I never expected that I could feel grateful for the presence of such an unsavory GOP presidential candidate.
Yet here I am.
Grateful for the outpouring, the surge of outrage and personal accounts that are stirring up so much emotional turmoil. Grateful for the intoxicating power of collective storytelling. Grateful for the airing of excrement so stinky that it sparked a truly important national conversation during a campaign that has so far been little more than a media circus.
But I am also a little nervous. Nervous that we will move on to other things long before we have a chance to make any real progress. Nervous because there is so much more to learn from this conversation. Nervous that we won’t learn the one lesson that I honestly believe will permit us to take a giant step forward in the fight to reduce sexual assault.
That lesson is consent.
Sure, everybody knows that consent is the difference between sex and assault but I have never been more convinced that we don’t actually understand how exactly consent works or how to use it. Listening to the rather blase’ reactions of some older women that I know, I’m reminded that power dynamics were once so skewed that women didn’t even always feel entitled to exercise consent let alone know how to do so.
While things have undoubtedly changed, we have a very long way to go. And that is partly because consent is not simple at all. While the concept of women clearly expressing lack of consent is critical to our very safety, I’m afraid that it is mostly acceptable because it conforms to our collective comfort with a rather sanitized view of women’s sexuality.
Because beyond the power to deny consent is the power to seek it. And by that I mean women who know what and who they do want and are capable of clearly expressing it. And that, my friends, is practically heresy. A particular brand of heresy that most of us have been taught to shun. And yet it is exactly by learning to reclaim this thing that is ours and doing so on terms that we learn to clearly define for ourselves and others that we have the best hope of turning hetero sex relations into something that could maybe one day resemble mutual respect.
There will always be the Trumps and Berlusconis of the world who believe that everyone comes with a price tag. And there will always be women (and men) who are willing to plug their nose for long enough to get into the master bedroom at Mar a Lago. But I’m dreaming of a climate in which future generations will have access to sex education that delves into consent even before talk of reproduction and birth control. A climate where every woman might get to a place of respect for her own pussy that will help her to both avoid the sexual interactions that she doesn’t want AND shamelessly but respectfully seek out those that she does.