Sunday, March 20, 2016

Consent and Blackouts

Liz Swan on the controversy between blackouts and consent. Importantly, she explains what a blackout is and isn't:
Rape is defined (generally speaking, and this varies depending on the publication) as sexual activity forced on someone against his or her will. So if a strange man accosts a woman in an elevator, pulls out a gun, and forces himself on her sexually - clearly, that’s rape. If a woman slips a drug into her date’s drink, renders him stupid, and forces him to have sex with her - clearly, that’s rape. But what about a college woman who voluntarily drinks herself into an alcohol-induced blackout at a party, but is still talking, dancing, seemingly having a good time, and winds up having sex late-night with someone she either knows or doesn’t know. Is it rape? It’s not so clear. Here’s why: according to, “A person who is mentally or physically incapacitated by drugs or alcohol cannot give consent.” Um, of course they can. They just wouldn’t remember doing so. That’s the whole problem with blackouts - you don’t have any idea what you said or didn’t say. You don’t know how you wound up in this stranger’s bed or made it back to your own bed. You don’t remember anything. Could you have given consent in your drunken stupor? Of course you could have. And to claim after the fact that a ‘rape’ was committed in a situation like this is at best problematic, and at worst, wrong. [...] WedMD has an entry on blackouts caused by drugs and alcohol and it says, “During a blackout, you may function normally. People around you may not notice anything different about your behavior. You might do the things you normally do, such as eat dinner, wash dishes, or watch television. But later you have no memory of doing them.”