Sexual assault and violence have been a hot topic of late in the US. Much media emphasis is based upon consent, and the notion that if people (largely, boys and men) just knew what it meant, how to identify it, there would be fewer attacks.
Take a moment to view this wholly adorable, hilarious clip (it’s brief, and not vulgar) that brings the point home.
(And go to THIS POST at HuffPo to see the other two clips in the Project Consent series.)
But here’s something to think on, a theory I’d like to offer.
The problem isn’t a misunderstanding of the rules of consent. After all, there are few who don’t compute the difference between “yes” and “no.”
The problem is much deeper than that and, I believe, is rooted in the number of sociopaths and narcissists in our society who believe the rules don’t apply to them, or that they’re above doing the right thing.
Raise your hand if you personally know a sociopath or narcissist. (If you’re a little fuzzy on how to identify them, check out the full explanations — with symptoms lists — over on Wikipedia, HERE and HERE, respectively. [Scroll down to get the particulars of sociopathy, which is a variation of psychopathy.]) See? I thought so. Virtually everybody knows one, whether through family, the workplace, or a romantic relationship, what have you. It’s because they are plentiful. They are plentiful, and they do wrong on a regular basis, forget yes or no.
Both personality disorders are based in a lack of conscience, of having no moral barometer, of operating for one’s own benefit with little regard to others, taking advantage every second possible. And once you’ve had personal experience with a person like this, you begin to see how many there are in our country, as well as the harm they can do. Why are these people so prevalent? And how, for what reasons? I’m not sure, and that’s probably a good topic to consider for another post. It would take some research and hypothesizing.
My point is, though, the memes and reminders about consent which flood social media — as if one only needs to try harder to recognize another’s consent or lack thereof — only reiterate what “normal” people, upholding humans, would never question to begin with. These efforts being made to inform, including the cute clips I shared above, will mean nothing to those who are most likely to commit these terrible acts, those who pay no regard to the rules or a system of what’s right to begin with.
And so what’s the answer? I’d like to suggest it’s, in part, education about these personality disorders. It’s not enough to know the concept of consent, or to be wary that predators lurk. I certainly want my two girls to know more.
There is a treasure trove of information about sociopathy and narcissism out there. Causation. Warning signs. Symptoms and personality indicators. Advice for countering and/or avoiding and protecting yourself.
Is that enough? Knowing a narcissist is “beating down your door” may well not keep his worst of intentions from coming to fruition. My point is, the idea of consent means nothing to him. Nothing. But if we are educated about his disorder, about why he’s driven the way he is, how he operates, how to interact with and react to him, maybe we can be a bit more proactive than what manifests (very little, IMO) from the oversaturation of a too-simple term like consent.
Because consent isn’t the problem.