Because we are talking about drugs and alcohol today, and how they affect a character’s ability to consent, we are going to brush up against some discussion of violation of consent. If that means today’s topic is not for you, or not for you today, please feel free to skip.
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The health class I took in middle school took us through several types of drugs, as well as alcohol, and talked through what the generally expected effects of each were and what counts as a serving for alcohol.
I am not going to be that thorough. I will point you to a resource though.
Well, so why are we talking about this then? Excellent question. The end result is that whether it is cocaine, a glass of wine, a cigarette, or one of many other choices, characters engage in these substances in order to change how they feel.
In the case of alcohol in particular, characters may experience a lowering of inhibitions and/or an inability to forcefully object to suggestions or situations that make them uncomfortable.
As such, if the authorial intent is to show sexual behavior between or among characters who are able to make fully informed and fully aware decisions about the sexual behavior that is to follow, then having them be high or drunk in the story, may not be the choice that best supports that.
Am I saying a character can never get high without setting a timer to see when they get to make fully informed decisions again? Say it with me now – No, I am not.
Similarly am I trying to quash every got drunk and woke up married story? No, I am not. (I love those.)
It makes story sense to use similar soothing mechanisms for a character in multiple scenes. Just like we all knew what it meant when the Golden Girls reached for cheesecake. If that soothing mechanism is something that can alter the character’s ability to fully consent, then think about what else can be done in the scene to demonstrate that this character is aware and okay. It could be altering your timeline, it could be changing the quantity. There is also the option that one or more characters decide to indicate interest to one another in sexual activity but wait to follow through until another time.
And of course, if you are intending to demonstrate bad decision making in your story, then carry on. What we’re trying to avoid here is the “Game of Thrones” situation, where they created a scene that they thought looked consensual, that to many viewers did not, because they had removed all the parts where one character agreed to the behavior.