Former England footballer Paul Gascoigne has been taken to court by a woman who has accused him of allegedly kissing her during a train ride, under the influence of alcohol. Defending his actions, Paul has claimed that he only did so to boost the woman’s confidence, who was called “fat and ugly.” According to The Guardian, the 52-yer-old elaborated that he was on a train when he was approached by the woman in question for a selfie. When he proceeded to click a photograph with her, someone shouted, “You don’t want a photo with her, she’s fat and ugly.” Paul then sat with the woman, telling her that she was “beautiful inside and out,” and proceeded to kiss her on her lips. While Paul may think of his actions as gallantry in his head, he seems to conveniently ignore the fact that he violated a woman’s consent.

KEY TAKEAWAYS:

  • A woman has accused former England footballer Paul Gascoigne of forcefully kissing her.
  • In his defence, the footballer has said that he just wanted to boost the woman’s confidence.
  • Actions like kissing women, holding their hand against their consent, or stalking them can’t be romanticised.
  • Celebrity or otherwise, no man should feel entitled to take a woman’s consent for granted.

Blame it on the fairy tales we grow up listening to, but kissing women is seen as a romantic or chivalrous gesture intended to make them feel special about themselves, without any dialogue on women’s agency to grant consent.

It is not uncommon for perpetrators to think of their actions to be acts of chivalry. The #MeToo movement has put the spotlight smaller discrepancies in male (mis)conduct, many of which often get guised as casual, funny or as in this case an act of chivalry. Many men think it is funny to hold a girl’s wrist even if she tries to wriggle herself free. That it is romantic to pursue her despite her showing no interest in your romantic advances. Blame it on the fairy tales we grow up listening to, but kissing women is seen as a romantic or chivalrous gesture intended to make them feel special about themselves, without any dialogue on women’s agency to grant consent.

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Paul claims that there was no sexual intention behind his action, but did he even bother to stop and think whether or not the woman wanted to be kissed by him? Was he too drunk on alcohol and his celebrityhood to have taken her consent for granted? Who wouldn’t want to be kissed by a famous person, a sportsman, even if she may have only met him a few moments ago? This isn’t just a behaviour that is common among celebrities, as many folks too do not take the act of asking for someone’s consent seriously, especially when it comes to seemingly trivial actions like kissing or hugging or touching someone.

It is wrong to assume that a woman or a man would want to be kissed by you, just because you are a celebrity, or because you meant to make them feel good about themselves.

However, we no longer live in a world where such transgressions can be taken lightly, and thank god for that. The outright refusal to tolerate unwanted advances gives value to the consent of a person, which is of paramount importance. It is wrong to assume that a woman or a man would want to be kissed by you, just because you are a celebrity, or because you meant to make them feel good about themselves. If Paul claims to have said to the woman that she was “beautiful inside and out”, then what was the need to objectify her by making her feel that she was physically attractive? Doesn’t him kissing her lessen the weightage of his own statement? You cannot claim that beauty isn’t skin deep and then proceed to kiss the person at the receiving end of your sermon.

There is no logic here to Paul’s claims, apart from it clearly indicating how he was completely oblivious to the woman’s consent. Hopefully, this case will finally shatter the notions that fairy tales have firmly planted in our heads, leading many to ignore other people’s agency and guise unwanted sexual advances as heroic acts.

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Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section. The views expressed are author’s own.

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