I’m 66 and while I’m not done with the world of dating and sex, I don’t worry overly much about these things for myself. However, I have a 21 y.o. son for whom I do feel these issues are relevant. Thinking back to my college years, I would have felt terrible had I slept with someone and then found out that she believed at the time or in hindsight that she’d been coerced. But in general, I can’t think of a lot of situations where there was so much ambiguity that I needed a lie detector, truth serum, or mind-reading equipment to help me navigate the situation. A few well-chosen words at the appropriate juncture(s) generally helps reasonable people get through an evening without the word “rape” occurring to anyone.
There is little question that there are double standards, but let’s be honest: they come out of a chauvinistic and paternalistic tradition. The sad truth is that there are men who believe that “No” means” “Try harder” and will not be stopped with anything less than a meaningful kick to the groin or blow to the back of the head with a lead pipe. Neither I nor my son nor my close friends are that sort of idiot, but I knew some “men” growing up who were close to that. And I know a lot of women who’ve had dealings with those sorts of people. Date rape is all too real. And even if we know that there are women who get themselves into situations about which they have mixed feelings for whatever reason, it’s important that things be clear between two people (or more?) before there’s sex. And if someone starts to express doubts, those expressions have to be respected, heard, and fully acknowledged.
I don’t think that leaves us in the absurd sort of incremental consent situations that some people advocate. And if that became the law, I’d either find like-minded women who believed that such things are ridiculous or I’d relocate to a saner society. Somewhere between date-rape and asking for a signed agreement for every stage of physical intimacy (witnessed and sealed) lies sanity, and that’s where I hope most of us can reside.