The topic of rape culture and what it means to give consent has been coming up in conversations online and off lately. The discussion regarding whether a sex scene in HBO’s Girls depicted rape, sexual assault or just bad sex helped bring the topic to the forefront of the Internet. Meanwhile, conviction of two of the suspects in the Stubenville rapes fired up the conversation again when the defense’s primary argument was that the boys “didn’t receive a definite no” from a girl who was so intoxicated that she literally couldn’t stand upright and was being carried around like a side of beef.
In the aftermath of the guilty verdict, several people observed that many of the teens at the party didn’t realize that this was rape. To them, the fact that the victim was unconscious didn’t mean anything. “I didn’t know this was rape,” said one witness. “It wasn’t violent.” It wasn’t a stranger leaping out of the shadows, knife in hand to drag her into a dank back alley. It was just some guys and a girl who was too drunk to say “no”.
The idea of just avoiding a “no” is a distressingly common one. The emphasis on consent is often the idea of “No”. “No means no” we are taught, that when a woman says “stop”, we stop. That’s good. That’s incredibly important.
But sometimes it’s not enough to just not get a no. You need more.
It’s not just about not getting a “no”. It’s about getting a definitive “yes”.