Only Yes Means Yes: The Courts and Rape Culture, Redefining Consent

2016 was a seriously crappy year. In fact, if you were comparing dung piles, 2015 was like a toy poodle’s brown, lumpy work of yard art and 2016 looked like a giant Bull Elephant had an especially grand bowel movement- in your living room. So, when I say it was a crappy year, now you have a full, working mental picture of exactly what I mean.

The fact that it was an especially bitter and horrible election year was bad enough. The fact that ‘alt right’ (previously just known as racists and white supremacists) ventured into the mainstream and were welcomed was enough to make most of us sick. The fact that it was given a total pass by so many made us even sicker. Police brutality was brought to the fore with shining spotlights, caught on camera by ordinary citizens, in undeniable, HD quality; bringing to light injustice is never a bad thing. The ferocious backlash we witnessed in society against those actually seeking justice, however,  was deplorable. And we saw far too much of it. And then, there was the misogyny. Wow. just wow. Women were belittled beyond measure, from Trump’s pulpit to the courtroom. Women, and the rights to their own bodies, were marginalized repeatedly.

And when I say the rights to their own bodies, I’m not just talking reproductive choices. Yes, I am pro-choice, and if you want to know why, click here. But this article isn’t about that kind of choice. This is before that. Like the choice of having sex or not. It is about consent. It is about how consent is never ambiguous. It is about how I don’t have to say no. No is always the implied. The answer is ALWAYS no, unless a woman specifically says yes. There is no ambiguity there. To give consent for something is to say, “Yes.” Consent is not defined as the absence of saying “no.”

So, why is this so important? Why is defining this so crucial? Because 2016 proved that judges seem to be freaking morons. Because it became overwhelmingly apparent as the year progressed that our judicial branch had a serious lack of fundamental vocabulary skills, where they came to the conclusion that rape and sexual assault isn’t so much of a crime if a woman is intoxicated. In fact, an appellant court in Oklahoma ruled that sodomy without consent wasn’t even illegal if the victim was intoxicated because the law did not specifically provide for being incapacitated due to intoxication. I’m pretty sure it did not specifically provide for slipping on ice, a sudden drop in blood pressure causing someone to faint or a tree branch falling and whacking you on the head, either, or a drug induced sleep  (like anesthesia) or a host (millions) of other specific elements which could cause a person to be unconscious, aside from intoxication by alcohol. Some people chose to blame the law for being too vague. I am not of that opinion (though thankfully Oklahoma made a very quick legislative effort to correct any ‘misunderstandings’ by the courts).  The real problem is the same reason a frat boy gets a couple of months for raping a girl behind a dumpster, or a man gets sixty days of time served for repeatedly raping his daughter, because we place all the responsibility on the victim. If the victim was drinking it was her fault. If she didn’t report it, it was her fault. If she was wearing revealing clothes, it was her fault. If she has had sex before, it is her fault. If she accepts a ride home with a guy, it is her fault. If she goes to a party, it is her fault. If she (fill in the blank here) it is her fault. The courts have been attempting to define consent as not saying no, regardless of the victim’s capacity to say anything at all.

Consent is saying, “Yes.” Consent is having the ability to comprehend what you are agreeing to. The message the courts are sending, over and over again, is that women do not have ultimate rights over their own bodies, that they can be forcibly taken, that they can be used, that their safety and sovereignty as a whole human being is less important than a perpetrators whims and exploits and desire for domination. They don’t like to hear rape cases, not because because of the heinous act, but rather because it is an uncomfortable truth, distasteful and rooted in a misogynistic view that women should be chaste and pure and that loose women get what they deserve. It perpetuates this notion that men are primal and can’t control themselves, therefore, women must adhere to different social rules. That is what we are teaching these boys, that they can act on impulse, that they are entitled to act on impulse. They are being taught to, “grab them by the pussy,” just because they can. We saw privileged men such as Turner and Wilkerson and the unnamed seventeen year old assailant in Oklahoma, receive ridiculous sentences which were little more than slaps on wrist or complete acquittal because their future, their lives, their autonomy was deemed more valuable than those of their victims.  And they hinge it all on victim blaming and redefining the meaning of consent.

