Have we gone too far? Just where do we draw the line? Pippa Treacy* asks when does consent become something in itself that we must be afraid of.
As of late, everyone seems to be jumping aboard this bandwagon of consent, or to be precise, the lack of consent which seems to be tormenting college campuses around the world. And, here I am to join the rest of them, getting my two cents in.
Across the world Colleges are currently having a crusade on consent, the majority of it is well thought out, educational and well needed. Unfortunately, some aspects of this crusade are leaving much to be desired and has left me with a grim outlook on the future of consent culture. It seems these campaigns want us to define certain sexual encounters as rape, when they’re not.
Like most people my age, I’ve witnessed how predatory lads can be on nights out. And, like most people, I’ve had run ins with the lad culture, and their rituals. The most common being the “Half-two she’ll do” girl. For those of you who’ve never heard of this girl, she’s the unfortunate soul who’s deemed just good enough to take home, an easy pull because she’s not seen to be as good looking as the other girl he had his eye on. What is never mentioned though, is the amount of persuasion on the boy’s part to even get her, in his eyes the lowly creature he’s settled for (*rolls eyes*), to even consider going home with him. He’ll whisper sweet nothings in her ear, tell her he’ll text her, tell her she was the first person who caught his eye upon entering the club. Most girls will laugh this off, they’ll see right through these fickle lies, and adamantly refuse to go home with such a lad. I know I do. Other girls, they don’t, they feel pressured, they’ll go home with him, they might be having second thoughts, but they enjoyed the flattery, they might even go on to enjoy the sex. Is this rape? The answer is no.
This is uncomfortable, it’s what I call ugly sex, but it’s not rape. It might have been a mistake, and these days mistake is enough for a girl to be deemed a rape victim. It seems “rape culture” is over simplifying the complexities of sex, the complexities of our being, and its telling women that they were raped and they were wronged because they were mildly coerced with soft words, because they did something when they were a bit tipsy*, because they never said the word “Yes” out loud, though they’re bodies were already saying that for them. It makes us question every sexual encounter, it leads us to believe that we were raped, college consent culture is pervasive, it encourages us to recount our sexual experiences as violations. And we do.
*Many will see this as victim blaming, this doesn’t regard women who’ve clearly said ‘no’, have passed out or are forced and unable to stop the rapist as they’re too inebriated. This lies in regard to women who wholly consent to this sex in their drunken state, and wake up in the morning and wish they hadn’t. Which leads to my next point below.
Women having faced sexual oppression from the patriarchy for decades, have in the last 10 years or so escaped societies stigma that men can have as much sex as they want, with as many partners as they want, and face no consequence or judgment, as opposed to women, who upon doing the same, are branded “sluts” and “used’. We felt guilt, we felt tarnished, but now we emerge, sexually empowered. Hurrah.
We can have as much guilt free sex as we want, with as many people as we want, whenever we want. But, and this is a big but, when we do feel guilt about any sexual activity, it had to be rape, right?
We fail to look at consent in its many forms, we see consensual sex as an act, decided upon rationally, wherein you have sex whilst remaining entirely autonomous. This isn’t real life, this definition will rarely fit into a college scenario. You, like many a college student might go on a night out, open and willing to be coerced into sexual activity, dressing up for attention*, wanting to be tempted. In another scenario, you might want to please someone, and come to a conclusion that the best way to do this is through sexual means. You could get tangled up in some sort of passionate desire and forget your strong ethics along the way, caught up in the moment so to speak. This is immaturity, this, again, could often be a mistake. You’re just getting into sex where there’s no fear of harm, and at some stage wishing you hadn’t done that. We forget that we are young adults, that we are free to make mistakes, that sometimes mistakes make us learn. We don’t need to be coddled into thinking that we might have committed harm, that we were harmed.
* Not be confused to when a person dresses in a certain way and is deemed to be non-consentually “asking for it”, these women dress like this because they want the attention, and no it doesn’t mean they’re wearing belt like skirts, it could be their favourite jeans and heels, they want to look good and aim to please in doing so.
When it comes down to it, consent is education, education that we sorely lack. Consent can’t be defined simply, we cannot proclaim that without an affirmative verbal “yes”, the sex becomes rape. We need our teachers in Secondary Schools to openly talk to us about the do’s and don’ts, not just the birds and the bees. We need to face human realities at an earlier age, and not allow regret to be treated as rape. We need to be given the tools to deal with regret, to deal with the fact that we can’t be perfect, that we’ll make mistakes, sexual mistakes.
In conclusion, I want to clarify that rape is rape, and I’m under no misconceptions to what rape is, even though I didn’t explicitly mention scenarios that, in my belief, in the belief of many, and in the eyes of the law, is rape. I just wanted to stress the point that a lot grey areas surrounding sexual consent is rape, but also, a lot of grey isn’t rape.
And, that we need to focus our efforts on the future, on correct education, on not coddling the human race into thinking a non-enjoyable sexual encounter is rape. On helping people cope with these encounters, on breaking the stigma and telling people that its ok not to feel ok, and it todays society it is totally acceptable to air your feelings and talk about it now!
*In the interest of anonymity, a pseudonym has been used.