If We Are All Online, How Do We Do The Work Online?

The conversation on rape which I wrote about on Monday is still roiling on. In my piece I noted that asking questions was absolutely important, but understanding concepts like complicity, collusion, internalized dominance and other such things are also vital in the discussion around sexual violence. I said some other things too, so feel free to back track. This will be long and meandering, cross some topics, and probably needs days of edits, but I really don’t care anymore.

I’m going to link some pieces for further reading, all of which I’ll mention come with trigger warnings. This is rape and sexual assault we are talking about. There are questions regarding apologism, collusion, and the system in which those things occur. There are some first hand accounts of rape and being raped. Sometimes by the same person.

After the links, I’m going to talk about where I see these online conversations missing the mark a little, and what I’d want to see more of in real time and space-from me, first and foremost, but kind of a fantasy of how I think it “could be.”

The Dirty Normal wrote a great piece about cognitive dissonance and why “good” people go about feeling “good” about themselves even as they are doing very bad things. And why others feel the need to pick the “good” person vs the bad action. Cognitive dissonance is the biggest, in my opinion, psychological dynamic that keeps us human beings from being able to admit we are wrong, move forward in dialogue, change positions, and even sit within both position and stretch ourselves to be uncomfortable.

The dynamic is so very powerful and we all experience it in various ways all the time. Because we experience this Dirty Normal posits, it’s even more important to train bystanders in empathy, compassion and courage and to step up and in when they see good people doing bad things. Go check it out, it’s a great piece.

The Good Men Project found and published a piece by a man who lives the partying lifestyle and apparently believes that rape (raping or being raped, and levels of sexual assault) are part of the price he pays for the experience of living life on the edge. It’s very hard to read, not the least reason is because if he was a person discussing partying and driving (and how crashed cars, property damage and injuries were part of the price to pay) we’d all want his license revoked and his hide thrown in a rehab center/jail/counseling/home arrest for the potential damage to himself and others. Flat out. We’d not be worrying or wondering about sex, good times or however mostly because we don’t see sex in the same way we see drunk driving.

Clearly, this person has some serious troubles and is risking not only rape but murder/his own death (HIV passage due to unsafe sex practices), pregnancy, jail, assault, and bodily harm due to intoxication, assault and other things. He seems bereft of remorse, but it’s possible that he’s just damaged to the point (depression, anxiety, addiction, disconnectedness) that he can’t feel it. Or doesn’t want it. He’s a rapist, and I hope he winds up in jail and treatment and can find some salvage in his life, remorse for the people he’s hurt, and that we can get those bystanders involved because I’m not at all sure that consent training matters to people in his state of mind.

All in all, I’m not sure what was learned from this tale-people who are in addiction can behave in ways that are both dehumanizing and to be dehumanized, selfishness and narcissism are dangerous qualities, and rapists rape because it’s what they want, and/or a tax paid on a good time. This doesn’t seem new to me, it triggered a hell of a lot of people, and the fellow isn’t facing any repercussions for his admission. He’s getting away with it all over again. Perhaps he is happily manipulating the situation at GMP’s expense.

GMP then also published a defense and explanation of the piece, here. Again, I’m not clear what we learned through publishing the account, but I do know it’s causing a maelstrom of emotion to run through the ‘sphere.

And the piece itself triggered another writer deeply, and he gave some thoughts about whether giving this person public platform was wise or not. It’s a painful and beautiful piece.

And then Ozy resigned from No Seriously What About The Menz and Yes Means Yes has some amazing points about the importance of the Lisak study and how the messaging at GMP is insulting to men.

Here are some other really good pieces on reaction to the GMP, rape, rape apologism, and empathy.

In all this, and a Feministe piece that took down both GMP pieces about the admitted rapist, there have been arguments, twitter stalking and slamming, accusations, apparent threats, requests for dialogue, something not even remotely looking like the dialogue I’m used to seeing happening (but trying), words like “silencing” coming from all corners, people having their experience denied, hyperbole (in my opinion any way), anger, triggers, fear, disgust, misunderstanding, miscommunication, and lines being drawn, mirrors of behavior we wouldn’t hope for in person, and perhaps things getting more divisive and angry, which they seem to be, not that it isn’t expected in many places justified.

But.

So how will all this (from the posts to the anger to the arguments) help us understand and reduce sexual assault? Well, there are people reading who will have their thoughts stimulated. There are groups who might clarify and strengthen the work they are already doing (because there are lots of on campus programs and other programs focused on consent, awareness and more-this is happening). It might also inspire researchers to get better and more data. So that’s all good.