I suggest we stop this campaign of , “No means no.” We are evidently sending the wrong message. It is, apparently, being taken to imply that women must say no, or have the capacity to do so. Perhaps we should try a more positive approach. Maybe, “Yes mean yes.” or “Yes means consent, silence or anything else means no, you sick bastard.”  (I kinda prefer the latter).  Perhaps if we firmly establish defining consent as specific approval (which is what it seems to mean in every other aspect of law), and we continue our outrage against a misogynistic judicial system, then maybe we can stop giving a free pass to mistreat and violate women. Maybe we could begin accepting that women are whole persons in our society and that they do not exist under separate laws and separate freedoms. Our bodies, our choice.

So, while I applaud efforts to effectively update laws to be more inclusive and require harsher punishments, we need states to address the fundamental issue: make a no-excuses definition of consent to mean an individual gives absolute permission to take part in any form of sexual activity, with complete knowledge and understanding of that consent, and if they are incapacitated in any way which would otherwise prevent them from being bound by any other legal contract, then that consent is invalid, as the person does not have the mental clarity or comprehension of consequences to consensually take part in what could be a life altering contract or event. (You know, like how you can’t just get someone drunk and convince them to sign over the deed to their house or the title of their car… except this is your BODY, and you have no idea if that person has an STD, HIV, is using protection, if you could get pregnant, etc. So yes, life-changing consequences which you should be able to make a rational decision regarding.)

I know… that is pretty darned drastic! Why that would make men have to be really freaking responsible about having sex, especially if their idea of a fun night is getting a girl drunk and getting laid. Getting a girl drunk and taking advantage of her might be considered rape, especially if he intentionally used alcohol to alter her thought and decision making process so she would do something she otherwise would not have agreed to do.  Men never do things like that, do they? But they don’t consider it rape, they just think it is loosening her up so her boundaries get a little fuzzy and she is more ‘open minded.’  Is that a crime?

Yes.

Now, I’m not saying men and women can’t drink and have sex. Sure they can. I am saying it is outright wrong to use a drug to alter someone’s perceptions and then use that as an advantage to have sex with them when they, under normal circumstances, would not agree. And, by the way, that goes both ways. Women shouldn’t use alcohol, or any other substance, to influence a man to have sex with them, either. Yes, girls, that is rape, too. Don’t be a predator. But between consenting individuals who want to drink and have sex together just because that’s what they like to do, have at it. And how is a guy supposed to know? Well, he can ask. He can be honest, tell her he doesn’t want to get the wrong idea and doesn’t want to impose on her. Women will just have to get over being insulted by honesty. If you aren’t interested in drinking and having sex with him, politely say no. Don’t be a bitch about it. He is being responsible and he just gave you a choice while you were still rational enough to make it. Don’t discourage him from giving that choice to someone else. Men, don’t be an asshat when you ask. Be respectful. Also remember, if she changes her mind, it is a no go, I don’t care if your pants are already on the floor.

Also, boys and girls, if you are not old enough to sign a legal contract, you are not old enough for consensual sex. I’m sorry. I know it seems like fun. I know you see it on television, the internet and the movies, but here is the thing: irresponsible sex can screw up your life. Seriously. And if you think oral sex is safe, think again. You can still get awesome things like Herpes and other STDs . If you are being pressured into sex, that is a form of rape. If you are pressuring someone to have sex with you, then you are invading their personal safety. If they don’t say yes without having to be convinced, then that, my friends, is a no.

Which brings us back to the meaning of consent. Only Yes means Yes. Period. Only a sober Yes means Yes. Only a conscious person can say yes. Forget No mean No. It does, but it should never come to that because it is always no in the absence of yes. We need to send this message loud and clear to both our judiciary and legislative branches so that there is no longer even a sliver of ambiguity. We must define consent by what it actually is. Consent is saying yes, not the absence of saying no.

