50 Shades of Consent

art by Josh Chambers

by Tony X Stanton

I was standing at the bar of what passes for my local, The Turf, when my mate Cris’ wife Amanda strode up followed closely by a very sober Cris. The Turf is an old fashioned type of bar. It doesn’t have a TV, there’s no free Wi-Fi, it doesn’t show sports events. It’s basically a bar where you go to socialize, get drunk or relax.

“It makes me ashamed to be a woman!” which was one helluva way to start a conversation when I hadn’t even had my first sip of my beer.  Amanda’s dreadlocks and piercings quivered with a quiet rage while Cris looked on alarmingly sober. I’d never seen her in such a serious mood or so quietly pissed off.  After asking a few questions I realized I was in the middle of a perfect storm and what could end up being a very unique time.

So let me first outline the scene for you: Consett, a small rural town in northern England, an ex-industrial steel town which still brings up its citizens to have a certain special type of mental isolation on a subconscious level.  The people of Consett are special, and the atmosphere of the town is something any student of life or people watcher finds infinitely amusing, at least for a few months until the very weight of the town and its people start to slowly gnaw away at you like a dog with a fresh bone.  The heavy drinking in Consett won’t kill you, the town itself will.

Its people have grown up for generations with a steel works spewing red dust everywhere that laid a blanket over everything, making white a rare color, imbuing all street signs with a lovely pink hue and its citizens with the long term effects of over a hundred years of heavy industry that was rarely a model of health and safety. Consett’s dirty little secret that many of its inhabitants are not aware of is that many places in the town have very high levels of asbestos, a nasty vile cancer causing menace, and many more heavy metals and pollutants in the soil that Consett children played in for generations with their parents mostly unaware of the danger.

I have vivid memories from when I was a child of hitting what I and my parents were unaware was a blue asbestos roof on our garage with a huge hammer I had ‘liberated’ from my dad’s tool box, soliciting a vast fog of dust which I happily breathed in.  A thought that still sends shivers down the hopefully far wiser version me even today.

When the steel works were torn down the land was polluted as fuck, like many industrial areas in which had long stood steel plants like great iron giants. Local politicians being what they are, and governments being what they are, all ignored the fact that this land was polluted and should be properly dealt with. Instead they simply skimmed the top off the main site and dumped some fresh top soil over it.  And there it sat as a toxic time bomb for 20 or so years.  As I type this they are building houses on the old site, on toxic ground with many of the old polluted tunnels only a short distance below the surface. Some young families have already moved in unaware of the danger and misled by both politicians and building companies.  One day there’s going be subsidence and a whole load of those houses are going to disappear down a great big fucking hole.  (Although given the long term effects of living in that area, that may well be the kindest thing).

So no…the hard drinking in Consett won’t kill you…smoking probably won’t kill you…but the town itself will.  The people of Consett live with the most dangerous killer of all, the town silently waiting its time to trim another person from the tree of life. To understand the gist of this article, that bit of background will prove very important as it establishes the mind-set of the people of Consett and the challenges many have had to face their entire lives.

So I was rather interested to see what the cause of Amanda’s displeasure was.   It turned out that, as it was the day before Valentines day, the film ‘50 Shades of Grey’ was being shown for the first time at the local cinema (an old style non-multiplex, although thankfully recently renovated to make it a bit nicer).  The place was packed with women of all ages from all over Consett come to see the vivid spectacle of ‘kinky bondage,’ oozing lady fluids all over the nice new seats.  They exited the film, in many cases baying with horniness like a bunch of wolfesses and headed straight into local bars serving cheap drinks and shots.

Over the course of the night I observed something that made me feel rather uncomfortable and forms the main ‘point’ of this article.  I saw numerous small groups of women, often in their late 50’s or early 60’s, like a pride of lionesses about to take down a zebra.  Only in this case the zebra was a late teenage/20-year-old young lad who like many young guys on a Friday night had had one too many to drink. They pounced on this young lad and his mate, sinking their horny teeth into him.  The poor bastards didn’t know what hit them before they are dragged out into a taxi heading to whatever abode awaited to be taken advantage of by these sex crazed lionesses and no doubt wake up the next morning hung over into orbit and struck with horror when they see what they had awoken next to.

What immediately struck me was the fact that if the sexes were reversed and this was a group of men taking advantage of a couple of very young, heavily drunken women this would be seen as unacceptable and they would end up in cells and in court so fast their feet wouldn’t touch the polluted ground.  But in a much similar way to their male vulture-like counterparts the lionesses would forget all that on Monday and return to work in the local cafe or bakery, hoping all the time they didn’t have a little bun of their own in the oven.

It often strikes me as odd that if a group of middle aged women go to a pop concert by one of the many young up and coming faceless talentless clones like Justin Bieber or One Direction and behave with depravity rarely seen since Sodom and Gomorrah it is seen as fine and healthy.  If, however, a group of men do the very same thing they are vilified for ogling young ladies and treated like the perverts society invariably thinks they are. So what is equality, and is it ever truly possible for there to be a balance and equal standards for both sexes? I don’t have the answer. All I have are the questions that bug me.

What is ‘consent’ and why does it seem to be far more variable when it is women doing the exact same thing that men are vilified for (quite rightly vilified I may add)?  Why is it seen as socially acceptable for a group of old women who have came out of a glorified advert for the sex shop industry to take advantage of young men?  Are you at this moment thinking ‘Well they should have had less to drink! its their own fault!’?  Now switch the sexes again and suddenly that thought feels uncomfortable doesn’t it?  They weren’t ‘asking for it’ and like a women should be able to dress however she pleases without reprisals, so a young guy should be free to go out and enjoy himself without the fear of waking up next to a horror the next morning.

It made me feel uncomfortable and I could understand Amanda’s comments about being ashamed to be female that night.  After seeing this occur numerous times, it got too heavy for even this grizzled old soul and I headed as far as god damn possible away from the lioness’  drunken, barely-legal, zebra carnage.  We need to look as a species at true equality on a sexual level, so that what is deemed unacceptable for men is also seen as just as vile and unacceptable for women.

Now I’m not a prude, far from it in fact, and I have been ‘around the block’ more than a few times. Not just ‘bought the T shirt’ but have accumulated enough to open a damn vintage t-shirt shop.  So as opposed to consent being a case of black or white, yes or no, it really has become in some cases 50 shades of a terrible dirty grey.  Consenting adults in a state to make an informed decision are free to do whatever they please. Hey you want to have a gang bang with 16 people, who I am to stop you? But as long as everyone fully consents, is in a fit state to give that consent and not taken advantage of, be they men or women.  If you feel the need to spice up your pedestrian love life in an interesting and legal way, go for it if it floats your boat.  However don’t board the sinking ship of taking advantage of another human being for your own gratification.

This was the perfect storm of the night before valentines night, where single people without partners abounded around the town (while most people in relationships were staying in to go out the following night). With 50 shades of an Ann Summers advert playing at the cinema, combined with cheap drinks and a lot of drunken young lads , the evening end up showing the darker side of life.

Men can and have done many terrible things to women, I’d like to think that equality doesn’t mean that women feel they can also take advantage of the opposite sex just to get their rocks off.  Is that the equality everyone really wants? Or are we better than that?


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