Enthusiastic consent in a muddy puddle of context


My last couple of blogs led to extensive discussion below the line about issues of consent and the value of various models of enthusiastic consent* over a more simplistic ‘no means no’ model.

With impeccable timing, the Scottish government has released preliminary findings of a survey of over 1000 school students, aged approximately 15-18 (Years S3-S6 in the Scottish school system.)

The findings are worrying. When presented with the statement “When a girl says no to sex, she always means no” only 73% said it was definitely or even probably true.  When asked about “When a boy says no to sex, he always means no” only 55% said it was definitely or even probably true. Let that sink in. Very nearly half of teenagers don’t believe a boy means no if he says no – and we are surprised to learn that large numbers of males are subjected to unwanted, coercive or abusive sexual contact?

Perhaps most worryingly of all, 89% of respondents agreed that a person could change their mind about having sex at any time, even if they had previously consented – meaning more than one in ten Scottish teenagers failed to agree with that most basic statement of consent principles.

I think this study is particularly troubling because the respondents in this survey are at the precise age when people are learning to negotiate their sexualities and behaviours. Those will often go on to become our habits and our expectations. It’s an age when we are finding out what is acceptable, desirable or enjoyable to ourselves and others. Most of these respondents will not be hugely sexually experienced – they have not learned through their own bitter experience that potential partners sometimes play hard-to-get; they have almost certainly picked up these myths from popular culture, their elders and their peers.

This murky puddle of confusion is the context against which enthusiastic consent (or crystal clear consent, affirmative consent, positive consent or whichever alternative model or jargon you prefer) is recommended. I don’t for a moment believe that teaching enthusiastic consent will solve all problems. It is not a magic bullet to prevent all rapes, assaults, exploitation and abuse. Enthusiastic consent won’t stop determined rapists from raping, but it does tear down the curtain of excuses and justifications behind which they often hide.  Enthusiastic consent is not even necessarily a cure to the attitudes revealed in this survey, it is more their natural logical progression.

The uncomfortable truth is that the large proportion of young people who said that no doesn’t always mean no might not be entirely wrong. We live in a culture where people’s desires and intentions are not always immediately apparent to others. For myriad complex reasons people sometimes say no when they mean yes, and sometimes say yes when they mean no.  If you are a halfway decent human being (as I firmly believe most of us are) then pinning your behaviour to a simplistic, all or nothing, one word reply has to be inadequate.

None of this relates to criminal law – what is or is not rape or some other form of assault – this is happening at a much more basic level of personal morality. Does it bother you to think you might be violating someone, traumatising someone, hurting someone, even raping someone? If the answer to that question is no, you don’t care, then no amount of consent training will make a difference.

If you do care, then adopting principles of enthusiastic consent is really the only way you can be sure to get it right.

 

 

* I’ll be honest and confess that I find extended interrogations of what enthusiastic consent really means and exactly what it looks like to be disingenuous and ugly. In a nutshell, if you’re not sure that consent is enthusiastic, then it isn’t. But if you want a more extended explanation, I like the one by Dr Nerdlove here.

Comments

  1. Anonymous Please says

    In a nutshell, if you’re not sure that consent is enthusiastic, then it isn’t.

    Isn’t enthusiastic consent wide open for misinterpretation unless the other person clearly says no? Especially if both involved are under influence of alcohol or whatever else.

    For example we’ve all heard defences in court claiming the other person was flirting or giving positive signals when in fact that wasn’t the intention, isn’t it possible that that could be considered as enthusiastic consent depending on the circumstances?

    For me no means no, I’ve never once asked consent or been asked for consent, it has always been a thing based on intuition and reading the moment.

    To make things muddier, as you say, as a teenager and into my early 20’s I was a very nervous self conscious person. I wanted sex but the signals I gave off were far from “enthusiastic” at times, I wanted someone to take control and allay my fears not someone who would stick to some rigid guideline.

  2. Ally Fogg says

    Isn’t enthusiastic consent wide open for misinterpretation unless the other person clearly says no? Especially if both involved are under influence of alcohol or whatever else.

    For example we’ve all heard defences in court claiming the other person was flirting or giving positive signals when in fact that wasn’t the intention, isn’t it possible that that could be considered as enthusiastic consent depending on the circumstances?

    I think there are two distinct issues within enthusiastic consent.

    The first is how we express ourselves to others. The best thing to teach kids, or for that matter adults, is to be clear and frank about your wishes and desires, say yes when you mean yes and no when you mean no, and to do so clearly.

    The second is about how we receive and interpret the words or other signals put out by others. On that front the rule is basically that unless the other person’s wishes have been made unambiguously clear, beyond any doubt, then you hold back and err on the side of caution. The presence of a “No” is certainly enough to make you stop and back off, but the absence of a “No” is not necessarily a green light to proceed.

    Those are both equally important messages, and two sides of the same coin.

    “Yes Means Yes” does not imply that “No Means No” is incorrect. It implies that “No Means No” is inadequate.

  3. says

    The uncomfortable truth is that the large proportion of young people who said that no doesn’t always mean no might not be entirely wrong.

    That’s why we need to teach them about the consequences.
    If you think that no doesn’t mean no* and you’re wrong, you are a rapist. FULL STOP. No excuse, no wiggling out.
    You’re right, the determined rapist is very untroubled by this because they already know they’re commiting rape, but it removes the cultural puffer and cover around them and might reduce rape taht way.

    *And please, nobody bring uo premediated consensual BDSM up to prove that somebody in a non-premediated, safe-word guarded BDSM context can therefore be ignored. My safe-words are “no”, “stop” ouch”

  4. says

    Also, this is why we need to change culture as a whole.
    Because currently, especially for girls and women there is a hafty price tag attached to being sexually active and enthusiastic.
    Saying “hell yes I want to fuck you” still makes you a slut and we all know what happens to sluts. But playing hard to get, needing seduction, well, not really my fault that I ended up in bed with him, right?
    It still doesn’t remove the onus from the other person to make sure that this is freely given consent.

  5. dsquareddigest says

    “The uncomfortable truth is that the large proportion of young people who said that no doesn’t always mean no might not be entirely wrong.”

    Doesn’t this suggest that the question was basically misdesigned, and so the 73% figure can’t be taken as necessarily meaningful?

  6. JT says

    I think an Emphatic NO coupled with getting up or leaving the room is pretty obvious. If you say no while putting her hand on your crotch I think it may have switched to enthusiastic consent.

    “Say what you mean and mean what you say”

  7. Gjenganger says

    Hi Ally
    Thanks for putting up a link to your definition of ‘enthusiastic consent’. That means we are finally clear about what we are discussing. That should concentrate minds.

    No reason to repeat our recent debates, but I would summarise the linked-to article like this:
    – Never ever take the slightest risk. If there is any possible, imaginable doubt, do not have sex.
    – Do not be satisfied with just consent. If there is no enthusiasm (outside of a long-time relationship), do not have sex.
    – Do not worry about the sex you lose. You will get all you need in the future anyway.
    – If you rather like the idea of sex, even if not quite enthusiastic, you are wrong. Stay chaste, and hold out for the fantastic, both-sides-enthusiastic sex that is the only thing worth having anyway.

    The message is clear, unmistakable, and easy to apply once you accept that you should always err on the side of chastity. It also means less sex, a lot less for some, since all the doubtful, trasactional or run-of-the-mill sex has been cut out. It is clearly calculated to appeal more to those who tend to be pestered for sex, those who react rather than take initiatives, and those who feel secure that they can get all the sex they want – be it because they do not want very much, or because lots of people tend to try with them. Stereotypical women, basically?

    On another point, your link has this:

    It helps create a culture of understanding and – more importantly – safety, where women can feel fewer restrictions on their own sexual expression and are freer to enjoy the sex they want, too.

    Now, I am a little underwhelmed by women’s right to enjoy the sex they want to. The point is that this right takes for granted that there is someone out there willing to oblige her in her search for erotic fulfillment. A lot of men have found their search for fulfillment ruined by the lack of willing cooperators. Maybe women do not suffer from that problem as much as men? That is likely why they favour policies like ‘enthusastic consent’, then.

  8. Ally Fogg says

    dsquareddigest

    Doesn’t this suggest that the question was basically misdesigned, and so the 73% figure can’t be taken as necessarily meaningful?

    I think it is meaningful, but one should be careful what meaning one takes from it!

    It means that there are a lot of people out there who believe that no doesn’t necessarily mean no. it doesn’t tell us that they are necessarily wrong to believe that.

    So what this poll tells me is that there is a lot of confusion and complication out there around the issue of consent, and that it cannot be as simple as a Yes-No question.

  9. Ally Fogg says

    Gjenganger

    Now, I am a little underwhelmed by women’s right to enjoy the sex they want to. The point is that this right takes for granted that there is someone out there willing to oblige her in her search for erotic fulfillment.

    I think you’re just playing a silly gotcha game there.

    I’d be pretty sure the author there would tell you that what he meant was “a culture of understanding and – more importantly – safety, where women can feel fewer restrictions on their own sexual expression and are freer to enjoy the sex they want, too, presuming they have found a willing partner to have that sex with” .

  10. says

    Gjenganger

    Now, I am a little underwhelmed by women’s right to enjoy the sex they want to. The point is that this right takes for granted that there is someone out there willing to oblige her in her search for erotic fulfillment. A lot of men have found their search for fulfillment ruined by the lack of willing cooperators. Maybe women do not suffer from that problem as much as men? That is likely why they favour policies like ‘enthusastic consent’, then.

    Hold your horses.
    Nobody talked about “women enjoying ALL the sex they ever want.”
    Seriously, this “women always get the sex they want, men have to beg” is just such bullshit. I went for years without sex even though I wanted it and I know many women who basically share that fate. The difference is that we’re not brought up with a sense of entitlement, with the idea that sex with another person is somehow something the universe or our preferred gender owes us.
    This is about women being able to enjoy the sex they obviously want to have, too, as opposed to the sex they are coerced into, bullied into our have out of a feeling of obligation.
    If you’re underwhelmed by the idea that women should enjoy the sex they’re having then you should probably not try to fuck them, you’d make a horrible lover.

  11. Ally Fogg says

    also Gjenganger

    It also means less sex, a lot less for some, since all the doubtful, trasactional or run-of-the-mill sex has been cut out.

    I don’t think it does, unless you are in the habit of having sex with people who don’t want you to.

    I think the end result is gradual changes in everyone’s behaviour. People who are in the habit of playing hard to get will quickly realise that it doesn’t work and that they have to be a bit more honest about it. As a culture, it does require us to move further beyond slut-shaming etc of women’s sexual desires, and move against everyone feeling so embarrassed and ashamed of their own sexual wants and needs.

    That’s a good thing for everyone and I suspect the end result would be more sex for everyone except (borderline) rapists.

  12. pikeamus says

    I’d love to see some good research on how often people actually do play hard to get and/or say no when they mean yes. I’ve never exactly been promiscuous, so my sample size is low, but I don’t recall ever encountering the behaviour personally*. By contrast, film and tv would have me believe it happens a great deal. It’s a pretty horrible thought really.

    *One friend did confess to me that she always refused a guys first advance when in a club, regardless of whether or not she was interested, as a test.

  13. Gjenganger says

    @Ally 9
    No, the point is different. Your right to fulfilling sex looms a lot larger once you are sure you can get sex at all. Just like your right to tasty food only becomes important once you are guaranteed enough calories to keep from starving.

    A bit of personal background. I have a long, long experience of having sex when I was tense, uninterested, not in the mood. This is not because I was subjugated, or because I felt a macho duty to come across when asked. Basically I was married, and sex was like rain in the Sahara. You are powerless to influence whether it happens and it becomes possible, maybe, at unpredictable intervals, a few times a year. Under those circumstances you try for it hard whenever the chance comes up, without asking silly question about what you happen to feel like. It is either that or wait 4 months for the next chance. I do not need you to tell me that this is not good for you in the long run. You get more tense, more estranged from your own feelings, and the act gets less fun, for both sides. In the end, several years too late, I finally understood that my quality of life would be much better once I gave up sex. Which I did. That is the way it goes. But I have scant sympathy left for people who complain that they are unable to get it exactly the way they want it.

  14. Gjenganger says

    @Ally 11

    I don’t think it does, unless you are in the habit of having sex with people who don’t want you to.

    Translation: “Your facts are right, but I remind you that only nasty people want sex from people who are not enthusiastic.” I have no problems with your opinion, but could we keep the facts and the condemnation in separate sentences, in the interest of debate? Please?

    For the rest, it may be a good thing overall, but it is either naive or manipulative or you to take it for granted that everybody (except the nasties) benefit equally. My guess would be that attractive and popular people of either sex would benefit from things being more open and clearcut, people who want to be left in peace would benefit from not being propositioned, most women would benefit from a system that gives their choices higher priority, and the less attractive and popular would be no better off, with the added cost that they would have fewer active (even if likely ineffective) ways of trying to improve their lot. Seeing that this is all pie in the sky, how can either of us argue for our guesses?

  15. says

    Because currently, especially for girls and women there is a hafty price tag attached to being sexually active and enthusiastic.

    And to make things even worse, there’s often a price tag attached to voicing an unambiguous “no”. Rage from rejection can be a frightening prospect. And then there’s always the extra pressure on girls and women to be nice and let them down easy and not hurt anyone’s feelings.

  16. says

    Gjenganger

    Basically I was married, and sex was like rain in the Sahara. You are powerless to influence whether it happens and it becomes possible, maybe, at unpredictable intervals, a few times a year.

    My heart bleeds buttermilk. So, you had a shitty marriage where you didn’t get enough sex to your liking. Don’t you think that this might probably be a personal problem and a problem within your relationship other than a big societal issue?

    For the rest, it may be a good thing overall, but it is either naive or manipulative or you to take it for granted that everybody (except the nasties) benefit equally. My guess would be that attractive and popular people of either sex would benefit from things being more open and clearcut, people who want to be left in peace would benefit from not being propositioned[1], most women would benefit from a system that gives their choices higher priority[2], and the less attractive and popular would be no better off[3], with the added cost that they would have fewer active (even if likely ineffective) ways of trying to improve their lot.[4]

    [1] So, don’t you think that less sexual harassment wouldn’t be worth something already. Worth a lot?
    [2] Uhm, what? How does this give women’s choices higher priorities unless by that you mean “not to have sex even though some dude wants to fuck them”? Do you know what that is called? Yep, rape. So, don’t you think that women’s preference not to be raped is really more important than a rapists preference to rape?
    [3] Complete bullshit. I know a lot of “not very attractive” (according to the oppressive current standard of attractive) who have quite a lot of sex.
    [4] i.e. coercing and bullying people into sex they don’t actually want to have. People who rely on that tactic should not have sex anyway, I’m totally happy with them being the losers in this scenario. Yes, looks like “everybody except the nasties win”.
    If you can’t have sex with somebody who is actually also interested in having sex with you DON’T HAVE SEX.

  17. Gjenganger says

    @Giliell 10

    Seriously, this “women always get the sex they want, men have to beg” is just such bullshit. I went for years without sex even though I wanted it and I know many women who basically share that fate.

    Slightly wrong point. “Women can get all the sex they want”, provided they do not care too much about how or who with, and are willing to risk meeting strangers in hotel rooms. Of course women often prefer nothing to what is on offer, and so would I. So do I, in fact. But it is nice to have choices, and you have more than I do.

  18. says

    Gjenganger

    Slightly wrong point. “Women can get all the sex they want”, provided they do not care too much about how or who with, and are willing to risk meeting strangers in hotel rooms. Of course women often prefer nothing to what is on offer, and so would I. So do I, in fact. But it is nice to have choices, and you have more than I do.

    Dude, you sound desperate.
    Yes, if I didn’t care about who or when or how or the real serious risk that some stranger with a nasty STI would just decide to rape me however he liked I probably could have sex tonight. As that really isn’t an good choice I’ll just go with my nice electrical device. They make them for men, too, so I suggest you take a look at them. There’s also some thing called “prostitution” and last time I looked the market was something like 95% catering to dudly interests.

  19. Ally Fogg says

    I’m sorry Gjenganger, I’m trying to piece together your comments and work out where you are coming from on this, what your overall position is, but I’m struggling.

    I’m not deliberately or maliciously trying to parody you or put words in your mouth, but it sounds like you are saying there are two types of people in the world – those with whom other people want to have sex, and those with whom other people don’t. And that concepts of enthusiastic consent are not fair on the people that nobody wants to have sex with.

    If that is a broadly accurate summary of the position, I’d say first of all that I’d disagree that the world divides like that – even some (objectively) unattractive people have a lot of sex and a lot of very attractive ones don’t. It is certainly not true that women can have sex any time they want and men can’t (for starters, if you want to play the kind of no-strings / motel room anonymous sex thing you mentioned to Gilliel above, it is an awful lot easier for a man to pay £50 to a random sex worker than it is for a woman to do the same.)

    So I disagree with your premise. Sure, some people are luckier in love (and lust) than others but the responsibility for that lies solely with the individual. Brush yourself up, learn Italian, buy a guitar, go to a ballroom dancing club, whatever works baby.

    But even if it were true, then the second part of the equation is even simpler. You can’t find someone who actively wants to have sex with you? Tough.

  20. Gjenganger says

    @giliell 16

    “everybody except the nasties win”.

    Once you assume that “everybody who does not win is a nasty” that conclusion is hard to avoid.

    So, you had a shitty marriage where you didn’t get enough sex to your liking. Don’t you think that this might probably be a personal problem and a problem within your relationship other than a big societal issue?

    Maybe, I was trying to explain where I was coming from – and I suspect I may not be the only one with similar problems. How about the women who apparently do not feel free “to enjoy the sex they want”. Is that not equally personal?

    I know a lot of “not very attractive” (according to the oppressive current standard of attractive) who have quite a lot of sex.

    And I know several people (not myself) who are quite attractive “according to the oppressive current standard of attractive” but who have few chances indeed. Which just shows that attraction is not governed directly by “the oppressive current standard of attractive”. So?

    You are very welcome to disapprove of me. But you really are making it too easy for yourself pushing a line like ‘everybody wins, and if somebody do not win it is because they are nasty’. My point is that in the brave new world, some people will lose out. The sex they lose may not be particularly high quality, but it is often the best they can get. You could either admit that I am right, or come with a counterargument. Then we can argue if all the losers really are cryptorapists, and if the new way of doing things is not enough of an improvement to counterbalance the inevitable losses.

  21. Gjenganger says

    @Ally 19

    there are two types of people in the world – those with whom other people want to have sex, and those with whom other people don’t.

    It is gradual thing, of course, not an either/or. But basically yes. I would add that women more easily end up among the people other people want to have sex with.

    Sure, some people are luckier in love (and lust) than others but the responsibility for that lies solely with the individual.

    That sounds suspiciously like the US position on poverty: “Anyone can get rich, so if you are poor it is your own fault”. It is a doctrine that is most easily put forward by those who are themselves rich.

    But even if it were true, then the second part of the equation is even simpler. You can’t find someone who actively wants to have sex with you? Tough.

    Now that is fair enough. ‘This is a good thing to do, and if the cost falls mostly on a limited group, tough on them’. Just do not try to pretend that everybody is a winner.

  22. says

    How about the women who apparently do not feel free “to enjoy the sex they want”. Is that not equally personal?

    No, women being coerced into sex is not personal. Unless you’re still flogging the dead straw-horse that this means “women get exactly the sex they want to have whenever they want to have it”?

    And I know several people (not myself) who are quite attractive “according to the oppressive current standard of attractive” but who have few chances indeed. Which just shows that attraction is not governed directly by “the oppressive current standard of attractive”. So?

    So, what’s your point about “this is beneficial for attractive people” supposed to mean if you don’t believe in it yourself? It was absolutely not MY idea.

    The sex they lose may not be particularly high quality, but it is often the best they can get. You could either admit that I am right, or come with a counterargument.

    They’re getting it at the cost of coercing and raping people. Yes, I think that less of coercive sex and rape is a good thing and I don’t give a fuck about the lost sexual pleasure of those who need to coerce others into sex or rape them.

  23. Gjenganger says

    @gililell 22

    So, what’s your point about “this is beneficial for attractive people” supposed to mean if you don’t believe in it yourself? It was absolutely not MY idea.

    Sigh. I shall have to be pedagogical about it.

