Recently a not famous woman wrote and published an account of a sexual encounter of a very famous comedian. She is going by Grace, he is Aziz. This is a particular account of a particular sexual encounter. It is an account of a sexual encounter that is at best gross and not totally consensual. If you know how to use google there are hundreds of voices saying who to blame, whose fault this was.
I don’t want to talk about whose fault this was. I want to talk about how it is that we live in a society where people have sexual encounters that one person thinks is consensual and the other one does not. I want to talk about how we can do better for all parties if we want to, but the conversation starts WAY before anyone goes to anyones house for wine and making out.
We HAVE to start talking about consent, we have to start talking about consent as soon as our kids can talk. We have to start talking about consent because our society tells everyone lies about sex, and sexiness, and these lies turn into sexual encounters where someone is the victim and someone is the predator but no one meant any of it and everyone is sorry but nothing is changed.
We tell girls: Just say no! Say no! Make sure you say no. But don’t hurt his feelings. Let him down gently. Don’t be mean. Make sure you are still nice. But say no. But nicely.
We tell girls: Be sexy! But not too sexy! Not slut sexy but don’t be a prude. Look presentable and alluring, but not like….too much. Not easy. But look good.
We tell boys: No means no! But sometimes no means ask again. Sometimes no means yes.
We tell boys: Real men respect women, but REALLY masculine men have a lot of sex with a lot of women and women can’t resist them.
We say: Respect each other, but it is really really romantic when a man pursues a woman even after she tells him no.
We say: Real men know how to please a woman and don’t have to ask her, they just know.
We say: tickling children even after they shriek no is a fun and silly game.
We say: I know you are uncomfortable but kiss your aunty because she wants you to.
We say: You can’t wear that at school because they boy behind you cannot be in control of himself if you wear that.
We say: He only is teasing you in a way that makes you cry because he like you. Just ignore it.
We say: Boys will be boys.
We say: don’t talk about sex right now right here. That is nasty. That is embarrassing. Your body is shameful.
Then we say: I don’t know why she didn’t say no and mean it. I don’t know why she couldn’t communicate clearly about sex. This is her fault.
Then we say: I don’t know why he kept pressing. He should have been able to read her signals. This is his fault. How could he not know?
We need to change the narrative, and we need to change it now.
We need to say: Everyone is in charge of their own body. If you aren’t sure THAT IS OKAY. You can ask. Asking is hot. Consent is super sexy.
We need to say: Desire is allowed and it is important to learn how to communicate what you want. If you can’t talk about sexy things with a partner, then maybe that isn’t a good partner for you.
We need to say: Coercion is not acceptable. Real Men and Real Women is a dumb made up label anyway. People who are trying their best stop when they hear no. People who are trying their best have their listening ears on for no. Someone who is worthy of a sexual experience with you will be someone you can communicate about sexy things to.
We need to say: Clear communication does not take away any mystery or intrigue. Sex and bodies are beautiful gifts that are honored with clear communication. So yes, toddler I will answer your questions about why that baby is “missing her penis” and yes 7 year old I would be happy to talk about where babies come from wherever you brought it up, even though we are sitting down in the very full sanctuary after church (okay, you can rush to the car first just this once.)
We need to say over and over again so that everyone hears: Everyone is in charge of their own body. And we need to mean it. We need to let our children be in charge of their own bodies as often as we can while still making sure that everyone is safe. We need to practice being in charge of our own bodies when we are picking out our clothes, when we say no we don’t want to hug or kiss someone, when we are learning to be friends.
We need to say Everyone is in charge of their own body when dress codes come out that blame girls for boys not paying attention, and when boys are made fun of for not trying to get laid. When teasing is normalized and girls are slut shamed for having sexual feelings.
We need to say everyone is in charge of their own body, and then we need to normalize sex so that when the time comes our young adults are not too embarrased to say the words and name the feelings and the body parts. We need to say the things in benign situations so they are able to accurately communicate what they do and do not want in a highly charged and vulnreable time.
We need to stop pretending that these conversations about consent and mutual desire are just going to spring out of the ether when adults are ready to have sex. We need to stop spending all our time talking about whose fault this very common experience, and start talking about how this confusion about consent is A THING that needs to stop and can stop if EVERYONE GETS TO BE IN CHARGE OF THEIR OWN BODY. If everyone is trying first and foremost all the time to make sure everyone is in charge of their own body.
I wrote a book, I have a ted talk, hell their are t-shirts you can find them all here.