My consent is not what makes his choices okay!

I’m not here to write passionate arguments defending BDSM. The socially constructed acronym used to umbrella an innumerable number of experiences doesn’t need my few words to argue on its behalf. I don’t feel the need to defend anything that I do nor do I feel the need to explain away the absolute bullshit that others claim as kink that I encounter almost daily. Those who demonise or glamourise BDSM typically lump all and everything into their explorations and conclusions and will never be persuaded by anything that I could say.

But I did try once or twice.

I’ve written a few times here that I started this as a means of adding to the conversations that we have about sex. Something that I’m passionate about. But there’s something that came before this decision. An ‘incident’ so to speak, that made me understand that there is often something missing from the way that we perceive and talk about sex.

And I guess as many other “ah ha” moments, this one began on Facebook. I’d just started connecting with the community of sex writers on social media, I was confident enough to add my 2 cents but not yet sure of my place. I’d managed to toe the party line for a few months, although I had already seen a number of things that confronted and confused me and some that really did offend me. But I’d let them go, choosing to maintain a polite silence rather than question or ask others to question their position.

This one post was on a woman’s page who is a feminist, has been writing for a number of years and has a few hundred followers. She contributes regularly to ‘sex positive’ online publications. She is articulate in her words, she not only writes about sex objectively but she candidly brings her sex life into her space with descriptions, antidotes and pictures. Nothing about her is, really noteworthy, and I’m not going to name her here. We have very different ways of using our own spaces but this is neither here nor there. It just is.

One morning she posted a meme, it was one of those artistically styled black and white ‘tumblr’ posts, with words over the top of the picture. From what I remember it was a typical male dominant, female submissive caricature. The words were simple ‘the difference between kink and abuse is consent’. There were a hundred or so comments all in gushing agreement with the statement and rephrasing it in various ways. Almost all of them were contextualising the statement in a male dominant female submissive relationship and were all assigning consent to her not him. She is the one who gives consent, this was a matter of fact statement. There was this constant theme (and it was/is not only on this one Facebook meme where this occurs, it seems to be quite typical way that consent is positioned in kink) that what she did justifies what he does.

I didn’t get it, I still don’t. How is it that what I do absolves the person I’m having sex with from their choices?

I asked just this. I asked about how intention fits into this, his intentions not mine. I asked what would happen if we began positioning intention rather than consent as the thing, well one of them because there are numerous factors that come together to distinguish my relationship from those where one half of the couple is the victim of domestic violence? I wondered what would happen if, when something goes wrong, we examine the intentions of those who do (allegedly do) harm to others. 

It’s something that I’d been thinking about for a while. And genuinely believed that this was the appropriate time and place to have asked what, for me was a pretty straight forward question.

Boy! Was I wrong!

I was shamed and ridiculed. Not one comment offered me a reason for why my question was wrong. In fact, no one actually directly answered my question or challenged my position that his intention should be more of a concern that my agreement or actions. What did happen were individuals dismissing someone who chose to cross a defined line. Consent is the all and everything. And while I am the first to position the importance of consent I am not prepared to use something that is of such legal and cultural significant to continually justify and defend the actions of those who intend to do harm.

That’s not to say that accidents don’t happen. They’ve happened here and will probably happen again. Nor am I talking about things that are directly asked for, negotiated and that are for the mutual benefit of both partners. But what does not happen here is him intending to hurt, coerce or manipulate me. His intention, going into everything that we do, is to create and facilitate mutually beneficial physical interactions.

 

His intentions matters. And while my consent matters, they are two very different elements of our relationship. His intention most certainly influences what I consent to and my consent frames what he intends to do. But what he ultimately does comes from his intentions not from my consent.

Positioning his actions as a direct consequence of my consent renders his decision making process and his accountability almost invisible. As if what comes after my agreement (consent) is void, inconsequential. When in fact he and he alone creates the decisions that manifest in his actions.

We can also bring this into efforts to dismantle rape culture. If, instead of centring the consent of the victim as the core element of distinguishing rape from sex, we then are able to actively interrogate the actions of the accused based solely on what they chose to do. What did they intend? What we the mental process that he went through in his mind to assess the entirety of the situation and judge his next action as being right? When he did whatever it is that he is accused of what was his aim? Did he intend to contribute to a mutually agreed upon sexual interaction, something that would create mutual satisfaction – however that plays out. Or did he intend to take what he thought was his, intestinally rejecting part or the entirely of what was agreed?

Does this give us an exceptionally objective measure enabling us to clearly differentiate between sex and rape or BDSM and abuse? No. the complexity of the crime is such that one element is not (or should not) be the crux of a prosecution. However, focusing on intention and examining the decision making process used by an accused to lead him to believe what he was doing was the right thing would dramatically shit the currency that victim blaming has in rape. If it is more about him than her blaming her can’t be so central to a defence can it?

