That’s right, I am talking about consent… Again.
I will probably still be talking about when I am 107 years old, unless we, as a collective and as individuals, really start to unpack our gender-based expectations; our anitquated ideas about sex and sexuality; our onging entitlement to having our needs met at the cost of other person’s bodily autonomy.
And I am not talking about the predators-folk who deliberately look for some sort of vulnerability to exploit so that they can feel a false sense of power… I am talking about the average person in society, that thinks they understand consent, but fail to recognize their own participation in non-consensual (re sexual assault) physical, intimate, contact.
I get it-I really do. From birth we are conditioned from birth to be non-consensual. I mean, let’s look at some things that constantly happen in our society:
Children Have No Bodily Rights, Are Taught to Gender Bodily Consent: Children are forced, sometimes kicking and screaming, to endure diaper changes, physical examinations, clothing being removed or put on. They are also coerced into giving granny a hug; to forgiving all transgressions against them, to ”be nice”. Boys are still encouraged to be rough and tumble, while we protect our girls by not letting them wear tank tops, short skirts or tight shorts. Strangers seem to think it is ok to touch a toddler (ruffling their hair, chucking their chin, even kissing them or picking them up). We seem to forget they are little people trapped by adult decisions.
Young Women: Value Is Passivity and Purity: Young girls are taught they must be careful of drawing the sexual attention of grown men and older boys. As they age they are to be attractive (but not too attractive), to be nice (don’t have boundaries!), and to fear saying no. Sex Education focuses on menstruation, STi’s and Birth Control, with little to no (and more often it is no) information about pleasure, arousal, setting boundaries, healthy communication.
Young Men: Be Tough (not like a girl): From an early age we start to alienate boys from their emotions. Don’t be a suck! They are allowed to get rough with each other, to be mean in their humour, and to develop their physical skills. We teach them that it is more important to throw and hit a ball than to be caring and kind. As they age we grin when we ask them if they have a girlfriend. Movies tell them that being rejected is the worst thing ever; that they should keep trying when a girl doesn’t like them, and that sometimes you have to trick someone to get them to realize how much they want to be with you. Sex ed tells them they will have ”sexual feelings” but rarely (until lately) includes consent.
Pregnant Persons: We Own You: Many expecting parents experience the phenomena in which strangers suddenly feel they have the right to caress your stomach, to pat you, to ask intimate questions about your body.
Male VS Female Libido Myths: Everyone knows that men want sex all the time. From anyone. They have no standards at all. They are flattered by non-consensual (re assaulting) touches and comments. There is no room in this trope for a man to be sad, bored, disinterested, busy or any other damned thing. Women on the other hand don’t want sex. Or maybe they do, but they can’t admit it? No! They DO want sex, all the time, but they don’t know it until we ”show them”. Even a woman’s age can be shrivelled down to their libido and availability. Young girls are ”hot”, Don’t forget the MILFs, Cougers and of course the ”older woman”. All the while men are encouraged to get it on while they can, cuz at 27 they are past their sexual prime-so go go go.
(Ps, none of these things are true, of course. But hey, why let the truth slow us down, right?)
We live in a world where our consent is an elusive idea. How can we get consent or give it when we are either in a state of always consenting, or needing coercion to even know we want to consent?
We have to do better. We, individually and collectively, need to hold one another accountable. We need MORE conversations, more open and accessible sex education that includes talking about pleasure, the nitty gritty of consent, dealing with rejection.
We need to call out our friends and family who say or do things to support these sex negative tropes. We need to stop policing the bodies of women and start understanding that regardless of sex, regardless of gender we have the right to our body, and the responsibility to NOT infringe on someone else’s bodily rights.
Not as a joke. Not even with our sweetheart, not with anyone.
We need to learn to ask.
To listen to the answer.
To respect and EXPECT folk to have boundaries.