Thursday, February 16, 2012

Consent or Responsibility?

For some months, I’ve been enmeshed, embroiled, embattled, immersed (choose one) in trying to bring the issue of consent more out in the open within our local kink scene. Based on the stories, emails, tweets and messages I’d received, it seemed that people just weren’t “getting” this whole consent thing. And since I’m an opinionated person, with no shortage of keyboards- I figured I’d be among the first in my area to “take the hit” and start talking about it.

I fully expected people to be pissed off.

I expected people to obscure the arguments.

I expected people to accuse me of victim blaming and slutshaming.

I hadn’t expected that I would get so angry. But when Septimus asked me last night- “why does this make you so angry?” And I had to think.

I hadn’t expected the polarity, the unwillingness to discuss different points of view, the disinclination to believe that this issue within bdsm is any different on its surface than that faced by the populace at large. The very truth of the matter is- consent makes no difference to a person who is incapable of giving it freely and rationally or to the person who doesn’t receive it and who is bent on destruction. No, Talking about consent isn’t the issue because reasonable, rational adults have a pretty basic understanding of what consent is and most men are rightfully appalled at the notion of consent violations. And those that don't, well- that's why we have prisons.

I’m angry with people rehashing the same shit over and over and over and always focusing on what we should do to change things. I'm angry with the posts about outing, naming, shaming, and blacklisting. Angry with the hundreds of people asking questions about this issue for the first time and getting their heads handed to them. Angry about the way that people seem to be a little naive about kinky people actually having something called community “leaders”. And that those leaders are willing or able to help with a particular consent issue.

But what I’m most angry about is that people still haven’t figured out that we don’t really need to be talking about consent as an ephemeral rule for correct behavior. What we really need to be talking about is responsibility.

Two quotes got my attention this morning, both by M. Scott Peck:

Whenever we seek to avoid the responsibility for our own behavior, we do so by attempting to give that responsibility to some other individual or organization or entity. But this means we then give away our power to that entity.


The difficulty we have in accepting responsibility for our behavior lies in the desire to avoid the pain of the consequences of that behavior.

I’m angry because talking about consent in the way it's being done focuses on trying to get someone else to do or not to do something. Responsibility keeps the focus on each of us for our own actions.

And really? The only person we can ever hope to control is after all- ourselves. If we focus on each of us being responsible for our own actions, consent flows naturally. While providing a safe place for people who have been harmed, let's not forget that part of the healing process for most of us is taking back the power we lost. And, at least for me, part of that was accepting responsibility for myself.

So yeah, I'm a little angry that even after almost 30 years, I'm still having the same discussions about the spider on the bed.

And because, once again I've found others that hit my point much better than I ever do- please see:

Owning My Part
Consent and Abuse are Orthogonal

No comments: