TRANSCRIPT OF CARTOON
The cartoon shows two young men chatting. The man on the left is Asian and punky – he has his hair shaved into a mohawk, a nose ring and an earlobe plug, and tattoos. The man on the right is probably white and has a van dyke beard and a shaved head, and is wearing a black vest over a turtleneck shirt. There are six panels.
BEARDY: In the old days, rape was when a thug jumped out of bushes, not this “date rape” and “affirmative consent” nonsense!
BEARDY: If we define “rape” so broadly, how can I know I’m not “raping” a girl I’m hooking up with?
PUNKY: It’s really not hard! If she acts like she wants sex, by yanking your pants down or saying “fuck me now” – if she’s going for it just as much as you are – then you’re golden!
PUNKY: But if she’s so drunk that she can’t walk straight or talk clearly, then she might be too drunk to know what’s going on, so don’t fuck her. Or him, for that matter.
PUNKY: And if she passively “gives in” to sex, check that things are cool before going any further. Why is that so hard?
PUNKY: Because what?
BEARDY: Because then I might not get to fuck her!
Great. So we’re agreed: Amy Schumer raped a guy. (Or at least committed some kind of sex crime, if you’re squeamish about using the word ‘rape’ in this context.)
For those who haven’t read it already, I recommend FIRE’s take on these laws. (H/t Freddie deBoer, who has raised a number of intelligent objections to the ‘affirmative consent’ approach.)
This is a cartoon, not an academic paper discussing every possible example in detail.
I do think that men can be raped by women, and that there are clear examples of this. But the Amy Schumer one isn’t one, because in that case – if we can assume the description is accurate – the man initiated the sex, persisted in initiating sex, and seemed to understand what he was doing and why, even if he didn’t understand much else.
Drunk consent (not mere lack of resistance, but active, clear consent) is still consent, and I don’t think an argument that someone who initiates the sex and physically makes it happen did not consent makes sense[*]. As I wrote in an earlier post:
So from Schumer’s description, it’s an odious situation, but it doesn’t seem like rape to me. However, maybe if I could hear his side of the story that would provide a different perspective and make it seem more like a rape.
The FIRE statement you link to is out of date (because it’s from February); for instance, contrary to FIRE’s claims, the law doesn’t warn that “relying solely on nonverbal communication can lead to misunderstanding.” That language, from an early draft, simply wasn’t in the law that passed.
And frankly, I thought deBoer’s arguments were idiotic, but probably I’m prejudiced because he responded to me with a string of insults in comments and then (after I said I’d quit posting comments, since obviously he doesn’t welcome dissent) edited his comment to remove insults and add content. So he’s not my favorite guy.
But if there’s a particular objection deBoer raised that you think is important, feel free to bring up that objection in comments here.
[*] I can think of exceptions to this, for example: if the person who physically makes the sex happen is doing it because they’ve been threatened with harm. But as a general rule, I think this works.
This is good satire – it is both funny, and a little unfair.
Oh, gee, the warmed-over enthusiastic consent thing again.
I would first like to say that I am happy that big strong men like Ampersand are protecting little ladies such as myself. I certainly can’t take the effort to say no, stand up and put my clothes on, and I certainly can’t take the effort to clarify situations. I’m a girl (tee-hee)!
But I wonder about the amount of sexual experience Ampersand has. I also wonder why he is telling me (as well as any man I interact with) how our sexual situation is going to play out according to Ampersand.
I frankly don’t want to put on my cheerleader pom-poms all the time to suit Ampersand’s bizarre demands on my sexual life and on the sexual life of men I may interact with.
And my sneaking suspicion is that Ampersand is doing and saying all of this to make himself look like the big chivalrous hero. In fact, it’s kind of transparent. Ampersand, if we stipulate to your being a big chivalrous hero who is just defending the little lady, will you otherwise just leave us alone? kthx!
I realize this will go to moderation, because I know how you work.
I put quite a bit of thought into my post, and you delete it because you can’t answer it. It’s pretty much the truth.
Someday you are going to see reality.
I think Freddie raises three very strong objections to the California affirmative consent law, in reverse order of importance. These points certainly aren’t unique to Freddie but they are points he made.
