The Sexist

You’re Drunk. It’s Inside You. It Kind of Hurts. Is It Rape?

When American University students returned to school this fall, student newspaper the Eagle greeted them with a warning. In a piece titled "Sex-perimentation defines Welcome Week," three anonymous sex columnists presented a nightmare college sex scenario:

It’s three in the morning. You have it inside you right now. It kind of hurts. You’ve had one too many cups of jungle juice. You think his name is Andrew, but you’re not really sure. You thought you would never be that girl, but there you are, in your drunken haze.

You wake up the day after to an unfamiliar ceiling, some guy who smells like booze, AXE body spray and, well, something else. He wants to cuddle and you’re starting to think maybe this drunken hook-up [ ________ ].

Reader: How did the AU Eagle complete that sentence?

a. You're starting to think maybe this drunken hook-up was rape.

b. You're starting to think maybe this drunken hook-up was a product of society's shaming of female sexuality, which encourages women to resort to dangerous, heavily intoxicated, and painful sex with strangers instead of openly pursuing empowered, respectful, and satisfying sexual experiences with desired sexual partners.

c. You're starting to think maybe this drunken hook-up could turn into something.

If you picked choice C, congratulations. That's right: The Eagle chose to use a woman's hazy, drunk, and painful sexual experience in order to illustrate the serious on-campus problem of . . . drunk women wanting boyfriends!

"A lot of people think that their first sexual experience in college is something meaningful," the column continued. "We can tell you that it is not. " The columnists then informed AU females some strategies they should try next time, instead of painful drunk sex: "lets face it girls, more often then not you’ll have to slow the guy down. That’s more than okay—it adds to your 'mystique.' Flirt with them, step in a little bit closer, laugh at all his jokes, flip your hair, basically everything you see in the movies without the sex. I said without the sex."

So, women who want to get laid on the AU campus can either a) endure drunk and painful stranger fucking, or b) laugh at jokes that aren't funny, and . . . not have sex. What the fuck? And these are the paper's sex columnists!

Some readers and on-campus groups agreed that the Eagle's sexual scenario posed more pressing questions than "Why can't the drunk girl find a boyfriend?" Like, "Was that hypothetical girl just hypothetically raped?"

Many members of the campus community argued that she was. AU Students For Choice penned an e-mail to its members calling the piece "alarming," and describing the opening scene as “an explicit rape.” And in a letter to the Eagle, campus group Women’s Initiative wrote, "This is called rape . . . Not only does the column normalize sexual assault as a drunken hook-up that happens to everyone, but it places the responsibility of stopping sexual assault on women by telling them to 'slow the guy down.'”

Readers also chimed in on the consent issue. "Next time you write a sex article don’t write it like a date rape story," wrote one commenter. Wrote another: "If it hurts, and you’re so wasted you don’t know what’s going on, then that is rape. And that’s not okay or normal."

But others came to the Eagle's defense. "How the hell is that rape?" wrote one. "I hear of this kind of stuff happening all the time. We’ve all been there at one time or another when you have drunk sex, so what? Its the people who end up trying to build a relationship off of that who are stupid."

In its own response to the campus outcry, the Eagle defended the piece as "provocative" and called the outrage "confusing." "For better or worse, many drunken hook-ups on this campus are completely consensual. Women’s Initiative knows it. AU Students For Choice knows it. Sometimes, people get drunk intending to hook-up!" The Eagle then attempted to shame all members of the campus community who voiced concern about the Eagle's strange sex advice. "Baseless charges and unwarranted outrage make these groups look silly," the retort read. "On issues as serious as rape and sexual assault, they should know better than to cry wolf."

The students crying "rape!" and the students crying "completely consensual!" will probably have to agree to disagree—if there's one thing I've learned from sex blogging, it's that arguments over whether theoretical scenarios constitute rape are rarely resolved. But that doesn't mean the two camps can't find a mutually productive discussion somewhere in this mess.

The groups who claim that the Eagle piece "normalized sexual assault," and those who claim that drunk sex "happens all the time" and that "people get drunk intending to hook up!" aren't talking past one another—even though they refuse to agree on rape, they're still voicing different perspectives on the same problem. If the Eagle finds the question "is this rape?" silly and baseless, why not ask them some alternate questions: Why is it considered normal for women on campus to choose disappointing, painful, hazy sex? Why is it a campus trend for women not to just unexpectedly wake up in a stranger's bed, but to get drunk with the intention of waking up there? And since when is declaring painful sex "normal" a valid excuse for perpetuating it?

Pandagon's Amanda Marcotte has got some pretty good answers to these questions. In a post on the Hofstra false rape accusation, Marcotte explains how slut-shaming can lead women to resort to dangerous, heavily intoxicated, and painful sex with strangers—instead of openly pursuing empowered, respectful, and satisfying sexual experiences with desired sexual partners. She writes:

There is nothing wrong with you if you want to have group sex. Now, I wouldn’t recommend that you go about it as this young woman did. Like it or not, but a single woman in a group sex situation with a bunch of men she barely knows that have been drinking heavily is something that could turn to rape, or even if it doesn’t, it could seem menacing once you’re into it, and therefore you may not feel safe changing your mind if it gets weird. A lot of young men have really mixed-up, fucked-up attitudes about this sort of thing, because the homoerotic element is going to turn them on and then they’re going to get upset about that, and they might get more aggressive to demonstrate that they’re Not Gay. There’s a serious amount of danger there. That said, it’s foolish to assume that some young women aren’t going to have group sex fantasies, and the sheer amount of shame that is placed on them for wanting to act those out will push a lot of them to make really, really bad choices under the influence of inhibition-lowering drugs like alcohol.

The only cure for this is to stop shaming women for being sexual. Without the shame driving people to make rash, dangerous, and foolish choices, you’re going to have a lot more planning of group sex that involves vetting partners and getting consent and creating safe words and all that. And then, you own your choice and take responsibility for it. Which makes you not inclined to say it was rape if the word gets out that you did this. If your reputation isn’t in danger, then you have no cause to do bad things in an attempt to save it.

I don't mind that the Eagle's semester-opening sex column presented rash, drunk, awful sex as a normal college experience—it can be. But instead of examining why college women have sex they don't like, or telling college women that they deserve to have better sex, the Eagle told AU's female population that good girls don't give it up. That attitude isn't going to make sex on AU's campus any better, but it will help to keep it drunk. Hey—at least it will be "normal," right?

  • http://feministcampus.blogspot.com/ Danielle

    Most of the AU alums with whom I spoke agreed the column was asinine. Thanks for the coverage.

  • Mrs. D

    Hey, I happen to know one of those "urban legends" couples who got together (married! if you can believe that) after a drunken tryst in college. But your point stands. While a drunken tryst can be fun, being empowered to seek sex when, where, with whom, and under the circumstances you desire makes the probability of a drunken tryst you *regret* much lower. Even if you have a little of the "beer goggles" effect, you're less likely to wake up in a "coyote ugly" situation if you're focusing on what *you* want and not what society "demands" of you.

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  • jules

    I just read the article. Completely asinine. Also: who are the girls that wrote it and why are they relationship/sex experts?

  • Victor

    poor guy... she never even asked him for consent.

    Kinda makes me mist up a little bit every time a drunk frat boy gets raped like this.

    I think the bigger question you should address Amanda, is why would this girl want to consider a relationship with this guy if the sex was so bad? Bad sex = no repeat business.

  • jules

    Victor: stop stirring up trouble! If you don't, I'm going to rape you.

  • kza

    I got raped a few weeks ago. It didn't suck.

  • Lucy

    All rape issues aside, positing the idea that only women try to make a relationship out of drunken sex is a sexist falsehood. In my experience, it's more often men who try to turn a one-night-stand into something more.

  • someone

    it's very anti-feminist to assume that women are incapable of making decisions while drunk, whereas men are, which is exactly what's implied when you call all drunken hookups "rape." women, too, are capable of making decisions.

  • Caroline

    To someone: The point isn't that solely women can't make drunken decisions, it is that NEITHER men nor women are great decision makers while drunk.

    The point here is that why is bad drunk sex what younins' are striving for. And that true enthusiastic consent becomes very fuzy for BOTH parties when intoxicated. It is very important to note that society's negative issues with women's sexuality is one of the things that leads to unsafe situations and bad sex. AND that at the same time, the way to prevent sexual assault of all kinds is not to just tell women not to drink, but to change these dynamics for men and women.

