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Sex, lies and, er, rape

A recent conviction in the ACT makes rapists of us all

28 February 2015

9:00 AM

28 February 2015

9:00 AM

Wait — it’s now a crime to fib your way into bed with someone? That is the take-home message of the Kafkaesque case of Akis Emmanouel Livas, who recently was sentenced to eight months in prison by the ACT Supreme Court for having sex with a prostitute and then handing her an envelope that he said contained cash but which didn’t.

He’s been banged up for having sex without consent, for rape, effectively. Not for forcing someone into sex or using threats to get sex, but for telling a lie before sex. The precedent set by this case is terrifying. Show me someone who hasn’t at some point in their life said something less than totally true in the pursuit of sex, and I’ll show you a liar. We are all rapists if using fabrication or bravado to get laid is now rape.

There is no doubt that Livas, 52, is a slimeball with all the moral depth of a dingo. His lie-covered sexual encounter with the prostitute took place in October 2010, in Canberra. He first had sex with her at the beginning of that month. He was $50 short of the whole fee and promised to make up for it at their next get-together. But he didn’t, the rotter. Instead, after the second sex act at the end of the month, he handed the prostitute an envelope which he claimed contained $850 — the agreed fee plus the $50 he owed — and said, ‘Don’t open it now… it’s part of my fantasy that it’s all about the romance’. You can guess why he really didn’t want her to open it — yep, nothing to do with some weird romance fantasy and everything to do with the fact that the envelope contained not a red cent. Its contents were a paper bag folded up to resemble a wad of cash and a white card with a red rose printed on it. What a creep.

So yes, Livas is a loser, a john, and a cheapskate, who has to trick hookers into turning tricks presumably because he can’t get a girl of his own. What’s worse, after he was arrested in 2010 he did a runner, only to be discovered by cops at his mum’s house in 2013 (dude, you’re 52 years old — get a room). But is he a rapist? I don’t think so. I think he’s suffered a miscarriage of justice. Because the fact is, the prostitute consented to have sex with him — she just didn’t know all the facts in advance.

The prostitute says that when she opened the cashless envelope, she felt ‘internally violated’. I have no doubt this is true. She was hoodwinked, taken advantage of; that is repulsive. But she also says: ‘I am a rape victim.’ This, I’m afraid, I do doubt. If sex entered into willingly can become rape later on, after some new fact comes to light, then who can say, hand on heart, that they’ve never raped someone?


What about the student who gets a girl into bed by claiming to come from a rich family when in fact he doesn’t have two cents to rub together? Rapist?

How about the man who tells a woman he loves her when really he only loves her body and wants to ravish it? Rapist?

Or to flip the sexes — because, thankfully, women are now as free to procure sex as men always have been — what about the single mum who tells the man down the pub she doesn’t have any kids because she thinks such knowledge would put him off a nighttime of nookie? Rapist?

Of course these people aren’t rapists. They’re just little white liars, cynical self-promoters, human beings. Pretty much everyone, usually when they’re young, has shit-talked in order to clinch a post-pub knee-trembler — it isn’t big or clever, no, but it also isn’t rape, surely. Well, it could be now. Livas has been jailed for doing a slimier version of what folks have done for yonks.

This case speaks to — formalises, in fact — the Orwellian redefinition of rape. Slowly but surely, and largely uncontroversially, rape has gone from being an act of forced intercourse to ‘sex without consent’. But these are quite different things. In the past, rape was understood to mean sex carried out in defiance of a lack of consent — that is, the rapist knew consent was absent but went ahead anyway. ‘Sex without consent’ is a far less active, less conscious and more amorphous category, encapsulating everything from drunken sex to regretted sex to, now, it seems, dishonest sex. The old crime of rape punished intent and violence; the new crime of ‘sex without consent’ punishes stupidity, dishonesty, the everyday mess of intimate relations.

The redefinition of rape is generating wildly inflated crime figures. We’re constantly told that one in five or one in four women in the West has been raped. It’s codswallop. As the American feminist Christina Hoff Sommers has pointed out, the surveys that claim to uncover a ‘rape epidemic’ in Western nations tend to ask respondents whether they’ve ever had sex while ‘drunk, high, drugged or passed out and unable to consent’. These are massively different things. If someone has sex with you when you’re passed out, that’s an outrage. But when you’re blind drunk, and he’s blind drunk, and no one knows what the hell is going on?

If that’s rape, then arrest everyone who was at my university in the 1990s, including me.

Behind the redefinition of rape there lurks a prudish, authoritarian urge to problematise sex itself, a tendency among the state and its apologists to view with suspicion the usually hidden, passionate and unpredictable sexual encounters among the throng, the heaving mass of humanity. And if you criticise this new treatment of silly, beer-fuelled or lie-enabled sex as rape, you’ll find yourself in hot water: terms like ‘rape apologist’ and ‘rape denier’ are bandied about to demonise anyone who raises any peep of criticism of the rape hysteria. Ask awkward questions about this moral panic and it won’t be long before someone somewhere says: ‘Why’s he saying these things? Is he a rapist?’

No, a concern for factual correctness, justice and due process does not make one a rape apologist; it makes one a humanist. And it’s for humanist reasons that Livas should be let out of jail — because it is a shockingly illiberal and out-of-control society that locks people up for having bad sex.

Brendan O’Neill is the editor of Spiked and a regular contributor to The Spectator Australia.


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