Sexual assault – defining consent, round 2

“Feminazi”, “President, Bitch of the Year Club” and “you dog-faced slut” – these are among the monikers I collected during my three-year stint as an out-feminist columnist with the Vancouver Sun. Most of the insults came from readers, but occasionally a columnist from another paper – or even my own – would be so stuck for meaningful material that he (and yes, I’m afraid it was invariably a “he”) would devote his 24 inches to slagging my apparent failure to find sexism funny, or permit other people to just “have a good time”.

My skin thickened over those three years, and I really grew to appreciate that the attacks helped expose the ignorance behind them. Moreover, I had the opportunity each week to challenge the dismissive or insulting characterizations of me with words of my own.

Women who don’t have the luxury of a regular column often feel personally bruised by the sometimes personalized and gratuitous word-assaults still regularly leveled at those who defend a woman’s right to say no, even to her partner.

That’s why it was doubly gratifying yesterday to see Danielle Fostey and Heather Cassells, two legal interns with West Coast LEAF who benefited from some indirect Informed Opinions support, challenge the specious arguments Vancouver Sun columnist Ian Mulgrew made about sexual consent in his own paper. Mulgrew himself had been responding, in part, to the cogent analysis of a recent Supreme Court decision delivered by University of Ottawa law professor, Elizabeth Sheehy, who had actually intervened in the case. In his column, however, Mulgrew characterized Prof. Sheehy as “sneering” and accused her of being locked up in her ivory tower. Neither charge is remotely accurate, and betray lazy reporting and a willingness to stereotype.

For their parts, Danielle Fostey and Heather Cassells take apart the columnist’s arguments piece by piece, refuting his claims with concrete evidence, case law and common sense. It’s an illuminating read about a persistently troubling issue.

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Founder and Catalyst of Informed Opinions, and an award-winning author, educator and women’s advocate with more than 20 years of experience on both sides of the microphone. Since 2010, Shari has helped amplify the voices of thousands of women across Canada, supporting them in sharing their insights and analysis with a broader public. Her most recent book, OMG! What if I AM the right person? advances those goals.

One Response

  1. Anonymous

    Thank you for helping to get this analysis out. My husband sexually assaulted me in my sleep multiple times. I am still in therapy and I spent part of today feeling body memories, even though it was a couple of years ago. I do my best to work and parent while dealing with these challenges. What he did was the most horrific thing anyone has ever done to me – and I have been through many difficult challenges in my life. But to be assaulted by my own husband in my own bed while I was at my most vulnerable so he could do things he knew I wasn’t even okay with when awake….it is not something I ever could have, in any way, prepared myself for. Oh, and he knew what he was doing. He mocked me when I woke up, terrified. And this man is a white collar executive with advanced education. He looks like anyone else. He never hit me, but he found lots of other ways to be abusive – and sexual assault is a horrific kind of violence.

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