Maybe he's been listening to a little too much "Blurred Lines"?
The Internet spiraled into a collective freak-out yesterday after America's favorite bellow-y TV psychologist, Dr. Phil, posted this seemingly earnest question on Twitter: “If a girl is drunk, is it OK to have sex with her? Reply yes or no to @drphil #teensaccused.” He (or whichever lucky intern is tasked with doing his social media) quickly deleted the creepy thing, but not before his 1.2 million followers and the media got a hold of a screengrab.
Twitterers (sorry -- I hate the word "tweeps") immediately began giving Phil strongly worded feedback; the responses ranged from predictable "WTF?s" to ass-kicking mini-screeds. @derivativedos wrote, "If guy is pretend doctor, is it OK for him to send tweet essentially asking if rape is OK and then delete it? Reply yes or no to @DrPhil." @BergaliciousMeg schooled him: "By law when alcohol is a factor, no one can consent. Don't know what's happening to you? It's rape, period." @samir: "Dr Oz was saving lives today and Dr. Phil is trying to hook up with drunk girls where is @oprah she needs to have an emergency team meeting."
Of course, people jumped on the doc's question for being, well, rapey, but Dr. Phil's tweet wasn't just problematic because it seemed to promote rape; it was problematic because it clouded the issue of consent, which actually ISN'T that complicated. As we blatantly learned (yet again) from Steubenville: A drunk woman can't consent to sex.
Dr. Phil's question seems to conveniently forget or ignore that fact; instead, it just bolsters our culture's gross, predominant victim-blaming mentality -- if a college student gets raped after getting drunk at a frat party, it's OBVIOUSLY her own fault, because WHAT WAS SHE THINKING going to a frat party!? If a drunk woman in a dress gets raped while walking home from a bar, she CLEARLY asked for it -- she should have worn pants and taken a taxi, dagnabbit! Um ... no.
The whole "impossible to give consent when drunk" thing is pretty simple, but rape is a loaded issue. As a guest blogger wrote a while back at Feministe, "It is putting a lot of responsibility on one party to make [men] decide whether or not their sexual partner is capable of consent. Especially when that party may be impaired themselves." SAFER (Students Active For Ending Rape) seems to think the concept of drunken consent is murky and challenging; in an '08 blog post, they wrote, "A few beers does not make consensual sex sexual assault ... It’s really dangerous to have these prevention programs with the scare tactics about how you might rape someone 'by accident' because if they have had a drink, it’s sexual assault."
Plenty of people don't agree, though (consent is consent, and if a woman legally can't give it when she's drunk, the whole "is it or isn't it rape?" dance is null and void). In any case, sex assault activists and survivors are using the Dr. Phil controversy as a chance to raise awareness of these issues. Activist Carmen Rios launched a Change.org petition (which currently has more than 1,360 signatures) asking that Dr. Phil "publicly announce that he will produce and air a show that centers on survivors' voices and educates the public about the true definition of rape and sexual assault, as well as how to prevent it."
The doctor hasn't addressed the scandal directly, but a rep released a statement today, saying,"This tweet was intended to evoke discussion leading into a very serious show topic based upon a recent news story ... Dr. Phil believes that the position of those incapacitated in any fashion, be it drugs, alcohol, age or mental illness, can not and do not have the capacity to give their consent to anything, especially sex ... We sincerely apologize."Again, I think it's time to turn off "Blurred Lines," guys.