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» Scarleteen Boards: 2000 - 2014 (Archive) » SCARLETEEN CENTRAL » Sexual Ethics and Politics » Consent, and the lack thereof

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Author Topic: Consent, and the lack thereof
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Member # 13245

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Heather asked: "Consent: What do you need to know?"

I said:
"After a conversation I had with someone I had recently met, I think some discussion of what to do/how to cope if you're reading about consent and discovering that someone (prev sexual partner) wasn't actually giving full consent in the past..
That's an awkward sentence, but I think it's an important point. I think some people might get partway through an article like this and go "Oh, crud, that (experience, relationship, etc) wasn't consentual... i had no idea" Do you think that's legitimate?"

Heather requested that I expand on this a bit and open it for discussion, so here goes! What I've done is described our conversation and interaction surrounding the article. I have done my best to keep this safe and respectful for survivors, but know yourself. I've also tried to include only the pertinent and important bits of the discussion, while at the same time, not leaving anything out! It's a big long, but I think it's mostly needed for context. I can fill in blanks as needed also.

So, in brief, here's what happened. I 'met' a guy on a dating site. For the purposes of anonymity, he will be 'A' or 'a.' We had talked for a couple of days prior about not much serious. I try to spread the 'How You Guys Can Prevent Rape' article to as many males (and anyone else, really) as I can, so I sent it to him with a message:
"one day, when you have a couple hours and some boredom, read this ::link::"

The article is quite long, and not everyone has it in them to sit and read through it all at once, so I try to add some warning as to the length.

Anyway, he decided to read it right then and there. Here are some pertinent bits of our conversation as it progressed:

a: Good god. 1/4 women? That's ridiculous. (referring to % of women who have been assaulted)
a: I wonder.. That stastistic seems crazy. But I guess I do know one girl that had that happen to her.

(his disbelief isn't unexpected. I provided him with some personal info and explained just how many people around me had this happen to them)

a: I don't rape, would never dream of it, and have often entertained violent fantasies of ripping rapists to bits. There was a movie I watched Sort of Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. My ex was watching it actually. I had to leave the room because I couldn't handle watching the rape scene and being so powerless. It's something that I feel pretty passionate about.
(later, this statement is contradicted, so that's why I included this bit. I'm not sure it's otherwise relevant)

A then proceeded to compare rape with theft, which I found difficult to relate to, but I can sort of see how from his perspective they would seem similar.

a: Anyways Sorry for the bit of craziness there. But on those issues, that's how I feel, and that's how I'd act.
me: i think im alright with that though your naivety surrounding the various issues we've discussed is a combination of troubling and sort of cute
a: [Big Grin] To be honest, I am a bit naive in a variety of subjects. But sometimes.. it's better that way.

(This was sort of hard for me. I really believe that information is the best defense against really terrible things)

We discussed the pros and cons of ignorance, and the balance between enough information to make sound decisions, and so much information about terrible things that you feel helpless and aren't as productive.
Then, he said this:
a: That's okay. Every once in a while the cage gets rattled. And in the end, I probably will go back to ignoring it. ^_^ Life's peachier that way.
It contradicted so much of what he'd said before that I really didn't know what to think of it..

He went on to justify his ignorance and the discussion moved onto the article again.

a: I'm reading the one right now. I skipped the "what is rape" and the "what is it like to be raped"
me: you might find both enlightening, but keepyour mind safe first
a: I think I know well enough on the first count, and for the second, I'll stick to what I think I know about it. Which makes me hate it enough, trust me.

In my experience, NO ONE knows enough about either topic, likely even after reading the article. (No offense, Heather. It's very well done, but the limitations of the medium certainly exist) I tend to use this article as a starting point for a variety of discussions, so it was important to me that he read and understand the whole thing.

This is where I felt things start to get tricky:
a: I'm skipping bits of no consequence. Like the nonconsent stuff. Makes me feel guilty as #$%$ though because of my last relationship.

Uhmmm... say what? Thinking I need a bit more info on this before making any judgements.

