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Consent Is Sexy And Sexy Is Mandatory

I want to start this post by clarifying that I obviously accept that consent is an important legal requirement for a variety of things, including surgical procedures and sexual activity. I also understand why it is politically expedient to endorse a ‘black and white’ view of consent with a view to challenging rape culture, and I do not dispute the fact that rape is not a ‘grey area’. My post here is not concerned with the issue of nonconsent, which mainstream feminism largely does a good job of addressing. Rather, my concerns are pointed in the opposite direction: the inadequacy of consent.

I was first made aware of Consensual Spin The Bottle about two months ago by a friend of mine, who seemed to find it as noble as she did exciting. The premise of the game is simple: you spin the bottle while sitting in a circle, and instead of being obliged to kiss the person it points to upon its rest, you must instead obtain consent for whatever act you want the person to perform (and I use the word perform very mindfully indeed here) with you. If they consent, you both do whatever you requested. If they refuse, then you don’t. If they suggest an alternative, you can consent to this, or decline. So far, so middle school. I wasn’t overly interested, mostly because what are you like 13? Spin the bottle? Give me a fucking break. Better yet: give me a pizza, a joint, Blue Planet in HD and leave me at home alone if that’s what your parties are like. Anyway, I digress.

Consensual Spin The Bottle came up again for me recently, this time in the film The East (which was OK). It was a nice demonstration of everything wrong with consent. I want you to watch what happens, and note whether or not you think Brit Marling actually wants to kiss Ellen Page, and juxtapose this with what she actually does. Then I want you to look at what Alexander Skarsgard does, and note any differences. Finally, I want you to ask: whose boundaries were successfully protected in this game, and why? (ETA: My video has been blocked again because, even though it meets the criteria for fair use, YouTube are happy for copyright bots to indiscriminately block content at the behest of irredeemable parasites. Copyright laws are bullshit)

Hopefully you noticed that Marling wasn’t at all eager to kiss Page, yet she did it anyway and pulled away early in order that she wouldn’t have to endure it for too long. In contrast, Skarsgard is unambiguous about his boundaries, and only participates in a capacity with which he is comfortable by suggesting a hug instead of a kiss. Why is this? They both had access to the same rules of the game, after all.

Without seeing the rest of the film, you probably have limited theories. Most obviously, Skarsgard is a man, which means he has been conditioned with the belief that his personal comfort is of paramount importance and he has responsibility for it. Marling is a woman, which means that she has been conditioned with the belief that her comfort is secondary to others, and she must cater to them in order to ensure this. Both of these positions will have been reinforced with respective lifetimes of interactions, largely operating along these dynamics. In this particular scenario, Skarsgard is also the leader of the anarchist group to whom all the other members defer, and also owns the land this group lives on. Marling is a lone newcomer, who is trying to gain favour with the group, make friends and prove her loyalty to their lifestyle. (The fact that she kisses another woman in this particular case is orthogonal to the point I want to make here, though I should note that it’s not an unusual occurrence for heterosexual women to feign/perform lesbian activity in order to ultimately service the male gaze, whether under their own steam or because they’ve been commissioned to do so by others who wish to profit; cf. drunk/insecure heterosexual women at nightclubs/parties, ‘queer’ women in heterosexual marriages, “lesbian” pornography, mud-wrestling, etc).

If you hadn’t noticed by now, I’m using Consensual Spin The Bottle as a metaphor for sexual dynamics in the world at large. The headline point I’m making here is this: material power differentials do not go away just because you’re explicitly talking about consent. People aren’t afforded any more agency if they simply verbalise the dynamics of what occurs with “consent”. If anything, the less powerful participants are now under pressure to voluntarily cooperate with the game, even to their own detriment. Imagine a round of Consensual Spin The Bottle where nobody actually felt like it, and simply declined every proposal; they’re kind of wrecking the point of the game, aren’t they? Seems to me that even if all else were equal, there’s a low ceiling to how many times one can decline an offer in this game without just ruining everything. Same goes if everyone consents grudgingly and hides their displeasure as poorly as Marling did. It may have been nicer for everyone if she had performed more convincingly, but her lot still would not have been improved.

