Quick Hit: The Meaning of Consent

Living in a rape culture as we do, one commonly hears all sorts of justification around talk about consent. Accusations of rape are met with drawn out discussions about whether or not she really consented, which is kind of patronizing, when you think about it. I mean, if she had really consented, then there wouldn’t likely be a trial, would there? How many times, when people say to the police that they were mugged, or that their car was stolen, is it said that they really probably consented to giving money/lending their vehicle? But in a rape culture, it’s all about proving she consented. Prostituted women and girls “consent.” Women in pronography “consent.” My friend “consented” when her abusive husband made her have sex even when she didn’t want to. Laurelin in the rain points out just how inadequate the idea of consent really is when she writes that “Consent implies nothing more than agreement to undergo.” I couldn’t decide which was the best part to quote because the whole thing is really good. Here’s a quick taste:

Consent is nothing more than ‘yes’. Yes may mean yes, but it doesn’t mean anything else.

When we speak of female sexuality and agency, we need to care about a hell of a lot more than the ‘yes’. Not just the ‘yes’, not just the ‘consent’. Not the signing of the form. Not the grudging agreement, the inability- for whatever reason, economic, psychological, physical- to say no. Not the yes of exhaustion, the yes of emotional manipulation, the yes of poverty.

There are numerous reasons that one may consent. There are numerous reasons one may say ‘yes’ to things we do not want to do. Consent in itself is not enough. Consent can be given in the direst of circumstances. Consent can be given because the other options are worse.

Read the whole thing. Here’s the link again. Hey, it’s even a short post, but oh does it say a lot.


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