What This HBO Show Got So Wrong About Sexual Consent

Photo: Macall B. Polay/HBO.
Listen, you don't have to tell me what it's like. You're out. You lock eyes with someone or brush up against them. Suddenly, you just know. There's just this unspoken thing between you and this person, and you don't even need words or gestures to understand that the two of you want to rub your parts together. Trust me, I get it. I, too, am a human being with urges who has experienced said things.
A similar scenario to the one I just described occurred on last night's episode of Vinyl. In a flashback, Richie (Bobby Cannavale) and Devon (Olivia Wilde) are watching The Velvet Underground perform. Really, though, they're watching each other. You can practically feel the sexual energy between the two of them. It's painfully obvious that they want to get it on, even though they're there with other people.
Devon gets up to go to the bathroom. She's looking in the mirror, touching up her makeup when you hear someone from outside the door saying something along the lines of, "Hey man, what do you think you're doing?" Obviously, that doesn't deter Richie. He walks into the bathroom and locks the door behind him. He slowly approaches Devon.
Then, Richie does something unexpected. He grabs Devon by the throat. Now, Bobby Cannavale is a big man. He doesn't appear to be applying a ton of pressure to his grip. Still, it's enough to make Devon rise up on the balls of her feet a little bit. Someone is grabbing her by the throat, after all, and clearly her natural instincts are kicking in.
Devon slaps Richie across the face, which just makes him smile a little bit. It's sort of an "Oh, she's down to play" look, but it's also a little inscrutable. Remember, the man has his very large hand on her windpipe. He could easily turn this situation into a life-threatening one if he wanted to. And indeed, he chooses to add just a bit more drama to the scene before finally letting it descend into sex. With his hand on her throat, he pushes Devon back against the sink before then guiding her face to his for their first kiss. He's firmly in control in a very real, very primal way.
Even as they kiss, Richie keeps his hand on Devon's throat. It's only after the show cuts away to the band performing onstage and then cuts back to the couple in the bathroom that his hand has been removed from her throat. When they finally do have sex, it's from behind, with Richie thrusting into Devon against the bathroom sink. Their eyes lock in the bathroom mirror as they grunt in an extremely animalistic way.
Now I know people have different sexual proclivities, and that asphyxiation can be one of them. The reason I'm drawing attention to this scene is because of how easily it could have veered into nonconsensual territory. Devon didn't know Richie very well at all when he followed her into the bathroom — they'd just learned each other's names in the previous scene. He locked the door behind them, and the club was so loud that no one would have been able to hear her should she have cried for help if he'd choked her a little too hard. When he grabbed her throat, he was assuming that she'd be into it based on some unsaid vibe he'd picked up from her while they were sitting at the table watching the band perform.
Even though they both appear to be into it, Richie and Devon's bathroom sex still blurs the line of consent because of the potential danger in which she was placed if just one signal had been misread. Yes, there were probably thousands of these types of hookups in clubs during the era Vinyl depicts, but did their encounter need to commence with a man locking a woman in a bathroom and strangling her? HBO already has issues with another show airing nonconsensual sexual encounters. We don't need another one.

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