I just want to ask a quick question, because it’s something that I wonder every time I’m a part of a conversation about consent.
I am a huge, sign-waving fan of enthusiastic consent— also known as “yes means yes.” But, as Elfity noticed, many people seem either wholly skeptical of the idea, or they’re suspicious and downright antagonistic– and this reaction isn’t limited to Male Rights Activists (MRAs) and the red pill crowd (and no, no links. If you’re honestly curious, google. I won’t grace any of those places with traffic from my blog).
The basic difference between the “yes means yes” model and the “just say no” model is the difference between passive reception and active participation. One of the biggest proponents calls the “yes means yes” way of approaching sex as the “performance model.” You don’t waltz with a woman by dragging her marble statue body around a stage. You don’t perform in a band where the other people are stone-faced automotons that don’t create the music with you.
When I have sex with my husband, “I don’t just lay there, if that’s what you’re thinking.” Sometimes, I initiate. Sometimes he does. We rely mostly on physical cues– if he can tell that I’m not feeling well, he doesn’t push, and I do the same for him. Sometimes, though, if I haven’t been feeling well, he gently initiates something– slowly and tenderly, and always pays close attention to my response. He can tell, because he’s watching, that yes, I want sex, or no, rubbing my back is really nice, please keep doing that. We’ve established trust, and we know each other, and we can read each other. There are all kinds of ways that we can identify consent.
Anyway, when I talk about consent– here on my blog, in real life, on other internet spaces– I frequently bump into something that honestly, at this point, I find incredibly disturbing. The internet has exploded about this topic in particular, and I just want to throw something out there.
Lots of people are asking about sex and alcohol. And, something that I’ve noticed a lot is that men have a problem with being told that having sex with a woman too drunk to consent is either a) a horrifically bad idea or b) rape. I think this issue is worth talking about, and I don’t have a hard-and-fast answer. I just have a question:
Men, why do you so vehemently defend your desire to have sex with unresponsive women?
Why is it that this comes up so much? What is it about having sex with a semi-unconscious woman that’s so damn appealing? What is it about having sex with a woman who won’t remember who you are the next day, or her memories of her experience with you are vague and non-specific?
Why do you want to have sex like that? Doesn’t that seem really predatory to you?
To me, this demonstrates that men seem to be much more interested in shoving their penis into someone–anyone’s– vagina a couple of times than they are in having a mutually pleasurable experience. One night stands where you never see each other again, one night stands that lead into something more– whatever, that’s up to you. But what is it about sex with women who are so drunk that you’re not entirely sure if she wants to have sex with you but hey, she’s not saying no, so let’s just have terrible, terrible “sex”? Why is that something you so vociferously defend?
Is there something about having sex with a woman who is enthusiastic about having sex with you that’s a turn off? Why isn’t having sex with women who want to have sex with you something we’re not framing as a really fantastic, awesome goal? Why does it seem to be the goal to get women so drunk that they are “willing” to have sex with you that they wouldn’t be willing to have with you sober?
I’m genuinely confused about this. Why is the bar so incredibly low?
I’m not comfortable with calling every single sexual encounter a person has with an inebriated person rape. I’m still wrestling with this issue, and I think that “it depends” is going to be as close an answer that I ever arrive at. However, I don’t think that focusing on “when is it rape?” is really the most productive thing we can be doing. I think we should be re-framing the entire conversation. I think we should be encouraging people to have amazing sex. I think we should be encouraging a model of sex where the participants are involved, and interested, and having a fun time.
I think that as long as we keep trying to hammer how “how drunk does she have to be in order for it to be rape?” we’re going to be running in circles. Instead, why aren’t we asking the question– isn’t it predatory behavior for a man (or woman) to target drunk women (or men), regardless of whether or not it’s rape? Because that’s what it comes down to for me. Having sex with someone who can’t be an active, interested, enthusiastic participant is a bad idea. And yes, that includes the fact that it is very often not just terrible sex, but rape.
Just to be crystal clear: the law defines rape as including the inability to give consent to sex, and that removes any possibility for a woman to give consent to sex while intoxicated. Legally, having sex with someone incapable of giving consent is rape. Period. Full stop. That is the legal definition of rape, and that is how the law prosecutes rapists.
Whether or not the woman involved feels that it is rape and decides to press chargers– entirely up to her. If she decides to press charges, though, it does not matter what the man thought about her consent the night before. If he had sex with an intoxicated woman, in the eyes of the law, he raped her. This is called rape by intoxication. Look it up.
However, I still think it’s important to talk about this issue as not necessarily that black-and-white. The law is black and white. People are not. We have to make decisions in the day-to-day, and that means that things are going to occasionally look gray. So, let’s take a step back and ask ourselves: why do men want to have sex with women who wouldn’t consent to having sex with them sober? Why is it a socially acceptable goal for men to get women drunk in order to have sex with them? Why is this behavior that we encourage? Why do we think this is ok when what we’re encouraging is really horrible, terrible, one-sided sex at the very best, and rape at the very worst?
And why do we defend their “right” to do this? And no, “because men are horny” is not a good enough answer. Women are horny, too, women want sex, too, and women are having just as many one-night stands as men are, so don’t give me that bull. Straight men are having sex with straight women every single time they do it, so this is just really basic math.
Our culture is built on men being predators, and this seems to be something we do our dead-level best to defend. Why?
I am very interested in having a conversation about this. I hammered this out really quickly, so I’m open to you taking issue with my wordings as well as my argument. Show me I’m wrong– from either point of view. Maybe I’m being to permissive about intoxicated sex. Maybe you think the opposite. Let me know.