|Let's change the conversation, shall we?
||[Oct. 17th, 2013|04:39 pm]
Okay. Riffing on the old analogy of “when you’re up to your ass in alligators, it’s hard to remember that your objective was to drain the swamp”…
The alligator level went zooming past my shoulders a long time ago. Swamp? I can’t even SEE the swamp for the alligators. As a matter of fact, my problem now is that I may even be INSIDE one of the damn alligators.
I’ve been trying to review this all of the entry work on a contract to make sure it was done correctly, since 8am this morning. I JUST finished. This is a 15-20 minute job. But those alligators……
Anyway, I’ve been chipping away at this post for days, and I’m taking 15 minutes to finish it up. I started it before Maryville (yet another story of young girls, in this case, 14 years old and younger, who got drunk at a party/were given drinks at a party and were then sexually assaulted by male athletes who recorded the incident and passed around the video, the girls then were hounded and harassed by the community and eventually run out of town for being drunken sluts who got what they deserved and were trying to ruin young men’s lives by having the audacity to press charges. Oh, yeah, you’ll be shocked to learn that the charges against the boys were dropped.)
I am really, really angry. (And I’m about to get a little graphic, so Mom, this may be one you want to skip.) Even more angry at the flood of “hey, girls, if you want to not get raped, stop getting drunk at parties” articles coming out. Because what that’s saying to ME is this:
If a boy gets really drunk at a party, it’s completely reasonable for me to slap on a dildo and peg him, right?
NO. NO, IT IS NOT. And I can guarantee you that all of those victim-blaming, “she was asking for it” pieces of excrement would agree with me. “Well, but he was flirting with me, and seemed to enjoy kissing me…you know, before he passed out, what’s the big deal. Clearly he wanted it.”
Newsflash – even if he WANTED to be pegged, my right to do so vanished the second he became drunk. I am now aggressively violating his body without his consent. Anyone want to lay a bet as to whether the charges would get dropped against me?
(Let’s remember too, that stuff like this DOES happen to boys, probably way more often than we’d like to believe – but if you think the consequences are harsh for a girl who probably has the support of her family...ponder what they’d be like for a 14 year old boy.)
Girls, don’t get drunk and boys, no means NO.
This is the WRONG conversation, people.
“No means NO” is a great standard. But a bit faulty in execution. The very assholes who are already not listening (and I’m going to use boy on girl/man on woman rape here as my example, but please let’s not forget, although not as frequent, that boys and men can be victims as well as perpetrators) anyway, the assholes who aren't listening to NO right now….are probably not taking your “No means NO” very seriously. The problem is not that they misunderstand what “no” means. It’s that they believe that the person saying “no” wasn’t worth listening to in the first place. Does not have the same rights or intelligence as they do.
Yes, when my first “No, you need to stop, we’re not doing this” was ignored, I got fierce and aggressive and pissed off enough to get scary, and my second “no” included both verbal AND physical pushback. Are there going to be some kids who now grow up with a better, internalized sense of NO? Would the guys that pushed beyond my first "no" have done so if they'd be inculcated in No Means NO since kindergarten? Possibly. Although honestly, those likely to easily internalize that message will be the kids who probably would have HEARD the “no” in the first place, or not needed physical force to understand the second one.
But there are more reasons to change “no means no” from being our primary conversation.
“No” is one of the hardest words for many women, or people in powerless situations, to say. Odds are, they are in the situation they’re in – drinking that drink that some asshole gave them, going to the party even though they knew it was a bad idea – precisely BECAUSE they struggle with saying “no”. Yay, you, for thinking that a 14 year old girl is going to feel completely comfortable telling a 17 year old football player, surrounded by all his buddies, and probably the very girls that have bullied her since third grade, “NO”. Please stop assuming that every girl has been raised to speak her wishes and have some expectation that those wishes will be honored. If you think it’s always easy to say NO, you are wrong. Many, many women are raised to be agreeable. To just go along. To believe that they are powerless and dependent on others who are older and stronger to do the right thing. All those girls raised in religions or households or communities where submitting to men is WHAT YOU DO.
