In light of the article published last week about former women’s basketball player Riley Blair, I wanted to talk about consent this week.
In our three-hour long conversation, we talked a lot about consent and people’s perception of consent. Because that’s at the center of cases like Blair’s; was consent given? Was the sexual contact consensual or not?
I remember sitting in the courtroom, watching the defense attorneys borderline harass Blair on the stand about whether or not she gave consent. It got to the point where the judge had to interject and remind the attorney that it was only a preliminary exam and they should save that line of questioning for the trial, which never happened.
One question still sticks in my mind from that day. He asked her “Is it possible that you gave consent and just do not remember?” and she firmly said “No.”
It was a single, powerful syllable. One she was incapable of giving that night.
But the question in itself gave us the answer. If Blair was in a state of intoxication to the point where she cannot remember the night before, she could not have given consent. Simple as that. Drunk consent is not consent.
Forced consent is not consent; asking until consent is given is not consent. If you have to ask someone several times and convince them to give you consent, that’s not consent.
It’s sad to me that I have heard stories from more than one friend about times they felt taken advantage of by someone. A night when a guy wouldn’t take no for an answer and wouldn’t leave the house until she begrudgingly consented. How is that acceptable to anyone? What kind of society do we live in that someone believes that is really consent?
Situations like that will never be brought to light because in so many people’s eyes, consent was given. Survivors of sexual assault who did not give consent are already met with so many challenges to get a conviction or any justice. Blair, who was intoxicated past the point of being able to give consent, said she felt like she had to appear perfect to even have a chance in her case.
“It’s just kind of screwed up because I feel like I have to have this crystal clear image and front in order for him to be found guilty of it and he has to screw up really bad in a lot of ways for him to be found guilty,” she said.
In the beginning of the case, prosecutors asked Blair if she had been romantic with her assailant prior to the night she was sexually assaulted. They were relieved to hear she had not.
“The answer was no, but it was like, ‘oh okay, good, that’s really good,’” Blair said. “But I was like, it shouldn’t matter.”
Consent given today doesn’t mean you have consent tomorrow, or next week. Consent given at 8 p.m. doesn’t mean it’s given at 10 p.m.
In our conversation, Riley brought up the Tea Consent video, which can be found on YouTube. If anyone is unclear on what exactly consent is, I would highly recommend you watch it. It very clearly lays out what exactly consent looks like through a metaphor of drinking tea.
You wouldn’t force someone to drink tea if they don’t want to. You wouldn’t pour tea down someone’s throat when they were sleeping or unconscious. If someone told you they wanted tea, and then after you make it, they tell you they changed their mind. Would you force them to drink that tea? Absolutely not.
Are you starting to get a good picture? The video clearly shows how ridiculous it would be to force someone to drink tea, so why do we think about sex any differently?
“It’s funny, because I think we try to overanalyze it,” Blair said. “When in reality, it should be cut and dry. There’s all this, ‘well what if?’ But no—if it’s not clear, then it’s not clear. And that’s the part that people need to wrap their heads around and get into their brains.
“There shouldn’t be all this ‘What clothing was involved? What alcohol was involved?’ No. It’s cut and dry. It should be that simple, but it’s not.”
If the answer is “no,” it’s obviously no. If the answer is “I’m not sure,” it’s no. If there’s no answer? It’s definitely no.
If any action in any situation involves more people than just you, you no longer have complete control over the situation. You don’t get to make decisions for others. What you want personally is no longer the only factor in the decision.
“You’re entitled to yourself; you can do whatever you want with yourself,” Blair said. “But never are do you have control or the say on anyone else and their body.”