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All Your Boobs Belong To Us: Some Thoughts About Consent While Female

I once had occasion to date a woman who had very strong boundaries regarding acceptable affection. (I won’t get into the reasons, because they were hers, and totally valid.) Now, as I am a fanatic for consent, this turned out to not be that big an issue for me; in fact, it was a healthy reminder of the way things should ALWAYS be. That is, I had to ask her when I wanted to try something new. I made sure that I got enthusiastic assent before I stretched a previously-established boundary. And yeah, sometimes it was frustrating, but it was often sexy as hell. (It helped that there were no boundaries on kissing, and she was a past master of the art.) And in a weird way, by needing to seek and receive consent constantly, we achieved an intimacy I’ve seldom felt in other relationships.

I despair sometimes that we were able to achieve this mutuality of respect and consent only because we were both women. Because lately, except for Thomas Macauly Millar, it’s getting pretty hard out there.

Take, for example, your latest court-sanctioned reaffirmation that a woman’s body belongs to everyone but herself:

A jury on Thursday rejected a young woman’s claim that the producers of a “Girls Gone Wild” video damaged her reputation by showing her tank top being pulled down by another person in a Laclede’s Landing bar.

A St. Louis Circuit Court jury deliberated 90 minutes before ruling against the woman, 26, on the third day of the trial. Lawyers on both sides argued the key issue was consent, with her side saying she absolutely refused to give it and the defense claiming she silently approved by taking part in the party.

The woman, identified in court files as Jane Doe, was 20 when she went to the former Rum Jungle bar in May 2004 and was filmed by a “Girls Gone Wild” video photographer. Now married, the mother of two girls and living in the St. Charles area, Doe sued in 2008 after a friend of her husband’s reported that she was in one of the videos.

“I am stunned that this company can get away with this,” Doe said after the verdict. “Justice has not been served. I just don’t understand. I gave no consent.”

But Patrick O’Brien, the jury foreman, told a reporter later that an 11-member majority decided that Doe had in effect consented by being in the bar and dancing for the photographer. In a trial such as this one, agreement by nine of 12 jurors is enough for a verdict.

“Through her actions, she gave implied consent,” O’Brien said. “She was really playing to the camera. She knew what she was doing.”

Ah, yes, “implied consent.” Because she happened to be at a bar where a film crew for the somehow-not-yet-criminally sleazy “Girls Gone Wild” franchise was taping, and she didn’t turn on her heels and leave like a proper paragon of virtue would have –no doubt ruffling her crinolines as she did so. Certainly the fact that she could be heard saying “no,” on film, isn’t a defense.

Because NO is never a defense. It’s merely a prerequisite to making a defense. See, she still needed to not be in the video, even though she would surely have been sued had she taken some of the several deliciously violent courses that spring to my mind when contemplating my reaction to a GGW camera crew. And certainly, she should have prevented somebody else from pulling down her top. What was she doing wearing a top that could be pulled down? In a bar? Where there is alcohol and men?

She should have known better, right? She should have known that this might have happened, and if it did, and there happened to be a camera crew handy, she’d have no right to stop them from exploiting her image to make tons of money and show her naked breasts to complete strangers. Without her consent.

Just her implied consent.

When one is confronted by cases such as this–or the Larry Rivers Art/Child Porn/Images of a Minor Made Without Her Consent that Sady and Amanda discussed last week–one wearily wonders if there is any way to be publicly female without giving implied consent to have something done to your body. I mean, seriously: just how far does this go? Had GGW showed up to, oh, say, Le Bernardin, and some trashed suit was spending his bailout money on adult entertainers, and somehow a primly dressed female patron walked into the shot and had her dress ripped off…is that implied consent? Does a $180 prix fixe somehow mitigate the implications of consent in the way that a $3 PBR doesn’t? Because to be honest, what is the difference? Why should it matter if you dance or you don’t, if your skirt is shorter than your belt or brushes your ankles? How in the hell can clothing or location or body movements override a direct refusal to consent?

The answer is, of course, that it doesn’t. Not really. And not in the good way that you might think I’m going, what with the feminism and all. I mean just the opposite: it doesn’t make a difference. Cover your body completely, or go out naked into the streets; inhabiting a female body seems to be the exception to the old saw that possession is nine-tenths of the law.

Coincidentally, the divine (!) Echidne is rerunning some of her most thoughtful columns this week, and this one couldn’t be better timed:

Yesterday my visiting alien from outer space came to me all excited (you can see it from the quivering antennae). It had learned the concept of property, both public and private, and it had decided to apply it to women’s bodies and sexuality. Its conclusion was that women and their sexuality are private property, belonging to husbands, fathers and sons, in much of the world, including most Muslim countries, and that women in the Western democracies are public property, belonging to everybody.

“Nononono!” I said. “You have it all wrong. Women do own their bodies and sexuality in most countries of this world. They can decide what to wear and who to have sex with. They can decide if they will be pregnant and so on.”

My alien friend wasn’t convinced. It asked me what would happen if I went out shirtless and braless, for example. Wouldn’t I get arrested, unless my name was not Echidne but Ed? And can a woman choose whether she uses contraception or not, in all countries? Can she use it if her husband doesn’t want her to? Can she breastfeed her baby in public?

It then asked me about pornography. Why is the majority of porn about women’s bodies? Why is most of it aimed for men’s consumption. Who owns the right to view the generic “female body”?

Sometimes I really hate this alien. I had to explain about the sexual difference between men and women, how men get turned on by the very sight of the female body and how that means that women must cover those bits of their bodies which mostly inflame men’s desires. Otherwise the men can’t control themselves. Men are so much more visual than women, and the society reflects that, by regulating the amount of female nudity allowed in the public sphere. We can’t have naked breasts slip out suddenly on television, in the middle of a football game, say.

“Breasts..” mused the alien. “They are for nurturing the young humans, right? But what about pornography, then? If men are more visual than women and easily inflamed, shouldn’t porn be illegal or severely regulated? It sounds to me as if women are not in control of the female body, even in the West. Someone else, is. Someone else determines when that body can turn up naked in your visual fields.”

Which takes me back to me and my lady friend. She set very firm boundaries with me, and in a way I’m forever grateful that she did, because it gave me a very practical class in the fictitiousness of implied consent. I couldn’t assume consent for anything. What’s shocking is that such a situation seemed unusual. That such a situation isn’t normal, and commonplace. Or that such a situation even today is still better understood by two women–even one who took as roundabout a path to womanhood as I did.

Because as women we knew what implied consent sounds like.

It sounds like “No.”

62 Comments

  1. Kathy wrote:

    As a St. Louisan and a regular reader of feminist blogosphere, I’ve been following this story on a local as well as a national level. A local alternative newspaper nominated Jane Doe as “assclown of the week.” Really? Not the jurors or the producers of Girls Gone Wild? Oh, that’s right. Totally her fault for, you know, having the audacity to go to a bar where there’s men and alcohol.

    Between the local media and the jury’s verdict, I’m not feeling too proud of my city.

    Tuesday, July 27, 2010 at 12:34 pm | Permalink
  2. Xeginy wrote:

    “Implied consent.” Whatever. That’s such a bullshit phrase anyway. What this really comes down to is (in my mind) “If you didn’t want it you wouldn’t be here/wearing that/talking like that/drinking that.” It’s always a woman’s fault, because if she’s not a Virgin then she’s a Whore. And Whores don’t deserve consent.

    Damn it, this whole story pisses me off so much.

    Tuesday, July 27, 2010 at 12:34 pm | Permalink
  3. AMC wrote:

    There had better be a DAMN lot of negative press about the extreme sexism of this Douchebag Extraordinaire who made this ruling. Seriously-makes me stabby, gorramn it!

    Tuesday, July 27, 2010 at 12:37 pm | Permalink
  4. Emily WK wrote:

    Oh my gosh, Kathy. I wish I could say that I can’t believe that, but I can.

    I have heard that the clip is being played on the local news – have you seen it? Do they blur out her face? The comment I saw wasn’t clear on whether they did or not.

    Tuesday, July 27, 2010 at 12:55 pm | Permalink
  5. Kathy wrote:

    @Emily WK

    Eventually, the editor did issue apology, and the blogger was nominated (overwhelmingly, by the commenters), as an assclown himself, but it was a really heinous thing to do in the first place. (I’d link it, but I’d rather not give the site in question any more traffic.)

    Tuesday, July 27, 2010 at 1:07 pm | Permalink
  6. Isobel wrote:

    UGH…. I hate that attitude of “well that’s what you get for being a woman.. so there!”
    It’s the sort of thing that puts me off going out to clubs, there’s no way a girl can just go out and enjoy herself without the assumption that “she’s at a club, horray, boobs!”

    Tuesday, July 27, 2010 at 1:32 pm | Permalink
  7. Matt wrote:

    I’m confused. Have any of you seen the video? Because it seems like none of you, including CL Minou, have seen the video.

    Tuesday, July 27, 2010 at 1:36 pm | Permalink
  8. Sady wrote:

    @Matt: I’m confused. Have you read her consent form?

    Oh, right. She didn’t sign one! And had her shirt pulled off without her consent! And didn’t even know she was in the video! And the footage of her saying “no” is apparently in existence and has been reported on by several reliable publications! And she was apparently upset enough by the distribution of the video to take GGW to fucking court!

    Jesus Christ, dude. “Have you seen the video?” That’s all you’ve got? Unsurprisingly, the vast majority of Tiger Beatdown readers AREN’T big buyers of “Girls Gone Wild.” You know, because it’s a video series in which even the consent forms that DO get signed (and they don’t always require consent forms before selling footage of your tits, apparently) are signed while intoxicated, and the girls are really fucking young, and the founder assaulted a female reporter and was accused of rape by a video participant, and what not. What a fucking creeper you are. For real.

    Tuesday, July 27, 2010 at 1:48 pm | Permalink
  9. Emily WK wrote:

    Oh, Sady, don’t you know that to understand sexual assault, we have to assist in the furthering of the sexual assault by viewing the video?

    Tuesday, July 27, 2010 at 2:04 pm | Permalink
  10. Emily wrote:

    I made the horrible, horrible mistake of reading the comments on the linked original article, foolishly thinking they would be from people as outraged as I am. Now I’m so frustrated and angry I want to smash everything.

    Tuesday, July 27, 2010 at 2:45 pm | Permalink
  11. Lucy Jane wrote:

    This may seem only tangentially related, but I think it’s really interesting to read about CL’s experience with a woman who required a lot of explicit negotiation of boundaries within a relationship. I think because I’m kinky, and in my own little corner of the BDSM community, this sort of ongoing consent and negotiation is such a standard thing in relationships that I’m almost a little surprised to be reminded it’s not a standard thing in *all* relationships.

    I seriously couldn’t believe the results of this case, especially once I heard that there was a clearly stated “No” audible in the video. It makes me so sad that anyone can think that “implied consent” can exist in the face of an actual “No”–it makes me worried about what happens when there isn’t an actual, explicit, audible “no.”

    Tuesday, July 27, 2010 at 2:58 pm | Permalink
  12. emjaybee wrote:

    Not a lawyer, but one of the angles on this I’ve read is that while the woman could sue the other woman (not employed by GGW) who pulled off her top for assault, she could not sue GGW since they didn’t precipitate the assault on purpose.

    Apparently, having posted signs that GGW was filming was considered enough “warning” that you cannot protest them using any footage from that event even if something happened to you that you did not consent to.

    Which begs the question…what if she were assaulted in a more violent way, say a mugging/murder, and they sold that footage…would that be ok too?

    Tuesday, July 27, 2010 at 3:09 pm | Permalink
  13. C.L. Minou wrote:

    @EmJayBee: that makes sense, I guess, but one wonders (if one is a raving radical like moi-meme): suppose a *guy* had had his pants pulled down, and a gay porn video crew filmed it without his express consent…any guesses as to whether or not the jury would have come back with the same verdict?

    @Lucy Jane: there are many interesting comparisons to be made, given that I’m bilaterally bisexual, but suffice to say in a sadly large number of straight relationships express consent is considered a “downer,” not sexy.

    Tuesday, July 27, 2010 at 3:59 pm | Permalink
  14. Capn Colleen wrote:

    Re: Girls Gone Wild and consent forms.

    At one point during my college years, I had occasion to attend a Girls Gone Wild party. I went partly out of curiosity, but mostly to keep an eye on my roommates who I thought needed protecting of some sort. I did not intend to take off any of my clothes or make out with my friends or dance all sexy or anything else that I’d seen in the commercials.

