Affirmative Consent

There has been a lot in the news recently around the issue of consent. Affirmative consent is the, sadly revolutionary, idea that only a verbalized yes in a situation where the woman is not afraid to so no means yes. It is a knowing, voluntary and mutual decision to engage in sex. This should be self-evident but sadly is not.

Modern society is flooded with images and stories that glorify and normalize non-consent. I bet anyone who has read a romance novel has read a scene like this. The heroine and hero are fighting. The heroine is pulling away from the hero and may even be breaking up with him. The hero decides to stop the fight by grabbing the heroine and kissing her. At first, she resists but then she melts into his arms and releases that she does love him after all. This is a clear case of non-consent and sexual assault yet it is romanticized in our society to the point where it is written about in literature written by and for women. Next time you read a scene like this try this exercise. Ignore the thoughts the author has inserted and just focus on the actions. Imagine a fight in your own past. Is this how you would have wanted your significant other to treat you?

This came up in the recent trail involving York university graduate students. The victim, Mandhi Gray, was casual dating her attacker Mustafa Ururyar at the time of the assault. She had invited him out that night and agreed to walk home with him. Mandhi didn’t think it was romantic at all when Mustafa decide to handle their break-up by grabbing her and forcing her to have sex with him. Yet that’s how Rhett cements his relationship with Scarlett in Gone with the Wind.

Justice Marvin Zuker made a statement concerning consent as part of his ruling. This is a landmark case, yet as Mandhi said to reporters getting justice shouldn’t be frontline news. She still has to wait for the results of her civil suit with York University to see if Mustafa will be allowed to continue his degree. If he is she can’t because there would be no way to avoid him. The department just isn’t that big. Getting justice is a slow and uphill battle for victims of sexual assault.

This was seen in the Ghomeshi travesty earlier in the year where his lawyers were allowed to attack the reputations and actions of his victims. The Ghomeshi trial became a travesty of justice where the victims were put on trial and as a result, their attacker was allowed to walk away. Apparently, celebrities are allowed to attack people because the women in question are asking for it.

News flash: no woman is ever asking for it. It shouldn’t matter what we wear, where we go, or who we talk to. Where a top where go can seeing are breasts doesn’t mean we want to sleep with you. Going to a nightclub doesn’t mean we’re easy. Walking at night doesn’t mean we deserved it. The idea that there is a “real” way of being a rape victim: saying no out loud, fighting physically with your assailant, and reporting immediately and that other victims aren’t legitimate is crap.


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