Back in the early 1980s, the feminist movement was divided by what became known as the “feminist sex wars.” On one side were women who claimed pornography was a tool of patriarchal oppression that promoted male dominance and should be censored; on the other side, feminists identifying as “sex-positive” who didn’t want to censor sexual activity between consenting adults.
The latter group believed that sexual freedom — the ability for women to have sex often and with multiple partners without being called a “slut” — was key to feminism and women’s equality. Since men are allowed to have that kind of sex without guilt, the argument went, women should be able to have it as well.
But it seems we’re now experiencing “Sex Wars Episode 2: The Establishment Strikes Back.”
Ever since the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights released its “Dear Colleague” letter in 2011, colleges and universities across the country — and the entire state of California — have been adopting policies that define consent so broadly as to be meaningless and nearly impossible to prove.
Now, under the “affirmative consent” or “yes means yes” standard, consent must be active and ongoing. Competitive Enterprise Institute counsel Hans Bader, a critic of these policies, has argued that they constitute “dry legal contracts” requiring every step of a sexual encounter to receive a “yes” or “no” response.
These new policies do not consider silence or lack of restraint to be a sign of consent, and consent is revoked if an accuser was intoxicated. But intoxication is never defined. Is it the same level of intoxication police use in a DUI arrest? If so, where can students get Breathalyzers to test their dates? And if there is no legal level of intoxication, how can a college or university accept a woman’s word that she was too intoxicated to give consent?
These new policies contradict the idea that women should be free to explore their sexuality. It’s hard to reconcile the idea that, on one hand, women shouldn’t be judged for engaging in drunken sex, using a standard under which they cannot legally give consent even if they consumed just a little alcohol. How can the same action simultaneously be a manifestation of feminine sexual liberation and an example of the heinous crime of rape? Feminists can’t have it both ways.
Now it’s not just that women can have as much guilt-free sex with as many partners as they want, but if they do feel guilty about any sexual encounter, it must have been rape.
I don’t see anything wrong with women enjoying sex as much as men, but just as men regret some sexual encounters, women do too — but that doesn’t mean they were raped.
The new definition of rape and sexual assault — that women are too weak to handle alcohol and therefore aren’t responsible for their decisions — flies in the face of those supposedly fighting for equality. Women should be free to get blitzed at parties and hook up with whoever they want — but just as men aren’t excused from being drunk, neither should women get a pass.
I know many will call this victim-blaming, but I’m not talking about women who say “no” or pass out and are raped. I’m talking about people who get drunk, consent to sex, and then wish they hadn’t in the morning.
The original sex-positive feminists opposed any kind of limit on consensual sexual activity. That belief is now being turned on its head by people claiming that consent is not consent if alcohol is involved, and that schools and government must redefine sex.
This new view of alcohol-fueled sex makes no sense in a truly equal world, as men have as much a right as women to claim they were too drunk to consent to sex. This discrepancy is highlighted in cases of same-sex sexual assault, when the patriarchy can’t be blamed.
For heterosexual men, the only rational response to this new contradiction is never to sleep with a woman who has had even one drink (and to be wary of bad breakups or “friends with benefits”). That seems to be what the current crop of feminists wants, but if men stop sleeping with women who are under the influence, doesn’t that limit a heterosexual woman’s freedom to engage in sexual activity?