Not only that, but who got to decide that this is even the game we’re going to play? Like Marling, we didn’t even necessarily sign up for this stupid fucking game. Nevertheless, we find ourselves in the HetSex Game by default, and simply have to navigate within its parameters as best we can. If we’re lucky we’ll get to pull away early or get it over with quickly. Just in case I need to clobber you over the head with this: I’m talking about compulsory sexuality. And here lies the biggest problem with this excellent feminist/queer innovation called consent that will supposedly solve all of our problems: the pronouncement, and the well-known fact, that Consent Is Sexy. Consent Is Sexy. Acquiescence with sexual proposals is sexy. The idea with this slogan is to popularise consent. But the corollary to this message is, of course, that nonconsent is definitely not sexy. Why is this a problem? Because the societal context that determines who we are; the same context that built the differences between Skarsgard and Marling; the context in which all of this is happening; is that if women aren’t sexy, then they aren’t worth shit.

In the old authoritarian version of Spin The Bottle, you were obliged to kiss the person the bottle pointed to. Indeed, part of the grotesque ‘fun’ of the game was sometimes having to kiss people you didn’t want to (boys risked “being gay” by playing, girls risked kissing the ugly boys, etc). This old version was nothing if not honest about what was required of the participants. The ‘Consensual’ version of Spin The Bottle, on the other hand, requires that you do largely the same things you did before, but provides you with a get-out-clause that certain people can’t actually make any meaningful use of. The fact that it is there means the only person culpable for what you are involved in, is yourself. The wealth of other factors determining your behaviour are thus smokescreened by this fluffy layer of ‘consent’. The event is atomised and individualised.

I’d like to draw an illustrative parallel with this video where, at 01min 40sec, Slavoj Zizek is talking about a symptom of late capitalism; the liberal phenomena of ‘tolerance’, ‘choice’ and reinterpreting the inevitable as voluntary. WordPress wouldn’t let me embed the time-jump link, but I trust that you can do an extra click for yourself:

He uses the metaphor of a child being instructed by his strict, authoritarian father to visit Grandma. The child doesn’t want to, but he also knows that this is irrelevant; he must do as he is told or suffer the consequences. In another world, a tolerant liberal father emotionally manipulates his child into visiting Grandma by saying “You know that your Grandma loves you and it would mean a lot to her, but you should only visit if you want to”. The child is not an idiot, and still knows he has no choice. He is additionally now obliged to want it for himself or it means there’s something wrong with him as a person. In order to meet his father’s new requirements, he must also be convincing about his desire to visit Grandma. Not even some notion of ‘enthusiastic consent’, then, can help clarify things here. Quite the mindfuck, isn’t it.

In this same way, it appears that “Lie Back And Think Of England” (the old version of Spin The Bottle) has been replaced with “Consent Is Sexy” (Consensual Spin The Bottle). If you are a woman who has ever had any heterosexual encounters, you have probably consented to many things that you did not particularly want to do. Women rationalise to themselves why they do this; I used to say things like I didn’t need to orgasm to enjoy sex or that vicarious enjoyment through servicing boyfriends was enough in itself. The fact was, I just plain wasn’t going to orgasm from the sex I was having, and the only enjoyment it was even possible for me to get was vicarious. Often I was very uncomfortable, sometimes even in pain. Nevertheless, I consented to a variety of things in service of the male orgasm that I neither enjoyed nor felt an independent inclination to do. I believed that those boyfriends probably would have left me if I were to refuse. I was young and lacked the good sense not to care if they did. Thus, my ‘consent’ was simply a rationalisation of what was in fact inevitable for me, given that set of conditions. I’d wager that none of these boyfriends had any idea about this, of course. The whole point of faking an orgasm is feigned enjoyment. In other words, I feigned enthusiastic consent. In similar scenarios everywhere, women ‘consent’ to things they don’t want all the goddamn time.

This same pattern of reinterpreting the inevitable is true in almost all political arenas where sexual dynamics are relevant. The rhetoric surrounding the sex industry is now of women’s agency and empowerment (despite this being a demonstrable lie). Women don’t wear makeup to look good for men, they just want to look good for themselves (despite never wearing it when they’re home alone). Some women really like staying at home and looking after kids (despite many of those women not having a financially viable alternative). Women enjoy being sexually degraded by their boyfriends (despite being physically uncomfortable, or in pain, or never orgasming, or never having thought of such acts themselves before researching with porn). And so on and so forth.

