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The holidays have been busy! We were not in the path of the California fires, but our schools closed due to the smoky air. We had lots of extra family time (and proportionally less work time) on top of the regularly scheduled holiday. With all that drama, plus the interview series, I didn’t send you anything about the Irish #ThisIsNotConsent movement. Let’s catch up.
A17 year old girl accuses a 27 year old man of raping her. It goes to trial. His defense attorney argues that the sex was consensual. He was acquitted.
Had this happened here in California, there would have been a very different outcome. The age of consent here is 18. Legally, she couldn’t have consented. Different places have different ages of consent, however, so this case and this outcome could certainly happened “here,” maybe not in California, but close by.
What people, especially Irish women, are riled up about is that the defense attorney used the victim’s lacy underwear to suggest that the girl was open to sex. The defense attorney went out of her way to slut-shame the victim as “evidence” that the sex was consensual.
Women have taken to social media, posting pictures of their underwear and the hashtag #ThisIsNotConsent.
Regardless of whether she was a virgin or not (she claims she was), regardless of what she was wearing (lacy underwear or bloomers), regardless of whether he’s convicted or acquitted, if she didn’t eagerly consent, best done verbally and out loud, it was rape.
This is where our understanding of right behavior and our ability to enforce it with the legal system come to an impasse. Her virginity and her underwear should not be admissible in court as evidence of anything.
This outcry, this social media movement, can help policies change. Currently, there’s no guideline in Irish courts, so the attorneys can present a wide range of facts and leave it up to the jury to weigh their importance. If jury members believes it’s a woman’s role to curb male sexual attention, they may be swayed by lacy underwear.
Let’s be clear
It’s not a woman’s role to curb male sexual attention. It’s everyone’s job to ensure that the touch we want to give (sexual or otherwise) is wanted by the other person.
If it isn’t, it’s our responsibility to restrain ourselves.
An assistant of mine, in a more conservative part of the United States, was following the hashtag as it unfolded. She discussed it with others, including people with different beliefs, who argued that what a woman wears could or does connote permission. She found herself spelling it out to her elders, kindly but firmly, saying “Don’t touch what’s not yours. Including bodies.”
While this is too dark and complex for our little ones, it’s a great discussion for our teens. Your 17 year old daughter will have a lot of thoughts to share. What does she think of age-of-consent laws? About slut shaming in general and evidentiary guidelines for rape cases? What about how social media can be used for good or for ill?
And consider joining the #ThisIsNotConsent movement. Whether you post a picture of your undies or not, simply using the hashtag and joining the conversation keeps the energy up. The news reports on the biggest stories, so keep this drama large. Keep the pressure on the Irish legal system to change, and find out what your own community’s policies are. They might benefit from some updating too.
I welcome your comments! What feels right? What do you disagree with? What would help you have this conversation with your teen?
In support of you,
P.S. Have you registered for the 2018 interview series? We’re focusing on Preventing the Next Generation’s #MeToo Stories. Listen in as 22 experts explain what we can do to prevent sexual abuse, raise empathetic and assertive kids, teach boundaries and consent and more.