    I informed the dude at the door of this. He made me sign the consent form anyway. They wouldn’t let us in the door until we signed.

    That was about…oh…6 years ago, and i have no idea how they operate now, but they used to have a pretty fool-proof way of making sure everyone signed something authorizing the company to use whatever footage they filmed in that location.

    I say this not to defend GGW (after the shit I saw that night, I seriously, SERIOUSLY hate those fuckers) or to imply that the girl in question fucked up by being there or signing the form (if she did in fact, sign one). I say it to illustrate how deeply deeply bad the GGW empire is. They have created a well-oiled machine here and it’s pretty fucking scary. Which is how they can get away with this shit. Well…that and rape culture and everything C.L. said.

    Excellent post.

    Tuesday, July 27, 2010 at 4:33 pm | Permalink
  15. Kait wrote:

    I can tell you that I have had the misfortune to be at one of these GGW video events at a club I went to. I can also tell you that I saw no one handing out consent forms anywhere. After some of the shit I saw happening there, I don’t understand why this shit is still legal.

    Tuesday, July 27, 2010 at 6:28 pm | Permalink
  16. stormy wrote:

    I was just musing earlier today about how this kind of behavior is not just misogynistic, but demeaning to men as well. Are we animals? Do we have no brains at all? Are we incapable of responsible behavior when a woman walks by if she is attractive? Thanks for insulting the entire human race, STL jury.

    Seriously, what the hell is wrong with those assholes?

    Tuesday, July 27, 2010 at 6:44 pm | Permalink
  17. geerussell wrote:

    Seems to me that Jane Doe’s complaint should be directed at the individual who pulled her top down. Regardless of how many people witnessed it or who caught it on video tape, it is that person who committed the act who I would consider responsible for the consequences of it.

    Tuesday, July 27, 2010 at 7:08 pm | Permalink
  18. AMC wrote:

    *Throws net over Stormy*

    I’ve got him! Come, let us tranquilize the specimen! We must bring him back to our lab and discover how he (a Man, Man, Man) has managed to retain Insight and Intelligent in the wilds of Rape Culture Jungle! Could it be, as he says, that men are actually capable of understanding consent and treating womenz like human beings?
    NAH! The STL jury says not!

    No, but seriously, I want to take all the people on this jury down and make them sit through hours of beatings-with Logic!-as to why women. own. their. own. bodies!

    Also, I want to take everyone who watches GGW and say: “Okay, if you watch this you must also watch Mad Men (See? Abuse of the womenz is what makes them crazay! Stop and treat them like peoplez and ZOMG love can happen!) Buffy (See? You can be a Man, Man, Man and still respect strong women! And they are sexy!) and TrueBlood and their super not-at-all-heavy-handed-metaphors (Season 1: Sookie’s uncle abused her as a girl-Bill kill’s him. Sookie feels bad, but then, he was an evil child molestor so she and Bill have make up sex. Yay! The evil crazed serial killer is threatened by women having-ZOMG-sex of their own choice with vampyres-watch him get smashded with a shovel and die! Yay! Season 2: The evil member of the hate-filled church tries to rape Sookie because he is angry at her for choosing to have sex with a vampire i.e. sex outside of their officially sanctioned restraits. Eric’s sire comes in and kills him-Yay! (Seeing a pattern here HMM? Get the HINT YET POTENTIAL SHIRT PULLER-OFFERS?) Season 3: LOLZ look at how crazy and pathetic Franklin is, he thinks tying up Tara and giving her that ugly dress and being abusive-controlling is LOVE lets laugh at this parody of evil stalker types because they are pathetic, because no one would ever find a British vampire with bad hair who thinks not letting you make any decisions and taking away your freedom to “protect” you from werewolves is sexy because that would be stupid and the womenz would NEVER fall for that and so what if he might slightly sparkle in the light and he is clearly a parody of a certain other vampire who-
    Wait.
    RUN TARA RUN! THE SPARKLY DILDO OF EDWARD HAS INVADED BON TEMPS AHHH!

    Tuesday, July 27, 2010 at 7:33 pm | Permalink
  19. alanna wrote:

    Ah yes, implied consent: “your lips say no, but your body says yes.” BARF.

    Oh wait, unless – what if I close my eyes and swing my fist around like this, and walk forward? Am I at fault if Joe Francis’s face gets in the way? Or has he given implied consent by not getting out of my fist’s way? Excellent – I’ma get my tube top and my brass knuckles and hit the clubs!

    Tuesday, July 27, 2010 at 8:40 pm | Permalink
  20. Mireille wrote:

    I hate to be pedantic… no, that’s not true, I love it. But, the title should be “all your boobs ARE belong to us”. At least, if you’re trying to ride the “all your base” meme.

    Tuesday, July 27, 2010 at 9:07 pm | Permalink
  21. RK wrote:

    According to the jury, sexual assault is decriminalized if (a) “consent to be filmed” paperwork is issued, and (b) the assault is filmed in a bar.

    If “implied consent” can be read into a victim’s behavior, can “implied criminality” be read into a film crew that creates the preconditions for assault and basically waits around for it to happen?

    Tuesday, July 27, 2010 at 9:46 pm | Permalink
  22. Victoria wrote:

    @CL: I knew a guy when I was in college, in the mid-90s, who was a stripper. The guy who booked his shows took a lot of very naked photos of him one night and sold them to a magazine; they were published, widely distributed, and in every newsstand in the town we all lived in.

    Everyone I know behaved exactly the way the gross commenters on this story are behaving. He had it coming for stripping, even though he stripped at a privately booked event for a lot of money, even though he provided no consent for the taking of the photos or their publication, even though he was not compensated for the photos. People in that town still say: “Is that the guy who was in the gay porno mag?” They laugh when they say it. (The stripper is straight, so the idiots find it extra-funny.)

    Obviously, stripping is a different behavior than being assaulted, and he was exploited essentially by a business partner (his “agent,” or whatever the appropriate term is), not by strangers with a long history of this kind of shit. He didn’t sue. I think part of the reason he didn’t sue is because he internalized the blame for the incident, much in the same way many female assault victims do.

    I don’t think, by any means, that this situation is representative of the thought patterns or behaviors of American men–in fact, I think it has more to do with the marginalization of sex workers than anything else–but I found it to be an incredibly interesting and sad situation.