    People differ siginficantly in how much they tend to attract potential sexual partners. This is not (or not only) a matter of what is conventionally labeled as ‘attractiveness’, in the sense of nice looks. Many other things enter into it, confidence, humour, personality, interaction style, demeanour, fame and fortune, … It is not even universal, each person reacts to particular traits as turn-ons (or turn-offs). Whichever way you define it (I am sure I do not know), some people find it easy to meet potential mates and would be seen as attractive by many, Others find it hard to meet potential mates and would be seen as attractive only by very few. And a large part of this effect is due to matters that are hard or even impossible to change. Therefore pointing to a person that attracts lots of people without having nice looks does not prove anything, And it really seems a no-brainer to say that the people who generally find it easy to meet potential partners will continue to do quite well if we make the interaction rules more restrictive, while the people who are doing badly under the current system will find it hard to make up for any lost opportunities.

  24. lelapaletute says

    I’ve already said just about everything I have to say on this one; but frankly, Gjenganger, I think you have got to acknowledge that your position on this comes from having had a difficult marriage in which your needs went unmet but that you didn’t feel able to negotiate within or leave to explore your options. You felt trapped, and thus had sex you didn’t particularly want at the times it was made available to you (and, I assume from the vehemence by which you defend the legitimacy of such activity, nagged, bargained or guilted sex from your partner as and when possible).

    This was a very unhealthy situation to be in, by the sounds of it, and I’m sorry for you; but you are arguing the personal, not the priniciple, and I think if I put you on the spot and say “do you personally think that what would be gained by a culture of clear consent by the majority is worth what it may deprive a minority of?”, you’d probably have to say “Yes”. It is still better that people don’t have sex if it means that other people don’t get raped. It’s like the Hippocratic Oath of sex: first, do no harm. In fact, to extend the medical analogy (as you often speak about sex with others as some sort of fundamental need rather than an optional activity) – I think we all want a medical ethic that prioritises quality of life over its mere existence (if we are being rational, not standing over the bed of our beloved granny and longing for just one more hour, one more day, one more week, regardless of the cost in money and suffering). It should be the same with sex.

    I just don’t think the fact some people will not get as much sex as they presently do if they can no longer apply undue pressure or be willfully ignorant of the consent status of their partner is any kind of argument against the principle at stake here. And I do think that enthusiastic/clear consent, as part of a raft of changes aimed at improving our sexual culture, would benefit more people than it disadvantages in more significant ways. You’ve never actually argued otherwise, or engaged with the point at all really except to point out that some people will be worse off in terms of the quantity of sex they can get. Is it seriously your contention that some people (mainly men, in your opinion) going without sex is a worse state of affairs than some people (mainly women, you assume) having to have it against their will? And if so, why?

  25. captainahags says

    Gjenganger, your consistent comments on this topic seem to be in favor of… I’m not sure, exactly, to be honest. But it reads like you’re suggesting that pestering, pleading, or coercing as long as it gets a reluctant yes out of your partner should be something that everyone is okay with- I’ll quote:

    The message is clear, unmistakable, and easy to apply once you accept that you should always err on the side of chastity. It also means less sex, a lot less for some, since all the doubtful, trasactional or run-of-the-mill sex has been cut out. It is clearly calculated to appeal more to those who tend to be pestered for sex, those who react rather than take initiatives, and those who feel secure that they can get all the sex they want – be it because they do not want very much, or because lots of people tend to try with them. Stereotypical women, basically?

    And the answer to a lot of those statements/questions is an enthusiastic YES.
    – Yes, you should err on the side of chastity- if you’re not sure if the person you’re about to have sex with wants to have sex with you, you should err on the side of NOT RAPING THEM.
    -Yes, the ” doubtful, trasactional [sp] or run-of-the-mill sex” is something that could hopefully be eliminated under the enthusiastic consent [hereafter abbreviated as EC] model. It would in turn be replaced by clearly communicated sex, without the stupid expectations like “buying you dinner means I get to have sex with you.” I can elaborate if that’s unclear.
    -Yes, the idea of EC does level the playing field for those who tend to react and those who are pestered for sex, because it discourages the coercion, bullying, etc. often used to get a reluctant “yes” from otherwise nonconsensual victims.

    I’m not going to address your repeated assertions that women get all the sex they want while men are poor, sex-starved beggars. It’s not true, and it really isn’t helping your case. As long as there’s social stigma around women having sex, which that idea most certainly contributes to, they will have less sex.

    When I first read your comments in other threads, I thought maybe you just didn’t understand what was EC was, and that explaining why it is better for everyone involved would clear things up. But it seems like what you are continually arguing for is the right of people (seemingly men, from the way it’s framed) to do whatever it takes to “get” sex, and that any effort to ensure your partner actually, wants to have sex, is seen as some sort of crazy impossible barrier to any sexual encounters.

  26. Copyleft says

    Gosh, it almost seems like social interactions are complex and riddled with gray areas and subjective interpretations, where any attempt at hard-and-fast rules is going to be doomed to failure when the inevitable contradictions are pointed out.

    Who’da thunk it? (chuckle)

  27. Copyleft says

    Also, won’t this ‘enthusiastic consent’ rule just empower female-on-male rapists because male consent is always assumed?

  28. lelapaletute says

    Also, won’t this ‘enthusiastic consent’ rule just empower female-on-male rapists because male consent is always assumed?

    Precisely the opposite, actually. That’s the whole point. Nobody’s consent should be assumed.

  29. lelapaletute says

    Also, it’s not a bloody ‘rule’. It’s a culture, a default position, a practice – it can’t be a ‘rule’, and no-one’s trying to make it so. There is already a ‘rule’ against rape, enshrined in law. What is required is a shift in culture to try and help shine a light into those ‘grey areas’ of which you speak (which are of necessity left in place by legislation which cannot cover every possible permutation of every situation. All this is trying to instil is a helpful internal checklist for the apparently numerous people who claim to have a hard time working out if the sex they’re having is rape or not.

  30. says

    Ally,

    * I’ll be honest and confess that I find extended interrogations of what enthusiastic consent really means and exactly what it looks like to be disingenuous and ugly.

    As someone who sees epistemological failings as subset of moral failings I think this antisocratic sentiment is indeed a confession. I lost a lot of my esteem you after reading this. Extended interrogations is exactly what I would what I would want if propose something.

  31. Gjenganger says

    @Lelapaletute 24
    I would say it depends on what kind of ‘clear consent’ you are thinking of. AFAIAC, “It is still better that people don’t have sex if it means that other people don’t get raped. is looking at the wrong question, just like “It is better to have GCHQ read all our mail than to have terrorists blow us up“. As I see it, this is a complex trade-off. That means that we do have to weigh common aggravation against the risk of rare(r) disasters, sex against rape, just like we weigh privacy against the risk of terrorism. It also means that the optimum trade-off is different for different groups with different interests – and that I am entitled to argue for my preferred trade-off, just like you are.

    There are several things we probably agree about. A procedural approach, like ‘no means no’ is not enough. You need an honest belief in having consent, you need to have reasons for your belief, and you need to be alert to the possibility that you got it wrong and things have changed. If you are unsure, ask. Talking, finding out the other persons limits, likes, and dislikes are all very good things. So is making it clear with yourself what you do and do not want to do. But beyond that there are three more general areas of disagreement.

    One is how wide a margin of security we need to apply. ‘Enthusiastic consent’ requires an extremely wide margin, and I think a lower one would do. Take drunken sex, for instance. Clearly we should allow for the fact that people can be too drunk to consent, but e.g. Ally’s ‘Nerd in love’ link says that it is immoral to have sex with anyone who is over the legal limit for driving. Now that is excessive. It would make a drastic change in current social mores, it would block a lot of consensual sex, and it would avoid comparatively few rapes, compared to a somewhat more relaxed standard. One thing to consider, here, is that people of both sexes may choose to get drunk exactly because they want to do things that they would not do sober.

    Another one is who is responsible for making sure nothing goes wrong. ‘Enthusiastic consent’ puts all the responsibility on whoever is doing something active. It might make sense to say that you should make clear with yourself what you do and do not want to do, and then also be prepared to say a loud no, if necessary. That would not absolve any active party of the obligation to find out what his partner consents to, but it would allow him to be slightly less paranoid about it, to do a ‘try-it-and-see-how-it-plays’, instead of ‘only-if-you-have-discussed-it’ . After all, if he gets it wrong, his partner will hopefully call him on it.

    Finally, there is the question of how much pressure, dealmaking etc. is compatible with consent. The principle of ‘enthusiastic consent’ was clearly set up to make sure that none whatsover should be allowed. That would make sex completely different from any other area of human interaction, however. Now threats of violence, or exploiting people being too drunk to think or too rattled to react is obvious illegal, not to speak of immoral. But as the level of power gets smaller, we come up against the fact that various kinds of low level power moves are part and parcel of human interactions in all other fields. If two people both feel that the other one should do the washing up, it is ludicrous to insist that the situation must be resolved without any moral pressure, deals and transactions, etc. But if two people in a couple disagree about the amount of sex they should be having, any kind of power move is apparently immoral. Personally I find it hard to see why it is inadmissible to pressure your partner to have more sex than he wants, but good and right to pressure him to have less than he wants. Or why it is perfectly OK to dump your girlfriend, possibly causing her great distress, but not to say that unless your sex life changes you are going to leave. ‘Enthusiastic consent’ solves the problem by decreeing that the one who does not want sex should always win the argument, but would a presumption of compromise not make more sense?
    In a way, you can judge the amount of pressure involved from people’s own choices. If I give money to a beggar, it is generally not because I want to, but because I find it less unpleasant to hand over an undeserved pound than to look a fellow human being in the eye and say no. By that choice I am saying that begging is no worse than causing an embarassment (it is certainly not a kind of theft). If somebody decides that having sex is less bad than having an embarassing scene with a friend, is that not a also saying that the friend trying for sex is no worse than the same friend having an embarassing argument?

    So much for principles. When it comes down to practicalities I am blocked by my own ignorance. I do not know how sexual negotiations mostly work, or how various wordings are likely to play out in practice. But I do think that enthusiastic consent, as proposed by ‘Nerd in love’ is way over the top. The only people who would opt for it, IMHO, are those who have no fear of not getting sex, and who care about freedom from being propositioned as much as they care about freedom for rape.

  32. Gjenganger says

    @captainahags 26
    Not ‘whatever-it-takes’, that is way too much. But yes, I would argue for a standard of ‘consent’, without the ‘enthusiastic’. And yes, I would propose more permissive rules than Allys ‘Nerd in Love’. And yes, that would mean that there would be more sex in the world (good), including more unenthusiasitic – and even undesired – sex (bad).

  33. Ally Fogg says

    “As someone who sees epistemological failings as subset of moral failings I think this antisocratic sentiment is indeed a confession. I lost a lot of my esteem you after reading this. Extended interrogations is exactly what I would what I would want if propose something.”

    If you’re interested in the Socratic method and epistemology, you will doubtless recall the famous Allegory of Glaucon and the Slave, as told by Socrates to Plato and recalled in the Phaedra. *

    One day Glaucon was out riding and a heavy rainstorm came on, so he took shelter in a cave. There he met a runaway slave.

    “Are you hiding from the rain?” asked Glaucon
    “No,” replied the slave. “I am hiding from my pursuers who would capture me and return me to the bondage of my cruel masters.”
    “Do you consider this cave to be freedom?” asked Glaucon
    “Yes,” said the slave. “It is the only freedom I have ever known.”
    “If you have never known freedom, how can you know what freedom is?”
    “I will only know freedom when all slaves are free.”
    “But how can you attain freedom if you do not yet know what it is?”
    “Are you saying I am wrong to wish to be free?” asked the slave.
    “No, I am saying you should decide what it is you truly desire before striving to attain it.”

    And on those words, the slave realised what it was that he truly desired.

    So he punched the privileged, philosopher prick in the bollocks, stole his horse, rode off into the sunset and lived happily ever after.

    * Please note this parable appears in my imaginary edition of the Phaedra. Other translations may vary.

  34. JT says

    So he punched the privileged, philosopher prick in the bollocks, stole his horse, rode off into the sunset and lived happily ever after.(Ally)

    Sounds like a sitcom. Im sure everyone laughed after he got it in the bollocks. ;)

  35. Gjenganger says

    @captainahags 26 (bis)

    -Yes, the ” doubtful, trasactional [sp] or run-of-the-mill sex” is something that could hopefully be eliminated under the enthusiastic consent [hereafter abbreviated as EC] model. It would in turn be replaced by clearly communicated sex, without the stupid expectations like “buying you dinner means I get to have sex with you.” I can elaborate if that’s unclear.

    That sounds a bit like abolishing prostitution and replacing it with high-paying jobs in the IT sector. It is highly desirable, but what is more likely: That the former prostitutes get the IT jobs? Or that the jobs go to someone else and the prostitutes are left with one less source of income?

  36. Bugmaster says

    @Ally #35:

    Your parable was meant to be sarcastic, but I think you overshoot your goal. The moral I get from your story is not, “philosophers are useless and you should punch them in the balls”, but “be sure to always examine your own goals and methods, then pick the most efficient way to achieve as many of your goals as possible”. In this specific case, the slave decided (correctly) that his goal of “don’t hurt people” was incompatible with the much more valuable goal of “keep your freedom”. Rather than being a poster-child for itrelevancy, your philosopher acts as a very vivid illustration of the superiority of utilitarianism over the more rigid deontological morality.

  37. says

    Ally,

    Regardless of the punch in the bollocks, it seems to me that the philosopher is correct: you should know what it is that you desire. Your point escapes me.

  38. says

    Bugmaster,

    I cannot for the life of me read a utilitarian theory into your explanation or Allys story. It seems to me he is somehow trying to say something that the question after the nature of freedom by the philosopher is naive, because the slave punches him. It is of course correct that one can have desires for states of affairs one cannot understand, i.e. a cat can desire attention and care even if the theory of mnid required to understand the mental state of the human may or may not be present. Nevertheless it is a strong heuristic that understanding a state of affairs is helpful in actually establishing it.

  39. Ginkgo says

    Giliel @ 29 – “Only in the world you and Gjenganger invented”

    And Giliel comes out as blinded by her female prvilege.

  40. Copyleft says

    “Philosophy has been a popular activity ever since the first philosophers realized that it didn’t involve any heavy lifting.”
    –Dave Barry–

  41. says

    Gjenganger

    Finally, there is the question of how much pressure, dealmaking etc. is compatible with consent.

    Exactly none*

    The principle of ‘enthusiastic consent’ was clearly set up to make sure that none whatsover should be allowed. That would make sex completely different from any other area of human interaction, however. Now threats of violence, or exploiting people being too drunk to think or too rattled to react is obvious illegal, not to speak of immoral. But as the level of power gets smaller, we come up against the fact that various kinds of low level power moves are part and parcel of human interactions in all other fields. If two people both feel that the other one should do the washing up, it is ludicrous to insist that the situation must be resolved without any moral pressure, deals and transactions, etc.

    I don’t know whether you’ve noticed, but there is a significant difference between doing the dishes and having sex.
    And it’s not that one of them is usually more fun than the other.
    It’s that one of them is actually something that needs to be done. Sex is not something you need in a strict sense. Yep, it’s nice to have it, but unlike a place that’s not infested with worms, flies, maggots and other vermin as a result of unwashed dishes, it really is not necessary for living. People can totally do without it. It might not be what you dreamed off, but it’s also not te end of the world.
    So comparing deals and interactions concerning actual vital tasks with something that is clearly optional is really dishonest. It also minimizes the possible effects on the coerced party, comparing them to having to do the dishes when they would actually rather watch TV instead of spelling it out for what it is: something that can deeply traumatize the other person.
    *Dealmaking as in “if you give me a blowjob I’ll give you money to buy shoes for our daughter. Not as in “this is a regulated brothel and a blowjob costs X quid

    Gingko

    And Giliel comes out as blinded by her female prvilege.

    I’m wondering which privilege thta is?
    The privilege where I narrowly escaped being raped in a car park (awesome, women don’t even have to ask for sex, they just get it!)?
    Or is it the privilege of having been told afterwards that it was my fault for parking there (typical women, never take responsibility for their actions)?
    Maybe it’s all these times I’ve been groped (I would be glad if a pretty woman pinched my ass, you’re just upset because it wasn’t Brad Pitt!)?
    Maybe we’re talking about something completely different like when I get first ignored and then condescended to in the hardware shop?
    I really don’t know, I have so much privilege, I really can’t see the forest for the trees.

  42. Geeb says

    Gjenganger seems to be getting a rather hard time over a pretty straightforward argument: EC will result in a lot of sex *that would have been consensual* not happening, because not everyone is comfortable with communicating their sexual desires that openly. (And I would agree that it’s probably the less typically lucky in love who will tend to miss out on opportunities here.)

    Obviously, it’s better that some consensual sex doesn’t happen than that some non-consensual sex does happen, but if EC isn’t to throw the baby out with the bath water, we need a cultural change to get rid of the stigma associated with expressing desire – promiscuity-related insults like “slut” need to become as socially unacceptable as racist insults. Even the word “promiscuity” has pejorative connotations – we need to accept that people can operate anywhere on the spectrum of “I’ll sleep with… nobody” to “…everybody”, and that’s fine.

    We need to be more comfortable expressing ourselves: if we want no to be reliably interpreted as no, and yes as yes, it would help if people didn’t feel socially obliged to just give an awkward mumble when they really mean yes.

  43. says

    I have a bit of a personal story to tell that relates to this topic… and why it’s important to step up education about this.

    I’m an American living in the buckle of the bible belt in the south. Growing up and becoming a teenage boy, my views and ideas on what “consent” meant was largely informed by my peers. The adults never touched the topic of sex, whether it was at school or at home. The issue was too touchy, and the only thing the adults ever said was “wait until you’re married.” Of course, none of us ever waited for marriage, we were teenagers! It was understood that “rape” was wrong… but I always thought that “rape” was what happened in dark alleys on TV. No one ever taught me what was involved in consent… and you’d think that it would be something required to be taught to everyone hitting puberty.

    In fact, it was (and largely, still is) acceptable among young men where I live to have sex with really, really drunk girls. Girls that are way too intoxicated to know what’s happening. My sex-having friends used to give me sagely wisdom, like if a girl gets drunk with you at a party, she wants sex. If she’s alone with you in a room, she wants sex. If she wants to go on a date with you, she wants sex. I was fascinated. From what my friends all told me, girls seemed to want to have sex ALL the time!

    Of course, when I got a bit older and started spending time with girls, and then actually got into a serious relationship of my own, I quickly discovered that everything I had been told was wrong. At one point after a while of dating and spending time together, I got a blowjob from my girlfriend (who a year later married me for 8 years before we split)… and afterward, she admitted to me that she didn’t really want to do it, but felt like I “expected” it. I remember this moment because it was a major turning point in how I viewed sex. At first, I was angry that she would do something she didn’t want to do in the first place. Then, I was forced to reflect on what my attitude had been prior to that. Did I make her feel like I expected it? Did I pressure her? I felt dirty and unclean and never wanted to feel that way again, let alone have someone else feel pressured into doing something they didn’t actually want to do. I told her that I never expected anything she didn’t want to do, and from that day on, consent was more than not hearing “no” – it was about hearing “yes.” It’s a concept that a shocking number of people have never heard or reject outright as some kind of feminist propaganda (!?). If I had been a less empathetic individual, or if I had been raised to see women as my inferiors, it might have been a lesson I -never- learned.

    Even aside from the moral aspect of it all… sex with someone who isn’t actively into it is BORING. No enthusiasm, no thanks. I’d rather just read a book.

  44. bugmaster says

    @sheaf #41:

    Note that it does not even occur to the slave to punch the philosopher, before the philosopher prompts him to re-examine his core values at the most fundamental level. This is probably because the slave (like most people in fact) was following a deontological morality system, and its rules say, “assaulting people is wrong”, and “theft is wrong”. The slave greatly desired freedom, but it did not even occur to him that he could exploit the philosopher in order to achieve this desire.

    After the slave re-examined his priorities, he saw that “don’t hurt other people” is not a rule, but rather a heuristic. The real rule is, “do whatever it takes to achieve your most valuable goals without sabotaging too many other goals”. In this case, there’s very little probability that the philosopher would be able to cause any additional harm to the slave for stealing his horse (after all, the slave is already facing death if he is caught), and thus punching him and taking the horse is the right thing to do.