That’s my other problem with no means NO. We’re STILL putting the blame on the victim. It’s still ONLY the victim’s duty to be clear. Your failure to speak up, your failure to stop it. How does the aggressor, the initiator keep escaping any burden or duty here?
And “no". Frankly, it CAN be hard to know when someone really means it. Coy is part of a woman's toolbox of flirting. We've been taught that we're supposed to resist a bit, even if we want something. That it's feminine to be reluctant. That to be too enthusiastic, too forward, too all-in and excited as reflecting poorly on our character. I’ve been guilty of it – using phrases like “we really shouldn’t do this” or “we really need to stop” or “okay, that’s it, enough” and NOT really meaning it. There’s a bit of distance between those phrases and “no” certainly. But I’m uncomfortable that there’s any possibility of ambiguity and don't think it's fair to require everyone to set those tactics on fire just because it might CONFUSE someone.
And let’s not forget that a drunk person, an impaired person, may not be ABLE to say no. Was it dumb to drink that much? Sure. Because you know, when you were a teenager, a middle schooler, hell, a middle-aged adult, I’m sure you never did anything dumb. So, I’m sure you’d agree, your DUMB does not entitle me to shove a dildo up your anus, am I right?
Fuck ambiguity. Fuck putting the responsibility on the potential victim. Fuck NO.
Let’s EMPOWER our potential victims. Let’s make it the responsibility of the potential aggressor to GET consent. Let’s let woman say YES for a change.
Because this is what consent sounds like: YES.
Let’s start teaching our boys…and our girls…that they need to get consent. They need to get YES from a conscious capable person.
Consent = YES
If you do not ask, if she is not able or willing to say yes, then your next step is assault. Clear and simple, no? THAT is the conversation we need to be having.
Oh, I know, some of you are rolling your eyes – wait, he has to ASK me before he kisses me, fondles me, whatever? Oh, that’s all formal and stilted and going to ruin the moment!
Honestly, if I thought it would keep some kids from being raped…I’ll risk ruining the romance. Seriously.
But it WON’T ruin it. I would argue that it will only ENHANCE it. Here’s how I know. I’ve run this experiment on several of my female colleagues and friends now – and admittedly we’re talking anecdotal, not scientific, but I’m okay with that. I explain the concept – that instead of having to say no, having to decide when that time is, having to worry about whether you’ll be taken seriously, instead of that, he’s going to ask and you’re going to decide. And without exception, my female friends and colleagues have put on their doubtful faces. So, I do a little role play – and I’m hoping that your imagination will be up to the task.
Imagine this: you’re out on a date with this guy, and you like him. A lot. And he leans over, looks you in the eye and says “I’d really like to kiss you right now. Would that be okay?” And you get to look right back at him and say “yes, please.”
Or “I would like that, but not right here in the restaurant.” Or “I don’t think I’m ready for that.” Or “I’d like to get to know you better.” Or “No, I don’t think so, Mr. Mossy Teeth.” Whatever. YOU are driving the bus. It’s your RIGHT to give or withhold consent. Failing to give it does not mean you failed or are to blame, does it? Failure to GET it? Ah, now the blame is being put right where it belongs.
(By the way, if you imagined that correctly, you would have gotten a tiny little thrill (if you did not, you need to work on your imaginationA) – certainly, my friends and colleagues did, as part of the role play, when they realized how good it felt to just be able to decide. That being able to say “yes” was dead sexy. Of course, then we’d have a moment of being creeped out because I had just role-played hitting on a colleague and she’d just said “yes” and gotten a little excited. But hey, we worked through it.)
I’m not kidding myself – this is not going to stop rape. There will always be people who think they have the right to TAKE whatever they want from those weaker. Always be people who think they’re above the law, that the rules of civilized society don’t apply to them, that their rights trump the other’s. There are countries, cultures, communities who don’t believe that consent has anything to do with it.
But it will help. It has to. In Stuebenville, there was no YES. In Maryville, there was no YES.
Let’s make this about empowering the vulnerable, about putting the burden on the assertive, about affirming consent. I'm going to say it one more time: It’s your RIGHT to give or withhold consent. Failing to give it does not mean you failed or are to blame, does it? Failure to GET it? Ah, now the blame is being put right where it belongs.
This is the conversation that should be happening. Yes, please!