If you haven’t noticed this yet, I guess a recurring feature on my blog is going to be romantic heroes I like in fiction. This post is going to be like one of those, I guess.
So there was this TV show on in the late 1980s and early 1990s that I adored. It made me long to go to college. It legitimately shaped my social views. I watched every week. (I had a big crush on the leading man…)
Yes, Dwayne Wayne on A Different World was one of my first (to borrow a phrase from the internet) ‘fictional boyfriends.’ Yes, it was that he was a smarty, and those glasses…at first. But as the show went on, his character developed into a man who loved, cared about, and respected women, and wanted to *learn how to do those things better.* How to be a better friend to women, how to be better in a romantic relationship with them, how to be a supportive feminist ally. I’d say this show was ahead of its time, but honestly? I think some of its episodes shouldn’t have had to be made. Racism and sexism and ableism shouldn’t be things that shows should deal with because they shouldn’t even be THINGS. And also, unfortunately, the show, as is, watched today, is still topical and contemporary. Because racism and sexism and ableism (among other social issues) are still things. So shows still do and must deal with them. Sigh.
Anyway, I liked Dwayne Wayne from episode one. He got a perfect score on his math SATs. He was sweet and a little awkward and handsome (again…those *glasses*…SIGH). But A Different World did one episode that clinched and cemented a permanent place in my Fictional Boyfriend heart for Dwayne. It was this one…
Dwayne is unquestionably the hero in this episode. If you’ve never seen A Different World, and you only watch one episode of it ever, I hope you watch this one. (Unless you are triggered by discussions or implications of sexual assault).
I love how direct and simple Coach Walter Oaks laid out what consent is here for Dwayne…who KNEW already…he was trying to reconcile the newly realized knowledge that *a friend of his* was likely a date rapist. And he takes this disturbing knowledge and instead of defending his friend, and victim blaming, or ignoring things and living in denial, he actually takes action to stop an attempted sexual assault.
Talk about a romantic hero.
That conversation Dwayne and Walter have I know is still a conversation being had. There might be several posts in a row across the next days about consent and how fiction I’ve seen deals with and influences that conversation…in both good and bad ways. I wanted to write something about THAT ^^^^ specific conversation today. So here I go…
No means no.
‘But sometimes, when I’m with a girl, she *says* no, but I’m getting signals…’
Fine. Let’s go with that and discuss it further…
If you are getting physically intimate with someone, and they say ‘no,’ and they really mean:
1. Yes or even Maybe…and you respect the ‘No’ as absolutely literal, and take them at their word, you are showing that you expect clear communication of their needs and desires, and don’t want to play games. Your partner learns that you are mature and honest and require maturity and honesty and *enthusiastic, informed consent* in your relationships. GOOD FOR YOU!!!
2. No…and you respect the ‘No’ then you have successfully respected their boundaries and personal agency over their body and action and feelings. Your partner learns that you wholeheartedly respect and care about what they want and need out of the relationship. GOOD FOR YOU!!!
If you are with a person, and they say ‘no,’ and they really mean:
1. Yes or even Maybe…and you ignore the ‘No’ as a simple game, you are reinforcing their tendency to emotionally manipulate you with dishonesty, and you imply that what you want is more important than what they claim to want. Also, let’s be real, you got lucky that they really meant ‘yes.’ Not so good, really. Not for you or for them.
2. No…and you ignore the ‘No,’ you have just committed sexual assault. DEFINITELY NOT GOOD.
If you value getting intimate physical contact/sex over not assaulting people, go ahead and gamble on ignoring and discounting ‘no.’ But I’m personally not into potentially assaulting people to get what I want, and respecting ‘no’ seems like a win-win situation to me. And if you know someone who talks about discounting ‘no’ around you? Don’t ignore that. Be Dwayne Wayne. Maybe try to help make it a different world.