Male sexual assertiveness and female desire (or lack thereof)

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Post by SomeSamSeaborn on Tue Dec 02, 2014 3:16 am

Thanks again everyone for the comments. Will address more of them after some sleep.

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Post by Mel on Tue Dec 02, 2014 12:01 pm

SomeSamSeaborn wrote:That's true, at least to a degree. I guess this brings us back to the question of thinking of that process in transaction-booleans, and the contradiction I see when "consent activists" talk about consent, particularly affirmative consent. They by-and-large want to get people to better communicate, in the way you describe, but to me that's problematic for the concept. If lack of consent means sexual assault, and consent needs to be present during the entire sexual activity, then we end up with questions about definitions and booleans.

No, you end up with "questions about definitions and booleans". You are the one insisting on taking ideas about consent to their absolute extreme, when most "consent activists" are not expressing their ideas that way, and most other people concerned about the issue (witness the others who've commented on this post) are able to accept those ideas without getting tangled up in absolutes.

Here's the thing, Sam. If you take any position to its absolute extreme, it will be problematic. Extremes tend to be problematic by nature. This isn't the case just with feminism. There is no way people can talk about any issue without there being extremes that can be extrapolated that would be problematic. This is an impossible standard to expect any dialogue to meet. So I think it's incredibly unfair for you to say there's a problem with feminism, and that feminists needs to change how issues are discussed, simply because the extremes you imagine, which the majority of feminists are not taking the idea to themselves, are problematic.

You might want to ask yourself why you insist on taking specifically feminist ideas to this extreme and criticizing them based on that, while not doing the same for the hundreds of other legal, ethical, political, etc. ideas that affect your choices in life, that address harm that could be done to people, and that would be just as problematic if taken to their extreme. I highly suspect the answer is that ideas like consent just happen to coincide with your personal anxieties.  And a reasonable person should be able to realize that being overly extremist and demanding impossible standards only on issues biased toward justifying their personal insecurities is not actually a reasonable stance to take.

SomeSamSeaborn wrote:
Mel wrote:"I know you've said you're afraid you can't trust a "yes", Sam, but that's something you need to work through.  In a way, you have created the doublebind by setting yourself up in a situation where you feel uncomfortable assuming what women want (which is fair enough) but also uncomfortable asking them and then believing any given woman when she tells you.*

Yes, and I would say that a significant part of that problem for me is a consequence of the feminist gender/consent discourse.

See, this is what I mean.  That asterisk at the end of the comment of mine you quoted? Led to a side note about how the majority of feminist discourse does not suggest you can never believe any woman's "yes" regardless of how well you know her or what sort of relationship you've established.  And yet you are yet again ignoring the reality of the discourse and taking the "feminist" position to the absolute extreme in order to blame it for your issues.

I will not be able to continue discussing this subject with you unless you 1) acknowledge that expecting feminist ideas to never be problematic even when taken to their absolute extreme is an impossible standard that no idea or approach could meet, 2) focus on discussing the actual content of the discourse, not those imagined extremes, and 3) recognize that your anxieties based on your extrapolated extremes are a problem with how you are approaching the idea rather than a problem with the actual majority feminist discourse on enthusiastic consent (or whatever else), and thus an area where you, not feminists, need to change if the problem is to be solved.  

(Note that I am not denying that problems exist in feminist discourse or that there may be elements of actual feminist discourse that cause you anxiety, and if you'd like to discuss those, I'm happy to.)
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Post by SomeSamSeaborn on Tue Dec 02, 2014 2:53 pm

Hey Mel,

Mel wrote:"Here's the thing, Sam. If you take any position to its absolute extreme, it will be problematic. Extremes tend to be problematic by nature."

Well, I don't know. I find it difficult to use a term can be either true or false and use it to describe something that often neither true nor false. Particularly since I think that the the specific meaning of the term is turned from grey to black or white when the "objective reality" is deliberated.

Mel wrote:This is an impossible standard to expect any dialogue to meet. So I think it's incredibly unfair for you to say there's a problem with feminism, and that feminists needs to change how issues are discussed, simply because the extremes you imagine, which the majority of feminists are not taking the idea to themselves, are problematic.

I don't imagine the problems, but I agree that most feminists (or other groups with respect to their ideas) are less stringent in their understanding what the concepts they use mean.

Mel wrote:I highly suspect the answer is that ideas like consent just happen to coincide with your personal anxieties.  And a reasonable person should be able to realize that being overly extremist and demanding impossible standards only on issues biased toward justifying their personal insecurities is not actually a reasonable stance to take.

That is a very good point. Touché.

Mel wrote:I will not be able to continue discussing this subject with you unless you 1) acknowledge that expecting feminist ideas to never be problematic even when taken to their absolute extreme is an impossible standard that no idea or approach could meet, 2) focus on discussing the actual content of the discourse, not those imagined extremes, and 3) recognize that your anxieties based on your extrapolated extremes are a problem with how you are approaching the idea rather than a problem with the actual majority feminist discourse on enthusiastic consent (or whatever else), and thus an area where you, not feminists, need to change if the problem is to be solved.

Again, I don't imagine the problems, and I am worried about how the discourse is driven by those ideas. I very much agree that I should stop taking those feminist arguments as seriously as I do. That said, I would maintain the question of why it should be necessary to use terminology that is problematic in itself unless sufficiently qualified to match people's reality.

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Post by Guest on Tue Dec 02, 2014 3:21 pm

SomeSamSeaborn wrote:Well, I don't know. I find it difficult to use a term can be either true or false and use it to describe something that often neither true nor false. Particularly since I think that the the specific meaning of the term is turned from grey to black or white when the "objective reality" is deliberated.

This is a bizarre philosophy, though, because the idea of "true or false" is applicable to everyone.  

As an example:Male sexual assertiveness and female desire (or lack thereof) - Page 4 Jessica-Alba-Dark-Blonde-Hair

If you showed this picture to 100 people and said: she has blonde hair, true or false, some would say true and some would say false.  What's more, if you showed it next to a picture of someone with platinum blond hair, some of the Yeses would turn to nos.  If you showed her next to someone with nearly black brown hair, some of the nos would turn to yeses.  Reality is changeable and subjective.  This is true of EVERYTHING.

Consent is not an absolute reality.  Me being in a conversation leaning in towards you means I am probably okay with touch.  To test this, go for touch slowly.  If I pull back, then stop.  No harm no foul.  If we're on a date and you want to cop a feel, start by touching near the area and slide in.  If I let out a happy sound or turn into the touch, keep going.  If I don't react, maybe slow down.  If I shift uncomfortably, pull back.  Give time for signals and reactions, and you're fine.

