We Live in a Drinking Culture
We live in a culture where alcohol is central to socializing. There is great pressure to drink and few alcohol-free places for adults to hang out. Alcohol and drugs are often associated with sex. People also use parties, bars and/or clubs to find a hook-up and use substances to feel comfortable doing so.
No matter how drunk or high they are, no one deserves or asks to be sexually violated.
When in doubt, don’t initiate or continue, and instead ask again when all involved are sober.
It is better to play it safe than to risk violating someone.
Sexual violence is an abuse of power and people who perpetrate sexual violence target vulnerability. Alcohol is the most common drug used by people who perpetrate sexual violence. Studies show that men who perpetrate sexual violence target women who are intoxicated. This is drug-facilitated sexual assault.
Gendered Double Standard
A double standard is when a rule is unfairly applied to different people or groups. For example, if a woman was drinking at the time she was raped, she is often blamed, whereas if a man was drinking when he perpetrated sexual violence, his intoxication is often used to excuse his behaviour. Being drunk or high does not excuse perpetrating sexual violence. Nothing does.
Laws and… Doing the Right Thing
Just because something may or may not be legal does not mean it is moral or right. Ensuring another’s safety, well-being, comfort, and enjoyment is just as important as not breaking the law.
Negotiating consent is best done sober. It is better to play it safe than to risk violating someone.
We know however that people engage in sexual activity when they are drinking or doing drugs, and that people who live with addiction also hook up/have sex. Taking a harm reduction approach to substance use and sex means acknowledging this reality, and reminding those who do engage in sexual activity while under the influence about the non-negotiable pillars of consent.
When in doubt, don’t initiate or continue, and instead, ask again when all involved are sober.
If one or all parties have been drinking or doing drugs, consent must still be:
- Freely given - Using alcohol to lower someone’s inhibitions so they engage in sexual activity, or targeting someone who has been drinking or using drugs for the same reason, is coercion and drug-facilitated sexual assault.
- Current – Alcohol and drugs can contribute to someone agreeing to something they are not okay with. If a person didn’t agree the sex act when they were sober but says yes when they are intoxicated, wait until all involved are sober.
- Clear – Does everyone fully understand and agree to what is happening? Are they engaged and giving positive consent to each act? Are they communicating clearly?
- Changeable - Consent can be revoked at any time during sexual activity. If a person stops saying yes, then they are saying no.
If someone has been drinking and is slurring their words or having difficulty standing or walking (when they usually don’t), are throwing up, moving in and out of consciousness, or anything else that might indicate that they are intoxicated/incapacitated the priority should be making sure that they are hydrated/fed, are with or get to someone who they trust who can care for them, get home safely, or get medical attention.
Keep the above principles in mind as you watch this video:
When in doubt, don’t initiate or continue.
When in doubt, don’t initiate or continue, and instead ask again when all involved are sober. It is better to play it safe than to risk violating someone. People can have consensual sex after they have been drinking or doing drugs, however, these substances impede clear communication and make it challenging. As with sober consent it is crucial that a person pay attention to, and ask, how the other(s) is/are doing throughout a sexual encounter.