Oct 19, 2018

In the No Part 2

In the year since accusations of sexual assault were first brought against Harvey Weinstein, our news has been flooded with stories of sexual misconduct, indicting very visible figures in our public life. Most of these cases have involved unequivocal breaches of consent, some of which have been criminal. But what have also emerged are conversations surrounding more difficult situations to parse ones that exist in a much grayer space. When we started our own reporting through this gray zone, we stumbled into a challenging conversation that we can’t stop thinking about. In this second episode of ‘In the No’, radio-maker Kaitlin Prest joins us for a conversation with Hanna Stotland, an educational consultant who specializes in crisis management. Her clients include students who have been expelled from school for sexual misconduct. In the aftermath, Hanna helps them reapply to school. While Hanna shares some of her more nuanced and confusing cases, we wrestle with questions of culpability, generational divides, and the utility of fear in changing our culture.

Advisory: This episode contains some graphic language and descriptions of very sensitive sexual situations, including discussions of sexual assault, consent and accountability, which may be very difficult for people to listen to. Visit The National Sexual Assault Hotline at online.rainn.org for resources and support. 

This episode was reported with help from Becca Bressler and Shima Oliaee, and produced with help from Rachael Cusick. 

Special thanks to Ben Burke and Jackson Prince.

Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate

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JAD ABUMRAD: Before we start, a quick heads-up. This episode contains some graphic language and descriptions of very sensitive sexual situations, including discussions of sexual consent and accountability which might be very difficult for some people to listen to.

 

[RADIOLAB INTRO]

 

JAD: Hey, I’m Jad Abumrad, this is Radiolab. Today we have part two of a three-part series that we’re calling In The No. No as in n-o. We were inspired to do this after hearing a set of stories on a show called The Heart produced by Kaitlin Prest. Last week we played excerpts of that series. And if you haven’t heard last week’s episode, I would encourage you to go back and listen. Because the stories that Kaitlin told, which got some very intense reactions from our listeners online, all over the map. However you feel, I mean those stories that she made are a very striking, personal view of consent from the inside. Now, it also just so happens that Kaitlin produced those stories in the spring of 2017, which was the spring just before all the accusations started hitting the news. First against Harvey Weinstein, and then congressmen like Al Franken, actors like Kevin Spacey, and then comedians. And then in many cases, the very people, the very men who were reporting about those stories.

 

JAD: And much of what made it into the news was pretty clear cut. Like, criminal cases, or accusations of clear breaches of consent. But then we started to hear about the cases that were harder. Not explicitly criminal, more nuanced. And that gray zone, which Kaitlin was -- was in many ways exploring in her piece, it occurred to us, like, this is a conversation we’re all trying to have right now. So what we started doing in the wake of listening to her stories was doing a series of interviews of our own with people all over the map who are thinking and re-thinking consent in interesting ways. We’ll play a couple over the next two weeks. But we ran into one particular interview.

 

JAD: Let's see if it’s working. Kaitlin are you there?

 

KAITLIN PREST: Yes I’m here.

 

JAD: Hey, hey, I did it!

 

KAITLIN: You did it!

 

JAD: That we could not stop thinking about. In fact, it created a lot of really difficult conversations internally. And we -- so we just kind of decided why don't play this thing relatively raw? Which we don’t do very often, but let’s just put it out more or less how it happened, in all of its flaws.

 

JAD: Kaitlin, Kaitlin? Can you hear Hannah?

 

HANNA STOTLAND: Yes--it’s Hanna.

 

JAD: Hanna. Okay, sorry.

 

KAITLIN: Yeah.

 

JAD: Kaitlin, could you hear Hanna?

 

HANNA STOTLAND: I’m speaking, can you hear me?

 

KAITLIN: Yes I can hear you.

 

JAD: Okay, sweet. Thanks for coming in, both of you guys.

 

HANNA STOTLAND: Thank you. Really glad to be here.

 

JAD: Okay, since I’ve already pronounced your name incorrectly, can you tell me who you are and how to say your name and what you do?

