Trigger warning for talk of rape! Obviously.
Well, I’m back from several weeks of travel in Australia and New Zealand, which followed months of weekly conference travel all over the US. Normally I’d take a break after something like that: relax, pet the cats, catch up on Walking Dead. But instead I decided to Tweet something super controversial to satisfy my feminazi need to make men cry:
If you have sex w/ someone who is drunk, they are unable to consent & that is rape.
— Rebecca Watson (@rebeccawatson) December 17, 2012
If you "took advantage" of someone who is unable to consent, it is rape. End of story.
— Rebecca Watson (@rebeccawatson) December 17, 2012
Minds were blown! Up is down! Left is right! Cats and dogs, sleeping together! These two Tweets only raised more questions, and clearly I was the only person on the Internet who could answer them. I was flooded with responses like:
@rebeccawatson What if you are also drunk? Did they rape you as well?
— Stuart Houghton (@stuarthoughton) December 17, 2012
“What if you are also drunk? Did they rape you as well?”
— Daius Stanton (@TheRealDaius) December 18, 2012
“@rebeccawatson if someone drinks and drives are can they eschew responsibility for their actions in the same way. … http://tmi.me/D0Gu0″
@rebeccawatson Another question. In marriage. The husband didn't drink because of driving on a saturday night. Wife did. Couldn't make love?
— Jose (@soyunesceptico) December 17, 2012
“@rebeccawatson Another question. In marriage. The husband didn’t drink because of driving on a saturday night. Wife did. Couldn’t make love?”
@rebeccawatson That's a very binary statement for an undefined condition. At what BAC% is consent impossible? Should we breathalyse before?
— Myk Dowling (@MykDowling) December 17, 2012
“@rebeccawatson That’s a very binary statement for an undefined condition. At what BAC% is consent impossible? Should we breathalyse before?”
— Tim Fuller (@thetimchannel) December 18, 2012
“@Zaminuszen @rebeccawatson Sad thing is you even offer the crazy lunatic a cup of coffee and she feels raped. #americangirlyban Enjoy.”
“According to @rebeccawatson every sexual encounter she has ever had has, in the morning been a rape.”
I’m a crazy lunatic who has been raped hundreds, or maybe BILLIONS of times depending upon whether you’re going with the “Rebecca is a sad virgin” or “Rebecca is a filthy slut” line of argument.
I just blocked most, if not all, of these people because as one follower noted, if you have to debate this fact with your followers, it’s time to get better followers. But I wanted to post about this because I think the psychology of this reaction is very interesting. I think for most of us (Skepchick writers/readers/commenters), this concept is not in any way astonishing. I’m guessing that like me, many of you have had sex. And like me, many of you have had sex while drinking and/or while your partners have been drinking, and it’s not a big deal because you value communication and enthusiastic consent and participation. There’s no stigma against questions like “Would you like it if we . . . ?” and “Is this what you want?” and “Was that okay?”, even (especially!) when those questions are asked in the cold, sober light of day.
And I’m also guessing that like me, if you meet a sexy stranger who is drunk (and I’m going by the common definition here, of someone whose faculties are impaired, e.g., slurred speech, stumbling, etc.), you will not have sex with them, even if they say they’d like to. This isn’t because it’s the law (even though it is, as @simonknowz aptly points out: “Whoever . . . knowingly . . . engages in a sexual act with another person if that other person is . . . (A) incapable of appraising the nature of the conduct . . .”), but because it is the right thing to do. Because you are not so hard up for sex that you need to have sex with someone who may feel regret or revulsion or worse in the morning. Because you don’t assume your partner (yes, even one you’re married to) is in a constant state of consent. Because you don’t get off on the power you can have over someone who doesn’t have full control of their own faculties (or if you do get off on that, you have long, sober conversations with your partner before exploring that as a fantasy).
But not all people are like us, and so, there are the Tweeters who flooded me with their concerns, none of which were for people who have been raped while they were drunk. No, their concerns are for themselves, that they might one day be accused of being rapists because they didn’t give someone a breathalyzer before having sex with them. Here’s a thought: if you’re about to have sex with someone and you feel like they might have drunk too much to consent but you don’t have a breathalyzer handy, then why not err on the side of not being a rapist and not have sex with them?
And they’re comparing drunk sex to drunk driving as though drunk driving is something that is done to the drunk driver. Here’s the non-fallacious analogy: insisting on getting in a car and driving while drunk and no one can stop you is equivalent to insisting on having sex while drunk with a person who is unable to stop you. And yes, in both of those cases you, drunky, are liable.
And elsewhere on the Internet, people like Ed Clint are crowing about how they’re rapists (update: it appears that Ed Clint has removed that post now, so here’s a screenshot of the entire thing just before it disappeared):
Jonathan Figdor: She’s also right about this one. If someone is too drunk to consent, you shouldn’t sleep with them. Sex without consent is the definition of rape.
Ed Clint: Then you should call the cops on me, Jon, and end our acquaintance, as I am a rapist many many times over.
And still elsewhere, people are slamming Franchesca Ramsey for being brave enough to speak out about the rape of drunk people and others who are blamed for their rape. In particular, she discusses how she was shamed when she was raped:
She had to close the comments on that because of the number of people harassing her, so apparently they moved to Twitter:
you're an awful person and rape apologist RT @personalmeals: @chescaleigh She is to blame bc she consumed underage and lied to her parents.
— Franchesca Ramsey (@chescaleigh) December 18, 2012
“you’re an awful person and rape apologist RT @personalmeals: @chescaleigh She is to blame bc she consumed underage and lied to her parents.”
Obviously, there were also plenty of amazing responses to Franchesca, and to me as well. But we have a long way to go in combating the psychological effects of living in a rape culture.
Featured image via here