Best. PSA. Ever.

Everyone, stop and take a moment to look at this fucking awesome PSA I got from K’s facebook:

This is like 6 kinds of awesome. Rape prevention is mostly aimed at women, and the majority is stuff like “Carry a rape whistle!” and “Don’t leave your drink alone!” and “Don’t wear your hair in a ponytail when you run, because then the rapist will grab it!” (I shit you not, a state police trooper told that to all of us wide-eyed freshman on the first night of college.) The list of ways women can prevent rape becomes a checklist of what a woman who was raped should have done. If you miss one item on the list, we’re off to the victim-blaming races. The fact is, the simplest way to prevent rape is, well, to not rape. But many people think having sex in the four situations above is just fine. (Thus the need for the PSA.)

The crux of it all is consent. So many people think that consent is the absence of no. But it’s not. Consent is not “oh, ok, I guess so.” Consent is not “Well, I guess I owe you.” Consent is not “I’m really drunk, so sure!” Consent should be enthusiastic, and consent should be sober.

I know that last part is contentious, so I yoinked a comment I posted on WWJTD so I wouldn’t have to be eloquent and persuasive twice. 

Many people think that consent for sex is just something you imply – that you just know the person wants to have sex with you. However, nonverbal communication can be misconstrued – in fact, it often is. Abbey and Melby found that men are more likely to interpret nonverbal cues as sexual intent, and in a study titled “Perception of sexual intent: The role of gender, alcohol consumption, and rape supportive attitudes” Abbey and Harnish found that men perceived women as behaving more sexually than women did, and that targets were viewed as being more sexual when both targets were drinking. The point is that assuming you’re going to have sex isn’t accurate. There’s also confirmation bias – you want something to be so, thus you interpret it as so – and the fact that some people are bad senders of nonverbal information, and some people are bad receivers of information (are bad at interpreting what is being said nonverbally). And we’re piss-poor judges of our sending and receiving ability.

Consent is not (or should not be) the absence of a no. Consent is not (or should not be) implied by nonverbal cues. Consent should be an enthusiastic yes. If you’re not sure, ask. If you think it’s a yes but it hasn’t been said, ask. It’s much, much better to be kind of awkward, or to miss out on sex you could have had, than to rape someone. Because yes, it is rape.

I have one caveat to the above paragraph: When you have intimate partners who have enough rapport to say “no” to sex without fear of any negative consequences, then consent can be granted through nonverbal cues.

A lot of rape happens when the victim wants to say no, but doesn’t out of fear of the consequences, whatever they may be.

Another big thing for me on consent has to do with intoxication: If you’re too drunk to drive, you’re too drunk to consent to sex. I know that’s a controversial statement. But if you’re too drunk to drive, you’re also too drunk to give medical consent. If you’re too drunk to make decisions about your body medically, is it really so much of a stretch to say you’re too drunk to make decisions sexually? This is another one of those things I say because it’s so much better to err on the side of caution, and again, I offer the caveat of intimate relationships with a strong trust bond.

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Posted on January 4, 2012, in awareness, feminism, Social Justice and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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