A recent experience with a person of the opposite sex made me wonder how many women and men my age (23 to 38) have encountered moments with the same or opposite sex where the intimacy escalated without verbal consent. Not by means of forceful and unwanted penetration but situations where first base turns into second base in a blink of an eye.
In these situations, I've felt uncomfortably awkward and like I was obligated to kick things up a notch when this was never my intention to begin with. Recently, I found myself retracing my steps after a night of drinks escalated from networking to heavy kissing and petting.
It's a Thursday night in North Hollywood and I'm meeting, let's call him Gregg, at a bar near Little Armenia. I agreed to go out for drinks with Gregg at my friend's job. Originally, I thought he asked me out for drinks to network because that's what people in LA do, we get drinks with each other and talk business. This is what I thought this was.
I showed up at a bar and found Gregg saving me a seat. I extend a hug, sit down, and look over the menu full of beer and wine options. Last year I discovered consuming products with brewer's yeast exacerbates a skin condition I've had for over a decade called Hidradenitis Suppurativa (HS). So, because of this, I suggest we go to a bar with a wider selection.
We found a speakeasy-like establishment down the street. The room is dimly lit. In the middle of the floor is the bar with stools and tables against the wall. I order a margarita and he orders some specialty drink on the menu. I reach to pay for my drink when he says he's got it with me being jobless and all. I kind of cut my eyes and then laughed it off.
We find a seat at one of the tables against the wall. We start talking about our careers and ambitions as we sip on spirits. At this point I'm feeling nice. Suddenly, I feel his leg is rubbing against mine.
The energy has clearly shifted. I found him attractive, so I didn't pull my leg away, however it was still awkward for me.
I thought this was a platonic meeting of the minds but clearly it's a little bit deeper than that. In an attempt to not let my awkwardness show, I start talking about astrology and how crazy it is we were both Leos. He buys another round of drinks and then asks if I'm hungry. He suggests we grab the food and take the food back to his apartment.
I know what you're thinking at this point, if I didn't want to have sex, then why did I agree to go back to his apartment? Well, I love watching Netflix and eating Thai with company, that's why. Plus, as I said, I found him attractive so I wasn't opposed to spending more time with him. In fact, I liked that he took charge in the flow of the night.
We ordered Thai to-go from a restaurant down the street. The waiter says it'll be 15-20 minutes so, we decide to go back to the bar for another drink. By this time I'm tipsy, but not sloppy drunk. We pick the food up, hop in a shared ride and head to his apartment a few blocks from the bar. I chill on the couch while he turns on Netflix. He hands me an edible and asks me to roll a jay.
After a few puffs, we shotgun. A shotgun when smoking is when one person inhales smoke to blow in another person's mouth. After a few rounds of this, we start kissing passionately. I don't know if it was the mutual attraction, the substances or both but I felt myself opening up even though he didn't ask me if I wanted to kiss. He assumed.
I found myself on top of him in the middle of an impassioned kiss when I remembered his roommates were home. He says we can go into his room. I hesitantly look at him and then to the bedroom. I didn't want to give the wrong impression. I especially didn't want to start something I had no intention on finishing. But I also wasn't opposed to continuing our make-out session. So, I went to the bedroom.
As we lay on the bed, we start kissing again and all of a sudden I hear a zipper come down and feel his hand guiding mine to hold his flaccidness. I pause and tell him I don't want to have sex to which he responds, "We can do other things besides have sex." This is where my passion turned to discomfort and I knew I had to get out of this situation. So, I say I have to use the bathroom.
In the bathroom, I look in the mirror and wonder when I consented to second base? I asked myself if I should have come back to his apartment? Did my nonverbal cues provide consent? Upon entering the bedroom again he was back in the living room eating the Thai I had completely forgotten about at this point. I was relieved.
I sat on the couch to watch Sex Ed while he ate his Thai and answered work emails. I sensed he was no longer interested. He says he's going to bed soon which is code for it's time for you to go home. I took the hint and ordered a ride. He escorted me out and said he had a good time. I said I did too, possibly out of obligation. It was a good time until we got to the bedroom. I haven't talked to him since.
After all was said and done, I realized this isn't what I want intimacy to look like in my life. I like that he was forward, but what I didn't like is that this boldness turned into assumptions which made for an awkward night for me.
What I truly wanted was for Gregg to ask for consent at every step like he asked if I wanted another drink or wanted to grab food or wanted to go back to his apartment.
Some reading this might say consent was given when I didn't pull my leg away or when I went to his apartment and laid in his bed. However, consent is defined "as a voluntary, enthusiastic, and clear agreement between the participants to engage in specific sexual activity," according to Healthline. I agreed to drinks, food, and to go back to his apartment, watch Netflix and make-out.
Everything else was assumed and not implied.
If you ever find yourself in my position, talk about your boundaries before they get a chance to whip it out. Be clear about your intentions every step of the way. Express you would like to take things slow when it comes to having sex but are open for intimate exchanges outside of that.
If you find yourself being a Gregg, know that unless consent is clear, ongoing, coherent, and voluntary then you have no business exposing yourself to someone. Any type of sexual activity without consent, including touching, fondling, kissing, and intercourse, is a form of sexual assault and may be considered a crime.
It may be awkward at first to ask for consent every step of the way, but this is the first step in making sure everyone's boundaries are respected. One of the many ways to have this discussion is by asking simple questions like, "Can I kiss you? Can I put your/my hand here? Can I take this off? Does it feel good when I do [insert action]?"
Consenting under the influence can be tricky because for example, when I was under the influence I was cognitively aware enough to give consent. However, there are some scenarios where one or both parties are sloppy drunk and incoherent which, legally, consent cannot be provided. There's a study showing a link between excessive alcohol consumption and a risk for committing sexual assault. It says approximately one half of sexual assaults involve alcohol consumption by the perpetrator, the person who's been assaulted, or both.
When under the influence but cognitively aware, I think it's extremely important to talk about your boundaries. Know that if you're assaulted under the influence, it is in no way your fault. Women and men can be assaulted regardless of the blood alcohol level. If you find yourself in a situation where you initially wanted to have sex or go to second base but are having second thoughts, you have a right to disengage and the other person has an obligation to respect your decision. There's way too much at stake to assume. We must protect each other.
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