It might also alienate groups from other groups that could have worked together, pushed individuals into more polarized camps, created increased levels of distrust between types of rape prevention specialists, men/women, camps of feminism, and strengthened lines of power and access to resources, doubled people down on “they are just like that, so mean!” and “Fools and apologists!”

It also might encourage people to basically act like jerks to each other on the internet, because each group is desperately upset, angry, afraid, filled with facts and emotions, and horrified at the position of the other.

And yet, people have to speak out and actually protest what they think is wrong. And there is a lot wrong with what is going on. And in all those things, the emotion, the poles, the rightful protesting, is there actual dialogue? Like, to understand, heal, and find a place for commonality towards fixing the biggest issue? Is that happening online?

Rape is happening in real time. It’s happening to men and to women and the people who engage it in are either quite clear on what’s going on, or their internalized dominance is so buried that they justify what they are doing as correct. Or, I am willing to consider there are rare cases in which people are so intoxicated that they have no real control of their thoughts or actions, but they still are just as guilty of assault as a driver is of vehicular manslaughter. And we live in a culture that does not reward sexuality, that does not discuss it, embrace it, frame it’s mutuality and equality, and we cast repression and shame on it.

And rapists use that to their advantage. And I’m not at all convinced that the Lisak study is flawed. I’m not at all convinced that many cases of rape are perpetrated because “they didn’t know.” I’m also completely convinced we need more research, more investigation into our cultural norms around dominance, oppression, repression and how it plays out in lines of gender and sexuality. Like, stat.

And I’m more and more convinced that it’s exceptionally hard to do any of this work in isolation, no matter how connected the internet makes us feel. Me typing in argument to someone in a forum is me alone, typing, making up stories about that person without huge amounts of information about that person.

Maybe that’s just me needing that personally, but I think it means people are getting about 1/100th of the actual dialogue that would happen in real life. And then that one percent is often lashing out.

So what the hell is dialogue going to actually look like? Why is it easy to say online, and hard to do?

It’s not everyone agreeing. Nor is it everyone having intellectual positions with no skin in the game. Online, we will need to all actually mutually define and understand what that dialogue means. How will we engage? Do we create a community of learners? Are we taking pot shots to score points?

Which is why I do not (and have been coming to this conclusion over time) believe that it’s easy to dialogue to get to these core questions, answers, process when people are face to face and with skilled facilitators in tense emotional situations with risk involved. It’s about 100 (or a million) times harder to do it online without any physical connection especially without mutually agreed upon expectations of engagement, and the ability to just slam the computer off or shoot off mean comments.

What I’d love to see is an actual meeting of minds in person, with everyone having a similar set of tools (facilitation, observation, communication training, non violent communication) for how to do this work to get real results within the argument so that even if there are disagreements (which there will be) there will be more opportunities for allyship and work against the Big Bad, in this case rape and sexual assault. And very few people learn it. Not so many teach it.

I think the reason going from abstract to context is difficult is due to part to cognitive dissonance around a topic, awareness of complicity, shame around that awareness, desire to make that feeling go away, holding and defending a position even if one decides it’s not an honest/good position, etc. And so people can tend to double down on poles rather than actually asking, answering, clarifying and hearing.

My belief is that the more physically in proximity people are, the less likely they are to engage in overt aggression (though they will in microagresssion but then that can be seen and discussed). The more intimate the relationship the greater risk of cognitive dissonance there is in having a conflict, while the less intimate the easier it it is to stick to a pole and argue. Those poles self confirm and creating an “Other” who gets it wrong, is wrong, and is seen as incorrect means there is, in my opinion, less empathy and compassion for that person.

That’s what I see time after time happen online. I do it all the time.

I’m aware how hard it is (personally and in group) to use mindful, intentional, open and non violence communication, track my own “stuff” and the dynamics of a group, have courage to nudge others compassionately but directly and be willing to engage in conflict that is not only intellectual but emotional while in person and committed to the experience.

I rarely am able to do it, nor do I see it online with any regularity. But then I realize this:

Hell, have I called Lisa or Joanna or Justin or Noah from GMP? Have I sent my number to Jaclyn or Jill or Alyssa or Ozy? I haven’t. I’ve written my own intellectual observations about the fighting and anger and division (while realizing how justified it is and still wishing for inroads for connection) while holding back my own deep emotions around the topic, the fear and anger and shock at editorial choices, the sadness about the polarized camps, and fear of my own of getting in the conflict.

I’ve not been a part of the change I want to see. That’s my own shit, isn’t it?

Maybe I’d be doing it if all of it was in real space, but maybe that’s an excuse.

While I’d LOVE to figure out how to help facilitate conversations online (which is where people actually are these days) to get into that nitty gritty and actually make some change, I have to be willing to put myself in there in real space as well, people are in both, and that isn’t going to change. So I have to actually do it, and make the mistakes that I’m sure are coming.