  45. says

    bugmaster,

    After the slave re-examined his priorities, he saw that “don’t hurt other people” is not a rule, but rather a heuristic. The real rule is, “do whatever it takes to achieve your most valuable goals without sabotaging too many other goals”.

    That the slave is following his utliity function is not utilitarianism. Utilitarianism is concerned with maximizing human happiness. You are however correct in saying the slave is acting under some form of consequentialism.

  46. JT says

    Even aside from the moral aspect of it all… sex with someone who isn’t actively into it is BORING. No enthusiasm, no thanks. I’d rather just read a book.(Michael)

    Do you think you can tell everytime a woman is into it or not? I know a few that would have you thinking you were the best lover ever, lol. There are so many variables that come into play with “enthusiastic consent” it will make your head spin. Why oh why don’t we just believe people when they say Yes or No?

  47. says

    There are so many variables that come into play with “enthusiastic consent” it will make your head spin. Why oh why don’t we just believe people when they say Yes or No?

    Mostly because Western culture (for the most part) has historically obliged one half of the standard heterosexual exchange to say “yes” as a matter of familial duty (if in a marriage), condemned women who say “yes” more often than some arbitrary cultural limit as sluts (especially if single) or as frigid if they say “no” (in any context), while depicting a man’s right to recreational or procreational intercourse as practically sacred (in any relationship context); it has also simultaneously discouraged open, honest, unambiguous discussions of sex until relatively (very) recently. You need only look at mainstream US television’s treatment of simple nudity (whether it’s a baby’s bottom being blurred or Janet Jackson’s breast making the sky fall in) for an example of Western sexual repression* (and need we mention the role of Abrahamic religion in making people in all corners of the globe feel ashamed even of their own bodies, let alone about how they interact with the bodies of others?).

    I’d love it if everyone could be more direct about what they want sexually (it certainly would’ve saved both myself and a few previous partners some headaches and heartaches) and generally less squicked out by conversations about sex. However, that isn’t the world we live in just yet. I believe that by promoting such things as “enthusiastic consent” and many other related issues, the sexual repression endemic to much of the Western world (and elsewhere) will gradually dissipate. Once clear sexual communication and unambiguous expressions of desire – from all genders – become culturally acceptable in a given society, I think that society would become more healthy overall. Less repression, less shame, less confusion, less fear – I struggle to think how this couldn’t make a society a happier one to be a part of.

    _______________________________
    *The comparison of this sexual backwardness compared to its simultaneous status as a world leader in both professional and amateur pornography would make a fascinating research subject.

  48. JT says

    However, that isn’t the world we live in just yet.(Hankstar)

    The world will never be exactly the way you want or think it should be. Yes or No is easy, especially if youre enthusiastic about it. ;)

  49. says

    The world will never be exactly the way you want or think it should be. Yes or No is easy, especially if youre enthusiastic about it.

    That’s just the point, JT – the seemingly simple acts of saying yes or no and/or being enthusiastic with regard to sex are not easy things at all for a lot of people in today’s world, precisely because of the attitudes and repression I described. If you’ve been encultured for most of your life to think that “yes” is the right thing to say even if it’s not what you actually want, your enthusiasm or lack of it isn’t relevant and the “no” option may as well not exist. It was only within living memory in the West that marital rape was even recognised as a thing that could happen (just to give one example); before that it was just accepted that a wedding ring was an automatic “yes” before the question even came up!

    Of course the world isn’t going to be exactly like I think it should but there’s nothing to be lost from at least trying to improve it a little. It’s not about achieving perfection, it’s about moving toward it.

  50. says

    Do you think you can tell everytime a woman is into it or not? I know a few that would have you thinking you were the best lover ever, lol. There are so many variables that come into play with “enthusiastic consent” it will make your head spin. Why oh why don’t we just believe people when they say Yes or No?

    Though we can never be inside another person’s head and know for certain their motives and feelings, I think I can pick up on the cues pretty easily. I’ve had great success with being considerate and ensuring consent, believe it or not. “Enthusiastic consent” is an exceedingly simple concept – instead of avoiding a “no,” you actively seek a “yes.” Unless you have no social abilities whatsoever, it’s exceedingly clear when a “yes” is genuine.

  51. carnation says

    @ Gjenganger

    “A lot of men have found their search for fulfillment ruined by the lack of willing cooperators. Maybe women do not suffer from that problem as much as men? That is likely why they favour policies like ‘enthusastic consent’, then.”

    Of course, enthusiastic consent isn’t so much a policy as, as Ally pointed out, a useful way to enjoy sex without regrets, or worse, for either party.

    It’s very easy to say that women have more “access” to sex than men, but it ignores lived experiences, societal norms, external pressures and reality. Men, thanks to patriarchal attitudes, are expected to be virile, sexually experienced (with numerous partners), sexually active and emotionally resilient. Women are expected to be almost the opposite. Therein lies a conflict.

    From a personal point of view, viewing sex not as a process of “seduction” and instead as an activity to be shared with someone (or more) is an excellent starting point. What never ceases to amuse me is the to often acknowledged point that feminism has undoubtedly led to far more sex and sexual pleasure, for men and women. Challenge patriarchal assumptions, internally and then externally, and reap the benefits.

    Gjenganger, my friend, giving up sexual is your choice but it is a poor, poor choice and will not bring you happiness. Lots of people want lots of different types of sex, and it isn’t hard to find someone to explore with. Physical proximity and affection are absolutely vital to human happiness. In all sincerity, look at this differently and things could change.

  52. Ally Fogg says

    JT

    Why oh why don’t we just believe people when they say Yes or No?

    Hankstar’s answer to this question is brilliant, but I would add that a big part of the problem is that many people, much of the time, don’t actually say Yes or No. They just go along with what is happening with greater or lesser degrees of enthusiasm, acquiescence or submission.

    Encouraging (and teaching) people to give loud and unashamed cries of “Yes” or “No” is very much part of the EC package, but the single most important lesson is that the absence of a no can never be assumed to mean yes.

    I’ve been finding it really difficult discussing this with detractors like Gjenganger, sheaf et al, because I’m really strugging to see what their problem is – where they actually disagree. But I *think* it really boils down to one really important point of dispute:

    I say the absence of a clear Yes should be assumed to mean No. The other side says the absence of a clear No can be assumed to mean Yes.

  53. says

    Hankstar @51:

    Mostly because Western culture (for the most part) has historically obliged one half of the standard heterosexual exchange to say “yes” as a matter of familial duty (if in a marriage), condemned women who say “yes” more often than some arbitrary cultural limit as sluts (especially if single) or as frigid if they say “no” (in any context), while depicting a man’s right to recreational or procreational intercourse as practically sacred (in any relationship context);

    The above paragraph seem to be a bit loopsided considering that the survey Ally cited in his post stated:

    When presented with the statement “When a girl says no to sex, she always means no”, 73 per cent of pupils said it was definitely or probably true.

    Just over half (55 per cent) said they agreed that when a boy says no to sex, he always means no.

    When asked whether it was difficult for girls to say no to sex or any other sexual activity, 43 per cent agreed.

    Hm, I wonder if they thought to ask the question whether it was difficult for boys to say no to sex or any other sexual activity?

    And it’s not that a woman’s right to procreate isn’t considered sacred in for instances marriages – where does that leave the husband’s ability to say “no”?

    @53:

    It was only within living memory in the West that marital rape was even recognised as a thing that could happen (just to give one example); before that it was just accepted that a wedding ring was an automatic “yes” before the question even came up!

    I’d argue that marital rape still isn’t recognized as a thing that could happen. Wife-rape – yes, but I have never seen anyone talk about marital/spousal rape without implicitly or explicitly talking about husbands raping wives. Although you used gender neutral words in this paragraph the context of your comments have been how women are restricted in their ability to say no while only mentioning men’s right to recreational or procreational intercourse as depicted by culture so to me you fell into the implicitly talking about wife-rape when saying marital rape. The Wikipedia page on marital rape only talks about female victims and male perpetrators.

    44.8% of the 4.8% of men who reported being made to penetrate reported that the perpetrator was a current or former intimate partner (table 2.6 in the NISVS 2010 Report) – so it’s not like it doesn’t happen and it most certainly is related to the survey Ally cited stating that only 55% believes that a boy’s no really is a no.

    carnation @55:

    Gjenganger, my friend, giving up sexual is your choice but it is a poor, poor choice and will not bring you happiness. Lots of people want lots of different types of sex, and it isn’t hard to find someone to explore with.

    The evaluation of what impact giving up sex has on Gjenganger’s happiness is better left to Gjenganger in my opinion. The last sentence totally glosses over the fact that there are people of all genders who live well into adulthood and even to their deaths without having any sexual relations. Some might not want it by nature (asexuals comes to mind), by choice (a subset of catholic priests comes to mind) or by some disability making it impossible. Others simply find themselves unable to establish such a relation with another human being who they are attracted to for a wide variety if reasons. It borders on cruel to imply that their lives cannot be happy and that it isn’t hard to find someone to explore that with. Have you considered whether you are privileged in that area since you imply you find it easy to find sexual partners?

  54. Geeb says

    @Ally

    The other side says the absence of a clear No can be assumed to mean Yes.

    That may be a fair characterisation of an argument you’ve heard elsewhere, but I haven’t seen it here. A better summary might be that “the absence of a clear No sometimes does mean Yes, but should be assumed to mean No; however, this will have the effect of preventing some consensual sex, and we should acknowledge that, and maybe make encouragement to give consent enthusiastically part of the solution.”

  55. says

    Ally @56:

    I say the absence of a clear Yes should be assumed to mean No. The other side says the absence of a clear No can be assumed to mean Yes.

    Hm, that is not my impression given Gjenganger @33. My impression is more that Gjenganger argues that the absence of a clear yes can still mean yes – that is accepting non-enthusiastic yes as yes. A yes that is somewhat pressured means yes, that a yes stated under some intoxication above the legal driving limit while still being conscious means yes. Some of this is incidentally congruent with some of the criticism enthusiastic consent has gotten from for instance sex workers who probably don’t feel enthusiastic about their sex-work every day.

    I think there is a difference between that and “the absence of a clear no means yes”. I don’t think I’ve seen Gjenganger state that for instance an non-clear No means yes – although I admit that I haven’t followed this part of the discussion very closely so I might be wrong.

    I myself think enthusiastic consent is a natural thing to strive for. Perhaps it falls so naturally for me since an enthusiastic partner is a big turn-on while a non-enthusiastic partner is a turn-off for me to the degree that I’m perfectly happy to forgo non-enthusiastic sex and rather go without. That wasn’t a choice I made due to having plenty of options – I was never a ladies man.

    I do however have little safeguards against faked enthusiasm other than any partner’s ability to do so convincingly so whether all my sex partners have given real enthusiastic consent isn’t something I can state with a 100% certainty. I have felt the frustration of having my standard being out of sync with some other’s when I was younger. Being asked by a woman months after why I stoppend and didn’t just go for it after she stated “no, we shouldn’t do this” make me not very charitable towards those who ask men to seek enthusiastic consent while making excuses for women who don’t communicate their desire/consent or who even engage in doublespeak.

    Louis CK’s rant here comes to mind:: YouTube video

    and as you point out

    Encouraging (and teaching) people to give loud and unashamed cries of “Yes” or “No” is very much part of the EC package)

    this also needs to be addressed, yet it is too seldom addressed.

  56. says

    JT

    Do you think you can tell everytime a woman is into it or not?

    Is this one of these “women are mysterious creatures” things?
    Let me give you a few ideas:
    Is she kissing you back? Is she present, engaged, touching you voluntarily, initiating things, not drunk and awake? Those are really good indicators.
    You don’t know? Here’s a novel idea: Ask her. That’s right, you don’t need to guess what she does or doesn’t want, you can simply communicate. If she’s there to have sex with you she’s there to talk with you. Should she be unable to communicate with you, you stop.
    There is, of course, a caveat: You need to be able to take “no” for an answer. And by that I mean unconditionally. No sulking, no pestering, bullying. No little power games, no mightily hurt fee-fees or emotional blackmailing.
    But there’s also a bonus (and I’m telling you a big woman-secret): On average, women who feel free to say “no” often feel more willing to say “yes”.

  57. B-Lar says

    I like enthusiastic consent very much. It improves on ‘ “No” means No ‘ dramatically, and it seems to me that the only way you could have a problem with it, is if the only way you can “get sex” is with people who don’t actually consent.

    The more people demand enthusiastic consent (and are dignified when it is not given), the faster it will become the status quo, and the sooner we will see people believing that their prospective partners actually give a shit about what they want. It is only then that this final objection, that people don’t say what they want, can be resolved. Why would you tell people what you want if you think they don’t care?

    Care now. Sexytime later.

  58. Gjenganger says

    @ Geeb 58, Tamen 59.
    Thanks. I agree with that.
    “Absence of a clear no means yes” is clearly unacceptable. “Absence of a clear yes means no” (as described in Allys link) will take away a lot of options from a lot of people for very limited gain. The question is where, between those two extremes, it makes sense to draw the line.

  59. B-Lar says

    Absence of a clear anything (yes or no), means precisely nothing. Don’t try and guess what they mean. Clarify.

    There is no line to be drawn, because every situation requires you to reassess it based on its specific conditions

    However, one thing you can take to the bank is that absence of a clear yes should give you more than a moments pause. You might not even need to clarify with them about precisely what they mean by “OK… I guess, whatever”. Cultivate your integrity and ask yourself some questions…

    Are you manipulating them?
    Are you intimidating them?
    Might they suspect that you might become violent if they openly refuse?

    Feel free to devise your own additional question if you feel it will help you to not have sex with people who don’t want to have sex with you.

  60. lelapaletute says

    @33 Gjenganger

    I would say it depends on what kind of ‘clear consent’ you are thinking of. AFAIAC, “It is still better that people don’t have sex if it means that other people don’t get raped. is looking at the wrong question, just like “It is better to have GCHQ read all our mail than to have terrorists blow us up“. As I see it, this is a complex trade-off. That means that we do have to weigh common aggravation against the risk of rare(r) disasters, sex against rape, just like we weigh privacy against the risk of terrorism.

    Not even remotely comparable, as some people not getting sex is not the result of an action imposed on them by others. You can’t willfully and unnecessarily deny someone sex, as it is not owed to them. There is no ‘right to sex’ as there is (or should be) a ‘right to privacy’.

    It also means that the optimum trade-off is different for different groups with different interests – and that I am entitled to argue for my preferred trade-off, just like you are.

    I think you are on exceedingly thin ethical ice there. Surely you believe there is a moral obligation on people not to argue simply for what is best for them and their interest groups personally, but for what is ethically right and of benefit to the majority? In the same way it is not legitimate to advocate the end of the welfare state just because you personally have no need to avail yourself of it, and would be taxed less if it didn’t exist, it is not legitimate to advocate for a situation that facilitates rape and rape-lite just because you personally may sometimes get some sex around the margins of that situation that you know you couldn’t have obtained by entirely decent methods. I mean you CAN, you’re ENTITLED, just like neo-Nazis like Golden Dawn are ENTITLED to form a party and try and get all the immigrants and Jews thrown out of Greece, because that would make things better for them; but the mere fact of that entitlement does not make it a legitimate position.

    There are several things we probably agree about. A procedural approach, like ‘no means no’ is not enough. You need an honest belief in having consent, you need to have reasons for your belief, and you need to be alert to the possibility that you got it wrong and things have changed. If you are unsure, ask. Talking, finding out the other persons limits, likes, and dislikes are all very good things. So is making it clear with yourself what you do and do not want to do. But beyond that there are three more general areas of disagreement.

    What you have just described is what I mean when I say enthusiastic/clear consent, although I would add that you need to have reasonable reasons for your belief. Which of course opens a whole new can of worms.

    One is how wide a margin of security we need to apply. ‘Enthusiastic consent’ requires an extremely wide margin, and I think a lower one would do. Take drunken sex, for instance. Clearly we should allow for the fact that people can be too drunk to consent, but e.g. Ally’s ‘Nerd in love’ link says that it is immoral to have sex with anyone who is over the legal limit for driving. Now that is excessive.

    I would say it is ideal, but I agree that in practice it probably is excessive. To me, I think drunkenness (which has played a considerable part in most of the sex I’ve ever had I did not wish to, either my own or someone else’s, but also a small part in some of the sex I did want) should probably be considered in this situation as a sliding scale of disparity, kind of like ‘underage’ sex – as in, two 14-year-olds having sex all else being equal is fine, if potentially unwise; an 18-year-old and a 14-year-old doing the same is considerably more troubling, but nowhere near as problematic as a 40-year-old and a 14-year-old. To translate – if YOU are stone cold sober and your potential sexual partner is pissed out of their mind, the onus is on you to be responsible; if you are both equivalently tiddly, probably this should not be more than a reason to be extra-careful when applying the above principle of being quite certain you have consent, double checking verbally if needs be etc (this of course applies to both parties). If you’re slarming drunk,you’d be just as well to step away from that whole sex situation, as you will be less capable of making good decisions or giving and receiving clear or subtle signals.

    It would make a drastic change in current social mores

    Good. That’s kind of the whole point – the current social mores aren’t up to snuff and need changing.

    it would block a lot of consensual sex

    Of a certain type, in certain less than optimum cirmumstances. Surely this would just provide people with a powerful motivation to improve their sexual strategies? As I say, you have yet to make a compelling case for less bad sex in the world being such an unmitigated disaster for most, or even a significant number, of people. Many solutions have been proposed to resolve the sexlessness of certain people; but I think you still need to address why you think the possibility that some people might not get as much sex if they can no longer get away with using manipulative or willfully ignorant tactics is so bad a thing as to outbalance the benefits of a culture of clear consent.

    and it would avoid comparatively few rapes, compared to a somewhat more relaxed standard.

    But it could help eliminate a whole category of rapes, and would also remove a lot of cover from predatory rapists who like to pretend that “she really wanted it” or “I thought it was consensual because she didn’t say no” when in fact they knew full well the sex was not consensual and did not care one whit.

    One thing to consider, here, is that people of both sexes may choose to get drunk exactly because they want to do things that they would not do sober.

    And this is a desirable state of affairs? The mere fact that such behavior exists is not enough to justify a prevailing culture that accommodates it.

    Another one is who is responsible for making sure nothing goes wrong. ‘Enthusiastic consent’ puts all the responsibility on whoever is doing something active.

    Well, yes, of course in one sense it does. If you’re the one *doing* something, then it’s on you to make sure you should be. I don’t see how else personal responsibility can work, really.

    It might make sense to say that you should make clear with yourself what you do and do not want to do, and then also be prepared to say a loud no, if necessary. That would not absolve any active party of the obligation to find out what his partner consents to, but it would allow him to be slightly less paranoid about it, to do a ‘try-it-and-see-how-it-plays’, instead of ‘only-if-you-have-discussed-it’ . After all, if he gets it wrong, his partner will hopefully call him on it.

    Yes, of course it might be, and this is precisely what a culture of clear consent encourages – it tells people that it is OK, even desirable, to want sexual things and to ask for them, and that it is equally OK to not want them and gives confidence that others should and will respect your decision not to want them (primarily women, who are socialized to be oblique about sex and also to people-please, meaning they don’t feel comfortable making flat out statements they know will be poorly received, but also men who are self-conscious about sexual matters or feel under pressure to be ‘up for it’ at all times).

    As for your ‘active party’s’ paranoia, this would actually be a good thing. You know that slogan “if you’re not angry, you’re not paying attention”? I think it’s the same in our current sexual culture. Issues of consent are so murky that if you AREN’T concerned about it, you’re probably doing it wrong. I believe increased AWARENESS of the need for clear consent might cause a transitional phase of heightened paranoia/concern on the part of ‘the active party’ (although I have to say, this division between active and passive parties is not something I recognize from my own or my friends’ sex lives – mostly this stuff is pretty jointly moved forward). But then, as the culture became more embedded, the clarity and confidence it engendered would make ‘No means no and yes means yes’ a much more viable operational system.

