There are many disturbing statistics concerning sexual assault. According to the CNU S.A.V.E website, 84% of rape victims on college campuses knew their attacker. Clearly, students are not limited to the role of victim. They can just as easily be cast as the attacker. So, perhaps it would be prudent to teach students how to avoid becoming the attacker, as it is unlikely that a student’s goals for the year include standing before a disciplinary board and explaining his/her side of the story. We were all drinking. I didn’t know. I didn’t realize. I didn’t mean to. It is time to educate the aggressors, but only those parties that are interested in a consensual sexual encounter. Any parties interested in a non-consensual encounter should seek professional help.
The most well-known mantra and only guidance given to aggressors is “No means no.” That means that even if your partner has been flirting all night and giving you all the indicators that intimacy is welcome, “no” should not be misconstrued as “playing hard to get” or any similar kind of reverse psychology. If you are making your intentions clear and your partner appears to be of the teasing variety, it is advisable to abandon the endeavor entirely. That being said, when alcohol or other impairing drugs are involved, “yes” still means “no.” Even if you have both been drinking (and you have been dating for a long time and earlier in the night, before the drinking started, there were hints given that this could be the night), once alcohol is consumed neither of you can legally give consent. The reason for this is fairly obvious when one takes into account all the bad decisions people make after drinking. Karaoke, for instance. Tattoos in questionable locations. Texting exes. Eating Taco Bell. Falling asleep while wearing shoes and being in close proximity of permanent markers. Deciding to drive home because you aren’t that drunk and it’s only a couple of miles from campus. Decisions you make under the influence can get yourself and others killed. It really isn’t the best mindset in which to take your relationship to the next level, even if it is just a one-night-stand situation. You don’t want to find out that your “consensual” partner woke up the next day and realized you were the Taco Bell decision. Protect yourself from that situation. Don’t have sex with drunk people.
This advice is purely to prevent those instances of grave misunderstandings, when things got out of control or you were both being stupid or you didn’t realize your partner was that incapacitated. However, there are other incidents that occur for far more sinister reasons, mostly having to do with arrogance and power. They are the reasons victims are given so much advice about safeguarding themselves. For the aggressors, here are some tips for avoiding pepper spray, slapped faces, and kneed groins. Provocative clothes are not an invitation. They are clothes, nothing more. If you feel this is unfair, perhaps that it is false advertising, you are invited to walk around in skimpy clothes all you like. Then, when you are molested by undesirable suitors who insist that your ensemble dictates your sexual proclivity, you may perhaps understand how it feels to be approached with that sort of logical fallacy. No one is “asking for it” with their fashion choices.
Further situations that are not invitations include a potential partner being passed out. There is no reasonable argument for having sex with someone just because they can’t stop you. You cannot give consent for another person. Consenting for someone else implies that you own that person and slavery has been illegal for a long time. Again, if you feel it is your right to take advantage of someone because they have unwisely made themselves vulnerable, then you are encouraged to drink until you pass out so that you can experience being assaulted in your sleep. Just keep in mind that your partner will not be some kind of fantasy liaison with a porn star, as you are likely not the fantasy partner for your victim.
Phrases along the lines of “s/he was asking for it,” “I couldn’t help myself,” or “if s/he didn’t want it, then s/he shouldn’t have flirted so much” are invalid excuses. If you feel that sex is one of your self-evident rights as an American, you are within your bounds to abuse yourself. The Founding Fathers did not write a Nookie Amendment. Your rights only extend so far as they don’t impede on the rights of others. Your need for sexual gratification is trumped by your potential partner’s need for personal sovereignty. Moreover, sexual assault is a crime and can lead to jail time, where it is likely you will meet others who feel that they have every right to have sex with you and care not at all for your consent in the matter. For the sake of your own sovereignty, it is best to practice self-discipline.
Understand that the campus is not divided into aggressors and victims. Everyone has the capability to be a victim or an aggressor. Making yourself immune to victimization is incredibly challenging because there is no way to prepare for every aggressive eventuality. Carrying pepper spray and going to parties with friends is no guarantee of safety, especially if the aggressor is someone you know. Avoiding becoming an unwanted aggressor is merely a matter of situational awareness and consideration for the sanctity of fellow human beings. Be cautious. Be selective. Beware of drunk people. Don’t let unbelievably poor judgment ruin the lives of two people.