 

HANNA STOTLAND: Sure. My name is Hanna Stotland. I’m an independent consultant. I work on -- sorry, I’m an independent educational consultant, and I specialize in educational crisis management.

 

JAD:  And we called up Hanna because she has a very particular vantage point on this whole set of questions.

 

HANNA STOTLAND: When I see an unfamiliar number from a distant area code on my phone, if I can I pick that up. And it happens quite regularly that I pick it up and I just hear sobbing.

 

JAD: Hmm.

 

HANNA STOTLAND: That’s a mom whose kid just got expelled. So that happens regularly.

 

JAD: Like daily, weekly?

 

HANNA STOTLAND: More like once or twice a month.

 

JAD: Often the calls are coming from moms whose sons have been accused of some kind of sexual misconduct.

 

HANNA STOTLAND: I got my first two calls on that topic in January of 2014. And since then it’s grown and grown and grown. And about a third of my work now is students who are involved with Title IX in one way or another.

 

JAD: Title IX is a federal law that deals with, among other things, sexual harassment, sexual violence on college campuses. What Hanna will do when she gets these calls, is she’ll work with these young men who’ve been accused to get them back into school. Either the school they were in, but more often it means transferring to a different school.

 

HANNA STOTLAND: So families hire me to help their kids get into college or grad school, usually. I think it is a good thing when people in general, even people who may have done something very bad, who want education, can continue to get education as long as they’re seeking it honestly.

 

JAD: But what if you -- but what if you're then just deferring the problem to some other campus? Let’s say there’s a guy who -- that’s victimized somebody.

 

HANNA STOTLAND: Mm-hmm.

 

JAD: And you help them get to another college where maybe they do it again?

 

HANNA STOTLAND: Well, they’d -- they'd be in the community one way or another. And I think this is an area where I see a lot of problems with classism and probably racism too. Where we’re so concerned about that accused person being on another college campus, if he isn’t on a college campus, where do you think he’s gonna be?

 

HANNA STOTLAND: Because he’s not going to jail. The students that we’re talking about, typically the police don’t even get called, but if they do, they come and see the evidence and say, "This evidence is so thin, you know, we’re not even gonna impose charges." So say, you know, okay well, he’s not going to college anymore, he’s gonna work at McDonald’s. And so if there’s a risk to the fellow people at McDonald’s then we just don’t care. Because they're not the upper middle-class white women who we’re actually worried about ...

 

JAD: Oh, interesting.

 

HANNA STOTLAND: ... on the college campuses. And I have misgivings about the idea that -- that college students are special. Need -- that community needs special attention that other young adults don’t need.

 

KAITLIN: So you’re -- just so that I know that I have your point of view -- that I understand it, it’s that you don’t -- it’s not that you don’t think that some people should be expelled, sometimes.

 

HANNA STOTLAND: Oh yeah. Oh sure they should.

 

KAITLIN: It’s more that -- yeah, okay.

 

HANNA STOTLAND: But I feel very comfortable with the idea that people who want to continue their education ought to be able to make their case for why they want to continue it. What I do is help them talk about what happened. So if you’re interested in covering it up or hiding it, there’s no reason to hire me.

 

JAD: Mm-hmm.

 

HANNA STOTLAND: I help you have that hard conversation or write that difficult essay about what went wrong. Even if you feel you were wrongly accused, you were railroaded by the school, you better find unwise choices that you made, selfish choices that you made. There are not a lot of these cases where I think, "Wow, you handled everything perfectly. You didn’t make any risk-preferring choices. There’s nothing you could change to keep this from happening to you in the future." You still have to tell a story about mistakes that you made and how you’re working to fix them.

 

KAITLIN: How does that go? I mean, do you find that people will maintain that -- like, will they sort of hold onto the idea that they did have consent even if the other person says that they didn’t?

 

HANNA STOTLAND: Oh certainly, and I’m not trying to change ...

 

KAITLIN: Or do you find that people will ...

 

HANNA STOTLAND: I’m not necessarily trying to change their mind about whether they had consent. I mean they were there and I was not.

