“I didn’t push him away, I never even tried to say no. I should have expected it.”
These were the words of a close friend of mine the day after a wild party that ended with her lying terrified in a stranger’s bed.
She had been raped, but she refused to believe it was anything but her fault.
“I was so drunk,” she cried. “I should have said no, but I couldn’t.”
She saw her lack of a clear “no,” as a go-ahead for her perpetrator.
Let’s make one thing clear: if a woman does not say “no” to sex, that does not constitute a “yes.” Only “yes” means yes.
We, as both a culture and college students, need to remind ourselves what “consent” really means.
The doctrine of “‘no’ means no” has long been instilled in American culture. Many of us are familiar with the image of the defiantly raised hand with the very phrase emblazoned across. But what happens if a clear “no” was never given? What happens if a victim is too intoxicated, or even unconscious, to say “no”?
Although this model has long been the choice approach for many sexual assault prevention efforts, we need to reshape our understanding of rape.
Last year, California governor Jerry Brown signed legislation to instill the new ‘yes means yes’ law which would require schools under state financial aid to review their investigation processes for rape cases.
Though this is a huge leap in the right direction, until America as a nation frames sexual consent as “proactively, enthusiastically given,” rape victims will have no justice.
Last year at the University of Montana, a football player named Jordan Johnson was acquitted of his rape charges; an alternate juror told press that the victim gave “mixed signals and comments” to her friends. She hadn’t screamed during the attack, she admitted, and she even expressed guilt for not fighting back hard enough. The jury interpreted her lack of a clear “no” as a sign that she could have wanted to have sex, therefore what happened was not rape.
If this logic were true, this would be terrifying news for women everywhere. We would automatically be willing participants of intercourse unless we actively object. Having a casual drink would become an invitation. A kiss, or even a friendly hug, could be interpreted as a green light to take us to bed.
Just days ago, Cal State Fullerton received reports of a rape that occurred just one day after a rally on rape culture. The perpetrator of the assault allegedly used alcohol to intoxicate his victim before raping her. In response to this report, the university released a statement in which they reminded students that consent is required for any type of sexual activity.
“Consent cannot be given by a person who is incapacitated,” the statement read. “A person is incapacitated if s/he lacks the physical and/or mental ability to make informed, rational judgments.”
A drunken night does not mean “yes.” A kiss does not mean “yes.” Only “yes” means yes.