The year of the pussy

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.

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4 thoughts on “The year of the pussy

  1. Amen! I never knew enough about consent until the last couple of years. I’m embarrassed to admit that I see an event from my own past in a whole new light now. Whoa, I did not consent, nor did I see anything wrong with his failure to ask.

    1. I’m right there with you T. I’m trying not to dwell on what has been lost but rather what we can gain – especially what our children can gain. I know I will be talking about it all the time come the teenage years.

      I also hope consent will become central to defining assault within a legal framework (I imagine that it already is important but without a well developed cultural definition, I don’t know how meaningful it can be).

  2. Oh boy, yeah. I had a student do a project on consent recently, so spent a bunch of time with the surveys used to measure various aspects of people’s thinking on this. Very broadminded, educated people have some fucked up shit buried in their psyches. And of course the culture of shame that makes our sex ed so pointless needs to change, and the sexualization of children, and the gender roles that teach women they are subordinate from the moment they get their first disney princess… I have yet to have The Assault Conversation with my children and it’s about time I did. But I am not sure how to do it, because how do you explain to children that there are people interested in assaulting them without explaining about sex? I do not fucking know.

    But I do see a positive moment happening socially, with our better understanding of the human sexual and gender spectra. And maybe there will be some trickle down benefits as we come to learn more about how humans really work.

    1. I agree glum. I see the positive moment (and the backlash to that moment) and I’m feeling optimistic. As to how to teach them without explaining sex, I’m not exactly sure. I sincerely want to pass on all that I have learned on this subject to my kids (hell, I’m still learning) but I want them to be ready for the information. After all, one of the beautiful things about childhood is the freedom from the enormous expenditure of energy that is reproduction.

      But I do think that we can teach the concept of consent outside of the sex. If my boys are wresting with a friends, I tell them that the need their friend’s consent before they can play like that. I tell them that if someone is doing something to them that they don’t like they are free to express it and request that the person stop. I hope that this has some value.

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