Sex is complicated, but sexual assault is not. Rape, or sexual assault, is forced sex without consent. Non-consensual sex isn't necessarily obtained through physical force, but also through unequal power dynamics, like a supervisor-subordinate relationship.
So, someone who threatens to sack you or make your job hell on earth if you don't have sex with him is tantamount to sexual assault and abuse of power.
When it comes to sexual relationships between two people who are "equals" (putting aside the fact that we still don't have gender equality), although the rules around sexual engagement may be more grey, sexual assault is still very clearly defined -- sex without consent.
I do not think that having consensual unprotected sex is sexual assault. Whether it's a one-night-stand, a months-long fling, a long-term monogamous relationship, or even marriage, I believe that people should always use protection because there is always the possibility that your partner may have other partners he or she doesn't tell you about.
You can try to have a prior agreement that both of you won't sleep with someone else, or that you'll inform each other if you do, but relationships aren't that simple. Trust your partner, yes, but protect yourself above everything else.
The #MeToo platform was meant to highlight men's abuse of power that had been ignored for decades. It was meant to show the world that men could no longer use their power or position to force sex on women by threatening their career.
#MeToo was not meant to paint a broad stroke over all forms of sexual behavior as necessarily abusive or predatory.
Putting "inappropriate" men who engage in persistent yet harmless sexual propositioning in the same category as sex offenders who hold women down and penetrate them without their consent discredits the #MeToo platform and trivializes actual sexual assault.
I have been sexually assaulted before by a man I knew and was made to fear for my life. I didn't file a police report then; I didn't name and shame him because social media wasn't around back then. I'm not sure if the experience made me stronger -- I just blocked him completely and moved on with my life.
Rape survivors should definitely seek justice. I just didn't back then because I rationalized it away when it happened and I only fully accepted the reality of it years later, by which time, I had forgotten key details like the date and time, which would be necessary in a criminal investigation.
The violation of a woman's body is real. It's not bits and bytes on a screen or a lewd text message in the middle of the night that you can ignore; it's unwanted flesh inside your flesh and the crush of a body upon yours as you wait an eternity of minutes for him to finish. Sexual assault is violent and physical.
Hence, to me, the act of hitting on a woman or asking for sex is harmless. It is not predatory because you can always say no. There's no need to be vague or indefinite. A single word, "no", is sufficient. If he repeatedly asks for sex, just block his number. There's a block button on social media too.
A politician once sexually propositioned me, in person. He lightly touched my thigh occasionally, not long enough to be inappropriate (to me), and then invited me to his hotel room. I politely declined and went back home. That's it. I don't plan to "out" him on social media because as far as I'm concerned, he just asked me for something, I refused, and he accepted it. No harm done.
In that sense, I am more inclined to the French feminist philosophy than the American.
Feminism is meant to empower women. Our battle against patriarchal structures should not consign adult women to perpetual victimhood in need of protection like children.
If young women are taught to be traumatized at a mere text message of sexual innuendo or a request for sex, what kind of female leaders are we producing? This is not empowerment; this is infantilism.
Sex is a spectrum. No matter how "deviant" certain behaviors may seem, like BDSM, as long as both partners consent to the acts, it is not abusive. If you're not cool with certain things, again, just say no.
Morality proponents' demonisation of various forms of flirting, courtship, or sexual proposition risks the regression of sexual freedom for women. We know the difference between violent sexual assault and coarse attempts to pick us up.
Casual sex is transactional. Just protect yourself and take what you want. This is our sexual liberation — not the summary of our complex identity as women, as that would be reductive — but a thing of pleasure that we can use just like men.