1) The difference in enforcement standards between colleges and the rest of the population seems problematic. I don’t think is a deal-breaker but if the affirmative consent laws will substantially reduce the incidence of rapes then it seems morally iffy to deprive the vast majority of the population of this benefit. I acknowledge that this standard has a potential counter since it implies that laws that do not achieve the max possible benefit are morally iffy but I think its a matter of degree. Protecting a very small segment of the population with laws that could protect the large majority seems much worse than something that protects say 75%. We can’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good but that only goes so far. That said this obviously isn’t a problem with affirmative consent standards generally so its not hugely important. Note that these next two points are against affirmative consent as a general legal standard and not restricted simply to colleges like the California law.
2) A law that potentially criminalizes a broad class of somewhat common behavior is ripe for abuse. One of the common arguments I see against affirmative consent laws is they, by literal reading, make many sexual encounters criminal and the response has generally been something to the effect of “the government isn’t going to be checking after every sex act, its only an issue if you are doing something questionable,” delivered with varying degrees of snark depending on the author.
This argument seems to fly in the face of a lot of smart work on how selective enforcement of over-broad laws can be abused by law enforcement. Consider this article from Reason: http://reason.com/archives/2014/01/08/petty-law-enforcement-vs-the-poor. Here we have laws that most people violate with some degree of regularity, jaywalking, littering, etc are being used disproportionately against homeless individuals to “clean up” out cities. When you give law enforcement laws that can be enforced against almost anyone you give them an incredibly powerful tool for coercing cooperation or confessions with very limited evidence of wrongdoing. For another example look at the use of 18 USC 1001 (criminalizing false statements to federal agents) to bootstrap convictions and plea deals with the most mundane of lies/misstatements (did you speak to X on this specific date?). Admittedly rape is a somewhat different case than jaywalking or lying to federal agents in that it generally requires a complainant whereas these others can be triggered by law enforcement on their own but I’m very skeptical of handing a tool that is ripe for abuse to law enforcement.
3) Most problematically affirmative consent doesn’t seem to do anything useful and if it does it has very broad consequences. If a rapist is currently willing to lie and say “she didn’t say no” then there is no reason to think a rapist won’t just say “she said yes.” Affirmative consent doesn’t seem to change the essential legal calculus that makes rape so hard to prosecute. It may help in cases where the victim is too intoxicated to consent but those are already covered by existing laws. If those laws are not being enforced correctly then that’s a problem I’m all for addressing but it doesn’t need additional very broad (see 2) laws to solve.
If affirmative consent can change the effective legal calculus it does so by changing the burden of proof on rape trials, making the accused prove that what he did was legal rather than the state prove illegality. If this is the goal of affirmative consent laws I think you can make a philosophical case that Blackstone’s formulation isn’t actually best for society or that for some crimes “innocent until proven guilty” and “beyond reasonable doubt” are too high of a standard but I’m not sure it’s an argument that would find a lot of support. The rights of the accused are a fundamental check on the substantial power we give the state (the power to deprive rights) and a cornerstone of our judicial system. I’ll be the first to acknowledge that slippery slope arguments can be immensely misleading but if we are going to start eroding due process for certain classes of crimes it’s not hard to imagine that class growing. Once the state gains power it is generally quite reluctant to give it back. Beyond that if the goal of affirmative consent is to change due process rights then lets have the debate on those terms and not as subtext. Note: I’m not accusing proponents of affirmative consent laws as acting in bad faith, many debates have subtext and the debate is generally made more precise by bringing that subtext to the surface.
Erinola: One of the other moderators removed your comment; I have restored it.
I’m bored by people who want to trade insults, and I don’t see any reason to accept being bored on my own blog. For that reason, I’m afraid we’ll have to say goodbye. Best of luck to you elsewhere.
Ben: Welcome to “Alas,” and thank you for your excellent response. I appreciate your criticism, and hope you’ll post here again.
I don’t have time at the moment to respond – obviously, responding to you will take more than a few minutes – but I do intend to respond sometime in the next couple of days. Thanks for your patience.
Here is what I don’t like about these discussions:
No thought is given to whether her affirmative conduct constitutes sexual assault. (I know, the suggestion is that he is demonstrating affirmative conduct as well, because of course he is-he is a guy and the stereotype is that guys are always want sex.)
Jut, I don’t think that’s a fair read of the example. It’s not, “There’s a heterosexual couple in a room, and the woman yanked the man’s pants down–yay, consent!” Instad, it’s “You want to have sex with someone and you’re trying to figure out if they want to have sex with you. If they yank your pants down, yay, consent!” That is, the example is clearly in the context of trying to figure out if your partner is consenting to sex you want to have.
