In Sweden, No Means No Unless He Doesn’t Think She Means it

Do you ever have one of those days where you wish you could transform into a rage fireball, turn the entire planet into a molten, smoldering hellscape, then move to the moon to live alone and in peace with your cat? Yeah, I’m having one of those days.

Why is living on a lonely wasteland preferable to the crowded lusciousness that is Earth? Oh, I don’t know. Maybe it’s the traffic, or the noise. Or maybe it’s a recent court decision out of Sweden that basically allows someone to get away with rape if that person didn’t realize the sex was unwanted – even if the victim was screaming their objections.

Here is what happened, as reported by the Swedish English-language news site, The Local: An unnamed man and women, who did not previously know each other, met at a restaurant. They went to his place and fooled around a little. However, when the man started to initiate sex, the woman said no. But he kept going. She kept saying no. According to The Local, the woman screamed so loudly that she eventually lost her voice, and the man put his hand over her mouth and nose and slapped her in the face. She said that he got more aggressive the more she protested and that he “seemed to like it.”

The defense? He said that he didn’t think she meant it. He thought she just liked it rough. He’d been with other girls who liked it rough, so why should he believe that this girl didn’t? I mean other than the fact that there was no indication that she was into that sort of thing.

Seems like a pretty clear cut case. A classic rape case, even. Women are often asked why they didn’t put up more of a fight. It sounds like this woman was pretty clear about her objections. She said no, he forced himself onto her anyway. That is otherwise known as rape.

Not so, said the court. The court said that both versions of what happened were credible and in agreement. And, come on bro. He didn’t mean to rape her:

Among other things, the court said it was clear that the 27-year-old had used violence to force the woman to have sex with him and that the woman’s “muted protests” could be attributed to fear that the man might become even more aggressive.

However, the court tossed out the rape charge, ruling it had not been proven that the 27-year-old had acted with intent to act against the woman’s wishes. The verdict cited the suspect’s explanation that he thought the woman’s protests were part of a violent sex game, despite the lack of an explicit agreement or consent between the two parties about dominant sexual role play.

I’m not an expert in Swedish criminal law by any stretch, but I am a lawyer, so let’s see what we can make of this absurd decision. In a translated version of Sweden’s criminal statutes, the crime of rape is defined as:

A person who by assault or otherwise by violence or by threat of a criminal act forces another person to have sexual intercourse or to undertake or endure another sexual act that, having regard to the nature of the violation and the circumstances in general, is comparable to sexual intercourse, shall be sentenced for rape to imprisonment for at least two and at most six years.

There is a thing in the law called mens rea, which means that someone has to knowingly commit a crime. For example, let’s say you found a dollar sitting on the table. The dollar is really your sister’s, but you thought it was yours that you left there the night before. So you pocket the money. Later your sister claims you stole from her. If the crime of theft is defined as knowingly taking something that isn’t yours, then you didn’t steal the dollar because you thought it was yours the whole time. You didn’t have the mens rea required to be guilty of the crime.

It doesn’t look like there is an element of mens rea in the Swedish rape statute. The statute seems pretty clear; if you assault someone or threaten someone into having sex with you, you’ve raped someone. Perhaps, since the man claims to have just been involved in rough sex, the judge thought it was possible that the man wasn’t threatening anything or wasn’t using violence as a way to force this woman to have sex with him. From what I can tell, that’s the only way this decision makes sense, and it may have been why the judge apparently felt an acquittal was justified and, in fact, has doubled down on his decision.

Perhaps the real problem in this case is how women aren’t trusted. Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that the man in this case really did think that the women just wanted rough sex. This seems like a totally unreasonable assumption. She was screaming no over and over again until she lost her voice. There was no agreement beforehand that they would engage in rough sex. The only way this mindset of his makes sense is if he doesn’t trust women to know what they want and express what they want. In short, this only make sense if he doesn’t trust women.

This is just an extreme case of how women are treated every day. Recently Jezebel reported on a man who thought that women have it totally easy on online dating sites. So, out of boredom, he created an online dating profile on OKCupid. He barely lasted two hours before the harassment drove him to delete the account. The guy learned an important lesson, for sure. But what if he’d just trusted that women are accurately reporting the harassment they get? I mean, it’s not like there has been a dearth of reports of online harassment.

Of course there is no One Lived Experience for all women. But that makes it all the more important to listen to and actually believe women (and people of color, and LGBT people, etc.) when they tell you what they like, what they don’t like, what happens to them, and so on. Some women like rough sex, but some don’t, and just because you’ve been with some women who like it doesn’t mean you can assume all women do. I feel like this is just Being a Decent Person 101, but apparently it needs to be said ad nauseam. If we did a little more listening and a lot less assuming, we’d all be in a better place.

Photo Credit: Thinkstock


Manuela C.
Manuela C3 years ago

I'm getting tired of this man's world...

Rainbow W.
.3 years ago

Correction: couldn't understand an SMS.

