Feminism

let's talk about drunk people and sex, take two

alcohol

Back in November I wrote a post laying out some of the biggest questions I have about the “having sex while intoxicated” question; mainly that “how drunk is too drunk?” is a fundamentally flawed question and what we should be examining is “isn’t it predatory for people (usually men, not always) to target intoxicated people (usually women, not always)?” and “why isn’t enthusiastic consent the standard?” Neither of those questions are rhetorical, and I highly encourage you to check out the discussion in the comments– I think it was one of the best conversations I’ve had on my blog to date.

At the time I wrote it I was sort-of-not-really responding to the Emily Yoffe disaster, but yesterday something else started cropping up in my various news feeds: James Taranto essentially making the argument that if a drunk man rapes a drunk woman, there’s no crime (link is to an analysis, not original). In his view, both people– the rapist and the victim– should be held equally responsible, or not responsible at all. I barely managed to make it through Taranto’s Washington Post column; it took me a couple of tries to get all the way to the end.

So, I’m going to be responding to this general idea, but not really Taranto in particular, because it’s the narrative that makes his argument believable to people that concerns me.

Taranto compares rape to two drunk drivers who get into a car accident. This is not a new comparison, at least not to me– and if I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard it trip glibly off the tongue of someone who is hilariously uninformed . . .

There is a premise backing up this statement, and it is a premise that a horrifying number of people– of all genders– believe. It is the idea that women who say they were raped while intoxicated are actually lying about having sex because they regret it. You can easily stumble across this argument almost anywhere– in living rooms, in bars, on the internet. This argument only exists because there is something even more insidious hiding beneath it, and this is the real problem with how Americans, at least, think and talk about sex:

Women only say no to sex because they are supposed to; it is the man’s job to do whatever he can to override that no. Women actually want to say yes, even when they are saying no.

That is the belief that allows us to believe all of the others– that the woman’s only job is to be the chaste, asexual gatekeeper, and men are the lustful, lascivious animals who are willing to go to any length– coercion, deceit, force — to achieve the ultimate goal of The I Had Sex with Her Trophy. It is the underlying rape-culture idea behind songs like Billy Joel’s “Only the Good Die Young” and Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines.”

Another fact that Taranto seems to be completely unaware of is that rapists are not just “people who are too drunk to realize what they’re doing and stop.” Rapists are predators. People who rape– and they are usually men, but not always– are a rather small slice of the population (3%-10%), depending on the study you read and the country you’re in. However, all the studies reveal a common pattern: predators and rapists target specific victims with only one goal in mind: to get away with it.

  • They spend time identifying vulnerable people.
  • They use cultural narratives in their favor. They find people who, by cultural standards, “deserve” to be raped– gay people, trans people, drunk people, alone people, “slutty” people . . .
  • They become acquaintances– or even friends– of the victim. They insinuate themselves into the victim’s group and deliberately communicate an image of being a “nice guy,” someone who is trustworthy.
  • They use whatever circumstances they can– making sure the victim is seen “flirting” with them, making sure their victim is drunk. . .
  • They do whatever they can in order to make sure their victim is discredited.

