Olivia Singer | Contributing writer | Thursday, 15 January 2015

Big Brother's Got Us All Talking About Consent, And That's Great

The Debrief: Germaine Greer once went on the show, but Chloe Goodman's got far more interesting stuff to say about women's rights...

It’s not often that Celebrity Big Brother reflects the positive aspects of our society. But this week, the hours that I have devoted to watching Perez Hilton catfight with Katie Hopkins seem to have been miraculously validated by witnessing what seems to be a strangely right-on phenomenon: seeing a conversation around consent and sexual assault given some legitimate airtime.

 

When Jeremy Jackson – a 34-year-old man who used to be on Baywatch – fell off the wagon and ripped open the robe of 21-year-old Chloe Goodman to expose a boob, he tried to brush it off as a bit of clumsy flirting.

Jeremy charmingly explained, ‘Chloe insisted on coming in and helping me [he had been vomiting] and potentially because of the alcoholic beverages and/or potentially out of innocence, curiosity, I was silly enough or bold enough or dumb enough to lift her robe as she was leaning in my face asking me if I was OK. It seemed like flirtation to me.’

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After all, she’s a Page 3 model, we’ve all seen her tits, so why shouldn’t the world feel entitled to access them at any point? Instead of considering her assault a minor discomfort that we should all pretend didn’t happen, a sobbing Chloe explained in the diary room, ‘I know I’ve done Page 3 but that’s been my choice, that career was my choice, Jeremy opening up my dressing gown was not my choice.’

CBB quickly became some sort of morality play, Ken the embodiment of dated misogyny and Chloe the figurehead of 2015’s female empowerment.

Then Ken Morley (from Coronation Street) explained to Chloe that ‘Jeremy is a Jewish film producer from New York,’ implying that some mysterious Jewish mafia might crush her fledgling career if she complained further. ‘I don’t care if he was the fucking Pope, I’m not comfortable’ Chloe retorted.

READ MORE: It’s A Tough Time For Feminist Fans of Made In Chelsea

CBB quickly became some sort of morality play, Ken the embodiment of dated misogyny and Chloe the figurehead of 2015’s female empowerment. It was pretty amazing, not just because it’s the best telly on Channel 5 since Robot Wars.

The next day, during one of the half-hearted tasks that Big Brother schedules to remind us that the show isn’t just about watching D-listers get drunk and lairy, good old Ken asked: ‘Since I have been eviscerated recently for making a remark about women’s arses, how come you have made such a profession of revealing yours?’

In a moment summarising everything I understand feminism to be, Chloe responded: ‘When I decide I’m comfortable to do something under certain circumstances, I’m OK with that because it’s under my control. When somebody else does it for me, that’s when the shit hits the fan.’

 

There you have it: rape culture put into a comprehensive soundbite.

Some parts of feminism can be absurdly theoretical and removed from the reality of what it really means to protect and enforce the rights of women. Academic discussions are great, but when it’s not changing real women’s lives, then it just becomes philosophical masturbation.

What the phenomenon of modern, digital-age accessible feminism seems to have achieved is teaching women — all women, Page 3 models as well as those with degrees in gender studies — that such things as consent are issues that need to be addressed. Our bodies are ours, our lives are ours, and anyone who tries to imply otherwise belongs to the deeply unappealing camp of the Jeremys and the Kens.

Kicking Jeremy out of the house in response to what he did isn’t some sort of ‘political-correctness-gone-mad’ hysteria

It’s a joy to see a young woman advocating feminism in a way that even Germaine Greer didn’t manage during her time in the house and it’s something of a miracle to see a station like Channel 5 (owned by the same people behind the Daily Star) forced into making a moral judgement in favour of a glamour model’s wants.

Kicking Jeremy out of the house in response to what he did isn’t some sort of ‘political-correctness-gone-mad’ hysteria (thanks again, Ken, relic of yore, since getting removed from the house for an assortment of racial slurs). Holding Jeremy accountable for his actions –whether drunken or otherwise – and not letting the show be a platform for harassment to play out shows us that a big enough swathe of British society has finally realised that harassment isn’t part of being a woman.

And if men also keep that in mind, maybe it will happen a little less.

READ MORE: Seven Life Lessons We’ve Learned From Big Brother

Last year, there was a 29% increase in the number of rapes reported to and recorded by police in England and Wales. High-profile rape and abuse cases such as Operation Yewtree and Max Clifford had hundreds of victims coming forward to make allegations of assaults. Dapper Laughs’ particularly special brand of rape-culture-apologism made front-page news.

While this might look like women have it worse than ever, it actually shows women empowered to protest about what has always been wrong but which we’ve been told is just part of being a woman.

More people are finally getting the language of equality, regardless of education or career. So let’s hope that while the ‘stars’ Celebrity Big Brother will inevitably fade back into irrelevance, the weirdly poignant message that they’ve taught us doesn’t.

Like this? You might also be interested in:

How True Blood Started A Sexual Revolution In Television

Why Sexual Pre-Consent Is Surely Never A Good Idea

A Third Of Female University Students Have Been Harassed, So What’s Being Done About It?

Follow Olivia on Twitter @oliviajsinger

Picture: Eylul Aslan 

Tags: TV We\'re Unashamedly Watching, Sexual Assault