I had pretty much the same reaction as Jut. That a woman yanking a person’s pants down, does indeed constitute sexual assault (in any situation where consent implied (or not) to do so was not given).
The problem is that, as given, the scenario is vague and any number of interpretations of what is going on could be made. In other words, the situation being described could describe a situation where a man is making it clear that he is interested in having sex, or maybe not because simply wanting to have sex does not mean that you’ve communicated such a desire with your partner. As it is, we cannot say that the consent of the man, given what is described, has been affirmed.
I think that the point Jut and Jeremy are raising is worth considering, because it’s not an invalid criticism to say that the vagueness in the comic is excatly what the comic is arguing against. I mean, since point is that consent shouldn’t be implied but stated, then the comic shouldn’t be implying consent but stating it.
This can be resolved in the third panel by having punky make it clear he’s talking about women’s *responses* to a request for sex – i.e., that the man has already affirmed his consent. Have him say something along the lines of “…If, when you suggest having sex, she acts like she wants to…”
I don’t think this true if you take the comic as a whole. Beardy is clearly objecting because he’s worred about A) whether his own behavior can be labelled as rape (panel 2), B) not getting to have sex with a woman he wants to have sex with (panel 6). He’s confused about how to read his partner’s signals. Punky is pointing out that it’s not as difficult as Beardy is making it out to be.
I agree with you that, in general, we could use more discussion about the fact that men are assumed to consent to sex without a lot of evidence, just as women are, though in different ways and for different reasons. But that assumption is not present in this comic in particular.
I agree with Harlequin, unsurprisingly. Although I did try to nod at the need for men to consent a bit in panel 4, that isn’t the subject of this comic strip, nor is it fair to expect this comic strip to cover all aspects of a large and complex issue in six panels. In context, I think it’s clear that Beardy is talking about sex that he wants and consents to.
(ETA: I do think that pushing back against the assumption that men are never rape victims is important, and I’ll try to think of a good strip on that subject. That doesn’t mean I necessarily will think of a good strip idea – some issues that are extremely close to my heart I’ve barely ever done strips on, because I haven’t thought of good strips on the subject – but I’ll try.)
Also, Eytan, I disagree that the “point is that consent shouldn’t be implied but stated.” Under this law – and in panel 3 of this comic strip :-p – it’s quite possible to indicate consent without “stating” it in words. Real sex often involves consent indicated clearly through actions, and that can be fine. What this law says isn’t allowable is assuming that mere compliance or lack of resistance, on their own, indicate consent.
Amp – you’re right, I summarised the strip very poorly. I was not thinking of the action/word distinction, but on the assumption versus explicit indication of consent.
I should point out, in case anyone is wondering, that I am a supporter of affirmative consent laws (in general; specific laws may have details that make them problematic) and of affirmative consent as an ethical baseline. I like what this comic has to say a lot. But I also think “yanking your pants off” is not a phrase I associate with mutual consent – indeed, for me “yanking” is a verb that implies some level of violence. This is creating some cognitive dissonance for me.
Re “yanking,” I can see that, now that you point it out to me. That wasn’t my intent; the reason I chose “yanking” is because I thought the word conveyed that the pants were being taken down enthusiastically. Hmmm… (tries to think of a substitute word)… maybe “grinning and pulling your pants down”? But that’s three more words, and the panel is already very wordy. I could say “enthusiastically pulling your pants down,” but to me that feels extremely unnatural as dialog, even for a political cartoon. Hmmm. (Feel free to make suggestions, folks.)
“Whisking”. Whisking doesn’t have the violent connotations of yanking.
Our horrible consent culture is a tax on women – Vox
Wait a minute…. “Beardy?” “Punky”?
I call stereotyping! Hey everyone look at the rampant stereotyping! Come and see the violence inherent in the system! Help, help, I’m being repressed!
“Whisk your pants off” sounds awkward to me, unless the person doing the whisking is the person wearing the pants. “Whisk your pants off you” sounds better, but also kind of brings to mind some really bad Harry Potter fanfic, where there was some spell that would take the other person’s pants off and leave them neatly folded on the chair on the other side of the room. “Whisk off” seems quicker and more “get these pants completely separated and away from this person” than is really possible in most situations that involve zippers and buttons and belts and shoes (and actually knees and feet in general.)
Tugging? Hard to make that work without some cooperation, but gets across the idea that she wants to see him naked.
