#metoo, patriarchy, sex, and consent

Posted at 22:37 on 6 Feb 2018 by Pandora / Blake

Tags: consent, gender politics, metoo, patriarchy, sex

The #metoo movement is just getting started. Lately it seems that every time I come online, I see more excellent articles discussing the gendered dynamics and inequalities of sex, pleasure and consent. This is a much-needed conversation, and it's thrilling to see it taking place in mainstream publications, on an international scale.

Here are some recent highlights from my reading. Content note: sexual assault and consent violations.

Cat Person. This isn't news; it's the notorious and uncomfortable New Yorker story about "bad sex" which kicked off a widespread conversation beyond simple assault, and into more complicated grey areas. This piece of short fiction, relatable for so many women, shows how people-pleasing and fear can lead to situations where going along with unwanted sex feels easier or safer than saying no - and the unwanted aggression that can be triggered by attempts to set boundaries.

I went on a date with Aziz Ansari. It turned into the worst night of my life. Many felt this exposé of the Aziz Ansari / Grace story was sensationalistic and unhelpful; but it did get people talking about the ways in which we can be pressured into "consenting" to unwanted and unwelcome sex which causes lasting harm. 

Not that bad. Why do so many women normalise or excuse "bad sex" as something that happens to everyone? Perhaps because they are unwilling to admit that their own experiences have been dissatisfying or non-consensual.

The female price of male pleasure. Chilling statistics on the expectation gap between men and women when it comes to sex. Bad sex for a man is boring; bad sex for a woman is painful and distressing.

The husband stitch isn't just a horrifying childbirth myth. I found these revelations about the medical violations inflicted on women after childbirth in the name of male pleasure truly disgusting. If you ever doubted we lived in a patriarchy, doubt no more.

I thought I was one of the good guys. Then I read the Aziz Ansari story. A powerful first person piece by a man who realised his younger self had committed sexual assault after reading the Aziz Ansari piece. It's so necessary to hear from people who have unintentionally violated consent, as well as those who have been violated. We are all raised in this culture, and too many of us have made mistakes. This isn't a case of "us" and "them", and I'm not interested in monstering perpetrators if they take responsibility and try to do better. We would all do well to hold ourselves to account, and use mistakes as an opportunity for personal growth.

We're not done here. This is a fantastic long read by Laurie Penny, making the important clarification that this is not a feminist attack on sexual expression: it is in fact a call-out of patriarchy, male supremacy, and sexual oppression. Sex is fine; it's sexism that's the problem.

Aly Raisman delivers powerful speech at Larry Nassar sentencing. Video: US Olympic gymnast Aly Raisman gives a powerful courtroom speech to her abuser Larry Nassar, a doctor and serial perpetrator who abused his authority to assault hundreds of young girls. Her words speak to the power of survivorship, and strike to the heart of the devastating impact of sexual abuse. This piece on Nassar's sentencing is well worth a read.

This is what domestic abuse is like when you're LGBT. This article from two years ago addresses domestic violence in LGBT relationships - and was given fresh life recently when non-binary poverty activist and food blogger Jack Monroe revealed that they were one of the anonymised interviewees.

The President's Club, metoo and a difficult conversation. I'm going to finish with one of the best pieces I've read so far on the #metoo movement. Girl on the Net addresses the ubiquity of rape culture, situating exploitation, pressure and boundary pushing on a spectrum with rape and abuse. This normalisation of coercion is systemic, and affects all our interactions. We need to have difficult conversations with the men in our lives - and they need to listen.

This is only a slice of it. I've spent my entire adult life talking about consent, and it's a trip to see this conversations start to happen on the international stage. I'm passionate about boundaries and accountability in my work as a porn maker and adult sex educator empowering others to negotiate for what they want. It's so fucking necessary that we talk about this, as a global community and as a species.

#metoo isn't a witch hunt, it's not about goodies and baddies. We can be both perpetrator and victim. Anyone can make mistakes. Many of us have. Let's take this opportunity to listen and reflect, to hold ourselves to account, and develop better tools and social technologies that will allow us to discover and ask for what we want, set our own strong boundaries, and respect the autonomy of others - both in bed, and in the rest of our lives.

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