Podcast “The Heart” Illuminating Mini-Series Called “No”

Audio is the new medium. Podcasts and audiobooks allow us to stay informed on news, politics, sports, comedy, and entertainment while on the go. For this reason, the podcast boom is in full swing with many companies such as Radiolab, Radiotopia, and Earwolf focusing largely on producing high-quality podcast series.

 

I recently stumbled upon a podcast by Radiotopia called “The Heart.” This podcast is hosted by Kaitlin Prest and is self-described as “an audio art project and podcast about intimacy and humanity.” (Prest) In this podcast, Prest and her team tackle topics ranging from leisure to social justice. In one of her recent mini-series called “No,” Prest emphasizes the importance of consent and its role in today's society.

 

No begins with an advance…an unwanted advance that is common among women, particularly young girls. Prest describes the confusion she felt and how she was uncertain of what was appropriate and how she should feel about the male attention she was receiving. Attention is good, right? Aren’t women taught that from an early age?

 

couple in love

Prest continues to examine past sexual experiences and discusses how consent was a grey line for her which influenced her relationships. One relationship the mini-series strongly focuses on is her friendship with Jay. Prest and Jay had been friends for 8 years before anything happened between them. One day, when that line was crossed, Prest made it clear that she was okay with making out but didn’t want things to go further, yet they did.

 

The ways that conversations about consent are approached are two-dimensional, institutional, sterilized. Consent is saying yes, not merely the absence of a no. There is a tendency to dehumanize sexual experiences in discussing consent. Of course, this is done with the greatest intention to protect would-be victims and educate would-be perpetrators. But this definition of consent fails to capture the details that make humans and human relationships so complex.

 

What is so refreshing about “No” and what makes it different from academic conversations about consent is the ambiguity that is embraced by Prest. She talks about how, physiologically, her body was responding to the situation she was in, but emotionally she wasn’t comfortable with what was happening; a phenomenon familiar to so many individuals. Prest acknowledges having romantic feelings toward Jay but she also vocalizes wanting to take things slowly and the way that request was overlooked. Furthermore, none of Prest’s sexual experiences meet the stereotypical encounter that would be referred to as “sexual assault," yet Prest found herself in a sexual situation she was uncomfortable with after vocalizing that discomfort.

 

As the series continues and Prest examines more sexual encounters, her own and those of other women. It seems that men have been taught that they need to obtain consent, but also that if they push hard enough, consent can be coerced.

 

The power dynamic in most heterosexual couples creates an opportunity for consent persuasion. Women are socialized to please, to comfort, to seek approval. Men are socialized to be confident, independent, and persistent. The way that society genders so many character traits are, of course, influential in sexual relationships and Prest examines the negative consequences this has on women in those sexual relationships.

Man and Woman Sitting on Sidewalk

My favorite part of the series was when Prest did something I don’t think I have ever heard anyone do in discussing consent, she interviewed the perpetrators. She asked men to describe a time when they pushed a woman past a place, she was comfortable with and what their feelings were in doing so. She even interviews Jay and talks about the fated night that ended their 8-year friendship.

 

"No" exposes the weaknesses in consent education and power dynamics of all kinds. Ultimately, it is the duty of the dominant figure within a relationship to listen, but the victim also should advocate. Men need to enter sexual encounters selflessly. There is never an excuse to push someone past a point they are comfortable with, and if an individual has expressed not wanting to engage in sexual activity, then doing so is taking advantage. Women need to better advocate for their wants, needs and, most importantly, their safety.

 

Credit: Cover, 1, 2