Only ‘Yes’ Means Yes: Sometimes What You Think is Consensual Sex is Actually Rape

Shannon Ridgway and Sandra Kim offer a clear guide to understanding and obtaining consent from your partner.

What is consensual sex? Common knowledge states that it’s two adults who willingly agree to engage in sexual activity with each other.

Sounds simple enough, right? Apparently not.

When I googled the term “consensual sex”, I found many definitions of consent, and many definitions of what constituted a lack of consent but hardly anything on the phrase itself.

This lack of clear definition seems to align with fact that some people still get it confused and end up raping someone without consciously intending to. Clearly many people intentionally rape but there are some who don’t and wouldn’t if they had known it was rape.

So we need to teach both men and women that it’s still rape – intentional or not. And hopefully we can prevent a portion of sexual assault from happening.

What Consensual Sex Isn’t

There an unfortunate belief that still lingers in our society — and even upheld by some laws in certain instances — that says unless the other person verbally says no or physically displays acts of resistance (i.e. “fighting back”), then the sex was consensual.

Even though many women freeze when being sexually violated, which is as strong a defense mechanism as flight or fight.

So “yes” has come to mean “if the other person doesn’t say no (violently or screaming), it’s okay”. The problem with this definition is that it reduces the power of the second person involved.

If one person is ready to go and the other person is frozen in fear and/or says “no” in a small voice, it’s still rape.

So What Is Consensual Sex, Really?

It’s time to rediscover the true meaning of consensual sex.

Consensual sex is when:

  • Both parties agree to have sex (ideally verbally but at least physically)
  • Both parties show excitement and willingness to have sex.

How to know it’s consensual:

  • Look for visual clues – Does the other person seem excited or happy? Are they smiling? Or do they seem scared or unsure?
  • Check body language – Is the other person seem to be in a positive mood or have high-energy? Or do they seem tense and uncomfortable?
  • See if they’re engaged in the sexual act – Is the other person proactively kissing or touching you? Or are they still and only move if you ask them to?

And lastly and most importantly,…

  • Just ASK and watch for if the answer is said with fear or joy. If it’s a “yes” said in a small or fearful voice, wait before progressing and find out what’s going on. It may be shyness or it may be fear – don’t you want to find out which one it is?

Some Common Examples of What We Sometimes Think Is Consensual and Is Actually Rape

Now that we are clear on what consensual sex is, what isn’tit? Consensual sex isNOT:

1. Marital sex where one person doesn’t want to have sex

Yes, wives do not “owe” their husbands sex merely because they’re married. They too should have sex when they actually want to have sex.

This misconception has deep roots in sexist thinking that says women are the property of men and once bound by marital contract, give up their right to consent to sexual activity.

Because this was strongly believed (and thankfully less so now), it wasn’t until1993(!) that there were laws in every US state and the District of Columbia that acknowledged marital rape was a crime.

2. Drunken or intoxicated sex where one person is incapacitated or unconscious and cannot consent

People often think that when we mix of alcohol/drugs and sex, it’s hard to tell when there’s consent.

So let’s make it clear – just because someone’s drunk doesn’t mean they’ve given consent. They’re just drunk. It has absolutely nothing to do with consent.

It just means it’s easier for someone to have sex with them because they’re less able to know what’s going on – ie easier to rape them.

So if you can’t tell if they actually want to have sex because they’re unconscious, semi-unconscious, or simply too intoxicated to communicate effectively, don’t have sex with them.

It’s really that simple.

And yes, alcohol and drugs can lead to some people feeling less sexually inhibited and more likely to engage in sexual activity. The key is to make sure they can still communicate clearly and express their desire to have sex and you get that confirmation first before having sex.

3. Sex when the other person says “no” but because they’ve had consensual sex before or has been labeled a “slut”, their “no” is discounted

Because apparently if someone agrees to have sex 100 times and decides they don’t want to the 101st time, it doesn’t count.

Really? How ridiculous of an argument is that? A person has the right to decline sex whenever they want, with whomever they want, including if they’ve already had sex with them before.

Remember how marital rape is a crime? Married couples have tons of sex and it’s still rape if one person is forced to have sex at any point.

So unless you think your father should be allowed to rape your mother because they had sex to make you, don’t force your partner to have sex when they don’t want to.

4. Sex with a minor aka statutory rape

Yes, the term “rape” is there for a reason. Statutory rape means sex with a person under the legal age of consent or sex with a physically or mentally incapacitated adult. The young and the incapacitated in our society are awarded special protection under the law, because they cannot give consent in the same way adults can.

So this means that even if they give consent– verbally or otherwise– it is not true consent, and the sexual act will be considered an act of rape. This is true for both girls and boys. If a younger boy has sex with an older woman, that too is considered statutory rape despite popular belief.

This is also true if your purchase commercial sex from a minor. Just because the minor (female, male, trans*) is on the streets doesn’t change their age. And whenthe average age of entry into prostitution is 13 years old, the chance you’re having sex with a minor is high. So in addition to committing the crime of solicitation, you’re also committing statutory rape and personally benefiting from and actively supporting human trafficking.

5. Sex when one party withdraws consent mid-way after having initially given consent

This is one that seems to get the most heat because it’s not explicitly defined in some states as actual rape and some people feel entitled to be able to “finish” regardless of how the other person feels.

However, despite what the actual laws on the books state, the amount of victim-blaming that occurs, the misplaced sense of entitlement, or the many reasons for withdrawing consent (ranging from boredom, being in pain, to downright abuse) the fact remains – withdrawing consent means saying “no”.

And it still counts even after they give an initial “yes”.

Think about it – Say you decided to eat ice cream but then decided to not finish the bowl because you felt sick. If someone forced or pressured you into finishing it, don’t you think that would be a violation too?

So remember ignoring their “no” is a violation of a person’s autonomy and body and subsequently equals rape.

The bottom line between consensual sex and rape is this – both parties should actively want to have sex and express their willingness to participate to each other.

If this doesn’t happen but sex does, then it’s rape. Because as famed feminist author Jessica Valenti says – only yes truly means yes.

And if you feel like this isn’t important to consider when having sex, remember that it doesn’t matter if you didn’t “intend” to rape someone.

The other person still feels raped and will have to deal with the trauma for maybe the rest of their lives. And you may be charged with sexual assault.

So is this something you really don’t want to be clear on?

 

 

 Originally appeared at Everyday Feminism

Read more from Everyday Feminism:

7 Types of Serious Abuse We Don’t Take Seriously 

Why Saying “Men Are Slaves to Their Sex Drive” is Insulting to Men

Shannon Ridgway is a Contributing Writer to Everyday Feminism from the great flyover state of South Dakota (the one with the monument of presidential heads). In her free time, Shannon enjoys reading, writing, jamming out to ’80s music and Zumba, and she will go to great lengths to find the perfect enchilada. Follow her on Twitter @sridgway1980.

Sandra Kim is the Founder & Editor of Everyday Feminism. She brings together her personal and professional experience with trauma, personal transformation, and social change and gives it all a feminist twist. Follow her @SandraSKim.

 

Photo: Flickr/erix!

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About Everyday Feminism

Everyday Feminism supports people dealing with everyday violence, dominance, and silencing due to their gender, sexual orientation, race, class, and more. Through our online magazine and upcoming online school for applied feminism, we help people apply feminism to their real lives in order to work through issues, stand up for themselves, and live their truth. Follow us on Facebook or Twitter!

Comments

  1. YES! Thank you for yet another article toward men about what’s rape! Thank you, thank you, thank you!
    Although some words were changed to appear “all inclusive” you missed all of them “Even though many women freeze when being sexually violated, which is as strong a defense mechanism as flight or fight.” It’s obvious that this is geared toward and effort to educate men and women about men.

    • Joanna Schroeder says:

      To be clear, we didn’t change a single word in this article. Feel free to follow the link back to EF.

      There is even a line where she explains that rape against men IS rape.

      • @ Joanna
        “To be clear, we didn’t change a single word in this article. Feel free to follow the link back to EF.
        There is even a line where she explains that rape against men IS rape.”

        Funny, I can’t seem to find that line. Unless you mean this …
        “So we need to teach both men and women that it’s still rape – intentional or not. ”

        Which I parse as saying that we need to teach men that their intention does not matter, and repudiating so-called “accidental rape” – which is clearly their intent based on the preceding link, and the overall thrust of their article. And we should teach women that they have been raped.

        Where in the article does it make it clear that “rape against men IS rape.”, and taking women to task for their lack of respect for obtaining consent from their male counterparts?

        • Joanna Schroeder says:

          Here is another example:

          This is true for both girls and boys. If a younger boy has sex with an older woman, that too is considered statutory rape despite popular belief.

          • Slight issue with this, boys are accepted as who can be raped but adult men often are not when the perpetrator is a woman.

            If it makes people feel better than maybe it can be edited to say rape affects both genders?

            • Joanna Schroeder says:

              Archy, I already conceded that she should’ve changed “women” to “people”. Other than that, there is NO WAY in which she is excluding men from any of this.

          • John Anderson says:

            @ Joanna

            I wonder why she called it statutory rape. Surely, that’s the legal term, but it also makes it seem not quite rape. That might be something Archy is picking up on a sub conscious level.

            • Indeed. In culture I mostly only see talk of women harming boys, not adult men. The myth of men being able to defend themselves always from women which forgets that fight, flight comes with a third called FREEZE.

    • Even though many women freeze when being sexually violated, which is as strong a defense mechanism as flight or fight.
      like tom, i noted this. i guess men are just flesh-robots that never freeze, never feel fear

  2. There is a lot of great information here, but also several problem areas. If they’re not corrected we’re setting up men for some serious failures. Political dogma has to give way to reality.

  3. So there is this thing called delayed gratification. And most of us, when we are really hungry and really desireous of something don’t much want to wait. But, in a case like sex it seems like ethically, morally, and legally it’s pretty much always a good idea to err on the side of delaying the immediate gratification to make sure that your partner is really in it with you. I think it gets to a scarcity model of sex wherein if you have the chance to get some, you take it. That goes for women as well as men, as women and men both are capable of sexual assault. (just look at the latest CDC report on same sex partner violence). Also, if you look at sex as a commodity model (something to exchange, that men want and women don’t want to give) yeah, things get troublesome. http://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/nisvs/SpecialReports.html
    There are huge world views that need to be changed about sex and why people have it-I think Kinsey has been doing recent studies on that, finding hundreds of reasons people have sex from exchange to boredom to curiosity to revenge to lust, so getting more communication around “why” and then making sure people are some level of agreement doesn’t seem unreasonable. At all.

  4. I’m so paranoid about sex that I’m afraid to have it – even when it is verbally consensual – lest it be called rape after the fact. Obviously I have serious trust issues. But unfortunately that is because of the kind of women I have been with. I take responsibility for my flawed mental perceptions of sex, and am trying to heal them. It would help if I didn’t have this voice in my head telling me I’m bad and wrong because I want sex.

    • Joanna Schroeder says:

      Jean, you are GOOD to want sex. That is normal and healthy.

      I think the best thing you can do is to just know the woman well before you have sex, talk a lot, and check in with her. You can do it in a sexy way, “how does this feel?” “you have the sexiest neck, I’d love to kiss it” and gauge her reactions.

      If you’re thoughtful, which I assume you are, and are conscious about your partner’s participation and enjoyment, you’re going to be fine. Great, even.

      • Wouldn’t it be more accurate to say “The act of wanting sex is neutral”? People who don’t desire sex, whether at a certain moment, at a certain period in their loves, or ever at all, aren’t bad or unhealthy.

    • I am paranoid to, I usually let HER do the acts first to make sure it’s all ok whilst continually asking if this is ok, do you want to do this, you can do that if you want, etc. I tell her to say stop as sooooon as she wants to, I won’t harm her, but I never want someone to think they can’t say no because I am bigger (6’6, large body) so that could be intimidating. Though interesting enough I am probably more nervous than she is, like I was with my first who was way more confident than I even as we were both virgins.

    • John Anderson says:

      There was a woman at work, who many people said “liked” me. We were very friendly. We talked and joked and flirted often sexually suggestive. I’ve given her rides home. She asked me to lunch. During the lunch, she mentioned her fiance. Whoa!!! Sometimes all the evidence points in a direction and it’s still wrong. We’re still friends, though.

  5. I can’t believe I consented to read another one of these articles!? Or did I? I certainly wasn’t enthusiastic about it. I didn’t think I was enjoying it. Maybe I’m a masochist?

  6. Nick Johnson says:

    “And when the average age of entry into prostitution is 13 years old, the chance you’re having sex with a minor is high.” – this would mean that half of prostitutes start working before they are 13, which seems extremely unlikely. And indeed, following the link, they cite two journal articles, from 1982 and 1985 (30 years old!). One of them was a survey of adolecent prostitution, the other a study of street prostitutes. These are not representative samples; the quote should be “The average age of entry into _underage_ prostitution is 13 years old”.

    Sexual abuse and forced prostitution are awful, and we should do everything we can to stop them. But it does your argument no good to conflate prostitution as a whole with it.

  7. What is the point in all these rape articles on GMP? Yes, there are men out there who rape women. And there are men out there who read GMP. I would imagine the overlap between the two groups is practically nonexistent. Yet, every few weeks we get yet another “please don’t rape women — no really, we mean it this time” article. In reality, all these articles accomplish is turning off the few relatively masculine men remaining who still return to these pages.

    Most men — at least, most men of high value — understand intuitively that men are judged primarily by the good things they do, not by the bad things they don’t. Yet, the pages of GMP are dominated by articles preaching the latter. Don’t date too young. Don’t watch porn. Don’t judge a women by her past. Don’t. Don’t. Don’t.

    The men who continue to read this site have long gotten the message. We already know what we’re not supposed to do. If the editors of this site want it to continue to grow and flourish, they could do no worse than instead focusing on getting men to do the right things, rather than trying to badger and “civilize” them into not doing the wrong.

    Rape is a serious topic no doubt. But like anything else, overexposure eventually dulls us to the seriousness of the offense. You can only cry wolf so many times before the citizens fail to respond to your warning.

    • Joanna Schroeder says:

      First, who’s “crying wolf”?

      Talking about a serious issue isn’t desensitizing people to it, instead, it normalizes the topic. And rape and consent should be normalized. Rape survivors shouldn’t be so ashamed, they should feel like they aren’t alone. They should feel that there are a LOT of people out there who support them. Articles like these say to them, “You are okay. You were not wrong. You were raped. It’s not your fault.”

      Articles like this also make the conversation about enthusiastic consent normal so that we can have them with our friends and our children, and feel like we have profound knowledge of the subject. Not unlike racism, and the ways in which institutionalized racism oppresses young Black men (and women), we should be talking about this until the idea of “Only ‘Yes’ Means Yes” becomes totally normal. As of now, it’s not.

      to me, what you’ve written above, is like the people who want slavery removed from textbooks. They say, “We know slavery happened. We know this nation used to be horribly racist. We get it. I’m not a racist and I”m not raising my kids to have slaves, therefore we don’t need to keep talking about slavery.”

      We DO need to keep talking about slavery. We DO need to keep talking about the genocide of the indigenous populations of North America. We need to talk about the holocaust. We need to talk about how many young men are forced into combat in other countries, only to be killed by Western soldiers.

      And we need to talk about rape. We need to talk about consent. We need to talk about how to PREVENT rape. YOU may know about “yes means yes” but maybe others don’t. What if someone who didn’t truly understand consent read this before he or she went on a date with your daughter (niece, sister, best friend, brother, son, etc)? What if this changed them, and they respected boundaries as a result?

      What if a parent read this and sat down and talked with his or her child and explained these concepts BEFORE that kid became sexually active?

      If you know it, if you understand it, I’m incredibly glad. Skip over this one, there is a LOT of content on this site that is not about rape. In fact, the vast, vast majority of it has nothing to do with rape.

      • Bay Area Guy says:

        We need to talk about the holocaust.

        Oh yes, because we clearly don’t do enough of that already.

        I used to be super sensitive about the holocaust a long time ago, but the more I’ve studied the Israel/Palestine conflict and the ways organized Jewry has cynically exploited white gentile holocaust guilt to sanitize Israeli crimes (read “The Holocaust Industry” by Norman Finkelstein), the more I’m growing convinced that the holocaust is too often employed as an ideological weapon, and used to instill guilt in those who have no reason to feel any.

        When Jews talk about the Nakba (The 1948 “catastrophe” for the Palestinians, which resulted in their displacement from their homeland) as much as we talk about the holocaust, then I’ll have no problem with how much we discuss the holocaust.

    • John Anderson says:

      @ DD

      “What is the point in all these rape articles on GMP? Yes, there are men out there who rape women. And there are men out there who read GMP. I would imagine the overlap between the two groups is practically nonexistent.”

      First, the article assumes that people can unintentionally rape as they might not understand what constitutes consent. Yes, very few men here (if any) would knowingly rape someone that doesn’t mean it couldn’t be done unintentionally. I myself take issue with the marital rape portion of the article. Many people consent to sex they don”t want in order to please their spouse. That is not rape.

      Note: That might be why they used the term forced. That may or may not include coercion. I believe that some levels of coercion can negate consent. That could probably use some more debate.

      According to an IVillage marriage sex survey

      “Fifty-seven percent of women and 39 percent of men report having sex out of obligation at least sometimes ”

      http://www.ivillage.com/married-sex-survey-results-sex-week/6-b-520245#520264

      Granted there can be some debate as to how much pressure can be placed on a spouse before consent is negated. There is the flip side. Partners should have to be stuck in a sexless or not sexually gratifying relationship. I think that there is room for compromise that doesn’t constitute rape. Same with the sex industry. There could be a level of economic coercion that negates consent even though I see nothing morally wrong with prostitution and think it should be legalized. Consent based on an exchange of money is still consent.

      • I’m thinking you meant to say, “partners should NOT have to be stuck in a sexless [...] relationship.” Right, so then, divorce? Or perhaps, an open relationship might be an option? Why the hell would the partner who doesn’t want sex have to engage in it?

        If my partner were to discover that I’d “consented to sex I didn’t want” it certainly wouldn’t please him. He’d be saddened I hadn’t been honest with him. And he’d probably refuse to have sex with me for a while, and never before interrogating me to the point where he was certain I really wanted to.

        I agree that prostitution should be legalized, although I do have some ethical qualms about it all, and don’t see it as completely straightforward. Humans are not machines, we are complex, emotional creatures. However, I think women would be safer if they weren’t selling themselves on the black market. This is the same reason I’d like the war on drugs to end, but that’s another subject…

        • P.S. Getting to have sex with someone is not a right. It’s an honor. There are many who live happy lives as celibates. I mean, this entitled notion of being stuck in a sexually unsatisfying relationship is bunk. Sure, maybe your partner doesn’t want to have sex with you. I can imagine that might hurt quite a lot. But that’s not something to treat with a selfish, dismissive “well, let’s have sex anyway” solution. Rather, that’s something to have talks about and consider going to counseling for. Maybe you aren’t in love anymore, or one of you hurt the other deeply, or one of you has clinical depression…

          • A woman in France was awarded damages for a sexless marriage, as it was considered (his) duty in marriage to have sex, and he didn’t provide it. Something like 10,000 Euros. He had medical reasons to consider sex painful, so he wasn’t doing it to spite her or anything.

          • I dont really like the word “entitlement” in this context. Is it entitlement to expect that your spouse do something nice for you on your birthday? Or when you’re sick? Is it entitlement that you expect them to ask you how your day was? I mean I think we need to draw a line between entitlement and reasonable expectations. Now granted each couple should set what those expectations are, but we have a natural urge for sex and while some may be happy celibate, its usually considered apart of a loving, healthy relationship. And this isn’t a gender specific issue because I’ve heard people of both sexes express frustration about being in a relationship that has become sexless.

            I do agree that in those cases, they should look at talking to their partner or possibly go to counseling to find out the issue, but I often find that the word “entitlement” is used to shut down people who are simply expressing reasonable frustration. In other words just because someone expresses frustration that their partner isnt having sex with them doesn’t mean they feel “entitled”. That implies they feel sex is a right that should be bestowed to them, when that may not be the case.

  8. This is helpful, but I dislike that it pretends away the ambiguity, and imagines “if only men take enough precautions” that they’ll stop being the guilty-until-proven innocent perpetrator of all crimes.

    I imagine a future is coming, where we’ll all be carrying around video or audio recording devices, so when any conflict occurs, you can go back to the original actual event and evaluate “what happened”, whether post-sex regret that turns into rape accusations, or fights where a drunk woman verbally or physically abuses a passive man until her provocation sends him into the slightest response that turns into assault charges. When there’s no witnesses and a woman decides she was victimized, and turns her memories into something that didn’t happen, then men can actually defend themselves without feeling like they are assholes for not actually wanting to hurt someone.

    • There you go @Tom- evidently 1/2 the drivers in Russia have dashboard cams because the system is a mess, the bonus will be great meteor footage & maybe, someday, good Sasquatch & ET video.

    • I have a sinking feeling that even if it ever got to that point where people were somehow videoing their interactions with the opposite sex, so many people would still have different interpretations of the same event… Sort of like that Japanese movie, “Rashomon”, (depending on the point of the view of each character, one might interpret as a consensual act what was really a rape, etc.)….

      Check out some of pick up videos by Tyler on YouTube — RSD / RealSocial Dynamics…. He “pulls” a drunk “stunner” from getting into a cab and he brags about the “score”….I think the reality is that many people will push the boundaries of acceptable behavior if it means sex is the reward….

      • John Anderson says:

        There was a case in Illinois like that. Two or three boys from a wealthy suburb got a girl drunk and had sex with her (Through I feel it was, I won’t use the term rape because they were acquitted). They video taped it. The prosecutors thought that the video tape made it a slam dunk case, but the defense attorney started pointing out things like she’s smiling in this frame, etc. I think part of the problem was she was bombed out of her mind, but she could still move and her body did involuntary things. Just because it’s rape, doesn’t mean the persons body isn’t being stimulated..

        I think a large part of it was that the jury wanted to acquit the boys because they came from wealthy families, part of it was that they didn’t realize that there could be an involuntary response to stimulation when you’re out of it, and yeah, part of it was interpretation. A smile could signal pleasure. It could also signal embarrassment.

        Good point.

  9. Intoxication removes consent, is that 1 single milli-litre of alcohol? When exactly does that kick in? I am still on my epic quest to find out if 2 people having 1 drink each are technically raping each other if they have sex.

    Also a question on the freeze aspect. Could a person who didn’t want to have sex but was scared to disappoint someone have sex with them and show enthusiastic behaviour, masking the fear? All smiles and “faking” it? If so would that still be considered rape? Reason I ask is curiosity of someone faking it if they feel like because the other partner is bigger they feel at risk if they say no and don’t do it. If you wanted to avoid being hurt a person may fake enthusiasm to an activity to try make the other feel nothing is wrong. I’d say it would be very rare if ever done though, my guess is most people that freeze up with fear don’t get enthusiastic unless they are already in an abusive relationship and are trying to please the abuser to avoid further abuse.

    I guess I am also wondering is it possible for someone to fake enthusiasm with someone who hasn’t shown any abusive tendancies but from physical size alone they may feel threatened. As a man who is 6’6, large bodied, I am well aware that my size difference with women is great and thus I am extra cautious to try read her body language as best as possible whilst asking over n over if it’s ok, listening to vocal tone to hear there are no signs of distress so I know consent is there but I curious if someone would fake the enthusiastic part for fear of what I’d do if they said no. Of course if they said no I’d be fine with it, I have zero intention of harming or raping anyone, and from what I know this possibility would probably be rare but is there additional stuff to look out for to ensure consent is there? I wouldn’t ever want someone to be afraid of me SIMPLY because of my size, hell I was far more nervous than my first partner.

    I avoid sex with alcohol for this reason too since they can be enthusiastic but drunk and whilst it’s easy to know to not have sex if they are stumbling drum I am worried about how many drinks one can safely have before consent is removed. If my partner n I go out for drinks, do we have to wait till we’re both 100% sober? Like a person above I am paranoid over consent because of the uncertainty of how alcohol affects consent, what level, etc. I know about the unconscious and even stumbling drunk/slurred speech levels but I haven’t seen any major advice on the “tipsy” level, the level of 1 drink, or blackout drunk but not stumbling/slurred speech (as in how to identify when someone is blackout drunk so you know to avoid sex). Everything in awareness campaigns I’ve seen seems to just say don’t have sex if they are unconscious or falling over?

    • Joanna Schroeder says:

      Archy, you are nitpicking.

      Obviously everyone would agree that 1 mL would not inhibit a person’s ability to make a reasoned decision. This is a huge grey area consent problem, the alcohol issue.

      I can say, though, that if I were on a date and the person I was with had more than one drink, I would hold off on first sex. That’s just me. Even if the person weren’t impaired, I want sex to be sober and engaged. I also think not having “grey area” consent issues is worth the sacrifice of waiting to have sex.

      Can you legislate this? Of course not. But if the person you’re with seems at ALL impaired, it’d be wise to make a choice to hold off. No one ever died from NOT having sex for one night.

      As far as the law goes, that’s why there are juries and judges. Not that it always works, but they’re there to assess a person’s ability to make a reasoned decision, in retrospect. As I said, if it were me I wouldn’t leave it up to a jury, and instead I’d make a different choice.

      • Yeah but I am nitpicking because of the way the law was told to me in Aus. It pretty much got advertised that a woman with ANY alcohol in her system (yes just women, not men) couldn’t consent, hence my utter confusion over it. What I think is logical may not be correct, my confidence in someone have 1-3 drinks being able to consent has been diminished and completely unsure of what a decent person is supposed to do apart from not have sex. I am only interested in consenting sex so I want to know when the consent disappears, I only know of the extremes (stumbling drunk or passed out) for alcohol.

        • That’s not the law in California or most U.S. states. An intoxicated person is legally capable of giving consent to sex. For it to be rape (legally) they have to be so intoxicated that they are pretty much passed out unconscious,

      • @Joanna Schroeder:
        I can say, though, that if I were on a date and the person I was with had more than one drink, I would hold off on first sex. That’s just me. Even if the person weren’t impaired, I want sex to be sober and engaged. I also think not having “grey area” consent issues is worth the sacrifice of waiting to have sex.

        Yeah, that’s what most people say, when they are sober. ;-)

  10. I think this at least points a bit:
    “And yes, alcohol and drugs can lead to some people feeling less sexually inhibited and more likely to engage in sexual activity. The key is to make sure they can still communicate clearly and express their desire to have sex and you get that confirmation first before having sex.”

    There is a noticable difference between someone who is so drunk they are incoherent, unable to take care of themselves, can barely walk, etc. Someone like that is obviously too intoxicated to consent. But if they are drunk, but capable of making sense, walking, and are clearly making physical moves on you, then I think it’s safe to make a move. You can always take it slow, checking in with how they’re reacting, or just ask what they want. If they’re too incoherent to clearly answer with a bit of enthusiasm that yes, they do want to go home with you/f*ck you/whatever, then you have your answer right there.. “no”. you can always get their info and contact them when they’re more sober.

  11. crying wolf says:

    “Married couples have tons of sex…”

    I think the author needs to do a little more research.

    Also:

    “There an unfortunate belief that still lingers in our society — and even upheld by some laws in certain instances — that says unless the other person verbally says no or physically displays acts of resistance (i.e. “fighting back”), then the sex was consensual.”

    I don’t think that belief and legal precedent is at all unfortunate. I think that’s a reasonable law and a reasonable expectation. Going down the other road… our actions are legal or not based on some other person’s internal state which we don’t necessarily have access to.

  12. Good communication is important, and most people agree with this in full. Here are some additional good tips from my personal experience that help men and women with their communication.

    If you’re drinking heavily in a manner that impedes your ability to communicate, understand that you’re most likely in a scenario were others are doing exactly the same.

    If you’re a dude that tends to freeze during sex, for whatever reason, and can’t express your consent easily and freely, it’s probably best that you refrain from having sex till you can manage proper communication. Using the same analogy of ice cream – an ice cream vendor is not going to keep asking you if you’re enjoying your ice cream. The vendor may have good psychic skills, or she may not.

    Most know where the line is between joyful flirting and over the top hunting. If you’re not really interested in her sexually, then give it a rest and don’t lay it on so thick. You’re not on a casting call.

    In all cases, don’t assume that she is in a better position to judge the state of your mind. It does not work that way.

    • John Anderson says:

      I would also tell women that an erection does not constitute consent although it might seem to. It might be too much to ask men not to have an erection if they don’t want to have sex as that is an involuntary response.

      I think that there is not enough conversation on the responsible use of alcohol. We’ll teach people don’t drink and drive, but we won’t teach them to limit drinking so they don’t rape. Many guys have pointed out that some men may have drunk so much that they couldn’t tell that there was no consent. In cases like that don’t drink and have sex. The same goes for women.

  13. This article claims that our society in general still holds the belief that consent means only the the absence of resistance, and that this problem is even reflected in our laws. I am not convinced that the part about laws is true. I clicked on the article’s link to thinkprogress.com that is supposed to support this claim. Without going into details here in my comment, the linked article contains an update saying that the court case in question was ruled the way it was due to prosecutorial misjudgment – not because the law in Connecticut supported assumption of consent.

    Thesis fail.

    I want to eliminate rape as much as anybody else, but I have a hard time appreciating these types of articles because they think the solutions are to 1) redefine rape so that everyone understands that it can be committed unintentionally, and 2) shift more of the burden to men for ensuring that women do not have a regrettable sexual encounters. Well, redefining rape and consent this way may seem helpful for transforming social views, but does not work in a legal sense, which is where we get real protection for potential victims. Can you think of any other major crime where intent can be separated from criminality. Not if you want it to be a felony. And I believe that is how it should be.

    As far as women and their regrettable experiences with sex, it would be great if all men went through double and triple checks beforehand to make sure that women are totally relaxed, with no fear or anxiety. That is called being a gentleman. But to obligate men to do this under the threat of being labeled a rapist, especially if she has already gotten undressed for sex or showed other signs of participation, is neither fair nor practical. The reality is that consent is usually reasonably assumed. Maybe we should be more focused on reaching a consensus, morally and legally, about what “reasonably” means. Then we can hold both men and women accountable to it.

    And before anyone accuses me of giving rapists an easy excuse for their actions, here’s a proposal. Let’s redefine rape so the legal standard is obvious disregard for consent by the other participant(s) in the sexual encounter. This way we can go after those people who are hell bent on getting sex with or without consent. And we also don’t have men wondering if they are accidental rapists just because a woman didn’t speak up like an adult. What do think Ms. Ridgway and Ms. Kim? If you still insist on detaching intention from the crime, what do you think about creating different classifications of sexual assault? Similar to involuntary manslaughter as a lesser form of homicide, we could define involuntary sexual battery as a lesser form of sexual assault.

  14. So, wait. A few months ago a GMP writer posted an article about a specific circumstance where a friend of hers woke up from being passed out drunk and raped a woman who he had been heavily flirtatious with and hooking up with throughout the night. While the author clearly recognized the act as rape (because the woman was still passed out when he initiated the sex), the author discussed the possibility that the lines between consent and rape had been so blurred that her friend may not have realized that what he was doing was raped.

    The author (and, by extension, all of GMP) was branded “rape apologists”. It was repeated with biting anger that “Rapists know what rape is, and saying ‘maybe he didn’t know it was rape!’ is a sorry copout! This is Rape Culture!”

    And now we have, from “Everyday Feminism” an article which says, unambiguously, “Sometimes what you think is consensual sex is actually rape.”

    What happened to “Rapists always know it’s rape and suggesting some rapes are done by people who don’t know they’re raping is Rape Culture and anyone who suggests otherwise is a Rape Apologist?”

    • Yes we’ll that Royse article had holes you could drive a semi through…
      I read it and re-read it and couldn’t understand her decision tree.
      I’m glad to see someone else calling it what is was & pointing out that they passed out, in the article the euphemism was “fell asleep”
      I don’t recall her being still passed out…

      Vis this article the timbre is apparent from the beginning Example # 1 puts men, not spouses, in a bad role.
      I’m guessing one doesn’t get too far writing for blogs with “feminism” suggesting that sometimes a guy isn’t turned on by his wife…

    • Joanna Schroeder says:

      I’ve always believed that there are a TON of rapes that are committed by people who don’t know they’re committing rape.

      Some people have misinterpreted two sets of data and use that as a way of saying “all rapists know they’re raping” when it’s just complete bullshit. I think they are well-intentioned but misinformed.

      We MUST be talking about consent!!

      • I have that impression too that many rapes are misunderstandings of consent. I doubt it’d be the majority, but I have a feeling it is significant in number and mostly happens with alcohol. But be careful, you’ll be called a rape-apologist for daring to think the possibility that rape isn’t always done intentionally. It’s not like the crime of punching someone where very very rarely is that consented to, but it’s an act that is done during sex itself which is usually (not always of course) mutually wanted, consenting and that further complicates the issue.

      • Those people aren’t “misinterpreting” the data. They’re deliberately twisting the data to fit their own agenda. Don’t you think it’s a little odd those people always ‘misinterpret’ things in the way that provides them with the most self righteous anger?

        • Don’t you think it’s a little odd those people always ‘misinterpret’ things in the way that provides them with the most self righteous anger?

          That’s because the people who misinterpret it the other way are the ones we never get to hear or read about.
          This is what they call “confirmation bias”, right?

  15. John Anderson says:

    Here is something I always wondered about rape and false rape accusations. We’re always told that rape is rape. Rape does not require force. It’s never the victims fault regardless of what they’ve done or failed to do. There is no need to fight back, etc. All of these things sound good to me and I agree with them. We’re told accusers rarely lie. I think that’s mostly true. Some people say false accusers should not be prosecuted. I disagree with this and actually feel that the penalties are inadequate. Many people believe that rape laws should be changed to maximize the number of convictions even removing the assumption of innocence. I disagree with this accusation = conviction standard.

    Here is my thought experiment. Let’s assume these things got adopted. Let’s assume that a man is not financially responsible to support his rapist’s child (a fair law that I and most feminists agree on) is also included. If these were adopted and the numbers of men accusing women of rape (winning convictions because of the accusation = guilt standard and avoiding child support) approached the same rates as women accusing men, how would that impact the assumptions and beliefs in the first paragraph? I suspect that many women’s advocates would then be pushing for gender based definitions, punishments, and protections instead of reassessing their positions.

  16. Here’s my problem with it: If you interpret the titular premise of the article very literally, then any sex that lacks the specific word “yes” doesn’t count as consent. It says *only* “yes” means yes. Not body language, not “Mmm-hmmm”, not “Oooh, yeah”, not opening ones legs and guiding an erect penis into her– it has to be the word “yes”. Such a strictly literal interpretation is absurd, and I’m guessing even the author would agree that an enthusiastic “Okay!” or “Let’s do it!”, or even familiar physical cues between known partners can and do constitute consent, possibly even more frequently in real life than the dispassionate ideal of, “Yes, I consent to sex now. Proceed.” However, once you allow for those other ways of giving and receiving consent – as sexually active people do all the time – you have to dispense with the literal interpretation of “Only ‘yes’ means yes”, and you’re left with a circular statement that only consent is consent.

    The non-rapist pro tips that follow are a mixed bag, steering clear of the usual gray areas, like spouses (mainly wives, in keeping with the gender skew of the article) who consent unenthusiastically to sex for an assortment of non-rapey reasons, like as a favor (“Honey, can you help me fall asleep?”), to provide comfort, or maybe just to end some recent whining about not enough sex. In the item about alcohol, it makes the never-disputed point that a passed out drunk is incapable of consent, but doesn’t address the much grayer areas of milder intoxication, or even “blackout” consent, which can be consent that looks all the world like the real thing to a reasonable observer, given a wide range of how well different people function while intoxicated, but only after the fact might that memory of consenting disappear for the blacked out drunk, which neither party expected to happen at the time. The statutory rape section might be generously presumed to take a different view of two consenting teens in a relationship where one is just over the limit and one is just under, compared to a 10+ yr. age difference, but given the tone of the rest of the piece, it sounds pretty black and white about this, too. In the item about withdrawing consent after initially consenting, it sounds pretty reasonable at first, but again, it’s so black-and-white that it would make a rapist of a man who in the middle of climaxing was told, “Stop!” during an otherwise completely consensual encounter? Really? A man who can’t interrupt an orgasm when everything to that point has been consensual would be a rapist? I don’t think so.

    My problem with these discussions isn’t that they happen, or that there’s a “Don’t rape” message. Fine. I already don’t, and neither do *most* men. My problem is with the piecemeal redefinition of rape until almost any example of bad, regretted, or dare I say, unenthusiastic sex gets included in the definition, even when there was a “yes”, verbal or otherwise. I never felt entitled to any woman’s body, long before I encountered any telling me not to. It seems to me that the people asserting *my* sense of sexual entitlement (because I’m a man) in fact feel entitled themselves to only have great sex that they’ll never regret or wish they hadn’t had, and a desire to annul almost any other kind by calling it “rape”, which does a disservice to the real crime and its victims. I don’t for a second believe that rape is just “regretted sex”, but I’m not the one lowering the bar so far that it’s hard to tell the difference.

    • What should this be called?
      “In the item about withdrawing consent after initially consenting, it sounds pretty reasonable at first, but again, it’s so black-and-white that it would make a rapist of a man who in the middle of climaxing was told, “Stop!” during an otherwise completely consensual encounter? Really? A man who can’t interrupt an orgasm when everything to that point has been consensual would be a rapist? I don’t think so.”

      At what point isn’t it rape or is it rape? 5 minutes before an orgasm? 1 minute? 10 minutes? If she is hurting? Scared? If she realized he wasn’t wearing a condom like he said he would? If he realize her boyfriend was coming in the room? Etc. Not common experiences but…hey, just asking.

      If it were a man wanting to stop and the woman wanted to keep going cause she was close and she was on top and she wouldn’t let him pull out, what would it be?

      I don’t want to water things down either. I don’t, but I do think that anyone who pushes past another persons needs (pain, fear etc) to “finish” is being selfish and boorish and callous in their disregard. A failed orgasm? Yeah, that sucks it does. I suspect pretty much everyone has had one that was like…damn, that was barely worth the trip. But I’d rather have one fail one minute to lift off than know that my partner was in pain.

      During it’s process? Like right in the middle of a 12 second experience? I don’t know what could be done but to roll off as it was happening if one could be connected enough to know. I know for men and women both during that actual moment awareness draws inward pretty hard, but…

      I know we are probably arguing different points of the spectrum from legal to normative, but for me the ideal is that someone would stop/slow down whenever the partner was showing signs of distress, even if the max pleasure was imminent. Unless of course that person is pretty much only their for them. Which is part of how sex happens.

      Eh.

      • And I”m not being snarky or sarcastic. I’m frustrated is all. For anyone, male or female, who winds up in a really horrid kind of situation and for people who don’t mean it to happen.

      • Maybe it should be called, regretable but not rape and not be assigned a spot in the spectrum of criminality. Unless every other selfish, boorish or callous person will also be charged with a felony.

        Or will a guy who realizes he ought to stop and stops but not soon enough for her liking also be charged? Is realizing it 5 seconds too late rape? A minute too late? None of this seems to fall into beyond a reasonable doubt territory. Since when does rapist = not a mind reader?

        • That’s what I’m asking. And I’m asking for men who might have found themselves in the regrettable situation where a lover (male or female) didn’t respect their signals, words or needs as well. Most of those examples won’t make it to the police station, but they still cause damage.

      • Julie, I very explicitly gave the example of a man in the middle of climaxing, because that, to me, would be an absurd extreme which this article would still consider rape. For you to ask me about 10, 5, or 1 minute(s) before is to do exactly what irritates me about these discussions, which is to pretend that it’s all the same, and it’s all rape. It’s not. In the middle of climaxing, for a man (and I’d wager for a woman, too) there does not exist the same mental and physical capacity to judge the situation and alter course that could be expected at other times, including 10, 5, or 1 minute(s) prior.

        To stay in my gray area scenario, let’s say a woman who has consented to everything leading to this climax, realizes mid-climax (his, not hers) that she wants him to stop. Maybe it has to do with the condom as you propose, or something else. If that happens, and the man is unable to cease climaxing and withdraw, much less “reverse” any ejaculation that has happened, then to me, that goes down as a sexual mistake or regret that the woman is as responsible for as the man – not rape.

        Imagine a scenario where a man and woman agree to have unprotected sex, but he’s supposed to pull out when he comes. It’s not exactly uncommon for less educated or cautious people to think that’s “good enough” birth control. If the moment comes and he does, too, without pulling out, then to me that is two people who were foolish to rely on coitus interruptus as a reliable form of birth control. Again — not rape, even if she’s really pissed at him for not doing what he said he would.

        I’m sure you’re educated enough about the male orgasm to know that there is a “point of no return” beyond which a man can’t choose through willpower to prevent or interrupt his orgasm, *even if* he wants to or is regretting it as it occurs. None of the time frames you ask about are beyond that point, so of course I’d agree that a man (or woman) should stop if consent is withdrawn at those points, no matter how frustrating it may feel. It’s immensely frustrating that I even have to say that, but this is what happens in these discussions – someone raises a gray area they think is not rape, and the comeback implies they’re defending scenarios that pretty uncontroversially would be.

        So, I’m saying that yes, people can withdraw consent along the way, but I believe there’s a point at which it would be absurd in an otherwise wholly consensual encounter to say it’s not “too late”, and call it rape. If you can withdraw consent mid-climax, then you may as well withdraw it right after, as in, “Oh my god, my husband/boyfriend will be so upset – I never should have let you seduce me!” And that, in my opinion, is the kind of definition of rape being championed in this corner of the blogosphere, where all it takes to be rape is a woman saying so before, during, or even after. “Consent” is nominally defined as a woman’s willingness to have sex, but in practice, treated as something that can be retroactively revoked, so no amount of checking in is ever enough. The only sure way not to rape is not to have sex, and no one ever died from not having sex, so what’s the big deal, amiright?

        If a man can become a rapist mid-orgasm to a woman who fully consented but had bad timing for a change of heart or feeling guilty or wishing she’d waited or whatever, then it’s literally like saying there’s no such thing as sufficient consent, because at any moment, a woman can decide he’s raping her, and no matter how much consent she gave until he’d already gone over that cliff, he’s guilty because that’s how rape works. I think that’s an untenable position, morally and legally. People make sexual mistakes all the time; that doesn’t mean it’s a crime every time. There’s a hole in our lexicon for “non-criminal, but serious sexual mistake” that a penis-shaped peg called “rape” keeps being jammed into, but it doesn’t fit.

        • Or let me ask another way. Let’s say the man is going along consensually, notices the woman in the apparent throes of an orgasm, and says, “Stop! Stop your orgasm right now!” If she can’t, then whether or not he also pulled out when announcing her orgasm wasn’t okay with him, would you say she raped him since he’s changing his mind? If not, then how is a man more or a rapist for a physiological reflex that at that moment, preceded by full consent, he has no control over?

          • I think some of your response to this is colored by some bad “let me finish” experiences you’ve shared, and those experiences aren’t ambiguous to me. Even if they didn’t reach the rape threshold, they were at least sexual assault, IMO (i.e. still criminal even if there was no penetration.) I’m arguing that there’s a significan difference between “let me finish” when there’s still a capacity to stop, and a first “Stop” that literally comes after orgasm has started.

            In my college years, I travelled out of town one weekend to attend a dance with a girl (at her college) who I had worked with over the summer. We dated for a while, but at that point, we hadn’t gone “all the way”. We got a room together after the dance, though, and I did all the right things these pages tell me to, long before anyone told me. I was confident enough of her interest to feel like I could “make a move” but not so bold as to just keep escalating without “checking in”. (No one seems to emphasize any need for the girl to keep asking along the way, and as you’d expect, she didn’t.)

            So, we kissed and made out some in the room, not really going any farther than we had before. Before a point where it might be hard to make a decision, I asked (or maybe she did, I don’t remember which) about going all the way, and she didn’t want to, which was fine. Disappointing, but fine. It wasn’t a request to stop making out, though, so we kept kissing, petting, etc. At a point when I wasn’t over that brink but knew I could get there, I *asked* if it would be okay for me to “finish” between her thighs (pressed together), not penetrating. Had she said “no”, I would have respected that and not done it, even though I was pretty aroused by that time, but she was fine with it. So that’s what I did, and there was no hint to me that she ever objected or didn’t enjoy the make-out session. I escalated slowly, checked in, didn’t press for more than she offered, etc.

            The reason I tell this story is that if, after telling me it was okay to finish using her thighs, she had told me she changed her mind after I started to ejaculate, I don’t see how I could have consciously stopped. At most, maybe I’d have the presence of mind to roll away and ejaculate in a different direction, or offer no resistance to being pushed away, but *at that point*, I was just doing what she gave consent for me to do, and it was a mutual exchange of pleasure, not her lying there like a blow-up doll being used. So when I see a “how to not rape” guideline like #5 about consent being able to be withdrawn at any point and it’s rape if you don’t stop, I picture myself in that room, and if she’d waited that long to have a change of heart, this article is saying I would have been a rapist, because consent all the way up to orgasm is not enough consent to finish an orgasm. I can’t for the life of me figure out how to check in that frequently or how many orgasmic spasms I’m allowed to enjoy before I’m required to seek permission for the next ones. I also don’t imagine that even the most ardent feminists are in the habit of asking for permission to climax. Are they?

            • This seems pedantic to me in both directions. If anyone is in the middle of anything, no I’m not suggesting that people try to stop some kind of physical process like stopping a sneeze.

            • I also don’t believe that redefining something to death helps it. Women’s orgasms, just so you know, can’t be stopped mid climax either, which is why I brought up the reverse situation. That’s all ridiculous. And yes, there are circumstances where the orgasm is say 1-3 minutes away and being asked to lay there while someone is focused solely on getting their even with your discomfort isn’t a good sexual relationship, it’s callous at best and depending on circumstances as you said, sexual assault.

              What’s getting lost in all this…whatever it is…is the idea that good sex is connected sex, patient sex, communicative sex, and sex where people are willing to slow down and/or speed up and/or pause. Which may not always describe all the sex out there…

            • There is a fear that redefining rape may go too far, I myself am starting to feel uneasy with how much grey area there is for example.

              A big issue I have with it all is relying so heavily on body language vs verbal communication. We should be doing EVERYTHING we can to teach people to be confident enough to speak up, it sickens n saddens me that there are people who are afraid and have sex when they don’t want to because they feel fear that the other will hurt them, does this happen without prior abusive behaviour? Can the size difference alone make someone afraid to speak up? Speaking as someone who is literally twice as big as most women I never want her to feel like I am going to harm her and it really is sad that my size alone may make her less confident in speaking up if she doesn’t want to do something.

              What of people who are pretty bad at reading body language? I think there may be times someone sucks at reading the other persons body language and doesn’t quite understand fear, maybe they think the other person is just shy. Laying there and going with the flow to so speak could be seen as shy, or they might be in fear, unless they are crying or showing significant signs of distress I’m not sure every person will pickup on them.

              I see a lot of advocating for an enthusiastic yes, is it possible a person in fear that doesn’t want sex will say yes in a manner that the other may find enthusiastic? Crying is easy to spot as no consent, but shyness and fear do sometimes look similar which may throw some off. I am not a mind-reader, I can GUESS what someones body language means but I don’t like relying on body language alone, I ask over n over, ask each time, try to keep communication open. My fear though is that those that don’t want sex but don’t speak up may not have signalled their disinterest enough to people who find it harder to read body language, a verbal yes would help a lot there.

              Can we encourage people to be more vocal during sex? People, don’t rely on body language alone to communicate your desires to someone. Flat out state what you want because body language is way to vague to rely upon alone. I have had people think I was confident before when in reality I was scared bigtime, very low self-esteem, nervous. My sexual partners may read my body language wrong, I hope they don’t but I’ll also verbalize my desires to ensure the communication is clear.

              There are sexual positions for instance where you cannot see their face, you can hear them, you can notice their body movements but if they are more of a passive person then it’s possible they want to stop but feel fear in saying no midway, due to the position you can’t see the facial expressions change, if they’re in the passive position then they won’t just stop grinding or something because they weren’t in the first place, what body language would you have left to notice their fear or desire to stop if they aren’t verbally communicating their feelings?

              Body language alone relies way too much on having a similar culture, having similar body language styles, having their face in view, a quiet enough environment to hear their breathing, more active positions so you can notice them stopping. Verbal communication however is much more direct, much less open to interpretation, sexual position doesn’t matter but as long as you can hear them speak/yell you can hear them communicate.

              It IS good to be aware of someones body language but it’s absolutely a shit way to go if that is your only communication with them.

            • I don’t know if it’s me, or if it’s how I read things in a descriptive rather than prescriptive way (even lists)-perhaps Myers Briggs scores (ENFP) has something to do with it but arguments like this (with anyone, not calling you out particularly) feel to me like when I say to my son, “It’s 9:30.” and he says, “No, it’s 9:26.” It makes me crazy. He does it mostly to argue, not because it matters to him.

              There is more art to consent and sex than science because these are always people we are dealing with. With as many interpretations desires and confusions as there are people. Which is why when I hear someone say, “well how much alcohol is too much” there is no way to answer that question. It would vary person to person and even time of the month or time of day, or who ate what when, or blood sugar issues.

              If I am paying attention to my partner, doing my due diligence as a human being to another human being the odds are better that mistakes won’t be made. Even so, sometimes mistakes will be made. Given how many rapes don’t ever get reported that indicates to me that a lot of sex that isn’t rape but is bad/messed up and regret sex doesn’t get called or reported rape as well.

              Hopefully, those people communicate and both get better at sex and dealing with each other as humans.

            • “If I am paying attention to my partner, doing my due diligence as a human being to another human being the odds are better that mistakes won’t be made. Even so, sometimes mistakes will be made. Given how many rapes don’t ever get reported that indicates to me that a lot of sex that isn’t rape but is bad/messed up and regret sex doesn’t get called or reported rape as well.”

              Notice that the pedantic questions above are asked in absolute WORRY by men. Being told odds are you won’t accidentally rape but sometimes mistakes happen is FUCKING SCARY because I never ever ever wanna rape someone. I am told over n over that rapists are evil, scum, heartless, they’re treated as monsters and the idea that sometimes mistakes can happen which could mean I become a rapist without intending to is scary, both for the injury it causes the victim, the guilt I’d feel, and also the legal nightmare that would ensue. It’s like hearing you’re spinning a revolver and this chamber probably won’t be empty.

              For many people there is NO grey area, if you rape you are scum, a monster, so many are unwilling to think that sometimes mistakes happen, sometimes a person is raped without the rapist intending it. Does that make the rapist a monster? Chances are if you pay attention, communicate it won’t happen but when things like alcohol are involved especially where you can be mid-sex and the existing alcohol in your partners system starts to hit the bloodstream they can lose their ability to consent and that may not be apparent. If you are on a bed, you can’t see them stumble, at best you will see speech stutter, coordination change, maybe their eyes get heavy but your ability to spot them getting drunk midway I’d say is greatly reduced vs when they are walking/stumbling. If they pass out, sure easy to spot, stop and make sure they are protected (roll to recovery position, do general first aid care if needed) but if you’re on top of them and they just go from tipsy to very drunk since they had a few shots before sex? If anyone drinks whilst having sex this risk would greatly increase and there is a chance you can become a rapist without even being able to notice their state has diminished so much if they aren’t passed out.

              But to some people they are seen as the devil as if they had sex with someone they knew was too drunk to consent, and to the law? From what I understand intent has zero meaning in rape cases so even if you were mistaken you can be charged to the full extent? Not to mention that horrifying feeling that you just raped someone and the wishing you could go back and notice their state better. Likelihood of this scenario happening? No idea, not going to find out, gonna avoid sex n alcohol because I don’t want mistakes to happen even if the chance is 1 in a million.

              I am actually glad to see people asking these questions, it proves they want to learn more about consent and are very aware of it.

            • Archy. Women are worried to which is why they write these articles! Because many of us have had the kind of sex where someone didn’t pay attention, take good care, treat us like people, held us down with a minute to go (not in the actual orgasm) just so they could get there (me personally) etc. Do you know how many men after I’ve accused of rape? Zero. Do you know how many trials have come out of my experiences? Zero.

              If you are being a good human being, paying close attention to your partner and her to you, and yes even having the conversations prior to sex about how modern sex is scary and confusing and what does she think about it all, then that’s excellent and amazing and loving and kind.

              The problem with any prescriptive article is that it makes people feel like there is some kind of magical formula for how to avoid mistakes. People either interpret it that way, or the article goes that far as to state it such.

              I don’t know why you are worrying about the people in the world, most of whom you don’t know, thinking badly about you for some encounter that hasn’t happened. You know who you are, you know you care for and like the women in your life and you treat them kindly and do not want them to be hurt. You know that in a bedroom situation you’ll be eager to play and lark and have fun and ask and check in with your partner. You are ahead of the game!

              Don’t let these articles trigger anxiety responses that don’t need to be triggered.

            • The issue that causes me anxiety is that with crimes of sexual nature, especially male on female, mud sticks and I am in a business which requires a very clean reputation when it comes to women so I can’t just ignore those whom think accused = guilty always.

              I realize there are many who don’t report, and also those who understand mistakes happen but the chances of me being hit by lightning are remote yet I avoid dancing in a thunderstorm.

              My fear, along with Marcus I think is that we may end up apply the rape term way too much to the point where things that aren’t rape get considered as such. I do hope that in a relationship I will be far more at ease and hope my partner reassures me of what the boundaries are, that we may be able to have drinks and have consenting sex but the uncertainty of consent I do find troubling still.

              If everyone was like you I wouldn’t worry since you seem pretty damn in tune with consent, intentions, etc. I do wish to see more work done on defining grey area consent issues since the others are pretty much common sense, such as holding down for a minute to finish I would consider rape but if they’re in the start of an orgasm of course they will need the time to pull out within their ability which is temporarily heavily dampened as Marcus tells.

              I’m glad men n women write these articles, doesn’t bother me as long as rape is defined decently and I do wish grey area issues were better explained since there is a good chance I will have a partner one day where we drink alcohol when we go out, come home and want to have sex.

            • There is more art to consent and sex than science because these are always people we are dealing with.

              I agree. This article stakes out the opposite position saying only “yes” means yes, and describing in black and white terms many things that we may not think are rape, but are, such as #5 where withdrawing consent *at any time* can turn sex into rape. If the author makes any exceptions for it happening during an orgasm already in progress, there’s no hint of that in the article. The gray area I raised was exactly that, not several minutes or even a minute before when orgasm feels imminent but not inevitable. Perhaps I misunderstood you, but by not agreeing with that point right away before asking about those other scenarios, it felt to me like you were lumping a mid-orgasm “No” in with the rest, just as I think the author did. Also, I know women’s orgasms can’t be stopped mid-climax, either, which is why my counterexample was intended to highlight the absurdity of thinking a sufficiently connected man (i.e., not a jerk rapist) could interrupt his orgasm if that’s when consent was withdrawn.

              Which is why when I hear someone say, “well how much alcohol is too much” there is no way to answer that question

              I agree. But these consent discussions answer it all the time with assertions that *any* intoxication on a woman’s part renders her incapable of authentic consent. The fact that there is no universal answer speaks too how difficult and ambiguous that judgment can be, which flies in the face of arguments that rapists know exactly what they’re doing and rape is rape. (I know that’s not *your* argument, which is why I’m agreeing with you, but that’s the kind of thinking I detect in this article, and disagree with.)

              If I am paying attention to my partner, doing my due diligence as a human being to another human being the odds are better that mistakes won’t be made.

              I agree. I think even the most attentive, diligent partner in the world would find it impossible to interrupt and undo an orgasm in progress if consent was withdrawn at that moment, which makes it not so much a mistake, as a physiological inevitability — like interrupting a sneeze. The person who says “No” at that point can mean it all they want, but it’s too late to shift the burden to the climaxing person to stop, and consider it rape if they can’t. To reiterate, I’m not talking about a reluctant or coerced partner who finally musters the courage to say “No” — I’m taking point #5 in the article to it’s logical extreme, that consent can be there all along, but if at *any* point in the sex act consent is withdrawn, it’s rape.

              Even so, sometimes mistakes will be made.

              I agree. But mistakes aren’t enough to make it rape, which I think you agree with. In my hypothetical, I don’t think it’s the climaxing person making a mistake; the mistake is by the other person who decided too late to say “No.”

              Given how many rapes don’t ever get reported that indicates to me that a lot of sex that isn’t rape but is bad/messed up and regret sex doesn’t get called or reported rape as well.

              I’m not sure I follow. If you mean a lot of people have bad, messed up, or regretted sex and don’t report it as rape, then I agree, and that’s as it should be. Don’t report as rape, things that aren’t rape. More than once in discussion threads like these, however, I have seen women in comments share epiphanies that they never realized they were raped, but “after reading this article” (in the general sense — I don’t mean this exact one) they describe some bad, messed up, or regretted sex that they used to think they consented to, but now they recognize it as rape, like consenting to sex for a whiny husband who punches a bed in frustration. That says to me that one of the unintended consequences of the broader “don’t rape” discussions is talking un-raped people into feeling raped.

              Hopefully, those people communicate and both get better at sex and dealing with each other as humans.

              Agreed. I don’t think the black and white arguments and examples of this article get anyone any closer to those goals. I think your more nuanced approach does, but it’s the same kind of nuance that often gets people labelled as “rape apologists”, especially if it’s man saying such things.

            • This is what I mean by prescriptive vs descriptive. Personally? I hate legal language and hate listening to people pick apart the meaning of one word in a sentence. That’s me personally. Some people love it, that’s how their brains work…I figure they are more likely in the ISTJ quadrant of thinking. Not to bring Star Trek into it, but think…Vulcan vs Betazoid. Two completely different brain types experiencing an article in extremely different ways.

              Example. Years ago, there was an exercise in workshop I attended and in it we were asked to move to corners of a room based on our agreement or disagreement of statements on the board.

              One was “I believe ___(a number of things) is a right not a privilege.

              As you can imagine the group was pretty much in the agree category except for a about 3 people in the disagree. One of them was there because of conservative beliefs but one was like, “Well, currently in America ___ is a privilege you pay for so I can’t believe it’s a right.” As in…not what he WANTED for the country (for it to be a right) but what it was currently.

              Some people argued about the word believe. Did believe indicate what one wanted to be true or what was currently true and how would the world “know” vs “believe” alter the statement.

              I was aghast. That’s all me, all how my brain works. I would never have survived law school.

              So when I personally read articles like the above I see potential and description and starting point for conversations and unless I know it’s a lawyer writing about legal issues, I assume its a generalist writing about ideals. But then when I see people, and yes, in this case you Marcus, doing the dissection of the places where something isn’t mentioned (in this case the “at any point” I start to lose it. It feels pedantic to me completely, like it’s moving away from the heart of the article which is to get more and more consensual moments together and into places where because of a phrase, we can discount the whole thing.

              Before you respond, I want you to take in that I’m talking about how my brain works. That I don’t enjoy or engage in arguments over words and that this isn’t a legal document we are talking about but a kind of op ed. And I’m owning my brain and why I get hooked.

              And that I stated that sneezes, or whichever, can’t really stop mid stream, and that the laws regardless are so far behind on so many ways that yes, there does need to be help and support for it (just read the latest New Yorker article about online crime and child pron). I don’t think things can be legally retroactively withdrawn, I think intent and understanding play a huge role in how sex works and where the points misunderstandings happen, I think alcohol does play a big part in where inhibitions get lost and impulse control is weakened (goes for everything), and I think that if we were doing a better job from the ground level in making sex a playful, open form of communication (real education, less shame etc) instead of supporting a culture that shames men and women both and has lead to this commodity and scarcity culture maybe these conversations would even be happening.

              Cause we wouldn’t need to point it out.

              But we do, for men and women both.

            • Also, I’ve said all I need to say and you feel free to respond but I’m kind of burnt out

            • This is what I mean by prescriptive vs descriptive.

              I find my self more unclear about what those words mean to you than I would have guessed before, but I have given more thought to that very difference than most people. I don’t say that as a brag, but because I have a B.A. in linguistics, and the difference between prescriptive and descriptive grammar is no small thing in linguistics. Many a grammar cop thinks they are describing a core grammatical rule when observing that ending a sentence with a preposition is ungrammatical, and words like “ain’t” aren’t real. Any linguist knows that’s prescriptive, and no matter how sure a grammar cop is that they know grammatical from ungrammatical (which they often see as the difference between right and wrong), many of their favorite examples aren’t ungrammatical in the descriptive sense at all. Ungrammatical in the descriptive sense would be something like arranging the words of every sentence in alphabetical order, because that would in fact break the kinds of rules that render the language unintelligible.

              I don’t think this article is descriptive. It’s prescriptive all the way. I thought you agreed based on your comment to Archy, but then your elaboration confused me.

              …that’s how their brains work…I figure they are more likely in the ISTJ quadrant of thinking.

              The Myers Briggs personality types remain popular in pop culture psychology because they have a nice science-y smell to them, but as luck would have it, I was a double major, and the half that wasn’t linguistics was psychology. As a result of that and subsequent reading, Myers Briggs carries as much analytical and explanatory value to me as astrology, meaning I don’t take either seriously. This isn’t to say I see no difference in how people think, but whatever those differences are, Myers Briggs ain’t what explains those differences.

              Some people argued about the word believe. Did believe indicate what one wanted to be true or what was currently true and how would the world “know” vs “believe” alter the statement.

              I was aghast. That’s all me, all how my brain works. I would never have survived law school.

              This is very much how my mind works (wanting to nail down what “believe” means before I give my answer). I was never in law school (or even pre-law), but these shades of meaning are relevant, and when you don’t nail them down, that leads to things like all but three people in a room thinking they agree when in fact the main thing they have in common is the assumption that everyone else answered based on the same interpretation of the question. It’s why a question like, “Are you feminist?” is so loaded. By my definition? Sure. By what’s that come to mean to me after about two years of exposure to the feminist blogosphere? Nope. If I was in a room where that got asked with you, me, Joanna, and Marcotte, we might all sprint toward the same “Yes” side of the room going by our own definitions, but that wouldn’t make us any more in actual agreement than the “nitpicker” who lagged behind asking, “Do you mean the egalitarian kind, or the ‘penises are deadly weapons kind?”

              So when I personally read articles like the above I see potential and description and starting point for conversations and unless I know it’s a lawyer writing about legal issues, I assume its a generalist writing about ideals.

              I don’t see how you can, when these articles consistently and inflexibly use the word “rape”, and either in the same articles or a context where other articles can reasonably be interpreted to be talking about the same thing, there are also many references to the serious legal consequences rapists should (and often do) incur. That attitude of severe legal consequences for all rape, combined with a “rape is rape” black and white position, plus watered down definitions that would turn a lot of non-rape into rape, all add up to a legal argument, whether you like it or not. Sure, it’s mostly laypeople doing the arguing, but a person can’t say whining for sex is rape, rape is rape, and all rape should be severely punished under the law, and then take cover behind, “I’m just talking about my feelings” when any of that gets challenged. Well…they can and obviously do, but it’s not a very strong argument.

              Before you respond, I want you to take in that I’m talking about how my brain works. That I don’t enjoy or engage in arguments over words and that this isn’t a legal document we are talking about but a kind of op ed.

              I would feel much more empathy, and find much less to disagree with, if this kind of article was framed in terms of how people do or don’t feel comfortable consenting to sex, how bad they feel after mistakes, how we can all pay more attention to make fewer mistakes, and so on. You, Julie, are among the best I’ve seen at framing it that way. I can’t say the same for this article or many like it, which make it about rape, rape, rape, and it’s impossible to just ignore the legal ramifications of that. If people want to avoid getting “sidetracked” by the legal aspects, then they need to use some words or come up with new ones that don’t have such established legal connotations.

              And that I stated that sneezes, or whichever, can’t really stop mid stream,

              I will concede and accept that you’re stating that now. Your initial response to my mid-orgasm “gray area” comment wasn’t to agree with that and then extend the discussion by saying, “Yes, but what about 10, 5, 1 minute before?” Instead, you appeared to ignore the specific example I raised and lump it with these other timeframes, so I don’t see how you could expect me to interpret that as agreement with my initial point. It’s good to understand better now, and find that we are in agreement that if a woman (or man) were to enthusiastically consent throughout a sex act and upon changing her/his mind after their partner’s orgasm had commenced yelled “Stop!”, it *would not* count as rape by the climaxing partner, morally or legally. To put it another way, a way which would seem to contradict the author, there *is* a limit to how late in the sex act a partner can withdraw consent and have it turn into a “rape” if the other parter doesn’t or can’t stop.

              I think that if we were doing a better job from the ground level in making sex a playful, open form of communication (real education, less shame etc) instead of supporting a culture that shames men and women both and has lead to this commodity and scarcity culture maybe these conversations would even be happening.

              I agree. I can’t think of a single Rape Culture article I’ve ever seen that comes anywhere close to that kind of sex-positivity, since the tone, purpose, and goals are all about shame, victims, punishment, and trying to convince people that more sex is rape than they ever used to think. I don’t find that playful, encouraging, or supportive at all, and when directed at men, the dominant message is not one of how to have better sex, but of scaring them into timid passivity out of fear that any move might be construed as sexual assault. This was a lesson I learned and lived not from feminism, but from being molested at the age of 14. I get a little riled up when I see this mindset – which I always considered a damaged an inhibiting mindset – being suggested as the ideal men should aspire to. (Again, I’m not saying I think you suggest that, Julie, but I think many of your feminist sistren do, in articles like the one we’re discussing, written for the GMP Everyday Feminism.)

            • I’m no linguist so I guess I’m wrong on those counts. I don’t know how to describe what I mean and feel chagrinned for the most part so I’ll just bow out. Thanks though for responding and listening.
              I’m pretty much done. I don’t know how to discuss with you what I mean and I’m increasingly frustrated. Regardless, I’m for positive happy healthy change. Perhaps I’m just not as good with words as I usually hope.
              Sorry for all the trouble Marcus.

      • “If it were a man wanting to stop and the woman wanted to keep going cause she was close and she was on top and she wouldn’t let him pull out, what would it be?”
        Before orgasm you can stop, but during orgasm your body is in UNCONTROLLABLE convulsions which make it quite difficult to move, hell my head usually flies back for some damn reason. Trying to pull out, roll off, stand up or whatever during the 10-15 seconds would be hard, I’d try to do it but it’s not gonna be like a 1 second move. I’d hope the one wanting it to stop would at least do it before the orgasm starts so the person can actually move their body fully and not be having the shakes whilst he/she is saying “stop, stop!” It’s only 10-15 seconds anyway, I’d say the chances of that happening would be pretty damn rare and the stop command would happen before that in nearly all cases.

    • It hink it bears noting that “date rape” cases are notoriously hard to prove especially when alcohol is involved. Prosecutors hate these cases and generally won’t file charges unless there is evidence of forcible rape (i.e. the woman is injured) or circumstances or witnesses that corroborate the objective lack of consent. Proving rape where the woman initially consented but changed her mind in the middle of the act will be almost impossible to prove beyond a reasonable doubt, and I suspect any prosecutions premised on such allegations will be exceedingly rare.

      • Yes, the post isn’t focused on legal proceedings which I expect is because they know that the above is true. What they are after is the social change-that communication with partners and slowing down, listening etc means less mistakes and less intent/impact problems etc.
        I’m sorry that’s getting missed.

      • When I see this feeling expressed (and I’ve seen it many times), I empathize with that place of hurt and injustice that it comes from. I really do. There’s a painful sense of powerlessness it springs from, and I don’t wish that on anyone. At the same time, it seems to me like an inevitable downside to the jurisprudence we have, where there’s a presumption of innocence and burden of proof to convict that is intentionally high. I don’t see how to remedy that without treating rape as a special crime where the normal standards don’t apply. Would it be better for all if rape had a uniquely lower burden of proof, where sympathy and “might have been rape” are enough to convict?

        • As an attorney, the changes you suggest would be very problematic if not impossible under U.S. constitutional law. You can’t change the burden of proof or the presumption of innocence without violating the defendant’s right to due process under the 5th amendment.

          Rape has historically been defined — going back centuries if not millenia — as intentional sexual penetration of a woman by a man without her consent. Concepts of sexual assault have been expanded over the years to include non-penetrative sexual battery as well as sexual assault of men by other men and more recently, sexual assault of men by women. However, the fundamental concepts are an intentional sexual act that the victim doesn’t consent to. The element of intentionality (legally, known as “mens rea” which means “guilty mind”) requires that the perpetrator KNOWS or reasonably should know that the victim isn’t consenting. This depends on objective proof of the victim’s manifestations of consent or lack thereof. Subjective feelings are not relevant unless communicated.

          Personally I would not support changing our fundamental legal definitions of rape. As much as I hate rapists and want to protect victims, conviction of a crime that can send someone to prison for years should not be a “strict liability” crime (I.e. a crime that doesn’t depend on the defendant’s state of mind).

          • I agree, Sarah. Maybe I was sensing disagreement where there was none (I’m kind of conditioned to expect it in these discussions), but I wasn’t actually suggesting those lower standards for rape convictions. I was trying to say that when I see people bemoan how hard it is to get date rape convictions, I sympathize, but don’t really see what it is they would change to improve that. I don’t see how to make date rape convictions easier without trampling on some Constitutional rights in the process. I’m extremely aware of the gap between what the law considers rape, where mens rea matters and a functioning person under the influence of alcohol *can* consent, and what discussions like this consider rape, where “didn’t feel like it but said yes anyway”, or “wouldn’t have said yes without two drinks in her” is sometimes enough.

            As a discussion of sexual mistakes and how to avoid them, I’m onboard with a great deal of what articles like these say, not just theoretically, but how I’ve conducted myself my entire life. However, I think there’s only slight overlap between that and rape, while pieces like this make feel that some people think it’s all the exact same discussion. I don’t think a crime has been committed every time a sexual mistake is made. Penetrating (or enveloping) someone who you know damn well hasn’t or can’t consent is so, so much worse than giving in to a whiny husband (with a “yes”!), which I’ve literally seen described as rape. In my opinion, that latter example is the sort of thing that’s entirely appropriate and constructive to discuss in terms of how people feel and how to show more respect and consideration, but that gets completely lost if it’s given the “rape is rape” treatment.

            • I’m with you, I get frustrated by the way rape is often discussed. People use “rape” to mean all kinds of things outside the legal definition of rape which spreads a lot of misinformation. If a person consents to sex because of emotional pressure or whining from a partner, that’s not rape in my book. It’s not even a crime. Enthusiastic consent is a great thing but unenthusiastic consent is still consent. Now, if we are talking from a non-legal perspective about the importance of getting consent and how to communicate with your partner, that’s totally different. But the legal and non-legal get very mixed up in these discussions.

            • It may not get featured in the sidebar, but this would be my pick for Comment of the Day.

      • On the flipside the accusation itself can be enough to ostracize the rapist from some communities and cause great harm to ones reputation. So the fear of false accusations can be quite high, even though they are quite rare. I find both false accusations and especially the difficulty of prosecuting legitimate accusations very troubling.

  17. Wait a second- over on the other page http://goodmenproject.com/sex-relationships/five-sex-tips-for-men-about-women/comment-page-1/#comment-457448
    A little manipulation/seduction of the wifey is OK…
    I’m so confused…
    Did a part of this really veer off into discussion of the holocaust? Time to uncheck this article on the keep me updated list.
    I’m going to hit YouTube and watch Turn Wright Videos- that will make me a better man- learn a clear path along the decision tree and how to check and recheck tolerances. http://youtu.be/lTULd2sgEPo

  18. Also remember that “enthusiastic consent” (can’t even describe how much I dislike this term) is only good coming from women. A man who shows “enthusiastic consent” of course will be a total turn off and will probably be shamed and accused of acting like he’s an over excited virgin.

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