Helping you get your pants off?
Although the title is “Affirmative Consent Explained”, Beardy frames the issue in the first two panels as being about “rape”. Punky does not dispute this framing. The implication is that “affirmative consent” is the one by which we decide whether a rape has been perpetrated.
The problem is that the circumstances described in panels 3 and 4 are not mutually exclusive. As the Amy Schumer scenario illustrates, it’s not merely possible for a person to be “unable to walk straight or talk clearly” while also “act[ing] like she wants sex”, it’s actually quite plausible, and probably quite common.
So is it rape or not? Your response to the Schumer incident indicates that, in your view, it isn’t, or at least, it isn’t if the drunk person initiates the encounter. But this is not clear from the cartoon.
It is precisely this lack of clarity that Beardy complains about in the second panel.
As for the “yanking,” I was trying to get at the violent imagery involved, and I am not sure how to get around it.
“Ripping your clothes off” has the same violent imagery, except that it is more metaphorical because it rarely involves actual ripping.
Better might be a “playful” explanation (and pardon the sexist language but I am trying to channel my inner Punky ):
WOW! I have had some scary hair in my life, but that was a trip!
I suspect that the ambiguity will be resolved by treating, “she drunkenly consented,” and, “she was unable to consent because she was drunk,” as sentences with different meanings.
Which is actually an ambiguity that “Yes means yes” makes more clear, not less. It’s harder for a drunk person to “express active consent” than it is for a drunk person to “not object.”
Ampersand, quoting his earlier post:
Herein lies the problem. According to Schumer’s account, Matt was no less drunk than the woman in the video. Although the woman did stumble (at 2:38) she immediately recovers and is shown to be capable of walking for extended periods both before and afterwards and even of climbing stairs. Matt fell over immediately on getting out of bed, and could only crawl. The woman might have passed out once, briefly at 4:01, though this is ambiguous. Perhaps she was just tired and dizzy. Matt is described as ” fall[ing] asleep every three seconds”.
I simply cannot see why this woman should be not judged capable of initiating and participating in a sexual act in much the same way as Matt did. If such initiation and participation constitutes consent in Matt’s case, I cannot see how she can consistently be judged incapable of consenting.
That the two sentences have different (in fact contradictory) meanings is so obvious and trivial, that I suspect you actually intended to say something else.
I’m not objecting to “affirmative consent” as the appropriate standard. In fact, I consider the word “affirmative” to be redundant. Consent is, by definition, affirmative.
Nor do I disagree that, at some point, a person should be regarded as “incapable of consenting by reason of intoxication” at which point their willingness to participate becomes irrelevant. The problem here is that it is not clear what that point is. Ampersand’s comments on the matter have muddied the waters rather than clearing them up.
This is an issue broader than rape or consent, as some of the situations above do involve consent, but in a not-so-nice way.
Is it correct that the issue here is more likely “be a perfect gentlemen at all times and always consider her issues and feelings”?
For instance, a man may see that a woman is tipsy from alcohol – but not yet past the point of rationality or consciousness – and in an artificially good mood and may regret her decision to have sex the next morning for many reasons. I assume that most here would say the man should refrain from having sex (be the perfect gentleman).
Do women have a reciprocal duty to always take men’s feelings etc. into consideration? Other issues may be more relevant to men than sex, and it is commonly know that both genders can do crappy stuff to the other respective gender.
If women have no reciprocal duty, what does that say about how women are treated as a class? Why is it always stressed, for instance, that women have no duty to clarify issues or utter a clear “no”? Why don’t another set of human beings on this planet have a reciprocal duty?
Finally, many women don’t find it funny to be treated as little hothouse flowers by the “Patriarchy”. They understand that it will harvest them less respect down the road.
“The law didn’t come out of nowhere. It emerged as a response to a status quo that has proved to be an all-too-powerful tool for sexual predators, because it enables them to claim to see consent in everything except continuous, unequivocal rejection.”
I don’t buy this. Sexual predators are going to say whatever they are going to say about the situation to make their version of the events comply with the law. “She mumbled ‘do me’ in my ear” is as easy a lie as “She didn’t say ‘no'”. I’m all for enthusiastic affirmative consent as a social norm, and from a BDSM perspective I feel it is an especially important thing to live in my own life. But, I’m not for muddying the waters further in an already murky area. I see a few problems:
1) This standard is REALLY far from the actual practice of sexual relations between lots of adults all over the world. So either it opens up huge areas of normal sexual behavior to legal trouble, or it opens the selective enforcement door ridiculously far.
