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Alcohol Does Not Equal Consent

September 14, 2016

[TRIGGER WARNING This article, contains language about sexual assault and victim blaming which may be triggering to survivors.]

But What About the Alcohol?

“Red Cup Culture”

“Party Atmosphere”

“Hook-up Generation”

For many college students, drinking and sex are normal parts of their experience. Where things get mixed up is when people take partying and hooking up with the idea that drinking too much is what causes sexual assault and rape. It’s when we start to hear questions like:

“What did she expect? She was totally wasted.”

“She must have wanted it – why else would she go upstairs during a frat party?”

“They were both drunk. He had no idea what he was doing either, so she’s just as guilty as he is.”

“Don’t be a drunk slut and you won’t get raped, it’s that easy.”

We’re here to say that all of these statements are WRONG.

Alcohol doesn’t cause rape – predators and predatory behavior cause rape. Bringing alcohol front and center over the actions of predators perpetuates rape culture and victim-blaming attitudes.

As of 2013, the FBI defines rape as: “Penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person without the consent of the victim”

Pretty clear, right? Here’s the next thing you need to remember – one cannot consent if they are intoxicated, asleep, unconscious or underaged.

So it doesn’t matter how drunk she was, how much molly he took, how many different bars they went to that night. If a person is intoxicated and another person has sex with them, it is rape. Period.

In most cases, it is legal to drink to the point of intoxication. It is always illegal to rape or assault a person who is intoxicated. According to the FBI, more than 1.1 million American drivers were arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs in 2014.  In our legal system, even a drunk person will be held accountable for committing a crime while intoxicated.

The natural consequence of drinking too much alcohol is intoxication. Committing crimes however, is never the natural consequence of drinking too much. In fact, check out this article detailing a study done at the University of Missouri that suggests that people know when they are doing something wrong when they are drunk, they just don’t care as much as they do when they’re sober.

So what can college students do when everyone is drinking and things are getting fuzzy?

Get Consent – is your partner able to consent? Are you sure? Are they coherent and conscious?

Check In…and Keep On Checking – if you secure enthusiastic consent from a person who has been drinking, it’s a good idea to check in with them frequently to make sure they are still a willing participant. It doesn’t have to be awkward or formal. Here are some ideas:

Is this still OK?”

“Are you still having fun?”

“Should I keep going?”

“Do you maybe want to take a break for a while?”

When In Doubt, WAIT – if you aren’t clear that your partner is enthusiastically consenting to sex because one or both of you have been drinking, wait until you are sober enough to be sure.

So yes, party responsibly. We all know some safety tips include traveling in groups, looking out for your friends, don’t get separated from your drink. Just remember alcohol is never an excuse to commit a crime.  Dr.Gail Stern’s, Catharsis Productions co-founder, summed all these thoughts up by saying: “In terms of responsibility, I’m responsible for what I do when I’m drinking, I am not responsible what other people choose to do to me when I’m drinking.”

Catharsis Productions

Catharsis Productions' mission is to change the world by producing innovative, accessible and 
research-supported programming that challenges oppressive attitudes and shifts behavior.