The New Age of Consent, by Jameela Jamil
In her radio series The New Age of Consent, actor and broadcaster Jameela Jamil tackles the pressing and precarious topic of sexual consent. Here Jameela explains why her revelatory journey through sexual politics is a "must listen".
I truly believe a lot of sexual offence takes place more often out of ignorance, rather than just pure evil.
At the beginning of 2018, an article surfaced which pointed the “Me Too” arrow at the most unexpected of famous men. It concerned Aziz Ansari, a self-proclaimed feminist who has released plentiful comedic material over the years, explicitly dedicated to educating men as to how to treat women respectfully. A woman who called herself Grace unveiled a graphic account of a date she had with Ansari. It described how, allegedly, he repeatedly crossed the line with her sexually that night, in spite of her numerous attempts to slow things down. It was the first story we had heard of in which the offence was not black-and-white, as nothing sexual happened by force. It existed in a grey area, an area we all know well, but know very little about, and speak very little about.
The conversation on consent
This fast became the most divisive moment of the entire Me Too movement, with people taking sides in the case of Grace and Aziz. The conversation around the night in question, and the allegations that were made about it, had spurred on a scarily heated debate. It seemed to really trigger people on both sides. For me, however I felt about this accusation, I saw it as an important opportunity to open the conversation on consent. I wanted to turn the debate into a discussion, and include people in the conversation, rather than shut them out with scolding and shame.
I truly believe a lot of sexual offence takes place more often out of ignorance, rather than just pure evil. There is a lot of toxic misinformation in our society, in our culture, even in our most mainstream entertainment. I think a lot of people who cross the line honestly often don’t know that they are doing anything wrong. Even if it feels wrong while they are doing it, I think they don’t always even know why, because so many of their portals of information tell them this behavior is normal and healthy.
We just don’t talk about it. It’s apparently much less awkward to just go ahead and try it, and fumble around in a tumble dryer of trial and error, than discuss it beforehand and establish a few simple guidelines. This has to change, and this is what the two documentaries – The New Age of Consent – are aiming to do: to open and change the conversation around consent.
By removing the entirely unnecessary and frankly archaic taboo around sex and intimacy, we strive to encourage people to find a vocabulary with which to comfortably discuss sex. We learn from our excellent guests about pleasure, safety, verbal and non-verbal cues in the bedroom, and how imperative communication is when doing something that, while being fun and liberating, is also quite serious and fragile.
Negligence and insensitivity of any sort in the bedroom really can have lasting effects, some of which can change people’s lives forever. We meet some of the survivors of sexual assault and learn about the huge implications involved in disregarding someone’s sexual needs and well-being.
Mostly, I hope people start to look towards "Enthusiastic Consent" – a term I have proposed as the new gold standard, as frankly, I don’t think technical consent is enough. I don’t think that should be the bar. A legal yes? That doesn’t scream fun, sensuality or pleasure to me, and those are the only things I think sex should really entail.
I had no idea how little I knew, and how far beyond the basics of "yes" and "no" I should have been looking.
I myself have truly had my eyes opened around this subject, thanks to our guests, I had no idea how little I knew, and how far beyond the basics of "yes" and "no" I should have been looking.
Absurd awkwardness around one of the most pivotal and natural parts of our lives has left us in the dark, and with conversation and conversation only, can we find ways out of this mess.