a rhetorical invoice

Every once in a while, the copilot sends me an article on M/S to see what I think, and pretty much every time, I can’t get through it.  Since she’s requested my thoughts, here’s a catalog of recurring problems and unanswered questions, for future reference.

What they all seem to emphasize, it seems, is the mantra of consent, consent, consent.  Which is nice, I guess, in that at least there’s that.  But then they just harp on the point without developing it further, and I’m left with additional questions.

Yes, alright, it’s consensual, I heard you the first time.  What, you think we’re done here?  How does that account for grooming?  What about the idea that some people “can’t” consent?  What about hermeneutical injustice?  And what is consent, by your definition?  What model of consent are you using?  Affirmative consent?  Informed consentEnthusiastic consent?  Consent as a felt sense?

Why would you think you can just drop the word “consent” and walk away?

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves, because all this is assuming a closed-circuit system, and you need to establish beforehand why we should be treating M/S as strictly that.  What about the third parties here?  Who are they, you think?  If they don’t matter, why?  If they’re not relevant, how?  Let me see you actually engage with the arguments otherwise instead of falling back on closed-circuit metrics and circular logic.  Let me see you wrestle with the idea of M/S as a production, the same way a discrete scene is a production, the same way telling a joke is a production, the same way filming a movie is a production, the same way human behavior is a production, the same way all the world is a stage and we are merely players.

It’s not like you can possibly not know what ghosts you’re invoking.

Speaking of which, enough contrasting M/S with clueless claims about legal slavery or “nonconsensual slavery” being illegal/ended in America as  of 1865.  Guess what.  It’s not.  Check the 13th amendment: it has a loophole written in.  Go introduce yourself to CRT.  Go read some Michelle AlexanderLook, I’ll even make it easy for you.  Obviously it’s not unusual to be someone who’s propagandized into overlooking these things, but if you’re making an extended case about slavery and citing existing laws readily accessible through online archives, I’m holding you to a special standard that’s called “get your facts in order.”

Also, spare me this contrived dichotomy of “nonconsensual slavery” vs. “consensual slavery.”  This feels like someone trying to tell me there’s a difference between “unethical abuse” and “ethical abuse” (and no, I’m not using abuse as a synonym for hitting).  That word has half of that dichotomy embedded into its meaning.  If you want to specify that a relationship is ethical and consensual, then why are you committed to using the word slavery?

I’m not even making a case for why you shouldn’t.  I’m just asking someone to tackle the question for once, in earnest and good faith.  ‘Cause if all you really want to say, all you want to say, is that your submissive (usually female) partner has bound herself to and acts in service to your dominant (usually male) partner, conservatives have a word for that: marriage.

Anyway, as I’ve said more than once before, I’m done with the idea of “consent” (usually framed as permission but named as consent) as the only deciding factor in what is or isn’t unethical.  So any “nonconsensual vs. consensual” divide as an ethical metric, when it comes to something like this, isn’t going to be enough for me.

Go further.  Try harder.  Stop farting the word “consent” repeatedly and learn how to construct a basic friggin’ argument.

edit: recommended further reading:

“I argue that most people who trade sex are making conscious choice to engage in that activity, but the presence of consent should not be confused with the fairness or equity of the contexts in which such consent occurs. Nor should it be assumed that because one makes a choice to do something, that individual is solely and individually responsible for all consequences of that action.”

–Emi Koyama, Consent is overrated

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