Rainbow W.
.3 years ago

Stephen B. I postulated this. There is no evidence that she was into rough sex. The report mentions no "safe word" or agreement. B & D is very uniform. There must be a meeting of the minds and trust. These elements were not present. It is very evident she was protesting. "Among other things, the court said it was clear that the 27-year-old had used violence to force the woman to have sex with him and that the woman's "muted protests" could be attributed to fear that the man might become even more aggressive." How then legally did they come to the conclusion that it was consensual? Very flawed argument. Swede has particularly backward laws concerning rape. Even worse punishment record.

[][] "Most rape charges in Sweden just get dropped,"

Here's one for you Ronnie boy. A man gets raped at knife point by another man, the perpetrator gets sentence for TWO years, it gets thrown out on appeal because the victim could understand an SMS. []

[Remind me never to go to Sweden. As pretty as I am who knows what could happen :]]]]

Stephen Brian
Stephen Brian3 years ago

I just realized there may be another side to this that could easily have been omitted from reports: If they were playing rough, they may have set up a "safe word". If she said "no" instead f the "safe word" to stop him, then he could reasonably have believed that she didn't mean it and even had her prior expressed consent to continue even if she said "no" (unless she also said the "safe word"). Forgetting a "safe word" can be very, very bad, but in that case, taking the whole conversation at face-value, he may have had consent.

Karen H.
Karen H3 years ago

One question, Ron. Who was falsely accused of rape? You, a friend, a relative? You're so hung up on false accusations that there has to be a reason. If you or someone you know were falsely accused, I'm sorry. But that does not mean every claim of "He raped me" is a lie.
Do you know what a woman goes through after accusing a man of rape? She's raped a second time. Every orifice is examined, swabbed and photographed. She's questioned, often by people who don't seem to care what she went through. The process can take hours. It should take about 3 weeks for the kit to be processed, but many go unprocessed for decades, if at all.
After finding 1,900 unprocessed rape kits in ONE county, an Assemblywoman in California proposed a bill that would require rape kits to be sent to the lab within FIVE DAYS. How many of the 1,900 kits are now outside the statute of limitations?
Does that sound like fun, Ron? Does it sound like something a woman would put herself through for jollies?

Rainbow W.
.3 years ago

"you have said EVERYTHING my rapist said. he raped two little girls and three women."
Indeed, Alex. I have seen abusers use the same excuses. Abusers never take responsibility. When one actually does I am stunned or suspicious. Either they are trying to get reduced sentences or sometimes they didn't commit. I have seen parents falsely accused make a plea and the conditions of that plea was that the child not to be put through further trauma. Those are usually the ones that are recanted by the child as an adult.

Rainbow W.
.3 years ago

Here's ole Ronnie boy justifying rape. Doesn't surprise me. Should give the Swedish women a head's up if you plan on visiting anytime soon.

"I read on a mens rights site advice that men should video tape their sexual encounters so that they can prove there was no rape.."
Or so they can post it on the net and make a couple of bucks. " mens rights site" You crack me up. Poor men have lost some of the rights to rape, steal and subjugate.

We went over this on the other thread with you and the other stooges. Of course everyone deserves a fair trial and there are false allegations [maybe even more so then we know] but does that justify letting a rapist walk when they fully admit to forcing someone but use the excuse "I thought they wanted it". That BS is straight from abusers handbook of excuses. And what's worse is courts believing them.

"sorry I dont agree"
Convoluted reasoning [and I use that word loosely]. So you would rather more potential rapists be let off than protect hundreds of potential victims? Funny you were arguing just the opposite on another thread when it came to female offenders.

Of course only a perpetrator would like to see laws lax so they can hunt.

Gloria H.
Gloria H3 years ago

Ive gone on ok cupid. There are hundreds of questions to ask/answer in order to find a match. Some of the questions are downright raunchy. A woman would have to be crazy to answer some of the intimate ones (yet, there are crazy women out there). Dollars to donuts the questions the guys ask are from slimballs you wouldn't want to meet in a dark alley, or in broad daylight in the middle of a packed football stadium surrounded by man eatting/hating tigers.
We as women have to stand up against the rape culture-she's asking for it crap. Until we voice our objection wherever we hear that stupid comment, men will go on thinking about their little rape fantasies. We need to shut up the politicians big time whenever they put down women. Our neighborhood/family idiots need to get called out on too. But as long as celebs and big shots/sports figures/etc get attention and agreement we will continue to suffer.

alex l.
alex l3 years ago

Ron C - all this concern for the men "falsely accused" falls flat when one looks at the post you made saying men can't help themselves when they are excited.

and Ron - no other crime has lower false accusation rates, or a more skewed victims base.
if it was men raping men you would never say the one percent are more important than the 99%. yup Ron, those 1% are the reason 97% of male rapists go free - the feeling that it is better to put a man who rapes women back on the streets than it is to put any of them in jail.

if it was men raping men you wouldn't even talk about the false accusation.

you are a rape apologist, and Ron?
you have said EVERYTHING my rapist said. he raped two little girls and three women.

he'd love you.

Ron C.
Ron C3 years ago

I read on a mens rights site advice that men should video tape their sexual encounters so that they can prove there was no rape...because it is perceived that false accusations are becoming very very common. I suppose women could do the same thing so they have proof of rape. But, this seems a little creepy and leaves too much opportinity for abuse and could be worse than the problem we have now. I dont know what the solution is...but it is more nuanced than simply putting all men accused of rape in prison.