Seduction, Harassment and Rape

I’ve been thinking quite a bit about the differences between seduction, harassment and rape and how to articulate them clearly.

I think I’ve figured out a potential explanation based on the idea of the legitimacy of consent.

A seducer accepts their partner’s state of non-consent as legitimate, but attempts to entice them to change it.

A harasser attempts to make their partner believe they have no right not to consent.

A rapist ignores consent entirely or actively seeks out a lack of consent.

Discuss and if you don’t, you’re not a real man.

Alison Tieman
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Alison Tieman

Artist/Writer at Xenospora
Alison has been researching men's issues since her mother gave her "Princess at the Window" by Donna Laframboise in 1994 when she was 16. She's taken part in men's rights communities since she started posting on soc.men in 2003. Since 2011 she's run the gender apostate blog Genderratic with her pal Gingko the wonder leaf and she founded Honey Badger Brigade in 2013 with Hannah Wallen and Karen Straughan. According to Vice the pony she most resembles is Fluttershy.
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  • Ginkgo

    Makes sense to me. Clear, obvious and concise.

    Do I get to keep my man card? Please? Hnh, please, hnh?

  • Typhonblue

    I suppose you think discussing this makes you entitled to your mancard. 😛

  • Jolly McFats

    This seems accurate, but… I think some might argue that seduction includes activities prior to seeking consent (hence the current furor around nice guys who seek to qualify themselves prior to seeking consent).

  • Crimson Wool

    I don’t think the description of “harasser” is necessarily correct. I think harassment does not require a person to try to make the other person believe they do not have the right to not consent. I think harassment is more about the transgression of (non-physical) boundaries, both those made explicit by the person (e.g. “please stop calling me”) or those implicit in the social/cultural norms of an area (e.g. “hey, can I see your cock?” is harassment, even if directed at someone who’s never said they don’t want to hear that).

  • TMG

    Seduction can start happening before non-consent is declared.

  • dungone

    Having good boundaries helps distinguish those things. Problems seem to come in when you introduce provocation or enticement, regrets, lies, plausible deniability, social stigma, personality disorders on either side, etc. And then there are just the sort of people who in their heart of hearts actually want to see you cross a certain line before they open up like a flower and let you in, feeding some sort of deep egotistical need they have to feel so desirable that their seducer can’t resist. Not saying they shouldn’t be avoided because they should, just saying they’re out there.

    A problem with the seduction part is also the Nice Guy effect, wherein two men doing the same exact thing are interpreted by women as having two entirely different behaviors, depending on which one of them is attractive and which one is not. And then there is the Schrodinger’s Rapist effect, wherein simply walking a couple hundred feet away from a rape farmer illicitly deep seated fear and hatred that is interpreted by the observer as “street harassment” or even rape itself.

  • EquilibriumShift

    Well, someone engaged in seduction would automatically be assuming non-consent, otherwise, why the need for seduction?

    I like this formulation. It outlines the differences quite well.

  • Ginkgo

    Distinguishing these along a spectrum of consent is really explanatory. One semantic feature I would add to the definition of harassment is that harrassment requires more than one contact. “Harassment” implies repeated contacts, at least to me.

  • typhonblue

    @ Crimson Wool

    “I think harassment is more about the transgression of (non-physical) boundaries”

    But what non-physical boundaries are they transgressing? IMHO, the boundaries they’re transgressing is their target’s right not to have to consent to whatever behaviour the harasser is attempting to force them into.

  • Snake Oil Baron

    Seems like a good objective description. Unfortunately few people bother with objectivity so whether on was seduced, harassed into sex or raped depends on how they feel about the person years later.

    OT, “Mrs Robinson, you’re trying to harass me? Aren’t you?” doesn’t work as well so they were probably smarter to go with “seduce”.

  • ČernýLabuť

    I feel like there are three important counterparts (After all, it takes two to tango) which also influence the perception of consent, at least in the context of relationships where there is a lead/follow, dom/sub, or aggressive/passive component of the relationship, where one is asking for favors and the other is contemplating giving it or not. There’s no tl;dr this time, since real men, being practical in all situations, know how to speed-read.

    Vocalist – An individual who articulates their needs and concerns fully. If they believe in enthusiastic consent, they will not actually hesitate to say yes, and if they say no they will at least provide a decent explanation of why.

    Wet fish – An individual who may not be assertive, vocal, or open about what they want. They may struggle with confidence issues, or are impulsive and irresponsible. They may send mixed messages, or not give any at all.

    Paranoid Recluse – AKA Crazy Cat Lady/Basement Dweller (No harm intended to cat fanciers or people who stay in their basement) An individual who believes all men to be schroedinger’s rapist or believes all women to be crazy bitches. They find the most mundane and trivial of actions to be microaggressions against them, and while they might not speak out in person they will certainly air their grievances on-line or in a support group because they feel safe enough to do so there.

