Consent - the filthiest C word of all. Trust me...
I like to think that Beth Ditto and I have a lot in common. We’re both sweaty, dark haired, fat women with powerful voices, who don’t give a fuck and will still rock out and be stylish no matter what.*
One thing I found out about Ms Ditto that I didn’t already know was last week. On Thursday I got an email from Rebecca kindly informing me that I’d won tickets to the Gossip gig (cue lots of jumping up and down and clichéd exclamations of “But I never win anything!”).
Not having ever been to a gig of hers before I wasn’t quite prepared for the amount of girl candy that was there - probably on a par with the amount at Pride this weekend.
It’s clear that Beth’s milkshake (again, like mine) brings all the bois to the yard. (That’s sort of an androgynously cute girl, for those without a lesbian to English dictionary.) Unfortunately my (incredibly straight) friend Natalie was with me, and so she served as a very effective clit-block. She also served as grope-bait.
Upon returning from the toilet I found that she had been touched up in the crowd by some faceless drunk girl. I reared up like a lioness, ready to protect my chaperone but she couldn’t identify the girl. “The thing is, I just don’t swing that way!” she shouted in my ear. “And even if you did - that is NOT okay” I shouted back.
Natalie may or may not be being groped at this point
She kept bringing up the fact that she was straight. As if that was the reason it was inappropriate for her to be touched by some (female) stranger. Not because she had any choice over her own body. That implies that if you are the same sexual orientation as someone it is your duty to let them do whatever they want to you, whether you like it or not.
Do women have to have an excuse to own their bodies and what happens to them? It felt like she was apologising to me, afraid of being branded homophobic for not wanting a girl to grab her ass, in the same way another girl might act apologetic about a guy touching her, afraid of being branded a naïve prude or god forbid - unsexy, uncool and feminist.
My reaction to being felt up (without permission) is based around my friend Melissa’s. We spend the majority of our time decoding texts she gets from douchebag guys, which occasionally I help craft her responses to (I drew the line when she asked for help with sexting). She might seem to most like she lets the world of men rule her every waking thought but at her very centre she is strong and powerful.
She will turn around to a guy in a club and DEMAND an explanation about why he feels he has the right to touch her ass in a club. She embarrasses them, in front of their friends, rather than internalise the assault as just another part of women’s lot in life, or have to come up with reasons why it’s not okay like Natalie did, and it is one of the best things to watch ever. I like to think I’m that elegant about it, but mostly I just give a guy a whack and a glare.
That night, and having read about Rebecca’s mission to rebrand it as not just ‘one of those things', made me think about the narrative of casual sexual assault in our culture. Women are usually the victims and men are usually the perpetrators. Or so we hear.
But what about the girl on girl crime? When I first realised that my lady parts were attracted to other lady parts (as well as lord parts but that’s another story) - the whole dynamic of relationships changed for me. I didn’t expect the same thing from men as I had done before because when there’s two women in the relationship both or neither of you can buy flowers, do the washing up, make the first move.
Not that I’d been particularly conventional up until that point anyway, but it definitely levelled the playing field between me and whoever I was dating - as far as I was concerned there were no rules - I just had to act truthfully to myself.
Like a good girl, before my first time with a woman I did my research. I found a brilliant Autostraddle article about the importance of consent and suddenly it hit me. I had never had to worry about the consent of my man-partner before. (I always just assumed that if his willy was on and he was putting it in me that I wasn’t raping him) But now, entering the bedroom with a woman, I needed to know that she was definitely okay with anything that happened.
My first time included a lot of “Is this okay?” “How does that feel?” “Would it be okay if I do this” – I forced her to be vocal about her consent because I couldn’t risk just ploughing ahead and finding out the next day that she’d kept quiet because as women we’re taught to keep quiet. To not have powerful voices like Beth’s.
During my first time I felt like a guy. And I felt a certain amount of sympathy for guys. I’m, ahem, naturally very vocal in between sheets anyway, but if I wasn’t I’d have resolved to be more so. To tell someone that yes I am choosing this too. I am allowing my body to be present in this scenario. It is just as important as telling people when we are not giving permission for our bodies to be used in a certain way. That it is NOT okay for you to put your hand there. They are two sides of the same coin.
So shame on that girl (and all the guys who steal a grope too) - because if they’ve ever had someone consent to do anything sexual with them they’d know that by taking something without asking, even casually, they are crossing a line. They’d also know how great it is to hear someone tell you just how much they consent to what you’re doing/about to do. The C word really is the filthiest of all.
*We’re also both best friends with Kate Moss. Call her if you don’t believe me.