  • http://ayoungethan.wordpress.com ozob

    as the story was written, it was legally rape in most states: someone who is mentally incapacitated through means of intoxication is legally incapable of giving consent. furthermore, it was written with the male as the obvious perpetrator. no matter how drunk he was, he somehow navigated his (semi-?)erect penis into her vagina. if he's coherent enough to do that, he has, unfortunately, committed an act of rape.

    if you are initiating sex(ual contact of any kind), you better DAMNED WELL make sure that you have the the other party's full, coherent, sober consent: anything less than "YES!" means "NO!"

    if you want to complain about that being "too hard" then you can always try drowning yourself in a bath tub...i hear it's easier. or try masturbation. if you're board of that, use your other hand. choices, choices...

  • http://ayoungethan.wordpress.com ozob

    *bored

  • victor

    You assume too much ozob. Why do you assume from this article that "he somehow navigated his.. penis into her"? You assume that a woman would never aggressively pursue sex? You also assume that she asked for his "coherent, sober consent" before she perpetrated this act of rape upon him. Poor drunk frat boy...

    Why do you hate women ozob?

  • anita

    I agree! I'm an AU student, and the prevalence of drunken hookups are high, yet we never hear reports of rape accusations. Don't quite know if this is b/c of this attitude, that it's not really rape, or because "it just doesn't happen here," or because the administration sweeps it under the rug, which is entirely possible. Wish the Eagle pieces had been this thoughtful!

  • mongo

    I've done my share of boozing and woken up in the bed of women I would have preferred not to, but not once have I ever woken up in a man's bed with an aching a-hole - and I'm pretty sure I never will. So for a drunk guy who doesn't know what he's doing, how is it I still know I don't want sex with a bloke? And if some guy said he DID get drunk and woke up next to a man, would you immediately assume that he was raped, or would the thought not cross your mind that he's trying to disguise a previously concealed desire?

  • former eagle editor

    bring back pierce hardcastle.

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  • Sasha

    So here's the thing: it doesn't get reported because a lot of women don't view it as rape, or don't regret said hookup in the morning despite being legally incapable of giving consent. However, it *is* rape - as ozob said, once you're drunk, you can't legally give consent. That applies to men and women. The law is even harsher in Oregon: if you've even had a sip of alcohol, you can't consent. Plenty of people still have sex under these conditions, and nothing is going to stop them. But if one of the participants calls it rape after the fact, their intoxication means that it was.

  • tasbags

    Why do people like Victor only want to talk about rape if the rape happened to a man?

    I know he's being sarcastic and trying to make a silly point. His point (which I called bs on) is that Amanda is being hypocritically sexist toward men. Why? Because she worries that men aren't asking women for their consent before having sex with them, but, Victor's says, she doesn't care whether women are asking men for their consent or not.

    Victor, here's a few things to remember. Many men are stronger than the women around them. Many men can drink more alcohol than women without becoming as intoxicated. Many women are encouraged to be submissive, polite, and non-combative from an early age. Most women can become impregnated from sex. Men can't. Women who have drunken sex with strangers are sometimes called "sluts." Men who do the exact same thing are often seen as studs.

    Now try to tell me who I should be worried about.

  • W

    @tasbags

    You can worry about whoever you want, they are your feelings and only you control them. The point is "legally" it is hypocritical to say a man raped a woman just because he had sex with her while she was intoxicated and didn't say "ok let's have sex" but turn the situation around and say the woman didn't rape the man. The point is that saying anyone was raped while having sex just because they were intoxicated is ridiculous. Plenty of women have jumped my bones without me saying "aight let's do it" and do I consider myself raped because I was intoxicated? No. The point is if feminists want to promote women being able to cry rape just because they regret having sex while intoxicated then men should be able to do the same.

    When you corner a feminist with this argument you always get the "I never said that this doesn't happen to men too.....BUT blah blah blah men did this to women blah blah blah women are this and men can do this blah blah blah rape culture blah blah blah mens fault blah blah blah" response.

