Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Alcohol and Consent

I post a lot of links to what Thomas MacAulay Millar writes about consent, because so much of it is so sensible. And his recent piece "Draining the Swamp: Alcohol and Agency" is no exception.

Here's the first graph:
The way to handle the relationship between alcohol and alcohol-facilitated rape isn't to adopt some prohibition-lite approach that shames people (women; it's usually women that get shamed for pleasures of the flesh). Not only is it wrong, it doesn't even work. The way to deal with it is to recognize that shame and discomfort around sex incentivize the connection between alcohol and sexual situations. If we want to reduce the rate at which potential victims of sexual assault are intoxicated, the smart solution is to reduce the incentives to intoxicate.

It's hard to have this conversation without it devolving into victim-blaming. Why? Because too many people want to blame victims. But we need to have this conversation.

Thomas's piece is in part a commentary on another article about alcohol and consent on HuffPo by Yvonne Fulbright, who argues that "we need to address the fact that many young people feel like they need to get drunk in order to be sexual and sexually active". And what's striking is that her proposals have nothing to do with alcohol.
-- Schools implementing age appropriate, medically accurate, comprehensive sexuality education from kindergarten through the 12th grade.

-- Universities offering courses by qualified sexuality educators in the art of seduction, romance, desires, sex communication, and reciprocal pleasures, helping students to realize what it truly means to be sexually confident. As a new, catchy slogan says, "Put the Sensual in Consensual!"

-- College campuses hosting Intimacy 101 workshops, which provide young people with a reality check around the many issues related to being sexually active, and which challenge misconceptions around better sex, including those of drunk versus sober sex.

-- Medical facilities offering accessible, affordable, first-rate sexual and reproductive health services.

-- Community centers, churches/synagogues, media outlets, and schools providing parents and caregivers with information and guidance in how to have effective conversations about sex and relationships with youth.

-- Parents and other important others guiding youth around matters of sexual intimacy, equipping them with the knowledge and skills needed to evaluate their own sex-related values, attitudes and beliefs systems in making better choices for themselves.
But the more important point that Thomas makes is that we need to develop a culture in which women have the right to say "Yes", and not just the right to say "No". Those are, as he says, "inherently interdependent", and neither makes sense without the other. But the truth, culturally speaking, is that women still don't have a right to say "Yes".

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