2) The claims of its defenders on the selective enforcement laws strike me as precisely analogous to the NSAs “why worry if you aren’t being bad?”. Ummmm, because the ability to do horrible things to me because you choose to characterize me as being bad will really suck for me! As a general rule you should be really suspicious of laws that purposely drawn much broader than enforcement expectations. You should be doubly cautious of such laws when they transparently can’t do what their defenders claim: in this case improve the position of a truthful reporter vs. a sexual predator who is willing to lie. The number of people who are willing to lie and say “she didn’t say no” now is not going to be smaller than the number who will say “she said yes” when that becomes the standard. So this is going to be unevenly enforced against poor people or other minorities who “don’t belong” in the college. That is the way selective enforcement works unless you build a counterbalance into it (and there isn’t one here).
3) Saying it isn’t ‘criminal’ enforcement is crappy. Getting kicked out of college (without a refund and with a much reduced chance of being able to ever go elsewhere) is one of the harshest things you could do to someone in college short of putting them in prison. The argument that only ‘prison’ counts is silly.
Again, if you want to promote this as a social norm, I’m fine with it. If you want to shun people over it, fine. But if you want to kick them out of school over it, no.
Really? Lots of adults all over the world don’t care about, and don’t notice, the difference between “my partner was really into it” and “my partner was indistinguishable from a RealDoll except for temperature”?
I think this point would be true if it was a verbal consent law. But it isn’t. Body language works too.
First, just because a person can lie doesn’t mean the lie is believable to the people doing the adjudicating. The bigger the lie, the harder it is to maintain a consistent story.
Also, that doesn’t encompass all the cases right now. Some people lie and say “she didn’t say no”–but other people say truthfully, “She said no, but when I tried again, she didn’t say no again,” and then untruthfully, “so I thought she’d changed her mind.” Or other people say truthfully, “He didn’t say no,” leaving unsaid that he turned away and curled up and asked them to leave. This law doesn’t do anything for the people who lie. But it does do something about the people who claim it was an honest mistake.
How often does a finding of sexual assault result in expulsion of the student, vs other kinds of punishments? I imagine it’s most of the time, but I don’t know any statistics…
You assume wrongly in my case (I don’t want to speak for the other commenters, but based on past experience I expect most of them agree with me). As long as the person still has rationality or consciousness, you can work out together what you’d like to do–why should I care as long as it’s consensual? “We shouldn’t have sex, because sex is probably a bad idea for a woman” is a bizarre (and sexist) position to take, IMHO.
Depends on what you mean here by “feelings.” Should women pay attention to consent? Absolutely! But again, you can’t protect your partner from his- or herself. You should make your decisions based on what your partner says they want to do, not on what you think the platonic ideal of a man or woman would want to do.
It is your job, regardless of gender, to pay attention to whether your partner wants to have sex with you.
A little puzzled here. I sort of agree with you (I mean, I wouldn’t say the less respect later is a result of earlier “special treatment”, but rather two manifestations of the same underlying mentality), but it seems like you’re implying this law is an example of hothouse-flower treatment by the patriarchy?
Iri: I agree with everything Harlequin wrote. And I suspect most others here do, too.
That’s interesting, because I would say that a man *should* refrain from having sex with her if he is exploiting her in some way, but it *should not* be part of a law with any kind of criminal penalties.
There is a different aspect, though, that no one touched on. If the woman “may regret her decision to have sex the next morning” (that was my hypothetical), the man should also refrain from having sex with her to avoid getting a false accusation of rape. That’s one of the ways in which they happen. Why not also make men aware of this?
I know I’m a little late to the conversation on this, but I have to say that I did not have a problem with “yanking” in panel 3. In panel two, the bald and bearded guy asks, “How can I know I’m not raping a girl I’m hooking up with?” Not to make this all about the grammar—well, okay, I guess I am making it all about the grammar—but Amp’s use of the present progressive tense (to be + the ing form of the verb) suggests to me that the sexual encounter is already in progress, that we’re not talking about two people flirting at a bar, where her yanking her pants down would clearly be, in all but a very few cases that I can think of, inappropriate at best, or having just walked into a room where sex might happen and the woman, out of nowhere, grabs the guy’s pants and yanks them violently down.
