The “Magaluf Girl”: Consent, Alcohol and Coercion

I have been with my children all day. I’ve seen bits and pieces about the “Magaluf girl” giving blow jobs for a holiday but I didn’t want to look too closely because I could already guess how the media would report the story. A young woman who “gave” 24 men blow jobs whilst drunk in a club in Spain would only be reported one way: she was a slag, a slut and a whore.

I didn’t want to read because I remember the coverage of the sexual assault of a young girl at a concert at Slane Castle in Ireland last year: a 17 year old girl who was exploited, assaulted and then had to deal with the images being shared through social media. I thoroughly dislike the term “revenge porn” because it minimises sexual assault and rape with the suggesting of “consent”. Every single person who shared the images and video of the incident at Slane Castle was perpetrating sexual assault – particularly those who shared identifying details of the young woman.

The young woman, who will now be known as the demeaning term “Magaluf girl”, which may or may not be better than her real name being shared, is now experiencing a similar level of blame, harassment, and shaming as the young girl assaulted at Slane Castle. Yet, we still aren’t discussing the issue of sexual exploitation, consent to commit the acts, coercion, consent to share the images in the mass media and the role of men in the club, the audience, and the club owners  and managers who planned a game to have a young woman perform sex acts on multiple men.

@Seja75 has written an important critique of media coverage for Ending Victimisation and Blame but I disagree with part of her analysis. I don’t think it’s possible for a young woman who has been drinking in a club surrounded by large numbers of men cheering her on to have informed consent. Even if a woman has sexual fantasies involving exhibitionism, in a situation in a club with an audience, it is very difficult to feel safe enough to say no – to believe you have a choice to say no. Being surrounded by a large number of men is coercion.

This is without getting into the issue of sharing the video and images across the web. Here, I agree with Seja entirely: anyone who was actually concerned about issues of sexual exploitation and assault will have asked several questions including: has the young woman involved given consent to the the sex act? has the young woman consented to filming? Have the men involved consented to filming? Have the men consented to participating (and Seja raises some interesting questions about one of the men involved)? What was the role of the club in this event? Do they have informed consent? Do they even know what informed consent is?

Unlike Seja, I don’t think there is a best case scenario here. Young women are groomed into sexual exploitation from childhood. We are taught not to say no and we all learn very early what the consequences of saying no are. This is a clear case of sexual exploitation – by a club, by people at the club and by the media.

We need to start asking why men would line up to in a club surrounded by an audience to have a woman orally masturbate them. What is going through their heads at that moment?  Were they drunk and incapable of informed consent? Or, did they enter the club knowing that this was part of the evening?

We need to challenge the shaming of this young women but we also need to challenge a culture where a young woman could be put in a position like this. We need to start talking honestly about what informed consent actually means and we need to start looking at holding businesses accountable for sexual violence perpetrated on their premises but also created by their employees and managers. The staff who created this “blow job for a holiday” are guilty of coercion.

Sharing the images of this event is unethical and immoral. It isn’t required to discuss this case in the media. The media holds responsibility for further sexually assaulting this young woman, just as they did with the young woman at Slane Castle.

Whatever the answers to the questions raised, one point will remain: the media should be prohibited from sharing these images. And, any media outlet, blogger, tweeter or Reddit commentator who share these types of videos and images without consent should be legally prosecuted for sexual assault.

Consent, Disclosure and the Cotton Ceiling

This is another debate I have not yet commented on but a conversation today on twitter made me want to clarify my thoughts publicly.

I do not believe anyone has the right to sex. I believe that full disclosure is necessary even for casual or one-night relationships. I believe anything less invalidates consent.  Lying about your marital status should invalidate consent. Lying about your health in a manner which could compromise the health of your partner invalidates consent.

The police officers who had sexual relationships with women in order to cement their cover whilst spying on left-wing organisations committed rape. Their lies invalidated the consent of the women involved. The fact that this is not illegal simply demonstrates how utterly woman-hating our laws of consent are.

Consent, as it stands now, is a joke. It is designed so that men can fuck whoever they want whenever they want without any consequence. Women’s boundaries and bodily integrity are violated in a million ways every day. The law is designed to defend these violations by men rather than protect women.

We need to rewrite the law completely in order to defend women’s bodily integrity [and, of course, the children and men whose bodies are violated]. This means we need to start with full disclosure before any, however temporary, sexual relationship. And, yes, this will mean difficult conversations. It will also mean forgoing sex because we cannot disclose for whatever reason but including safety.

These conversations will, I have no doubt, be more difficult for transwomen who will be faced with the increased possibility of male violence. It is this very real threat which makes it all the more important for us to smash the patriarchal construction of consent. It may very well mean a decrease in sex for many but no one has the right to sex. We are morally required to ensure the safety of others and that safety includes not violating bodily integrity.

Real consent can only be given when both parties are in possession of all the facts. It is that simple.

This is why I find the term “cotton ceiling” so disturbing. I understand the need for Trans* to self-organise to share stories of full disclosure and offer mutual support over a difficult issue, however the term “cotton ceiling” does not imply respectful discussions of consent and disclosure. The idea that lesbian women are somehow providing a barrier to sex which must be smashed just like the glass ceiling in employment sounds remarkably like denying women bodily integrity. The term itself implies a level of coercion; coercion removes consent. Lack of consent equals rape. This may not be what was meant when the term was first used but the implication is clearly there and it is supported by suggestions that lesbian women are “transphobic” for refusing to have sexual relationships with transwomen.

Being sexually undesirable by someone who you fancy sexually is a horrible position to be in but no one has the right to sex and lesbians have the right to refuse to have sex with whomever they want. Everyone has the right to refuse sex whatever the reason. We need to have conversations about consent and disclosure but they must be done from a position of honesty. If  you cannot disclose the truth [whatever that may be] to the person you desire sexually, then you should not have sex with them. This is as valid for one night stands as it is for long-term relationships.