“Sleep Sex” Is Not A Real Thing, But Raping Someone While They Sleep Is

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Advice columns bring out the worst in journalism outlets, I have found, and Nerve.com is no exception. Today, the website asked readers to play “advice columnist” and dish out advice to a woman who had written asking what to do about her boyfriend who raped her while she was sleeping. She had taken a sleeping pill while drunk, after coming home alone, and was so deeply asleep she didn’t even hear her boyfriend come home that night. But when she woke up in the morning, she realized he had raped her during the night. “Did we have sex last night?” she asked him. “Well, one of us did,” the boyfriend said, laughing. The woman then wrote in to Nerve.com saying she no longer trusts him and asks for advice on what to do.

And Nerve, for some reason, chose to title this post, “Please Advice: My Boyfriend Had Sex With Me While I Was Asleep.” Uh, come again? “Had sex” wit hher? FACT: a person who is asleep — not to mention drunk and on a sleeping pill — cannot consent to sex. Her boyfriend didn’t “have sex” with her. Her boyfriend raped her.

Thankfully many commenters are weighing in, rightfully informing this woman she was raped and should leave her rapist boyfriend immediately. But other commenters are finding myriad “but, but, but” excuses to condone the boyfriend’s behavior. Maybe she was talking in her sleep and sounded awake!  Other commenters have suggested this is “mild rape” and not such a big deal, despite the fact the original letter writer repeatedly says her trust was violated and is clearly upset by what happened.

That post on Nerve.com is the second time in the past few days that I have read about “sleep rape.” Over the weekend, the UK’s Daily Mail ran an article by a woman whose boyfriend raped while she slept over the course of two years. Naomi Hampson’s boyfriend used to sedate her and take pictures of her while he raped her. The Daily Mail at least had the good sense to use “raped” in the headline and throughout the piece. It’s not good when the consistently-sexist-BS “The Daily Fail” bests you on a rape story, Nerve! However, the Mail did “explain” her rapist boyfriend had somnophilia, which is a sexual attraction to sleeping people. Attraction to sleeping people is one thing; sedating someone and taking photographs while you rape them is entirely different.

This is where we could all use a reminder of the concept of “enthusiastic consent,” which means a partner is enthusiastically willing to have sex and makes it clear through their language and/or behavior. Consent is not about the absence of a “no”; consent is about the presence of a “yes.” Just because someone does not physically prevent you from raping them — because they are drunk, on drugs, physically disabled, or asleep — does not mean you  have the green light to do whatever you want. And just because the person that raped you is your boyfriend/girlfriend/husband/wife does not mean their sexual violation of you is not sexual assault.

I know there are some people — Amelia, for instance — who think that a longtime partner initiating sex while you are sleeping can be kinda sexy, provided you have talked about it before. Several men have told me over the years that they think being woken up to a blowjob would be hot. Other people, like me, would never feel comfortable with any sleep nooky, ever. Ultimately this comes down to being a discussion each couples need to have prior to it happening.

Anything else is just plain wrong.

[Nerve]

[Daily Mail UK]

 Contact the author of this post at Jessica@TheFrisky.com. Follow me on Twitter.

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