January 3, 2009

Marriage and Entitlement

I can't seem to get through a day without finding a blog post that makes me boiling mad. Today, it was a story about a woman charged with battery for defending herself while she was being raped by her husband.

He was released with no charges, by the way.

The story goes as follows:

After a night of drinking, Charris Bowers and her husband arrived at their Deltona home late Saturday and began having oral sex, the report says.
But moments later as Bowers and her spouse, Delou, engaged in the act, she began biting down hard enough that Delou Bowers asked her to stop, the report says.
When she refused, Delou Bowers started punching Charris Bowers in the head and face until she finally let go, the report says.
That wasn't enough, according to the report. Charris Bowers then attempted to punch her husband and he shoved her to the ground and left the room.
Charris Bowers told deputies that she bit her husband because she did not want to have sex.

Generally, when one is forced to engage in sex without consent, it's called rape. In this case, it's apparently innocent marital fun that ended in a terrible crazy female assault.

After reading a bunch of posts on the topic, I thought of some words of wisdom from everyone's favorite right-wing nutjob, Dennis Prager, whose opinion regarding marital sex is as follows:

What if your husband woke up one day and announced that he was not in the mood to go to work? If this happened a few times a year, any wife would have sympathy for her hardworking husband. But what if this happened as often as many wives announce that they are not in the mood to have sex?

That's right, ladies. Having sex with your husband is your job; refusing is terribly irresponsible. And can, apparently, lead to your arrest, if your refusal turns into violent self-defense.

As Yes Means Yes points out, the column constantly describes sex as a wife "giving her body" to her husband. And then compares it to a job; I'm assuming the husband is the employer? Dennis crafts a world in which sex is an object to be given, and by getting married, the woman is handing over ownership.

But wait! You might cry. Isn't sex supposed to be more of a shared experience than something to be given or owned?

Fortunately, Dennis is here to correct our silly feminine notions of sex.

Many contemporary women have an almost exclusively romantic notion of sex: It should always be mutually desired and equally satisfying or one should not engage in it. Therefore, if a couple engages in sexual relations when he wants it and she does not, the act is “dehumanizing” and “mechanical.”

Yes, mutually enjoyable sex is a silly myth. (Personally, I can't see why any guy would want "mechanical" sex, but what would I know?)

It sounds ridiculous (because it is,) but ideas like this obviously aren't limited to the world of crazy fundamentalist columnists. If we didn't assume consent came with marriage, would Charris Bowers be arrested for defending herself against unwanted sex with her husband?


Chris Casey said...

It's always horrible when what should be a loving act, ends in violence, but your characterization of this incident doesn't match the description from the story you cited.

You wrote that you were angered by a story about, "a woman charged with battery for defending herself while she was being raped by her husband."

The story you cite, describes a husband and wife who were engaged in oral sex, when the wife then began to bite his penis, and that he hit her in response to her refusal to stop biting. The story offers no suggestion that the act of oral sex was non-consensual. The Shakesville post you linked to claims the oral sex was non-consensual, and if so, then I agree this would be a sexual assault.

I found other articles, including this one, that report the woman as giving two stories, first that he put his penis in her mouth unwillingly and that she bit him in response, and second that he approached her with his penis out, and that she bit it. I find it difficult to imagine how he could have gotten his penis into a unwilling mouth without things having been violent from the start, which none of the reporting claims it to have been.

Only the man and woman involved know what really happened. Obviously this was drunk sex gone bad. But none of the reporting I have yet seen describing the incident match your characterization that this penis-biting was a woman 'defending herself while being raped'.

Spiffy said...

Fair enough. Caitlin pointed out too that the article I cited didn't really seem to give the whole story; I was honestly more interested in the commentary and the tie to the awful Dennis Prager article, haha.

Domestic violence cases are always a mess, and this is certainly no exception. But given the high arrest/conviction rate of women who fight back (mentioned in the Shakesville article), I feel like there's still some sense of entitlement involved, even if there's probably more to the story in this particular case.