Basically, look at what you want as being "Make your partner happy," and watch for signals that you're doing that.  It's not rocket science.

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Post by UristMcBunny on Tue Dec 02, 2014 4:48 pm

Have to agree with what others are saying, to be honest. It sounds like you're essentially arguing that feminism is wrong or flawed on consent issues because those issues are not designed to compensate specifically for your hang-ups and issues related to consent. But your issues are an extreme case, and most of the conflict between feminist framing of consent and your issues is coming entirely from your re-framing of what are actually extremely moderate, basic, simple concepts by taking them to the furthest possible extreme.

Which, I mean, some people think that "communism" is such a scary monster that any economic model other than the most extreme end of Randian bootstraps free market capitalism is somehow an inevitable slide into a red dystopia. The fact that those people take their concerns about socialist economic models to such an extreme doesn't mean concepts like welfare or taxes are somehow inherently bad, though.

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Post by Enail on Tue Dec 02, 2014 5:23 pm

When you started this thread, it was my intention to give another try at engaging with you since you're showing a desire for good-faith conversation, Sam, but I have to admit, I find your way of looking at this so bizarre that I'm having a hard time even thinking where to start. But I'll give this a try:

A conversation. It's not cool to have a conversation with someone who doesn't want to be having one with you; there are socially accepted ways to indicate lack of interest, desire to change a topic or leave the conversation altogether without saying it outright; people might want to leave the conversation or change the subject at any point and a polite person will try to be aware of cues of disinterest and respond to them at all times. Yeah?  

But that doesn't mean that in order to be polite you generally have to constantly establish explicit boolean agreement to continue talking or to change the subject slightly, right? Depending on context, you'd likely want to check in explicitly if it's okay to start a conversation with them (if you wanted to talk to random dude on the street, you'd probably say "excuse me, do you have a moment?" if you wanted to talk to a good friend you saw at a party, you'd probably only say "hey, [conversation opener] and see if they want to talk or if they need to go do something else. ). You might check in explicitly again if you bring up a topic that's very personal/quite different from what you'd been talking about/what you usually talk about ("do you mind if I ask you about X?" "can I tell you my new idea about the meaning of the universe?").

But the rest of the time, it wouldn't be a series of continual yes/no checks, it would be a flow where you respond to their direction and keep an eye on their response to yours. If you start to broach a topic, you give them room to respond or draw back. But all the way through, you're keeping an eye on if they look uncomfortable or stop seeming engaged and you back off or give them an out or let them decide where the conversation's going. That's what a conversation is. Not a set of booleans, but a constant awareness of the other person's participation, comfort and interest. Does that make any sense?
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Post by kath on Wed Dec 03, 2014 1:02 am

SomeSamSeaborn wrote:
And yes, I'm having trouble understanding the benefits of a theory that's not describing the reality fo real, flawed people? Why should the people learn to tiptoe around the theory instead of adjusting it to be a better fit for reality?
It might "better fit" reality for you, but that doesn't mean it would better fit reality for most people. Many feminists and allies are having sex with a yes-means-yes framework and understand it without either the black and white booleans or that leaving them in a logical, impossible bind. So clearly everyone does not have this logical problem, though we have no evidence that all these people are less logical than you.

SomeSamSeaborn wrote:
#1 girl I had met at the same birthday party last year. We end up going to the same club afterwards. So first off she tells me about her boyfriend, then she tells me how their relationship is over, then she pulls me in while dancing, grinds with my knee, then she tells me she doesn't like to dance closely, but only until she decides to put her head on my shoulder. I leave because I don't like those kinds of mixed signals, she follows me, puts her arms around my neck, looks at me expectantly, after a couple of seconds of me looking at her expectantly, says: "whatever..." and eventually starts talking to another guy. I doubt a serious discussion of my limits would have helped here a lot.

#2 girl at another birthday party a week later. We danced for about half an hour, then had some deep conversation about life, death, and lust, and then go dancing again. Serious close dancing. At some point we get close to the wall and I ask her "would you like to kiss me?" and she says "no". I tell her that I will not try again if she says no. We dance a little more and then she says she'd like to dance alone now. Interpretation #1: she was never interested in anything but dancing and I misread the situation; #2 she really didn't want to have to admit to wanting to kiss me and wanted to be taken. As usual, I acted like she meant #1 while I'm pretty sure it was #2.

#3 girl I have a bit of a crush on at the moment. We've known each other for about five years, and she was in relationships for most of the time. Now she's single, and for the first time in those five years we're starting to really get to know each other. We've kissed once, a while ago, but she's also giving out mixed signals about what she wants, saying (playfully, jokingly) things like "I could see myself together with you" and then "I really don't want anything at all". So last week, after a night out, I take her home and we sit in my car in front of her house and we start talking, and the topic quickly becomes a philosophical discussion about sex, her ability to orgasm, what we like, don't like etc. She told me a long time ago and then again that night how she likes "real men", but do you think I was able to try and kiss her even given that context? Nope.

Hmm. So these three cases you've outlined give me the impression that what you really want is to always be perfectly able to tell what people want no matter what they say. You want to be confident that you will never have missed a chance to have sex with someone who wanted to have sex.

There is no ethical way to get that. Enthusiastic consent does come with some opportunity cost in that you could always read a no signal when that person wasn't trying to send a no (whether because of how they were socialized or because they express themselves sexually in a way that is totally incompatible with you is irrelevant). That is OK.

You wanting booleans and black and white and so on makes a bit more sense to me now, because you want to make sure you aren't missing potential chances, so having a clear and specific way to indicate interest that everyone employs exactly the same way would make that a lot easier. Unfortunately, everyone involved is a human, and humans do not work even remotely this way. Humans aren't black and white, they are grey and complicated and changeable. You will either need to find specific people who both want to have sex with you and have this same outlook (I have no idea how common these people are - I am sure you are not alone. Unfortunately I don't think they'd be the norm, based on the sampling in this thread) - and find a way to identify them - or, deal with the fact that many humans aren't black and white booleans and don't shoehorn easily into that if it's not how they want to roll - or, of course, not pursue sex with people if you require all of them - even the ones you don't have sex with - to respond as though they were wired that way, and get frustrated when they aren't.