We’re talking, or, rather, the bald and bearded guy is talking about a situation in which some sort of sexual contact is already in progress when the woman yanks his pants down. And since he very clearly says that he is, in this imagined scenario, hooking up with her at that moment, it’s hard for me to understand how “yanking” can be read in context as a description of an assault. To me, the word read as indicating both enthusiasm and passion. As an act it might be more aggressive than he likes; he would, of course, be well within his rights to say, “Wait a minute. I’m not quite ready for that.” (And, obviously, if she didn’t respect that, what came next would probably be assault) But to say the word “yanking” describes an assault seems to me a particularly unfortunate misreading, essentially ignoring both the grammatical structure of what the characters in the comic are saying and the social situation that grammar at lease implies.
Well, that’s not exactly what you said before. You said,
and there is nothing in that part of the comment that says to me the man is exploiting her. Some people want to be tipsy/drunk before they engage in casual sex, either because they like the feeling or because they feel guilty due to our culture’s messages about sexuality. There’s nothing inherently exploitative about having sex with someone who’s had something to drink, as long as they’re fully capable of consenting. Now, you ended with
as if it’s a logical conclusion of the first part of the sentence, which seems to imply that it’s unlikely the woman’s engaging in sex because she really wants to, a notion I reject. So I was paying attention to the detail of your hypothetical, not the (to me) unrelated interpretation at the end.
Now, if a person thinks their partner is consenting but doesn’t really want to have sex with them–and that suspicion is based on something more specific than, say, “most women wouldn’t really want to have casual sex”–then yes, I’d agree it’s probably the ethical thing to do to try to address that concern, rather than have sex with the person. And no, I wouldn’t support prosecution in that case: it was ill-advised, not criminal.
Okay. So. I sort of see your point, but my gut reaction is that “woman has sex, woman regrets sex, woman accuses man of rape” is not the most common way these sort of reports go? Like, as far as I can tell from what few cases I’m familiar with, false accusations of rape are mostly animated by either a) extortion/publicity attempts or b) animus against the guy–animus that’s longer-standing than “one night of regrettable sex.” And neither of those really have a lot to do with the alcohol consumption on the woman’s part. (Possibly on the man’s, if they had consensual sex at all.) So I think your framing makes false accusations of rape seem both more common than they are (they’re about as common as false reports of other kinds of victim-reported crimes), and also privileges a small percentage of reports above other problems–sort of the inverse of the focus on stranger rape among certain strains of rape prevention thought–at the expense of painting women as capricious and mendacious. But I don’t actually have a good knowledge of false rape reports, and I’d welcome numbers from other folks.
I certainly understand the scenario proposed by the story, as you describe it. However, in my own vernacular, the word “yanking” always implies aggression, and as such simply doesn’t fit that scenario. If instead of “yanking your pants off” Amp had written “by forcing you down to the floor”, you’d probably be a bit confused, as the use of the word “forcing” is incongruous with the setting as you lay it out. That’s the reaction I was having.
That said, when I said it, I said it by way of explanation of why my personal reaction to the third panel was a bit conflicted. I do not have a better suggestion, hence I did not make any. Nor am I under the impression that my own reaction is necessarily universal or even shared by the majority of English speakers.
In any case, this is a relatively minor issue in a comic whose main point is very clear.
Although I have the same interpretation as Richard (thanks, Richard!), that you (Eytan) had the reaction you did is valuable information to me as a cartoonist. Part of my job is trying to avoid mis-reactions, and I am seriously considering changing the wording. Thanks for bringing up your concern.
I wasn’t responding to you specifically in my comment, since I can see—though I don’t agree with—your questions about the word “yanking” and its aggressive implications. Nor, for the record, would I find language like “by forcing you down to the floor” objectionable, as long as the context remained the same.
My point was that to read “yanking” as describing an assault—meaning that bald-and-bearded-guy’s consent was not, as someone put it above, affirmed; or to be more precise, that he had not already affirmed his own consent—is to misread not just the language in the comic, but the tone of frustration/exasperation that I think Amp tried to set in the way he drew the images.
Bald-and-bearded-guy is angry; he’s yelling; and he’s not asking how he can be sure he will not rape someone; he’s asking how he knows he is not raping someone that he is in the process of being sexual with. In other words, the comic leaves no doubt that he wants the sex he and this other person are in the process of having. Mohawk-guy is, in his own way, just as exasperated with bearded-guy as bearded-guy is with the law, and I read his use of the term “yanking” to be informed by a here-let-me-dumb-this-down-so-you-can’t-miss-it tone of voice. In other words, the very example—as I read it—is intended to critique the willful cluelessness of bald-and-bearded guy.
