Do you know what rape really is?
As a victim of date rape, when it comes to consent I strongly feel there is no grey area. Unfortunately, at the time, I was too young and naïve to realize that because I never actually said, "No," I was a willing participant. He came on strong, I was a bit inebriated, and before I knew it, I was in a situation that I did not want to be in at all. I blamed myself for a long time, and it took years before I could forgive myself, although there was nothing that I needed to forgive.
But now, several years later, I know, more than ever, that my consent was not given, and it was rape. End of story.
Statistics show that one in five women, at some point during their college career, will be sexually assaulted. And because, like me, some women feel that they're to blame in some way, the majority of these cases will never go to trial, nor will the law enforcement ever be contacted. I never even considered going to the police when it happened to me. I conveniently called it, "sex I didn't want," without being able to attach the word rape to it, so I didn't feel I had a leg to stand on, legally speaking. Blaming myself was my first mistake, and not doing anything about it was my second mistake. Mistakes I'll never make again.
In the hopes of putting an end to the barrage of sexual assaults that happen on campuses every year, California is looking to pass the "yes means yes" law.
In the simplest of explanations, the bill defines consensual sex as: "Affirmative consent' means affirmative, conscious, and voluntary agreement to engage in sexual activity." Whether that consent is made in the form of verbal communication or written, consent must be secured "at every stage of sexual activity. If the bill is passed, colleges must use the legislature’s definition of consent in their sexual assault policies or risk losing state funding for student financial aid."
The reason for this bill is that rape culture is alive and well in our society. We used to hope that the old stand by, "no means no," would have some sort of effect on sexual situations, but it isn't enough. If a woman is passed out or asleep, she's unable to say "no," so for some means, as we've seen recently in a number of heartbreaking cases where teenage girls have be assaulted or raped, because the boy seems to think she's some sort of fair game. It's both disheartening and disgusting that we even need a law that stipulates that a woman must be able to give consent or else it's rape.
Although the definition of rape is always clear: sex without consent, there are certain situations in which some people, rapists and rape culture advocates, say the lines may seem blurred.
However, this isn't a blurry issue; there is no grey area here.
If a woman is drunk, high, or in any way unable to make rational decisions for herself and her body, it is rape. Yes, your boyfriend or husband can rape you. If he wants it, and you say no, it's rape. If you're totally into foreplay, things are going great, but you stop and don't want to go any further, but he doesn't stop and you have made it clear that you don't want more, it's rape. Even if you've had sex without someone before, and this time around you don’t want to, but he doesn't stop, it's rape. One more time: If there's no consent, it's rape.
I completely support the California legislators who would like to make "yes means yes," a law. I believe women need far more protection from sexual predators, no matter what "innocent" captain of the debate team type mask they wear. But what I believe more than anything is that we need to teach boys and men NOT to rape. We need to make them see that women and girls are not their personal playthings, that we were not put on this earth for their pleasure, and if we drink too much at a party, that we sure as hell aren't "asking for it."
"Yes mean yes" is great in theory, but we need to get to the fundamental core of the rape epidemic not just on campuses but everywhere.
That core is respecting our fellow human beings, and seeing each other as such. And when a victim does come forward, we need to not blame them, we need to not question their attire that night, or put their sexual past on trial. It doesn't matter if she's had consensual sex with hundreds of men and her rapist was the captain of the football team. Protecting her and getting her justice is far more important than whether or not he plays Friday night's game. If anyone can read that sentence and not agree, then you're contributing to rape culture.
I honestly think we need to change the way people think of rape, before California's law will really work. We need everyone, no matter their age or gender, to get on board and realize exactly what rape is. But, in case, you missed it above, I'll tell you again: If there's no consent, it's rape.