Blurred Lines: Boys, Booze and Sexual Boundaries

The lines dictating sexual boundaries and consent can be blurred when substance is involved and privilege is assumed.


| September 2015



sake drinks

Verbal and visual ideas of sex will always exist in mainstream culture, but clear discussions about healthy relationships, sexuality and gender are much harder to find.

Photo by Fotolia/Taku

In this excerpt from Consensuality (Microcosm Publishing, 2015), author Helen Wildfell offers up one of her personal experiences involving a relationship with a male friend, alcohol and underlying sexual pressure. The book as a whole details the process for creating or finding a healthy, successful relationship as well as common pitfalls and how to avoid them, like gender identity, sexual boundaries, power struggles and emotional dysfunction.

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A Friend/Previous Sexual Partner

I was often invited to get drinks and sushi with my friend, we’ll call him Trevor. Without asking what I wanted or even if I wanted anything, he usually ordered our first round of drink specials, which meant a small sake and a Sapporo for each of us. I wanted that first round, though after round one, it became harder to say yes or no.

One of these times out, it dawned on me that something was wrong. I had actually met with him to show him an essay I had written on gender inequalities, yet he completely ignored my ability to order my own drinks. It irked me that he took it upon himself to make the decision for me. When another round of drinks was ordered without my consent, I told him that I didn’t want any more. I said no, but the next round of drinks came anyway. I was completely ignored. The server never questioned his request. I felt incredibly uncomfortable refusing the drinks.

At the end of the night, I said no when he invited me back to his house. I ignored his last attempts to change my mind as I got on the bus to my house. I realized from prior experiences with Trevor that there was a possibility of him coercing me into sex if I crashed at his place. The times that I had stayed at his house in the past, the times that I didn’t say no, I also wasn’t able to say yes. Consent was not possible after I was intoxicated. He took the limbo of drunkenness as consent, but it was nowhere close to a consensual interaction. I wish that I hadn’t had to be hyper-vigilant when going out for drinks. I also wish that I could have continued my friendship with Trevor without fear of sexual assault. Ultimately, I wasn’t able to achieve a respectful relationship with him.

Alcohol holds an ambiguous role in our society. It can be a social activity, a destructive force, and a fun pastime all at once. It can impair our judgment and change our views temporarily. As far as Trevor goes, he was a close friend with an alcohol problem that destroyed many of his relationships.