Thursday, November 11, 2010

advance consent

There's been a lot of talk lately about the idea of advance consent.  While the case that caused the talk is interesting, I'm more interested in the concept itself and its implications.  I've seen posts saying that of course advance consent makes sense because people in relationships in the real world need to be able to get all up on their partner without worry, and I've seen posts saying that advance consent is a terrible thing because it basically reopens the door to marital rape, and really, rape in any relationship.

So.

Advance consent.

It think it can be a good idea, especially for people in kinky relationships, but i think if you're going to do it, you need to be specific.  Saying "Hey, lover, you can do whatever you want to me while I'm passed out/asleep/tied up and gagged" isn't the same as making a list saying what can be done and when.  The first doesn't talk at all about boundaries, and is relying on your partner to somehow psychically intuit what is and is not acceptable.  The later means that you get specific about what you like and what you don't, and when its ok to do certain things.  It's dangerous to just say that your partner can do whatever, because it means they might do something you really dislike, or that hurts you, or that is against your morals.

People aren't likely to be giving advance consent to acts they hate-- but if they just say sure, i give consent to sex, then "sex" is up to their partner's interpretation, and they've put themselves in a potentially precarious position.

But I do think that certain forms of it can be quite useful!  People giving their partners consent to wake them up with a blowjob, or consent to hit them and ignore the word no, or even just consent to switch from vaginal sex to anal without talking about it are all things that happen in a lot of people's relationships.  People like these things.  I think it's key, though, that people talk about these things, and don't just assume that their partner will know when to stop, and it's also key that if consent is revoked (in the "ignore the word no" scenario, this would generally be through the use of a safety word or safety signal) that it is listened to, and that the action is stopped.  Advance consent is ok if it means "you can try this without verbalizing it first".  It isn't ok if it means that the other person gets more of a say in what they can do to your body than you do.  It also doesn't mean that consent transfers-- consenting to A should not automatically mean consenting to B.   Consenting to B should not automatically mean consenting to A.

But kink happens, and some people like surprises, and some people just really enjoy being groped by their partners and not having to always verbally negotiate every damn sexual interaction.  It's important to talk about sex and make sure you're both on the same page, but most people in a relationship don't stop kissing to ask if they can put their hand on their partner's genitalia, or massage their body, or shift angles.  It's just... not how sex usually works.  So most people do rely to some extent on an implied form of advance consent, where it's assumed their partner is ok with some groping or kissing-- but at the same time, it shouldn't be assumed that a partner is always in a state of perpetual consent.  But maybe we can operate on a platform where people are ok with certain acts, and certain initiation, without them automatically consenting to sex.

So-- I can see, definitely, how it can be problematic.  And I don't think it should at all be interpreted to negate the ability to revoke consent.  But I do think that in the real world where people are not perfect and where their sex lives do not always fit into neat packages that I can see the utility of a form of advance consent that is specific and easily revoked.

2 comments:

no more mr nice guy said...

This "advance consent" stuff can open a can of worms. I think "advance consent" should apply only if you're unconscious. Otherwise a guy will rape his wife and claim that by being married with him she must accept to have sex whenever he wants. It should work only on short term - a woman should not "advance consent" to be sodomized during her sleep for ten years period. She should "advance consent" just before she's unconscious. Otherwise a guy will rape a drunken woman and say that by being drunk, she was accepting sex.

Amanda said...

I completely understand that fear, and I agree that-- in general, at least-- it should NOT be a long term, open to whatever sort of deal. (In some full time bdsm relationships, it probably could be, but those aren't the norm) That's why I think, if people are going to try to have advance consent situations, what they are consenting to should be very specifically defined, and if it is some blanket thing that goes beyond the current sexual activity, I would think it ought to be renewed on a regular basis.