Date Rape PSAs Ruined My Sex Life

Bloggified by Jake on Monday, November 22, 2010

The world is not a perfect place and according to all the research I've done in thirty-some years, it appears it will not become one any time in the foreseeable future. At last count, there were approximately 647 million things to worry about and the number was rising. Yet with so many variables, large numbers of Americans amazingly manage to all start worrying about the same thing at the same time, feeding off one another's worry.

In the early 90's, the media and certain feminist organizations became aware of date rape as if it had just been invented and needed to be stopped before it could spread, rather than addressing it rationally. The movement was big enough that it got its own We Are the World/Farm Aid/Self-Destruction-esque song featuring all the biggest female rappers in the industry, including Queen Latifah, Salt 'n Pepa... um... MC Lyte? J.J. Fad? Blondie? I don't know. Their song, "No Means No," made clear that no means no by repeating several hundred times, "No means no, my brutha. Are you deaf in your ears, sucka?"

The initial focus of the date rape awareness campaign was on guys who literally overpowered girls in the backseats of cars or who found a passed out coed at a frat party and took advantage of her unconscious state. Assholes, certainly, but also a very small percentage of the population.

In an effort to inflate the danger of date rape, the definition expanded. Guys who got a girl drunk just to lower her inhibitions were also date rapists. A guy who made a girl feel guilty about how much money he spent on dinner and that he should get something in return was a date rapist. And once that door was opened, nearly any sex could fall into the category of date rape.

When I was in ninth grade, I remember a PSA about date rape that showed a guy feeling guilty while voices from the previous night played in his head. What we got was that some girl had gotten drunk and they started making out, but when he made a move to have sex, she changed her mind. Then the ad went on to indicate that if a girl is drunk, it's up to the guy to be aware of the fact and get express written consent before proceeding with sex. Date rape became redefined as any sex with a girl under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Then, in further discussions on talk shows and in the news, it expanded again to include "even if she said yes," and a window of three days was tacked on.

At the time, this struck me as completely illogical and absolutely terrifying. If a girl is drunk and says, "Hey, Jake, let's do it," it's up to me, even if I'm drunk too, to judge whether she would consent to sex with me in a sober state or not and act accordingly. Then if I decide to have sex with her, she has three days to debate whether or not she really wanted to have sex with me, and if she decides she probably didn't, she is within her rights to report me to the police. Why, I wondered, didn't the same rules apply to driving a car? If I'm drunk and I decide to drive home and get into an accident, I should have three days to decide whether or not I meant to drive home, and if I conclude that I didn't mean to, any DUI charges should be dropped. After all, just like the drunk girl is in no position to decide whether she wants to have sex, a drunk driver is in no position to decide whether he should be behind the wheel of a car.

At the time, anyone foolish enough to suggest that sometimes "no" really does mean "yes," was labeled the worst kind of misogynist and a possible rapist, even though it's often true.

The fact that this movement peaked in power during my puberty had a major impact on my sexual attitudes. In short, whenever I get intimate with a woman, I act entirely out of fear of possibly being arrested for rape within three days. I rarely make a move without getting a clear signal--something along the lines of an air traffic controller's confirmation of approval to land. A simple "Hey, why don't you come inside? You know what, I'm kind of tired. I think I'm going to put on my nightie," isn't enough. What if she's really tired? I should probably leave so she can get some sleep. During sex, I regularly ask, "What do you want me to do? What do you like?" not only because sex is best if partners communicate, but because I want a verbal commitment that, yes, your honor, she wanted me to put my finger in there.

In fact, in my senior year of high school, I was nearly accused of date rape. Toward the end of the school year, I'd been flirting with a junior girl. She was taking some AP tests and preparing a student counsel campaign speech and a few other things and the stress was getting to her. "If you need to relieve some stress," I said in the most seductive way I could at 18 years old, "give me a call."

Sure enough, the next night my phone rang. Her frazzled voice on the other end said, "I think I need to relieve some stress." Without any questions, I drove over to her house, picked her up, and we went for a drive.

We stopped at a park near her house and talked for a little over an hour. Well, she talked about all the pressure she was under, particularly from her mother, and I listened patiently. Once she got everything off her chest, we got back in my minivan to find a place to park and have sex.

We started making out and I got off her bra, but she laid there, stiff as a board. I tried to relax her, but nothing was working. "Are you sure you want to do this?" I asked.

"No," she answered, "I'm not sure."

"Look, I'm not going to do anything unless you're sure," I told her.

She thought for a moment, then asked me to take her home, which I did.

Later, I walked in the door and had a phone call within minutes. It was a mutual friend between the girl and myself. "What the hell happened?" she asked.

"What do you mean?"

"[The girl] says you tried to rape her."

"What the fuck?"

"She said you had her in the back of your van and you took off her bra and she didn't want to do anything but you kept pushing her and she was afraid she was going to get raped."

Fortunately, our mutual friend had the sense to point out to her that rape is a lot different from when you tell a guy you specifically want to have sex with him and as soon as you say you changed your mind he stops without any argument, but the point is that the climate at the time taught her that any sexual situation that makes you the least bit uncomfortable is not your fault and, in fact, that you are a victim of a crime because of it.

Sadly, I am not an isolated case. Looking at many of my friends, I get the impression they are subconsciously in the same boat. A generation of thoughtful, self-aware men was raised to believe that sex is a crime more often than not and that we should fear the consequences of it. For some this means a complete avoidance of sex. For others it meant marrying the first person who would have sex with them and being miserable. For still others it means a series of partners, none of which can develop into anything truly meaningful because it seems impossible that sex can be consensual.

Worst of all this is that five years later, there was a backlash against this mentality. High school girls embraced their sexuality and, where I'd had to feel guilty about under-the-shirt-over-the-bra action at their age, other 17-year-olds were having so many threesomes, they would actually express boredom with them.

So, to Blossom and Dwayne Wayne and Kelly on "90210" and even Sam from "Quantum Leap," I say, "Screw you."

I mean, if you want to. If not, I can just go home and masturbate.

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