Political Flavors

The Unspoken No Is Still Pretty Loud

Posted in Personal Essays on February 10th, 2013

Amanda Marcotte hit it out of the park with her rebuke to disingenuous men on the internet, “If Consent Was Really That Hard, Whiny Dudes Would Fail At Every Aspect of Life.” She explained how everyone uses both verbal and non-verbal communications in all social interactions and there’s no reason why sex and dating relationships should be any different. The post ends with an anecdote about a teenage boy explicitly asking for consent from her. And this is an excellent point. If teenage boys can understand this concept, grown men have no excuse.

I have been thinking about something that happened to me when I was a teenager regarding consent ever since the entire “elevatorgate” debacle. I was sixteen years old and meeting a bunch of friends to hang out on a Friday night. Among us was a group of college freshman I hadn’t met before who were classmates of an older friend of mine. One of them was sitting next to me and he complimented my perfume and told me I smelled really good. I was surprised and flattered but not particularly interested. I said “Thank you” to be polite and then he put his arm around me. My body stiffened. I wasn’t sure what to do. And then almost immediately Mr. College took his arm away and said “Oh sorry, if that wasn’t cool.” It was awkward, but not really the end of he world.

Looking back, that an 18 year old young man can read non-verbal communication just confirms what we already know. Men can ask for a yes or understand a no. When they say otherwise, it’s not because they can’t, it’s because they just don’t want to.

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