And then maybe by being able to do that in real space and online even when (especially when) we disagree, we can move closer to a world where rape begins to shrink, where men and women stand up for each other more and more, where we behave as non violently to each other and mirror what we want to see begin to happen in sexuality. And every other form of social justice we so chose to engage in.

Because rape is happening regardless, we are all still here and it matters that we figure out how to stop it. It matters a hell of a lot.

***Update***

In response to Cara’s astute comment, I’m clarifying my position.

We live in a society where dominance is valued in many ways. Racism, classism, sexism, you name it. It’s part, in my opinion, of white and western supremacy. There are people, decent people, who have integrated these beliefs, stories, myths, and dynamics to a point where I believe they are unconscious of the dynamic.

There are people who have their eyes so wide open to the dynamics that they see it everywhere and it’s pretty painful to go through the day.

These people seem to be having a very hard time communicating with each other right now. I’ve said it before but it’s like the Matrix. All this water we swim in seems healthy and normal and so you can and do see “good” people doing things that range from clumsy and unthoughtful to downright evil while being able to hold the justification of themselves as “normal” “good” “right.”

When you or I or many of the other writers who see this point it out, we get accused of not wanting the conversation to happen and not wanting to “understand.” But when those other writers are making steps, babysmall as they may be, towards getting their eyes open (and in a perhaps different and frustrating way to us) I’m seeing accusations of rape apology and more. Which yes, that’s happening. AND I see people like Alyssa especially on the cusp of finally “getting it” about rape culture. Her friend? Has messages about consent and sex and entitlement and power deeply engrained in him to the point where it is possible he didn’t even know they were there. Possible, I say, not that I know that for sure.

Alyssa is his friend and experienced him for a long time as “good.” To make a complete switch to “bad” may be difficult for her, but I give her credit for taking part in a conversation that is clearly difficult, painful, emotional, and personally risky.

Cara is absolutely right that we need people who don’t rape to stand up and out against it. I’m not sure shame is the tool, frankly, because I think most of us western people (who I believe have been living and breathing a culture of violence and shame for decades) need more shame. We need release from our own complicity in it, and we get there by talking to each other about it-what we’ve done that’s wrong, why we’ve done it, admitting our own collusion, pushing back on the systems that say sex is a commodity and women have a price. This is women doing that work, but also men, especially men. I don’t think the change comes without that personal work and that work in groups, groups of men admitting where they’ve been and how to stop it.

It’s part of oppression in general and it toxifies all of us.

And I’m not sure we can get this done online, is what I’m worried about, and online is what we have and it moves at the speed of light.

21 Comments

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21 responses to “If We Are All Online, How Do We Do The Work Online?

  1. Cara

    Sigh.

    Rape doesn’t happen because people are “confused” or “uneducated”. Rapists know EXACTLY what they’re doing; they’re very good at using current social memes to justify themselves. They do it because it’s what they want to do. Period.

    “Conversation” with someone who says, point blank, that he’d rather commit rape than think about his behavior and change it is an absolute waste of time and energy. He’s not hurting for “sex”. THIS IS THE KIND OF ‘SEX’ HE LIKES–the kind where he doesn’t have to take another person’s humanity into account, in fact consciously tries to blot out any thought about it that might spring into his head.

    Rape happens because people (mostly men, sorry) want to use other people for their own gratification, whether the gratification is sexual or more a psychological power trip. It continues to happen because these attitudes ARE BACKED UP AND SUPPORTED BY THIS SOCIETY, RIGHT NOW.

    The “deeper” problem is not going to be solved by asking why rape happens. We KNOW why it happens. What we don’t know is how to properly shame people WHO DON’T rape into standing up for what’s right. Because some of those bastards are truly gutless.

    • Yes, Cara I agree. Absolutely. I hope I’ve made that clear, but if I haven’t I’ll be happy to reiterate.

      We live in a society where dominance is valued in many ways. Racism, classism, sexism, you name it. It’s part, in my opinion, of white and western supremacy. There are people, decent people, who have integrated these beliefs, stories, myths, and dynamics to a point where I believe they are unconscious of the dynamic.

      There are people who have their eyes so wide open to the dynamics that they see it everywhere and it’s pretty painful to go through the day.

      These people seem to be having a very hard time communicating with each other right now. I’ve said it before but it’s like the Matrix. All this water we swim in seems healthy and normal and so you can and do see “good” people doing things that range from clumsy and unthoughtful to downright evil while being able to hold the justification of themselves as “normal” “good” “right.”

