A word of advice, chaps. The next time you head off for a night out on the tiles, don’t forget to take everything you might need with you.
Wallet, phone and, if you hope to get lucky later on, maybe a packet of condoms and, of course, a legal consent form, an alcohol breath test kit, two independent witnesses, preferably female, and a lawyer to verify that the lady in question has indeed consented to sex and also that she was in a condition to give that consent knowingly and soberly.
Thanks to the newly announced overhaul of how the Crown Prosecution Service should treat rape cases, this is what a typical Friday night out will soon involve for any man who doesn’t fancy facing rape charges the morning after the night before. According to Alison Saunders, the Director of Public Prosecutions, the concept of “No means No” just doesn’t hack it anymore.
It turns out that Yes sometimes means No too, particularly when a woman is judged to be too inebriated to be capable of making a conscious decision. If she’s three sheets to the wind, then the new rule is that she is not capable of consenting to get between the sheets.
Even if she has said Yes and has even undressed herself or initiated the sexual advances. Even if she at no point suggested she had changed her mind or asked the man to stop. Even if she blatantly enjoyed herself at the time.
This is patently absurd. And yet this is precisely what the DPP has announced.
Unlike any other offence, where the onus is on the prosecution to prove that the accused is guilty of a crime, this puts the responsibility squarely (if not fairly) on the shoulders of the accused to prove that he is innocent. In one fell swoop, Mrs Saunders has turned a fundamental principle of our justice system – the presumption of innocence – on its head.
Instead of requiring evidence of non-consensual sex, the CPS will now look only for the absence of evidence that there was consent. As the DPP said, she wants the police to ask suspects HOW they knew the alleged victim was saying yes, and was doing so “freely and knowingly”.
“For too long society has blamed rape victims for confusing the issue of consent – by drinking or dressing provocatively for example,” Mrs Saunders explained. “But it is not they who are confused, it is society itself and we must challenge that. Consent to sexual activity is not a grey area – in law it is clearly defined and must be given fully and freely.”
I’m sure there is a good motivation behind this to ensure that more rapists are brought to justice and that more victims feel confident in coming forward to the police, with only a tiny percentage of rapes ever reported to the police let alone taken through the courts. But this new move does the exact opposite of empowering women. Instead it infantilises them, and renders them incapable of taking responsibility for their own actions.
Under these new rules, without a legal consent form being signed in front of witnesses (unlikely in most circumstance, I think we can all agree) a drunk man will be held 100% responsible for anything he does during any sexual encounter with a woman. From the first kiss to the zipping up of his trousers, he is culpable for all of his actions – and hers too.
A drunk woman, by contrast, will have zero responsibility and culpability for anything that happens between the two of them simply by virtue of her consumption of alcohol. Now, of course women have the right to get drunk (and wear whatever they want, for that matter) and not get raped, but these new rules ignore the fact that there are consequences to everything that we do.
Just as leaving your front door unlocked doesn’t mean you “deserve” to get burgled, it just makes it more likely, wouldn’t it be a good idea if we stopped telling young women it’s okay to go out and get wrecked and to hell with the consequences? We all know that alcohol makes us less inhibited and more sexually open. That’s why we drink. And we also know that our 2am beer goggles have led to more regretted sex than most of us care to admit.
Indeed, it’s rare to meet a woman these days who does not regret at least one of her past sexual encounters, whether it be the choice of partner, the timing, the circumstance or even just a failure to put a stop to things at third base rather than fourth. But waking up in the morning, regretting what you did and wishing it hadn’t happened, is not the same thing as “being raped”.
It’s just a lesson learned and an embarrassing incident to put down to experience. Most date rapes don’t end in conviction for the simple reason that there is reasonable doubt, mostly due to a combination of a lack of independent witnesses and the woman being drunk.
As the former Crown Court Judge Mary Jane Mowat said last year, rape convictions won’t go up “until women stop getting drunk”, because juries face an impossible task to decide whose version of events is the truth when the woman admits she was too drunk to know what actually happened. Now Alison Saunders wants to take away that reasonable doubt by requiring men to prove they had consent while women, quite unreasonably, won’t have to prove anything but their drinks bill.
If we’re going to start jailing drunk men for having drunken sex with drunk women, then we will soon see millions of men behind bars who have made the foolish mistake of not getting consent in writing and in triplicate before the first kiss.