TW: Sexual assault
Sexual assault and harassment boil down to a violation of one basic principle: consent.
Consent can be revoked at any time. Yes, at any time. That doesn't mean that if you're getting down with a partner you have to stop every fifteen seconds to ask, "Are you still providing consent to this physical intimacy?" But continually checking in is important. It can be a turn on to ask for consent when being intimate. "Do you like that?" "Tell me what you want." "Can I touch you here?" "What if I touch you there?"
Never assume consent. Lack of resistance is not consent.
There are some scenarios where consent may seem to have been given, even enthusiastically, but the consent isn't valid. Children cannot consent to sexual acts. Large age gaps between partners when one is a teenager and the other is an adult can affect the ability to provide consent (ie; statutory rape). Power dynamics (ie; a teacher and a student, or a young fan and their idol) can muddy the waters and it's critical to consider whether an abuse of power is driving the relationship.
When under the influence of drugs or alcohol, consent cannot be given. Being drunk isn't an excuse for assaulting someone. No one would buy the argument that an intoxicated passenger is to blame for a drunk driving accident. An intoxicated victim is not to blame for assault. If you can’t have sex without being wasted, that’s a problem you need to work on and there are resources for that. Twelve step programs for alcoholics and addicts encourage the making of amends for harm done because we all must face the reality of our actions, even if we were blackout drunk.
Most rapists are never punished, only an estimated six percent of rapists spend time in jail. Rape is considered one of the most heinous crimes in the moral conscience of society, but society also finds every way to avoid using the term rape in real life situations. Stereotypes about rape, perpetrators, and victims are very far removed from reality. Rapists are violent stranger who are met with physical resistance and overpower their victim to force penis-in-vagina or penis-in-anus penetration. This is the story for some, but not for most.
According to RAINN, 67 percent of sexual assaults are carried out by someone the victim knows. The stereotypes and the idea that rapists are like rabid dogs that need to be put down is part of the stigma and the shame that prevents victims from coming forward.
Sexual assault is never the fault of the victim.
Appearance has nothing to do with consent. If a woman walks outside naked and takes a nap in the park, she is not consenting to sex, she is just consenting to being naked in the park while napping. If victims are to blame because they are attractive, and if youth is beauty, then most survivors were doomed to begin with because a whopping 80 percent of victims are under 30.
Laws are starting to be crafted to protect sexual autonomy rather than sexual morality, but the reality is that the judicial system and social norms are set to uphold moral ideals. The legislative process doesn't move at the same speed as social change does, the laws are constantly playing catch-up with progress. Which is why the law is not always the best guide for what is ok or not.
Revenge porn is a perfect illustration of this. It exists in a legal gray area because there aren't a plethora of laws on the books that explicitly discuss the internet and assault. Revenge porn, if you aren't familiar with the term, is a form of sexual assault wherein explicit images and/or video of an individual are shared online without their consent. Usually, these are posted as a way to punish, humiliate, and get revenge on an ex-partner. It is digital sexual assault and the intention of the poster doesn't matter. They don't have to be trying to get revenge for it to be assault, the point is that they are explicit pictures shared without consent.
If you can't check in about consent, then don't have sex. Don't share nudes of other people without their consent. Don't send unsolicited nude photos of yourself unless you get consent from the receiver. If you don't have consent, don't do whatever you were thinking about doing.
In an emergency call 911
Find more resources here
Child abuse hotline (USA based)
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Published 4 January 2018
Last updated 28 January 2018
By Kristance Harlow