These rhetorical shifts don’t indicate any material improvements. They obscure the factors that contribute to every one of our ‘consensual’ decisions. These are factors that we need to be able to examine if we hope to make any substantial changes that enable any meaningful agency. Not only are women still eating more or less the same shit sandwich they’ve always been served, but now we have to enthusiastically pat our bellies too. And that, friends, is some bullshit indeed.

42 responses to “Consent Is Sexy And Sexy Is Mandatory

  1. pantypopo October 10, 2013 at 16:58

    Beautiful work! You have named for me one of those nebulous feelings which I could not pin down. Moving from ‘Rape Culture’ to ‘Consent-with-no-Real-Agency Culture’ is not progress.

  2. Juxta October 10, 2013 at 23:33

    I really enjoyed reading your perspective on consent and emphatically relate to it as well. Many people have heard about cognitive dissonance theory, but many aren’t necessarily familiar with all the various paradigms within said theory. Anyway, it seems to me to be very relevant to your ideas described here in this post.

    The video with Slavoj Zizek reminds me of Orwell’s 1984 in which Winston is told by Big Brother that it wasn’t merely enough for others followed the rules or punished for breaking them, but that Winston (and others) had to love Big Brother as well. In essence, thought crimes and doublespeak.

  3. Sam Berg October 11, 2013 at 16:24

    You’ve explained how the fratboy shirt slogan, “Stop rape. Consent.” went mainstream. Thank you.

  4. tnt666 October 12, 2013 at 23:58

    This was such an excellent piece! I recently saw that film online and was haunted by the very scene you mentioned. For the female I felt subjugation and pitty, for the male I felt pride in an action true to self and one’s own values. Media portrays gender roles in this manner way to often.
    I also very much enjoyed the suggested book, it is now on my reading list.
    As a het-leaning-bi, I miss the 80s. The 80s were NOT about “females consenting for males”. The 80s were about females having complete agency over our sexuality, making our own choices, leading the way, where ever that led, and it did lead in all sorts of directions! It was about females being free to express wishes and desires, and males either consenting or not, it was much more egalitarian. The very idea of me “consenting” to male actions is a little odd actually, since I’ve always played the active protagonist role, thereby making “consenting to the male” obsolete, since I am the one advancing/leading. “Consenting” is indeed a very double edged vocabulary.

  5. Mary Sunshine October 27, 2013 at 12:52

    Brilliant! Thank you for articulating what I’ve always felt on an intuitive level.

  6. Jara Handala November 20, 2013 at 18:57

    Thanx for this post.

    Contrary to the liberal conception that consent is freely given, agreeing is always coercive to some degree if only for one simple reason: one does not control the conditions that gave one a chance to choose to be involved in something. It means that where control is not absolute there is no complete autonomy, hence free will is never exercised, it is a fiction – moreover a powerful one in what is taken to be a ‘free society’.

    If one doesn’t control the conditions in which one makes a choice it means choice cannot be freely made, choosing is never free: coercion is always involved.

    So a key question that arises is how harmful is the coercion that exists? Can coercion ever be harmless? Importantly, not least coz for most people part of the meaning of love is the absence of harm & coercion, is love possible?

    This is Kollontai territory. Socialists, communists, anarchists, & whoever else, have a duty to specify under what necessary conditions a free life is possible, & that includes practising love. It’s another matter whether such conditions could ever be achieved.

  7. Across the Aether November 27, 2013 at 13:31

    This is such a good post. The Zizek example you used was a very apt analogy.

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  9. aarongoggans December 11, 2013 at 19:37

    Thank you very much for this. I think it is really well written and reasoned. I do wonder what the theoretical alternative is to verbal consent alone would be for you in light of this? It seems like you could define consent with an understanding of false choice. Something like : consent is verbally agreeing to a specific and mutually agreed upon sexual act when all partners believe that any answer will not result in the physical, emotional or material harm or insecurity nor prolong any already occurring harm of any partner. It seems like the situation in the first video clip had to do the new characters fear of being cast out and marginalized if she said no. It makes the choice of whether or not to kiss Ellen Page’s character a false one, since she is really deciding between two forms of harm. It is why prostitution is often seen by feminist and allies as needing to be illegal, the idea is that sex workers are sex workers because of false economic “choices.” Yet, if you set the standard for meaningful consent too high, we could never consent to anything. In a sense, the actually choice must people make when we have what is generally considered “consensual sex” is between limited options of partners and limited number of other activities available to them to get what ever it is they want from sex. Options often limited by outside and coercive societal forces like euro-centric standards of beauty, oppressively gendered expectations of purity, lack of awareness or education as to other ways to feel loved and valued and so worth. So my question is, if consent is inadequate then would else is there?

