I’m sure we all have some friends who’ve posed that little “innocent question”: If you rape a prostitute, is it rape or theft? I’m sure some of you reading this have been that person who’ve asked that question and thought it was funny as hell. Don’t dwell on it; we’ve all said and done some things we’re not proud of, but we can all learn, grow and improve.
There’s this judge in Pennsylvania, who has ruled in a criminal case that it really is just theft.
“She consented and she didn’t get paid,” she explained to the Daily News. “I thought it was a robbery.” She also said the case “minimizes true rape cases and demeans women who are really raped.”
We might ask: was this case strictly a matter of a john refusing to pay the sex worker after he fucked her? Were all factors equal except the payment? Well…
According to reports, a 20-year-old single mother agreed to sex with the defendant, Dominique Gindraw, in exchange for $150. After plans were made over Craigslist, the woman headed to a location that she thought was his home, but was actually an abandoned building. She agreed to have sex with his friend for another $100, but the friend brought a gun instead of money. Then two more men arrived, and “the four forced her to have sex at gunpoint,” according to the Philadelphia Daily News.
Just to be clear: she consented to have sex with two guys, in a private home, under non-violent circumstances.
She did NOT consent to get fucked by four guys, in an abandoned building, with a gun to her head.
When we examine the perpetrators’ actions, and not just focus on the victim’s shortcomings, we see that Mr. Grindaw used this woman’s occupation to lure her into a place where she couldn’t escape. Those two other guys didn’t just pop up out of nowhere. They didn’t just forget to bring the money to pay the whore. They conspired and planned to rape her because they were fairly sure they’d get away with it.
And sure enough, Judge Teresa Carr Deni apparently thinks that if they’d just thrown some money at her as they left the scene, it would have been totally okay.
The idea that the rape of a sex worker is merely “theft” rather than “violence” is a pervasive, yet under-discussed aspect of rape culture. This is the idea that some people are “unrapeable,” not in the sense that they’re off-limits, but in the sense that they have no boundaries, so any violence inflicted on them is meaningless. I guess the idea is that if such a person struggles and protests when you fuck her, it’s all a show? She’s just playing around, and she’ll forget all about it by the next morning?
A vital part of dismantling rape culture is to chuck out the idea that a woman has no sexual boundaries at all if she doesn’t set her boundaries in the way society approves. The difference between “if she’s a prostitute it’s just theft” and “it’s not rape if she isn’t a virgin” is really just a matter of degree.