The Philistine

Old Wine in New Bottles

Is it possible that Eve raped Adam in the Garden of Eden? Or that Adam raped Eve? Like most records of sexual relations that occurred long ago, the Bible is unclear on this issue. It does not record which partner initiated contact, or whether either partner gave “enthusiastic consent”, but only that “Adam knew Eve his wife; and she conceived”. Most of us today know a lot of people, but in those days there weren’t many people around to know, so naturally Adam and Eve knew each other. It is true that there is no record that either of them said “no” to knowing the other, but these days we are told that “no means no” is no longer good enough, and consent requires an emphatic and continuous “yes”. By that measure, it is quite possible that Adam and Eve actually raped each other, if neither of them raised the issue of consent before getting to know each other. And it should come as no surprise: they were certainly both guilty of obscene exposure—though they were not ashamed until later, and thus did not press charges.

Salvatore Babones appears in every Quadrant.
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By the ever-tightening standards of today’s anti-rape activists, nearly all sexual activity that has occurred throughout all of history now constitutes “rape”. Indeed there is a certain strand of feminism that regards all sexual relations between men and women as rape (of the woman). But even the relatively more restrained and infinitely more influential feminists who staff women’s charities, university counselling offices and the ABC have embraced a definition of consent that would classify most past and present sex as rape, and either do the same for future sex, or discourage it altogether: the kinky humour of repeatedly asking “Do you consent?” (with the partner answering, “Enthusiastically!”) is bound to wear off pretty quickly. That said, even a brief familiarity with human beings (especially young ones) suggests that the future of the species is probably not at risk from a lack of enthusiastic consent.

And if it is, there’s always IVF.

In A Tale of Two Cities, Dickens decried the folly of believing in “the precept that ‘whatever is, is right’; an aphorism that would be as final as it is lazy, did it not include the troublesome consequence, that nothing that ever was, was wrong”. Yet the fallacy of presentism is always with us, and never more so than with reformers. Manners change, and with them moral standards—and, it must be admitted, generally for the better. Reasonable people do not want to return to the bad old days when laws against rape did not apply within the marital relationship, or even to the moderately not-so-good old days when many people considered it acceptable to have sex with partners who had passed out from drinking too much. In our perverse political landscape where only conservatives believe in progress while progressives believe that the world is only getting worse, the conservatives have evidence on their side. But progress itself is often as illogical as the progressives who disown it.

Rape, or sexual assault (as it is known in modernised lawbooks), is a very serious crime. Feminists and progressives, however, may not fully understand how it came to be treated by society as such a serious crime. Today, non-consensual sexual intercourse is treated as a crime roughly on a par with physical assault causing grievous bodily harm. In the not-so-distant past, it has been treated as a crime on a par with murder. And historically, it was a crime that could only be perpetrated by men. Even today, some jurisdictions (including the United Kingdom) only admit the possibility that a man can commit rape, while others (including Queensland and Victoria) define rape in strongly gendered terms. This is all very old-fashioned. The progressive feminist notion that unwanted or regretted sex amounts to rape is a co-optation of an ancient crime for new moral purposes. It is very much a case of new wine in very old bottles.

The English word rape is derived directly from a Latin root meaning “to carry away”, as in the rape of the Sabines. Thus a raptor is a bird that carries away its prey; the rapture is the moment following the second coming of Christ when the saved will be carried away to heaven. In its original, Roman meaning, rape did not necessarily entail sexual intercourse (though it strongly implied it); rape simply meant that a man’s daughter or wife had been carried off by another man. The aggrieved party was the father or husband, not the daughter or wife, and a daughter who enthusiastically consented to being carried off by her lover was just as much “raped” as one who resisted. Thus a common historical remedy for rape was to require the rapist to marry his victim (the daughter, that is, not the father). Now retroactively redefined as a barbarous custom, in many cases this may have been exactly what the couple wanted.

Rape was one of the few Roman (and later medieval) crimes that was punishable by death, and it wasn’t out of any concern for the rights of women. Rape was a capital offence because it had the potential to create progeny without the approval of the paterfamilias; it violated the sanctity of family succession and (in pre-Christian times) family worship. Talk about patriarchy! The whole idea that rape should be a crime at all is dripping in patriarchy. But over time this archaic offence against a patriarchal family religion evolved into a medieval offence against a Christian model of marriage, then into a Victorian offence against a respectable woman’s chastity, and finally into a modern offence against an independent woman’s autonomy. Nonetheless, throughout this long evolution, rape retained its sui generis status as a taboo crime set apart from all others.

No one now questions that sexual assault is and should be a crime. But in New South Wales, where rape laws have been thoroughly modernised and separated from squalid biological descriptions, the Crimes Act flatly states that “any person who has sexual intercourse with another person without the consent of the other person and who knows that the other person does not consent to the sexual intercourse is liable to imprisonment for 14 years”. To be clear, this does not require coercion; aggravating circumstances like coercion can raise the penalty to twenty years. Knowingly having sex with someone who doesn’t want to is surely bad behaviour, and may under certain circumstances even rise to the level of criminality. But if debates over the definition of consent have become heated and shrill, it is because “consent” can mean the difference between a bad night out and fourteen years in prison.