    • umlolidunno December 18, 2013 at 10:54

      Thanks for reading and thinking about this.

      if consent is inadequate then would else is there?

      There is nothing else. We cannot opt out of the world we are in, or what that world has shaped us into. This is bad news, but it’s the truth. This is why feminists seek to change the world into one where women actually have meaningful choices to make, and are able to define their own boundaries. That world is one where the odds are not stacked against them in the interests of men. Given that men will always be (on average) bigger than women, and women will always be reproductively vulnerable, this is a tough job. It depends on men relinquishing their dominance, which is why it hasn’t happened yet.

      In a sense, the actually choice must people make when we have what is generally considered “consensual sex” is between limited options of partners and limited number of other activities available to them to get what ever it is they want from sex.

      There is a crucial omission here. The limited number of activities available to women are defined by dominant ideals of sexuality, the parameters of which are set by heterosexual men. This is why “not participating” or “not PIV” or “not men” are not available or present options for most women – hence, we have compulsory hetero/sexuality. It is also important to ask *why* people want what they do (in the case of BDSM, for example, where do these fixations come from? Would clown/subordination fetishes exist in a world without clowns/oppression?). The status quo is not simply the aggregate outcome of many decisions necessarily limited by the number of options; it is the outcome of material options (in social, economic and sexual terms) being limited by one group, to the detriment of another. Challenging these limitations is what feminism is for.

      if you set the standard for meaningful consent too high, we could never consent to anything.

      Given that you are having to choose between a number of limited options anyway, one view is that you ought to refer to the political (ie. power-based) implications of those options to inform your choice. Many feminists propose withdrawing from practices to which we cannot meaningfully consent, and those that subordinate us. This includes withdrawing from men in sexual, social and economic contexts (as well as other components of gender like beauty practices), wherever possible. I think this conclusion is sound. Nevertheless, women are forced to make concessions every day to survive in this world and stay sane.

      My practical advice to men is not to initiate any sexual contact with women at all.

      • aarongoggans December 19, 2013 at 15:57

        First of all, thanks for writing back such a detailed response. I’ve been thinking about this a lot in the past few days. I have few questions about your reply. It seems to me that women are not the only people for whom sexual choices are limited by oppression. Of course, women are more limited than men but within the male population there is a spectrum. As a Black man I think that my options are also limited. Blackness is not desirable when compared to whiteness, yet I am expected to be “a young buck” an overly aggressive, completely sexually being. If I refuse sex that is offered suddenly I am less of man and also less Black. In the video above, if a Black man was asked by a woman to have sex in that space would their also not be pressure for him to live up to his sexual role? I’m not suggesting that pressures to have sex are equal or even comparable but merely that they both exist. I agree sexual roles are set primarily by heterosexual men but I also think that white cisgendered hetero men have more influence over this than non-white men. This does not absolve non-white men of the moral complicity but I would agrue begs for a more complex understanding of this dynamic.

        I also think that the idea that men shouldn’t attempt to initiate sex seems problematic. For one, it seems to assume that women are not capable of saying no and seems to me to reinforce the idea that women need to be protected. I think I understand and agree with your analysis of the game but what about in private? Is it unreasonable to assume that a woman who is able to make a million economic and moral decisions every day would not be able to assertively and respectfully decline a respectful offer of sex [I understand the argument that most offers for sex are not respectful but I’m talking theoretically]? I whole hardly agree that men, as a group, have been unwilling to give up their dominance but are you also asserting that an individual man cannot give up his dominance?

        Also, why does sex need to be empowering? I see why it shouldn’t be dis empowering or oppressive but does it need to have an inherent power dynamic. I get that, on a practical level, men have systemically enforced a power dynamic but I don’t see why the goal would be for women to only have empowering sex. Shouldn’t the goal be to remove power from the equation.

        Lastly, the idea of withdrawing from practices to which you cannot meaningfully consent makes sense but also seems problematic. For one it seems to favor white women who have much more capital to advocate for equality without the need of help from men. Black women would have to advocate for equality without being able to rely on solidarity with white women and advocate for equality as Black without Black men as allies. I think for many Black women the political lesbianism you suggest is not only not possible for the concessions to sanity you mention but also not politically expedient in terms of actually having power and being empowering.

        Political separatism is appealing to be a Black person but I think ultimately problematic. Under this schema, shouldn’t all oppressed people remove themselves from systems they cannot meaningfully consent? Wouldn’t this mean me, as a Black man, removing myself from the criminal justice system? Removing my self from capitalism? Shouldn’t white people not approach me with economic opportunities because I cannot consent to them, given my limited economic options where I live? I’m not trying to be sarcastic, I’m just trying to understand your point by taking it to its most logical extent as I can figure it.

        • umlolidunno December 21, 2013 at 13:31

          Thanks for engaging with me on this and replying, it’s rare (in my experience) that men devote time and thought to this subject.

          I take your point that black men have to deal with the cultural pressure of the hypersexual and aggressive stereotype. Seeming like less of a man because you refuse sex is a universal feature of masculinity, compounded by the stereotypes proliferated in a white supremacy. It is hard to go against the grain of what we internalise, but I don’t think that changes the argument that we should nevertheless do exactly that.

          The power dynamics between men and women do not go away when we talk about consent, and they certainly do not go away because a couple are in private. If anything, the maintenance of this “private sphere” elevates male power over women. As an example, marital rape was not even against the law in the UK until 1991, largely because of this tacit acceptance that what happens in private is exempt from scrutiny. Women are indeed capable of deciding what they want. What I am suggesting here is that you let them do precisely that, and back off. If a woman wants to come to you, she will. The worst outcome of not initiating, is that you may not get laid as much. The worst outcome of ignoring this advice, is that you rape a woman. There is a cost/benefit analysis you have to do on those two scenarios.

          Individual men cannot somehow opt out of their power relation with women. This is individualistic, feelgood nonsense. Even in a vacuum, the average man can overpower the average woman, and reproductive costs are greater for the woman. They will both be aware of these facts, and that will augment their interaction. It just so happens that this power relation is compounded by the social and economic power men have acquired through history. So, no. Individual men cannot somehow be exempt from this dynamic – that’s kind of the point of my post.

          The goal is indeed to remove power from the equation, which is precisely why withdrawing from men is a good idea for women. The analysis of why heterosexual sex is not just ‘not empowering’ but actively *disempowering* for women (e.g. eroding their personal boundaries, incurring pregnancies – many of which are accidents or unplanned, but are nevertheless a cost paid by the woman – and even disassociating to provide men with the sex they want), does not go away if we factor in that the men and women may be black. [ETA: it occurs to me that your position here can be paraphrased as “even if X is bad for women, why should we try to do anything about that? why should everything a woman does be in her interests?” which is pretty hard to engage with]

          In a similar way that white women are unreliable in solidarity with black women, black men are unreliable when it comes to black women’s interests as a sex class. This leaves black women with an incredibly difficult political terrain to navigate, which is why Womanism is so important for advocating in their interests. How black women organise around this is their call; for our part, white women need to get our shit together and ensure we’re not preventing feminism from advocating for all women by crowding black women out. I’m not entirely sure what your point regarding all this is, but you seem to be suggesting that black women cannot expect political solidarity from black men unless they engage them as sexual partners. I’d suggest that this is part of the problem.

          I think extrapolating from what I’ve said here about sexual politics to “political separatism” in general is not useful, and I’m not quite sure why you’ve done it. I’m talking to women about their lives with men. The broader point, if you really need one, is that we all have to make concessions in order to survive, but that simply being honest about what those concessions are informs our political analysis. For women in particular, these frequently include sexual and bodily concessions, and perhaps we should augment our lives to take account of this if we can.

          • aarongoggans December 21, 2013 at 14:22

            It is sad that it so rare for men to engage in this topic as your replies highlight how much I still have to learn about my role in opressing women. It appears that I misunderstood your statement about women removing themselves from any system to which they might not be able to meaningfully consent. I took this to mean that you were advocating for kind of “political separatism” that I addressed. This is why I brought up Black women. I was assuming that you were advocating for Black women to not form any relationships [political, economic or sexual] with men. I couldn’t imagine any solidarity between the two groups if we don’t interact. I think solidarity is certainly possible if we don’t have sex.

