I went to a Halloween party on Saturday night and spent a large chunk of the hours from roughly 12-4 am Sunday discussing gender issues (sticking firmly to my views and trying to educate) with a group of men around my age. It was sort of enlightening, because these were all men who saw themselves as “good guys,” men who have heard some of the stuff floating around their lives and on the internet about consent and about some of the sexism that women face, and they pretty much believed that they weren’t the culprits and therefore this didn’t really have anything to do with them.
I think I taught them that they’re wrong. But I was also tipsy verging on 4am so maybe I wasn’t as clear as I’d meant to be. I know I shouted at one point after a demonstration (groping the breast of a female volunteer), “She JUST SAID NO THREE TIMES!” after one of them said, “She can still say ‘No’ at this point.” They clearly hadn’t considered the “blurry lines” of consent, namely that somebody doesn’t have to say the word, “No” or “Stop” to communicate that they aren’t interested in some or all of what’s going on. Of course at that point we also had to have a sidebar to discuss the fact that they aren’t that kind of guy and that I was talking to the wrong people about this and it made me really sad that they misunderstood so badly, and our hostess pointed out the simple idea that every woman in the room has been taught what precautions to take not to get raped, but who has taught the guys not to rape – which made them cranky and all “not all men” again. Then later one basically said that if you’re dating people on Tinder and you get raped it’s your own fault for not taking proper precautions (clearly having missed our hostess’ point.) I told them that mine was a friend of a friend (and chose not to mention he was also a Tinder date, that we didn’t meet through that friend) and they got a little uncomfortable and, “Oh, sorry that happened to you.”
This was a party. A drunken Halloween party. Yet I actually had a really wonderful time and am glad that I spent several hours having this type of conversation because it was so much better than awkward small talk. But I’m sure that none of them understood that so far every bi- or hetero- woman I’ve asked has a “and then I had sex with him even though I didn’t really want to, because it was easier than getting out of it at that point.” (Non-relevant: one of the guys, the one who disagreed with me the most and was therefore the most interesting to talk to, claimed that woman-on-woman rape was the most common and we called “show me that data” on him.) I strongly believe that this happens because so many people believe that, “No means no,” but anything up until, “No, I don’t want to have sex with you and I’m leaving now” means, “I might still want to have sex with you.”
*Note: when I say “have sex” I really mean “participate in sexual activities” with. I define sex when I’m talking about it like this as any sexual act, not necessarily as PiV sex.