Real lives: Debate: Does unsafe sex against your will amount to rape?

YES

IT DOESN'T matter whether a woman knows the man, whether he was a date, a trusted friend or a partner, what matters is whether she consented to sex on that occasion. A woman in a case reported this week withdrew her consent when the man refused to wear a condom. He ignored her requests and carried on - so, in my view, he raped her.

The case confirms again that the way evidence is presented and judges direct are crucial. Juries are encouraged to decide not whether the woman was raped but whether she deserves the law's protection. Judge Goldstein said it was a case of "millennium mores" and told the jury to bring their experience of living in the Eighties and Nineties to bear on the verdict, as if rape is the price women pay for having more sexual freedom. Goldstein should be sacked because his comments perpetrate sexism and the discrimination women face throughout the criminal justice process, which gives men a licence to rape.

More women are reporting rape, but the conviction rate is falling. Women making a complaint are still likely to face sexist indifference or racism; inaccurate statements; ineffective gathering of evidence; inadequate and even brutal forensic medical examiners; notorious reluctance to prosecute by the Crown Prosecution Service; and in the minority of cases which reach court, a trial that many describe as the "second rape". No wonder only one in 12 women report rape, and only one in 200 rapes result in conviction. The fact that in this case the accused man was a policeman makes it worse because when women go to the police, they need to expect to be believed?

Accusing women of not knowing their minds, or sending "wrong signals", or having a propensity to lie conveniently hides men's refusal to take no for an answer and the justice system's refusal to prosecute them for it.

Over 200 organisations supported our call for an end to judges' discretion to allow irrelevant, discriminatory questions about women's sexual history in court. Bowing to pressure, the Government made some changes to the law, but loopholes still allow barristers to put women's private life on trial, argue that the man believed the victim consented, and so introduce sexual history evidence to support that belief - even about children.

Women should not go into the new millennium expecting another 1,000 years of rape - we are entitled to respect in sexual relationships, and won't accept less - from any man or judge.

Anne Neale is a spokeswoman for Women Against Rape.

NO

MR X AND MS Y are lovers. They go to a party at a pub. Half-way through the evening, X phones an old girlfriend. Y finds out and is upset. But later, she goes back to his room and they have sex.

Y wants X to use a condom. X, who is drunk, keeps going. But when Y starts crying he pulls out. They fall asleep. In the morning X promises to call Y. But he later meets his ex-girlfriend and forgets about Y. Twelve days later she tells the police she's been raped.

Would you convict Mr X? Last week, a jury of seven women and five men did not. Following the judge's advice to look at their experience of modern relationships, they took just two hours to deliver a not-guilty verdict.

Jack Straw is keen to find means of ensuring juries convict alleged rapists more frequently. So why did this jury easily conclude X was innocent? Well, the accuser had consented to having sex with Mr X so long as he wore a condom, and there was never a suggestion harm had come to her as a result of being unprotected.

Plus, he stopped. Mr X may have been slow to understand that no meant no. But his senses were dulled by drink. Should having sex when drunk become a criminal offence? Is even this Government nannying enough to start a "Don't drink and shag" campaign?

Perhaps it should. For X and Y were trapped in a collision between clashing social trends. First comes the increasing equality of promiscuity between men and women. Research suggests young Britons of both sexes drink, use drugs and copulate with more partners than virtually anyone else in the Western world. Young women take pride in being stronger, sassier than men.

So the idea women are innocent is absurdly outdated. Yet attempts to broaden the definition of rape to take in virtually any unwished-for sexual experience rest on the Victorian presumption that women are the weaker sex, whose chastity is so sacred any breach of it demands punishment. Equality be damned: women can impose conditions on sex and men have a limitless duty to obey.

Add to this an inclination to see any misfortune as victimisation, requiring retribution. Ms Y's post-trial comments, "I feel extremely bitter. I've been crying constantly," suggest someone who defines herself by her suffering and is devastated it has not been recognised.

Wouldn't she have been happier if she'd decided that X was a bastard, been savagely rude about him and got over it? Or could it be she wanted revenge for being led on and left for another woman? There's a big difference between sexual assault and bad sex. The jury recognised that and Mr X left court with his freedom. He may not have been a gent but - for the time being at any rate - that's not a crime.

David Thomas is author of 'Not Guilty: In Defence Of Men', Weidenfeld & Nicholson.

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