Friday, 3 April 2009

Friday Feminist - Joan McGregor (2)

Cross posted

... if the law wants to protect women's sexual autonomy then not only should it look for the defeaters of consent - external and internal conditions that would undermine consent - but it should also require positive signs of consent. Consent to a sexual encounter should not be inferred from the failure to refuse; the law needs to look for positive signs of assent to the proposal. Threatening actions or gestures on the part of the man should undermine the credibility of consent, but additionally the fact finder should look for signs of consent from the woman, what she said and did, not negatively but positively. Antioch College's proposal that students wanting to engage in sexual conduct must give their partner consent to sex was ridiculed in the media as taking the spontaneity out of sex, making it too analytical, too 'unsexy.' These criticisms are unwarranted and rely on an unflattering view of women, that they are not supposed to want sex and must be pressured into it - the sadomasochistic view or the conquest model. If not based on those models, would it be thought unsexy and unspontaneous to have parties to a sexual encounter positively agree to have sex with one another. It is these traditional stereotypes that encourage and foster in women conflicting attitudes about their sexual desires and stifle their sexual autonomy. Until we have standards that require women to be honest and open about their sexual preferences and require their partners to be clear about the women's willingness and excitement about the sexual encounter, we will continue to run the risks of women being forced into sex and men possibly unwittingly engaging in nonconsensual sex. If the cultural and legal norms permit women to enter into sexual relationships without positive expressions of consent, then men continue to believe that it is permissible to proceed without those signs. Requiring women to acknowledge and express their desires about sex encourages autonomy by requiring individuals to be informed about their desires, express their desires, and be accountable for those desires.

Joan McGregor, Is it rape?, 2005

1 comment:

virtualredhead said...

Great post--it makes some important distictions. But it's important to look at the flip side to, namely, working to combat the notion that any woman who does consent to, or, god forbid, initiates sex, is a whore.

I posted on this recently, and things got pretty nasty in the comments: The Cow is not for Sale