Sober and Enthusiastic

In Uncategorized on November 29, 2011 at 5:07 pm

For a lot of people, sexual consent can be a confusing thing.  Here’s the simple definition – sexual consent must be sober and enthusiastic.

Sober: I’m talking, if you can’t drive a car, you cannot consent to having sex.  Alcohol clouds a person’s judgment and impairs your ability to make good decisions.  Having sex with someone while you are drunk puts you in a serious position of becoming a perpetrator.  Having sex while under the influence of alcohol greatly increases the likelihood that you will be assaulted (it is important to note that even if you are drunk, you are NOT to blame for the sexual assault).

Enthusiastic: You or your partner should not  have to be “talked into” doing anything sexual.  The only reason that anything sexual should occur is because both people are wanting to do it, not because one has been guilted into saying “yes” or is just tired of their partner begging for it.  I mean, seriously think about it – wouldn’t you rather have sex with someone who is all gung-ho about getting it on with you instead of someone who’s just going along with it to make you shut up?

That’s all it takes for consent – Sobriety and Enthusiasm.  Pretty simple, right?

Well, apparently, it’s not quite as simple as that.  So many people have no idea how to go about asking for consent without “killing the mood” or don’t even realize that they need to ask for it.  And then when you throw alcohol into the mix (which happens a lot on a college campus), then it seems that any sort of rules go out the window and everything gets blamed on the alcohol – no one is responsible for anything that happens because “I was drunk, I didn’t mean to.”

There’s one thing I want to make blatantly clear – A DRUNK “YES” IS NOT A “YES.” 

There seems to be a lot of confusion out there about this.  For example, I went on a blind date a couple of weeks ago with this guy named Jeff.  After dinner, we went to the bar to get a drink and continue getting to know one another.  Somehow, the topic shifted to sexual assault and what consent means.

He argued that because a person (in the case of our conversation, a female) is drunk, she is responsible for whatever happens to her.  Because she made the choice to drink, it is her fault if she says “yes” and is then sexually assaulted.  He vehement about this, saying that he had been in that situation many times and that it simply wouldn’t be “fair” to the guy if she decides the next morning to “call rape” when it wasn’t his fault that she was drunk.

Let me break this argument apart a little bit:

  •  She chose to drink, so she is responsible for what happens to her.If she is 21, drinking alcohol is not illegal.  Even if she is not 21, she has a right, as does everyone, to drink and not be afraid that she is going to be sexually assaulted.  Drinking does come along with a certain amount of responsibility.  For example, if she got behind the wheel of a car and chose to drive drunk, then she is going to be held responsible.  However, sexual assault is a case of someone else making a decision for the other person.  So, even if she says “yes” and her partner should reasonably know that she is too drunk to consent, it is HIS choice to continue with the sexual behavior.  “But what if he’s drunk?” – it is STILL his decision and he needs to be held accountable for that decision.
  • It’s not fair to the guy if she decides to “call rape.”No one “calls rape” – people are raped; they are assaulted and they are victims.  They have every right to identify the event as such.  By saying that someone is “calling rape” not only minimizes the traumatic event that occurred by making it seem insignificant, it also implies that she is lying about the rape and that she’s just trying to “get back at him” or she just “regrets it” and wants someone to blame.  This is a complete at utter myth!  Sexual assaults are no more falsely reported than any other crime.  And, in fact, are vastly underreported (only about 40% of assaults are actually reported to police).  It needs to be known that just because I’m drinking and saying “yes,” I may not actually mean the “yes.”  I may, in fact, be blacked out and have no idea that I’m saying it.  And if anyone takes advantage of that fact, it is sexual assault.  Period.
  • I’ve been in this position many times.Well, that’s just a little bit terrifying – how many people have you sexually assaulted and blamed your behavior on the alcohol?  I’m not naïve – I know that people have sex while under the influence.  And many times, I’m sure that everyone is okay with it.  But for those cases where someone wakes up and feels violated and victimized, is it really worth the risk?  I mean, seriously.  If you make a habit of having sex with drunk individuals, whether or not you yourself are drunk, the odds are GREAT that you have assaulted your partner.  When people engage in sex, they do it to feel good and to make their partner feel good.  But when you have sex with someone too drunk to consent, you’re taking away the feel good feeling (along with SO much more) and potentially forcing them into a state of victimization.

