Commentary | Is consent too legalistic?

Re: “Consent is fucking sexy” | Letters | February 3

To Al Blair,

It is difficult to come across as unironically appreciative of criticism these days (and especially, I find, in this paper!), but your thoughtful letter was very much appreciated. You’re right when you say that “if you really respected your lover you would not hesitate to ask,” and your clever inversion casts my previous comment in a light I find pretty distasteful, which it ought to be! However, I remain concerned about how deeply the discourse of consent is rooted in legalistic discourse. Take, for instance, the rape allegations pending in Sweden against Wikileaks founder Julian Assange. To read the case briefs, one very much gets the sense that the plaintiffs regretted the sex with Assange, and concocted narratives of ungiven consent in which Assange is heavily implicated. Sweden’s strict rape laws are the essential enablers of what seems (but might not in fact be) a case of vindictive revenge on their part.

Consent is of course a necessary condition for good sex, and communication is essential in any relationship and particularly in romantic relationships. I just wonder and remain concerned about how much absolutely needs to be communicated, and to what extent that communication can or ought to be controlled, legislated and directed towards subordinate ends.

Thanks again for your  wonderful letter,

Matthew Powes

U1 Arts


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