Actress Gabrielle Union is a sexual assault survivor who chose to portray a rape victim in Nate Parker’s The Birth of a Nation.
So when she learned about the rape allegations against her director, she chose to speak out through an op-ed in the L.A. Times — not by asking for a boycott of the film but by pushing the idea of affirmative consent as a new standard for sexuality.
As important and ground-breaking as this film is, I cannot take these allegations lightly. On that night, 17-odd years ago, did Nate have his date’s consent? It’s very possible he thought he did. Yet by his own admission he did not have verbal affirmation; and even if she never said “no,” silence certainly does not equal “yes.” Although it’s often difficult to read and understand body language, the fact that some individuals interpret the absence of a “no” as a “yes” is problematic at least, criminal at worst. That’s why education on this issue is so vital.
She continues by addressing the way that she and her husband are teaching their sons: “We explain that the onus is on them to explicitly ask if their partner consents. And we tell them that a shrug or a smile or a sigh won’t suffice. They have to hear ‘yes.'”
It’s really that simple, folks.