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» Got Questions? Get Answers. » SCARLETEEN CENTRAL » Abuse & Assault » Drunk cheating? Ambiguous consent, don't know how to feel (trigger warning)

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Author Topic: Drunk cheating? Ambiguous consent, don't know how to feel (trigger warning)
Syntax
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Hi all,

I'd like to share my story here because there are some aspects to the consent that I haven't seen represented in any "guide to consent", even though I looked for it. I'll try to keep it short. Here goes.

-TRIGGER WARNINGS, DETAILED DESCRIPTION-

I'm a woman in a committed relationship of nine years. In those nine years I've had a pretty shameful history of developing crushes on other people. In a handful of cases this lead to emotional or physical cheating, although it had never gone farther physically than kissing.

About three months ago I went to a Halloween party hosted by fellow students. I drank a lot. I decided to crash there that evening because I was having too much fun to leave for the last bus, kind of operating on the assumption that there would be multiple people sleeping over.

At some point I told one of the hosts about the crush I had on him a few years prior, and asked him if he'd ever noticed (he hadn't). We sort of stuck together for the rest of the night, though I did interact with other people and a lot of the time was spent - HC: edited for your safety - in a group rather than talking (common occurrence at his parties). I don't remember much of the talking, but by the end of the night we were sitting on a couch and he had his arm around me. I was fine with this - I liked the attention and I was really cold and tired. I had been puking from how drunk I was at that point, and he knew this.

The party wound down, and the sleeping couch that was available to me turned out to be really nasty because beer and crisps had been spilled on it all evening. I remarked on this and the guy offered me a spot in his twin bed. Again, I liked the attention, and my other options were a nasty couch or another guy's bed, so I agreed. I really did not have sex in mind, though I could probably have seen it coming.

I got into bed with my clothes on. He asked if I wanted to cuddle, and I did - from cold and from liking the company. He started humping me, I don't remember exactly but I think I moved with him, and to be honest I was pretty horny by this point. I do remember repeating that I really couldn't do this, that it was going to cost me my relationship, though I said I would do it without a doubt if I were single. He apparently got the message, because he abruptly turned away from me and wished me goodnight. I was relieved.

However, a few seconds later he turned back and asked me "If you've been happy for nine years in your relationship, why are you here?" At this point I broke down crying and told him it was because I always make the wrong decisions (referring to my past crushes and cheating, which he didn't know about). I think he tried to comfort me. I asked him if I could come crying to him if my relationship ended. He replied "Of course!" and I remember thinking I didn't believe a word of it.

He started rubbing up against me again, I tried to hold him off at the last minute. He asked what the problem was and I told him I was still trying not to cheat. He said "That's already happened." At that point, my willpower broke down and I just went with it. He undressed me with my assistance and we had sex. (Note that he pretty outright lied, though - as far as I can remember we hadn't even kissed at that point.)

The really confusing part is that I was horny, and once I put my concerns regarding my boyfriend out of my mind I was actually pretty enthusiastic. I had fun. The next day, I woke up next to him, and he suggested we do it again. I said "No.", he told me it had already happened so it didn't matter anymore, and we had sex again - which was again pretty fun. I went home later that day and confessed everything to my boyfriend, in tears. (Relationship didn't end, thankfully, but it was a close call.)


I didn't feel raped or violated afterwards, though I felt horribly guilty about cheating. It wasn't until a week later, when I found an article saying consent should be enthusiastic, that I twigged on how shady the consent was here. At that point the doubts started to grow. I felt (and feel) angry, guilty, responsible, confused about how much of the responsibility was mine and how much was his, violated, wondering whether I was just reading into it to feel less guilty about cheating, I'm having intrusive thoughts/memories, revenge fantasies, et cetera. I tried to confront him a few times by e-mail to get myself some closure and to make sure this doesn't happen to someone else, but only received one message back saying that he didn't appreciate how I was basically accusing him of rape (a term I never used), that I'd been seducing him all evening and that I initiated everything.

