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Friday, July 12, 2024

She, too: Respectability is not a requirement for consent

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Sukihana, a female rapper known for her raunchy lyrics and persona, was forcibly kissed by YK Osiris, a male rapper in a recent viral video. In front of multiple other men, in public and on camera, Osiris forced himself upon her. She uncomfortably avoided his kiss the first time. When he went in to kiss her the second time, he appeared to be even more determined to make contact and he did.

While the other men at the table looked elsewhere, Sukihana, nee Destiny Henderson, was left to figure out how to respond on her own. Osiris, nee Osiris Williams, walked away laughing, seemingly pleased with himself.

I rewatched the video again and again. I examined her reactions and facial expressions.

Stunned, confused, angry, hurt, lost. One in five women and one in 20 men experience sexual violence according to the Centers for Disease Control. That means it has happened to you or someone you know and most likely several people you know.

Some commenters noted that Henderson laughed. She laughed, so that must have meant it was a joke. She laughed, so it could not have been a big deal.

In the moment when an unwanted advance is happening, any type of response if possible. Fight. Flight. Freeze. Tears. Laughter. No one knows what they will do when the moment comes.

Many other commenters said she brought on the unwanted attention because of her rapping style, the way she dresses and her wild conversations. She does not present herself as a respectable woman in their view.

As if a woman’s right to consent should be based on a stranger’s definition of what is respectable.

Halle Berry, a widely respected woman, was in a very similar situation years ago. She was presenting an award at the Oscars, the biggest night in Hollywood. The winner of the award, actor Adrien Brody, held and kissed a stunned Berry. Left onstage to figure out what to do on her own, Berry continued with the show. Again, no one knows what they will do when the moment comes.

It wasn’t until much later, during the height of the Me Too movement, that people started to recognize that Berry had been violated on that Oscars stage in 2003.

Berry is an award-winning, well-respected actor who has a fairly pristine reputation in Hollywood. How did the same thing happen to both her and Henderson twenty years apart?

Whether a woman is deemed respectable or professional or beautiful or worthy, she, too deserves the right to consent. She, too, deserves to have her space and her body be her own. She, too, deserves the right to autonomy over how and when she is touched. There need not be any criteria for who gets to say no and who doesn’t. There are no prerequisites for consent.

Williams later released a public apology. After enduring a flood of public blame for the violation, Henderson accepted his apology and said she just wanted to move on.

In the original video, Henderson can be faintly heard saying “Help me” to the other men sitting at the table beside her. Yet no one intervened. Really, no one should have needed to intervene. Because she, too, deserved for that incident to have never happened at all.

Contact Editor-in-Chief Camike Jones at CamikeJ@indyrecorder.com or 317-762-7850. For more news from the Indianapolis Recorder, click here.

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