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A Man's Guide To Handling Conversations About Consent

10/27/2014 01:10 EDT | Updated 12/27/2014 05:59 EST

Man alive are we ever talking a lot about consent tonight. And praise whatever higher power you believe in: This shit is long overdue, and we should be talking about consent and other "hot topics" that include but aren't limited to equality, victims' rights, victim blaming, misogyny, gaslighting and feminism as a whole.

But look. I understand that a famous Canadian person has written a manifesto about his sex life and painted his ex-girlfriend to be "jilted" and blah blah blah this blog isn't a response to that. This is a response to dudes I think might be confused about how to proceed when we start talking about things like consent and and, well, human rights.

Which is fair. I have guy friends who have been really shocked when I tell them about my and my friends' experiences with harassment, cat-calling, assault, etc. and then they ask what they can do because they are a mix of horrified and confused and very, very apologetic, on behalf of Men's Rights Advocates (MRAs) and shitty dudes everywhere. And I love when they ask me what they can do. I love when people ask me questions about feminism in general. If people asked MORE questions about feminism, we wouldn't have to debate what feminism is and is not ever again, but that's ALSO a blog for another day.

So yeah, you're a guy, and you want to help and you want to participate, but you don't know how. Here's a good way to start:

1) Listen to women

In the case of certain manifestos/defences we read tonight, it's important to remember to listen to women. Listening sucks sometimes and nobody loves doing it (I hear you -- get the pun, guys?), but in terms of talking about consent/harassment/assault/etc., they each require you to shut the fuck up and wait for the woman who's talking to finish speaking. In the above mentioned case, we haven't heard that particular woman speak yet. But we have heard others -- and whether it's about a former CBC host or about another situation or crime or anything, the first and most important thing you can do is just listen. Without interrupting. Step one.

2) Ask about what you don't understand

Miscommunication will destroy us all. Are you confused about something? Ask. Are you unclear as to why the person in question is upset? Ask -- sensitively. (e.g. "I think I may have misunderstood something -- why did that upset you, again?") A person is volunteering information that is likely very hard to repeat, so be aware of that. And be aware that if you don't ask, and you assume, you are hurting her, yourself (you are better than assumptions), and then everybody else. There's no room for miscommunication. Ask about what you don't understand. Please.

2) b) Don't judge

Do not.

3) Don't assume/defend

I also get that knee-jerk reactions are a thing. Of course I do because I'm a human person and I assume things about people because like all people, I am an asshole sometimes. But when it comes to talking about issues like harassment, assault, the general feeling of uncomfortableness (that feeling is real), it's very important that you don't a) assume that the woman telling you this is wrong, and b) defend the guy because you are a guy.

Defending a guy because you are a guy is like defending a war criminal because the war criminal is a person and we are persons, too. That's not a thing. "You are wrong, person, because he has brown hair and I have brown hair and brown-haired people have been marginalized!" See? No. So if this is what you're tempted to do, go back to one, and to two, and then keep rotating until you can skip assumption altogether and move onto number four.

4) Ask what you can do right now

Amazing! I love when this happens. Team-motherfucking-work up in here. Sometimes all you have to do is what you already did -- 99% of the time, all you have to do is believe what the person is saying. Honestly, that is one of the most underrated actions, and one of the most important. Then, you, well, do what you're asked to do. Maybe spread the word. Maybe offer moral support. Maybe get a cup of tea. I don't know. Just ask, and then do what you are asked to do. Be a good person. Don't be a dick. (A very important rule not just for this, but for life.)

5) Ask what you can do in general

My friend and I were telling her boyfriend a few weeks ago about being harassed in places like the grocery store, the mall, on the street, in the bank, at a restaurant, etc. etc. etc. and he was horrified. This is because he is a good person who's never thought about doing that to another person. Then I asked, "Well what do you do when your friend catcalls someone?" and he said he gets very embarrassed. But he didn't tell the guy to stop.

That's what you've got to do. Tell the guy to stop. Shut it down when you see it. Some guy yells at some girl from your car? Tell him to STFU. A dude checks out a girl in line at the grocery store and she obviously hates it? Step in. Correct stereotypes. Correct false information. Be active. Act. Will it be scary? Fuck, yeah. But being a woman who is alive is also scary. Most of us worry every time we leave the house, and then if something does happen, we worry that no one will believe us. Because we are women, and that is the shit we've learned so far.

From Jian's shit, we've also learned that some people will latch onto a tale because it's easy. Nope. You know there's two sides to every story and that each side deserves a voice. You know victim-blaming is bullshit and it hurts us all. You know patriarchy hurts us all.

So while the above steps are very tiny and there is ideally way more we can add, let's start there. You see victim-blaming in your feed? Shut it down. You hear derogatory terms being tossed around to describe women? Shut them down. Are you confused? Ask. Confusion is okay and it's fine and it's a part of being human. Assumptions and insults should not be. (In addition to many other things. Like making 50 Shades of Grey jokes.)

This post originally appeared here.

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