      When you or I or many of the other writers who see this point it out, we get accused of not wanting the conversation to happen and not wanting to “understand.” But when those other writers are making steps, babysmall as they may be, towards getting their eyes open (and in a perhaps different and frustrating way to us) I’m seeing accusations of rape apology and more. Which yes, that’s happening. AND I see people like Alyssa especially on the cusp of finally “getting it” about rape culture. Her friend? Has messages about consent and sex and entitlement and power deeply engrained in him to the point where it is possible he didn’t even know they were there. Possible, I say, not that I know that for sure.

      Alyssa is his friend and experienced him for a long time as “good.” To make a complete switch to “bad” may be difficult for her, but I give her credit for taking part in a conversation that is clearly difficult, painful, emotional, and personally risky.

      You are absolutely right that we need people who don’t rape to stand up and out against it. I’m not sure shame is the tool, frankly, because I think most of us western people (who I believe have been living and breathing a culture of violence and shame for decades) need more shame. We need release from our own complicity in it, and we get there by talking to each other about it-what we’ve done that’s wrong, why we’ve done it, admitting our own collusion, pushing back on the systems that say sex is a commodity and women have a price. This is women doing that work, but also men, especially men. I don’t think the change comes without that personal work and that work in groups, groups of men admitting where they’ve been and how to stop it.

      It’s part of oppression in general and it toxifies all of us.

      And I’m not sure we can get this done online, is what I’m worried about, and online is what we have and it moves at the speed of light.

      • Cara

        Julie, I’m glad you agree. I’m a bit confused, though, about your idea that people need “release from our complicity”? Do you mean a way of feeling okay about being complicit, or a way of no LONGER being complicit?

        As you said, we can’t knock it off until we see it. I maintain that good men need to step up more and quit being quiet when the bros are being bros. And that’s not likely to happen unless they really GET that THEIR silence is part of the problem.

      • What I mean is that if I am behaving in a way that I know is wrong (even if I’m just barely conscious of it), I probably will feel some level of shame about it. I won’t talk to others about it, I won’t admit wrong, and the shame will compound, leaving it likely that I’ll project it out as blame on the groups/person “making me feel bad.”

        Admitting wrong, talking with others, doesn’t absolve one of wrongdoing, but it does help relieve shame so that I (or whoever) can start doing the work of letting go of the dynamics that lead me to do the wrong things to begin with. That is, if I’m a relatively ethical or moral person. If I’m a sociopath, I won’t feel shame anyway.

        So I think it’s a way of helping people collude less, call out more, feel released from the toxicity of those oppressive dynamics.

        I most certainly do NOT mean that it’s a way of feeling ok about collusion.

        I also maintain that same issue groups (males, whites, straights, etc) need to step up and discuss, question, support, etc when they see oppressions happening and to call it out.

      • I’m highly inspired by the work of Brene Brown on shame and vulnerability. I’ve written about it before and I’ve read her books and am looking into her research. It’s not a fix all, but given my last 5 days at the immersive race and racism institute, shame is a factor in so much…well, I could go on but can’t at the moment.

    • Archy

      It’d be nice to assume rapists always know exactly what they’re doing but I do believe the possibility that rarely there are times when people are soooo drunk, that they aren’t fully aware of their actions and rape can happen. Unless of course you believe drunk people have perfect ability to know what they are doing? Being extremely drunk is proven to really mess up judgment so is it possible some rapists don’t realize they’re actually raping someone when they’re that drunk?

      I’d love to believe every single rapist knows what they’re doing, but the fact alcohol screws up your perception can they really know 100%? It doesn’t excuse their behaviour of course but the question that burns in my mind is Can someone who is very drunk rape someone without realizing it, can their impaired judgment cause them to overlook signs consent isn’t there or probably more commonly has been removed? If part way through the act someone changes their mind, hasn’t said no but has stopped their enthusiasm will a drunk person notice this straight away?

      Alcohol makes the issue of consent oh so confusing when people are super drunk, if they’re both drunk then they can’t consent but if they are all over each other “willfully” would that mean they’re raping each other?

      • Archy, what I said was that people can do things without understanding the dynamics behind their actions.

        I guess I’d ask this, Archy. What’s the drunkest you have ever personally been. Have you ever hit, stolen, decided to drive, done something out of your every day character? Why do you think that is, if you have. If you haven’t, why do you think that is?

        I”m in a very both/and mood right now Archy. I’m willing to believe that there are people out there who have been so drunk they’ve done things drunk they wouldn’t have done it sober-but why? In that case is alcohol releasing an inhibition on a dynamic that person carries with them all the time? That taking sex without consent is par for the course? Or easy to blame on alcohol? Or she/he wouldn’t be there if they didn’t wanna?

