Under Duress: Agency, Power and Consent, Part One: “No”

Trigger Warnings

This article contains discussions of rape, rape apologism and victim blaming. One survivor who previewed this article said they found a definition of rape used here “particularly triggering”.

Summary

When rape apologists are using our models of consent to defend rape and to deflect feminist analyses, it’s at least worth considering the limitations of the models. This article is part one in a two-part series of articles examining the issues.

Part One: “No”: Understanding consent as a binary is powerful because it allows us to say that “no means no”, a statement which has had and still has incredible power to change attitudes about rape for the better. However, it can make it more difficult for us to conceive of what else might mean “no”, as well as to distinguish between different kinds of “yes” given in different contexts. It can be used to victim-blame. It doesn’t always accommodate some of the complexities of communication (although we should beware, because “miscommunication” is a shield rapists often like to hide behind). And admitting “no always means no” seems to mean that we must also admit “yes always means yes”; this can conflict with the subtleties of a fully radical feminist analysis of rape culture.

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