Slashdot recently had a story up about Julian Assange, the founder of Wikileaks, being accused of rape (and the charges subsequently being dropped). Slashdot is a very male-dominated site, and any discussion of rape and sexuality usually turns to how men are unfairly targeted by rape accusations, and presumed guilty before any evidence is presented. I wasn’t expecting a horribly well-informed discussion, but I was surprised to come across a comment about Enthusiastic Consent. From the comment:
Here in the US they’ve coined a term for the PC way of going about sex: Enthusiastic Consent. [suite101.com] It is an outgrowth of the PC version of “No means No!” from the 1980’s. In the 80’s in the US they counseled college kids that they had get permission at each step of the way. They actually had role-playing seminars where you’d ask “is it OK if I touch you here?” “Is it OK if I kiss you there?” You really got the feeling that these people had never had a real sexual encounter in their lives, and wanted to make sure that nobody else did either.
The commenter goes on to talk about how the Enthusiastic Consent movement is attempting to create a world where “anything can be considered rape.” Way to misrepresent. My response is below.
As someone who is a fan of the Enthusiastic Consent model, I think you’re misrepresenting its goals. Specifically…
So this [idea of Enthusiastic Conset] has morphed into an “anything can be considered rape” model, where even getting an affirmative “yes” to each of these questions is not enough. The “yes” has to be truly enthusiastic to count. So telling a girl that you love her and want to have sex with her is rape – because you are exploiting your relationship. Have a couple of drinks together? Rape. Tell her “it’s Ok, everybody does it?” Rape. Know somebody who lives in a society that is OK with casual sexual encounters? Ooops, that might be social conditioning – better not try to hook up. ‘Cause that’s rape.
The idea of Enthusiastic Consent is not to rewrite rape legislation out of whole cloth. Rather, it’s to create a social movement where the healthy expectation is that sex should only occur between two people who enthusiastically consent to the activity. To use your example, saying “It’s OK, everybody does it” isn’t and shouldn’t be rape. But I’d sure say it’s an ethically questionable way to get someone in bed with you. Likewise for exploiting a relationship status, likewise for using somebodies social expectations of casual sexual encounters to pressure them into sex. Again, none of those situations are rape but they’re all situations in which the consent of one party was not given enthusiastically.
And as a woman who really enjoys having sex, surrounded by friends – male and female – who also enjoy having sex, why would I want any of us to be having sex that wasn’t consented to with enthusiasm!? Why would you ever want that for yourself, or your friends, or your children? There are enough things in my life that I’m only blase about, sex shouldn’t be one of them. And so no, Enthusiastic Consent does not mean that the situations you list somehow are transformed into rape. It does mean that they’re indicative of a society which sees little wrong with unenthusiastic sexual encounters, and argues that that’s a problem.
As a final note, you scoff at the idea of asking “is it OK if I touch you here?” “Is it OK if I kiss you there?” You don’t get to decide what level of consent your partner has offered. And if you don’t ask, you can’t know for sure.
The two replies, neither form the original commenter, continue to miss the point, that Enthusiastic Consent is less about legal reform than it is about social. Which is frustrating, but I felt good about chiming in and trying to correct the misconception.
What do y’all think about Enthusiastic Consent? Did I miss anything myself, or misunderstood some important point?
I sort of want to buy this shirt...