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Stream of Consciousness: Drunk Sex = Rape?

*TRIGGER WARNING* regarding rape in terms of alcohol consumption

So we all just got back from spring break (and I hope everyone had an amazing time!) but seeing as how I spent my week in the craziest of the crazy SB vacation spots – Panama City Beach, Fl! – my week was a little… crazy! Don’t get me wrong, I had a wonderful time. But reflecting on my (not gonna lie) very drunk time spent there, I started questioning some of my decisions. Now, to preface this, no I did not have any drunk “hook ups” and I was not ever that dangerously stupid as to leave any of my friends for the sake of a boy. But it got me thinking about all of the girls who had… It got me thinking about the law that says that drunken sex is considered rape, and I started developing many questions about the gray areas and the validity of this law. DISCLAIMER!: This by NO MEANS means that I am justifying rape, or saying that there are gray areas to anyone who is purposefully and unfairly taken advantage of while drunk. I’m only referring to a very real and specific college culture that is the drunk hook-up. I believe we’re all familiar with this phenomenon – the drunk party-goers that meet on the dance floor and go home together. But my confusion stems from this being considered rape, when (for in this case/example) it can be entirely consensual. So I did my research.

I found that most of the definitions and explanations of this law state that it isn’t the alcohol consumption that precedes that sex that makes it illegal, it is the inability to consent. One article I found from MSNBC stated it this way,

Despite years of rape law reform, many people still imagine rape as a crime involving literal force, rather than lack of legal consent.”

I really like this quote. I like the distinction made that it doesn’t always have to physical brute force that constitutes rape. It can also boil down to wrongful coercion or someone who is completely inable of making any decisions, whether something was slipped into their drink or because of voluntary consumption gone way too far. But this is the point I don’t entirely understand the boundaries of. It make perfect sense to consider the last scenario rape, but what about sex after just a few drinks? Yes, I understand that when drunk, your decision making is affected and you lose your inhibitions, but at what point of drunkness do we call the drinker too drunk to be able to make that decision for themself? At what shot or drink, is any decision that you make considered invalid and how could that ever be measured when everyone has different limitations to how they handle alcohol?

I completely understand that being black-out-stumbly-unable-to-form-correct-words-or-see-straight drunk means that you are unable to make this decision for yourself, and that anyone who can physically see that you are this drunk can NOT rightfully take advantage of that without it being considered rape. BUT what about the people who are not so outwardly and visibly wasted? I know I have a friend who, on Spring Break with me, was apparently extremely drunk but was walking, talking, dancing, and completely functioning perfectly. I never would have known she was more than a little tipsy until she told me the next day! So, if applied, how could anyone know that her consent would not have been valid for sex? Of course, my judgement on her abilities could also be chalked down to my own drunk-level of that day (I’m not really making myself look so great right now, am I? I swear, it wasn’t MTV worthy or anything!). But then, that brings up another good point! If the partner had consumed alcohol as well, then how can they be held fully responsible for a rape if they truthfully and innocently could not tell the partner’s drunk level was too high to take the consent (that for this example we’re always implying was given) at face value? Which of course, would be nearly impossible to prove in defense of themself if one is calling the act rape.

Again, I am not justifying any acts of rape or down-playing anyone’s negative experience with drunken hook-ups.  I’m just having a difficult time grasping the application of this in every instance of drunk sex, and figuring out how it could be cleared up and classified as something more specific.  This is just my personal stream of consciousness on my confusion of the gray areas of this form of rape that I decided to share in case anyone else 1- shares in these thoughts/questions with me and has anything to add and/or 2- has the answers I’m looking for on this topic! So please, I hope no one took this the wrong way, but share with me your thoughts and opinions on this matter!

5 Responses to “Stream of Consciousness: Drunk Sex = Rape?”

  1. tohellwithsugarandspice

    I think your confusion is the reason we have the law constituting that there needs to be sober consent. Maybe it is too grey to ever define and that is why the law is the way it is. Technically, if both people are drunk- they raped each other. I thought about this too before but I think it’s important to have that definition of sober consent because we don’t need any other reasons for people to distract from the seriousness of rape. People already try to distract by saying that some victims are lying, which could be true in some cases but those cases are so much smaller than the numbers of reported rapes not to mention the rapes that are never reported at all. I respect your opinion and can see where you are coming from (I went to PCB last year -_-) This is where I have some to clarifying my thoughts on the subject.

    Reply
    • yourknightinshiningtutu

      Thanks for responding! It was really hard to write this, because I don’t really know too much on the matter, and it can be so sticky that I didn’t want to ever say the wrong thing to offend, or implicate anyone or anyone’s experiences. That’s why I wanted to make it very clear that it is a stream of consciousness and simply the ordered words of my confusion towards the subject. Thanks for recognizing this and offering another point of view instead of thinking I was attacking, I really appreciate it!
      I completely agree that the law definitely needs to be in place and there to protect anyone drunk and defenseless, and like you said – to not distract from the seriousness of rape. But therein lies my issue, and what I was trying to convey in my writing. The law as it stands is so general and vague that it IS distractible and not as protective of victims as it (I believe) could be. There are so many that can claim it falsely, or those who are rightfully accused can find loop-holes and fight it easily because of its “gray-areas”. I am not sure of the answer, but I think that there could be a more definitive and specific law for drunk rape. Thanks for your thoughts! I’m glad you find this subject as frustratingly gray as I do! But I don’t think it necessarily has to be, and hope one day it will not be so.

      Reply
  2. cpowell92

    The topic of rape must be popular this week because I am actually blogging about an incident where a woman with down syndrome was raped three times by a man in her own home. At first the man was found guilty but then the judge overturned this verdict because he did not think the woman reacted like a rape victim should therefore it was not rape. Rape becomes a very touchy and messy subject when trying to figure out who is guilty and who is not. This case is different but in the cases where the people were drunk, I feel like it is better to have the law saying if you are drunk and cannot give consent then it is rape. There are already so many grey areas and so many different opinions that it is important for laws to be made even if they might not always apply to every case. For instance if I get a little drunk one night and choose to have sex with my significant other, is that rape? I would hope not but I guess by that law it is. However, I would really want that law in place if some guy took advantage of me while I was really drunk at a party. I see what you are saying though and I think it is great you brought up this issue!!

    Reply
    • yourknightinshiningtutu

      I completely agree that this is such a messy subject! And I appreciate the ping back on your article, which was very well written and just as infuriating! To clarify on my post – I was never trying to say that the law shouldn’t be there, just that maybe it needs to be clarified and made more specific so that the topic of drunk consensual relationship sex vs. being taken advantage of when drunk are two separate cases instead of both being considered rape. And maybe/hopefully even made more specific so that it is less of a gray area that the accused can slip his/her way out of such as you mentioned in your blog, where the jury decided it was not rape because the victim didn’t “react correctly,” which is just as applicable with a drunk victim! I certainly have a lot of confusion towards this vague law and how it can always be applied, even when consensual (which is mostly what I discussed), but of course this also makes it very easy for someone to worm their way out of an accusation. And THAT I think is reason enough for this law to be looked at and adjusted, but of course not diminished as I believe its protection can be invaluable and definitely imperative to have (“gray areas” or not). It was simply my point that it could be improved. Thank you for your input! and your expanding more on the topic in your own well-written and note-worthy post!

      Reply

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