Now, I can see (though, again, I don’t agree with) a critique of the comic, and—for the reasons you give—of the word “yanking,” which says it (the comic) is trying to do too much at the same time, especially given the newness of the affirmative consent law. However, to suggest that bald-and-bearded-guy has not affirmed his own consent in the language of the comic as written is to misread it in a way that feels to me similar to how people are misreading affirmative consent laws to mean you must verbally consent to each and every sexual act, even though the law explicitly states otherwise.
At best, this is far from clear from the way people on your side of the aisle talk about the issue, which causes a lot of bad blood, mistrust, and misunderstanding. At worst, your position is far from the mainstream of the feminist/social justice position on this issue.
Part of the problem is that “drunk” encompasses a wide spectrum, but some people want to effectively ban – whether by law, social convention, or something in between, such as campus misconduct codes – sex incorporating a much wider swath of this than they’re willing to admit if put on the spot.
If what was meant by “sleeping with a drunk person is rape” was that “sleeping with someone barely able to talk, on the verge of blacking out, is rape”, there’d be a lot more agreement and a lot less cultural resistance. I find it hard to believe that otherwise well-educated and articulate social justice types don’t realize this. In practice, what it sounds like they believe is that any sex that would not have happened had no alcohol been present means that
the man“someone” raped the woman“someone else”. Such a measure would outlaw most sex that happens in college, certainly the vast majority of first-time hookups, and probably a slim majority of first-time hookups after college as well. Not to mention that this is still common in long-term relationships, especially if the couple wants to try something new but someone’s feeling self-conscious.
Meanwhile, campus workshop coaches tell everyone that having sex with someone who’s imbibed any level of alcohol is rape. There is a charitable interpretation for their words that I want to believe: people’s alcohol tolerance levels are vastly divergent, some small percentage of nonetheless very real people may indeed be on the verge of blacking out after very little, and in those cases sex would indeed be rape. My own girlfriend would be very drunk after two beers and probably on the verge after three. But if this was what was meant, then a simple “people who are so drunk that they can barely speak or move under their own power can’t consent to sex, period; it doesn’t matter how much or how little they’ve had” would make it far clearer and silence a lot of criticism. That they choose to phrase it the way they do strongly suggests that they mean exactly what they say. And that furthermore, because feminism and social justice attitudes are by far the strongest in relative terms on campus versus anywhere else in American life, this sort of extremism represents what most on your side secretly want.
Or consider the endless bickering of what happens if both of them are drunk. If what was meant by “drunk” was “someone who doesn’t move so much as stir, barely aware of their surroundings” then this type of sex would be impossible, if both partners were like this, so there’d have been no discussion on it in the first place. When a lot – most? – people on your side of the aisle talk about drunkenness in the context of banning certain types of sex, they seem to be setting the bar a lot lower.
I was with you earlier, but now I’m confused what you mean. I agree with the general attitude of “if you want men to be gentlemen toward you, act like a lady”; not meaning anything in the direction of sexual modesty that the latter phrase unfortunately still sometimes implies, but as the pure female counterpart to “gentleman”, meaning “someone who is consistently and significantly kinder and more considerate to the opposite sex than the bare minimum required”. Perhaps you want others to constantly sacrifice this, that, or knick-knack for your sense of comfort… and maybe they should, maybe it would make the world a kinder place… but what have you ever sacrificed for them?
(And a sacrifice isn’t a sacrifice if you’re the one dictating the terms. “Both men and women” adjusting to address a predominantly female area of complaint may be the right thing to do, but hardly qualifies as equal sacrifice. A current, predominantly male area of complaint would be a starting point.)
But I find your assumption that sex which occurs during “artificial good moods” is usually regretted to be puzzling and out of touch, and I agree with Harlequin’s critiques of your points. People drink alcohol to lower their inhibitions precisely in order to have sex, especially college students, and this is very far from “exploitation”. In fact, based on my experience, girls are more likely to think this way than guys, because college girls want to have sex just as much as college guys, but are more likely to “need” alcohol to do it. I think you’re trafficking in some outdated stereotypes.
To answer your question, it is not really well known in feminist circles that there is a huge event going on in the form of males students suing universities for shabby treatment of them stemming from sexual assault accusations from female students.
