Extrait de l'article:
There was the time when, 19 and naive, I was guilt-tripped into entirely unwanted physical intimacies with a much older married man. And the time, three or four years later, when I went to visit an on-and-off long-distance boyfriend and quickly realized that it was over for me — but he assumed we were still on, and I didn’t have the nerve to say no. And the time I told a man, “Look, I’m not going to sleep with you,” and it was taken as, “Try again in a couple of hours.” He did, and it worked.
When they happened, my views of these encounters ranged from “it was a mistake” to “it’s complicated.” They still do — even though, these days, we are encouraged to reinterpret such experiences as sexual violations. To many feminists, stories like these are evidence of a pervasive, misogynistic rape culture.
“Kids see movies where there’s an aggressor who gets pushed away, but keeps trying until the girl relents,” advocate, author and filmmaker Kelly Kend writes.
“. . . This is a rape dynamic that has been played off countless times as just how it works.” Canadian feminist author Anne Thériault laments “the still-pervasive and very flawed idea that if she doesn’t say no, it’s not rape” — clearly referring not just to attacks involving violence or incapacitation (for which few would demand a verbal “no” as proof of rape), but encounters in which a woman yields to unwanted overtures, like I did.
This isn’t just feminist theory; it’s having an impact in the real world. Consent-education programs on college campuses, from Columbia University to the University of Texas at Austin, are increasingly adopting the “yes means yes” approach. But this crusade against “rape culture” oversimplifies the vast complexity of human sexual interaction, conflating criminal sexual acts such as coercion by physical force, threat or incapacitation — which should obviously be prosecuted and punished — with bad behavior.
Was I a victim? Even in the first incident, in which the man knowingly pressured me into something I didn’t want, I could have safely said no to him. Despicable behavior is not always criminal, just like getting guilt-tripped into giving money to a freeloading friend is not robbery.
In the second instance, it would be an infantilizing insult to deny my responsibility for a mutual misunderstanding. In the third, what happened was not only consensual but wanted; my initial “no” was sincere, but it was mainly an attempt to stop myself from acting on an attraction against my better judgment.
Besides, I know that sometimes the roles have been reversed. There was the ex-boyfriend I thought I was seducing in the hope of getting him back — only to realize, the one time he finally said no harshly enough, that it had been more pressure than seduction. There was the man who told me it was too soon for us to get involved and said, more than once, “We shouldn’t be doing this” the evening we first went to bed. If I were to claim victimhood, I would either have to admit to being a perpetrator as well or fall back on a blatantly sexist double standard.
(...) Others champion a far bolder vision. Thériault writes that we must “raze” nearly all our cultural beliefs about sex and “create an entirely new foundation” — built on the understanding that consent must be explicit and almost certainly verbal, not simply a “yes” but an “ongoing conversation.” Increasingly, this is also the approach adopted by consent-education programs on college campuses. A bizarre “consent porn” video created as an educational aid shows make-out sessions proceeding to a constant mutual refrain of “Is this okay?”; the apparent idea is to show that “consent is hot,” but the result looks more like a particularly tacky parody.
(...) Meanwhile, there is little regard for the preferences of people who like intuitive give-and-take rather than requests and directions. Sensual, playful or raunchy bedroom talk is very different from compulsory questions checking for a clear signal that you’re not crossing a line. Reluctance to engage in frank sexual communication is treated solely as a puritanical hang-up rather than a valid desire to preserve some spontaneity or dignity. And the wrong kind of communication, such as persuading an initially hesitant partner, is equated with sexual assault.
Despite its scorn for reticence, the new sexual revolution has a deep puritanical streak. Consensual sex is viewed as always under control, the result of a rational, fully autonomous choice. In this vision, there is either unequivocal “enthusiastic consent” or reluctant submission. In real life, though, there are many other possibilities.
You could agree to have sex to please your partner, despite not being in the mood, and get enthusiastic later. You could be sexually eager but emotionally ambivalent, or vice versa. You could be torn between passionate desire and ethical or practical reasons not to act on that desire. You could get drunk to quiet your scruples, or you may hope to be coaxed into surrendering to temptation. (Obviously, “coaxed” does not equal “physically overpowered.”) Some of this behavior may be unhealthy or immature. But if it involves consenting adults — who can refuse sex without reasonable fear of harm — those adults should be free to make mistakes.
Ultimately, ensuring that sexual consent is always free of pressure is an impossible goal. Consent advocates already fret that even an explicit “yes” may not be given freely enough. A series of educational campus posters includes the warning that “if they don’t feel free to say ‘No,’ it’s not consent”; a Canadian college campaign cautions that consent is invalid if it’s “muted” or “uncertain” rather than “loud and clear.”
This advocacy creates a world where virtually any regretted sexual encounter can be reconstructed as assault (unless the person who regrets it initiated it while fully sober) and retroactive perceptions of coercion must always be credited over contemporaneous perceptions of consent — even though we know that memory often “edits” the past to fit present biases.
In theory, this regime is gender-neutral. Yet real-life cases like the one at Occidental show a strong presumption — openly acknowledged by a dean at Duke University — that in a heterosexual encounter, it’s the man who must gain consent and bear the blame if both partners are intoxicated. Whether cloaked in traditional chivalry or feminist rhetoric, it’s still a paternalistic double standard.
It is time to rethink this crusade, which criminalizes bad or uncomfortable sex, thereby trivializing actual sexual violence. Anti-rape efforts should focus on criminal conduct and law enforcement responses. In college communities, young people who feel wronged in sexual situations that stem from misunderstanding, pressure or insensitivity could be offered support without being treated as “rape survivors”; remedies might include mediation or joint counseling, clearly inappropriate in cases of sexual assault. Sexual ethics based on honesty, respect and communication can be discussed without turning every lapse into a crime.
The quest for perfect consent is profoundly utopian. Like all such quests that ignore human realities, it points the way to dystopian nightmare.