Monday, July 26, 2010

Woman doesn't consent, but jury finds consent anyway

**Trigger warning: Sexual assault**

A St. Louis Circuit Court jury decided against a woman who brought a lawsuit against the company responsible for a "Girls Gone Wild" video that she appeared in years ago without her knowledge. This woman claimed that she had not given consent to appear in the video.
A jury on Thursday rejected a young woman's claim that the producers of a "Girls Gone Wild" video damaged her reputation by showing her tank top being pulled down by another person in a Laclede's Landing bar.

A St. Louis Circuit Court jury deliberated 90 minutes before ruling against the woman, 26, on the third day of the trial. Lawyers on both sides argued the key issue was consent, with her side saying she absolutely refused to give it and the defense claiming she silently approved by taking part in the party.
The defense's argument about the woman's consent is absurd and makes the fact that this woman lost this lawsuit extremely troubling. It is classic victim-blaming to claim that because a woman made the decision to be in a certain situation that she also made the decision to be sexually assaulted by a franchise that clearly has some messed up ideas about consent (like it not being necessary at all, or is ok if it includes pressure). It's shocking to me that this held up in court.
But Patrick O'Brien, the jury foreman, told a reporter later that an 11-member majority decided that Doe had in effect consented by being in the bar and dancing for the photographer. In a trial such as this one, agreement by nine of 12 jurors is enough for a verdict.

"Through her actions, she gave implied consent," O'Brien said. "She was really playing to the camera. She knew what she was doing."
And she knew she had not given any kind of acceptable consent to have her top pulled down or to appear in a video.



Anonymous said...

Mr. O'Brien and 10 of his colleagues decided that the 26-year old woman is a criminal. He also happens to be a fool with a sprinkle of reductive reasoning on top.

If you look at the reasoning behind his explanation, he mentions that she gave her consent simply by attending the party and "dancing" for the photographer (which could mean anything from full show to simply acknowledging the photographer's presence - and I'm inclined to believe the latter, here). To say that she is, therefore, responsible for the actions of others that all sides have agreed are not party to either plaintiff or defense is ludicrous - but this legal standard is only permissible in sexual assault cases (mostly involving women as the primary victim). This even if the actors involve harm the defendant, as was the case here.

Second, silent or implied consent is only required if there is a "reasonable expectation" based on the situation. And it has to be reasonable to a "lay person" (ie, someone off the street who happens upon this). For anyone to believe that getting physically and sexually assaulted is a reasonable expectation because the woman was dancing in a public venue shows not only Rape Culture in all of its disgusting splendor, but just how far the depravity goes.


Victoria said...

Eck- I am so glad you highlighted this, Amelia. Hopefully ensuing uproar will prevent this kind of crap from happening again.

Amelia said...

Yeah, this outcome was decided when I had no access to a computer, so it's a bit late, but I was shocked when I read about it. But I suppose I shouldn't have been because the concept of consent is always so troubling in the eyes of many people (and has for years been troublesome in the eyes of Girls Gone Wild).

Those of us concerned about this misunderstanding about the idea of consent still need to work on how to communicate that idea in a way that sticks with people. I guess that would start with getting people to believe that women are, in fact, human beings with rights that deserve to be respected and can't be treated any way men/people in power choose.