Thursday, December 2, 2010

Consent is Not a Grey Area by Alex Snider

The past week the feminist blogosphere has been afire with outrage (and very rightly so) over a post over at Jezebel. Basically the piece was written by this dude who has trouble wrapping his head around the fact that women in America get all worked up about their right to consent to sex. Silly boner-killing harpies! See, in Paris, where this prize-pig of a man spent a summer, ladies totes get off on being constantly harassed and molested by strange men. It's called EMPOWERMENT, bitches, if you can wrap your tiny, feminazi minds around that! American women should be waaay less uptight about being raped so that this fuckwit can get laid a little more.

Long story short, the post was rape-advocating bullshit, Jezebel was really wrong in publishing it without any sort of context and many and many blogs have had awesome take-downs. Like here, here and here. Oh, and Jezebel did run an apology that was without any actual 'sorry', thanks for that! (More after the jump)

What really struck me about the original post is that in 2010, there are people to whom consent is still murky. You want to have sex with someone, you propose it, they say yes or they say no. If they say yes then by all means, fuck your brains out. A no? Cut your freaking losses and move on. End of story. What is so hard to understand about that?

I had a situation a couple of years ago where a friend of a friend (whom I had just met that evening) offered to walk me home after a few drinks. Once at my step, he proceeded repeatedly to try and kiss me, forcibly. He kept whining about it, pleading with me before finally getting angry and stalking off. I had shown this man absolutely no interest but even if I had when I said that I didn't want his hands on me, him to kiss me he should have listened. The first time. Why would someone even want to keep trying with someone who just kept refusing?

I think I have somewhat of an idea why. In pop culture, movies and TV especially, there are countless scenes of men aggressively forcing themselves on women until the woman acquiesces. It's like once he has broken through her frigid, irrational barriers, she can then realize that she does want it.

HBO's new show, Boardwalk Empire, featured it's very own rape-tastic scene in the ninth episode. Jimmy (Michael Pitt) returns home to his girlfriend, Angela, and baby after abandoning them for a few months (during which time he fell in love with a precocious prostitute -- is there any other kind?!) and set about holding Angela down and kissing her while she fought him and said "no" and "Jimmy, stop" a dozen times. After a painfully long time, she gives in and the scene ends.

What's messed up is that many people do not see this type of scene as rape. As if since the woman eventually appears to enjoy herself then the earlier force is justified. Sex becomes attainable by any means necessary.

When these images are so prevalent in our society it sends the message to boys and girls, men and women that consent is actually a blurry line. We see over and over that it is possible to convince a woman (and sometimes men) to have sex against their will. This is dangerous and irresponsible and it needs to stop or else we are going to keep seeing articles like the afore mentioned one on Jezebel, not to mention that more girls and women will be at risk for rape. Right now statistics say that one in every four women will be raped in her lifetime and these numbers will only increase so long as anyone thinks that there is a grey area where consent is concerned.


  1. What's so completely obnoxious about this man is that he's turned his particular self-serving erotic gaze on a situation and just DECIDED (through the highly respected methodology of his dong) that the women were in control and liked what was going on. That's it. There was no real sociology going on even though he felt entitled to talk about "the women in Paris" as a great big whole; no field studies, no surveys, not even one damn informal poll.

    And so when women are fondled and react, he simply concludes - after consulting such scholarly experts as testicle one and testicle two - that they are just totally into it. This has been the story of the dominant male gaze throughout time. It's why women all over the world - Middle Eastern women, Chinese women, African women, Italian women, etc. ad nauseum - have some kind of "reputation" among American men as creatures of unbridled desire, women who really want it even when they seem like they don't. The dominant male gaze always thinks it knows more about any cultural situation than those who live it; the dominant male gaze believes it can magically interpret culture even without studying, just because it is such a wise and discerning gaze. Likewise, such a gaze believes it knows more about a sexual situation than the other person living it, e.g. "You want it; I know you do."

    This is always about systemic violence and power. Always. And this douchebag gave himself away by writing about the "women of Paris" the way he did. He no more wrote anything about love than Stalin did.

  2. Thanks for your comment! I agree completely. This sort of prevalent attitude among straight, North American men (not all but a lot) seems to be a weird hybrid of privilege and the grass is always greener mentality.

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  4. So I’ve been thinking about this all morning and I’ve gotten myself all worked up, so this is going to be unnecessarily long and I could be totally off-base or drawing too much from personal neurosis and, you know, erotic male gaze caveat and all that buuuuut…. it seems to me at the moment anyway that it goes beyond just those physical scenes in shit like Boardwalk Empire and into the whole guys-ask-girls out, guys-propose-to-girls, guys-are-supposed-to-be-the-ones-doing-the-pursuing stuff. Like, how many movies are there where the charming sleazeball tries to get a girl to go out with him, she says no, and then he spends the rest of the movie harassing her until it turns out that they are actually soulmates who were meant to be together all along?

    And it suddenly occurred to me on my subway ride this morning that all of that sort of echoes the kind of lessons about manhood that you learn growing up as a boy: that dogged determination and perseverance are the solution to all sorts of problems. I mean, all kids learn the whole “put your mind to it and you can accomplish anything” thing but it sort of feels like it’s at the very center of male culture. It’s definitely at the center of sports and militaryish thinking and that kind of thing. I mean, I was a pacifist bookworm, but even I idolized athletes who pushed through the pain of an injury or whatever to the extent that it’s a really still a central part of who I am and what my value system is now.

    So then of course, starting when they’re teenagers, boys use that same kind of logic when they’re faced with the big new challenge of girls. Just keep pushing through adversity until you succeed. And pop culture reinforces it and experience reinforces it and really all boys get on the other side are a few health classes, which they probably mostly ignore, about how “no means no”. (Fuck, you know what we did in my high school health class? Watch “Tango and Cash”.) And in the end, since the guys who do keep pushing naturally end up with more dates, even the die-hardly nice boys end up wondering if they need to be more pushy and aggressive since it’s the assholes who always seem to end up with the girls.

    Which is all, I guess, just a really long way for me to get around to a really obvious point: that it all just carries on into adulthood, where male culture, and pop culture, spend a crapload of time reinforcing the whole idea that women are supposed to be “conquered” romantically. That they have defenses that need to be overcome or defeated, and sometimes, like they're shown in that piss-poor scene in Boardwalk Empire, persistence is the path to "victory". And for the real fucking assholes, that helps trump the whole DON'T RAPE PEOPLE thing.

  5. Oh man, I'd never thought of that. Good call. Women are just as conditioned but to be chased; like a man worth having is one who would harass you until you relent. Perseverance, boys! And all your dreams will come true! Women aren't supposed to be in charge of their own dating destinies, we're simply passive vessels for men to pursue.

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