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So, that thing about consent you like so much….

It’s hugely problematic.

You must have seen it, a cartoon which apparently makes a point about how badly we approach sexual assault and sexual consent by showing other situations where consent is violated. Brilliant people cry, imagine if we treated other consent as we do sexual consent, what a genius.

Except, erm, we do. That is we treat all consent as only valid according to the status of the person giving consent. We ride roughshod over the rights of certain groups all the time. If you are poor, or disabled, or non white, or non cis, or a sex worker, or a woman in large part of the world even being considered to be able to consent is a privilege you don’t have. Your consent, sexual or otherwise is neither wanted or needed. Society does treat all consent exactly as some sectors of capitalist patriarchy treats sexual consent.

Lets look at the cartoon in some detail;

The first 3 frames show 2 people deciding to watch a movie, then one after half an hour asking if they can watch something else. Friend refuses. Apparently this is a unusal situation, if it is then I can only assume you are neurotypical, because if you are autistic this happens to you all the time. Explaining you have reached your ability to cope with a certain kind of sensory stimulation is “letting the side down” being weak/boring/straight/attention seeking “a drama queen” just sit down and watch the movie, you were fine 30 minutes ago, ffs why does it always have to be about you and your autism.

If society treated all consent like it does sexual consent?

For some of us it already does.

The second 3 frames show a woman lending someone her car, then the person taking it another time without permission.

Clearly in the incredibly privileged world of those sharing this cartoon, and the cartoonist, domestic violence, a non sexual consent violation that predominantly targets women, does not exist. The fact this is the lived experience of so many, that their right to property and control of that property is violated everyday is also a huge issue for many workers, especially indentured workers across the globe. From prisoners to trafficking victims the list of people who do not have access to, and control over their own property is so long it would take a whole blog to cover just this one point.

If society treated all consent like it does sexual consent?

For some of us it already does.

The third set shows someone being woken by loud music in the middle of the night, and their friend saying “but I thought you liked this song”

Seems some people have never had housemates. Or more likely has never been vulnerably housed, or homeless, or sofa surfing, putting up with no privacy, no ability to say no, sexual or otherwise because the alternative is hostels or the streets.  During one period of homelessness I was kipping on a friends sofa. He was lovely, but also an alcoholic who sold drugs for a living. The phone calls that woke me in the middle of the night were actually less annoying than his maudlin monologues and 2 am cooking. However it was a constant process of balancing boundary violations with a roof over my head, and I was lucky, he was a genuinely decent person, it never occurred to him to trade blow jobs for a sofa.

If society treated all consent like it does sexual consent?

For some of us it already does.

The next set of pictures shows someone being given a tatoo when they are sleeping, clearly meant to remind readers of abusers like Assange who think sleeping people can consent to sex. My first thought here was of the “hilarious” prank of drawing on a drunk persons face, or the equally side-splitting shaving of an eyebrow. Common consent violations in the name of banter. However that is partially my able bodied privilege showing, since a group daily has their body non consensually touched by others, that group is wheelchair users. Ask anyone who uses a wheelchair and they will be able to tell you story after story of being wheeled out of able bodieds way, without being asked, their consent or lack of it not even considered. Many other people with disabilities will have their consent ignored in their supposed best interests, especially if they have mental health issues. Samaritans Radar comes to mind here, mirroring the “you once asked for help” idea of the cartoon it was deemed acceptable to ignore the consent of people with mental health problems by a major charity,

If society treated all consent like it does sexual consent?

For some of us it already does.

The last set of three shows a scene of coercive control, an often hidden form of domestic abuse. I don’t know where to even start with someone who could draw that and not consider that society turns a blind eye to domestic abuse, tells women they were asking for it, or shouldnt make their abuser mad.

This all matters because there is not some great distinction between sexual consent and other forms of consent. Nor does society treat other forms of consent differently to sexual unless you are immensely privileged and used to having your boundaries, agency and autonomy respected. We have such a problem with consent because all of these non sexual violations happen all the time and we are told to put up with them, to stop making a fuss, to act differently, to not be poor, disabled, a sex worker, a person of colour, a trans woman. We are told not to expect consent, not to demand our rights, not to make mountains out of consent mole hills.