In an era of readily available birth control and widespread abortion on demand, we might question whether an extraordinarily harsh penalty inherited for a religious crime against patriarchy should be retained for a moral crime against propriety. No one doubts that non-consensual sexual intercourse should be illegal. But just how illegal should it be, when coercion is not involved? And how much consent is enough—to avoid fourteen years in prison? Consent is a perennially slippery concept. When two drunk people have sexual intercourse to which neither had the capacity to consent, should they both be sent to prison for a decade or more? The patriarchy says yes, since regardless of circumstances or motivation, sexual relations have the potential to alter family relationships. But in a liberal society founded on the autonomy of the individual, uncoerced but non-consensual sex seems a much less consequential crime than, say, gashing someone’s eye with a broken beer bottle.

Sex is an emotional act (or at least it should be), and it is quite natural that sexual crimes should arouse especially intense emotional responses. But it is particularly where emotions are aroused that cool rationality is most required. Today’s high-stakes sex crimes accusations are high-stakes precisely because of the irrational connection made between ancient patriarchal taboos and modern feminist sensibilities. The enduring image of rape as a unique crime of personal violation, still reflected in the anatomical specificity of some state rape laws, is a holdover from another time: ironically, not from the earliest times, but from the Victorian era that forms the reference point for so much modern feminism. In the very earliest times, personal violation was par for the course. We only have women at all because God put Adam to sleep and harvested one of his ribs to make Eve. At least He used anaesthesia. Bone of his bones and flesh of his flesh, Eve cleaved unto Adam (or vice versa) just two verses later. That sure didn’t take long.

Maybe we won’t need IVF to perpetuate the species, after all.

19 comments
  • Michael

    “But if debates over the definition of consent have become heated and shrill, it is because “consent” can mean the difference between a bad night out and fourteen years in prison.”

  • J. Vernau

    My (45 y.o.) Concise OED has one of the definitions of rape, after the usual carryings off, as ‘forcible or *fraudulent* sexual intercourse esp. imposed on woman’. [my emphasis]
    The Shorter OED (of two years earlier) includes as a fourth definition ‘To transport, ravish, delight’ with the matter-of-fact comment ‘now rare’.

  • Brian Boru

    “The English word rape is derived directly from a Latin root”. Very interesting.
    And J.Vernau, I have had my Concise OED since 1967.
    I think some legal eagle needs to draft an enduring consent form much like an enduring power of attorney that requires 7 days notice to terminate.

  • loweprof

    Reminds me of Susie Rhodes’ book “Now You’ll Think I’m Awful’, published in 1967 …

  • Stephen Due

    So forcing people to be vaccinated (using vaccine passports, employee vaccine mandates, or social pressure) is a form of rape. Similarly tricking people into consenting to take vaccines (by withholding information about potential harms) is a form of rape. Where are the Woke now?

  • BalancedObservation

    “We only have women at all because God put Adam to sleep and harvested one of his ribs to make Eve.”

    Are you really serious?

    People with views like that should not be influencing the laws in a country like Australia. Thankfully, in the main, they’re not.


    A sobering fact is that one woman a week in Australia is murdered in her own home by her partner. We can be pretty safe in assuming those deaths are non consensual as is the violence and rape which was likely to have preceded many of those deaths.


    Consent is a big issue for many vulnerable women in this country. The chilling fact above underlines that. I see little understanding of that in this article.

  • Adam J

    Balanced Observer, that was obviously sarcasm:
    ” The enduring image of rape as a unique crime of personal violation, still reflected in the anatomical specificity of some state rape laws, is a holdover from another time: ironically, not from the earliest times, but from the Victorian era that forms the reference point for so much modern feminism. In the very earliest times, personal violation was par for the course. We only have women at all because God put Adam to sleep and harvested one of his ribs to make Eve.”

  • BalancedObservation

    I was certainly not being sarcastic when I said one woman a week in Australia is murdered every week in her own home by her partner.


    And we can be pretty safe in assuming those deaths are non consensual and the violence and rape which was likely to have preceded most of those deaths was unlikely to be consensual either.


    And if one woman a week is murdered in her own home by her partner in Australia it’s probably reasonable to assume many have been raped and violently assaulted but not murdered.


    To ignore such a huge issue when discussing the issue of consent in Australia is unreasonable and unacceptable.

    You can quote the whole article to me in your comments if you like but it won’t change the fact that this article avoided that key issue.

  • Tezza

    That’s not a ‘balanced observation’, BalancedObservation. Murder and violence are other crimes altogether, not related to the topic of Salvatore’s essay.

  • BalancedObservation

    Tezza

    Rape is directly related to violence. And rape is directly related to the issue of consent. The highly disturbing fact ( not opinion or assertion) that one woman is murdered each week in her own home by her partner is evidence of a disturbing level of violence in Australian relationships.


    Easy to simply make an assertion without any argument to back up what you say but your assertion carries no weight in this argument.


