Just fyi, TRIGGER WARNING HERE.
This post is gonna deal with some frank stuff, involving sexual harrassment, assault, rape. So. Forewarning.
Still here? Okay. So, we've been teaching our toddler son about the idea of boundaries lately. Obviously not like, "Hey, 2 year old, you ever wanna make out with a girl and she says no, you back off, yo." Because that would make no sense whatsoever to a 2 (almost 3) year old. But about things that are like, "Kid, don't put your hand over my mouth. Don't jump on my back. Don't squish your baby brother's tummy until his innards beg for mercy."
"Awww, but why not?" he asks.
"Because," we tell him, "you need to ask before you put your hand over my mouth or jump on my back. You need to ask before you squish your small sibling with enthusiasm. We are people, and you ask, and when I say no, you say, 'Okay.'"
The two year old responded with, "I hafta ask before I put my hand on you mouf, move you arm, push you foot, or squeeze Baby Brother?"
Yup. Pretty much. My two-year-old gets it. So why can't the adults?
This whole thought process started with this stupid GoT Episode Seen Round the World. (GoT SPOILERS AHEAD.) I'm not gonna delve into it too deeply, because likely, you have heard of it. There are some fabulously written articles on it upon which I cannot improve. Basically though, after what was very obviously a rape scene in the show in every sense of the word, the director came out saying that it was, in fact, consensual...by the end.
Um. What? The justification here is that Cersei wraps her legs around the guy at one point (let's just forget about how she is saying NO the whole entire freaking time.)
So. Consent. Consent is NOT:
1) The word No. Even one no means....drumroll....no.
2) But s/he kissed me! Obvs. s/he wanted to bone! Nope. Still not consent. Someone can want to kiss a person one minute and change their mind the next. For any reason. Literally any reason is acceptable. Someone can not want to kiss someone for any reason at all and that's IT.
3) Being drunk. Listen. If someone is totally drunk (not talking a little buzz here. I am talking unable to consent.) and you are not, you don't get to sleep with them. Sorry. No sex for you. Deal.
4) GoT SPOILER------------Cersei freaking wrapping her legs around Jamie after he had already initiated sex without her consent.
5) Dressing in a provocative way....She was TOTES asking for it. Cause she was standing there with BOOBS. Don't. I can't even discuss this it's so unbelievably ridiculous.
6) Saying no, but you can tell s/he secretly wants it. Nope. Nopenopenope.
Consent is someone wanting to do whatever it is you want to do, being fully capable of consenting to it, and you mutually agreeing that, yes, this is something we are both into.
This stuff is important. I have read stats that say 1 in 4 or 1 in 6 (depending on the study) women experience some sort of sexual assault in their lifetime. I don't know the stats for men, but they do experience it too, fyi.
I have never experienced sexual assault. I have, however, experienced sexual harrassment. I have a very vivid memory of being 13 years old, fresh from homeschool, entering a public school in the middle of 8th grade. There was this one guy, also in the 8th grade, who was super hot. Popular, charming, on the football team...anyway, he started kind of paying attention to me. Flirting, winking, talking to lame, nerdy, wears-shirts-with-puppy-dogs-on-them ME. I was SO excited.
Then one day in this bio class, miracle of miracles, we were grouped together. He started talking with me all cute and charming with his bedroom eyes and bad-boy YA love interest lopsided smirk. SCREW BIOLOGY. I'm gonna flirt. WITH A BOY.
But then, the conversation got weird. He started talking about what I'd done with a boy (hint: nothing. Ever.), how I liked it, did I like them long and hard, did I like to go all night....a bunch of super vulgar stuff that got more and more vile the longer it went. When the conversation went there, I asked him to stop. To please be quiet. Then to shut up. (Something I never said. I was the most innocent 8th grader on the planet.) I may have even called him a dick. I don't know. What I do know is that the stuff he was saying to me was making me shake, scaring me, and that I made it as clear as I possibly could that he NEEDED to stop. Bad enough that the second he left the table his best friend and another boy at the table, eyes wide, looked over at me and said, "I am SO sorry. He isn't usually like this. But this is messed up. I'm really sorry," and when he got back and started in on me again, both of them told him to knock it off. He didn't.
I left the classroom. My best friend (who was a dude) was waiting outside my class, and I clearly remember walking up to him, trying to keep it cool, and saying, "Hey, man, I had the worst--" then just bursting into tears in the middle of the hallway. Like, weeping, gasping tears. I told him what happened and he was PISSED. Rightfully.
I told my mom but begged her not to tell my dad because I didn't want Gary to get in trouble. (What the crap?) The next day, I walked to bio like I was walking the Green Mile, knowing I was in for another scary, vile hour, but he was packing up all his stuff and moving to a different class because he had been forced to switch out of mine. Mysterious.
I don't know, to this day, who told the teacher what happened. I suspect, though, that it was either my best friend or his. Whoever it was, THANK YOU FOREVER.
I should have told. I should have walked out. I didn't because he was hot and popular and cute, and I was the nerdy new girl. One of the only devoutly Christian people I knew, and what if I got made fun of for being lame? Too religious? Too conservative? Too sensitive? What if he thought I was a loser? Ugh, this is pissing me off just writing about it.
I hope he learned that you can't just control people like that. Which, by the way, is what rape, sexual assault, harrassment, is about. It's not about sex. It's about domination and humiliation. What I dealt with that day was not even close to rape. It wasn't even physical. Girls get harrassed all the time. But even ifit wasn't physical, the root is the same. The guy got off on embarrassing me, scaring me, on putting me in a mostly powerless situation...I wasn't asking for it in my puppy shirt and too-flat hair and face with not enough makeup to cover my acne. Just like the girl who wears a short skirt and low cut top isn't asking for it. Just like the guy or girl who gets black-out drunk at a party isn't asking for it.
That harrasssment should not be normal. Should not be something nearly every girl experiences. A couple steps further, assault should.not be COMMON.
People are PEOPLE, not objects to spout off your sexual fantasies to, or force into acting them out with you. And consent doesn't just mean it "becomes consensual by the end." It is consensual from the beginning or IT. IS. ASSAULT. Always. Every time. The end.
So I'm calling it out. And by teaching my sons to respect people, respect their wishes, be considerate of other people's feelings, to ask permission before jumping on someone, to stop when someone says stop, I'm doing what I can to make sure that girls aren't harrassed on the subway, on the sidewalk, in an 8th grade classroom, in a bedroom, and that when a non-consensual sex scene is shown on TV, whether or not it was rape is not a freaking question.