For Girl 1 and Girl 2 (girl #2 probably just wanted to dance), I think you did the right thing. I do not think they wanted to go any further with you. If they did, their sexual communication styles don't mesh with yours - so nothing doing. Doesn't mean they are horribly socially brainwashed necessarily. Most likely, this is a combination of their personal sexual communication styles and socialization to not be too assertive (which is something feminism and enthusiastic consent try to counteract). For girl 3, why didn't you ask her if she wanted to kiss / fool around / have sex / start a relationship or whatever it was you wanted to do? You were apparently able to ask directly with the other two women. It'd certainly be great if she had asked directly, but that's also her dealing with internalizing patriarchal narratives. It's not a particularly defensible position to argue that you are the victim of the feminist narrative while demanding that women cast of the shackles of the patriarchy and be sexually assertive all the time. You should understand what they are dealing with, right?


SomeSamSeaborn wrote:
thanks, that is true. I'm so much in my head about the politics and consequences of all this that I'm more in a "legal mood" than in an interpersonal mood and despite my best effort to perform sexy masculinity in that moment, I'm pretty sure that my subtext is not as strong and sexy as I'd like it to be. The bigger part of addressing the problem is mental, but I guess developing a larger vocabulary to talk about my own desire in those situations would also be very helpful. If you have any suggestions, links, etc, I'd be grateful.

Just a note - I agree that you are in a very legal mood. And "rules lawyering" is not, in general, a particularly fair or "good faith" approach to an argument or situation. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rules_lawyer

SomeSamSeaborn wrote:Yeah, but before you know someone you have to go by something to form your expectations about that group. And that's where my problem is. Feminist socialization has actually made it harder for me to see the person behind the gender.

But you don't have to approach them sexually before you know them, necessarily.

And can you please expand on exactly why "Feminist socialization has actually made it harder for me to see the person behind the gender." - because that phrase is making me want to like ... flip out, so I figure asking you to go deeper into it would be good before I start responding knee-jerkily.

SomeSamSeaborn wrote:
That's true, at least to a degree. I guess this brings us back to the question of thinking of that process in transaction-booleans, and the contradiction I see when "consent activists" talk about consent, particularly affirmative consent. They by-and-large want to get people to better communicate, in the way you describe, but to me that's problematic for the concept. If lack of consent means sexual assault, and consent needs to be present during the entire sexual activity, then we end up with questions about definitions and booleans.

But Mel just said she doesn't see discussions of transactional affirmative consent, but affirmative consent to the process. Please provide examples where this is the intended  meaning. Consent does need to be present. When you lose it, you stop. It's not like when the consent ends, everything that comes before wasn't consented to. I've said tyhis before and you didn't say anything that made me understand why you were arguing that consent ending makes what already happened sexual assault.


SomeSamSeaborn wrote:
I find the idea of "sexing in good faith" interesting, because I think a lot of mistakes get made in "good faith" that mean there was no mens rea, but still no consent. If the idea of consent is "sexing in good faith", and I may agree with that, that also basically means that *actual* consent is a logically impossible ideal.

Please give me examples. What mistakes are you talking about that are made "in good faith"? If consent stops, how does stopping the sex act (or not doing the activity one partner doesn't but continuing sex that both people are into) become impossible at that point? You have not explained why that's the case.

SomeSamSeaborn wrote:I find it personally difficult to reconcile booleans with reality here.

If you personally find it difficult, why is it feminism's job to make that easier for you, personally?

SomeSamSeaborn wrote:
kath wrote:It is logically meaningless to argue that somehow that means you've been raping them all along or something.

I don't think it's meaningless, but I understand what you're trying to say. And it's certainly not meaningless in a yes-means-yes situation that requires of the initiatior to ascertain ongoing consent.

It is meaningless, because having sex with someone who's consented and stopping when they don't want to anymore is not assualting them all along. You start to assaulting them if they withdraw consent and you don't stop when they do. If they never gave consent enthusiastically, then you shouldn't have started the sex act and they didn't withdraw it, they actually just never gave it to begin with.

Additionally, a woman can respond to being "taken" or maybe more specifically, respond to male sexual assertiveness - if that's what she wants - enthusiastically. I think if she actually wants someone to play out a rape fantasy, she's either going to need to ask them directly, or, if she's expressing resistance as part of her fantasy, actually wants to have sex, but hasn't communicated her fantasy, I am totally OK with women doing that not having much sex because men have been socialized to get enthusiastic consent. They would have to figure out that they need to give consent and then see if their partner consents to that

I don't think that extreme case is super common. However, I also think that Enthusiastic Consent is Working if playing "hard to get" or feigning disinterest in the flirty stages of a relationship becomes a tactic that is met with "OK, have a great night!" and it's not something women ever use as a tactic, to whatever extent it is currently used.

SomeSamSeaborn wrote:
kath wrote:Another logical framework you seem to be trying to apply to sex that isn't actually applicable to sex is that it looks like you're thinking about sex as though it were a quantum physics experiment.
That's funny. And true. And, again, I agree that it's not really applicable to sex. But that's a problem of the concept of consent if taken seriously.

How is consent not being a quantum physics experiment a problem of the concept of consent if it is to be taken seriously? That does not follow. If you want me to engage that as an argument, please fill in your reasoning.

SomeSamSeaborn wrote:
kath wrote:It seems like what you want is a nice boolean way to check on your partner's consent so that you can be sure you have it and it will not change. That's not a thing. Consent can always change - minds can change. What you want isn't how sex works, and no one can offer it. Sorry. What you can do is continually check in with your partner and stop if you have reason to think they might not be comfortable.

I agree with everything you say except  that I think what you're saying about "sexing in good faith" is useful and a good way of conceptualizing good communcation/sex, but "sexing in good faith" may well entail portions where consent is not actually present until someone says "no". We can agree to not deal with that aspect to protect the terminology, of course.

Consent is what you're communicating (verbally or physically). But, unless someone is really trying to hide how they feel, if you've gotten explicit enthusiastic at the beginning of the sexual interaction, I don't think the time between "I don't want to do this" crossing their mind and them communicating "no" (again, physically or verbally) will be meaningfully large. IE, you will have time to stop if you get the impression that your partner might not be into it, and before continuing, you can either check in for explicit consent to continue - if you're genuinely not sure - or stop the interaction.

I can enthusiastically consent to sex even if I'm not super horny myself at the time, or would be just as happy snuggling and falling asleep. If my partner clearly wants to have sex, and I want to make them happy by having sex with them (so pleasing them is, at the moment, more important to me than pleasure I would get from the sex), I can consent enthusiastically to that sex. (Or, say, if one's trying to concieve and both partners are having sex at a particular point in the woman's cycle, even if both of them are tired that night and might not have sex if they weren't trying to have a kid at that time.)
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Post by Lemminkainen on Wed Dec 03, 2014 3:29 am

Something that I've found effective for some of the "different communication norms about sex" problems that Sam seems to be talking about:

When you explicitly ask to do something sexual with a woman, she says no, and you accept it, express your acceptance of her "no" in a way that makes it clear that it's about personal ethics for you. Somebody who actually really wants to have sex with you will probably then be willing to take on the social risk and explicitly communicate desire/consent, either by claiming to change their mind or by finding some loophole in their original refusal.

