lifestyle

Agreeing to go home with someone isn’t neccessarily code for “I want sex”.

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So a couple of weeks ago I’m talking to my Mum on the phone about group sex. Again. Weird? Not really. We discuss it semi-regularly, whenever a football scandal erupts. Remember last year after the Four Corners award-winning investigative report on the NRL and Matthew Johns, when group sex was suddenly a topic of polite conversation with friends, relatives, colleagues, parents at school, even – excruciatingly – our own children if they’d seen the news?

While many of us were perplexed by the idea of mates standing around watching each other have sex with the same woman (fun way to spend the evening, guys?), a giant can of worms was opened in workplaces, bars, homes and at BBQs. It was called Consent.

I recall some very uncomfortable moments back then when people I assumed were like-minded about the simple idea that a woman has the right to say no at any point before or during sex revealed some alarming views to the contrary. Views like “if she goes back to a guy’s hotel room, what does she expect?” And “it’s her fault for putting herself in that situation in the first place.” And “scrubbers that hang around football players deserve what they get.”

Ugh. The logic here is ugly and warped. It’s based on the premise that men cannot control themselves. That they are wild beasts who barge through any door left partially ajar. And that women surrender their right not to be sexually assaulted after 2am. Or when hanging around footballers. Or when agreeing to be alone with any man.

The most troubling aspect in this debate is the concept that any woman ever deserves to be sexually assaulted. Naively, I thought we’d progressed miles from the arcane idea of ‘asking for it’, from the idea that a woman’s clothing or sexual history had any bearing on her right to say no.

If you are female and reading this, think hard. Have you ever been in a situation where, had it gone bad, someone might have said ‘you should have expected it’?

When I was about 16, a big US navy boat came into town. For bored schoolgirls, this was fairly exciting and a bunch of us giggled our way down to where the sailors were hanging out. Were we looking to have sex? God, no.  Did we have anything specific in mind? Not beyond the vague impression that it might be fun to talk to some young cute American guys. Our plan was as detailed as that.

One friend and I started talking with two sailors who were staying in a nearby hotel.  When they asked us back to their room on the premise of needing to pick up their uniforms, we innocently agreed. Once we were there, drinking orange juice and laughing, a creeping sense of expectation appeared and my friend and I swiftly suggested leaving. The sailors were perfect gentlemen and we all went out for lunch. Nothing ever happened. The end.

Now. Had those men been different, had they sexually assaulted us, would that have been our fault or theirs? And before you answer that, do you have a daughter or a sister? A niece or a cousin? Had SHE been the one in that hotel room, would SHE have had nobody but herself to blame?

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Back on the phone with my Mum, both of us dismayed by some of the attitudes we’d heard expressed publicly, we decided it all came down to the concept of progressive consent. Not a catchy phrase, admittedly, but one that’s absolutely crucial when it comes to navigating sex in any context. The premise of progressive consent is this: just because you agree to one thing, it doesn’t automatically mean you agree to something else.

If you agree to go home with someone, it doesn’t automatically mean you want sex. Maybe you just want to kiss. Maybe you want to decide when you get there. Maybe you agree to one type of sex but not another. Maybe you agree to have sex with one guy not two. Or two guys but not four. Maybe you agree to have sex with the guy you like but not with his mates watching. Maybe you agreed to have sex an hour ago but now you don’t want to. Now you want to go home. Or go to sleep. And obviously, both parties have the right of refusal at any point – not just the woman. Is that all so hard to understand?

Getting into a taxi with a dude you just met in a nightclub means nothing more than the fact you’ve consented to getting in a taxi. And being drunk and not being able to say no? Well that’s not the same as consent. Think about what we teach our daughters: you have the right to say no at any time and that right should be respected. We must teach our sons the same.

I’d love the best creative advertising minds in Australia to make a convincing ad selling the concept of progressive consent. Gruen Transfer, how about it?

In the meantime, here are a couple of powerful ads from Scotland:

Video from Scotland’s Not Ever campaign website

Please note if this post or any of the comments bring up any issues for you, or if you need to speak to someone please call the NSW Rape Crisis Centre on 1800 424 017.  It does not matter where about you live in Australia, they will take your call and, if need be, refer you to a service closer to home.

Also please be advised the the videos are really quite  graphic and could be triggering to sexual assault survivors.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h95-IL3C-Z8&hl=en_GB&fs=1]

And another one:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ef0OB-2IC20&fs=1&hl=en_US]

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2sKncxSrSHU&fs=1&hl=en_US]

So, does getting in a cab with a guy mean you want to have sex with him? Does having sex with him mean you want to have sex with his mate(s)? What’s been your experience…..

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