      • And this piece here has some great breakdowns of what I’m thinking about.

        “All of which to say: ascertaining or affirming the deep down goodness of some rapists has shit all to do with prevention. If someone is not an intentional sexual predator, being educated about consent is sufficient to prevent them from raping people, whether they’re “good” or not.

        By the same token: education about consent? Won’t stop someone who doesn’t care whether someone consents to sexual contact or not. It certainly won’t stop someone who enjoys forcing themselves on people.

        Either you understand what consent means, or you don’t.
        Either you apply that knowledge, if you have it, or you don’t.”

      • And that post is right on target about how this erases the actual pain of the survivor. The more it gets intellectualized, the more people are hurting.

      • Cara

        Why, oh why, is there such a strong need to play “technical foul” when the topic is rape?

        I cannot imagine any possible reason for the constant, unending “but…but…but…whatif…” stuff, except to create room for the *exception* that excuses something a guy has done, or a friend has done, or whatever.

        This is not that hard. Ask first, if she can’t respond the answer’s no. Cut and flipping dried.

      • Archy

        Drunkest I’ve been is 5 drinks, still able to walk, I am pretty big so I guess it takes me more than that. All I found it did was make me laugh more and tired. I stay away from alcohol mostly because I get naturally high from laughing with friends, alcohol usually makes me wanna sleep. Maybe that’s partly why alcohol’s effects are a mystery to me but I’ve seen n heard of decent people turn into ugllllllyyyy characters on alcohol but usually it’s fisticuffs coming out to play.

        My only real theory for drunken sex is that it’s possible people are so far drunk they might not notice the stop signs if they had previously been fooling around, like it’s not ok to go from making out to third base. Is it possible that when drunk people can misread signs bigtime? If the other is drunk they may not speak up n say no for instance and their partner’s version of consent is no means no, so the lack of no means game on?

        @Cara, I play the whatif game for a lot of things because I am unhappy with thinking everyone is the same so I like to rule out possibilities. I’ve heard quite a few stories though of rape or whatever it is where the lines are murky, people having sex when blackout drunk and not remembering then feeling violated the next day. Did their partner truly feel they consented? There are comments on the GMP of guys saying they’ve been with people who blacked out, some realized how drunk the blackout person was because they were more sober but what about 2 people who are very drunk? If they’re under the impression they’re just having drunk sex but the person isn’t actively storing memories then is it possible there is an issue there? I ask because I am unclear of when blackout drunk occurs, I’ve been told it happens sometimes when people appear to be less drunk.

        Personally I avoid sex with alcohol because I can’t be 100% certain there is consent if we’ve both had substances that limit our mental capability nor do I wanna risk being raped and not have my wits about me so I can hopefully try get out of the situation vs be struggling to stand.

      • Cara

        “Cara, I play the whatif game for a lot of things because I am unhappy with thinking everyone is the same so I like to rule out possibilities. I’ve heard quite a few stories though”

        What in heaven’s name do you mean, you’re unhappy with thinking everyone is the same? “Everyone” who? Seriously? You’re unhappy with the notion that rapists rape because they either don’t care about consent, or get off on NOT having it?

        What “possibilities” are you ruling out by going “but but but whatif a Martian took over my body”? Are you really, truly afraid that, left to your own default behavior patterns, you’re going to commit a rape? Do you genuinely need this level of technicality? A manual with a troubleshooting guide?

        Because guess what? You don’t. If you know how to figure out when someone you’re NOT having sex with isn’t having fun or doesn’t want to be there, adding sex to the mix doesn’t change that…UNLESS you have a notion in your head that sex is mysterious, or you can’t talk about it, or your partner is going to be dishonest because *wimmenz r liars*.

        And THESE notions are the problem. They’re why rape victims aren’t believed, why rape victims are questioned differently from victims of other crimes, why so few rapists are convicted.

        To reiterate: If you’re not someone who will commit rape, then there’s literally no reason to speculate about “how it happens”. It happens because there’s a rapist there. That’s all. If you want it to stop, then stop trying to “understand” and start standing up for the victims.

        Because looking for technicalities, honestly, is just more of the same. There’s no need to see “both sides”. There really isn’t. Rape is wrong. Just like “feminist” means “a person who believes women are human beings,” “rape” means “sexual contact inflicted on someone without their consent”. That’s not hard to suss out. The hard part for some, apparently, is accepting the idea that they’re not automatically entitled to sexual contact, that there’s no contract, no point of no return where they can stop caring about their (potential) partner.

        Sheesh.

