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I found this insightful piece on the blog safercampus.org/blog.  Safercampus.org was started by Columbia University students in 2000 to end sexual violence.  The organization is staffed by an all volunteer collective  that organizes campaigns, trainings, and outreach to end sexual violence on campus.  I work  as a forensic nurse examiner in a large urban teaching facility in California.   We see an inordinate amount of cases in which drugs and or alcohol are involved.  Drug facilitated sexual assault is on the rise.  Alcohol is the most common drug in DFSA.

The problem with sex and alcohol involves a complex cascades of missed cues and miscommunication.  It’s complex to say the least.    Consent involves mutual negotiation of needs not coercion.  A yes should be a clear spoken and enthusiastic action in support of the yes.  The person should be clearly engaged and enthusiatic about what is happening and or about to happen.  Yippie, you betcha.     This should be evident throughout the sexual contact.  If it is not then one might ask the other person do they want to continue.?   If there is no clear yes, then assume it is a no and stop doing what you’re doing.  Check in with the other person.    If the person is crying or attempting to get away or push the other person away you can assume it’s a no.  If you have to ask yourself whether they’re into it or not then it’s probably a no.

July 13th, 2010 at 12:25 pm

When “Drunk Sex” Clearly Is Rape, and More Thoughts on Alcohol and Consent

Because we focus on college campuses, the issue of alcohol and sexual assault comes up constantly, and often by guys who are on the defensive. It’s actually a really complicated piece of the discourse around sexual assault that we don’t talk about nearly enough, this anger over whether or not “drunk sex” is rape—at its worst, the defensive argument is the idea that women who get drunk and have sex often “cry rape” afterward because they regret what happened. On the other side of the spectrum is what I think is a genuine confusion about how drunk is too drunk, that makes some guys really scared, and ultimately that fear can lead to really hostile defensiveness. Somewhere in the middle is a mixture of carelessness, entitlement, and lack of communication (based in a lot of fucked up history and the fact that we don’t talk about consent and sex openly with young people) that enables rape because one person never even really stopped to think about what their partner even wants, not to mention how intoxicated they actually are.
The bad news is, there isn’t one test to tell when someone is too intoxicated to consent to sex. (Well, maybe there is—one could make an argument about blood alcohol content perhaps, but college students don’t carry breathalyzers last time I checked so let’s move along). And so when we talk about alcohol and consent, it’s a conversation about open communication with your partner if they’ve been drinking—checking in with them, making sure they are enthusiastically, affirmatively consenting to whatever you’re doing together. Clearly people are sometimes going to get drunk and have sex. And the presence of alcohol in someone’s bloodstream does not automatically make it rape. But there’s a spectrum of intoxication. If someone is physically impaired by their drinking (or drug use), you can tell. They are getting sick, their body is limp, they’re not able to communicate clearly with you. It’s a common sense situation. If it’s less obvious, you know they have been drinking but you’re not sure how much and they seem OK, that’s where communication is key, and honestly—if it’s unclear how drunk your partner is and you feel conflicted, then maybe just play it safe and don’t do it. Instincts are there for a reason. You’ll have another chance to have sex, but sexual assault is permanent.  As a side note  I love this piece at Scarleteen about how men know if someone is giving consent or not, and I highly recommend it.]

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