You’ve probably been at least partially following the conversation about domestic violence, the ‘Me too’ movement, sexual predators and their unveiling, etc. Perhaps you’ve also heard these statistics: ‘Some 42% of Australians believe women lie about being sexually assaulted, while 31% said a lot of times, women who said they were raped had “led the man on” then had regrets.'*
I don’t know how accurate those statistics are but something that always jars for me is the tendency to polarise life into black and white, this or that. It seems to me that life is much more about ‘and’ than ‘or’ because everything is related.
For example, space and time – they are not discrete states but are related; the truer expression is ‘space-time’. At any point in time we are simultaneously at a point in space, and vice versa. Likewise with ‘mind and body’ – ‘mind-body’ or ‘body-mind’ are far more accurate because the mind affects the body and the body affects the mind. They loop back and forth. They are one whole rather than two separates.
Back to those statistics: do we have to separate women into two discrete categories: those who said yes and those who said no? What about the shades of grey? What about those who said yes to begin with and then changed their minds as the experience became unpleasant for them? Knowing how life and people and relationships actually are, isn’t that more realistic?
Surely this middle ground, where a woman was keen to begin with and then changed her mind, doesn’t mean she is a slut! To my mind it means that something happened that caused doubt or discomfort and she needed to withdraw from the experience. She is entitled to change her mind – and not just because she is a woman, because a man is also entitled to change his mind. Anyone is entitled to change their mind in the realm of sex! ‘No’ means ‘no’ whenever it occurs and wherever it occurs.
Women shouldn’t be shamed for changing their minds. It’s ridiculous to try to force these real-life situations into a category of either consent or no consent when natural human relationships are subject to change and flux. Consent and then no consent are quite valid inside the same experience! We all know that things change as moods change, as more alcohol is consumed, as realisations dawn, etc.
I imagine that women are having to lie in order to avoid being accused of ‘leading him on’, but where’s the common sense in that? Surely it’s a fairly common and normal life experience to believe something is going to be good, begin down that path and then realise it’s not what you expected and want to withdraw? What’s wrong with that?
The lying and shaming that results from unrealistic expectations of human behaviour are really unnecessary. Unrealistic expectations occur because we don’t engage in common sense education. It’s urgently needed.
If two in five Australian women are going to be physically or sexually assaulted at some point in their adult life, then communication and conflict resolution skills are urgently needed in our school curriculum.
From Prep to Year 12.
As a compulsory subject alongside Maths and English.
Because everyone needs to be able to communicate, whoever you are and whatever your likely occupation.
If this is sounding familiar, it’s because this is my current hobby horse. I’m an advocate for Common Sense Skills in Schools: Communication and Conflict Resolution Skills, Goal-setting and Achievement Skills, Self-Awareness and Personal Mastery, Mindfulness, and Money Management.
* This quote is taken from an article in The Conversation: 'Four In Ten Australians Think Women Lie About Being Victims of Sexual Assault' by Kristin Diemer, Anastasia Powell and Kim Webster.