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what is consent?

0 votes
simply because the word gets thrown around by people, but I'm skeptical of its meaning, or lack thereof.  perhaps people who might be inclined to use the word could explain how they use it?  how does consent relate to anarchy?
asked Jul 19 by shinminmetroskyline (1,820 points)
reshown Jul 19 by dot
i don't use the word, but i'll take a crack at it....

when someone says "yes" to something without coercion/threat
yeah I regret this question now because I can't remember why I don't like the word.  it seemed like a good idea at the time.
I guess my problem is that 'without coercion or threat' is fairly meaningless, in that power dynamics aren't often as easy to identify as simply someone with a gun to your head?

not to mention the problem of trying to work out who should be asked for consent in any given circumstances?  I'm floundering with only myself to blame.  in my own life I tend to just do stuff and then wait for someone to shout at me, and then decide if I care about that or not.  the obvious exception being sex related, given that most people prefer to be asked first and tend not to like you if you just rush in.  it tends to sour relationships, which is counterproductive to the whole sex thing in my opinion.

but that is not to say that consent in sex is 'required' in any strict sense of the word, otherwise rape and assault wouldn't be such a problem for those in vulnerable situations.  I dunno, sometimes I set myself up for a bit of a nasty fall.

@ba why don't you use the word
I'm pretty fast warming to @funkys emphasis on context.  still waiting on their deep dive into the subject since it's not a word I have used much in the past, but I think i context is key to this discussion.  without context the idea of consent becomes this weird moralist buzzword that I tend to find obfuscates an analysis of power relations.  people just seem to throw 'consent' out there like it's some really easy clear cut thing to get a grip on, and in some cases it is.  no means no -and oh dear I'm starting to sound like my sophorific ex-professor in his lectures on the '''philosophy''' of language-.  but unfortunately that tautology is still pretty useful, which is depressing.

these days the only time i use the word consent is in purely sarcastic jest. i feel like the word has been pummeled into virtual meaninglessness, most recently by (the majority of) the me-too movement.

the idea that nobody should be forced to do something they choose not to do is inherent in my anarchist perspective. but the way the word "consent" is often used these days just makes me cringe.

i guess i want relationships in my life where the idea of "consent" does not usually require explicit verbal dialog - though there are surely situations where such a discussion might well be necessary. the context of the situation and our relationship tells my what i need to know, in most cases.

if i want to grab your ass, but i do not know if you are ok with it, i would not do so without asking you if you are ok with it. but chances are pretty damn good that i wouldn't want to grab the ass of anyone that i don't know well enough to infer from our relationship whether they would be ok with it. if i grabbed their ass thinking they were ok with it, and they actually were not ok with it, then i clearly misjudged our relationship (or the immediate context of the situation), and i would apologize and move on. if i grabbed their ass and they were/seemed ok with it, but then years later claimed that they weren't... i'd apologize and then ask them why the fuck they didn't say something when i did it. what they might have meant was that they were ok with it at the time, but at this later point in their life they would not be ok with it (and are not ok with what happened in retrospect). that is a very different scenario, and one that i can much more easily understand and empathize with.

Usually I hear the term consent being used in regards to sexual matters. Some instances of it is when they're talking about at what arbitrary age can one give consent. Like in some countries a 15 year old is incapable of giving consent, but in other countries a 12 year old is capable of giving consent. But when the 15 year old gives consent to do something viewed as immoral, then their consent is "valid consent" while the 12 year old consent would not be. Very confusing to me. It's taboo to discuss young people and consent in regards to sexual stuff and I think it's been discussed on here

There are some people that use the term to absurdity and it's hard to take them seriously. Like according to a tiny amount of people, having a fantasy or sexual thoughts about someone is rape if you don't get their consent first to have said thoughts. That just sounds creepy to go up to someone and ask them if you have their consent to varnish the pole or paddle the pink canoe later when alone.

I don't know, but I tend not to use the word consent unless I'm trying to choke the intellectual chicken. Using the term in day to day life just seems awkward. Like "Hey Elmer, do I have your consent to borrow a pair of your Zubaz?" See very awkward.

to be quite honest i when i first posed the question sex wasnt actually my main though, though i thought i mention it because it seems like a fairly important topic.  ive just heard it bandied around a lot recently by statist types, people discussing 'informed consent' with regards to the criminal justice system (go figure), and dns just reminded me.  im certainly not complaining about @funky's deep dive into the topic of 'grabbing ass'.

consent is a legal term most of all, and i'm of the opinion that the radical scene has largely blurred this.

For me, it also means that a female WANTS to have sex, and their agency in the matter is clear. The definition should go both ways, but women are more often the victims of sexual harrassment and so they get unfair positive and negative representation when it comes to this, and like everyone else are pressured to conform and appear "normal". I very much dislike approaching women when i can't intuitively feel that it's fine or ok.

@shinmin: i feel you, interpreting what other people want based off what they say is difficult sometimes, but a lot of the time feminists are trying to counter hyper-sexuality in male culture (ie, the viewpoint that if you are a man and you are not having sex it means you are a loser) and the fact that men are just naturally sexually aggressive in a lot of animal species. Consent is definetly not consensual in the animal kingdom but i think it's important for humans just because we have such large and complex brains, and a single breach of consent can lead to abusive relationships.

1 Answer

+1 vote
i'd say that consent is agreeing to something when one believes one has the option to not-agree to it.

there are limitations to that definition, including that to believe one has an option, one must have already imagined alternatives, ie, my definition puts a lot of responsibility on the individual consenting or not-consenting. that might or might not be fair/appropriate/reasonable in every situation. but what definition *is* good for every situation?

work is the most obvious example, i think, but for many people drugs, sex, capitalist interactions of various sorts, abusive relationships, are all in the conversation as well.
answered Sep 17 by dot (51,520 points)
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