|The advice column in question|
A lot of what he said in this post isn't even worth addressing, because I would hope that anyone reading this blog would find any sort of analysis simply preaching to the choir. For the sake of your sanity, I urge you all to skip the comments on this one too. To summarise, the author says a lot about how legal age of consent is just government meddling, and a lot of rather icky things about how a girl not actually stopping you is totally the same as enthusiastic consent. Apparently "taking advantage" (his description of this situation) isn't rape, but he does admit that it's not, you know, a good thing. So hey, that's something. There was one thing he said however that really stuck in my craw. He talks about how once you get a girl sufficiently worked up she "disappears into a cloud of sexual ecstasy" and will "pretty much let you do anything to her", and I was amazed by his immediate assumption that a girl who suddenly isn't giving you as much verbal feedback is automatically in "sexual ecstasy". Sometimes this is true, certainly. I've been known to wander off into my own head once it's flooded with sufficient endorphins. But sometimes I have stopped giving feedback because I'm not into it anymore, or I never was, and out of fear, self consciousness, or pity I can't bring myself to tell my partner to get off me. These two states of mind can look extremely similar from the outside, and the fact this blogger seems to assume that there is only one possible state of mind that could result in lack of verbal feedback kind of freaks me out.
I also really don't care for the implication behind his statement that girls will "let you do anything" with no caveat that just because you CAN do whatever you want, does not mean you SHOULD. It comes across like a man is doing something actively admirable by not raping his girlfriend when offered the opportunity, and this kind of thinking makes me sick. It's a line of reasoning I see all too frequently from Men's Rights Activists, and they usually put the blame on feminism for making sex too complicated. They expect kudos for keeping up with, or attempting to keep up with, devilishly complicated concepts of consent that the Evil Feminists have just made up. "How were we to know?!" they cry, and I resist the urge to retreat to my Angry Dome forever.
Guys, it's not hard to not rape someone. Seriously. Even if you're a 19 year old hornbag and she's a compliant 16 year old who's completely naive and easily led, it's no great struggle to not rape her. You don't get points for not taking advantage of someone. It's really the absolute base level of human decency - Any idiot can do it. I know this for a fact because the first boy I ever fooled around with was a flipping idiot, and he didn't rape me.
(Just a heads up Mum, you should probably stop reading about here. It's cool, I promise I am still totally a virgin.)
The boy in question had actually originally been quite intelligent, but had smoked so much pot over his high school career that he ended up having to take a second run up to pass his final year. He was incredibly cute, a year older than me, played bass in a "band", and he had his own place where we could hang out without parental supervision - in short, everything a teenage girl dreams of. I was super excited about our relationship - I'd had a "boyfriend" before him, but we'd never done anything other than rather chaste kissing and holding of hands, and this boy wanted to put his hand inside my shirt! Let me tell you, the first time THAT happened I was pretty overwhelmed by "a cloud of sexual ecstasy". I probably would have gone along with just about anything out of confusion, and excitement, and desire for him to not stop putting his hand in my shirt. But that was all that happened. He didn't try to do anything else. We made out until it was time for me to go home, and I went home, very flustered but extremely pleased.
Once I was away from his distracting cuteness, I remember sitting down and deciding to myself that I didn't want to actually have sex with him, because while I wasn't holding out for marriage, I did want to hold out for someone I actually really liked as a person, rather than just someone cute. So the next time I saw him, I told him all that - well, the first part at least. I said something along the lines of, "Hey, I know you and your last girlfriend had sex, but I'm not interested in having sex with you. I think I would like to do other stuff though." He nodded, and put his hand in my shirt again. You can tell already I wasn't with him for the conversation. We dated for something like six months, more or less. I ran away from home briefly somewhere in there, and while my parents assumed I was shacking up with him, I actually only stayed over at his place a couple of times because it felt bizarrely domestic. I was pretty messed up emotionally at that point - it would have been easy for him to push me into something I didn't want to do. But he didn't. In fact, I don't recall him ever broaching the subject of sex again, after our initial, "Thanks, but no thanks" discussion. We made out a TON, and did lots of wonderful stuff to each other. But we never had sex. He managed, somehow, to surmount the enormous challenge of not raping me. He never pushed me, he never cajoled, he never begged, he never just tried to see what would happen. He did eventually break up with me - in hindsight I wonder if this might have been partially because I wasn't interested in sleeping with him, but it also may well have been that we didn't really get along when we weren't making out. But he didn't rape me.
He was not some amazingly enlightened superman - he wasn’t even a particularly good boyfriend. Because we lived in a gossip soaked small town, rumours started circulating about what I was allegedly doing with him and half the boys at school, and he never stood up for me. He didn't grow up to be some amazingly stand up guy either - the last time I saw this guy he was stoned out of his mind, back in our home town after being thrown out of university twice. His girlfriend and mother of his children was two seats away, and he still put his hand on my thigh and slurred, "Man, you're still so hot." But he didn't rape me then, and he didn't rape me when we were dating. This total loser could manage to not rape his younger, naive girlfriend, even though we made out a bunch. I thought about what I wanted, I said no, and he accepted that. Not fucking rocket science. Of course, this unfortunately left me totally unprepared for the next guy, who DID try very hard indeed to talk me into sleeping with him. Not to mention the numerous guys after him that tried to manipulate grudging consent out of me - and before anyone gets paranoid, I'm not in touch with any of the men I'm referring to here, and I sincerely doubt any of them are likely to be reading this.
These experiences only served to make me less and less sympathetic to the idea that navigating consent is so hopelessly complicated men should be given sympathy whenever they fuck up. Sometimes it IS a complicated situation, certainly. Not everyone is able to express their consent, or lack of it, in as forthright a manner as I do. Sometimes one or both of you is drunk or high, and the situation becomes even murkier. These however, are not the situations I'm talking about here. I'm talking about when one party clearly expresses their wishes, and the other party chooses to ignore them or wiggle around them because the answer given wasn't what they wanted to hear. The girl writing that letter to the newspaper seems like she expressed herself quite clearly, and her boyfriend apparently wasn’t able to understand her. I know that in the past I've expressed myself quite clearly, and still not always had my answer taken seriously. Every time I happened I would remember that beautiful loser, and wonder how on earth some men found the idea of enthusiastic consent so difficult to navigate. Some of the men who pushed me had Masters degrees; one of them was twenty years older than me, and they still couldn’t navigate consent as well as a high school burnout who blew his eyebrows off more than once in the time I knew him. I can't help but feel that if you can't even negotiate consent as well as a 19 year old stoner, you really have no business dating.