Reflecting back on the way the idea was responded to in my social media interaction mentioned previously still doesn’t make any sense. Here I was being ‘blacklisted’ and blocked, prohibited from commenting all because I wanted to take the responsibility for someone else’s choices away from me and put it squarely on them. Because I want consent to reflect the ability for me to be able to form a sex life that works for me not as something that defends the actions of him.

So let me ask, why is it that my voluntary agreement is the only this that distinguished BDSM from intimate partner violence?

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What the Ghomeshi trial has taught me: Or how rape culture really looks.

I’m not a lawyer. I am not Canadian. I am coming at this from a limited understanding of law. None of this is “expert” advice. While watching the trial and acquitting of Ghomeshi as well as participating in some of the social media associated with it. I noticed that there are a number of elements that constitute the case that have been playing around in my mind a bit.

It’s not that they are specifically relevant to this one particular trial, it’s just that they seem to be ideas and arguments that I found myself being confronted with more and more during this one case. So I thought I’d write them down and add my, not asked for 2 cents worth of opinion and characterisation on this trial.

Opinion 1

When it comes to the crime of sexual assault it is the peripheral issues rather than the central story that matters.

A sexual assault trial should revolve around a central statement of fact. That is what the prosecution claim that on this day this happened, presented as a sequence of events. Events that are explained further through evidence and witness testimony. What seems to be happening though is that the central statement become irrelevant and the peripheral issues like what came before and after becomes the focal point. Reasonable doubt – the keystone of modern day criminal defence, comes from discrediting the witness testimony & character than from disproving the events of the sexual assault.

Opinion 2

In his defences closing Ghomeshi’s lawyer made a very particular and telling statement.

“The truth is between the lines”.

I take this to mean that there is something of truth in what is not being said; I could have totally misread this of course but I am pretty sure that this statement has been offered up as some kind of direction to read between the line.

If you consider that (as far as I can tell) the defence never offered up an alternative statement of facts/events and never claimed anything beyond ‘what she said didn’t happen’ then you can only assume that not only is there is no defensive claim that ‘it didn’t happen’ but there is no evidence to prove that it didn’t happen. I understand that the burden of proof is placed solely in the hands of the prosecution. But if you are going to make a definitive claim then shouldn’t you do so with some kind of evidence to back this up? That “reasonable” doubt must be in fact reasonable: something that comes from a sound judgment.

What we seem to have is a reasonable doubt caused by the victims themselves. It’s not his actions on those nights in 2002, 2003 and 2008 that shows the prosecutions statement of facts is wrong but the actions of his victims after those nights up to and including their individual performances on the witness stand.

 

Opinion 3

He said/she said is a lie

Discussions of sexual assault allegations are often framed as case of he said/she said until the point a jury (or judge) casts their vote and decides who was right. What happens is more along the lines of she (the victim) says he (accused) gets his lawyer to present a section of questions and statements that will bring about reasonable doubt. While victims do not lay charges or prosecute and become a witness offering up testimony in the same way that a police officer or forensic scientist does. It is her and her alone that more often than not win or lose a case. She recounts her version of events as she understands them, and then answers to questions put forward to her by a defence team paid to ensure that their client gets what he wants. He actually says nothing – his defence team does all the talking.

Opinion 4

We are a generation of know it all women – how can a man take advantage of that?

This doesn’t necessarily pertain to the trial itself but the narrative that surrounds it. We, as in modern Gen X Y & Millennial women are cast as being the most knowledgeable, independent, confident, educated women who are given this “gift” of walking through life in ever encounter we happen to come across in absolute perfection. That somehow those of us who happened to have been assigned a certain chromosomal structure at the moment of our conception have this innate, maybe even evolutionary, attribute or instinct that makes us aware of harm and directs us in another direction. We are so controlled by this innate perfection that if we do (choose to) walk into a “grey area” situation then it is of our own free will and we alone should be held accountable for any adverse or illegal consequences. In other words we really should just know beter!

Opinion 5

We also have this other subset of women who are “fuckable”. She is the imagined ideal of sexual perfection (although being one who is not this I cannot tell you what it is, maybe it’s a secret passed down to you once you are deemed worthy). She is all of those things we modern woman are but she has this additional innate attribute that dissolves her sexual prey, I mean predators, man I don’t know what they are! From any and all responsibility. Something like the mythological succubus; but this modern version doesn’t kill her conquests she frees them back into the wild. But the point is these women cannot be raped! If you are a woman who is fuckable and who chooses to flirt, kiss, have sex or enjoy the company of men then you are the problem here – not the criminal actions of another.

Opinion 6

It’s not Ghomeshi or men like him that are the problem. It’s that *we* women just aren’t using our innate ability to effectively predict or react to others behaviour. It doesn’t really matter that I really can’t tell if the man I am finding attractive and kissing in this moment is going to wrap his hands around my throat and choke me in a few minutes’ time. It’s unimportant that I have no idea of predicting if in half an hour the man I’m having sex with & wanting to have sex with is going to change his game plan and do something else. It’s irrelevant that I’m not this physical being that is able to drop a portcullis across my vulva when I sense an imminent invasion. And just not good enough that I don’t become coated in some toxic goo to fend off any further touch or attempts to touch when uninvited.

