Recently some rather effective yet wonderfully simple postings have appeared on social media demonstrating what sexual consent actually means. One or two go further still and demonstrate what rape actually is.
Twist is that they don't feature any mention of sex or violence but instead focus on everyday events that we might get involved with. The most popular involves offering someone a cup of tea and the various ways that scenario could end up, with a simple "yes", a definite "no" and people changing their minds once the tea has been made.
As effective as these ads actually are, one thing they don't address is the subject of common sense in the face of peril.
I went to sixth form college and later university in the late 80s and early 90s. In this era you had angry young men and wofems who wanted to put the world to rights. Armed with their A Level + educations, grasp of advanced vocabulary and size 6 Doctor Marten boots, they stormed the corridors of students' unions across the UK eradicating misogyny. Gone would be the concept of a woman "asking for it". Forever consigned to the patriarchal pile of garbage would be the idea that a woman who was raped or sexually attacked had somehow misled, enticed or seduced her rapist. A disgusting trait in previous decades was the ability of defence counsel in cases of both rape and child sexual abuse, to accuse a victim via cross examination of having somehow consented to what happened. Bad enough for a woman over 18. Horrendous for a child.
So...the laws adapted and changed, and the likes of Andrea Dworkin and Germaine Greer pushed forward ideas that were picked up on and had a huge effect on society. Two books popular in the 1970s were The Female Eunuch by Greer and The Women's Room by Marilyn French. My own mother read the Women's Room and didn't speak to my father for a week. Not that he was a bad husband, was sexist or mistreated her but because he was a man and this book had opened her eyes to the atrocities committed by menkind over endless aeons.
Kind of pathetic really.
Over years the rights of women slowly realigned to match those of men. From the suffragette movement to the rise of radical feminism all the way through to a woman trying to sue a pub for sexual discrimination because the barman said a Yorkie bar "isn't for girls"...everything tried to take on an even keel and become fairer.
Most important on this list of changes to the world of the communal sauna, was the concept of consent. When I was at Uni a lad I knew pulled and took home a female Physics student wearing a "No Means No" T-shirt. He was a hero for about a week for what we perceived was the equivalent of trying to shag a porcupine that had dipped its quills in cobra venom.
No most definitely did mean NO. None of that sexist "no means maybe" crap. No blaming of clothing (or lack of). Everything was now down to the man. He had to make certain that he received a "Yes", preferably in the presence of the woman's lawyer with the Pope and the Dalai Lama as witnesses. A "No" was to be obeyed and never ignored. The "No" was the 11th commandment that Moses had brought down from
Mount Ararat and accidentally
dropped before he got to the people. No meant not only "no" but also
"I'll cut your fucking dick off".
This is in itself a great idea. However, it needs backing up with a little thing called Common Sense, a small portion of Awareness of Environment and last of all a helping of Perspective.
An example I can give from personal experience is the night on holiday in
when I got off with an attractive blonde French woman in a taverna. We were
both drunk and snogging passionately at the bar. I also got my hand up her
tight fitting, little black dress and had a good old fiddle (something I
wouldn't have done sober and an event which apparently traumatised a friend of
mine, who was there at the time, so much that he went home. (Quote: "Right in
front everyone, she even had her leg up on the bar to make it easier for
you!!!!") We walked home and had a repeat performance on the bridge near
our respective hotels. She then decided she wanted to call it a night and go
home...alone. I tried to persuade her but ultimately accepted that she'd
changed her mind and mooched off back to my digs, with a huge erection and the
utterance of "SHIT!!!" the only epitaph to my unrequited lust. Back
of my mind for the next couple of days was the paranoia that I'd done something
to piss her off, that I was too drunk and that maybe she thought I was a
minger. I saw her again a week later and asked her why. She said that she'd
taken it as far as she wanted to and that was enough.
Great. My adherence to my education in the rights of consent had meant that while I went home a little insecure and horny, she went home safely having decided where the line was drawn. We are still pals to this day and I saw her again this summer and we did a road trip with another friend (the guy who was traumatised by our performance in the taverna). We laugh and joke about the whole thing now and it's simply another story to tell when we get together.
However....both the witness who went home traumatised AND a couple of her female friends have told her that what she did that night was naive and somewhat stupid. Looking at it objectively she kissed a guy she'd only met an hour before and let him grope her in public. She then walked home alone with him down dark, badly paved lanes (the place we were in regards street lighting as an optional extra) where she repeated the kissing and groping. She THEN decided she'd had enough, turned her back on the guy and walked away.
