Why Consent Shouldn’t Be a “Grey Area”

By: Ali Harris-Saunders

The other night I had a heated discussion with a male friend over the topic of consent. It was mind boggling that here in 2016, the outlines for sexual conduct need to be reiterated. It also didn’t help much going on twitter and seeing Black men and even women defending Bill Cosby, or the topic of sexual assaults at Spelman and Morehouse being dismissed as trivial, and my personal favorite way to block a predator, the good ole, “You see this girl at a party, fine as ever but she says she’s 15. What do you do?” tweets.

I can’t count how many times I’ve heard, “If she’s 15, I’m 15” or, “They were probably asking for it” or even, “Women change their minds all the time and then lie about rape.” And I have to wonder, where did we go wrong in teaching each other boundaries? Why is it that we as a culture have allowed these things to happen so often that they become the norm and in turn, never spoken about. If a man or a woman gets sexually assaulted, we have made it next to impossible to have them come forward and seek justice, let alone feel comfortable sharing their stories. We victim blame, we ridicule, we get passive, or worse, we defend the abusers.

No one wants to believe that Bill Cosby is capable of being a rapist because of his legacy in television- so armies defend him. But if five men call one woman a hoe on Twitter, suddenly it becomes a fact. Hell, even common knowledge by days end. Our culture loves to live in the “grey area” trying to justify assault.

“But what if we’re both drunk.”

“What if they change their minds mid way? I’m supposed to just stop?”

“There’s nothing wrong with buying a girl a couple drinks to loosen her up, men do it all the time at clubs.”

So allow me to turn this grey area into the simple facts of black and white.

Simply put, there are circumstances that make it impossible for a person to legally give consent. For instance, if someone is drunk or high on drugs- they cannot give consent. So sorry, Bill Cosby sympathizers. He assaulted those women. And if you’re the type of man who gives a woman alcohol to “loosen her up” chances are, you’re a sexual predator too- regardless of how often you think this happens. Again, just because a lot of people do it, doesn’t mean it’s right. That is the definition of predatory behavior. If you have to “loosen” someone up first, you’re a predator.

Age can also determine whether a person can legally give consent as well. So for the “You see this girl at a party, fine as ever but she’s 15,” men, the answer to, “What do you do?” Should be:Tell her to call her parents and wait at the door with her for them to pick her up cause it is NOT that kind of party around here.

Assault is not an issue that we can keep brushing over and ignoring, because our unwillingness to listen and learn leaves a sea full of victims drowning in their depression and hopelessness. We know of the issues happening between Spelman and Morehouse, whose victims are still predominately women and members of the transgender, genderqueer and not listed communities. We like to sweep it under the rug because no one wants “family business” out in the streets, but then still expect our “families” to ride for each other while rape is happening in our own homes. Universities and Colleges rather ignore the problem than to admit there is one.

Men and women would rather turn serious topics into memes than to talk about the issues of consent and assault in the Black community. It’s not being taught properly in our educational systems and it’s not being talked about at home. So where do we go from here?

How did we get to the place where men are taught that they are validated by sex, while simultaneously hating the women who give it to them? Why do we blame women for getting assaulted instead of teaching our boys not to assault women? We laugh at the man who doesn’t get girls meanwhile, the one who does has done so in questionable ways.

Moaning and groaning on a woman who lays there stiff and completely indifferent while pretending that she gave you consent. Women blaming other women for their assault saying, “Well she shouldn’t have been there, or dressed like that” because the same nonsense we’ve been feeding our sons, our daughters grow up hearing. This is the poison that has led us to where we are now.

To begin fixing this problem, we need to erase the idea of hypermasculinity and hypersexuality because it is hurting our men and women. Our men are taught that they can’t be victims, which can create a complex if they actually do become one, and hypersexuality is what is putting us in this predicament in the first place. We need to unlearn slut shaming, we need to teach our people about affirmative consent- we as a community need to change because our culture is bad. And until we talk about this, nothing will change.

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