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Mar 06 2016

Those Talking Genitals: Consent isn’t Simple

Have you seen those talking genitals? If you haven’t, here they are:

If you’re someplace where you can’t (or don’t want to) watch disembodied, animated genitals then I shall describe them for you.

There are three short ads. In one a brown breast and a white hand are laughing, just enjoying themselves, and the hand grabs the breast. The breast says in a female register, ‘Whoa,’ and the hand says in a male voice, ‘Sorry, I just thought,’ and the breast shakes itself ‘no’. Then the words, ‘Consent is simple. If it’s not yes, it’s no.’

In the second, a white pair of buttocks is in the middle of the frame and a slightly browner, but could be a variety of races, penis strolls in on its testicles, whistling. It casually falls over on the butt. The butt says in a female register, ‘Uh-uh,’ and the penis strolls off whistling. (Which is exactly what those sorts of casual molesters do when you say no. Sure.) ‘Consent is simple. If it’s not yes, it’s no.’

In the third, a white vulva/clit/labia combo and that unidentifiable-raced penis (again) are dancing and the penis intentionally leans against the vulva combo. The vulva says, ‘Hey!’ and the penis says, ‘My bad,’ and they dance facing away from one another. ‘Consent is simple. If it’s not yes, it’s no.’

This is supposed to be a step forward in the consent conversation.

My blood pressure goes through the roof when this comes up on my FB timeline. I have naturally very low blood pressure so, in one way, these are useful. In every other way I become enraged.

Here are the problems:

Problem One: Assumption

In the laughing and dancing ads the hand and penis assume that because the breast and vulva are being friendly it’s all right to touch the body part.

The other one… don’t get me started. The butt was just standing there.

The belief that a person with certain body parts are available by simply existing is infuriating. It’s even in the first one. ‘I just thought.’ Why did you think that? Because she laughed at your joke? If women don’t laugh at jokes they’re considered humorless shrews.

Problem Two: Boundaries & Onus of Responsibility

By the time a person has to say no, a boundary has already been crossed and a person has already been made to feel uncomfortable in their own body.

These ads—and the philosophy behind them—put the onus of responsibility on the person who has no idea of the intention of the other person—of the person who will later complain they ‘meant nothing by it’.

Nope. Responsibility should lie with the person who would like to do something to another person. If your intentions are pure (even if they’re dirty) then you have nothing to worry about. If you’re more concerned about your ego than another person’s comfort in their own body then you have far larger problems and shouldn’t be around other humans for awhile.

Problem Three: Phrasing

The phrasing should be: Consent isn’t simple. If it isn’t a yes, it isn’t a yes. (More on why consent is complicated here and here.)

All you have to do is ask first.

Which would you prefer, to hear someone say something as sexy as, ‘Hell, yes I want you to kiss me/touch me/do that dirty, dirty thing’ or hear someone say, ‘You did something I didn’t want and now I don’t feel safe with you and I’m going to tell everyone I know’?

Problem Four: Gender & Genitals

It’s not only genitals that get too close or do things that make someone uncomfortable.

It’s not only female-identified people who are touched by male-seeming people.

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