“I was 22. First time ever black-out drunk, first time having sex. No consent, no condom, no remembrance of it happening, better yet enjoying it.”

This comment is from Marcy on the post “Why It’s Dangerous To Say  ‘Only Bad Guys Commit Rape.’” There are many reasons to talk about rape, and consent, and the harm done. At The Good Men Project, not everyone agrees that we should talk about it the way we’ve talked about on our website. But it’s the stories that get told that help give a collective understanding of a word so powerful that some people are afraid to say it out loud. Here is one of those stories that has come out of our conversation here. 

In light of this post I feel the need to share a story as well…I am a rape victim, and here is my story.

A year and a half ago I was seeing a guy and we had messed around, but never actually had sex. He was very good to me, very great guy, but I did know that he had ‘been around’ prior to us starting to see each other and it made me uneasy. I wasn’t completely ok with it, but he drew me in, we had been friends for almost a year and I had had a crush on him for months. My recent relationship had ended so I had a chance to start seeing him.

We had been seeing each other (not in an official ‘relationship’) for about a month. On the night of my birthday, I got extremely intoxicated, blacking out most of the evening. He also got extremely intoxicated. When we got back from the evening we went to bed. The next morning I woke up, realizing both of our clothes were off and I was sore…I knew that I never said yes. I don’t even remember it starting! I just remember waking up in middle of it, towards the end I suppose…and then falling back to sleep. I thought it was a dream! Sadly, it was not. What makes it all worse…this was my first time ever having intercourse and I was 22. First time ever black out drunk, first time having sex. No consent, no condom, no remembrance of it happening, better yet enjoying it. Having to wake up the next morning and buy plan B. Thank God I didn’t get pregnant. Yes I know, 22 is old…but through high school I wasn’t dating anyone serious (and wanted the first time to be with someone who loved me) and then through college I was dating a guy who was very religious and celibate. So I was celibate. So I was waiting till either marriage with him, or a new relationship with someone who loved me. And with the first time getting black out drunk…alcohol scares me because my mother was an alcoholic. So I have always been very careful. This was the first and last time I ever let go and just ‘got drunk’. Never again.

I’m still seeing him, a year and a half later. I don’t know why I didnt just end it. I believed he didn’t know what he was doing. I believed it was a mistake and didn’t think it was rape because we were seeing each other so I must have ‘set myself up for it’. And after time of thinking about it I realized it was full out rape. But I really liked him, and we’ve built a great relationship that I don’t see ending. But that night still haunts me and always will. I cry and cry when I remember that I waited so long to have sex with that perfect man and it was just taken from me. I can’t even remember it. Honestly, we should have never been that intoxicated, and now I know, I will NEVER get that intoxicated again because bad things can happen. Im even more scared of alcohol now.

So my point of telling this story…please take this seriously. Men and women alike. Do NOT GET THAT DRUNK because you have no control over what is happening after a certain point. It’s a horrible idea and leads to horrible things. So please, realize that you MUST have consent. When someone is asleep, they are a no go. Waking them up is probably even a no go because their still in and out of sleep…make sure they are 100% there. And don’t get so drunk that you cannot ask for consent or cannot give consent. If your planning to get that drunk, plan to say away from the opposite sex. And cars. And anything of value to you.

Just thought I would share…and I hope that it hits home with some people. I will always regret getting that drunk that night…because the one thing that was mine, that I had held back from everyone for all the years of my life, was taken from me. I would have never said yes sober because we weren’t ready, and I wasn’t conscious when it happened. So be sure you practice and preach consent. Please and thank you.

photo: hollylay / flickr

RAINN operates local crisis centers, which you can reach at any time by calling the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1.800.656.HOPE (4673).

Our section on rape and sexual assault, here.

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  1. I’m just saying… it’s not exactly fair to call this situation rape. Me and my boyfriend never had sex yet but I got black out drunk and had sex with him. I didn’t remember but I know it wasn’t rape. Why? Because we were making out, and I kept telling him I wanted to have sex. I remember him telling me about his ex and being sad, and I remember kissing him and saying “baby I’m not like her. You won’t get in trouble for fucking me.” And I remember him telling me how bad I wanted him inside me. The rest, I don’t remember. I remember walking out to use the bathroom butt ass naked. I remember him saying he needed to pee after. But literally the rest is such a blur…. I don’t remember falling asleep. Do I regret it? Yes, only because I feel it was too soon and I wished I took it slower but I was so drunk and when I get drunk, I get horny.

    I’m just saying, it’s not necessarily fair to call it rape especially since he may not have even known you wouldnt have done it sober. Maybe you regret giving it to him…. I don’t know the case. But if you don’t remember the sex, and you obviously don’t remember how the question came about, how do you know you didn’t consent?

    I’m just saying, maybe you really didn’t consent. I’m not trying to be insensitive by any means but after going through my experience, I’ve learned truly that although you may regret it, you can’t really jump to that conclusion so quickly

  2. wellokaythen says:

    Sure, it could be rape. If it is, then it was a bilateral rape, because he was extremely intoxicated as well. Just because he had an erection and could move doesn’t mean he was able to consent freely. If whathe did was rape then what she did was rape as well. I don’t see why they have to be mutually exclusive. He should get help and she should get help as well.

  3. Some of the commentators have been truthful in that we can’t call this rape. They have also been untruthful in saying we CAN’T call it rape and the ones that say “oh its just black out regretful sex” are not being exactly helpful here.

    None of us were there, we cannot provide any kind of video, audio or witnessed proof as to whether consent was given by either party or whether it was not given by either party which means what it is is an unknown. All we DO know is that a sexual act occured. Its wrong to vilify a woman and degrade her trauma by saying that its not “true rape” (geeze! Is that like “true woman”, “true man” or in the BDSM world “true submissive” (btw saying the last one on ANY forum in relation to that culture will get you rightfully having your appropriate organs handed back to you in a less than pristine state)?) nor can we make her a saint by telling her it is rape without the shadow of the smallest doubt. So far I haven’t seen a single commentator who has had anything useful, productive or worthwhile to say since as far as I can see there IS NOTHING TO REALLY SAY.

    She had an occurrence, it was regrettable, it may or may not have been rape. We can sympathize that she feels traumatized by it and the fact that she cries over it even to this day, and I think that’s what we should do instead of getting into a p**sing match over technicalities in law and what term it would or would not qualify to be called. It helps no one for people to attempt to either victimize or to shame the person that shared the story or her partner.

    To the person behind the story: I’m sorry you went through such an experience that has hurt you to this degree. I hope that you manage to move on as much as you are able, have a life that is genuinely happier and involving more good than bad.

  4. Jacqueline says:

    Just discovered this blog via a NYTimes comment. I can completely identify with this young women’s regret and self-disgust after the fact and I am sorry for her. However, I think that calling the act rape undermines the seriousness of true rape and therefore damages all of us women. There is a difference between a jerk and a rapist.

  5. This was RAPE, period. If your partner isn’t in a coherent state and able to consent, the answer should always be NO – on your part and theirs! To the young lady who was brave enough to share her story – please don’t allow any online critics to shame you or try to tell you how to feel. There are plenty of resources out there if you’d like more support. Sadly, from the comments above, I doubt you’ll find that space anywhere around here.

    • @JB- within the facts given- if you are right my feeble mind extrapolates both parties,guilty of rape.

    • please don’t allow any online critics to shame you or try to tell you how to feel. [Emphasis added.]

      Is it okay to tell someone how to feel as long as it means telling them they were raped if they never really thought so until they started reading about what some people count as rape?

      JB, you’re the latest (but surely not the last) to perpetuate this myth that blackout drunk means so incoherent that anyone else can tell they’re incoherent and won’t remember what they’re saying or deciding to do later on. Remember: blackout drunk and passed out are not the same thing. It’s also something that doesn’t happen to everyone, or for those that do experience it, after the same degree of intoxication and (in)coherence for everyone. Even if you had a magic ability to know someone’s blood alcohol content just by looking at them, it still wouldn’t tell you if any given drunk is of the black-out variety, or be a consistent indicator of how coherent people seem, given different tolerances for different people.

      Adding a period to your opinion doesn’t make it more correct. Exclamation point.

      • Thanks – and yes, I know the difference between both types of drinking. I’d also like to point out iI never called anyone here feeble or assumed a lack of intelligence on anyone’s part. What seems important here is that the author shared an experience that would be harrowing for anyone, and found that experience being invalidated publicly. None of us were there, but as someone who has been in a similar position and subjected to the same sort of invalidation and questioning – sometimes you don’t really have to do much guesswork to know that you would not, sober or drunk, have consented to what you know you’ve experienced and are having to deal with. The author doesn’t necessarily need invalidation or analysis from any of us – myself included. She just needs support and space to tell her story without being picked apart – and any human, male or female, can at least be afforded that.

        • It was perhaps the author’s misfortune in this case that the story was made Comment of the Day, because while that’s often a cool thing to happen, in this case it shone a spotlight on a comment that had until that point not drawn any follow-up comments about it. That is, no one was jumping on it as a comment, either to offer support, or to “pick her apart” in the thread where it appeared. Once promoted to article, though, that made it about more than just a commenter sharing a story, whether that was her intent or not, and since it came in a context of several recent rape-related articles where the criteria for “rape” and “not rape” have been vigorously debated, it’s sure to draw more of the same.

          As h4wk said, “She had an occurrence, it was regrettable, it may or may not have been rape.” I’m not seeing the absence of sympathy that you are for the regret part, or even assertions that it definitely wasn’t rape. I’m seeing (and making) arguments that if it’s unknown by the traumatized person whether they gave consent or not, we can’t just say, “Definitely rape!” to make her feel better. We readers don’t know, and apparently even she doesn’t know, whether she consented while blackout drunk or not, but the very unambiguous part that most sympathize with is that the circumstance would not have happened if both she and her boyfriend hadn’t gotten heavily intoxicated. It sounds like they learned from it, and maybe someone else will without having to first experience it for themselves. It is for that that the author has both my sympathy for what happened, and my gratitude for sharing it so others might learn from her experience.

          I disagree with this statement: “sometimes you don’t really have to do much guesswork to know that you would not, sober or drunk, have consented to what you know you’ve experienced and are having to deal with.” That’s basically denial that there is such a thing as impaired judgment, which pretty much by definition, involves making decisions (exercising impaired judgment) that you normally wouldn’t. I have a hunch that most drunk drivers consider themselves people who “would never get behind the wheel while impaired.” It happens.

  6. This piece would be more appropriate to a recovery blog…
    I am, and this is just me, tired of another pass out, black out drunkalogue by parties in denial- I’ve listened to thousands of qualifications in the past 27 years & god willing will continue to do so until I die.
    And just for the record I have no blame and only empathy for the victim in Steubenville…
    I don’t know if the author was in college when this occurred, but I would have been happy if this site was listed along with RAINN..

  7. Robert…God forbid that a woman should held accountable for their sexual excesses and or mistakes.

  8. I love how “regretful sex” has now turned into “I was raped”. The thing is people get drunk and they have sex because they are drunk. This is what socially happens. It’s NOT rape. He didn’t force you to do anything. It was mutual drunken sex. Only because you regret losing your virginity at 22 to someone you weren’t happy with doesn’t mean you got raped. What if he was more intoxicated than you? What if you initiated? How can you disprove any of this if you were wasted?

    More and more I keep hearing about people getting blackout drunk, having regretful sex whereby they feel embarrassed or did something like cheat on their SO and then call it “rape”.

  9. when one is so under the influence of a substance, one is not legally able to give consent. one is not considered of sound mind.
    it’s this protection under the law that applies in numerous cases, especially where crimes are committed.
    if rape is defined as sex without consent, then rape occurred here. the author has been raped. and it may well be that her boyfriend has been as well.
    the point of the story, as I understand it, is to alert others or inform others not that all men are rapists, or that all strangers are rapists, or that all boyfriends or young men or people who have had a drink are potential rapists.
    It’s that sex without consent can occur when one gets shit-faced, and this can have severe consequences for everyone involved.
    that the couple are still in a relationship does not take away from what went on – an act that the author considers was violation of her body without consent. again, the boyfriend may or may not feel the same. it does not take away from the act. I imagine the anguish is enhanced by the love that the author has for the boyfriend – again that does not take away from the act itself or the pain.

    • Before responding to the points you raise, g, I want to point out I take the original story for what it was, which was a comment in another thread that was selected to be run as a “Comment of the Day” piece. That’s a GMP feature I like, but I think it’s easy to overestimate the goal or thesis of a comment that was never intended as a stand-alone by the author. I know I don’t write my comments with the same attention to detail the I try to give articles. So, whatever discussion flows from this one, I don’t think this comment was written with a clear thesis or argument in support of it – it was just a person sharing a story. I don’t mean this as a ding against the quality of writing, because it was a good and interesting comment (IMO), but it’s not like there was enough detail to be determining things like who expressed how much consent in their mutually drunken state.

      when one is so under the influence of a substance, one is not legally able to give consent. one is not considered of sound mind.
      it’s this protection under the law that applies in numerous cases, especially where crimes are committed.

      Not only do you offer no legal basis in support of that claim, but like every other time I’ve seen the argument made, you leave out any practical way that people are supposed to know how intoxicated other people are and when to know that can’t-consent line has been crossed.

      if rape is defined as sex without consent, then rape occurred here. the author has been raped. and it may well be that her boyfriend has been as well.

      The story does not say whether she consented, only that she couldn’t remember. It also leaves out whether the boyfriend consented. You may want to assume that she didn’t want it and he did, which would make it rape, but I don’t think it’s kosher to define rape by plugging memory holes with the most rapey assumptions possible. I also don’t agree that if two people have sex that both regret, but neither one feels raped, that maybe both people were raped. Even if a legal definition were to make it so, I would disagree in principle, similar to how I don’t sodomy laws are sufficient reason to consider every instance of anal sex a crime, regardless of the participants views.

      It’s that sex without consent can occur when one gets shit-faced, and this can have severe consequences for everyone involved.

      Sex with consent can also occur when one gets shit-faced. So can many other activities with impaired judgment, which is why it’s called “impaired judgment”, not “amnesty by reason of impairment”. Other than a woman having sex, are there any other activities or decisions you can think of in which we waive all individual accountability because they got shit-faced? Drunk drivers don’t get immunity, drunk fighters aren’t considered victims no matter who started a fight, drunk spenders don’t get refunds for drunken purchase decisions. Why is sexual *consent* different?

      that the couple are still in a relationship does not take away from what went on

      If “what went on” was sex she regretted, I agree, and sincerely do have sympathy for the emotional turmoil she still has about it. If “what went on” is implied to be rape, then I don’t see how a subsequent long-term relationship has no bearing on whether it was rape. The story said they’d been “seeing each other” about a month when it happened, so it’s not like this was some complex case of a forced relationship, or long-term relationship that had a rape occur in the middle of it so it’s not as easy as just cutting it off. If she thought it qualified as rape when it happened – which she does not say in the story – I find it beyond belief that she would go ahead and form a long term relationship with him when every exit door was open to her. I don’t get the impression she’s from a culture where she’s expected to marry her rapist to protect the family honor, for example. I find it *very* believable that she would still get in a relationship with him if she viewed the first-time experience as a serious mistake which she could trust him (and herself) not to repeat. I also find it believable – even likely having seen similar comments recently – that she didn’t consider it rape at the time, but has subsequently read things that make her think maybe it was, and *that* has created a new kind of trauma that wasn’t there to begin with.

      • wellokaythen says:

        Very good point about all the other activities that one is still held accountable for when drunk, but somehow sex is different. Perhaps we should look at two drunk people having sex the way we look at two drunk people having a fistfight. They can both be perpetrators and/or victims, even if one is a little drunker than the other.

  10. As someone who has been stranger-raped, date-raped AND had unfortunate blackout sex that I did not want or mean to have, I would say that it is actually quite important not to define “rape” ONLY as whether or not the act was consensual on your part- rape gives agency to the other person(s) in the situation.

    The author here may have missed some crucial detail, but like the others here have commented, the details here paint a picture of unfortunate blackout sex that sounds easily just as non-consensual on both sides. Perhaps the author should talk to her partner about whether HE felt taken advantage of at all that time- it is not clear from the details presented here why she assumes she is the victim. At the very least, the decision to engage in this act needs to have been a *conscious* decision on his part in order for “rape” to be the applicable term.

    She does mention her partner “got around” previously, but if that’s meant to be proof of anything, that’s essentially the same as slut-shaming rape victims and using their previous sexual history against them, irrelevantly.

    Richard Aubrey— If rape is rape, it feels the same kind of devastating. Differentiation between whether you know the person or not is not relevant to the intensity in emotional and psychiatric effect of such an invasion, irrelevant to how much you feel like a shell of the personality and arguably, soul, you once were afterwards. If rape happens, that’s what it is- you can’t “minimize” rape for calling it by its name.

    Also, I can’t really express how much being flippant about the concept of requiring *enthusiastic* voiced consent from both sides is inappropriate. While this author does appear to make a sudden leap of judgement, that does not undermine the fact that rape can happen, and has happened, at all stages of sobriety to blackout state- and nothing to do with that has any effect on its innate identification as RAPE. If victims are used to support some political party or game, that’s an unfortunate turn of events beyond their control- it does not undermine their devastation, their experience, and it does not make it obsolete.

