Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Mother, May I?

Last week I talked about Cosby, Consent, and Cricket. There was more I wanted to say on the issue of consent, but I really wanted to keep the piece down to about 600 words; so I decided to break my thoughts up into two pieces.

This is the second piece.

Let me begin with two oft-cited statistics, which may or may not have any solid basis in fact. The first is one that is very pertinent to the discussion of consent:

1 in 5 women will be the victim of some sort of sexual assault.

Now one from my 19 years of teaching:

5% of the students cause 95% of the problems.

What does this mean? Far from meaning that 20% of all guys are assholes, it means the 5% who are, are causing all the problems, messing up the lives of millions of women, and giving the rest of us guys a bad name.

And let's examine that first statistic one more time. It's not saying that 20% of all sexual encounters a woman has is some sort of assault. That's something completely different. But maybe we'll talk about that math some other time.

Besides, that’s not what I want to talk about yet. I want to get back to talking about consent.

…and overreacting.

It used to be that the catchphrase was “No Means No.” That was enough for 95% of us. We got it. Of course, there were a few “maybes” in there that got people confused and caused a lot of trouble…a lot of what one friend once called “felony stupidity”, but for the most part, we got it.

But some people didn’t, and as a result, New York is the latest state to enact a “Yes Means Yes” law. This law means that “She didn’t say ‘no’,” isn’t enough. There has to be an active and enthusiastic “Yes!” “Well, OK” doesn’t cut it. Not even a “Well OK” with a twinkle in her eye that would seem to indicate that this was where she wanted things to end up in the first place. There has to be an active and enthusiastic “Yes” at each step of making out.

My response to this is twofold. The first is: You gotta be kidding me! Instead of two people making out and negotiating non-verbally what they want to do as they go along, this turns everything into the following rather unromantic game of “Mother May I?”

Pat: May I kiss you?

Chris: Yes.

Pat: May I kiss you again?

Chris: Yes.

Pat: May I put my hand on your butt?

Chris: Yes.

Pat: May I unbutton your shirt?

Chris: Yes.

Pat: May I undo your pants?

Chris: Yes.

You will notice that I didn’t state what sex either Pat or Chris were. Either one could be male…or female…or they could both be male…or female. It’s not always a case of the guy putting the moves on the girl.

This new rule puts what has traditionally been an improvised dance, with nonverbal cues being understood by most people, into a game of legal contract. 95% of the guys out there understand that if you try to unzip a girl’s pants and she gently moves your hand away, then you should stop. They also understand that if she responds by unzipping yours, then you can try to move further. And the key word here is “try.” If at any point she brushes your hand away, you know not to try again.

But because of the 5% of guys who wouldn’t understand “No” if they were hit over the head with an anvil with the words painted all over it, a new rule has been put in place that says that everyone has to play “Mother May I?”

As for my second response…well, since I’m running out of room again, you’ll just have to wait another week for that.

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