See no evil, speak no evil, hear no evil… thus no evil… (TW: Sexual Assault)

I don’t consider this blog one of my best work. It was my final assignment for my masculinities in Scandinavia course. I didn’t love the final product. You know when you have that one paper that no matter what you do it’s not up to your standards? Well this is one of them and I’m embracing that it’s okay to have those moments. I can do my best all the time that’s absurd and exhausting. So my teacher and I both shrug our shoulders and I submitted this piece. I wish I had all the answers to this topic but I still have a lot of learn as do we all. Everyone of all walks of life need to be at the table in order to discuss this problem because it’s a global issue and closing our eyes isn’t going to make it go away.

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Masculinity and Consent

What is masculinity exactly? “Despite the exponential increase in research into men and masculinities, there has, to date, been no reader published which draws on key writings from all parts of the globe” (Whitehead, Stephen M., and Frank J. Barrett, 2001: 2). The reading alludes that while masculinity has been receiving more observation and critique recently people are still having difficulties defining it.. My understanding of masculinity is it’s a performative act and belief that people associate with maleness without questioning who and what perpetuates these attitudes and belief systems. Nor does society think about the consequences of holding onto such beliefs.

Masculinity and consent share an intimate relationship with one another. There are unspoken social cues that people don’t feel compel to discuss with in depth. I’m speaking about consent between two people in regards to sex. How are people able to articulate their consent in way that misunderstandings aren’t possible and everyone feels safe and comfortable with what is happening? In a post #MeToo era consent among many other social issues are finally receiving their long overdue attention from the public eye. As an exchange student here in Denmark, I was informed that consent is understood very differently here then back in the states and I’m interested in knowing more about Danish Culture’s attitude towards consent. I asked a Danish friend of mine to participate in an informal interview in order to get her perspective on consent here in Denmark. For safety purposes she’ll be known as P.

Andru: “Before coming here all exchange students were informed about the social differences here in Denmark concerning consent as opposed to that of the States. I was told that if I agreed to go home with someone that there is a big implication that we’re going to have sex. What’s that all about?”

P: “Yes, it is heavily implied that if you agree to go with someone that there is an expectation that you are consenting to have sex with them. Here it’s a ‘well you should know what to expect after agreeing to go home with someone’. It’s problematic.”

There’s a sense of entitlement that permeates with that line of thinking. That runs very deep in hegemonic masculinity that isn’t addressed enough. One action does not permit another action.

I was taken aback by what P said earlier in our conversation. “People say that girls mature quicker than boys. That’s not the case, because of the world that we live in, there are severe repercussions for a girl that doesn’t keep her wits about her.” I was inclined to agree with P’s comment immediately. This narrative about girls being more mature than boys also enables the narrative of ‘boys will be boys’ that perpetuates rape culture. Men are given the privilege of not having to constantly think about social engagements such as consent while women must learn it in order to protect themselves.

Andru: “Yes it is. Consent should be given and retracted at anytime. Just because someone agreed to something initially doesn’t mean that it’s ironclad. That narrative and expectation needs to change.”

P: “Indeed. More accountability has to be placed on males. There’s this stigma that saying things like ‘are you sure you want to do this?’ kills the mood. Personally, I think that hearing that from the other person eases the pressure and burden about the whole situation.”

Killing the mood is an excuse used to not discuss this very prevalent problem. P explained to me that many in Denmark are under the impression that ‘we’re progressive enough. There’s no longer a need to talk about things like consent.’ It made me think about the saying ‘see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil.’ That doesn’t erase the evil and wrongdoings that still runs rampant in society it only enables it.

I explained to P, that my relationship with consent was only stressed to me by my family and once I got to college. I had no idea about what Title IX was until I was a first year in college. Societies don’t do a good enough about having these issues addressed more in public and private lives. Like masculinity, consent has been under the false narrative that people and society ‘just get it and don’t have ask any questions.’ That is a toxic and dangerous narrative that perpetuates far more problems than solutions. In researching this topic specifically in Denmark it was very difficult to find sources. It’s dangerous to think that everyone knows about consent and how to ask and more importantly accept the other person’s answer. Like masculinity, people don’t question nor have enough discussions about consent. It shouldn’t be a social taboo to ask honest and earnest questions about what consent is and isn’t because it affects countless lives all over the world.

Males collectively must be active and engage in these conversations because we possess the privilege and power to shift society’s attitude towards consent. We must hold ourselves and each other accountable because it has been this way for far too long. It’s time to change the narrative. We’re behind as it is. Enough is enough.

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