Really feeling this thoughtful analysis on California’s proposed Yes-Means-Yes law, which would set a higher bar for consensual sex on college campuses.
Avoiding Rape-Adjacent Sex
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.