    Given these three individuals, we can create a 3×3 matrix that defines how these interactions play out and what might happen. Let’s say we order respondents left to right: Vocal, Fish, Recluse, and initiators top to bottom: Seducer, Harasser, Rapist.
    We’ll notice as I define these in detail that the quality of the interaction is best in the top left, and lowest in the bottom right.

    Seducer and Vocalist: They will have no boundary or consent issues, and, even if something goes wrong, it’s brief and there aren’t many hard feelings afterwards.

    Seducer and Wet Fish/Vocalist and Harasser: Some minor issues will happen, but their outcome is largely dependent on the maturity of both individuals. A wet fish might do something that indicates consent to the seducer when it really isn’t. At this point the seducer will either diffuse and leave the situation to prevent further harm, or it could worsen and the wet fish will later claim it was harm. Likewise, a vocalist could repeat themselves numerous times to the harasser, at which point the harasser may have to diffuse the situation by asserting themselves and they either both disengage or escalate the confrontation. Likewise, the clear and assertive communication of a vocalist may convince a harasser to be more respectful.

    Seducer/Recluse, Harasser/Wet Fish, Rapist/Vocalist. There will be moderate issues that are mostly unavoidable. The seducer, in attempting to initiate seduction with the recluse, will almost always be called out on harassment or aggressiveness unless he or she fulfills all the expectations of the recluse. The seducer may have to face some authority figures and figure out how to diffuse the situation. The wet fish and harasser, if they go ahead with sexual contact, will have differing accounts of what happened. The wet fish will feel regret and shame for not communicating well, the harasser will feel betrayed because the other didn’t ‘assert’ their no, when one probably wasn’t going to happen. Gaslighting from both sides may happen. The rapist, who doesn’t respect boundaries, will try to hurt the vocalist, though the vocalist will either fight back or escape. Failing that, the vocalist is usually knowledgeable enough about the justice system that they will know how to get the proper help and lock the rapist away.

    Harasser/Recluse, Rapist/Wet Fish. There will be certainty of assault and/or involvement of authority figures which create externalities on society. The harasser will legitimize the complaints of the recluse, as the recluse will not fight back in person, but will definitely feel uncomfortable. The lack of resistance may cause the harasser to escalate from verbal abuse to physical abuse. The pushback later however, may be disproportionate and create externalities that make numerous people uncomfortable or redefines interactions that interfere with seducers and vocalists ability to communicate. With the rapist and wet fish, the rapist will perform at least one action that the wet fish didn’t consent to. The rapist will feel the interaction was legitimate, the wet fish will have self doubt. The wet fish will be unsure of whether to report the incident or not, and even in doing so, might have done something earlier such as get intoxicated or be recorded giving consent that will make it difficult to seek justice. The action may be later reported anecdotally, and contribute to the ‘cloudiness’ of reporting figures.

    The last square, the bottom right, I’m only going to describe briefly. Those interactions usually only happen when the rapist involved is highly predatory, and the recluse incredibly naive. It’s often how stranger-rape, or rape-homicide.

    In an ideal world, everyone would be seducer/vocalists. Unfortunately, the majority of people of both genders fall closer to harassment in seeking intimacy, and wet fish in responding. What’s even worse however, is that while rapists and recluses are a small proportion of the population, we seem to dictate policy around the interactions of those two groups with others.

    Feminists unfairly tend to categorize harassers as rapists. In addition, they claim the actions of non-vocalists is non-consent, and in denying agency, make women feel less confident and encourage more wet fishes to become recluses. They will side with the recluses even when the interaction was completely safe, like elevator or dongle-gate, and make it harder for vocalists who prefer to be passive when propositioning but assertive in sharing information related to it.

    Traditionalists likewise, also bias their categorizations leading to harm. They will decry rapists and have them serve harsh punishments if they’re found guilty, but they will ignore encouraging the healthy attitudes vocalists have and be reluctant to do so with wet fish. They will encourage marriage and discourage divorce. If a harasser, male or female, is in such a situation, they will usually protect them by saying a female spouse is subservient to the man of the house, or that a male facing domestic abuse and harassment from a female spouse is not living up to that role.

  • Copyleft

    Since women have no agency, any attempt to persuade, charm, or convince her to agree is the exact same thing as rape. The fact that she said no once is sufficient grounds for you to immediately walk away and never speak to her again, unless you’re a privileged misogynist closet-rapist… or something.

    Also, if she changes her answer to no -afterward-, it’s still rape. So there.

  • Snake Oil Baron

    Does not being a “real man” automatically qualify one as an “unreal man”? Because that sounds like a lot more fun actually. Is “surreal man” on that spectrum somewhere? I’ve always wanted a watch that melts.

  • typhonblue

    @ SnakeOilBaron

    Perhaps what gynocentrists are implying is that there is an imaginary man equal to the square root of the negative man.

    iman = squareroot of badman

  • dungone

    @ČernýLabuť, your matrix suggests a correlation between honesty and confidence which I don’t think holds up very well. There are “basement dweller” types who would never cross you and “vocalist” types who will stab you the moment you turn your back to them. I know that it can be more frustrating to figure out what a “wet fish” wants, but it does not necessarily mean that they will *intentionally* play mind games any more-so than anyone else would. In fact, some of the most charismatic people out there happen to be complete sociopaths.