 

JAD: That’s interesting. Do you see, in a scenario where you have both sides of the story, what’s the usual difference?

 

HANNA STOTLAND: It depends. There’s a few cases where the stories just are incompatible. But there are -- most of my cases, the dispute is narrow. Everybody agrees that the encounter was generally consensual, but either the consent to all of it was withdrawn or -- you know, according to the accuser. Or there was consents to acts A and B but not C.

 

JAD: Hmm.

 

HANNA STOTLAND: And C just happened before they knew it, and there wasn’t a conversation about it. And that one party feels that C was a rape. Or that, no I agree I acted like I wanted this the whole time and maybe even I said yes, but in retrospect I was too drunk or high, and that -- that consent was no good. It nullifies the consent.

 

JAD: At this point in the conversation, we talked a little bit about, like, the different kinds of consent and what works. Like, affirmative consent where it’s about clear permission -- often verbal permission -- that can be withdrawn at any time. Which Hanna says she is all for, a thousand percent.

 

HANNA STOTLAND: The question is, if you don’t do it, is it rape? And that’s the dichotomy that I object to, or am a skeptic about, I should say. I mean if -- again, if people can show me that this works, then I’m interested.

 

KAITLIN: But when you say -- if -- I guess that’s the thing. When you say if people can show me if this works ...

 

HANNA STOTLAND: Mm-hmm.

 

KAITLIN: Can you sort of unpack what you mean by that? Like, it seems so clear to me that it does work. I don’t know, just based off of my own experience. So I’m just sort of curious.

 

HANNA STOTLAND: Yeah. Let me tell you a few stories. There’s a couple that I can give more identifying information about, because the case is in litigation now, and so that’s on the pubic record. And the fact that I’m involved in the case is on the public record, so I can say a few more things.

 

HANNA STOTLAND: So I have a student. He and a girl were in his room after a party. They didn’t know each other well. He touched her private parts, and there was vaginal penetration with his fingers. Both parties agree that he asked for and got affirmative verbal consent. He said, "Do you like this?" And she said, "Yes," and she faked an orgasm. Both parties are telling the exact same story. And he was found responsible for sexual assault because she said, "I didn’t mean it. I said yes I was enjoying it in order to get it over with faster."

 

JAD: Hmm.

 

HANNA STOTLAND: "I wanted a graceful way to leave his room, and I thought making him think I was having an orgasm would help me get out of there more gracefully without being rude." And he was suspended for two-and-a-half years.

 

KAITLIN: I’ll let you finish -- I'll let you finish and then I’ll say what I think. I'm just -- or I’ll just pose my -- my -- yeah. Go ahead.

 

HANNA STOTLAND: That’s -- that's what I’m seeing in practice. You know, it’s -- it's other cases that I’ve seen is someone who -- basic -- my student is a big Black guy. You know, well over six feet tall, a lot of muscles, he’s an athlete. And it’s undisputed that he and the accuser were in her dorm room together to hook up. They took off all their clothes, and she touched his genitals and performed oral sex on him. And she said that she did that because she was fearful once they were both naked. And she felt that -- that the situation was so overwhelming that she had to reach out and touch him, and then reach out and use her mouth on him. And the -- the school decided in that situation that the only thing that had gone wrong was that there wasn’t a verbal confirmation. And so, if you go in somebody’s dorm room and you take -- and both of you take off your clothes, and she touches you and places your penis in her mouth when you’re not speaking, she has not conveyed consent.

 

JAD: Hmm.

 

HANNA STOTLAND: Which I think most of us would feel ...

 

KAITLIN: Yeah. I guess from my -- from my point of view, like, the rules are set up in a way that kind of protect the person who feels violated. Like it -- like, I guess to me ...

 

HANNA STOTLAND: I agree. They're set up to protect the person who feels violated.

 

KAITLIN: There's a difference between -- like, I mean there's a -- sorry?

 

HANNA STOTLAND: Well, we’re not supposed to be concerned about who feels violated. We’re supposed to be concerned about who *was* violated.

 

KAITLIN: Yeah. But I mean, I guess the person who was violated -- I mean if they feel violated, then I would argue that they are -- that they were violated.