So I'm still really confused about consent in this case. On the one hand, I pretty clearly didn't give enthusiastic consent. I was very drunk, and I communicated that I would have sex if the circumstances were different but I really couldn't. He apparently got the message because he rolled away at first, and the fact that I was crying cannot possibly have indicated enthusiasm. On the other hand, I wanted it on some level and even enjoyed it, I did say that I would have sex with him if not for the fact that I had a boyfriend, we did have sex twice, and I'm really not sure whether the way he talked to me would be considered coercion because I wasn't afraid of him or what he would do. I'm also not sure I'm remembering everything correctly (everything described above happened that way, but I may have mixed up the order of events and can't remember details about what happened in between). Besides, it's somewhat in my interest to put the blame on him more than me, to absolve myself of cheating and deal with my own guilt...

None of the articles I've read about consent consider this sort of situation. I get the impression that for it to be problematic in terms of consent you have to be... actively disliking it while it's happening, or something. I'm also bit scared of the doom scenario that word will get out and I'll be considered some sort of feminazi bitch who cried rape after cheating and regretting it, so I'm really wondering whether doubting the consent here is justified.

Thanks for reading. Any thoughts and input would be greatly appreciated.

[ 01-15-2014, 09:56 AM: Message edited by: Heather ]

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Heather
Executive Director & Founder
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Hi there, Syntax, and welcome to the boards. I edited a piece of your post that stands counter to our guidelines, a guideline that is in place for your legal protection. But I know what I omitted, so figure that is something I considered in my answer here to you.

It seems to me that what might be happening here, in the way you are not seeing this as a clearly nonconsensual situation, is that you are kind of putting what obviously is a history of having trouble with monogamy or your monogamy agreement (and we can talk about how to deal with that later on if you would like) kind of on top of anything and everything sexual; seeing your desires to be sexual with others as somehow always making you responsible, including for sexual situations that you are not that kind of responsible for. Does that make sense?

In other words, with this, you have made clear you were highly intoxicated, and that this person knew that and pursued sex with you anyway. That is not something that, at all, gets left out of most current consent content. That people who are drunk or otherwise intoxicated cannot give informed consent is not only in most of that content, it is also part of most laws around sexual abuse and assault, with those laws supporting that, no, intoxicated people cannot adequately consent to sex, and someone who knowingly pursues sex with someone they know to be intoxicated is violating the law.

Additionally, in what you have posted here, I also hear some coercion on his part.

So, okay, you have had a crush on this guy, and you have sexual desires for this person. And some of your no's here were about wanting not to dishonor a monogamy agreement you have with your partner. But none of that actually matters when we are talking about this, because all the bigger, less murky stuff, the intoxication, the coercion, tells us all we need to know, that this clearly does not sound like it was consensual on your part. And telling someone you would be sexual with them in different circumstances is not a yes to sex to them in the current circumstances that have you at no. But again, even a yes when someone is highly intoxicated still, legally and ethically, is not really a yes.

Coercion, for the record, is not something we determine by if someone feels afraid of someone. Like sexual assault, it is not defined by how the person being coerced feels about it, but by what the person doing the coercing is doing. Trying to talk someone out of a no is coercion, plain and simple, and it would still be so even if the person on the receiving end of that felt totally unafraid and just fine about it. Catch my drift?

I hope that makes that clear for you. Obviously, there are kind of two separate issues here, this situation, and the issue of the patterns of behaviour you actually are earnestly responsible for, and your conflicts with monogamy, and they are both big. But I think you need to separate this incident out from that, and understand that it really is not part of the latter issue.

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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Heather
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I want to also add to this that self- blame is the most typical thing in the world when it comes to sexual abuse or assault.

I say that, because the way I see you doing that here is around what sounds like an ongoing desire for nonmonogamy. But if you did not have that to use as a way to self-blame, you would likely find something else to make this seem like your fault with.

