1. Every guy is a potential rapist – including you. This sounds like utter bullshit, right? I mean, you’re a good guy, you aren’t hiding in the bushes or lurking down some dark alley to jump out and force sex on a woman. Part of the problem is that most rapes aren’t the violent stranger-rape type. Many cases of sexual assault happen in cases where the perpetrator doesn’t think what he’s doing is rape. You may think you’re being daring and confident when you go in for a kiss – the girl on the other end may feel like you’re forcing yourself on her and be legitimately scared for her safety. You may think you’re being coy by putting your arm up in front of the door and saying, “how about a kiss?” – the girl may feel like you’re seriously blocking her from leaving. What you intend doesn’t matter in comparison to how she feels about it.
Moreover, you can’t take it personally if a girl is guarded or suspicious about you, especially when you first meet. She should regard you as a potential threat, and act accordingly. Don’t make it obvious how much she hurt a nice guy’s feelings because she wouldn’t get in your car or come up to your room to check out your Jurassic park action figure collection (even if you had the purest of intent) – be understanding and encourage her to put her safety over being nice. If you do guilt trip her about it, and it makes her feel bad, she might not do the same thing when someone with ill intent offers a ride.
2. Watch how much you drink. Quick riddle: what do you call sexual assault when you’re blackout drunk and don’t even realize what you’re doing? Give you a clue: it starts with an R and ends with you in jail. Seriously, if you’re going out with friends, or to a party, be smart about how many you throw back. Virtually every example of sexual assault I’ve personally heard of has been when a guy is shit faced drunk and not in control of himself. Alcohol shuts off the part of the brain responsible for considering consequences – you may get it in your head that the girl is totally into you, and you just need to get things started and she’ll be ready to go in no time, or you could literally forget that she said “No” two minutes ago. And it doesn’t matter how bad you feel the day after, or that you really didn’t intend to force yourself on a girl. Be smarter than that.
3. Be very, VERY careful about hooking up with drunk girls. Imagine a straight, horizontal line. On the left side, we’ll put the word “sober.” On the right, we’ll put the words “passed out drunk.” We can agree that having sex with a girl who is passed out drunk is rape, yeah? Because she’s unable to consent? Okay, good. But that’s not the whole story. In between those two extremes you have “tipsy” and “drunk” and “slurring” and “giggly,” and all other levels of intoxication. And somewhere in there, for every girl, there’s a line of “can consent” and “can’t consent.” And it’s different for every girl. And you could absolutely misjudge that line and be taking advantage of a girl who is too drunk to make the conscious decision to have sex with you – and that would be rape.
4. Get clear consent. Don’t be afraid to ask, and especially make sure if she looks hesitant or uncertain. A girl can say one of two things: “yes” and “not yes.” Now, it’s easy to understand that “no” falls under the category of “not yes.” But it’s also important to recognize that “maybe” falls under “not yes,” and “I don’t know” falls under “not yes” and “I guess” falls under “not yes” as well, and even silence falls under “not yes.” Women aren’t socialized to say “no” directly (see the second paragraph on point 1, about that). They’re also not always comfortable with saying “yes,” either. So, sometimes “maybe” means “yes”, and sometimes “maybe” means “no,” and sometimes “maybe” actually means maybe. As a guy, you should always assume that anything other than “yes” means you stop until you get a “yes” (no, you don’t keep pushing till you get a “yes,” jackass, you discuss it with her and listen to what she has to say). Besides, you need to be a smart gambler: if you back off, the worst that can happen is you miss a chance to get laid. If you decide to press the issue or move forward because “I gave her a chance and she didn’t say no,” well, that could be sexual assault.
5. Be ready, able, and willing to stop at any time. Second riddle: what do you call a hookup that starts out consensual but doesn’t stay that way? You guessed it – getting a yes at any point, no matter how clear and enthusiastic, is not a contract. She’s not obligated to have sex with you, do anything sexual with you, or continue to do anything sexual with you, at any point, ever. So, yes, if you notice she’s suddenly looking upset, and you stop and say “Listen, are you okay with this? We can stop if you want”…she just may take you up on that offer. Be ready to deal with some frustration – that’s okay. You’re all worked up with no release. But don’t take that out on her, don’t make her feel like it’s not okay to say no whenever she needs to. And understand that doing the right thing, there, and not having sex with a girl who is less than completely consenting, is far more important than getting laid one night.