    The ‘try-it-and-see-how-it-plays’ thing is perfectly acceptable under a system of clear consent. No-one (repeat, NO-ONE) is saying you have to sit down and get a signed contract before you try and kiss someone or touch their boob. Just that if they do not seem to dig it, you need to stop and make sure they do.

    Finally, there is the question of how much pressure, dealmaking etc. is compatible with consent…[etc etc what about the washing up etc]

    …and here, of course, we part ways. Of course sex is different, because it is someone’s body, their self. It is not a job one person does for the other, it’s a thing they do together. Asking someone to have sex when you know they don’t want to is akin to asking them to laugh at your joke when you know they don’t find it funny. It’s completely weird and I can’t see where the gratification could possibly lie.

    f two people in a couple disagree about the amount of sex they should be having, any kind of power move is apparently immoral. Personally I find it hard to see why it is inadmissible to pressure your partner to have more sex than he wants, but good and right to pressure him to have less than he wants.

    I say again, because not having sex with someone is not the same as doing something to them. There is no action of ‘depriving of sex’, because there is no fundamental need or right to sex. I do think it is unreasonable to be in a relationship with them, refuse to have sex with them, refuse to let them have sex with anyone else, and still get the hump if they leave you. But that is a combination of perfectly reasonable behaviors in their own right with an unreasonable combined result.

    Or why it is perfectly OK to dump your girlfriend, possibly causing her great distress, but not to say that unless your sex life changes you are going to leave

    Of course it is perfectly OK to say that unless your sex life changes you are going to leave – that is being clear and explicit! Who said it wasn’t? As long as you actually mean it, and aren’t just saying it to bully your partner… And don’t you think that the girlfriend would be caused more distress by being in a relationship where sex was more important to her partner than her wishes, than by being dumped? The one is a temporary heartache, a spell of loneliness or fear, then a chance to make a new life (with or without a partner more in tune with their desires); the other is a lifetime of feeling physically used and emotionally neglected. I know what I’d prefer.

    I didn’t understand the business of the beggar or how it relates at all I’m afraid. Like the ‘washing up’ business, I think you are comparing apples and oranges.

  61. Gjenganger says

    @Lelapaletute 64
    Sounds like we agree about a lot of things, certainly more than I do with Allys ‘Nerd in Love’ link. Not everything (as you point out), but I would say we are close enough there is no need for the two of us to spend more time and energy disagreeing with each other in writing. Thanks – it has been very helpful to talk to you.

  62. says

    My only worry with the phrase “enthusiastic consent” is that if the only outcome is a more stringent checklist for sexual initiators, that’s an opportunity lost.

    Because the real value of the phrase arises when people-used-to-being-sexually-passive realise “Hey, this applies to our behaviours, too. We’re not living in the Regency so we can afford a tad more directness than that Lizzie Bennett. If we make our yesses clearer, our noes will be all the more obvious and that’s got to be worth something.”

    But, sadly, that’s not the way the discussion is going yet. The contemporary writer Libby Brooks (whose initials match those of Austen’s heroine) said

    The process of expressing our wanting of another person is necessarily opaque; seduction is by its nature a masque.

    To me, that is not just spectacularly, self-evidently wrong but dangerously so.

  63. says

    I’ve just read that back and I’d like to rephrase..

    “If we make our yesses clearer, our well-er-um-I-haven’t-showereds will stand out all the more and that’s got to be worth something.”

    Just to avoid anyone having to remind me that any level of “no” should be enough.

  64. JT says

    @Giliell 60

    I was trying to point out that people can fake(reason being many) it and some are very, very good at it. I have no doubt, at one point in your “Big woman” life, you faked it too. And Im sure you were brilliant at it. :)

    @Ally 56
    “I say the absence of a clear Yes should be assumed to mean No. The other side says the absence of a clear No can be assumed to mean Yes”(Ally)

    And herein lies the problem. We shouldn’t be assuming anything. If my communication skills are so poor that people are assuming something about how I feel then there is more than likely going to be issues. If there are problems, are they the fault of the person who has to assume or are they the fault of mine for not clearly stating my position? One of the issues I have with the “always the victim” mentality is that sometimes they don’t like looking in the mirror. Like I was mentioning to Giliell, some people are really good at faking enjoyment.

  65. JT says

    By the way, I have a 16yr old daughter who I talk with all the time about sex. She knows to lot let anyone assume whether or not she will have sex with them. They wont have too because Yes and No are firmly part of her vocabulary. Maybe that’s what we should be teaching our children. If the adults here want to play with “enthusiastic consent”, have a go at it, afterall, youre adults now.

  66. JT says

    Just a little fun from way back when. :)

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pFxivmjW34o

    Well, I don’t hate my parents
    I don’t get drunk just to spite them
    I got my own reasons to drink now
    I think I’ll call my dad up and invite him!
    I can sleep in till noon any time I want
    Though there’s not many days that I do
    Gotta get up and take on that world
    When you’re an adult, it’s no cliche, it’s the truth

    ‘Cause I’m an adult now
    I’m an adult now
    I’ve got the problems of an adult
    On my head and on my shoulders
    I’m an adult now

    I can’t even look at young girls anymore
    People will think I’m some kind of pervert
    Adult sex is either boring or dirty
    Young people, they can get away with murder
    I don’t write songs about girls anymore
    I have to write songs about women
    No more boy meets girl, boy loses girl
    More like man tries to figure out what the Hell went wrong

    ‘Cause I’m an adult now
    I’m an adult now
    I got the problems of an adult now
    On my head and my libido
    I’m an adult now, I’m adult now

    I can’t take any more illicit drugs
    I can’t afford any artificial joy
    [From: http://www.elyrics.net
    I’d sure look like a fool dead in a ditch somewhere
    With a mind full of chemicals
    Like some cheese-eating high school boy

    I’m an adult now
    I’m an adult now
    I’ve got the problems of an adult
    On my head and on my shoulders
    I’m an adult now

    Sometimes my head hurts and sometimes my stomach hurts
    And I guess it won’t be long
    ‘Til I’m sitting in a room with a bunch
    Of people whose necks and backs are aching
    Whose sight and hearing’s failing
    Who just can’t seem to get it up
    Speaking of hearing, I can’t take too much loud music
    I mean I like to play it, but I sure don’t like the racket
    Noise, but I can’t hear anything
    Just guitars screaming, screaming, screaming
    Some guy screaming in a leather jacket
    Whoaah!

    I’m an adult now
    I’m an adult now
    I’ve got the problems of an adult
    On my head and on my shoudlers
    I’m an adult now
    I’m an adult now
    I’ve got the problems of an adult
    On my head and my libido
    I’m an adult now
    (Chorus)
    Lyrics from eLyrics.net

  67. lelapaletute says

    The problem I have with that, Gjenganger, is that in spite of me consistently spelling out where what you say about enthusiastic consent and the unfair burdens it imposes on certain categories of people is alarmist, and you apparently agreeing with some of my points and declaring that we are close in our opinions, you then come back on thread after thread to do with rape and trot your original line out again about how it will be the end of spontaneous sex. It seems so odd to me, as we have had so many discussions on the topic and (I believed) had both gained some insight into the other’s position and modified our views accordingly. Certainly I no longer insist that explicit verbal consent has to be the gold standard, after your insightful points about how that served my situation more than it facilitated a positive consent culture (for example). We talk and talk, seemingly make progress, and then next thread up you’re back to arguing the washing-up comparison as if this hadn’t already been debunked as an irrelevance, and that enthusiastic consent precludes investigative sexual maneuvres as if this hadn’t already been previously allowed for, etc.

    But fine, if you wish me to ignore your posts on this issue from now on, I will. Since most of this thread is made up of people disagreeing with you, however, might make it a bit hard for me to join in the discussion…

  68. summerblues says

    Odg, I’m only 29 comments in and I’m already rubbing my eyes and forhead in frustration.

    “Also, won’t this ‘enthusiastic consent’ rule just empower female-on-male rapists because male consent is always assumed?

    Only in the world you and Gjenganger invented”

    Wrong. I’m a woman and can clearly see the possibilities of this “proposal” or whatever it is. Many of you seem to still be harboring the illusion that “women just aren’t like that”. Why. Women are human beings, too. we are just as capable of lying, stealing, rape, murder, cooercion, etc. I thought we had already established this. It isn’t smart to hand over the power to just one sex/gender/company/individual etc. You are a fool if you do. You are relying too much on the good graces of people. You will get burned.

  69. says

    lelapaletute @64:

    Not even remotely comparable, as some people not getting sex is not the result of an action imposed on them by others. You can’t willfully and unnecessarily deny someone sex, as it is not owed to them. There is no ‘right to sex’ as there is (or should be) a ‘right to privacy’.

    Some beg to differ:

    I’m mostly in the Jaclyn Friedman camp of sexual ethics: Everyone is fully entitled to boundaries, and sex acts should be consented to enthusiastically, not agreed to grudgingly. But I’m also a Dan Savage sympathizer, insofar as he argues we’re also entitled to sexual pleasure and when in relationships we should try to sexually please our partner — we should (safely) try new things, and be giving and generous in bed (and expect the same in return).

  70. says

    JT
    People faking it is almost completely their problem.
    I say almost because as many people have pointed out, if you feel an obligation towards faking it, or you know that unless you fake it there are negative consequences for you, that’s a different problem.
    But if you’re respectful, and care, and do your best to make sure, then people faking it is their problem. They are still, from my point of view, enthusiastically consenting.
    They might actually not be completely honest when they tell you that you’re the greatest lover they ever had, but it’s sure nice to hear.

  71. JT says

    They are still, from my point of view, enthusiastically consenting.(Giliell)

    I was chatting with my wife this morning about this and she agree’s with you in this regard. I joked saying she was really good at being enthusiastic for me. :)

  72. JT says

    @Giliell

    Here’s a scenario that can present a problem. You are out drinking with your date you end up having sex that youre not really into but decide to fake it. The next morning you realize that you couldn’t give consent because you were impaired and feel violated. Is there a crime here? Were you not enthusiastic even though you were both drinking?

  73. Beaker says

    @summerblues 72
    Absolute nonsense. All the material I have ever seen on enthusiastic consent is gender neutral. So no, it will not empower female rapists, since what enthusiastic consent teaches holds for all players who are involved in having sex. Consent is not assumed for anyone who is participating.

  74. lelapaletute says

    @Tamen 73

    Some people can beg what they like; doesn’t make them right.

    I just read that article, and while I think the language is needlessly aggressive, I don’t think it necessarily says anything practical that doesn’t accord with enthusiastic consent, in as much as it respects both the right of the man not to engage in a sex act he doesn’t enjoy, and the right of the woman who wants him to to break off the affair on that basis. I would consider this perfectly acceptable behaviour if the genders were reversed – if blow jobs are extremely important to you and your girlfriend won’t give them, then it is entirely up to you whether you consider the rest of the relationship worth that deficit or not.

    Where the article’s author goes badly wrong, in my view, is immediately assuming an unwillingness to give a woman oral must perforce stem from misogyny. There is absolutely no reason to believe this without further data. It’s the equivalent of a guy going straight for the ‘frigid’ epithet if his girlfriend refuses, say, anal.

    The appropriate response to this situation (either one) is “I respect your boundaries; if you don’t want to do that, fine; however, x act is a very important part of my sex life, and if we can’t do that together I’m afraid I don’t think this relationship will work.” Or, you know, accept the relationship minus that act. Whichever works for you. Nothing whatsoever wrong with that.

    But I’m also a Dan Savage sympathizer, insofar as he argues we’re also entitled to sexual pleasure and when in relationships we should try to sexually please our partner — we should (safely) try new things, and be giving and generous in bed (and expect the same in return).

    As for this, well yes, we are all entitled to sexual pleasure, which is why God invented masturbation. What we are not entitled to is to use other sentient beings as masturbatory aids against their inclination. And yes, it is good to try and please your partner, and to experiment and be generous; but only the individual in question can be the arbiter of where the limits of their wish to please and their ability to give sexually are.

    Everyone will draw that line differently; there can be no set standard of “well, if you won’t do X, you’re not trying to please, you’re boring and ungenerous.” For some people, even holding hands is a huge breach of their usual intimacy comfort zone, and can be incredibly difficult to do in order to express affection in a way that pleases their loved one; for others, the ambit of their ability to give physical intimacy is much wider, but they may still find certain acts (not even the ones you might expect) completely beyond them, no matter how much they may want to please their partner. It’s not appropriate to guilt people into going further than they are comfortable going.

  75. lelapaletute says

    @JT 76: I think we could talk individual situations until the cows come home, up to and including the kind of situations where a jury should decide. However, in that particular one I’d say it was fairly obvious that there was no crime. If you’re mentally together enough to remember to fake it, and do so convincingly enough not to be a ludicrously off-putting parody, it seems obvious that you were of sound enough mind to consent to sex and did so (even if the manner of your clear consent – “ooh yeah, do me big boy etc” – was not 100% a reflection of your true feelings on the subject).

    I think the question to be looked at if you were seeking fault is why the person was not into the sex, and why if they were not into it why they did not stop it and even went to the trouble of feigning pleasure.

    If this was because they liked the person and wanted to bed them, but ended up disappointed with the results, but ploughed on in the hope things would improve, either in the course of that encounter or as time goes on, then fine. Although they would be making a rod for their own back there, as unsurprisingly, if you pretend to enjoy something you don’t actually enjoy, you’re going to end up doing a LOT of pretending, as most people want to please their sexual partner and will respond to the feedback they’re getting.

    If, on the other hand, it was because they were being pressured to have sex they never wanted to have, or if once they were having it felt it would be dangerous to them to try to stop it, and feigned pleasure either because they had cause to believe that their lack of enjoyment was making their partner angry or that the unwanted encounter could be brought to a conclusion more quickly that way, then we may still be looking at, if not criminal textbook rape, then coercive sex.

  76. JT says

    @lela

    But this is a problem. I know for a fact that many people have been in these situations. It may only be 2 or 3% of the time but that means possibly 2 or 3 people out of 100 are looking at court. The problem is society is too quick, much too quick to always think “victim” first. If were talking about rape culture we might want to add its favourite friend too, Victim culture. Im thinking a clear cut response(yes or no) is more certain than possibly assuming enthusiastic consent.

  77. mildlymagnificent says

    Do you think you can tell every time a woman is into it or not?

    Not so sure about the positive. But I recall reading some time ago a survey (or similar kind of report) that some rape victims couldn’t avoid the initial assault but they managed to get the assailant to stop – by getting them to look at their faces. Once these men saw the pain or the fearful expression or the tears from the eyes they got a reality check. So much so that they stopped what they were doing.

    So I’d suggest anyone who’s unsure whether the consent and the enthusiasm they started out with is continuing should simply look at their partner’s face. If the expression is a bit grim or disgusted or afraid, checking in verbally would be the very least they should do. Is this OK? or Would you like to stop? or Would you like a break? And then stop if that’s what is wanted.

  78. Gjenganger says

    @Lelapaletute 71
    True, I have not been good at admitting clearly what I have learned through the discussion. Let me try.

    how [EC] will be the end of spontaneous sex.

    You had actually convinced me on that point, and I did not think I had been saying that on this thread (though, looking back at my comment 33, a phrase like ‘try-it-and-see-how-it-plays’ was rather unfortunate. Changes propagate too slowly. Sorry). The ‘end-of-spontaneous sex’ stuff goes with always being explicit, and neither you nor Nerd-in-Love is saying that. I do think that in addition to learning to be clear about what they want and saying a clear yes, you should also urge people to be prepared to say a clear no on occasion. The absence of a no still does not mean yes, and you remain responsible for getting it right, but it would reduce the stress and make communication easier if you could assume that your partner would at least try to get a clear message across. Awareness is helpful, but paranoia is counterproductive. But then the whole EC thing seems much less alarming and unpredictable to me than it used to, largely thanks to your explanations, even if it may not show in my prose.

    As an aside, I do not think that people are entitled to push their interest and be damned to anybody else (and I do not think that is what I am doing either). But with the best will in the world people do have this tendency to emphasize the parts they care about and undervalue the parts that are mostly a problem for other people. It is useful to consider the contributions of more than one group for that reason.

    On how people should actually think and behave (reasonable belief in consent, sliding scale for evaluating drunken sex, encouraging people to know what they want and say it, etc.) I really think we mostly agree. If that is all there is to ‘clear consent’, I am for it too – even if I would likely accept a bit greater risks, and put the limit between ‘unpleasant’ and ‘immoral’ a bit differently. If we are talking about the ‘Nerd-in-love’ version I have a lot more reservations.

    Where we do disagree is in the value you give to (unenthusiastic) sex, and therefore the right balance between making sex possible and avoiding coercion. I think that the distinction between e.g. privacy (which is a ‘right’), washing up (which is ‘necessary’) and sex (which is neither) is a bit beside the point. And yes, sex is a much more intimate and self-involving activity than washng up, but the important point is not that fact in itself, but the risk of harm and unhappiness that goes with it. What we have is a value judgement: some desires are accepted as being important and legitimate to pursue, and others are seen as secondary and frivolous. Saying that it does not matter too much if some people have to do without sex dismisses sex as something it is trivial to renounce, like smoking in the bedroom or listening to Metallica at breakfast. And I think that a lot of people would disagree with that judgement. As for the value of unenthusiastic sex (we are not talking about rape here), I think it is a bit hoity-toity to dismiss it. It may be that you would genuinely rather do without (even if a number of those who say so really do it to emphasize that they have plenty of access to better stuff). But it is not really up to you to tell other people what they should not be liking. As for “providing people with a motive for improving their sexual strategies”, people are NOT sticking with inefficient sexual strategies because they lack motivation, believe me, any more than people are staying on disability benefits because they have insufficient motivation to get a job.

    Another place where we disagree is in the place of low level coercion or manipulation in human relationships. As I see it, the single most important thing that influences our decisions is how other people are likely to react. Escpecially in a relationship, where so many things crucial for our happiness are concentrated. It is impossible to distinguish between stating an opinion like “I think that is really disgusting!”, or “I really need that to feel happy!”, and pressuring your partner to (not) do the thing you are talking about. The very fact that I really miss sex and feel very bad without it (say) is in itself putting pressure on my partner to supply it. That being so, the moral distinction is not whether you avoid pressure (which is impossible), but at what point it becomes excessive.

    I would certainly not want you to ignore me. I just thought (mistakenly) that we were at the point where there was nothing left to say.

  79. freja says

    Gjenganger, the reason you’re getting so much backlash on the idea that non-enthusiastic consent can still be acceptable consent and that enthusiastic consent makes things too hard is because of what’s already described in the Dr. Nerdlove link, people trying to rules-lawyer consent.

    Rapists who learned that drugs like rohypnol were being tested for and could lead to conviction changed their tactic to spiking women’s drinks with alcohol, because it isn’t technically illegal (or at least not provable) and therefore not technically rape. They know that women’s “no” is now supposed to be accepted, but they continue to have sex with women who’re either mentally or physically incapable of saying no, and arguing that it doesn’t count. They know that a woman vigorously resisting their attempts at copulation is a (somewhat) sure way for witnesses and prosecutors to know that she didn’t want it, but if they can use subtle threats and manufacture a situation where many women and girls will worry about their safety and go along quietly (or only protest weakly) as means of damage control, it can hardly ever be proven with 100% surety that the victim only obeyed out of fear or that he knew of that for sure, and in a justice system based on the notion of innocence until guilt is proven, that’s basically making it de facto legal.

    In light of this common behaviour, it seems highly unlikely that the obsession many guys have with finding out the absolute closest they can come to rape without being legally responsible, and their aggressive demands of exact answers to increasingly blurry hypothetical situations, is done in good faith. And as long as the dominant paradigm is “If there is chance the target is willing, it can’t be rape” and not “If the willingness of the target is amatter of chance and not a surety, it’s rape”, it’s unlikely that we’ll be able to stop the epidemic of “not-technically(provable)-illegal” forms of sexual coercion which is by far the most common form of rape. Just look at how much it took to get the Steubenville rapists convicted and how mild punishments they got.

    Furthermore, rapist or not, your framing of sex between members of different genders as almost inherently adversarial, something which you need to get from women who’re unwilling to give it to you, is just unhealthy. Especially because that attitude actually turns women off sex, by causing them to be constantly on their guard and associate sex with hostility and guilt. Not to mention it puts all the responsibility on women. Just notice how JT mocks women who don’t 100% of the responsibility for clarity on this thread. Even though most women on this thread have probably given a clear verbal rejection in response to non-verbal sexual offers/requests much more often than they have refused to give a clear answer to a clear sexual request, they’re still blamed and mocked for not doing it enough, while most men’s refusal to be clear about their desire for sex is not even mentioned.

