Opinions

Age of no consent

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You have never had consensual sex. The sex you have now is not consensual, nor will you ever have consensual sex so long as you continue to live as you do. Rape, sexual abuse and assault are merely the tip of a sexually violent iceberg. Given the direness of our present circumstances-- the inherent barbarism of the social, economic, political, religious, academic and cultural corrals into which we are captured and contained-- it is fair to claim that it is impossible for anyone to adequately consent to sexual activity in the present. And what's most sinister is that we've been 'educated' to think that all is well. While it may seem harsh or absurd to think that a statement that echoes of the obscene charge that "all sex is rape" could be legitimate, to deny it suggests that one is suffering from a terrible case of false consciousness. We have become numb, no longer capable of feeling the flow of sinister authority that permeates the fabric of our lives. We are incapable of making autonomous and well-informed decisions, incapable of being in touch with ourselves and our own sexualities. We've been normalized to sexual violence and the vital force of our erotic passions has been drained, leaving the substance of genuine consent unobtainable.

The issues of consent cut a wide swath of possible discussions in all sorts of fields of interest, but none of them evokes as furious and emotionally infused reactions as the issue of sexual consent does. Clearly we are pressing on sensitive tissue. Dare I say that our nerves are so frayed perhaps because we, at heart, understand that something integral is lacking in our sexualities? That sexuality's intimate core is missing, or has been stolen? Do we not sense that some grave and grievous injustice is being done in every porn film, night club, brothel, fatherly household or kangaroo rape trial? Yet we don't face up to this reality, perhaps because we know that the rot exists not only on the periphery-- in the porn flicks, whorehouses and violent rapes-- but that its roots extend through the entirety of the whole, the bulk of matter, and into our very beds. Must I remind you that most sexual assaults and rapes are perpetrated by friends, family or acquaintances-- and if we are finally being honest with ourselves and one another, even when we, men and women the same, tell ourselves that our sexual activity is mutually and genuinely consensual, we are refining our skills of disavowal. The behemoth that is our way of life is thoroughly infected. The laws, the language, the imagery-- everything our senses can be imbued with, even one another, has been infused with patriarchy's dominating, savage values. The same system that allows spliced and splayed 'women' to be devoured also liquidates our capacity to make well-informed judgements and to understand and appreciate our own sexualities. We live under the same roof, and eat the same stale, mouldy bread as the whore and rapist do.

We grudgingly accept the old cliche "sex sells," not because we understand it as 'truth,' but because we aren't allowed to believe anything else. Sex is pleasurable, erotic desire animates our lives; but that doesn't justify the sort of logic that packages our passions into marketable, measurable and manageable hedons. Even if a seemingly innocuous phrase like "sex sells" contained a nugget of truth (although I don't know how it would), it has been used against us, inoculating us from birth with a false sense that the hyper-sexualization of our world is an inevitable consequence of 'human nature,' of Homo economicus. Or worse, we tell ourselves that sexual violence is an exception, perpetrated by perverts. But we know better. We can do better. The bastions of patriarchy are far from being inevitable consequences of 'the way things are.' Walls do fall, whether through lack of upkeep, nature's wrath or by our own hands. But rather than waiting for the situation to improve or placing our hopes on reform (which, lest we forget, only buries the problem deeper) we ought to take sexual and erotic freedom, and the revolutionary struggle necessary to achieve it, seriously. We must, as Wolfi Landstreicher told us, " . . . truly allow the expansiveness of passionate intensity to flower and to pursue it where the twisting vine of desire takes it."

No one wants to admit that their sex life is not and never has been consensual. But there is nothing fantastical and utopian about believing that it is possible to form new ways of life where we congregate with one another as autonomous equals, adequately informed and genuinely in touch with ourselves. Bringing to fruition the way we ought to live-- where loving and erotic relationships of infinite variety are legitimately possible-- requires overturning and annihilating the destructive order at hand, adopting struggle as a way of life, passionately and incessantly dreaming and doing. Accepting sex's current non-consensual nature is a bitter pill to swallow, but perhaps it is just the right medicine to cure us of our sexual woes.

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Comments

A very sad, paranoid and jaundiced view of the way our World is. Miss Watts we are only live once, wallowing in self righteous pity is a poor way to spend your days on this planet.

There are so many assumptions underpinning this argument; such as \"whores and rapists\" being placed in the same category, porn being represented as inevitably harmful (particularly uninformed given the fact that the Feminist Porn Award nominations for 2012 were just released this last week), and claiming that \"you\" (no matter who you are or how well-informed and self-aware you are) have never had consensual sex. This kind of sex-negative, arrogant, narrow view of what sexuality is and what\'s wrong with it (for everyone! all the time!) makes me inarticulate with frustration.

By painting *all* sex as non-consensual (and all \"whores\" as equivalent to rapists - making anyone who pursues or enjoys sex part of the \"problem\") it muddies the water and makes it harder to actually talk about what consensual/non-consensual sexual acts might be, what they might feel like, and how we can work towards a more fully consensual approach to sexuality.

I really enjoyed the piece!

I feel like you other two commentators didn\'t really read it, as (A) Zimba didn\'t even catch the authors gender and expresses the exact blindedness watts taks about, and (B) Tiffany totally didn\'t manage to understand what watts was saying about violence beneath the surface. I thought he was using whores and rapists to riff on our complacent understandings and our relationships to their negativity, not to belittle people.
Also, I didn\'t think he was being sex negative, in fact just the opposite. Which led me think that neither of you other commentators actually read the entire piece.

Watts is telling us that their is so much sexual violence that we fail to see, and that we have to really try hard to be smarter and better as individuals if any positive change is ever going to occur.

