I want to clarify something. But, since every time I speak publicly certain people deem it their personal moral crusade to deliberately misinterpret and decontextualize what I have to say, I’m going to let this other blog post written by this other person clarify for me:

My friends Unquietpirate and Maymay wrote this controversy-provoking article, “You Can Take It Back: Consent as a Felt Sense”

To me, the most important thing they point to is that the internet social justice world has so far on the whole done a poor job of distinguishing between ethical and legal frameworks for discussing rape and sexual assault.

[…F]or survivors, the terminology of rape can be very useful and empowering, sometimes, but also very limiting and confusing other times.  I’ve read writings by survivors who benefited from using the word “rape” to describe what happened to them.  I’ve also read about the process of trying to decide whether an experience fits into the “rape” box or the “not-rape” box being a confusing and demoralizing obstacle in dealing with that experience, both intra- and interpersonally.

In a legal proceeding, the whole point is to decide whether or not it was rape, according to some very specific definition written by some politician or lawyer.

Outside of a legal proceeding, there may be times when it’s way easier and more useful to ask “was it OK?” than “was it rape?”

It doesn’t seem at all wierd to say that if you do something with someone, and they don’t feel ok about it, either in the moment or at any point in the future, the thing you did wasn’t entirely ok.

Maymay and unquietpirate have zeroed in on one very significant example of this misplaced emphasis on legal rather than ethical thinking about rape.  When thinking about sexual ethics, it seems fairly uncontroversial that one would want to think about whether a particular sexual encounter might be something that one party would regret later, and if so, maybe not do it.  It only becomes controversial when we try to shoehorn this reasonable ethical principle into the language of “consent,” as Maymay and Unquietpirate have done.  I’m not suggesting that this was an error on their part: they clearly chose their language with the specific intent of being controversial, for various valid rhetorical reasons.

I’m posting this because, ever since we posted “You Can Take It Back: Consent as a Felt Sense,” there’s been an ongoing controversy about the ideas therein. When I published my Radical Ethicism followup, said controversy grew. But when I published my most recent take, “Wherein MRAs and Feminists both agree that legalistic status quo on “consent” must not be challenged,” people’s (air-quotes) “interpretations” have jumped the shark. (Air quotes because, again, most of these are clearly deliberate misinterpretations—once is a mistake, twice is a problem, three times is a decision.)

Most folks seem to think I was just kidding about the original piece. So, I want to clarify: I was then and am now totally serious and meant every word.

At least for me, the reason I am so enamored with the rhetorical approach of dissolving current consent discourse is because it is so damned useful in highlighting the obsessive legalism with which people approach what the quoted blogger calls “sexual ethics.” And my point in highlighting that obsession is to showcase that, in fact, not even the people who appointed themselves to the task of creating a more “just” society have actually thought about sexual ethics at all. (I’m talking about pro-consent feminists.) The fact that these people’s first and ongoing response to our “Consent as a Felt Sense” essay centers legalism when the explicit purpose of the essay is to decenter it should be all the evidence you need.

Unless you, too, don’t really care about sexual ethics (to use our words from the essay: “care about not violating consent”), because what you really care about, or care about more than that is whether you’re going to find yourself on the right or wrong side of The Law (to use our words from the essay: what you care about is “not getting in trouble for violating consent”). If that describes what you do, regardless of what you say, then I do actually think the world would be better off if you killed yourself.

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