This is about Mary. And Pamuk.
It's hard to find a clip of this scene (they have all been strategically removed due to copyright), but you can see some of it here, to refresh your memory.
My mother had told me that Mary had slept with someone. When I saw this scene, it wasn't what I'd thought it was going to be. It was significantly more... rape-y.
And yet Mary herself says that she hadn't been raped. And, this isn't what we're conditioned to view as sexual "assault." There doesn't seem to be much assault here at all. It seems... almost consensual. But I'd have to throw that "almost" in there. And, as a song once said, almost doesn't count...
Look, I'm not here to point fingers. I'm not trying to give Mary an excuse and an attempt to look more virtuous for her or her family's sake. And I'm not trying to peg Pamuk as a rapist, necessarily (besides, he won't be bothering anyone else now anyway). But I think this is important. I think this is important because I know a lot of Marys. And they get caught in the in-between because a lot of us aren't willing to talk about the fact that there is an in-between.
Pamuk talks to Mary earlier. We see that in the clip. She says no. She's clearly interested in him. But she makes it quite clear that she's not interested in that.
But he shows up, uninvited, unannounced, to her room anyway. At night, while she's in bed. And she says no again. She tells him to leave, threatens to scream, tells him he has all the wrong idea. He's kissing her at this point. And he's telling her that he doesn't have the wrong idea at all. It's fairly clear that- at some point- Mary consents. And she doesn't seem to fear for her life or safety. She doesn't appear worried how this will end if she continues to resist.
The question here is if what Mary gives truly is consent. As others have argued before, I'd call this coerced. And true consent cannot be coerced. If this had been a truly consensual encounter, when Mary said no the first time, Pamuk would have stopped and wouldn't have shown up to her room later at all.
What is my point? Why do I care to bother about the sexual activities of fictional characters? Because again, I know a lot of Marys. And I know a couple of Pamuks, too. And I know that many of us have an idea of sexual assault that is far more violent than what may typically go on. And the idea that it isn't always violent doesn't make what generally goes on any better.
Somewhere in the range of 80% of women who are sexually assaulted know their attacker. Some of us know that statistic. But we still have this idea of sexual assault being... an assault. There has to be fear, and a weapon of some sort, or a threat. There should be a struggle, or injuries. The truth is that it doesn't always look that way. It can be not knowing what to say at all because you've said no, but then blaming yourself because maybe you didn't make it clear enough. It can be a date deciding that it's ok because you'll enjoy it. It can be not being afraid because you're with someone you trust. It can be saying no until you're talked into saying yes, like Mary.
Consent isn't always possible. We talk about people being unable to consent when they are drunk, or asleep, but I'd argue they can also not consent when they're just too tired, or too stressed, or too upset. They can't consent when they think there are consequences to saying "no." They can't consent when you're talking them into it or deciding for them.
Is it clear-cut? Not always. Not always even for the victims... Mary was coerced, but felt it was ultimately her decision. Our own perceptions of sexual "assault" come into play. "I wasn't in danger, but I also didn't want that to happen." It's the in-between, because of the language we use and the images we have of what sexual assault is and looks like. But because of this, we have victims walking around, confused, and sometimes unbelieved and uncared for.
If we want to respect and honor victims and prevent sexual assault, we need to amend our definition to include things that don't look like "assault" at all. Sexual assault is any kind of sexual activity that is unwanted or coerced. Whether or not it was violent or threatening at all. We need a different mindset (and maybe a different word). We need to close the in-between. Not-quite-consensual is sexual assault.