Putting the Drunken Hookup to Bed
However, during my
trainings and conversations with students or customers, there is still one
disturbing trend that I’d like to put to bed: the use of alcohol to either
facilitate sexual assault or to gain social “permission” for sexual activity.
Both are, in my mind, evidence that sexual shame is still alive and well and
that sexual aggression is still tacitly condoned.
When I do workshops or
trainings with college students about alcohol and sexual assault, we discuss
the fact that legally, intoxicated people cannot consent to sexual activity;
therefore, if you have sex with someone who’s drunk, you may be committing
sexual assault. There are some people (and not just college students) who will
deliberately get a person drunk so that they can “have sex” with that person or
will predatorily seek out the most wasted girl at a bar or party to take home.
Most people think of sexual assault as a crime that involves physical violence,
but here alcohol is used as a weapon to incapacitate someone as surely as a gun
or a fist would do—except that the victim is administering that weapon herself,
making it very easy to blame her and absolve the person who assaulted her.
Inevitably, students in
these workshops will start asking, “Well, how drunk does someone have to be in
order for it to be sexual assault?” or “What if both people are drunk?” It
saddens me that, immediately, their minds leap toward the technicalities of the
situation, rather than seeing the broader picture that, in fact, alcohol not
only facilitates sexual assault, but impairs our ability to actually have good
Someone once called the
store to ask about purchasing wrist and ankle cuffs to use with his girlfriend.
As the conversation unfolded, it became clear that this person’s plan was to
buy the cuffs and some other kinky gear, then get his girlfriend drunk so that
she would be “into it.” I literally wanted to scream when I heard this, first
because it’s dangerous and stupid to try any kind of bondage with an
intoxicated person who can’t clearly communicate to you what their boundaries
are and when they might be feeling pain, and second because alcohol was being
used in this situation to make it acceptable for a couple to try something new
that might be considered taboo. The woman in this situation could have loved
being restrained, could have had the best orgasms in the world while being
spanked, but for some reason was unwilling to attempt these things unless
alcohol was also involved.
At a research
presentation I attended last week, a fraternity member was anonymously quoted
as saying that he would not go down on a woman unless he was drunk. In The Line, a man at a beach party says,
“75% of the bitches out here are using alcohol as an excuse to fuck.” Much ink
has been spilled in the past few years about the phenomenon of the “drunken
hookup,” which seems to me to give women much more social permission to have
sex outside of a committed relationship than they otherwise would be given.
I wish that we felt like
we could express our sexual desires—whether these are experimenting with kink,
oral sex, or so-called “casual” sex—without using alcohol as an intermediary.
Until we are able to do this, we leave the door open for predators who use
alcohol to commit sexual assault. We are setting the bar so low when we ask,
“How drunk does someone have to be for it to be sexual assault?” Instead, we
should be asking, “Why do I feel like I have to drink in order to have sex with
a new person? Wouldn’t this be so much more pleasurable if we both had all of
our senses involved and engaged?”
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Laura Anne Stuart has a master’s degree in public health and has worked as a sexuality educator for more than a decade. She owns the Tool Shed, an erotic boutique on Milwaukee’s East Side.