Rape: Was She
Asking for It?
The man accused of rape was cleared
of all charges. He argued that the
girl was asking to be raped because
she wore tight-fitting jeans.
The judges decided that because the jeans
were so tight the girl would have had
to help him take them off, therefore
the act was consensual sex. [cont’d below]
Sexual assault is never justified, despite the myths that surround it. These are mainly ideas that people use to justify rape, such as “she was wearing sexy clothes so she was asking for it.”
There’s never an excuse and never an invitation to rape. As college students, most of us drink on occasion and attend parties. One important message that we want to get across is that a drunken “yes” is still rape.
When a girl is intoxicated it is implied that she cannot decide to give consent. If you meet someone at a party who has been drinking and then have sex with them it is considered rape and the aggressor can be convicted.
“Because she was drunk and partying” is no excuse for rape. This is a reality for college students, where drinking and partying is part of the culture on most campuses.
Drunken hook-ups have become the expected pop culture college experience but the typical drunken sexual encounter can be understood as non-consensual sex.
Legally, you cannot make a formal decision, sign a document, drive a car or even be in a public place while intoxicated. Alcohol blurs the lines between a “yes” to sex or “no” to sex. A “yes” consists of active, willing participation based on equal power and choice.
Rape is not just when the victim says “no” and the perpetrator ignores the protests but can also be the victim giving in from fear, going along in order to gain approval or being under 18. Consent is the use of sexual respect and communication.
When Yes Means
No. Or Does It?
Consent in sexual situations can be complicated to navigate, especially for undergraduate students who may not have much experience with physical intimacy.
Consent requires both parties in a sexual encounter give explicit permission for a particular sex act to take place.
For example, a one-night stand in which partners have only just met might result in intentions becoming unclear, a situation that could be dangerous if both partners are unable to openly discuss their consent.
For there to be consent, both partners must be able, both physically and emotionally, to directly express their comfort with sexual activity taking place without pressure from their partner.
Sexual consent can be messy and confusing. Even people who care about dismantling rape culture hand wave the issue and call it a “gray area.”
How about incapacitated consent? This might sound familiar: Person X got really drunk and had sex with person Y. It “just sort of happened.”
No one wants to call their acquaintances, classmates or friends rapists. And the person who suffered the rape may not want to take on the heavy mantle of a “rape survivor.”
But it’s rape all the same. Reality isn’t neatly polarized into dark alleyways and violent encounters. Rape happens at parties with people you could run into on the street on your way to class.
How many of you have said yes to sex you weren’t incredibly down for? Was this person someone you would otherwise trust? How many of you have wheedled someone who didn’t particularly want to do anything sexual into agreeing?
Did you use force, manipulation or threats? I suspect many of you could easily say yes to all of these questions.
If you define consent as something that cannot be coerced, then, in these situations, there is a very good chance you have either enacted or experienced sexual violation.
It’s not easy to say “no” to sex. It’s a situation already complicated by self-esteem, desire, self-image — not to mention the implicit societal messages you’re constantly bombarded with.
How you should deal with this otherwise natural appetite? Moreover, how often in life do you give an explicit “no”? You say, “I’m sorry, I just don’t think I can make it,” not, “No, I can’t go.”
You say, “I’m not sure about that,” instead of, “No, I don’t like the idea.” Likewise, you’ve got to work with all kinds of nonverbal cues to figure out or give sexual consent.
To say that the person requesting consent must be the one decoding all these cues is to put unreasonable expectations on one party and treat the other as lacking agency or spine, yes? No. And again: no.
An ideal world would be one in which everyone felt equipped to be clear-headed and responsible for their own sexual actions.
A world in which every sex-related “yes” was a “hell yes,” in which all kinds of people were honest with themselves and others about their desires.
It’s a constant and difficult task to actually execute on a daily basis. True equality would require work and honesty on everyone’s part.
It’s crucial to acknowledge that there’s a lot more going on than a simple “yes” or “no” when you ask or receive consent.
Don’t Judge Me
“I was involved in a situation where there wasn’t consent.
It’s not something I wish upon anybody,” she said.
“I was in denial about what happened, so much so I
tried to form a relationship with him because I didn’t
want to believe what actually happened.
“When that didn’t work out, for years I had a very unhealthy
relationship with sex. I didn’t want to have sex, which
affects a relationship. I didn’t like talking about sex.
It’s taken me a long time to get to where I am now in
being open and comfortable talking about it and loving
myself and accepting things I can no longer control.”
In the age of #MeToo, and in the wake of the Brett Kavanaugh
hearings, parents across the country have been wrestling
with the anxieties of raising teenage boys to understand consent.
How does a parent bring clarity to an issue that is too complex
even for the country’s political leaders to navigate?
How can a mother or father prevent their teenage son
from someday being accused of sexual assault?
Teaching consent to teenagers is
still a relatively new concept.
In previous decades, conversations
about the “birds and the bees” focused
on abstinence or using protection.
In recent years, consent has gradually made
its way into public school sex education
curriculum, but it’s still rare.
Only 24 states require sex education in public schools.
Fewer than a dozen states mention the terms
“healthy relationships,” “sexual assault” or “consent”
in their sex education programs,