For example, I was once at the birthday party of a student at my liberal/urban college. I wound up making out/doing some heavy petting with one of her friends, who was visiting from a nearby rural/conservative college. We had a conversation about sex that went approximately like this:

Me: "Want to slip upstairs for a bit?"

Her: "Yes, but I'm not going to fuck you."

Me: "That's totally fine."

Her: "I'm surprised that you're so cool with that."

Me: "It's really not a big deal-- I'm not a rapist, so we're not going to fuck if you don't want to. It's obviously the right thing."

Her (kind of surprised by this response, but pleased): "A lot of guys at my school don't see it that way. But it's really good that you do." (mischievously): "I think we should reward that somehow."

The "reward" she gave me was oral sex. It's possible that my display of basic ethics made me seem like a more safe person to do fun sexy things with, and that swayed her, but I think that it's also quite likely that she had wanted to blow me the whole time, and when she realized that my acceptance of her "no" was motivated by ethics rather than by lack of interest, she gave me clear and unambiguous consent for sexytimes by initiating them herself. The best way to get around differences in sexual communication signalling patterns is to make the signalling pattern that you're using unambiguous, so they can find a way to signal interest that works for you.

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Post by BiSian on Wed Dec 03, 2014 6:15 am

Lemminkainen--I think this is an excellent point! There's definitely a way to embody enthusiastic consent without seeming as though you're rejecting someone.
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Post by BasedBuzzed on Wed Dec 03, 2014 6:29 am

I'd have gone with "It's not fun for me if you're not into it", but this sort of relaxed attitude also works in escalation("I'm going to do X, you can say stop any time, no questions asked") if she's having difficulty voicing her desires.

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Post by SomeSamSeaborn on Wed Dec 03, 2014 1:12 pm

Enail,

Enail wrote:When you started this thread, it was my intention to give another try at engaging with you since you're showing a desire for good-faith conversation, Sam, but I have to admit, I find your way of looking at this so bizarre that I'm having a hard time even thinking where to start. But I'll give this a try:

A conversation. ... But the rest of the time, it wouldn't be a series of continual yes/no checks, it would be a flow where you respond to their direction and keep an eye on their response to yours. If you start to broach a topic, you give them room to respond or draw back. But all the way through, you're keeping an eye on if they look uncomfortable or stop seeming engaged and you back off or give them an out or let them decide where the conversation's going. That's what a conversation is. Not a set of booleans, but a constant awareness of the other person's participation, comfort and interest. Does that make any sense?

Right. As I said before, I agree that the feedback (hermeneutic) circle/flow is a better description of reality than the sequence do yeses/nos. Also for physical interactions. But - and here is where the analogy runs into problems, in my opinion: in a normal conversation the stakes are a lot lower. In the case of a standard communication no one will care if one party stayed out of politeness while being annoyed or whether he enjoyed  the exchange, or the relative extent of annoyance and enjoyment. We have no official threshold for declaring a conversation annoying. That is different with consent to sexual activity. The feedback process that is going on will, in this case, be translated into booleans - yes or no. Was consent present or wasn't it?

And just as I said with respect to "sexing in good faith". Yes, that is a good description of reality, and I don't think the "boolean concept of concept" captures that reality particularly well. But the question whether consent was there or not will, in the end, still be treated as simple yes/no deliberation. And given that the stakes are so high in that respect, I find it problematic to either not take that into account when looking at how things work in reality, ie turning the complex feedback process into a sequence of booleans (eg. antioch/affirmative consent) or changing the way consent is construed in the deliberative process to make the terminology reflect the more complex reality. But then we'd end up with things like "85% reasonable expectation of consent." And I don't see that working either...

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Post by SomeSamSeaborn on Wed Dec 03, 2014 1:30 pm

ElizaJane,

ElizaJane wrote:Consent is not an absolute reality.


I agree. And yet we made a binary definition of the term the basis for defining what constitutes sexual assault. Consent present => good. No consent => sexual assault.

I mean, I very much agree with the "sexing in good faith theory allowing for honest mistakes (although I think "intent is magic" is a phrase used by a lot of feminists to explain why they don't think that honest mistakes are ok). That would help me a lot to, say, try to move in for a kiss and not feeling like I'm risking to have to feel like I attempted to sexually assault her if she moves her head away.

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Post by Enail on Wed Dec 03, 2014 2:00 pm

I don't understand why you think that a higher-stakes activity means that the feedback process has to be boolean. You keep saying it must be so, but I'm not following your reasoning. It sounds to me like what you're saying is you're scared of getting it badly wrong, and the only way you won't be scared is if feminism will give you a totally unambiguous, 100% clear rule that covers every moment of every sexual possibility. But there is no form of human interaction that operates that way.

I think maybe one thing that's missing from your thinking is that, as long as you have appropriate consent (boolean, if you like) to the general activity, there is going to be a pretty huge gap between 'inconsiderate' and 'rapist.'  If you touch her in X way and her enthusiasm dials back a bit from when you touched her in Y way, you're a better sex partner if you switch back to Y or see if she'd like something else than if you don't read it as a cue.  You're not a rapist for kissing her ear in the middle of sex when it turns out she'd rather you licked her elbow. Hopefully, you care to try and have sex your partner will enjoy as much as you do, and you'll be as responsive as you can to those small indicators and the general flow, the way you would in a conversation, but there are plenty of ways to be a lousy, unresponsive partner that are not rape.

Rape is the really bad end of a scale of responsiveness or indifference to one's partner's wishes - we put a hard line at the really clear extreme, but that doesn't mean there are no shades of grey before that point.  

If you want a totally clear ruleset, there isn't one. But you can probably come up with some rules of thumb. The more intense or unfamiliar (for the two of you together) or emotionally fraught (for you or your partner) the activity, the more clear check-ins (and/or pre-established consent and safewords and trust) there should be in the process. Divide sexual activity into segments, if you like, and consider it a boolean check-in point at every escalation to a new area of the body, every insertion of something into an orifice, every new variant application of kink. The rest of the time, unless you get an indication of negative, it's about keeping an eye on their overall level of enthusiasm (which may rise and fall in small ways during any segment).
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Post by SomeSamSeaborn on Wed Dec 03, 2014 3:12 pm

kath,

kath wrote:It might "better fit" reality for you, but that doesn't mean it would better fit reality for most people. Many feminists and allies are having sex with a yes-means-yes framework and understand it without either the black and white booleans or that leaving them in a logical, impossible bind. So clearly everyone does not have this logical problem, though we have no evidence that all these people are less logical than you.

