For those who haven't watched 13 Reasons Why yet (related: what are you waiting for?), beware. There are major spoilers ahead from the young adult drama that recently debuted on Netflix.
13 Reasons Why does not shy away from difficult issues such as teen suicide and sexual assault. That is all by design, according to Jay Asher, the author of the book that serves as source material for the show. Asher spoke to Buzzfeed and pulled no punches when talking about why Hannah (played by Katherine Langford) doesn't object out loud by saying "no" during her rape scene. The author said that lack of clear verbal non-consent was a deliberate choice when he was writing the book and a deliberate choice by the filmmakers when making the show. "Because that’s what we always hear, right? ‘When a girl says no, she means no,'" Asher said. "But there are plenty of times when a girl’s afraid to say no for various reasons, and it doesn’t mean, ‘Oh, as long as they don’t say no, then everything’s fair game.’ You need to be a better person than that.”
Unfortunately, Asher's point is more relevant now than ever. As we reported earlier this month, a recent survey from the National Sexual Violence Research Center shows that men, as well as people between the ages of 18 and 34, were less likely to recognize an act of sexual assault across all categories. Additionally troubling is that a full 16% of the survey respondents wouldn't classify sexual intercourse without a partner's consent as rape. The results demonstrate that there is still a lot of work to do educating people about consent.
13 Reasons Why is hard to watch, particularly in light of the survey results. But those survey results illuminate why books and shows like 13 Reasons and the discussions they ignite are important.
If you have experienced sexual violence and are in need of crisis support, please call the RAINN Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).