            To be clear, you are suggesting not that woman remove themselves from coed society but that it would be better for them if they refrained from heterosex but given that in order to stay sane some women might want to have sex and so men should not intitiate sex? I think you put it well in the cost benifit analysis. This has given me a lot to think about. I’m not sure if I agree but I think it makes sense to not try to intitiate sex until I figure it out.

            One question though, if the revolution happened tomorrow and patriarchy didn’t exist could men initiate sex? In other words, is the physical dominance of men the reason men should not intitiate, a reason only reinforced by a history of patriachy? Even if we armed every woman, taught her self defense and all men were taught check their privilige could I still not ask my girlfriend for sex? It is a disturbing thought if only because it terrifies me to think that my partners may have been worried that I would rape them if changed their mind. I like to think, even with all that I know I have to learn about checking privilige, that the women who know me well enough for me to offer sex would trust me not to rape them. Are you suggesting that this level of trust between a man and a woman is not possible or just so unlikely that it practically makes more sense to just wait to be asked?

            Thanks again for this. I’ve really learned a lot and think that, once I process this latest comment, I’ll have learned even more.

            • aarongoggans December 21, 2013 at 15:38

              Also, I think I was not clear in my response. You said:

              ” [ETA: it occurs to me that your position here can be paraphrased as “even if X is bad for women, why should we try to do anything about that? why should everything a woman does be in her interests?” which is pretty hard to engage with]”

              I can understand how you might think that is what I meant but I want to be clear that that is not it at all. I was trying to ascertain if you thought that sex should be empowering. I firmly believe that it should not oppressive. I believe that if I am personally doing something that harms women I am morally responsible for stopping that. I may not be perfect or have checked all my male privilege but I’m confident that I am beyond that point. Though, that’s not something I can expect you to assume from our limited interactions.

              I thought that you were arguing that sex should be inherently empowering for women and that didn’t make sense to me.

  10. Morag December 11, 2013 at 21:29

    Brilliant! A great addition to the much-needed and ongoing exposé of compulsory (and compulsive) hetero/sexuality.

    I had this thought, by the end of your essay, that this same kind of mandatory enthusiasm is required in the world of work. Cashiers, secretaries, shop girls, and so on, who are not only required to work in less-than-desireable conditions, and for peanuts, but to damned-well like it, too. I mean, you can’t even GET a job without showing choosy enthusiasm for insipid bullshit. Smiling isn’t optional. No wonder so many people, particularly girls and women, say “I just LOVE my [low-status, low-pay, hours-of-drudgery] job!” The fact that the job isn’t a choice is just too terrifying to face.

    Not so different from sexual consent, is it?

    • umlolidunno December 18, 2013 at 10:59

      Thanks for reading, I’m glad you enjoyed it. I think your observation here is very similar to what Zizek was trying to get at in the embedded video, and I think they are certainly related.

  11. nereidafilomena December 16, 2013 at 04:54

    No woman can consent to sex bc sex is rape. Being fucked by men is not empowering.

    • umlolidunno December 18, 2013 at 10:23

      While it’s true, as I’ve argued above, that women can’t meaningfully “choose” their gendered behaviour (of which heterosexuality as it is currently constructed is a part), I don’t think it’s useful to conflate the topic of women’s impoverished ‘consent’/the illusion of choice with cases where men deliberately breach withheld consent. If we want to deconstruct this stuff and stay faithful to women’s experiences, I don’t see what it adds to collapse these two categories (which, while similar in some ways are dramatically different in others) for the sake of a slogan.

      I agree that sex with men, particularly PIV (penis-in-vagina) sex, is not empowering for women. But the reductionist paraphrase “all sex is rape” and derogatory characterisations of heterosexual women’s experiences prevented me from engaging with the content of these arguments for quite some time, and I don’t want that replicated on my blog.

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  14. Anon January 18, 2014 at 20:45

    I guess you interpreted the slogan ‘consent is sexy’ completely differently than I did. When I first heard it, I thought it was a good, anti-rape sentiment, like, consent is sexy, so like, it’s important to get consent before doing anything, like, in effect, the statement was saying ‘consent is cool’ or something like that, if you understand what I mean.
    I never would have taken it to mean what you described it as…, never have I, as a woman, felt obligated to give my consent to sex just because consent is sexier than non consent.
    I’m not saying that you don’t have a point, because I think you bring up some valid ideas in this article, I’m just trying to say that people interpret things in different ways, and that ‘consent is sexy’ doesn’t necessarily only mean that people are advocating that women should consent whether they want to or not just because its ‘sexy’.