Well, given the nature of logic, it's either me who's illogical, or them, or we're not having the same starting point. I tend to think it's likely the latter, because given standard scripts and gendered behavioral expectations, I'm starting from an assumed no, whereas women will probably start with an assumed yes.

kath wrote:Hmm. So these three cases you've outlined give me the impression that what you really want is to always be perfectly able to tell what people want no matter what they say. You want to be confident that you will never have missed a chance to have sex with someone who wanted to have sex.

There is no ethical way to get that. Enthusiastic consent does come with some opportunity cost in that you could always read a no signal when that person wasn't trying to send a no (whether because of how they were socialized or because they express themselves sexually in a way that is totally incompatible with you is irrelevant). That is OK.

You wanting booleans and black and white and so on makes a bit more sense to me now, because you want to make sure you aren't missing potential chances, so having a clear and specific way to indicate interest that everyone employs exactly the same way would make that a lot easier. Unfortunately, everyone involved is a human, and humans do not work even remotely this way. Humans aren't black and white, they are grey and complicated and changeable. You will either need to find specific people who both want to have sex with you and have this same outlook (I have no idea how common these people are - I am sure you are not alone. Unfortunately I don't think they'd be the norm, based on the sampling in this thread) - and find a way to identify them - or, deal with the fact that many humans aren't black and white booleans and don't shoehorn easily into that if it's not how they want to roll - or, of course, not pursue sex with people if you require all of them - even the ones you don't have sex with - to respond as though they were wired that way, and get frustrated when they aren't.

Ok, ther's a lot to unpack here. First of all, I think it is reasonable *to want to not miss a chance to have sex with someone who wants to have sex*. Secondly, I think you're right about the opportunity costs and the way you describe it. But I think that's where our common understanding ends, given how I interpret what you said before. I think there's two possible kinds of costs involved in the consent negotiation: one, costs imposed on the recipient to have to say no in case they don't want to do something (which also implies "rejection costs" for the initiator), and two, the opportunity costs for both the (theoretical) initiator *and* the (theoretical) recipient in case of a missed opportunity (the opportunity costs you describe). The way I look at that is that I usually assume a no until a yes is given explicitly given whereas you are arguing for "sexing in good faith", which I would interpret as "being allowed to make mistakes with respect to initiating", in other words, not being too strict about assuming "no" or the way "yes" has to be expressed. And that, again, brings me back to what I said before about the difference between *real life consent as a conversation* and *logical consent as a boolean*.

kath wrote:For Girl 1 and Girl 2 (girl #2 probably just wanted to dance), I think you did the right thing. I do not think they wanted to go any further with you. If they did, their sexual communication styles don't mesh with yours - so nothing doing. Doesn't mean they are horribly socially brainwashed necessarily. Most likely, this is a combination of their personal sexual communication styles and socialization to not be too assertive (which is something feminism and enthusiastic consent try to counteract). For girl 3, why didn't you ask her if she wanted to kiss / fool around / have sex / start a relationship or whatever it was you wanted to do? You were apparently able to ask directly with the other two women. It'd certainly be great if she had asked directly, but that's also her dealing with internalizing patriarchal narratives. It's not a particularly defensible position to argue that you are the victim of the feminist narrative while demanding that women cast of the shackles of the patriarchy and be sexually assertive all the time. You should understand what they are dealing with, right?

Oh, sure their sexual communication style doesn't mesh with mine. Whose does? Wink  I do think #1 and #2 wanted to go further but felt constrained by the social setting (slut shaming aspect). I agree that that's something feministm and enthusiastic consent are *intended* to counteract. Yet I think the current focus on limiting the range of what can be considered consent is making it harder for women to sexually express themselves. Re #3, because of consequences. You know, it would be *out there* - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3-son3EJTrU - and we're friends and I wouldn't be able to take it back and there's the risk of actually losing her as a friend. Asking is fine for me if the only risk is a no given the opportunity costs you mention above - I may find the cost distribution unfair, but I can get by anyway. Asking it different when there's an actual relationship. In that case, *not asking*, have it hapen out of an impulse in a situation allows a lot more wiggle room later ("yeah, I know we had that moment, but let's just keep things as they were." Which is a lot more difficult with explicit asking.

kath wrote:Just a note - I agree that you are in a very legal mood. And "rules lawyering" is not, in general, a particularly fair or "good faith" approach to an argument or situation. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rules_lawyer

I find that a little unfair, given that the problem is created by the letters of the concept.


kath wrote:
SomeSamSeaborn wrote:Yeah, but before you know someone you have to go by something to form your expectations about that group. And that's where my problem is. Feminist socialization has actually made it harder for me to see the person behind the gender.

But you don't have to approach them sexually before you know them, necessarily.

And can you please expand on exactly why "Feminist socialization has actually made it harder for me to see the person behind the gender." - because that phrase is making me want to like ... flip out, so I figure asking you to go deeper into it would be good before I start responding knee-jerkily.

Not necessarily, no. But given that I have a very wide definition of "approaching someone sexually" that pretty much includes most physical behavior that will allow you to eventually get to know a person. For female friends there's that and the whole problem of potentially changing the nature of the relationship and the risk of losing them.

As for the second aspect - well, ok, it's like a woman as a person is wearing the entire gender metanarrative as a veil. That's theoretically also the case for men, but it's not a problem there for the same reasons it is considered a problem for women in patriarchy. What about free will? Radical feminists actually deny women's ability to consent to sex at all in a patriarchy, they consider consent to be some kind of a Stockholm syndrome. So how do you deal with that meta narrative when a woman tells you something else? It's like a theoretical debate about sex worker rights and free will at the moment you'd like to kiss a woman. Sure, you see that person and her expressions that look like she wants it, but, at least for me, it hard to separate that from the feminist metanarrative I have socialized. I can argue with it, but I cannot easily renounce it emotionally, that's the problem with socialization/institutionalization: it becomes embodied reality, and thus very hard to deal with even once the concept is rationally considered wrong or problematic. It's Voltaire on the death bed, every night out.

kath wrote:But Mel just said she doesn't see discussions of transactional affirmative consent, but affirmative consent to the process. Please provide examples where this is the intended  meaning. Consent does need to be present. When you lose it, you stop. It's not like when the consent ends, everything that comes before wasn't consented to. I've said tyhis before and you didn't say anything that made me understand why you were arguing that consent ending makes what already happened sexual assault.

