I can’t believe I need to write this, but in light of the rape of a 16 years old girl a few days ago by a group of 30 men, according to the initial testimonies, in the southern city of Eilat, in Israel, I want to take a few minutes to remind everyone that this is not an isolated incident.
Yes, this event is particularly shocking and disgusting, because of the woman’s young age, and the number of men involved in the crime. Everyone is wondering “but how could these men do that?”, “What kind of monsters are they”?
Well, they aren’t isolated monsters. They are the product of a world and society where rape culture is prevalent, where it is normalized that women are here to satisfy men’s sexual needs and that their bodies are something to consume. A culture where women are blamed because of “wearing something too revealing” or getting drunk, or accused of “overreacting” when calling out harassment, slut-shamed, and then asked to do all the work to prevent rape. And so, my dear reader, if you do not speak out against this or inform yourself about it, you are responsible for perpetuating rape culture in your society.
So, starting from the principle that you want to be an agent of change and want to be a decent man (which is a bare minimum), here is a simple guideline to follow when you are thinking of having sex. You may think that these guidelines may “destroy the romance” or are “killing your mojo”. For me, and for so many women in the world, open communication is a huge turn on. But also, what do you want, to be “cool”, or to make sure that you are not assaulting your partner?
I am not an expert in the field. I am just an average woman in her late 20s that has experienced sexism and harassments just like any other woman on the planet. But since I see a lot of intellectual and abstract writing on this, I want to also layout something practical and clear.
- Explicit desire: We always say “you need to get consent before having sex”. But what is consent? Personally, I have some concerns with the term. In my view, it implies that a woman merely “accepts” or “refuses” to have sex. This is too passive. Rather, I believe that the focus should be on if the woman ACTIVELY wants to have sex. Basically, what you need to check is:
- did she explicitly tell me that she wants to have sex with me?
- AND, is she actively engaging in kissing me, holding me, getting me undressed?
If not, it is your responsibility to ask her:
- Do you want to have sex?
- With me?
- Right now?
If she hesitates in her answers; back off. Leave her some space. You won’t die if you don’t have sex tonight – and if she wants to have sex with you, she eventually will. And if you don’t back off, then it won’t be an anonymous rapist in the news. It will be you.
Consider this question for a second: Have I ever placed my own desire to have sex above my partner’s? Did I ever insist or try to convince a woman to have sex with me?
- “Asking for it”: If I am walking on the streets wearing a thong and a bra, I am NOT “asking for it”. Clothing is a type of self-expression and it has nothing to do with sex, nor with you. How I dress and how much of my body I show has everything to do with me; with my mood, my style, my body shape, and sometimes my insecurities. I don’t owe you any explanations for it. It’s not even an invitation for you to come to talk to me, or, dare you, touch me.
It’s pretty easy, in the end:
CLOTHING = ITEMS WORN ON THE BODY ≠ SEX/ASKING FOR ANYTHING. You don’t need to be Einstein to understand this equation. And if you comment and sexualize a woman for the way she dresses when you are talking to your friends, I invite you to think about this equation.
- Drinking: A woman drinks for about the same reasons a man drinks: to have fun, to get loose, to dance, because of a bad day, or if younger, to look “cool”. Again, it has nothing to do with YOU, and it doesn’t mean that she wants to have sex at all. Sometimes, however, a woman can ALSO go out and drink with the idea of having sex at the end of the night. But even in this scenario, it doesn’t necessarily mean she wants to have sex with you. Get that in your head, go home and masturbate after your night out.
- So now, how to have sex with a woman that drank? In a perfect world, we would not have sex when drunk because being drunk blurs our ability to judge well. But in reality, this is not what happens, and both men AND women may want to have sex when drunk. However, there are some guidelines to strictly follow if you don’t want to become a rapist.
- First, if you are a minor yourself: don’t have drunken sex with a new partner that is below 18, period. Most likely, if a girl needs to get drunk to have sex, it means she is not ready, so back off.
- Now, let’s go to a scenario where you are an adult, in the company of a drunk woman older than 18: if she is passing out OR not making sense when talking OR not able to hold her-self standing up OR seems confused about where she is, what she is doing OR acting out: Back the fuck off. Ask her if she needs help to get a taxi or find her friends.
Now, because it’s easy to point fingers towards other men for their behaviours, consider this question: Have I ever voluntarily disregarded the fact that my partner may be too drunk to clearly decide what was best for her, in order to satisfy my own sexual desire?
- Now, if a woman is “reasonably” drunk (aka: none of the above), there are still some steps you need to take to avoid being a rapist. If she is drunk, then you need to have an EXPLICIT conversation with her before having sex. It goes something like this:
- Do want to have sex with me?
- Do you want to have sex right now?
- Are you sure you are not too drunk to have sex?
- Ok, one last time I ask; are you sure this is what you want?
If you didn’t hear clear “yesses” to these questions, then back off, tonight won’t be your night. Additionally, if a woman says yes to these questions, but then mid-way decides that she wants to stop; get your genitals out of her, yes, even if you didn’t ejaculate. If you are worried about having blue-balls, politely ask if you can take a shower and masturbate in it. This is valid for any type of sexual intercourse, by the way, drunk or not.
In our societies, most women are told that sex is disgusting, that it’s shameful for them to desire it, and that it’s mostly men that want it. These ideas absolutely need to be deconstructed. Women are entitled to have pleasurable sex and be proud and loud about their sexual desires.
There may be times where you think that a woman is not explicitly saying “yes” because she is too timid or shy. Even if this is the case, it is NOT your place to decide for her or to “guess” what she wants. If you want to be a decent man, what you need to do is to empower women to explicitly express their sexual desires. (careful, by “empower”, I do not mean “patronize” NOR “coerce”).
Talk about these topics with your female AND male friends. It’s a mistake to think that rape happens only in the form of horrific gang-rape, or at night, in a dark street, by a random stranger. More often, it happens between friends, family or acquaintances, and by people who may not even know they are doing it. Inform yourself, tell others. Don’t remain silent.
This article was originally posted on the Times of Israel and has been slightly modified from the original version by the author.