Remember, the ultimate goal is that no one believes their victim and that they get away with it. Rapists are not stupid. This is one of the reasons why so many rapes are linked to intoxication on college campuses: alcohol has become another weapon in a rapist’s arsenal– just like roofies, just like coercion, just like threats,  just like violence. They can use alcohol in order to get away with raping someone, because they know campus officials and police officers will ask “were you drunk?” and then dismiss anything else their victims say.

~~~~~~~~~~

Before we get into the discussion, I’d like to circumvent a few possible questions.

There is a gray area when we start talking about sex and alcohol. I’m not dismissing that. However, there are a few things to keep in mind when we talk about rape by intoxication.

First, if a person says “no” or “stop” or “I don’t want this” even if they have engaged in other sexual activities, anything that follows that “no” is rape. End of story. There is no other explanation, no surrounding circumstances, nothing. If they say no, it does not matter how drunk they are, it does not matter if they have been making out with you for an hour or just gave you oral, it does not matter. It’s rape.

Second, if a person is unconscious and you engage in sexual activities with them, you are raping them. That should be obvious, but thanks to things like Steubenville we know it’s not. It’s beyond all sense and reason that I even have to say this, but this is the world we live in, apparently.

Thirdly, the fact that they didn’t say “no” doesn’t mean they consented. Rape is sexual behavior that the other person did not consent to. Them “not saying no” doesn’t count. It’s insane that the only time we think of “consent” as being “they didn’t say no” is when we’re talking about sex. If some company dumps poison into my water supply, they can’t walk into court and say “welp, they didn’t say don’t dump poison into our water!” and get away with it. The same principle applies to sex: if they did not consent, then, legally, it’s rape. Consent is “yes, I want to have sex with you.”

And here is exactly where we run into the gray area, because consent can sound like and look like a lot of different things depending on the people involved in the situation. My partner and I don’t give verbal consent like that because we don’t need to– we know each other well enough where body language is enough. If you don’t have a trust-based relationship with the person you’re about to have sex with, make sure you get explicit, verbal consent. This is why I’m such a fan of enthusiastic consent— and why I’ve talked about it so much.

I want to address, specifically, this concept that people have sex, wake up in the morning, regret it, and then claim that they were raped. I’m not going to make the case that this never ever happens, but we do know beyond all doubt that it is incredibly rare. People have sex when they’re drunk and then regret it the next day all of the time. People have sex when they’re not drunk and then regret it all of the time, too. People make mistakes. They do things they regret. They also don’t usually wake up in the morning and say “I’m going to go accuse this person of rape for no reason!”

When a woman, especially, accuses someone of rape, it is an excruciating process. She is frequently ostracized and isolated. Her friends abandon her. The police intimidate and frighten her, and frequently accuse her of being a liar or an attention whore. She is slut-shamed, victim-blamed. Her entire life can be destroyed. Coming forward and saying this person raped me usually comes with so much risk and danger that most rape victims never report their rape.

There are probably a hundred other circumstances we could talk about concerning sex and alcohol, and they’re worth the conversation. I’m not going to say that having sex with a drunk person is always rape, because it’s not. Plenty of people have sex while intoxicated and it’s perfectly ok. However, and this is so important I’m going to be shouting about it the rest of my life, if you want to have sex with someone, get their clear consent. It really is that simple.

~~~

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  • Here in New Zealand we recently had “the roastbusters”, a group of teenage boys who targeted underage girls, plied them with alcohol and did horrible things to them. They then name and shamed these “sluts” on the internet. When the story broke the public out cry was huge, and even more so when the police admitted to having monitored the boy’s sight for the past two years. Their excuse was until a “brave girl” came forward they could do nothing. Well it turns out girls had been coming forward and had been dismissed by the police. Even radio broadcasters brought up that they might be lying and that if the girls found the boys attractive, how could it be rape? So disgusting!! As far as I know, the boys still haven’t been charged of anything. It seems that even though the girls were underage (ie statutory rape) alcohol is the perfect excuse for rapists to walk free.

  • I’ve been thinking about this a lot, and have been sort of thinking about writing a post about it well. I don’t disagree with anything you are saying.

    I think, also, that there is a lot of straw man argumentation going on with this issue. People are claiming things like: “well, people say that if a girl has one drink, then she’s drunk, and that having sex with her is raping her.” But, that isn’t what “people” (whoever “people” are) are saying.

    There is a point at which people become incapable of consent due to intoxication. One of the examples that you gave was when they are unconscious. This seems so self-evident that it shouldn’t even have to be said aloud. A person who is unconscious is not, as a factual matter and as a legal matter, consenting to sex with anyone. Consent requires agency (I’ll get to that in a moment).

    It doesn’t, however, mean that any girl or woman who consumes any alcohol is de facto incapable of consenting to sex upon consuming the alcoholic beverage. It doesn’t mean that legally, and it doesn’t mean that colloquially. And one of the fundamental arguments is that two drunk people are “raping” each other, but only the male gets in trouble, and that is so flawed.

    This all relates to agency. Women have agency to say no, and they have agency to say yes. And any blanket rule that diminishes that agency is wrong and paternalistic. Saying that women who have consumed alcohol are therefore incapable of saying “yes” diminishes their agency just as much as saying that women aren’t going to be allowed to say “no.”

    What you are talking about – and the point that you are making is so important and it is one that we, as a community, and as a society, we need to change. We need to change the idea that women are “supposed to say no” even when they mean yes. That “good girls” don’t and “bad girls” do. We need to change the entire idea that women are a frontier to be “conquered” to be “persuaded” to be “convinced.” This whole framework is crap, it’s antiquated, and it is a total, destructive lie.

