Ask Hua Li #18 – The world is bigger than Jian Ghomeshi
Hua Li is an indie hip-hop artist by night, jazz vocal teacher by day, and 24/7 badass. Every other Wednesday (a.k.a., Hump Day) she releases a new edition of “Ask Hua Li,” Radio Cannon’s sex column for the post-queer, the pre-queer, and everything in between. Ask her an anonymous question at the bottom of this post.
Hi Hua Li,
I was just wondering if you could weigh in – do you think Jian Ghomeshi is a rapist/woman abuser? What do you think about this concept of withdrawal of consent years after the sexual act has occurred?
I would like to start with your second question, because honestly, I think it is infinitely more worthwhile and interesting than the first. I have devoted very little time to following this whole Ghomeshi situation (and I’ll get into why in a moment) so I can’t say definitely what retroactive withdrawal of consent has to do with him, but I can tell you that I find the idea rather worrisome. It is confusing and harmful when consent, which should be a very black and white issue, becomes a theoretical concept – to call someone a rapist because years after a sexual act you have decided to withdraw the consent you gave at the time of performing the act makes obtaining consent completely meaningless. (I will say that if consent was not properly obtained at the time of performing the sexual act and someone was to only recognize this retrospectively, that’s a different thing.)
Consent shouldn’t be complicated. Consent should be given willingly, without coercion and should be ongoing. Withdrawal of consent should be communicated at the time of withdrawal and should be respected by your partner. That means if you decide that you don’t want to continue in engaging in whatever sexual act you might be engaging in as you engage in it, you have the right to stop it. I would go further to say that in fact, as a responsible, sex-positive adult that is fully aware of all of the risks and blessings that come with having a fully actualized sexuality, it is your responsibility to communicate the withdrawal of your consent at the time of withdrawal. It’s the respectable way to treat yourself and your partner. If you are ever in a situation in which you feel uncomfortable expressing your withdrawal of consent, than your partner is not a good person for you to be having sex with, and very likely did not provide you with a safe space to give consent in the first place.
People think consent is confusing because there is an implicit cultural belief that sex needs to be shrouded in mystery and we have to read body language and sometimes when people say no they mean yes. When someone tells me “no” I don’t take any time to consider if they might be lying to me. That’s disrespectful to me as someone who takes consent and the active obtaining of consent from my partners very seriously. If you say no, I will assume you mean it and I will put my pants on and go home. Some of my most significant and successful sexual encounters have been with partners who took consent very literally and made the commitment to confirm my consent every step of the way. The type of sexual acts should not cloud consent – BDSM is sexy because in actuality, the submissive partner has all the power. The gift of consent is power. If a dominant partner in a dom/sub relationship has problems with obtaining ongoing consent from their partner, than they are a miserable failure. They have completely missed the point. They are not sexy. Their sexual acts take a turn from kinky exploration of power dynamics to abusive behavior. I will reiterate – consent should always be a black or white issue. Do I know for a fact if my partner is exuberantly and actively happy participating in whatever I am asking them to participate in? If not, stop!
As for Ghomeshi – what do you care what I think about about Jian Ghomeshi? Because consent happens between the parties involved in a sexual act, and because I have never been involved in any type of sexual act with Jian Ghomeshi, and because I was not present during any of the sexual acts that Jian Ghomeshi is under scrunity for I have absolutely no opinion as to whether or not those acts were consensual. A lot of people are making big deals out of this, like this situation is about women not feeling comfortable talking about abuse or not being considered credible. That, I suppose, is a worthwhile conversation, but I think we are all collectively wasting our time talking about Jian Ghomeshi. I feel very strongly about this because I know that for most young people in Canada, their main source of news media comes from their Facebook news feed. Well, I don’t know about you guys, but my newsfeed has been about 95% Ghomeshi since Sunday. What is even more distressing to me is that since Sunday, when I visit the sources of news I like to visit outside of Facebook, the percentage of media coverage on the Ghomeshi story still outweighs pretty much everything else.
This is worrisome to me because there is a whole wackload of other things going on in Canada right now. Did you guys know that Toronto had a mayoral election this week? May I remind you that just last week a gunman killed a Canadian soldier at the National War Memorial in Ottawa? Did you know that the controversial bill C-13 that was getting heavy opposition until the Ottawa shootings passed the House of Commons on Tuesday? While you’re reading all these news stories, it might also interest you that Harper effectively sold Canada to China earlier this year (okay, this is a bit of an exaggeration, but you wouldn’t know that if you don’t read the article). What I’m trying to say here is, let’s stop talking about Ghomeshi because it’s not really news, it’s basically celebrity gossip, and let’s start talking about some of the current events that are going to make a lasting impact on the Canadian milieu.
Let’s have intelligent, considerate and respectful discourse about consent and the issues survivors may have reporting abuse. Let’s not concern ourselves with other people’s sex lives for sensationalistic, gawking purposes because what we think about other people’s sex if we are not involved or even present for the sex, doesn’t matter.
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