We must follow California’s lead on sexual violence

A year ago, I was raped by someone I knew at Oxford University. According to statistics, this is unfortunately not uncommon. University is one of the most common places to be raped, with one in four women being raped or sexually assaulted during their time there. I’m writing this because I feel like there are issues which are often overlooked and ignored. I’m not writing this piece for attention, but because I am sick of the typical Oxford attitude of allowing conversations surrounding sexual violence to become theoretical and abstract, or the subject of malicious gossip. I am also sick of watching people debate and argue about “what it actually means” on Facebook, twitter, and in the dining hall.

I would have liked to have been able to put my name on this article so that I could have autonomy over what people knew about me; there wouldn’t be anyone who was able to hold anything over me. There are two major reasons why I have not. The first is that I was raped over a year ago and have dealt with it privately since then. I would absolutely never like to relive it and I wouldn’t want to be branded as “The Girl Who Got Raped”.

The other reason is that you can’t know how people will react. I told someone I trusted and thought of as a close friend, who had no connection at all to my attacker, that I was raped. This person then called me a “whore” and said I deserved it because I “led men on”. They then proceeded to tell our entire friend group about my previous sexual history and how I was a “slut”, which effectively left me ostracised and friendless. Needless to say, I don’t want that to happen again.

This is what happened: One evening I went to my male friend’s room at another college. We had some drinks together and I got wasted. One thing led to another and we ended up making out and having sex. So far, so consensual. But then I got bored. I got up. He put his hand on my shoulder and pushed me down. I was too drunk to say no and I tried to push up against his hand. But I couldn’t. I was on the floor and he penetrated me until the condom came off and he then fished it out of my vagina. I thought I was going to black out from alcohol. I made some weird grunting/squealing/shrieking noises. It was bleak. I tried to get myself home safely by running down the street at 3am.

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Under the new Californian law, which was just recently passed unanimously in the Californian Senate, consent is affirmed, not negated. This means that some form of clear consent, either verbal or gestural, is needed before you can have ‘consensual’ sex. And whilst this isn’t a perfect solution, it at least means that the emphasis is put on the initiator, and that sexual situations (particularly those involving alcohol) can be much more clearly described as consensual or non-consensual. This doesn’t,  of course, mean that there will no longer be rape. Rape is unfortunately as old as time and I think that people tend to forget this when they say that things like internet porn or lad culture cause rape.

It is true that lad culture often objectifies women and that porn creates a very male-dominated view of sexual pleasure and of sex generally, but at the end of the day it was my rapist who decided actually to rape me because he felt that my body, and my wellbeing, were worth less than his orgasm. It is this particular solipsism, which we should be discouraging in men, not porn. Porn can be a great way for people to explore their sexuality without it being detrimental to them and, although there are many issues with the industry, it can’t be blamed. I’ve personally seen people who don’t watch porn come very close to forcing someone to have sex with them so it obviously isn’t porn that makes people rape. It’s people.

By creating and enforcing any kind of rule which requires affirmative consent, I think that the British Government would encourage people to consider whether sex is consensual to a much greater extent in a more meaningful way. People would have healthier, happier lives and (hopefully) that there would be fewer incidents of sexual violence. I honestly do not see why this new “Yes is Yes” law has not already been put into place here in the UK.