Feminist Friday – Sex and Consent

Each week the Fawcett team will be scouring the media and blogosphere to bring you our top essential feminist posts from the past 7 days – the good, the bad and the ugly…

Happy Feminist Friday! This week we’re kicking off with a fab article from Everyday Feminism’s  Jarune Uwujaren. Dealing with an issue that causes much contention in the feminist sphere, Jarune talks about how women are continuously pressured into being sexy, and are financially and socially rewarded for performing to the male sexual gaze, and are then simultaneously punished, by men and women alike for being sexual.

We received a fair amount of criticism on our Facebook page last week for posting a Guardian video that included that Kim Kardashian picture (sans bum, obvs) – but here at Fawcett we feel the issue is a complicated one, and the repeated criticism of Kim Kardashian for that picture, or Madonna for her recent topless one, rarely takes account of the contexts from which they emerge. As Jarune writes:

“More than men, women are fed the notion that their worth is strongly tied to their ability to be sexually attractive and available. This isn’t the same as women exploring and valuing their own sexual selves — it’s about being passively desired.

“Because we live in a culture that prioritizes male desire, it’s not surprising that many women — including feminists — enjoy playing to that desire. On some level, women who appeal to the male gaze can exploit it and use it to their benefit.

“But on another level, playing to a system that devalues women’s agency for personal gain isn’t empowerment. It’s not something that occurs in direct opposition to feminism either, which is why individual women can’t win unless the system is dismantled.”

If we needed any reminder of just how entrenched and messed up ideas are about women’s perceived sexual desirability, we need look no further than the shocking comments made by a judge this week that a 16 year old school girl had ‘groomed’ a 44 year old vice principal at her school. The teacher had sex with the pupil twice, once at school and once at his home the week his wife miscarried their baby, and the judge thought it was appropriate to label the child ‘manipulative,’ – explicitly blaming the young victim for his actions. Julie Bindel and Gaby Hinsliff were both as appalled as we were.

Sticking with educational institutions – The Telegraph reported this week that one in three female students have been sexually assaulted or abused on campus, while on the other side of the Atlantic new research found that a third of male students would rape if they could get away with it. Interestingly the University of North Dakota study found that many of the respondents denied that they would ‘rape’ but endorsed ‘forced intercourse.’

Clearly lots of these men need some urgent education on consent – and what better place to start than with Fawcett HQ’s favourite new toddler, Zuri, and her activist mum, Staceyann Chin, who make it clear that even 3 year olds understand that NO MEANS NO. We’re pretty sure that their super cute video will send you into the weekend smiling!

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Ava Lee
Ava is Policy and Campaigns Officer at the Fawcett Society