(TRIGGER WARNING: Rape, Drugs, Alcohol)
We know that ‘Roofies’ (Rohypnol), Ketamine, and GHB are referred to as Date Rape Drugs, and even the most biologically challenged of political figures can attest that “legitimate” or “forcible” rape is punishable.
Though I guess that does signify some progress, there are still (apparently) too many blurred lines.
“No means no” is not enough when it comes to teaching and understanding consent.
So let me break it down for you.
What Is Consent?
Consent occurs only when an adult is of sound mind and body and says an enthusiastic “yes” without outside influence swaying their decision.
Only Adults Can Consent to Other Adults
It doesn’t matter if an underage party seems to initiate contact. They cannot consent.
It doesn’t matter if the underage person “seems older” than their actual age. They cannot consent.
It doesn’t matter how any underage person dresses. They cannot consent.
Minors can’t even go on a school field trip to the park without an adult guardian’s permission. Why would they be able to consent to sex?
A Sound Mind Is One Fully Capable of Making Decisions
You cannot make decisions on your own if your brain is unconscious or asleep. You cannot make decisions on your own if your brain’s usual function is compromised by injury or intoxication.
This applies in any context. So why would sex be any different?
A Sound Body Is One with Full Autonomy
You cannot exercise control if your body is unconscious or asleep. You cannot exercise control if your body’s normal functioning is compromised by imposed restrictions or intoxication.
If a body is malfunctioning relative to its normal state, it cannot have sex.
Only ‘Yes’ Means ‘Yes’
I don’t care if you “Play Hard to Get.” If you truly want to have sex, you will make it explicitly clear to all parties involved.
Same goes for any potential partner. There should be no doubt whatsoever.
This way, everyone’s desires and limits are communicated and honored.
Outside Factors Matter
Your history with a potential partner absolutely comes into play when it comes to sex.
In student-teacher relationships, employer-employee relationships, and “The Casting Couch” phenomenon in the performing arts, there is a blatant imbalance of power.
Can the student, employee, or performer (respectively) really say no without fear?
If one person feels as though they owe sex to the other, their true feelings and desires are not actually considered.
Based on that breakdown, you can probably see the connection between getting someone drunk to have sex and slipping someone drugs to have sex.
Either way, consent is not possible.
Either way, it is attempted rape.
Can I Buy You a Drink?
Throughout history, alcohol has been a staple in adult interaction.
What do you do when you’re out and see someone attractive? Offer to buy them a drink. Why not? That’s the norm.
The gesture of buying a drink isn’t really that shady.
Buying someone a drink with the hope or expectation of getting sex in return, however, is completely manipulative and dehumanizing.
I don’t care if you give me ten courses of gourmet macaroni and cheese, backstage passes to Elton John, or enough Hendrix Gin to fill an aquarium: You cannot barter to have sex with me. Or anyone else, for that matter.
Sex is not a commodity to trade.
Even if it was, sex is way better than even the most pretentious apothecary-style cocktail, so it wouldn’t be a fair trade.
Don’t be the Conductor of the Hot Mess Express
Getting someone liquored up for any reason makes the drunken party unable to fully understand that they are not, in fact, able to function normally.
Not only that, but if you’re the one buying the drinks, you’re the one putting someone in that position.
We’ve all seen someone proclaim “I’m FINE!” before stumbling into the gutter to vomit copious amounts of tequila. Depending on my state of mind, that scenario brings about appropriate pity or inappropriate laughter.
Both reactions come from the same place: I can see that the drunken person is so out of control that they cannot see how out of control they truly are.
This is before attempted sexual contact even comes into the picture, and it’s already not cool.
But Date Rape Drugs are Sneaky!
I’m not arguing with you there.
Just getting your hands on Rohypnol, GHB, or Ketamine requires major trickery. Research for this article has made me nauseated at the thought of how much effort goes into buying and selling these substances, and still so many people use them.
When the drugs are in effect, recipients can lose their sense of identity, let alone full consciousness.
Some would rather not equate getting someone drunk to giving them drugs, since drinkers are (hopefully) aware that they can become intoxicated. The secrecy and deceit involved in slipping a roofie in your date’s piña colada while they go to the bathroom seems straight-up evil compared to merely buying a few extra shots of Jameson for the pretty person at the bar.
Here’s the thing, though: Girls can’t hold their liquor. Nobody actually can.
No matter how invincible anyone feels while drinking, they are not in control.
Bottom line: Alcohol and drugs both make users lose control of their minds and bodies.
Where Power Comes into Play
At this point, I am sure you have noticed that the words “power” and “control” come up frequently in discussions of consent, rape, and drug-facilitated sexual assault. This isn’t a repetition issue for the editor to fix.
Consent only takes place when both parties have complete control over themselves and do not take away their partner’s power.
Notice also that I refrain from using the phrase “consensual sex.” This is completely intentional. Saying “consensual sex” implies that there is such a thing as “non-consensual sex.”
“Non-consensual sex” isn’t sex, though. It’s rape.
Rape is not sex. It is sexual violence. Acts of violence involve “an unjust or unwarranted exertion of force or power.”
And, just like that, we’re back at power.
I know I am not the first (and definitely not the last) Internet feminist to compile a list of consent requirements with harrowing statistics and high-school-debate-class-level logic.
I thought to apologize for speaking out with a pronounced standpoint on such a nuanced, disquieting topic, but I’m not sorry.
Feminism is often stereotyped as an anti-sex movement because of the pushback on rape culture and the objectification of women. Sometimes this faulty assumption is brought up to discredit the work of activists.
I obviously cannot speak for all feminists, but, I am by no means against sex. Sex is awesome. Also, it may be worth noting that I am not morally opposed to alcohol use in adults who do not suffer from addiction.
But the point is: Even if you disagree with me, please keep talking about consent.
Were you taught about consent if/when you took sex education?
That kind of tragedy, unfortunately, is why we have way more explaining to do about drug-facilitated sexual assault (The tragedy I’m referring to, by the way, is the fact that it happened – not the verdict).
If we continue to have these conversations, we can educate others so they do not perpetrate rape and further legitimize the experiences of survivors of sexual violence.
Keep having the sex you want and drinking the beverages you prefer. Keep treating others with respect and dignity.
One way or another, you’ll impact someone for the better.
If you or a loved one has experienced sexual assault, there are many resources available if you choose to use them. Please know that you are not at fault, and you are not alone.
Maddie McClouskey is a Contributing Writer for Everyday Feminism. She’s a twenty-something lesbian in New York City and currently writes weekly dating advice pieces for the LGBTQ event app and website SheSeekOnline and was a regular contributor to the sexuality and feminism site ToughxCookies. When she’s not writing articles about gayness, she’s performing stand-up comedy, singing show tunes to her girlfriend and dog against their will, or making up jokes for Twitter @SoundofMaddie.