 

HANNA STOTLAND: So if they feel violated ...

 

KAITLIN: What I’m saying is that, like, I think that having affirmative consent be a rule that’s -- that’s followed and taken seriously when it comes to, like, legal stuff, it just -- it protects that ambiguity, you know? It favors the ...

 

HANNA STOTLAND: So you -- so you think that people should go to jail for not getting the verbal yes?

 

KAITLIN: Well I mean, I think it's legally complicated.

 

HANNA STOTLAND: What?

 

KAITLIN: I think it’s complicated. But I think that it -- it makes it so that the person who was violated, feels violated, is the one who’s always protected, and who’s the one who’s always in the right. And I think that that’s a good thing.

 

HANNA STOTLAND: Yeah, I don’t agree with you about that.

 

KAITLIN: Do you know what I mean?

 

HANNA STOTLAND: I don’t think they’re always in the right. I don’t think they’re always in the right.

 

KAITLIN: I don’t think they’re always in the right, but I think that it’s safer to assume that they’re always in the right, you know? There's gonna be a very small margin of people who are not, but I feel like it’s important to -- that’s just my point of view.

 

HANNA STOTLAND: Well first of all, how do we know how small that margin is? I don’t know how small it is. I mean, I’m thinking to various -- various encounters that my students have had. For example, where they both agree that they were having consensual intercourse, and they both agree that the consent was withdrawn during the intercourse and that the intercourse stopped. The dispute is about how rapidly it stopped.

 

JAD: Hmm.

 

HANNA STOTLAND: And so -- and there isn’t -- you know, in that case, I just -- I just hesitate to say -- and again it seems clear on paper the absolutes of that. Well, you control your body. The second you convey, for example, start to cry during sex. All right, well then, okay, I would assume non-verbally that this should stop or, you know, we should make sure. And it did stop. But, you know, did that take two seconds, five seconds, 30 seconds? And that, from the moment of -- there’s -- the other problem is there’s no -- you know, what should you reasonably be aware of. And I’m very uncomfortable with the idea that person A’s feelings determine whether person B’s behavior was rape or not. Because ...

 

KAITLIN: Well, we’re not always calling it rape. I mean sometimes, it’s not called rape. It’s called sexual assault, you know? Sexual assault, I feel like that’s a really important distinction. That, like, the terms -- even sexual assault is not -- is not adequate, you know? Because there are so many different gradations.

 

HANNA STOTLAND: Yeah. Absolutely.

 

KAITLIN: But I don’t think -- I don’t think -- like, I don’t think -- I personally, I do think that if someone -- someone’s feelings should determine whether person B has assaulted them, you know? Like, I think -- even thinking about, like, when someone cries in the middle of sex, you know? Talking about -- talking about is it five seconds, is it 10 seconds, is it 30 seconds? Like, what are all the things that happened leading up to that moment?

 

HANNA STOTLAND: Well, because he -- he disputes -- he says, "I stopped as soon as I realized she was crying."

 

KAITLIN: Yeah. And she says ...

 

HANNA STOTLAND: But she says, "I was crying for, like, 25 seconds, let’s say. 30 seconds. And so that period between when I started crying and when he realized I was crying.

 

KAITLIN: But even, like ...

 

HANNA STOTLAND: Or when he says he realized he was crying.

 

KAITLIN: But I feel like to me, when I hear a story like that, I think that there was actually a lot of other -- there were probably a lot of other things leading up to that moment that were not perceived, you know? Or that the reason why she’s coming forward and saying that this was an assault, this was a violation, there’s probably a lot -- there’s a much -- an unseen architecture to that -- to that story that is really complicated, I guess. Like, I don’t think that someone would just come out and be like, "I cried for 30 seconds and then you didn’t stop." Like, it’s probably a lot -- it runs much deeper than that. There was something -- there's something unnameable happening in that room, and she sort of hinges that unnameable feeling of violation on this moment.

 

HANNA STOTLAND: Oh, I agree that they feel violated.

