Welcome to my Seventh Friday Nope!
Why a Friday Nope ? I decided to create this new weekly meme because even though I have neither the strength nor the time to write a full review for every book I hate, I‘d hate to see people hurt by books I could have warned them against. As explained in my first post, Friday Nope will give me the opportunity to introduce one or two books I didn’t like at all, and briefly explain why.
If you would like to join me in this meme, feel free to do so! Just link back to this post, so I can easily see it and share it here!
Today I’m going to talk about something that influences how I treat books recommendations (from my friends or on social medias) : what y’all call grey consent. I’ve posted about it on Twitter last week but I wanted to make my opinion clearer, so here we go^^.
TW – Sexual assault (with graphic quotes)
What is it ? Grey consent is often mentioned in reviews of romance novels and the concept itself never fails to astound me, at the very least. In my experience, people are using these words to describe different kind of situations, from an unwanted kiss to a sexual act. Let me get this straight right away : for me, there’s nothing grey about consent.
- permission or agreement:They can’t publish your name without your consent. You can only come on the trip if your parents give their consent.
- to agree to do something, or to allow someone to do something: Very reluctantly, I’ve consented to lend her my car. My aunt never married because her father wouldn’t consent to her marriage.
Admittedly, there are a lot of things in the world that aren’t either black or white. In my opinion, though, consent is not one of them.
The word you’re searching for is sexual assault, my friends.
As I said on Twitter, far from me the intention to shame readers about what they like, what they find exciting or ‘kinky’ (I kinda hate this word, but ANYWAY). I’ve been told that I could be too harsh with my opinions before, so to be clear : I don’t care about what you find ‘kinky’. I don’t. I know that fiction isn’t the same as real life.
I despise this kind of euphemisms. Call it for what it is : sexual assault on page. As far as I’m concerned, consent can only go two ways : with, or without, and to see it labelled as ‘grey’ only shows me that we do not give this word the same meaning. Why does that piss me off?
Well. Anyone with a bit of knowledge about who the rapists in our society are (as in : very much people we know, our family, our boyfriends, our friends, our coworkers, not that stranger in a dark alley) can grasp how terrible the concept of grey consent is.
Because what IS grey consent but the ignorance of victims’ words and actions?
Let’s take a look at situations that have been labelled as ‘grey consent’ by reviewers and authors alike :
Exhibit one : women say no but really, it means yes
“Get your hands off of me, Dean.” I glare at him as he grips. “Get your hands off. Of. Me.”
“Say it like you actually mean it and I will.”
This excerpt from Resentment by Nicole London perpetuates something that victims of sexual assaults know well, and that would be gaslighting. Manipulating someone into thinking that what they said wasn’t clear enough and was open to interpretation when it was obviously not is often used by abusers, and there’s nothing ‘grey’ about it. Nothing.
Exhibit two : forced kisses aren’t foreplay
“Torn between wanting to submit to my desire or hold my ground, I turn toward him, and his mouth crashes down on mine without warning. He kisses me mercilessly even as I struggle against him. My hands fight their way between us and I try to shove him off, but his ironclad embrace is too strong for me to break. I know I won’t be able to outmaneuver him, so I resist in a simpler fashion by holding completely still. He can force me against him, but I don’t have to respond, and I don’t have to kiss him back.
My rebellion makes him even more annoyed.
These few lines made my heart beat erratically and my eyes water, because what we have here is the depiction of a sexual assault, and no, I’m not exaggerating. What we have here is a woman who makes it clear that she does not want to be kissed by the male character, whose physical force prevents her to stop him. I underlined the second last sentence because for personal reasons, it resonated strongly in me. What we have here is a woman who is forced to use the last defense we have when we’re sexually assaulted, the very same that makes people doubt our words when we finally find the courage to confide in them about what happened to us.
So fuck you, The Fortunate Ones, for making me feel like shit in implying that such behavior is okay and should lead to romance (because it very much does, in the following pages). Again, nothing fucking ‘grey’ about that.
Exhibit three : that, friends, is RAPE
(and I had to choose from MANY examples, isn’t that sad?????)
In the end, I chose this excerpt from Genesis by Karin Slaughter because the female lead is generally hated by readers (and I did, too!), and I genuinely believe that it influenced them to ignore the fact that she is raped by the so-called hero, Will (IT FUCKING SHOULDN’T).
Things go like this : she’s trying to force his hand and manipulate him, he (understandably!!) tells her to leave. She doesn’t. He then starts pushing her. She fights back. She pushes him on the floor. He holds on and pulls her down with him. He uses his force to keep her under him. And then :
“He grabbed both her hands in one of his, squeezing them together so she couldn’t fight him. Without even thinking, he reached down and ripped away her underwear. Her nails dug into the back of his hand as he slid his fingers inside her.
‘Asshole,” she hissed, but she was so wet Will could barely feel his fingers moving in and out. (…)
‘Stop it,’ she demanded, but she was moving against his hand, tensing with each stroke. He unzipped his pants and pushed himself inside her. She tried to tighten against him, but he pushed harder, forcing her to open up.”
In the end, she enjoys it and has an orgasm. I don’t care. The fact that she’s wet, that she has pleasure, doesn’t change a thing, because we really don’t need more scenes like these in medias, scenes in which no means yes. What the hell. Do I really have to explain why? WHY THE FUCK DO WE LET PEOPLE IMPLY THAT THE BOUNDARIES BETWEEN ANGER AND DESIRE ARE SO THIN? They aren’t. Why are we excusing this kind of behavior?
I could mention hundreds of novels in which a woman’s sexual assault is played down as ‘grey consent’, and that makes me so angry.
But again, it’s not about the difference between fiction and real life, not really.
It’s about calling out these situations for what they are : rapes.
It’s about calling these ‘heroes’ for who they are : rapists.
If you ignore a no and take the following lack of reaction as consent, then you’re a rapist. It doesn’t mean that you’ll be call out as one, because rape culture is very much a thing, but you are.
Finally, this is certainly not an issue of ‘oh my god, the moral police is at it again, we can’t read what we want boohoo’. By all means, read what you want, I do not care. But if other people matter to you at least a little, PLEASE warn readers and do not use shitty euphemisms like those : you like reading sexual assaults on page? Own it. WARN READERS. Because I sure DO NOT WANT TO READ THAT.