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Hey Teenage Boys! Worried About Steubenville? Don’t Be.

March 25, 2013

So, two high school football players are going to spend some time in a juvenile detention facility for messing around with a drunk girl.  Maybe you’ve seen the stories and think, “Holy shit!  Could that be me?”

The answer is, it is completely easy for that to never be you.  You can make sure you never end up in Trent Mays’ position in three easy steps.  But first, there are some things you should know.

High school is still a place where, if folks know not everyone is straight, the social world revolves around the assumption that folks are straight (when I’m writing for a different audience I use the term “heteronormative.”) It’s also, like almost everywhere, cisnormative: folks assume that everybody is and wants to stay the gender they were assigned at birth and that everyone’s okay with binary gender.  Some folks are not.  In most high schools there are a few folks who are openly or sort of openly gay or lesbian or bi or pan or queer, and there may even be people who are openly gender nonconforming.  But for the most part, the social world revolves around guys and girls whose gender is what they were assigned at birth and who mostly hook up with members of the opposite sex- or try to and fail, because almost nobody gets as much sex as they’d like.  Anyway, because addressing how high school life is for folks who are not trying to have sex with members of the opposite sex is a pretty different conversation, I’m just going to write within the heteronormative framework for now.

So, how to not be Trent Mays and get locked up:

First, Trent Mays isn’t a good guy who gave in to temptation to get off.  What they did, over the course of a few hours, was a long series of doing stuff to that girl and then documenting it in pictures and video, not really for their own sexual satisfaction, but because they thought that humiliating her in sexual ways when she was too out of it to do anything about it was funny.  You can read more here.

Second, most rapes are not rapes committed by strangers.  Maybe 80% or 85% of rapes are by someone the victim knows.  Most of them don’t involve any actual force; they involve alcohol, and the victim is either passed out or too drunk to know what’s happening.  Sometimes other drugs are involved and sometimes the victim gets slipped a drug they didn’t mean to take, but mostly, the real “date rape drunk” is plain old alcohol.  Why?  Well, mostly because guys who rape girls who are drunk usually get away with it.  Her memory is usually impaired, prosecutors and juries look down on her for being drunk, and she may be too embarrassed to even tell anyone.  So guys who want to rape know what to look for.  And there are guys who like to rape.  In fact, most rapes are not about confusion or miscommunication, they are planned by a small percentage of guys who are complete dicks, and like to take advantage of drunk girls, by which I mean, to rape them.  You can read more here, here and here.

Okay, so are you ready for the foolproof plan not to get charged with rape?

(1)  You’re probably not that guy.  The guy who gets girls drunk on purpose or looks for the really drunk girl at the party, planning on them being basically too messed up to stop you or even to say “no.”  If you are that guy, STOP IT.  STOP IT, they are human beings and you are doing a terrible thing, and someday you may get caught and sent to prison, or someone might beat you into a bloody pulp, and if you believe in hell this is the kind of stuff that sends people there.

You probably know that guy.  If you care about the women he may rape, you can and should cockblock his rapey ass.  I should do a post on that, but this one’s pretty close.

(2) If you’re not that guy, you may be worried that you miss or misinterpret signals.  What if you’re with someone and she seems into you, and then you’re fooling around then she sort of seems like she’s not into it anymore?  Well, there’s a huge difference between “she didn’t say no” and “she said yes.”  And what you want is the yes.  Some folks call that “enthusiastic participation” and some call it “affirmative consent” which sort of sounds more technical, but when you’re getting busy with someone, it sounds like “Yes!” “Take your cock out” “I want to touch it”, “I want to suck it.”  Which is way hotter than just laying there, right?  So how do you get that?  Ask.

Adults who should know better talk about asking for and talking about consent like it’s a mood-killer, and that’s ridiculous.  Checking in and making sure your partner is into it just goes right along with good hot dirty-talk.  If you want to know if your partner wants to do something, suggest it.  If they say yes or they do it, there’s no misunderstanding!  They’re into it!  If they don’t want to, saying one thing invites them to suggest something else.  And if what the really want is to put their pants on and go home, well then that’s what has to happen.  It’s natural to be disappointed when someone you want to get naked with decides halfway through that it’s just not working for them, but there’s no such thing as too late to stop, and you don’t want to have sex with anyone who isn’t into it, right?  Only that guy wants to do that.

