Does Our Society Even Know What Consent is Anymore?


I know it’s been a slow election cycle with very few surprises, but hear me out: something in the news caught my attention recently. No, it’s not a U.S. presidential nominee joking about committing sexual assault – sadly, that’s more common than we’d like to believe. Rather, it’s the reaction to it.

Taken by itself, the words used could be classified as disgusting and idiotic but an isolated incident overall. Looking at our society as a whole, though, I really wonder if Americans fully understand what consent is. And if there’s confusion now, preventing stuff like this from happening again becomes more difficult.

The best metaphor I’ve heard regarding sexual consent correlates it to tea. You can offer someone tea, but if they don’t want it, or if they take a sip and then decide it’s not for them, or they change their mind while you’re making it, you don’t force them to drink it.

You’d think that consent would be universally understandable, but even when the behavior goes beyond words and becomes a crime, some folks still don’t get it. You’ve got things like the Brock Turner case, where some peopleblamed the victim. You’ve got Cee-Lo Green’s statement that it’s not rape if they’re unconscious.

Maybe part of the problem comes down to media exposure. What gets portrayed as okay in media is darned creepy in reality. Edward from Twilight isn’t romantic for stalking Bella – he’s a criminal. Lewis from Revenge of the Nerds wasn’t a lovable scamp for having sex with Betty under false pretenses – he was a rapist.

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