On My Way to ACA . . . and Thoughts on Drunken Sexual Consent

Hey. I’m on my way to the American Counseling Association conference in San Francisco. Tomorrow (Wednesday) I’ll be doing a full-day workshop on working effectively with challenging teenagers. If you’re reading this and will be at the conference, I’ll be hanging out at the John Wiley & Sons booth in the Exhibition Hall off and on (especially Thursday evening about 5pm) and will be doing an author signing for ACA on Friday from 4-5pm at the ACA booth. Please stop by and introduce yourself or catch me at the conference somewhere and say hello.

On my way to SF I had a chance to read an exceptionally courageous article in the University of Montana Kaimin (the student newspaper). It was written by a young woman who is coming out about two rape experiences on campus. Both involved her being far too drunk and she was brave enough to acknowledge that. However, as she notes, being drunk and dressing provocatively is not a message to all stimulated males that she WANTS sex.

This is a tough situation. It’s about consent and risky behavior and the many different channels of human communication. What I like about her article is that by disclosing her experiences she is contributing to consciousness-raising and it is ONLY through consciousness-raising that we can hope to shift the social norms away from the acceptability of presumed (drunken) consent on college campuses and elsewhere.

There’s an important message here for college males who might interpret a college woman’s behavior as “asking for it.” We need to resist our natural male urges and think about this. Okay, she is exposing herself to a risky situation and maybe she should know better . . . but think of her as your sister or your daughter or your future wife and make the right decision to control your sexual impulses in favor of a better situation where you can be ABSOLUTELY certain that you’re getting clear and unequivocal sober consent.

Drunken sexual encounters are all-too-common on college campuses. We are all responsible. Neither drunk males or females can really give consent. There is diminished capacity. For everyone I hope the Kaimin article can raise awareness. We all can do better than obtaining sexual gratification under the cloud of a drunken haze.

2 thoughts on “On My Way to ACA . . . and Thoughts on Drunken Sexual Consent”

  1. My opinion is while people, including counselors and counselor educators, can be concerned about this in theory, when it occurs, they sometimes do little, especially if the perpetrator is someone in their department. I think the whole issue needs to be truly addressed whether it’s alcohol, date rape drugs, or other drugs. And, blame needs to stop being put on the victim. When a situation like this actually occurs, I have found it horrifying how the victim just wants to give up and not even mention everything that happened because of the response by those who have authority.

    The most surprising incident I have encountered lately is that of a student who was asked to take a “break” by her counseling program after her professor sexually harassed her. During the break, the interactions between her and the professor became much more alarming, but the student refused to give details, as she was scared to get in more trouble and be asked to permanently leave the program. If course, the professor is still teaching and being given more supervisory positions over female students.

    But, I give a sincere thank you to those who have been heartfelt enough to risk departmental scrutiny to provide a safe place for victims to confide without fear of being ostracized or withdrawn from their programs.

    1. Thanks for your thoughts Jenny. I agree with what you’re saying. On of the most tragic parts of this is the abuse of power and fears of retaliation that make it feel impossible for victims of harassment and abuse to speak up as well as the unwarranted blame that you speak of in your post. I appreciate your comments! Best, John SF

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