    We need to accept that women are sexual beings with sexual identities, and that because of that they are their own agents, free to choose or not choose, without being subjected to social negativity no matter what the choice is. We can do this, but it will take work. And one of the places that it will take work is from women who need to be supported and encouraged in their right not merely to say no, but also in their right to say yes. And one of the places that it will take work is from men, who need to hold women responsible for their words. If they say no, take it as a no. Don’t pander to some paternalistic nonsense that says that you need to “convince” her. Treat women like they are equals, not some alien, sexless species that is required to hold a position of chastity until you manfully pry her out of it. Because if she really does want to have sex with you, then she should be mature enough and desirous enough to admit it to herself before she admits it to you.

    • Wow, that was long. Sorry!

      • But, it was ALSO good, so… 🙂

      • This part is the most important thing out of everything you just said, in my opinion: “We need to change the idea that women are “supposed to say no” even when they mean yes. That “good girls” don’t and “bad girls” do. We need to change the entire idea that women are a frontier to be “conquered” to be “persuaded” to be “convinced.” This whole framework is crap, it’s antiquated, and it is a total, destructive lie.”

        I love it. Thanks so much for the long reply. I have a long reply of my own, actually. 😛 Will post that in a second lol…

  • I have read a lot of the discussion surrounding “Blurred Lines” as a song that promotes rape culture but until reading this post here now, I had never heard of Billy Joel’s “Only The Good Die Young” being thought of in a similar light. And I really love that song, so it’s hard for me to look at it that way. But… I kind of see it. The more I think about it, the more I see it really well, actually – since I have edited a fan-made music video about a couple on the TV series Glee set to “Only The Good Die Young”.

    And well, the first scene in my video has a quote of Puck’s that I thought fit the song REALLY well and well… now I realize the quote also is kind of fitting the rape culture idea: “Life’s just a bunch of experiences, you know? You don’t get a medal at the finish line for being good. You just get dead.”

    And that is the scene of the show where people have argued that Puck date-raped Quinn!! Now granted, I think that was the accusation before this flashback to the actual sex scene ever happened, before this scene ever aired – I believe the date-rape idea came up earlier, because in episode 1×04 Quinn just “explains” that she only had sex with Puck because “he got her drunk on wine coolers and she felt fat that day”. So people take it to mean “he got her drunk” – he basically used alcohol as a date-rape drug. But in episode 1×22 we finally received a flashback to what actually happened: He is trying to talk her into sex even though she’s trying to say no. She liked sexy making out with him, fully clothed – that was with her full consent, as far a we can tell. But then tries to stop him – she says “I can’t”, “I’m president of the celibacy club; I took a vow”, “What about Finn (her current boyfriend at the time), he’s your best friend” – these are her ways of trying to say NO to going further and actually having sex. It’s not that she doesn’t on some level want sex with Puck. But regardless of how the pro/con list looked for Quinn in terms of her decision to lose her virginity and cheat on her boyfriend by actually going through with sex with Puck, she was saying “no” without the actual word “no”. And Puck replies “Yes you can [do this]. Have another wine cooler”, “other girls took vows of abstinence too and yet I had sex with THEM”, and “we won’t care about Finn in a few years, we’ll have forgotten about everyone we knew in high school” and other excuses, trying to convince/manipulate Quinn into having sex with him. (She also asks about protection and he again abuses the power he clearly has in this particular conversation and claims she doesn’t need to worry, when really she ends up pregnant and DID need to worry). Regardless of the fact that she did ultimately GET convinced and say, “Ok” — so sex WAS consented to in this case… I see the problem. I see where even if this wasn’t exactly a case of rape being shown on TV, it was a prime example of some aspects of rape culture.

    I could see how both this song I vidded and also “Blurred Lines” are Rape Culture songs.

    This Billy Joel song doesn’t seem to *obviously* be all about sex, the way Blurred Lines does, as it’s more vague about what “not good thing” the guy wants the girl to be involved in with him… but he does name the girl “Virginia” in the song, which implies “virgin” is a big point of who she is… and there is nothing specifically about the song that you COULDN’T apply to a guy trying to convince a girl to have sex despite her acting like she doesn’t want to because it’s against her religion/it’d give her a bad reputation or whatever and she’s too much of a “good” girl. The lyrics all could be about that.

