On consent.

A supremely useful convo unfolded on Dillon’s page last week. I’m going to literally cut-and-paste chunks out of it here, because I can’t improve on it.

We were discussing how “consent” can be such a complicated issue when applied to sex. In particular, we were discussing the difference between real consent and the illusion of consent that can be obtained by various means (in that particular case, by using one’s power), and implied vs. explicit consent.


Edward Hines said:

You’re right – it’s not always clear. And that clarity is muddied by the emotions involved, and those emotions are stirred by the hormones involved and…

I work in martial arts and fitness. Physical contact is normal for me. Where I work I cue postures through touch all the time and it’s expected. It could be abused, but I’m not willing to go through the whole bizarre artificialness of ‘permission to touch’ because it contradicts what i’m trying to do (make primates stronger, tougher and healthier) so believe me, I get where you are coming from.

Since you are friend of Dillon maybe you’re familiar with Peyton Quinn’s five rules of how not to get into violent situations:

  1. Don’t Insult him
  2. Don’t threaten him
  3. Don’t challenge him
  4. Don’t deny it’s happening
  5. Leave him a face saving exit

This morning I was thinking about the question of consent, and coercion. I thought about the my personal experiences in courtship. There are certainly times when I’ve made women feel uncomfortable or pressured, and I wondered what kind of checklist would help avoid an inadvertent slide towards coercion.

I thought these rules can well be applied with some slight differences:

  1. Don’t insult her
  2. Don’t threaten her
  3. Don’t challenge her
  4. Don’t deny it’s happening -she’s saying No /pretend you’re not doing it
  5. Leave her a face saving exit


Kaja Sadowski added:

Edward: those rules are a pretty good place to start, actually. They cover a lot of the defensive/cajoling behaviors that I’ve seen from men when faced with a “no” or lack of enthusiasm.

The challenge lies in recognition, I think, because it’s easy to spot the overt mode of those behaviors, and harder to catch the subtler versions that usually turn up in cases of this kind of coercion:

  1. Insults can look like “C’mon, honey, don’t be a prude/frigid” or “I thought you weren’t like the other girls”
  2. Threats can be simple reminders of one’s relative social position
  3. Challenges can be, “You know you want it” or “See, that felt good, didn’t it?”. Or any form of gaslighting.

The only big thing missing from the list is chemical means of compromising consent. I’m not talking date-rape drugs, since we’re building a checklist for avoiding inadvertent or subtle coercion, but rather the “I’ll see if she still feels this way after another drink” gambit.


Do not deny it’s happening” is honestly probably the most important one. I didn’t address it in my original omments because its utility struck me as so perfect and obvious, that it didn’t need further elaboration on my part. Bad assumption.

Realizing, “Oh crap, I’m manipulating this person” and then not immediately turning away from that knowledge is crucial.

The thing I really like about this list is that it doesn’t hinge on any labels such as “predator”, “threat”, etc. that may make people recoil instinctively, but rather targets really specific behaviors with clear instruction (“Don’t do these specific, coercive things.” “Do make sure you’re leaving the other party an out and are willing to actually let them take it.”).


I think this approach is brilliant. I’ve previously referred people to the things like the list of predatory tactics in “The Gift of Fear”, but that only sells to those who’re already invested in the subject, i.e. those who’re the least problematic people to deal with anyway. The broader approach of Peyton Quinn’s five rules leaves less room for rule-lawyering by ill-intentioned twerps. Also, the fact that those rules were originally written by a manly man for other manly men may lend it extra credence in some quarters.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s