He discussed how a video game's users often use the term 'raped' to describe one player's win over another, and how this made him uncomfortable now. He then stated "I think my last girlfriend was a bit of a non-consenter."

By this point in the conversation, I knew where he was going and was wishing I had someone to bounce ideas off of. I got the impression that he really DID care, and didn't feel this was going to be another 'but she was drunk and said okay' type conversation at all.

a: We had a miserable conversation at one point. Where I was really upset with the way things were. She was really distant from me. And I was aware And I gave her as much space as I could But it seemed like no matter what, she wanted 100% space. So I talked to her about it Because I fully believe in being opened and communicative. I also told her that she made me feel like shit because she never initiated anything physical. It always had to be me. And she laid this one on me which actually hurt quite a bit. "We have sex everytime we're together, sometimes I don't want to..." And then I asked her: ".. That's fine.. but then why do you do it?" And she told me: "I thought that's what you wanted." And I told her: "Well, that's fine, I wish you would have told me, or said something. Because if you don't feel like it, or don't want to then that's that..." It made me feel horrendous. Not only because I felt even MORESO like she didn't want me. But because I felt like I had pressured her somehow into having sex with me. And that was an awful feeling. I never even tried to initiate anything again, and we went sexless until we broke up 3 weeks later. I'm not a person to put any pressure at all on a girl I care about. All she had to do was say something.. anything. [Frown] She never seemed 'not into it'. I'd venture far enough to say most of the time she enjoyed it wholeheartedly. And would verbally say so afterwards. So.. what was I to do?
And in his own words, this is the stuff I need help understanding how to deal with. I've presented this article to MANY people, and I get a lot of 'pffft. rape doesn't happen.' and lots of 'oh my, it happens THAT much? what can i do!?!' and some 'but if she SAYS okay, that's still not NO', which is especially challenging. but I've never run into this 'oh @#$@, does this mean she wasn't giving consent? what does that mean to me?'

We just clarified a couple of trivial things, then A said he needed to go for a bit. He had seemed quite upset, so I was a bit worried.

When he returned, about half an hour later, in his own words:
A: I'm okay. I just had to remind myself that I wasn't doing anything wrong. That I loved that girl, and cared for her in so many ways. And that as soon as I got any communication at all. I stopped. And I never pressured her.

He got himself into a safe headspace, which I think was good, but is it right? My gut tells me that reading this article is EXACTLY what he needed to prevent this in the first place. My gut also tells me that he is not 100% at fault for what went on here.
However, my gut is well known to be a sexist inaccurate digestion machine, so I don't put much faith into it.

PS: This took me a long time to write, and I felt I should post it now rather than proof it tomorrow and post it then, so if you notice anything that shouldn't be there, feel free to let me know so I can edit it, or edit it if you have the power [Smile]


Posts: 593 | From: Kamloops, BC, Canada | Registered: May 2003  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Member # 51804

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It's a difficult one, because how much can you blame an individual for believing there was consent, when maybe it wasn't so cut and dry? I don't mean ignoring signs etc but genuinely being convinced that there was consent.

I reply because I have been on the other side of this situation. I've agreed to, and even initiated, sexual activities I didn't really want. Often I convinced myself, as well as my partner, that it was what I wanted. I, in a totally self-destructive way, consented (or at least appeared to consent).

There were occasions where I'm less convinced though, sure maybe I didn't stop her, maybe I said yes, maybe I even reassured her verbally that I was okay throughout. But I (in my eyes) was quite clearly not okay. But she genuinely believed I was, and I believe her when she says that. Even if sometimes I have no idea how she failed to see that I wasn't completely into it. These occasions are her biggest regrets in our relationship and I'm not convinced that labelling it would be helpful to either of us.

I'm not really sure I had a point in this reply, I guess that I don't think it's fair to blame this guy entirely for the situation, he genuinely believed his partner was consenting enthusiastically. Not being fully informed about the issues surrounding consent is not a fault of the individual, it is the fault of culture (though clearly individuals are essential to changing culture).

Posts: 134 | From: UK | Registered: Jan 2011  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator

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