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Old 11-19-2011, 04:57 PM   #1
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Alcohol and Sex: How do you gauge the line of consent?

I had an experience the other night at a concert that really bothered me. I realize this might better go in Zoo Confessional or some place like that, and if the mods feel the need to move it that’s fine with me. But this is the forum I spend the most time in and I feel like the regular posters here “know” me and that’s important to me in gauging responses. Further, the issue arguably could be appropriate for this forum as it deals with issues of sexual harassment and the appropriate response to questionable situations which have been touched on in recent threads such as the Disgusting Stories and Rape threads.

Anyway, my best friend and I were at a Mat Kearney concert in Chicago Thursday night. We had great spots right on the rail and were really enjoying the show. My friend was on the rail and I was right behind him, having given my spot on the rail to a ten year old girl who couldn’t see very well. Late in the concert I look to my left and this guy is openly groping this woman in front of him. I’m not sure whether he knew her prior to that evening or not. He had been at the rail already with a woman I presumed was his girlfriend when we arrived. Two other women who had been in line with us also arrived on the rail at the same time as us, and they started chatting while waiting for the show to start. As the evening progressed all four gradually got fairly drunk. By the end of the concert the girlfriend? and one of the two women were still on the rail, and the guy and the other girl were behind them, next to me. I happened to glance over and notice her leaning back against him, and his hands around her waist I guess they were kind of dancing except her shirt was up and/or pants were lowered a little. At first I didn’t think much of it but eventually it was pretty clear that he was literally getting in her pants. At one point it appeared that he had his hand well down the inside of her pants, though I can’t say 100% for sure. It just made me really uncomfortable.

I wasn’t sure if I should say or do anything. I wasn’t sure if he’d crossed a line or not. She was clearly drunk, but not to the point of insensibility. She would lean over and talk to him from time to time, or check her phone. She didn’t seem bothered by it, as far as I could tell. I just felt that I was seeing someone taken advantage of and it felt wrong to me.

So my question is should I have done something? Should I have told him to cut it out?
Full disclosure: I feel that none of this would have happened if both people hadn’t been drinking. I don’t drink myself, and while I have had a drink on a few occasions in my life it was never enough to be drunk or even get a buzz. As a result, I really don’t know what the “rules” are among people who do drink. Is this normal “party behavior” between two consenting adults? Or is outside the bounds of what’s considered appropriate. I’d like to hear the perspective from both men and women on this. Ladies, if it’s a guy that you’re not uncomfortable with (but who is a stranger to you), is this something you might be okay with? Guys, how do you know when you’re crossing the line?

After the concert I talked to my friend about it and eventually I realized that I could have simply asked her if she was okay and perhaps if the gentleman was bothering her. Unfortunately I didn’t think of that until it was too late.

Also the next morning, I woke up and realized that there was another legitimate reason I could have told him to cut it out. . .simply because it bothered me. I could have said, “Dude, get a room. I don’t need to see this.” I mean there was a ten year old girl not five feet away. ..come on!

At any rate, I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts. Worst case scenario, I’m told that I witnessed a sexual assault and was too much of weenie to do something about it and as a result I feel like a moral failure. Best case scenario, I’m told that I’m being a prude and that I should just mind my own business, in which case I feel relieved that I didn’t say anything.

Whatever the case, I welcome your input.
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Old 11-19-2011, 06:42 PM   #2
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Based on your description, particularly the fact that the woman showed no apparent signs of objecting, I think I probably would've concluded that this was an obnoxiously public affection/seduction display and chosen to ignore it. If I had my kids with me and they seemed distracted by it, I'd move them away then have a discussion with them afterwards about different couples having different standards of what degrees of affection are acceptable in public, that I considered what we'd seen obnoxious and therefore thoughtless towards others, but that with strangers we generally respond to such things by ignoring them etc.

This is reading between the lines a little, but it sounds like maybe what particularly bothered you was a sense that the guy's behavior was an insult to the woman's dignity because it was so public, after all she most likely wouldn't have let him do all that had she been sober. I'd find it hard to argue that perception "right" or "wrong" one way or the other. Drunk people often do act undignified in all kinds of ways, and people who rarely or never drink to the point of drunkenness often have difficulty accepting or tolerating that--I don't drink often, have only been truly drunk maybe a half-dozen times, and I can recall as a college student often feeling extremely uncomfortable even around people I otherwise liked at keggers, where the m.o. was for everyone to get as trashed as possible and act like it too. The usual social instinct to look out for and support people you care about gets dulled considerably by drink (drunkenly excessive shows of affection notwithstanding), and it always bothered me how often people's response to their friends hurting themselves or acting dangerously incapacitated or sick was merely to laugh. But that's just what alcohol does; it lowers inhibitions across the board, and for many people that's all part of the fun of getting drunk.

