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?!
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.”