    It makes sense to put the responsibility for making sure the other person is OK on the initiator (there’s no demand that the same person should be the initiator throughout the whole encounter btw), because the initiator can decide if s/he is up for it, while the person being initiated on can’t. If you think it’s demanding to hit on an a woman, try imagine how demanding it is to be expected to deal with men’s confusing signals and unclear messages 24/7, whether you like or not, and whether there’s any benefit in it for you to participate or not.

    I’m probably younger than most of the men who complain the loudest about enthusiastic consent, and I’ve probably had even less sex than they have, and yet, I’ve spent more time dealing with confusing and socially/emotionally/physically risky situations related to sex than any of them, because most men’s utter refusal to be explicit about their sexual motives means I always have to be on my guard when in male company. It’s one thing to go on a date with a guy, having say in when it happens and knowing in advance what you might have to deal with, but it’s considerably more stressful and hits a lot harder when a guy you thought of as a friend suddenly starts bullying you because he wants to see if it’ll get him laid.

    Even if adopting the model of enthusiastic consent would do nothing to decrease the number of rapes committed or improve the treatment of victims, at least it would give me a freaking break.

  80. says

    You are out drinking with your date you end up having sex that youre not really into but decide to fake it. The next morning you realize that you couldn’t give consent because you were impaired and feel violated. Is there a crime here? Were you not enthusiastic even though you were both drinking?

    Oh goodness, JT, is this really the one thing you folks ever think about?
    Actually it is very simple: Somebody who is too intoxicated to consent cannot consent. That’s actually the law in many places, not some weird feminist analysis.
    If you fuck somebody you need to make sure that the other person is able to give consent. Nobody cares how enthusiastic a child might act, it doesn’t matter. Nobody cares how enthusiastic a drunk person acted, it doesn’t matter.
    It’s actually neither difficult nor a grey area.

  81. Gjenganger says

    because most men’s utter refusal to be explicit about their sexual motives means I always have to be on my guard when in male company. It’s one thing to go on a date with a guy, having say in when it happens and knowing in advance what you might have to deal with, but it’s considerably more stressful and hits a lot harder when a guy you thought of as a friend suddenly starts bullying you because he wants to see if it’ll get him laid.

    That is a very good point. One could argue (more or less successfully) that anybody stepping on to the dating scene has some responsibility for being prepared. But it is clearly unreasonable to put responsibility for dealing with pushy seductions on people who have done nothing to bring them on and have no reason to expect them. And I do belive you when you say that you (and others) get that kind of thing all the time.

    I do not actually think that gender relations are inherently adversarial (and I see your point that all this pushing is poisoning the well), but I think they are for some, and that is the corner I am arguing. In part because that is where the problem is, people who want the same thing generally manage to agree. In part because that is where my experience is, limited and unhealthy as it is. And however easy and relaxing we make the dating game for the women of the future, I cannot imagine any way that things would get much better for one group of men, not intentionally rapists but desperate for sex, never getting it, and straining at the leash, that are causing some of the problems. In a way I wish I could.

    Legally I do not think you will ever avoid the ‘not provably illegal’ kind of rape. After all, all a rapist needs to do is to make sure the meeting is halfway plausible and there are no witnesses. Now I am arguing morality not legal proof, and I am not trying to get as close as I possibly can to the edge. I do see myself as a person of good will, and would like getting to something that was clear, workable, and not hopelessly unbalanced. On the other hand, OK, I am running with a bad crowd by choice, in these arguments. It is undeniable that some of my arguments also serve to give comfort to rapists, and I am arguing for a situation with fewer safeguards, however much I think it is a reasonable trade-off. If people want to object to me, it is not hard for them to find a reason.

    I am not sure what we could come up with that would work, and your reasons are certainly as valid as mine, even if they are different. The one thing I will say is that the Nerdlove version is as close to absolute zero tolerance for risk as I can imagine, and that I could never buy in to a set of rules (on alcohol and other things) that require you to refrain from sex even where you are absolutely and reasonably sure you have consent, just in case someone else in the same situation might have made an unlikely misunderstanding.

  82. JT says

    @Giliell

    *Note to self. Tell people to bring their breathalyzers on dates. That way they can test whether they are too drunk to give consent or whether your date is too drunk to accept an offer. Oh yeah, and who is “you folks”?

  83. says

    JT
    “You folks” are all those who constantly whine about EC and always need to bring up the “regrets sex when sober” trope.
    Well, yeah, that would be an idea. How about this: when in doubt, do not fuck.
    Because not caring about whether the other person is able to consent or not might make one a rapist.
    I’d rather look stupid than be a rapist, how about you?

  84. bugmaster says

    @sheaf #49:

    Yes, that’s a good point about utilitarianism vs. consequentialism with a utility function. That said, in this case, I suppose it can be argued that the slave’s decision was compatible with utilitarianism, because his freedom is worth a lot more than a horse and some temporary bodily harm; and thus trading one for the other increases the overall utility of the world. I don’t know if I’d reach that far, though.

  85. H. E. Pennypacker says

    @ 84

    You’ve just described as grey area and then said it’s not a grey area:

    “Actually it is very simple: Somebody who is too intoxicated to consent cannot consent.”
    Where do we draw the line of “too intoxicated to consent”? Some people argue that the legal limit for driving should be the line – in which case we’d better make sure we strictly stick to one glass of wine on dates. A few weeks ago a feminist friend of mine got angry with me for suggesting that someone might be capable of saying ‘yes’ but still too drunk to consent because I was making consent out to be complex when apparently, in fact, it is very simple.

    Consent is a complex issue. In fact, the fact that consent is a complex issue is exactly why I think that ideas like enthusiastic consent are, in principle, a good idea. We should be asking ourselves questions like “do I think this person wants to have sex with me?” and if the answer is no then don’t start having sex with them even if they don’t explicitly say ‘no’. We should ask ourselves “does this person seem noticeably drunker than I am?” and if the answer is ‘yes’ then don’t go for it even if they seem keen.

    But this doesn’t make it a simple issue. We should be constantly evaluating and at the end of the day, in the real world, you end up making judgement calls and you’d better hope they’re right. Pretending there’s some simple, magic formula that sorts out all issues of consent is inaccurate and helps no one.

    NB: Just to be clear I’m not arguing against enthusiastic consent as a model, I’m arguing against the idea that consent isn’t a complex issue.

  86. H. E. Pennypacker says

    Very good post Ally. What would have been interesting and perhaps more illuminating would have been the question “do you always have to take “no” literally?” because i’s fairly obvious to me that someone saying “no” doesn’t always mean no but at the same time if someone says “no” then you absolutely must take that “no” literally.

    What I find worrying about the article is that most of the people it interviews take these results to indicate that boys hold questionable attitudes about girls consent. There seems two problems with this. First, is the very obvious problem that the figures clearly show that attitudes towards boys consent are more alarming than the attitudes towards girls. The second more interesting problem it assumes that questioning one genders ability to consent automatically means you are from the opposite gender. I don’t see any reason why we should assume that all of the 27% who said a girls ‘no’ doesn’t always mean ‘no’ were boys. If we were to follow this logic it means that girls almost universally don’t believe that a boys ‘no’ might not mean ‘no’

  87. bugmaster says

    As far as I can tell, both sides in this debate are using the same exact argument. Both sides agree that sometimes sex should be allowed to happen. Both sides agree that, at other times, sex should absolutely not be allowed to happen. Both sides agree that some form of consent should act as a filter, sorting potentially sexy situations into two piles: “yes, let’s do it”, and “nope, no way”.

    The only disagreement, then, is about the strength of the filter. This strength is bounded by two extremes: the weakest possible filter that always assumes consent (in which case “no means yes” and we get a total rape culture), and the strongest possible filter that always denies consent (in which case “yes means no” and we live in some sort of an abstinence-based society that will likely die out in one generation). Obviously, neither side in this debate is seriously proposing to implement either of those extremes. The desired strength of the filter is somewhere between them. As you make the filter weaker, you incur higher and higher risk of unwanted sex happening. As you make the filter stronger, you incur higher and higher risk of wanted sex not happening.

    The debate is occurring because of a clash of values; specifically, the relative costs and benefits each party places on unwanted sex and wanted sex.

    One side (mostly Gjenganger) believes that unwanted sex is pretty bad, and that wanted sex is very important. The other side believes that unwanted sex is absolutely catastrophic and must be avoided at all costs, and that wanted sex is basically a kind of luxury most people can go without. Hence, the two sides disagree over the desired strength of the filter.

    The problem, though, is that these values are, as far as I can tell, moral absolutes; that is, rather than being conclusions based on data, they are firmly ingrained moral convictions. If this is true, then this debate is pretty much unresolvable, because it’s virtually impossible to overturn a person’s core moral values; and therefore I don’t see the point in continuing it.

  88. Gjenganger says

    @Pennypacker 90. Indeed, it is complex

    @Bugmaster 92

    Excellent summary. I disagree that the debate is pointless, however. First because preferences or moral values can never be derived from data. You cannot go from ‘is’ to ‘ought’. Second because we are still condemned to apply some kind of collective behavior rules, not to mention a particular version of the criminal law, and it is worth it trying to agree on one. Even where moral values clash, it does not mean that you cannot get anywhere. You can appeal to shared values, on fairness, proportionality, personal responsibility, whatever, and see how far that gets you. And you can look at specific cases and see if you might agree on those – people are often more sure in judging specifics than in finding general rules that are universally applicable, I would say that myself, Lela, Freja and others have gone some way towards setting out what we actually do agree about.

    If you get right down to it, the only thing that justifies society’s norms is the arbitrary will of the majority. But it does not always come to that, and even so you still need enough debate to find out what the will of the majority is.

  89. mildlymagnificent says

    I was watching the news and something clicked with me about risk, sex and driving. No. Not about the risks of driving drunk or engaging in sex while drunk – but about high risk activity and who can and who cannot afford to take certain risks and when and where they take them.

    If you want to drive successfully at high speeds with other vehicles around you driving at similar speeds, you need to a) be on a race track away from ordinary traffic and other hazards, b) be suitably experienced and qualified so that you’re not a risk to the others sharing the race track.

    Most importantly, professional drivers don’t drive as though they’re on a racetrack when they’re in ordinary traffic. This ad, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wnx20F51S_E brilliantly shows the potential problems of driving as a racing driver when surrounded by commonplace hazards.

    If you think of people in established relationships as having built their own safe space for what is potentially risky behaviour in any or all other circumstances, then the problem for people who’ve just met becomes obvious.

    The couple who’ve established that various sexual activities are or aren’t on the menu, that they do or don’t enjoy sex when one or both are sober or drunk or high, and a whole lot of other signals and conditions for whether, when, how sexual activity goes are in a highly advantaged position compared to others.

    People who’ve just met or who don’t know each other very well are a bit like (if you really want to push an analogy to its breaking point) someone in a borrowed car driving in an unfamiliar area. You don’t where the speed limits change or the timing of traffic lights or which intersections have dodgy sightlines or where there have been changes which make your street directory a bit unreliable in unexpected places. So you can’t make good decisions about how you drive without being very alert to your surroundings. Very alert. It’s easier if you have a navigator.

    In sexual matters, your navigator is your potential partner. Be alert to any signs of tension or alarm on their part. Take their advice. Look for their guidance well in advance of turning onto a new road. If they seem relaxed and confident about the journey, you’re both doing well.

  90. says

    JT

    Id rather not be either. So I tend not to think the way you do.

    So, what’s your magic formula that makes sure there is consent?
    You haven’t given any idea about how to make sure somebody who had X amount of alcohol is able to give consent. The only thing you’ve done so far is to complain and trying to play “gotcha”.

    @#90 (why use names anyway?)
    So, what’s the legal limit for driving? Because that’s a number that is going to differ vastly from one place to the other. Which means it’s totally useless for discussion. How about this: let’s look up the scientific literature to find out at which point decision-making (and not on the spot reactions) becomes noticably impaired. Because that’s the whole point about it.
    And yes, I agree that there are “grey areas”. But here’s the thing about them: Somebody in the white area is not a rapist. That still might mean bad sex, though, or no sex. Somebody in the black area is clearly a rapist. But somebody in the grey area doesn’t really care about whether they’re raping somebody or not.
    Yes, the grey area means “hmm, I cannot be reasonably sure that somebody is giving me consent or not, or is able to consent or not.” If we stay with the example of alcohol, yes, the person might still be sober enough to give consent. And yes, that person’s drunk decision can 100% agree with that person’s sober decision so they don’t feel pretty good about it once they’re over their headache. But it is also possible that this person is too drunk to give consent and wouldn’t have done so when sober so it’s rape. It’s Russian Roulette, only that you’re pressing the gun into somebody else’s temple.

  91. bugmaster says

    @Gjenganger #93:

    I agree with almost everything you said, but I still don’t see the point. Let me ask you this: is there anything that could persuade you to adjust your moral values ?

    More specifically, is there anything anyone can say that will cause you to believe that unwanted sex is catastrophic in most cases, and that wanted sex is about as important as, say, ice cream ? I’m not asking you to actually change your moral values; I’m asking you to imagine a hypothetical argument that might cause you to do so.

    Obviously, I’d ask the same question of your opposition: can they envision any argument that that will cause them to believe that some unwanted sex is less harmful than they currently think, and that wanted sex is a lot more important to a person’s health and well-being than they currently hold it to be ?

    If the answer is “no”, then this debate is pointless. As you said — and here I agree — the best we can do is come up with some sort of behavioral rules that would temporarily satisfy a significant number of people. However, I fear that those people who see the rules as too permissive would still maintain that the rules are immoral and must be updated immediately; the same applies to their opposition, but in reverse.

  92. Lucy says

    Obviously people sometimes say something different to what they think. Actions speak louder than words afterall. For loads of reasons, e.g. confusion, fear, eagerness to please, manipulation, necessity. Dishonesty or ambivalence are part and parcel of any kind of social interaction and the creation of allegiances. If somebody asks me to do them a favour, like to house sit their cat, I’m highly likely to say yes even when I want to say, no. So I’m not overly concerned that a proportion of teens apparently recognise this dynamic, it may in fact show a higher level of emotional intelligence than those who answered the survey differently.

    The survey question “Does saying no to sex always mean, no” is ambiguous. To really understand young people’s appreciation of consent, it should have asked, “Does saying no to sex always mean, stop?”

  93. Lucy says

    “Slightly wrong point. “Women can get all the sex they want”, provided they do not care too much about how or who with, and are willing to risk meeting strangers in hotel rooms. Of course women often prefer nothing to what is on offer, and so would I. So do I, in fact. But it is nice to have choices, and you have more than I do.”

    This is such nonsense, I know quite a few older, intelligent, perfectly pleasant and attractive single women who struggle to get a man interested in them. Men are chasing around after the 20-something hotties. They dress up for work, they join clubs and take up hobbies, they go on singles holidays and speed dating, and they are met with disinterest. One woman told me once how she was on a date with a guy and when he found out she was 37 refused to take things further because her “eggs were too old”. And I think you are over-optimistic about the chances of a slightly plump, 40-something woman being able to walk up to a man in a bar and getting one to agree to leave with her. I’m sure she’d have to try quite a number before one would agree; humiliating and not at all realistic.

    It’s men who have sex on tap via the mail order bride and massive sex trades they have developed.

  94. says

    lelapaletute @78

    I just wanted to say that your comment captures exactly what was my problem with the article I linked to. It’s next to impossible to vilify someone’s reason/motive for saying no without ending up being coercive to some extent.

  95. Gjenganger says

    @96 bugmaster
    Could I be convinced that unwanted sex is uniformly catastrophic, and wanted sex is an irrelevant luxury? Well, it is not how they are for me, but sufficiently detailed social research, or believable testimony from lots of people could be enough to convince me that it is like that for most people. As a case in point, I used to believe that people could and would always say a clear no if there was something they really did not accept, like being raped. But I have been convinced, and it did not take immense research either, that strange mental blocks or (what would seem to me) unjustified fear can make people freeze and be unable to say stop, and that you need to allow for that.

    Nor is it necessarily the case that any compromise on rules will always be undermined and pulled down by people who refuse to accept it. You could say that the rules about ‘proof beyond reasonable doubt, admissible evidence,’ etc. are a compromise between those who want criminals punished and no fiddling about, and those who will not accept any risk that the innocent are sent to prison. Of course there are particularly intractable cases, like abortion, but I think and hope that they are the exception.

  96. Gjenganger says

    @98 Lucy
    OK. Point to you. “Women can get ll the sex they want” is a clear exaggeration. I still think they have much better chances than men, unless we pay for it. As for mail order brides, prostitution, etc., I suspect that a woman who really wants a night of paid-for sex or a Filipino toy-by could probably arrange it, and that the main reason it is so hard is lack of demand.

  97. Axxyaan says

    I do wonder slightly why this seemed to be framed as specific to sexual interactions. Shouldn’t other encounters be treated more or less the same. Suppose you have something I would appreciate having. Shouldn’t I get enthusiastic consent in receiving it from you. Does this mean that if the consent was not enthusiastic, that I was stealing? What if some people want to play a board game. Are they allowed to apply some pressure to someone who is not enthusiastic? If not and they do, are they committing a crime?

  98. says

    Gjengnger, 100

    If the circumstances are as bugmaster has framed them, that the respective preferences and dislikes for sex and unwanted sex in your worldviews are basic moral facts then discussion about them can only change through analysis of the frequencies under differing modes of proposition.

    However I suspect from reading your comments that you do not operate on this level, but rather have a utilitarian view, trying to maximize human happiness. In this case getting a better grip on this matter through the means of discussion is probably useful.

    I would invite you to clarify which of the two notions you follow as I think it would clear up your discussion with bugmaster.

  99. Gjenganger says

    You are right that I do not operate on this level. In fact your entire question is way above my pay grade. Sorry.

  100. says

    A bit of personal background…

    Gjenganger, as a man who has experienced at least some of the troubles you described, let me just say:

    1) Your problems have NOTHING AT ALL to do with the “enthusiastic consent” rule or any other dating/sexual dynamics issue; they are entirely the result of personal communication and priorities issues between you and your wife; and should have been honestly dealt with at that level. The EC rule didn’t cause your problems, nor did it cause you to give up solving them; and mindlessly attacking it in thread after thread won’t make them go away, nor will it reverse your previous decision to give up on improving your life.

    2) Banging on about such personal problems in a post about a totally different subject strongly implies you’re letting your personal miseries affect your political opinions; and instead of discussing your personal problems honestly, you’re using this thread as an opportunity to lash out and scapegoat someone else instead. A lot of MRA rhetoric — almost all of it I’ve heard, in fact — fits this pattern: men who have suffered some misery in their personal lives taking all of their resentments out on whoever’s ear they can bend, and looking for someone else to blame for their problems, anyone but themselves.

    3) None of this will ever do anything to actually solve your problems or make your pain go away. None of us are clinical psychologists or social workers, none of us are competent to deal with your problems, and using places like this to grind that same old axe will do you no good at all. All you’re doing here is wasting time, embarassing yourself, and making your misery and failures part of your identity instead of trying to move on.

  101. Gjenganger says

    @Raging 105
    Well, I suspect I am not the only person (on either side) in this forum who is a bit driven by his personal knots. Does anybody else spring to mind?

  102. JT says

    So, what’s your magic formula that makes sure there is consent?(Giliell)

    There is none, nor will there ever be. Trying to expand on the simple but direct “Yes and No” just muddies the water as Ally’s title says. Again, to point out something I used early, I think we would be better served teaching our children this.

    “Say what you mean, Mean what you say”

    As far as alcohol goes this is a virtually impossible task to try and enforce a level playing field. I have known members of both sexes to drink to the point of blackouts and still be able to have sex. How do you police that? Is it a race to see who charges who first? And don’t try to say to people not to have sex after drinking because it isn’t ever going to happen. Many people use alcohol intentionally to lower their inhibitions.

