The first thing you need to understand about consent is that consent is not, strictly speaking, a thing. Not in the same way that teleportation isn’t a thing. Consent is not a thing because it is not an item, nor a possession. Consent is not an object you can hold in your hand. It is not a gift that can be given and then rudely requisitioned. Consent is a state of being. Giving someone your consent — sexually, politically, socially — is a little like giving them your attention. It’s a continuous process. It’s an interaction between two human creatures. I believe that a great many men and boys don’t understand this. I believe that lack of understanding is causing unspeakable trauma for women, men, and everyone else who is sick of how much human sexuality still hurts.
We need to talk about what consent really means, and why it matters more, not less, at a time when women’s fundamental rights to bodily autonomy are under attack across the planet, and the Hog-Emperor of Rape Culture is squatting in the White House making your neighborhood pervert look placid. We still get consent all wrong, and we have to try to get it a bit less wrong, for all our sakes.
To explain all this, I’m going to have to tell you some stories. They’re true stories, and some of them are rude stories, and I’m telling you now because the rest of this ride might get uncomfortable and I want you to have something to look forward to.
Do you remember me? you type. I have some questions. I would be grateful if you might be willing to answer them.
Why did you hurt me? is your question, the only one, but you do not write this.
Of course I remember you! he replies, almost immediately. I will give it my best to answer any questions you have. I hope you are doing good.
You ask if he might be willing to share his memory of that day at the mall. Your point of view would be helpful for my own closure, you say, no matter what that may be. You ask if he has ever thought of it again, if the experience ever held any weight for him. You tell him there are no right answers, because you believe this is true.
Gil responds from a different email address. His personal one.
Let me really think about it, he says, so I can give you my best recollection.
I want to help you, he says, in any way that I can.
Laura Yan | Longreads | July 2016 | 13 minutes (3035 words)
Three years ago, I quit my job in New York to go backpacking in South America. It was a blessed time, full of postcard travel highs: swimming in mirror-glazed lakes dipped in sunset, burning coca leaves for mystic rituals, falling in love with a hippie as we hitchhiked beneath the stars. I was 23, and learning to be wild and light and free. I spoke about my travels with an editor at The Hairpin, and wrote about it elsewhere. Sometimes readers emailed me asking for travel advice. They asked mostly innocuous questions: What should I pack? How do I save up to travel? Where should I visit? I tried to answer when I could. One girl asked if I’d ever been in serious danger.
When I am fourteen my classmate’s mother is killed by her boyfriend. He stabs her to death. In the newspaper they call it a crime of passion. When she comes back to school, she doesn’t talk about it. When she does mention her mother it’s always in the present tense – “my mom says” or “my mom thinks” – as if she is still alive. She transfers to another school the next year because her father lives in a different school district.
Passion. As if murder is the same thing as spreading rose petals on your bed or eating dinner by candlelight or kissing through the credits of a movie.
– Anne Thériault, on The Belle Jar, traces a lifetime of gendered violence, assault, harassment, and threats starting at age six in this brutal but important read.
A well-written, well-researched primer on the events surrounding Daisy Coleman’s rape, how the charges against her attacker were dropped, and the environment in which the Coleman family found themselves after the attack. Their house was burned down, for one thing. Mrs. Coleman lost her job. Daisy tried to commit suicide twice. Her brothers were subjected to abuse from other students. The horrific usual.
Daisy Coleman is a hero. She’s only 14 years old. She allows her name to be used in media accounts of her rape, even though she is a minor. She came forward with her story in xoJane. The comments have been shut down.
Another evil facet of rape culture is that is encourages us to make assumptions about rape culture and its victims. Here, Donofrio opens up; she was raped at 55 years old. She exposes the double standard inherent in the way we blame victims, rather than perpetrators.
“… we live in a world where false allegations are the dominant narrative. Because false allegations are a nearly-universal part of any conversation about rape, when a woman says that she is a rape survivor, one of the first things that becomes a part of that conversation is suspicion, cynicism, and dismissal.”