Consensual sex: Nicole Bloch, Ashleigh Hart and Sipho Stuurman examine an issue many Rhodents ignore.
A guy and a girl meet on a night out; they flirt a little, get drunk and go home together. The girl wakes up the next morning, furious and embarrassed. She dresses, and leaves. The guy is left confused. “What is her problem?” he says to his friends over lunch. “She was all over me last night. We had fun and it wasn’t like she was resisting.”
The girl barely remembers what happened, let alone the name of the guy sleeping next to her. Her heart drops. She can’t believe she would have consented to having sex. She feels she has been taken advantage of and her rights have been violated. This begs the question: Is consent under the influence of alcohol or drugs consent? And if so, who is responsible?
These situations happen all the time at Rhodes – and not just to girls, either. Guys can also feel sexually violated after a wild night out. Research shows that approximately one in three women will be sexually assaulted in her life, and around one in every 30 men. People get drunk, have sex, and may or may not regret it. But what happens when you are absolutely legless, and don’t really know what you’re doing? Is it still date rape, even if you’ve said yes? Would it still be right to have sex?
Although this controversial subject is often discussed, very few people take it seriously. However, this issue needs attention. Many people feel they have been sexually assaulted, many others feel falsely accused. Activate interviewed a number of students, and it seems like there is a huge gap in the common understanding of what is right and what is wrong on this issue. Richard Mutasa, a first year student, feels that “for a girl to have gone all the way from a club to a guy’s bedroom means she wants to have sex.” It doesn’t seem to matter here how drunk both people are and whether their decisions are in fact the ones they would make if sober. Lily Klopsch, a post graduate student, argues that “if a person is sober enough to consent, then it is [their] own responsibility. If the person is not conscious enough to say yes or no, then it should be taken as a no.” Lucky Chigwade, a first year, says having sex against a woman’s will is “a bad thing to do, but when a guy is erect it is hard to think straight”. Not all men, it seems, hold this attitude. Another student, Guy Martin, a first year, believes that sleeping with a girl without her consent or when she is under the influence of alcohol is totally unacceptable. “It’s totally unfair, it’s a criminal offence.”
Date rape drugs such as Rohypnol, GHB and Ketamine, facilitate rape and are slipped into drinks. However, this does not happen as often as during situations where alcohol and recreational drugs are consumed voluntarily. Binge drinking can put a person at risk for unwanted, risky sexual activity. This is where the problem lies. Too much alcohol can lead to severe memory loss and black-outs. Mutasa says that although he would never spike a girl’s drink, he would sleep with a drunken girl even if she had passed out, as it “would add more fun to sex”. When people drink alcohol their inhibitions become blurred and it is harder to think clearly and to evaluate potentially dangerous situations. Even if you don’t black out, it can be harder to resist sexual or physical assault.
People often have misconceptions about the definition of date rape. Date rape, also known as acquaintance rape, refers to non-consensual sexual activity between people who already know each other. It can happen with people you have lectures with, eat meals with, or someone you hooked up with the night before. However, date rape has to be taken seriously. People who claim to have been date raped to cover up their own shameful behaviour should think twice. The outcome can be distressing to the falsely accused and it could take away the credibility of real victims.
Many female students at Rhodes are disgusted by the way some men behave but admit that just as many girls behave similarly. Mutasa says that girls can take advantage of guys as well. “Let’s not sympathize with girls only, they do this kind of shit to guys too,” he says. Many girls drink knowing they will lose their inhibitions, which in turn makes scoring easier. While this is ultimately your choice, the nurses at the Sanatorium feel that drinking is your decision and that you are responsible for what happens once you have drunk. They suggest always have a sober friend with you to keep an eye on you. Nevertheless, head nurse Sister Jeanne Shaw underlines that “the only person responsible for you, is you.”
So legally, is consent under the influence consent? Attorney Donna Jane Marais says that “it depends on the degree of intoxication and the victim’s behaviour and actions prior to the event”. Marais advises that “students should be cautioned to ensure that their partners are in a position to consent to sexual intercourse to safeguard themselves from being charged with rape”. To be frank, if a student is ‘motherlessly’ drunk, he or she does not have the capacity to consent. And without consent, it is rape.
All victims of date rape on campus are asked to come forward and report the matter to the Dean of Students. Larissa Klazinga, Assistant to the Dean of Students, ensures that, at the very least, victims receive counselling and if you are willing, they will investigate and pursue disciplinary action. Dr. Charles Young from Rhodes’ counselling centre recommends that if you believe that you have been date raped, report it: “It is always easier to withdraw a charge than lay a charge later on.” It is also recommended that you do not urinate, bath or change clothes before getting help. This is vital in keeping the evidence of the rape. The Counselling Centre Crisis Line runs 24 hours a day, and a psychologist will be on standby to take your calls. Their number is 082 803 0177. Alternatively, you can go into the Sanatorium or up to Settlers Hospital.
You may be one of the many students who has woken up, after a night out, feeling stupid or embarrassed, or are angry because the guy or girl you slept with the other night is busy getting too cosy with their tutor, but crying “rape” isn’t the right thing to do. However, as Lily Klopsch says, “If you feel violated, it means a violation has occurred but it doesn’t necessarily mean the responsibility lies with someone else.” Perhaps it is time that students realise that consent under the influence is not really consent at all, and chances are it’s the alcohol talking.