"Sexual microaggressions" complicate our understanding of rape

In a great piece for Fusion from last month, Lux Alptraum explores the ways in which the distinctions between rape and consensual sex aren't always so clear cut in practice.

She writes:

Women get socialized to put their needs second and make other people happy, and too many men get socialized to ignore rejections and relentlessly pursue whatever it is that they desire. It's a toxic combination that can lead women to deprioritize enthusiastic consent in the hopes of keeping the peace, or to turn to coping mechanisms like alcohol to make not exactly consensual sex feel a little bit more okay.

There's a scene from a sixth season episode of the FX sitcom It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia where Dennis Reynolds—a pretty-boy sociopath with a cavalier attitude toward women—launches into a description of a seduction technique he refers to as "the implication." Get a girl on a boat, get her drunk, and when you end up below deck, she'll be sure to comply with your desires, because of "the implication" that she doesn't really have a choice.

If I ever found this scene funny, I don't anymore, because "the implication" feels all too real. Consciously or not, men often send women the message that their bodies are not their own to control; that the choice is less between consensual sex or no sex at all, but consent by attrition or sex without consent. When men push up against, or even gently past, women's boundaries; when they treat "no" as a suggestion rather than an absolute; when sex is positioned as an exercise in persuasion; "the implication" is that women should comply or risk facing the consequences.

The article reminds me a lot of the conversations that were had around the controversial second season episode of Girls called "On All Fours." You can read Alptraum's full article on Fusion.