Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Is deception rape?

This is one of those stories which, when I first saw it, I thought it could not possibly be true - and then all the news agencies started reporting it.

The BBC reports that Sabbar Kashur, who has been under house-arrest for two years was sentenced to a further 18 months in jail for "rape by deception".

The pair met in Jerusalem and had sex that day. The woman later discovered that the man who had introduced himself as "Dudu", which is a nickname commonly used by Jews, apparently, is an Arab and was not interested in a serious relationship. He denies ever having said he was Jewish and that his nickname is one used by his friends and family, although he may not have helped his case when he said "My wife even calls me that".

In the court's ruling the judge, Zvi Segal, wrote: "If she had not thought the accused was a Jewish bachelor interested in a serious relationship, she would not have co-operated."

"The court is obliged to protect the public interest from sophisticated, smooth-tongued criminals who can deceive innocent victims at an unbearable price - the sanctity of their bodies and souls," the court judgement was quoted as reading.

I think that there's some really odd language going on there. Shall we start with "co-operated" when they mean "enthusiastically fucked him"? It looks to me that the judge is saying that women's role in sex is to passively allow men to have their way with them - otherwise how do you explain all this "sanctity of their bodies and souls" business?

I suspect the extraordinary judgement and sentence are a product of a revulsion on the part of the law that a Jewish woman was defiled by an Arab man, who is defined as a "smooth-tongued criminal" on the basis that he had consensual sex with a Jew whilst in possession of an Arab penis.

Neither side disputed that this woman met a guy she fancied and they decided to have sex on that first meeting. I don't think I'm being overly controversial by saying if you have sex with someone the first time you meet them it's quite likely that you don't know them very well and that it should not entirely surprise you if your new romance does not necessarily blossom into a life-time's love match.

If you only want to have sex with people who want to have a long-term relationship with you I advise a bit of differed gratification. If you don't mind having sex with people you may never meet again feel free to fuck on first meeting. Fill your boots, as it were.

That's fine and dandy, why should we know someone well if we want to have sex with them? We shouldn't be surprised though that a one-night stand did not end in either a serious long term relationship or that the other person wasn't 100% honest. A reasonable person would not expect to know someone well enough on first meeting to know whether they are an honest person.

A serious jail term isn't the appropriate response here.

Ethically it is quite possible this man hid the "shameful" fact that he's an Arab and was wrong to do so. He certainly hid the fact he was married. That pales in comparison to the ethics of having someone you were, up to that point attracted to, sent to jail when you find out they are an Arab. There are no Israeli Jews getting sent to jail for having affairs.

The "victim" in this case is someone who made a judgement call she later regretted - nothing more. That is her responsibility and no-one else's, and she certainly was not raped. If she'd made an error of judgement and found herself in a position where she was forced to have sex against her will, that would have been his responsibility and a (far longer) jail sentence would have been appropriate, but the undisputed facts show she wanted to have sex and approached Dudu with that in mind.

We cannot start having such a broad definition of rape that the seriousness of the crime becomes diluted by this sort of case.

Moreover the law should not be used to regulate our personal lives in this way. I'm certain that the fact that this man was an Israeli Arab is more than just an incidental fact here, but even if it wasn't the law's still wrong.
High Court Justice Elyakim Rubinstein said a conviction of rape should be imposed any time a "person does not tell the truth regarding critical matters to a reasonable woman, and as a result of misrepresentation she has sexual relations with him."
Well hold on, isn't this tantamount to criminalising adultery? In fact it criminalises all sorts of commonplace situations.

What if I don't mention my criminal record, or my model train collection or my secret desire to be rithlessly flogged with liquorice bootlaces? All things that might make a new lover regret having got involved in the first place. Under this definition any of these could find someone locked up and that has to be wrong.

Without going into too much detail I've had sex with women who, it turned out, had not been wholly truthful about themselves. Did these women rape me? No, of course not, jail would be a bizarre response. Were they unethical to be less than honest with me? I suppose so, but the law is not there to turn us all into saints - that's setting the bar unreasonably high.

This kind of paternalist attitude towards women's sexuality is not healthy and tends towards the idea that women are possessions that men must take good care of. We all make mistakes that we later regret, but when the state steps in to legislate the nuances of sexual relationships we're in very dangerous territory, all the more so when it becomes a crime to conceal your Arabic decent (although this man probably did not do this).

The law is not there to protect us every time we feel hurt or betrayed. It should not treat adults as children, nor should it lock up men for being Arabs.

1 comment:

Elinor said...

Well said, what a crazy situation. How on earth did the defence lawyer not manage to prevent this, I hope there's a successful appeal. As you point out it's interesting that they focus on his identity rather than the fact he was married! which is surely equally deceptive. Bizarre and deeply unfair to the man sentenced.