Sexual Consent: Women who don’t know how to say no
This article first appeared on PublicHouse.sg.
In early December, paparazzi pictures of 19-year-old Hong Kong starlet, Rose Chan, being kissed and hugged by fellow actors and co-stars Joe Ma, 43, and Benny Chan, 42, surfaced. The actors had apparently gone for supper after a day of filming in Hengdian, China.
The pictures showed Rose grimacing at being touched. Sympathy vanished rapidly when more pictures emerged of Rose smiling during the supper high jinks. Some questioned if it was a publicity stunt, especially since Rose is a wing chun practitioner and certainly could have defended herself.
A teary-eyed Rose gave her side of the story at a press conference before reporting the men to the police for allegedly molesting her. Since then Chan has said he does not wish to dwell on the past and only wants to work hard as well as care for his family. Ma, who has admitted that the recent scandal has upset his wife, said he intends to go on a holiday with her after finishing the filming of his current drama.
Reactions to this story on my Facebook page included:
“The 2 blokes clearly took advantage of the situation. They laced her with alcohol & jumped her. Obviously didn’t know they were photographed.”
“If she was a willing party, then the photos show otherwise.”
“I’m so tired of men blaming women for “inviting” sexual advances by being drunk and/or friendly: “Rose drank heavily and allowed the men present to greet her warmly.” And assuming that “silence” means consent – perhaps it was fear that kept her silent.”
Those in it for a laugh:
“She high, u high. Just groped la!”
Disgust at Chan’s half-hearted apology blaming the alcohol:
“Too many of these a**holes blame alcohol instead of themselves.”
Rose was supposed to have a buddy looking out for her – another co-star, Timmy Hung, son of gongfu star Sammo Hung, but Timmy was reported to have been drunk himself. There are some who believe Rose was plied with drinks and taken advantage of.
She might have tried to but not felt powerful enough to say no – possibly for fear of offending her co-stars; or for fear of being called a prude. Perhaps she was too naive and trusting, or maybe when she did realise she was the centre of attention, she was already drunk.
Never mind that Rose is a raising starlet, she is only nineteen. However, I am certain she has grown up a whole lot in the last month.
We live in an imperfect world. Our world believes that women can and should do things to prevent being victimized – and this may well be her best self-defence mechanism. This is different from criticizing the way she dresses and not trusting any of her male friends.
According to AWARE’s leaflet on Reducing Risks of Sexual Assault, tips which pertain to the above case include:
• Be smart about alcohol. It’s much easier to be a victim or predator when you’re trashed.
• Consent cannot be given when someone is drunk, passed out or emotionally distressed.
• Be clear and assertive. If there is any misunderstanding – say no. Respect yourself: it is always OK to say no. It is okay to change your mind. Sex is never an obligation.
• Avoid any situation where you’re not completely comfortable and don’t be afraid to leave any situation that makes you feel uneasy.
Educating young people on sexuality and alcohol can be challenging. While there is no excuse for some men being lechers, a woman, on her part, has to learn to maintain control and fend off unwanted attention, maybe even not agreeing to put herself in situations where her safety will be compromised. A young person who does not know how to drink has to learn fast, or master the art of saying no; or they may be confronted with the situation which Rose found herself in.
Don’t be afraid to say no.
Dr Martha Lee is Founder and Clinical Sexologist of Eros Coaching in Singapore. She is a certified sexuality educator with AASECT (American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors, and Therapists), as well as certified sexologist with ACS (American College of Sexologists). She holds a Doctorate in Human Sexuality from Institute for Advanced Study of Human Sexuality as well as certificates in practical counselling, life coaching and sex therapy. She is available to provide sexuality and intimacy coaching for individuals and couples, conduct sexual education workshops and speak at public events in Asia. For more, visit www.eroscoaching.com.