The following is a true story of some friends of mine, and although anecdotal, it perfectly illustrates the double standard society holds towards sexual assault, especially where alcohol is involved.
Names have been changed to protect the identities of those involved. These are friends whom I care about, and I do not believe that either was guilty of any crime or wrongdoing beyond irresponsibility and bad decision making prompted by alcohol consumption.
We were a small but tight group of friends, all connected by a popular neighbourhood restaurant/bar. All of us were friends with the owner, many of us worked at the bar, I myself had established the kitchen and the menu when it was first opened.
There were two people who were at the center of our social circle, Penny and Clark. Both were natural story tellers and very popular.
Penny was a close personal friend of the owner and a regular at the bar, Clark was a musician who tended bar.
His band played on weekends on a regular basis.
Our small group would often go out for drinks together, and whenever either Penny or Clark were present, there would always be hilarious stories that would have the rest of us in stitches of laughter.
They both enjoyed being the center of attention, and predictably, they often were at odds, both competing for the spotlight.
It was no secret that they did not like each other very much, and often arguments would ensue between the two.
There was also a dark side to these two.
Although alcohol featured prominently in the whole groups social lives, these two had a tendency to drink to excess.
But they were adults, responsible for their own choices.
Many of us could see that their excessive drinking was not positive, but nothing was said; we let them take responsibility for their choices.
I had to spend some time away, several months in a different city. When I returned, something had changed.
The mood of the group was very dark, the late night revelries had all but ceased, and Clark was nowhere to be found.
He no longer worked at the bar, his band no longer played there.
Several of my friends took me aside to tell me the story, always in hushed tones.
One night at the bar after a performance of Clark’s band, both Penny and Clark had gotten excessively drunk. Both had been slurring their words and having difficulty keeping their balance… they were quite clearly hammered, and everyone around could see this plainly.
Near the end of the night, Clark and Penny had been caught in the men’s washroom having sex.
The story was that when Clark was exiting the washroom, Penny had physically pushed him back in.
“He knew she was drunk, he raped her” I was told.
Each time I was told this story I replied the same way: “Did she know he was drunk?”
And every single time after I asked that simple question, the conversation ended abruptly; no one wanted to address that question.
Eventually I ran into Clark, he was working at another bar in a different neighbourhood, he socialized with a different group of people.
Soon after his band dissolved, having gone from selling CD’s in the thousands and beginning to get radio airplay to obscurity.
Eventually he moved to a different city altogether.
Anyone who views this incident with an open mind and a critical eye should be able to plainly see that he was not labeled a rapist due to her alcohol consumption, but rather due to his gender.
He did not initiate the encounter, she did.
He did not use force, she did.
He did not regret the encounter any less than she, rather due to being socially ostracized he most certainly regretted it considerably more.
No one suggests that Penny is a rapist, and rightfully so. They both made decisions, and as adults, they are both responsible for those decisions, regardless of inebriation.
But one suffered real, tangible consequences while the other was offered comfort and support.
The only difference is gender.
If either of them had chosen to drive that night, neither could claim innocence due to being too drunk to be held accountable.
If one is a rapist, they both are; if one is a rape victim, they both are.
However I see it quite differently; they are both neither rapist nor rape victim, they are just two people who made poor decisions.