'How to Get Away With Murder' star Matt McGorry: Most of us were not taught consent

Produced by Gabriel Noble and Kate Murphy

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Actor Matt McGorry, known for his outspoken embrace of feminism, has some advice for men who need help navigating the #MeToo era: Seek “affirmative, enthusiastic consent.”

In a new interview, the “How to Get Away with Murder” star told the Yahoo News show “Dear Men” that most men were not taught consent in a valuable way.

“A lot of it is we’re not taught anything except by our peers and by my industry — by film and television,” he said. “What does the cool guy look like? He knows about sex, he takes what he wants, oftentimes we see the guy in the middle of the conversation and grabs and kisses her. And what if she didn’t want to kiss him? [What] we’re taught about consent is just keep going. Just keep going until you get a ‘no.’”

He said it should be just the opposite for men.

“Every step of the way, you ask,” he explained. “And, unless someone seems excited to go to the next step, move forward, if they don’t, stop.”

It’s no surprise that McGorry, who also had a recurring role in “Orange Is the New Black,” is speaking out on consent and other issues important to women. He’s known for his gender equality activism, especially on social media, and has received some backlash from both men and women over his online proclamations.

I asked McGorry, a single white male in Hollywood, why he’s an advocate for women when he doesn’t necessarily have to be.

“It’s not my place to be the voice of Black Lives Matter, it’s not my place to be the voice of feminism. It is my place to be the voice of white anti-racism, or to be the voice that is encouraging men to embrace feminism,” McGorry said. “Being much more specific and intentional about who I’m talking to rather than just speaking out I think is really important because that is our work as allies is really to engage men.”

So, how do we engage men in these conversations? It starts with having honest dialogue about the meaning of consent and what is acceptable behavior and what is not. We have heightened responsibility to be clear with our partners about whether or not they chose to participate in sexual contact.

A seemingly never-ending series of prominent men have faced a wide array of sexual misconduct scandals in recent years, including titans in Hollywood, broadcast journalism and business.

Former Vice President Joe Biden, a leading potential 2020 presidential candidate, has been caught up in a consent-related controversy of his own, as two women have come forward saying he violated their space in past years and were left feeling deeply uncomfortable.

But it’s not just celebrities and politicians who grapple with the gray area. We asked men what’s on their minds as they navigate the #MeToo era, and we got some honest answers.

“I think with the #MeToo movement you think about all the interactions you've had at work, when you're out partying with colleagues,” said Tony Newman. “I think if you're not reflecting on that in this period then you got your head in the sand.”

“I don’t find that I caused the problem, but I recognize that it is my responsibility to say something to that a**hole on the train that’s kind of rude to a young girl,” said Mike Bunton.

“I remember I’m in college and I’m a male and there’s alcohol. I saw men behaving in ways that … was equivalent to rape,” said Doug Davis. “I wish that I had known what I know now, or had more balls or something, but stepped up.”

But are we going too far? Is romance becoming too transactional? In my opinion, if it helps avoid confusion and discomfort, I’m all for slowing down and taking the time to check in with your partner. If it leads to healthier, more fulfilling relationships, then we are all the better for it.