Right now, I likely should be sleeping, but I thought that I would quickly write a post about something that I just read. The article that I am referring to really pissed me off and, what’s more, is that it wasn’t meant to. It was meant to be one of those articles that all feminist/women positive people really agree with. It was meant to be one of those scary yet affirming stories about a young woman battling with the role and identity of being a sexual assault survivor. And, like most of these stories it ended with the woman understanding and accepting that identity, in effect highlighting the nebulous definition of rape that society uses.
For those of you that aren’t mind readers the article that I am referring to is linked here. I strongly suggest that you read it and form your own opinion on the topic.
As I mentioned above, in my opinion this article has one major flaw: in this case, it wasn’t rape! This is likely to really annoy and piss off people, but please bear with me as I explain. I am not trying to claim that everything that this guy she mentions did was saintly, I am not saying that it wasn’t a bad situation, and I am NOT claiming to know all of the context. For all I know, the context was cut out of the article in editing, or it was too painful or too long to write into the article in the first place.
So, I am not saying that this woman is not a sexual assault survivor. What I am saying is that what was described in the article is not something that I would call rape, and there is one passage in the article that really drives this point home for me.
I never said, “No, no, no.” When I’d cry — almost every time we had sex — he asked if he should keep going. Keep going, I’d say. Just finish. And he would. He could.
My issue is not that she never said “No, no, no.” There are millions of ways not to consent to sexual activity. My issue is that when he asked her if he should keep going, she agreed that he should keep going. For me, as someone who focuses a lot of time and effort on consent during sexual activity, this means, well, keep going.
If my partner and I are engaged in sexual activity, whether it be vanilla sex or intense pain and edge play, if I ask my partner if she wants me to continue and she says yes, I take that as consent.
That being said, it is fair to point out that the consent that this woman gave was far from unequivocal, and that is something that should give anyone pause. However, what she went on to say was not something that completely negated the consent that she gave; Instead it changed the consent from something clear (a “yes” or “keep going”) to something a bit more murky. That is, she made the answer to his request for permission to continue a “yes, but…”.
In answering the question in this way, she moves from giving her full consent to giving conditional consent. That is important, and it should be respected (as all consent should be)! This means, at least to me, that the condition that she made should be followed out, and if it can’t sexual activity should end. And from my reading of the next sentences, that is exactly what happened.
I mean, don’t get me wrong here, when she starts to express displeasure with the sexual activity, and asks for it to end sooner rather than later, this should sound all kinds of alarm bells in her partner’s mind. He likely should have stopped at that implication and done a more in-depth check-in making sure that she didn’t feel pressured to continue and the like.
But in my mind that is exactly the problem, this was based on an implication; this wasn’t based on verbal speech or intense, clear signs of transgressionsee notes. The removal of consent was done through implication. This is a huge problem for me, as it should be for all feminist/women positive people, because this is one of the main ways for rape victims to be ignored and blamed for their rapes!
I mean, how many times have we heard that a woman implied that she was wanting sexual activity based on how short her skirt was, where she was, who she was with, when she was out of the house, how tall her shoes were, or any other absurd thing? I think that I can safely assume that all women positive people think that this defense and victim blaming is completely and utterly ridiculous; But, how, exactly, is implying one’s non-consent any more or less relevant than implying someone’s consent?
Even though this seems like it is simply airing on the side of caution, relying on implication to remove consent still strips women of agency over their sexuality. It takes the power and control that comes with consent and places it in the hands of the person interpreting the consent, rather than in the hands of the person consenting (or not) to the sexual act. This is a major problem!
On top of that, this heavy reliance on the implications around women’s consent during sexual activity feeds right back into the old social tropes about women not having a voice and about how women are always manipulative in relations with men. Again, this is a huge problem, and one that feminists have been fighting for more than a century.
So, whether this woman is a survivor of sexual violence or not (which, sadly, she likely is given the stats), can we please not hold this description of rape up as shining example of the complexities of sexual assault? It only serves to further undermine women, not empower them.
As many of you know, this is a blog written by someone who identifies as kinky. As such, I read things a bit differently than other people. Many people would assume that her mention of crying during sexual intercourse is an “intense, clear sign” that this woman is not consenting to this sexual activity. However, this is not the case for all women, nor should it be assumed to be.
I, for one, happen to strongly enjoy crying and screaming (something else the author mentioned) during sexual activity. In fact, there have been times where my partner has ended a sexual encounter because she was uncomfortable with my screaming and crying, and I was still asking for more. Whether this is your brand of sexuality or not, the statement stands that the author’s removal of consent was based more in implication than it was in verbal cues, and thus, I feel that the critique is still relevant.