And by arguing this, I am not saying that alcohol is a bad thing – it can be a lot of fun to drink.  But it is necessary to know that when alcohol is involved, it’s best to wait until everyone is sober before beginning any sort of sexual activity.  Jeff told me I was just playing “victim’s advocate” – and while I feel that I am a victim’s advocate, I’d rather like to think about this argument and this point of view as being anti-sexual assault and pro-healthy sex more than anything else.

Needless to say, there will not be a second date with Jeff.

Jeff’s argument is not unique.  It’s a discussion I have quite frequently with people.  And I want to note that it’s not just men that take advantage of women; women also take advantage of drunk men, and this flip in gender does not make it any more or less of an assault.

One blogger wrote: the one should not “jump into the sexual arena if you can’t handle the volatility of its practice!”

The sexual arena should not be a volatile environment or practice.  Sex is an intimate time between people meant to give and receive pleasure and share a physical, emotional, and even spiritual connection with another person in a rare and beautiful way.  It should not be an arena of competition, violence, or aggression.

That same blogger also said: “‘Date rape’ is an incoherent concept. There’s rape and there’s not-rape, and we need a line of demarcation. It’s not clear enough to merely speak of consent, because the lines of consent in sex — especially anonymous sex — can become very blurry.”

No.  Date rape is not “incoherent” – it is a more specific description of the same act: RAPE.  Consent should always be clear.  There should never be a “gray” line when it comes to consent.  Either your partner is sober and is super excited to say “yes” to you, or you back the fuck off and leave them alone because they are saying “no.”  Hesitancy is a “no.”  Saying “I’m not sure” is a “no.”  Anything other than “Yes, Yes, Oh God, Yes!” doesn’t count.

Wait for the YES, not the “no.”

So, to sum up:

Consent MUST be Sober and Enthusiastic, and A DRUNK “YES” IS NOT A “YES.” 

Simply rules to live by.  So, go forth and drink (responsibly) and have fun sex – just not at the same time.  🙂

  1. i just stumbled upon this site and i wanted to say thank you, thank you, thank you for posting this. i am a female college student and just returned from a study abroad early in italy because i was sexually assaulted while blackout drunk. i remember very little. we had met at a bar and he took me back to his apartment. but immediately following the assault i remember that he started screaming at me – calling me a slut, a whore, telling me to get the f*** out. i think it was at that moment that i realized something was not right about the situation. yet the college campus culture always tells us to “blame it on the alcohol”, or consider it just a bad night that you regret. if something like this happens to you and you feel as though you were taken advantage of because of your drunken state, you probably were. i have been riddled with guilt for putting myself in the situation, yet I have to keep reminding myself that I was taken advantage of and what happened wasn’t my fault. i appreciate you reminding us all that a drunken yes is not consent, as this is not a view that is echoed by others – i actually read on another website someone’s view that “as long as a girl can spread her legs, it’s consent.” i am relieved to know that there are more educated people who see otherwise. again, thank you so much.

  2. Meredith: Thank you for sharing your story! I am so sorry that that happened to you, and I hope that your experience will help to show others that they are not alone and that it is not their fault if they are sexually assaulted.

    It’s horrible how many people believe that a drunk yes is consent — especially in a college environment. I can only hope that I can educate people about what “real” consent is. The view that you mentioned (as long as she can spread her legs), ugh! That makes me sick. I don’t understand how people can believe that — or even joke about it. So not funny.

    Thank you again for sharing your story and always remember that you are not to blame for what happened to you. And there are many people out there who can help you and remind you of what a strong woman you are!

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