I disagree with Cowherder. Nothing about this article is sex-positive. Its a self righteous and shallow rant which exposes the authors arrogant vanity mixed with a loathing of the world. Pompously proclaiming that she alone knows what sex can be and what it should be. History is full of charlatans and quacks that first tell you that everything you know and believe is false and then quickly offer you their one true view.

I believe this article is based either on some traumatic experience or a puritanical view that believes that the world is over sexualized.

To see violence in all sex is a myopic and cynical view point. I am also inarticulate with frustration. To me this piece is just fury at the reality of the fundamental drives which underpin sex. Admitting that people have desires to dominate and be dominated is an impossibility to those who espouse absolute equality. The reality is that equality can and does coexist with that.

I hope the author can come to terms with the fact that others can live in ways that are impossible for her to accept.

- JumpyMonkey

It\'s almost as though humans are animals. But anyway, consent is just a social construction, right?

i think you\'re missing some Andrea Dworkin quotes. Your opinion is sad and anti-sex which is just as harmful to women as your claims.

Wait....

I\'m confused as how Remi Watts was sex negative and a narrow view? Didn\'t he say that the road to consent sex means accepting radical possibilites?

Maybe I just like his writing and ideas, but it seems like some of you commentators have a personal beef with Mr. Remi. In which case, shame on you for wasting EVERYONE ELSE\'S TIME with your pithy battles. What ever happened to intellectual engagement?

Utter nonsense. Buzzwords, buzzwords, buzzwords. Look everyone, Remi has heard of patriarchy!

You sound like a religious fanatic, buddy.

Wow, Remi, you made people mad.

I don\'t think everyone need be as shocked and appalled as is the case. Remi\'s not making any hugely radical statements, or pushing some negative stand. Read the last paragraph again. If you\'re not sure you understand it, read it again.

All that is being questioned is the notion of \"consent\". To view sex as somehow being an acquiescence is a much more debilitating view of autonomy (and should be viewed as the radical negative view of power-struggle and submission). It would be as woeful as a commentator such as myself delimiting the significance of Remi\'s view by assuming that it is my own. Agreement is a spectrum, and to assume that we have it (whatever it is) is to make another\'s autonomy much more insignificant.

What the fuck is even going on here?

This is 1000 or so words saying nothing at all. Actually, what it\'s saying is\"I know more than you, but will I explain what I mean? Shan\'t\".

This is the kind of fucked up leftism that says nothing and accomplishes nothing, and operates only in the bubble of post-secondary education. It makes the rest of us look bad.

Even now, Remi is gearing up to read my comment, roll his eyes, and crack a craft beer as he talks to his friends about this uneducated rube that commented on his rant. They can\'t be told differently because they cracked some fucking Foucault and now they\'re uber-mensch. It\'s like talking to oatmeal in horn-rimmed glasses.

There were parts here where I really wanted Remi to tell me about the complications with consent, but it just went on and on like a Klan rally speech. No real substance, just barely aimed hate. Toward who? Everyone, you unenlightened fuck. How dare you open your mouth, the very affect your syllables have bleeds gender-shaming capitalist fuckery!

Also, Remi is a boy, commenters. But I\'m sure calling him so is colonialist gender-normalized oppression or some such bullshit. God I hate university.

First off, I think that it is entirely possible to make \"autonomous and well-informed decisions.\" We are capable of \"being in touch with ourselves and our own sexualities.\"

What you have essentially done in this piece is stated your own view and assumed that it applies to everyone else.

Now, the manner in which sex is portrayed does have an effect on one\'s point of view. There are the religious aspects. There are the personal experiences that one has had. But at the end of the day, we are capable of genuine thought. We are capable of understanding sex in our own terms and giving it as much (or as little) meaning as we\'d like. If one chooses to be swayed by society\'s notions of sex, so be it. There will always be sheep. There will always be those who refuse to think for themselves and allow the value of the things that they do to be defined by others.

But then again, there are others who are capable of investing much thought and energy in living out their respective lives within a sexual framework that is not only identified with but also accepted, as their own.

To say that all sex is non-consensual is not grounded in fact. It does not take into consideration those who actually attempt to evaluate sex for themselves. Hello, anyone who has had an open and intelligent discussion about sex with his or her partner or friend(s) or self.

It feels like Remi is demanding the type of thought that I\'ve described but, at the same time, is convinced that this type of thought is simply not possible in this society. Or maybe he\'s demanding for more people to think in this open and intelligent manner. After all, there was a time in which racism was not only tolerated but accepted and advocated. In the midst of all that superiority bullshit, there were others who knew that it was wrong. They fought against it and won battles (because the war is not yet finished). I guess the point is to be like those \"others\".

I guess all I\'ve done here is \"refine my skills of disavowal.\"

The opinion that there is no such thing as consensual sex, meaning all sex is rape, is likely to offend those who have actually been victims of rape.

Victims of rape who have since engaged in consensual sex would be offended at the suggestion that it is equivalent to the rape they experienced.

I don\'t know where you got you ideas of what sex is, and I don\'t know what kind of sex you\'ve been having Remi... but I think you\'re doing it wrong

Re: Rory\'s comment.
Rory, you have misunderstood the point of the article......
As a woman, and as someone who has been raped, I would agree with Remi. Our current sex culture is a rape culture.
Sexuality these days is about objectification and exploitation, and that effects everyone and their behaviour.
Since my rape experience I have come to see the inner problems of sexuality in our society.
Since my experience, I have engaged in sex with a very trusting partner, but because of my past experience of rape, and sexual assault on numerous occasions, it has greatly impacted my sexual pleasure and trust, and I would say the way sex culture is in our society has not helped me heal from my rape, but has rather led me to be continue to engage in unhealthy sex, regardless if is consensual sex. I believe, and what Remi asserts in his article, is that we need to separate ourselves from regular society to be capable of learning about, and participating in, true consensual sex.