  11. And let’s be honest,there is a long tradition in culture of using drugs to ENHANCE performance(men and women) and pleasure.We are nothing if not a culture of excess.On college campuses the kind of excesses described in the article are legendary.

  12. Just another reason,if you are a male,especially a youngmale,to be wary.This is a potentially dangerous time for them.We live in a culture where giving mixed signals around sex,intentional or not,is the norm. Deception, for many women, is a critical part of the chase. Which means,less words about sexual needs and an expectation the male will/can figure it out without exposing her to potential rejection or em barrassment.Tell you what,let’s throw into the mix copious amounts of drugs and immaturity.

  13. Are you blaming the alcohol? Or are you blaming him, or yourself? Why are you still with him if you believe you were raped?

    • Richard Aubrey says:

      I know! I know! Call on me!
      She has been trained to call almost anything except “hell yes” while stone sober “rape” because a certain group of people who shall go unnamed need Big Numbers in order to have moral authority for all kinds of purposes.
      See Koss.

      • I tend to agree with Marcus, but I don’t think we need to take shots at the author or minimize how traumatized she is.

  14. No. You didn’t ‘set yourself up’ for anything. There are no excuses, and it wouldn’t have mattered if you were black-out drunk or sober. There is nothing you ‘should’ have done differently. Bottom line, it was rape. It doesn’t matter if it’s with someone you’re seeing or not. You are not in the wrong. Don’t EVER think that if you did something differently, it would have changed the outcome. Don’t make excuses for him.

    No matter what, it’s not your fault- not even because you were black-out drunk.

    Thank you for sharing your story.

    • If the guy co-erced her yes, but if they were both skunk-drunk and had sex, how is it rape? This over-defining of the word “rape” is extremely unhelpful.

    • I respectfully disagree that it was rape, based on the details given. Details that were left out may have been consistent with rape, but the story describes having sex while blackout drunk, with a partner who was also extremely intoxicated. Blackout drunk does not mean passed out unconcscious or an inability to act with any volition – it only means there was alcohol-induced amnesia afterward so that she couldn’t remember what happened. Not remembering includes the possibility (without making it a certainty) that she consented to sex, as well as the possibility that she wanted it and he didn’t, which would make her a rapist. Also, you can’t tell when someone is blackout drunk; you don’t know they won’t remember things until they’ve sobered back up, which could include plenty of volitional behavior from driving a car, to getting in a fight, to consenting to sex.

      All we know from the story is she doesn’t remember what happened. That’s enough to qualify it as a very regrettable sexual experience, but not, in and of itself, enough to make it rape. So in that sense, it *does* make a difference whether she was black-out drunk or sober, because presumably she wouldn’t have amnesia about the sex if she’d been sober. The fact that she’s still dating the guy a year and a half later is fairly persuasive to me that it was very regrettable circumstances for a first time, but not rape. I think she correctly identified the central point, which was don’t get that drunk because you have no control past a certain point. “No control” doesn’t mean that anything that happens to you will be a crime because you were too drunk to remember – it includes the possibility of acting on *impaired judgment* that the alcohol caused, but you were still responsible for.

      • I agree with Marcus. You really don’t know whether or not you consented. We do a lot irrational things when drinking that we may not have done otherwise. However, no details in this story would make me think anyone was raped.

        As far as not drinking so much that you loose control: great point. I consistently see people getting sick over too much alcohol and it always puzzles me. Why? You can be thoroughly drunk and happy without going so far as to have such negative consequences as the ones you discussed here or getting sick. The problem starts with kids at a young age who are rarely taught moderation anymore but are told simple black and white “truths” that they must follow. Once they realize that these rules do not match reality to totally reject them and go to the opposite extreme. For example, teaching a teenager how to drink responsibly and enjoy alcohol without inducing high risk or harmful behavior will be much more helpful than telling him “Drinking is bad. You shouldn’t drink.”

  15. Richard Aubrey says:

    Hell of a way for a kid to learn the business, as somebody said about a similar situation.
    The drunken thrashings of a couple of nearly-unconscious people can be regrettable, and even criminal in some jurisdictions.
    If we call it “rape” and conflate it with violent stranger rape, and with other violations, we’re minimizing the latters’ offense.

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