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?
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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