Drunken sex, consent, and morality

I don’t know that a formal philosophical take on the issue of whether it’s acceptable for a man to have sex with an intoxicated woman adds much to the equation, but here’s one from “Talking Philosophy.” In a nutshell, the author argues that if the man is also drunk, he can no more determine whether his partner’s consent is legitimate than she can genuinely grant it, and then walks through a series of brief counter-arguments and refutations to same.
The lesson: Drunken sex, with strangers or otherwise, sucks. Both participants smells bad, and they wake up smelling even worse. This doesn’t enter into the moral element, but maybe it should.

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  1. #1 by rnb on March 30, 2009 - 3:48 pm

    I’m a guy, and I have refused sex before. If I’ve been drinking,
    how does a woman know she has my consent?

  2. #2 by jay on March 30, 2009 - 7:22 pm

    A person is responsible for what they do, even while drunk. Certainly we wouldn’t excuse a woman who drove a car drunk, because ‘she wasn’t able know what she was doing’

  3. #3 by Snowbird on March 30, 2009 - 9:14 pm

    Did I miss the transition from the stone-age? Why is it that the man is automatically responsible if there is SUI (sex under the influence)? Do people still hold the conviction that women are somehow more sexually pure? How Christian of them. *roll eyes*

  4. #4 by Mystyk on March 30, 2009 - 9:58 pm

    I agree with jay. The problem is that the courts still operate under the assumption of what Snowbird said.

  5. #5 by mgordon on March 30, 2009 - 10:17 pm

    I had a female roommate a few years back and if she is any indication alcohol doesn’t play much part in the decision making. She had her mind made up to bring someone home before she went out got drunk and this happened often. Oh, and having a boyfriend didn’t effect her decision making either.
    But I think it is wise for women to go out in groups to keep an eye on the one who drinks to much and opens herself up to dangerous situations.

  6. #6 by catgirl on March 31, 2009 - 11:16 am

    3. It’s up to the man to ensure that he’s capable of determining whether consent is given; you can’t go around inadvertently raping people;
    Response to counter-argument:
    4. It’s up to the woman to ensure she’s capable of accurately indicating whether she’s consenting; it’s no good saying ‘Yes’, thinking you mean ‘Yes’, and it turns out when you sober up didn’t mean ‘Yes’.

    Well, raping is a crime, and being raped is not a crime. It’s each person’s responsibility to make sure they are in control of themselves so that they don’t commit a crime. It’s not other people’s responsibility to make sure they can prevent a crime. Drinking too much may be irresponsible for a victim, in the same sense that it may be irresponsible to leave my apartment door unlocked. However, I occasionally forget to lock my door, and if I get robbed, it’s still not my fault. I’m a woman, and while I usually avoid drunk sex in general, if I were ever unsure of a man’s ability to consent, I would err on the side of caution and go home alone. Then I’d call him the next day and see if he still consents, and then arrange something where we’re both sober.

  7. #7 by Spaulding on March 31, 2009 - 6:47 pm

    Seems to me the idea of gender symmetry re: responsibility for one’s drunken behavior should be self evident.
    Unfortunately, it’s not always obvious to people invested in the quaint idea of women as naive sexual innocents to be chaperoned, or to those who vie for the academic trump card of victimhood.
    It trivializes rape to equate it with the cognitive dissonance of morning-after regrets.

  8. #8 by Spaulding on March 31, 2009 - 7:13 pm

    Catgirl, you write with the suspect attitude that sex is something done TO women BY men.
    If a man and a woman give each other drunken consent leading to a mutual sex act, is one of them at fault, is one more consenting than the other?
    Did the man rape the woman or did the woman rape the man?
    What if only one of them regrets it the next day?
    Should a person be able to retroactively withdraw consent?
    Ok, I won’t just leave that last one as a rhetorical question. Consent is a present-tense only thing, that does not guarantee future consent, and may be withdrawn, but can not be retroactively edited in the future – i.e. a consensual sex act yesterday does not become rape when a person changes their mind tomorrow.
    (Note: Obviously, if one person is drunk to the point of incoherence, consent isn’t easy to imply! If the other person is not so drunk, the imbalance can shift into rape territory.)
    Rape is horrible, and drunkenness has its problems, but sex and drink can be fun and healthy. There’s no reason to allow tee-totallers, prudes, misogynists, or misandrists to dictate our cultural attitudes to sex and booze, even if they do so under the guise of a progressive flag.

  9. #9 by catgirl on April 1, 2009 - 12:50 pm

    I used a male raping a female only as an example, because that’s what the article is about. If a woman has sex with a man who is too drunk consent, she is also guilty of rape. I explained this in my previous post as something I would not do, clearly showing that even though I am a woman, I still feel like it would be rape if I did it. If both the man and woman are too drunk too consent, then it makes both of guilty of committing rape (not of being raped, you can’t be guilty for that), and it doesn’t make the man any more innocent. Instead, it would make both people guilty. However being too drunk to give consent and being too drunk to control your behavior to not commit a crime are slightly different things. The argument didn’t say that if the man is drunk the woman is also guilty of raping him. It said that if a woman is too drunk to consent, then she’s partially responsible for making herself a victim, while ignoring the fact the she would be victimizing someone else. It’s a subtle distinction, but please try to understand it.

  10. #10 by Spaulding on April 2, 2009 - 7:35 pm

    Thank you for clarifying. I do find this hard to picture, though:

    If both the man and woman are too drunk too consent, then it makes both of guilty of committing rape

    I think an important issue is this: consent is what you agree to RIGHT NOW, not what you’ve agreed to in the past or what you would agree to if you were sober, etc.
    If person A is actively and deliberately engaging in a sex act with person B, I think it’s clear that person A consents, don’t you?
    (and to be clear, I do think that people can be so stumbling drunk that they are unable to give consent. However, we should consider that lowering of social inhibitions is one of the more common motivations for drinking; having several drinks and behaving foolishly does not equate with blacking out and waking up violated.)

  11. #11 by Gingerbaker on April 7, 2009 - 3:57 pm

    The woman sounds like a load of trouble. She’s an alcoholic lawyer who admits her case was so weak that she would have no trouble as the defense attorney, yet she went ahead and brought a nuisance cased based on her inability to recall what happened during the time in question.
    Essentially, she wielded her power as an attorney to punish this man for the sake of punishing him.
    Essentially, she raped him.

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