  103. summerblues says

    Oh, hell no, Raging @ 105. Considering your over-reactions every time rape is mentioned in an article or in the comments threads, including your belittling and bullying others, you are the last person who needs to be telling others to check their personal baggage at the gate. We all come in here with our own experiences, biases, pain and baggage. “Shut up and listen” goes both ways. Let people talk. Let them use their own words. If you are confused, ask..don’t shout down. All your bullying and insulting is going to do is push this back underground. I don’t want it back there again. I want to see what people really are.

    MRA rants, good grief. You want to know what those rants have done for me? Let’s see, what have I learned: oh, they believe themselves to be entitled to sex, owed sex. Uh, no, no one is. “Using alcohol will make her easier to bed”…well, yes, if you want to be correctly convicted of rape (consequences to your actions).

    Now here: women still feel/believe they must lie when refusing an invitation, especially when it’s a man who is asking. Why? Women lying like this, when they feel they must “soften the blow”, is incredibly crippling to us. Why is it that women can’t just say “no, thank you”. Oh! That’s why: some people react very badly and dangerously when given a “no”. Know what? That’s not women’s problem. Once a woman has given a clear answer, the ball is back in the inviter’s court. It’s now up to the inviter to decide whether to walk away or escalate the situation to harrassment of invitee to “get the bouncer and the police”.

  104. lelapaletute says

    @105 Raging Bee

    So inappropriate. It is perfectly acceptable and even illuminating to the discussion to introduce the personal basis of ones’ political conclusions. One does not form ideas in an aseptic vacuum, but as part of the process of living. Gjenganger was very frank and, I think, quite brave in outlining his own experiences (although I still disagree with his conclusions, or some of them), and knowing about them makes it easier to understand and thus argue to his points. What exactly do you believe you have contributed to the debate by being so patronising and rude?

  105. lelapaletute says

    @JT 80:

    But this is a problem. I know for a fact that many people have been in these situations. It may only be 2 or 3% of the time but that means possibly 2 or 3 people out of 100 are looking at court. The problem is society is too quick, much too quick to always think “victim” first. If were talking about rape culture we might want to add its favourite friend too, Victim culture. Im thinking a clear cut response(yes or no) is more certain than possibly assuming enthusiastic consent.

    I don’t get your response here at all.

    Are you telling me you know of someone who accused someone else of rape under the circumstances described in your original post (got drunk, had sex, faked it, and then on reflection decided the sex was non-consensua and prosecuted)?

    Or are you saying that you know of someone who was prosecuted for rape under circumstances such as you described (where their partner faked enjoyment at the time, only to plead coercion later)? If the latter, have you had the version of their accuser, and do they have an explanation as to why, even though they were coerced, they feigned enjoyment? If so, was the reason for this in line with my potential hypotheses (either fear of a violent reaction to their lack of participation, or an attempt to expedite a coerced sexual encounter)? In the latter instances, would you agree with me that there might be a case to be made that the sex was not consensual?

    Or are you saying you know people who had sex while pissed, faked it, regretted the encounter but wouldn’t dream of classifying it as rape or prosecuting? Because that doesn’t strike me as having anything to do with the issues surrounding clear consent…

  106. JT says

    Are you telling me you know of someone who accused someone else of rape under the circumstances described in your original post (got drunk, had sex, faked it, and then on reflection decided the sex was non-consensua and prosecuted)? (lela)

    Yes, and I knew both parties and what happened. It didnt go to trial as cooler heads prevailed. It did cause a whole shit load of personal and emotional problems with friends and families of both individuals.

  107. says

    JT

    As far as alcohol goes this is a virtually impossible task to try and enforce a level playing field. I have known members of both sexes to drink to the point of blackouts and still be able to have sex. How do you police that? Is it a race to see who charges who first? And don’t try to say to people not to have sex after drinking because it isn’t ever going to happen. Many people use alcohol intentionally to lower their inhibitions.

    Hey, yeah, why even try?
    It’s not like we’ver heard that before, especially with regards to alcohol and, well, lets say driving.
    Of course it wasn’t the nay-sayers who changed the culture.
    And what’s a bit of rape of drunk people compared to the unwillingness of some people to re-examine their own behaviour?
    Oh, and how do I police that? Well, I obviously expect that people understand why this is an issue and police themselves. And yes, I’d like to see “she was drunk so it couldn’t have been rape, her own fault for drinking” to be gone. But I understand that you don’t care about the rape and damage that happens.

  108. Beaker says

    @107 “As far as alcohol goes this is a virtually impossible task to try and enforce a level playing field. I have known members of both sexes to drink to the point of blackouts and still be able to have sex. How do you police that? Is it a race to see who charges who first? And don’t try to say to people not to have sex after drinking because it isn’t ever going to happen. Many people use alcohol intentionally to lower their inhibitions.”

    The point is for people to police themselves. Nobody is talking about when to persecute in the discussion here. What is discussed is what the standard of behavior should be and which should be taught. And in that standard, I would advice people to avoid grey areas. If you think the person you are going to have sex with might have had too much to drink, walk away. If you have drunk to the point where you aren’t entirely certain you are doing things that you would not otherwise be doing. Walk away. If you have drunk to the point where you think you cannot accurately gauge others reactions and whether they are consenting or capable of consent, walk away. In other words, avoid grey areas, not just black ones.

    Now, from a legal standpoint this would generally be good advice as well. Given that in many parts of the world having sex with someone who has drunk beyond the point of consent is illegal, you better be damned sure to know someone is capable of consent.

    Lastly, I don’t think this is such special advice either. Generally in all moral and ethical dilemmas, as well as legal ones, the advice is to avoid grey areas.

  109. Gjenganger says

    @Beaker 115

    The point is for people to police themselves. […] If you think the person you are going to have sex with might have had too much to drink, walk away. If you have drunk to the point where you aren’t entirely certain you are doing things that you would not otherwise be doing. Walk away. If you have drunk to the point where you think you cannot accurately gauge others reactions and whether they are consenting or capable of consent, walk away. In other words, avoid grey areas, not just black ones.

    These are the kind of questions people should be asking themselves, yes, But you have to be careful about your words and what level of care you actually demand. To be sure, Dr. Nerdlove’s rules are the only ones that are proof against bad faith – they require such an extremely wide margin of security that they are robust even against people who want to game them. But for someone who is a decent person and want to do the right thing (but wants to have sex) it is different. If you tell some nice young lad “ If you think the person you are going to have sex with might have had too much to drink, walk away.“, he might well answer “Come On!. She looks pretty sober, but for all I know she has just guzzled two double vodkas five minutes before I saw her. So, if I have not watched her drinking all night, I should ‘walk away’ because she might have had too much to drink! Are you serious?. I think you would be better off asking him “Do you believe she is sober enough to be able to decide? Do you have good resons for believing that? Are you sure you are sober enough to judge, yourself? Do you think she will still feel OK about this tomorrow? And if he can honestly say yes to that, cut him some slack if it goes pear-shaped anyway.

    I think you might get more whole-hearted compliance – and better practical results – if you avoid demanding things that people think are unreasonable or impossible.

  110. Gjenganger says

    @Beaker 115
    Prosecusions are indeed a separate point. If two people are both half paralytic, it is easy enough to say that neither of them should be having sex – they are too drunk to judge, and the other one is too drunk to consent. It is a little harder to decide which of them (if any) should go to jail as a consequence.

  111. JT says

    @Beaker

    Lastly, I don’t think this is such special advice either. Generally in all moral and ethical dilemmas, as well as legal ones, the advice is to avoid grey areas.(Beaker)

    Yes, I know, my family taught it to me. Its called common sense and respect. The problem happens when one person says the other raped them but they were both drinking and consented to the act.

    And what’s a bit of rape of drunk people compared to the unwillingness of some people to re-examine their own behaviour?(Giliell)

    You miss the point, if both people are drinking then from your viewpoint neither one of them is capable of examining their behavior. Now if the simple little action of saying NO or YES to the activity happens then it is all taken care of. If someone is straight out of the two and then takes advantage then its pretty obvious a crime happened.

  112. JT says

    @114

    Lela

    The person said they would never had agreed if they were straight. Though the individual did agree after they both consumed alcohol. NO was never used.

  113. Gjenganger says

    @JT 118
    It is true that it would be better if people could always be clear about what they did and did not want. In fact I think both sides agree on that point. The problem is that whatever advice you give, there will still be lots of times when nobody says a clear yes or no, or when people say the wrong thing for all kinds of silly but unavoidable reasons. So, push for clarity by all means, but we still cannot get out of making rules for how to behave when clarity is lacking.

  114. Beaker says

    @Gjenganger 116
    I’m not sure what your point is in that post. It seems that basically the only thing you are doing there is a rephrasing. I’m perfectly fine with rephrasing what I wrote to suit a particular audience, and I’ll leave it up to sex educators who write for a specific audience to do just that. It seems to me that in this discussion I am not educating a bunch of high school kids.

  115. Beaker says

    @JT 118 “Yes, I know, my family taught it to me. Its called common sense and respect. The problem happens when one person says the other raped them but they were both drinking and consented to the act.”
    And in that particular circumstance they, or the courts if all goes haywire, will have to sort that out. People can lie, people can misjudge the situation, etc etc, nobody here would deny that. And all the more reason to avoid grey areas to start with. But it seems to me that the discussion is on the heuristic one would use going into a situation, not on what the verdict should be if things went “wrong” and people have to sort out the mess.

  116. Gjenganger says

    @beaker 121
    OK. The point was that [you should step away if your partner] ‘might have had too much to drink‘ could mean either ‘if it looks like she might well be too drunk‘ or ‘if you cannot totally exclude that she might possibly be drunk‘. Ole Dr Nerdlove seems to favour the second interpretation, which makes this kind of nitpicking important. I wanted to be sure we meant the same thing – which happily we do.

  117. lelapaletute says

    @JT 119 – this interests me. So the person did remember and acknowledge that they HAD agreed, categorically, and their only argument was that they WOULDN’T HAVE if they had not been drunk? This then seems to me like an unrelated issue (and I’m not at all sure where faking it comes in).

    There’s lots of things I’ve done and said whilst drunk that on reflection I wouldn’t have if I had been sober (as recently as this weekend, in fact), but I did do them of my own free will, and the fact they make me cringe looking back does not mean I can psychologically disown them or blame them on other parties. If, on the other hand, I woke up with no memory of the night’s events in bed with someone who normally I wouldn’t have touched with a barge pole, and they assured me and everyone else who cared to listen that I had been totally up for it at the time, I might have my suspicions this was not entirely true. That would be a very different situation.

    Is this latter situation what we are talking about, or did this person really think that full verbal consent and active participation that they remembered giving and doing didn’t count because they wouldn’t have given it if they had been sober, and that this made the other party a rapist?

  118. bugmaster says

    @Gjenganger #100:

    Ok, that is a good point; you are open to persuasion and have, in fact, been persuaded to some extent. In this case, the debate clearly had some positive value. Now that I think about it, this is probably why I initially had a very negative reaction to Ally’s last paragraph. Open disagreement is not always “disingenuous and ugly”, as long as it’s backed up by good arguments.

  119. bugmaster says

    @lelapaletute/JT in the 110-120 range:

    Wait, now I’m confused as well. Let’s say we have the following scenario:

    Person A and person B meet at a bar. Both are tipsy, but they get to talking, and order more drinks anyway. Some time later, they are both quite drunk. They hail a cab, and drive to person A’s (or B’s, doesn’t really matter) apartment, where they have sex. Under the influence of alcohol, both partners are willing and, to some extent, able. In the morning, person A wakes up and leaves; person B wakes up sometime later, and finds oneself deeply regretting the drunken sex. B realizes that, without the inebriation, B would’ve never agreed to have sex with A.

    Was B raped by A in this scenario ?

  120. JT says

    Was B raped by A in this scenario ?(Bug)

    If you think that B cant give consent because they are drunk then……………..

  121. says

    What, it’s “appropriate” for one person to talk about his personal problems and failures, but not for someone else with similar experiences to respond? How does that work exactly?

  122. lelapaletute says

    @126 Bugmaster

    But A was also drunk so likewise could consider themselves to have been raped if your standard is ‘drunk at all = unable to give consent = rape’. A lot depends on how it came about. I really do not want to be making the case I am here, as it sounds very victim blame-y and God knows some people hardly need encouraging, but there is a difference between regretting positive decisions you DID make under the influence and regretting getting so paralytic you were not able to make decisions and were taken advantage of.

    Steubenville = definitely rape; this hypothetical instance of A and B? There’s a lot of ‘unless’ that is not covered by ‘they have sex’ (which as a stage direction is equivalent to ‘the fleets meet’ in terms of the variety of situations it could comprise and conceal without further elaboration). Unless A was applying undue pressure or influence, or B had reason to fear A, or A was a lot more sober than B and taking advantage of that fact to manipulate B into consent. But assuming none of these are the case, essentially, if A says ‘up for it?’ and B says Yes (or ‘Yesh’, as the case may be), and they both then actively participate in a sex act and see it through to conclusion with full awareness on all sides, the fact one or both may later regret it does not make it rape retrospectively on either side.

    This does not invalidate any bad feelings B may have about the incident, it does not mean they have to now like A or have sex with A again, or that A can attempt to get B drunk again in the hope this will result in another ‘slip-up’, or anything of the kind. It just means that clear consent, on that occasion, was given and received, regardless of how out of character it was. I think you’d have a hard time finding a jury in the land that would convict A on these grounds.

    If, on the other hand, A wants to have sex with B and knows full well B would never consent in a million years if in command of their faculties; encourages B to get drunk or spikes their drinks while remaining relatively sober themselves with a view to getting the upper hand; badgers B to have sex with them, ignoring or dismissing a host of ‘don’t be silly’/’I’m too tired’/I don’t feel well’ type remarks; or makes forceful physical advances on B without reciprocation; or does things to B while they are unable to speak clearly or resist physically, or while B is either unconscious or close to being unconscious; or threatens B in any way, tacit or overt, with harm of any kind if B doesn’t go along with it; even though no-one has said ‘No’, you are now entering Rapeland, please screw carefully – oh, too late.

    The trouble is, I don’t believe there’s any guarantee a jury would convict A in this situation either, because of all the myths that if a woman didn’t say no, it wasn’t rape, or that if there was no physical violence or damage, it wasn’t rape, or that women are in the habit of making up shit because they regret consensual sex. Hence the need for a sexual culture where consent is held to the highest possible standards; the law cannot demand those standards, because the flesh and the brain is frail and people make choices that are bad for them sometimes without it being rape. But the line drawn in the legal sand is perforce somewhat blurry, and it is as well to err as far on the other side of it as possible – i.e., the green light for uninhibited shagging should be a relatively sober, sane partner who is doing things to you and actively encouraging you to do things to them. Anything less than that should be flashing amber, and any sign of incapacity or distress should signal STOP, long before the word ‘No’ gets deployed. So yeah, the general cultural tendency would be to frown on drunk sex, because it makes this gold standard harder to manage. But that doesn’t mean everyone who has drunk sex then goes in the dock for it. And it should never be assumed that being drunk together is indicative that where one person says consent was given and the other says it wasn’t, we should be necessarily sceptical of the one saying it wasn’t just because they were drunk (i.e., being drunk with someone does not mean you were willing to have sex with them).

    By the way, I would also like to dispute this idea that people who are pro-enthusiastic consent consider sex a ‘frivolous luxury’. This is still thinking about sex wrongly, as a commodity, not an activity. Sex as food rather than sex as eating, if you will. The need to eat is a powerful one, and without being able to indulge it, you may well be in serious trouble; however, if the only thing you can digest is human flesh, you still don’t have the right to eat bits of other people without their consent. Even if going without means you will die. And no-one ever died from lack of sex.

    For the purposes of this argument, it actually doesn’t matter how important or essential sex is to someone’s happiness or wellbeing. It is an activity contingent on another’s free will, and thus cannot be demanded, any more than you can demand to be loved or demand to be danced with or demand that someone share their kidney with you while they’re still using it.

  123. lelapaletute says

    @128 Raging Bee:

    It’s inappropriate to shame him for telling his story and basically implying that his personal experiences have no place in the debate. Clearer?

  124. Lucy says

    Nobody in the history of the world, drunk or not, has ever been confused about whether the person they are having sex with is consenting. It’s a bogus defence that alcohol is a mitigating factor for the defendant in a rape case; it’s an aggravating factor for the prosecution.

    Women don’t wake up after a bad shag and decide to pursue a rape case; they wake up with a dim memory of being unable to move or defend themselves from a grinning psycho at a party or behind the wheely bins.

    If a woman forces you to have sex whilst drunk, prosecute. If she didn’t, don’t.

  125. JT says

    Nobody in the history of the world, drunk or not, has ever been confused about whether the person they are having sex with is consenting.(Lucy)

    And you know this how??

  126. Gjenganger says

    @lelapaletute 129
    Cool.
    I would add that having your bedmate regret the encounter to the point that she takes it to the police is a very unpleasant situation. Even if she is perfectly consenting on the night, avoiding that kind of thing is in your own interest (never mind hers).

  127. Gjenganger says

    @Axxyaan 109

    I do wonder slightly why this seemed to be framed as specific to sexual interactions. Shouldn’t other encounters be treated more or less the same. Suppose you have something I would appreciate having. Shouldn’t I get enthusiastic consent in receiving it from you. Does this mean that if the consent was not enthusiastic, that I was stealing? What if some people want to play a board game. Are they allowed to apply some pressure to someone who is not enthusiastic? If not and they do, are they committing a crime?

    Good point. It depends a bit how you interpret the ‘enthusiastic. My take would be:

    – You are indeed allowed to employ low level coercion in both cases. But
    – Forcing people to do something they do not want is rude and unpleasant, so – legal or not – you should strive to avoid it.
    – Unwanted sex is much more traumatic (on average) than unwanted Monopoly, so we need to be much more careful with the sex. That is why there are laws against rape, but not against forced Monopoly.
    – People push for sex in a way they would not dream of pushing for board games – likely because they feel the need much more strongly. That means there is more need for rules to hold them (us?) back.

    It would be great to hear how Freja or Lelapaletute or someone else on the other side of the debate would answer this.

  128. mildlymagnificent says

    You are indeed allowed to employ low level coercion in both cases.

    This sends shivers down my spine. Low level coercion. Who determines what is “low level” and when and how it becomes not “low level”?

    I’ve been physically cornered by men more than once, verbally nagged or urged or subjected to “persuasion” and it was always overbearing, and sometimes utterly unnerving, even though none of them were angry and even when they thought they were being friendly or cooperative or something else not at all intimidating or coercive. And these were circumstances when we’re not talking potential rape but just a man wanting to get a woman to “agree” with him about something.

    I have no idea how anyone would judge that he was exercising “low level coercion” rather than intimidating or overwhelming the person subject to this claimed non-threatening behaviour when the circumstances involve something as intimate as sex.

  129. lelapaletute says

    I think MildlyMagnificent makes a very good point. What is meant by ‘low level coercion’? more to the point, what is meant by ‘allowed’? I think this is the problem, and goes back to what someone up-thread was saying about the good faith of the arguments against EC, a non-legislative proposal – why is it necessary to know what is ‘allowed’ for the purposes of a moral/cultural debate? Couldn’t we just agree that it is wrong to try and make someone do something (give you things, play board games, have sex) that they don’t want to do, and agree to govern ouselves accordingly?

    The law is established, and no-one’s arguing to change it – rape is sex without consent. What ‘enthusiastic consent’ as a culture would seek to do is give people who apparently have a hard time with what consent is a way to be sure. Obviously it won’t stop intentional rapists knowingly raping; but it would strip away some of their plausibility when they claim they didn’t know the victim wasn’t OK with it simply because she didn’t fight back. It won’t stop people lying about what did or didn’t happen (either the vanishingly tiny proportion of false accusations, or actual rapists pretending the rape didn’t happen), but neither does the law as it stands.

    Of course, my problem with Axxyaan’s comment starts much further back than that, with the equation of sex with’something you have that I want’ (this again?), or a ‘boardgame’ – takes us right back to the ‘washing up’ canard. We’re talking about sex; if you thnk it’s OK to pressure someone into sex, have the courage of your convictions and say so, and explain why. Don’t fudge around the issue by making invalid comparisons. There are very few activities with the potential to be as intimately engaging as sex; dancing or breastfeeding are about the only ones I can come up with. Boardgames don’t even come close (except maybe Twister :P).

