The media is rife with stories about men and their need to understand the concept of consent in sexual relationships, and of course I agree that there are some men out there who have no respect for the idea of consent and do need a reminder that it is not okay to harass someone for sex. However, I have found that some of the women I know also need a refresher course on consent.
Men are allowed sexual boundaries, they are allowed to say no and we as women should always respect their personal decisions about their bodies.
Unfortunately, with men being portrayed as sex-crazed and horny AF 24/7 in consumable entertainment media there are some unrealistic expectations women harbour such as a man should be ready to get down and dirty whenever and wherever. This is simply not true and this article will explore the idea of ethics of consent from a feminist’s perspective and how gender equality will remain an unachievable goal until men are granted the same respect all women are fighting for.
To address the issue of the clichéd idea of the ‘always horny man’, the prevalence of this stereotype is astounding and for some men it may be accurate, but that does not ring true for all men. I have heard many stories from my friendship circles and what has intrigued me most is the fact that women seem to have two base reactions when a man refuses to have sex with them.
Reaction 1: ignoring the lack of consent and proceeding to try and ‘get them in the mood’ for sex. This is toxic behaviour as women in this scenario have just completely ignored the fact that they were not given consent to sexually touch the guy.
Reaction 2: if the woman fails to get the guy in the mood she will then proceed to get very upset claiming that he no longer finds her attractive, he must be gay, he’s not a real man, or something along those lines. This can even lead to gaslighting; psychologically manipulating the victim (the man) into doubting themselves and their own feelings, making them think something is wrong with them for not giving consent. This type of behaviour will also lead to resentment in the relationship.
Even a simple google search will reveal highly problematic titles such as ‘Reasons Guys Turn Down Sex – How to Turn Him On’, or ‘6 Reasons Men Say No to Sex (And What You Can Do About It!)’ and so many others that really highlight how women think about consent from their partner. “No means no” is a popular slogan at feminist marches and rallies, and yet women seem to think that if a man says no there is leeway to try and change his mind. If a man were to turn around and do the same to a woman we would call it sexual harassment. Double standards much? Come on ladies, you remember your mothers and fathers all told you when you were growing up to treat people the way you’d like to be treated, lets’ put that to practise by accepting that men have the right to say no too, and you do not have the right to try and change his mind or manipulate him.
So, now we have established that women seem to struggle understanding consent just as much as men, and we need to talk about the ‘R word’; that’s right, rape.
Media reports of rape and other sexual assaults focus on the rhetoric of a male perpetrator and a female victim. It seems to escape people’s notice that men can be raped too. In fact, a study found that 43% of adolescent boys and young male university students reported that they had an unwanted sexual experience and of those, 95% said a woman was the perpetrator.
The reason that we don’t hear about a man’s consent being violated stems from the social constructs of masculinity.
Locker room talk is men engaging in behaviour that suggests the stereotype of the sex crazed male is legitimate, the shaming of behaviour that may appear as effeminate. All of this leads to an environment where a man cannot express his emotions without fear of retaliation from other men in the form of shaming, and an extension of this is the fear that he will experience shaming from women who believe men that express emotions are weak.
So, how do we handle this issue? How can we as a society make men feel more comfortable in expressing their emotions, sexual boundaries, and their right to consent?
It’s quite simple, really. Communication is a key ingredient in any healthy formula for sexual relations. By having an open channel of communication with a sexual partner you are building trust and boundaries and creating a positive and safe place for everyone to feel respected and loved.
It is a fact that until women extend the courtesy of respecting and being ethical about consent to their male counterparts we will never have true gender equality! I ask you to please reconsider the way some of you handle sexual rejection; I know it stings, we’ve all been there, but it is NEVER okay to pressure someone into something. Also, if one person isn’t really into it, the sex will be bad anyway, so it’s not worth it. You’ll also ruin your relationships with that kind of behaviour. No means no, regardless of gender.