I Have an Answer for You Dr. Phil
I Have an Answer for You Dr. Phil

A few weeks ago Dr. Phil McGraw’s Twitter account sent out one of the most loaded questions in the history of tweeting: “If a girl is drunk, is it OK to have sex with her? Reply yes or no to @drphil #teensaccused.” The message quickly drew fire, and was promptly removed; however, the question remains embedded in my mind.

With the fire of the Steubenville rape case still smoldering, many of us still wonder: when does intoxication in and of itself imply that the evening is over? When does intoxication mean consensual sex can no longer be truly consensual due to lack of lucidity and ability to knowingly consent?

Drunken sex happens. It happens on many different levels some being consensual, some being coerced, and others being non-consensual. There really can’t be a hard and fast rule concerning intoxication because alcohol affects individuals differently; which is to say, no court of law can say if a person has had 3 drinks, he or she is not capable of consent. Some may be able to indulge in 3 drinks and remain perfectly lucid, while others could become incapacitated from consuming the same amount. Yet, we don’t want to give aggressors loop holes with which to argue their innocence. No one should be able to argue that an individual only had 2 drinks, so he or she was obviously capable of consent. Trying to define “drunk” compartmentalizes a situation which could be vastly different for different individuals.

Being that intoxication has much to do with individual biology, what then is our yardstick when measuring whether it’s “okay” to have sex with an intoxicated person?

Inquiring what the answer might be has led to far more questions than answers, but the fact remains that many still believe intoxication is a signifier of consent rather than a halting point for sex.

One person I spoke with had this to say:

So many women go out to party, get drunk, sleep with some guy, and then regret it later. Then they want to claim they were raped. If they don’t like waking up with regret, maybe they shouldn’t be putting themselves in that situation.

Astounding! Victim blaming and shaming is so prevalent that some believe a woman is deserving of rape, that rape is made up, and that she could have prevented it if she would have foregone the evening out.

I want to make one point crystal clear: while there may be some who make false rape claims, walking into a police station and filing a report of rape is humiliating. Most people would never choose to put themselves in that situation.

Another point is that there is a difference as big as the galaxy between having post-coital regret and knowing sex was coerced or forced. Some of us have found ourselves in a situation where we partook in sex with someone we later wished we wouldn’t have (e.g. a friend, colleague, or someone romantically involved with another). The difference is that we feel we made a mistake, but we don’t feel violated.

Waking up not knowing what happened, knowing sex was forced, or knowing alcohol was used to incapacitate you is a different scenario altogether. It’s not a moment of remorse. It’s a moment of fear, and a sickening violation of the mind and body.

As for if a person can prevent rape, probably not. There are some safety measures, but most of those operate under the “boogeyman” theory–the stranger in a dark alley jumping out and attacking. Most victims know their assailants, so to say there is safety in numbers or to avoid alcohol is a bit off target. If I feel comfortable with someone, why would I need ten friends or why would I avoid having an alcoholic beverage?

Many of the techniques taught in rape prevention are blanket statements. “All” people can’t prevent rape by doing XYZ, and the underlying message is that victims are responsible instead of teaching assailants what the word NO means.

So, to answer Dr. Phil’s question, sometimes it’s okay to have sex with a woman (and I should add never a “girl”) who is drunk, but sometimes it isn’t. When a person has to coerce or force another into sex, the answer is: NO, it’s not okay. When a person is too intoxicated to answer for him or herself the answer is: NO. And when the answer is no, take that at face value and walk away. Alcohol or not, no means no. It isn’t rocket science, and it’s never the victim’s fault.

tammieTammie Niewedde shares her life with 24, 21, and 16 year old sons. She also has a 2 year old grandson whose energy level reminds her exactly how old she is (40, and she owns that proudly!). In her home, you will find a 120 pound fur factory named Dexter and a few cats whom have decided that she is merely their staff. The root of her love for books, writing, and animals comes from being a child whose only siblings were books and her animals. She is a full-time student, mother, coordinator of all that is chaos, and a hopeless list maker. Most of her writing is creative non-fiction that describes her real life adventures. Her acerbic, biting sense of humor may capture your heart, or it may induce rage. Nonetheless what she writes is true to life. You can often find her hanging out with the kiddos, studying, reading, writing, and making lists…of everything! You can find her on Facebook!


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  1. Maria
    Posted September 10, 2013 at 8:41 pm | Permalink

    I would add to your statement about victim blaming. Men and women alike are quick to place judgement on the victim for not making different choices, choosing something more demure to wear, choosing to not drink, choosing to not go out at all, choosing to avoid situations where they may be vulnerable. All of this puts emphasis on some misguided belief that the victim could have somehow prevented the attack, and is therefore complicit. Sometimes in extreme cases, it moves beyond that to the victim was somehow deserving of being attacked, whether for having loose morals or some other character flaw that is indicative of social decay.

    The problem with this is that it completely ignores one half of the parties involved by lessening the responsibility of the attacker. They were “overcome” by their physical urges. This is the ultimate double standard, because in any other situation the stereotype would be that women are emotional and overcome while men are rational, clear thinkers. They don’t even realize how ridiculous it sounds for them to say that a man was unable to control his emotional state.

    I agree with Mel, if you have even the slightest whisper of a doubt about whether it’s consensual DO NOT DO IT.

  2. Mel
    Posted September 9, 2013 at 3:41 pm | Permalink

    If you even begin to wonder whether it’s consensual or not, DON’T DO IT. If you wonder whether the other person is too drunk to know what they’re doing, DON’T DO IT.

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