    The law isn't their to protect feelings it is there to punish crimes equally.

    And yo I know a gang load of women that can put away some liquor.

  • Victor

    I think W summed up a lot of what my response would be. Although I like to think I may have been more tactful and polite.

    tasbags - you just outlined all sorts of reasons why we shouldn't consider men and women to be equal sexual partners (strength disparity, alcohol tolerance, pregnancy etc). I say bs. Most of those excuses are just that... excuses.
    "men are stronger!" - only relevant if there is force or the threat of force. We're talking about two drunk people gettin' it on.
    "men have a higher alcohol tolerance" - so? In this fictional situation, he may have drank twice as much. We don't know. If you have a low tolerance, don't drink as much. That's not rocket science
    "Women can get pregnant" - OH NOES! Pregnancy has NOTHING to do with consent. You can get knocked up from consensual sex just as easily.
    "women have been raised to be meek" - really? tell my damn girlfriend that. A 20 year old now was raised in the 1990s... That excuse is long past.
    "slut-shaming" oh come on. First off, you're reinforcing this stereotype yourself. By running around labeling drunken sex as "rape" you're implying that ONLY a slutty female would get drunk and have sex. YOU are reinforcing this attitude. Second, grow up and be an adult. Where is this mythical circle of people who know exactly how many men you've slept with and are shaming you for it??? What, are you telling all your co-workers about your drunken sex the night before? Unless you're in college, there's no reason for some mythical group of people to even know this much about your sex life.

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  • http://genderbitch.wordpress.com/ recursiveparadox

    Ahoy all (especially Victor),

    As someone who was raped while drunk I'd like to point out that sex while drunk is not automatically rape. It does however intensely increase the risk that you will end up raping someone. These aren't the same thing and I would appreciate people not confusing these intensely high risks of raping someone when both parties are drunk with drunken sex being invariably rape.

    Let's go over the risk boosters:

    1: Alcohol inhibits communication skills (harder to articulate that you want to stop, harder to understand that someone wants to stop)

    2: Alcohol inhibits coordination skills (harder to pull away or push away which makes it tougher to know when someone doesn't want it)

    3: Alcohol makes some people docile and unresponsive (makes it really difficult to know if that's "omg I've frozen up because you're hurting me" or "mmmm good sex, naptime")

    4: Alcohol accentuates emotions and urges (you may not be horny enough to ignore a no while sober but you may be while drunk)

    5: Alcohol affects judgment (you may make stupid assumptions about how she or he is responding and either not realize that you're raping someone or hurting someone or not care because of how trashed you are)

    6: Alcohol (sometimes) causes aggression (you may be aggressive enough to scare someone or hurt them into feeling unsafe to even say, "hey no please stop")

    Sleeping with someone who is drunk (especially when you're drunk) may be crazy risky but it isn't invariably rape. That being said, just because it isn't invariably rape doesn't mean that rapes that happen when someone is drunk should be dismissed. The fact is, an epic shit ton of rapes involve alcohol and drugs. The numbers are so high as to actually lead some to believe that alcohol will invariably go that way. This isn't true (I've had drunken sex and I've been drunken raped, they are two very different things) but those numbers do show how high the risks are.

    With that in mind, why the fuck would you risk having drunken sexual encounters? It's like fucking an HIV positive person with no protection. Are you stupid? Have you lost your mind?

    Having drunk sex makes it loads harder to avoid raping someone, and really unintentional rape is not only possible, it is reasonably common.

  • HardTruth

    "Having drunk sex makes it loads harder to avoid raping someone, and really unintentional rape is not only possible, it is reasonably common."

    The problem is the law only sees it that way when a woman claims she was raped. And a lot of the time, A LOT of the time the only thing that took place was sex.

    If you are in any branch of the military the men get a brief, not an official one, just something a commanding officer will tell his soldiers. "If you go out and drink, don't associate with any women if they are drinking because if they wake up and say they were raped you will be arrested and more than likely receive UCMJ punishment"

    Most guys just nod or laugh when they hear this but it is a sad truth that isn't limited to military life as it is the standard for civilians as well. It is a sad truth that needs to change.

