After starting the discussion on rape culture last week, where I explained the inherent sexism in dress codes, I realized I needed a blog post of its own to address another culprit: playing “hard-to-get”.
Even if you aren’t consciously aware of playing the game, almost every woman has agonized over the fear of looking “clingy”. Don’t text back too fast. Never call or text him first. Don’t like too many posts on social media. Don’t make the first move. Don’t say “I love you” first. Don’t have sex on the first date. And a million other rules designed to make women, well, hard to get.
Each of these rules promises to make a man call, commit or fall in love with you. There’s only one problem: hard-to-get blurs the lines of consent.
Teaching women to say “no” when they mean “yes” is a dangerous game – because it teaches men not to take no for an answer. In fact, it rewards men who do not take no for an answer.
Rape is portrayed as a violent act, committed at gunpoint by a stranger in a back alley. But in reality, women are far more likely to be raped by someone they know. Potentially, someone who thinks she’s just playing “hard-to-get”.
So let’s break down what consent is not:
- Being drunk or high is not consent. Similarly, being passed out is not consent.
- Saying yes and then changing your mind is not consent. Starting and then stopping is not consent.
- Saying nothing is not consent.
- Being hesitant or having to be “talked into it” is not consent.
- Dressing provocatively or having a history of casual sex is not consent.
You would think we wouldn’t have to say those things, but consider the results of the following study…
And the above study is hardly an isolated incident. As a society, we perpetuate these beliefs. Today’s lyrics are littered with disturbing innuendos:
- “What do you mean when you nod your head yes, but you want to say no? Better make up your mind, girl, what do you mean?” – Justin Bieber
- “I know you want it but you’re a good girl. The way you grab me, must wanna get nasty. I hate these blurred lines.” – Robin Thicke
- “Put Molly all in her champagne, she ain’t even know it. I took her home and I enjoyed that, she ain’t even know it.” – Rick Ross
- “She say she usually don’t but I know that she front ’cause shawty know what she want and she don’t wanna seem like she’s easy.” – Jamie Foxx
- I could really go on and on.
So what is consent? Consent is enthusiastic, freely given and ongoing. If any of those conditions are not met, it’s not consent. It’s rape.
This may seem very straightforward, but it’s not. When a high school girl was publicly and repeatedly sexually assaulted by her peers, the term “rape” was hotly debated because she was drunk. By “putting herself in that position”, she was “asking for it”. In fact, national media coverage sympathized with the perpetrators, making excuses for the rapists and stressing that the victim was intoxicated.
As a culture, we have to destroy the predatory male/passive female narrative. We have to teach women to speak their minds and men to respect female voices. We have to create a consent culture.
Don’t know where to begin? Talk to your son, daughter, brother, sister, cousin, friend about consent. Education is the first step towards normalizing consent – instead of coercion.