    Whereas “Blurred Lines” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hqRJAcr7Sp0 has the “I know you want it” idea of… “I know everything about ‘good girls’, they need to live a little and they’ll love the experience of having sex with me”… which is VERY DIFFERENT than the “I know you want it” because “you’re enthusiastically consenting to sex right now with your WORDS in addition to body language/whatever else”.

    AND both songs have the “Good girl” line – the term “good girl” is a big deal in these rape culture discussions. The idea of girls just “Acting” good when really they WANT to be the girls that “go wild”, deep down. They are just faking their “good”ness. Idk.

    One last thought: I am asexual. That is my sexual orientation. Asexuality is a real thing, (and this isn’t a big deal or anything, but the term “asexual” was used in a way I don’t quite agree with in your post above). I have participated in some sexual activities while still figuring out that I wasn’t a regular heterosexual girl but rather am asexual… but in terms of actual penetrative sex… I realize I want to remain a virgin for my entire life. I have found the asexual community online – people who, like me, truly don’t ever experience sexual attraction. We are often sex-positive people, not repressed or anti-sex or anything like that. We agree with the idea that Christine just posted that “We need to change the idea that women are “supposed to say no” even when they mean yes.” Because we as asexuals have gotten to a point where we know we’d say yes IF WE WANTED THAT. But, as we learn about ourselves after quite a bit of soul-searching and life experiences, we realize “WE REALLY DON’T”. And it’s hard to convince some guys that a girl REALLY, TRULY means it when she says no. Many guys have the ideas that asexual girls just need to try having sex and then they’ll “see what they’re missing” and “They’ll like it”, or if the asexual girl in question already has tried sex with someone else, they need to “Try having sex with someone who’s good at it,” usually meaning “me”, the douchebag guy who’s talking. Both male and female asexuals suffer from rape culture when they themselves are convinced that all people really want to have sex really badly at all times, regardless of circumstance or what the people say. Most girls, the “good girls”, never act interested in sex, so asexual girls assume their lack of interest is normal, and don’t realize that these girls are actually much more interested than they let on. Asexual guys feel broken and confused and more different than they really are when the cultural narrative acts like all a guy thinks about 24/7 is sex when really, many fully sexual men have times in their life when they might not be thinking about sex or might even, heaven forbid, what to say no to someone’s sexual advances.

    Just some food for thought. 😛

    • I have a few typos/missing words in there. I’m sorry. I should’ve proofread a bit more before posting. The last sentence should’ve said “Want to say no”, not “what” for instance.

    • And if you wanted to see the Puck/Quinn scene on Glee that I described in words… well here is a link to that: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6tNlNyR9Y_w

    • You said:

      “Both male and female asexuals suffer from rape culture when they themselves are convinced that all people really want to have sex really badly at all times, regardless of circumstance or what the people say. Most girls, the “good girls”, never act interested in sex, so asexual girls assume their lack of interest is normal, and don’t realize that these girls are actually much more interested than they let on. Asexual guys feel broken and confused and more different than they really are when the cultural narrative acts like all a guy thinks about 24/7 is sex when really, many fully sexual men have times in their life when they might not be thinking about sex or might even, heaven forbid, what to say no to someone’s sexual advances.”

      I think that this is a really great point. Because the flip side of a culture that maintains the position that “good girls” have to pretend never to want sex (until they get married, at which point they are supposed to magically transform into a combination sexual gymnast/porn star/orgasm machine), is a culture that maintains that all men want to have sex all the time with anything that possesses their preferred orifice and stands still long enough for them to get a good grip. And this, really, is just incredibly insulting to men. It is also dysfunctional because it boxes both sexes into sexual positions (no pun intended) that may be totally inaccurate and that make it impossible for them to relate to one another without unwanted tension.

      Not all relationships should be sexualized. It is a sign of immaturity to feel that this is inevitable. Our culture encourages people to maintain a juvenile approach to sexuality and interactions between the sexes into their retirement years. At some point, it would be great if we could grow up.

      • Hopefully this isn’t TMI, but my partner and I had this problem to a very minor extent. After we started having sex, I was, well… uhm, voracious. 🙂 He liked it, enjoyed it, had a good time, etc– but the fact that his libido didn’t even match mine let alone exceed mine made him second-guess himself for a bit. It bothered him, because he had never anticipated having a partner who wanted sex more often than he did.