    Men don't force women to drink. Women go out to bars and clubs just like men do looking for a good time and men don't force them to have sex while they are drunk. There isn't any need to get someone drunk to force them to have sex if you are already stronger than that person.

    The whole "he got me drunk" accusation is pathetic at best and vindictive at worst.

  • Dez

    I think I went to school with that girl.

  • Joshua

    women have far too many rights whereas men have significantly fewer. How the hell did that wind up happening?

  • Victor

    recursive - sorry I didn't see this earlier.

    rape is rape. I don't particularly care if the alcohol caused the guy to "ignore" her "no" or made him more aggressive. That still fits in "rape". The only point you made which I find interesting is "inhibited communication skills". Are you saying that a drunk girl can claim the next morning that "she meant to say no, but because the alcohol inhibited her communication skills, she wasn't able to say anything"? If that's the case, what happens in the morning when both the guy and the girl say that? Is that an "oops, sorry we raped each other" situation?

    My interest is not in a situation where consent was denied, nor in a situation where force is used. That's a clear-cut home-run rape. My interest is in those issues where people claim that consensual sex (consensual as in both parties participating) becomes rape because the consent CAN'T be valid when the woman is drunk. My interest is why this ALWAYS defaults to the woman being the poor, drunk, taken advantage of, victim. I'm sure someone out there is going to claim it's our fault for creating a situation where the woman is pressured into claiming rape after having sex with some guy she later realized is 5'9" and has a mole on his nose...

  • Ophelia

    Victor:

    "By running around labeling drunken sex as “rape” you’re implying that ONLY a slutty female would get drunk and have sex."

    I could be wrong, but this is what I would interpret that to mean:

    If you call it rape, you imply that it could only happen to a slut.

    No. Aside from the simply offensiveness of the term *slut,* being a *slut* does not mean you will be raped. Not being a *slut* does not mean you will not be raped. Translate that into applying to a men for a second, assuming that *stud* is the male equivalent of *slut,* which it often is:

    If you call it rape, you imply that it could only happen to a stud.

    And that makes no sense, does it? Because *studs* are seldom raped, isn't that right? Because men aren't really raped that often, are they? They're the aggresors most of the time. Why is that? Could it be because we live in a patriarchy? Where women are forced to be passive and submissive? And men are taught to be aggressive and assertive? This translates into women being taught not to fight against rape, and men being taught that it's okay--maybe even good, although no one would ever say it in so many words--to force your penis into a woman's vagina, violently in most cases and completely without her consent.

  • http://www.myspace.com/7558749 Michael Ejercito

    On one hand, rapeis rape, regardless of the drunkenness of the perp or victim. Drunkenness is not a defense.

    On the other hand, drunkenness is not automatic proof of inability to consent, as men and women who were convicted of drunk driving can attest.

  • ChloeCat

    So which is it - empowered, self aware and responsible "own your choice and take responsibility for it" from beginning to end including the outcomes of that choice.

    Or

    Blame shifting, immature "stop shaming women for being sexual. Without the shame driving people to make rash, dangerous, and foolish choices" - NOT- Bottom-line

    Nobody can make you feel inferior without your consent. Eleanor Roosevelt.

    An individual makes choices, that is what the fight for equality was and is all about. As such the individual is responsible for the choices they make and the outcomes - or they aren't. Life is about choices - some outcomes are good some are bad and some are a blur. There are no do-overs for poor outcomes. That may not be fair but it is what it is.

    Stop wanting to have it both ways. A person can only be shamed if they internalize it and allow their self concept and actions to be shaped by it if they buy into it.

    Bottom line.......if you really put a small value upon yourself, rest assured that the world will not raise your price.

  • Infojunkie

    Ophelia, I think you interpreted Victor's comment incorrectly.

    He wrote:
    “By running around labeling drunken sex as “rape” you’re implying that ONLY a slutty female would get drunk and have sex.”

    You said:
    I could be wrong, but this is what I would interpret that to mean: If you call it rape, you imply that it could only happen to a slut.

    Add the word "voluntarily" at the end of his sentence, and I think you'll understand better what [I think] he meant. He's saying that the people who automatically call this scenario rape aren't sex-positive, because they are saying that a non-slut would *never* get drunk and have sex with someone she barely knows.

...