I wouldn't be OK with being touched that way in public even if I was drunk, but I'm not PDA-inclined, period, and tend to have strong feelings about respecting personal boundaries, so my inhibitions on that front are fairly high to begin with. Even so, I'm certainly at least somewhat more publically amorous when drunk (and receptive to the same), as many people are. Regardless, people who aren't drunk past the point of meaningful consent are still responsible for setting their own boundaries, and others are still responsible for respecting that.
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Old 11-19-2011, 06:43 PM   #3
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Well, the way you describe it I cannot see sexual harassment. Neither did the woman seem incapable (due to intoxication) of knowing what was going on, nor did she give you any reason from her looks, gestures or whatever, to believe there was anything happening that she was not okay with. So yes, in light that there was at least one child nearby, and that even adults don't really go to a concert with the intention of seeing something like that, you have a point there.
As far as a general rule goes, well, there is none. Neither for sober people nor for drunk people. As you describe her, to the outsider she doesn't seem so drunk as to not being aware of the situation anymore, and only because a person is slightly drunk doesn't mean they are not responsible for themselves anymore. But of course there is a thin line between being drunk and still being in control of one's actions, and being drunk to the point where you don't realize what's going on anymore. But in your case, you didn't have reason to think that the latter was the case. So I don't think you have to worry about that too much.
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Old 11-19-2011, 06:46 PM   #4
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That sort of shit happens at clubs all the time... if it bothered you that much a "get a room" comment definitely wouldn't have been out of place though! Concert is a weird place for that.
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Old 11-19-2011, 07:47 PM   #5
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... if it bothered you that much a "get a room" comment definitely wouldn't have been out of place though!
I agree with that, and I would also say that if you had even the slightest inkling that she wasn't into what he was doing, asking her "are you okay" would have been something I'd hope someone would do for me.

At the worst, you might get a "God, whatever buddy, leave us alone," in response, but I think that would be better than leaving and wondering if you should have done something.

But from what you described in this particular scenario, it doesn't sound like there were any signals that something might have been amiss.
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Old 11-19-2011, 10:39 PM   #6
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Thanks for your thoughtful input everyone.

So far, you've made me feel a lot better about my decision to leave well enough alone.
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Old 11-20-2011, 03:31 PM   #7
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I know a few women who sometimes want to get drunk because they want to do things they would otherwise feel inhibited doing sober. I am not that way, I pretty much am who I am whether sober or loosened up (maybe a bit louder!) but I definitely know some women who rather than regret how they act drunk actually want to get drunk and act that way. Not condemning or condoning, just sayin'...
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Old 11-20-2011, 03:56 PM   #8
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Well, I drink a lot of alcohol and then my penis doesn't consent to sex.
I think that's the line.
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Old 11-20-2011, 07:03 PM   #9
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I don't know what to think, I just think it's great that you cared and have thought so much about it.

And yes, with any kids nearby having your hand down someone's pants is not appropriate and I think anyone has the right to say so. In general I think most people are afraid to speak up when drinking is involved because of how people who have been drinking will behave and react.
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Old 11-21-2011, 05:43 PM   #10
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well, i drink a lot of alcohol and then my penis doesn't consent to sex.
I think that's the line.
lol
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Old 11-21-2011, 06:54 PM   #11
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Thanks for your thoughtful input everyone.

So far, you've made me feel a lot better about my decision to leave well enough alone.
I mean unless he's really aggressive and she either looks like she's about to pass out (you know that look that people get) or she's obviously not into it and trying to get him to stop, getting involved would be bad for you.

Plus you don't know if the guy is a nut.
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Old 11-21-2011, 07:37 PM   #12
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Plus you don't know if the guy is a nut.
im sure the guy wanted to be one
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Old 11-25-2011, 07:40 PM   #13
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I had an experience the other night at a concert that really bothered me. I realize this might better go in Zoo Confessional or some place like that, and if the mods feel the need to move it that’s fine with me. But this is the forum I spend the most time in and I feel like the regular posters here “know” me and that’s important to me in gauging responses. Further, the issue arguably could be appropriate for this forum as it deals with issues of sexual harassment and the appropriate response to questionable situations which have been touched on in recent threads such as the Disgusting Stories and Rape threads.

