I’m sure many high school/university aged girls have had/will have a similar experience at some point in their lives. You’re messaging a cute guy and things are going well- you have a lot in common and you’re really hitting it off and enjoying the conversation. Then all of a sudden, he says it. “Send nudes”. What do you do? Maybe you send them, maybe you don’t.
Whatever you choose to do in this situation is fully up to your discretion. And this is good. Because whatever your views on sending nude pictures, in this particular situation, you have been asked permission. You have made a decision. And you have given (or not given) consent.
For many people, when they think of sexual assault, the biggest issue with these kinds of situations all cycles back to the issue of consent. Did you give permission? Did you make your intentions known? Did you ask for it? Not with your clothes, body language, alcohol intake or behaviour, but with your words (and most certainly not with your lack of them). Consent is one of the most important and imperative actions within a relationship of a sexual nature. Without it, the entire integrity of the interaction as well as the people involved is compromised. And it all goes back to a simple “yes” or “no”.
The issue with consent is that when people think of consent, they only think of it pertaining to acts of a physically sexual nature. However, people need to realize that consent deals with ALL actions of a sexual nature, not just the physical act of intercourse itself. This extends far and beyond the confines of the bedroom. Groping someone in a sexually charged way, catcalling, and distributing nude pictures all have two things in common. They all have underlying sexual tones, and they can all be done without a person’s consent. And in the case of one of these situations being done without consent, can be extended to an act of sexual assault.
Leaking nude pictures or whistling at someone on the street may not seem like sexual assault and that is because we have not been taught that it is. We have been taught that an assault is only an assault on someone’s physical body but it is so much more than that. It is doing harm to someone’s character and violating their integrity. To make them feel violated in their own skin.
Let me just make one thing clear. This is not an issue of “boys will be boys”. This is not a feminist issue. Assault is a most common occurrence for women at the hands of men, but this does not dispute that men are assaulted at the hands of women, women are assaulted at the hands of women, and men are assaulted at the hands of men. Assault is truly something that can happen to anyone at the hands of anyone. This is a human rights issue, as assault is a clear violation of people’s ability to feel safe. People who associate the issue of sexual assault with feminism are immediately distancing themselves from the problem. Feminism is an entirely different subject matter and whether you agree with feminist views or not is another topic of discussion. But as to whether you agree if sexual assault is wrong or not is an issue that is definitely less contentious.
In fall of 2014, a hacker leaked nude photographs of many well-known female celebrities including Jennifer Lawrence, who was outspoken about the fact that this action constituted a sex crime. While there may not be any apt way to deal with this kind of action as the law sees fit, the notion of this being a sex crime still holds some weight. This was by no means a consensual act.
It it not a women’s fault for having nude photos of themselves. This is a personal decision, as is the decision to show another person these photos. This is by no means asking for it. Criticizing someone for having nude photos of themselves falls in the same vein as criticizing a person for what they are wearing, how drunk they are, or any non-verbal cues they are giving off. And we all know that slut-shaming is not okay.
A couple days ago, I happened to come across a tweet that declared that a person didn’t know that “groping was equal to third-degree murder”. This is upsetting for two reasons. One: there is no actual crime known as “third-degree murder” meaning this person is sadly misinformed about the way the legal system works. Two: this particular tweet was in response to a series of events that had taken place on facebook where an individual was called out for groping someone as they walked through the hallway. If this tweet was supposed to be a joke, it wasn’t funny. Here is an individual trying to start an important conversation about what we define as sexual assault, and it is immediately being shot down. It almost seems that as a society, we are more comfortable placing blame where we feel it is due and then immediately washing our hands of the entire sexual assault conversation.
I’ll be the first to admit, the conversation about sexual assault is not an easy one to have- it is uncomfortable at best, downright painful at worst. But it is a conversation that needs to be had. I know I am not alone in thinking that we need to redefine the way sexual assault and consent are perceived in our society, but I cannot start this conversation alone. Whatever your opinions on sexual assault are, I want to hear them. Disagree with what I have to say? Even better. Present your thoughts and please comment on this post. Share this blog post as much as you can and start a conversation with your friends. Because they only way to start figuring out a solution, is to first talk about the problem.