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My mention of this article on Twitter got a lot of pushback, so I figured I should talk about it in a space more suitable to… like, any nuance. At all.

First: “X can’t be rape because then I would be a rapist” is a colossally stupid argument. Most rapists do not self-identify as rapists! In fact, as Lisak shows, most rapists have reached levels of self-delusion in which “I just held down someone and fucked them while they said no, it’s not like a rapist” is a thought they actually have. So don’t make that argument! It sucks.

On the other hand, “X can’t be rape because then I would be a rape survivor” is a fairly coherent argument, as seen in the number of sex workers who have said something along the lines of “I’ve done sex work, and I’ve been raped, and the two are in no way comparable.”

Second: there is some really massive miscommunication happening on the subject of intoxicated sex and rape.

I feel kind of uncomfortable talking about this, because I’m straightedge. The closest I’ve come to being drunk is having a cup of a friend’s butterbeer recipe, which includes a splash of butterscotch schnapps. You literally could not find a person more unqualified to draw the line between drunk sex and rape. So if I talk about this kind of vaguely, that’s why.

At a certain point of intoxication, people become too intoxicated to meaningfully consent to sexual interaction, and then having sex with them is rape. (Of course, you can give meaningful consent ahead of time, just like you can with someone having sex with you while you’re unconscious.) This is literally what every feminist I have ever talked to believes about rape by intoxication. It is also what Rebecca Watson believes– to quote her post, “I’m going by the common definition here, of someone whose faculties are impaired, e.g., slurred speech, stumbling, etc.” The legal definition of rape, while it varies by area, also usually includes a similar kind of rape by intoxication.

I’m not saying that there aren’t people who believe that having some booze to loosen up before sex is rape, you can find people who believe any stupid thing, but they are clearly not the mainstream of feminism. Seriously, the closest I’ve come to meeting the “if you have a beer and have sex you’re a rapist!” feminist is a woman who thought that we should legally define all drunk sex to be rape because people who weren’t raped wouldn’t prosecute and rapists wouldn’t get off on a technicality by fiddling around with blood alcohol levels. You can have lots of opinions about that position (here’s mine: it’s dumb), but she clearly doesn’t believe that having a glass of wine and fucking is rape.

Now, you could make the case that there are lots of people who have sex while stupid-drunk and don’t feel raped in the morning. This is very reasonable. Personally, I think of it similarly to the way I think of someone initiating sex with someone while sleeping: there’s a chance the person will consent to it, in which case no harm no foul, but you still shouldn’t do it without clearing it with them first, because if they don’t consent you just raped them. Also there’s the concern that two severely intoxicated people could have sex and end up raping each other, which seems like a weird result? But then you need mens rea to rape someone, which you clearly don’t have if you’re that drunk, so I suppose you’d end up with two rape survivors and no rapist.

All that aside, there’s a fundamental disconnect here between the broad consensus of anti-rape-culture people, which is “sex with people too intoxicated to consent is rape,” and what a substantial contingent of people is hearing, which is “tipsy sex is rape.” I have no idea why. Are there multiple meanings of the word ‘drunk’? Is there another word anti-rape-culture people should be using that other people will understand better? (Honest questions: my straightedge self is not really up on you kids and your lingo.)

Short version: Anti-rape-culture advocates, please realize that when some people disagree with you it is because they literally do not understand what you are saying! People who think someone might be saying tipsy sex is rape, they probably aren’t! Thank you and goodnight.

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