 

KAITLIN: It seems trivial when you talk about it out loud, but she’s trying to say something was not right here, you know?

 

HANNA STOTLAND: I agree.

 

KAITLIN: Yeah. Yeah.

 

HANNA STOTLAND: So I very much agree ...

 

KAITLIN: Anyway, it’s just complicated. I’m sort of just trying to get into the complicated area of it.

 

HANNA STOTLAND: Right. I think that area we agree on a whole lot. That -- I don’t dispute at all. I -- even in my cases where I have the most doubt about what happened, I don’t dispute that the accuser feels violated. I think -- I think that’s true. They usually convince me ...

 

KAITLIN: But why is it not true that if she feels violated, she is violated?

 

HANNA STOTLAND: Because there’s all kinds of reasons besides being sexually assaulted that a person might feel violated. I mean, I’ll talk about one instance for myself. You know, the people who have broken my heart. When I was in love with people. And you know, there was a breakup where I got treated like dirt. When we were in love and, like, knew each other’s families and all of that. And then, you know, basically ghosted me and then dumped me on a phone call 10 months in. I felt extremely violated. I can’t put into words how bad he made me feel. You know, and --and how it colored my memory of every interaction we’d had for 10 months. And Christmas together with my family in Hawaii, you know? And -- and calling into question, did -- was he lying to me then? I feel very violated by his actions. It’s probably not a word I would have come up with, but I feel unbelievably -- you know, I’m happy and married now, it’s all good. You know, I should not have ended up with him. But especially at the -- I mean, that -- that was an experience that permanently changed me. I’m not the same person I was before that heartbreak.

 

HANNA STOTLAND: He didn’t sexually assault me. You know, it was awful what he did. And it just makes sense to me that people could be unbelievably, deeply hurt by all kinds of behavior that isn’t sexual assault.

 

KAITLIN: I can see that. I can see -- I can see that, but I guess I feel like, you know, what we’re doing right now is working against history, you know? Like, I think that we’re trying to make progress on this issue of sexual assault, and the much larger issue of the -- the imbalance of power as it is distributed between the genders. Like, can you ever really, as a woman -- and this is -- I don’t know if I fully agree with what I’m about to say, but it’s just -- I’m just posing it as a philosophical question. You know, if you’re -- if you're taught from birth to define your pleasure based on someone else and someone else's pleasure, how can you even know what you want or don’t want in those private moments, you know? And, like, how do we restore that balance, you know?

 

HANNA STOTLAND: Yeah, I think a lot of what you’re describing is a, what I’m seeing as a generational divide in feminism. I don’t know how old you are. I’m 42.

 

KAITLIN: Yeah. I’m 30, yeah.

 

HANNA STOTLAND: Yeah. Women who are my age and older, I find tend to agree with me. And the women who are -- are college-age or in their 20s now, often don’t. And the disconnect stems, I feel like when you were describing how, because of societal pressures and training from birth and all that, when a man was naked in my room I could not do anything but give him a blow job. I could not say no. And I would say you did not say no. And there may be situations where we agree that this is a "can’t" situation. But I don’t see that as positive for my feminism to say well, the woman is just helpless there. She has no agency. They put her in a pink dress, so now she has to give a blow job.

 

KAITLIN: Yeah. I understand that. And I think that’s a really important point of view, but I also -- I guess people have done research about the fact that, like, young girls define how good sex was based on how much they perceive the other person enjoying it. And -- and even something as simple as that creates a power dynamic. And I feel like I’m not really seeing the men in -- the men that I know, the young men that I know, I’m not seeing them understanding the power that they have, that’s really easy to -- to abuse, you know? Like, how do you fix that? That’s what it kind of all comes down to. And, like, there’s has to be -- there has to be some kind of consequences if we’re going to see it change.

 

[MUSIC IN]

 

JAD: We’re gonna take a quick break, and we'll come right back to this conversation between Kaitlin Prest, Hanna Stotland and myself in just a moment.

 

[AARON DAVIES: Hello, my name is Aaron Davies. I'm calling from Tempe, Arizona. Radiolab is supported in part by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, enhancing public understanding of science and technology in the modern world. More information about Sloan at www.sloan.org.]

 

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JAD: I’m Jad Abumrad. This is Radiolab. We’re back with the second episode in a three-part series that we’re doing inspired by, and in collaboration with Kaitlin Prest. It’s called In The No. And we’re gonna jump back into the conversation that Kaitlin and I were having in Hanna Stotland. But before we do, I wanna bring in some other voices because ...

 

JAD: As we were working on this series, I mean it really was an exploration for us. One of the things that happened along the way, is we convened some groups of college students in different spots across the country. Groups of college-aged men and women. I was with the men. My colleagues Becca Bressler and Shima Oliaee are with the women. We're gonna hear more from the women next week. I want to play you just a bit of the men, because when Hanna and Kaitlin and I were talking, it called to mind something that I heard a lot in these conversations.

 

MALE #1: You have to take a leap at some point. You have to take -- like, you’re talking to this person, you’re making eye contact, whatever. And, like, you can ask, like, "Can I kiss you?" And, like, they say yes. But, like, at the same time, sometimes you just go for it. And, like, that’s where it gets iffy because ...

 

MALE #2: I guess my question is whether, like, sacrificing that is what we need to do for no one to get raped, you know? Or no one to get raped in these non-super malicious scenarios. Like, maybe what we have to give up is just, you’re looking into her eyes, the sun is rising, you’re like, "Hello, would you -- like, can I record you on my cellphone of you saying you’re down to make out right now?" [laughter] You know? I mean, and as I say, you know, that’s something I guess I’m willing to give up if that’s what’s being asked, and if that actually solves the issue. But -- but I just think that we’re coming to a point where that might be the line.

 

JAD: By the way, the -- the thing he’s talking about, that is actually an app that exists. We talked to the guy who made it. But what he and other guys were saying was that they’re uneasy. They still feel somehow caught between those old, gendered expectation that it’s the man’s job to pursue, and the world that we’re in now which seems to not want that. But maybe not entirely not not want that? They’re not sure. And a lot of them worry that maybe they’ve already crossed a line without knowing it.

 

MALE #3: It’s--it’s always in the back of my mind. Like, I’ve hooked up with a girl that’s, like, instigated it. Like -- like while having sex, she decides that, like, she doesn’t want to do -- like, she’s gonna go home. Gets up, leaves. You know?

 

JAD: Okay.

 

MALE #3: Like, then what -- then if the next day she decides that, or she realizes that,

like, she didn’t want to do that maybe after the fact, then it’d just be my truth versus hers.

 

MALE #4: I’ve definitely hooked up with people where they were very drunk. It was the first time we’d hooked up. No one ever was like, "Oh, that was not okay," or anything. But in all those situations I guarantee you, based on myself, I was drunker than the person I was hooking up with. But because I’m a man, that could be -- retrospectively, that could’ve been sexual assault, you know? And that’s definitely the biggest question I’ve given myself post this thing is like, "Wow. Could it even be claimed?" Like, I don’t even think I sexually assaulted someone at all. I mean, and given that one, I asked, "Are you sure?" But that isn’t even enough, because let’s say alcohol -- you know, even if you get a vocal consent, if there’s alcohol involved. So I guess that’s where it gets interest -- not interesting. Not to make it cold, but yeah.

 

MALE #5: No matter what though, even if -- even if it did end up that you did make a mistake, and someone's like, "That wasn't okay what you did to me last night," or something, right? Say you’re sorry. Be like, "Yo, I really need to understand that," you know? And like, you learn. Like, we don’t have to be -- I don’t think, like -- be free. Be a good person.

 

MALE #6: I understand that. But if somebody says like, "You sexually assaulted me," and if it’s a situation like you’re talking about where you both have been drunk and you say, "I’m sorry," is that not -- I would be scared to say that because ...

 

MALE #5: Scared to say what, "I’m sorry?"

 

MALE #6: "I’m sorry." Because that’s like you’re admitting you’re guilty, even if you don’t think you are. If you try to engage in a conversation like that.