      • Archy

        @Cara, because I actually give a damn about why people rape and how to reduce it? I am not convinced 100% of rapes are purposely done with intent to rape, I truly do believe there are some which with severe alcohol consumption have the possibility of someone blacking out and consenting but not remembering, or 2 people having drunken sex and being absolutely terrible at making a judgment about the others ability to consent. It doesn’t take away their blame but it does mean we might be able to reduce it by hammering home the notion of ensuring people aren’t too drunk when they have sex and to look for enthusiastic consent.

        Being sober I can’t see any reason why someone would misjudge another’s consent but alcohol impairs judgment. That is what worries me about people drinking heavily, how do you stop rape in those situations? Are there easy to tell signs when someone blacks out? Because I don’t know them, I’ve heard from multiple people that those who black out look like typical drunk people so if another person is drunk and they have sex then did they just rape them without realizing they couldn’t consent? Can 2 drunk people actually consent to sex with each other?

        These what-if’s are not imaginatory like martians are (so far), they happen, people have sex when extremely drunk and there are some major issues from it. I am not interested in leaving the conversation at the big bad rapists are bad and they know everything they do and 100% of the time know they are raping without the even small chance that alcohol is fucking up peoples judgment. How do 2 people who can’t even walk straight, slur their speech accurately judge their partners consent? How can they consent in that state? But many do have drunken sex so are they raping each other? Is it possible to consent when drunk?

        I know you can’t consent when asleep but legally I haven’t seen any expert advice on sex when drunk which is what worries me because currently I will not have sex with someone who’s had more than 1 drink and can’t cite the alphabet backwards and walk a straight line and a bunch of other IQ tests because i never ever ever want to rape someone willingly or accidentally. I don’t want to be in a situation where I am drunk, she is drunk, and we can’t consent but have sex but either I or she may not fully be aware of the others state. That is why I ask what if’s, it’s a paranoia of mine because I know alcohol screws with judgment so I have no idea if it’s even possible to consent. I’ve been some degree of drunk before and I would have probably had sex in that state even with someone sober, would they have been a rapist?

        This isn’t to say alcohol is to blame for the rape anymore than alcohol forces people to drive cars but alcohol being something that does screw with judgment MAY end up with people having sex at times they shouldn’t and I think there is the possibility a rape can occur in that situation without hte rapist realizing, but that depends entirely on how and when alcohol removes consent. 2 people having drunken but enthusiastic sex, I know many will not call that rape but can they even legally consent? I know that when I take certain medication after surgery I am not legally able to consent as far as I know and any contracts signed would be void.

  2. I’d welcome that conversation, Julie. I’m laid low with back pain so I’m not writing as much as I wish I were right now. Still, I fully support the conversation the GMP is hosting on rape, and the writers and editors and publishers who are making it happen, and the readers who are engaging with the topic at hand. We desperately need to normalize talk about consent and sexual assault. No one should be able to count on sympathy after raping someone, for the lame excuse that they didn’t know it was rape. We should all be super clear what that is. My personal solution is rooted in my values as a human being. I don’t worry that I’m going to learn entitlement to someone else’s sex. No matter how smashed I get at a party, you can count on me not to rape anyone. I think that’s the difference between me and the party guy who thinks rape is just part of the lifestyle. I think he feels entitled, or he couldn’t allow himself to do something that was against his core values, even drunk and high. People who don’t party might not realize this, but drugs have their limits in what they can change. They loosen inhibitions, but what is revealed is one’s true nature, under the civilizing patter that makes us seem “nice.”

    The answer isn’t going to come for everyone in the form of enthusiastic consent. Not today. Too many people still feel they need to drink to relax, that they need at the least the right to get loose and party, and to not have to worry about being raped as a consequence. So we need to change how the rest of the people at that party think and feel about consent, so that the next Alyssa isn’t conned into thinking her dear friend is simply confused or ill informed.

  3. I really think this is a key piece of info and thanks, Cara, for putting it so perfectly. “The hard part for some, apparently, is accepting the idea that they’re not automatically entitled to sexual contact, that there’s no contract, no point of no return where they can stop caring about their (potential) partner.”

    The only experiences I’ve had with coercive sex were this kind of thing, where the guy “needed a few more seconds” or “couldn’t stop” or I didn’t know them well enough to know if they would stop so I just kept on going. I’ve never really considered those rape, per se (or at least they didn’t feel traumatic, but lead to me distrusting men in casual sex encounters) but I do consider them very bad, very non mutual, clumsy sex with a partner who cared more about his experience than OURS. His was the dominant experience and so what if I needed him to stop, if even for a moment. I’ve told my sons and I’ll keep telling them…”yes, orgasm feels amazing and it feels like you’ll die if you don’t have that moment but if you wait, even for a moment to make sure your partner is with you, then you’ll keep having thousands more free and clear. ”

    Or something akin to that. As in words for 7 year olds or 10 year olds or 12 year olds. And that if THEY want to say no, same deal. Same waiting, same patience, same mutuality.