We are One woman, One World.

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Remembering US Presidents who had a positive impact on furthering equality in our nation

Today we honor President’s Day, the achievements of great leaders from our past who stepped up and did what was right, or at least helped lead to what is right, even when it was not the most popular of choices. Because this blog deals with equality, not just for women but all people, I felt the best way to celebrate would be to highlight these decisions by our presidents passed who sought to bring our country together, honor our diversity and promote inclusion of all people. While some of these achievements listed were definitely imperfect, they paved the way to future progress and were, most likely at the time, the furthest reaching they could get away with. Changing a nation comes in steps and is a slower progress than we would like to  admit. Great leaders know this and understand that small steps can accomplish more to change the temperament of a society, to make it more accepting and realize irrational fears are just that: irrational. Every single one of these decisions through our history were vigilantly opposed, yet these presidents stood firm towards a progress they hoped would someday be fully realized, even if they only contributed a small step towards it. While the battles ahead are assured to be arduous, we give thanks for the battles behind which give us the strength to know progress is possible. So, here is my appreciation for those presidents in our nation’s history who helped pave the way forward to equality.

Abraham Lincoln: Served as the 16th President of the United States from March 1861 until his assassination in April 1865. Signed the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863 freeing all slaves in the United States.

Andrew Johnson: Served as the 17th President of the United States, from 1865 to 1869. In 1865 he awarded Ms. Mary Edwards Walker the Congressional Medal of Honor for “devotion and patriotic zeal to sick and wounded soldiers both in the field and in hospitals to the detriment of her own health.”

Harry S. Truman: Served as the 33rd President of the United States from 1945 to 1953. He signed an executive order declaring equal treatment and opportunity for advancement for all persons in the military regardless to race, color, religion or national origin. On June 12, 1948 he signed the Women’s Armed Services Integration Act which allowed women to serve as permanent, regular members of the armed forces in the Navy, Army, Marine Corps and Air Force.

John F. Kennedy: Served as the 35th President of the United States from January 1961 until his assassination in November 1963.  In 1961 he signed executive order 10925 which established the President’s Commission on the Status of Women and appointed Eleanor Roosevelt as the Chairwoman. On June 10, 1963, he signed into law the Equal Pay Act of 1963 to abolish wage disparity based on gender.

Lyndon B. Johnson: Served as the 36th President of the United States from 1963 to 1969. In 1964 on July 2, he signed the Civil rights Act of 1964 prohibiting discrimination of all kinds based on race, color, religion,  and national origin  and he established the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). In 1967 he signed executive order 11375 to expand the Affirmative Action Policy of 1965 to cover discrimination based on gender. On April 11, 1968 he signed the Civil Rights Act of 1968 prohibiting discrimination in the sale, rental and financing of housing.

Jimmy Carter: Served as the 39th President of the United States from 1977 to 1981. On October 31, 1978 he signed the Pregnancy Discrimination Act  prohibiting employment and workplace discrimination against women because they were or could become pregnant.

George H. W. Bush: Served as the 41st President of the United States from 1989 to 1993. On November 22, 1991 he signed the Civil Rights Act of 1991 strengthening existing civil rights laws and providing for damages in cases of intentional employment discrimination.

Bill Clinton: Served as the 42nd President of the United States from 1993 to 2001.  On November 30, 1993 he signed the Military Policy Directive known as Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. While the policy required gay and lesbian soldiers to keep their sexuality secret, it was a step forward because they could no longer be questioned or singled out due to speculation of their sexuality. While far from perfect in securing equal LGBT rights, it opened the door to proving that LGBT were not a threat to security and that the military could function perfectly well with Gay and Lesbian soldiers in their ranks. It was a baby step towards a larger goal. On September 13, 1994 he signed the Violence Against Women Act.

