Monthly Archives: September 2014

Yes means yes.

“Yes” Is Better Than “No,” via The New York Times:

SUPPOSE someone you know slightly arrives at your home, baggage and all, and just barges in and stays overnight. When you protest, the response is, “Well, you didn’t say no.”

Or imagine that a man breaks into your home while you sleep off a night of drunken revelry, and robs you blind. Did your drinking imply consent?

Until now, this has been the state of affairs in our nation’s laws on sexual assault. Invading bodies has been taken less seriously by the law than invading private property, even though body-invasion is far more traumatic. This has remained an unspoken bias of patriarchal law. After all, women were property until very recently. In some countries, they still are.

Even in America, women’s human right to make decisions about their own bodies remains controversial, especially when it comes to sex and reproduction.

That’s why the recent passage of Senate Bill 967 in California is such a welcome game-changer in understanding and preventing sexual assault. The bill, which passed the Senate unanimously after a 52 to 16 vote in the State Assembly, now awaits Gov. Jerry Brown’s signature, which is expected. It would make California the first state to embrace what has become known as the “yes means yes” law, because it alters the standard regarding consent to sexual activity on college campuses. It is the first state response to President Obama’s initiative on campus sexual assault, announced earlier this year.

Until this bill, the prevailing standard has been “no means no.” If she says no (or, more liberally, indicates any resistance with her body), then the sex is seen as nonconsensual. That is, it’s rape. Under such a standard, the enormous gray area between “yes” and “no” is defined residually as “yes”: Unless one hears an explicit “no,” consent is implied. “Yes means yes” completely redefines that gray area. Silence is not consent; it is the absence of consent. Only an explicit “yes” can be considered consent.

This is, of course, completely logical, and fully consistent with adjudicating other crimes. Nevertheless, it is bound to raise howls of protest from opponents of women’s equality and their right to make decisions about their own bodies.

“Yes means yes” has been the law of the land in Canada since 1992, yet the reporting of sexual assault has not skyrocketed with this higher standard.

In the 1990s, there was a similar conversation in this country when Antioch College, long a bastion of innovations in education, also decided that consent to sexual activity required more than just a failure to say no. Verbal consent, the new code of conduct stated, was required for any sexual contact that was not “mutually and simultaneously initiated.”

When the so-called Antioch rules were first enacted at that college, the reaction was overwhelmingly negative. The anti-feminist chorus howled in derision at feminist protectionism gone berserk. “Saturday Night Live” parodied it. Charlton Heston added it to a list of examples of campus political correctness gone completely out of control. He told an audience at Harvard in 1999 that “at Antioch College in Ohio, young men seeking intimacy with a coed must get verbal permission at each step of the process from kissing to petting to final copulation — all clearly spelled out in a printed college directive.”

While doomsayers lamented that the new rules would destroy the mystery of campus sex, the students took it in stride. Instead of, “Do you want to have sex?” they simply asked, “Do you want to implement the policy?”

Of course some guys on campus were against it, in an honest way. “If I have to ask those questions, I won’t get what I want,” blurted out one young man to a reporter. Bingo.

But seriously, since when is hearing “yes” a turnoff? Answering “yes” to, “Can I touch you there?” “Would you like me to?” “Will you [fill in blank] me?” seems a turn-on and a confirmation of desire, whatever the sexual identity of the asker and the asked.

Actually, “yes” is perhaps the most erotic word in the English language.

One of literature’s most enduring works, James Joyce’s “Ulysses,” concludes with Molly Bloom’s affirmative declaration of desire (considered so erotic, in fact, that it was banned for more than a decade after publication): “and then I asked him with my eyes to ask again yes and then he asked me would I yes to say yes my mountain flower and first I put my arms around him yes and drew him down to me so he could feel my breasts all perfume yes and his heart was going like mad and yes I said yes I will Yes.”

“Yes means yes” is clearly saner — and sexier. And that’s true for both Leopold and Molly Bloom, as well as the rest of us.

