I’m basing this on NY state law, which does not prohibit a person from consenting to sex while under the influence of alcohol/other drugs unless the substance was administered to the person without their knowledge or that person was rendered unconscious by said substance.
Look, it’s unrealistic to assume that people are only going to have sex when they’re 100% sober, and it’s not helpful to tell men that they’re raping every time they meet someone at a party and take them home. It’s also not helpful (or correct) to tell women that they forfeit any right to claim they were sexually assaulted as soon as they ingest a substance. There is no black-and-white “you’re a rapist if you do X” or “you can’t claim you were raped if you did y.”
Alcohol and other substances impair judgement. It might make you do things you wouldn’t normally do, more susceptible to being “taken advantage of,” or it might compromise your ability to tell if your partner is entirely into what you’re doing. So here’s what you do:
- Give (and ask for) clear, enthusiastic, verbal consent before the encounter occurs.
- Check in periodically throughout the encounter. Stop if your partner hesitates or says no. Ask your partner to stop if you feel at all uncomfortable. The best part about this one? It can coincide with dirty talk. (“Do you like the way I’m xing your y?”) (“Let’s not do x. But I really want you to do y”)
- When in doubt, stop.
This is a really, really complicated issue. I have known people who have been on both sides of it. I think we can reduce the number of these instances with a little bit of education. Conveniently, next month is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, so I’ll probably be posting about that. :)