I’ve heard too many accounts from women – many of whom are my friends – about their own experiences of ‘relenting’ to coercion. Though there are countless people who defend this system (and the numerous ways in which it privileges men while excusing any accountability they need to take for their actions), is it actually the kind of society people want to live in? One where sex can be cajoled and forced out of people who will invariably experience some level of trauma afterwards?
The answer to the above question should obviously be no. It’s from an article in the Sydney Morning Herald by Clementine Ford who brings attention to the idea that Western culture often supports male perspectives and privilege when it comes to the initiation and general course of heterosexual sex. Her discussion centers around mature women, however I’d like to focus on how it’s the juvenile/immature attitudes prevalent in youth (but definitely not limited to!) that become the launching pad for these failures as an adult. The way the ‘I’m young and inexperienced in sex’ game plays out, often defends misguided assumptions (….such as boys will be boys, boys are aggressive, girls are passive, girls have no sex drive, girls are nurturers, boys have no self-control, girls secretly like it rough, etc, etc.) and it becomes a given that these sexual encounters will be fraught with regrets and mistakes; it’s simply the nature of the experience.
And it may be the nature of the experience, but it may also be the fact that many occasions are ‘naturally’ negative because they’re one-sided, male dominated affairs; that the often traumatic experience for the girls has been negated or downplayed because it’s not the narrative guys want to hear. Boys want to know that they’ve done it right …that their new-found
penis power not only gives them satisfaction but also pleases the girls they share it with. And so perhaps it’s the fact that normal has never really been normal, and maybe it’s time to call BS on those who suggest that early or immature sexual experiences are bound to be messy, hurtful and often regrettable happenings. Perhaps it’s time to admit there’s an imbalance of power, and to promote the idea that sex should not only be rooted in equality, but that it equally brings pleasure to all involved.
We need a new normal.
I think I’m probably the anomaly, but my early sexual experiences were never things that I controlled, maneuvered or even desired to be in my favour ….actually, it was quite the opposite. [TMI alert!] I was always the somewhat reluctant recipient; avoiding the blow job from the first girl I kissed in my friends basement for fear of someone walking in on us, ejaculating in my pants while dry humping another and then not being able to ‘get it up’ when she pulled me on top of her at the drive-inn, being with a girl who although younger, was more experienced and I simply went along with whatever she had in mind. Even my 1+ year relationship in high school (that came after these others) was a non-intercouse affair because it was something she didn’t want to do and I was perfectly content with the other activities we shared. Sex in those early days was never something that felt forced, and it was not only fun for me but I’m fairly certain fun for my partners as well; we shared, learned, got awkward and enjoyed things together. That was my normal.
But again, I may be the anomaly. The idea that you have to have consent in a relationship was a no-brainer; of course you have to have consent. The opposite of that is non-consent, which would imply that the other person you’re with isn’t in to you …which should not only be a blatantly obvious red flag in any healthy relationship, but a strong indicator that yes, you most certainly shouldn’t be sexually intimate with that person (…I’ll rattle off my prostitution views at another time.) And if that person wasn’t in to you, then you either worked it out and resolved your differences (because communication is king after all) or you moved on to another relationship. The concept of forcing, or as Ford mentions coercing, someone into sex is a completely foreign notion – or at least it was, until someone close to me opened up about their unhealthy past. But I digress….
Here in the present though, the discussion of consent catches not only major news stories but local as well. A Court Of Queen’s Bench judge overturned a lower court judge’s ruling on a ‘consent’ case involving two teenagers and an accusation of sexual assault here in Alberta. After reviewing a partial video of the event, Justice Juliana Topolniski remarked; “It’s long beyond debate that in Canada, no means no. / Consent means yes. / The word ‘no’ does not mean ‘yes.’ / The word ‘no’ coupled with fending off an attacker with a water bottle does not mean ‘yes.’ / There is nothing ambiguous about it.” Judges are usually the ones with the final say, and when they themselves are at times bias, prejudice and comment inappropriately on issues they’re unfamiliar with, complainants are further injured and justice certainly not served. Consent should be something simple, and the fact that we’re devoting time to it for both young people and seasoned judges alike is indicative of a far greater problem.
The idea of equality in sex has to begin when the topic is first understood. If it’s not, you’re simply playing a game of catch-up that is bound to produce casualties. The following is from a recent campaign at the University of Winnipeg put on by Jan Byrd, the university’s executive director of wellness and student life:
One of the first things people think about, whether they want to or not was, ‘Well, was the victim drinking?’” To prevent that victim-blaming, she said 150 posters have been pinned up around the school with the taglines, ‘Drinking isn’t a crime, sexual assault is,’ and ‘Alcohol causes hangovers, not sexual assault.
Post secondary institutions are prime grounds for sexual exploration, and many students simply go along with the prevailing notions in terms of behaviours and attitudes, which is why it’s important to make them aware of the inaccuracies surrounding issues of both sexual consent and more importantly assault. When consent is at all ambiguous and alcohol is involved, futures may hang in the balance – as what was intended to be a simple night of fun can turn into traumatic, life altering experiences. The fact that sexual consent needs its own program/campaign in post secondary studies (when students are already adults) demonstrates the need for such learning to happen sooner …and the earlier the better as far as I’m concerned.
The failure to grasp the idea of consensual sex, whether by an inquiring youth, a confused, misguided adult, or a seasoned judge, isn’t going to go away on its own. Sexism and misogyny coexist with a conflicted sense of tradition and an ever-blossoming porn culture that taints the views of young boys and men (and girls!) in all walks of life. There needs to be an openness for such discussions in the family. Classroom solutions need to happen sooner …and as convenient as they are, will only be effective when reinforced with open dialogue – especially having males speak out on the issues whenever possible.
Guys let guys get away with things because heck, we like to fit in. Who doesn’t. There’s a price to be paid for not speaking up though, and when you turn a blind eye to that idiot friend of yours (the one who goes off on his recent exploits or on a tirade of sexist remarks) because you feel uncomfortable or don’t want to be the party pooper and bring the mood down, you’re not just hurting yourself but potentially the females in your life now and in the future. We have a vested interest in the sexual health of women, and to disregard that for self-centred reasons will only diminish our own sexual experiences in the long run.
And why would we want to do that?
*video from blueseatstudios.com*