    These issues are related and it’s astounding that the writer of this article avoided addressing them. It’s doubly astounding – after I raised the issue – that people commenting on my comments here want to ignore the significance of violence in marriage and permanent relationships and the relationship of that with rape and consent. Absolutely astonishing.


    The seriously disturbing fact that one Australian woman each week is being murdered in her own home by her partner is vital contextual background to the subject of rape and consent in our community. It’s been ignored for far too long.


    It’s the statistic which is obvious. Murder is far harder to cover up than violence or rape. It’s highly likely to indicate a lot more violence and rape is going on. All these issues are all related to the issue of consent.

  • Adam J

    BalancedObserver, the author of the article was being sarcastic when he referenced the Adam and Eve story. It was not a suggestion that people with that mindset are influencing the laws in our country.

  • BalancedObservation

    Adam

    Either way it doesn’t alter the main point I made – which you simply ignored.

  • lbloveday

    “… which you simply ignored”.
    .
    It is unnecessary, often pointless, to address every point, or even more than one, when replying to a comment, and to expect the responder to so do is unreasonable at best.

  • BalancedObservation

    lbloveday



    “It is unnecessary, often pointless, to address every point, or even more than one, when replying to a comment, and to expect the responder to so do is unreasonable at best.”


    Really? All I said in passing was that Adam ignored my main point.


    So it’s “unreasonable at best” to simply say in passing to a person that you ignored my main point.


    Look I don’t expect anyone to reply to the main point I may make or any point I make. It’s up to them. But I find it quite interesting that they continue to ignore it in a stream of comments when I’ve pointed directly to my main point again. But if they want to ignore it … it’s fine by me.


    I find it interesting that you’d want to accuse me of “unreasonable behaviour at best” simply pointing out in passing that someone ignored my main point.


    And on the specific point Adam raised … a lot of highly intelligent conservative people hold those religious views about Eve. I’ve reread the text a few times and it would be reasonable to assume the writer did. However he may or may not hold those views.


    But whether the writer did or not and whether the writer was being “sarcastic” or not about Eve has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with the main point I made.

  • SalivatorX

    Rape is a hot political topic and political tool. The traditional concept of a woman being violently penetrated by an unwelcome male is always our cultural reference point, and all the politics and cultural complexity starts from there. In many traditional (backward?) societies, where any kind of interaction between men and women is banned (unless they are married), the accusation of rape is often made by a woman, on finding herself pregnant to a lover. With a penalty of death (not for rape, but for violating social codes) it is in the interest of the female to save herself with that accusation. (Western feminists often use those news events to claim rape is tolerated or commonplace in Muslim or third world countries). Meanwhile, in the capitalist west, rape has been linguistically tied to sexual assault, and even sexual harassment for propaganda reasons. One in three women raped or sexually assaulted, is the headline we often see. Consequently, decent men and women are driven to paranoia about our deeply sexist and abusive society, which is actually a misleading representation. The commentator above cites 50 women a year murdered in Australia (with the assumption of sexual abuse). That’s around 1 in 10 million women a week, but somehow meant to represent the tip of an iceberg of abuse. Instead, the dozens of headline ‘rape’ and ‘sexual assault’ allegations that hit news headlines in Australia annually are mostly loaded with ambiguity and suspicious evidence. Many trials, in which the reputation of a male is trashed, reveal that the accusation of rape is lacking in substance or false. And the falsehoods are spectacular. Even in modern feminist times, women who feel scorned, or embarrassed by a sexual encounter weeks after the fact (even those who don’t get pregnant, even those who have not been penetrated by the phallus), resort to an accusation of rape, as an act of vengeance, or redemption. For the male, a good lawyer helps, or maybe some video footage that proves his innocence. The modern state (police, judges, politicians, editors, academics) favour the accuser. Woe to the average hetero male.

  • Catherine Parish

    Somehow, having twice undergone the ordeal of being raped and in great fear of having greater harm inflicted if I said no, I fail to appreciate the arch, flippant tone of this piece. Jonathan Swift the author is not.

  • Salvatore Babones

    Kind Readers,

    For the record, I do not believe that Adam and Eve ever existed, just in case anyone was in confusion on that point. However, I must admit that there is documentary evidence that they did:

    https://youtu.be/5i1_B5tJnzA

    Make of it what you will!

    Salvatore

  • Lewis P Buckingham

    SB Well there must have been a first man and woman, otherwise we could not exist.
    Sure, there was an evolving community.
    This is a good read.
    https://www.sciencenews.org/article/fossil-men-book-ardi-kermit-pattison-hominid-evolution

  • Alice Thermopolis

    SB, thank you.
    With the demise of romantic love, we seem to be lost in a maze of gender semantics and legal jargon, where the life force itself is being “cancelled” as a legitimate part of human life, at least in the West, hence the below-replacement birth rates in many developed countries. Cliff Richard would struggle with Multiplication today, as would countless other crooners who once celebrated love and innocence, not to mention Shakespeare, etc.
    As for IVF, it’s the way to go for the growing “single mother by choice” cohort, especially if Medicare broadens its current definition of infertility to include both biological infertility and apparently a new category, “social infertility”.

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