Trigger warning: This post contains the subjects of sexual assault, and abuse.
Since the Me Too movement, consent has been under a microscope. This is such a muddy subject, and people can be very opinionated. With excuses like: boys will be boys; times were different then; if a boy likes you he will be mean and pull your hair. I had a boy tie me to a tree in recess in the first grade. The teacher thought it was funny. I also had a girl continuously bite her arm (we rode the bus together), and blamed me. At one point, a teacher allowed her to bite me back. I never bit her. We are shown as children what we are supposed to allow. Many of us were taught to look the other way if someone makes us uncomfortable. We are expected to be polite even when we feel uncomfortable. One of my daughters was assaulted at school as a Sophomore. A friend told the school councilor, even though she did not want to say anything. The councilor talked to the person who touched her, and she remained anonymous. The boy and all of his friends texted her, calling her names. This is why she did not want to tell. She was touched without her consent, and kids bullied her.
You simply should not touch someone unless they give consent. I urge you to watch the video below. It explains consent very well.
I posted the meme below because I have had many conversations with women regarding sleep and consent. I have had more than one partner who did sexual things to me in my sleep, thinking because we were in a relationship it was fine to do whatever they wanted even if I was asleep. I understand many men fantasize about being seduced in their sleep. And this particular issue can be complicated. Some women might be aroused by this. Others might wake up aroused, yet still feel violated. It is possible to feel both. So a good rule of thumb is if a person is unconscious, just as the tea video explained, they are unable to give consent. EVEN IF THEY CONSENTED BEFORE THEY WERE UNCONSCIOUS! If you would not pour tea down an unconscious person’s throat, do not do anything sexual to someone unconscious. It really is that simple!
Jorgensen’s similar copyright-free photograph
“New York City celebrating the surrender of Japan. They threw anything and kissed anybody in Times Square.” National archive number 80-G-377094 Naval Historical Center #520697
This photo is very deceiving. You cannot see the woman’s face, but you can se her legs, and her hand. Her arms are not wrapped around him, and her fist is clenched. From what I read, she did not know this man, and that he came up from behind her, grabbed her, and kissed her. She did not kiss him back. This iconic photo that people associate with a passionate kiss was not pleasant for her. I cannot imagine how she feels seeing the picture.
Everyone remembers PePe LePew, and his antics trying to get the poor cat to be affectionate with him. This is apparently a sore subject due to the skunk being left out of a movie. The cat repeatedly tells him to stop with her body language. PePe skips along behind her, hiding behind corners, kisses her, traps her, kidnaps her. I know with cancel culture, many people are sick of things and people being cancelled for their behavior, however some things just need to go away. I am glad he is not in the second Space Jam because it gives children the wrong message. If someone runs away, or tells you they are not interested, you STOP and respect their choice.
I feel in order for things to change in our society everyone has to take part in that change, beginning with our children. We are taught from a young age that our bodies are not our own. If we don’t want to hug Uncle Bill, what did our parents say? Most parents, especially from older generations tell children to hug or kiss that relative in spite of their feelings. One of the biggest things you can to as a parent to prevent your child from being molested or harassed like me (and please understand I am not placing the blame on parents. I have been guilty of telling my kids to hug a relative when they didn’t want to.) is to teach them that they are in control of their bodies. I now will not touch my children unless I ask them first. Another thing to teach kids is if someone likes them, they will treat them nicely, and will respect their boundaries. I was told when I was a little girl if a boy chased me, pulled my hair, or said mean things it meant he liked me. You grow up thinking abusive behavior from a partner is acceptable when you have childhood trauma. Many of us were also taught to not dress provocatively (in school) because it is distracting for the boys, and can cause unwanted behavior. Let me say that again. Girls are taught we should dress a certain way not to tempt boys, which is backwards. I feel we should raise boys understanding they are in control of their actions, and just because a girl is dressed a certain way does not mean the boys have an excuse to loose control of their actions. The cartoon below is a great example of teaching consent to children. My body belongs to me, and I deserve to have control over who is allowed to touch it. Every single person deserves the right to give or not give consent to be touched. Period.
Almost every woman has been with a boy/man at some point who relentlessly pursued sex. Eventually she just gives in. I have had multiple experiences. I have always been the woman who had more male friends than women. One incident I remember is I was hanging out with two guys (friends). I was 21, and had been drinking. The room was spinning, and all I wanted to do was to go to sleep. With the two guys in the living room, sleeping on the floor so they would not drive drunk. I know it was not a smart thing to do, however I knew these guys very well, or I thought I did. I had just been through a breakup with a man I was engaged to. We had been together for three and a half years, and I was not ready to date. I did not want to have any sort of physical contact with these two men. One of them ended up going home. The other guy waited until I fell asleep, and climbed into bed with me. I tried to pretend I was asleep, but he started touching me anyway. It did not matter to him if I was awake or asleep. He had one agenda. I told him I just wanted to sleep, and he continued to touch me. On the inside my soul screamed to be left alone, but I stopped saying no. My body stiffened as he continuously rubbed me, pressed against me, and ignored my body language. Bile rose up my esophagus as I smelled the Vodka on his breath. I did not want to even kiss this person. Since I did not say no, I later told myself it was my fault. This was just ONE encounter. When in doubt, pay attention to the other person’s body language. If unsure, ask her if she consents. Also try to remember if she has any sort of sexual trauma, she might freeze and be unable to say anything. She might go along with it to get rid of the other person, which I have done in the past. I was taught at age six that if someone touches you, even if you are uncomfortable you just go along with it.
People show you when they are uncomfortable. Signs someone is uncomfortable: Flinching, wincing, backing away, crossing arms and/or legs, blocking with an object creating a barrier between you (a book, a file, a pillow, etc), gesturing and rapid speech, voice changes, nervous laughter, they look away from the person making them uncomfortable, their feet point the opposite direction or their feet point in different direction, they give short one word answers, they show pacifying behaviors (playing with jewelry, clicking a pen, wringing hands, touching their ear, playing with their hair, grabbing upper arms, swaying, touching their neck meaning the woman is nervous or stressed), not making eye contact, locking ankles, rapid blinking, biting their lip, picking at the cuticles of their nails, scrunching her face, covering eyes or rubbing eyes, checking the time, and leaning backwards.
Trish Eklund’s first book, Abandoned Nebraska: Echoes of Our Past, was released in November of 2018. Her second photography book, Abandoned Farmhouses and Homesteads of Nebraska: Decaying in the Heartland will be released on February 22, 2021. She is finishing up her third book; Abandoned Farmhouses and Homesteads of Kansas: Home is Where the Heart is. Trish’s photography has been featured on Only in Nebraska, Raw Abandoned, ListVerse, Nature Takes Over, Grime Scene Investigators, and Pocket Abandoned. She has a photo on the cover of: Fine Lines Summer 2020: Volume 29 Issue 2. She is the owner and creator of the photography website, Abandoned, Forgotten, & Decayed. Trish has an essay in the anthology, Hey, Who’s In My House? Stepkids Speak Out by Erin Mantz, and another essay in another anthology: Voices of the Plains Volume III by Nebraska Writer’s Guild and Julie Haase. Her writing has been featured on The Mighty, Huffington Post Plus, and Making Midlife Matter. She owns, moderates, and writes for the blog: Trigger Warning: Surviving Abuse. She has written four young adult novels and is hard at work on her first adult novel.