Friday, July 30, 2010

Rape by deception

I think we can all agree that a man who impersonates his identical twin to have sex with that twin's friend or partner is a species of rapist. The issue of consent is very clear--none is given.

But a recent case in Israel raises some fundamental questions about the nature of consent. In this instance, a Muslim who adopted a Jewish name had sexual relations with a Jewish woman. He's now doing 18 months in jail.

The man, an Arab Israeli by the name of Sabbar Kashur, told a woman he met at a bar that his name was "Dudu," a diminutive of Daniel David. That was all the silver-tongued devil had to do, apparently: the two of them immediately went to a nearby office building and had a quickie. When she found out he wasn't Jewish, though, she had him successfully prosecuted for rape.

The Ottawa Citizen's Janice Kennedy peels away some of the layers of this onion today. This case has set off a raging controversy in Israel. Journalist Gideon Levy writes in Ha'aretz:

Don't [the judges] realize that their verdict has the uncomfortable smell of racial purity, of "don't touch our daughters"? That it expresses the yearning of the extensive segments of society that would like to ban sexual relations between Arabs and Jews?

It was no coincidence that this verdict attracted the attention of foreign correspondents in Israel, temporary visitors who see every blemish. Yes, in German or Afrikaans this disgraceful verdict would have sounded much worse.

Hear, hear. But the issue goes deeper than fraught ethnic relations in the Middle East. Put the latter in brackets for a moment. Was this rape, or was it not?

Full consent can only be given on the basis of trust. Abuse of that trust makes the question of full consent problematic. But if we take an absolutist position on that, any lie by means of which one person obtains sex with another would qualify as rape.

"I had a vasectomy."

"I make $200K."

"I'm on the pill."

"Married? Heck, no."

"I don't have any kids."

"I'm 39."

Note that a lot of these assurances are gender-neutral. People lie to get other people into bed with them all the time. That's immoral, even reprehensible. But is it--or should it be--a crime?

Discussion welcome.

No comments: