Posted by Sappho on January 9th, 2013 filed in Sexuality
Here’s figleaf, at the now more often worksafe than not blog Real Adult Sex, on Why “Too Drunk to Keep Your Keys” is a Fine Metric for Judging “Too Drunk to Consent”. And here’s a pseudonymous guest blogger at Feministe, arguing that when you get drunk you should check your sexual expectations in the same way you check your car keys in. (She’s making a point about when you might be to drunk to judge other people’s consent, while figleaf is making a point about when other people may be too drunk to consent to you, but they’re drawing the line in the same place.) And Thomas MacAulay Miller makes a point in the comments to the guest post at Feministe about how
As one of the leading popularizers of Predator Theory, here’s how I see it: most rapes are committed by a relatively small part of the population, that know exactly what they are doing and know how to get away with it. There are other rapes that don’t follow that pattern, and for which many other dynamics may be applicable. To reduce the number of rapes, the most powerful thing people can do is to create social circumstances that make it harder for the predators to blend in and excuse their behavior and get support, what I generally call their “Social License To Operate.” Reducing the role of intoxicants as a social lubricant and adjunct to finding sex partners and having sex will do wonders in this area, because intoxication is both the predators’ favorite weapon and favorite excuse. Stopping people from making mistakes about consent when intoxicated is a good thing, but I think that stopping people from thinking mistake-of-consent is normal is actually more important, because it is so important in our culture to serial rapists’ social license to operate.
Three separate arguments about alcohol and sex, each coming from a slightly different direction. Guest Blogger seems to be addressing people who still may be capable of making decisions about sex, but whom she thinks are too drunk to judge their own behavior; there may be a degree of intoxication where you’re still capable of remembering a bright line and being generally aware that you’re drunk, but not so good at judging anything more subtle. Thomas MacAulay Miller thinks rapists aren’t, in fact, people who make mistakes about consent while drinking, but that removing the excuse that doing that is sort of OK removes their cover. And figleaf thinks people who are too drunk to drive should be left alone because they can’t properly consent. But all of these arguments point toward not drinking and having sex, just as you don’t drink and drive.
Now, here’s what I don’t get. I can understand why someone might not want “too drunk to drive” to be the legal standard for rape. Because being legally convicted of rape means going to prison for a very long time. For that reason, quite properly, as with any other crime, we require that you be convicted by a jury of twelve of your peers who find that the evidence proves you guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. It is entirely possible that the other person was drunk enough that someone should have taken her car keys away, and you (even if stone cold sober) weren’t aware of it.
I’ve been in this situation myself, in fact. One time, a woman was making advances to me at a party, and offered me a ride home. I was completely sober, had not even had so much as half a drink. I was also, perhaps precisely because I wasn’t much of a drinker, not all that attuned to the signs that she was intoxicated. She wasn’t actually staggering or slurring her words. I hadn’t seen how many drinks she’d had. Someone else, who knew her well, could tell that she was drunk, and stepped in, on my behalf, telling her that she was in no state to drive. And, since it was a bit dark for me to bike, our host offered me a bed in a spare room. Given that I was incapable of judging her incapacity to drive, do I think I ought to have been judged guilty of rape if she and I had wound up going to bed together? Of course not. Then again, I can’t imagine any jury actually applying the standard “drunk enough that some people can figure out that you shouldn’t be driving and others can’t.” There is, after all, the protection of reasonable doubt, and that’s a truckload of reasonable doubt.
Likewise, I can understand why people might see circumstances where sex when too intoxicated to drive may occasionally be OK in the context of an established relationship. I once, in the context of an established relationship, shared a joint with someone before sleeping together. The consent to sex happened before either of us took a puff from that joint. It would be rather silly to suggest that people can’t have sex that they’d already agreed on having if they first have a little more pot or alcohol than they’ve have if they were planning on driving.
What I don’t understand is why, when someone poses “too drunk to drive” as a line where people might reasonably also conclude “too drunk to have sex,” there is often a chorus of people saying that
- Most people have sex when they’re drunk. (Really? They do? I’ve never had sex while drunk in my life, and I know lots of people who don’t have sex when they’re drunk.)
- Having sex for the first time, with someone with whom you’ve never done anything sexual before, while that person is drunk is a good idea. (I can’t imagine why. To my mind, first time sex is exactly the situation where you’d want to be damn sure you had the other person’s full enthusiasm while that person was sober.)
- Alcohol is a vital social lubricant, without which people will be too ashamed to do the sexual things they really want to do. (Again, really? It’s been thirty years since I went to college. I was able to have sex, while there, with multiple people, without any of us drinking first. There wasn’t any sex that I wanted to have that I turned down for lack of Dutch courage. Have people really become tons more sexually inhibited in the last thirty years?)
- Sex is better if you can add alcohol. (Most of my worst experiences with other people’s sexual advances involved men who were drunk. All my best experiences involved people who weren’t drunk. Alcohol has absolutely not enhanced my sexual experience.)
I don’t get it. Why do so many people think it’s a huge loss not to have “too drunk to drive” sex?