  130. lelapaletute says

    @131 Lucy –
    Nobody in the history of the world, drunk or not, has ever been confused about whether the person they are having sex with is consenting.

    I would disagree with you there. It’s certainly an excuse that would cause me to raise a sceptical eyebrow, and in the vast majority of cases I would say it’s probably bullshit. However, so murky is our sexual culture about what consent is, and so powerful is the view that women are generally lukewarm about sex, so much so that a lack of enthusiasm stretching to active distaste for the act is only to be expected (and on the other hand that all men want sex all the time, so that apparent disinterest can be safely ignored) that for a minority of inexperienced people, who don’t know much about sex and are suffering from an empathy malfunction, I can imagine there could be confusion. It is for these people and those unfortunate enough to be propositioned by them, that principles like enthusiastic consent (which for experienced practitioners of happy consensual sex seems like the codifying of the bleedin’ obvious), need to exist.

  131. Gjengamger says

    @Lelapaletute 136, MildlyMagnificient 135

    What ‘enthusiastic consent’ as a culture would seek to do is give people who apparently have a hard time with what consent is a way to be sure.

    That is true enough. If you are totally unable to understand signals from other people (as in: ‘if you suffer from a serious neurological condition’) Dr. Nerdloves rules are the only ones that will keep you out of mischief. Of course you need to accept that you are that badly off before you embrace the remedy.

    why is it necessary to know what is ‘allowed’ for the purposes of a moral/cultural debate?

    Because we are talking about a social norm, that tells everybody what behaviour other people expect, and what a normal, decent person can and cannot do. Whatever individuals might prefer, in some countries queue-jumping is ‘allowed’ as just what people do, but in the UK it is severely frowned upon. That is useful to know.

    How much pushing, manipulation etc, you are ‘allowed’ to employ in normal social interactions (like organising a boardgame or choosing a restaurant) is not normally seen as controversial. You obviously need additional safeguards for sex (as I did put in my post), but I think the question is “If such and such behaviour is more or less accepted in everyday interactions, why is it so completely beyond the pale when we come to seduction? And I would read MildlyMagnificients post as saying, not that sex is different, but that we need to practice something much more like ‘enthusiastic consent’ also in our everyday behaviour. Which is quite radical, actually, and which would be agreeing with Axxyaan more than disagreeing with him.

  132. summerblues says

    mildly @ 135

    Your words bring out my protective instincts. Oh, I can relate. Lived like that for so long. I broke. Don’t let it destroy you, too.

  133. Gjenganger says

    @MildlyMagnificient 135

    I’ve been physically cornered by men more than once, verbally nagged or urged or subjected to “persuasion” and it was always overbearing, and sometimes utterly unnerving, even though none of them were angry and even when they thought they were being friendly or cooperative or something else not at all intimidating or coercive. And these were circumstances when we’re not talking potential rape but just a man wanting to get a woman to “agree” with him about something.

    It does make me wonder what this is. The kind of thing that I would see as shocking, overbearing behaviour if it happened in front of me? Or the kind of thing that I would take in my stride and shrug off as a perfectly normal discussion if some man did it to me, and that I might therefore also do to someone myself?

  134. Ally Fogg says

    It does make me wonder what this is. The kind of thing that I would see as shocking, overbearing behaviour if it happened in front of me? Or the kind of thing that I would take in my stride and shrug off as a perfectly normal discussion if some man did it to me, and that I might therefore also do to someone myself?

    Forgive me jumping in. I doubt there’s a straightforward answer to that question. Whether something is overbearing, unnerving, intimidating and coercive is a mostly subjective judgement.

    Someone who is extremely nervous, living with anxiety-related mental health issues, maybe living with PTSD or whatever will very probably find certain behaviours intimidating, overbearing etc, while someone else, who is extremely confident, assertive and comfortable in their environment might find it completely innocuous.

    That is why you need to be alive and responsive to the other person’s actions. It is never meaningful of useful to say “well I behaved this way with other people and they thought it was fine, so I’m not doing anything wrong” or indeed “well someone else behaved this way with me and I thought it was fine, so what is your problem?”

    That’s actually very closely related to the reasons why I refuse to define exactly and precisely what enthusiastic consent is or what it looks like. Any two people will display enthusiasm in very different ways. What EC asks of us is to actively look for signs of enthusiasm in the other person, and if we have any doubts, either hold back or ask outright for clarification.

  135. Gjenganger says

    Whether something is overbearing, unnerving, intimidating and coercive is a mostly subjective judgement.

    Maybe. But we still move within a collective agreement on what is normal and acceptable behaviour and what is not. Being alive and responsive to the other person’s actions is a good thing, but you could not move through life if at every work meeting you had to reconsider – from zero – what you could and could not say in case somebody’s mother had died that morning. We are not talking about sex here, but about everyday life. Sex is a particularly sensitive subject that you only deal with at specific times. This is something you would have to consider every time you ask somebody if they know where to find the photocopy key. How much EC do we need for that, is the question.

    I could see MildlyMagnificients post fit into several different stories with rather different consequences.
    – Some people are particularly overbearing and insensitive, by accepted standards. They need bringing into line, but it is not a problem for me (or maybe it is, in which case I had better start changing).
    – Some people are unusually vulnerable and unable to face up to normal social interactions. They would be entitled to special attention and consideration, which is fine, but they would need to signal that.
    – Accepted standards differ between men and women, as they are accultured to different ways of interacting *). Either system works fine on its own, but there can be bad effects when people from different groups interact. That raises issues of how to interact with people from the other group, and which group should adapt to the style of the other.

    I was hoping to learn enough to see where to fit this in.

    If you find my question invasive, Mildly, I am sorry.

    *) Before anybody starts overreacting, this is from the work of Deborah Tannen. She is a linguist and conversational analyst (not an evolutionary biologist), and treats male/female communication as a particular case of intercultural communication with its attendant problems. Her thesis is that men and women are trained from childhood in different attitudes to status, closeness, explicit hierarchy, and that this is reflected in their interaction styles.

  136. Ally Fogg says

    but you could not move through life if at every work meeting you had to reconsider – from zero – what you could and could not say in case somebody’s mother had died that morning.

    I’m honestly not sure about that.

    When I’m in any kind of business meeting I’m constantly reading other people’s reactions, body language, expressions (and indeed listening to what they say) and adapting my own behaviour in response, almsot like an intuitive feedback cycle. I think most people do that, and people who are really successful in any line of work tend to be very sharp at doing so.

  137. Gjenganger says

    @Ally 144
    Yes, we do adjust, but we need some established starting point. I think even you would struggle in your first lengthy business meeting with people from Japan, Texas, or Paupa New Guinea, if you had never been exposed to the culture before. As for a situation where each person might have flipped from being Japan-style to being Texas-stye overnight, well….

  138. JT says

    When I’m in any kind of business meeting I’m constantly reading other people’s reactions, body language, expressions (and indeed listening to what they say) and adapting my own behaviour in response, almsot like an intuitive feedback cycle. I think most people do that, and people who are really successful in any line of work tend to be very sharp at doing so.(Ally)

    I would agree with you that most successful people do this but in my experience most other people do not. In fact, I find the reason most people get themselves into compromising positions is because they miss the cues people give. This is quite evident in both the business and social world I inhabit.

  139. Gjenganger says

    An example from Tannen might clarify things.

    Apparently men tend to interrupt women in conversations, and some linguists take this to mean that men are domineering and claim power over women. Tannen noted that some groups (like New York Jews) tend to speak fast, with short pauses between speakers and everybody interrupting everybody else. Other groups, like southern US Christians, tend to speak more slowly and let every speaker finish his turn and pause before they break in. Within each group conversation flows easily, but New York Jews have a tendency to crowd out Southern Christians in mixed conversation groups. Tanned refuses to accept that New York Jews are domineering and claim power over Christians (she is a New York Jew herself), and chooses to interpret it as two equally valid conversation styles that break down when mixed.

    One interpretation of Mildly’s post might be that what is a perfectly equal and balanced way of arguing for (some) men, who have grown up used to the style and would just push back, is unbearably overbearing to (some) women, who expect completely different behaviour in arguments. There are other interpretations, to be sure, which is why I asked.

    Either way, I struggle to imagine how anything short of genius-level social skills could bridge such basic and deep-set differences in interaction style without prohblems, minute by minute in your daily life.

  140. lelapaletute says

    @147 Gjenganger:

    An interesting diversion. But one of those two styles is objectively better for mixed-style interaction – the slower, wait until everyone gets done talking kind, because then – everyone gets to talk. It is only the rapidfire method that is causing communication to break down, because it is not allowing the slow and steady style space to move Whereas the slow and steady style does not impede the interrupty types from getting their points across – they just have to be a bit patient. So the obvious solution is for the former to adapt to the latter.

    The interrupty style is one that me and all my family engage in without any detriment to our ability to communicate with each other (although we are not New York Jews, more’s the pity); it only takes a very few occasions before you realise that in mixed company, this is percieved as extremely rude, and hinders conversation. In fact, one of the best things about online debate for me is that it forcibly overrides my tendency to just start talking over people, a habit which I have to actively quell IRL.

    Bit too busy to consider how this transfers to the posited inter’cultural’ nature of male/female interaction, but I feel sure that with a bit of common sense one could identify a logical basis for favouring one type of communication over the other as a base line, and changing this as and when appropriate after investigation – i.e., if I’m talking to a stranger I should start out quelling my interrupt-y-ness, but as I get to know them better, I can guage whether they would be able to handle and even enjoy my natural style.

  141. Gjenganger says

    @148 Lelapaletute

    Whereas the slow and steady style does not impede the interrupty types from getting their points across – they just have to be a bit patient. So the obvious solution is for the former to adapt to the latter.

    I think that is a fallacy. You might equally well say that the high-interruption style does not impede the slow and steady types from getting their points across – they just have to be a bit quicker off the mark and keep talking when interrupted. As a solution I would go for awarenes of which gender tends to have what style (so you do not need to work it out from first principles every time), and mutual accomodation. That avoids telling one side that their favourite style is dysfunctional – and having bar fights over who gets to impose their style on the other.

  142. JT says

    Whereas the slow and steady style does not impede the interrupty types from getting their points across – they just have to be a bit patient.(Lela)

    Depends on the type of learner you are. Auditory, visual or kinesthetic. I know those freaking kinesthetic types drive me bonkers. I guess I should learn patience or they should hurry up and spit it out. ;)

  143. lelapaletute says

    You might equally well say that the high-interruption style does not impede the slow and steady types from getting their points across – they just have to be a bit quicker off the mark and keep talking when interrupted.

    No, because if two people talk at once, clarity is impaired – eventually one person has to give way for the conversation to go forward. Interrupty style is objectively less conducive to everyone getting to have their say, and I say this as an interrupter. I personally enjoy talking to people who also talk like me, because it challenges me to consider whether what I want to say is worth the effort it will cost me to say it against the opposition of their inevitable interruption; but a lot of things I do want to say perforce get lost along the way, either because I discard them as not worth the candle or because I lose the shouty battle to be the last one talking, so in that sense, it does impede me, and would do far more were I less bolshie….

  144. lelapaletute says

    JT – had to go and look that one up! :P Although I don’t see how it relates, as conversation is necessarily primarily verbal rather than kinesthetic (unless you want to do a mime or an interpretative dance…)

  145. lelapaletute says

    As a solution I would go for awarenes of which gender tends to have what style (so you do not need to work it out from first principles every time)

    I shy away from any solution that requires an assumption to be made based on a physical characteristic like sex. Just because MOST women do this or that, does not mean I do, or that I will take kindly to someone assuming I do rather than assessing me as an individual from first principles. It would be like me assuming you like football just because most men do.

  146. Gjenganger says

    @Lelapaletute 153
    Here we disagree, then. It is really not feasible to assess from first principles every individual shop assistant, fellow train traveller, friends’ friends’ friend, person you meet at a party etc. that you meet for the first time. At best it would be an immense amount of work for a few minute’s chat. Stereotypes are useful, even if rather imprecise. To stay with your example, I have the choice of cultivating an interest in football, because most men do that, or in Albanian violinists, and accept that I will be a bit of a misfit. Insisting on being ‘assessed as an individual’ is like insisting that everybody learn about Albanian violinists, so they can talk to me.

  147. lelapaletute says

    But nobody needs to talk to you about Albanian violinists (except other Albanian violinist afficionados, obviously). It won’t come up, as they won’t assume. It’s as simple as that, not assuming ‘the obvious’ as well as the esoteric, because it may be obvious but not necessarily the case.

    An example is sexual orientation; if someone in conversation alludes to ‘my partner’ or ‘my other half’, the balance of probabilities would suggest they will be talking about someone of the opposite gender to themselves; however, is it really such a collossal effort for me not to assume that, to avoid using the he/she pronoun until they do, so as not to potentially lead to a potentially embarassing correction? OK, if I was a grammar Nazi, it might cause me some personal discomfort to say ‘they’ until I know one way or t’other; but surely I can cope with that in order to be polite and allow for the fact some people are different?

    I’ve never really understood what stereotypes are so useful for, except pre-emptive discrimination of various kinds…

  148. lelapaletute says

    Or consider travelling abroad; if you are in, say, France, almost everyone you meet will speak perfect English. This is common knowledge. However, it is still well-mannered to master “pardonnez-moi, parlez-vous Anglais?”, and deploy it at the start of every conversation, because it demonstrates that you are taking nothing for granted.

  149. JT says

    @lela

    For most people their style of learning(process information) usually dictates how fast they speak. That’s why those freaking dancing types drive me nuts. ;)

  150. Gjenganger says

    Stereotypes are useful for making conversations easy and simple, avoiding complex and tortous considerations. And, OK, feeling comfortable in your group identity. As a homosexual you are part of a one-in-ten minority. For some things, you can not quite assume that your assumptions is shared by the group around you, because most of them are likely to see you as at least a teeny bit different from themselves. The thing is, tippytoeing around sexual orientation is not so much a way of making everybody feel comfortably part of the group, as it is a way of making the majority as unsure and selfconscious as the minority.

    Let me give you an anecdote:
    A distant relative married into a wealthy US family, and eventually turned up at a party wher all the other participants were – quite well off. One of them came up to my relative with this conversation-opener: “Where is your yacht moored these days?”. Of course that put my relative in a slightly embarassing position, as he was a poor academic without so much as a rowing boat to his name. But in that company people without yachts wer actually quite unlikely. What conversation-openers would be allowed? Politics (but what if my relative was a democrat – or even socialist)? Work (but what if my relativce had just been fired)? Holiday plans (but what if my relative was going down for a ten-year stretch next week)? Family (but what if my relative was single, or his wife was dying of cancer)? Ultimately there is very little you could say without risking a gaffe, or spending ten minutes swopping life stories. It makes more sense to me that you can go with any assumption that is right 90% of the time, and deal with the awkwardnesses as they arise.

  151. lelapaletute says

    A distant relative married into a wealthy US family, and eventually turned up at a party wher all the other participants were – quite well off. One of them came up to my relative with this conversation-opener: “Where is your yacht moored these days?”.

    You’ll probably think me terribly priggish, but I think that person was (quite accidentally) being a dick and should check their privilege, as they say :P Could he not have essayed ‘do you sail at all?’ instead, and gone from there? This is all I’m saying – it really doesn’t mean anyone has to be hypersensitive or go out of their way to avoid causing offence – offence is not the problem – presumption is. I doubt anyone gay would be *offended* per se by being presumed to be straight; just that for someone to do so would be forcing them to explain or elaborate on their family arrangement, rather than its simply being accepted for what it is. Like asking someone who’s a bit brown “no, where are you from *originally*?” when they’ve already said “Birmingham”, it’s just making more than one needs to of someone from the out-group’s otherness.

    The majority of 29-year olds are not virgins; but I would not (in conversations with other 29 year olds) assume that they had had sex, or with how many people, on the basis of my own experience or the national average. Because some people would not have, and it might make them feel like they were weird, when in fact they are just uncommon. Doesn’t mean I wouldn’t talk about my own shagging just in case (or my own yacht, politics, holiday, or family) – I just wouldn’t assume that their experiences were anything like mine; I’d probably – radical thought – ask them rather than just assume. If they are completely different to me and happy to talk about it – so much the better, interesting!

    Are you just generally speaking against people making an effort for one another’s benefit? Do you think it corrupts authenticity in some way?

  152. bugmaster says

    @lelapaletute / Gjenganger:

    This is another matter of weighted priorities. No matter what I say, no matter how careful I am, I am virtually guaranteed to offend someone at some point. Humans are too diverse a group for matters to be otherwise. So, the question is, how careful should I be about offending someone ? Or rather, since offence is a continuous variable and not a boolean, what amount of offence is it acceptable for me to cause during my daily life ? The answer can’t be “none” (because then could never interact with anyone at all), and it can’t be “unlimited” (because then we’d live in some sort of a post-apocalyptic hellscape), so it’s somewhere in between.

    That said, I lean more toward Gjenganger’s position than lelapaletute’s. I think that lelapaletute places too high a value on not offending people. This essentially means that every social interaction becomes a potential minefield, i.e. something to be avoided if at all possible. I would prefer to live in a world where conversations can still happen, trading off the higher risk of being offended for the benefit of being allowed to talk to people.

  153. lelapaletute says

    For a start: No-one is saying you can’t ever offend anyone. Just that it’s best practice to try not to (unless they are an arsehole and deserve to be offended).

    For another: in spite of my apparently unachievable high standards for this, I do not live in a hut by myself apologising to the postman for breathing in a privileged fashion. I actually go out and interact all the time; because I think human interaction is totally worth the (to my mind) perfectly reasonable adjustments I attempt to make to ensure that my impact is, as far as possible, harmless to other people (or even beneficial). Because I think people are, in the main, awesome (or certainly better than cats, the amoral, one-dimensional sociopaths).

    Sometimes I get it wrong, even with the best will in the world. But I like to think I get points for trying in good faith, and apologising up front if I do it wrong, and learning from that experience. Is this really a totally unacceptable burden that makes it preferable just to cut off all interaction entirely? And if so, why?

    I think statements like this:

    It is really not feasible to assess from first principles every individual shop assistant, fellow train traveller, friends’ friends’ friend, person you meet at a party etc. that you meet for the first time. At best it would be an immense amount of work for a few minute’s chat.

    and this:

    I think that lelapaletute places too high a value on not offending people. This essentially means that every social interaction becomes a potential minefield, i.e. something to be avoided if at all possible.

    are the equivalent of ‘taking my ball and going home’ in the great game of human interaction, because you can’t have things entirely your own way. I think if considering other people’s feelings on a case-by-case basis (rather than demanding some unshifting bare minimum standard which you can jobsworth-ishly adhere to for the purposes of being able to say “see, I followed the ‘rules’ – if you’re upset, that’s YOUR fault!”) is such a colossal drag for you that you’d rather opt out altogether, then that says more about how much value you place on other people than it does on the feasibility of the strategy…

  154. bugmaster says

    @lelapaletute #161:

    But I like to think I get points for trying in good faith, and apologising up front if I do it wrong, and learning from that experience.

    Sounds reasonable to me; but then, that person who asked a party guest about his yacht probably thought that very same thing, and yet you called him an “asshole”. Case in point:

    Because I think people are, in the main, awesome (or certainly better than cats, the amoral, one-dimensional sociopaths).

    I personally am a cat person; some of my happiest childhood memories involve our house cat. I think cats are great. If I thought that your comment was serious, as opposed to tongue-in-cheek, I might very well be mildly offended by it.

    So, you made what you thought was an innocuous comment, and inadvertently offended me (or came close to doing so). Does this mean that you’re an “asshole” and should “check your (doggy) privilege” ? No. I’m willing to give you the benefit of the doubt; and I’m willing to go even further and admit that my preference for cats vs. dogs probably isn’t all that rational (unlike other topics which could cause offence, I hasten to add); and, in this case, I’m not going to make an issue of it. What I’m not going to do is push for a change in our society which would treat a person’s preference for cats vs. dogs with much more reverence than we do currently.

