Sex with four friends — Mutual?

Originally Published: October 27, 1995 - Last Updated / Reviewed On: January 6, 2009
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Dear Alice:

You have an excellent service and give great advice. That is why I feel comfortable asking you this question. About three weeks ago, a group of my friends and I went out to a movie and then a club where we each had some alcohol. After the club, we went back to a friend's room where the group gradually dispersed until there was only myself, two male friends, and one female friend. We began to play sex games. Eventually, we all were naked, on my friend's bed. The female of the group was the center of our activity. She seemed to want it and even encouraged what the three of us started doing to her.

Although we all were tipsy, it was a great sexual experience for all of us, or so I thought. My two male friends have no problem with what happened. The only thing is that my female friend won't speak to us or return any of our calls. I saw her walking down the street the other day and tried to talk to her, but she wouldn't even raise her head to look me in the eye. Do you have any idea what is wrong? Could my friend feel that she was raped? I want to apologize, but I'm not sure what to do.

— What's going on????

Dear What's going on????,

Although your woman friend did not say "no," either verbally or non-verbally, this does not mean that she said "yes." Alcohol is a disinhibitor, meaning that people do things when they're buzzed and drunk that they may not otherwise do when they're sober. Your question mentioned that she "even encouraged what the three of us started doing to her." It wasn't doing something with her, but to her, implying a one-sided situation, without mutual consent or mutual participation. Clearly, she doesn't want to talk about it with any of you, and that, too, needs to be respected.

Yes, your woman friend could have felt that she was raped. This incident also could have been a trigger for other things, possibly bringing up a painful experience from her past. It is also possible that she has some regret and shame associated with a group sex encounter without feeling like it was nonconsensual.

If she were willing to talk with you, make sure it's private and "safe" for her and you. Let her know that you want to hear her interpretation of that night's events, how she feels now, and what she'd need to feel more resolved. Listen carefully. Do not interrupt, criticize, or tell her your interpretation. See how she's feeling about the incident, and then explain what happened for you, if she would like to hear it.

Perhaps you can reevaluate what happened to avoid getting involved in a similar situation in the future. Consider the power dynamics — in this case, the ratio of men to women was three to one, and there was drinking involved, so clear judgment was impaired. Finally, considering all that was going on, was it even possible to use good judgment? Or, was, or is, your good judgment telling you this was not okay? These are things for you and your men friends to think about in order to protect other women, as well as yourselves.

Alice