I think it may be important to keep that in mind to help you separate these issues and recognize that while yes, the monogamy thing is something you obviously need to deal with and work out, like yesterday, that is not why this person chose to act as he did, nor does that issue make that person's choices and actions be anyone's responsibility but his own.

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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zeitvogel
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Hi Syntax. I'm not a volunteer here, but I might be able to rephrase the coercion part in a way that makes it easier to think about.

When someone uses logic that boils down to "There, I took care of your reason not to have sex with me, so now you must have sex with me", the coercion is hidden in that last part. They're somehow setting up a situation where you're "supposed" to have sex with them unless you come up with a good enough reason not to -- and they're going to judge and argue with that reason. Does that sound like what happened that night?

Of course just because they argue that way doesn't make it true. Because that's not how consent works. In a consensual situation, the default is "not have sex", and then you choose to have sex, for your own reasons. If you feel you're "giving in" to the other person's reasons for having sex, then it's probably not an okay situation.

By the way, if you're not comfortable calling it "rape", then you don't have to. If the fact is that you don't feel safe around this person anymore, then you don't have to justify that. And there's no rule that says that either it was rape or it was all okay. You can describe it in whatever way seems right to you.

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Heather
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What zeitvogel said, through and through!

(You're really awesome, zeitvogel: we've really been appreciating having you around!)

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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Syntax
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Thank you both for your replies. I hadn't responded before now (busy days), but I have read them and they've given me some peace of mind. It's nice to know that people care, that I'm not in the wrong for seeing problems with consent here, and that I have the freedom to define the situation however I'm comfortable with.

Regarding the monogamy issue and corresponding patterns of behavior: I'm well aware that it's a problem, and I'm working hard to fix it. My partner and I have analyzed it to bits and I know what it stems from (poor self-esteem, and probably also the fact that I entered this relationship when I was pretty young and always vaguely wondered how it would be to experience a relationship with someone else). That doesn't excuse it, it only explains it.

The good news is that I've been tackling this beast head-first, following assertivity courses, trying to derive my self-esteem from myself and not from my partner or power fantasies, talking openly about feelings for others, et cetera. We've also discussed moving to a non-monogamous relationship. I was initially enthusiastic about that, but later realized that I was kind of pushing it because it felt like having a non-monogamous relationship would somehow justify my cheating and related behavior in the past. (I'm aware that's not actually true and that I've cheated and done crappy things regardless of current relationship arrangements.) At this point, we both established that we're not ready for a relationship change like that - in my case it would kind of be a failsafe if I were to want to cheat again, and in his case it would kind of feel like revenge to sleep with someone else, and we agree that that's a very bad starting point.

In addition, I now KNOW what it's like to experience intimacy (?) with someone else, and I'm really not missing much. Because of all of the negativity around this experience, I've now also got my shields up in social situations, because I'm still raw from it all and don't want any suitors or flirtatious interaction for the foreseeable future. That's not a sustainable source of monogamy, of course, but it helps for now.

I'm still scared to death that "it'll happen again" and I'll develop another crush on someone else, but... I think it's just fear. I need to believe that this is not unchangeable behavior, and I'm very much invested in changing it.

I'm probably kind of straying from the topic, I hope you don't mind. Thank you so much for your input and for providing a safe space where I can vent.

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zeitvogel
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One thing that might help is to see a crush as something separate from cheating.

Of course it's different for everyone, but in my experience, I've had a few crushes on people that were simply unavailable, and I still enjoyed the feeling: the thrill I had just from being near them, the fascination with their every word, the feeling of being filled with happiness around them.

After putting away the thought that I would ever have an affair with my crushes, I was able to enjoy the emotions without guilt and they were much better that way [Smile]

If your partner is open to the idea of a non-monogamous relationship then he may also be okay with this way of handling crushes.

Posts: 47 | From: Finland | Registered: Dec 2013  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
   

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