Ohio University incident underscores importance of verbal consent

An Ohio University student reported on Oct. 13 that she had been raped the previous night outside of a bank. She was made aware of her assault from a video on Instagram and then by a stream of her fellow students “live tweeting” the assault on Twitter. Vance Blanc, a freshman at OU, posted one of the pictures. Around him, over two-dozen students stood taking pictures and videos while this was happening. Talk about diffusion of responsibility.

Even more disturbing is the fact that Blanc said that everyone was “at ease” since there was, according to him, no struggle. The caveat?

Blanc said to the The Huffington Post, “It was obvious that both the man and woman were very, very drunk.”

Isn’t it rather disturbing that the students truly believe that filming two people having sex is OK simply because they assume it is consensual? Isn’t it even more disturbing that students believe drunken sex is inherently consensual as long as the woman is not protesting?

Blanc said that he regrets putting the picture up. He said that it had “shock factor” and was “never meant to embarrass or harm anyone.”

Never meant to embarrass anyone? Truthfully, what other motives might Blanc have had for filming drunken sex other than to embarrass them? Personally, I cannot think of many.

I digress; the personal violation of privacy, in this case, is secondary to the confusion behind the meaning of consent. Incapacitated people cannot legally consent to sex. Furthermore, consent, or lack thereof, is not always as obvious as shouting, “No,” pushing someone away or screaming for help.

Rape is a lack of legal consent rather than a melodramatic struggle depicted in movies and television. Due to this misconception, we see victim-blaming attitudes toward anyone who is not approached in a dark alley.

Days after another sexual assault case hit the news, Slate’s Emily Yoffe said that women ought not to drink if they want to avoid being raped. She said that yes, the perpetrator should get the blame, but no, a woman should not render herself defenseless to avoid the blame.

On the surface, her argument means well, and it is uncomfortably reminiscent of the “don’t wear short skirts” argument. Yoffe said, however, that that “a common denominator” of rape is alcohol.

While it may be a common denominator in college rape cases, the only “common denominator” in every rape is rapists. So why does our society love to shift the blame to the victims – whether because of what they are wearing or how much they have been drinking – rather than perpetrators?

I think it is due to a serious misunderstanding of what consent means paired with misogynistic attitudes toward female victims. Consent, in almost every state, is defined as a fully conscious and enthusiastic understanding of what a person consents to.

Rape is, more often than not, trivialized when there is no clear struggle or screams. The victim at OU, however, was clearly intoxicated. The lack of fully conscious understanding is imperative to understanding why this case was sexual assault. Intoxication does not give anyone the right to rape just as leaving your door unlocked does not give anyone the right to rob.

Furthermore, consent must be immediate and clear. Even if the woman was not drunk, hesitation is not immediate and enthusiastic consent. Persuasion into “yes” is not necessarily consent. Communication surrounding sexual activity, even between partners, should not be vague. Strive for an understanding of consent that is both conscious and enthusiastic.