Comedian Amy Schumer recently gave a speech at the Ms. Foundation for Women’s Gloria Awards and Gala, an event dedicated to saluting “women of vision.” Her speech then went viral, many people praising its powerful message.
After seeing my Facebook newsfeed explode with “<3 Amy” statuses, I decided to read a transcript of her monologue. Amy talks about her experience of graduating from high school and going to college, losing her confidence along the way. By the end of her story, she finds her self-worth. I don’t take issue with this at all. It’s a very familiar (yet important) message, one of which any person can relate.
What I did find uncharacteristic about Amy’s speech was the possible rape she might have committed in order to find her self-worth.
Early on in the narrative, Amy details how she lacked attention from all the guys at college save one, a “super senior” named Matt. One day Matt calls her at 8 am, inviting Amy over to his dorm room. When Amy goes to his dorm room, she immediately recognizes that he is drunk:
Finally, the door opens. It’s Matt, but not really. He’s there, but not really. His face is kind of distorted, and his eyes seem like he can’t focus on me. He’s actually trying to see me from the side, like a shark. “Hey!” he yells, too loud, and gives me a hug, too hard. He’s fucking wasted.
This doesn’t stop Amy from going into his room. According to her, she just wants to feel desired. She gets into bed with him, and they have some incredibly awkward forms of sexual intercourse:
His fingers poked inside me like they had lost their keys in there. And then came the sex, and I use that word very loosely. His penis was so soft, it felt like one of those de-stress things that slips from your hand?
I won’t give you all the details, but it is important to note that Matt was repeatedly falling asleep during the encounter, according to Amy’s story. It gives an indication as to how impaired Matt was, and how Amy let it continue despite the interruptions.
So, is it rape? Many people feel as if drunken consent is not true consent. Regardless of your personal opinion, Amy’s actions may have constituted as rape in the eyes of her college, Towson University. Here is Towson’s policy on sexual harassment, although one can’t be sure that it hasn’t changed since Amy’s awkward experience:
In order to give effective Consent, one must not be mentally or physical incapacitated (e.g., by alcohol or drugs, unconsciousness, mental disability).
It’s hard to argue that Matt was not mentally incapacitated. In Amy’s words, he was “wasted.” While some may argue that his errant behavior could be the product of not sleeping, this fact would only multiply the effect of alcohol.
In the eyes of Maryland state law, things get a bit more complicated. Amy could be guilty of rape or sexual assault depending on whether or not penetration was achieved. According to the state law, a person may not engage in vaginal intercourse with another “if the victim is a mentally defective individual, a mentally incapacitated individual, or a physically helpless individual, and the person performing the act knows or reasonably should know that the victim is a mentally defective individual, a mentally incapacitated individual, or a physically helpless individual.” Legally, it’s hard to argue that it wasn’t rape, at least given the details in Amy’s speech.
Society, however, might not have the same viewpoint. Had the roles been reversed, people’s reactions to the speech would have been wholly different. How would it look if a sober guy takes advantage of a drunken girl who keeps passing out? Does the world have enough pitchforks for such a mob? The sober guy would serve as irrefutable proof of “rape culture,” and the incapacitated girl would be the victim.
Instead of outrage, Schumer received praise. Not only did people find her speech inspirational, they found it funny. She spends much of the time sex shaming the person she might have raped, and people thought it was both hilarious and brave. It’s not hard to believe, we’ve been laughing at men getting raped for a long time. Take a look at movies like Wedding Crashers, and Get Him to the Greek. Rape is simply a comedic tool when it’s placed upon men. More disturbingly, maybe society doesn’t believe men can be raped at all.