 

MALE #5: So maybe just, like, you don’t say "I’m sorry." You say like, "Oh, my God. Like, please explain to me, like, how I did that or, like, what happened. Because I was too drunk to even remember." Or like something ...

 

JAD: And after, you know, after having -- after -- after listening to these guys and then having this conversation with Kaitlin and Hanna, I mean for -- for one, the things that they were afraid of were exactly the things that we were talking about. And two, I started to think about the fear, that sort of ambient fear that was always in the room, in sort of a different way.

 

JAD: But couldn’t you argue there’s something useful about the fear, because that fear might push these guys to address exactly what Kaitlin was just saying? It might push the guys to -- you know, what I hear over and over again when I talk to -- when I talk to students is that the women in a -- in a sexual encounter are thinking about 12 things, and the guys are thinking about one thing. Which is themselves, right? They’re just --they’re not reading the room. They’re not reading their partner. What’s gonna change that if not fear? Like, the fear that these guys feel right now could actually make them start to pay attention, make us, I should say, start to pay attention.

 

HANNA STOTLAND: Yes, it might. I certainly think of my essay writing support as a form of education. Coaching how a student should handle a tough situation. I’m not sure that making the consequence really bad is what makes it more likely that the behavior will change.

 

KAITLIN: Hmm.

 

HANNA STOTLAND: But I would love to see young men encouraged to go through the kind of analysis of their actions that mine do with me. And it's -- I think it’s a really positive process for them. And I see what looks to me to like greater insight.

 

JAD: Hmm. Can I -- I want to bring it back to the moment itself, because a lot of what we’re talking about on a macro level still has to be negotiated in these moments, right? And you’ve talked about the idea of -- of we need a reasonableness standard for -- for the consensual moment. So what does that mean to you?

 

HANNA STOTLAND: So to me it means that communication needs to be in a shared language. You know, if someone says to me in Russian, that doesn’t feel good. I just don’t speak that. So is it reasonable to expect me to understand what this person was conveying in a language that I don’t speak? Like, I would consider crying to be a universal language. Now, if it’s dark and you’re not touching the person’s face, whatever, you might not realize immediately that they are crying without -- you know, it’s not wah-wah type crying. It’s just -- it’s tears and -- and emotion and clenched throat and all that. How rapidly is it reasonable to expect that you perceive that communication -- which it is communication. And if you could see the person’s face, then I’d say it’s a very unambiguous communication. Is it reasonable to think it might take you a minute to realize that this -- my partner’s feelings are totally changed. So there’s -- there's a spectrum between saying, "No, no, no, stop!" and expecting somebody to read your mind, right? There’s a million different ways to convey that with different levels of urgency and clarity. And I just think we should -- we should take into account what can we reasonably expect him in this scenario to realize about her changed frame of mind?

 

JAD: Kaitlin what do you think?

 

KAITLIN: For me, I think a step forward is just being aware of the power dynamics that are happening in sex, talking about them explicitly, understanding what they are, understanding the ways that they’re fun, the ways that they’re pleasurable, and -- and being really open about those things. And I think that it, like, it all comes back to communication. I mean, like, I really liked what you said, Hanna, about the languages, you know? Figuring out how to speak each other's languages, figuring out trust, and also just like having there be less of a stigma around conversations -- explicit, open, totally shameless conversations about sexuality would bring us forward in massive, massive leaps around this stuff. And also just that, like, I mean, I think the thing that I’m not seeing that I wish I did see was just giving a shit, you know? Like, caring. Like having -- you know, when somebody says, you know, hey that experience sucked for me, having the other person be like, wow, let’s talk about it. Are you OK? You know? Like, I feel like so many situations would be -- would be solved if that was the dynamic, as opposed to what are you talking about? Like the gaslighting, all that stuff.

 

JAD: Yeah, totally.

 

HANNA STOTLAND: And this connects to the work I do with some of the students. When I say, "So what do you regret?" And sometimes they’re not sure. They’re like, "I really didn’t attack her." And I said, "But do you regret -- is it ever your goal to get into your bed with someone and have them walking away going, "Oh, I’m glad that’s over!" And the guys are like, "No, I don’t want that!" And I was like, "Well, that’s what you got."

