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Consent matters. Age and alcohol are not mitigating circmustances. - Elf M. Sternberg
elfs
elfs
Consent matters. Age and alcohol are not mitigating circmustances.
I grew up in the kink community. This is only vaguely true, but it's got a ring of truthiness to it. I was first introduced to The Lesbian SM Safety Manual when I was 24 years old, and have never looked back since. It gave me a vocabulary for asking for what I wanted, for asking the other person what he or she wanted, and for negotiating safety. That power, to say clearly what I needed from my partners to be and feel safe, got me through the height of the AIDS crisis while indulging in pretty extreme kinks without ever catching so much as a cold, much less HIV or hepatitis. Today I'm 50, still whole, still kinky, still disease-free.

Not every kink party is a paragon of virtue. (Shocking, I know!) Over those years I attended more than a few where alcohol, marijuana, amyl, and even cocaine and methamphetamines were readily available. The buzzword "chemsex" for having sex while high became a thing.

Here's the thing, though: at the parties at least, safewords and boundaries were still sacrosanct. It didn't matter how high you were, how out of your mind your were, you were still responsible for your actions and you would lose the privilege of attending future events if you violated them. I can't speak for how people behave in private settings, obviously, but in the public settings there are cultural requirements you only ever get once chance to violate.

It was everyone else's responsibility to step in and say, "Hey, that's not right. I don't think he's awake enough, aware enough to consent."

This does happen. I've seen it happen. I've seen it happen often enough that I believe ordinary human beings are perfectly capable of it. But more than that, I've seen ordinary kinky people in the deep heat of mid-scene hear a safeword and honor it. Top or bottom, master or slave, flogger or flagellant, fist fucker or lube puppet, everyone in a scene has a right to use their safeword and a responsibility to hear it when others use it. This is drilled into everyone who comes into The Scene. And when you're too far gone, whether by drugs or emotion or exhaustion, it's your responsibility to know that and not play.

This is an important cultural standard for me. Safewords and honest negotiation were critical to goddamn survival when I came out during the mid-90s at the height of the AIDS crisis. Even aside from the risk of disease, there was always the risk of dealing with an incompetent, or someone arrogantly stupid. Being able to talk ahead of time, being allowed a public space in which to negotiate, being able to call on help, all helped ensure my well-being and comforted my anxiety when I was putting myself out there.

Which brings me to Brock Turner and the Stanford sexual assault case, because there is no place to place the blame for what happened anywhere other than Brock Turner. You can't blame the alcohol. You can't blame his peers. You'd better not blame the girl for drinking. You can't even blame the people who supplied the alcohol. Turner knew what he was doing. The women on his swim team knew he was "a creep." He took pictures of his victim's naked body before he digitally penetrated her.

If you can imagine yourself in Turner's shoes, imagining alcohol taking you over to the point where you rape someone, there's something seriously wrong with you. Get help. If you say to yourself, "When I was young and stupid, that could have been me," it still could be you. Get help.

Consent culture matters more than ever. Claiming that there are exceptions or mitigating circumstances is to claim a privilege for your sex, or your class, that you haven't earned and don't deserve. And if you want to blame his youth, or his peers, or the alcohol, well, you're not stupid.

No, you're just cruel.

Get help.

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