        We got passed this pretty quick, but it happened.

        • Ariadia

          If I may, I’d like to say Thank You for sharing that. IMHO, every little piece of Truth we can collectively get out there to counter the false and damaging narratives is a Good Thing.

          I was never very good at “being a lady” growing up, and as I got older my non-standard personality and shape pretty much made it impossible to ignore that I wasn’t ever going to fit the narrow definition of “girl” I had been taught. The few “girlish” attributes I did possess (along with the attendant self-hate) were significant attractions for a string of predators that entered my life, and for many years I alternately prayed and cursed God (and later, gods) for trapping me in this mismatch body. My dysmorphia was very bad, (long sad story, but no point dwelling, eh?) and I have struggled with gender identity and body acceptance pretty much my whole life. When I experienced consensual sexual exploration in a safe place at last… “The beast” awoke, and most of my partners since have expressed shame and a sense of failure in the face of awakened desire.
          It’s always good to know we’re not alone, I think.

  • Aibird

    Thank you for writing this.

  • Curious

    I hope I don’t make a fool of myself by asking about this, but I keep thinking about it when this issue comes up. This happened in my extended family. Not to me, so I can’t give too many details. She was underage, he was not. He was drinking, she was not. She accused him when she was getting in trouble at school for something else. She made accusations that could be shown to be false because witnesses could place him somewhere else at those times. But he confessed to the initial incident and took responsibility because he was the adult – sort of other than saying he had been drinking and she approached him and initiated inappropriate behavior. Other people who did not have a dog in the fight saw similar behavior. He went to jail for a time for his offense. So my questions are: Was/is he a predator or just a guy who had poor self control and judgement? Other girls her age (including myself) were warned not to be alone with him but I saw it as being for his protection as much as mine. Was I naive? Am I wrong to believe that her behavior put her at risk – although I still see him as being responsible because he was the adult?

    • Ok, this is going to sound harsh at first, but bear with me:

      Yes.

      Ok, long answer:

      She was a child. He was an adult (according to the law). An adult having sex with a child is predatory behavior. Someone who engages in predatory behavior = predator. She would not have been “at risk,” as you put it, if she hadn’t been within the reach of someone willing to commit predatory behavior. The fact of the matter is that it doesn’t matter what she was doing– she could have been passed out, naked, and if there wasn’t a person in that room willing to rape her, that wouldn’t have happened. Those are the facts that we need to keep in mind.

      Encouraging people–not just girls, not just women, but people— to be aware, to be safe, those aren’t bad things. Don’t leave a drink unattended. Only order bottled beverages and make sure you get it sealed. Go out at night with friends. Make sure you have a ride home. Those are all good things– but not doing those things doesn’t put you “at risk.” Predators and rapists put you at risk, nothing else.

      Now, just because he was a predator then doesn’t mean that he’s a predator now. People are capable of learning from the past and moving forward in healthy, responsible ways. I hope he has.

  • Curious

    Well there wasn’t actually sex – the charge was that he molested her. Just to be clear. But I see what you are saying about what he was willing to do being what put her at risk.

    • Yeah– regardless of whether or not there was penetration it’s still predatory. And thank you for taking the time to ask the question. I’m not a blog writer so I can shout about my opinions and never engage with anyone who might have a different perspective than me. 🙂

  • Curious

    I wonder if there might be a distinction that could be made between capitol and lowercase “predators.” Like the guy who makes rude statements and will make a clumsy grab if he gets a chance versus the guy who actively grooms, engineers his opportunity and loudly denies. At least it seems like a guy who says, “Yes I did it but I was impaired” when he’s going to have to pay the penalty might be different than a guy who completely denies. But maybe that’s a dangerous distinction. Maybe that’s what a lot of guys are thinking when they take advantage of someone who isn’t in a position to consent or not. Maybe they’re thinking they aren’t really rapists because they didn’t leave home that night thinking “who can I rape tonight?” So if there is a “lowercase p predator” he would be just as dangerous as an uppercase one because he still doesn’t see that he isn’t entitled just because there is an opportunity.

