I’m a feminist. I believe that women should be given equal treatment to men financially, politically, and socially. I believe this won’t disenfranchise men, but instead make women equal partners to men. In fact, men such as myself can be ardent feminists, and there are plenty of them out there. I also believe that there are people who dislike feminism because of ignorance or prejudice. And I believe that those who actively work to dissuade people from identifying feminism or tear down some of the movement’s tenets and beliefs are doing a lot more harm than good. Normally I ignore what is said, but occasionally something is so blatantly wrong or harmful to women that I have to speak up.

So when I read what Rush Limbaugh said today and then heard it for myself, I couldn’t keep quiet. Normally I ignore what Mr. Limbaugh says. Since the Sandra Fluke debacle two years ago, I’ve actually been surprised that he’s still on the air, let alone that he hasn’t learned from his mistakes or maybe hired someone to edit what he plans to say before he says it. But today might be the worst thing he’s said since he talked about Ms. Fluke.

I couldn’t embed the audio of the clip in question onto this post (if you’d like to hear it yourself, you can check out the Huffington Post article where I first read about it), so I’m talking about it here. In short, Mr. Limbaugh said that he finds the idea of “No” means “No” ridiculous.  He says:

How many of you guys in your own experience with women have learned that ‘no’ means ‘yes’ if you know how to spot it?…It used to be used as a cliche.

So under this definition of consent, when a woman says “no”, it really means “yes” under certain circumstances (and I bet to a guy like Mr. Limbaugh, there are few, if any, circumstances where “no” actually means “no”). A guy just has to “spot” it. I’m just wondering, how exactly do you spot the signs that a woman is actually saying “yes” underneath the resounding “no”? Enlighten me.

And if you think about it, this definition could extend not just to women. Perhaps a young child is actually saying yes to being touched inappropriately, even if they’re being touched by a parent or other relative. And according to Mr. Limbaugh’s definition of consent, if a gay man comes onto him or any other man and the second man says no, the gay man is allowed to go on if they believe “the signs” are there telling them to go on.* It’s uncomfortable to think about, but it could happen.

*I’m not actually insinuating that anyone does or should do this, be they straight or gay men, relatives of a child, or anything else. I’m just trying to put this in the context that Mr. Limbaugh outlines and make sense of the implications.

Also notice how Mr. Limbaugh asks for the opinions of the male listeners of his show, but not the female listeners. Why doesn’t Mr. Limbaugh ask about the female listeners’ experiences? I’m sure some of them have quite the stories to tell. According to the website of the Rape, Abuse, And Incest National Network, about 1 in 6 women are the victims of an attempted or completed rape in their lifetimes. 1 in 33 men suffer the same sort of attacks, and 15% of children under the age of 12 are vulnerable to rape or sexual assault. Victims of sexual assault are three times more likely to suffer from depression, four times more likely to suffer from PTSD and/or consider suicide, and 13 and 26 times more likely to abuse alcohol or drugs, respectively. A third of them get pregnant from their ordeals. How many of these women said “no” and that was ignored or interpreted as meaning “yes”? And how many of them listen to the Rush Limbaugh Show?

Mr. Limbaugh also quotes from the student handbook at Ohio State University** on what constitutes consent. Well, actually he isn’t quoting, exactly. Only a small bit of what he says is actually from the Student Code of Conduct (which you can read here). I have no idea where he’s getting this stuff about the thirteen-year-olds consenting to sex. But beyond all that, the point Mr. Limbaugh is trying to make is that all these requirements for having consent is too much and actually getting in the way of romance and seduction. I don’t have the most experience in this, but if you ask me, when two consenting partners are very much in love, care deeply about the other, and want to make each other happy, then all this stuff Mr. Limbaugh believes gets in the way of romance and seduction becomes unnecessary. The couple know each other well enough to know what is safe, what is crossing a boundary, and how to make sure both of them have an enjoyable sexual experience.

And for couples who aren’t at that point yet, perhaps they don’t need to ask permission to do every single thing. But it is common sense to discuss with your partner what you consider safe sexual territory, and to pay attention to what your partner is telling you, verbally or non-verbally. If your partner says no, doesn’t matter if you or your partner are male, female, or some other third gender. No means no, under ALL circumstances.

Mr. Limbaugh makes it seem like you have to go through a maze to have sex, but I don’t think that’s actually the case.

**For future reference, would you please not use my alma mater in your program? It’s not a very good example at the moment, anyway: sad as I am to admit, OSU’s marching band is under investigation for fostering an atmosphere of sexual assault, and there are other investigations occurring as well, last I checked. I still love this school and I’m not proud of what’s happened here, but you can’t fight your demons if you don’t admit to them, so I’m putting them out there.

So Mr. Limbaugh may feel that there are exceptions to the No rule and all those requirements for consent are a bit too much for your average man looking for sex. But with sexual assault so prevalent in our nation, I feel having these things pointed out to us is a good thing. Not only does it make us aware of a problem that needs to be combated, but following these rules helps to make our country safer for all, and helps to eliminate a very terrible problem.

Mr. Limbaugh does make one very good point, and that is we need to change how we teach our boys. I agree, but I think we need to change how we teach our girls too, and maybe how we approach sex in general. Men should be taught that there is nothing wrong with wanting to have sex, provided you are educated about both the benefits and the consequences of sex, particularly unsafe, forced or alternative forms of sex. And girls should be taught about their bodies, all that comes with sex, and that there is nothing they should be ashamed of when it comes to their bodies or their sexuality, no mater what anyone says. And above all, it should be stressed that no one owns your body but you, and you should decide what can and cannot be done with it.

Mr. Limbaugh, I hope what you’ve said today gets talked about by a variety of people. I hope that you make the newsrounds for your comments, because what you said is hurtful and shameful and trivializes a major problem. And perhaps after what you’ve said, there can be some constructive change to stop this ongoing epidemic of sexual assault in our nation. I would very much like to say that.

And Mr. Limbaugh, perhaps after this latest incdent, you might take steps to avoid saying such hurtful and despicable things on your program. And if that’s not possible, then maybe it’d be better for a lot of people (and I say this with all the sensitivity I can muster in such a situation) if you would kindly shut up.

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Comments
  1. I swear, that fat-ass, pill-addicted, thrice divorcee is either looking to get fired, or he’s become so irrelevant that he’s resorting to increasingly stupid and inflammatory stunts just to stay noticed.

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