Wednesday, August 3, 2016

no.

disclaimer: this is one of the harder posts to share. 

when i teach about sexuality and the importance of enthusiastic consent for sexual activities, we talk about all the things that don't count as consent.  for example: assuming that because someone is ok with naked kissing that they want to have sex.  or assuming that because someone has had sex with you before they want to have sex with you again.  

or wearing someone down and getting a "yes" after 97 "no" replies.  

there's even an activity that is used in some sexuality courses where we give two individuals a role to play:  one is trying to get a "yes" from the other; the other is instructed to only say "no" to the first. what happens is that inevitably the person saying "no" is worn down; it is exhausting to say no so many times.  

i consider myself to have high sexual agency and am intelligent about my actions and reactions.  and yet my protective self-armor was worn down yesterday.

i was left feeling very angry.

i posted on facebook that i had a bad experience. several friends texted, offering support in numerous forms. one friend didn't think i needed support though, and she simply told me: "No matter what you go through you always come out on top, you're not just a fighter, you also inspire. That's why I love you Spring." 

it was nice to have various forms of support, but it was also nice to hear my strengths reflected back to me.  most friends i shared all the details with were very supportive; even creating new plans with me about how best to feel happy and safe.   one friend, however, replied "how could you let him treat you like that?" 

i know that friend cares about me deeply, and was angry at what had happened.  but i did not let him treat me badly.  it is this whole situation: the bad behavior i experienced as well as that response that led me to get over the fear of sharing this and to write this.

i've experienced other similar situations, and i know many of you reading this have as well.  the range of sexual assault is wide, and all too often hidden.  i work in sexuality and sexual health, so i felt somewhat responsible to share this story.

through this post i hope to 1) inspire--maybe you have a story you haven't ever shared or haven't told more than a couple of people, or maybe you want to share this story with others as a form of education; 2) start conversations--talking with peers and young people about consent and how it should look is an ongoing job; and 3) remind people to respond with unequivocal support to anyone who has experienced any form of sexual assault: blaming someone (even with a "how could you let him..." text) lays more burden on that person.

as a friend of mine, i'm asking you to challenge "typical" gender roles of males as aggressors, of females as conquests, as any gender as more powerful than another.  speak up when you hear friends or colleagues reinforcing them: it's up to all of us to make change. 

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