During my brief foray into the corporate world, I had an older colleague who shared the wisdom that it’s always easier to seek forgiveness than to get permission. I’ve been thinking all these years that was a clever bit of advice until I read about the passage of California SB 967 and now I’m thinking it’s always better to get permission than to go to jail for rape.
California SB 967, which Governor Jerry Brown signed into law last month, states that schools will be denied public funding unless they adopt policies regarding sexual assault to include the affirmative consent standard, and a bunch of other stuff (requiring prevention and outreach programs, detailed victim-centered protocols, comprehensive training of staff). Of course, the reactionaries on the right (are there any other kind?) have focused on the affirmative consent standard, and not the fact that the effect of the law is to withdraw public funding from universities that fail to establish these policies, not run around and arrest people who have sex with women who don’t respond like Molly Bloom in James Joyce’s Ulysses.
I was a Flower of the mountain yes when I put the rose in my hair like the Andalusian girls used or shall I wear a red yes and how he kissed me under the Moorish wall and I thought well as well him as another and then I asked him with my eyes to ask again yes and then he asked me would I yes to say yes my mountain flower and first I put my arms around him yes and drew him down to me so he could feel my breasts all perfume yes and his heart was going like mad and yes I said yes I will Yes.
But I want to know, what’s so wrong with affirmative consent? What’s so wrong with making sure we’re all on the same page before we whip out our
dirty sexy bits?
Believe me, I know how blessed my life has been in that I have never been the victim of sexual assault, unless you count that guy who put his hand on my ass while we shared a cigarette near the Dumpster behind the Stop N Shop where we both worked that summer. Would it have killed him to ask, “Hey, can I put my hand on your ass?” Would that have ruined the “romance” of the moment?
I guess the idea of asking permission isn’t so foreign to me since I married a guy who asked, after a spirited make out session on his living room sofa, “Do you want to go upstairs?” before proceeding further.
In fact, maybe that’s why I married him, because he asked.
So what’s wrong with asking permission? Perhaps some folks are uncomfortable admitting they’re thinking about sex, or they want sex. Perhaps they’re afraid to put words to their desires.
Still, part of me can’t help but think that people who aren’t willing to ask for permission are the ones who know they won’t get it.
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