Within the past few years, feminism has reached center stage attention in the media, highlighting the inequalities of the sexes in topics spanning from the wage gap to gender-specific stereotypes to the hypocrisy within feminism and its supporters. As media coverage goes, the “F word” has received its fair amount of both positive and negative attention. Some of this attention stems from progressive news in politics, from feminist heroes and new debates on policy. Despite this a few certain issues within feminism are rarely re-examined. One such topic is that of consent, especially when concerning males. Consent is progressively being seen as something that is required. Anyone who forgot their phone on a visit to the dorm bathroom stalls realizes this.
However when you think of consent, what is the first scenario that you think of? I’ll admit that the first scenario I thought of involved a girl and boy hanging out; the guy leaned over to kiss the girl, but she did not indicate that she wanted to be kissed. Many of you, hopefully, had a reaction similar to mine. I was uneasy and ready to vouch that the girl did not give her full, vocal consent. The boy had no business leaning in to kiss the girl. This is a concept that has recently become many feminist’s standard view of giving consent. This is not the problem that I find with feminism and its portrayal of consent.
What I find staggering is the amount and type of attention that males get concerning consent. Males from a young age are socialized to believe that “getting the girl” is the goal in life. While that may be the case for a number of males, this is not true for all males and one thing we as a society need to realize is that many males may not be comfortable with this as their end goal.
From my perspective, there are two sides that receive little to no attention concerning male consent. The first rarely viewed facet of male consent is the way we socialize young boys to behave around girls and fail to correct their behavior. There is an all-consuming culture amongst males worldwide that insists that they need not wait for full, vocal consent if their partner does not say anything, assuming that saying nothing means that the partner is okay with the male’s action(s). In other words, males are trained to believe that without an explicit no, whatever they do is acceptable to continue doing. This behavior is seen as positive amongst primarily male friend groups because the guy succeeded in “winning” affection or intimacy, and it is thus socially acceptable to continue behaving in such a manner.
The second facet of male consent I’d like to address is males being trained to accept tokens of favor from other people, particularly girls, and not “look a gift horse in the mouth” when they may not be entirely comfortable with the situation. Take this example for instance: A boy is walking along and a girl comes up to him and kisses him on the cheek. To see this circumstance happen in everyday life seems fairly harmless, but that is exactly what is wrong with the situation. The boy did not ask to be kissed on the cheek and there was no indication that he wanted to be kissed on the cheek. In case you didn’t notice, this is essentially the same circumstance as the one from the last paragraph except the genders are reversed. Did the first scenario elicit a larger reaction from you than the second? Sadly it wouldn’t surprise me if that were the case.
However I firmly believe that the more you know and understand, the more you are unafraid to address. Just by reading this article, you may not feel so inclined to take up arms against those who invade others’ personal space and boundaries, but you should feel more aware of how people treat other people, particularly when it comes to inappropriate, invasive behaviors. You should feel more confident to say whether or not something was truly consented to, without a gender-stereotypical lens.
Kate is a second-year student.