The other day I was tabling at the transfer student orientation for the UCSB Women, Gender, & Sexual Equity department. The flooded housing tables at either side of me overshadowed my measly five customers, but that did not prevent one particular young man who approached me from dominating my thoughts for the rest of the day.
This young man approached me with a question that I am often asked by men in one form or another: “What happens if I have what I believe to be consensual sex with a girl who’s drunk, but the next morning, for one reason or another, she claims it was not consensual?” Except his specific phrasing was, “what happens if I seduce a girl into having sex with me, and the next morning she doesn’t remember? Can I be prosecuted?” I responded by saying that from a legal standpoint, someone who’s under the influence of alcohol, especially to the point that his or her memory is impaired, cannot give valid consent. So yes, she can press charges against you.
He then said, “So basically I need to write out some sort of sex contract to avoid being accused of rape?”
To which I then advised him that the best approach would be to flat out ask the girl, “Yes or no, do you want to have sex with me?”
He said, “But see, that lowers my chances of success.”
It then became clear to me that this man was very aware that what he was doing was wrong, but was looking for some sort of justification to continue his actions — something I refused to give to him. I asked him, “Do you want to have sex with someone who doesn’t want to have sex with you?”
“No, see, the thing is, I want to be able to successfully seduce her into having sex with me.”
Just in case you did not already know, that would be called rape. To make matters worse, he proceeded to continue talking to me, asking me about my major, my work, etc. And because I was in a professional environment I felt unable to fully voice my feelings and had to attempt to remain polite. In retrospect I wish I had said what I was actually thinking. Instead, I had to spend the next hour watch him practice his skills at ‘seduction’ with each woman that passed as much as a fleeting glance his way. Quite frankly, I found it disturbing and it ultimately led me to write this article.
First off, if I have not already made it clear, tricking a drunk girl into having sex with you does classify as rape. In fact, the Obama administration just recently announced it will be expanding the legal definition of rape in the U.S. to specifically include instances in which the victim is incapable of giving consent due to the influence of drugs, alcohol or age, along with a revision of “forcible rape” to include oral and anal penetration. And the new bill signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown on Sept. 28 in California now requires an affirmative “yes” to provide consent.
I advise men (and women) who are uncertain if a potential sexual partner wants to have sex with them, to simply ask for consent, and if they have any suspicion that their potential partner is too inebriated to consent, to avoid the situation all together.
Secondly, your ability to manipulate someone into having sex with you does not say anything about your strength of character or sexual appeal. If you are looking to boost your ego by being desired sexually, make somebody want to have sex with you because they genuinely like you. Go on a date, get to know each other, take it slow. That will say much more about your character and will bring you much greater satisfaction than wondering if the outcome would have been the same, had the circumstances been different.
Which brings up another crucial point: Why must masculinity depend upon how many girls you can get with? What the young man that approached me was really seeking was to succumb to the pressure to have sex with women placed upon him by his own gender, and he has now reached a point where he will do this by any means necessary. Why can’t he boost his confidence and self-worth through recognizing his own intelligence for example? Or his athletic abilities? Or maybe his exceptional skill at Call of Duty? But honestly, why must he have women want to sleep with him to confirm his own self-worth?
This tendency to seek attention from the opposite sex (or same sex for that matter) for affirmation of your own self-worth does not limit itself to men. Women also constantly seek male attention to improve their self-esteem. I ask again, why? Why has physical attractiveness become the dominant path to finding self-confidence? For women, this seeking of attention has also become a double-edged sword. Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock for your entire life, it should not come as a surprise to you that a double standard exists between men and women when it comes to the amount of people you have sex with. For example, men are often made to feel ashamed of being a virgin, whereas women are praised for maintaining their so-called purity.
We are aware of this double standard, and aware of the problems that arise because of it, yet we fail to change it. We have a tendency in our culture to recognize a problem and state it over and over again, but continually fail to fix it. This phenomenon happens for the same reason that, despite the common knowledge that smoking kills, people still smoke — for them the benefits outweigh the cost.
I then ask, how much will it take for us to begin to feel that the negative consequences of female oppression have outgrown the benefits? Let’s look at our transfer student at the WGSE orientation table. This double standard has placed a pressure on him to have sex with many women to be able to feel a sense of self-worth. To meet these pressures, he has resorted to ‘seducing’ women under the influence of alcohol to have sex with him, regardless of whether or not they truly want to. By raping these women, he has stolen from them a part of themselves they will never regain. They will never be the same again. They will most likely suffer from distress and confusion, depression and even post-traumatic stress disorder. Their grades may slip, their job performance may plummet and their personal relationships will suffer. Some may even take their own lives. All this because of the pressure placed upon one man from his gender because of a double standard we already know needs to change.
Has the cost outweighed the benefits for you yet?
Emily Potter is ready for things to start changing and hopes you are, too.