    Tuesday, July 27, 2010 at 10:26 pm | Permalink
  23. Sady wrote:

    @Geerussell: Nope. She didn’t sign a consent form, she said “no” when asked to show her breasts on camera, someone assaulted her, and GGW willingly sought to profit from her sexual assault using footage of a person who didn’t sign a release form. Let me rephrase that: Sought to profit off the footage of her sexual assault. Who the hell tries to defend that?

    Tuesday, July 27, 2010 at 10:27 pm | Permalink
  24. Christina wrote:

    Great post, CL.

    @Victoria: I agree, I’m not sure this, or the situation with your friend, “is representative of the thought patterns or behaviors of American men” as you say. I don’t think there’s anything inherently male in taking or distributing naked photos of people without their consent.

    But I’m not sure it’s about sex workers specifically. Rather, at the root is the idea that the group in power can dominate a group it perceives as weaker and exploit it. The paternalistic I’m-stronger-and-I-know-better-I-can-do-what-I-want attitude.

    Like with GGW and their film equipment for example, or the almost-all male jury, telling Jane Doe, what she *really* thought or *really* wanted. Like Jane Doe *really* consented because she was there. Nothing says domination like saying your body doesn’t wholly belong to you, it belongs to us too.

    Tuesday, July 27, 2010 at 11:49 pm | Permalink
  25. N'Awlins Contrarian wrote:

    re: “There had better be a DAMN lot of negative press about the extreme sexism of this Douchebag Extraordinaire who made this ruling.”

    This was not a ruling by a douchebag—-it was a verdict by a jury, of which at least nine, or perhaps even ten, eleven, or all twelve felt this way. How did three-quarters or more of a presumably representative sample of the community reach this verdict? That’s an interesting question, but I have no answer.

    Just to point out, though, I think there’s a good chance somebody-—maybe the jury, maybe we, maybe both-—did not hear the whole story. It is not unusual for a judge to keep certain details from a jury that the average person would consider relevant to making a decision, and sometimes it’s good that the judge does so, and sometimes it’s bad. And of course in general the media can be fairly accused of selective and inaccurate reporting, sometimes accidentally but sometimes purposefully.

    re: ” ‘Implied consent.’ Whatever.”

    Just to point out, the problem is with application of the concept of implied consent when there was express non-consent and apparently nothing express to counteract it. (If, say, after the shooting she signed an authorization in exchange for a payment, the issue would be different-—still serious, maybe criminal, but the civil side would be very different.) Implied consent is actually a useful and correct concept, in some contexts. If you shoot me with a water gun, you have impliedly consented to my shooting you back with a water gun. Yes, this is very different, I realize, for the reasons already stated.

    re: “Not a lawyer, but one of the angles on this I’ve read is that while the woman could sue the other woman (not employed by GGW) who pulled off her top for assault, she could not sue GGW since they didn’t precipitate the assault on purpose.”

    Well, that assumes that the GGW crew was not encouraging the other woman who pulled down the victim’s top. If they did, then she was their agent, and they should be responsible.

    Wednesday, July 28, 2010 at 12:18 am | Permalink
  26. N'Awlins Contrarian wrote:

    re: “There had better be a DAMN lot of negative press about the extreme sexism of this Douchebag Extraordinaire who made this ruling.”

    This was not a ruling by a douchebag—-it was a verdict by a jury, of which at least nine, or perhaps even ten, eleven, or all twelve felt this way. How did three-quarters or more of a presumably representative sample of the community reach this verdict? That’s an interesting question, but I have no answer.

    Just to point out, though, I think there’s a good chance somebody—-maybe the jury, maybe we, maybe both-—did not hear the whole story. It is not unusual for a judge to keep certain details from a jury that the average person would consider relevant to making a decision, and sometimes it’s good that the judge does so, and sometimes it’s bad. And of course in general the media can be fairly accused of selective and inaccurate reporting, sometimes accidentally but sometimes purposefully.

    re: ” ‘Implied consent.’ Whatever.”

    Just to point out, the problem is with application of the concept of implied consent when there was express non-consent and apparently nothing express to counteract it. (If, say, after the shooting she signed an authorization in exchange for a payment, the issue would be different—-still serious, maybe criminal, but on the civil side very different.) Implied consent is actually a useful and correct concept, in some contexts. If you shoot me with a water gun, you have impliedly consented to my shooting you back with a water gun. Yes, this is very different, I realize, for the reasons already stated.

    re: “Not a lawyer, but one of the angles on this I’ve read is that while the woman could sue the other woman (not employed by GGW) who pulled off her top for assault, she could not sue GGW since they didn’t precipitate the assault on purpose.”

    Well, that assumes that the GGW crew was not encouraging the other woman who pulled down the victim’s top. If they did, then she was their agent, and they should be responsible. Or at least, so it would seem.

    Wednesday, July 28, 2010 at 12:37 am | Permalink
  27. Turing wrote:

    I know that it’s horrible, but I did look at the video just because of the fact that some douchenozzle felt the need to mention it as though it were some sort of defense and I wanted to know what the fuck he might be thinking.

    Yes, before I say anything else, I know that it actually makes me an asshole myself. By sheer coincidence I didn’t actually see anything – I watched it in Quicktime and the control bar was over her breasts. That doesn’t excuse what I did, but I felt that a proper defense was more useful to the discussion than not being a bastard.

    So, this comment is already way, way too long and I haven’t even actually started commenting. Let me do that!

    The girl in question playfully flirts with the camera, bends forward and shows her cleavage a few times and even puts her cleavage out there with a bit of a thrust. A few times, in point of fact.

    As anyone with a lick of sense can obviously suss out without being a dick like myself, however, she does absolutely NOTHING that justifies exposing her in public, and far, far less that justifies her exposure being sold. She played toward the camera in the uncomfortable way that a pretty girl who wants to conform to patriarchal standards might allow herself to be objectified for a few minutes.

    She never ever gives anything even remotely like consent, even through subtle clues, to showing herself as naked. She spins back around to her friends with the shocked look of someone who has just been exposed but “Doesn’t want to make a big deal about it.”

    This girl doesn’t want to be one of “Those girls,” in the video, and it screams from her actions. And in the wake of this ruling, is there any doubt why? Even in the sober light of day, in a courtroom, no one will respect her rights to her body enough to say that she shouldn’t have the right to complain about her nipples being exposed. What in the fuck would have happened in a nightclub in front of a GGW film crew?

