Consenting adults: It’s a two-part test

 

Lately, there has been some confusion about when you need consent. In too many discussions of rape cases, people are blaming everyone but the person responsible – Miley Cyrus, say, or the “culture,” or the victim.

Montana District Judge G. Todd Baugh recently let off with a 30-day sentence a teacher, Stacey Dean Rambold, who raped a 14-year-old. And in the course of doing so, Baugh pointed out that the victim was “older than her chronological age” and that “it wasn’t this forcible beat-up rape.”

In apologizing for one of his lousy sentences, the judge later said that he was “not sure just what I was attempting to say, but it did not come out correct.”

Which is pretty terrible as apologies go.

I’m sure what he meant to say was, “Women are people, rape is rape, I’m going to go rethink my life and, gee, these sentencing guidelines are kind of screwy.”

Not “forcible”? That doesn’t mean there was consent.

And consent is not optional.

People need to stop treating consent as if it’s nice but not required, like holding doors open for people or carrying mints. They also need to stop treating consent as if it’s implied if you are female and ever pick up a drink.

Consent is not . . . you are a woman who left the house wearing (item of clothing that my grandmother does not own).

Consent is not . . . you seem pretty mature.

Consent is not . . . you climbed out of the bowels of a teddy bear and gyrated.

Consent is not . . . you sang along with “Blurred Lines” and giggled.

Consent is not . . . well, I didn’t have to club you and drag you back to my cave.

Consent is not . . . you are my student.

Consent is making certain that the other adult you are about to have sex with wants to have sex with you. Notice: adult. Children and most teenagers cannot consent, and they especially cannot consent if you are their teacher, an adult in a position of power over them. At that age, brains are not fully developed even if bodies are.

There are many decisions that we as a society have decided teenagers are not capable of making, even if we allow them to dictate all movies that come to theaters. The fact that a teenager feels capable of making a decision does not mean that the teenager is actually capable, as anyone who has been a teenager or wrestled car keys away from a teenager will tell you.

And if you fail to get permission, because your partner is too young to consent, or too drunk, or any other reason — this is on you.

This should go without saying. But somehow, it doesn’t.

Excerpted from Alexandra Petri’s blog at washingtonpost.com/blogs/compost

© 2013, The Washington Post.

Read more From Our Inbox stories from the Miami Herald

  • Polling trends that matter

    Recent polling for the 2014 midterms and beyond is plentiful but not always illuminating. There are two exceptions to this: polls that show a consensus for a trend/wave election and dramatic movement toward a particular candidate.

  • Why the impeachment chatter continues

    If Republicans want to know why Democrats are talking incessantly about impeachment, even fundraising off the possibility, they need only look to themselves. The GOP leadership has resisted every opportunity to kill the idea. Sure, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, called it “all a scam started by Democrats at the White House,” before adding, “We have no plans to impeach the president. We have no future plans.” But that’s cold comfort given his use of the present tense and his demonstrated inability to keep his calamitous caucus in line.

  • A GOP ultimatum to Vlad

    With the party united, the odds are now at least even that the GOP will not only hold the House but also capture the Senate in November.

Miami Herald

Join the
Discussion

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category