In a rapidly changing social environment, what is and isn’t acceptable can feel hard to keep up with. But, just because certain behaviours have only just become widely recognised as harmful, doesn’t mean that they haven’t always been wrong. Rape has always been wrong. Screaming obscenities at women from a moving vehicle has always been intimidating and disgusting.
On August 31st, Aretha Franklin’s funeral was held. Ariana Grande performed, and was then unceremoniously groped by the pastor. Now, some people have argued that it was an accident. First of all, most adults know the difference (both through sight and touch) between a breast and a ribcage. The thing that pains me the most about the footage of this incident is Grande twisting her body to get away from him as his fingers dig into the side of her chest.
I don’t know her and I can see, clear as day, that she’s uncomfortable. Maybe it’s because I’m woman and I too have been groped and tried to escape politely. Or, maybe it’s because I’m a sophisticated animal who knows how to communicate through body language. We all know when someone is uncomfortable. It amazes me when men say ‘I didn’t know she didn’t like it’, or ‘she didn’t say no’ or ‘she wasn’t pushing me away so it must have been fine.’
I refuse to believe that men do not understand the indicators that women give out. The main reason I refuse to believe this is because they only apply this to female bodies and not male ones. If men don’t hug their friends because they think it might make them uncomfortable, but feel perfectly fine grabbing the ass of a woman they don’t know, the issue there isn’t a lack of understanding of physical consent. The issue there is a belief that the female body isn’t entitled to the respect that a male body is because we’re objects, not people.
Women give ‘soft’ refusals because we fear the consequences of giving ‘hard’ refusals. When my old boss touched my breast at work, I didn’t react, I just carried on sweeping the floor. Not because I was okay with it, but because I was scared of what would happen if I made a fuss about it. Top tip with consent – if she isn’t saying yes, she’s saying no.
Ariana Grande was on an incredibly public platform, in a professional setting, and a man still felt he had the right to grab her body. Just because she didn’t scream and throw him from the pulpit doesn’t mean she liked it. She gave clear indicators that she was uncomfortable, he ignored them.
The pastor issued an apology where he said he ‘may have crossed a border’ by being ‘too friendly’. I’m bored of apologies like this. I’m tired of men pretending that they don’t know that this kind of behaviour is unacceptable. No one genuinely thinks its okay to touch someone up at a funeral. You know that old saying ‘it’s better to ask for forgiveness than permission?’ When it comes to consent, it’s the exact opposite.