    Wednesday, July 28, 2010 at 12:41 am | Permalink
  28. lizabean wrote:

    i teach a class on communication at a university in what one would think is a liberal part of the country.

    one unit of the class concerns obscenity. the students are given a hypothetical situation, and asked if it meets the standard of obscenity as set forth in the Miller case.

    generally, the hypothetical involves women protesting something topless, or being naked or something.

    THe first time i taught this class I was appalled at how many students–male and female–wrote things like, “women are only topless when they are going to have sex”. or, “when women are naked, men automatically want to rape them”, or “topless women are so arousing that even other women are attracted to them.”

    These were the premises upon which many students based their arguments. in order for something to be legally obscene and subject to censorship, it must involve sexual CONDUCT. CONDUCT being an operative word. Also, sexual.

    So now, every time i get to this section, i point out that women’s bodies are not necessarily sexually conducting themselves just because they are existing.

    I generally get looks of surprise. And then sort of “ooooh i get it” type noises.

    The extent to which these 18-22 year olds have absorbed and accepted the idea that a woman’s naked body IS a sexual object, IS a sexual artifact, and that nudity IS sexual activity as a result, is frightening.

    The fact that women write things like “women are only topless when they are going to have sex” sounds amusing until you consider exactly what this means they think of themselves, of consent, and of ownership of their own bodies.

    Wednesday, July 28, 2010 at 4:14 am | Permalink
  29. geerussell wrote:

    @SADY: That she was assaulted is the entire point. In all the discussion here, the person who actually committed the assault is barely mentioned and basically given a free pass. That is the person who should’ve been dragged before a judge to be held accountable.

    As for GGW, they’re sleazy and I’m certainly not defending their actions or their business. However, my opinion of them isn’t the law and I think the jury made the right decision.

    None of us owns any images or has any expectation of privacy in a public space. It doesn’t matter if it’s a security camera, paparazzi, the local news, random person with a camera phone or a sleazy GGW crew… if it happens in public and gets recorded, the subject of the recording almost never has any legal recourse.

    Wednesday, July 28, 2010 at 10:41 am | Permalink
  30. Samantha b. wrote:

    Geerussell, what? Do you understand the principle of consent forms at all? They’re profiting off of her image, which puts this in an entirely different category than a security camers.

    Wednesday, July 28, 2010 at 10:50 am | Permalink
  31. R-Cop wrote:

    @RK re: “implied criminality”
    That would be awesome!

    Wednesday, July 28, 2010 at 11:08 am | Permalink
  32. lizabean wrote:

    this reminds me of the total douche that owns a site that i will not name, lest i encourage traffic said site. this douchebag was linked to a live stream of a man sexually assaulting and raping a woman who was passed out cold. site owner posted video on his site, noting that it was a rape, and informing audiences that he was posting it as a public service. this service? to teach young women if they act like idiots and drink too much they might find that their pussies are posted all over the internet ha ha.

    literally.

    the victim pressed charges against her assailant, and the video was taken down. he was never, to my knowledge, held accountable for knowinlgy posting footage of a crime in progress, or attempting to profit from the crime,

    this is an instance by the way in which he referred to the footage as a “rape”. i say this because it’s not like the argument can be made that he didn’t know what was going on, or that he was led to believe that the victim gave consent before passing out. he said, “this is a video of a rape. i will post it for you all so you can learn a life lesson”.

    and nothing happened to him. nice!

    Wednesday, July 28, 2010 at 12:00 pm | Permalink
  33. Sady wrote:

    @Gee: Well, yeah, the person who assaulted her is culpable. But not any more so than GGW; both parties did something wrong here. You’re missing the point. This company seeks sexual images of women. Those images will be jacked off to. That is the point of them. The company asked this woman for permission to use sexual images of her, did not receive consent, caught that woman being sexually assaulted, and then sold images of that sexual assault, so that people could jack off to it. They did not have her permission to use sexual images of her. And they’re making bank off her sexual assault, effectively encouraging their viewers to participate in sexually assaulting her. Where does the urge to defend them come in, exactly?

    Wednesday, July 28, 2010 at 12:15 pm | Permalink
  34. AMC wrote:

    @Lizabean That is repugnant. Its good you didn’t link to him or I would be killing him right now.
    @Gee-Quite frankly, I don’t care about the petty legalities of this. Yes, this makes me wrong, but when it comes to rape/sexual assault I place the victim and any future victims lives over those of the perpetrator. Some laws are not serving justice (like the recent release of FDLS leader and serial rapist/rape Warren Jeffs) The law is in place to protect us from the harm we can do each other-not as an exercise in minutia. Though I know I am in the minority here, I would say our laws should protect the person whose bodily integrity have been violated.
    But then, thats our whole argument about rape culture.
    Can we insert gifs here? I really want to use one of Tara’s Mace O’ Justice on all of these kinds of posts-for cathartic release of course.
    TARA MACE SMASH! FRANKLIN’S BRAINS GO MASH!
    (Seriously though-does me wishing vigilante death on these types of people make me THAT bad?
    *Ducks behind shield*
    Don;t throw me out of the feminist fold!)

    Wednesday, July 28, 2010 at 1:32 pm | Permalink
  35. alisonrose wrote:

    The phrase and concept of “implied consent” makes me so rage-filled, I can’t even write about it coherently. I actually hope to never get into a verbal debate about it, because I am a pacifist who would be ready to open the world’s biggest can of whoop-ass in that situation, and no thank you.

    C.L. – thank you for this post, and also for including your experience in that past relationship. It’s quite heartening to hear someone talk about limits like hers in a positive and supportive way. I’d venture to guess she’s not gotten such support from others.

    @Lucy Jane – Totally agree with you about the BDSM aspect. Not to say I think everyone needs that in their lives in order to be into consent and negotiation, and obviously it’s not for everyone. But being in the scene myself, one of the things I do like most about it is that by necessity, people are open and honest and accepting about each other’s desires and limitations, that really, it doesn’t work (consent-wise and healthy-mind-wise) unless you are. I’m a woman in a relationship with a man, he’s the dominant and I’m the submissive. It’s a completely egalitarian D/S relationship – we are both loud and proud feminists, and we both actually get a real charge out of the consent factor, out of the discussions we have about what we do sexually, what we do involving pain and all that – those discussions can be exciting and erotic in and of themselves. So yeah, I do think one way to really understand consent as an ongoing continuous state is through the BDSM community (most of it – there are a-holes everywhere, sadly).