    The other issue I have with that sort of matrix is that no one really fits neatly into any one of those categories. People change how they behave depending on the situation, on how attractive the other person is, and on the social conventions that govern their interactions. Imagine how women’s behavior might change, for example, if they were expected to pay for men on dates. In other words it’s not just a personality type, it’s the entire situation.

  • http://www.wildmanproject.ca Brian C. Rideout

    Interesting premise. I feel like a cheat having come late to the game and having skimmed some already fascinating answers.

    I would argue that a spectrum of consent is problematic on a whole.

    Seduction, in the Game sense of the word, for example, does not assume non-consent. Instead, it seeks to create favourable odds that consent is given before making an overture. It shows a value on consent and an intentional and deliberate aim to create it.

    Harassment is problematic because not all harassment is meant to lead to sex. Especially in Junior High I witnessed a lot of highly sexually-charged and somewhat malicious behaviour that was meant to upset, harry, and bother someone without any intent to obtain actual sex at all. It was using sexuality as a vessel for rudeness.

    We almost have to class harassment – one as an attempt to psychologically manipulate someone into feeling that they must choose to give consent. And the other as psychological manipulations with a sexual element that are an attempt to emotionally injure the individual.

    Perhaps the spectrum still works if we include “class one” harassment on it, and re-imagine “class two” as “sexualized bullying” that sits on another intersecting spectrum altogether of violence and bullying on which rape would also sit, but “class one” harassment and seduction would (mostly) not.

    I agree with the definition of rape as ignoring consent. Seeking out non-consent puzzled me for a moment, but it does describe sociopathic rapists behaviours quite nicely.

  • Schala

    Fun

    I’m a wet fish who is also a vocalist when I know what’s actually happening (I don’t do flirting, and I don’t know how to read flirting – my behavior might be perceived as flirty when its not, too). I’ll communicate my wants and desires clearly, no mind games. And I’m also a recluse, in that I rarely socialize and don’t like to.

  • Snake Oil Baron

    “iman = squareroot of badman”

    Well they certainly know a lot about imaginary men given that they buy their straw for strawmen in bulk. But I am not sure they are allowed to use math, especially imaginary numbers, because they are a tool of the PATRIARCHY.

  • gwallan

    Surely a square root is also rape?

  • Adiabat

    SOB: “But I am not sure they are allowed to use math, especially imaginary numbers, because they are a tool of the PATRIARCHY.”

    lol. Yeah maths is just another “discourse” pushing the views of the oppressors onto all the oppressed. Despite being a series of tautological arguments enabling us to see complex relationships between things it has no validity because sometimes people get the wrong answer, or something.

    Plus it’s really HARD! and we can’t expect humanities students (who become professors) to actually learn about the things they want to write 1000’s of words about.

  • gwallan

    “A rapist ignores consent entirely or actively seeks out a lack of consent.”

    Demur. I look to coercion more than consent. Consent can be forced.

    The rapist wants what they want and the welfare and interests of their target are irrelevant. It is sociopathic. Actively seeking out a lack of consent implies a significant preference for rape over welcomed/enthusiastic sex. It is beyond sociopathic and, I suspect, not very common. THAT is an individual with problems beyond a desire to rape.

  • http://www.youtube.com/user/rprnorg Whiskey Dick

    So, erections are different than consent?

  • Tamen

    Whiskey Dick:
    Unfortunately the world is such that I have to take your qeustion at face value and provide a non-exhaustive list of cases where erections are different than consent.

    1) Infant boys have erections – do you think they are consenting to sex with their carer?

    2) Men who suffers from erectile dysfunction may wants and may consent to sex even though there is no erection.

    3) Priapism

    4) Terminal erection

    5) All men without a physiological ED experiences nocturnal penile tumescence.

    6) Any involuntary erection.

    To make this just a little bit easier for you to imagine:
    If you are straight: Your gay friend of the same gender as you decides to fuck you in any of the circumstances above
    If you are gay: Your straight friend of the opposite sex as you decides to fuck you in any of the circumstances above
    If you are bi/omni/whatever I have forgotten: Your mother and father decides to fuck you in any of he circumstances above

    Erection =/= consent

  • Uriełe

    I have strong doubts about “seduction”. It’s a word with much broader semantic space and seems to me to include quite a lot of cases where both the seducer and “seducee” are satisfied after the seduction was performed and consummated. The rest seems to create a generic space of unhealthy interaction with fairly clear victim and perpetrator of harm, which excludes such seductions.

  • Robert Crayle

    Just a thought on the “square root of a bad man” comments…

    A complex number is formed by the addition of a real number and an imaginary number (in the form a + ib). Could it not be said at that a man is complex, formed of unknown variables of “real man” and “imaginary (read:bad) man”?

    Just trying to nail down some gender mathematics before Naomi Wolfe declares odd numbers to be misogynist…