I do believe them that there’s plenty of sex happening now, that isn’t experienced as rape by either partner, that doesn’t meet the affirmative consent standards proposed. That could include sex where both partners kind of just leapt into the act, not checking in with each other, but not hitting any snags. Sex where one or both partners was somewhere past tipsy and within sight of “too impaired to consent” but no one pulled out a breathalyzer and both parties felt ok in the morning (aside from the headache). Sex with coercion/pressure, where one partner didn’t back down after an initial “No” or “I’d rather not” but the reluctant party felt more like someone who’s been guilted into going to a boring party they would have preferred to skip, rather than someone who was violated.
All of these could hit the proposed new definition of rape, without being experienced as rape every time they occurred. And all of these might be pretty common at present.
The goal of the Yes-Means-Yes law in California is to kibosh a lot of this gray area, rape-adjacent sex.
In one of the 3 or 4 intimate-abuse interventions I’m passively or actively involved in at the moment, a group of us is supporting a friend who is going through an accountability process — for something very much resembling this “rape-adjacent sex” definition.
It’s the first time I’ve been on the accountability-support side, meaning working with the person who committed harm. That comes with its own set of discombobulations, but one of the main lessons I’m drawing so far is that even those of us who identify as feminist, who have done a LOT of work around consent, can still engage in risky behavior and massively fuck up. A positive way of putting that, though, is that we can all be striving, throughout our lives, to improve our consent game.
The piece quoted above (really good; you should read the whole thing) offers a concrete, socialized-labor strategy for helping to reduce the amount of “rape-adjacent sex” in our communities.
In college, a number of student groups had a designated door watcher for parties. This person (or these people, if they were doing it in shifts) were supposed to hang around near the exit of a party and check to see if anyone leaving seemed to be heavily intoxicated. They were basically doing what Allison of Strong Female Protagonist is doing in the comic featured above (minus the superpowers, and plus some attention to people leaving the party alone who might need to be screened for alcohol poisoning). Not a perfect system, but just posting a watcher (and discussing that you will at party planning meetings) changes people’s expectations a little about what kind of behavior is appropriate.
An idea has been germinating for a minute about running sex workshops using Buddhism or “mindfulness” to improve our strategies and skills around consent… we’ll see if anything comes of that. Meantime, I’m grateful for this article, and more than a little annoyed at the guy who complained to The Atlantic that California’s new proposed college consent standards are cock-blocking him. Whatever, dude — take a cue from Louis C.K. and be relieved that you’re not raping anybody.
To be sensual, I think, is to respect and rejoice in the force of life, of life itself, and to be present in all that one does, from the effort of loving to the making of bread.
Today, for the first time in a long time, I had a big shock of embarrassment. The kind that makes your whole head thicken, like someone stuffed a wool sweater inside your skull.
Knowing I’d be too distracted to accomplish anything for the next half hour, I sat in the corner of my living room and tried to observe the sensations, observe the breath.
Turns out, for someone like me whose body runs cold (bad circulation), the warming quality of shame can feel good, in a way. Aside from the associated horrible emotion, it was actually kinda cozy. And cheaper than a space heater.
Sometimes an unpleasant emotion hits so rude and total, there’s nothing to do but watch, try to stay present, in respect and awe. A certain side of sensual.
I used to think there was one way to be a Militant.
A militant must study and analyze revolutionary history.
A militant must develop a command of the theory of scientific socialism.
A militant must know how to relate revolutionary theory to the real day-to-day life of the “proletariat.”
A militant must be able to hand out flyers and start casual yet political conversations with strangers.
A militant must thrill and captivate crowds with their public speaking.
A militant should attend an average of 3.5 political meetings and/or study groups per week.
A militant should be able to conduct one-on-one political development meet-ups with a partner.
A militant should be able to initiate and sustain local campaigns to build class power and consciousness.
A militant should promote harmony and emotional wellness among comrades and within organizations.
A militant should criticize comrades and accept criticism with humility.
* * *
Something strange and quiet is happening to me lately, gradual but massive like the movement of a tide.
It’s not that I no longer find these skills important.
It’s more like I’m interested in developing more roles, more archetypes, more specificity and multiplicity within a core range of militant activity. So that people (myself included) can find a Suitable Contribution, the long-term offering that we want to make.
Might need to sketch this out rather than writing it.
feeling content these days, and it’s a little disorienting.
nothing is missing. (can it be?)
the earth is vast, the universe unfathomable, and everything alive right now will one day die.
while we’re here, most people are pursuing their best guess at happiness, even if that comes out fucked up and harmful sometimes.
i’m so grateful for this life — for brilliant friends, sweet creatures, solid comrades, revolutionary* forebears, artists and teachers of wisdom, ancestors i’m just starting to get to know.
i’ve had this Voyaging High before (traveling, spacious, privileged, insulated) and i know it’ll change when we get home to the Bay. the suffering will roil up stark and terrible again: displacement, prisons, transphobia, oil, deportation, depression, exploitation, rape culture, cruelty on large and small scales. it’s not that it’s not here, too. it’s here in colorado, clearly. but as a sympathetic outsider, i get to be patient. i get to trust that the left will reconstitute itself, and might not even be known as the left anymore, but as something greater.
these are funny political prayers, huh?
thanks for listening.
Photos: leonine kitties in Boulder; vistas on the drive south; Dawn with a special lovely kind of doubling-over smile that Dawn makes.
* i don’t use this word like a sexified marketing ploy, but for the simple reason that the magnitude of change required to give everyone on earth access to healthy food, water, shelter, medicine, and education is so great, that in my mind it would be disingenuous to call it anything short of revolutionary.