Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Affirmative Consent and Erring on the Side of Caution.

I was introduced to a new term the other day - Hate-Reading.  You know, that thing when you continually read the same web site or subscribe to the same media outlet even though the thoughts and opinions expressed are generally full of fail and make your teeth itch?

One of my recent hate-reads has been Slate.com's resident advice giver, Dear Prudie. The other is The Stir by CafeMom (with the exception of Jenny Lawson and Becky Harks - they're pretty awesome) but that's a blog rant from another day.

Anyway, dear Prudie usually has few gems up her sleeve, such as the post linked above where she basically plays into the idea that someone who drinks heavily can't really be raped, they're probably just ashamed. Yup, we're still not over this. Twenty-first century, even. Yeah, Prudie is kind of an asshole but that's not really what I'm talking about here.

It brought up an interesting discussion on feministe regarding good consent when drugs and alchohol are involved. Somehow in these discussions there is always someone who wants a clear line in the sand showing exactly when someone is too drunk to consent, like legally. It's friggin' sketchy, like people want to know "exactly To what extent can I take advantage of a situation before I am legally culpable?"

Dude (or Dudette, because you know, it happens) if you have to ask, you probably have or will cross that line.

Where's the problem of erring on the side of caution and if you're not in a position where you're entirely sure you have genuine consent, then politely back off.

Remember that movie, the one where Michael Cera played Michael Cera playing every role he's ever had and sang "These Eyes" and Jonah Hill was fat and loud and the cops blew up the car and the drunk chick tried to blow Michael Cera but he said no because she was pathetically drunk?

You can learn a lesson from that movie. A lesson besides the one that says cops are generally bored and really do want to be your friend, because they're afraid of becoming irrelevant and old. Shocking, I know.

Worst thing that happens when you say to a drunk person that you're not comfortable having sex with thm when they're drunk is that you don't have sex that night. Not the end of the world.

Okay, one guy argued that someone could take great offense at you refusing to have sex with them, and assume you are an agency-denying, patriarchal slut-shamer, to which I say that consent works both ways. The non- or less-drunk party also has the right to say no, regardless of the other person's hurt feelings. So in that situation I say that the worst thing that will result from saying no is that you don't get to have sex with an asshole that night.

Before I close off I just want to mention that "erring on the side of caution" doesn't have to mean that once that bottle of wine has been cracked that all bets regarding sexy times are off, no matter who you are. Mileage is going to vary depending on the consenting adults involved: their trust levels, previous dialogue, and hell, alcohol tolerance comes into play as well. Just remember, affirmative consent is the presence of "Yes", not the absence of "No". And if that yes is more like a Yesshhhh, unless you Trust each other well enough or your date just happens to have a lisp, take that yessssshhhhh with a grain of salt, because it's a damn site better to be called an asshole than a date-rapist.


  1. "Remember that movie, the one where Michael Cera played Michael Cera playing every role he's ever had..." haha, so true! he always makes me laugh though.

    Lovin' your insight here. I'd rather be called an asshole than a date-rapist any day.

  2. "Where's the problem of erring on the side of caution and if you're not in a position where you're entirely sure you have genuine consent, then politely back off. "

    This is it. The only basic rule that one needs. The whole line in the sand is a ridiculous concept. Every situation is different, and every couple (or group) is different.

    Great post with some common sense advice.

  3. Wait. What?! Michael Cera is an actor?!

    :-) Next you'll be tell me that Jonah Hill is an actor, too.


  4. Like. (Sometimes I'm too lazy to write a whole comment but I still give a thumbs up)

  5. If you err on the side of caution and make the assumption that someone who has been drinking enough that their ability to consent is questionable is unable to give good consent and thus you should back off, then there is no mind reading involved. The whole point of practicing affirmative consent is so that no one is playing mind reader because both parties are being clear about whether they want to engage. This IS a form of accountability, being attentive to whether your partner has not only consented, but is able to consent.

  6. Dear Prudie is totally one of my hate-reads too. I must read it, but feel icky afterwards. Every time.

    While I would like to give a big thumbs up for the entire post, I'm commenting to thank you for finding that term for me!


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