Consent is Not Grey
I loved a recent article on The Loop that compared consent to refusing or accepting a hot cup of tea.* Being fond of both sex and tea (I know that the sex part will shock my dear readers who believe feminists are dry, cold beasts for whom sex is a dirty idea or a tool of power), I was particularly amused by the ideas that are confusing to those who wonder about consent. One of my favorite examples from the article was on unconsciousness and "tea":
Okay, maybe they were conscious when you asked them if they wanted tea, and they said yes, but in the time it took you to boil that kettle, brew the tea and add the milk they are now unconscious. You should just put the tea down, make sure the unconscious person is safe, and — this is the important bit — don’t make them drink the tea.("This Woman Just Explained Consent")
I'm particularly fond of this example because I'm one of those women who was told, once upon a time, that "You can't call it rape if you're not sure you said no." Let's just let that sink in, for a second. That statement was said to me after a man got me so drunk (I'd never had alcohol before nor been to a party) that I could not stay awake, and proceeded to take my half conscious state as consent. I've never written about my personal experience before because I was embarrassed by it. Let me "say" that again: I was embarrassed. More accurately, our confused rape culture made me embarrassed by something that I should have been outraged about, and, now, rightfully am.
I was not sure what happened, whether I said "no" or "yes," or even what it was like. I remember being upset that I was no longer a virgin, sore, embarrassed, confused and angry. But that was all afterwards. If someone asked me to describe having my "first cup of scalding hot tea" I would not be able to. That is because it is a bad idea, as Rockstar Dinosaur Pirate Princess points out, to give an unconscious person hot tea (being so drunk you can't put together two words, counts, beeteedubs):
If someone said yes to tea, started drinking it, and then passed out before they’d finished it, don’t keep on pouring it down their throat. Take the tea away and make sure they are safe. Because unconscious people don’t want tea. Trust me on this. ("Consent: Not actually that complicated")
You would not give a fumbling, swaying, snoring while sitting up person a scalding hot cup of tea. Do not "give them" (read "force them") to have tea. They, like me, will get burned. I wanted my first cup of tea to be special. What tea loving girl doesn't? Okay, let's drop the metaphor because I DID love my first cup of TEA. Star of Persia with a lump of sugar and just a little bit of cream will change your world, folks. But I was scarred by my first sexual experience. Thankfully, my husband heals me daily with his sensitivity and understanding. He is my Star of Persia tea with a lump of sugar and a little bit of cream.
But that doesn't make what happened to me okay. And I don't have to "get over it." Neither do any of you. If you feel you have been raped, don't let another person tell you otherwise. Don't let them tell you that you wanted something you did not want. Ever. If you are in pain emotionally or physically after a sexual account, your pain is valid and should be voiced.
And, other folks, don't force unwanted sex. MMMMMMkay? This will lead said person to have to deal with privileged, white washed accounts of their rape experience (mostly by conservative men who have never had to deal with the situation), and being told to "get over it" because their rape was not as bad as other types of rape, or maybe wasn't rape at all. And, yes, these are things that rape culture promotes. I.E.: There are better and worse kinds of rape. These are the Fifty Shades of Grey* arguments that drive me crazy.
And let's try to avoid permitting rape in our culture by promoting books, movies, etc. that endorse rape. There are plenty of films, books and short stories that are centered around sexual consent, so lets stick with those "pick me ups" eh? When I wrote Monochrome, I did so with the full knowledge that part of my character's persona would be shaped by the attacks that happen to women (and many men) all the time. It was important for me to make my attempted rape scenes uncomfortable, ugly and hard to read because I want to make it clear that rape is all of those things and more.
When "1 out of every 6 American women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime (14.8% completed rape; 2.8% attempted rape)," it is past time to start thinking about what we can do to change a culture that hides, promotes and dismisses rape (rainn.org). Part of what we can do is stop flocking to "art" and ideas that, ultimately, dismiss the rights and the say of women and that silence raped men.
Sex, like tea, is wonderful. But, like tea, it is only truly satisfying when it is fully desired.
Footnotes and Such
*The concept was originally coined by Rockstar Dinosaur Pirate Princess.
*If you don't agree that this book promotes flawed ideas of consent, please read this wonderful blog piece highlighting some key selections. 50 Shades of Grey Chapter 20 in which Grey is basically a rapist
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H.M Jones is the author of B.R.A.G Medallion Honor and NIEA finalist book Monochrome, its prequel Fade to Blue, the Adela Darken Graphic Novellas, Al Ravien's Night, The Immortals series, and several short stories.