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@issue 360 | Issue 21 | May 2018
The response to #MeToo, ever growing reports of sexual harassment, and other harmful sexual behaviors, often includes responses that indicate the accused chose to see their behaviors as consensual and mutually desirable. Historic, cultural, and current mass media messages that perpetuate norms of male privilege and sexual conquest make it challenging for those who value equitable relationships and who crave mutual pleasure.  In a society that values a system of deflecting responsibility for one’s behaviors or the impact those behaviors have on others, it is challenging to hang on the basic meaning of consent.  As David Brooks wrote in his recent NYT opinion piece, “…in the public mind the line between unwanted sexual attention and force is growing indistinguishable.”
Consent is not a new term.  We hear this term all the time in medical settings and research.  Consent in these areas ensures participants are fully informed so they know what they are agreeing to.  Additionally, they are made aware of any risks or possible effects and the right to say no.  A minor (under age 18) cannot consent to participation in these treatments or activities on his/her own.  An adult who is incapacitated or in an altered mental state cannot consent to participate in these events either.  However, too often such expectations are not considered for consent to sexual activities. 
In a pornified culture, yesterday’s porn is today’s mainstream media. The pornography industry has fueled the increase in hyper-sexualized mass media.  The ease of access to today’s Internet pornography further packages women as sexual commodities and objects to be used by male consumers.  Additionally, the porn industry portrays pain and degradation as sexy. In a pornified culture, women are said to be worthwhile only if they are sexy, and sexy is determined by how much degradation and pain they can “take” sexually.  Alternatively, men’s masculinity is questioned if  they are not consumers who, “get it,” “take whatever they want” and “get off.” 
Sex is often portrayed as a performance or a trophy, creating a filter in which only a scoreboard matters, rather than considering a human being.  Society needs to see the exploitive use of sex and pornified distortions for what they are, so society can see the frequency of this leading to people being harmed or causing harm. True, informed consent, is not present when one person has the power and control over another.  Arguments such as:
they knew what was coming
they did it before
they’re making good money
they didn’t say no
 they look like they liked it well enough
are cognitive distortions and justifications for persons to feel better about neglecting to care about another's pleasure (or lack thereof), pain, or humiliation. In these cases, the one who manipulates or forces only hears what s/he wants to hear – something supporting the desire for a sexual encounter – and ignores anything negating the desired activity.  This is just another example of someone using a power or privilege to harm another human being, then blaming those victimized instead of taking responsibility.


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