    Wednesday, July 28, 2010 at 2:02 pm | Permalink
  36. geerussell wrote:

    I’m not “defending” GGW any more than you are “defending” the individual who pulled Jane Doe’s top down. As far as I can tell we agree that they’re both wrong. Not all wrongs are illegal however.

    Assaulting someone in a public place? Clearly wrong and illegal. Exploiting a recording of that assault? Clearly wrong, the legal side of it isn’t so clear cut.

    Wednesday, July 28, 2010 at 2:35 pm | Permalink
  37. mouthyb wrote:

    Gee: I’m not sure the woman would have pulled the victim’s shirt down without the presence of GGW and the unfortunate cache they wield in society. If we weren’t taught so extensively that our job is to be sexy and the the presence of boners is the thing we are to aspire to, I really don’t think that would have happened.

    But in the end, we’re talking about a company that profits from assault. If the argument is framed that way, the law is clearer, ain’t it?

    I love the experience recounted above. I make people negotiate, often. And it troubles me that so many of the people I do go out on dates with seem to be okay with trying to liquor me up as a prelude to sexual activity. Even people who I might otherwise judge normal or even aligned with me politically (WAY left) have no problem with the combination of liquor and proposition. Or with not bothering to ask, simply with trying to get me liquored up and ignore my objections, reservations or stated intent before a drink not to engage with them that way.

    I don’t negotiate well drunk, therefore I won’t fuck drunk.

    And often won’t drink with people, because the idea that implied consent extends to drunkeness is very popular.

    People think I’m just bizarre for that reason. But I cannot express boundaries well after I’ve been drinking, and I don’t find it sexy when I can’t express boundaries.

    It just makes me feel violated.

    Wednesday, July 28, 2010 at 3:11 pm | Permalink
  38. Christina J wrote:

    While this whole thing of course fills me with rage, there’s one thing I just can’t figure out. GGW knew that the woman in this video was assaulted by having her top pulled down. They knew she didn’t sign a consent form. You can apparently HEAR her saying “no” in the video. So why the hell did they put her on the video at all? They’re a disgusting, sleazy company that I loathe more than words can say, but I would’ve thought that a company of that size would be smart enough to leave out the footage of someone being assaulted. Ugh. I hope this poor woman appeals the ruling (if she can…I’m not a lawyer so I certainly don’t know the ins and outs of a case like this) and I hope she wins. I just can’t comprehend how this company is even still legal. Ugh.

    Wednesday, July 28, 2010 at 3:17 pm | Permalink
  39. Samantha b. wrote:

    GeeRussell, do you in fact have any legal expertise here? Because I have heard relevant discussions by lawyers, and your isn’t jiving with theirs. It’s looking to me like you want to throw the word “legal” into your argument to give it credence, and you yourself have zero legal qualifications, but please do correct me if I’m wrong.

    Wednesday, July 28, 2010 at 3:26 pm | Permalink
  40. C.L. Minou wrote:

    @GeeRussell: AFAIK, profiting on an image taken without the person’s consent causes the law to get all frowny, but IANAL.

    @Victoria: Interesting, although if I were to put on my Twisty Faster Genuine Gentleman Farmer Hat (not a great fit, but I am the closest thing to a radical feminist here at TBD, which is kinda ironic donchathink?), I’d point out that the man in question was a public sex object–a stripper–and that was probably why people found it so easy to disregard his wishes. And further, (tightening my hat against the breeze) I’d note that women are *assumed* to be public sex objects. At all times. Will they, nill they.

    I maintain my suspicion that a straight guy, just standing at the bar listening to music, who had been pantsed and then had that image exploited in a porno, would very likely have fared better than Jane Doe.

    Wednesday, July 28, 2010 at 3:35 pm | Permalink
  41. Sady wrote:

    @AMC: I’m not such a big fan of advocating vigilante justice, actually? I mean, I have violent urges toward some folk, but ultimately I’m deleting two variants of comment here:

    1) Dudes (all with male names in their e-mail addresses! Seriously!) who are popping in to rationalize the verdict. What you’re missing is that the ENTIRE TRIAL was about whether the woman gave consent. We can state, FOR A FACT, that the woman did not give consent, and that in fact she REFUSED to give consent, ALOUD and THROUGH HER ACTIONS, on multiple occasions. The fact that she did not give consent was overridden in this verdict, by the idea of “implied consent” — the same old “she asked to be assaulted by being in that bar/wearing that dress/being in the presence of an assailant” reasoning that’s been used to excuse way too many other sexual assaults. WE KNOW THAT SHE SAID NO. The jury argued that even though she said no, she didn’t have the right not to be assaulted by GGW. The jury is wrong. We are not taking any arguments to the contrary. That is because arguments to the contrary are arguments against the importance of consent, and in favor of rape and sexual assault. That means you, Gee.

    2) One or two comments to the effect that women should start killing or doing violence to people because the law isn’t on our side. This is a very minor portion of commenters, but we still don’t advocate violence or murder around here. I understand the anger, but it’s irresponsible and could lead someone naive or not in touch with reality to act out, thus (a) harming or killing another human being, (b) damaging feminism in the public eye, and (c) wrecking her own life forever. Thanks for understanding.

    Wednesday, July 28, 2010 at 3:54 pm | Permalink
  42. mouthyb wrote:

    C. L. Minou: Yeah, I would lay odds on that. I think a straight guy who was pansed would probably not be wading sideways in all kinds of fuckery about consent, especially not if there was footage of him saying ‘No.’

    General thread: And really, why should the victim have to run from a bar she was presumably comfortable at in order to avoid those douchebags? Would any of us want to leave our favorite bar because GGW was taping? Why should she have to proscribe her behavior when she’s clearly stated that she doesn’t want any?

    And, again, with the drinking and assumed consent, sex and assault don’t just magically happen, and it’s totally possible and probable from her response to the camera man, that her goal for the night was, you know, to have a few drinks and go dancing. People do that, and their intentions for their body should be honored. You know, because it’s their body.

    But I take a hard line on that shit.

    I mean, she probably thought that she had to sign a consent form, like the law states, and thought that she had the backing of the law.

    You know, like any citizen who believes themselves to be equal might.

    Wednesday, July 28, 2010 at 4:43 pm | Permalink
  43. geerussell wrote:

    @SADY: “What you’re missing is that the ENTIRE TRIAL was about whether the woman gave consent.”