That really depends on the definition of what's included in "the proces", I think. You basically rephrase my concern further down, which is where I will address this point.

kath wrote:Please give me examples. What mistakes are you talking about that are made "in good faith"? If consent stops, how does stopping the sex act (or not doing the activity one partner doesn't but continuing sex that both people are into) become impossible at that point? You have not explained why that's the case.

Ok, let's just take "moving in for kissing with the reasonable expectation of consent for the process." If she says she didn't want me to kiss her, this is sexual assault. Or one step up that latter - making out and escalating to touch as an expression of one's passion without epxlicit prior consent? If I touched her breasts and she says no, I would have committed sexaul assault. And of course the time between her realizing she wants to revoke consent and her mentioning that (x---y---t => consent present between x and y (realizsation), not present between y and t (externalization)).

kath wrote:If you personally find it difficult, why is it feminism's job to make that easier for you, personally?

Is it feminism's job to make it harder for me by being illogical about such things?

kath wrote:However, I also think that Enthusiastic Consent is Working if playing "hard to get" or feigning disinterest in the flirty stages of a relationship becomes a tactic that is met with "OK, have a great night!" and it's not something women ever use as a tactic, to whatever extent it is currently used.

Yeah, I agree, but it's not the world we live in, and given the dynamics of heterosexual mating, I think women believe that doing so will not result in any costs for women because male sexuality is assumed to be available in one way or another, as opposed to the other way around.

kath wrote:How is consent not being a quantum physics experiment a problem of the concept of consent if it is to be taken seriously? That does not follow. If you want me to engage that as an argument, please fill in your reasoning.

Well, it's this again "x---y---t", and the difference between "reasonable assumption" (what's reasonable anyway?) and positive knowledge, given that not even words *always* convey positive knowledge of consent (can women consent at all in patriarchy? Social and individual behavioral assumptions and expectations? Where's the line between drunk and too drunk? etc). If consent actually means more than "sexing in good faith" - and I think the concept is construed differently, while the discourse is saying what you say - there is no way to not be Schrödinger's sexual assaulter when attempting to kiss a girl. It's a logical consequence of both the world we live in and the social metastructure.

kath wrote:"I can enthusiastically consent to sex even if I'm not super horny myself at the time, or would be just as happy snuggling and falling asleep. If my partner clearly wants to have sex, and I want to make them happy by having sex with them (so pleasing them is, at the moment, more important to me than pleasure I would get from the sex), I can consent enthusiastically to that sex. (Or, say, if one's trying to concieve and both partners are having sex at a particular point in the woman's cycle, even if both of them are tired that night and might not have sex if they weren't trying to have a kid at that time.)

I understand what you're saying, but I remember a lot of discussions where, for example, Dan Savage's GGG model was ripped apart because the idea of consent being enthusiastic for someone elses benefit was not considered possible.

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Post by Mel on Wed Dec 03, 2014 3:37 pm

Okay, one very basic question, Sam:

In what way could people express the idea that engaging in sexual activity with someone without their consent is assault, that would not lead to this "logical" issue when taken to the extreme?

Because the only way I can see of theoretically solving your problem with the discourse is for us to go back to a model of "as long as she doesn't explicitly say "no", it's not assault." And that, taken to its extreme, would mean it's totally okay and not assault to engage in sexual activity with someone who's pushing you away or crying or making expressions of pain or standing/lying there without responding, as long as they didn't outright verbally ask you to stop.

Between the two, I'd much prefer the current model.  Is there some other model between the two you're imagining, or are you saying you think the above is better?

Edit: To more directly illustrate, you express a concern that if you go in to kiss a woman you've been flirting etc. and she turns away, if we assume lack of consent means assault, this could be interpreted as you attempting to assault her. But the flipside is, if we instead assume lack of refusal means consent/not assault, then you could go around kissing women who are minding their own business walking down the street, shopping, sitting on the bus, etc., without ever even talking to them, and this could be interpreted as consensual since they didn't pre-emptively refuse.

Now, you would probably say that's not really a problem, because the vast majority of guys are not going to go around kissing random strangers in non-romantic/sexualized contexts. True!  But the vast majority of women are also not going to accuse you of attempting to assault them if you go in for a kiss after engaging in prior romantic/sexually charged behavior together (as long as you stop when they indicate they aren't interested).  So ultimately the question comes down to, is it more important to give people a way to seek recourse if someone forces sexual behavior on them (which then discourages others from forcing sexual behavior in the first place), or more important to give people freedom from having to worry that someone will seek recourse against them. I think most of us believe that being assaulted is worse than being accused of having assaulted someone, and that's why we prefer the system to err that way. That position is only strengthened by the data indicating that the former still happens far more often than the latter. But again, if there is a middleground I'm not seeing here, you're welcome to explain.


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Post by Enail on Wed Dec 03, 2014 3:45 pm

SomeSamSeaborn wrote: Radical feminists actually deny women's ability to consent to sex at all in a patriarchy, they consider consent to be some kind of a Stockholm syndrome. So how do you deal with that meta narrative when a woman tells you something else?


I find it a little disingenuous to be bringing in radical feminist theory and acting like it necessarily constrains you when you clearly don't agree with it or operate by it, and no one else you're discussing with appears to either. If you agree with radical feminism on this matter, you have your boolean - and the answer is always no, as a man, you cannot ethically have sex with a woman, end of story.

If you don't agree with them, if you recognize that their opinions are in fact radical, as in extreme, not the mainstream feminist view, and you think them incorrect, what they say on the subject is irrelevant and you should maybe stop bringing their beliefs in as an impossible problem with the concept of consent.
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Post by kleenestar on Wed Dec 03, 2014 4:55 pm

Enail wrote:
SomeSamSeaborn wrote: Radical feminists actually deny women's ability to consent to sex at all in a patriarchy, they consider consent to be some kind of a Stockholm syndrome. So how do you deal with that meta narrative when a woman tells you something else?


I find it a little disingenuous to be bringing in radical feminist theory and acting like it necessarily constrains you when you clearly don't agree with it or operate by it, and no one else you're discussing with appears to either. If you agree with radical feminism on this matter, you have your boolean - and the answer is always no, as a man, you cannot ethically have sex with a woman, end of story.

If you don't agree with them, if you recognize that their opinions are in fact radical, as in extreme, not the mainstream feminist view, and you think them incorrect, what they say on the subject is irrelevant and you should maybe stop bringing their beliefs in as an impossible problem with the concept of consent.