  4. Cara

    I am not convinced 100% of rapes are purposely done with intent to rape, I truly do believe there are some which with severe alcohol consumption have the possibility of someone blacking out and consenting but not remembering, or 2 people having drunken sex and being absolutely terrible at making a judgment about the others ability to consent….

    That is why I ask what if’s, it’s a paranoia of mine because I know alcohol screws with judgment so I have no idea if it’s even possible to consent.

    Okay. Let’s try this. Perhaps, Archy, I’m mistakenly reading you as being a guy. If you’re a guy, and you don’t have sex with drunk people to avoid being a rapist, then you have nothing to be paranoid about! If you avoid sex with drunk people to avoid being raped yourself, again, good fricking call. If you’ve had a few drinks and you’re having sex with a partner you trust to pay attention to your signals if you change your mind, there’s no problem.

    If you refuse to drink so YOU WON’T RAPE, then, Houston, there’s already a problem, and it’s YOURS, not that of some abstract “but but but drunken lack of judgment rapist!” It’s YOUR judgment, YOUR morals that you’re afraid are impaired, and that’s something only you, yourself, can work on.

    Because this *paranoia* has no basis. The only reason to stick stick stick to this picayune point is the hope that someone will say, well, yeah, women are partially responsible for *drunken misunderstanding rapes*. And that’s not going to happen, because it’s not a real thing. Rape isn’t a drunken misunderstanding. No “missing of cues”, none of that crap.

    If you’re genuinely afraid you’ll *miss* that someone’s not really into sex with you, then fine. Don’t drink. Nobody will make you. If you’re afraid a friend will be hurt because you see there’s a predator around, be protective.

    But insisting that booze causes *misunderstandings*, over-focusing on that, and deciding that if you can just explain it to the drunks well enough it will reduce the rape rate–no. That’s like painting the white roses red–a lot of activity that doesn’t affect the roots one bit.

    If you want to stop rape, don’t rape, and speak up when other people are spouting rape-apologist propaganda. That’s how you change minds. That’s how you change the world. Also? The fewer people spouting the victim-blamey garbage, the more people telling the truth, the more those who are invested in the lies will stand out, and the easier they’ll be to spot.

    • Archy

      Well partly I am trying to find out when a person crosses the threshold for judgment impairment. If I have a gf who has a few drinks, I have a few drinks, what bothers me is the possibility of having sex when they or I can’t legally consent. I don’t think there will be any problem as millions of couples appear to do this mutually often but is it at the point of being tipsy? Or does it only take affect once you cannot walk properly? The law here in Australia is a bit unclear on this and my interpetration is that ANY alcohol legally impairs judgment, and if it’s similar to the drunk driving laws it’d be 0.05% B.A.C so would sex at 0.051% be rape? Even if both are mutually and enthusasitically having sex?

      My guess is that the law is simply there so that the judge n jury decide when it is rape and it probably takes place in situations where someone has passed out, or is legless drunk and another takes advantage of that n rapes them. But technically, are 2 very drunk people/legless having sex mutually n enthusiastically to the best of their ability to consent at the time raping each other?

      To be honest the blackout part scares me, I have heard people are quite lucid still when blackout drunk. It sounds possible for a couple to have sex, both appearing to be tipsy for instance but one is blacking out? Now for me personally I don’t wanna have sex when having a drink and if I do have a gf and we trust each other and have a few drinks I’d like to do some form of sobriety test or something to ensure we’re both able to consent but I want to know where that limit lies. Currently I am siding for caution, consent is very apparent in other situations but when alcohol is involved the law and mental impairment from alcohol really make it unclear for me.

      Does that make my position clear at all? I am not trying to blame alcohol for rapes here, but I do think alcohol impairs judgment for people and that impaired judgment has the potential to go very wrong in the case of not seeing someone is blacked out for instance. I have been around drunk people, a few drinks people still appear to have quite a lot of mental capability and with myself I know after 2-3 drinks I am just laughing more but still pretty sharp on my mental state, but I am unclear if that means I am unable to consent legally. The only things I’ve heard on consent with alcohol involved are don’t have sex with someone who is legless or passed out, which is common sense and very obvious, but I am very unclear on the “tipsy” level before slurred speech. I’d like to have sex with my partner after a few drinks but not if it means we’re unable to consent or if there is any chance either of us could not spot they’re blacking out.

      I really do hope blackout drunk is distinct from tipsy for instance otherwise how do you know if they’ve blacked out? The chances for this are probably extremely rare but I like to be informed so I can reduce risk to myself and others. I never ever ever ever want to be blacked out and have sex, or have sex with someone who has blacked out but from what I hear from some people it’s very hard to know who is blacked out in some cases?