Cee-Lo Green loses performance after rape comments

Cee-Lo Green Pulled From Military Base Performance, via Jezebel

After his atrocious Twitter comments about rape and subsequent terrible apology, Cee-Lo Green has been cut from the performance line-up of a concert at a D.C. navy base. It seems concert organizers realized that having someone who has allegedly drugged and raped a woman and then complained about it was not the right person to appear at a military facility, when the military is struggling to prove it has a handle on its own sexual assault issues.

Freedom LIVE – the name for the programming presented by the Naval District Washington (NDW)’s portion of the military’s Morale, Welfare, and Recreation (MWR) department, which is currently in its first season – announced Thursday evening they had removed Cee-Lo from the line-up of their September 20th show with Little Big Town at the Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling in D.C. They wrote on their Facebook page:

We seek a Department-wide culture of gender dignity and respect where sexual assault is completely eliminated and never tolerated, where sexual assault victims receive compassionate and coordinated support, and where offenders are held appropriately accountable.

Unfortunately, one of the performers we signed for the JBAB Freedom Live show on 20 September recently posted comments on social media that we consider to completely inconsistent with Navy core values. Regardless of intent or context, the lack of sensitivity towards an issue that is one of the great challenges facing our Navy is unacceptable.

As a result, we have made the decision to pull CeeLo Green from the Freedom Live event on 20 September. Little Big Town, the main attraction for the event, will still perform as scheduled. We will announce as soon as possible a replacement opening act of the high quality that you expect and deserve.

After Cee-Lo’s original appearance was announced and his tweets were sent and deleted, one veteran told Jezebel he sent a complaint about the performance to the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office at the Department of Defense, though it’s unclear how many other people complained. The comments on the Facebook post about the cancellation are almost universally positive.

Image via Ethan Miller/Getty

Making a visual statement for change

Columbia University student will carry her mattress everywhere as long as her rapist remains on campus, via feministing:

Watch her video interview HERE.

Columbia University student Emma Sulkowicz was raped in her dorm bed at the beginning of her junior year. Now, for her senior visual arts thesis, Sulkowicz is carrying her mattress with her everywhere she goes as long as she attends the same school as her rapist.

As she explains in the video about her project above, “The piece could potentially take a day, or it could go on until I graduate. For me, it’s an endurance performance arts piece.”

Sulkowicz’s rapist has been accused of sexual assault by two other women at Columbia but remains on campus. Sulkowicz has described in detail the terrible, incompetent hearing process she went through trying to get justice from Columbia, and was one of the students who filed a federal Title IX complaint accusing the school of mishandling sexual assault cases. Later, she reported her rape to the police — an experience which illustrated pretty much exactly why many survivors are reluctant to do so.

The mattress is an apt physical symbol of the weigh Sulkowicz has carried with her while sharing her campus with her rapist for a year. “A mattress is the perfect size for me to just be able to carry it enough that I can continue with my day, but also heavy enough that I have to continually struggle with it,” she explains. It also represents the way she’s been speaking out about her experience. “We keep [beds] in our bedroom, which is our intimate and private space… The past year or so of my life has been really marked by telling people what happened in that most intimate, private space and bringing it out into the light.”

Sex crimes are not scandals

Jennifer Lawrence Nude Photo Leak Isn’t A ‘Scandal.’ It’s A Sex Crime, via Forbes:

As most of you probably know, someone somewhere dumped a deluge of purported nude photographs of a number of female celebrities online yesterday. The victims include the likes of Kate Upton, Victoria Justice, Ariana Grande, Kirsten Dunst, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Krysten Ritter, Yvonne Strahovski, and Teresa Palmer. But the focal point for this story has been Hunger Games/American Hustle actress Jennifer Lawrence, since the Oscar winning actress is perhaps the most famous actress on the planet right now. Without going into sordid details (Justice and Grande have said the photos claimed to be of them are fake, other victims have confirmed theirs are real), I’d like to make two very specific points. Ms. Lawrence and the other victims have absolutely nothing to apologize for in terms of the contents of the photos or the nature in which they were leaked. The story itself should not be addressed as if it were a scandal, but rather what it is: A sex crime involving theft of personal property and the exploitation of the female body.