    • You bring up an important point: in multiple studies, about 1 in 10 men will openly admit to raping someone as long as the word “rape” isn’t in the question. In other studies, when men describe an encounter that is actually rape, they don’t see it that way, because they weren’t violent, because it wasn’t “real” rape– it doesn’t fit the image they have of themselves.

  • Curious

    Also, I appreciate your willingness to discuss difficult topics. I think I was hesitant because in everything I’ve read about rape and sexual attacks the number one rule is not to blame the victim. I don’t want to do that at all. I get that it’s a slippery slope to say, “if she hadn’t approached him…been in that bar…walked down that street…worn that dress….given that look….been born female….” it wouldn’t have happened. It’s just sometimes harder to be clear when I actually know the people involved. It’s kind of shocking to realize that a predator can have a lot of other characteristics.

    • That has been the absolute HARDEST thing I’ve had to realize over the past year: we want to believe that someone dangerous to us has “rapist” stamped on their forehead, but they don’t. They’re our friends, they’re the people we fall in love with… it’s gut-wrenching.

  • Yoffe answers her critics here: http://www.slate.com/blogs/xx_factor/2013/10/18/rape_culture_and_binge_drinking_emily_yoffe_responds_to_her_critics.html

    I see both sides. Of course we want women to have tools to reduce the likelihood that they will be raped. But I think of all the points made here, we need to stop treating women who choose to have sex as some kind of bad girl, or slut. In the religious realm, this is even more important, because male rapists get a pass all too often, because of the idea that men are only slaves to their sexuality, and women are such a big temptation to men that if a man should “misread” (read: ignore) a woman’s clear lack of consent, somehow it is her fault.

    And, it’s not anti-feminists to give women common sense information about the steps which can be take to prevent being raped. Those are listed above–don’t leave a drink untended, only accept a sealed bottle, know your limits, have a drinking buddy so the two can look out for each other, etc..

    These conversations need to take place more often. And, all of us must be willing to listen to each other. The best ideas I have come most often from other people.

  • Gosh wouldn’t it be so nice if we taught men to look for an enthusiastic “YES!” instead of encouraging a culture where they are instead taught to do everything they can to avoid hearing a frightened “…no…”?

  • One other aspect is the historical/cross-cultural one:

    In Medieval Europe, women weren’t seen as not interested in sex, and liable to say no even if they meant yes – they were seen as lascivious and likely to seduce otherwise innocent men.
    I can’t help but feel that if more people knew facts like that, knew that our narratives around sexual desire and intercourse are in many ways socially constructed, it would be easier to establish a healthy attitude.
    Much of the resistance I hear to enthusiastic consent and good sexual ethics is based around the idea that it isn’t “natural”, and so can never work….which relies upon the assumption that our social norms around sex and consent are “natural” and in some sense set in stone. And that’s a problem.

  • I have a teeny, tiny, minuscule bit of sympathy for certain guys who, having been raised in our culture, really do not realize how pushy they are being, and that girls can feel threatened by them without them meaning to be more than “convincing.” What they are doing is wrong, but often times, nobody has ever taught them so. That’s part of the reason teaching enthusiastic consent is so important… it protects those guys (and I do think they exist) who don’t mean to be monsters but are simply following the dominant social script. I plan to teach my daughter(s) that if they want to have sex, they need to own that choice and make it enthusiastically and willingly. And I plan to teach any sons I might have that they should never have sex unless they have double checked that the girl actively wants to, and is not just going along with it.

    I immediately lose ALL sympathy for those guys when they continue to insist on their “right” to act according to the current social norm when it is pointed out to them how coercive it can be. Because you know what? I am a very pushy person… it’s in my nature. You give me an obstacle, and my mind immediately goes to ways to solve it. I’m not talking about sex, just regular social invitations. So sometimes I miss polite hints that someone is trying to say no without actually saying no. This was a big problem with my husband. He, being an introvert, wouldn’t want to go to an event. He would raise 3 or 4 objections. Me, thinking they were just logistical objections, would find ways to get around them. He would reluctantly agree to go, feeling completely steamrollered into it. I would have no idea that he felt coerced. Once I found out, however… it is MY responsibility to make sure that I do not steamroll him. Now, if he throws up logistical objections, I will ask. Do you want me to find a way around these objections (he’s not as creative a thinker as I am, so sometimes something really small really does seem insurmountable to him) or do you want me to drop it? Or else, if we get into a logistical discussion, I remind him at the end “none of this matters if you just really don’t want to go. ‘I don’t want to’ is a perfectly good excuse in itself. Don’t let me push you into this.”