Very much this, but I'd take it even a step further. What you are looking for is to meet women whose notions of consent and agency are compatible with yours. And this gets back to your problem with seeing women as individuals - because women are different from each other and will conceptualize consent in different ways. You're not trying to date feminism. You're trying to date individual people, and the goal is to find one whose ethical system you can feel comfortable being a part of.
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Post by UristMcBunny on Wed Dec 03, 2014 5:03 pm

Seriously.  Radical feminists believe transwomen are "not real women", too.  Their beliefs are about as relevant to actual sex-positive feminism's take on consent (and enthusiastic consent is specifically a sex-pos Thing) as the WBC's beliefs are to the goings-on in a UU church.  Rad-fems aren't even the ones pushing for an enthusiastic model of consent to begin with.

kleenestar wrote:Very much this, but I'd take it even a step further. What you are looking for is to meet women whose notions of consent and agency are compatible with yours. And this gets back to your problem with seeing women as individuals - because women are different from each other and will conceptualize consent in different ways. You're not trying to date feminism. You're trying to date individual people, and the goal is to find one whose ethical system you can feel comfortable being a part of.

Yeah, this. You're lumping rad-fems into the same category as sex-pos feminists and all women into one big box and then acting like it's confusing and surprising when it turns out the motivations and beliefs of all those disparate groups don't somehow make perfect sense together. We are not a hivemind.

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Post by reboot on Wed Dec 03, 2014 5:52 pm

Mel wrote:Okay, one very basic question, Sam:

In what way could people express the idea that engaging in sexual activity with someone without their consent is assault, that would not lead to this "logical" issue when taken to the extreme?

...  So ultimately the question comes down to, is it more important to give people a way to seek recourse if someone forces sexual behavior on them (which then discourages others from forcing sexual behavior in the first place), or more important to give people freedom from having to worry that someone will seek recourse against them. I think most of us believe that being assaulted is worse than being accused of having assaulted someone, and that's why we prefer the system to err that way.  But again, if there is a middleground I'm not seeing here, you're welcome to explain.

I would actually be very interested in seeing this question answered by people that object to the current approach favored by feminists and the "Yes means yes" model
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Post by SomeSamSeaborn on Wed Dec 03, 2014 8:10 pm

Hey Mel*,

Mel wrote:Okay, one very basic question, Sam:

In what way could people express the idea that engaging in sexual activity with someone without their consent is assault, that would not lead to this "logical" issue when taken to the extreme?

I'm not sure. We either need more precise definitions of what is considered an appropriate externalisation of voluntary engagement in specifically defined circumstances (literally contracts/apps, that safely define the circumstances for every participant - free will) or we need to come to terms with the fact that what we call consent is not always, in fact, consent. All of that will be a social construction that distorts in one way or another what's actually happening, if we can even understand what's actually happening in the first place.

Mel wrote:Because the only way I can see of theoretically solving your problem with the discourse is for us to go back to a model of "as long as she doesn't explicitly say "no", it's not assault." And that, taken to its extreme, would mean it's totally okay and not assault to engage in sexual activity with someone who's pushing you away or crying or making expressions of pain or standing/lying there without responding, as long as they didn't outright verbally ask you to stop.

It's not just my problem. It is a logical problem with the discourse. I agree with your characterization of what would solve *my* problem, but I also agree that the costs of solving *my* problem in *that* way are prohibitive. More on that below.

Mel wrote:Edit: To more directly illustrate, you express a concern that if you go in to kiss a woman you've been flirting etc. and she turns away, if we assume lack of consent means assault, this could be interpreted as you attempting to assault her. But the flipside is, if we instead assume lack of refusal means consent/not assault, then you could go around kissing women who are minding their own business walking down the street, shopping, sitting on the bus, etc., without ever even talking to them, and this could be interpreted as consensual since they didn't pre-emptively refuse.

No, I would not say that's not really a problem. It is ultimately, I think, more important to give people a way to seek recourse if someone forces sexual behavior on them than giving people freedom from having to worry that someone will seek recourse against them. So, if you ask me if I'd like to have my problem solved on the backs of women/people who suffer sexual assault, I will say - and I think that follows from the categorical imperatibe - of course not.

But that moral imperative doesn't help me solve my problem, and I don't think it solves any conceptual problems with the model as it is right now. First and foremost, I started this thread to explain my *weakness* in the face of expectations of women that I feel often unable to deliver the performance they want *because of the model protecting them from me potentially doing something against their will*. Because doing so would amount to, to a degree, ignoring that model ( which I still think is what most of you are arguing for: "sexing as good faith" may be helpful, but it's not something that will hep deal with the personal and potentially legal problems that can arise for initiators in this model, when the delibaration of "reality" is turning the feedback process into a boolean variable, again, both on an interpersonal level and on a legal level.

And here's the thing - claiming "good faith" is not likely to help a lot in that situation. Remember when I mentioned in one of the DNL threads that I don't think the value of initiating is sufficiently considered? Because that's precisely what's being asked for here: In the current framework, I (initiators) am (are often) asked by the recipients to violate the logical structure of the framework put into place to protect the recipients from the initiators. The initiators have to agree with the moral imperative, and yet it still leaves them in an impossible position of double bind - necessarily having to become Schrödinger's rapist/assaulter in order to *not* become Schdödinger's rapist/assaulter that can only be overcome *if nothing of the things we discuss here becomes explicit* or *everything discussed here becomes explicit*. For everything in between there's not much that we can do to solve the riddle except defining concepts more loosely - which is a distraction from the problem's structure.

It may help for real life, but I still think that we need to address the original problem to find a solution to it. I don't know the extent to which my personal problem will or will not be solved by doing so, or  if I just have to ignore the double bind I'm in, and ignore the structure around me, like others are doing? Personally, I hope that more guys will talk about their problems with that double bind and that will help develop a middle-ground narrative of some sort in which initiation is not only seen as a risk but also as an opportunity, and in which intent may actually be accorded *some* kind of magic.

*Environmental parameters of my reply: I'm just coming home from a date (just kissed her cheek good-bye, of course, hope she didn't feel rejected) and I'm a bit tipsy while writing this.

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Post by SomeSamSeaborn on Wed Dec 03, 2014 8:18 pm

Enail,

Enail wrote:I find it a little disingenuous to be bringing in radical feminist theory and acting like it necessarily constrains you when you clearly don't agree with it or operate by it, and no one else you're discussing with appears to either. If you agree with radical feminism on this matter, you have your boolean - and the answer is always no, as a man, you cannot ethically have sex with a woman, end of story.  

