asking for it and enthusiastic consent

Rebecca St. James is clearly asking for it in that turtleneck.

I barely remember her from the bad Christian pop of the 90s, but apparently Rebecca St. James is still some sort of authority on modesty and whether or not someone deserves to be sexually assaulted because of what they are wearing. I say apparently, because Fox News had her on to discuss a recent spate of “Slut Walks,” which I would describe as a sort of updated “Take Back the Night” rally, in which women march wearing whatever they want, in order to make the point that being perceived as a slut, whether because of one’s clothes or other reasons, is not justification for sexual assault. It’s largely based on lampooning the very concept of the word “slut,” since it can’t be an insult or a justification if those to whom it is applied refuse to be shamed by it.

Anyway, back to Rebecca St. James, she of 90s CCM fame. This is what she said on Fox News (video here):

“I think there has to be responsibility though for what a woman is wearing,” St. James told Hannity Monday. “When a woman is dressing in an immodest way, in a proactive way, she’s got to think about what is she saying by her dress.”

“They’re asking for sex,” she continued. “They’re asking for sex if they’re dressed immodestly.”


What someone is wearing, whether or not they are drinking, what kind of neighborhood they are walking down the street it: these are not ways of consenting to sex. I’ll put it a bit more clearly:


St. James seems to believe that rape is an appropriate punishment for women who dare to dress in a way that does not meet her cultural standards of modesty. She also seems to take the very negative and insulting view of men that suggests they are sexbeasts who cannot control themselves in the presence of female flesh. And, possibly, she seems to hold the beliefs that women don’t really want sex, and are unlikely to enthusiastically, verbally, clearly consent to engage in it, and that sex is something men must convince or coerce women into having, either by raping them, or exchanging gifts and time (it’s called dating, romance, or maybe even marriage– since an engagement ring is the ultimate gift) in exchange for sex.

Here’s what I think. Sex is natural, sex is fun, sex is best (and should only happen) with someone who wants to be having it with you. Both men and women enjoy and desire sex. Sex should only be had with someone who very clearly, obviously, verbally has expressed that he or she wants to be having sex with you. It’s called a standard of enthusiastic consent, and it handily does away with slut shaming, and “gray rape” and other points of confusion about consensual vs. nonconsensual sex. You don’t have to wonder if someone is sending you signals by their clothing, or by where they happen to be walking, or by what they happen to be drinking. You’ll know.


I haven’t done a post on the whole Roman Polanski thing, and I probably won’t be doing any sort of in-depth post on the subject, namely because so many other great writers have already said it better, and because, if you follow me on Twitter, then you already know how I feel on the subject, which is basically that: 13 year olds can’t legally consent to sex with adults, ever.  People who are intoxicated or under the influence of drugs cannot consent to sex.  If you tell someone NO and beg them to stop, you are not consenting to sex.  And whether the victim had been 13 or 30, she was under the influence, and she begged him to stop.  He PLED GUILTY.  And then he committed the additional crime of fleeing the country.  He got what’s coming to him and I hope he receives a just sentence, and I am disgusted by his defenders.

ANYWAY.  The entire jist of this is to highlight Kate Harding’s latest post on the subject, in which she ties in another rape controversy involving an adolescent girl: the filming of the movie “Hound Dog” starring then 13 year old Dakota Fanning, who appeared (fully clothed) in a rape scene.  Harding interviewed the film’s director, who ended the interview with this:

“When you rape a girl, the problem is not that you’re taking away her purity — which is what gets religious right up in arms — it’s that you’re taking away her wholeness. And trying to keep her ‘pure,’ repressing her sexuality, silencing her voice, also takes away wholeness. It’s two sides of the same coin.

“I don’t want my daughter to grow up pure,” she said. “I want her to grow up whole.”

I’ve always been rather uncomfortable with the way “we” in a societal sense talk to kids about sex, particularly those of “us” (societally speaking) who support “just say no” abstinence-only messages.  Kampmeier’s quote sums up how I feel about most experiences, sexual or otherwise.  Does it make you feel more whole? More power to ya, I will cheer you on.  Does it make you or others involved in the experience feel less whole?  That’s not something I support.

finally, a decent PSA

Last night, while waiting for dinner to finish simmering, I flipped open this week’s issue of the Charleston City Paper, our local alt-weekly.  This issue is the annual “welcome back college kids” issue, with advice on cheap eats, good places to go for dates, and ways to spruce up dorm rooms.  Basically all kinds of great Charleston tips that I can appreciate even though I’m not a college student any more, because I’m on a tight budget.  As I turned the page after reading a piece on local thrift stores, I saw this ad:


I could have applauded.

See, so often PSAs about rape and sexual assault focus on the materials in the first part of the ad, the part that is aimed toward young women.  The part that says, don’t wear that, don’t drink this, don’t go to these places, don’t be out after this hour, don’t hang out with these people.  The feminist in me tends to think that the culture of fear we instill in our young women serves to help keep them under control.  Just thinking about it makes me want to crank up No Doubt’s “Just a Girl” and bop along with my teen idol Gwen. “Don’t you think I know exactly where I stand? This world is forcin’ me to hold your hand!” (Seriously, I wonder how many other 20-30 year olds can point to that song as a major source of their feminist awakening.) Continue reading “finally, a decent PSA”

%d bloggers like this: