I was on a date with this guy, and we were talking about hobbies. His is martial arts, so I told him about my experience learning and volunteering for IMPACT Israel.
Date: Rape protection for women? Lemme guess: Punch to the face, knee to the groin, run away as fast as you can?
Date: No? What else could they possibly teach?
Me: Well, of course they teach you a good knee to the groin, but it’s not just that. It’s also about setting clear boundaries.
He smirked while I demonstrated creepy and non-creepy ways a guy could ask me what time it is while waiting for the bus.
Date: So run away!
Me: I don’t want to, I’m waiting for the bus. I need to get to work.
He was skeptical about the idea that someone standing too close to you and making you feel uncomfortable was something that happens to women on a regular basis. He was impressed with the style of physical fighting skills I described, but the concept of setting verbal boundaries seemed to register with him like teaching women to be uptight and paranoid.
Date: Only creepy guys do that! I could recognize a creeper from a mile away!
Me: OK, fine.
Me: But not all guys are creepy, right? I believe most men aren’t creepy. Some men are good. Some guys are cute, and kind, and they love us. They’re boyfriends, husbands, dads. What are you supposed to do when it’s your boyfriend, who loves you, who is making you uncomfortable?
I can’t even count on one hand anymore the number of stories I’ve heard from close friends that go like this:
- Boy meets girl
- boy and girl engage in consensual romantic activity
- boy initiates sex
- girl says “No, I don’t want to.”
- boy thinks girl doesn’t actually mean what she said
- without really understanding that that is what he is doing – ends up raping her
WHY does that still happen?
Date: But what are you supposed to do? Am I supposed to ask before I do anything?
Date: Ask before every single thing? Pffffft!
Me: Yeah, why not? It doesn’t ruin the moment.
Me: But do you know what totally ruins the moment? Touching someone without her consent. Huge turnoff.
Like many other Internet junkies out there, I’ve been reading the story about the Stanford rapist, his father’s nauseating letter defending him, and the victim’s testimony. The conclusion I’ve drawn from it is that young people (probably everyone, but particularly young people) are so terribly misinformed about consent. If you are drunk, you can not give consent. And if you are not sure if the woman you’re with is drunk or not, what are you supposed to do? You’re supposed to not have sex with her. Because if you don’t know if she can give consent, why would you risk violating someone in that way? And if you aren’t sure if she wanted it, even if she said yes, or she said no but you think she meant yes and you aren’t sure if she means what she means – just don’t do it. If you’ve ever had sex with someone who has given their consent and not regretted it in the morning, then you know that consent doesn’t wear a mask. Consent looks like “Yes, I do want to have sex with you!” It’s obvious when someone is saying yes. Which means that if it’s not obvious, they are saying no.
So what do we do? How do we fix this problem? My younger brother initiated a simple campaign to try and make a difference. His campaign is called Free Consent, and its goal is to raise awareness about what exactly consent looks like. Their slogan is, “If it’s not yes, it’s no!” They held a conference just last week with workshops and guest speakers to discuss this topic, and they’ve visited high schools all over the northern part of the country to help spread the word.
And the best part is, here’s something you can do: join the campaign! Post a selfie of you holding a sign bearing the words,
“If it’s not YES – it’s NO!” #freeconsent
It’s not so hard to understand. And who knows? Maybe we can actually start reducing rape cases around the world. It’s worth a try, isn’t it?