**I will admit: This post is inspired by a class I’m currently taking at school focused around social constructionism and popular culture. A quick caveat and preface: If you are taking a class at school/college/uni and the content is permeable between the realms of your social life and academic life, don’t take it for granted. That class will stick with you forever and you will look back and realize how grateful you were for that professor. So thank you, Professor Bucholtz. Here we go. **
As you have probably guessed at this point from the previous four posts that I am constantly baffled at the world around me. Baffled at the students that embody my school, at the decisions news outlets make and what they deem as “news.” But there’s nothing more baffling to me than sexual assault. Now, this post isn’t going to touch on this topic, per se, but the actual topic does seep in to it. Today (at the time of writing it is Monday, April 13) my professor offered us a challenge: Locate within popular culture (US and British television and film, primarily) examples of consent. It must be a verbalized question and not just a “look.” You all know what the “look” is, right?
It looks a bit like that. No words; just the glance, the slow motion, and the palpable tension between two people. I understand why this wasn’t an allowed option. For one, is it really consensual if no one says yes? Debatable. I began my search, writing up every last TV show and movie I can think of that can possibly exhibit some sort of vocalized consent. Anything! Please society, don’t let me down, I pleaded. As I went through, I began to notice a trend. Most of the shows I began to think of with any shred of consent were TV shows centered on young adults, banking on their first kiss. Even then, it was rare that something was even said. Even more interesting, were that these shows were released in the 1990’s! The ’90s! The upcoming generation wasn’t even alive yet! What does this say about the current pop culture that is floating around in society? What does it say for the future? Will my future child just pop out demanding sex because they feel its their birthright? Probably not, because they’re so fresh and new, but I’d give it at least until his/her/their tenth birthday. Moreover, my research led me to films which showed consent as either an awkward and comedic quip or again, among children (see Little Rascals [from 1994] or Frozen as examples). It was also very hard to locate any vocalized consent in relation to sexual intercourse. Almost impossible, but not entirely.
Why is it that pop culture and the media is so obsessed with “the stolen kiss?” Kisses taken mid-sentence, taken in silence, kisses taken by surprise. It’s because we’re taught that the stolen kiss is sexy. My take from this exercise? Society and the media don’t think consent will sell. They don’t think it’s sexy. They believe that what is sexy is for sex to be spontaneous, sporadic, long-lasting, and satisfyingly pleasurable. Which is not the case whatsoever. I think to limit to a vocalized consent is eye-opening because of its rarity. Think about it. Most sex isn’t scheduled. Most sex isn’t talked about. Sex just happens. That’s a dominant discourse in our lives. Sex just happens and we expect it to be amazing. Not the case. Even when you think of the term ‘consensual sex,’ it’s completely redundant. Sex should be consensual 100% of the time. If it’s not, it’s rape.
Next time, when you’re watching a TV show or a movie, try and look out for these types of things and notice how rare they are. Notice how much more difficult they are to find when you’re actively seeking them out. It’s headache-inducing, so I’d keep a few aspirins nearby. I don’t mean to ruin these things for you, far from it. To notice, is to be aware and awareness is a good thing. Also, when in doubt: Just ask. Maybe one day we can justly prove that consent is sexy. A final note that should be said:
Yes means yes. Anything other than that is a no. It’s as simple, and apparently as complicated as that.