#MeToo! Actually Wait, Maybe I Wasn’t

We are living in an interesting age; an age of extremism, terrorism, technology, acceptance, indulgence, enlightenment, nihilism, advancements, feminism and Trumpisms to name but a few. What a time to be alive! In these contemporary times of fake news and skewed news one thing is certain with regards to the news; the news this month (February 2018) has been dominated by Ulster rugby players on trial for allegedly raping a young lady at a house party. Professional sportsmen Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding are facing a rape conviction while another accused man, Blane McIlroy, is on tenterhooks for the less serious offence of exposure. The ignominious criminal trial of the shamed rugby stars involved a night of loutish hooliganism, of that there is no doubt. Nevertheless it is still important to remember that Paddy Jackson and his co-accused are innocent until proven guilty. In fact, judging from media coverage of the trial it appears very likely that the verdict could result in an acquittal or a hung jury.

The rugby-rape trial is just one of many sexual assault scandals that has caused outrage in recent years. The volume of sex crimes that have been reported in the last ten years is a cause for concern and it highlights the reality that society has got problems with sexual misconduct. The issue of consent needs to be thoroughly discussed, explicated and understood in order to mitigate the widespread endemic of inappropriate behavior.

The issue of consent can be a grey area because the provision of consent is sometimes expressed through semantics and body language rather than succinct wording. Sometimes women are not verbally direct in expressing their desire for mating activities. Girls do not always approach boys in such a forthright manner as to say “hello, fuck me now please,” or “hey you, I am desperate to give you a blowjob down the alleyway.” Women have their own reasons for being subtle in expressing seduction.

The dynamics of the mating game asks of male players to read and understand signals coming from potential mates. Knowing how to flirt and understanding when it is appropriate to kiss, touch and push for sex is an important skill that presents difficulty for some people. A deficiency of such skills can hinder an individual’s ability to initiate consensual sexual activity with a desired partner, and, in some cases a lack of mating game skills might correlate with inappropriate action. For example:

Imagine a man at a bar. The man lacks the essential skills required to succeed at the mating game, he has difficulty understanding signs of rejection from a woman whom he is attracted to. The woman interacts with him but she does not want to engage in physical contact with him. She folds her arms and rolls her eyes to heaven but does not directly ask the man to “leave her alone.” The inadequate man thinks he is flirting and in response to what he believes is a make or break moment, he puts his arm around the woman and leans in for a kiss before she finally rebuffs him with force. The man and woman then depart from each other. In putting his arm around the woman and planting a kiss on her the man walks away having committed a sexual assault although he is unaware of the fact that he has done so. The woman walks away feeling distraught yet unsure of whether or not she has been sexually assaulted. In this particular case the nebulous framework of the mating game has demonstrated problems related to the issue of consent.

Communication should be coherent and unambiguous when it comes to granting or refusing consent. Incoherently refusing consent can create a situation where individuals unwittingly become rapists and rape victims. In the current trial involving the Ulster rugby players it is the defence’s argument that the accused men believed themselves to be engaging in “consensual” sexual activity. The defence are suggesting that refusal of consent was miscommunicated, they are also suggesting that the plaintiff was misleading via her communication standards to the extent that she metaphorically invited sex onto herself. Media coverage of the rugby-rape trial suggests that the plaintiff behaved provocatively and that she had a flirtatious demeanor. It has also been reported by a witness of the alleged non-consensual threesome that the participants of the sex act seemed comfortable and cooperative together; the plaintiff did not appear distressed, she did not desist or cry for help nor did the alleged assailants use force or violence. The standpoint of the defence in the rugby-rape trial underscores both the importance of coherent communication and the dangers of miscommunication with regards to the issue of consent.

As we journey through a time where constant change has become the norm then surely it should not be surprising to see changes arise in the age-old mating game. Only last year (2017) provisions in the Criminal Law [Sexual Offences] Act clarified that a person is incapable of consenting to sexual activity in a range of scenarios – including if they are intoxicated through drugs or alcohol. Therefore, sexual activity should never be exercised when intoxicants are involved.

In a changing world the mating game may become a dangerous pastime. As men begin to fear the thought of complimenting a woman is it crazy to imagine a world where people will need to carry written contracts to nightclubs when pursuing sexual partners?

Sexual encounters are an important part of the human experience but the most important thing of all is to remember that “no means no.” If a person flirts, walks, talks, dresses and strips in a demeanor that screams “I want sex,” it still does not trump the fact that “no means no.”