Outlets as mainstream as People and CNN are referring to the photo leak as a “scandal.” All due respect, it’s not a scandal. The actresses and musicians involved did nothing immoral or legally wrong by choosing to take nude pictures of themselves and put them on their personal cell phones. You may argue, without any intended malice, that it may be unwise in this day-and-age to put nude pictures of yourself on a cell phone which can be hacked and/or stolen. But without discounting that statement, the issue is that these women have the absolute right and privilege to put whatever they want on their cell phones with the expectation that said contents will remain private or exclusive to whomever is permitted to see them just like their male peers. The burden of moral guilt is on the people who stole said property and on those who chose to consume said stolen property for titillation and/or gratification.

It is not Ms. Ritter’s or Ms. Dunst’s responsibility to protect their own property from theft by not creating said property or only storing it in a specific place any more than it’s any woman’s responsibility to dress a certain way, travel in groups, wear special nail polish, or what-have-you to lessen the chance that someone will attempt to assault them. As is often the case when we discuss crimes of this nature against women, we have it backwards.  It is not on the (usually, but not always, female) victim to take “enough” measures to protect herself but rather on the (usually, but not always, male) victimizer to choose not to commit said crime. That notion was lost on the Disney Channel back in 2007. They treated Vanessa Hudgens like a sinful child after personal nudes were leaked and stated that “Vanessa has apologized for what was obviously a lapse in judgment. We hope she’s learned a valuable lesson.”

I sincerely hope that absolutely none of the victims involved in this current leak takes any form of “responsibility” or apologizes for anything. The victims involved have committed no crime and committed no sin by creating said photos in the first place or in “allowing” them to be stolen. What occurred yesterday is a theft and a crime, plain and simple. It is a personal violation of a prurient nature, with photos of an explicit nature that were intended for private or personal use now unleashed online for anyone to see, for free no less. It is, if I may digress for a moment, a loss in a business sense as well, if only because sadly an actress’s body and the titillation that it theoretically brings is one of her most important assets to Hollywood. If you don’t believe me, then take a look at (random examples) the trailers for Weinstein Company’s Lawless, Paramount’s Star Trek Into Darkness, and Walt Disney’s Guardians of the Galaxy, plus the posters for Warner Bros.’ (the kids-centric PG-rated) Journey 2: The Mysterious Island and notice how the actresses are highlighted.

The theft via cell phone hacking of countless nude photos, real or doctored, of various female celebrities is not a “scandal” to be mocked and teased about as if it were a public wardrobe malfunction or a gaffe. It should not be treated with quippy sub-headlines like “What Would Katniss do?” It is a crime that has turned the entire online community into potential peeping Toms with little-to-no accountability for the consumers of said stolen property/invasion of privacy. This is clearly a violation. It is a crime of theft with the intent to exploit its victims as punishment for the unpardonable sin of being female. A woman, be she in the public eye or a private citizen, has a right and privilege to take photos of herself for whatever reason she chooses.  A woman, be she a celebrity or a regular citizen, has the right to store them in the same manner as her male peers without the presumption that they will be stolen by an act of cyber hackery. And if said photos exist and said photos are stolen, the shame of that act should be, nay must be, wholly on the perpetrator of said crime.

It is not the responsibility of our female population to take “ X” number of steps to lessen the chance that a member of our male population will engage in untoward conduct towards them, be it assault or street harassment. As a society, we deal with violence, especially sexual violence, against women in much the wrongheaded manner that we have fought the war on drugs. We focus on the supply-side, with an emphasis on the things that women must do to “stay safe” instead of focusing on lessening mens’ “demand” to view women as purely a disposable commodity. In short, we emphasize how women can prevent being assaulted instead of telling men and boys not to assault women in the first place. Instead of condemning those who would steal the private photographs and publish them online for all to see, we condemn or belittle the women who chose to create said private photographs in the first place.  Ms. Lawrence, Ms. Winstead, and the like have absolutely nothing to apologize for. They have not been scandalized, but rather victimized.

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