Consent IS Sexy

Although I mentioned in my last post that I do not watch reality TV, I am mentioning it yet again because I found this so, so interesting! In this season’s The Bachelorette, a contestant asks the bachelorette, Rachel, for a kiss on his one-on-one time with her. You can see the quick clip here. Even the title of the article uses the term ‘awkward’, painting consent in a totally negative turn-off kind of light. So, I wonder: what is wrong with asking for consent?!

the-bachelorette-fred

As an educator, I go out into schools and talk to kids in middle and high school about consent and sexual assault. We talk about what consent means, when someone cannot give their consent, and its undeniable importance. We acknowledge that without it, you risk a sexual assault. We discuss ways you can ask for consent and address the fact that it doesn’t have to be “awkward” or a “mood killer”, but rather quite the opposite. We are giving them the tools to be able to enter any future sexual encounters safely and responsibly.

So, when I saw this clip from The Bachelorette, I wanted to scream at the screen – mainly, Rachel – for dissing this man’s attempt at being respectful in asking for consent. Her response of, “No one has ever asked me before, they just do it,” is exactly what is wrong with the culture we live in.

Consent is not just simply a look or a wink or a flash of a smile; it’s a conversation, and a necessary one at that. We cannot assume what someone else wants and we are not mind readers. A smile can mean a lot of different things. A wink could be flirtation, not necessarily Morse code for “kiss me.” Passion does not equal “just doing it” without checking in with that person first. On the other hand, consent does not have to be a complete awkward mood-killer. It’s also about reading people’s body language and gauging their interest. Most importantly, if you are unsure of their body language or if they are interested or not: ask them! Which is exactly what Frederick did, and got insulted for it. The surest way to know if someone is interested is to ask. But it’s also important to remember that even if someone does not say ‘no’, that does not mean they are saying ‘yes’.

This post is not to pick on Rachel (sorry, Rachel!) because it’s not at all surprising that she has this expectation of her suitors. We are inundated with this faux passion in the media we consume in movies like [insert almost any popular romance movie title] where persistence and refusing to take ‘no’ for an answer are mistaken for romance. Or, where grabbing someone and kissing them is mistaken for passion. Let’s follow the lead of the consent-askers and consent-respecters, like Kristoff and Anna from Frozen:

Kristoff: “I could kiss you! I could. I mean, I’d like to. I. May I? We me? I mean, may we? Wait, what?”

Anna: (Smile.) “We may.”

anna kristoff frozen

 

Advertisements

Rob Kardashian: What You Did is a Crime

I don’t know about you, but I’m not a huge reality TV fan. Regardless of what I watch on TV, though, I quickly became aware of the news with Rob Kardashian and Blac Chyna. If you are not familiar with this story, check it out here and for an update on the story, click here.

rob-kardashian-blac-chyna

Take away the mere fact that these individuals are celebrities for a second and this is the most basic outline of what happened:

  • a couple breaks up
  • a person from that relationship angrily posts nude pictures of their ex on Instagram with insults and hateful comments about their ex
  • Instagram takes these photos down and blocks the account as it was deemed inappropriate
  • this person then takes the same photos and posts them on Twitter, with the same hateful messages
  • Twitter also takes these posts down and blocks the account as it was deemed inappropriate

When you take away the details, the backstory, and the celebrity names, there is no question of the intent of this person or the fact that what this person did is wrong. Suddenly, this person is a celebrity and his ex whose pictures were exposed is a former exotic dancer who is very open about her sexuality. Suddenly, it becomes: well, she shouldn’t have sent those pictures, or she has no respect for herself, or he thought she cheated so he was just angry and therefore justified. The list of excuses and victim-blaming continues.

The bottom line here is simple: revenge porn is illegal in California among many other states. Private messages that are sent between two consenting adults are meant to be just that: private. When one person then shares or exposes that photo to others (in this case, 10 million others…) with the intention of humiliating or insulting that person, it becomes a crime.

Much like we address victim-blaming in sexual assault cases, revenge porn is a form of sexual violence and domestic violence and it is not the victim’s fault. Instead of asking why she took those photos of herself (which many individuals may choose to do to be intimate with their partners), we should be asking why he chose to publicly shame her not once but twice. This was an act of power and control over Chyna; to prove to her that he could humiliate her and hurt her by the click of a button.

Revenge porn is a huge issue we are seeing more and more of. We often forget that sexual assaults occur via technology through revenge porn as well as coerced or unwanted sexts. We live in a digital age, and thankfully our laws are catching on to these new crimes and attempting to keep up as best they can. But we clearly still have a lot of work to do. Rather than needing to create a new law every time a new crime of interpersonal violence occurs, perhaps we can focus on working to change the culture that cultivates these behaviors rooted in harmful beliefs and attitudes. (I ❤ prevention).

Love Shouldn’t Cost a Thing

One of the forms of domestic violence that is often overlooked is financial abuse. To be honest, this is one that I hadn’t given much thought to until recently.

financial abuse

One of the biggest questions asked in regards to domestic violence is, “why do they stay?” To anyone who is not knowledgeable about these issues, that is a very valid question. It is natural for someone to assume that anyone would not tolerate abuse and would leave right away if that started to happen. Unfortunately, it is not typically that simple. There are a lot of reasons why victims do not or cannot leave an abusive relationship, and one of those reasons is money.

Financial abuse is when abusers restrict, monitor or limit their partner’s access to money, jobs or transportation. For another description and specific examples, check out this resource from the National Network to End Domestic Violence. Having no control over one’s own finances has a major impact on one’s life: with little to no access to jobs, resources, or housing, it’s not a mystery why victims feel trapped. Also, keep in mind the cost of domestic violence in the workplace. Many victims lose days of work due to the abuse they experience, either by spending time in the hospital from physical abuse or by being restrained by their partner to have the means of transportation or otherwise to actually go to work. If policies on domestic violence in the workplace are not strong, many victims might lose their jobs for lack of attendance or their partner harassing or disturbing them at their place of work.

There is also a huge link between domestic violence and homelessness for this very reason. Victims do leave their abusive relationships, but they do not have the means to secure or maintain housing due to the financial abuse that occurred. The number of individuals who are homeless who have experienced domestic violence is staggering. For more research, read about it here from the National Coalition for the Homeless.

I was actually reviewing my own finances recently (when you work for a non-profit, you do this regularly) and felt so fortunate that my dad taught me how to be financially independent and literate at a very young age. It’s both a skill and a practice that I took for granted up until I lived on my own and realized I would be lost without it. Financial empowerment is vital in helping victims help themselves. Even if victims leave the relationship, they often return to their abuser because they have nowhere else to go.

We need to be able to provide individuals with the tools to help themselves and the resources for when they aren’t able to help themselves.

I want to share this powerful video from Allstate Foundation Purple Purse along with my own disclaimer that although this campaign is centered around women, abuse can and does happen to people of all genders.