If society treated all consent like it does sexual consent?

For some of us it already does.

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8 comments on “So, that thing about consent you like so much….

  1. a wastrel (@wa7trel)
    July 2, 2015

    I’ve never forgotten the man making his way through a crowd who grabbed my mother by the shoulder and pulled/turned her out of his way. I stood there literally with my mouth open that anyone would do that.

    Liked by 1 person

    • jemima2013
      July 2, 2015

      it seems wrong to like tht comment, because it was probably so scary for both of you, but its is so common

      Like

  2. ValeryNorth
    July 2, 2015

    It reminds me of a documentary about policing burglaries in (IIRC) Nottingham, and they spoke to some of the burglars they caught.

    The used the exact same language as rape myths/rapists do about consent – and the exact same language as “witty” feminists saying “If we treated burglary like rape”. Actually, at least for some people, we already do. (Add to that, in a neighbouring police force where I am, burglaries are not treated as a priority case any more for investigation, they don’t send an officer straight away any more but “at a time of your convenience”)

    Their “hypothetical” is actually a reality that these people don’t experience because they live in the “right” areas.

    Like

    • jemima2013
      July 2, 2015

      which was pretty much the starting point for this post, that whoever wrote the cartoon, and most of those sharing it, must be so privileged, add in the fact people see its in Everyday Feminism, si *must* be OK, and you have a pretty awful thing getting praise from people who claim to be intersectional

      Like

  3. Wickedjulia
    July 3, 2015

    As much as I enjoy reading some of the articles on Everyday Feminism, I often find the writers there incredibly heavy handed while simultaneously being incredibly privilege blind. It is brutally apparent that they have never considered the point of view of someone who stays in an abusive situation for very valid reasons.

    Years ago, I worked for a DV shelter. Here are some things the writers at EF don’t take into account:

    No shelter can accommodate a woman who flees an abusive situation with her pets in tow. We had to turn away women with everything from dogs and cats to parrots and horses. Sometimes we tried to find alternative housing for the animals but, many of the staff lacked sympathy on the subject and would simply inform the woman she would have to give up her pet if she needed to stay in the shelter. I knew several women who returned to their abusers so they could keep their pets. I had a good friend stay with her abusive husband until her dog died because she had nowhere to take him.

    Most shelters can’t accommodate a woman with severe physical disabilities or severe mental health issues. We had to advise those women to seek help from the state hospital by checking themselves in as unable to take care of themselves. Which is incredibly problematic for any adult and dreadfully dangerous for a woman with children.

    No shelter can take a woman with children unless she has legal custody of those children. Which boils down to telling a woman she cannot leave an abusive spouse with her stepchildren until she has legally adopted those children beforehand. Almost all shelters in the U.S. will not take a woman who has a teenage son. The reason given to staff is that having a teenage boy in the shelter can be incredibly disruptive. The woman must find alternative housing for her son or leave him behind.

    No domestic violence shelter that I knew of including the one I worked for, would allow an admitted sex worker within its walls. This included strippers. We were told that this was for our (the staff) safety because most sex workers weren’t actually experiencing domestic violence. The violence they dealt with was because of their own criminal behavior and their contact with other criminals and not because of an intimate partner so it didn’t count as domestic violence. We were instructed to tell those women to go to the police. Many of us simply instructed the women to lie about their profession, instead, and admitted them anyway. We would then have to warn them that if they were discovered, they would have to leave the shelter and they would be blacklisted for a period of 3 years.

    Every time I read an article on EF about consent or domestic violence, I am forcibly reminded of all of these things that the writers don’t seem to know and have obviously never had to consider. Shelter and other services is not equally available to all and not talking about that leaves some of us floundering alone desperately seeking safety.

    Liked by 1 person

    • jemima2013
      July 3, 2015

      such an important comment, and thanks you for leaving it

      Like

  4. feministaspie
    July 7, 2015

    This this this this this!! Thank you 🙂

    Like

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This entry was posted on July 2, 2015 by in Uncategorized and tagged , , , .

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