Girls Gone Wild Teaches Us That Legally, “No” Doesn’t Mean Lack of Consent

Sexual assault: Any unwanted act of a sexual nature that is imposed on another person.Found a wonderful note in Facebook from 2010. To my knowledge, the legal decision referenced in this note is still in force today. It is a horrifying precedent. Used by permission of the writer.

If you have a wife, a mother, a daughter, a sister, a girlfriend, a woman friend you care about, please realize that this is the current culture in which she operates every day. It’s not theory for debating — it’s her life. These are actual people and their actual opinions and actions toward women.

One young woman attended Girls Gone Wild a few years back. She’s now married with small children. During the event, she was asked (as many of the young women are) to pull up her top and expose herself. She said, out loud, and I quote, “No.” She said this more than once. Another woman nearby yanked this young woman’s top down, exposing her, and the GGW producers caught her on film.

It is worth noting that her “no” answers were also recorded on film. Later, this footage was used and sold as part of a GGW video. When, years later, this young woman found out it was out there — having assumed all this time that “no means no” and her footage was not used against her explicitly stated refusal — she sued.

The jury saw the film, saw her refuse, and blew off her case. Their legal case? She was there — that was all the consent that was needed. Her actual words, her actual will, meant nothing legally. She was there. That was it. It is not a long jump to applying this to rape and other sex crimes against women, particularly women whom society judges, because we already judge them by this standard. “She was there.” Clearly, to many people, standing in a certain place while female (especially with a drink in your hand) is a far more serious crime than committing a sexual assault, and deserves serious punishment.

Does your mother, your daughter, your sister, or your wife ever go anywhere? Does she ever do anything that could possibly be judged poorly by even one person out there? Does she ever leave the house after dark? Ever have a drink? Ever wear anything that looks flattering on her (no matter how modest)? Then too bad. “She was there.”

So here’s the lesson we can take from this: All of this nonsense about people “misunderstanding consent,” about “women just don’t say no plainly,” all of that, is now openly demonstrated to be utter crap. She said no. Plainly. More than once. It is now a legal precedent that saying No outright does not equal a lack of consent. You can say no, and it can legally mean nothing. This contributes a great deal to rape culture — it makes it even more OK for society to continue to blame the victim, including in the face of her open non-consent.

If the women in your life that you love say “No” and it legally doesn’t mean anything — then what’s left for women to do? What country is this? What year? I juxtapose something like this against numerous stories about women who defended themselves too effectively and were hammered for it. One by one, our society is closing up avenues for legal, effective rape resistance by women.

It puts me in mind of one of my favorite bumper stickers: “Men can stop rape.” Women are already doing all they can, and it isn’t going well. Please, help the women you love. Don’t contribute to rape culture, from laughing at sexist jokes, to verbally punishing a woman you want to flirt with who doesn’t want to flirt back, to targeting the most vulnerable woman at a social event, all the way to rape. Don’t do any of it. It all contributes to rape culture. Any rapists around you (and you do know some) who hear you laugh at jokes insulting women, that small a thing, they think you’re their ally. Their buddy. That they could rape and you’d have their back. Don’t let them think you’re on their side.

If your buddy says a drunk woman is an opportunity, believe he means it. If he says they all want it and so there’s really no such thing as rape, believe he means it. Protect the women you love by calling out guys who talk and act like predators. They create and perpetuate rape culture. They endanger your wife, mother, sister, daughter. It’s not just talk and it’s not just other people. It’s the real lives of the women you love. This is the insane climate they live in.

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