Teach Consent! (But What Good Is Teaching Consent?)
There’s a petition to the White House to require that consent be taught in public school sex education. Sometimes a petition can ask for something sensible but mess it up by including problematic wording; I include the full language here:
Make Consent a Mandatory Part of Sex-Ed in Public Schools.
There seems to be a huge misunderstanding concerning what consent is when it comes to sex. And yet — when discussed with teenagers — the idea that “unless someone says ‘yes’, it’s not consent,” is easily accepted. It’s not a hard conversation: Unless you get a “Yes,” assume “No.” Uncomfortable, maybe, but difficult? Hardly.
Please make the line between a clear “Yes” and anything else — whether it be someone drunk, asleep, or otherwise unable to say “No” — something schools must cover in health or sex ed.
If STI information and methods of contraception are standard fare, consent should be, too.
That’s it. For most regular readers of this blog, there’s nothing to dislike about that. But one might ask, what good would it do? That’s a serious question, and it deserves a serious answer.
Here’s the root of the question: are rapists confused about consent, or do they know what they are doing is rape? Well, my view based on the research is that they know they are raping, at least the vast majority of them. Some of the most widely referenced and linked posts in this blog’s history are on just this subject. Some of those review the research of Dr. David Lisak and others about who the rapists are and how they operate, which I refer to as Predator Theory:
Meet The Predators
And one post discussing communication analysis and its implications for claims that rapists just misunderstand:
Long story short, there is a percentage of the population who are rapists because they like to rape, they are very bad people and they are not making mistakes. They plan to rape, they plan to rape is ways that won’t get them punished, so they rape victims who have the least ability to do anything about it and use tactics, like intoxication instead of violence, that make it tough to prosecute or even get people to see what happened as rape.
So we’re having this national moment after Steubenville, and I’ve already said that this wasn’t some confused and horny guy, but rather a decision that it would be awesome to subject the drunk girl to a series of sexualized humiliations.
Recently, the amazing Zerlina Maxwell went on Sean Hannity’s show and said that we should tell men not to rape, and what she got for trying to have a serious conversation was a series of racist and misogynist threats and mockery. But because Zerlina Maxwell is amazing, she reacted by completing the thought that the right wing tried to shut down, writing for Ebony. I’d prefer folks read it there, but short version of her five ways is as follows:
1. Teach young men about legal consent
2. Teach young men to see women’s humanity, instead of seeing them as sexual objects for male pleasure
3. Teach young men how to express healthy masculinity4. Teach young men to believe women and girls who come forward5. Teach males about bystander intervention