The problem is that "technically" isn’t good enough.
October 10, 2017 11:34 AM   Subscribe

The first thing you need to understand about consent is that consent is not, strictly speaking, a thing. Not in the same way that teleportation isn’t a thing. Consent is not a thing because it is not an item, nor a possession. Consent is not an object you can hold in your hand. It is not a gift that can be given and then rudely requisitioned. Consent is a state of being. Giving someone your consent — sexually, politically, socially — is a little like giving them your attention. It’s a continuous process. It’s an interaction between two human creatures. I believe that a great many men and boys don’t understand this. I believe that lack of understanding is causing unspeakable trauma for women, men, and everyone else who is sick of how much human sexuality still hurts.
The Horizon of Desire: Laurie Penny wants a new conversation about women, men, consent, desire, and autonomy. [slLongreads] posted by Fish, fish, are you doing your duty? (19 comments total) 83 users marked this as a favorite
Thank you for posting this.
posted by twilightlost at 12:29 PM on October 10, 2017 [3 favorites]

Maybe this is the place to post this story by Carmen Maria Machado, The Husband Stitch, that I just ran across in this essay by Jane Dykema.
posted by kokaku at 12:35 PM on October 10, 2017 [19 favorites]

posted by Grandysaur at 12:41 PM on October 10, 2017 [1 favorite]

"The Hog-Emperor of Rape Culture is squatting in the White House".

I mean, I don't want my love for this phrase to diminish the import of the article, which is right and true and needed, but -- this phrase is a thing of beauty.
posted by diane47 at 12:53 PM on October 10, 2017 [42 favorites]

"Stating clearly what I wanted, whether or not I got it, has been intimidating, as if I’d suddenly put on a clown mask or produced a whip and a hopeful expression. "

Jesus, I'm laughing and crying at the same time.
posted by corvikate at 1:11 PM on October 10, 2017 [14 favorites]

Her line about men not being offended by the rather demeaning representation that we get in rape culture struck a chord. So many times, I hear other men try to excuse their behavior by blaming their libido, as if it's some force they cannot control, and it incenses me, because they're trying to depict all men as bestial, which demeans me as well!
posted by NoxAeternum at 1:20 PM on October 10, 2017 [16 favorites]

[Couple comments deleted; saulgoodman if you want to talk about a mod decision, come to the contact form.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 1:28 PM on October 10, 2017 [1 favorite]

This article is gold, not just for the hog emperor quote.

I have been thinking about consent as more of a process that is usually implicit (like the attention example), and have been making it an effort with clients to make it explicit; it is a process of continually revisiting that initial choice they made and making sure they're okay with what they've chosen. and if they're not, changing what I'm doing immediately so that they feel both heard and safe.

I have not had a partner in a long time so I can't comment about how that's played out in the sexytime space.
posted by thebotanyofsouls at 1:32 PM on October 10, 2017 [3 favorites]

posted by BlueHorse at 1:43 PM on October 10, 2017

"the ubiquitous, unspoken understanding that women are first and foremost objects of desire, not individuals with desires"

I once had a long distance thing with a man who is relatively well-known as a lefty writer, and particularly strong on feminism. We finally were going to have the chance to get together and he mentioned that he really liked lingerie. So we had a conversation about what he liked, I went out shopping, he enthusiastically registered his opinion via text and photos during the shopping trip, and I spent about ten times more on a pair of underwear than any other pair I'd ever bought. There were many comments from him about looking forward to seeing my in this underwear.

So he arrived at my house and we got to the point of taking off our clothes, I in my fancy panties. And him? This grown ass "feminist" man was wearing a baggy, greying pair of saggy boxer briefs that had clearly seen better days (but had never, ever been about making him attractive to a partner).

Sadly, his approach to dressing himself matched his approach to sex. My role was to be exciting to him and, if necessary, I could take my pleasure from the fact that I turned him on.

After a miserable overnight visit, he went on his merry way back to the world in which he is lauded for being a champion of women's rights and agency.
posted by mcduff at 1:55 PM on October 10, 2017 [51 favorites]

The article is absofuckinglutely gold, and it is even more so for having read it after just reading the short story and related essay posted above by kokaku. And now my head is reeling and I want to raise my hands and shout AMEN like I'm in the presence of some kind of feminist preaching - we've seen the dangers of hell, and we've talked about all the glories of heaven that could come.

I simultaneously feel angrier and more hopeful than I have in a week or so.
posted by rmd1023 at 3:15 PM on October 10, 2017 [4 favorites]

rmd1023 - can you say more about feeling hopeful?
posted by kokaku at 3:37 PM on October 10, 2017

I think it's because Penny is saying things I hope and believe (and saying them better than I can), as opposed to me just reading about all the ways things suck and the various dumpster fires around me.
posted by rmd1023 at 3:53 PM on October 10, 2017 [4 favorites]

From the essay: If you’ve been told that attractive women often act like they don’t want to fuck you, how are you meant to respect the wishes of those who really, actively don’t want to fuck you? If you have eroticized female sexual hesitancy, how are you meant to suddenly switch to a culture of real consent, where the appropriate thing to do when someone is pulling away is to let them go?

And from the woman's POV, she's taught that if she hesitates and a man doesn't pursue, it's not that he's respectful, it's that he's lost interest.
posted by AFABulous at 4:46 PM on October 10, 2017 [19 favorites]

“Man fucks woman. Man: subject. Woman: object.”

—The Fall, Episode 3, “Insolence and Wine”

Or alternatively, Catharine MacKinnon in 1982! Which is why, sigh, while Laurie Penny is so right about so much with this essay, I am saddened she thinks that recognising rape culture is a modern feminist innovation. We have been through all of this before. I swear patriarchy is like that Doctor Who monster The Silence, where the second you take your eyes off it it makes you forget: not only forget what you did to fight it the last time, but also forget the fact that you ever even saw it in the first place. Read Susan Brownmiller, Laurie! I know she's one of those irrelevant problematic old feminists who has nothing to say about the more enlightened times we live in today, but make no mistake, forty years from now young feminists are going to be told the exact same thing about you.
posted by Catseye at 1:52 AM on October 11, 2017 [5 favorites]

You're dead right both that the essay is right about a lot, and that there's a long history of feminists before her saying the same things. But I don't think Penny's claiming to be breaking new ground, and I'd guess she probably knows that it's been said before. We just need people to keep repeating the same truths over and over until people start listening.
posted by LizardBreath at 7:19 AM on October 11, 2017 [3 favorites]

I once had a long distance thing with a man who is relatively well-known as a lefty writer, and particularly strong on feminism [...] wearing a baggy, greying pair of saggy boxer briefs

that's a Joss Whedon story if I've ever heard one one
posted by runt at 7:20 AM on October 11, 2017 [1 favorite]

Actually I thought it was my ex. What's really dispiriting is there are so many that could match that description.
posted by Space Kitty at 12:30 PM on October 11, 2017 [2 favorites]

"Sex was something you persuaded women to let you do to them, and if they weren’t passed out, saying no, or actively trying to throw you off, you were probably fine."

...that one sentence sums up (very well for me) Harvey Weinstein's recently reported behavior with women.
posted by the matching mole at 3:28 PM on October 11, 2017 [2 favorites]

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