Interpreting Consent in the Age of the MeToo Movement

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We have seen a lot of Law & Order: SVU-worthy discussions on consent and accounts of sexual assault coming out of Hollywood lately. The MeToo movement has been taking the patriarchy by storm with actors, actresses, and politicians alike throwing their support behind the cause. While the movement denotes a seismic shift in the way people view the intensity and frequency of sexual harassment, it has not gone without criticism. There is the #NotAllMen movement, which feels the need to vindicate men from perpetuating the culture in which sexual harassment is commonplace. There is also the case of Aziz Ansari whose story was watered down to being a case of “bad sex” and presented an ambiguous account of what it means to get and give consent. But frankly, I don’t care where you land on these specific MeToo issues. What I would like to discuss is the under-reported nuances of consent itself.

What Does Consent Mean Exactly?

Sometimes someone can get a “Yes” and then get served a “No.” Sex turns into sexual harassment or assault when consent is rescinded. Any party should feel free to revoke consent whenever they feel uncomfortable. That is not only OK, but legal, kind, and a right of every human being. Sadly gender often plays a role in how we interpret consent in accounts of sexual harassment and assault.

For example imagine a man is on a date. He is flirting with this girl and she buys him a few drinks. Don’t act like this is such an anomaly, in my many years of being single I can tell you that it’s not. Anyway, despite everything “going well” he declines the invitation to go back to her place. OK. That’s fine. He is entitled to do what he wants. Maybe he was tired or simply not into it. But what if the woman he was flirting with pressured or demanded him to come back to her place because he owed her for buying that last round? He would rightfully leave and tell everyone that she was drunk, handsy and crazy.

Now imagine that same situation, genders reversed. A guy lays on all the charm and Jameson his hands, heart and wallet can hold, and she declines his invitation to go back to his place. The man is insistent but is not dubbed drunk, handsy or crazy. It is she who is being a prude, leading him on, or playing hard to get as to not look like “that kinda girl.” He spent money on her so she “owes” him. In our society this has been accepted as gospel for way too long. Despite the fact that he is the aggressor in this situation SHE is the one bearing the blame.

Let’s say for argument’s sake that she was into it. Maybe she kissed him, but at some point, some line is crossed and she decides to not go any further. She is allowed to change her mind and say no at any point in time. It’s not up to us to determine where her “line” is. It’s up to her and when she isn’t heard, that’s where MeToo stories start.

 

Interpreting Shades of Grey Create MeToo Stories

In the heat of the moment many view asking for consent as superfluous as if they’ve gotten a “yes” once before then they don’t have to ask to do this sex act again, right? WRONG. Just because I, she, him, her, they, said “yes” to something once doesn’t mean they owe anyone a “yes” perpetually. This is my main concern with the new consent apps that are in development. What happens if you accept someone’s request for consent and then your date turns into an attacker thinking he/she has legal “cover.” Whether you are married or on your first Tinder date your “yes” to one sexual act is not blanket consent for any and all sexual encounters. 

If you are a #NotAllMen man, hang on. I have a feeling you are a fan of women swallowing, so swallow this. I’m not a prude. I don’t feel sex is something God will strike me down for if I’m not married or in love (despite what the Catholic church taught me). Yet, I do feel it is my right to have control of what I do with my body and my vulnerability, just as it is your right not to toss a bone to every girl who flirts with you. If I can choose whether or not to put sugar or GMO-foods into my body, I have the right to decide if I put you in it too. If you can say “no fatties,” I can say “no sex tonight.” That also doesn’t mean no sex ever, it just means “no” right now. Sometimes it’s obvious if we want no part of it ever, but sometimes we wanted it before and we want it tomorrow but we don’t want it right this minute. That’s not only OK. It’s logical.

It’s 4PM on Sunday.
Do you want a shot of Patron?
No? Why not?? You wanted it last night!
You see it’s absurd to assume a “yes” is always a “yes.”

So why do people apply this to sex?

As it pertains to the Aziz Ansari story I am not a fan of all the victim blaming that went down. There was talk that the woman was “nervous picking out an outfit for the date so she wanted it.” Ansari is an attractive and funny celebrity, the woman who went on the date with him was understandably very excited. Just because she wanted to go on the date doesn’t mean she consented to have sex with him afterwards! She had every right to go on the date, go back to his place, make out with him and not engage in other sexual activity. Having presumably been starstruck by Ansari, this woman went further with him than she had initially planned. While this is not assault or rape it is also not consensual. Having a crush on someone doesn’t mean it’s carte blanche for anal or any kind of sex you want. That’s not mutual consent and that’s not how sex works.

I’ve been lucky enough to meet many of my celebrity crushes and even luckier that none of them have left me disappointed. If one of them asked me on a date, I would have been thrilled. Despite his fame if I went on a date with him and he tried to initiate a sex act I did not consent to, I would be entitled to say no and allowed to be upset at what happened. People need to understand that if sex becomes unenjoyable or uncomfortable for one person then it should stop. Period. No questions asked.

For the men reading this, no, you don’t need a consent form to hit on a woman now. Just read the signs. If she takes you home and is into you, guess what? You might be getting lucky. You might be 10 minutes away from a BJ. You know what puts the breaks on that? The death grip on the back of the neck. The person who was into this 5 seconds ago, rightfully lost his or her hard-on the second they felt they’d lost control.

No one likes to feel forced.
We all need to become better listeners,
and be patient with getting what we want!

Can You Prevent MeToo Stories?

Yes. Be a considerate human and check in on your partner while engaging in intimate activities. If you ever feel uncomfortable be sure to speak up and let your partner know what you like, dislike or how far you want to go. Trust and support people that share their MeToo story and help perpetuate a culture where consensual sex is commonplace.

Sex has many interpretations. It’s a function of procreation. It’s a way to define relationships from friends to lovers. It’s an expression of momentary lust. It’s an expression of lasting love. But overall, it’s a voluntary indulgence. 

Any human, regardless of gender, sexual orientation or attire, is allowed to participate in sex as they see fit. Sometimes it doesn’t jive with their partner but the dissenting party should always win. Sex that becomes unpleasurable and unwanted, is no longer sex but assault.

Sex is not an obligation, chore or a form of currency. It is both very simple and very complex. In its simplest terms sex is a very natural and enjoyable activity that we humans bring into our lives. At its most complex, it is a realm where kinks, desires and boundaries are safely explored and tested. Whether your sex buddy is a new Tinder/Grindr date or your spouse, in order to have maximum fun it is imperative to have open communication. The bottomline is that if someone is no longer feeling it, stop. Don’t guilt trip, shame or argue with them, just stop. It’s as simple as that. Sometimes you won’t be satisfied, but that’s life. Real satisfaction comes when both parties are really excited to partake and trust me it’s totally worth the wait. 

 

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