  5. Cara

    If I have a gf who has a few drinks, I have a few drinks, what bothers me is the possibility of having sex when they or I can’t legally consent.

    The word “girlfriend” implies a relationship in which you a) have known each other longer than a day, and b) are already having a consensual sexual relationship.

    Now. If, by “girlfriend” you mean “someone I am friends with, and we like each other so much that we also have sex”, then I frankly see no issue to be concerned about, because you would ALREADY have set the stage for a consensual, mutually respectful way of communicating consent.

    To be less verbose, the fact that she’s your girlfriend would mean you already had done a lot of negotiating boundaries with each other, and the fact that you really, truly WANT to have her consent would absolutely guarantee that she wouldn’t be afraid to tell you she wasn’t in the mood.

    In other words, there’s a difference between a couple in a relationship who go out for dinner to celebrate their anniversary and get a little tipsy before they go home to screw each others’ brains out, and two people who’ve just met (or even two people who consider themselves a “couple”) and are deliberately, consciously or not, trying to avoid having to really relate to each other by getting plastered before they have sex. Or a guy who waits for a girl to pass out drunk so he can stick his penis inside her without having to actually talk to or think about or consider the human being whose vagina he’s using to get off.

    So, bottom line, if you want to know absolutely what’s in a person’s heart before you sleep with them, you might want to get to know them first. If you want a one-night stand, stay sober and only sleep with other sober people. Or? You could just not drink, period, regardless of how long you’ve known someone, if you’re in the mood to have sex.

    Okay?

    I really don’t see the heavy focus on what’s blackout and what’s tipsy and all that. This is not as scary as you’re making it; you seem determined to find a reason not to trust yourself, or not to trust your partner. I don’t know if you’re just screwing with us or if you genuinely have a drinking problem that makes this an issue for you. If it’s the latter, I’d quit worrying about the “rape” thing and start worrying about the booze itself.

    Or maybe you’re just very young. If that’s the case, disregard my impatient tone and just take the motherly advice.

    • Cara

      Actually, there’s another possibility–all this “concern” about consent could be cover for a guy who’s just playing technical foul so he knows what he can get away with.

      I’ll just go ahead and assume that’s not the case.

      • Archy

        Inexperienced is what I am, only had a handful of sexual encounters. I understand that I can give verbal consent and figure out boundaries with my partner and there shouldn’t be any problems but wasn’t sure if that applied with the law. IE, I could tell my partner it’s ok if she has sex with me when I’m past tipsy but I dunno if legally it’s consent, or just morally? That’s the part that is confusing me. Basically if we’re both drunk, we both consent, but can we legally actually consent? It’s a question that seems ot be bothering quite a few people as it potentially means a lot of people are raping each other when having drunken sex, but they don’t see it as rape. I myself wouldn’t see it as rape but legally mine and her ability to consent could be gone yet we both see it as consenting. That’s what confuses me with how the law interprets consent, and we interpret consent.

        When I have sex I ask n ask n ask to be super duper sure everything is ok. I grew up hearing all kinds of stuff about consent and I guess it’s made me want to be 10000% sure consent is there. I’m guessing as I have a relationship we’ll both understand each others boundaries n discuss it more and won’t need to ask n ask n ask but only ask once. But that question on alcohol still confuses me with regard to the law. Basically the only advice I’ve heard about it is avoid alcohol, which to me starts to sound like a huge amount of men n women cannot legally consent when drunk and have sex, in their minds they’re both consenting and nearly all seem to wakeup the next day fine and don’t see it as rape but the fact they were both drunk could legally mean they raped each other?

        These are situations that many I’ve seen do not consider rape but they’re opinions, there are also some who say if a woman is intoxicated the man is a rapist, which makes me wonder who is raping who if both are intoxicated? Is this a question I should be asking police instead? I figured those dealing with rape campaigns would know more which is why I ask online. This topic was never dealt with in my sex education, I was only informed of “if someone is passed out then it’s rape, if they say no, it’s rape” and I later found out about enthusiastic consent but never about the middleground of 2 people drunk having enthusiastic sex with alcohol impairment on both.

        I’ve seen this question basically asked around and never seen an answer regarding the law of it.

      • Archy

        And no, not trying to play technical foul. Never ever ever wanna rape someone, only ever want 100% enthusiastic sex but just worried that enthusiastic drunk sex may not legally be consenting. Hence I avoid it as it sounds like a lot of technical rape is going on since people are impaired by alcohol, even if they’re having enthusiastic sex together when drunk.

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