes) as a person you spend the rest of your life with. It's also about the inherent conservatism in many NZ'ers kind of expecting this level of consideration, and when it's not there, an assumption is that a rape occurred.

I think if you read it from that perspective, you might get where I'm coming from.

Muerk said...

I think the thing that is damaging in hooking up/one night stands is that the mutual love, trust and life-long commitment isn't there for the couple.

That said, if you're going to be intimate with a person, spouse or not, there is an individual responsibility to treat someone kindly, gently, and with respect. I expect everyone to treat their sexual partners with consideration and to take responsibility to make sure the other person is consenting to what is happening.

I have to say I don't really understand what you mean about an underlying or inherent conservatism. So sorry about that. Are you saying that consent is harder to establish in hook ups?

Lucia Maria said...


The very nature of hooking up discourages gentleness, respect and being very sure of the consent of the other person. So while there should be that level of responsibility, there isn't because of the nature of the relationship. Both cannot coexist and therefore the woman, much more so than the man, stands to get hurt and is more likely to be raped.

Ok, the underlying conservatism that I'm talking about is the entrenched morality in many men and their views about life. I have especially noticed this with Tim Fookes, who sounds like he's in his 30's and so is very pro-gay marriage and other things. Yet, his morality is conservative, such as what I described in the post whereby he automatically blames the man if the woman in the sexual encounter thinks she was raped.

Anyway, have read of this article I found recently on the hookup culture in some campuses in America and what women there get themselves into because they don't want the entanglements of a relationship: Sex on campus: she can play that game too.

I.M Fletcher said...

The thing is, if a woman and a man are naked and making out - petting and such - it's going to be difficult to stop that juggernaut of sexual intercourse. A woman may at that point say no, but her actions are already saying yes, yes. If she thinks she can turn it on and off like that then she just doesn't understand how a man works.

I'm not in any way suggesting that it is her fault or that the man shouldn't stop if asked - of course he should. But that is why sex has traditionally been confined to marriage and not just a little Friday night pleasure with whomever happens to be available or like-minded at the time.

Again, this ignores the idea of temptation. If you're going to open up the candy store, put a kid in the middle and let him smell the cakes and the candy and even lick some of the frosting but not let him actually eat anything then that is a temptation not every kid is going to be able to resist.

Again (just to make clear) I am not advocating rape in any way, shape or form, or that it is a woman's fault or that a man shouldn't take NO for an answer (he most certainly should) but I think this so-called Free Love generation has a lot to answer for, for putting people in this position. A position they should never have been in, in the first place.

Anonymous said...


22:28 And if any one should find a young virgin who has not been betrothed, and should force [her] and lie with her, and be found,

22:29 the man who lay with her shall give to the father of the damsel fifty silver didrachms, and she shall be his wife, because he has humble her; he shall never be able to put her away.

What can we gather from this? Perhaps that the author lived in a society where women were betrothed quite regularly, and did not go wandering alone, as if they did, it could result in a marriage to their rapist to save face. In this case, the bouncer and the woman would be married, as opposing the laws of the judges resulted in being stoned to death.

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