Letter to: My fellow ‘good’ men

Dear men,

After Brett Kavanaugh was confirmed to the Supreme Court last Friday, it’s clear, now more than ever, that it’s time for men to step up. Just being a ‘good’ guy isn’t good enough anymore. It’s time to start calling out our friends who cat call, who grab people without consent and who take advantage of people when they are too drunk.

Sure this is easier said then done, but the change starts with you. I’m sure we’ve all been a bystander in one way or another before. I don’t claim to be perfect either, I’ve seen borderline sexual assault at parties before and I didn’t intervene. But now is the time to start acting and intervening before it’s too late.

The first step is being self-aware and self-critical. Have you ever come close to sexually assaulting someone? Do some self-reflection and think about it. I’m sure most of us have either witnessed or been part of a sexual assault, even if we didn’t realize it at the time. There have been times where I’ve looked back at my own actions and wondered if I made someone feel uncomfortable. During my first week at Chico State, I encountered one of these situations where I felt I could have been directly responsible for a sexual assault.

It was my first welcome week at Chico State and nearly everyone in my dorm went out partying each night. As a curious freshman, I went out Wednesday night with a small group of people I had just met. I ended up dancing with one of the girls in this group at a party we all attended. Things got intimate fast. I quickly found myself grinding behind this girl and eventually making out with her. Soon after we left the party to go back to Esken Hall, the dorm building we both lived in.

Next thing I know we’re in my dorm room and our clothes are off. Before we went further, I asked her if she was a virgin, just to be sure we weren’t rushing into something. She assured me she wasn’t a virgin but, after a few attempts at trying to have sex, she finally admitted that she hadn’t gone all the way before. She asked me to stop, but then quickly asked me to try again. This is when I panicked. What do I do?

She urged me to try to have sex again, but I felt uncomfortable. Did I sexually assault her? Am I taking advantage of her because she’s drunk? These thoughts raced through my mind until I decided I couldn’t handle the situation. I asked her to leave but offered to walk her back to her dorm room. She refused, grabbed my shirt off the floor and put it on. I then had to remove my shirt from her body and help her put her own clothes back on so I could walk her back to her room, which was also in the same dorm building.

Once we were both dressed, I walked her to her room, woke her roommate up, made her drink some water and made sure she laid down on her bed on her side, before I went back to my dorm room. As I walked back to my room more nerve-racking thoughts ran through my head. Is she going to wake up regretting this night? Would she accuse me of something the next day? I felt a deep pit of guilt in my stomach. I felt I had done something wrong.

Now the average college student may think this story doesn’t sound so bad. But the key aspect of this story is that we were both thoroughly drunk that night. Thus consent couldn’t be given by either of us.

According to the National Institute of Justice, “a victim cannot consent because of age, disability or the influence of alcohol or drugs.” So technically, a person cannot give consent when under the influence.

What’s my lesson learned here? One of us could have pursued legal action after that night because both of us couldn’t give consent that night. Now, am I saying that no one can have drunk sex? By law, the answer is yes, but realistically the answer is no. If you establish boundaries and trust with the person you’re sleeping with, then yes you probably can have sex under the influence of alcohol or drugs. But if you try to have drunk sex during a one night stand, then no because things get complicated. Generally speaking, people don’t have enough time to establish boundaries and trust in just one night.

The take away: Think with your brain and heart before you act with your genitals and hormones. I know we all can get caught up in the heat of the moment, but sexual assault is never okay. No matter how drunk you are, there’s no excuse for pressuring someone else in any sexual way or form. This topic has a lot of gray areas, but if we, as men, set good examples for each other then we can all set clearer boundaries and guidelines to help us all understand what exactly defines sexual assault.

Alex Grant can be reached at [email protected] or @AlexThomasGrant on Twitter.