I have been reading these suits, and sometimes the details are downright horrifying. And there is an absolute flood of them today. Some of them are listed here (yes, I know that “AVFM” will be horrifying to some here, but the cases are real, this is just a listing of some of them):
There are many more that can easily be found in the Internet. The way some of these guys were treated is unreal. Read some of them.
But I’m not coming from another era, because something I see here is that women sleeping with a guy in a one-night stand, thinking they really like the guy – and him “not calling” afterwards or otherwise rejecting them, is not only a grounds for a sexual assault complaint the next morning, it is grounds for all-out-war. The travesty – if you read cases you can easily find in the Internet – is that university administrations have no qualms about handling the man without the slightest shred of rights or even dignity and siding with the women no matter what they really say.
Iri, I think you’re getting a bit off topic for this post … I understand you were answering a question, and that’s fine, but let’s try to hew more closely to the topic at hand, please.
Though, actually, now that I think of it, the clarification of consent that the Affirmative Consent laws provides should do a fine job of helping men to avoid rape accusations by making clear what consent is and isn’t.
And that’s good for everyone. :)
Updated the punchline:
Amp, can I ask why you changed the punchline of the affirmative consent cartoon?
Harlequin, I hope you don’t mind that I moved your question to this post. :-)
Sure! Someone emailed me saying, in essence, that he liked the cartoon but thought the last line didn’t ring true, because the guys making those arguments usually seem to be referring more to their pasts than to their futures. It’s not so much “I don’t want this, because I want to be free to rape in the future” as it is “nothing that I’ve ever done could possibly be rape.”
I had never been happy with the last line as I originally wrote it – it just seemed like the guy was being TOO honest to just admit that he wanted to rape. So I was very open to making a change, and I thought the person who emailed me had a good point. The suggested new line he sent me was too stiff to be used, but it set me off on a line of thinking, and we went back and forth until we got to this new punchline.
I do like this new punchline better, but Mandolin tells me she liked the old one better, and I suspect from your question that you do too? If so, I’d be interested to hear why.
In any case, I’ve made both versions available on the leftycartoons site, so anyone who wants to reprint or use the original version will still be able to. Although I don’t know if anyone will ever print this cartoon anyway. :-(
Thanks for the answer, and I’m fine with the move (I didn’t have a comment box on this page half an hour ago, for some reason, so I just posted on the open thread).
The point about past vs future actions is an interesting one. Most conversations with people supporting the concept of affirmative consent seem to be concerned with affecting behavior, but I can see that this would be different for people who don’t agree, so I think the change does make sense.
I didn’t have a strong opinion one way or another on the punchline, but–as many commenters here do, apparently, though I’m not at the same level–I write some fiction, so I’m interested in creative process questions. :)
Oh, that’s interesting! I’ve always enjoyed that there are so many fiction writers on “Alas” (maybe we should start some writing craft threads). What sort of fiction do you write, if you don’t mind saying?
Well, historically speaking, mostly fanfiction. :) When I do original stuff it’s usually short story length science fiction/fantasy.
Anything online you’d feel comfortable linking to?
I really think that the new punchline is… not. It’s a lot less funny. For me, at least, it went from “dark humor” to just “ugh.”
I agree that the new punchline doesn’t work nearly as well. It just feels off, and it makes it feel like the bald guy is less self-interested than the old version, muddying the message.
A Cheeky Chickie Champloo | This Is
If I look at the cartoon with the new punchline, I wonder if it feels off because of the last sentence in the previous panel–“why is that so hard?” The new punchline doesn’t bounce as directly off that line, because it’s talking about past actions, rather than why something is difficult to implement. Not sure what would be better, though.
As to your writing question, I do have a fair amount of fanfic online, if you’re into that, but nothing original. This Bruce Banner-centric Avengers thing (written before any of the sequel movies were out) and this Sherlock plus magic thing are probably my favorites of the fanfic. There’s some other stuff, but it’s mostly bad or pure erotica or both.
For guys concerned that they don’t understand the new consent standard, (the fucking fantastic) Rachel Lark explains everything you need to know.
That song is awesome!
Rachel Lark is pretty fantastic. Her bandcamp page is here, though it doesn’t have that song yet, sadly.
I’ve seen her perform several times while attending Bawdy Storytelling, a local monthly x-rated storytelling show that I know at least one other Alas-er has been to.