Saw this comic on sex & consent, had things to say, deleted the draft, then several months later, saw it again. So here we go. Take two.
The comic there expresses a nice idea, mostly, good examples and advice etc. etc. but the part that caught my attention was this: the green-haired person in the third panel who says, “Wait a minute! I’ve been with my wife for 15 years. There’s no way we cover all of this [checklist] every time we have sex! We usually don’t even explicitly ask each other! Are you saying that we’re not having consensual sex??” to which the blue-haired narrator says, “Of course not!”
At which point in my mind I hear the sound of screeching brakes.
I’ve seen this kind of objection play out before, sure, in contexts where someone has dared talk explicitly about consent — it’s happened often enough that I can’t even remember specifics of when or where. What gets me is not the confusion over implicit communication, or even how readily someone jumps to assure them, “No, not at all! You’ve merely misunderstood the message. I wouldn’t dare impugn your honor, my 100% ethical friend who has never done anything wrong!”
What gets me is how consistently there’s always someone, even a complete stranger, ready to interject this way in the first place and essentially say, “You trust me, right? You have faith in me, right? You believe I’m not a rapist, right?”
And I’m like… the heck? I don’t even know you. I probably wouldn’t be rock-solid certain of those things even if I did know you. Why are you expecting anyone, let alone strangers on the internet, to assure you how much they’re sure you’ve never raped?
Note that this is different from the anxious uncertainty of “oh man, I’m scared I may have hurt someone.” This is something else. This is “Excuse me, are you suggesting that I, Me, a Good Person, am somehow not flawless? For I, Me, a Good Person, have in fact done the-things-that-I’m-interpreting-you-as-saying-are-unethical, so clearly you ought to be ashamed of yourself, or at least explain in a way that clears my name.”
I shouldn’t even have a dog in this hunt, since I don’t group communication and consent as the same thing anyway. But geez, it bothers me, people thinking they’re entitled to automatic couldn’t-possibly-be-a-rapist trust, or even couldn’t-possibly-need-to-improve-on-the-communication-front trust. I try to mentally give everyone a null value there. And from the consistency with which I see “No I’m sure you’re fiiiiiine”-type answers, it almost sounds like not-automatically-placing-unwarranted-trust-in-people is some kind of taboo, if not simply unconsidered as an option.
I guess I just don’t understand going through life without a little paranoia.