Alcohol, Sex, and Consent

A good drunkfuck is a wonderful thing. Alcohol reduces one's inhibitions, does interesting things to one's proprioception, and otherwise is a great sex toy. It's also history's oldest and most widely-used date rape drug. For one thing, it's great date-rape drug because, like others, it interferes with memory - though it's hard to know whether the "lowering inhibitions" effect is more important for that purpose: the victim wakes up the next morning hung over and sore and can't recall whether they gave consent to what happened, or not. It also introduces a delay between the rape and the victim's ability to report it - it's a lot easier for someone who wants to minimize or victim-blame after an attack, if the attack happened yesterday, "what, if you were so upset about it why didn't you come here immediately?" "Well, I was too drunk to move!" sets the victim up for a round of victim-blaming.

I have had some experiences dealing with the problem of having what's more or less non-consensual-seeming sex while gaining consent. How do you do it? It's simple: gain consent in advance and make sure you have an understanding what the revocation of consent looks like. Then, if consent is revoked: stop and start apologizing.

I've discussed this in a couple of forums and the counter-argument seems to be "that's such a buzz kill" which is really pretty weak. Why? Because if you're sitting around polishing off a bottle of wine with a certain someone, and you're feeling the rush a bit and are thinking things might be heading in an interesting direction, you can lean forward and whisper, "Hey... I'm feeling a bit flirty after this wine and I'm wondering if you might be feeling the same way." If they don't shake their head and say, "uh, no!" then you can continue, "Since I'm really into making sure I secure consent, I just wanted to make sure that if you and I are going to get drunk and mess around, that you understand that I know that 'no means no' and even if it's really unromantic in the moment I may occasionally ask for permission to proceed - because I don't ever want you to wake up tomorrow feeling you were taken advantage of." That might kill everything right there, but it's better to get it over with if that's how it's going to play itself out. If there's a little part of you that's saying, "No, wait!" that's the part of you that's waiting until they're too drunk to give consent. And always remember that the more drunk someone gets the harder it may be for them to revoke consent, so you've got to be extra careful to check as you proceed.

I know people who say "it's always rape, if sex and alcohol are combined" but I don't agree with that. Lack of consent, not presence of alcohol, is what makes a rape. Presence of alcohol, however, makes it easier to gain consent and so you have to factor that in by gaining consent when you're not both tipsy, and you have to be willing to stop and say, "hey, let's do something else!" the moment you see anything but the continual granting of enthusiastic consent. Here's another hint: if alcohol is a key ingredient in your sexual strategy, you're on dangerous ground and may be a serial rapist without admitting it to yourself. It sounds like that may be what Michael Shermer has been doing - he just may not understand the situation, himself. If your dating technique involves rum or roofies, you may want to rethink things a little bit. Just put the brakes on and get consent and make sure they stay engaged (which means: conscious, and not telling you to stop!) Here's another hint: if they sink their teeth into your arm, and snarl "do me! do me! do me now!" that's the sound of consent. If they smash you in the face with a mug and run out of the room, that's not.

In the BDSM community, you learn pretty quickly that consent is an important piece of the puzzle. How do you get consent if your partner's tied up and has a gym sock stuffed in their mouth? Well, the obvious answer is to get it before they're tied up and have a gym sock stuffed in their mouth! And it's not a bad idea, in that situation, to set up a "blink code" - blink your eyes once for yes, twice for no - so you can stop and ask, "do you want me to let you go?" periodically, or if the struggles look like they're real. But that's another topic entirely...

Bellwether Farm, May 25, 2014