Over the weekend I had lunch with a male friend.
We were discussing a rape allegation that is currently before the courts.
It concerned a young woman who went out drinking with a group of friends on a Saturday night. She met a man at a club. When the night ended, they got into a taxi together and went back to her place. She passed out, and later woke up to the man having intercourse with her.
My friend abruptly put down his fork, and looked at me perplexed.
“Wait, how is that rape?” He asked.
“If two people go home together drunk, isn’t the consent, like, implicit?”
Genuinely confused, I responded “Wait…what? Someone can be too incapacitated to express consent, and the absence of a ‘no’ doesn’t mean ‘yes’.”
If you need some help, here is a penis and vagina talking us through consent. Post continues below.
He went on “But I’ve never said to a girl ‘Hi, do you consent to intercourse right now?’ That’s not how it works. Does that make me a rapist?”
I was dumbfounded. Could it be that a 25-year-old university educated, generally progressive guy, does not know what constitutes rape?
Today, Bill Cosby admitted to having sexual encounters with teenagers who he had drugged. He revisited a particular incident that took place in 2004. He explained that the plaintiff, Andrea Constand, was “talking about stress” so he went upstairs and got three pills. After she took them, he recounted;
“I don’t hear her say anything. And I don’t feel her say anything. And so I continue and I go into the area that is somewhere between permission and rejection. I am not stopped.”
Bill Cosby leaving a preliminary hearing on sexual assault charges. Image via Getty.
But that isn't the scariest part.
The scariest part is that Cosby, 75, did not appear to know that as he spoke, he was confessing to a crime.
Cosby accepts that he had sexual contact with women who were unconscious. He just doesn't accept that he is guilty of anything.
The case of Bill Cosby represents a much broader cultural issue.
I know of (revolting) men my age who regularly film women they are sleeping with, and then share the footage with each other. I also know of men who take photos of women after having slept with them, naked and asleep, and send them to their friends. This not only violates consent, it is a crime.
When we think of rape or sexual assault, we imagine a mentally deranged man crouching in the bushes, waiting for his prey to stroll on past. But that is simply not what 'The Rapist' looks like.
'The Rapist' does not sit on the fringes of society. He is a product of it.
"We imagine a mentally deranged man crouching in the bushes, waiting for his prey to stroll on past." Image via iStock.
We owe it not only to Cosby's victims, but to all victims of sexual violence, to turn up the volume on our discussion about consent. We need to speak to our friends, our brothers, our partners and our sons about what consent does and doesn't look like. We need to make it clear that if you're unsure about whether consent has been given...it probably hasn't.
One of Cosby's alleged victims, introduced as Elizabeth, has said that what occurred was "the most horrifying thing that could happen to any young woman." She said that she has "lived with the shame and the guilt of thinking it was somehow my fault, but it wasn't. Because if I hadn't been drugged, I would have never ended up in a hotel with him and he knew that."
If we want to stop this horror being repeated, we must interpret Cosby's case as a lesson to us all.