Editor's Note: Today's opinon article by Roland Hulme has some very controversial opinions on rape and consent with which not everyone will agree and others may find upsetting. We recognize this is a volatile topic and can be disturbing for some. For an alternative point of view, please visit the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom's site for their campaign, Consent Counts.
I’ve spotted a worrying trend in the media recently: Accusations of “date rape” in headlines discussing drunken celebrities and sex.
The first was in a comments section discussing Edith Zimmerman’s seat-of-her-pants interview with Captain America star Chris Evans.
The “interview” was different to the norm. It saw attractive, single journalist Edith pounding beers rather than questions with Evans - and then joining him on a drunken night out.
“Since we're both single and roughly the same age, it was hard for me not to treat our interview as a sort of date,” she wrote. “We both drank too much and said too much. I never opened the notebook of questions I had brought with me.” The night ended the following morning, and Zimmerman admits: “I don't really remember any of it. After the club, he and his friends and I went back to his house - not that I have any recollection.”
Chris Evans, she wrote, “put me in a guest bedroom to sleep it all off, and told me he'd drive me home in the morning. In the span of ten hours, we'd fast-forwarded from complete strangers to people who let each other pass out in their houses.”
The immediate buzz on the ‘net, of course, was whether or not Edith and Evans had hooked up – which even Edith admits was a possibility. This led to one commenter writing: “After reading the article, you’d hope not, because it would have been an obvious date rape - one would think Evans isn't that stupid.”
It was the words “obvious date rape” that really concerned me; because even if they’re “so-drunk-they-don’t-remember-it-the-next-morning” drunk, surely that doesn’t eliminate somebody’s ability to consent.
After all, while Edith doesn’t remember any of that night, she later learned she took part in a “jump over the pool table contest” and “at some point decided to crawl out a window and wander off into the night.” Edith Zimmerman might have been so drunk her memory stopped recording events; but she was still conscious and cognitive during her blackout.
And that means she was still capable of making decisions; including whether or not to have sex.
Now this is where people claim it gets murky, but it really doesn’t. There are some who might claim that because Edith was clearly intoxicated, she was incapable of giving consent to have sex.
I don’t buy that; and neither should anybody else.
If you’re blacked-out drunk, but still capable of talking, walking and doing things, you’re still responsible for your actions and your decisions.
If instead of climbing out of a window, Edith Zimmerman had clambered behind the wheel, the cops wouldn’t have let her off a DUI simply because she was “too drunk” to make the decision whether to drive or not.
Similarly if you’re blacked-out drunk and trash a theater facade – like Broadway wannabee Jimmy Whittemore did last month — the police are still going to bust your ass for it.
Even legal contracts you sign when drunk are considered legally binding.
In fact, in almost every aspect of life, being blacked-out, stumbling drunk does not relieve you of responsibility for the actions you take or the decisions you make; except in this ridiculous double standard of sexual consent.
The other celebrity example is Bristol Palin, the teen-mum who scuppered Sarah Palin’s shot at the vice presidency.
In her recent biography, Bristol claims she only lost her virginity to boyfriend Levi because he got her drunk on wine coolers. In some accounts she passed out and he had sex with her (clearly rape, as she was unable to consent.) In others, though, she drunkenly consented to sex that she wouldn’t have done if sober.
Only one is rape. The other is just a shitty personal decision.
The distinction is an important one; and needs to be addressed. There is something deeply troubling and hypocritical about a society that assumes an intoxicated woman isn’t responsible for sexual choices she makes while intoxicated.
If we’re honestly moving towards the theory that a drunken girl can’t consent to sex, we should at least make that rule consistent. If a woman drinks so much she experiences a black out, she should be legally absolved of all responsibility for every decision she makes during that drunken misadventure — not just the sexual ones.
Get behind the wheel of a car and kill somebody? Not your fault, dear — you were drunk.
Public urination? While a man goes on the sex offender’s register for taking a leak in public, a girl shouldn’t because “she was drunk.”
The inevitable result of this absurd double standard is simple: Women shouldn’t be allowed to drink.
If women aren’t to be held responsible for decisions they make while drunk, then they shouldn’t be allowed to reach that level of diminished responsibility in the first place. That’s an absolutely ridiculous notion — but one that highlights the double standard we have regarding women, alcohol and personal responsibility.
So-called feminists might think they’re being highly enlightened by accusing men who have sex with consenting-but-intoxicated women as “rapists” but what it actually does is perpetuate the stereotype that women are can’t be trusted to be responsible for their own sexuality — much less their drinking.
When it comes down to it, there is never a grey area when it comes to rape. A man who has sex with a woman who doesn’t consent is raping her (‘yes’ means ‘yes,’ rather than ‘no’ means ‘no’ – because not saying anything also means ‘no.’)
But when a woman does say ‘yes’ — even if she’s so drunk she doesn’t remember it the next morning — it is still ‘yes.’
Like every other ill-considered word or action we make while drunk — from drinking and driving to that scary tattoo — consensual sex is a consequence drinkers have to take responsibility for. Even women.