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No go – too drunk to consent

This article first appeared on PublicHouse.sg.

During the presentation “Promoting Consent, Preventing Coercion” by AWARE as part of SlutTalk on Saturday 3 December, I shared for the first time, how years ago, a male friend rebuffed me when I suggested we went clubbing.

Me: “Hey, we should go clubbing together one of these days!”

His immediate reply was, “What’s the point? You don’t drink.”

“Just ‘cos I don’t drink doesn’t mean we can’t go dancing together,” I asked, completely bewildered.

“You don’t drink so it means we are not going to have sex,” he retorted.

I backed off. Previously, he was the one who first suggested we went dancing. When I told him that there was no sexual attraction between us and that we could only be friends, he invited me to a party, only for me to refuse repeatedly during the night his offers to drink because I don’t drink. I did not think much of it.

Later, having felt more comfortable around him, I suggested we went dancing together – as friends – only to have the above conversation take place. He had ulterior motives: to ply me with drinks, and somehow, convince me to have sex with him while intoxicated. He thought he would succeed with me drunk, when he could not while I was sober. I wondered if this was a tactic that he had used and gotten away with before with other girls. I question if this was a strategy that men used. And if so, did they not realise it was essentially sex without consent – or rape?

Sexual consent is not possible when a partner is intoxicated. Hence I was completely distressed when I read news reports of how Ong Ming Wee, a 29 year-old, raped a 23 year-old girl at Toa Payoh North, and I was even more outraged with what he claimed in his defence.

Dubbed the Zouk rapist, Ong claimed that the woman seduced him when they were dancing on the dance floor. Could it be that she was uninhibited after having had some drinks? One’s behaviour on or off the dance floor is not indicative of one’s sexual desire. He further testified in his defence that while taking her home in a cab at about 4am, they kissed, and she agreed to his suggestion to head for his place. Was he asking leading questions? Perhaps all she wanted was to lie down?

In reality, the victim, while still in her semi-conscious drunken stupor state, made frantic phone calls to her mother and friend to take her home when she found herself in a place she did not know. Why didn’t he send her home then? She had cried and said repeatedly that she wanted to go home but Ong would not let her leave unless she had sex with him. Fearful of her safety and perhaps worn down by his repeated demands, she eventually had sex with him. She later found bruises on her left shoulder and upper arm.

Ong was sentenced to seven years in jail and eight strokes of the cane in April 2011. (See here)

One might say that the victim should have known her limits when it comes to drinking, or that she should have had her friends watch out for her, or that she should not have dressed or danced quite so seductively. Whatever the other circumstances that led to the rape, we do not know as they were not reported; but we could also say that Ong should have accepted a no as a no, and not persist to get what he wanted.

Section 90 of the Penal Code in Singapore states that there is no consent:

(a) if the consent is given by a person under fear of injury or wrongful restraint to the person or to some other person; or

(b) if the consent is given by a person who, from unsoundness of mind, mental incapacity, intoxication, or the influence of any drug or other substance, is unable to understand the nature and consequence of that to which he gives his consent.

Fellow participants at SlutTalk groaned when I shared my personal story at the start of this article. A few immediately asked if I was still “friends” with the above-mentioned guy. Incidentally, the answer is no, but for reasons other than what transpired. As with many women out there, I have more to learn about separating the wolves from the sheep. And for the men out there, a woman who is intoxicated is too drunk to consent to sex!

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The above is Part 3 of Dr Martha Lee’s special 4-part series on the issue of sexual consent. You can read Part 1 and Part 2 here:

Part 1: Sexual consent – when no is really no.

Part 2: Sexually confused – when no is a game.

Dr Martha Lee is Founder and Clinical Sexologist of Eros Coaching in Singapore. She is a certified sexuality educator with AASECT (American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors, and Therapists), as well as certified sexologist with ACS (American College of Sexologists). She holds a Doctorate in Human Sexuality from Institute for Advanced Study of Human Sexuality as well as certificates in practical counselling, life coaching and sex therapy. She is available to provide sexuality and intimacy coaching for individuals and couples, conduct sexual education workshops and speak at public events in Asia. For more, visit www.eroscoaching.com.

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