Anyway, my best friend and I were at a Mat Kearney concert in Chicago Thursday night. We had great spots right on the rail and were really enjoying the show. My friend was on the rail and I was right behind him, having given my spot on the rail to a ten year old girl who couldn’t see very well. Late in the concert I look to my left and this guy is openly groping this woman in front of him. I’m not sure whether he knew her prior to that evening or not. He had been at the rail already with a woman I presumed was his girlfriend when we arrived. Two other women who had been in line with us also arrived on the rail at the same time as us, and they started chatting while waiting for the show to start. As the evening progressed all four gradually got fairly drunk. By the end of the concert the girlfriend? and one of the two women were still on the rail, and the guy and the other girl were behind them, next to me. I happened to glance over and notice her leaning back against him, and his hands around her waist I guess they were kind of dancing except her shirt was up and/or pants were lowered a little. At first I didn’t think much of it but eventually it was pretty clear that he was literally getting in her pants. At one point it appeared that he had his hand well down the inside of her pants, though I can’t say 100% for sure. It just made me really uncomfortable.

I wasn’t sure if I should say or do anything. I wasn’t sure if he’d crossed a line or not. She was clearly drunk, but not to the point of insensibility. She would lean over and talk to him from time to time, or check her phone. She didn’t seem bothered by it, as far as I could tell. I just felt that I was seeing someone taken advantage of and it felt wrong to me.

So my question is should I have done something? Should I have told him to cut it out?
Full disclosure: I feel that none of this would have happened if both people hadn’t been drinking. I don’t drink myself, and while I have had a drink on a few occasions in my life it was never enough to be drunk or even get a buzz. As a result, I really don’t know what the “rules” are among people who do drink. Is this normal “party behavior” between two consenting adults? Or is outside the bounds of what’s considered appropriate. I’d like to hear the perspective from both men and women on this. Ladies, if it’s a guy that you’re not uncomfortable with (but who is a stranger to you), is this something you might be okay with? Guys, how do you know when you’re crossing the line?

After the concert I talked to my friend about it and eventually I realized that I could have simply asked her if she was okay and perhaps if the gentleman was bothering her. Unfortunately I didn’t think of that until it was too late.

Also the next morning, I woke up and realized that there was another legitimate reason I could have told him to cut it out. . .simply because it bothered me. I could have said, “Dude, get a room. I don’t need to see this.” I mean there was a ten year old girl not five feet away. ..come on!

At any rate, I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts. Worst case scenario, I’m told that I witnessed a sexual assault and was too much of weenie to do something about it and as a result I feel like a moral failure. Best case scenario, I’m told that I’m being a prude and that I should just mind my own business, in which case I feel relieved that I didn’t say anything.

Whatever the case, I welcome your input.
As someone that drinks regularly, at times too much, and has spent unfeasibly large portions of the nighttime hours in bars and nightclubs over the last fifteen years or so, I'd have to say, the behaviour you describe, among the inebriated, horny and young, is more or less, par for the course, TBH. A little over the top and definitely inappropriate where there's kids present, granted, but as a few posters said already, on the balance of probabilities, probably not sexual assault.

My take on this is possibly colored by the fact that, some years ago, a friend of mine got stabbed and sadly passed away after intervening in a row between a junkie and her junkie boyfriend. He was one of the best people I've ever met and his life was randomly snuffed away, just because he chose to do the right Christian thing.

Now, granted, the situation you describe is quite different, but, personally, I'd always err on the side of caution, and I don't think you need to beat yourself up over not intervening. Chances are, as Corrie said, all you'd have got for your troubles would have been a Flip off and leave us alone, but you never know.
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Old 11-26-2011, 12:27 PM   #14
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My take on this is possibly colored by the fact that, some years ago, a friend of mine got stabbed and sadly passed away after intervening in a row between a junkie and her junkie boyfriend. He was one of the best people I've ever met and his life was randomly snuffed away, just because he chose to do the right Christian thing.
Thats a really sad story. I used to intervene and do the hero thing when I was really young and naive. Now I just let em go at it. Many relationships have a good row to see where they stand. It could be a shit test, testing reactions whatever. Not worth dying over.
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Old 11-26-2011, 12:44 PM   #15
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just because he chose to do the right Christian thing.
Sorry to hear about your friend, financeguy. Something similar happened to my uncle.

You could take 'Christian' out of this sentence and it wouldn't lose any meaning
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