How Many Shades Of Consent Are There?

got consent

Guest post by Lady Jane

According to some of the articles I’ve read on getting and giving consent, I’m a rapist and I’ve been sexually assaulted.

I would not say this is true, however, so it raises the issue of the colors and shades of language. Our definitions of consent may differ, therefore, I’m going to invite each and every one of us to closely examine the language and viewpoints we’ve been seeing all over the Internet in recent weeks surrounding this topic.

I also happen to be a feminist and I’m tired of other feminists telling me that I’m not a feminist and how to be a feminist since I don’t adhere to the black-and-white uses of “their” language. I think consent is a gray area and I’m still a feminist. You can still be a feminist and have rape fantasies, you can still be a feminist and be a submissive, you can still be a feminist if you’re a slut, you can still be a feminist and like certain types of porn, you can still be a feminist and wear a bra, and you can still be a feminist if you’re a stay-at-home parent.

While you’re at it, stop telling me how to be a feminist, a woman, a victim, poly, and a Burner, too (yes, you can still be a Burner and not live in a large theme camp, you can still be a Burner if you don’t take drugs, and you can still be a Burner if you don’t like dubstep, shocking, I know… but I digress).

I already know I’m going to be in big trouble for this one, but I can’t keep my mouth (or fingers) quiet any longer. Lately, there have been tons of articles circulating the web on consent, language surrounding rape, assault, and when no-means-no and I feel an obligation to present an outlier’s perspective or at least weigh-in on the conversation. We’re all interested in more information anyways, so I present to you: even more information. Actually, this isn’t really information, it’s really just anecdotal evidence and my goal is to make you think about you own experiences, past and future.

Are you a feminist if you post pro-women’s rights articles to your Facebook page? Not necessarily, no. Or do you just post every article having to do with current lady issues to make people think you’re a feminist?

In any case, I’m not saying my perspective is mainstream, end all, or even appropriate in all cases, but that’s the point. The point of all this information that is so readily available to us, is indeed, to have all of this information so readily available to us. We get into trouble when we attack other people’s points of view instead of celebrating the fact that so many opinions and perspectives exist in the first place.

Yeah I know I came out a little strong in my opening paragraph when I told you to challenge the feminists. I apologize, but, it can get pretty dangerous out there if we only accept one (or two) school(s) of thought as being “right.”

Listen up, society!

Feminism isn’t about women overcoming men, or women being better than men, or even being equal to men. Feminism is about women having the rights (that already exist in the first place) to make the best choices for themselves, no matter what, without question or permission. We don’t need men to acknowledge our rights, we don’t need women to acknowledge our rights. We don’t need anyone’s approval or policies or parades. You can go ahead and burn your bra, but I’m keeping mine and showing it off because it’s my right to do so. I don’t need your permission to get an abortion, I just need my choice. If you choose not to get an abortion, that’s cool, and you can still be a feminist and be pro-life. Yeah, you can.

Got it, society?

The crazy thing is, WE’RE society. We make up society so it’s really up to all of us to talk to each other, teach each other, and respect each other enough so we don’t rape, steal, judge, or prevent each other from thriving. I’ll talk more about society when I get to those people known as “men.” You’ve probably heard of them or seen them somewhere at least once.

And there I go, leaving the transgendered folks out of this article entirely. Where is the trans-ism and who are the trans-ists? The language isn’t clear, so, I’m here to tell you that it’s okay to be a little gray and if you’re offended, or someone doesn’t know or use the correct language with you, or they use the wrong pronoun, guess what… use your own language to correct them! If it’s one thing humans are not, it’s mind readers, but, if it’s one thing humans are, it’s creative.

Once, I shaved my head and looked like a young boy. My neighbor told me so, and said, “Okay, so now you look like a boy.” He wasn’t trying to be mean, he was just being honest and telling me how he thought I looked. Okay, well, I’m female and prefer the pronouns “she” and “her.” Conversation over. Except it’s not, because there’s a difference between being female and a woman and there’s also a difference between gender and sex… another article, another time.

My point is that we’re all so tightly wound up about using the correct language as to not offend anyone, that we often forget that the only real way to learn something about someone else is to just ask.

Anyways, back to the raping and nonconsensual sex. I think there has to be a difference between rape, sexual assault, and sex that happens without consent; here’s why: I have this friend who is a woman. A strong, confident woman, who is a little submissive in her between-the-sheets activities. She gets turned on by saying no and having her partners continue despite her objections. Does my friend get raped every time she has sex? No. Does she give consent every time she has sex? No, because giving consent would turn her off. Does she always make it known to her partners that this is her preference? The answer is somewhere in the middle so in conversation we should ask her and give her support with any feelings of joy, guilt, pleasure, pain, frustration, or any other feelings she may experience.

Are all of the feminists who are reading this horrified that men take advantage of her all the time? Probably, but remember, true (who’s to say what’s “true”?) feminism holds a space for women to express themselves in any way that they choose. This is my friend’s choice, so stop trying to rescue her from the tower guarded by the evil man-dragon. She likes the dragon and is hoping that he has his way with her without asking permission. Is this rape? How would you classify this in black-and-white language?

I suppose it all comes down to choice (here we come, full circle, with the feminism) and the automatic right that every woman (and human) gets to make their own choices. Now, does this mean that some people should choose to rape, pillage, and burn, no, of course not, but that’s a different debate. That’s a conversation about human interaction, basic human behaviors, and giving fellow humans the respect, honor, and space to make their own choices in a safe world created by society (aka “us”).

That’s our basic right and I think that’s the place we can all agree on.

On the flip side, I had this boyfriend once who didn’t want to have sex with me. We hadn’t seen each other in over a week so I was really horny. I tried to gently hint that I wanted to have sex and he tried gently to say no. He never said flat out “no,” though he had ample time and opportunity. But he also never said, “yes” and I was horny so we ended up having sex. He felt taken advantage of.

Now let’s examine the implications of this encounter: If the roles had been reversed, my boyfriend would have been labelled a rapist and I would have been the victim. Society looks pretty poorly on men who have sex with women who don’t give their consent. Many articles, like this one, would point to calling me a rapist, but since I’m a woman, usually in the victim’s chair, in this situation, I would walk away free even though it was me who was the aggressor and my boyfriend, the victim.

The bigger issue to me is that my boyfriend felt compelled to have sex with me and not strong enough to say “no.” What’s the deal with women being taught to give consent and if they don’t, they’re assaulted, and men being told that they’re not men unless they have sex with everything that walks? Are we living in a world where men can choose to say “no” without them looking like lesser men?

The issue is not me as a rapist, not me getting consent (though those are some huge issues!), but the issue is that we’re so focused on educating women, saving women, empowering women, and protecting women from man-dragons, that we aren’t even talking about the role of men in sexual assault, rape, and whatever else you want to label as non consensual sex. Well, okay, we are talking about the role of men… but only when it comes to labelling them as the rapists, the cause of the problem, and source of all evil.

I realize there’s that whole misogyny thing, but if men are the majority of rapists, shouldn’t we be talking to men about their experiences surrounding the issue instead of just pumping them full of “don’t rape” speeches? And shouldn’t we be teaching women that it’s okay to want and have rough sex, get consent from men, and that consent is a two-way street?

In fact, WE DO THE OPPOSITE as a society and tell men to have lots of sex, say “yes” to sex all the time when it’s available, and god forbid (or other spiritual leader) a man, like my boyfriend, should say “no” to sex, well, he’s just less of a man. The whole message and system (or lack thereof) about rape, assault, and consent is so garbled, therefore, we can’t just label everyone as rapist and victim. There has to be some gray area. Now I know the statistics say I should be afraid of men, dark alleys, and dragons, but eventually, someone has to kick those statistics in the balls (sorry, I just gave ‘statistics’ gender) and say, “it’s time to change the conversation” or at least, include more perspectives in the conversation.

It starts with society (and by society, I mean US) rejecting the weak female/strong male (traditional feminist) stereotypes and accepting the gray areas of gender, sex, and the language we use to discuss it. Look at my boyfriend and I; I was the strong “male” and he was the weak “female.” Not really though, it’s just that he’s seen as less male because he didn’t want to f*ck me, I’m seen as more male and less female because I coerced him into doing so. Is he going to report me? No, because according to a grayer definition, I didn’t rape him. I guess you could say we had non-consensual sex. He could report me if he wants, as should anyone who feels they have been abused, and law enforcement, college administrations, and families and friends should take this reporting seriously whether it comes from a man, woman, or other gendered human of any age or background.

My point is that our language surrounding this topic is gray, except when it isn’t, and that’s what we should be practicing. It’s not up to men, feminists, or dragons to control the conversation and it’s a practice in communication as a whole instead of blanket statements, labels, and policies. If someone says, “no,” they mean no (unless you’re my submissive friend) and if someone says, “yes, f*ck me hard,” they mean it, too.

It’s just not good enough in this day and age to say, well, they (men) have oppressed us for so long, we have to fight back and take a stand. That’s, frankly, the wrong way to improve the situation. My friend once attended a rape prevention training at his university that began, “Not all men rape…”

… As if we had all been taught our entire lives that all men rape (oh wait, we have) and now we need IndieGoGo campaigns for anti-rape undergarments (that’s a real thing!), and if that wasn’t enough, there’s even special panties you can wear to passively aggressively tell your partner “no” to sex because you’re menstruating. I called them “Passive Aggressive Panties,” but it has a real product name and is really being sold (watch the ad, I’m not making this stuff up).

How are panties that “say” “no” on our behalf helping our case for clear consensual language? How are they helping us have the conversations and work towards better language surrounding this topic?

They answer here is not gray, they’re not, and that’s pretty black-and-white.

As a society, we’re all so intent, focused on women’s rights, and helping women rise up to overcome The Man-Dragons, that we forget to approach the issue with all humans in mind at diverse ages. Nikita and Keeley mentioned in one of their articles that male rape victims and assaults on men aren’t even reported in national statistics. And you can forget about the conversations about the sex lives of teenagers, the elderly, or anyone on the LGBT spectrum (especially the further you go from the L to T). That just doesn’t exist.

So go ahead and post my article to your social media page of choice to show your support of feminism and the bold female spirit. Or, you could just treat me like a human being with a human spirit who likes to wear bras, be pro-choice, and watch porn. Above all, it’s time to actually have a gray conversation about a gray topic and not get offended about it.