(3) so you’ve got a partner who is into you, and there’s no mistake about that.  But she’s been drinking all night and is pretty hammered.  Look, take a raincheck on that.  Alcohol is a disinhibitor, with means it makes people throw out good judgment, but it doesn’t create sexual desire where none exists.  The person who wants to fuck you when drunk will still want to fuck you sober.  The person who doesn’t want to fuck you, but would if they got drunk enough because they’re making bad decisions … that’s the person you need to not fuck, because the best that can happen is really crappy sex followed by a lot of awkward, and it goes downhill from there.  The law varies from state to state, and it’s hard to say exactly how drunk is too drunk, but the moral standard is pretty simple:  if you say, “I’m totally down, but can we do this later when we’re both sober” will your partner bail, or will you get a raincheck?  If they’ll bail, then that’s what needs to happen.

Finally, you may have friends who tell you that certain things just don’t happen without alcohol, whether it’s anal or threesomes or whatever, that sober girls just don’t make those decisions.  Well, I’m from your future and I’ve come back to tell you that’s bullshit.  I had scenes in college so wild that I had to borrow an extra mattress from the room down the hall, and everybody was stone cold sober.  I know the women you want to fuck at age 30 and age 40, and she totally wanted to do all the wild stuff you wish she would when she was your age.  The stakes are higher for her, because of bullshit slut-shaming culture and pregnancy and infections, so she has to think harder about it and she has to trust who she’s with, and that’s why the girls your age who are doing the most interesting stuff are not the ones there are rumors about, are not the ones wearing the least clothes or drinking and getting high the most.  Remember, I’ve had decades to talk to them about what they really did in high school, and the ones who did the most interesting stuff usually had a steady partner who knew how to shut the hell up.

The more sexual you are, and the more you want people to be able to be sexual how they like with who they like and with no negative consequences, the more it’s in your interest to change the culture.  Right now, teens get all sorts of sex negative messages, and most of them sort of start with the worldview that in sex, a guy “gets some” and a girl loses something she can’t get back.  That’s not the only way to look at it.  In fact, it’s a messed up and wrong way to look at it.  For a powerful alternative, I recommend this video.

27 Comments leave one →
  1. jcacasa permalink
    March 26, 2013 10:49 am

    The following video was constructed by the Arkansas Coalition Against Sexual Assault and some of its’ member agencies. Please share the information and spread the awareness.

    • Andrea S. permalink
      March 28, 2013 4:11 pm

      Is there a captioned version of this video somewhere? Or failing this, at least a transcript of it? (For deaf people like me who can’t understand any of the spoken parts. The automated captions are not at all good.)

      • March 28, 2013 4:18 pm

        When I checked Youtube, there was a transcript option, and I looked at it and the transcript appeared to be correct. Is that not working now?

  2. Will Chapman permalink
    March 26, 2013 11:48 am

    Reblogged this on Rethinking Me(n).

  3. March 26, 2013 12:36 pm

    Reblogged this on Ice Cream 4 Dinner.

  4. March 26, 2013 5:18 pm

    This post is fantastic. Everyone and their mother needs to see this.

  5. March 26, 2013 6:58 pm

    Thank you for this post. I’ve shared it with my Psych of Gender class 🙂

  6. March 27, 2013 7:15 pm

    This should be mandatory reading–for everyone, at some point in their lives. Thank you.

  7. ben permalink
    March 27, 2013 9:37 pm

    next time don’t just mention the kid with the white-boy name. Mention the kid with the black name as well.

    • March 28, 2013 6:28 am

      Mays was the Quarterback. Richmond was the Wide Receiver. More than other sports, being the Quarterback attributes both the power and responsibility of leadership by position alone. When a bunch of football players do something wrong off the field and the quarterback is involved, it’s the quarterback’s fault.

