Last Thursday, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and Supreme Court Justice nominee Brett Kavanaugh testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Both of their testimonies surrounded the recent allegations that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted Ford nearly 36 years ago.
The political battle for the next seat on the United States Supreme Court is overshadowing one big thing: Alcohol and consent do not mix well.
The Rape, Abuse & Incent National Network (RAINN) defines consent as “an agreement between participants to engage in sexual activity.”
The law states that there is a lack of consent “if a person engages in a sexual act with another person by forcible compulsion or with a person who is incapable of consent because he is mentally defective, physically helpless or mentally incapacitated.” It is the latter two which relate to alcohol.
The mentally incapacitated portion refers to someone incapable of controlling one’s conduct due to a intoxicating substance. Physically helpless could mean someone unconscious, or unaware that sexual activity is even occurring.
Obviously, and no one should suddenly be learning this, alcohol is not an excuse for someone being sexually assault, but it is however, also not an excuse for someone to sexually assault someone.
Alcohol clearly inhibits the body.
With consent, both parties have the right to change their mind at any time.
Consent “no-nos,” according to RAINN include: refusing to acknowledge “no,” someone being incapacitated because of drugs or alcohol and assuming you have permission to engage in a sexual act because you’ve done it in the past.
Think about it.
A man could be drunk when the assault occurs, but because he is drunk, it’s seen as a “mistake” and it shouldn’t be seen as his fault because he couldn’t control his actions. If a woman was drunk during the incident, it’s suddenly her fault for being assaulted because she was intoxicated. Her memory, and her character become questioned.
The He and the She of both roles could be switched or replaced. Sexual assault knows no gender or sexuality. What matter is that a double standard exists for alcohol.
According to RAINN, positive consent is communicating with phrases like “Is this OK?” Other positive consent factors include “explicitly agreeing to certain activities, either by saying ‘yes’ or another affirmative statement, like ‘I’m open to trying,’” as well as physical cues “to let the other person know you’re comfortable taking things to the next level.”
There isn’t a clear answer to when the line of consent exists when alcohol is involved. Pretending no one wants sex when they are drinking is absurd, however, if there is ever any doubt on whether the other person wants it or not, don’t do it.
Is the person coherent? Can they communicate clearly? Are they sober enough to know what is going on? These are all questions we must ask ourselves.
In a study on alcohol and sexual assault published by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, supported by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), it suggested that on a conservative estimate, out of the 25 percent of American women who have experience sexual assault, including rape, that approximately one-half of those cases involved alcohol consumption by the perpetrator, victim or both.
When Ford said she had a beer at a party 36 years ago, many discredited her. When Kavanaugh admitted to kegers and extreme intoxication, the public opinion became “he was just a kid and he didn’t know what he was doing.”
While we may never know what happened for certain on that night many years ago, one thing is for sure: alcohol and consent don’t mix.