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11/10/2011 / melgardener

Sex Pact – will it work?

On the weekend, NSW Police Commissioner, Andrew Scipione, was quoted as saying that young women who are planning to drink to excess on a night out should pre-warn their friends that they do or don’t wish to have sex. The idea being that friends can interject or interrupt if it looks as though the drunk young woman might be heading down that path.

While I will never argue with advice to “look out for your mates” (which is something I think should be automatic anyway) I don’t believe this idea is actually going to solve anything. And there are two good reasons why.

Firstly, it doesn’t allow for the fact that the young lady might genuinely change her mind about wanting or not wanting sex. Whether this is simply the alcohol talking or a combination of factors will be very difficult for her friends to ascertain, particularly if they have also been drinking heavily.

Secondly, and far more importantly in my view, is that this idea will go absolutely nowhere unless it is coupled with a parallel campaign that educates young men to put on their thinking caps and ask themselves if the young lady they are with is in a position to give consent. Again, difficult if the young man in question has also been drinking heavily.

Some will see Andrew Scipione’s advice as victim blaming – that is, making women who drink heavily responsible for any sexual assault that may occur rather than holding the perpetrator to account for their actions. I can certainly see that putting the onus on women to look out for each other does set up the male counterpart with an automatic “out”. The responsibility for the safety of the young woman is with her friends, not the man she is with.

And, that’s the part that doesn’t sit well with me. And, that’s why I don’t think this will be in any way effective unless the message goes out to both genders.

But I don’t think this advice is worth shutting down only for that reason. After all, we counsel our children to be safe and responsible all the time. If we are approaching a level crossing I still teach my children to check both ways before crossing. Even though the onus is on the driver of the car to stop in this circumstance, I don’t teach my children that they can simply stride across with no thought as to their safety.

So, when I teach my children this basic safety approach – am I accused of victim blaming? No, I’m applauded for taking the safety of my children seriously.

It is well known that alcohol reduces the ability to make sound judgements, reflexes are compromised and inhibitions removed. By counselling our children that drinking to excess or binge drinking might lower their ability to make a reasonable decision, am I blaming them for any consequence of that action? No, but I do recognise that part of my role as a parent is to teach them about safety – in all areas of their life.

What do you think about the NSW Police Commissioner’s advice? Would you make a sex/non-sex pact with your friends before going out? 

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