 

JAD: Hmm.

 

HANNA STOTLAND: And we can dispute -- we can dispute whether it was an assault or not. It is objectively the case that this person had a bad experience with you. Everybody agrees on that.

 

JAD: Yeah.

 

HANNA STOTLAND: And if that wasn’t what you wanted to happen, then you probably have regret about that. "I should've done something differently so it didn’t come out that way." I’m not telling them what they ought to want sexually, but I do tell them to consider what they want sexually. It is -- It is not -- I want to preface this by saying I’m not saying that the training of men and women is symmetrical. It’s not. But that some of them may realize -- some of the men may realize, "You know what? I was told that men are supposed to like any -- any kind of sexual contact we can get from anyone, anywhere. We’re supposed to be happy about that. And is that actually what I want? Or is that what people expect me to want? And maybe I would prefer more of a, you know, loving, gentle kind of relationship. Maybe I’m a man, and that kind of model would actually work better for me than this conquest model."

 

JAD: That’s interesting, because I mean what I hear a lot coming out of the MeToo movement is that I hear a lot of women saying, "Guys, you need to do the work, okay? Like, this is -- this largely your work to do right now." And I hadn’t expected to hear you talking about what you do as in some sense being a part of that. Like, you are actually, it seems, involved in some of the guys doing the work. I mean, like how to do the work is its own sort of can of worms. Like, who -- which is something we haven’t really talked too much about, but it is interesting to hear that. I wasn’t expecting that to be the case.

 

HANNA STOTLAND: And in a sense that it’s not necessarily my goal, but it may be necessary in order to achieve my goal, which is to help you advocate for your education. You can’t do that effectively unless you’ve been thoughtful about your past.

 

JAD: Hmm.

 

HANNA STOTLAND: And my, my thesis is gray. Help the kids see the gray. And you know, this is -- this is not a binary world we live in in terms of gender, in terms of communication. And to some extent, I feel like we have to work with the complexity of what’s in front of us, even if we wish it were black and white and that would make our job a lot easier.

 

JAD: Yeah. Kaitlin any final thoughts?

 

KAITLIN: Amen, no. I don’t think so. I guess yeah, this has been really great combo. Loved it.

 

JAD: I want to thank Kaitlin Prest and Hanna Stotland for sitting down to talk. A few notes before we close. If you have experienced sexual assault, there are resources out there to support you. And the national Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE, that is 1-800-656-4673, can provide support and connect you to resources in your local area.

 

JAD: And also, one thing I do want to add is that this conversation, the reason we aired it without a ton of edits and amendments, is that this was not meant to be a comprehensive take on anything. This is one small piece of a much larger conversation. If anything, this was simply an attempt to hold a space for that continuing conversation, a space where we can talk about this stuff. Which we’re going to continue to do next week. And next week we’ll end up in a place where that conversation happens very explicitly and very differently, for better or for worse.

 

In this episode we had production help from Rachel Cusick, research and reporting help from Becca Bressler and Shima Oliaee. I’m Jad Abumrad, thanks for listening.

 

ANSWERING MACHINE: To play the message, press 2. Start of message.

 

KAITLIN: Hi, I'm Kaitlin. It's Kaitlin. Hello. Radiolab was created by Jad Abumrad, and is produced by Soren Wheeler. Dylan Keefe is our director of sound design. Maria -- Maria -- Maria Natasha Padilla is our managing director. Our staff includes Simon Adler, Becca Bressler, Rachel Cusick, David Gebel, Bethel Habte -- Bethel Habte. Oh, guys! Tracie Hunte, Matt Kielty, Robert Krulwich, Annie McEwen, Latif Nasser - Nasser -- Nasser, Malissa O'Donnell, Arianne Wack, Pat Walters and Molly Webster. With help from Shima Oliaee, Katz Laszlo, and Mo Asebiomo. Our fact-checker is Michelle Harris. The end.

 

ANSWERING MACHINE: End of message.



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