Harvey Weinstein Doesn’t Know Consent from Coercion

Harvey Weinstein, is an American film producer and former film studio executive. He and his brother Bob Weinstein, co-founded Miramax, which produced several popular independent films. You may be familiar with Pulp Fiction, Clerks, The Crying Game, and Sex, Lies, and Videotape. He has been in the news headlines recently with dozens of accusations of sexual harassment and assault, including rape, occurring over 20 years. He is paying the consequences. He has made settlement payments to some women who made allegations of sexual abuse, his wife is divorcing him, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has expelled him, and he was removed from the company he founded. The evidence implies that he wrongfully committed sexual assault on numerous occasions. However, he made a statement that all of these sexual incidents were consensual. His victims disagree.

This is a good time to remind people what sexual consent is. Emory University published a guide to a non-assaultive relationship called “Consent, Not Coercion”. I have reproduced it here.

Consent is when someone agrees, gives permission, or says yes enthusiastically to sexual activity with someone else. Central to the concept of consent is the understanding that every person has a right to control their body, and to not be acted upon by someone else in a sexual manner unless they give clear permission to do so. The person initiating the sexual activity is responsible for obtaining permission from the person or persons they want to engage in sexual activity with. Consent is always freely given, and every person involved in a sexual situation must feel that they are able to say “yes” or “no” at any point during sexual activity. Absence of clear permission means you can’t touch someone, not that you can.

In most cases, consent should be a clear verbal agreement. However, if a person is seeking consent from someone who cannot communicate verbally, they should obtain consent using another agreed upon method of communication. Non-verbal communication includes sign language, writing or typing messages, gestures, nodding or shaking one’s head, and blinking, to name just a few.

Consent is

Body language: If a person makes eye contact, smiles, leans in, sits close to, embraces, or touches someone else in a manner that might be perceived to be friendly or even flirtatious, it does not automatically mean that the person is asking to engage in sexual activity or consenting to it.

Power differentials: When one person holds significant power over another person (i.e., boss/employee or professor/student), it is more difficult to be sure that this difference of power is not influencing any sexual interactions between them.

Dating relationships or previous sexual activity: Simply because two people are dating or have had sex before does not mean that consent is automatically present. Both must always feel they have the right to say no to sex.

Marriage: Even in marriage, consent can never be assumed. Marital rape does exist, and it is just as severe as any other sexual assault. In Georgia, there are marital rape laws that make a sexual assault in a marriage a crime.

Being drunk: Alcohol consumption can render a person incapable of giving consent. Perpetrators often use alcohol as a weapon to target individuals and as a means of excusing their own actions. Emory’s sexual misconduct/Title IX policy and Georgia laws apply to a perpetrator regardless of whether or not they were drinking.

Coercion is a tactic that perpetrators use to exert power and control over another person. Coercion occurs when a person intimidates, tricks, forces, or manipulates someone into engaging in sexual activity without the use of physical force. Perpetrators may also use threats of violence, blackmail, drugs, and/or alcohol to coerce someone into sexual activity.

According to MensWork, a Louisville, Kentucky based nonprofit, legal and healthy consent requires six things to be in place. Equal power and status; both are cognizant and are agreeing to the same thing; both have an understanding of the consequences; neither are under the influence of drugs and alcohol; it respects the legal age of consent; and both partners respect a change of mind without question and without coercion.

If you are still unclear about what constitutes sexual consent, watch a video called “Tea Consent” on Youtube.com. Even if you are clear on sexual consent, watch the video.


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