Okay, I’m back. This new topic about “taking back consent” is interesting. I had never heard of taking back consent until now. I can see how the concept helps make space for instances of sexual coercion, where someone technically does say “yes,” even though they do not want to engage in a sexual activity.
Current conversations around consent, whether it’s the outdated “no means no” idea or the newer “yes means yes” idea, don’t make space for, “What if I said yes, but I said yes because I didn’t feel like I had a choice?” or “What if I said yes, but the way you did it made me feel violated?”
I like that this taking back consent idea acknowledges that sometimes people give consent because they are coerced and coerced consent is not actual consent. I also like that it seems to put responsibility on someone not to just get permission, but to make sure they use that permission in a way that doesn’t make the other person feel violated. That would require more communication, awareness, and consideration - and more communication, awareness, and consideration is always good.
However, if current sexual violence prevention efforts include conversations around coercion with their current “consent is not the absence of a no but the presence of a yes” and “consent should be ongoing and enthusiastic” approaches, the likelihood of sexual coercion occurring should be much, much lower, as should the likelihood of someone feeling like they have to take back consent.
These are just my first thoughts about it, though, and they’re still reframing things in a very consent as a contract way of thinking, which seems to be opposite of the way of thinking “taking back consent” is trying to encourage. I’m going to ask people at work when I get to the office and see what they think.
One thing that’s really nice about these ideas spreading out into realms beyond the usual spaces where we talk about consent — like the Pop Punk Message Board? — is that the people discussing them aren’t already committed to one entrenched political position or the other, so there’s more space to understand and consider a new idea on its own merits rather than just assuming it’s coming from “the enemy camp.”
I got a trackback for this thread on my Wordpress and I just thought this was the loveliest comment. It’s so thoughtful and non-reactionary and open to considering the pros and cons of new ideas. I especially like how the commenter here points out the ways that Felt Consent and Enthusiastic Consent can support each other. That was really insightful. Thanks, Chad!
“The Enemy Camp” is a great name for a political party. I want in.
Also, seeing this kind of conversation take place on a “pop punk message board” is extremely heartening.
It reminds me of the sorts of case studies Clay Shirky writes of in his book, “Cognitive Surplus.” One succinct review explains the importance of these discussions like so:
Who would have imagined that South Korean teenage girls rallying around the website of teenybopper boy-band Dong Bang Shin Ki (Rising Gods of the East) would ignite a protest over the government’s decision to lift the ban on imported beef from the United States that nearly toppled the ruling party? How this came about is a long story, but at its core is the fact that the band’s fans, more than a million in number and too young to vote, started to protest out of fear of mad-cow disease, and the uproar spread like wildfire. Their existing online fan network was inherently more effective at disseminating the protest to a mainstream demographic than the South Korean government’s traditional media PR machine was at suppressing it.
In other words, traditional avenues of anti-rape activism are helpful but provably insufficient to effect the kind of systemic changes we need. This is something unquietpirate and I have been saying for quite a while now. I’m glad to see our work and ideas taking hold in places beyond our personal filter bubbles.