PostSecret.com’s first Sunday Secret posted on November 8th, 2014:

PostSecret: I said yes. But I feel raped.

I said yes

But I feel raped.

A friend sent me this with a short note that read, “[Your] consent as felt work and helping society find and comprehend the distinction between consent and permission are important.”

I’ve now penned over a dozen thousand words about Consent as a Felt Sense on my own, and my co-author unquietpirate has penned quite a bit herself, so you could easily feel like there’s a lot you have to catch up on if this idea is new to you. But it’s actually not complicated at all. There’s nothing new you need to learn to understand Consent as a Felt Sense. There’s only lots of imposing societal bullshit you need to unlearn.

Here’s the whole idea, in less than 100 words:

You Can Take It Back: Consent as a Felt Sense makes a two pronged argument:

  1. Saying “yes” is necessary but not sufficient for consent.
  2. There is no expiration date on realizing that your consent was violated.

Neither one of these assertions seems controversial. Not unless you’re some kind of cartoonish MRA troll. But when we make them together — there’s no expiration date on realizing that your “yes” was not consent — we get a furor of backlash from all sides about how we’ve “gone too far.”

I just think that’s weird.

The reason I’ve personally penned over a dozen thousand words to explain and re-explain and contextualize and defend the combination of these two very simple points has nothing to do with the complexity of the idea and everything to do with the fact that, when push comes to shove, almost everyone—and I do mean everyone, from cartoonish MRA trolls to feminist social justice warriorsis fighting to retain an abusive status quo, even though they think they’re fighting for change by fighting each other.

What the reaction to our Consent as a Felt Sense essay shows most of all is that folks from “both sides” of the issue want discussion about consent to stay firmly rooted in debating which rapes are “rape” and which are not.

  • The MRAs: “It’s quite a clever attempt to rebrand regret as something other than personal feelings about a past indiscretion.”
  • The feminist SJWs: “I argue in favor of having a category for ‘sex experienced as a violation’, separate from rape.

These statements are different only in degree, not in quality. Both are disrespectful, callous, and incommensurate with compassion for people who experience rape. The only meaningful difference between these statements is the careful tact with which the feminist sneakily assigns themselves the moral authority to audit and “categorize” others’ experiences of sexual violation. (How selflessly generous!) Both statements effectively psychologically bludgeon and blame rape victims for their rape. In other words, the MRA is a wolf in wolf’s clothing. The feminist SJW is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. But both of them are collaborating on the same project.

As my co-author patiently explained to one of these critics, yet again, “We’re saying that if there are situations which someone does identify as rape, even in retrospect, they’re allowed to call them that. That if there are situations where someone believes they were consenting, and then later realizes their ‘yes’ was not consent, they’re allowed to talk about that. That’s all we’re saying. Really. That’s it.”

If you feel like you were raped, you can talk about what happened to you using the word “rape.” You can always use the words that ring truest to you. And, as this PostSecret postcard evidently showcases, that’s what people are gonna do anyway. So maybe we should stop telling other people that feeling their own fucking feelings is wrong.

Now that? I think that encouraging one another to relate to each other on the basis of how we actually feel instead of on the basis of how we expect or are expected to feel, I think that sounds like a much more worthwhile feminist project than recreating categories for (“legitimate”) rape. And I wonder how much longer it will take before “feminists who do consent work” will come ’round to thinking that way, too.

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