Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Consent (UPDATE)

A couple months back I wrote a little piece about how the American right doesn't understand the legal concept of consent.  In the midst of exploiting the kidnapping/murder saga recently discovered in Cleveland as a cudgel to beat liberals, I made the unsurprising and uncontroversial point that folks such as me who support charging Mr. Castro with murder for the death and miscarriage of a fetus are not being hypocritical because the hinge upon which abortion rights swing is consent.  There is no hypocrisy involved in such a position because it begins with the assumption that women are capable moral agents and have both the ability and the right to make decisions that impact their life and health, including whether or not to carry a pregnancy to term.

Flash forward to this comment on a Roy Edroso piece lambasting Jonah Goldberg for yet another failed typing exercise, and we find this comment which is far more pithy and concise than my overlong post:
No, seriously though, conservatives really don't understand the concept of consent. It's all about their madonna/whore complex, which is why rape is only bad if the victim was a pure, chaste lady who didn't go to bars or dress revealingly.
The context is the issue of child pornography and why it's qualitatively distinct from adult pornography: children do not have the capacity for consent, thus eliminating any arguments about whether or not they can participate in pornography of their own free will.  This latter position - that adult women participate in pornography of their own free will - is opposed by the (anti)feminist arguments of people like Catherine MacKinnon who insist that women are incapable of granting consent because of the structural imbalance between men and women in American society.

Neo-Puritans like MacKinnon (and Feodor) do not see women as competent moral agents, free to choose to be sexual beings, including choosing to dress for a night out in hopes of finding a man.  To do so is to create the conditions for their own victimization.  Anti-choicers do not view women as competent moral agents, capable of deciding what is in the best interests of their life and health when it comes to carrying a pregnancy to term.

In both cases, the issue of consent is central - are adult women able to choose to act in one way and not another, understanding the ramifications of their choices?  In the case of our concern trolls - who, after all, are only looking after women's best interest in chastising them for looking like sluts - I doubt too many women fail to understand there are men who will view them as freely available regardless of the woman's particular preferences.  To paraphrase the thought of such folks: they are dressing like they are asking for it, so they get what they deserve.  In the case of abortion, setting to one side the largely false nonsense about the "preborn", consent is eliminated at the moment of conception as women are now a slave to the zygote.  Questions of women's health and welfare, even a woman's preference as to whether or not she wishes to carry a baby to term are not legitimate because women surrender consent when the sperm fertilizes the egg.

What's fascinating to me, apart from the self-righteous moral grandstanding, is the total absence of real people in these arguments.  Real people get to make decisions including ones with which we disagree.  For folks for whom consent for women does not exist, there are no real women.  They're either "sluts" or baby factories.

Just some observations on what happens when people don't get the whole idea of consent.  People disappear in to thin air.

UPDATE: Lawyers, Guns, and Money should charge because their pieces and comments are just the best.
And in a related story:
Today on the Internet, an ignorantly privileged person made an offensive [comment] and subsequently took offense to people taking offense to his initial offensive post.
It almost seems as if they let anyone post on these things.
I changed one word that summarizes the shock - SHOCK! - expressed by Art and Feodor that we might prefer to make fun of their ridiculousness than sit and gaze in awe at their moral superiority.  And the shock that people on the internet behave the way internet people do. 

Virtual Tin Cup

Amazon Honor System Click Here to Pay Learn More