It feels weird that I can remember a time, not that long ago, when the word "consent" was not part of our daily lexicon. That we've moved to this state is good, but we still have a long way to go. Let's keep it going. Let's keep making things better. This week's Sex Stories We Love is about consent, progress and what's still needs to be done.
A Terrible Lesson
This type of story shows why consent is such a challenge for men to understand. In the news this week, it was reported that a school in Utah decided that girls who attend a school dance are not allowed to say no when the boys ask them to dance. Seriously. Their intention is, I suppose, kind-hearted. They don't want anyone to feel left out at the dance. Sure, that feeling is never fun. Unfortunately, this attempt to appease the boys' tender feelings comes at the expense of the girls' agency. This school is teaching the female students, at the age of 11 and 12, that their feelings are not as important as the boys'. At the same time, they are reinforcing the idea among the male students that they are entitled to other people's bodies whenever they want. This is just one way consent is undermined at such a young age.
A Positive Test
I wonder how these young students will do when they get a bit older and head off to college or university? Some of the most significant events that have led to our better understanding of the need to educate men on consent issues have happened on campuses. So, it's great to hear that schools are taking measures to ensure that students have an understanding of consent and related issues before they even walk through the door. For example, every prospective student of Melbourne University must now pass an online test on consent before they can enroll. This is a positive step forward that will, hopefully, draw enough attention to consent and harassment issues. It would be great if this idea caught on around the world.
Victim Blaming Lives On
All too often, when a woman's consent is violated or she is harassed, the immediate reaction is to somehow put the blame on her. Questions about what she was wearing, how she was acting, whether she was flirting, and many other "concerns" are thrown at women to try and explain away bad behavior perpetrated by men. Sometimes women are even the ones who are reprimanded because of a man's actions. In this story out of Toronto, a male police officer sent dick pics to his colleague, a female officer, and harassed her. When the situation was investigated, both officers received the same penalty. You read that right: they received the same penalty. Unbelievable! This goes a long way in reinforcing negative feelings toward law enforcement and will probably keep some women from coming forward to report abuse.
This Isn't Acting
Of course, some of the most significant watershed moments of our discussions around consent came out of the many revelations from the entertainment industry. Through these stories, we saw just how widespread the abuse of power was across an entire industry. It aslo revealed the awful things performers, particularly women, were forced to endure to try and get ahead. Even if female performers weren't being harassed behind the scenes, they were often put in difficult situations by being required to appear nude more often or in love scenes they weren't comfortable with. Fortunately, some changes are coming to the industry, with new guidelines coming to help keep people safer on set. These changes, along with other needed changes, are long overdue.
Affecting All People
It is important to remember that consent violations, sexual assault, and harassment do, in the vast majority of cases, affect women. They are the most frequent victims. Older women, younger women, executives, sex workers, mothers and performers. We cannot change the culture of sexual violence without first helping women. At the same time, let's recognize that men can also be victims of sexual violence. Recent revelations by high-profile gay porn performer Tegan Zayne highlight some of the issues men face when they are sexually assaulted. As with women, it is unknown how many pen, particularly, gay and bisexual men, have experienced consent issues with other men because it is believed few report the situations. Plus, there is still a strong and dangerous belief out there that sex workers aren't worthy of consideration when it comes to sexual assault. We see you, Tegan.
How One Community Deals
Finally, do you need a model to look to about consent issues? Look to the leather community for guidance!