    Yes, exactly that… but let’s finish the thought. Whether the woman gave consent for what?

    The question put to the jury was whether she gave consent… TO BE FILMED.

    Full stop.

    All the rest of the issues being raised are valid but they are outside the scope of the legal question the jury was required to answer, which is why I support the verdict.

    Wednesday, July 28, 2010 at 6:16 pm | Permalink
  44. Sady wrote:

    @Geerussel: Fabulous! So you think that you should be able to film a woman naked, and profit off that image, whether or not she signs a release form, and even if she says the word “no,” thereby EXPLICITLY COMMUNICATING that she does NOT GIVE CONSENT to be filmed. So, in other words, you support sexually assaulting women via videotape. Welcome to the wonderful world of Banned, creepo!

    Wednesday, July 28, 2010 at 6:36 pm | Permalink
  45. of making many books wrote:

    I’m confused about the Whole Legalness Argument, and even though I know nothing about Legalness… I mean, they had us sign consent forms in college when photographers came to our classroom to take pictures for brochures, and realistically we would only appear in the background looking studious. I don’t see why someone who did not sign a consent form wouldn’t have the legal rights to the use of her own image for someone else’s profit. *Especially* if it is her naked body parts. Am I missing something?

    Wednesday, July 28, 2010 at 7:08 pm | Permalink
  46. geerussell wrote:

    [Yo, what's up! I still don't get it! True, there's a post over a thousand words long spelling out the basis of why distributing this video without the woman's consent is a form of sexual assault. And true, numerous people in the comment section, and the original poster, spelled out the basics of how and why this woman did not give consent. And no, I can't dispute those facts! Because they're un-fucking-avoidable! But I don't get it. And I will continue commenting for as long as it takes until my not-getting-it is rewarded. OR, until I get the fact that I'm not welcome to keep being clueless. Which will it be? ONLY TIME WILL TELL, my friends!]

    Wednesday, July 28, 2010 at 8:19 pm | Permalink
  47. geerussell wrote:

    [NOT GETTIN' IT! Geerussell: REFUSING TO GET IT SINCE 2010.]

    Wednesday, July 28, 2010 at 8:30 pm | Permalink
  48. Going from a totally different angle (because I consider myself a victim of sexual assaulted by means of photos, and don’t feel the need to go into that angle just to agree with most everybody who already spoke):
    I’m trying to convince myself that the husband’s friend thought something like “Wow, my friend’s wife is in this video being sexually assaulted, I wonder if she’s aware that they’re exploiting her and thus violating her even more than she already was.”
    But I’m jaded and I’m thinking he told the husband because either he thought “Wow, my friend’s wife is in a GGW video, I wonder if he was aware that she’s a slut before he married her. He needs to know because his honor is damaged!”
    Or “Wow, my friend’s wife is in this video being sexually assaulted, he needs to know because she belongs to him and so it’s up to him to defend her and restore his own damaged honor.”

    Wednesday, July 28, 2010 at 9:14 pm | Permalink
  49. Pidgey wrote:

    I think standardized tests in public schools need to start having questions asking what is and isn’t consent. I don’t know how the fuck 11 out of 12 jurors could have such a hard time understanding the concept.

    Wednesday, July 28, 2010 at 10:00 pm | Permalink
  50. geerussell wrote:

    [Have I mentioned that I don't get it? It's very important that you understand how I don't get this! Me + Gettin' It = Not Gonna Happen.]

    Wednesday, July 28, 2010 at 10:03 pm | Permalink
  51. AnnaAnastasia wrote:

    Shorter Geerussell: I’m completely and utterly comfortable defending a company who profits from selling images of sexual assault! And that’s why I continue to comment – to demonstrate how comfortable I am with that position!

    Wednesday, July 28, 2010 at 10:15 pm | Permalink
  52. Pidgey wrote:

    Win against the troll who probably still doesn’t even know who’s paraphrasing his comments.

    Wednesday, July 28, 2010 at 10:58 pm | Permalink
  53. TD wrote:

    It seems as if there are a number of…definitional? confusions, or at least I am somewhat confused by some word use.

    Specifically, what _is_ sexual assault? Wiki-p has a couple of definitions, neither of which seems to apply to the filming specifically (not that the filming wasn’t wrong morally/legally, I just want precision). However, the definitions of SA could conceivably apply to the top-pulling-down.

    Based on the way “sexual assault” has been used in these comments (specifically by faux-Geerussell in #46), it seems like a good functional definiton might be “anything done to a person without that person’s [express?] consent that relates to sexuality.”

    Also, does this make pantsing (as per #40) sexual assault?

    Apologies/gratitude in advance for my ignorance/your patience.

    Thursday, July 29, 2010 at 12:03 am | Permalink
  54. skeptifem wrote:

    Some posters on another feminist blog were talking about paying attention to GGW bar tours and crashing em. I am going to attempt it for sure, anyone else have ideas about what to do once a feminist group has been assembled at a GGW event?

    Thursday, July 29, 2010 at 1:53 am | Permalink
  55. AMC wrote:

    @Sady Oh, I wasn’t advocating that we should start violence in a situation such as this. I was simply saying that sometimes I wish it. I generally follow the “There are no bad thoughts, only bad actions, and if the thoughts are stupid lets educate them, and if you are too stupid to understand, lets make fun of you in venue’s that are non-physically harmful, like television, and saying we are feeling “stabby” today.”
    I guess I’ve just been reading your blog and noticed the rape-revenge fantasy movies you reviewed and some of the comments of people venting anger, and assumed my comment was so goofy and to not be taken seriously. I promise I am not secretly a vigilante out murdering sleazeballs with a 45 or my vagina teeth! I’ll be honest in saying that after communicating and working with RAWA and other organizations worldwide where the presence of rape is so largely unpunished, I do tend to agree with the dalit Indian women who murdered the gangster who the law wouldn’t prosecute. But I promise such thoughts are confined to my rant-y ladybrain, and my intent was not to gather together a gaggle of feminists to exert our vigilante justice over GGW while beating our tribal womyn drums and feasting on man-flesh (not that I have anything against tribal womyn drums. The man-flesh eating part-not so much. Unless by eating you mean something different *wink*)
    So yeah, I guess I just assumed my comments were so revolved around descriptions of a fantasy shows version of switching horror-dynamic’s and goofiness that no one would actually think I was advocating violence, just voicing my impotent ladyrage.
    Kinda like how on that other post you joked about a man drowning his wife with kittens, and it was so goofy that no one took it seriously except that one lady which for realz-who thinks you really advocate drowning kittens?

    Thursday, July 29, 2010 at 9:19 am | Permalink
  56. Melissa wrote:

    You know, they get you wither way. If you drink and dance at a bar, you’re a whore and you deserve anything they do to you. If you don;t drink and dance at a bar, you’re a damn prude and need to looses up. You can;t win.

    Thursday, July 29, 2010 at 9:21 am | Permalink
  57. Victoria wrote:

    @CL + Others: I’m sure you’re right. I just find all these instances of power-taking and abusing so very interesting and sad. And there seems, in all of this, such a direct relationship between who has the money and who holds the power. GGW seems to get out of a whole lot of shit through expensive, tricky lawyering.

    Thursday, July 29, 2010 at 11:19 am | Permalink
  58. La Chica Lucy wrote:

    TD: http://yesmeansyesblog.wordpress.com/
    “enthusiastic consent” is the phrase you are looking for.

    Thursday, July 29, 2010 at 7:55 pm | Permalink
  59. Jha wrote:

    Skeptifem: I imagine saying something loudly like, “Attention ladies! The GGW bus has just rolled in, thus exponentially raising your chances of being forcibly exposed, molested, sexually assaulted, and raped. If your rides are uninterested in protecting you, here are some numbers for taxis you can call. For those without any money to call a cab, please approach the ladies with boas for a ride home.”

    The last bit, of course, only works if members of the feminist group have cars to start with to offer rideshares for women who would want to get away. It may not even have to be loudly said, just talk to women present about GGW and their bad rep.

    Saturday, July 31, 2010 at 2:41 am | Permalink
  60. Jaime wrote:

    The implied consent concerns me since it happens all of the time. People are filming others in public places, then placing the video online,etc. even if it’s not sexually explicit. It’s troubling and it also begs the question of whether or not ANYONE owns their own bodies/images.

    Saturday, July 31, 2010 at 3:22 am | Permalink
  61. Farore wrote:

    The issue of implied consent is especially personal to me, because, as a young Farore (so, 18 years old on the button), I was at a nightclub with friends and they announced a contest for ‘best costume’ (it was Naughty Schoolgirl night). The prize would be, well, a lot of money, money that I, at the time, really needed forto pay the rentings. Since my friend and I both had our ‘schoolgirl’ outfits on (plaid skirts, basically 9_9) we went up on stage to compete.

    Once up there, it turned out the ‘costume contest’ was actually more of a ‘dance contest’, if by ‘dance’ you meant ‘attempt to behave as sexually as possible for the visual pleasure of the menfolks’. Well, okay; I and my friend were both pretty open with our sexuality at that point, had a loose sexual relationship with each other, and knew that ‘girl-on-girl’ was more likely to win us the money. So, we act sexy. Okay.

    Then it turns out that the MC wants us to strip, because ‘the DJ is from out of town’ and he wants to show him ‘how great [city] girls are’. Uhm, alright, well we’re already up here, there is money involved, we are out of reach of dudes and there are bouncers everywhere. We are comfortable with out bodies. So, stripping it is.

    And that’s when the camera phones come out. People start filming us, a few as we strip but once we’re nearly nude, there are so many that some of them are pushing past the bouncers and halfway up on the stage. We win the money, so my friend, who is farther from the crowd, gathers her clothes and hops down. I go to gather my clothing to find that some of the camera-wielders have GRABBED THEM and are now refusing to give them back. I act angry, signal them to stop recording and give my clothes back, and one of them reaches up and grabs my chest. I take several steps back and the MC says ‘hey guys, that’s not okay, give the lady her clothes’. A few of the more gentlemanly members of the crowd wrest my clothes from the douchebags and toss them back to me. Since I’m STILL being filmed by about 30 – 50 people, I gather my clothing at my chest and hop down to try to make a beeline for the bathroom. I am followed by people trying to film me and grab me, until a bouncer manages to shove his way through and a couple of the big gentlemenly fellows push people back and help me through the crowd. As I duck into the bathroom, I can explicitly hear the bouncer shouting ‘all of you, turn off your phones! Delete those videos, you do not have permission to have them!’ (Mr Bouncer got a big hug at the end of the night.)

    Unfortunately, I have no way of knowing if the many, many people who recorded me that night deleted their videos or posted them online or what. A friend later told me that a few bouncers were guarding the door, checking cell phones and making people delete any video they had taken of the incident, but I did not see any of that when I left and have no idea if it was effective or if my friend was just trying to cheer me up or what.

    I tried to speak to the MC, after the show, about what had happened, but his response was essentially ‘if you didn’t want to be filmed, you shouldn’t have stripped’. Implied consent. Now there could be amateur video of my naked body, and my friend’s, anywhere and I would have no way of knowing about it until someone who knew me pointed it out. Even if I did find it somewhere, it is unlikely I could press any charges, because the club was too loud for any phone to have recorded me saying ‘no’ or ‘no filming’, and this case has set precedent that means the very fact that I did not immediately run over and punch the first person to raise their camera implies consent on my part.

    Argh.

    I dislike, but understand, the law that anything that can be seen in or from a public place is therefore in the public domain and can be filmed, etc. I wish it were not so, but if it wasn’t for that law people could sue for accidentally turning up in your vacation photos 9_6 However, when it comes to a private place, a business or a home, there needs to be strong consent rules in place. This case only proves that fact further, to me.

    Tuesday, August 24, 2010 at 5:39 pm | Permalink
  62. Liam wrote:

    Implied consent simply shouldn’t exist.

    There’s so much in body language that can say yes or no on a dance floor even when the music is too loud for words. It’s obvious.

    Women should be allowed to go out and have fun doing whatever they wish, but that doesn’t imply that they want to be touched or photographed. If they do, that’s up to them, but it should never be assumed. this is a clear case of non-consent. GGW should be legally required to have written consent for anyone to appear in their videos, even if it’s Jane Schmo walking through the background fully clothed.

    If I were a bar or club owner, I would ban photography for reasons like this, and if anyone ever pulled off someone elses clothing, I’d eject them.

    This travesty enrages me in so many ways. The woman said no, goddamnit.

    The woman said no.

    Thursday, August 26, 2010 at 4:32 am | Permalink