This will be my final analysis of the book and Netflix series “13 Reasons Why,” and this will also serve as another blog post on dating, sex, and relationships, specifically on the “execution” part of it.
Now before I begin I must clarify: Bryce’s actions, given the surrounding context, in both the book and the series, are not legal and are indeed punishable. This post will address the context of why the things he does are illegal. But it will also provide circumstances where those actions could be permissible when escalating to sex. With all that said, it is now time to mention exactly what he does, and the context around each action.
Early on, he grabs Hannah’s behind, the only rapport built being that he had a 20 second conversation with her at a party that took place months before. So she’s pretty much a total stranger to him here. She doesn’t trust him, she barely knows him. That is at least physical assault.
At a party, he has sex with his buddy Justin’s girlfriend Jessica, after shoving Justin out of the room. She is drunk, unconscious, and has no idea what is going to happen to her. This is sexual assault.
And finally, he has sex with Hannah, after she resists. In the show, it is seen that he holds her down without her telling him that its alright to hold her down or showing any signs of physical comfort. That is also sexual assault.
Keep these actions in mind. I will be referring to them later. Allow me to now describe MY process of flirting, making moves, and making what I call “power” moves on the opposite sex, and more importantly, when is best to perform each. I will also compare rough sex and what I call “wake up sex” to rape, and describe the line that crosses that point.
Flirting, Moves, and Power Moves
Flirting is playful touching in an attempt to show physical interest, but also to gain rapport. A “two arm” hug (hugging someone face to face), running your hand through someone’s hair, playing with the accessories someone is wearing, brushing your hand on someone’s arm, and tickling is flirtatious. If the person you like acts playful right back, you have more than likely gained their rapport. If Bryce had replaced his ass grab with any of these, he would have been fine. One thing about flirting, or any of this stuff, you MUST be in a playful mood. Yes, there are some times where you can show romantic intent or aggression, but if you are not experienced (or, in Bryce’s case, have experience doing things the wrong way), err on the side of always being in a playful mood.
Making moves, to me, are not really what pop culture describes. This is also playful touching, but in these cases some rapport has already been developed and there is more romantic intent. These actions include kisses on the cheek (or a VERY short peck on the mouth), touching someone’s erogenous areas (while avoiding the private areas), a “one armed” hug (where you stand side by side with someone, you put your arm around the lower part of their midsection, and pull them into you, often followed up by a kiss on the cheek), touching a person’s face (with either your hands or your own face), pulling someone’s hair gently, or holding someone’s hand. Because he was confident and physically attractive, Bryce could have even replaced his ass grab with any of these and that would have been acceptable.
What I call Power Moves are what pop culture describes. While you don’t need any real consent to perform a power move, a fair amount of rapport MUST be developed beforehand. The other person MUST trust you to not hurt them. Power moves tell someone “I want sex.” Bryce’s ass grab is a power move. Going in for a long kiss is a power move. Grabbing someone’s private areas is a power move. Moving your hands through someone’s clothing is a power move.
Doing what I call the “HPK (Hug, Pull n’ Kiss)” is a major power move: I’ll give a woman a regular two arm hug, pull her against me with all my strength, grab her hips (which are more erogenous than her ass by the way), touch my forehead to hers, and go for a kiss. Women who I do this to get a nice rush from it (which arouses most), and it usually leads to sex if I do it in a location that I can have sex in. Its an easy way to get a woman on top of you while escalating to sex: Position yourself against the bed, pull the woman on top of you while you fall to the bed, and all of a sudden she is on top and feels in control.
Women who make moves generally don’t need to worry about backing off because most men are happy to have sex whenever they are horny. With men doing this stuff it’s way different. Women want a man to lead, be physical, and in most cases, be aggressive. But they always want to feel safe. When you back off from making a power move as a man, this generally lets a woman know that she is safe. It also makes things unpredictable, which women like as well. Backing off after a power move, as well as developing rapport and trust, is one way to decisively establish consent. If Bryce did this to Hannah, I feel like they could have had amazing sex.
Consent – What is it?