That fact that I have no way of reacting to fear and confusion in a way that does not take me into the flight, fight or freeze automatic responses. Case and Statute law across the Western world recognise the variations in trauma reactions. Medical, psychological, social and legal discourse constantly recognises the inconsistency and factual errors in the assumption that women will without hesitation adequately react in these situations.

But none of this matters! These facts are irrelevant. Men are men and as such need are to void of the realities and the consequences of their choices because we cannot or just do not effectively predict and react in the way that we are supposed to.

Opinion 7

Consent is still the word no!

Opinion 8

This is just so fucked up!

 

 

 

 

 

Abuse is not just a kink just as kink is not abuse.

There is a lot written about sex and sexuality that makes me angry and yet nothing induces the anger like the way too often used and very inaccurate line “consent is the difference between abuse and BDSM”.

I’d be so happy if people just stopped claiming this crap!

My understanding of this that the underlying premise of BDSM is “if she asks for it then it’s okay’ or another way that I read this is ‘if there is no safe word said then everything is okay’. This is in a way correct but it is also significantly Immature and a depressing representation of the sexual reality we exist within. To me this attitude and this oversimplification come about not from wanting to have “good” sex but from wanting to protect our own arses! Yeah I said it!

Consent isn’t the bare minimum of what constitutes a functioning, healthy, safe LEGAL sexual relationship it’s the go to catchphrase when afore mentioned arse needs defending/protecting.

We no longer have consensual relationships because that’s just what good people do. Nope. Can’t be had. We claim consent in relation to our relationships to defend what it is we do!

The reality is this; kinksters are just as bad at consent as the rest of the sexual world and we are all bad at it because we just don’t understand what it actually is.

Consent is all about ME – it is my free agreement. It’s my legal right to enter into and exit out of sexual encounters as I so choose. That’s it. It really is this simple and I cannot for the life of me understand why people get this so wrong.

Did I ask you to XYZ? Nope! Then I did not consent.

Section 61HA of the New South Wales (the State that I live in) crimes Act states very clearly that consent it a FREE AND VOLUTARY AGREEMENT. The wording may differ but there is an almost universal (especially in Australia) legal consensus that this is what consent is.

If consent is about me and my free will than how am I in any way responsible for the actions of another? How then can my consent; what I’ve agreed to, be justification for your actions?

Within the Act is a list of conditions that need to be meet in order for the prosecution to create a case– again these relate to the State I live in, the wording may be different but the essence of the conditions are the same.

Three of these conditions are:

(a) the person knows that the other person does not consent to the sexual intercourse, or

(b) the person is reckless as to whether the other person consents to the sexual intercourse, or

(c) the person has no reasonable grounds for believing that the other person consents to the sexual intercourse.

The first “the person” is the nominated accused – that is the person that the victim is accusing of sexual assault.

The second “person” is the victim.

If you read what is stated above (which is a direct copy and paste from the Act) you will see that what we are actually interested in when establishing the legitimacy of an accusation are the actions of the nominated accused. We are looking at what the accused KNEW, what the accused INTENDED and what the accused DID.

What they did not what I did.

What matters when establishing the legitimacy or the illegality of ones actions and if that constitutes a crime are not the actions (or inactions) of the victim but the actions of the accused!

How does my free agreement cause the actions of another?

Do we really have no ownership of our actions?

It is not consent that creates the difference between abuse and BDSM its intention.

I am not responsible for the actions of my sexual partner as they are not responsible for mine. To agree to be intimate with, fuck, or engage in something kinky is not some kind of blanket cover against abuse. If your intention is to act outside of the law and commit assault nothing I have agreed to matters! If your partner is assaulting you there is nothing, not your consent, not your inaction, nothing you do allows that to happen.

If we are serious about BDSM and all it entails being a legitimate form or sexual expression then we need to take a significant step away from the simplicity of what I’m calling consent washing and allow the reality to be had. A reality in which nothing I do creates the foundation for an abusive relationship. Nothing I’ve negotiated, consented to or done in the past allows abuse. Nothing about me creates another actions. This nothing goes both ways to the d and the s and includes all genders as the accused and the victim.

If kink is serious about fighting back against both the abuse within and the instance that it is all abuse from beyond then there needs to be an acceptance of the complexity of the humanness that creates those within these types of relationships and interaction. Dominants can be abusive and there is nothing a Submissive does that creates that. Submissives can be abusive and there is nothing a Dominant does to create that. A top can abuse their bottom regardless of anything the bottom has done.

Allowing ourselves the space to cast a critical gaze over what it is we do and to question is not a bad thing. Questions do not hurt people who have answers – even wrong answers can be enough to cause great change within communities and society as a whole.

Abuse is not just a kink just as kink is not abuse. Abuse is a deliberate act indented to harm. Kinks are deliberate acts intended to create mutually satisfying experiences.

That and that alone is the difference between abuse and kink – no consent needed!