Consent Culture: Let’s Review
So in the interest of my own mental health I stepped away from Consent Culture discussions for a few weeks. I’m happy to see that people are still thinking critically about what consent means, both interpersonally and in the greater context of the altsex scene (never mind the rest of the world).
I do feel, however, that there’s a quick review that needs to be had on what the goals of the Consent Culture Project are, as they seem to be getting confused with how individuals choose to interpret what Consent Culture means to them.
These mistaken ideas are in bold, with my explanation underneath to clarify.
1) Consent Culture Hates Consensual Nonconsent
-Not at all. Consensual nonconsent is totally part of my envisioning of consent culture, if it involves informed consent and if both parties feel they can walk away from the scene/situation safely if they so choose. Personally, if you have the financial ability to say “screw this” and get out of your relationship, rad. If you are encouraged to maintain your own friends, awesome! Consent Culture is about thinking critically about these dynamics of power we play around with and maintaining as close to 100% consent as is humanly possible, while keeping in mind things like social pressures/context. Consensual nonconsent can fall under that. I do think it’s important to at least have a discussion with a top type person before you sign away access to money and stop talking to your own friends and family, though, as those are often two things that make it much harder to get away from a relationship that turns abusive. It does not mean that consensual nonconsent is always abusive.
2) Consent Culture Believes In The Victim/Abuser Binary
-Definitely not. Consent Culture, the way I see it, is about recognizing that people fuck up, that consent is complex and influenced by many factors, that boundary-crossing does not automatically mean you are an abusive asshole and never a victim yourself or that having your boundaries crossed means that you are incapable of being abusive. Yes, if someone is a repeat offender, repeatedly gets defensive when called out and tries to silence the victim, I will be pretty suspicious that they “just fucked up”. But as a whole, I think that society encourages some messed up forms of communication that make it relatively easy to mean well and fuck up anyway. The question is how do you manage it afterwards. I would like to see more discussion around consent simply because I think acknowledging that it’s complicated is a great first step to figuring out how to make it somewhat less so, particularly in communities that say how consent is important to them- altsex folks should be excellent at thinking critically about these issues, because we’re already moving outside of the norms.
3) The Opposite Of Consent Culture Is Rape Culture
-There’s a reason when Maggie and I started this thing we talked about entitlement culture instead of rape culture, because rape is a triggering word and, frankly, not the most accurate. The issue at the core is the idea of combating entitlement to certain behaviours. Rape is an aspect of that, as is abuse, but it also covers things like racism, classism, sexism, ableism, sizeism, Twue Domism, homophobia, transphobia, etc. Which is why, rather than just talking about rape, we try to talk about the various ways oppression and marginalization intersect within altsex communities. Because if we want to turn this shit around, we need to address the core issues, and the best way to do that is to start talking about them.
4) Consent Culture Is About Us Vs Them
-No no no. Definitely not! I have come out as having been the victim of abuse in BDSM and also being an abuser in BDSM by crossing boundaries for just this reason. Again: this is not a binary. We have the potential to be both Us and Them, depending on the situation. This shit is complicated, and I challenge anyone to say they communicate perfectly and there’s never been a misunderstanding or that they’ve always asked for exactly what they wanted and gotten just that. We’re all muddling through here. Which is why I hate the idea of “white knights” in this discussion- I don’t think having this concept of “protecting” people or “banishing” others is useful except for in circumstances where someone refuses to take a step back and educate themselves. Usually, what we need more of is education in things like verbal and nonverbal consent cues, body language, spacial awareness, representation, things like that. There are some people who go looking for trouble, granted- but the more we talk about complexity, being humble when someone says you crossed their boundaries, and supporting assault victims, the more agency we’re giving everyone involved in altsex and the clearer it will be (in my opinion) when someone doesn’t give a fuck.
I hope this makes sense- it’s late, I’m tired, but I wanted to at least start by clearing those things up. And I am really glad that the discussion continues. My anger really flares only at people who want to shut these discussions down to maintain some screwed up status quo even though people are saying it’s not safe for them. If I thought this was really unfixable and people in altsex were all abusive dipshits who don’t want to learn, I wouldn’t have bothered starting all this in the first place with Maggie. I have some faith that we’re mostly geeks here, and geeking out about complicated social constructs is part of what we like to do- we like to hack those constructs and create our own that work for us, in all their diversity. And that’s rad.
I just want to challenge the idea that things are perfect as they are and critically analyzing our own communities is anathema.