There’s been much discussion around the need for consent when engaging in a sexual act, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t apply to a situation that isn’t necessarily sexual in nature. And never was that made clearer than in the interaction between two women in a New Orleans bar earlier this month.
A video posted to social media by Tyler Gamble, a tourist visiting the Spirits on Bourbon bar in New Orleans, shows a server angrily reacting to a female patron who slapped her on her behind. Immediately after being spanked, the server turned around and responded by slapping the woman in the face. She can be heard saying, “What’s wrong with you?”
Despite the patron’s surprised expression at the server’s reaction, the commenters on Gamble’s post resoundingly side with the server, pointing out that the woman had no right to inappropriately touch her.
It’s the unconventional nature of this situation — that it’s a woman inappropriately touching another woman, seemingly without sexual intent — that makes it so poignant.
“We’re not quite used to having it go the other way,” says Jennifer Drummond, co-ordinator for the Sexual Assault Resource Centre at Concordia University in Montreal. “When we think of consent and sexual assault or violence, we think of a man being the perpetrator. This video falls outside of the narrative that we’re so used to understanding.”
But that doesn’t strip it of underlying context that points to power, class and privilege struggles — all of which are prevalent factors in sexual assault.
“There are other layers happening here that have to do with how that woman views servers — there may be some class issues. The fact that she feels able to do something that’s disrespectful and that she thinks this server’s body is available to her, that’s a case of exert power over another person.”
The point, Drummond says, is that it doesn’t matter how innocent or benign your intentions may be, you should always respect a person’s body and space, and consider the impact your actions could have.
“Read a person’s body language and cues, and always ask before interacting with a person’s body,” she says. “It doesn’t matter what gender you are or what your sexual orientation is, you should never engage in behaviours of this nature without consent.”
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