If you don't agree with them, if you recognize that their opinions are in fact radical, as in extreme, not the mainstream feminist view, and you think them incorrect, what they say on the subject is irrelevant and you should maybe stop bringing their beliefs in as an impossible problem with the concept of consent.

I don't think their opinions are irrelevant because they're extreme and if I don't agree with them. I used their opinion on female agency in patriarchy mainly to illustrate the epistemological problem of free will and agency for the concept of "consent" and how we deal with it. I also mentinoed other limits to agency that other people can easier.

You're right that in their world-view I cannot ethically have sex with a woman, and that's a problem I had to deal with in my upbringing. That's probably something that personally colors my opinion and problems, but that, again, doesn't mean their positions need not be considered if potentially applicable.

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Post by The Wisp on Wed Dec 03, 2014 8:19 pm

I hope I'm not retreading anything (I have read the the whole thread, but in a disjointed way as new posts came in, so my memory is fuzzy), let me know if I am. I do find it interesting, Sam, that you seem to do okay with flirting and getting dates. A lot of the guys I've known or known of who were paranoid about consent and sex were also paranoid about seeming creepy or like a sexual harasser when flirting. I find it odd that you seem to have separated these things.

Also, to be honest, my gut feeling is that you have deeper and more personal reasons for your aversion to escalating sexually that have nothing to do with feminist philosophical frameworks for consent. It feels very much like a post-hoc rationalization to me. Do you think I'm accurate, and if so what do you think it might be?
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Post by Mel on Wed Dec 03, 2014 8:42 pm

Two things, Sam:

1) I think the majority of the discourse does accept that there is no 100% guarantee of consent, that therefore it's possible to think you have consent when consent is not there, and that it is not assault if you don't psychically know the second your partner isn't into something before they can express that. The problem is that you refuse to accept this part of the discourse because it still contains talk about needing consent which you insist on seeing as an absolute rather than moderated by the rest of the discourse. If even you, someone who claims to be seeing the logic of the situation so much more clearly than the rest of us, who has a lot personally at stake in the matter, and who's been thinking and reading on the subject so much, aren't sure what way of talking about consent being necessary that would not lead to your absolute issue, then what makes you so sure there is one? How can you blame feminists, or anyone else, for not having found this magical approach that completely avoids any hint of absolutes?

Maybe you need to just accept that there is no perfect way of talking about the matter that avoids all logical issues with any absolute, because human communication is not perfect, and that's just the way it is with every ethical issue out there, not only this one.

2) You are still basing a lot of this on the assumption that the majority of women expect guys to proceed without enthusiastic consent, which is not a premise I agree with, so I have nothing to say on the "double bind" issue.
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Post by SomeSamSeaborn on Wed Dec 03, 2014 8:51 pm

Hey The Wisp,

The Wisp wrote:I hope I'm not retreading anything (I have read the the whole thread, but in a disjointed way as new posts came in, so my memory is fuzzy), let me know if I am. I do find it interesting, Sam, that you seem to do okay with flirting and getting dates. A lot of the guys I've known or known of who were paranoid about consent and sex were also paranoid about seeming creepy or like a sexual harasser when flirting. I find it odd that you seem to have separated these things.

Also, to be honest, my gut feeling is that you have deeper and more personal reasons for your aversion to escalating sexually that have nothing to do with feminist philosophical frameworks for consent. It feels very much like a post-hoc rationalization to me. Do you think I'm accurate, and if so what do you think it might be?

I've changed a lot in that respect. That was very much on my mind when I was younger and thoroughly depressed about all this. Even when I was still useless with women one woman per year or so found me attractive, so I wouldn't blame everything that made me unhappy on women. Things changed when I changed, and that happened with the help of a lot of theory (I read pretty much all on feminism/mating psychology/game that I could get my hands on back then) and one particular female friend who really changed how I saw the world around me. Since I mentioned that problem - we literally practiced me moving in for kissing on her (she was married at the time, so that wasn't an attempt to come on to me, and we never kissed) Wink. I'm very good at flirting, until it's about kissing or sexual touching. But I'm also still very sensitive to alligations of overstepping someone's line in flirting, whether that line is real or a token line, and while it happens very very very rarely, it's not something that can be avoided entirely because misunderstandings happen and people play games according to gender scripts, and when it happens a lot of the stuff I learned to deal with comes back up. I also once kind of snapped at a female friend who played "don't touch me" with another guy hoping that he would in fact be enticed to touch her after being told not to. I told her that that kind of thinking alone would be enough reason for me to certainly never want to touch her.

There certainly are some anxiety issues intertwined with this. But a large part of that comes from the realization that mistakes are inevitable when more than one mind is involved, and that the inevitability of making mistakes in this respect is creating the double bind I laid out above.

SomeSamSeaborn

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Post by SomeSamSeaborn on Wed Dec 03, 2014 9:02 pm

Hey Mel,

Mel wrote:Two things, Sam:

1) I think the majority of the discourse does accept that there is no 100% guarantee of consent, that therefore it's possible to think you have consent when consent is not there, and that it is not assault if you don't psychically know the second your partner isn't into something before they can express that.  The problem is that you refuse to accept this part of the discourse because it still contains talk about needing consent which you insist on seeing as an absolute rather than moderated by the rest of the discourse.  If even you, someone who claims to be seeing the logic of the situation so much more clearly than the rest of us, who has a lot personally at stake in the matter, and who's been thinking and reading on the subject so much, aren't sure what way of talking about consent being necessary that would not lead to your absolute issue, then what makes you so sure there is one? How can you blame feminists, or anyone else, for not having found this magical approach that completely avoids any hint of absolutes?

I'm not sure there is one. And I'm not blaming feminism for putting their agenda first in that respect. What I do blame it for is that the problems created by this approach - which you laid out elegantly - are not really part of the discourse. It seems to me there is an implicit assumption that the acceptance of the moral imperative to prioritize freedom *from* sexuality over freedom *to* sexuality entails an agreement to not talk about the problems that arise for the other aspect because of that priorization.

Mel wrote:Maybe you need to just accept that there is no perfect way of talking about the matter that avoids all logical issues with any absolute, because human communication is not perfect, and that's just the way it is with every ethical issue out there, not only this one.

That is certainly possible. But, that said, I don't want to give up just yet.

Mel wrote:2) You are still basing a lot of this on the assumption that the majority of women expect guys to proceed without enthusiastic consent, which is not a premise I agree with, so I have nothing to say on the "double bind" issue.

That's not quite true. I am basing this on the assumption that the majority of women expect guys to proceed without having *communicated* their enthusiastic consent in a way that would limit the risk fot the guy to have to feel like Schrödinger's sexual assaulter when trying to kiss her.

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