    • umlolidunno January 19, 2014 at 18:52

      Thank you for reading.

      I am aware of the intent behind the “Consent Is Sexy” slogan. My point was that the societal context in which this campaign occurs is already one where men are happier when women voluntarily comply with sexual demands. In light of this, the intent of this sentiment may be somewhat divorced from its effects.

  15. Ulallala June 6, 2014 at 11:38

    “I’m incapable of maintaining my boundaries, therefore focus on consent is bad because I might consent when I don’t want to”

    No one is forcing you. If they are it’s not consent. If someone forces you, the pro consent people are against it. Focusing on free consent it what will get people to the position where we can be sure everything people choose it what they want. Throwing your toys out of the pram and attacking the concept that consent is important is just stupid.

    • umlolidunno June 6, 2014 at 22:38

      Thanks for stopping by. I’m sorry that my post was lost on you.

    • Francois Tremblay June 11, 2014 at 08:38

      “No one is forcing you. If they are it’s not consent. If someone forces you, the pro consent people are against it.”

      If you define “force” as being “non-consent” by definition, then what you said is a tautology and therefore… you’ve said absolutely nothing.
      If your concept of “force” is compatible with “consent,” then what you said is obviously nonsense. If consent is present, then how can “pro consent people” be “against it”?
      So either what you said is literally meaningless babble, or it’s nonsense. Which one is it?

      “Focusing on free consent it what will get people to the position where we can be sure everything people choose it what they want.”

      What is “choice”? Can you define it meaningfully? (answer: no)

      “Throwing your toys out of the pram and attacking the concept that consent is important is just stupid.”

      No one said consent is not important. It is a necessary condition. But it is not a sufficient condition. Anyone who said it is sufficient is wrong.

  16. Francois Tremblay June 11, 2014 at 08:40

    This entry is amazing, I’ve been thinking about consent issues for a while and you still managed to blow my mind on the subject. I hope that as I go through your blog and post these comments, you’re not thinking I’m obsessing or something, but your entries are absolutely top. I’ve already added you to my blogroll.

  17. Lola June 24, 2014 at 12:41

    This is so good! absolutely agree.

  18. follower0457 August 7, 2014 at 07:37

    I’m a little late, but this just to say that this particular post is very well written – for me it’s one of the most influential pieces I’ve read, one of a few that got me hooked on reading about radical feminism. That, and ‘Gender is Socially Constructed’ is also fantastic. It’s thorough and detailed yet accessible to someone who had never previously studied feminist theory. Given the way the words ‘feminism’ and ‘patriarchy’ are bandied about mainstream media and casual male-dominated conversation, I found these posts both interesting and eye-opening. Thanks!

  19. Pingback: Fucking with feminism: “Sex positivity”, madness and control | glosswatch

  20. Luke December 22, 2014 at 15:43

    Thank you for this brilliantly articulated, thought provoking piece. I would like to see things like this published in more mainstream media. Freedom in the context of restrictive gender norms is not freedom at all; the pressure on girls and women is enormous. I’ve never seen it explained so clearly before.

  21. Pingback: Consent is not sexy. | The Prime Directive

  22. Pingback: The metaphorical frames of morality. | The Prime Directive

  23. sellmaeth June 17, 2015 at 19:56

    Interesting article. Though I think there may be some value to the literal consensual spin the bottle game. If it is emphasized that saying “No” is a desired and accepted part of the game, it might help raise some awareness that the option of saying “no” exists.

    However, a game can exist in a supervised context, while society at large does not. Which is why I wholeheartedly agree that there are lots of problems with the concept that “with consent, everything is okay”.

    Moreover, I do not consider consent “sexy”. It is required. Whether it is sexy(er) for the male (i.e. the one doing the “obtaining” does not really matter.
    Saying that “consent is sexy” is somewhat like saying “Your shit sandwich will taste even better if you replace the shit with tomatos and lettuce before serving.” It is true, from the point of view of the person who eats the sandwich, but it is also so obvious it shouldn’t have to be said.

    I also have a problem with the phrasing “get consent”. Because this implies that consent will be given. Which reinforces the problems with consent you pointed out.

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