Wednesday, July 28, 2010

In Which the Male Gaze Continues to Define Woman

"Woman is not born: she is made. In the making, her humanity is destroyed. She becomes symbol of this, symbol of that: mother of the earth, slut of the universe; but she never becomes herself because it is forbidden for her to do so." -Andrea Dworkin

"Men look at women. Women watch themselves being looked at. This determines not only most relations between men and women but also the relation of women to themselves." -John Berger, Ways of Seeing

In 2004, "Jane Doe" was at a St. Louis bar dancing while "Girls Gone Wild" videographers were filming. When the cameramen encouraged her to take her top off, the woman could be heard on the video saying "no." Another person then pulled Jane Doe's top down, an action that was caught on camera. The footage ended up on a "Girls Gone Wild" video and the woman sued the company, claiming that she never gave consent and that the video damaged her reputation.

A jury has just found that, despite the fact that this adult woman explicitly said "no," she really meant yes. Or, as the jury foreman mansplained:

"Through her actions, she gave implied consent," [he] said. "She was really playing to the camera. She knew what she was doing."

She knew what she was doing.

What does that even mean? Women who dance in public assume the risk of being having live, on-camera assaults pornified? When it comes to the ladies, our actions speak louder than words?

The term "implied consent" is a legal fiction that allows someone else to assume, without consequence, that another person- a woman, say- has consented when she may not have actually consented at all. Although an affirmative "yes" is absent in such cases, it is argued that the woman also didn't say "no," or she didn't say it loudly enough or with enough conviction for it to count.

Jane Doe is every woman.

She embodies sex. Her existence is in a state of perpetual consent to be used for some sexual purpose. Especially if a man is nearby and she hasn't left the vicinity.

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