This past month, Hollywood has been a hot mess (to say the very least). Starting with the sexual assault allegations against Harvey Weinstein, women in the industry have banded together to expose all of the male directors, writers, and actors who have been the perpetrators of sexual misconduct in Hollywood. Since the initial allegations, it seems like every single prominent male in the film industry has been accused. Just to highlight that point, I found a handy list of all the men who have been exposed this month. On this list you can find men like Kevin Spacey, Andy Dick, Brett Ratner and Andrew Kreisberg. Just to name a few. Contrary to what some particular individuals may think (*cough cough* men *cough cough*), these women are not just saying this to spark an anti-Hollywood revolution and completely uproot the entertainment industry. Although there is so much wrong with Hollywood, sometimes I think we might as well just throw it all away and start over at this point.
All of this chaos brings up a really important discussion about consent. Even though there is a lot of consent activism circulating through the internet, somehow it still seems to be missing the mark. For some reason, we’re missing something about how the idea of consent can reach the perpetrator, not just victims. In the case of the allegations in Hollywood, it’s pretty clear to me that these prominent men in the industry are using their status to coerce women into performing acts that they wouldn’t otherwise be willing to do. Although, many of these allegations do give the impression that there was no coercing, just straight up assault. (I don’t want to discredit the accounts of the women who were violated as I talk about coercion).
This brings about the topic of enthusiastic consent. We need to start pushing the notion that “I guess”, “maybe”, a quiet nod, and a “yes” that took minutes of ‘convincing’ is not good enough to be called consent. We need to practice a new kind of consent activism where an enthusiastic proclamation of consent is needed before a sexual act is performed. Now I’m not saying you have to yell, “I want to have sex!” off of your rooftop, but make sure your partner knows that you are enthusiastically consenting to be with them. Additionally, consent isn’t a one and done kind of thing. It needs to be expressed every time a new act is started, sometimes multiple times during one instance.
When we talk about the necessity of consent, but not what real consent looks like, we set our activism up for failure. Your consent should not be coerced or convinced out of you. If you don’t feel like you can give your consent right away, get out of there. Another little point I’d like to make is that if you are feeling embarrassed or too shy to express your consent, you aren’t ready to have sexual relations with that person, or any persons. Because at the end of the day, if you can’t communicate with your partner about what you are and aren’t comfortable with, your experience is bound to be awful and potentially traumatic. Being comfortable and consenting is self care. Another issue we run into with teaching others about consent, is that healthy and consensual sex is seen as a taboo. Movies almost always show sex scenes that contain literally no communication. When the media portrays sex one way, but doesn’t address how it should be, society is thrown into a pit of confusion and we all become gradually more uncomfortable with simple, healthy communication.
Teaching kids about consent needs to be a more prevalent part of society. If you don’t want to introduce the concept of sex into the discussion, it’s not necessary to get the point that consent is important across effectively. For example, you can teach your children to always ask someone before giving them a hug or touching something that belongs to them (a toy, backpack, clothes etc.). This introduces the basic morals of consent without connecting it to sex right off the bat. Aside from teaching them to ask for consent, you can also teach them how to give enthusiastic consent with the same method. Tell your children that it’s ok to tell someone that they don’t want a hug or not to touch their things. When you give your children the resources to be confident that they aren’t simply being rude for rejecting an advance, sexual or not, they will not be uncomfortable with the idea of giving or not giving enthusiastic consent in the future.
It’s time to stop setting up generation after generation for failure. The key to a healthier society is education.
photo credit: Entertainment Tonight