Oh, happy days! Laurie Penny has given us over four-thousand words on the subject of consent:
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.
I think our award-winning journalist has discovered the abstract noun. Either that, or she’s being paid by the word.
I believe that a great many men and boys don’t understand this.
I believe this says more about the sort of men and boys Laurie associates with than anything else. And right on cue:
So, I’ve got this friend with a shady past. He’s a clever and conscientious person who grew up in the patriarchy, and he knows that he’s done things which may not have been criminal but have hurt people, and by people he means women. My friend has hurt women, and he doesn’t know what to do about that now, and from time to time we talk about it. That’s how it happened that, a few weeks ago, halfway through an effervescent confession in a coffee shop, the following words came out of his mouth: “Technically, I don’t think I’ve raped anyone.”
So Laurie has a friend who goes around hurting women and must resort to technicalities when assuring people he’s not a rapist. Little wonder she thinks men don’t understand consent very well if this fellow is typical of her circle of male friends.
“Technically, I haven’t raped anyone.” What did he mean, technically? My friend went on to describe how, over years of drinking and shagging around before he got sober, he considers it a matter of luck rather than pride that he has never, to his knowledge, committed serious sexual assault.
Sounds like a lovely chap.
The fact is that, like any number of men growing up in the last decade, his concept of consent could have been written in crayon. 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.
Oh, isn’t that neat! Laurie has a friend who behaves like a complete scumbag, and casually assumes all men must be like him.
That technically, of course, is not just something one hears from men.
That could be because most men don’t conduct themselves in the manner of borderline rapists.
You hear that same technically, in a different key, from girls and grown women who don’t want to think of the things that happened to them that way, even though the fact that those things happened to them, with or without their say-so, is the whole problem.
Like when they say “technically” they didn’t have sex because the deed took place on holiday where “it doesn’t count”? I’ve yet to hear a woman use the term “technically” to muddy the waters after a rape or sexual assault on her person.
We learn, just as men do, that our instincts about what we feel and experience are not to be trusted. We learn that our desire is dangerous and so we tamp it down until we no longer recognize the difference between wanting and being wanted. We learn that our sexuality is contemptible and so we crush it; we become alienated from our own bodies.
I have a feeling this “we” is operating in a small pond indeed.
I’ve told myself before that technically, this or that person committed no crime, so technically, I’ve got no reason to feel used like a human spittoon, and technically I did invite him back to my house, so technically, I should have expected nothing less, and technically, there’s no reason to be angry and upset, because really, what is female sexuality but a set of technicalities to be overcome?
I have no doubt whatsoever that Laurie has told herself this, but quite what it has to do with ordinary men and women isn’t clear.
The problem is that technically isn’t good enough.
Something you could have perhaps mentioned to your friend.
“At least I didn’t actively assault anyone” is not a gold standard for sexual morality, and it never was.
You’re preaching to the choir, honey. How about you tell this to the men you hang out with?
Of course, we have to start somewhere, and “try not to rape anyone” is as good a place as any, but it can’t end there. Our standards for decent sexual and social behavior should not be defined purely by what is likely to get us publicly shamed or put in prison, because we are not toddlers, and we can do better.
Says the self-declared polyamorist who believes the traditional family should be destroyed.
This is what consent culture means….It means adjusting our ideas of dating and sexuality beyond the process of prying a grudging “yes” out of another human being.
There’s more projection here than a plank with a hard-on. Laurie simply assumes that everyone’s dating experience is as miserable as hers.
Ideally you want them to say it again, and again, and mean it every time. Not just because it’s hotter that way, although it absolutely is; consent doesn’t have to be sexy to be centrally important.
This may be true, for certain people’s values of “ideally” and “hotter”. Alas, I’m not one of those people.
But because when you get down to it, sexuality should not be about arguing over what you can get away with and still call consensual.
Hands up all sane individuals who think it is?
But there are a great many simple ideas that we are taught not to understand and a great many more that we choose not to understand when our self-image as decent human beings is at stake, and that’s where a lot of men and boys I know are at right now. Bewildered.
Again, Laurie tells us her male friends and acquaintances don’t know what consensual sex is. Where’s she hanging out, San Quentin?
So let’s talk about getting away with it. Let’s talk about what happens in a society where women’s bodies are contested commodities for men to fight over. Let’s talk about rape culture.
Yes let’s. We can start with your pals.
The naming and shaming of rape culture has been one of the most important feminist interventions of recent years, and one of the most controversial and misunderstood.
By shaming she means remaining friends with dodgy men who technically aren’t rapists.
“Rape culture” does not imply a society in which rape is routine, although it remains unconscionably common.
It certainly seems that way in Laurie’s social circles, and now we know why.
Rape culture describes the process whereby rape and sexual assault are normalized and excused, the process whereby women’s sexual agency is continuously denied and women and girls are expected to be afraid of rape and to guard against it, the process whereby men are assumed to have the erotic self-control of a gibbon with a sweetie jar of Viagra, creatures who ought to be applauded for not flinging turds everywhere rather than encouraged to apply critical thinking.
In other words, it’s a cartoonish fiction dreamed up by deranged feminists.
I have never understood why more men aren’t offended by this assumption…
I sincerely believe that a staggering proportion of straight and bisexual men are working with some ingrained assumptions about sex and sexuality that they have not fully analyzed.
Thank heavens Laurie wouldn’t work with “ingrained assumptions about sex and sexuality” when writing a piece, eh?
I’m sorry, I give up here. There’s another 2,500 words of this and it’s only getting worse. Having skimmed it, she seems to have given her rapey pal a free pass and decided to lecture the rest of us instead. As the latest revelations about Harvey Weinstein show, there’s nothing lefty feminists like more than hanging out with douchebags while condemning all men as violent, sexual predators.