Sunday, 21 January 2018

Consent; black and white or shades of grey?

Image borrowed from google

Since the Weinstein allegations, a lot of horror stories have come out surrounding celebrities.  I’ll be honest, some have shocked me and some haven’t.  Some people have had rumours flying around for years so the shock value wasn’t as high.   Don’t get me wrong – the crimes that these men have committed are very shocking and my heart aches reading the details, but the fact that certain men in power have committed these crimes isn’t shocking at all.  To them, sex is black and white; they want it, they get it.  Any way they can.

The #MeToo movement online proves that all women, Hollywood stars or not, have had to put up with this shit from men.   I have my own Me Too stories that I have touched upon on twitter but that isn’t nearly the half of it.  Besides me, other women have told me stories over the years about their own experiences, some of which have brought me to tears.  If you were born female, we grow up knowing that dangerous men are everywhere.  I can’t even begin to touch upon sexual violence against men or trans people because it is not my domain but I have read some truly shocking statistics.  I can only speak about my experiences as a woman.

I cannot even touch upon the Weinstein monstrosity.  His systematic abuse against women is horrifying and downright scary.  We all know there are some people in the world who are capable of some horrendous crimes but the thing that got to me most with Weinstein is the sheer number of people who looked the other way.  Victims who tried to speak out were bullied and threatened into silence when they tried to speak out, some victims even had his lawyers getting involved to put gagging orders on them.  Gagging orders, it sounds fucking vile doesn’t it?  Even the phrase sounds pretty aggressive to me.   Weinstein isn’t the only Hollywood rapist, not by a long shot.  However, what about the cases that aren’t as cut and dry?  The cases that aren't as black and white?  Aren't rape in the way we are conditioned to think as we grow up (someone being dragged into the bushes by a stranger etc), but also isn't consensual?

This past week, allegations against Aziz Ansari have come to light.  The story goes, by his accounts and by hers, that they were on a date and went back to his apartment.  So, she wasn't dragged kicking and screaming.  They kissed, which she was fine with.  So far so good.  But as things progressed, Ansari touched her in ways that she didn't want yet he proceeded.  She moved away from him, vocalised that she wasn't comfortable with the situation but he didn't stop.  Why?  Because of our social conditioning.  Like I said earlier, we grow up hearing that 'real' rape cases are poor unsuspecting women being dragged kicking and fighting into an alleyway or bushes by an unknown criminal.  Black and white.  Any other story, any other situation, the blame is almost always the victims fault.  Were they drunk?  Flirting?  Wearing revealing clothes?  Yes?  Well, they must have wanted it... right?  No.  It is these stories, these shades of grey that we must fight.  It must change.

Weinstein and Ansari are not the same, yet they both took advantage of their victims.  Weinstein knew he didn't have consent but abused women anyway.  Ansari, did he know?  He says he read the situation wrong.  Is he lying?  Did he truly know that she didn't want to engage in sexual activity with him?  Or was he so entitled, so used to living in a black and white society, that he assumed he had consent because she wasn't fighting and screaming no?  I can't comment, I will never know.  Only he knows.  However, I do think that a lot of men assume that because a woman / victim isn't fighting or screaming, that they must be comfortable with the situation.

These shades of grey, aren't so grey at all.  

Women who have been stuck in situations like this know all too well that it is not grey for us.  When we give off body signals or say no, we mean it.  Consent does not have shades of grey.  Consent is either there, or it is not.  Everyone must learn this.

How do we do this?  I am not entirely sure.  Firstly, I think we must get rid of the idea of a 'good sexual assault victim' ie. kicking and screaming.  We must teach everyone that all victims are worthy of being believed and acknowledge their experience.  Even if they were wearing a short skirt or went to his house willingly.  We must get rid of the notion that some assaults fall in a grey area of consent, because consent is either there or its not.  Do we start this in school?  When I was at school I got the standard sex ed but it never touched upon consent.  I think school is a good start.  Then where do we go?  The media?  Talking to our peers about consent?  Because here's the thing - with every #MeToo story, there is someone who carried out the abuse.  That's an alarming thought.  Most men, Ansari included, will never see themselves as an abuser.  We must teach everyone that if you do anything without consent, you are an abuser.  Black and white, no shades of grey.

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