Barack Obama: Served as the 44th President of the United States from 2009 to 2017. On January 29, 2009 he signed the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act into law, allowing victims of pay discrimination to file complaints with the government against employers within 180 days of their last paycheck. On February 19, 2009 he signed executive order number 13503 establishing the White House Office of Urban Affairs. On March 11, 2009 he signed executive order number 13506 establishing the White House Council on Women and Girls. On August 12, 2009 he awarded Harry Milk the Medal of Freedom. On October 14, 2009 he signed executive order 13515 Increasing Participation of Asian Americans and Pacific islanders in Federal Programs.  On October 28, 2009 he signed the Mathew Shephard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act. February 26, 2010 he signed executive order 13532 Promoting Excellence, Innovation and Sustainability at Historically Black Colleges and Universities. October 19, 2010 executive order 13555 enabled the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics. On December 22, 2010 he signed the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, allowing Gay and Lesbian citizens to serve openly in the armed forces.  On December 2, 2011 he signed executive order number 13592 Improving American Indian and Alaska Native Educational Opportunities and strengthened Tribal Colleges and Universities. On July 26, 2012 he signed executive order number 12321 implementing the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans.  On August 10, 2012 executive order 13623 was signed Preventing and Responding to Violence against Women and Girls Globally. In 2013 he signed the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013. He also signed executive order 13647 on June 26, 2013 establishing the White House Council on Native American Affairs. On July 31, 2014 he signed executive order 13673, Fair Pay and Safe Workplace. In May of 2016 he issued a Presidential Directive to schools regarding transgender bathroom rights. While this was not a binding law, it did provide federal protections to the transgender community.

These presidents all played a role in paving the way for racial, gender, religious and LGBT equality. I am sure I did not list every achievement or action, as there is more information available on more recent presidencies, so please feel free to contribute additional actions in the comment section.

I hope we all can take a moment, this day, to recognize those presidents who used their position to bring our country and its people closer together, embracing our diversity rather than using our differences to divide us. These men, as imperfect as some of their policies may have been,  saw and acted upon  opportunities in their service to make our country a freer and more equal place. Even a stepping stone was still a step in the right direction.

As citizens, it is our job to ensure the continuation of this evolution in our society and not allow achievements to be lost, reversed or progress stagnated. The greatest presidential accomplishments have always been those which united our people under a single banner of citizenship and welcomed all those contributing to what has been historically called, “The American Dream.” Today, let us dream together of a better world, a better country, which values and prizes each individual on their personal merit and achievement without regard to race, sex, sexuality, national origin or religion. I can think of no better way to honor president’s day than by declaring, loud and clear, our hope for a future of universal equality.

We are One Woman, One World.

 

resources:

http://www.cnn.com/2015/06/19/us/lgbt-rights-milestones-fast-facts/

http://civilrights.findlaw.com/civil-rights-overview/civil-rights-law-and-history.html

http://www.infoplease.com/spot/civilrightstimeline1.html

http://www.usnews.com/news/the-report/articles/2017-01-20/timeline-the-womens-rights-movement-in-the-us

https://propresobama.org/2013/03/28/us-womens-rights-movement-timeline-1848-jan-2017/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Don’t_ask,_don’t_tell

https://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/letters/colleague-201605-title-ix-transgender.pdf

http://www.politico.com/story/2016/05/obama-administration-title-ix-transgender-student-rights-223149

https://www.archives.gov/federal-register/executive-orders/obama.html                                            

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barack_Obama

photo credit: https://www.google.com/url?sa=i&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=images&cd=&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0ahUKEwiDvqSC6p_SAhUL5mMKHS1JDacQjB0IBg&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwall.alphacoders.com%2Fby_sub_category.php%3Fid%3D225969&psig=AFQjCNGWamIwUxLiA5LZRiPDSoMl2eVJyA&ust=1487719730603379

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Ovarian Legislation: The Underlying Agenda

And so the truth is revealed.

