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Wed Feb 20, 2013, 01:20 PM

Under Duress: Agency, Power and Consent, Part One: “No”

Trigger warning

This is, quite simply, the single best analysis of consent I've seen online.

This blog post is part one. Will post her 'part two' blog entry later.


When rape apologists are using our models of consent to defend rape and to deflect feminist analyses, it’s at least worth considering the limitations of the models. This article is part one in a two-part series of articles examining the issues.


No Means No: The First Rule of Consent

The Basic Message

If you’ve heard just one message about consent, chances are this is it. If she – and it’s always a she; more on that later – says “no”, then the sex is off. If she says “yes”, then it’s on. The message is simple and it’s been a crucial tool in advancing the basic feminist understanding that sex isn’t sex without consent. “No Means No” is the feminist bottom line and all feminists must hold this line at any cost. If you’re already asking, “But what if she says no and means yes?” don’t worry, we’ll get to you in about 6,000 words or so. But for now, please take a seat over there. No, over there. Not too close to me, please.


The Power and Responsibility Dynamics of “No”

But when is this “no” done? Do you say “no” when you first meet somebody? Should you wait until they buy you a drink? Until you’re alone? Until you’re naked? Until you’re having sex? Until you’re having a kind of sex that you don’t want to have? Do you have to interrupt them to say “no”? Is there a threat of violence if you do? Will it break the mood and lose a friend? There are a lot of restrictions which can check the ability to say “no”.


Maybe Means No: The (Unspoken) Second Rule of Consent

Implicit Refusal

I’d like to ask the reader to do a brief mental exercise. (If you’d rather not, just skip to the next paragraph.) I’d like you to remember the last time you found it difficult to give an explicit “no” to somebody in a non-sexual context. Maybe they asked you to do them a favour, or to join them for a drink. Did you speak up and say, outright, “No”? Did you apologise for your “no”? Did you qualify it and say, “Oh, I’m sorry, I can’t make it today“? If you gave an outright “no”, what privileged positions do you occupy in society, and how does your answer differ from the answers of people occupying more marginalised positions?



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