    In other words, it’s my job to make sure the consent is genuine and uncoerced. And if that’s true when deciding about going to a party, how much more true is it when it comes to sex?

    • I love this: “I don’t want to” is a perfectly good excuse in itself.”

  • I saw two students in the hallway during lunch outside my classroom. The boy had a candy bar and asked if the girl wanted a bite. She said no. He shoved it in her face making her take a bite. She giggled and left with him arm in arm before I had a chance to intervene.
    In my street law, sociology and psychology classes whenever rape or spousal abuse came up I used this as an example of 1. mixed messages, which applies for tickling and other touching when the woman consistently says no while laughing thus giving tacit approval 2 for women to realize that if that is the way a man acts when you’re having fun, what’s he going to be like when he’s angry.

  • Zoe

    There’s a girl who has fully learned society’s lessons about acceptable treatment of girls by boys. It’s chilling to think about her future–and his.

  • “…that the woman’s only job is to be the chaste, asexual gatekeeper, and men are the lustful, lascivious animals who are willing to go to any length– coercion, deceit, force — to achieve the ultimate goal of The I Had Sex with Her Trophy.”

    If children are normally seen as chaste/asexual/innocent, I wonder if this narrative plays into child abuse as well.

    If we’ve set things up so that men are sexually attracted to infantilized women, how big of a leap is it to sexualizing actual infants/children?

  • G

    This is a great article about how colleges are instituting bystander education programs to prevent sexual assault. I really liked how they are encouraging men to intervene when they see other men harassing women. http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/09/education/edlife/stepping-up-to-stop-sexual-assault.html?_r=0

    • The focus being so much on preventing GUYS from becoming “victims” who are accused of assault is a little disheartening though. If it’s effective, I guess it’s worth it? But it’s promoting the idea that innocent drunk guys will end up becoming rapists rather than trying to teach these innocent drunk guys to understand, on a very deep level, that enthusiastic consent is what they should always be looking for, whether they are drunk or not.

    • And really? “College men use two words to describe when a man gets in the way of another man’s business, and it is not ‘bystander intervention.’ For the purposes of a family newspaper, call it ‘shot blocking.'”??

      That’s not accurate reporting. Censoring the facts just so that it’s still appropriate for a “Family newspaper”? What is wrong with them. The word they are censoring is just a colloquial term for a body part anyway. It’s not an offensive term that hurts people’s feelings, even. I’m disappointed that the article felt the need to censor in that way.

  • Gary Eddy

    I think we are losing the fact that men and woman are still not taught how to say no or yes and for the other person to honor that. I was taught when I was a child that when a woman says no or no more it was my responsibility to stop, not be angry and respect her choices. Period end of story. I think if that was more the case today there wouldn’t be “Blurred Lines”. On that I know to many woman who love that song. I have watched the PG & R rated videos and find them very disconcerting.

    • I have never heard the song (I hate the radio) and I had made a principled stand not to look for it on YouTube b/c I first heard about it on a Christian blog. A Christian mom loved the song and sang it with her daughter all the time. At some point she became aware of the lyrics, and was torn about embracing a song she knew nothing about. The forum was filled with people who sought it out, then came back with scorching rebukes that she had let it into her house at all. I was so disgusted by the prurient replies that I decided not to watch it. I mean, really, go seek it out, fill your mind with it, then condemn someone who openly stated it was one of her favorites? Kind of like buying Hustler or Playboy so you can ridicule those who subscribe. Hypocrisy on display. But the song is used so often when discussing the rape culture in this country, that now I feel a need to see what the fuss is about. Because I strongly believe that women are getting hammered for no good reason. No means no means no. I like Samantha’s idea of enthusiastic consent, and I want the whole “slut” idea to go away for good. Why can’t women enjoy sex?

  • jdg

    What if you had been saying no, but they kept begging and eventually you say, “Whatever. Okay.” and get taken upstairs?

    • That would depend on the individuals involved, but that is a form of verbal coercion. If the person is not permitted to say”no” and have their “no” respected, then the “consent” given is meaningless.

      I believe that if you loved and respected your partner, you would only be interested in enthusiastic consent.