Now I was simply disappointed and needed to go home and knock one out. However, while focussing on "what consent really is" the current system doesn't try to stress the importance of taking care of yourself. You will hear many tales from the police, warning people of going to certain areas or avoiding parks at night. But you WON'T hear stories of caution that advise against wearing a short skirt and no knickers while out clubbing and then getting off with someone who you decide you only want to kiss. This would send the Angry Young Wofems into paroxysms of rage, as it would appear to suggest that it was somehow the lady's fault if the bloke went too far.
I have every right to walk unmolested down any street or through any park in the
at ANY time of night without being attacked or abused. Reality is that there
are some places you simply don't go to as not even cops will attend calls there
unless they are double crewed and at least one has a stun gun. A story that
always makes me smile was of a black belt in Karate who walked through a
notoriously violent park one night, believing that his badassery in martial
arts would protect him like Captain America's
shield. Within 5 minutes he got stabbed with a syringe full of blood by a mugger.
His right to walk through that park and his right to feel safe. Common sense
would be to walk the long way round and avoid the park completely. It wasn't
his fault that the horrible cunt stabbed him, it was the horrible cunt's fault.
But this could all have been avoided if he hadn't decided to do something he
could have just avoided.
But I digress...
Not all people are "nice". Not all people have seen videos talking about how consent is like a cup of tea. Fewer still have had formal education in what amounts to withdrawal of consent. Focussing only on what consent is and isn't while removing all responsibility for placing yourself in potential danger in the first place is cretinous. Any man (or woman) determined to get what they want, will regard a partner crossing certain lines as consent in itself. Then through lust, malice, misinterpretation or simply not giving a shit, the situation gets bad. Fact the assailant may later face criminal sanctions won't help matters if a rape occurred
Something I saw recently that made me angry was "Rape Proof Underwear". This innovative breakthrough from a clueless bint across the pond, assures wearers that the knickers CANNOT be cut off or removed without the co-operation of the wearer. Line that had me spraying coffee and biscuits over the laptop monitor was "Ideal for a first date." Err...if you even THOUGHT about wearing that to a date, maybe the dude isn't boyfriend material?!! This ridiculous idea also fails to take into consideration that rapes are rarely due to sex alone. A woman wearing penis proof panties would be unlikely to put herself willingly in a situation where a bloke would get to see them. This suggests that they are great only for rohypnol or an unexpected assault. Doesn't take into account the violence that would possibly be inflicted by a). A would-be rapist who decided to just beat up the woman now he can't fuck her or b). The damage to flesh that would occur by someone trying to cut or even forcibly remove the Anne Summers equivalent of a panic room.
In the Israeli self defence system (NOT a martial art) of Krav Maga the instructors will ALWAYS tell you that the safest option in ANY confrontation is to either avoid it completely or walk/ run away. One thing that resonated was when my instructor said: "You can't win against a knife. If they want your money, your watch, your car keys then give them over. If they want more than that, then these skills may help you."
So Krav Maga doesn't say "Go out and kick some ass, you are now free to roam around doing knife, stick and gun disarms to your heart's content (and don't forget the groin strike)"...what Krav is is a pragmatic form of self defence that teaches common sense and leaving your ego by the door.
What I would like to see is both "This Is Consent" training and also a dosage of "This Is Potentially Unsafe" to back it up. A 15 year old making out with his or her boyfriend? You don't want to go all the way, then be aware of what situations may make it difficult for you to back up a "no" with something other than saying "no" again. A woman walking home alone with a guy she's just met, snogging passionately and a bit of downstairs insideys? Don't veer more than 20 yards off a populated area where there are people. Think a threesome is good fun? Great, make certain you absolutely trust the other two people involved.
A former girfriend got into bed with me after the second date and while "stuff happened" I didn't even attempt to have full sex with her as she'd already told me earlier that evening that she didn't want to go all the way. I thought nothing of this until days later when she said, "I don't think you know how much that meant to me. You didn't try just because I'd said no. Had you fucked me I wouldn't have regarded it as rape because I had put myself in that position with you." I replied that while I'd wanted to, her expressed intention to NOT fuck me meant that I felt obliged to respect what she'd said. I also added that it was fairly eye opening that she regarded it as 100% her own responsibility for being naked in bed with me while making out.
Bad people roam the Earth as do good people. The rules and lessons on consent apply the same way laws do. An armed robber doesn't think about getting caught as he or she is focussing solely on getting the job done. A distraction burglar targeting vulnerable, old people doesn't care that they are wrecking lives and stealing items of priceless sentimental value, they only think about the haul. Yet in these cases a bank will install security measures and train staff on how to react should such an event occur. Police constantly tell the elderly to secure their valuables and keep a chain on the door.
Now maybe we can see something along the lines of, "This is consent....but this, this and THIS are where it may be difficult for you to withdraw or deny consent."