      • ben permalink
        March 28, 2013 7:18 am

        When I was in high school we won states and none of the tri-captains were the quarterback. I was team MVP and I was a defensive back and wide receiver. You don’t know what you’re talking about.

  8. Sam permalink
    March 28, 2013 4:04 pm

    Hey Thomas,

    I feel a little ambivalent about nitpicking here, because that Steubenville case is so disgusting, and I generally like how you’ve written this one (which I actually find interesting – why the more pedagocical approach here when the point you’re making is hardly different from your general point in this matter: teaching sexual ethics to people you’re explaining to that they probably don’t need to worry or make excuses or identify with perpetrators because “it’s not about them”, and their doing so is preserving rape culture).

    That said – couple of notes –

    “If they say yes or they do it, there’s no misunderstanding! They’re into it!”

    I think enthusiasm is great, and consent is great and enthusiastic consent is the best. But just as non-verbal consent can be enthusiastic, a verbal “yes” is by no means in itself an indication of enthusiasm. I don’t think consent needs to be enthusiastic to be real and valid, and I’ve more than often said yes to something I wasn’t enthusiastically participating in – like last night, when I agreed to make a detour to take someone to their place. They asked, and I said yes, but while it was affirmative and real consent to taking them home, I decidedly wasn’t enthusiastic about it. So, while enthusiasm is a great rule of thumb, it’s not the only way to get actual consent. And while verbal consent is good, it’s not automatically enthusiastic.

    “The person who wants to fuck you when drunk will still want to fuck you sober.”

    That may well be so, yet s/he may not be able to act on that desire for all sorts of reasons when sober. Your’re certainly right that there is a point when drunk is too drunk, but there is also a point when sober may be too sober. There’s a reason alcohol is considered a social lubricant – it helps people open up and thus possibly own desires they would otherwise be too shy or ashamed to admit. Of course, those desires probably also exist when sober, but they’re not rarely locked away due to the social risk of admitting them. Abstinence only in this respect is thus as flawed a concept as with respect to sexual education – in order to be better in real life siutations people need to learn to tell the difference between tipsy, drunk, too drunk, and inebriated. Also, what about enthusiasm on alcohol? There’s no clear-cut rules for that, just intuition. And I think the focus on preventing something *unwanted* has to be balanced with the understanding that it’s also often preventing something *wanted*.

    “The person who doesn’t want to fuck you, but would if they got drunk enough because they’re making bad decisions … that’s the person you need to not fuck, because the best that can happen is really crappy sex followed by a lot of awkward, and it goes downhill from there.”

    Sure. But, again, you’re supposing that a decision made with alcohol is necessarily a bad one, and not one one would like to be able to make while sober, but is simply unable to.

    “if you say, “I’m totally down, but can we do this later when we’re both sober” will your partner bail, or will you get a raincheck? If they’ll bail, then that’s what needs to happen.”

    Yes, then that’s what needs to happen. The thing is – and this is also something that is apparent in your paragraph about your kinky life in college and pretty much everything you write, including the jamming thing – you’re writing from a perspective in which you appear to not be able to fathom a) the difficulty of being aware, and subsequently talking about sexuality, particularly one’s own desires, and b) any kind of gender related differences in (let’s phrase it carefully) subjectively perceived scarcity of sexuality. And while that is a privileged and fortunate position to be in, it is hardly the experience of most people, both women and men.

    It starts with the awareness of one’s desires. Most people have conscious and unconscious desires. Sometimes people need to try things to know whether they like them. And before, they will certainly not be able to say: I like that, give that to me. They probably won’t be able to say that afterwards either, because, for most people, sexuality is still a very difficult area to talk about.

    Now I don’t like that either, and I would love it if people were better at talking about their desires, but that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea to tell them that “they’re doing it wrong” when they really have no other realistic way. Again, I agree that more talking is generally going to lead to better sex, and that talking about sex doesn’t have to be unsexy, but it very well can be unsexy, if only because people are completely unpracticed at doing it.

