Recently I have been reading ‘Yes Means Yes‘, a collection of essays which talk about female sexuality and consent and how stereotypical visions of female sexuality contribute to a rape culture. It’s a powerful book. I had planned to get to the end and then talk about it overall as I would do with a book normally, but recently some of the articles have really been getting in my head and I feel like it might be better to write down some thoughts specifically on those articles. I probably won’t do this for every article but it seems like a better way to look at it, and I will do a sort of summery post when I’m completely done.
Reclaiming Touch: Rape Culture, Explicit Verbal Consent, and Body Sovereignty.
Reclaiming Touch is the first article which really got into my head because it made me look at consent in a whole different light, but I’m still debating with myself over it. In the essay Hazel/Cedar Troost talks about the idea of a sort of expanded consent. The idea is that you should seek consent, and be asked for consent for any type of physical contact, be it a simple hug or something that already requires consent.
Initially I did think that the idea was a bit extreme, that was my sort of gut reaction. I couldn’t really imagine the idea of asking my friends if I could hug them, or my partner if I could hold his hand, because it’s just something that we do. I’m a quite physically affectionate person, I probably wouldn’t just go ahead and hug someone I’d never hugged before without asking, but I guess I would presume consent from having done it before.
It came to a point though where I realised that actually some of that sort of talk is used to justify rape where someone has had sex with the rapist before. In those situations we talk of saying yes once as being consent for that one time, we shouldn’t presume that another time the person may not want it.
It could be the same for any sort of physical contact, just because I have hugged my friend in the past it doesn’t mean that they want a hug now, plus there are times when different types of physical contact might not be appropriate.
Another point Troost made is that seeking consent for small things made seeking consent for bigger things easier. It sets a sort of precedent which means that you wouldn’t even think twice to ask about big things, because you ask for everything else. To me this means that teaching people to ask for consent for everything would mean that they grow to respect other boundaries and makes ‘grey’ rape less likely.
Troost also says that this type of consent actually improves a person’s sex life. I don’t know, it somehow to me makes it seem that things would be less spontaneous, and when you know someone well you can probably read the signs that they aren’t into it (or they would tell you). However I can see it being liberating knowing exactly what each other wants, and knowing that you are both getting enjoyment from the situation. It makes sure you are both on the same level.
What do you think? Is it extreme to seek consent for everything, or does it create a good habit?