I must say that I a perpetually baffled by the extent to which the people trying to end “Rape Culture” are actually encouraging more rapes to happen. This seems to be the case with almost every single piece of advocacy and activism surround “Rape Culture” The solutions and ideas proposed are much more likely to lead to rapes and sexual assaults than what they are arguing against.
The idiocy I am going to address today is the clarity of communication of consent. Sex without consent is rape. However communication about consent is one of the least clear communications that humans engage in. No communication is ever 100% perfectly clear. Some think it is. The legal profession created the entire language of legalise to make legal briefs more clear, and even with a language specifically written to be clear there are often disputes over miscommunication in legalise. When talking about normal people communicating with both body language and spoken words dancing around taboo subjects communication is anything but perfectly clear.
All communication is sending mixed messages. Even very clear communication is sending mixed messages. When you are looking for something you are likely to find it. When you are not looking for something you are not likely to find it. This is called confirmation bias and we all do it. All communication about consent is mixed messages. There are always both Yes and No in all of it. If we hold that there is never a mixed message than confirmation bias kicks in and the people seeking sex will never see anything but green lights because they are looking for “Yes” but not actively seeking “No”
Alternatively cautious people like myself see the “No”. In every communication about consent there is a “No”. Even when she does the excessively over enthusiastic I’m getting laid dance, a thought about that presentation next week will pop into her head and a moment of doubt will cross her face. If what matters is even the slightest “No”, than even the excessively over enthusiastic I’m getting laid dance preformed by someone with no doubt at all about wanting sex is still a “No”. In this situation consent would need to become some legal process involving lots of paperwork and notaries if sex is to occur at all.
We need to be teaching people about mixed messages so that when they go out seeking sex they know to look for both the Yes and the No in the communication so that they can weight their relative significance and make good choices. We need to teach people to look for both the “Yes” and the “No” so that confirmation bias doesn’t kick in and start turning all of the yellow lights green in the sex seekers mind.
If we don’t teach about mixed messages than communicating consent will either be always “Yes” or always “No” depending on the disposition of the sex seeker with little to no regard for the message the person they are flirting with actually sent. The people that see nothing but “Yes” will be proceeding as if they got a clear “Yes” regardless of the message that was sent, and this will often lead to rape. Acting as if communication about consent are actually clear will lead to more rapes and sexual assaults.
And note, I talked about The Sex Seeker and the person they are flirting with. It is not only men that seek sex and not only women that get flirted with. We need to be teaching both women and men about consent and mixed messages and how to reasonably weigh the significance of the “Yeses” and “No’s” in communications about consent. We also need to be teaching both men and women how to present more clear communications so that the messages are not so mixed.