Lately I’ve been talking about consent a lot on social media. I shared that brilliant video about not forcing people to drink tea. When Angela Lansbury said attractive women have to bear some of the blame for assault sometimes, I responded with a meme of Donald Trump saying “Wrong.” When a friend of a friend said that nonverbal communication is tricky and some women get dressed up with one intention and some women with another, I said, “That’s why you use verbal communication before making a move. It’s not difficult.” My husband asked me if he could kiss me before our first kiss. At the time I thought it unnecessary for him to ask, but how was he to know that?
When the topic first blew up, part of me was thinking, “You know you did it once.”
I was a sixteen-year-old girl, and I’d never been kissed. I was at my first party without parents (and boy did I get in trouble for that later) and my super cute friend was on a couch all by himself. A couple years before, a group of us had been looking at each other’s tongues (don’t ask, it was a high school band bus ride before cell phone entertainment was available) and he’d said something about wanting to kiss me. But did that mean he wanted to kiss me a couple years later or even that he was serious at the time? No. Obviously.
I knew he’d be seeing all my social media posts, and I felt like a hypocrite. So I sent him a message apologizing. Was it terrifying? Yes. Did I put it off for a while telling myself that I knew I wasn’t a predator and was pretty sure he didn’t see me that way either and it would probably be okay if I never messaged him? Yes. But finally I made myself do it.
And he was totally nice.
There are a lot of people saying that consent is complicated or that women “asked for it” out there. I would imagine that most of those people feel guilty about a moment from their past just like I did, and that’s why they’re defending that behavior. It’s time for a change. Send the message! Admit that you’re learning! This is what it’s going to take. It’s NOT EASY. What’s easy is getting defensive. You’re seeing a lot of anger and deep down you know it’s also directed at you. Send the message. The person you kissed without permission or buttslapped has not forgotten. You’re not going to be admitting to something they’re not already thinking about as #metoo trends. Send the message and then join the fight. For your kids. For all our kids. It’s working.