Misogynistic legislation, meant to control the bodies of women and their choices, is absolutely nothing more than exactly that: laws specifically designed to control women and force them into a Biblical servitude they neither want nor believe in. The “Pro-Life” hid behind the façade of something so simplistic it was difficult to fault them for their belief, or even their zealous fervor. I mean, no one wants to kill babies, right? To the average passerby, it seemed reasonable enough. Pro-choice also seemed reasonable, especially in light of many circumstances. The Pro-Life crowd painted horrific pictures of babies being slaughtered by the millions, women using abortion as birth control, murdering babies ready to be born. (In today’s world, we call that Fake News  or  Alternative Facts).

But despite the religious efforts of these zealots, people became more and more educated. Women’s rights advocates stood up and published the truth even though they were vilified for doing so. The term Feminist became a dirty, negative word to suggest women who would just not be reasonable and accept their place in society. Yet, they persisted, and thanks to them, the public became educated. Today, the right to choose is supported by more than seventy percent of the population in the United States. If you think this sealed the deal for women and reproductive rights, then you haven’t seen a news program, been on social media, been on the internet, or likely left your house in several years. The other less-than-thirty-percent are not only extra loud, they are in control of the government. Many people, who haven’t considered abortion to be a real political issue in decades because it seemed like settled law, voted for some of these people based on other concerns. These voters thought the “pro-birth” rhetoric was nothing more than that, just empty campaign promises to pull in the far right. They were wrong. They were also wrong about thinking the actual agenda is to save babies, because it isn’t.

The façade around the pro-life camp has been slipping for years. Decades, actually. They made no attempt to hide their religious ideology and, despite absolutely no support for their claims in the Bible, they liberally use odd passages to support a preconceived idea. Basically, they decided abortion was wrong first and then went looking for some religious text to support their conclusion. When they didn’t find it, (I am sure that was terribly disappointing) they used odd verses about God knowing them in the womb to support their idea. Many have actually told me that there weren’t abortions back then, so they would not be mentioned directly. I love that argument.

The truth, something I find these people have a difficult time digesting, is that if their Bible had intended abortion to be against God’s law, it would have stated so quite plainly. Why? Because almost every other religious text dating as far back as the ancient Sumerians addresses abortion. Yeah, it is that old. Now Sumer was around between about 5400-1750 BCE. The Egyptians also had laws regarding abortions. So did the Greeks and the Romans. Now, we should expect this because so many of these cultures believed in and worshipped fertility gods. Makes a lot of sense. But abortion was conspicuously left out of the Bible. Some would actually assert that this was to differentiate them from Pagans. It was also, quite noticeably, not addressed in the New Testament. In fact, the Bible bestows little to no value on both the unborn and the new born. This is understandable as infant mortality rates were quite tragic. But this is not the only flaw in the pro-life movement, not the only wrinkle in what would seem like a reasonable idea.

What distinguishes the pro-life movement as not actually being about the concern for unborn babies is their complete lack of compassion for a single, pregnant mother who cannot afford prenatal care, or a single mom who needs assistance to feed her child, or house that child. When compassion does not extend beyond the womb a great truth is revealed. The ideology is further degraded by their lack of support for social birth control efforts to prevent undesired pregnancies. It is a statistical, proven fact that social availability of birth control reduces abortion rates. But this is not supported by the exact same people who do not want women to have abortions. Hmmm?  In fact, now that these people have control in government, they are working tirelessly, and openly, to further RESTRICT the availability of birth control. The laws they seek to pass would mean tens of millions of women would not have health coverage for prescribed birth control. They are now openly claiming that birth control kills babies, as well, and hope to see it abolished. Think about that.  What does that mean?

Well, it means this was never about abortion. This was never about saving babies. And while abortion, itself, is not mentioned in the Bible, the religious text has no shortcomings on dictating the lack of sexual (or otherwise) freedom a woman is entitled to. This is about controlling half the population. This is about the patriarchy in the religious right maintaining a firm control to dictate what a woman is supposed to be, what a woman is supposed to do. This is about enforcing religious laws on the populace under the guise of saving babies. It is designed by conception to demonize anyone opposing it as a baby-killer. However, if this actually had anything to do with those babies, these same activists would be  lobbying for social programs to feed, house and clothe these children. They would be eager to provide support for pregnant women. But, instead, they don’t want the government to handle that. Those are issues which should be handled by charities so the population has a choice if they wish to participate or not. They want the government to dictate that women can’t have sex without accepting pregnancy as a probable outcome and force them to have children whether they wish to or not, but helping to support the ‘shameful’ pregnancies and the subsequent children should not be a burden to the taxpayers. They are not seeking to dictate the terms of birth, but women’s sexuality and the freedom of their bodies. It is not just taking away the choice of whether or not to have a child, but circumventing non-marital sex. When the healthcare  plan under consideration allows insurers to exclude maternity care for single women, based solely on the fact that they are not MARRIED, the absolute truth is revealed.

The pro-birth movement HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH SAVING BABIES. It is a lie. They are lying to people to gain support based on the general idea that saving babies is a good thing. They are using unborn children in a most disgusting and deplorable way. They are demonizing the tragedies, heartache and difficulties of women led to make that decision by circumstances completely unique to each. They do this all for a greater purpose, to reign back in control over women and their sexuality; to bring women back under the thumbs of men and dictate the rules of sex in our civilization. Notice how they are not trying to regulate men or the actions of men, but according to congressmen and senators on the right, women only have two choices, to conceive or not conceive, to have sex or not have sex and, evidently, pregnancy is one of the only blessings of rape. Now, let that sink in.

This is the dangerous road we are on. We are on a path to hypocritical, Biblical tyranny. This is why we must fight and keep fighting. We all would like to see fewer abortions. That is a fact. The difference between us is that on the feminist side, we hope to achieve this through educating people about sex and how pregnancy actually happens and giving options which drastically decrease the likelihood of unplanned pregnancies. We also seek to provide options and help for those who choose to have their child and fully support that decision by ensuring prenatal care and child wellness programs. Yeah, we actually care about those babies and their life, not just their birth. We do not ridicule a single mother or shame her. We do not drive teenage girls to suicide or to butchers. We do not shame women for having sex .and we do not support taking away their rights to regulate their reproductive system. We do not place the sole responsibility of sex on women, nor make women responsible for the bad behavior of men. We do not discard a child or label it an unwanted burden on society because of his or her parentage or financial status. We never see any child as illegitimate. The pro-birth camp cannot claim any of those things. Interesting how they claim to be pro-life, isn’t it? But then again, they are no strangers to hypocrisy.

The seventy percent need to make sure they are heard, loud and clear, because it is far, far more than abortion at stake. They want to take away all of our rights to plan our own families by dictating legal sexual behavior, even in matrimony. They want to reign sex back in under their idea of god’s law. They want to subjugate women so that they aspire to be wives and mothers and helpers to their husbands instead of free, independent people challenging the patriarchal establishment in society. Don’t be fooled. Their true colors are blatantly revealed.

We are One Woman, One World.

Links to ponder:

http://www.slate.com/blogs/xx_factor/2016/11/29/trump_s_first_step_toward_impeding_birth_control_access_is_making_tom_price.html

http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2012/02/republican-war-birth-control-contraception

http://www.rightwingwatch.org/post/religious-right-activists-argue-for-recriminalization-of-birth-control-in-the-birth-control-movie/

https://rewire.news/article/2016/03/21/birth-control-benefit-timeline/

http://www.salon.com/2017/01/19/war-on-birth-control-incoming-hhs-secretary-tom-price-can-seriously-damage-contraception-access-even-under-obamacare/

http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2017/01/make-birth-control-expensive-again

http://www.salon.com/2017/01/07/a-new-war-on-birth-control-trumps-victory-has-empowered-the-sex-scolds/

http://nymag.com/thecut/2017/01/the-senate-just-voted-to-roll-back-womens-healthcare.html

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/18-distressing-things-gop-members-have-said-about-abortion-and-planned-parenthood_us_5612ce63e4b0dd85030ce49b

photo credit: http://imgur.com/vpqOI1f

Links: More ways to find me or colleagues of mine to check out!

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