The man is described, during a dinner party, as someone who has a problem with consent. When this is said, I have trouble getting my food down. A problem with consent? That may be the most appalling description I can imagine. This reminds me of the response of two women in their fifties, when I said I hated the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and they asked why because they loved it so much and couldn’t understand why I hadn’t loved it. “It’s vicious,” I say. “And I already know there’s no justice. Why do I want to read about vicious attacks, and no justice? I know this already.”
“You’re so sensitive,” one of them says. She seems surprised. “But there is justice. Lisbeth Salander has justice.”
“No. She has vengeance. And that’s not the same thing.”
Later, one of the women admits to skipping entire pages of the book, and the other to leaving the room during the movie, and I keep wondering, are you sure you loved this story? Are you sure?
And how many women tell me in the beginning of our relationship that nothing horrible has ever happened to them sexually, but several months in, the stories begin to come out. How they didn’t want to call it rape, but they said no and it happened anyway. Or this weird thing that occurred when they were twelve. Or the boyfriend who required this other thing every day.
How many years I hated myself because I didn’t say no. Because I kept silent.
And the thing is, silence is not the same thing as consent. There should be consent, over and over, in your sexual life. There should be consent, over and over, full stop.
3 thoughts on “Consent”
I have known enough women to wonder if I am in the minority. Have known enough to question even myself, my experience. When it gets to seeing that I am lucky… I marvel that we are not equipped for this. Somehow we are still not made for this.
I do wholeheartedly agree with your thoughts on Lisbeth. There’s something just a bit smarmy about these Larsson novels, too.
I am not going to argue this point. I might discuss it. I’ve been abused. End of story.
I think, bringing a fictional character into the mix, and tossing in a word like “smarmy”, when the character IS fictional, is interesting. Having read the other comments, I would have to question the use of “rage”…we all have a choice. Granted we may not have been so educated in that choice…but to feel rage, at this stage of the game, is rather…self-defeating…no?
I certainly would question the two women who lacked the compulsion to back up their assertions, re: The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. But even so, have YOU ever had YOUR work, your characters, misunderstood, misread, misinterpreted?
Abuse is a vicious circle. It lacks concreteness. It lacks definition. It lacks the stability we crave. But that does not mean that what we lack, or crave, is not out there. It takes a huge amount of strength to look that shit in the eye, and say, “No.”
That’s the “No” that I get. That’s the “No” that I apply. And have. It’s not about looking at something that is presented as “possible” or “probable” and calling it “smarmy”…or looking at it and responding to it with rage. It’s about saying, “No” properly. And meaning it.
It’s about seeing it…believing it..and changing it. However you can.
I appreciate all of you for your comments. I know this is a button topic, and it’s only fair to say that I’m probably midway through an argument slowly building in my head regarding sex and power. That I have chosen to explore it here, on my blog, has been well considered, and still might be a mistake. My judgment is based on my (currently) prevailing viewpoint that silence is unacceptable.
I started this argument when I wrote Red Audrey and the Roping as a short story 12 years ago. I might as well run with it now. Education is the only thing that will save us. The only way we can conceivably change our lives is to learn a different and better way. I’m looking for that way. I think we all are on our varied paths.
Art has purpose, and that purpose is interpretive. Differing viewpoints are a given. In the end, it’s the conversation that’s important. The dialogue. The exchange of information.
We survive as we must. And I still find myself hip-jerking some bullshit like, why are we giving kids methadone so that they can carry their pregnancies to term? I don’t know a fucking thing about these kids. Not their stories, not their struggles. Not a thing. And my conclusion, when I consider the things I know and the things I don’t, is that the paradigm with the least amount of judgment is going to be the most useful.