So now let’s talk about consent. Some say that consent can ONLY be a verbal statement: “yes, let’s have sex.” I believe that while that is true, I also believe that consent can also be expressed in body language. Also, to me rapport leads to trust which leads to consent, verbal or no. If you are worried about getting a rape charge before or after sex, all you need to do is ask yourself: Does this person trust me? Do they know I won’t hurt them? And during the act, look for body language. Is the other person tense? Are they shying away? Do they appear hesitant? Are they distressed? Never forget, always be cognizant. All you need to do is be aware of things. This isn’t hard to do if you have decent emotional IQ. Let’s go back to the two instances in Bryce’s sexual assault. Does he do any of this stuff? No, he doesn’t. All he knows is that he can have some easy sex with an unconscious girl (Jessica) and a vulnerable girl (Hannah). He acts like a caveman, but not at the right moment and certainly not in the right context.
If you have developed rapport and trust with someone you want to have sex with, and are STILL worried about the consent thing, don’t be afraid to back off, ask the person if they are alright, and there you go. This is not difficult. Doesn’t work out? Don’t get to have sex? Good. Move on to the next person. Stop acting out crush culture by thinking that this person is the last person you’ll ever have sex with. This kind of desperation is what leads to so much sexual assault in the first place. I’ve always seen sexual assault as an act of desperation from whoever performs it.
Rough/violent/”wake up” sex = Rape?
I’ve also considered rape and sexual assault as unwanted sex. The things that Bryce did are things that happened to me and are even things I did. The major difference is the trust levels, rapport levels, and the context. Having sex with someone who is unconscious is rape in some circumstances, but in others it is perfectly normal. Ask yourself: Does this person know me well enough to know that they will be alright with what I’m about to do? Or even better: If I was unconscious and this person wanted to have sex with me, would I be alright with it?
A few months ago, I shared my bed with a chick I met at my job. I passed out, and she woke me up by stroking my dick, which she then put in my mouth. I woke up and we had sex. But I wasn’t able to consent when I was asleep. So did she rape me? No, because I trusted her.
One woman I had sex with requested that I get her from behind and force her down while having sex with her. It was similar to what Bryce does to Hannah. Is that rape? No, it is rough sex. She requested that I force her down, and trusted me enough to be careful.
I was on a date with a woman who was really attracted to me. In public, we were making several power moves on each other, grabbing each others’ asses and almost making a contest out of it. We weren’t assaulting each other, because we were enjoying ourselves.
Now allow me to describe two events that happened to me that reflect what I think is legitimate sexual assault. Helping the recipients (I’m not calling them victims) of sexual assault is something I intend to do with this blog. I’m only going to paraphrase what happened here. I will talk about the specifics in later posts.
When I was 16, a childhood friend and I got drunk and started playing video games. Cool. He wanted to watch some porn. Alright, kinda weird, but whatever. He started pleasuring himself in front of me. Now he’s trying something, something that I don’t want to do. I knew I needed to get out of dodge, but it was the middle of the night. I go to the bathroom. After I come out, here he is with a knife. He then led me to his bed, where he had sex with me. He pleasured me after, but the damage was already done. I did not want to have sex and clearly said and acted that way. So that is sexual assault.
The next thing that happened was more recent. I had a friend with benefits who I was having regular sex with who was bisexual and in an open relationship. One night, her girlfriend, in a belligerent drunken rage, orders me to sit with her. She grabs my crotch, and demands that I make power moves on her even though I’m not really horny. We get to the point where she is on top of me and making these demands, with me reluctantly obliging. I yell to my friend with benefits to make her stop, and she responds “why don’t you do it? Just push her off of you.” This woman who was on top of me was a bigger woman and had an injury to boot. So it was difficult for me to just push her off of me without injuring her further. She eventually gives up. I didn’t want to do anything sexual that night. No penetration took place, but I was forced to commit sexual acts that I didn’t want to perform. So to me, that is sexual assault.
Again, I will go into the details of those events at a later post.
To conclude, the things that Bryce did in 13 Reasons Why are only seen as sexual assault when seen in the context where there is no rapport or trust. The things he did in and of themselves are only bad if they are unwanted. So if you want to make a power move like grabbing someone’s ass, or have rough sex, or “wake up” sex, you better be damn sure that you have rapport with the other person and that they trust you and are comfortable with you. I’m not saying to be wimpy and ask their permission (“can we have sex?”), but I am saying at least check up on someone you want to have sex with if you don’t know for sure if they want to have sex.