Post-#MeToo: Let’s Empower Women to Avoid the Gray-Zone of Sexual Consent
Through what has become an overzealous and blindly reckless effort to avoid “blaming the victim”, we’ve stolen from women the ability, or at least the incentive, to take control of their own sexual encounters and to guide those encounters in a comfortable direction.
Situations like those outlined in the story of the Aziz Anzari allegations and in the viral New Yorker story “Cat Person” have served as an advantageous bridge between explicit Harvey Weinstein-esque sexual harassment and the current conversations surrounding “gray-zone” sexual encounters, which The New York Times defines in a recent call for essays as “a particular kind of encounter, one that may not be viewed as sexual assault, but which constitutes something murkier than a bad date.”
“Let’s encourage women to behave more like they naturally feel as individuals and less like they feel society and/or men are pressuring them to behave.”
We’ve finally done an acceptable job of acknowledging sexual harassment and identifying its perpetrators. We’ve pulled back the shameful curtain that once provided sanctuary for predatory monsters who used their power, position, and influence to pressure women into unwelcome sexual situations. There are undoubtedly still offenders lurking out there, but we’ve clearly voiced our collective opposition to their historical tyranny.
We are failing, however, to begin taking the most crucial step in combating the disturbing reality of women engaging in sexual activity with which they are not comfortable. In fact, if anything, we’ve essentially opposed that step, albeit through our own best intentions. We’ve been so careful to avoid implicating women as being complicit in their own victimization that we’ve now inadvertently discouraged them from feeling responsible for the outcomes of sexual encounters in which they participated willingly.
To be clear, we’re not talking about situations that include rape by physical threat or force. In this discussion, we’re focused on situations in which a woman feels helpless in a non-physical way due to social expectation, professional circumstances, or her own discomfort with…