  155. lelapaletute says

    Actually, I didn’t call him an asshole. I said this:

    You’ll probably think me terribly priggish, but I think that person was (quite accidentally) being a dick and should check their privilege, as they say :P

    I didn’t even say he WAS a dick, I said he was being one – accidentally. As you say, I’m sure he was acting in good faith and attempting to strike up what he thought would be congenial conversation. In spite of my best efforts, I have been a dick on more occasions than I can count, but I like to think I’ve never been the same kind of dick twice once it’s been brought to my attention.

    As for the cat thing, I was of course being tongue in cheek, and if I have offended you, I’m sorry. I will now make sure, in our conversations, to avoid making light of cats (unless, of course, you would care to debate with me about the logic of pet-keeping, which I think is a fascinating subject about which I have some reasonably strong views – although I think we have already stretched the remit of this thread to breaking point and back again :P).

    What I wouldn’t do is then NEVER make a joke about cats again, because it had offended one person. That would be me making assumptions about people generally (that they will be offended by cat-related humour) which I could not reasonably be expected to make…

    I think this is very different from the yacht incident, where the original guy had assumed yacht ownership – quite a leap, given the relatively small percentage of yacht owners in the world, and the relative simplicity of checking someone has a yacht before enquiring over the hypothetical yacht’s location. I made no assumptions about you when I made my cat comment, apart from (tacitly) that my opinions on cats would be of no consequence to you. Now I know differently, I can govern myself accordingly.

  156. lelapaletute says

    Oh God, I just read that back to myself and am suddenly SO CONCERNED that this is what I am actually choosing to do with my Friday evening. Maybe I should get a dog, it would at least give me a reason to go out of the house :P

  157. Gjenganger says

    So, am I against making an effort for other people’s benefit? No, but I like to weigh up the costs and benefits.

    In general it is nice to be able to say what you assume and you think and feel sure nobody will complain. Things go quicker and smoother, you can be a bit more immediate and authentic, and you have that nice feeling of the world and you being in harmony. It is nice being part of the dominant majority, in other words. The more you have to allow for other people not being in sync, the more you lose that. A little more anxiety, and a filter layer between what you think (“So, how is she, then”, and what you end up saying after censoring “And how is your significant other, then”. It is not really a big deal, of course. On the other hand being outside that cosy commonality makes you feel excluded and forces you into the odd embarrassing situation. Person to person, the outsider loses more than the insider gains, sometimes quite a bit more. On the other hand 1) The gain from ‘not assuming’ is limited – as long as my relative is the only research assistant in a ballroom full of millionaires, he is not going to be or feel like part of the in-group no matter how careful people are. And 2) the outsiders are many fewer – for every time a millionaire comes up against a research assistant, they may come up against 50 millionaires or more. At some point the gain from avoiding embarrassment is swamped by the loss of everybody being a bit more artificial. In each case the question is where. Yes, once you know everybody fairly well you can avoid the problems, but you meet many more people than you have time to get to know. That is where stereotypes, and group norms become useful.

    Anyway, it has been great talking to you, but – quite apart from filling up Allys blog – I must have lost couple of working days by now, concentrating on this debate. I really have to get a grip and get back to doing what they pay me for. Some other time, then.

  158. mildlymagnificent says

    One interpretation of Mildly’s post might be that what is a perfectly equal and balanced way of arguing for (some) men, who have grown up used to the style and would just push back, is unbearably overbearing to (some) women, who expect completely different behaviour in arguments.

    Not at all. I’d think that some of the interactions I had in mind might be rationalised away like that – but I wouldn’t accept it. We’re talking 30 to 40 years ago here. I was a feminist woman in a strongly male dominated field which had a conservative leaning political bent – and I was also a union activist to add insult to injury and that union was strongly conservative socially (and politically at the national level).

    My reading was that most of these blokes thought that they were treating me like one of the boys. In fact, many of them really saw me as a challenge – a right in front of them uppity woman – and they treated me very differently to the way they treated other men. And when I held my ground, that was a further challenge – because I hadn’t acceded gracefully to their suggestions. (Remember the time we’re talking about. Those “suggestions” were that I had no right to the job I worked in, that I should be grateful that we now had equal pay for that job, that they wouldn’t want to be married to someone like me and they didn’t understand how my husband could put up with me … and more in that vein. Of course, many of these remarks and opinions were expressed as jokes, at least to start with, but they weren’t terribly funny at the start and they got distinctly unfunny when the conversation went further.)

    And then there’s this earlier comment.

    And I would read MildlyMagnificients post as saying, not that sex is different, but that we need to practice something much more like ‘enthusiastic consent’ also in our everyday behaviour.

    You need to reread what I wrote at the end. I have no idea how anyone would judge that he was exercising “low level coercion” rather than intimidating or overwhelming the person subject to this claimed non-threatening behaviour when the circumstances involve something as intimate as sex.

    To be absolutely clear. If a man was using that verbally pushy, physically close style with me in a sexually directed conversation, I would have been terrified.

    Sex is different. Whatever our level of awareness or deftness in ordinary social interaction, we have to lift our game when it gets intimate. Whether that’s moving in a sexual direction or the conversation moves into any other kind of intimate territory – discussing someone’s feelings about a friend or relative dying for example – we have to choose our words carefully and pay careful attention to the other person’s responses to ensure we’re on the right track and not going to upset or offend them.

  159. Lucy says

    @lelapaletute

    “I would disagree with you there. It’s certainly an excuse that would cause me to raise a sceptical eyebrow, and in the vast majority of cases I would say it’s probably bullshit. However, so murky is our sexual culture about what consent is, and so powerful is the view that women are generally lukewarm about sex, so much so that a lack of enthusiasm stretching to active distaste for the act is only to be expected (and on the other hand that all men want sex all the time, so that apparent disinterest can be safely ignored) that for a minority of inexperienced people, who don’t know much about sex and are suffering from an empathy malfunction, I can imagine there could be confusion. It is for these people and those unfortunate enough to be propositioned by them, that principles like enthusiastic consent (which for experienced practitioners of happy consensual sex seems like the codifying of the bleedin’ obvious), need to exist.”

    If there is one thing human beings are hyper primed to do, it is to tell if the person we are with is an ally or a threat. Somebody who is not on board with what we are doing in any given situation is a potential threat.
    Nobody has ever not known they are coercing somebody: whether it’s to go out with us, have sex with us, or have us for Christmas. I have never met anyone who’s ever not been highly attuned to how much they need to manipulate the other person into doing what they want.

  160. Lucy says

    @lelapaletute

    “so powerful is the view that women are generally lukewarm about sex, so much so that a lack of enthusiasm stretching to active distaste for the act is only to be expected … that for a minority of inexperienced people, who don’t know much about sex and are suffering from an empathy malfunction, I can imagine there could be confusion.”

    You can imagine there is confusion, but has anyone ever told you there was? We’re all keen to imagine other people are much less adept at reading emotions than we are, but there’s limited evidence for it, studies have been done*. Unless they have a emotional disability (which would be considered a mitigating factor in a trial).

    If there is confusion (which there won’t be when you are in a prolonged, highly intimate situation with another human being) then the civil thing to do is check. It’s not much of a defence is it: “I wasn’t sure if she wanted me to have sex with her or actively found me distasteful, so I thought I’d give it a punt, m’lud”

    *There are some differences between male and female abilities to read emotions, men are less good at reading female facial expressions than male ones for example, which it is believed happened for evolutionary reasons as men needed to be adept at predicting male threats, however they still do a decent job of it.

  161. JT says

    I have never met anyone who’s ever not been highly attuned to how much they need to manipulate the other person into doing what they want.(Lucy)

    I guess you havnt met too many autistics or others with some social challenges. Your confirmation bias is mind numbing.

  162. says

    JT, 169

    I agree the statement by Lucy is completely bizarre. You do not even need autistic people, there are enough people out there.

  163. JT says

    @Sheaf

    Considering both Autism and ADD or ADHD are on the rise, or at least the diagnoses of them, then I would say its pretty relevant. Hard enough for many of those individuals to pick up on basic cues, throw EC in their and whoops I think I just lost my mind.

  164. JT says

    *There are some differences between male and female abilities to read emotions, men are less good at reading female facial expressions than male ones for example, which it is believed happened for evolutionary reasons as men needed to be adept at predicting male threats, however they still do a decent job of it.(Lucy)

    Even more relevant is the fact that the overwhelming majority of individuals with the conditions I listed are of the male gender. So if we believe lucy in regards to men being not quite as good as women reading facial expressions can you imagine………………….?????

  165. says

    JT, 171

    Yeah autism spectrum disorders are not rarities. What I meant is that I had enough socially awkward schoolmates/colleagues/ family members to know how hard reading social cues for some of them is, even disregarding these disorders.

    A lot of the discussion about social interaction on this blog has made me facepalm, but some of the comments just raise the question if these people have ever met humans outside the blogosphere.

  166. JT says

    but some of the comments just raise the question if these people have ever met humans outside the blogosphere.(Sheaf)

    I keep thinking a lot of them might have some of these issues. ;)

  167. Lucy says

    JT

    “I guess you havnt met too many autistics or others with some social challenges. Your confirmation bias is mind numbing.”

    I guess your confirmation bias made you miss the bit where I wrote: ‘Unless they have a emotional disability (which would be considered a mitigating factor in a trial).’

  168. Lucy says

    Here’s a heads up folks, if you are the type of person who can’t tell if you might be raping somebody (and would prefer not to), because you have autism or social anxiety disorder or are just incredibly insensitive and self-absorbed then you aren’t allowed just shag people on the off chance. Check.*

    Hands up who’s ever not been sure if they’re raping somebody? I don’t mean not been sure if a person wants to sleep with you and you’ve called it a night or asked a friend, I mean actually not been sure if you are raping somebody. And if you haven’t been sure, why did you carry on?

    *Note: And practise reading body language and facial expressions. Porn is a good place to see what a woman who doesn’t want to have sex but is pretending she does looks like.

  169. Lucy says

    @sheaf

    “Yeah autism spectrum disorders are not rarities. What I meant is that I had enough socially awkward schoolmates/colleagues/ family members to know how hard reading social cues for some of them is, even disregarding these disorders.

    A lot of the discussion about social interaction on this blog has made me facepalm, but some of the comments just raise the question if these people have ever met humans outside the blogosphere.”

    Either this is conjecture about other people or you are speaking from experience. Which is it?

    Women aren’t mystical creatures who’s consent to sex is as hard to discern as the end of a rainbow. They’re human beings: they have body language, they have facial expressions, they say things. If all else fails, just ASK them!

  170. says

    Women aren’t mystical creatures who’s consent to sex is as hard to discern as the end of a rainbow. They’re human beings: they have body language, they have facial expressions, they say things. If all else fails, just ASK them!

    Your answer has nothing to do with anything I said. I think both men and women have body language and I can read it most of the time.

    To answer your question: It is conjecture about other people, including yourself. There is an element of uncertainty in many if not most human situations, whether they pertain to men or women. There is a continuum of skills of reading body language of others as well, with some people being able to read most of my body language others not.

    So if people start claiming “I have never met anyone who’s ever not been highly attuned to how much they need to manipulate the other person into doing what they want.”, then I begin asking myself if they belong to the same species as me.

  171. says

    Sorry, what was the point of all of this again? There are people who have a hard time interpreting body language/facial expressions therefore…

    a.) Those people should be extra careful about getting verbal confirmation regarding the desires of their potential sex partners

    b.) I’m not sure what the alternative to this would be, other than, their potential sex partners just dealing with it on the really remote chance that their sex partner rapes them more or less by accident?

    Like I said, what is the point of bringing this up?

  172. says

    Sally,

    Sorry, what was the point of all of this again? There are people who have a hard time interpreting body language/facial expressions therefore…

    a.) Those people should be extra careful about getting verbal confirmation regarding the desires of their potential sex partners

    Sure. If you have a hard time reading other peoples intentions verbal communication is more important.

    b.) I’m not sure what the alternative to this would be, other than, their potential sex partners just dealing with it on the really remote chance that their sex partner rapes them more or less by accident?

    Not an alternative (of course if you feel uncertain about certain things , by all means ask!), but complimentary behavior is/ might be necessary. Example: A friend of mine keeps talking about a video game I am clearly not interested in. He does not take the cue from my body language. I take things in my own hands and tell him that the game does not interest me.

    Like I said, what is the point of bringing this up?

    It was just a tangent started by Lucy’s grotesque understanding of social interactions.

  173. JT says

    . If all else fails, just ASK them!(Lucy)

    Yep, and now were back to the basic. Yes or No. Pretty simple, unless of course you want everybody to go for the enthusiastic consent thingie.

  174. summerblues says

    Sally,

    “Those people”…that’s my son. He has trouble with his own body language.

    On the one side, we have men who are supposed to be able to read body language and when in doubt, ask.

    On the other side, we have women who are concerned about saying a direct “no”, so they lie…which alters body language.

    If the invitee doesn’t accept a straightforward “no” complete with matching body language..

  175. Gjenganger says

    @MildlyMagnificient 166
    Thanks for clarifying. Now I have heard more I feel no need to challenge your interpretation.

  176. Gjenganger says

    @Summerblues 184
    Can I contribute mine?
    Their analysis is both deep and accurate as regards the mechanisms and costs of a relationship. Unfortunately I understand their suggestions as this:

    – For you: Your choices are your own, and only yours. You must never depend on anybody or rely on others to solve your problems. You must be prepared and happy to close your boundaries at any moment.Therefore you must be totally self-sufficient and immensely strong.

    – For others: You must never put others under pressure in any way. Therefore ask nothing, expect nothing, be prepared to live with nothing. Expectations cause pressure. Anything good you get from someone else should come as a pleasant surprise.

    To me that seems excellent advice – if you are a polar bear, who prefer to walk the icy wastes alone and meet rarely to mate. For humans it seems impossible. So I draw the opposite conclusion, that coercion is an inseparable part of human relationships.

  177. mildlymagnificent says

    coercion is an inseparable part of human relationships.

    Inseparable? I’d say highly undesirable if far too common.

    Of course, you might use the word differently from the way I do. I’d see cooperative activities like negotiation and persuasion as being quite distinct from coercion. It’s entirely possible to live a whole life on this basis.

    Once you abandon cooperative approaches and move into competitive or dominating behaviours then coercion is obviously part of that. Not so livable.

  178. Gjenganger says

    @MildlyMagnificient 186
    Maybe that is the difference between us. I see persuasion, negotiation, and ‘low level coercion’ as in essence the same. In each case you are trying to get someone else to do something you would prefer, instead of doing what she would otherwise prefer. The difference to me is one of permissible tactics, and of long term health and ballance, not of basic principles.

  179. summerblues says

    Gjenganger 185

    Thanks for reading and responding back.

    I’m a polar bear but not so black and white. I guess I do have expectations, negative ones. I expect to be cut off on the road, bumped into in malls and grocery stores, ignored. Shrug. So, yeah, I appreciate now the little things: folks saying “excuse me” and moving out of the way, letting me in on the road, someone actually reading something I’ve linked. Part of it is that I still see myself as an ignorant country bumpkin and part of it is that folks are just self absorbed and arrogant (they/re right, I’m wrong…whatever). There are just some folks that a discussion with them is impossible. They will do what they want. Well, now so do I.

    I prefer negotiation over cooercion. There are times, though when there is no negotiating: a couple of nights ago I knew that my husband really wanted me to go with him to find a chair that his dad could sit in (tone of voice, look on face, words used). He wanted me to go There was no reason for me not to. (it wasn’t about me; his dad has stage 4 prostate cancer, bones and muscles in his legs just not cooperating anymore, I’ll give the man whatever he wants and needs…including a tall bar stool type chair so he can get into and out of it with some dignity; yes, it worked well. he ate more these last 3 days than he has in months)

  180. Gjenganger says

    Oh. I am very sorry to hear that. Strength to all of you (what else can you hope for, in that situation?).

    I prefer negotiation over cooercion. There are times, though when there is no negotiating

    I’d agree with that. Even more, once you are a couple and the decisions are for two, you will have less freedom of movement. The price of intimacy?

    The trouble with negative expectations is that expecting something makes it (even) more likely to happen. So expecting nothing means you are not disappointed, and you are not coercing anybody, and you are less likely to get what you want. It may be unavoidable, but one would hope for better.

  181. mildlymagnificent says

    I see persuasion, negotiation, and ‘low level coercion’ as in essence the same. In each case you are trying to get someone else to do something you would prefer, instead of doing what she would otherwise prefer.

    Oh dear. I can see how someone might see these three as being on a continuum if not exactly the same. But I don’t see how the second sentence I’ve quoted goes with the first. It seems to presume that this is all about winning and losing, that no one can get what they want unless someone else gives up something they want.

    The fact that this may sometimes happen doesn’t mean that it always does, let alone that it always must. It’s not only desirable to have “win-win” scenarios, it’s entirely possible to have persuasion and negotiation result in win-win outcomes. More importantly, if you enter a conversation looking for a win-win, you’re much more likely to get that. If you presume that everything must be win-loss that’s likely what you’ll get, and you could finish up with loss-loss if you make a mess of it. (Or you could be entirely warped like someone I knew once. He was entirely happy when someone else, anyone else, lost out in some way. That alone he regarded as a win for himself even though he didn’t actually gain anything personally – apart from that winning feeling. Strange person.)

  182. Gjenganger says

    @MildlyMagnificient 190
    Well, a win-win situation would be when on closer analysis both sides turn out to prefer the very same choice out of all the possible alternatives? I do not deny that it happens – sometimes you just agree – but I think it is naive at best, denial at worst, to expect that this is the rule. Of course the question is complicated by the fact that 1) having both sides reasonnably happy is in the long term interest of each, 2) for this very reason one side’s unhappiness has a quite coercive effect on the other.

    It is not a question of win and loss – this is not a competition. But i would assume that like any other negotiation the two sides can have somewhat different interests. Their objective would be first to end up with a result that both find aceptable, and within that to try to get closer to their own preference. if they can. And I think it is pretty much impossible to draw a clear line between “I cannot push for more, because the gain for me is not worth the unhappiness to her” and “I cannot push for more, because even if she gives in, she will never let me hear the end of it”.

  183. lelapaletute says

    @Gjenganger:
    I think it is pretty much impossible to draw a clear line between “I cannot push for more, because the gain for me is not worth the unhappiness to her” and “I cannot push for more, because even if she gives in, she will never let me hear the end of it”.

    OK, I was stepping out of this one but eh? How can you not see what enormously different sentiments those are?

  184. Gjenganger says

    @Lelapaletute
    The sentiments are certainly different – that was deliberate. One is a person judging on behalf of both parties, relative to a fixed set of mutual preferences. The other is a purely self-centered judgement, relative to the chosen behaviour (not the preferences) of the other person.

    In real life I do think the situations are rather muddled up. For several reasons.
    – We do not have telepathic knowledge of other peoples happines, present or future. So we deduce it from their behaviour. One effect is that this kind of low-level power games is also a way of establishiing how much each person cares about a given problem. If the signals are honest this is not necessarioly manipulative.
    – Part of the point of caring for your partner is also that ‘i cannot be happy if you are not happy’ – if it was just altruism we might spend our care on poor people in the Philipines who need it more. So the altruistic reason for keeping people happy is mixed up with keeping your environment pleasant, fulfilling an obligation of reciprocity, keeping your credit up for the time when you really want something important, …
    – FInally, mutual happiness is so important for people who care for each other that simply stating you are unhappy becomes coercive in itself. As one of the ‘enthusiastic consent’ sites put it “begging is a kind of coercion”. I think it is impossible for yourself, let alone your partner, to distinguish cleanly between “I simply feel very bad about this”, ” I am showing how unhappy I am, so you can change your behaviour”, and “I choose to emphasize my unhappiness and be loud and vengeful about it, so as to put you under more pressure to change.”

    We do both love and power, and both aspects are present all the time. You cannot separate them. I have a beautiful anecdote, that was told me as a genuie quote from a newly-wed woman in New Guinea: “I do not love him, He loves me, but I do not love him. It is the best way. It means that he cannot hurt me“. Of course the first thing you notice is that this is awful, and that there must be something terribly wrong with that womans life (or society) that she should need this kind of power to protect herself. But awful or not, she is right about the effects on the relationship. Her husband, being in love, will care for her happiness, be vulnerable to her moods and desires, and heavily under her influence. She, not caring about him, will be invulnerable, safe within her boundaries, and in a position of considerable power. I think the love is worth the vulnerability, but you cannot have one withotu the other.

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