enthusiastic consent

Rape is Rape, There are no Grey Areas

knoxvilleby Jasmine Peterson

I do not watch television so I have never seen the show Girls, but I knew something big had happened when my news feed began filling up with statuses and then articles about whether or not events depicted in a recent episode constituted rape.

Although I maintain something of a distance from media, I like to remain informed about the important things, and this seemed to be a pretty big deal, so I started reading what was being written. I mean, how could viewers be confused about whether or not they had witnessed a rape scene or not?

This concerns me greatly. But, at the same time, it doesn’t surprise me. Rape culture is pervasive. It blurs the lines between victim responsibility and rapist culpability. It creates these perceived shades of grey that don’t actually exist. I am known to argue that nothing is black and white, that there are always shades of grey, but the exception is rape. Rape is rape. The only potentially grey areas are in how we define, recognize, and validate rape.

I spent time as a volunteer at a sexual assault crisis centre, and we were trained extensively on issues surrounding rape and consent. As a culture, we are taught to speak of and think about rape a certain way. Media only covers rapes that tend to be prosecutable, and not those that may happen but never make it to a courtroom.

So, culturally, there is this perception of what constitutes rape – we envision someone violently forcing themselves on someone, proceeding when their partner has clearly said no. There are certain kinds of victims we believe (those who say no forcefully and vociferously, those who are chaste, who dressed conservatively, who did everything “right”) and kinds of victims we shame (if a victim was drunk, dressed “inappropriately”, engaging in risky behaviour, sexually experienced, in a relationship with or married to her rapist, then s/he becomes not the “right” kind of victim). This is all part of rape culture. It is perpetuated day-in and day-out through how we talk about sex, consent, women, men, and rape.

It is not surprising, then, when people are confused about rape, or when terms like “grey rape” emerge. But let me just be clear – there is no such thing as grey rape. It does not exist. And this would all be so much more apparent to both men and women if how we talked about sex and consent was clearer. Read more

Posted on by Jasmine Peterson in Feminism, Pop Culture 6 Comments

We’ve Got to Talk About Enthusiastic Consent

by A. Lynn. This article was originally posted at A Nerdy Feminist. Cross-posted with permission.

A recent work event got my wheels turning and I began to think about how we so rarely talk to teens about enthusiastic consent.  [TW some discussion of rape culture. Detailed discussion of consent.]

I’ve written a bit about the topic before here and there, because I think it’s really important. In it’s simplest form, enthusiastic consent is a move away from “no means no” to “yes means yes.” It’s a paradigm shift that requires open communication and challenges the assumptions of our rape culture.
As Elfity explains at Persephone,

The idea of enthusiastic consent is quite simple. In a nutshell, it advocates for enthusiastic agreement to sexual activity, rather than passive agreement. Many of you may be familiar with the book Yes Means Yes!, which popularized the idea. The concept also requires that consent be given to each piece of sexual activity, meaning that a yes to one thing (such as vaginal penetration) does not mean consent to another (like anal penetration). Basically, we’re saying, “Yes! I want this!” or, “No, I don’t think I want to do that,” and we’re asking “Is this ok?” To do these things is to be respectful of not only your own bodily autonomy, but also your partner’s. It’s just common courtesy, really. To give enthusiastic consent isn’t exactly to scream that you want it at the top of your lungs; it’s more that an unsure or hesitant yes is not enthusiastic consent, and needs to be considered.

Clearly, this is great stuff. Like I said, it challenges our rape culture which far too often shames people, especially women, into being afraid to openly articulate what they really want. I’m ecstatic that this concept is making headway in leftist circles. But I am concerned that this message is not making its way to the people who probably need this information the most: teens.A few years ago I was a part of a sex education program that I was really proud of. It certainly wasn’t perfect, but it did answer girls’ most pressing questions and was not abstinence only. We didn’t assume that all girls were straight. We didn’t assume that sex would only occur within a marriage. We told girls that they had to communicate their boundaries with their partners before they were actually in a sexual situation. We told girls they had a right to protect themselves and that no one had a right to their bodies. However, I can’t say that enthusiastic consent was totally present. I mean–consent certainly was. We affirmed repeatedly that no one should ever do something they don’t want to do or that made them uncomfortable, but I’m not sure it went beyond that.And the more I think about it, the more I am certain that a sex education can’t be complete without a section on enthusiastic consent. What I’m particularly concerned with is the feelings that accompany enthusiastic consent and the fact that we’re not talking about them with youth. Read more
Posted on by A Lynn in Feminism 10 Comments