[cw: rape culture, invalidation talk, and abstract talk of rape, CSA, etc. including vague talk of personal experiences]
I’ll be quoting/responding in snippets, so if you want the full context, you can check the links first.
I feel somewhat uncomfortable with describing consent as something that can be taken back.
I know what you mean. I was uncomfortable when I first encountered it too. There’s definitely a conversation worth having about where that discomfort comes from.
On the surface, it reminds me of the “she wanted it, but the next day she changed her mind and now she is accusing him of rape” narrative.
If that’s a reason for objecting to the model, then it’s not a legitimate one.
Yes, saying “you can take it back” does validate people who, as it says, take it back. Yes, that does raise the specter of the “what if she consented and then later she changed her mind” rhetorical cudgel wielded by rape apologists. Yes, that’s something to bear in mind, something the model confronts directly.
Here’s the thing: that happens. Someone thinking they’re okay with something (or even wanting something) and then later looking back and realizing the experience was abusive/exploitative/violating is a thing that happens. I’ve heard it mostly from date rape/partner rape survivors and people who dated adults as children. Sometimes it takes time and distance for you to clean out the brainwashing and the gaslighting and figure out what really happened. Sometimes you’ll never be sure.
There is no reason to punish or condemn people for that.
I’m well aware that’s a controversial opinion to a lot of folks — but I’ll be damned, literally, if I let them attack and invalidate abuse victims for exhibiting the symptoms of abuse victims.
Also, I know I’m talking abstract and “they” and “them” here, but uh, granting myself permission to take my consent back/change my mind about what was ethical to do to me is something crucial for me in recognizing some of my own abuse, including sexually violating stuff that happened to me as a child that I’m just now recognizing and literally currently in the midst of processing and have been for a few months and am still newly reckoning with, so, uh. #awkward
Anyway. Yeah, it should remind you of that. It reminds you of that because that’s exactly what it’s for.
On the other hand, it is really important to recognize that the emotional side of consent is what truly matters. The communication rules side only exists to prevent feelings of violation. I doubt any set of rules can prevent every possible situation that could cause emotional sense of nonconsent in the present and future, and sadly many people are not even following the most basic rules.
We’re so concerned with what is legally considered rape (in many places not enough is), in other words with permission, with “can I” questions rather than “would you like me to” questions, that we’ve lost sight of the goal of not harming each other. I can understand why. Even a person who perfectly understands themselves and the situation they’re in can want something they will regret later, because people can change in unpredictable ways. This can’t be prevented. Changes in understanding of the self because of new information might often be preventable, but that’s a difficult problem. It’s tempting to reduce the issue to whether true permission is given, which at least looks easy.
I wonder whether it would be useful to let consent be about rules and communication, and find a different word for the emotional side.
You could just as easily use the words “rules” and “communication” for rules and communication — or, like I did in the original post, substitute “external expression of consent” with “permission.”
It’s obvious to me that many people are already reaching for consent-as-a-feeling when they talk about consent anyway. “Children can’t consent”? Children are obviously technically capable of “permission,” but having sex with a child as an adult is still nasty and exploitative. “Drunk people can’t consent”? There are obviously degrees of drunkenness that wouldn’t preclude technical permission, and when people say “drunk people can’t consent” they’re not ignorant of the fact; they’re just using consent to mean something other than communicated permission.
So I don’t see the point of “finding a different word” for a way that consent is already being used in the basic mantras of sexual ethics.
Not just because it would stop accusations that we want to make person A a criminal by nothing more than person B changing their mind after the event,
1) Defining consent as a feeling has nothing to do with legal or criminal status. I literally said nothing about codified law and am not even interested in the applications to codified law.
2) This is literally a reworded version of the “What about false accusations?” question, which was an irrelevant derailment tactic to begin with. I’m gonna assume you don’t need the 101 on that.
but because it would make sure the real goal of preventing harm as far as possible does not get forgotten.
Question. How does acknowledging more instances of harm interfere with the goal of preventing harm? Is that what you’re implying, or am I just reading this wrong?
[note: what we have here is a situation in which a wordpress post got linked on tumblr for spreadability (cool), and then that post got reblog-commented on on tumblr… and now that response is being responded to on the original wordpress blog. If you want me to see something or discuss something with me — and I understand that that might not apply, but if it does — I have a comment section. It does not require an account or identifying info. You can check the box to get an email notification if someone replies to your comment. If you’d rather type out your response on tumblr, you can drop a link to that tumblr post in the comment section of the post you’re replying to. I’d appreciate it.]