    And constant moralizing about how they’re doing it is wrong is unlikely to get them in the mood of trying something new. Basically, like your female co-panelist at your panel about affirmative consent stated – “you’re asking too much of people.” And moreover, you’re usually doing it in a tone that is unlikely to get them to listen – why does this stuff always have to be brought up in the context of assault prevention instead of the context of “better sex” for everyone?

    Similarly, about the audience of this article – why the assumption that the people you’re talking to – the non-predators – are only worrying about making mistakes because of legal consequences and not because they actually would not like to hurt the women they’d like to be physical with?

    • April 9, 2013 12:48 am

      You make some excellent points. I would go so far as to say the name of this blog is a bit misleading. As a teenager, I was taught yes means yes except when it really means no and if a couple had been drinking before sex that yes could become a no the next morning or even a few days later. I was terrified, as were my friends.

    • April 15, 2013 8:01 am

      That a potential partner might feel too inhibited while sober to actually fuck you in no way makes it a good idea to go ahead and fuck them while they’re drunk enough to disregard that inhibition.

      – by the time you get them drunk enough… is their consent meaningful?
      – mmmm, nothing like the smell of regret and resentment and shame in the morning.

  9. March 31, 2013 8:54 am

    Excellent article.. I have teenaged nephews I would love to share this with.

  10. beckylynn permalink
    April 11, 2013 7:47 pm

    You are such an inspiration as a male making this statement! Thank you for your words. I have tried to share this message with some men in my life, and because the message is almost always coming from women, it seems to fall on deaf ears. Thank you for speaking out about this increasingly relevant topic.

  11. April 15, 2013 10:46 am

    Reblogged this on Critical Discourse.

  12. donna permalink
    April 28, 2013 2:17 am

    How about this? If you, as a man , want sex, get snipped, walk around with your printed copy of STD results which you get done weekly and dont even cost anything, and give out collateral — like the phone n um ber of your mother so the woman you like can call her first and talk about what you plan to do together. Money is collateral too, but it must be so much that you cant risk losing it — thousands if necessary. If she feels you didnt violated her, you get it back. If she feels you did, thems the breaks, And if you cant trust her to not call your mom, boss, children, or keep the money even if she had a great time with you — beware men, be careful, protect yourself, get witnesses, get chaperoned, dont go out alone on a date with her, get to know her first — bec you darn well better be able to trust her, right? It’s that option , fellas, i’m giving you, as what may be your last chance to avoid all out war that women are going to rage against you. We got the pill, we go tthe right to kill your f etuses, we got the right to vote and to be secretary of state — and most other countries have had us as president — so it IS coming, boys, it is, you read a history book and see if it’s not.

  13. May 1, 2013 10:19 pm

    Interesting. As a guy, I was afraid that Opposing Rape Culture would come back to haunt me by making it easier to be falsely accused or caught in a tragic misunderstanding, so I had shied away from doing the right thing.

    • donna permalink
      May 3, 2013 1:54 pm

      You’re not a “guy,” youre a man, or male if you prefer it. And we are no longer, if we ever were, have an academic debate, which i clarify due to your use of the word ” interesting.” We are talking about survival of women, and life and death, if not physically, then psychologically. Dont want to be accused? Stay away from women. Real simple.

      • May 3, 2013 2:31 pm

        Okay, ‘adult male’. Do you think ‘guy’ is too casual or something? I understand.
        The nature of the crime doesn’t excuse an illogical response.
        Hmm, that last part sounds almost like victim-blaming


  1. Quick Hit: How to not be Trent Mays
  2. A handy guide on avoiding being a rapist « Feminism « William K. Wolfrum Chronicles
  3. » On safewords and communication The Consensual Feminist
  4. Links for Sexy Feminists: Men’s Rights Activists, More Steubenville Fallout, Keeping Dads Involved, and more
  5. Go Home, Dude, You’re Drunk | FanFiction Fridays
  6. Teen Sexual Violence: What our Media and Culture Is Missing | Listen Girlfriends!

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